“Please. Please tell them we had nowhere to go. We needed to run away.”
Obviously they had somewhere to go. Unfortunately it was here, where trespassing is punishable by death.
“C’mon, man. Stand up straight.” I nodded to the wall-length window, where the old guy trudged, trembling, his burnt and frayed canvas pants dragging on the slick, marble floor. “Pick your head up.”
The faded scars on his fingers marked him a working man. The red, raw welts on his forearms marked him a survivor of the Invaders. Overall, it seemed he lived an interesting life—and it’d be a shame for it to end with him whimpering, “Please… please…”
“Shut up,” I said.
His knees gave out, and he collapsed on the deck and started wailing. “We were trapped in the docking bay! We would’ve died there!”
It wasn’t like I could help him out here; I was resort security, not a savior. I didn’t know what to tell him.
“You know, you could’ve gotten on a lifeboat,” was what I came up with.
“There was no room left for us.”
There was something uniquely disturbing about this one. Granted, all th stowaways cried, all buried their faces in their hands, and at least half tried to punch me in the nose—understandably so. This guy I just didn’t want to look at, and I let my gaze wander to the space outside the window.
“Oh, hey.” I grinned. “Why don’t you look at that?”
I sauntered over to his simpering figure, picked him up by the back of the collar, and turned him to see the once-green colony planet. Ignore the knowledge that the pinkish-orange glow was from the
Invaders scorching the surface, brush off the fact that it was his home planet, and as far as final sights go, it could’ve been worse.
“Pretty,” I said, keeping my hand on the back of his neck. He seemed able to stand on his own, but I didn’t trust him not to fall again. “Isn’t it?”
The sobbing, shoulder-popping wailing stopped, but the tears kept streaming. “How does this job treat you?” he asked. “Is it nice?”
Work-life balance could’ve been better—transporting people from a planetary system invaded by slimy aliens was exhilarating one day and exhausting the next, especially when those people were upper-class brats whose snobbiness was only exacerbated by the Invasion—but it paid well. I had my own suite, kept my twin jet in the bay, and had my two dogs with me. My girlfriend had even stayed on-board free of charge with me—before she dumped me and returned to Earth, anyway.
“What about the ship?” he asked, hardly trembling now. “How is it?”
I looked around me—at the high ceilings, decorative pillars, and the sleek, polished surfaces on everything. The pale blue lights that glowed from the top and bottom of the room’s perimeter were scientifically proven to dispel feelings of distress and depression. The little robots hovering around the floor ensured any trash was disposed of quickly and quietly.
“It’s… great. Living here is great,” I said. “Why do you ask?”
He stared past the darkness of space, out at the burning planet with the pretty, pale glow. “I’d rather die out there than in here.”
My messenger buzzed. It was a text from my supervisor, reading, “What’s the situation with the stowaway? Is it dealt with?”
“Yes, it’s done,” I typed and sent back.
Resting my forearms on the glass, I watched my twin jet float through empty space, into the burning planet’s glow.