genre: sci-fi (valthegalpal29, ghelik_and_bellamy_the_cat, inlinewithannemieke, llamakweeen.stacy, desitenia, _confetticoffin, enchantedtoreadya)
mood: funny (valthegalpal29), fast paced (desitenia), aaangst! 😀 (donkringel, colycoffee, ghelik_and_bellamy_the_cat, elisazornig), very gay 😀 (thebookishfangirl),
about the main character: bad boy
first sentence: I’m trying very hard not to see all this as a metaphor for my life.
Thanks to everyone on Instagram who voted & answered!
“I’m trying very hard not to see all this as a metaphor for my life,” Ryder says, climbing out of the smoking ship.
It’s a mess.
The ship, that crash landing, himself.
His shirt is torn and his hands are splattered with blood and oil. He tries to wipe them clean on his pants, but they’re honestly just as bad.
“I knew that core was shit,” he mumbles, limping away from his ship. “That’s what you get from trading on the black market.”
Sirens in the distance.
Ryder lets out an explosive sigh, kinda like the ship did just a few seconds ago before crashing on Cion Q7.
Which is just his fucking luck, really. He’ll never get away quickly. Cion Q planets are the worst for getting parts, since they’re mostly inhabited by sad and lonely schmucks who can’t stomach the speed of civilization, and only want peace and quiet. Or whatever.
The sirens are definitely closer now.
Ryder looks at his smoking ship. Unless he can find a good core, she’s a goner. “I didn’t know you very well yet,” he says to her. “Didn’t even give you a name yet. But I hope to see you again.” He puts his hand to his forehead in salute. “Starspeed, babe.”
The sirens are here.
Ryder puts on his sunglasses, tugs his leather jacket in place, runs a hand through his short hair, and hauls ass out of there just as the first troopers shout Halt!
He doesn’t listen.
‘Course he fucking doesn’t.
Luckily, he crash landed just shy of a city, so he doesn’t have to run for long until he’s surrounded by buildings. Scratch that. Houses. Those quaint little houses you see in brochures, that promise the air will do you good and the beach is only a short distance away.
“Fuck me,” Ryder groans. “I’ll never find a core here.”
He stalks through the city for hours, searching for the slums or a black market, but the place is just so perfect that he doesn’t find a single, illegal bolt.
And then his stomach rumbles.
He looks at his watch, sees it’s busted, then looks at the sky. ‘Course, since it’s a Cion Q planet, there are two suns. He can practically hear the slogan: It’s always sunny in Cion Q7!
Time to follow his nose.
His nose takes him to a cutesy market place with flowers and cobblestones and old ladies knitting behind their stalls, whose happiness is more blinding than the Cion Q7’s two suns.
The only thing out of place is the cyborg with the curry stand.
Which is a win-win.
Curry is fucking delicious, and cyborgs are made of parts, so he has to know where Ryder can find something to patch up his babe, even if it’s only a temporary fix. Anything to get off this damn planet.
Ryder walks up to him. “A spicy curry.”
The cyborg is ruggedly handsome. His face is mostly flesh, though the left part has a few panels, one of which glows purple. One of his arms is pure metal. Both of his legs are.
He scans Ryder’s face, his leather jacket, his ripped and bloody shirt and says, “No.”
“What the fuck,” Ryder says. “I’ll pay.”
“You don’t belong here.”
There’s a metal quality to the cyborg’s voice.
It makes him sound even more like a dick.
“Aight, you got me,” Ryder says, running a hand through his hair. The cyborg watches his every move. “Trust me, I don’t wanna be here, but I need a core for my babe. Do you know where I can find one?”
The cyborg’s face is immobile, even though it’s mostly human.
“And I’ll pay for it,” Ryder adds with a winning smile.
“Fine,” the cyborg says.
“Amazing. Thanks. Name’s Ryder.”
“Nice, nice, nice. Now how about that curry, Zain?”
With a very annoyed expression that doesn’t suit sunny Cion Q7 at all, Zain dumps curry into a bowl and hands it to Ryder, who pays for it, since he’s not a dick. After two delicious bites, the square is surrounded by troopers.
“Fuck me,” Ryder groans.
“Halt!” one of the troopers says. “State your business, stranger!”
