The tomato splattered across my face – ow. I had been without gravity for 2 weeks. You would think I was used to it by now. I wipe the tomato off.
Life on Helvenia, the spaceship me and 5,562 others call home, is never easy. But it is a heck of a lot better than whatever is happening back on our home planet of Rotu.
Rotu wasn’t too bad, until about a year ago when people started coming down with this weird sickness. It started out with people just forgetting things. Then they started hallucinating. Finally, they were eating each other.
Like I said, Helvenia is a lot better than whatever the **** is happening on Rotu. Before the infection could reach our sector, me and the rest of the sector’s inhabitants escaped onto the Helvenia. I guess a facefull of tomato isn’t too bad.
“Officer Nat…OFFICER NAT” Jim Hanks, the only other person in the break room grabs my attention.
“What Jim” I say exasperated.
“Did you finish your report for last night’s security detail” he asks in that oh so judgy tone of his.
“Yes Jim. Is there anything else I can be doing to serve you?” I reply smiling sweetly.
“No. Just do your job. I don’t want to constantly have to redo your work. And please use the correct titles. Its Officer Hanks. Just because we aren’t on Rotu anymore, doesn’t mean we can ignore protocol.”
Redoing my work! Where does this guy get off!
A few minutes later as I try my hardest to ignore Jim’s mouth breathing, Commanding Officer Michaels walks in.
Jim and I both stand up straight.
“Sir!” We both exclaim.
“At ease” the Commander responds.
His back turned to us, he pours himself a cup of coffee and asks, “Have you heard any of the reports about the colonies back home?”
“No, what happened?” Jim asks.
“The disease has completely taken over. All the sectors have been contaminated.” The Commander says through gritted teeth. He is still upset that we left so many behind.
“Commander, we had to leave.” I reply.
“We now have a chance to keep the colony going” Jim adds.
“I know there was no other option,” Michaels agrees “but I wish we could have gotten more people out.”
“Yeah and risk that some of them had the infection. No, it was better that we left before we got infected.” Jim remarks.
A heavy silence falls over us.
“Alright, back on the clock.” Commander Michael’s voice cuts through the somber mood. “Come on Nat, you’re on guard duty with me.” I follow the Commander through the sliding doors.
We walk silently to the main command unit. The room’s left wall is made completely of glass. This is my favorite job. You basically get to stare into the never ending empty space and zone out. Sure, if the radar picks up any ships around the Helvenia we have to alert the crew, but that never happens.
A cracking noise awakens me from my reverie. Commander Michaels is absently staring into space, cracking his knuckles repeatedly. His face looks worried. Great, he is still moping about the people on Rotu.
“Commander?” I ask. Not because I want to console him, but because he is driving me insane with that cracking noise.
“I can’t stop thinking of all the people we left behind.” he states, still staring absently.
“Sir, I know you feel bad, we all do, but there is nothing to be done.” I say.
“Yeah. I know you’re right. It’s just hard to keep my mind away from it.” he replies.
The Commander continues making that annoying sound as he stares out the glass.
That’s it! If he doesn’t stop doing that, I’m going to get in trouble for smacking a commanding officer.
“Commander, try to think of the positive. We saved over 5,000 lives and we will soon reach our new home. Officer Hanks was right, we have given the colony another chance.” I state.
The commander relaxes, finally putting his arms down. A few minutes pass in sweet uncracking silence when the commander turns to me, a confused look on his face, and asks “Who is Officer Hanks?”
Clearly the commander needs rest. “Jim, Commander. Officer Jim Hanks. We were just talking to him in the break room.” I say slowly. “Sir, maybe you should get some sleep. I’ll take over guard duty”
“Officer Nat, there was no one else in the break room with us. Is this some joke? I have no Officer Hanks on my squad?” He replies.
In a matter of seconds Commander Michael’s confusion fades, he reaches for his gun and speaks into his communications watch “Commander Michaels, requesting back up in the main Command Unit”.
“Sir, what are you doing?” I ask taking a step back.
“Freeze!” He aims his gun straight at my chest.
“Sir!” I beg.
“I’m sorry son.” He replies sadly, “You’re infected.You can’t risk the rest of the lives on this ship.”
As quick as I can I reach for my gun
Commander Michaels stares blankly at the body on the floor. Five guards come swiftly through the door, guns cocked and ready.
“At ease,” the commander remarks without taking his eyes away from the body.
“What happened” Officer Andrews asks, eyes glued to Officer Nat’s lifeless body.
“Officer Nat was seeing people that were not there. He carries the virus. Andrews, take three of your men and disinfect the area. And do not alert anyone of what happened. We don’t want panic” Michaels orders.
The four officers clean the area. The last remaining officer takes the empty guard position vacated by Nat.
About an hour later, a small speck of light finds its way in the neverending space.
“Sir, is that it?” The officer asks.
“Yes, Officer Hanks,” Commander Michael’s replies, “Earth, our new home.”