Strangers Among the Stars

Chapter 1, I guess. I don’t have a lot of Sci-fi stories, and this is my favorite / the only one I can remember off the top of my head. My old version has some ideas that I liked, though the focus was more on the captain than Zora. And, if I’m being honest, (which I can because I’m basically talking to myself here), Zora was way too boring in that version. This time, it’s something like a 60/40 split, and it feels very ‘new and improved’, especially if I get to the most interesting parts.

            She woke up with no sense of self. She felt cold air on mostly bare skin, covered with only a thing gown. Beyond that was the cold metal of the table. She stirred, testing her body, and found herself to be whole.

            The room that she was in was pristine, all white and gleaming metals. There were several large machines running in the middle of the room, their mechanical hissing, and faint beeps the only sound in the room. Some of them had a display screen with endlessly shifting numbers. There was another woman on a table next to her, dressed just like her. Her eyes were closed, and there were no signs of movement. Some of the machines were hooked up to her, needles in her arm and pads on her skin. She was very pretty, but white a sickly, pale pallor.

            The woman climbed off the table, testing her balance. Her feet were steady, but the ground was frigid on her bare feet. Mobile, she walked over to investigate the other woman. She had no signs of life to her, but the machinery attached to her seemed to be recording some sort of life, or at least keeping her alive for the time being. With no idea of what was wrong with her, there was nothing to be done. Without the machinery, she might wake up, or she might die, there just wasn’t any way of knowing.

            A soft thud came from somewhere nearby. It sounded like something metallic had fallen from a table just out of the room. She turned to her right to investigate the noise. She found herself looking a wall with mirrored glass panel from waist high to a foot above her head. The sight of the stranger staring back at her in the mirror froze her in place, causing her to forget about the noise. Logically, she recognized that she was looking at herself, but that did little to stop her from recognizing the stranger whose face she wore. She recognized the beauty in the mirror, that of someone in the prime of their life. There were green eyes and hair the brightest of reds. She felt no connection to that person in the mirror, but she understood that it was her.

            There was another crashing sound from behind the mirror, this one heavy and louder than the one before it. The redhead instinctively ducked down below the glass, her heart suddenly pounding in the excitement. After a breathless moment, she heard faint cursing. She glanced to the door to the next room, then crept over to it. She cracked it open as narrowly as she could manage, then peaked inside.

            Two black-clad figures stood hunched over, their backs to the door. They were both heavily armored in featureless gear, with rifles slung around their shoulders. Their attention was focused on a large molded box that could either be a crate or a safe. Regardless, they seemed to be having some trouble with opening it. There were tools arranged on a table obviously dragged from against the wall to a more convenient location. Two of the tools were laying on the floor. From their demeanor, it was impossible to tell if they had been dropped or thrown in anger. The redhead had almost missed them in a corner of the room, but there was a set of legs sticking out just barely, and a glassy-eyed person whose face was frozen in pain, in a puddle of what had to be blood. Her best guess was that they were the medical staff.

            The redhead waited as long as she dared, trying to understand the situation, but besides the occasion bout of swearing in a language that she didn’t understand, the two people were not talking. Finally, she gently closed the door, deciding it escape was more important than curiosity. There was another door on the opposite end of the room that she moved to, doing her best to stay out of the line of the sight in case they happened to turn around. Part of her started to wonder about not having any reaction to the death in that room, but she recognized that whatever this situation was, it was about survival, with no time to ponder death. b

            The second door seemed to be more promising, although it also appeared to be locked. There was a terminal beside the door obviously designed for a handprint. She looked between the terminal and her palm, trying to decide if it was worth the risk or trying it out or not. The decision was quickly taken away from her. She heard the electronics activate on the other side of the door. She froze, waiting for the door to be opened, but nothing happened. Instead, she heard metal biting into the door, which caused the door to vibrate slightly.

