A peculiar little sci-fi ditty on the virtues of being able to swear well.
Okay, I have to preface this by saying that I don’t swear. Not usually, anyhow, though I might make an exception if someone had just chopped both my legs off with a laz-knife or something like that. You know what I mean. Something really awful and life-threatening and, well...curse-worthy.
That said, the amateur poet in me can’t help finding a bit of thoroughly juvenile amusement in the fact that the phrase “Fuck, we’re stuck,” not only seems the most appropriate response in this situation, but also happens to rhyme.
I’m so tired. My head hurts. My stomach hurts. I haven’t eaten since...since, I don’t even know when. Dropping my head until my nose is pressed against the navigation console, I close my eyes and mumble the phrase into the warm metal. A practice run.
“Fuck. We’re stuck.”
“Simon?” Raul says again. I raise my head and see that he’s mostly invisible underneath the corner of the far console, his legs and heavy boots sticking out awkwardly on either side of one of the console’s supports.
“Aurora is dead in the water, sir,” I say, with as much faux-military protocol as I can muster, given the circumstances. After a moment of scuffling and shifting, Raul’s legs vanish and the shiny top of his shaved head appears instead.
“That bad?” he asks. He looks absurd, his bull-like neck twisted to look up at me, but I resist the urge to comment on it.
“Well, I have good news and bad news,” I say. Raul raises his eyebrows but doesn’t speak. I continue. “Our port engine is burned out.”
With a grunt, Raul heaves himself out from underneath the console and clambers to his feet, brushing dust and circuitry residue off his hands before coming to stand beside me.
“And the good news?”
“That is the good news.”
"That's not good news, Simon."
"Sorry. Should I have said bad news and more bad news instead?" God, I'm loopy. Is this what hunger does to you?
“And the other bad news?” Raul says, ignoring my comment and leaning over to peer at the console.
Toggling the viewscreen to pull up an aft shot, I point to the now-dark shape of our port engine. “We may have been tailed. Either that or we’ve got hitchhikers.”
Raul swears with such eloquence that I am suddenly grateful he missed my earlier, pathetic attempt at a single cuss word. He leans across me and slides his fingers over the viewscreen, magnifying the port engine. It’s hard to be sure, but in the light cast by our functional starboard engine, a dark, angular something seems to have attached itself to the side of the ship.
A moment later, my suspicions are confirmed when the floor beneath us shudders ever so slightly and Aurora’s hull rings like a bell, setting off several shipwide alarms. A red light suddenly begins to pulse around the edges of all the doorways, accompanied by the cool female voice we’ve collectively nicknamed “Bitchy Betty”.
“Attention all crew members and passengers: there has been a fire detected in the port engine room. Please follow the evacuation plan marked on the---”
“Fuck,” Raul says evenly, and is at the door before I’ve even risen from my chair. “Find Mandy and Rink and tell them we’re about to have company,” he says over his shoulder to me and vanishes down the hatchway.
In the wake of his departure, the helm seems suddenly tiny. I don’t know if it’s the blaring alarm bells, or the rush of adrenaline now coursing through me, or my intense sleep-deprivation and hunger, or the panic for the past couple of hours, but I hardly need an order to get the hell out of this claustrophobic closet. I close my eyes, take a deep breath or two, and then sprint across the room and clamber up the ladder into the corridor beyond.
Dead in the water, I say to myself. We are dead in the water.