Ryder shovels more curry inside his mouth.
The trooper lifts his gun. “I said halt!”
“Aight,” Ryder says. He looks at Zain from the corner of his eye and asks, “D’you know a way out?”
Zain lets out a long, metallic sigh. “Yes.”
“On my mark.”
“State your business, stranger!” the trooper repeats.
“Calm down! I just wanted to eat some curry,” Ryder says.
The trooper looks confused. “Curry?”
“Now!” Ryder shouts, and throws the bowl of curry at the trooper.
It hits him square in the chest and splatters over his sleek and shining white uniform. The sight is almost as delicious as the curry itself. Payback for when the troopers caught Ryder on Oliv W5 and kicked his ass in front of a hot girl.
Ryder runs after Zain through clean and flowery streets for what feels like ages.
Finally, Zain stops in front of a greenhouse with big leafy plants in the front garden. There’s a bird bath made of stone, which looks old as balls.
“Here,” Zain says.
Ryder’s eyebrows shoot up. “A dealer lives here?”
Zain doesn’t respond. He walks up to the front door, rings the bell, and when the door opens to reveal an old, wrinkly lady, he steps aside and points at Ryder.
“Geez,” the lady says. “You look like crap.”
Ryder winces. “It’s the I just crash landed my ship look. Normally, I’m very popular with the ladies.”
“Same,” the old lady says, and waves them inside.
No one could’ve prepared Ryder for inside.
The hallway is normal enough, and the living room has a nice little seating area near the window. The other side of the room? Massive screens. Big leather chair. Speakers bigger than the thrusters on his ship.
“What is this,” Ryder breathes.
The old lady doesn’t bat an eye as she says, “My gaming set-up.”
“Your gaming set-up?”
“You’re looking at the intergalactical champion of Battleship Mania 9000X.”
The old lady laughs when she sees his face, then ushers them into a garage that looks more like the set-up he expected when he’d asked Zain for parts. It smells like metal and oil, both of which are present in abundance.
Zain leans against the wall, hands shoved inside his faded yellow hoodie and looking more at ease than ever before.
The old lady waves a hand in front of Ryder’s face. “Focus, boy! What do you need?”
“My ship’s missing a heart,” he says.
This earns him a funny look from Zain.
“A what?” the old lady asks.
“The core,” Ryder clarifies. “It’s not working. Bought it on the black market in Made B60, but it must’ve been a bust. I mean it was dirt cheap, so ‘course I was suspicious, but who looks at a falling star and doesn’t make a wish? Anyway, she started having trouble after a day or two. Barely managed to land her here.”
“Where did you buy the ship?” Zain asks.
“Let’s say I found her on Olive W5.”
“Good ships there. You from there too?”
“Nah.” Ryder gives Zain a grin that a guy he once dated described as irresistible. “I’m from Iphion.”
Iphion. The planet without numbers, because there is only one. The planet with numbers, because its massive fleet was the only reason why Movr 320 wasn’t blasted to smithereens in the last war.
Iphion is a big planet, full of big companies and big ships and big dreams. And, if you ask Ryder’s dad, full of big disappointments.
The old lady rummages through her metal cabinet and pulls out various cores. It’s impressive how many she has. Unfortunately, none of them suit his ship.
“Geez,” the lady says, scratching her head. “Why’d you steal such a fancy ship?”
Ryder shrugs. “Why steal anything less?”
“Perhaps the Aetis 33.6 might work,” she muses. “I don’t need it anyway.”
The doorbell rings.
They all look at each other. The old lady raises her eyebrows in a way that suggests she wasn’t expecting visitors.
“Stay here,” Zain says.
When he returns, his face is even grimmer than before, proving that when you really want something, you can defy the laws of nature.
“Troopers?” Ryder asks.
“Ugh. Fuck me.” Ryder turns to the old lady. “I’ll take the Aetis. And a way out of your house that isn’t the front door.”
The doorbell rings again, but this time, it’s accompanied by heavy pounding on the door. Seems like the troopers are getting impatient.
The old lady doesn’t seem to mind letting them wait and calmly shuffles towards the back door. She points to a back alley that should be safe.
Again, Zain takes the lead.