            The redhead glanced around the room, looking for a hiding place. There weren’t a lot of great options. Everything was buttoned down, and there was no clutter to hide behind. The best that she could find was to hide in a corner and hope that nobody glanced in her direction, but that seemed like a terrible option. Finally, she looked to the table that she had woke up on. She hated the idea of it, but right now, her only choice seemed to be in hiding in plain sight.

            The metal had gotten cold again as she climbed back onto the table and tried to set the thin sheet to get rid of all the wrinkles. Once she had taken all the time she dared, she settled back down onto the table and tried to seem as unmoving as possible. She finished just in time, as the door gave a begrudging beep, then swung open.

            She didn’t dare to look at the newcomers into the room. She barely even dared to breathe more than the shallowest of breaths. It was an exercise in contradictions as she tried not to seem tense. Unmoving, all she could do was listen to see if the new arrivals paid any attention to her.

            From the footsteps, she could tell that there were two of them. Their steps were very light, but there was regardless a great deal of weight behind them. They split up, passing by her on both sides of the tables. The one closest to her paused for a moment, and real or imaginary, she could feel the weight of those eyes on her, but they the person continued past her, towards the door.

            Once the two were at the door, she dared to crack open a single eye for a moment. The newcomers were also heavily armored, but their gear was a softer gray with an unfamiliar logo stamped onto each piece. Both held their rifles tightly in the hands. They had taken positions on either side of the door, and one of them began counting down with their fingers.

            As soon as the count reached one, the redhead climbed off the table as quickly yet quietly as she could, dropping down to the ground. Behind her, she heard the door kicked open and shots being exchanged. Bullets and lasers sliced out all around the room. The mirrored glass shattered, peppering the entire surgery room. She kept moving steadily towards the door, only flinching when one round slammed into the wall just in front of her, peppering her arm and shoulder with shrapnel. None of it seemed too severely, but blood welled up. However, she made it to the door otherwise unharmed, and this time it opened without complaint, and she bolted through.

            Free of the gunfight, she found herself in an empty hallway a dull gray in color. She picked a direction at random and started moving. Eventually she came to a four-way intersection. She peeked a head out into the hall and glanced in both directions. To her left there were two people, dressed casually. They didn’t notice her right away, but as soon as she stepped out into the exposed intersection, they would without a doubt. She recognized that in her current state, bloody, barefoot, and only in the thinnest of gowns, these people, even if they were only bystanders, they were going to have a lot of questions that she had no idea how to answer, or what the right answers would be. Worst case, they were lookouts for one of the groups having a shootout.

            Her best bet seemed to be going straight. She walked through the intersection briskly, but with confidence. Halfway though, they spotted her, calling out, but she ignored them. As soon as she had cleared the intersection, she took off at a run.

            The path curved to the left as it continued. There were a few doors on the left, but they all seemed to have locks attached, some of them even ancient mechanical locks. None of them seemed to offer a good place to hide. She could hear the people behind her following, but they seemed to be moving cautiously and she was gaining ground on them.

            Eventually, the hallway ended at another door with a handprint terminal. There were no other outlets and going back meant dealing with the strangers. The redhead frowned, looking at yet another handprint barring her entry. Above the door was printed “Hangar” in large yellow letters. She glanced back behind her just in time to see the two strangers come around the bend. Both were now holding guns in their hands, but aimed down and away, not pointed towards her.

            With no other option, the redhead turned around and pressed her hand into the terminal. She felt warmth as it scanned her hand. Nothing happened for a breathless moment, but then the terminal chirped happily, and the door slid open. Before she ran inside, she noticed that the terminal had updated, and her picture had popped up on the screen. Next to that was a name. Petrovitch, Zora. The name meant nothing to her, but the computer identified her as it, and Zora had a pleasant ring to it. But the sound of footsteps behind her reminded her of her situation, and she hurried through the door.

