Radim bolted himself upright, his eyes flew open and he found himself gasping for air, breathing sharply, but it only took him a few moments to realise that he was no longer in the vast darkness of space, but instead inside the confines of a small, cylindrical room.
He blinked a few times as he took in his surroundings, the shallow bed he was currently sat on was pressed right up against the wall, but then, he realised as he looked closer, it wasn’t so much a bed as it was just a thin mattress resting on a raised area of floor. Trying to hold back his surprise, he leant forwards to look out one of the circular windows that lined the wall, and saw, much to his surprise, the exterior of one of the Stations. Except the station wasn’t where it would be expected, for it was above his head, stretching out into the distance, beneath him sat the empty confines of space.
He couldn’t contain the confusion as it spread across his face, so he continued to scan outside the window, hoping to find something to clear the matter up.
The two things he did spot however, only served to raise more questions than they actually answered. Behind his window on the exterior were what appeared to be two engines, the further of the two from him was open and exposed, revealing a large multi-bladed fan that took up the entire opening. The second engine, closer to his position, looked more familiar to him, looking like an oversized version of the ones used to power the shuttles.
The other thing he saw was in front of his position, and was something else he recognised, resembling the wings on the shuttles, however this one was much longer, and seemed to be angled backwards slightly. He could also see an array of objects both on top of and beneath the wing, but they didn’t look like the engines he was used to seeing there, and one of these objects suspended beneath extended far in front of and behind the wing.
“This might be an old shuttle.” Radim thought aloud. “But even our old shuttles looked nothing like this.”
He glanced at the door that was sealing off the small room he was currently in from whatever was in the rest of this structure, and made his decision, as surprised and confused as he was, he had to find out where he was.
He stepped down off the bed onto the lowered walkway, and, composing himself, pushed open the door.
What greeted him surprised him even more. The structure he was in did appear to be a shuttle based on the cockpit he could see at the far end of the room, although it was the fact that the cockpit seating and controls appeared to be on the ceiling that only served to aid his confusion.
However his entrance had piped the interest of three people sitting round a table in the centre of the room, two of whom he recognised.
“Radim!” Stana all but yelled out as she stumbled out of her seat, grabbing hold of him and embracing him tightly.
Radim struggled to breathe as she squeezed him, but he managed to speak nonetheless. “I’m glad to see that you are okay Stana.” He looked over at the other person he recognised. “You too Lady Mitch.”
Lady Mitch smiled back at him gently, raising her glass in the process. “We’ve been worried, when you didn’t wake up as soon as me or Stana, but you must have exerted yourself more than we did with all that quick thinking of yours.”
“You did well lad.” The third person spoke up. “Your quick thinking and telling them not to hold their breaths almost certainly saved all your lives. Though I must ask, what on earth possessed you to not keep spare breathing devices on your shuttle.”
Radim looked him up and down slowly. He sat with a facial expression that somehow managed to make him both appear friendly and intimidating at the same time. His hair was dark and long, a trait matched by the coat he seemed to be wearing. But his most distinguishing feature was his clear lack of right foot. “I have breathing devices.” Radim spoke slowly. “But they are kept in the cockpit and I wasn’t in there at the time.”
The man shook his head slightly. “Foolhardy, but y’all alright now so that’s the main thing.”
Lady Mitch tilted her head slightly to look at him. “On that note, how did you get to us so quickly?”
The man opened his mouth to respond, but Radim cut him off. “No before we go there, who are you?”
Stana finally let go of him upon hearing the question, and hit him in the chest in response. “Radim! That’s no way to speak to the person who saved our lives.”
The man just smiled at Stana’s abrupt response. “It’s a fair question, given the circumstances you would be expected to want to know.” He paused and looked at the three of them. “My name is Tandan, Tandan Kulosio-Da, however people call me ‘Toothy’.”
“Toothy?” Lady Mitch mouthed silently, a confused expression showing clearly.
