Chapter 5: Escape Pod
Copyright© 2018 by Duncan7
We sat in the escape pod for a long time, trying to steady our breathing and listening for any signs of anything. An escape pod is not designed to be a good place to observe what is going on, it has one primary function, to allow crew or passengers to escape a ship. So we continued to wait.
Then suddenly there was a noise of explosions, it sounded like the freighter was being destroyed. At about the same time, there was a whoosh sound, as the escape pod we were in was automatically jettisoned out into space. I learned later that it was part of Ori safety protocols - in the event of a core explosion, all occupied escape pods were ejected.
Another stroke of fortune happened that wasn’t evident at the time. Thanks to the orientation of our escape pod on the freighter relative to the pirate vessels, we hurtled away from the exploding freighter on the side away from the pirates. We could have been going straight towards the pirates, but we were not. The blast from the exploding freighter mercifully hid us from the pirate vessels sensors. Neither of us were in a state to appreciate that at the time. It is quite traumatic to be spat out into the void, in a small capsule, knowing that pirates just killed all your crewmates and may still be out there.
Like I said earlier, an escape pod is not good for windows. We could not see what was going on. We did not know that the pirates, had killed and plundered as much as they wanted from what had been our home, and had moved their vessels back and fired their weapons at the freighter, triggering the final explosion.
That was the last we knew of the pirates. Somehow we had slipped away. We did not know if anyone else had escaped. I knew we were in a remote area of space, and probably not any better off than our likely now deceased crewmates.
The interior of the escape pod was quite small, with a couple of seats surrounded by storage hatches and in front was a small control panel. With the two of us in there, it was full, with no room to stand up. There was no artificial gravity in here, and the pod was likely spinning as it travelled through space, so standing up didn’t make much sense. The leg room was ok, since it was built for Ori, who were taller than me. After a long while, I experimented with the control panel and was able to bring up a view of the outside, it was black - no surprise. I soon turned it off to save power.
Time passed slowly. It had been a while since we had left the freighter, and the stress and the adrenalin had worn off. We both fell asleep. We slept for a long time in the escape pod as it traveled along silently through space. The attack and the pirates were far behind us now.
When I finally awoke, I turned and saw Koluna looking at me. She still looked to be disturbed, if I was any judge of Ori facial expressions and their meanings.
I sat up and turned to the control panel. I studied the readings, which were in Ori. It had been about two days since the explosion. Where did the time go? We were in deep space and far from anywhere. I saw that the emergency distress beacon was not active, and so I activated it. There was of course the risk that the pirates might detect our beacon and come after us, but I figured the risk now small enough. After all, they already got what they wanted from the freighter, and a distress call would not guarantee anything of value. To not activate it would pretty much guarantee that we would never be found. After I activated the beacon, there was little else I could think of doing, so I sat back.
Koluna spoke, for the first time since we left the freighter. “The air recycling is working, we have food rations that should last a while, and we don’t have a change of clothing. We might smell a bit in a few days, but we’ll survive for now.”
“I should be careful what I eat.” I answered, “As I am different, the Ori rations may not be entirely compatible for me. So what now?”
Koluna took my hand in hers and looked into my eyes and said “The rations will be fine. Bri-an, I thank you for saving my life. I have had some time to process the events that happened, at least from my perspective. I don’t think I would be alive if you had not brought me with you. In Ori culture we have what we call a life-debt. That means I owe you my life.”
Her laser-like attention was focused on me, and that made me feel strange. I blushed. “You don’t owe me anything Koluna. I really didn’t do that much, I was acting on instinct. I had missed the training on what to do when attacked by pirates. I don’t even know if there is such training, and if there was it clearly did not help the others.” I was babbling, but I could not help it. When crammed into a small escape pod with another being, there is not much separation, nor can you look away easily. This was even more intimate than I had experienced recently on the freighter. At least there I had my own cabin to retreat to.
“I don’t recall any training on pirates, and if there was I never took it either. When I signed up I didn’t think about pirates, they don’t mention it in their recruiting videos. I thought the only excitement would be in negotiating purchases of cargo. I was confused and lost in the smoke, then you came along and pulled me into this pod. You can argue all you like, but I still owe you a life-debt.”
“I don’t feel like I did anything. I feel guilty that I did not do more to save others.” I said. My hand felt warm in hers. Tians rarely hold hands, so it was infinitely more noticeable to me.
“A lot of good Ori citizens died a meaningless death back there.” She said sadly.
“Yes, I miss Captain Jegho especially. He was very kind to me. I understand now that it is normal for Ori culture. But I grew up on Tian Prime, and Tians pretty much keep their distance. The captain was the first being that was warm and friendly to me.”
Koluna was still holding my hand, but she didn’t let it go. In fact, she held on firmly and held my eye contact for a few moments while she continued to study my face. I felt awkward, not sure where to look. Tians do not stare in your face like that.
“I agree that most Tians are not very warm, no offence meant. We Ori are not so reserved as Tians, as you have learned.” She paused. “But you are not like any Tian I have known.”
“It is a long story,” I said.
She smiled at me. Her face was just inches away from me. “I’m pretty sure we have time.”
I had nowhere to go, and this might be the last being I would be with, so I decided to put aside my usual reserved nature and share with her.
“My species is not Tian, I am a human. Humans are a primitive non space-faring race. About 20 cycles ago, my mother was taken from her home planet as a specimen for study by Tian scientists. They missed the fact that she was pregnant with me. I was born on Tian Prime, and thus I am a Tian by birth. I am the only non-Tian with Tian citizenship.
“My mother died about 4 cycles ago, leaving me the only human on Tian Prime. For a while I lived in an orphanage. After I reached the age of maturity, I applied for work aboard the Opolu Naa. For some reason the authorities did not like the idea of me leaving the planet, but I had help from the Ori Ambassador and of course captain Jegho. As far as I know, I’m the only space-faring being of my species. I am also the first Tian to have served aboard an Ori vessel.”
“Wow! That is amazing. And you have never seen your home world?” asked Koluna. Her eyes were wide, and her facial expressions captivated me. I was still not that experienced with Ori and their showing of emotions. Tians do not show anything.
“My home world is Tian Prime. I saw it every day. My mother came from a planet she called Earth. I don’t know where it is, and I don’t care. It is not my home world. I didn’t come from there and I wouldn’t fit in. I would be alien to them, and they would be primitive to me. I don’t see a reason to go there. I have no connections there.”
“It sounds like you have lived a rather lonely life.”