I.

Thousands of feet pounded against the steel grate floor as everyone rushed towards the escape pods.

The Pagoda, an interstellar cruise ship, was going down.

The ship had already been going through enough hardship; the cruise ship got “lost” on the way home.  The 6 month long trip had been been lost in space for 3 years.  The regular people with their families didn’t know about the $600T credits on the ship.   For 3 years, after the “mutiny”, regular people were at the mercy of mercenaries.   6 months before the destruction of the Pagoda, the ship had mechanical problems ranging from power failures in the makeshift greenhouse to the bodies of regular people and mercenary alike being found in the rectors that knocked out the heating and cooling system.  The week of the sinking, the main power went out for three days before it turned back on again.

“This place is haunted,” one of the regular people said, chewing on last bits of their rationed jerky.

The radio hissed on.

“–AND WE HAVE BEEN DRIFTING FOR HOW LONG?! AND NOW YOU TELL US WE ARE LOST?!”

The regular people listened intensely.  For 3 years, they have been under the thumb of this well armed militia and now they were in shambles.

“AND YOU DIDN’T EVEN BOTHER TO LET US KNOW, WHEN WE COULD HAVE CHANGED COURSE?! YOU BETTER FUCKING ANSWER ME, YOU LIMP DICKED FUCK.”

“Damn…” a regular person whispered.

“To be clearly honest with you, you weren’t going to make it anyway.”

“WHAT DOES THAT EVEN–”

The regular people gasped when a single shot was fired.

There was a pause.

“Hello, regular people!  This is your NEW new captain speaking!  I uh, I regret to inform you that the old new captain has suddenly passed away.  Don’t you worry, we will get you home in no time!”

“But we’re THREE YEARS OFF COURSE,” a regular person called from their quarters.  They started to get angry all at once, the fear of all the bullshit they had to put up with these past 1,095 days.  The past 26,280 hours of terror turned into unhinged anger.  They rushed from their quarters to the cafeteria.  The group of guards that were there looked up from their card game and grabbed their guns.

“The fuck? GO BACK TO YOUR–FUCK,” he yelled out as a heavy trash can came flying at him.  Warning shots rang out, the mob didn’t stop.  The lights flickered and went out, the emergency lights kicking out.  The mob didn’t stop.  In the dim lights, the angry people swarmed the guards, taking causalities doing so.  An older woman was the one who was able to break the neck of lead guard and take the keys that opened the armory.  As the other guards were being beat to death by groups of people, the main wave made their way to get armed.

The uprising made its way to the recreation deck, where the makeshift club the mercenaries had made resided. The guards that stood outside the club saw hundreds of people rush through the doors.

“Nah, nah, that is SUPPOSED TO STAY CLOSE–” was all one guard could say before a bullet pierced their cheek.  The 20 guards that waited on this floor, trained soldiers, were only able to pick off maybe 40 or so of the angry people before they were out of ammo and overwhelmed.  The people inside the club were mostly drunk and high mercs who were on a break, watching stolen people dance for nothing.  Some of them were “enjoying” the company of the people they had stolen in the three years on the ship.  When 10 people from the mob entered the club, one of the dancers saw one of their faces and started to cry.

“Mommy?”  The woman looked over and started to sob.

“Waaahsgoinon?” one of the drunk’s managed to ask.  The woman looked over at them, the rage in the woman’s eyes making them sober up rather quickly.  They fumbled for their gun but the woman was already on them, fingers digging into their mouth, pulling apart their jaw with her bare hands.  The others started to stab and maim the other drunks and liberated the stolen people from the back rooms.  As the mother and her adult child embraced, ignoring the screams and gunfire around them, the main power went off and the emergency lights came on.

Sirens started to follow.  The people spread throughout the ship, their numbers dwindling the closer they got to the escape pods.  The mercenaries would lead groups one way and murder them from another.  Others had locked some of the angry folk in rooms that had seamless doors, so when the wall slid up, the vacuum of space took them.

Only a small band of people made it to the escape pods.  The woman and her child stood towards the front, trying to figure out what the hold up was.  20 mercs and the man from the radio had their guns trained on them.  The group was out of bullets themselves and all they had was exhaustion at this point.  The man from the radio smiled and looked at them all.

“So, all of the escape pods have bombs in them… Except mine.  I’ll be taking back what’s mine.”  He nodded and 3 of his bodyguards went into the crowd, taking the adult child.  The woman started screaming.

“GIVE THEM BACK,” she sobbed, ignoring the gun in her face, the people trying to hold her back.  The adult child looked at the man, eyes not blinking when a gun went off.  They ignored the sound of a body hitting the floor.  They smiled at the man, trying not to let tears fall.  He smiled back at them, pinching their chin and took their hand, leading them to the empty escape pod.

The prisoner could hear their own heartbeat and time seemed to slow down.  Their hand felt sweaty.  The sounds of bullets and screaming sounded far away.

As they entered the escape pod, the man stood frozen, eyes wide as he stared at the body the woman, hole in her head and all.

She smiled at her child.

“Do it,” she whispered.

The door to the escape pod closed.  The mercs started to scream and ran to the door, pounding on it.  They stopped when they saw the woman as well.  The man turned around, looking at the adult child.  They held the detonator to the bombs.  As the man moved forward, their thumb pressed that button.  The escape pods blew up, blowing out the entire escape wing.  The mercs were sucked out into space, the door to the escape pod was cracked, a high hiss letting them know their air was depleting.  The child watched as the man started to die, ignoring the blood pouring from their eyes and ears, the tightness in their chest.

The carcass of the Pagoda sat in the dark, unnoticed, unbothered.

“Readings are picking up a ship.”

“Alive or dead?”

“Dead.”

“Let’s see what we got.”

An ARK ship of a million people slowly drifted through space, heading toward the graveyard that was the Pagoda.

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