“I’m surprised you didn’t know about this alley,” Ryder says.
“Why?” Zain asks, not looking behind him. “I’m not a criminal.”
“Hey, neither am I.”
“You stole your ship.”
“You got me there.” Ryder runs to catch up with Zain. “So what about you? How come a cyborg lives on a boring ass planet like Cion Q7?”
Zain doesn’t look at him. “I wasn’t always like this.”
“No shit. Where you from?”
Ryder opens his mouth, but he doesn’t know how to say that sucks without sounding insensitive, so he shuts it again.
Morv 320 was the reason for the last intergalactic war. Which didn’t start like a war. Oh, no, it was just a simple uprising among the miners. They wanted more rights.
But while they were battling it out with their chiefs, other planets had to wait and wait and wait on their ores. And they didn’t like that. So they intervened. Which made other planets nervous, because if so and so held too much sway over Morv 320, the price of ore might go up. Or they might refuse to sell it. And so on.
The war had been messy. Like it always is. It had dragged for months. It had dragged many planets into the fight and many corpses into the deep dark. Until Iphion, Ryder’s planet, had finally stepped up and protected Morv 320. No one knew why it had waited so long to intervene.
“No smile?” Zain asks drily.
Not a smile, but a question. “Were you there?”
“Yes,” was all Zain said.
They continue in silence.
In the distance, Ryder sees something blue and sparkling that stretches as far as the eye can see. A lake, says the screen in front of it. Native to Cion Q7, which means it’s always been there, and no, the screen says, it isn’t poisonous.
“I nearly died in the war,” Zain says, as they stop in front of the lake. “Got hit in the chest by a gun. It stopped my heart. Blasted my arm and legs. They said in the last few seconds I was left standing, I lifted my own gun and shot the guy dead.” Zain looks down at his metallic arm. “They hauled me to a cybernetic doctor who exchanged my heart for a core, crafted my arm from a shipwreck, and found a mismatched pair of legs she had lying around.”
Ryder looks down at Zain’s legs.
“I bought new limbs after the war,” he explains.
“Are you telling me,” Ryder says slowly. “That you had an arm that was made from a ship and you traded it in?”
“Are you kidding me? That’s the most hardcore and amazing thing I ever heard. Why would you sell it?” Ryder turns to Zain and grins. “Betcha you would’ve gotten all the ladies with that arm.”
Zain rolls his eyes. The small panel on the side of his head glows purple. “I’m not interested in women.”
“Oh?” Ryder leans against Zain, nudging him with his elbow. “Did my irresistible smile spark something in your internal wiring?”
Zain barks out a laugh.
It’s a deep sound. A bit metallic. But still very nice.
They head closer to the lake, where a few boats are moored.
Most look like they’re made of wood, modeled after the ancient ships from the history books. But there’s one boat that’s all sleek lines and gleaming sides. It’s that one that Zain walks towards.
He tells Ryder to wait outside then climbs up himself, giving Ryder the perfect opportunity to whistle appreciatively. Zain flips him off before he disappears inside the boat.
Ryder lets out a laugh.
It’s kinda nice hanging around the lake.
The sound of the water lapping against the shore is calming. And the two suns are slowly setting, which looks awesome on the lake’s reflection.
It all goes to shit when a voice calls, “There he is!”
Ryder lets out a groan. “Fuck me.”
Immediately, Zain reappears and jumps off the boat in a fluid motion. His hands are empty. Before Ryder can ask where to, Zain grabs him by the arm and drags him away.
They hit up a few more places.
Cion Q7 might seem boring, but its people apparently have all the latest gadgets. There’s a man with a lawnmower that rivals a dreadnought. He tells them proudly that he built it himself, ordering the parts from all over the galaxy. But even though he’s got all the tools, he doesn’t have what Ryder’s ship needs.
“You seem to know everyone on this planet,” Ryder comments, as they walk away from the sickest lawnmower in the entire galaxy.
“They made sure they got to know me,” Zain answers. “After the war, I—They knew I needed a home.”
“Home, huh,” Ryder mumbles, thinking about the education he hated, the ships he loved, and the disappointment on his father’s face.
They also try a bar that’s run by androids,
which sounds like the beginning of a joke, but is actually very unfunny because neither of the androids has anything to help his ship.
