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Hello Defiant chapter one, A Fish In A Large Pond


A minnow drifts onward in a dark pond. It's small and white, surrounded on all sides by a blanket black as pitch. It doesn't flick around erratically like other minnows. It stays its course, straight as an arrow, spearing on into the unknown ahead. It is alone.

It's been on its journey across this bleak ocean of black for thirty years. In thirty years it's been alone. In thirty years its only company has been the ghostly blink of distant lights. It passed a shred of land once, just before leaving the shallow waters into strange infinite leagues. It was the last shoal peeking from the water. In silent indifference the shoal, a blue globe of hydrogen and helium, watched as the minnow passed. It would be the last familiar thing this minnow would ever see again. The minnow went on steadily, keeping its pace and left undisturbed for thirty years.

This fish is a special fish. It's made of titanium, aluminum, carbon steel, wires, and circuitry. Its white scales are porcelain tiles. Every inch of this fish was meticulously thought out and prepared for its venture into the abyss. Powered by sub FTL (faster than light) neutrino drives, this fish is the dream child of North Korean prodigy Ji Sun and built by the last of the human race. Stamped onto its flank in black and outlined in gold is the name of this fish.

Defiant.

The Defiant has hurtled into the enigmatic darkness of space, half aware of its destination. Somewhere farther out in the expansive gulf a probe, launched twenty-five years earlier, calls out to the Defiant. The far-flung siren song of the probe, a message sent through a laser signal, leads her to an unseen destination. The goal? Find a home. The fish is escaping.

The waters the Defiant left behind had become poisoned. A plague, a cancerous growth, spread across the globe. The vainglorious monuments of men, dug up from the earth and festooned upon the shoulders of civilization, had been torn down, returned into the earth. Even now, as the Defiant carried on her forlorn task, grass consumed the asphalt of empty streets. Vines smothered steel beams. Wind shattered dusty glass panes. Mankind had become predator and prey in a new, savage world. We abused our time on Earth and in anger the planet revolted. There was no going back. The wound we left cut too deep to heal. The planet would bleed out and her body would go cold.

But humanity's greed is not limited to coin or land. People crave hope. When despair wrapped its pallid hands around humanity's throat, we greedily reached for hope.

So the minnow, the Defiant, left the island Earth to find us new shores on which we could rest our weary heads, one of a dozen fish swimming through the void looking for a home, holding onto hope. Hope was now a thin line, an immaterial tether, cast from a probe pulling the Defiant along her path. It promised the possibility of a home but didn't guarantee one. Out of the twelve sent into the void, perhaps two would find something substantial. Perhaps two. Perhaps only one. None for certain. Nothing was certain. Finding a shore like our own was a long shot, but hope--we are addicted to hope.

Neptune pirouetted mutely when the Defiant passed by years ago. Now the planet, fittingly named after a god of the sea, was another speck on the horizon. This was the pelagic of space. The Defiant didn't care. She didn't feel alone. She was ceramic and metal. The Defiant felt nothing. She was half awake, listening to the sonorous call of the probe's laser, keeping her one passenger safe from the cold vacuum beyond.

Then came a spark of life. A little yellow light inside flickered on the third day of the thirtieth year. The Defiant was waking up.

A tiny orchestra of instrument panels started tuning up. Beeps, hums, and chirps sang an electronic melody. Screens flared. Data poured down their faces like raindrops. Numinous oxygen hissed into her sterile belly.

Seated at the center of it all was a sarcophagus of pearlescent white. Thick tubes and wires hung from its sides. A pair of lights above switched on, radiating a low crimson glow on the tomb. Something clicked inside once, then three times, in quick succession. A small window at its head, left dark for fifteen years, flashed back to life, basking the face inside in dim yellow.

