Alright. Okay. This is interesting. The day started off weird. There was that whole pirate raid thing. Ended up blowin' up in our faces. Lost our fleet. Lost our captain. Almost lost our lives. It was weird; I'll give you that. But no weirder than me bein' a space pirate.
I'm sittin' here in my pirate room, on my pirate bed, on this pirate spaceship, with this pirate crew. Good bunch of people.
We got Rutra an' Kal-Artang standin' in front of me.
Rutra's twitchy an' eager, like he jus' can't wait t'hear my reaction. The twitchiness might actually be from him bein' a walkin' talkin' wasp dude, but whatever. The bottled up excitement's there.
Kal is jus'—kinda hard t'get a real solid read on him with the whole stoic thing he got goin' on, but—he's not as eager as Rutra. His arm is out extended, motionin' t'the folks behind him. He looks at me in anticipation. His eyes are locked. His breathin' is constant. He's waitin' on me t'react before reactin' himself. I think. Maybe. I dunno.
“What?” I ask again. I'm jus' as blunt as before. Leanin' forward off the side of my bed-table, hands in my lap, lookin' up at all of them.
Scion steps up. He takes his free arm—the one not in a sling—an' pats Kal on the back of his shoulder. Kal puts his hands down, an' steps away t'give Scion the floor.
“We've voted on it,” Scion starts out. “And while it may not have been unanimous,” he quickly glances at FengRi behind him, then looks back at me, “But you're our captain now.”
I can see FengRi roll his eyes in the background. He lets out a silent sigh. He closes his eyes, takes a step back, turns, an' puts hand over his face. Mera, standin' next t'him, can pick up on the bird-man's frustration. She raises an eyebrow as she steps away from him.
I look back at Scion an' say, “Pass.”
“Nuh uh uh,” Rutra says with a chuckle. “He said we voted.” Dude walks up an' sits on my bed next t'me. I feel my face scrunchin' up. I try t'hide it, but I know I'm doin' a bad job. It ain't even got t'do with the wasp thing. It's jus' – dude's on my bed. I sleep here. Only person allowed t'sit here is me, an' only me.
I place my hand on his shoulder. His exoskeleton feels all weird an' crusty. I'm completely grossed out, but this is important. I place my hand on his shoulder, an' I nod my head. He buzzingly catches the hint an' takes t'his feet.
“Well,” Rutra continues. “They decided,” he says noddin' Kal, Scion, an' FengRi's direction. “You're the best man for the job.”
“I'm fifteen,” I say, wipin' my hand along my thin bedsheets. Crud, I'll probably need t'torch all of this before sleepin' tonight. Wash my hands, sanitize 'em. Wash the sheets. Everything.
“Your point?” Rutra responds.
“The decision came from a number of factors,” Scion speaks out. “As much as you've tried so hard to avoid it, you've made quite an impression on everyone in the ship.”
“How?” I ask.
“After your fight early on, everyone learned to either fear or respect you and your space,” Scion continues. “And since you've kept relatively to yourself since then, the people have started forming their own opinions about you. I don't know if you've noticed the way people treat you when you're around, but there's something there.”
“Not ta mention how exotic you are,” Rutra chimes in. “Honestly, that was the reason I took an interest in you an' Carlos. Can't say I've seen anything out there that looks quite like you two. What planet are y'all from?”
“And when you fought so fiercely against the attack, that fear and respect turned into admiration,” Kal-Artang's the last t'add in somethin'. “You've got the makings of a leader already.”
I sit here, gatherin' my thoughts for a bit. My hands are clenched. My head is down, lookin' at the floor. I'm tryna take it all in. I look up t'Mera, hopin' she gives me somethin' t'bounce off of. She's as quiet an' shadow like I as I usually am. Not gettin' nothin' outta her. I look t'FengRi. Dude's obviously the main one against this, but he keeps quiet, too.
