Open University of Celestial Hardship (OUCH)

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Sunlight.

Its beautiful golden rays are so warm and wonderful on your skin, filling your mind with hope and your body with healthy nutrients ………..but, when viewed in space, through the clear, six inch thick, radioactive proof glass of a ship’s portal, it’s just cold and really, really bright.

I turned my eyes away from that brightness just as the on-board computer blasted out the mechanically reproduced voice of a voluptuous blonde, “Co-ordinates from station received, captain.”

At least in my mind’s eye she was a voluptuous blonde, with beautiful curves and legs that went all the way up to ……

“Thank you, Izzy,” I replied coaxing my mind away from that vision, “Run a systems check and make sure all weapons are loaded and online.”

“Affirmative, captain,” the computer replied flatly.

I sat down in the pilot’s seat and pulled up the navigational charts for the area where this particular mission was located.

Why are they always isolated way out there in deep space?

The thought drifted briefly in my mind, before an answer popped up out of the deepest, darkest places of my sub-conscience.

Because no one can hear you scream when you’re isolated way out there in deep space.

I nodded slowly as if agreeing with that part of my mind, before catching myself and pushing the thought out altogether.

“Systems check complete, captain, all status checks are five by five and weapons are fully loaded,” came the voice of that sultry blonde living in my ship’s computer.

I nodded again while looking over the navigational charts, “Very well Izzy.”

I turned slightly in my chair and began locking in my seat belts, “Open a comm to station.”

“Comm channel open, captain.”

I could barely hear soft static clicking out of the channel as I spoke, “Captain of the Star-Shield requesting permission to leave orbit.”

Permission wasn’t really needed to leave station orbit, but it was a common courtesy nowadays to at least let them know.

I glanced down at the control board while waiting for a reply, all system lights were green, cargo bays were empty, fuel tanks were full, the ship was ready for action.

Star-Shield you are clear to leave orbit,” came the reply of a dis-embodied voice from the open comm channel, “safe flying captain.”

“Thank you station .......Star-Shield out,” I replied, locking in the last of my belts, “Izzy, take us out of orbit at full speed.”

“Affirmative captain, leaving station orbit at full speed.”

I leaned my head back into the seat and looked out at the vast expanse of space that was spread out before me.

It’s a cold and unforgiving place out there …..…and I never get tired of it.

A small smile crept onto my face at that thought.

 “Izzy, Lock in mission co-ordinates, bring us in-line and spin up the warp drives, I want to get this done and be back by dinner.”

“Affirmative captain, co-ordinates locked and aligning, warp systems online.”

I could feel the ship turning and hear the familiar sound of the warp drives powering up, preparing to propel us at maximum speed into that cold darkness.

“Engage warp as soon as the engines are ready”


“Affirmative captain, engaging warp”

There is a moment, a tiny fraction of an instant, just as the warp drives engage, where you feel like you’re sitting perfectly still and motionless, and at the very same time moving faster than light through space, almost as though you are in two places at once. Your breath catches in your lungs and everything goes black, you’re mind blanks as all thoughts are ripped away and your body feels like it is stretching beyond its own physical limitations, your stomach twists and feels like it may violently empty itself and it is everything you can do just to keep it all together,……..and then the moment is gone and you are back in your ship as the stars slip past you in a vast array of colors and lights.

I have often contemplated that moment on long missions, when autopilot is engaged and everything is calm and quiet, and I have come to the realization that humanoids weren’t meant to move that fast, we just aren’t built for it.

But, what can you do? It comes with the job.


........to be continued
Coming out of warp is the usual moment of disorientation, where your mind feels like it is still moving much faster than your body currently is. This disorientation is usually followed quickly by a series of deliberate actions entirely designed to keep one alive in the outer reaches of space.

I flip the switch for the scanner display and quickly scan the displayed information for any hostiles or anything out of the ordinary …….…nothing.

“Izzy, analysis”

I few seconds tick by as I review the scanner display again, before the electronic blonde responds.

“I’m picking up no hostiles in the immediate area captain, long range scanning shows nothing as well.”

Staring out the view port of the ship, I search the immediate area for anything that might be a station, but only see floating rocks and empty space.

