This story is by Samantha Weldon and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
Captain Peter Kane was born on Earth but he hasn’t seen much of it since his family fled the planet years ago. He knows the shape of his country by heart because he’s seen the wasteland from above enough times. He would not be able to point out the place he was born because that place doesn’t exist anymore.
Peter looked at it now, the land was completely gray; the water around it a surprisingly brilliant blue. Peter didn’t feel any attachment.
“Prepare for incoming message,” said a robotic voice, stirring Peter from where he leaned heavily against the window. “From RSS Karenina: The Tsar demands USS Obama to stand down, let us attach and come aboard.”
Looking at the blinking map on the console, Peter could see the Russian Federation had his ship completely surrounded. Peter coughed; his lungs burned. When he looked down he could see blood on his hands. He could barely stand.
“We know your ship is infected with the virus. Let us help,” the robot spoke for the Tsar.
Peter knew the Russian Federation couldn’t be trusted but he also knew him and his crew were all going to watch each other die if someone didn’t do something soon. He reached for the handle that would slow the spaceship to a stop. The USS Obama, named after the last president of his country. That was a long time ago, and the following president-turned-dictator’s great-great-great grandson was about to take his ship.
After a while the ship stuttered and Peter was roused from his spot on the ground. Soldiers in hazmat suits entered the captain’s room and grabbed Peter by the arm; the cold end of a gun was pointed at his temple. He was dragged through the door towards the rest of the waiting crew.
Most of them laid in their beds, too sick to do anything but look frightened. The first mate tried grabbing the gun under his bunk but he was disarmed quickly and hit across the face. Another soldier pulls out a sparking prod and lightly touches the cabin boy when he refuses to move from the bed. His body convulses in a shock and blood leaks from his mouth and nose. The boy gets up and joins the rest of the crew shuffling after the leading hazmat suit.
They are taken to the air tight chamber in the back of the ship. It is small and Peter is the last to enter. The room is packed and he has to lean against sick bodies so that the door could close.
The Tsar singled himself out by approaching Peter on the other side of the glass door. That orange hair of the past tsars makes itself present. Peter spit a wad of blood, so that it dribbled down the glass door in front of the man’s face.
“The Russian Federation has claimed this ship, the USS Obama. Captain Peter Kane and crew have been seen to be engaging in illegal activities such as interstellar piracy, the trade of illegal goods, and operating without an interstellar license.”
“You make ‘trying to survive under your regime and feed our families’ sound so cold.” Peter said.
“You should have thought about that before you broke the law.” the Tsar said, “Now you will rot in here.” He swept away, leaving the men trapped in their own ship.
It was 7 hours in before Peter remembered the note on his desk from last week, “Fix Chamber 6’s system,” it said. The mechanic had told him the control boxes had been shorting out, but he had been too busy throwing up to get around to it.
Peter staggered to the control box by the door and read “Chamber 6” in the top right corner. His heart lurched, and soon his fingers were mashing all the keys on the box. The screen was lagging; he heard a popping noise and then the screen zipped black. Smoke came out of the edges of the box. Lights powered down.
Only a distant light from another part of the ship shown on Peter while he walked up to the glass. The door frame was heavy metal but when Peter pushed on it, it opened light as a feather. He smiled. They were taking this ship back.