            Zora stepped into the hangar, and the door quickly sealed shut behind her. The hangar was a huge open space. There was no far wall opposite of where she had come in. instead, it opened out into space, complete with the twinkling of far-off stars. On occasion, some section of the gap would faint shimmer orange, revealing the barrier keeping the atmosphere in. The hangar also held a number of ships, ranging in size from one that barely looked large enough to fit one person inside to a behemoth that filled an entire corner that she wondered how it had managed to fit inside. There were a few people milling about, mostly they seemed to be workers loading and unloading various ships. For the most people, everyone seemed to be too busy with work to notice one woman intruding, as long as she kept away from them. There were also plenty of crates and barrels lined up along the walls that she had an ample amount of cover to move behind.

            Zora started walking, stealing the occasional glance back towards the door, but those two people either had given up, or they didn’t have access to the hangar, because they never showed up. She wasn’t exactly sure what she was looking for as she kept moving. Hiding had an appeal, but that was only ever going to be a temporary solution. It seemed best to get off of this … place, but she had doubts about being able to fly any of those ships even if she could commandeer one, and she had absolutely nothing to barter with to get a ride.

            Near the end of the hangar, Zora seemed to have found her best bet. A midsize ship had its cargo bay open, and it seemed that the captain and the hangar crew were in the middle of an argument. Their voices quickly turned into an echoing mess in the hangar, so the words didn’t carry, but her best guess was an issue with the supplies, as what she assumed was the captain was in the middle of emptying a crate midargument. None of them seemed to be paying attention to the ship at the moment, leaving it unguarded. There was a bunch of cargo between her and everyone else, giving her plenty of cover.

            There was still some element of risk, but to Zora, this seemed to be her best bet. Best case, it was being loaded, and was going to be leaving right away, but it still seemed a better place to hide than anywhere else. Especially with groups not afraid to shoot up the place. It still was a risk, but at some point, she had to take risks.

            Zora waited a few minutes for the best opportunity, then made her move toward the ship. She slipped in between some of the crates, getting closer. The last bit was still going to have some risks; there was no cover for a few precious seconds, but it was still her best bet. She couldn’t just act like she belonged dressed as she was, so she just had to go for it. She waited for the perfect moment, then left her cover and ran as stealthily as she could manage into the ship. She heard nobody call out at her, so she breathed a sigh of relief.

            Inside the ship, she started moving quietly again. It was very possible that there were still people inside. The cargo bay seemed to be half full, but it was kept neat and orderly, and there just wasn’t anywhere to hide. She moved deeper into the ship, listening carefully, but heard no other sounds of life onboard.

            Outside, alarms suddenly started blaring. There was chaos from everyone, then Zora heard a single set of footsteps spring up the ramp, then the ramp began to raise up. The person was heading straight towards where Zora was, so she ducked into the first room that she could, just in time. Automatically, the door sealed behind her and lights came on, revealing a small bedroom that did not seem to be lived in.

            A moment after the person had passed Zora by, she felt the power to the ship come on more fully. She felt it rise slightly up off the hangar floor, but it stopped there for a minute, then sunk back onto the ground, and powered off again. Then she heard the heavy footsteps of the captain moving up and down the hallway, swearing with some very colorful language. Either the captain was extremely loud, or the door did little to contain noise, Zora just wasn’t sure.

            As it became a matter of waiting, Zora sat down on the edge of the bed, trying to decide between comfort and hiding better. Eventually, comfort won out and she laid down on the bed, wrapping a sheet around her. As the minutes grew, she began to drift off into sleep, finding herself exhausted from everything that had happened so far.

            “Wakey, wakey,” Zora heard, as someone nudged her.

            Zora opened her eyes and found herself face to face with the captain of the ship, who held a gun pointed at her, though their finger was off the trigger. She just froze, unsure how to react.

            The captain laughed, their cheerfulness out of place with the gun still pointed at Zora. “I have to say, you are without a doubt the loudest snorer I have heard in my life! I heard you from two rooms away! That’s not a great thing for a stowaway, you know?”

2 thoughts on “Strangers Among the Stars

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