“What about stations? The mission brief says there’s supposed to be a laboratory out here?”

“Nothing on scans captain.”


“Double check our co-ordinates Izzy.”


“We are at the co-ordinates that were supplied through the mission brief, captain.”


Ok ……so here I am looking blindly for a laboratory station that apparently doesn’t exist.....

Out the view port I see three massive asteroids, I mean these things are big, literally the size of stations themselves or bigger, and all of them surrounded by smaller chunks of rock in various sizes.


What the hell? Where’s the station?

The blonde with the sultry voice continues, “Analysis of the larger asteroids shows them made up primarily of Veldspar, with smaller particles of Scordite and Pyroxeres throughout, typical of the region.”

“Anything else?” I reply calmly.


“One of the asteroids is hollow, with an extremely high energy signal emanating from within.”

Uh huh….


“You didn’t think that was important enough to start with, Izzy?”

“I don’t understand captain?”


“Forget it Izzy.”

Blondes…..


“Take us into close orbit of the hollow asteroid.”

“Affirmative, captain.”


“And Izzy, make all weapons systems ready and I want continuous tactical scanning sweeps, especially on our six, I don’t want anyone sneaking up on us.”

“Affirmative, captain.”


The dim white lights in the cockpit changed to a soft red glow as the ship changed to battle stations and began to move towards the asteroid.

Moments later, halfway through the first orbit of the asteroid, just as we round a large outcropping of rock, I see what looks like a large opening in the side, a massive cavern.

Only a few seconds after that and I can see the laboratory station deep inside that cavern, floating in the belly of the asteroid itself.

Well, I’ll be damned.

“Are you getting this Izzy?”

“Affirmative, captain”

“I thought you said there were no stations?”

“Electronic scanning appears to be impaired captain, possibly by interference from the asteroid surrounding the station……it is highly unusual.”

I nodded my agreement.

You said it blondie…….


I stare out the view port for a moment to take in the extremely unusual site before me, a massive laboratory station literally floating inside of a giant hollow asteroid.

Just when I thought I’d seen everything.


“Put us in-line of the station and all stop”


“Affirmative, captain, aligning and all stop”


“Izzy, open a comm to station.”

The electronic blonde replied almost instantly, “Comm channel open, captain.”

“Captain of the Star-Shield to station.”

Soft Static from the comm ………no reply.


“Come in station.”


My eyes are immediately drawn to the scanner display as three red lights suddenly appear.

Damnit!


“Three unidentified vessels on scan, captain.”


“I see em, Izzy,” I reply calmly, “launch the Redeye.”


“Affirmative, captain, launching drone.”

“Range of unknowns, Izzy?”


“Twenty kilometers and closing captain,” the sultry blonde replies with no emotion at all, “incoming comm from one of the ships.”

Oh, what the hell…this ought to be good.

“Open the comm.”



To be Continued ..............................
Comm channel interference was high due to the proximity of the giant asteroids, but the static that sputtered and clicked loudly from the open channel indicated more than just interference, almost as though the equipment on the other end had seen far better days.

Competing against the loud crackles of static, or in spite of it altogether, a rough, gaudy voice booms from the comm;

“This is Drasik Romath of the Imperial Serpentis………”

Serpentis, of course.


The Serpentis were well known throughout the universe, especially in the outlying areas of deep space where the firm grip of Concord was almost nonexistent. It was here, in these outlying, unpatrolled areas that they could prey on the unsuspecting and weak, they were pirates and nothing more, wildly unpredictable and known to travel in large packs.

The comm channel continued to crackle and hiss, “….you have violated our space……..abandon your ship immediately and we may spare your life.”

No, questions or assumptions from the Serpentis, just a bold statement.

Abandon my ship? Is that all?

I kept my eyes on the scanner as he spoke wondering when more would show up.

BEEP….BEEP….BEEP,” a warning buzzer went off and various lights starting blinking on the control board.

“Incoming missiles caption,” said the sultry blonde voice.

So much for giving me time to reply ……..not that it would have mattered.

“Evasive maneuvers Izzy, get us moving!”

The ship lurched forward as the thrusters kicked on.

