The fighters were closing in fast.
Jim took a sharp turn toward the Earth’s moon and raced toward the surface, the fighters following suit. Just as they reached the ground, Jim pulled up, and the saucer skimmed the surface, kicking up a plume of dust.
The squadron launched thousands of missiles, and an alarm sounded in the control room. Jim spared a tentacle to flip on the rear viewing screen, and Zed finally saw what they were up against. An almost incomprehensible cloud of missiles were racing toward them like a swarm of locusts.
“Holy shit!”, Zed yelled, “Is that meant for us?”
Jim nodded the affirmative while it furiously prepared the ships defenses. Zed watched as a mass of bright flares burst from the back of the saucer, scrambling the heat seeking capabilities of the missiles and sending a large number of them in erratic flight patterns. Hundreds of the missiles exploded, crashing into one another and the moon’s surface. Zed cheered at the sight, but more than half of the missiles flew through the debris unharmed, and they were gaining distance.
Jim banked the ship hard to the right, and flew over the lip of a deep crater, clearing the edge by mere inches. Only three of the remaining missiles were able to reproduce the angle. The rest exploded on the lip of the crater, creating a ball of fire and sending moon dust high into the starry black sky. The saucer continued to skim the floor of the crater, and as they flew up the other side, Jim curved the ship upward until they were heading straight back the way they’d come… face to face with the fleet of fighters.
“You might want to close your eyes Zed”, Jim muttered, and thrust the ship forward, gaining speed. The three missiles had managed to stay behind them and close distance. They were only seconds from impact.
“We’re playing chicken with these assholes?” Zed asked.
“Something like that”, Jim answered.
A wall of well-organized fighter ships stood before them, and when the saucer came within range, they began to fire their laser cannons. Jim swerved the ship delicately through the bursts of light, seeming to presuppose where the ships would fire next. The wall drew closer, and closer still, until they plunged into the giant squadron of fighters. Jim flew the saucer in complex patterns through the enemy fleet that Zed could scarcely understand. The missiles, unable to follow, crashed into the armada, sending fighters crashing into one another as the shockwaves blew through the fleet. Up, over, side to side, spin, pull up… the movements on the view screen made Zed sick to his stomach, and he did as Jim suggested. He closed his eyes and hoped for the best.
As Jim flew, he left mines in the small gaps between the fighters, and they crashed into them. Explosions racked the armada, sending ships flying into one another and imploding violently. The fleet was in utter chaos, struggling to maintain flight order while tracking the impossibly nimble saucer.
The saucer burst out of the rear of the fleet and sped into deep space. Zed yelled out in victory, but Jim seemed as worried as ever, taking the wind out of his sails.
“Why so glum?”, Zed asked, “We got away!”
“We’re far from getting away”, Jim answered grimly, and he was right. In the rear screen, Zed saw the gigantic ship looming behind them, keeping pace. The fighters had recovered as well, and regained formation.
“If that ship catches us in a magnetic beam”, Jim said, “We’re as good as dead. These people don’t fuck around”.
Zed watched as the ships in the rear monitor grew steadily larger. They were catching up with the saucer.
“Who are they”, he asked.
“They’re the Dor’Ahkans”, Jim answered slowly, “They’re the ones responsible for what happened on your planet.”
“The zombies? How the hell do you know that?”
“Cuz”, Jim answered, “They did it to my planet once, a long time ago. It's what they do. They target a planet, they send a disease that causes life to devour itself, and they rob the planet of its resources."
Before Zed could contemplate the news, the saucer bucked violently, throwing him the ground once again.
“What was that?”, he exclaimed.
“They fired the magnetic beam”, Jim said, trying to squeeze every last bit of speed he could out of the saucer. “We’re still too far out of range for them to get a lock on us, but it was close.”
The giant ship and the armada of fighters grew still closer, and Zed could sense there was no way out of this situation. A feeling of doom crept over him.
“What are they gonna do to us?”, Zed asked.
“You don’t want to know my friend.”
That was when everything flashed. The saucer’s control panel began to glow a soft yellow. Zed scanned the room, looking for the source of the illumination, but saw nothing. The glow grew in intensity until everything- the saucer, Jim, even his own skin- flashed a brilliant white.