In the end, they give Zain tools to pry open the ship’s paneling and see for himself if anything can be done.
So they loop around the city.
Go back all the way to where Ryder’s ship crash landed. As they walk, birds sing beautiful songs. Above them, the sky is turning pink, and a warm breeze rustles Ryder’s hair.
“Cion Q7 sure is pretty,” he says. “I think I get why you’d want to stay here after the war.”
Zain opens his mouth, then closes it again. Which isn’t something he’s done before, so Ryder asks, “What’s up?”
Zain looks slightly uncomfortable. “I don’t want to pry.”
“Nah, man, it’s aight,” Ryder says, smiling. “I crash landed on your planet, threw your curry at a trooper and basically wrecked your entire day. You can ask me anything.”
“You’re from Iphion.”
Ryder drops the easy smile.
It’s very tempting to make a joke. That’s what he’s been doing whenever someone asks, anyway. Like that girl from Oliv W5. He told her he’d been too young to fight in the war, but honestly? He’d been too scared.
“Dad wanted me to fight,” Ryder says, looking up at the sky. At the swirls of pink and blue, and just a tinge of red. “I didn’t.”
Zain is quiet for so long,
Ryder turns to him.
He startles when he sees the anger on Zain’s face. It’s brutal.
“I’m sorry,” he blurts, because he feels like he should be.
Zain doesn’t say anything, so they arrive at the ship in a horribly awkward silence.
She’s still a thing of beauty, even smoking like that.
“Zain,” Ryder starts, but Zain unpacks the androids’ tools, pulls off his hoodie, and gets to work on the ship.
It’s there. Gleaming on his chest. A metal panel right where his heart should be.
And Ryder immediately knows why he fucked up.
But he also still wants to leave this planet, so he sits on the grass next to his babe and simply waits.
By the time Zain pulls himself out from underneath the ship, Ryder’s stomach is rumbling and the sky is nearly dark.
“Chances of the Aetis 33.6 working are slim.”
Ryder groans. “Fuck, aight. Guess I need to order it. And find a place to hide. I’m pretty sure those troopers have identified me by now.”
Zain doesn’t say a thing. His face is unreadable.
Ryder moves to his feet and clears his throat awkwardly. He doesn’t look Zain in the eye as he says, “I’m sorry. I was being a dick. An insensitive dick.”
His stomach rumbles.
Like, really, really loudly.
The corners of Zain’s mouth twitch.
“And you’re right,” he continues. “I was a coward for not fighting. At the academy, they said I—”
Zain holds up his hand. “Tell me after dinner.”
Relieved, Ryder nods.
They walk back to the city, avoiding the occasional trooper patrol. To be fair, security’s not as tight as on other, bigger, faster planets. The patrols are mostly lounging around. Some are talking to the locals. They’re all chill, really.
Zain’s house is in the middle of the street. It’s pale blue. There is a herb garden. No birdbath, but there is a birdhouse, painted blue and white to match the house.
The house is quiet, though Zain puts on some soft music as soon as they’re inside. He doesn’t tell Ryder where to go, simply walks into the kitchen and starts cooking, so Ryder amuses himself with walking around.
There’s barely any photographs, but there are paintings and books and a huge stack of movies.
“You own physical copies of movies?” he asks, delighted.
“Yes,” Zain says. “I like that I’ll never lose their stories.”
“Fuck, that’s deep.”
Eventually, Ryder grows bored of looking around and wanders to the kitchen. There’s a bunch of vegetables waiting to be chopped, and since he’s pretty hungry, he grabs a knife and gets to work. Zain raises an eyebrow, but doesn’t say a thing.
They eat dinner.
It’s pretty good. Ryder says so multiple times, which earns him an almost-smile from Zain.
And then it’s time for Ryder’s story.
“So, uh. My dad’s like the boss man of Delta Nebula, you know, the one that makes battleships?”
“I’m familiar with them.”
Ryder cringes. “Yeah. Sorry… So he sent me to the pilot academy ‘cause he wanted me to be a commander in the fleet one day. Even though it’s not his fleet, he’s pretty good friends with the current chief. He wanted me to be a soldier, a pilot, a hero. To me it felt like he just wanted something new to flaunt around at parties.”
