Short Story Spotlight: Beholder

beholder-short-story

This month's short story comes early! I've been really into the science fiction genre lately and I couldn't help but write another flash science fiction tale. Just like February's story, this one also takes place in the same universe as my upcoming novel. It's also lighter in tone than the previous one. I hope you enjoy it and please leave feedback in the comments below!


Beholder

Riley nearly dropped a plate of smoked salmon when he saw the message flash on his wristcomm. Tical had just informed him that an alpha class Phazic frigate was passing through the Intrepid flash gate in the next twenty minutes.

“Are you kidding me?” Riley said aloud. Nobody responded in his cramped studio apartment aboard the SS Prism.

The one night he wasn’t on duty checking circuit boards or debugging the flash gate AI was when a classic starship would be traveling into the Neutral Zone. All he ever saw these days were Dominus Corporation ships and freighters—occasionally a UFR military vessel. But rarely frigates from a bygone era of space exploration. He turned his gaze to a wall where more than a dozen shelves held miniature spaceships encased in glass. An alpha class frigate sat on the topmost shelf. Its oblong bulky shape was a throwback to the antiquated construction methods of the first spaceship engineers. A single spire protruded from the dorsal section of the ship where the communications array and command bridge were located. Massive thrusters jutted out from the back of the ship instead of the sleek plasma thrusters most ships utilized now. Phazic ships were a thing of beauty and extremely rare in this part of the galaxy. He had to see it.

A buzzing on his wrist interrupted his thoughts. Anita’s face appeared on the wristcomm.

“Aren’t you going to let me in?” She said with a disapproving look. His girlfriend was a petite woman with sharp features and pouty lips. Beautiful by any man’s standard, but she was also overbearing.

Riley voiced the command for the front door to slideopen and Anita walked in. She kissed him then sat down at the table he’d prepared by the large window overlooking the starry expanse outside. They engaged in idle conversation while his mind remained on the frigate. From this vantage point, he could see the flash gate from their position in space. In approximately sixteen minutes, the frigate would materialize on the other side—within viewing distance.

“Are you listening to a word I’ve said?” Anita asked.

“Yeah, sure thing, babe.”

“You’re looking for a starship again.” She crossed her arms.

This wasn’t the first time they’ve had this discussion.

“Riley, it’s our six month anniversary. I don’t want to spend it staring at some old ship like last time. Let’s stream something on the VR screen. I heard there’s a new reality stream about Idyll’s wealthiest actresses.”

Riley groaned inwardly. They finished their dinner and he pulled up the VR queue in the living room. Tanned, slender women with immaculate features materialized around them as their hologram avatars were transported to the celebrities’ location. They engaged in vapid conversation about their wealth and trivial subjects that bored Riley. With a tap on his wristcomm, his senses reverted back to his apartment while Anita mingled with her idols.

He walked to the window searching the circular flash gate for any sign of the frigate. A flash of light in the gate’s center indicated a starship would be porting through. In seconds, the Phazic frigate emerged from the abyss in all of its blocky glory. It’s faded gray hull was nearly imperceptible among the blackness of space, but Riley saw it.

“I’m leaving, Riley!” Anita barked. She’d disengaged her stream, realizing he’d left her alone.

The door slid shut behind her before Riley could wave a hand absently—his eyes still fixed on the slow-moving frigate.