Nate, Jack, Tim, and Bradley scrunched together on the bridge of a very small spaceship they’d traded for after several calamities with bigger ones. They took turns piloting just to get their blood flowing again. The only respite they had from such tight quarters was when one of them took a nap in the tube behind them—presumably a hallway for whatever tiny creature built the ship. Portals went into miniature rooms repurposed as cupboards.
For a bathroom they rigged a portable disposal unit made for the Vechilo species and a sheet, which gave them hardly any privacy and filled the space with the odorous effects of their gruntings. When not in use, they had to take turns sitting on it to fit into the bridge.
The controls were tiny and very responsive, so Nate had to be very soft with them. They’d been flying for a day and a half when a filament whipped out of the display board, making a squiggly yellow light.
“What the hell’s that mean?” asked Tim.
“I don’t know,” said Nate. “What do you think, Bradley?”
“Well.” He steamed his glasses with his mouth and wiped them on his shirt, then put them back on. “It could mean engine trouble.”
“I haven’t felt any difference in the ship,” said Jack.
Tim snorted. “Thanks to Nate’s delicate fingers.”
“Shut up,” said Nate.
“It could be a fuel warning,” said Bradley.
“Not according to this.” Nate tapped a long tube that came out of the display at the base and went back into the display at the top. Fluid filled it about two thirds to the top.
“Or it could be a spaceship with black spiny things on its back drifting in our path that would destroy us if we hit it.” Bradley’s showed his buck teeth in his typical stupid smile.
“What makes you say that?” asked Nate.
Bradley pointed at a section of the display. There was an image of a spaceship with black spiny things on its back getting bigger and bigger.
Nate flipped the stop lever, and the ship rapidly slowed, throwing everyone forward.
Tim shoved Nate’s shoulder. “Watch what the hell you’re doing, jackass.”
“We almost rammed that thing,” said Nate.
“Like I said. Watch what the hell you’re doing, jack-ass.”
“Lay off him,” said Jack. “He just saved our lives.” He swished a finger at the screen. “What do you think that is?”
“It looks sinister,” said Nate.
“Nah. Your sister isn’t that fat,” said Tim.
“Sinister! Dipshit. Sin-is-ter.”
“Oh,” said Tim. “It’s an easy mistake.”
Nate punched his shoulder, and Tim laughed. “C’mon. Get them on the radio.”
“No good,” said Bradley. “We have no translator.”
“Can we board her?” asked Tim.
“If the protocols are loaded,” said Bradley. “We can try.”
Jack shifted on his feet. “I don’t think we should be boarding that thing, guys.”
“Here we go,” said Bradley. He pressed a knob and pulled a filament. “On our way.”
“Guys, This is a bad idea,” said Jack.
Nate kind of agreed with him, but he wasn’t going to give Tim the satisfaction of him chickening out.
Something outside the entry portal clunked, and the door popped open with a hiss.
“Let’s see what we can find,” said Tim.
They ducked into the craft. Flat black covered the surfaces except for the occasional gold or shiny grey. Some corners were so dark they looked like you could fall into the abyss, but the straight lines and angles comforted Nate with their similarity to home.
“This is an eerie place, I’ll grant you that, Nate.” Tim opened a few doors. “But there’s so much room.” Some doors revealed storage, one was an obvious excretion cubicle, made for who knows what kind of alien eliminations, others were too bizarre to imagine their use.
They worked their way into the middle of the ship and found an empty bridge, a large closet-like structure in the middle. While Bradley tried to decipher the controls, the closet rattled and hummed.
“I don’t like the sound of that,” said Jack.
A door popped open, and a creature like a shaved rabbit’s body with an anemone head came out. A few more flopped behind him, then suddenly stopped and turned their tentacles.
“Hello,” said Jack. “We don’t want any trouble.”
The first one that came out opened a maw the size of a melon under his tentacles and let out a sound that would make duck calls seem like Eva Cassidy.
“All right, all right,” said Tim.
The aliens shuffled them out of the bridge and back the way they came.
“Look,” said Nate. “It would be a shame to not get to know each other.”
“Yeah,” said Jack. “Maybe we’re going in the same direction and can help each other.”
“You guys are pathetic,” said Tim.
“Perhaps we could show them the Macarena,” said Bradley.
The creatures didn’t press, but their mouths opened and all three bellowed like wounded ducks.
“I guess we should go,” said Jack.
Tim pressed the button to open the cubicle. “Yeah. But I’ve got something to do, first.”