“…and turn off that damned warning alarm!”

The ship went silent almost immediately while warning lights on the panel continued to blink.

“Set the redeye on them,” and then after a moment of quick thought, “target Drasik’s ship specifically.”

“Affirmative captain.”

Surprise, surprise, Drasik, I’m not weak or unsuspecting.

The ship suddenly pitched and shook violently from the impact of the first missile.

“Shields at eighty percent captain,” the blonde in my computer stated.

“Bring us around Izzy, and get us into range of the other ships.”

“Affirmative captain...... drone engaging target.”

Your about to have your hands full Drasik of Serpentis.

The viewport was engulfed in a bright flash as two additional missiles hit us head-on, the ship barely moving this time as it absorbed the explosion at full speed.

I was always amazed when seeing an explosion in space as I thought I had read somewhere that there are no explosions in space, something to do with no oxygen or something of the like, but whoever wrote that had obviously never been in a battle in space, because there are most definitely explosions in space……… some of them pretty damned spectacular as a matter of fact.

“Shields at forty percent captain.”


We’re all right…..


“Lock all remaining targets, Izzy……. As soon as we’re in range of a ship, open fire with all turrets.”

 “Affirmative captain.”


A few moments tick by impossibly slow as we approach our first target.

“Drone reporting heavy damage captain, weapons are offline and scanners are damaged.”

“And the redeye’s target?”


The three laser turrets on my ship light up as we approach our first target, sending deadly blasts of energy in powerful controlled bursts.

“Drone reporting target crippled, captain, shields and armor have failed …..Drasik’s ship has dis-engaged and is attempting to limp away.”

I watch out the viewport as our first target explodes in a bright flash and disappears, leaving behind a broken, crumpled husk.

“Recall the redeye, Izzy, his work is done.”


Affirmative captain, recalling drone.”

The ship is rocked abruptly once again by another missile in the side.

“Shields at twenty percent captain.”

A few moments later and my ships lasers have found another target reducing the remaining pirate ship to nothing more than an empty husk floating in space.

“Damage report Izzy.”

A few seconds tick by as I review the scanner again, Drasik’s ship is moving slowly away, but nothing else on scan.

“Shields are down to 10 percent and recharging captain, armor has taken some damage but nothing critical, all weapons and navigational systems are fully operational.”

I nod my approval.

“Take us in visual range of Drasik’s ship Izzy.”

“Affirmative captain,” the blonde responds in her most pleasing voice.

Looking out the viewport I can see Drasik’s badly damaged ship as we approach it and set into a close range cruising speed alongside of it.

“Open a comm, Izzy”

“Comm open captain.”

“This is Temerian Andedare of the Star-Shield……..you have violated the universal anti-piracy act and are now subject to termination.”

The comm only sputters and hisses.

A small smile creeps onto my face, “abandon your ship now and I may let you live.”

No reply from the wounded ship.

My eyes are suddenly drawn to a large group of red lights popping on to my scanner screen.

“Fifteen unidentified vessels on scan, captain.”


God Dammit!

The comm comes life with crackles and sizzles, “Drasik to Temerian, abandon YOUR ship now and we may let YOU live.”

This defiant statement is followed by laughter as the comm remains open for a few seconds until finally closing, and then quiet.

I lean back in my seat looking out the viewport at the ship flying next to me, and then down at the angry red lights that have appeared on my scanner. For a moment, just a brief instant, I contemplate the injustice of it all, I question why these pirates are allowed to exist, why Concord doesn’t hunt them all down and remove them from the universe………

And then I sigh deeply, realizing the futility of such a thought.

“Lock all turrets Izzy…………. open fire.”


“Affirmative captain.”

Before the voluptuous blonde can even finish acknowledging the command my lasers light up on the broken and decimated enemy ship before me.

For a moment, in my mind’s eye, I can hear his laughter turning to a scream just as his ship is engulfed in flame and explodes sending small debris flying out at all angles.


Goodbye Drasik of Serpentis….


Everything is quiet again as the scanner continues to flash its warning of incoming danger.

“Take us home Izzy, warp speed.”


“Affirmative captain.”



~~~~ END ~~~~~