“So you ran away?” Zain asks.
“No, I—At the start, I really tried. I graduated top of my class and made it into the fleet. Didn’t feel right, felt like dying actually, until we flew into battle and I saw what dying actually looked like. Vomited all over my control panel.”
He’s silent, but it’s clear he understands.
“I never even got near Morv 320. I just.” Ryder runs a shaky hand through his hair. “Fuck, I didn’t believe in this war, you know? Like, what were we even fighting for? I couldn’t do it. People were dying, and if I pushed that button, they’d be dying because of me. So I turned my ship around and fled. Never looked back.”
Somehow, he only notices that he’s shaking when Zain’s hand settles on his. Settles him.
Ryder looks up and finds nothing but understanding and pain and kindness in Zain’s eyes.
“I can’t go back,” he blurts out. “The troopers will take me back to my dad, but I can’t go back there.”
“I’m sorry,” Zain says. “For everything that happened to you.”
“Why? I’m not the one who lost my heart.”
“I assure you, I still feel emotions.”
“Oh. That’s good.”
“I’m sorry too.” Ryder says. He looks at Zain’s hand, lying on top of his. Slowly, he turns his hand and intertwines their fingers. “I thought Cion Q planets were for sad and lonely schmucks, but you’re actually pretty cool.”
Zain lets out a surprised laugh.
After that, they talk.
More and more and more,
until it’s not just their fingers that are intertwined, but their words, their thoughts, their lives. They talk for so long that Ryder can’t remember falling asleep until he wakes up.
It’s still dark. No, there’s a line of pink on the horizon.
He blinks, confused why he woke up. There’s a blanket put around his shoulders, and he only has a few seconds to wonder who put it there before the front door crashes to the ground and voices sound in the hallway.
Ryder’s heart lurches.
Loud, heavy footsteps are coming closer, shit.
“Halt!” one of the troopers shouts as they burst into Zain’s living room.
Ryder jumps to his feet. “Listen, I’m sure there’s been a misunderstanding.”
“You’re a dangerous individual flying a stolen aircraft. Your crimes will put you in jail for a long time,” the trooper says. “I think I’ve got my facts straight.”
Sadly, the same can’t be said for his nose.
Out of nowhere, Zain appears and whacks the trooper on the nose with his frying pan, which makes a satisfying clunk sound. The man looks dazed for a second before dropping to the ground. Unconscious.
“Run!” Zain shouts, already running towards Ryder, who doesn’t need to be told twice.
They hurtle through the streets of Cion Q7, past the quaint little houses, the android cafe and the enormous lake. Ryder runs ahead, which is a stupid idea since he knows fuck-all about the city’s layout, so it doesn’t take long before he takes a wrong turn.
Luckily, Zain’s right behind him. He grabs Ryder’s shirt and hauls him back. Together, they run until the two suns are peeking above the horizon and Ryder’s ship comes into view.
“Why are we going here?” Ryder asks. “She can’t fly!”
“I found a way to fix her,” Zain says, looking straight ahead.
A bright red laser beam shoots past them. Zain pushes Ryder aside so they can zig-zag their way to the ship. Behind them, the troopers shout orders at each other.
Those orders apparently include don’t kill them, because Zain and Ryder make it to the ship unscathed. As soon as they stand still however, red laser beams hurtle straight towards them. One hits the ground a breath away from Ryder’s shoes.
“Can you hold them off while I work?” Zain asks.
“I’ve got a gun on the ship.”
“Wait, does this mean I won’t see you again?” Ryder asks, suddenly feeling a whole ass range of emotions that make his chest feel warm and tight and exceptionally painful.
Zain’s face softens. For the first time since they’ve met, the harsh line of his mouth eases, and the stern look in his eyes vanishes.
“Yes,” is all he says.
“Fuck that,” Ryder says. “I’ll come visit you. Maybe take you out on a date, who knows.”
Zain lets out a laugh. “Sure, Ryder.”
“I mean it.”
Zain wraps his arms around him.
His embrace is tight. And warm. Surprisingly so.
“I know you do,” Zain says, his voice slightly metallic. But mostly very soft.
