Thursday, January 30, 2014

Flash Fiction Friday: Trapped Aboard!

Another Wendig Challenge--a fairy-tale remix.  I had to cheat on this one.  Not only did I pick the fairy tale I wanted (which was within the rules), but I picked the sub-genre I wanted, since I just didn't feel like working with some of them, and had a lot of trouble figuring out how to take the story in other directions.  Then I ran over the 1000-word limit. I managed to cut it back to 1225, but any more and I'll lose the thread of the story.

I don't think the end result needs any explanation as to which tale or what sort of genre I used.

Trapped Aboard

Rapa wandered through the abandoned space station.  Only The Woman, who’d brought her there and hidden her long ago, had known she was there.  Now everyone was gone, and Rapa was trapped aboard.  The Woman had said that she’d come back to take her away.   Rapa didn’t know if she hoped She would come, or not.  She would die if left on the Station, of course.  But.

Rapa had spent a day finding a way out of the hidden room where she’d spent most of her sixteen years.  Then she had explored, as she’d never been able to when she was The Woman’s prisoner.

“You will let me in when I return,” The Woman had commanded before she left.  Rapa wondered if she would.  So many times she had unlocked the storeroom and let her in, these years as a captive.

She had been the tester for all The Woman’s potions and experiments and beauty products, and the only one that had worked was the one that counteracted one odd side-effect of weightlessness, and made her hair grow.  Once, all Spacers were bald, because hair wouldn’t grow in zero G.  Now, most sported close-cropped curls or a modest Mohawk, thanks to The Woman.  Thanks to Rapa. 

Rapa’s own hair dropped to her feet and beyond, or would have if there’d been any gravity to pull it down, rather than floating cloud-like about her.  If there had been gravity, the weight of all that hair might have broken her neck.

Rapa bore the scars of other, less successful efforts to make it big in the beauty industry.  The Woman had grown rich on the one success, and still she kept Rapa.

For years Rapa spoken to no one but The Woman.  When she had escaped her room at night and wandered the station, she had gone in terror of what would happen if she were found.  Now she turned on the comm unit and stared at the newsfeed that came up automatically.  Men and women came and went, talking of worlds unknown to her, but Rapa absorbed it all.

She didn’t know how long she watched, greedily taking in the life she’d never known.  It might have been hours or days.  It stopped because something interrupted the newscast.

The face of a young man came onto the screen, and spoke.  “Space Station Tower 1?  Is someone aboard?”

“Oh!” Rapa gasped.  She knew the man in the box spoke to her.  She was discovered.  The Woman would—

“Someone is there.”  He had heard her gasp.  “Please respond, Tower 1.”

The Woman had taught her to hide, as though it was to make her safe.  Rapa had long known that The Woman was evil and untrustworthy, and she had feared her since she was tiny, but that didn’t make all people evil.  The young man wore a concerned frown, but he looked kind.  “Come in, Tower 1,” he repeated.  “Please turn on the visual?”

“I—I don’t know how,” she said softly.

The man started.  “Who—who are you?”

The Woman had named her Rapunzel after the hair thing worked.  Rapa had shortened the name in her own mind.  “I am Rapa.  Rapunzel,” she added.

He gave a soft whistle.  “Rapunzel. . . and trapped in the Tower.”  He spoke almost as though to himself.  Then, to her, “The switch for Visuals is to the left below the vid screen.  Do you see it?”

She reached out and turned it on.
#
 Aboard the Starship ML King, William Prince drew a sharp breath.  A professional through and through, he schooled himself at once to a calm response and a face that gave nothing away, as he spoke of the need to get a rescue team to her.  But inside, Prince reeled.  So beautiful, and that amazing hair!  But the scars—on her hands, her arms, even her left cheek.  They marred her beauty only to emphasize it.

One thing the girl—Rapa—said jolted him back to full attention.

“She will be back.  The Woman said she would return for me.”

“When?”

“She didn’t say.”  She met his gaze.  “I do not wish to go with her.”

Prince heard himself saying, “I’ll be there first.  I must make preparations.  Leave this channel open, okay?”

She nodded.  “I have to go eat and—and things.”  She crimsoned and he nodded. 

“See the button labeled ‘call’?  If anything happens, press it and call for Starship King.  That’s where I am.”  He touched an emblem on his shirt, which she now understood to be a uniform.  “I’m Lieutenant Prince, William Prince.”

He reached toward the screen, and she could no longer hear him, though she watched him move away, and now she could also see that he was surrounded by other uniformed men and women, all busy.  She left to take care of her needs.
#
“Rapa?  Rapa, please come in.”

“I’m here,” she called eagerly.

“I am aboard the rescue vessel.  We’ll be there in a few hours.”

Tension flowed from the one to the other.  The Tower was scheduled to self-destruct in less than two days.  But Rapa’s mysterious Woman might return even sooner. 

An hour after her last comm with Prince, Rapa found The Woman standing before her.  And she knew that Rapa had revealed herself.  She had overheard the last communication with Prince.

“Come, girl.  We must leave at once.”  Her commands had never been met with anything but instant obedience.

“No.”  Rapa’s refusal stopped The Woman in her tracks.  But Rapa was no match for The Woman, and she knew it.  She turned and fled, but she was far less practiced at propelling herself through the tubes and halls.  Her only hope was to delay long enough for Prince to arrive, and to that end she twisted and dodged.
#
Prince felt a stab of fear when he saw the small vessel docked to the Tower.  The Woman had returned.  Still, she was still aboard.  He wasn’t too late.  Directing his pilot to remain aboard and prevent the other vessel from undocking, Prince left the 3-seater and cycled through the airlock.

He reached the cargo bay in time to see Rapa struggling with a tall, strong woman, who strove to force her into one of the cargo drones.  The long hair that had bound Prince to her from the first glimpse was being used now to imprison her.  She was wound in a cocoon of it.  Prince dove for the pair, tackling The Woman. 

She lashed out at him, slashing his face and his right eye.  Prince screamed in pain and fury, and managed one last, desperate blow that felled The Woman.  Staggering, he caught up Rapa, who shook herself free of her hair.  Together, they reached the cargo bay doors, and passed through.  Rapa closed the doors.  It might gain them a second or two.

“I’m—docked—airlock 2,” Prince managed.  He could see nothing.  His right eye, he was certain, was gone, the left swelling shut.  He let Rapa tow him, and only managed to issue the necessary orders to be readmitted to the rescue shuttle.

He had only one last order to give before he collapsed.  He could feel the soft hair brushing his face as she bent over him, stopping the blood.

“Destroy the other ship.  She must torment Rapa no more.”
###
 
(Just in case anyone wonders: Rapunzel, and Space Opera)

©Rebecca M. Douglass 2014

6 comments:

  1. William Prince - rofl!! Great idea, thanks :)

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  2. Haha, very witty! I liked the subtle references to real life (and the not so subtle ones too). But poor William Prince, being blinded so badly!

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    1. Well, in the original he is blinded and wanders in the wilderness for years until he stumbles on Rapunzel and her tears restore his sight (good biblical stuff there!). Here, well, he's still got one eye, and maybe the ship's docs can put him back together.

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  3. Good combination Rebecca! I really like how you incorporated the traditional elements of the story.

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    1. I tried! They did struggle to get away. And then there was all this backstory that wanted to come in!

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