I look back up at the three main guys drivin' the conversation, an' I jus' be real with 'em. “Bull,” I say. “That ain't true at all. Ain't nobody treated me no different than before. I'm still a fly on the wall.”
“Well fine,” Rutra moans. “Maybe we're makin' it out bigger than it actually is, but ya gotta admit, there's still somethin' there. At worst, you're an unknown. Nobody cares enough ta have beef with you. At best, people do know, and they know not ta mess with you. Look man, we're kinda outta options here.”
“Why ain't none of you guys steppin' up?” I ask.
“I'd do it, but it kinda sounds like work, an' I don't know if you know this about me,” Rutra starts out, “but I somehow have a knack for making the worst impression with people. I don't know what it is. I think I'm workin' on it, but I'm cut out the running because of it.”
“I'm a soldier,” Kal-Artang states. “Born and bred to follow. Never lead.”
“I'm far too weakened to lead the ship,” Scion says. “And my specialties are better suited where they are now.”
“I would do it,” FengRi boastfully exclaims. “In fact, I think I should do it.” He steps up t'the center of the room. “I have knowledge of all the happenings this ship. I've been in every pivotal decision since stepping foot in the fleet. I'm probably the best suited person for the job.” He pauses as he looks at the stern looks Kal an' Scion give him.
“But as it was so eloquently pointed out to me,” FengRi continues. “It's not just the captain who's gone, but also three-fourths of our entire fleet.” He lowers his voice to a more inside-speaking volume. “If it was just the captain who was missing, I'd definitely take the position. But as things are now, I am needed elsewhere. It wouldn't be sensible to perform all the tasks that need tending to, and to lead the ship.”
“Precisely,” Scion agrees.
“So there you have it,” Rutra says. “You're all that we've got left.”
Another pause. They watch as I sit here, eyes starin' at the floor, reflectin' on everything. I want them t'take this as an opportunity t'leave, but I guess they're waitin' on an answer from me. Not that they really asked anything. From the looks of things, I don't really have a say in the matter.
“So what now?” I ask.
“That's up to you,” Scion replies.
“Whatever you say goes,” Rutra adds in.
“To a degree,” Kal clarifies.
“Naturally, we'll provide assistance wherever needed,” Scion says. “Honestly, when it gets down to it, you'll be more of a figurehead. We realize that you won't immediately have an idea on how things are run.”
“Alright, fine,” I interrupt. “I guess I'm the captain now. Can you give me a moment t'process all this?”
I don't like where I am right now. Don't think I've never been down here before. The lighting's dim. I can see my breath as I breathe. My senses are on edge. The place is like a dungeon. It's actually a cargo room, but dungeon is definitely the vibe I'm gettin'. For good reason, too.
“These are the last few that we've managed to capture.”
Kal-Artang took us here—me, Rutra, Scion, Mera, an' FengRi—t'do “business” as he called an' FengRi called it.
As I look around, I see how the place used t'be. There room's definitely big enough t'house all the cargo we need, but since we've been runnin' low on supplies, the place is lookin' pretty empty. Only thing really takin' up the space now, are about half a dozen, badly beaten, highly bruised, jus' about broken alien soldiers in their torn up white body armor.
“What's goin' on here?” I ask.
“We're here to get answers,” FengRi states. He makes his way t'the sprawled out bodies along the floor. Each of the soldiers are in cuffs. The almost look like the power dampeners from back home, except all alienified. “These are the men who invaded our home and sought our demise. As captain of our fleet, it is best you become aware of your adversaries. Know thy enemy.”
I look over t'Rutra, an' the bug looks like he's ready t'pounce. He's already motionin' for the pistol on his side. As he looks on at the soldiers before him, I can hear that buzzin' sound he makes gettin' louder an' louder.
“Rest assured,” FengRi continues as he makes his way back over t'us. “Once we get the information we need, we'll dispose of them, accordingly. But until then,” he glances back at the soldiers.
“They need to stay alive long enough to feel pain.”