Then it was gone. Zed could see that everything else was gone as well. The huge ship. The fighters. The Earth. The moon. Even the stars. The view outside the ship was completely black.
Jim was as fervent as ever, tentacles racing across the control panel.
“I don’t understand it”, Jim said, “It’s not possible…”
“What happened?”, Zed asked, getting up from the floor where he’d been thrown only seconds before.
“I don’t know! The Dor’Ahkans are gone. There are no familiar galaxies out there. The computer is unable to tell us where we are."
"So we escaped?" Zed asked.
"I think so", Jim replied, "But I don't know how.” Jim continued to work the console, trying to determine their location. Zed, still laying on the ground, put his hands behind his head and smiled broadly.
"Well who gives a crap! We're alive ain't we?"
Jim slowed his efforts until he stopped altogether, slumping in exhaustion. "I can't explain it Zed", it muttered, "But you're right. We're alive".
“Want a beer?”, Zed asked, pulling himself to his feet and walking toward the lift.
“Hell yes”, Jim answered, seeming to deflate as the anxiety left its body.
Zed boarded the lift, but before he hit the button, he asked Jim one last question.
"When those bastards showed up, you said it's cuz they 'knew what you were/", Zed asked, "What'd you mean by that?"
Jim turned and looked at Zed. "I'm one of the last Sichonians in existence", it said, "We experience time at a slower rate than most organisms in the Universe, and can generally move and react faster than the average rate of perception".
"I've noticed", Zed said.
"It was for this reason that we were sought after as pilots, especially by those who did not wish to be caught. As the Dor'Ahkans grew in power and influence, they pronounced the Sichonians a threat, and they destroyed our planet. Since then, those of us remaining have been hunted down and turned over to the Dor'Ahkans for reward. I wouldn't be surprised if the Zanaran's planned to turn me in rather than cough up the money they owed me. Bastards."
"So the Dor'Ahkans might've shown up to collect you?", Zed asked, "Why'd they attack us?"
Jim chuckled, "Cuz they'd rather kill than deal".
"That how they found Earth?"
"I'm afraid so."
Zed thought about that for a moment. "Life's a bitch, ain't it?", he said, and hit the button to the lift.
The elevator descended into the bowels of the ship, and Zed stood impatiently, running his fingers through his black hair. For the first time in what felt like weeks he had time to think, and he found himself thinking about Earth… about Zoe and Amber.
I had to kill Zoe, he thought painfully. She was eating Amber- not in a good way- and she would’ve done the same to me if I hadn’t shot her.
The memory made Zed, angry, and he punched the wall. Blood came from his knuckles, but he didn’t notice. He’d lost the only two people he’d ever loved.
Those chicks saved my life, he thought, I might’ve drank myself to death if it weren’t for them.
The thought that he never got an opportunity to give his women a proper burial infuriated Zed. If what Jim told him were true and these Dor’Ahkans were responsible, he would have to take them down. Way down.
Zed grabbed a 12-pack of Bud Light and a couple bottles of Miller High Life from the loading dock and boarded the elevator. On his way up, the thought that he would never see Amber and Zoe alive settled over him. Zed didn’t know how to feel. He couldn’t cry, and he couldn’t kill anything.
Maybe I’ll find what I’m looking for at the bottom of these bottles, he thought glumly.
As the elevator reached the control room, Jim came into view. It looked as if it were waiting for him.
“What’s up Jim?”, Zed asked, throwing it the 12-pack of Bud Light.
Jim caught it- deftly as usual- and set it on the ground. “There’s someone here to see you”, it said slowly, and motioned to the far side of the room with its tentacle.
Zed turned his head in that direction, and his eyes fell upon the glorious visage of Zoe and Amber, stark naked and holding hands. Their thick hair fell about their beautifully sculpted shoulders and perfect breasts. Their flawless skin- Amber’s an almost translucent ivory and Zoe’s a deep olive- seemed to glow with an odd kind of light. They smiled when they saw him.
Behind them stood a tall man with a thick mustache wearing bell-bottomed jeans and loose collared shirt that showed some of his chest hair. He smiled in a similar fashion, making Zed feel uncomfortable.
“Hello Zed”, Amber said musically, “It is good to see you."
(to be continued...)