A Few Short Words

Image by AndreyC on Pixabay

The drop ship rattled as it slammed into the planet’s atmosphere and the hull was assailed by the dull clinking of thousands of bits of debris.

Phil drew a still breath, focusing on the jostling members of his raiding party as their inertial cradles absorbed the shocks and jolts. But his calm breath was a trained facade; his knuckles were white, gripping the straps with all of his might. He had known his first drop would be tense, but he was confident in his ability and in this crew’s ferocity . . . still, it was nerve wracking.

“Well lads!” the captain stalked down the corridor, checking the harnesses with a firm shake as he swayed with the violent motion of the ship. “Looks like we got plenty of loot down there given they’re defending the surface so valiant like!”

A chorus of jeers rose from the other pirates.

Phil turned to the man next to him, “How does he know they’re putting up a fight?”

The man turned to him with a steel tooth grin shining through even his visor, “Cause of the flak.”

Phil’s eyes scanned the interior of the darkened hull, still rattling with the cacophony of hail. “The flak fire is reaching us this high in the atmosphere?”

“Nah mate, tis’ likely debris from the rest of the fleet that’s already been blown to oblivion!” the steel tooth grin was obscured as the pirate threw back his head in raucous laughter.

Phil’s grip tightened.

“Now lads,” the captain reached Phil’s harness and gave it a sturdy shake.

How can he stay upright in this turbulence? Phil wondered.

“Young Phil here is college educated!”

I dropped out. Phil corrected internally. Why do you think I’m here?

“So instead of my usual stammering speech, the smart lad ere’ is going to give us a few short words of encouragement!”

Phil’s eyes widened as the captain flicked a comms switch, the system crackled with his sudden intake of breath—which was now starting to waver.

“Make it quick, lad.” The captain placed a firm grip on Phil’s shoulder before staggering over to his own harness.

Phil felt the attention of the scallywag crew focus on him as his mind raced. I haven’t prepared anything! What do I say?

The dim lighting winked out, signalling that the drop sequence was imminent.

Phil wracked his mind for something, anything . . . Just go with what you’ve got.

“Gentlemen!” he started, trying his level best to sound hearty and boisterous, “There comes a time in every man’s life that. . .” he was interrupted by a strobing red light and piercing tone.

“Too late Phil, I said a few short words!” the captain cackled. “Get ready boys, we’re dropping!”

The underside of the drop ship cracked open with a torrent of air and a cacophony of flak fire, revealing the churning, smog soaked inferno of the skies below and the burning defences beneath it.

“But . . . I . . . Argh!” Phil’s flailing words were torn from him as the drop harnesses released and he and the crew were jettisoned into their fall pattern towards the defenders, loot, and glory.

He would have to work on his speech giving skills if he were to remain a respectable member of this outfit.

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