A New Captain

“Oh, smeg,” Alex moaned as he stumbled out of the stasis booth, clutching his head. “Jaysus, what did I drink? Paint thinner? Christ.” Alex sat his thumping, hung over head onto the soothingly cool ocean grey walls of the Dwarf. With his head still against the wall, he tried to look around to get a sense of bearing, though that was obviously quite difficult. This difficultly was removed, however, when his eyes spotted a can of larger tucked neatly away in the stasis booth he had just shambolically fallen out of. He bent down and grasped it in his hand, reading the crudely scribbled words inscribed in black marker pen over the company label. They read: PHiLs. And then, in smaller red letters: DON’T TOUCH. This was an obvious sign that Alex was not to drink it.
Alex smiled as the cool larger trickled down his throat, pushing down his hangover in a wave of alcohol. In several gulps, the can was empty and crushed on the stasis booth floor. Cracking his back, Alex glanced around for any sign of anyone else. There was no-one else.
“Hol!” Alex cried, hoping to catch the attention of the senile AI. No answer. “Hol!” he cried again. Still no answer. Near by was one of the many black screens mounted onto the wall that would project Holly’s presence. Instead of an alert and functioning AI that would be keeping check of important systems and steering the ship home, there was the balding head of Hol. Sleeping.
“Holly!” Alex said, rapping the glass with his knuckles.
“Who’s that then?” said a startled Holly as his disembodied head flew up in a fright. “Oh, Alex.”
“Hol, where is everyone?”
“Yes, Alex, holiday.”
“Without me?”
“What a bunch of Smegheads.”
“Think how I feel, trapped on this ship!”
Alex nodded in agreement and then walked away, wandering the corridors, searching for something to do.
“Oi!” Holly called after him, though Alex ignored it.

He eventually found his way to the promenade, or more specifically, one of the many bars that were present on the ship. Specifically, this was the Drowned Sorrow, a rather apt name. It was a new pub but it was already garnering attention from the locals, despite the owners… unsettling origins. Opened by a Huzzard couple, most of the Promenade rodents hadn’t even seen a Huzzard up close and were initially scared of the scaled people. But alcohol was a better pull than a Huzzard is as a push and so the pub soon filled with dejected and forlorn peoples. Alex was this himself. Sitting alone at a table in the corner, he clutched at a pint glass of a murky brown liquid the Huzzard’s called Bere. It certainly didn’t taste like beer. Running through his head were a million and one thoughts, all of which he had thought and dreamt before. But one that seemed to stick out today was that of Bedge, and he how, to Alex’s knowledge, he was still lost and abandoned on Fernando’s. As Alex mulled these thoughts over in his mind, a bright flash broke through the dim of the pub lighting. A man pulled up the seat opposite Alex, a blue great coat pooling at the man’s feet. Alex looked in shock as he saw an old man with long silver hair and a long grey beard, and from under bushy grey eyebrows gleamed a set of storm grey eyes. A pair of hands sat clasped on the table, one old and withered and the other rusted and damaged.
“Hello, Alex.”
“The one and only,” Plisken said, taking of his hat and resting it on the table.
“But Holly said that everyone was on holiday,” Alex stuttered. He leaned in slightly closer, picking up more details about his visitor. A green scarf was wrapped around his head to keep his hair from falling into his eyes, and a red scarf was tied around his neck. Over his right eye, a black eye patch hide away, what was presumably, a damaged or lifeless eye. This Plisken seemed older somehow.
“That’s why,” Plisken said, taking a large leather wrist band from under the cuff of his coat and laying it on the table. Alex poked it with his finger, lifting up a flap to reveal the blue display of numbers and digits and buttons. “It’s a Time Drive, mark 3.”
“Where did you find this?”
“We had to make it. We are finding ourselves needing it more and more now.”
“So, just how far in the future are you from?”
Plisken’s eyes glanced to the floor for a moment. He pressed a smile onto his face and ignored the question, knowing full well the destruction a wrong word could make.
“You are thinking of leaving, yes? Then you will need a ship.”
“I was just thinking of taking one of the Starbugs or Midgets…”
Plisken smiled properly now, a genuine joy. “You wouldn’t last long in those buckets, you know.”
“What other choice do I have? I can’t leave Bedge behind like that.”
“Hmm, yes. Bedge is… well, nevermind. Here, take these.” Plisken leaned over and handed Alex a set of key cards, one that looked like a door key and the other for a ship. “She’s called Serenity.”
“Where could you keep a ship on this rust bucket?” Alex asked before his mind kicked a memory into his train of thought. “Ohhh…”
“Remember, Alex, find a crew, find a job, keep flying,” Plisken said as he stood up, placing the hat back on his head and strapping the small time drive onto his wrist.
“Wait,” Alex said, grabbing Plisken’s wrist, “Why did you come here?”
“Just passing though before it… before it begins…”
“Before what begins?”
“Goodbye, Captain Solvay,” Plisken said finally before pressing a button on his Time Drive and vanishing in a flash of light.

Alex hovered outside the Floor 16 janitorial closet, his fingers nervously playing with the key’s Plisken had left him. Around his feet were his belongings, a hurridly stuffed couple of bags filled with memories. Was he ready to leave all this behind? He’d recorded a Holo-Note, designed to play as soon as someone entered the cafeteria or the Drive Room but would that before enough to explain his absence?
“Oh smeggin’ hell,” said Alex as his brain pushed him forward to the door lock. The door slide open and revealed what it had done several months ago: a vast and open hanger bay tucked away inside the cupboard.
Everything seemed the same, though something was troubling different. The little cottage in which Garnet, Plisken’s AI Ex had lived, was destroyed, the insides gutted and the windows smashed and the door crooked. The charming smoke that had once plumed from the chimney no longer did so and the air smelt dirty. Alex poked his head around in the cottage but there was nothing and no-one, not a soul.
The ship was still there, gleaming in the low light. Alex climbed in, breathing in the old air that soaked the pilot's deck. Draped over the pilot's chair was a gleaming blue greatcoat, a small note tagged onto the collar. It read: A Final Gift. Alex swung it over his shoulders and sat in the captain's chair, feeling the history that seemed to ebb from the vessel. The far wall of the hall cracked open and a shimmering sea of stars cast against the pitch black of vast space was revealed. Guiding the ship out of the Dwarf, Alex set off for Bedge.

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