Lyria pounded her head against the cold white brick of her prison cell wall.
“Stupid. Stupid. Stupid,” she whispered.
Five days had passed since Lyria landed her ship on Efron, a junker planet where ships and droids go to die. It’s also a good place to scavenge parts for rubbish space crafts. The price is usually right unless one “accidentally” lifts a part. Which is the very reason Lyria ended up in Efron Block 9, a prison for thieves and looters. On Efron, murderers get off with a firm warning, but pocket so much as a bolt off a rusty piece of trash, and the price is a swift-kick into The Death Pit.
“Bet you’re wishing you stayed home with your mum-mum and dad-dad now, eh girl?” A scoundrel scrofa, crouching in the corner opposite of her, exposed his pointed teeth and laughed. He overheard her desperately re-tell her story to the magistrate. Since then, his final mission was to pressure her to crack. She turned her head and closed her eyes; his species tend to get nippy with too much eye contact.
Now, in the last minutes of her life, she worried about the argument that erupted between her and her dad the night before she stole his ship and warped into the next galaxy.
“You’re not going to marry that alien and that’s final!” he yelled.
After she snuck out, she had planned to send her dad a hologram from Zane’s planet. It would break him to think she permanently disowned him—left him—for a boy.
Metal clanked on metal as the guard ran the shaft of his blaster against the bars. He dangled his giant key ring at her and grinned. If she didn’t know any better, she might have confused him for an Anthropoid with his hairy face and opposable thumbs, but his shiny copper eyes and jerky movements gave away the machine hidden beneath his skinsuit.
“It’s your lucky day,” he rasped.
Lyria kept her stone stare.
“You get to take a walk.” He opened the cell. “Right to The Pit! Ahahaha!” he bellowed. Her cellmate roared. She rolled her eyes, as it was only the fifth time they’d heard it that day.
Her tough mask quickly dissolved as the cyborg cuffed and shackled her, then shoved her out into the cage-lined hallway. Prisoners reached for her and yelled blood-thirsty obscenities. For fun the guard pressed her against the tiny barred window of solitary to let the inmate pull her hair and bite at her face.
As she struggled and kicked she heard something screech above her followed by a loud thunk behind the guard. He released his grip and turned. Nothing. He punched Lyria in the back to move her along. All at once he released his grip, and with a crash, he flew against the wall.
A cloaked man stood, holding a rusted piece of pipe over his head. The glowing prosthetic eye glaring from under his hood gave him away.
“You forgot to disable the transmitter on MY SHIP!” he yelled. He threw his weapon aside at the guard, which caused a gash revealing the robot skeleton. Her dad fumbled to unlock her restraints with the guard’s keys, then hoisted her into the hole in the ceiling. With a fluid jump, he followed behind. Even though she had to nurse him back to health for six months after the accident, in times like these, she was grateful for his bionic knee replacements.
Her dad’s rescue mission ended with blasting a few drone ships and jumping into hyper, all the while maintaining a seething silent treatment.
He jammed his finger stub into autopilot, threw the milk-chocolate Venus Bar he was about to bite into at the dash and walked away.
He stopped and turned. “THANKS… DAD?”
She crossed her arms and kicked her feet up over the control panel.
“You sneak out in the middle of the night and steal my favorite Solum so you can follow your boyfriend? You’re still in S.T.A.R School. He’s enlisted in the Universal Fleet. What the HELL were you thinking? And how did you end up on EFRON!” he growled.
She stood and clenched her fists. “Your Solum had a shoddy transporter!”
“I was trying to fix it. And maybe I don’t want to do S.T.A.R School anymore. Maybe I’ll enlist!”
“Your dad’s right, Lyria. You can’t enlist.” Zane’s black eyes and purple skin glowed brightly over the hologram. As much as she missed running her hands through his silver hair, no one since her mom’s death, not even her boyfriend, ordered her around.
“Ahem,” her dad interrupted.
Zane darted his eyes to her father.
“Bye,” she mumbled.
“Bye, I lo-”
She turned off the e-hollo and faced her dad.
“So he agrees with me? Maybe the alien isn’t all that bad,” he almost half-smiled.
She studied him, but she never did learn how to read him after he lost his eye. He sat down on the end of her bed.
“Listen, I didn’t know what to do with you after the accident—after mom died. I think I’ve made some… mistakes.” He sighed. “You’re growing up and if you want to date another species, that’s your decision. But you will not fly halfway around the galaxy by yourself to see him. I’ll take you to his induction ceremony.”
Her eyes brightened, and her heart swooned with a thousand animatronic butterflies. She threw her hands around his neck and kissed him on the cheek like she used to do when she was little.
He softly closed her door and paused. The excited chatter of Lyria and Zane over the hologram rang through the hallway. He removed a folded brochure out of his pocket. It read: “S.T.A.R Reform for Girls.” A picture of his deceased wife, which sat on a small table, smiled at him.
He exhaled. “She’ll be better for it.”
End of Part 1