The Starbird Hunt

Phil V. Infinite

Chapter One: Luciem Screws Up

"Pssst! Seth!"


"Wake up, Seth! Wake up!"



"ALRIGHT!" Seth Urbante jumped to a sitting position, his face almost as disagreeable as his disheveled, red hair. He glanced at the time, glowing a merry blue at his bedside. His brown eyes narrowed until the numbers were distorted beyond recognition. "Luciem! I'm not to wake for another FIVE hours!"

"I'm terribly sorry," the voice over the intercom said with genuine pity. "But this is an emergency."

"The last time you did this, the coffeemaker was broken. What is it this time? The fridge drop a couple of degrees?"

"Well, goodness knows how disagreeable you humans get when you don't get your coffee..."

"*What* is the emergency, Luciem?!"

"The warp engines are going to lose power in ten minutes."

Seth took a moment to register this. "If I'm not mistaken...we took a warp break a week ago. We're not due for another three days."

"It's a funny story, really. You know how I created that spectacular holographic movie yesterday?"

"The one we gave two thumbs and a claw down?"

"Yeees...that one. Er, I sort of had to drain energy from the engines to perform it."

Seth blinked. "Why didn't the projectors have enough?"

"I sort of drained power from those when I made that marvelous meal last week."

"The one that sent Faytan to sick bay for food poisoning?"

"Er, yes, that one."

"The kitchen generators should have had enough power to make that crap by itself."

"Well, not then. I diverted power from the kitchen when battling the Zinorus."

Seth groaned. "Well, just let the engines recharge. They should be fine by morning." He fell back on his pillow.

"I would...were it not for the fact that the ship would be dropped into an asteroid field once we're out of hyperspace."

Seth sat up again, rigid. "Outer or inner area?"

"Inner," Luciem said softly.

Urbante sprang out of bed. The door to his quarters slid open as he rushed through the doorway. The hallway lights activated one by one as Seth sprinted toward the bridge. To an onlooker, the sight would have been comical; a tall, full-grown male speeding through a ship in nothing but his boxers and an undershirt. His slightly tanned skin was already beading with sweat from exertion and nerves.

The doors to the bridge slid open as Seth sprang to the helm. The main screen was a beautiful sight to behold, but the young pilot had seen it many times before and was no longer impressed. The rainbow colors of warp space shined onto the bridge, giving it a surreal, calm look.

It completely conflicted with Seth's disposition at the moment.

"Luciem, how much time?" he asked.

"Six minutes and thirteen seconds," the ViperX computer replied.

"Which asteroid field is this?"

"The Sessari system's."

"Sessari, Sessari, Sessari..." Seth frowned in thought.

"It's a level three, Seth," Luciem added, helpfully.

"I can handle threes." A smile slowly crossed Seth's face. "Take us out of warp space."

"Now? You sure? Shouldn't you wait until the engines are totally worn? Maybe we'll be out by then."

"Not in Sessari, we wouldn't. And we'll need all the warp power we can get later on."

"Okay, you're the flawed, human pilot. I'm just the calculative, precise latest computer model..."

"The latest computer model who got us into this mess. Takes us out of warp space now."

The colors and lights faded from the screen and a sudden jolt jostled the ship. The jolt was followed by a shimmy...then a shudder...then a...



Commander Natasha Kira woke up with a start and gasped as she heard a loud scrape and felt the floor shake beneath her bed. She brushed her long, red hair out of her sky-blue eyes, trying to get a better sight of the room. Her brain was instantly awake, alert and ready. Whatever the disturbance was, it didn't originate here, she concluded.

"Hey, guys," came Luciem's voice over the intercom. "In case that woke you, I want you to know that you can fall back asleep without a worry. Seth is on the job and will get us out in no time."


"Uh, yeah...ignore that."

That did it. Natasha knew better than to let those two imbeciles take control of the ship alone during a crisis. She got out of bed and walked speedily to the hallway. Immediately, she crashed into High Commander Fletcher Shim.

Shim blinked and looked down at his dazed first mate, who was sprawled at her door. He sighed and reached out a large, calloused hand. Commander Kira took it gratefully.

The High Commander looked at Natasha with that serious, urgent look he wore when the ViperX was in trouble. That was often. "Any idea what's going on?"

"I'd rather be surprised. After two years of accident after accident, you can only guess so much."

Fletcher didn't respond to her comment and strutted toward the bridge. Natasha followed, her long legs allowing her to catch up. The senior officers entered to see the rest of the crew gathered around the helm. For reasons unknown to either of them, it was customary for commanding officers to reside farther from the bridge than the other members of the crew. Fletcher constantly complained about this.

"Watch out for that one!" Tor James, the small engineer cried. His metallic eyes gleamed eerily, robbing them from the normal look they had most of the time. His brown bangs seemed to wave as excitedly as he felt.

"I know what I'm doing, Tor!" Seth snapped.

"Sure fooled me," Faytan Wok growled. His fangs sparkled as his mouth twisted into a sneer. The dark shaggy hair protruding from his limbs, appendages, and scalp looked matted and mussed. The Takanori was constantly complaining about the uncomfortable bed in his and his wife's quarters. The fur might have been a result of disgruntled tossing and turning.

Natasha glanced at his wife, Juma Wok. Her red skin glinted with sweat, her blue eyes (no pupils) stared directly at Seth and the helm. She was wearing skintight nightclothes, revealing ever curve of her body. Her, long blue hair (almost as long as her husband's) was also a mess. Again, a result of discomfort. Then again, one time the Commander had passed by the Woks' room and heard...She shuddered and erased the thought from her mind.

Seth didn't take his eyes off the screen, but replied icily to Faytan's comment. "You still haven't shown me how much *better* of a pilot you can be."

"I don't have to show you anything, boy." Faytan's growl grew deeper.

Juma placed a hand on his hair shoulder and massaged it slowly. "Let Seth do his job, darling." Faytan complied.

The ViperX suddenly banked away from one of the larger asteroids. Tor slipped and slid into the hull. Natasha sighed and helped him up. The young man grinned up at her shyly, a blush spreading across his cheeks. She almost sighed again. Two years as shipmates and he was still taciturn around her. Seth loved to poke fun at his best friend for it.

She was once again brought out of her thoughts when she heard Faytan chuckle. "And I thought Juma was the only one on this ship who wore nothing under her nightie." He grinned widely, his coal-black eyes shining almost as bright as his sharp teeth.

Natasha's eyes widened. Her lips tightened.

"Better hope Seth here doesn't make another move like that or you'll be giving us all another peep show."

"Don't worry, Commander," Seth said, eyes still concentrated on the menacing asteroids. "I wouldn't do anything like that intentionally if I didn't have the chance to see it."

Commander Kira glared murderously, her face white with rage. She glanced at Tor, whose blush had deepened. She still noticed the faint smile on his lips. The blood returned to her face, hotter than before. Perverts.

Fletcher bit his lip. "Luciem!"

"Yes, o mighty High Commander?" the computer answered timidly.


"Well...remember that enormously entertaining hologram I put on for you guys yesterday?"

Another meteor pierced through the ship's force field, resounding inside the ship with a loud BONG!