Radim stiffened slightly upon hearing the name. “Kulosio-Da, you mean to tell me that you are of…”
“The line of Da?” Tandan cut him off. “That is correct.”
Radim’s eyes narrowed. “I was actually focusing on the ‘Kulosio,’ you’re also of the line of Kulos?”
Tandan let out a single chuckle. “I’m impressed, the line of Kulos is certainly not as well known. You are correct though, I am actually of both lines.”
Stana finally let go of Radim and looked at the three in the room in confusion. “What lines are these?”
“Radim stepped forwards and leant on the back of one of the chairs in the room. “From the history books. The line of Da comes from the years of Mackiavelli, as Froyk-Da was one of the three dragons involved in assisting High Lady Andli in defeating him, and afterwards was also one of the three that brought the new moon to Earth. I remember what I read correctly he was also the first to gift powers, before living out the rest of his life as a human.”
Tandan Nodded. “You do know your history.”
Radim smiled slightly. “I also know that the line of Kulosio is descended from Kulos Olagnis, one of the defenders of Gaelith and New Earth during Vermabay’s rise to power.”
Tandan once again gave an impressed nod. “I’m impressed, very few people know of the old tales.”
Radim shrugged. “I read a lot.”
Tandan’s eyes perked up. “So do I, and you wouldn’t believe how many old history books are stored on Station Scorpion.”
“Before we go any further,” Lady Mitch interjected. “I still want to know how you found us in space so quickly when our shuttle was attacked.”
Tandan’s face returned to being serious. “You were never attacked.”
“Then what happened?” The station leader questioned. “Why did our shuttle break apart?”
“You had a hull failure, but you weren’t attacked.” Tandan gestured to Stana and Radim, before gesturing towards the empty seats. “Please, sit.” Once they had all sat he continued. “You’ve no doubt all noticed that we are docked to the outside of Station Nimura, and that is because I don’t have permission to land inside any stations. I am not a legal citizen of any, but, along with my great interest in history, I take interest in how these stations run, and the changes the committee make. I have multiple bugs planted into the meeting rooms and I have a permanent linkup to WES, RUI and AIMS, so if they do anything or change anything, the printer in my cockpit alerts me.
“It was during one of my sessions scoping out the meetings that I noticed a breach in the hull of your shuttle, not huge, but big enough for me to see clearly. At first I assumed that it would be spotted and repaired, but after seeing it a few times, each time slightly bigger, I took it upon myself to help.
“Needless to say I couldn’t come forward, it would raise too many questions as to how I had seen it and I might be arrested as a non-citizen. So instead for the last three months I have been following your shuttle to and from every meeting, so that if the hull did breach, I could grab you and bring you to safety right away.”
“But how did we not pick you up on our scanners? Or even see you, if you have been following us all this time?” Lady Mitch leant forwards in her seat as she asked the question.
“My ship isn’t like any of the shuttles you are used to. “Tandan responded simply. “It has a sleek shape that makes it hard to detect.”
Radim snapped his fingers, the realisation occurring to him. “Lady Mitch! His ship must have been the anomaly that kept appearing on my radar, and that’s why the repair crews could find no problem, there wasn’t one, it was working all along.”
Tandan nodded. “That seems probable.”
“So what makes your shuttle so special?” now it was Stana’s turn to speak. “Why is yours so different?”
Tandan looked at all three solemnly for a moment before responding. “I’m afraid Raika isn’t a shuttle my dear. She stems from a time in history long before my heritage, even before the asteroid impact in fact.”
Lady Mitch gave him a confused look. “Did you name your shuttle? I mean ship?” quickly correcting her mistake.
Tandan stood slowly, before rapping his knuckles on the ceiling of the ship. “Of course.” He smiled and looked back at them all. “All the best ships have names, and my girl here.” He paused. “Is Raika.”
So they were saved by someone who was there from the beginning? Take that Deus ex machina’s everywhere!