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Chapter 2

New characters:

Preed (Titan A.E.)

Jim leaned against the wooden door, straining to hear the conversation taking place in the next room. This man, this stranger, had "escorted" them home and then just invited himself to stay? What a douche. And how did he know where they lived anyway? Jim had obeyed his mother and left the room, but he sure as hell wasn't going to leave her alone with this guy! He pressed his ear closer to the door. Captain Joseph Korso, as Jim had learned was his name, was busy telling Helga about some armada made up of a fleet of spacer ships, each captained by an individual pilot.

"You see," Korso said, "My captain is actually in a bit of a jam. It seems that a number of her crew members are currently on leave…and we're in desperate need of new recruits." Helga shifted her weight from one leg to the other. "I don't see where I come into all this, Commander. I haven't even been on a ship in years, not since I was a girl." Korso smiled. "Well, you see, that's the thing. I'm not here for you." Helga Sinclair squinted at the man, stiffening at his implication. "If you think you're here to draft my boys, you're crazy. Cale's registered as a student and Jim's underage." Jim stifled a laugh as best he could. Cale? STUDENT? HA! Cale hadn't been to school in WEEKS! Of course, he would never tell his mother that…she'd kill them BOTH. Helga continued. "If you think you can just waltz in here and take them…" "Relax, Miss Sinclair…May I call you Helga?" She didn't answer, but he continued. "No one's here to 'draft' your boys, Helga. I'm here to extend….an opportunity." Had they been in the same room, Korso would have been shocked at how similar Helga and Jim's faces looked right at that moment. Helga finally broke the silence. "What kind of opportunity?" Korso smiled as if he had expected nothing less than her curiosity. "My captain is taking a special interest in your boys, ma'am. Seems the two of you have a relation?" Helga thought for a moment before her eyes grew wide. "Mr. Korso, how exactly did you know how to find us?" "Well, Ma'am, my captain told me…" "And just who IS your captain, spacer?" He smiled. "Captain Amelia, ma'am. Your sister, I believe?" "Holy shi…."Jim slapped his hand over his mouth but it was too late. Helga's head whipped towards the door and she quickly reached for the handle. Jim scrambled to his feet, but it was too late. Helga grabbed him by the arm. "Jim, what are you doing!" "I was just…uh…You have a sister?" His mother sighed releasing her hold on his upper arm. "Yes." Korso cleared his throat from inside the other room. "Well, here we go then! Alright boy, I'm assuming you heard most of it. So what's it gonna be? You wanna be a spacer?" Jim's eyes grew wide and he thought of his little solar surfer out in the quarry, smashed and destroyed. "I…ya! Sure, that'd be awesome!" "Woah, WOAH! Nobody said he could even join this armada, thing!" "But mom, I wanna do this! And Cale can finally…" "Cale can finally what?" Everyone turned to see Cale standing in the doorway. "Don't drag me into you're little make-believe play land, ok? I'm sticking right here." Jim turned to Cale. "Oh what, so you can skip classes some more? Face it, Cale, we've got no future here! But out there?" Jim motioned to the window behind Cale. The sun had set and blackness had settled into it's place. "Cale, you can learn to fly a spacer! Isn't that what you want?" There was a long pause and Cale sighed. "Wait, you've been skipping classes!" Helga's eyes were wide and her facial expression was…less then joyful. Cale and Jim both gave awkward smiles. "So," Korso said, breaking the tension. "When do you boys wanna start?"

One week later, Korso, Jim and Cale stood on the loading port of the planet's largest space station. Jim gawked at the huge ships surrounding them, most bigger than their house. Korso led them through the crowd of people seeing off their loved ones. Helga had opted to stay at home. She hated sappy goodbyes almost as much as Cale did. Korso rambled on, naming off this ship and that ship, though neither boy was paying any small amount of attention to him. Both were busy studying the scene before them. Shops lined the edges of the public walkways, selling everything from fuel to food. People and aliens alike surrounded them. Humans, Cyborgs, Akrennians, and all manner of species bustled around, completely unaware of how out of place each looked. When they came to a stop, Korso motioned at the large vessel hovering above them. "Here we are boys, the Valkyrie. One of the strongest ships in the galaxy and THE fastest. Chances of over powering her are slim, but catching her…THAT'S impossible." He smiled, obviously very proud of the ship's capabilities. After a moment of soaking in the ships apparent glory, the headed towards the ships large iron plank. "You boys will be bunking together, so I don't want any of that fighting I saw out in the quarry, you hear me?" Jim nodded but Cale ignored him. Korso gave him a glance over his shoulder. "Your attitudes gotta change, Cale. Captain Amelia's not gonna take any of your shit, got that?" Cale rolled his eyes. "When do we meet this chick anyway? She's our aunt or something, right? So why haven't we ever heard of her?" Korso grinned. "Oh, you'll meet her soon. Trust me, though. Once you do, you'll be wishing you were back home. Here we are." They had arrived outside a small cabin door. "This is your room. You've got about ten minutes until we ship out, at which time you'd better be up on deck. Go ahead and unpack and discuss how much you miss mommy now, because once we're off…" He grinned at them a bit to slyly. "There IS no more mommy." He turned, jogging back down the way they had come leaving the boys to themselves. They opened the small steel door and stepped into their new home. A desk sat against one wall, various paper scattered on it, and a video phone on a shelf. Opposite that was a set of bunk beds looking far from comfortable. Cale threw his bag on the bottom bunk and began rummaging through the drawers in a short metal dresser at the foot of the bed. Jim glanced at his bag. "You're not gonna fight me for top bunk?" "Nope" Jim scowled. "But you ALWAYS get top." "And now I'm letting you have it." Jim froze…He was up to something. He walked over and inspected the top bunk. It seemed fine, though rickety and a bit rusted at the corners. He looked at the bottom bunk. Maybe the mattress was thicker? Jim grinned slightly. "Well, I want the bottom so…" "Jeez, Jim! Your such a whiny brat! FINE! I'll take the top, happy?" Jim smiled. Of course he was happy. After all, he'd won, right? But as Cale pulled himself onto the top bunk and lay down to test it, Jim could have sworn he saw a hint of a smile. Jim's eyes widened. "You WANTED the top!" Cale fully grinned now. "Well, ya. You were even stupid enough to give it to me, I knew you would." Jim sighed, frustrated with himself. He began unpacking his duffel bag and throwing his clothes into the little trunk in the corner. "Well, you must be the new cabin boys!" Jim turned to the doorway and Cale jumped from his bed. An Akrennian stood in the doorway. He was tall and lanky with long rows of teeth gleaming in a creepy smile. His voice was greasy as if he were always trying to con someone. He extended a long fingered hand to Jim. "I'm Preed, navigations specialist. When you get a moment, the latrine needs attending, no rush of course! Please, settle in first." Cale glared at him. "We're not janitors, slime ball." Preed ignored the comment and continued staring at Jim. "You then, boy. You MUST be the new hand, yes? You're FAR too young to be an ACTUAL member of the crew." Jim pushed his hand away. "My name's not BOY, it's Jim, and no, I'm not the latrine cleaner." Was he? Korso had yet to give them their assignments. Jim glanced back at his brother. His face told him that the older boy was thinking the same thing. Preed's smile broadened. "Well, Jim and…rude child," he notioned to Cale. When he didn't respond, Jim intervened. "His name is Cale. Look, pal, we need to get upto the deck so if you'll excuse us." He pushed past the Akrennian and headed for the stairs, Cale following not far behind. Just before stepping onto the deck, Cale glanced over his shoulder…but Preed was gone.