Then he pushes Ryder away, throwing himself underneath the ship just before a laser beam hits the spot where he’d just been standing.
“Fuck!” Ryder curses, and dashes towards the door of his ship. He doesn’t know why this goodbye rattles him so much. He’s had flings across the galaxy. He should be used to this.
But Zain doesn’t feel like a fling, and he knows it.
A flood of relief hits him square in the chest as he jumps inside the ship.
“Missed you, babe,” Ryder shouts as he hauls ass to the gun he keeps near the control panel.
The gun is right where he left it.
Which, seriously, didn’t the troopers search the ship?
The ship rattles as it gets hit by troopers with shitty aim.
No time to waste.
Gun in hand, Ryder runs back to the door and takes in the threat. It’s not a big squad, only ten troopers or so. He can hold them off.
He takes aim.
Shooting was never his strong suit in the academy, but he doesn’t really need to hit anything specific right now. Just shoot in their general vicinity. These troopers probably haven’t seen a lotta action, so anything will scare them.
And he’s right.
As soon as Ryder starts hitting the ground, the trees, and that one guy in the shoulder, oops, the troopers falter. They hesitate for a few valuable moments, then change their strategy from simply charging to spreading out so they’re harder to hit.
“Seriously,” Ryder mutters, quickly reloading his gun. “When will they realize they’re wearing bright white armor?”
The answer is: not now.
They’re continuously surprised when Ryder hits the ground near them. Yet they’re slowly getting closer, and wait. Where did that guy run off to?
Ryder turns to look when the floor underneath his feet begins to hum. Slowly, the ship is coming back to life, her engines humming happily. Ryder lets out a relieved laugh. Zain’s done it. He fixed his baby.
And then a trooper knocks the gun from Ryder’s hand. Ryder’s gun falls on the ground. Like, the ground outside the ship.
“Fuck,” Ryder swears.
It’s probably that guy that disappeared for a second. He must’ve sneaked alongside the ship, so Ryder wouldn’t spot him until it was too late. The trooper grins, like he knows he’s won, and reaches for him.
Ryder’s heart lurches.
It’s game over. They’ve caught him. They’ll bring him back to Iphion, back to his father, back to the battleships painted in blood.
“No, you don’t,” Zain says. He grabs the trooper and wrenches him back. With a startle yell, the man falls out of the ship.
“Thanks,” Ryder says, a little breathless. Then, laughing. “Why aren’t you wearing a shirt?” Then, suspicious. “Why is your panel open?” Then, horrified. “What did you do?”
Zain’s face contorts like he’s in pain. “Fixed it,” he manages.
“What did you do.”
“You needed… a core,” Zain says with difficulty. “I had one.”
Ryder shakes his head. “No. No. No, no, no!”
This can’t be happening.
Tears are burning his eyes.
This isn’t how goodbyes are supposed to go.
“I could’ve ordered one!” he shouts angrily. “You didn’t need to sacrifice yourself!”
“Don’t want…” The purple light near Zain’s eyes flashes on and off. “… Caught… Find… a home, Ryder.”
Behind Zain, troopers are advancing, but Ryder can’t look away. His chest feels like it’ll implode, like it’ll become a black hole, like it’ll never work again.
Not after this.
“Zain,” he says, voice breaking.
Zain reaches for him.
He dies before he can.
His body falls on the ground of Cion Q7, where it’s always sunny, always peaceful, always quiet. Where sad and lonely schmucks want to live because they can’t handle the speed of civilization.
Where a cyborg found a home after the horrors of war.
Later, Ryder can’t remember how he left Cion Q7.
Only that he did, and Zain didn’t,
and somehow that truth was too horrible to remember.
So he flies to Olive W5.
Best planet to steal a top-notch ship. Best place to upgrade it too.
The man behind the counter takes one look at the ship and guesses he wants a paint job, because that baby looks like she’s been through hell and back.
“Crashlanded,” Ryder says flatly.
“Yeah, I can see that,” the man says. “So what you want her to look like?”
“Him,” Ryder corrects him. “And blue. Pale blue.”
The man grunts. “Anything else?”
“Yeah. Can you paint his name on the sides?”
Ryder hopes it’ll make up for the lost date,
the lost time,
the lost home.
Knows it won’t. Ever.