This is the 130th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.
Duct Rat, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 10th April 2013
Word count: 952
The war had been raging for two generations. There had been quiet times, cease fires, truces, but they had only served to provide time for each side to resupply, recruit, and rearm.
It was a terrible time to be born, but it was the universe Crys Shirebrook was born into. Constantly on the verge of starvation his whole life as the enemy tried to cut off supplies to the colonies, just like his side was. He grew up in an age where knowledge was spread easily and quickly, and at a young age he was indoctrinated into the propaganda of the war.
So it was predictable that at the age of fifteen he signed up to fight. His skills were identified, categorised and subsequently he was rapidly trained as a space fighter pilot.
He earned his wings and then he was thrust into the bloody business of war.
On a routine patrol he was captured by the enemy and taken to their capital ship for interrogation. He was scarcely twenty, and he was scared. Little did he know the stuff of heroes was in him.
On the eve of his ninth day of incarceration, and his third of torture, (or preliminaries as the torturer called it), Crys caught a break. Just a worn strap, just a door not quite shut, but suddenly he was free. Out of his cell, and realising be couldn’t just wander round, he would be too easy to spot, he made his way into the air ducts, pressing deep into the ship.
His absence did not go unnoticed, and after a few too many close calls, and a bullet graze to his thigh, he realised he could play about with the security sensors in the ducts.
For two weeks he lived like a rat, deep and hidden, coming out when he could to pilfer food and supplies, gain intelligence, anything that might be useful to his people if he got away, and anything that would be useful to himself to get away. He already had the codes for two days time to activate and launch a fighter.
Still they hunted him, but capital ships are huge, and the air ducts ran for mile after twisting mile. He was just away from another round of guards trying to chase him down when he just happened upon a duct over an office. Not just any office, but a tastefully decorated office, with a library, a bank of eight computers and the comfiest looking chairs Crys had ever seen.
It didn’t take him long to realise he was over the room of the enemies’ president.
Two days later he was back again, there was a fire on the far side of the ship. It was a distraction, enemy guards would be searching there for hours, booby traps and decoys would make them think they were close.
Just in case though, they moved the president to a safe and secure area. They activated the duct security system that sealed duct barring the way, but Crys had already compromised it. With the security on, and Crys reportedly loose else where, no one checked the duct.
The president made himself comfortable, spoke with his advisors, complained about the situation, and talked about moving the government to a different ship.
“If he would just come near me, I’d tear him a new one,” the president said angrily.
Crys made an opening in the flexible flaps that controlled air flow into the room. In his scavenging he hadn’t been able to obtain a gun, but he had gotten a grenade. He activated it and pushed it through. It dropped with a soft thud on to the thick expensive carpet of the presidents office. No one noticed as they weathered a tirade by the president on not having the funds for me ships to win the war.
Crys made it to the supposedly sealed bulk head. He sealed it behind him, and jammed it to secure it against pursuers. He headed across the ship, and into the smoke from the fire he’d created. Looking out of an air duct at the chaos below, half the fire fighters were running back towards the centre of the ship, the other half were desperately trying to put out fires to get to people trapped in rooms before the whole section was vented into space.
It was a simple matter to knock out a fire fighter, steal his suit and his breathing apparatus. Then under the cover of anonymity he made his way to the dock. By the time he got there warning klaxons were going off, soon they would open the star ship’s dock doors and vent the fire into space, regardless of the few that weren’t yet free and in safe zones.
Crys worked quickly, unlatching one of the fighters nearest the door, so it sat free. He clambered in, and secured himself, then entered his code, activating just the computers. Fully fuelled, fully armed, and with enough life support for days. Fortunately it was the perfect choice, there was no time for another as the great four feet thick steel doors parted and decompression began.
Immediately, as heavy as a fighter was, with gravity off it was whisked out the doors just ahead of the fire and other objects from in the vented zone in the ship, which hadn’t been fastened down.
Crys was free, without activating the engines he plotted a course for home. Venting some gasses he quietly nudged himself away from the immense capital ship. Biding his time, until flashes of explosions appeared. Another wave of diversions, this time so he could fast heat his engines and jet away into the black night of space.