It was a handsome face despite being hidden by an overgrown beard and long matted hair. His skin, years after the sun last kissed it, was still a healthy olive. The lone passenger stirred. His square jaw shifted side to side. Another click resounded. The sarcophagus, a stasis pod, lifted an inch and then slid open. Steam poured out like an overflowing cup of water. Lying inside, the passenger's senses began to flood back into his numb body. At first his eyelashes twitched, unready to greet the overhead red lights. They fluttered, little butterflies trying to take first flight. Then they opened. Gray eyes greeted the world again.

Weak red bulbs helped ease his vision into accepting regular sight after such a long duration of sleep. White light could blind him. The passenger blinked his eyes over and over, trying to accept this new vermillion glow looking down at him like a giant demon mantis. It took him eight minutes before he finally sat upright.

The blue gel cushions of the pod cooled down, no longer needed to keep the occupant warm, but the air of the ship's interior was still cold. The computers had already rerouted power to the heat systems. A burst of static echoed out from the command console, followed by something else: a song. It conjured up memories in the passenger's mind, the first memories in fifteen years. They exploded from the gloom of his awareness with vibrancy. Memories of an ocean, the smell of salt, beer...

...a kiss.

He recalled the stars. Sitting there looking at the stars. Two distinct memories. One more vivid and the other obscure but equally moving. The first one...it was cold, autumn or winter, and he could hear a tent flapping behind him. The wind was picking up and coming in strong off bitter waves. The moon was full, laying down a spectral radiance on the gray sand. His hands and feet had been covered in filth, bare and beaten by a long trek no one would ever believe. He looked at his jagged nails, then back up at the stars. He remembered the tower with the small furry things and the nights there when he'd look up at grandeur of the night sky.

The second memory, later in life, was the same night he had his first beer. He was fishing with someone, Lucca, and later on the jetty he had his first kiss. She had been the best part of it all, and the reason he left. They fell asleep there listening to the waves crash over and over, that guttural splash and slumping sound as water flushed in and out between the jagged rocks. The same stars from the tower of cats, outside the tent, and outside the thin metal walls of the Defiant kept vigil over them that night on the jetty. The taste of her lips never left him.

The song was “The Man Who Lives Forever” by Lord Huron.

The passenger moved to a locker, took out some clothes, and laid them down on a steel table. Next to it he unpacked a foil bag and poured the grounds into the coffee machine pinned into the wall by a small sink. Water ran down into the pristine glass decanter--down and not everywhere thanks to the artificial gravity. While in stasis it would be powered off, all systems instead focused on maintaining the pod and receiving signals from the probe and those from Earth. It was back on now, but at a fraction of full strength to ease the passenger's body into the feeling again, just as the red lights helped ease vision back to normal. In a matter of hours the gravity of the cabin would be back to standard levels.

As the coffee brewed the passenger went about his usual routines. First he shaved the mass of hair he had grown while sleeping in the stasis pod. Afterwards he jumped in the small shower, a standing-room box surrounded by cloudy white glass with the word SHOWER printed on the door.

The hot water flushed away any remaining fog in his head, clearing his senses better than any amount of coffee. The steam vanished up into a vent and the water whorled into the drain by his feet. It would all be collected by machines throughout the ship to be filtered, purified, and recycled for use.

Out here there was no way to gather more water. Scout couldn't simply walk down to a local stream with a bucket in tow to fetch some. Here, space was the ultimate desert and resources were beyond scarce; they were almost non-existent. Survival meant total reliance upon the supplies he brought with him on the Defiant. Therefore the Defiant and her sister ships had been designed to act as independent microcosms, tiny metal planets with one inhabitant each.

With steam still rising from his body the passenger dried off, then went back to his clothes. He sat in a metal chair and donned his pants. They were a burnt orange, lightweight, and slightly baggy, like cargo pants. His shirt was plain and dark blue. It fit tightly against his lean body. At full height he stood 5'10”, leaving about four inches above his head in most of the cabin. It was cramped at times but at least he didn't have to cock his head like others he knew.

He went back to the locker and placed the shaving kit