(IP) Ridley’s Joy

“Testing, testing… Am I coming through?” Static. “Testing, three, two, one… Do you read me? Come on, rookie, I know you hear me! Respond, damn you! I need to know you’re okay.”

Nothing.

The captain sat back, clenching her fists. She had to resist the childish impulse to punch the motherboard in front of her. She’d sent a pair of officers out to patrol the area outside of the ship, the most seasoned veteran and the youngest private among the crew, and though she was the captain and used to waiting, she could not quiet the unease that was bubbling up in her heart.

There was something wrong, and she bit her bottom lip, hoping that her gut was wrong for once. She stood up from her seat, wincing when her back cracked in several places in protest. She swore under her breath and walked to the galley, hardly daring to breathe as she waited for either one of her crewmates to answer her. Sweat beaded on her brow, gathering in the collar of her suit, the back of her neck, the small of her back.

This was supposed to be a routine check to make sure that the probes were working correctly. What was in the Sun’s name was taking them so long? She walked to the counter and reached up into a cabinet above it, grabbing a freeze-dried honey and strawberry bar, devouring it in three bites. Planets, she missed real food. Food that didn’t have to be freeze-dried and specially packaged. She missed it more depending on the day: hot chicken noodle soup bubbling away on the stove, a medium rare steak hot and crusty right out of the oven, and gooey chocolate chip cookies.

She was on her last bite when a hoarse, rasping shriek came through over the mic, and she gasped, coughing for a moment when the last bit caught in her throat for a moment. She punched her chest until the piece came free, and she spat it onto the floor, her heart galloping behind her ribcage; she had to get answers out of someone, before it was too late.

“Hello? Hello! What’s going on? Lieutenant, Private–someone, answer me! That’s an order, damn it!”

She tried to keep calm, keep her voice quiet and business-like, but she was failing. That scream had caused her vision to spot, and she struggled to calm herself; she would be no use to either of her crewmates if she passed out in the middle of the galley.

Her mic started cutting out, garbled words mixed with static, and she groaned in frustration. How was she supposed to help her friends if all of her tech was failing her?

“Captain–” The lieutenant’s voice, smoky and harsh, finally came through, then cut out again.

“There’s been an attack!” The private’s voice came right behind, and the words sounded wet, her breathing heavy in the captain’s ears.

“Creatures were surrounding the probes and…” Another cut out.

“We need backup… We just barely managed to make it to shelter… Surrounded…”

“Send help…”

That was all that Captain Ridley heard before the mic made an angry, buzzing sound and died. She threw it down on the floor, running her fingers through her hair, her head bowed.

It looked like she would have to go after her friends. What kind of captain would leave her people to a mysterious attack?
**