One Last Kiss

The blackened metal reflected the faint light down the corridor. Pipes running along the walls created makeshift handrails. Hiding the wires behind. Designed with functionality in mind, the veins and arteries placed to always be within reach for a quick repair. The precious life’s blood continuously pumped inside the hollow tubes and copper wires. Were the blood to start hemorrhaging, everything would quickly die. Safety first; beauty, a far second.

Oxygen, and electricity to keep everyone alive. The craft was originally designed as a freighter. Space designed to maximize the shipments it can carry. Profits first; comfortability given no consideration. The engine, while small, was powerful enough to give the small ship some kick. One of the first of it’s kind, the ship has seen it all. Smuggling past enemy lines through several wars, the ship has developed a reputation. One of the last of its kind, the ship has long passed its prime. Ready to be retired and parts scrapped out, kept on running for the stubborn command of one man.

Along the steel grate that makes for the floor, the Captain of the vessel walks his way to the command station. An old man, the captain has been around almost as long as his ship. One look into his eyes tells the tale that he has seen even more than his ship. The captain is long past his prime. Ready to retire and scrap the unnecessary parts of his life, the captain too stubborn to call it quits has just delivered his final shipment. Growing ever restless, toying with the idea of just one last job. Always, One more time, he says to himself.

Through the hall, he passes. A darkened metal tunnel, lights shining at the end. Calling him forward, he answers the summons with a tap tap tap, of his steps on metal mesh below him. Trained eyes scanning the life support systems running along the walls. Routine, systematic searching for anything that may cause catastrophic error. Not liking what he sees, the man marches on, unable to fix the decaying touch of time.

At the end of the hall, in front of a pressurized door, the captain stands under the light. A faint yellow hue given off by the bulb colours his white hair momentarily blond. The ship holding on to the memories of a young captain, the first time walking down this hall. Teasing the man with images of a time long ago; a freshly installed bulb radiating natural imitation white light. A young blond boy, eager to get out and explore.

Putting away the nostalgic feelings, the captain enters the code into the door. Beeping at his touch 2-4-1-7. The door slides open, and the man passes beyond the threshold.

“What have you got for me, Winston?  This had better be good, I was nearly asleep.” The captain says to the rail-thin man sitting at the communications computer. The man, in his early late twenties, is already balding. An odd side effect of prolonged cryogenic sleep, studies show. What is left of his now patchy hair, a deep brown. Were the captain able to remember the colour of soil, perhaps he would relate the two. The man, Winston, looks up at his captain before diving back into to computer screen. The only sounds, the ever preset hum of the engine, and the click-clack of fingers typing away.

The captain runs a hand through his thick snowy hair. Never spending time in cryo, the captain still has all his hair. Always teasingly reminding his old friend of the fact. Though the two appear vastly separated in age, the captain has estimated they were both born around the same time. The typing stops, and Winston speaks. “We recieved a trasmission, Sir. Something I think you ought to hear.” Slightly intrigued, and more than tired, the Captain tells the man to play the message.

Through the intercoms the message plays. Starting with static so thick, the two men momentarily swimming in white noise.
KSHSHSHSHSSHHSHSSWHS …Please… send for…. are prisoners… rescue… invasion coming… warn…. KSHSHSHSHWHSHW

“That’s all there was, not a lot to go on.” Winston explained. “I figured it was more interesting than anything we usually receive. Thought you ought to hear it for yourself.” The Captain takes his seat at the command station, quietly in thought, he ponders the massage. Too old for this he thinks to himself, ought to be retire and have a drink at the bar.
“Can you trace the origin of the message?” the captain questions Winston. The typing returns, as Winston furiously hammers away on his console. Sheer force breaking open the secrets of the message.

The cramped room covered in a faint blue light. The radiant glow of the computer screens creating the feeling of being under water. Looking out through the viewing bay, the scene for the Captain is mostly black. The nearest sun behind the ship, all the light blocked from view. The only sight a small planet, spinning gracefully on it’s timeless dance through the universe. There is a colony down there. Food, drinks, women… rest.

“Sir, I found the source. A distant planet on the edge of this system. A few days out.” The Captain sits in silence, doing some quick mental calculations to determine which planet it could be. Quick, being relative. Too old. Getting slow

“Good job, as always Winston. Now, extrapolate the course of the signal to determine where it’s going. That message might have been sent out at random, a shot in the dark. But if there is a threat of an invasion, it wouldn’t hurt to give anyone receiving a far warning.”

Winston, hunched over his console dives immediately into his task. Stopping for a moment to look at the captain, he asks “Shall I set our course planet-side, to go talk to the authorities? I’m sure they would want to question us, personally.”

The captain slowly gets up from his chair. A deep set ache in his back. Too old, dammit.
Making his way to the door, he says “Relay the message, and our findings to the authorities planet-side.
And set our course for the source of the message. Something tells me whoever sent that doesn’t have much time. We will go investigate personally.
In the meantime, I’ll be in my quarters. Wake me if you need me.”

Punching in his code, the Captain walks away from the light. Into the darkened, tunneled corridor he journeys.
Running his hand along the metal pipes containing the ships life’s blood. Tasting the metallic feel on his hand, he recalls all the close calls he has had over the years.

Just one more time, old girl The Captain says to his Ship.

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