Captain Eo: Mission To Mars by yourburgersarethebest


Captain Eo, a young, single space captain new to the Voyager fleet, is given a last chance to atone for past mission mistakes by taking a group of cadets through a Martian nature exhibit. There, one misstep will force him to prove his worth as a leader.

*COMPLETED 5-24-2023*

© 2022


Categories: Bad: 1986-1990, Angst, Fantasy, Humor, Mystery, Sci Fi Characters: Michael, Original Girl
General Warnings: None
Trigger Warnings: None
Challenges: None
Series: None
Chapters: 12 Completed: Yes Word count: 11458 Read: 6277 Published: Jan 06, 2022 Updated: Nov 18, 2023
Story Notes:

Please rate and review!

1. Chapter 1 by yourburgersarethebest

2. Chapter 2 by yourburgersarethebest

3. Chapter 3 by yourburgersarethebest

4. Chapter 4 by yourburgersarethebest

5. Chapter 5 by yourburgersarethebest

6. Chapter 6 by yourburgersarethebest

7. Chapter 7 by yourburgersarethebest

8. Chapter 8 by yourburgersarethebest

9. Chapter 9 by yourburgersarethebest

10. Chapter 10 by yourburgersarethebest

11. Chapter 11 by yourburgersarethebest

12. Chapter 12: EPILOGUE by yourburgersarethebest

Chapter 1 by yourburgersarethebest

Shooting stars were always a bad omen.


One zipped past while Eo, a young novice of the Voyager crew, stared out into the night sky from the window of a frigid starship observatory.


Eo watched the comet pass until the sparks from its tail fizzled into the ink-black space beyond the glass of the port. A small uprising of excited gasps from his comrades then filled the silence of the observatory. A group of astronauts made light conversation on how rare it was to see a comet at their distance from their home planet.


Eo's profile, made all the more boyish with his elvish nose and soft chin, remained hidden in the observatory's space, but an ocassional starlight would highlight his black, messy hair-coils or illuminate his brown eyes that were bent under his brows in deep thought.


Alike other captains in the observatory, his uniform was all-white and made of a material close to leather with many buckles and pockets for required gadgets or weapons. Eo's cape, white with a black underside, proudly displayed his rank as it blanketed his shoulders and ankles.


Eo noted there were higher-ups in the observatory who had also come to destress after a long day on-duty. They, the Commanders, wore all-black clothing paired with an intimidating pair of sleek, ebony boots and a long, inky cape. One Commander he couldn't quite place met his eyes, and nodded faintly across the room.


Eo's lips remained stuck in a thin line as his eyes lowered to his shifting white boots. His thin, caramel-skinned fingers filed once against the sill of the ice-cold port.


"Eo," greeted the deep voice from Comnander Bog.


Eo didn't flinch, expecting the voice to emerge last from the meeting room.


"What kind of face is that to make?" Bog inquired, now beside Eo. "You just had a successful mission." Bog had to mention, with a slight nudge to Eo's stone-like stance: "your first successful mission, may I add. Good work."


Eo chuckled, an automatic response to seeing the shadows of Bog's lopsided smirk in the starlight. His throat felt dry when he mumbled, "I was just following orders."


"Precisely." Bog tensed his jaw, and then searched for a constellation before him. "I suppose I should tell you the news."


Eo glanced to Bog to go on.


"The Commanders and I did not approve your promotion this year."


Eo sighed, and appeared even smaller than he already was.


"However, we have approved you for another mission. This time, to Mars. A few of the Space Academy kids need a chaperone for their first field trip out-of-planet. You're a wonderful listener, Eo. You're patient and a great teacher, not much like the other captains. Not everyone gets to have the privilege to be a role model to the students."


Eo left his starvigil and stalked towards the exit of the observatory. "Tell 'em I'm not interested," he tossed behind him.


Bog clopped his black boots swiftly behind Eo's heels. "I thought you'd be thanking me! Not every captain gets three ridiculously easy missions in a row, you know!" Bog called in exasperation. Eo was an incredibly fast walker in a temper, and Bog quickly grew winded trying to follow him on the runway towards the bunkers. "What exactly is your problem?"


Eo's cape swirled around furiously and he barked, "no one around here is taking me seriously!"


Bog glanced to a comrade who strolled by curiously.


Eo continued, more quietly. "I am the only captain not in an exploration route, and you've done nothing to change that. You're supposed to be my friend--you were supposed to tell 'em I'm ready for a real mission!"


Bog shut his eyes, exhausted at saying the same things in so many ways to his friend. He decided not to be vague. "You need more experience!" Bog faced Eo. "For all I know, it could be by pure luck that you're still alive."


Eo folded his arms.


"Your crew still doesn't respect you, your self-defense is sloppy and violent, your navigation technique is average at best, and you can be unreasonably late to meetings."


"It's not like I'd miss anything. It's just jelly donuts," Eo muttered to himself, hearing Bog's criticisms for the first time.


Bog blinked curtly and met Eo's volume with a serious overtone. "Do this mission, even better than the last, and I'll consider doing a little more... persuasion. Maybe you can be a Commander sooner than you think. There's nothing more I'd love than to have you working right by my side, like old times." Bog's rare smiling wrinkles arose near his eyes and mouth.


Eo felt Bog's glove land gracefully on his shoulder. Eo's early memories with Bog, as his then equally-naiive co-captain of his starship, flashed before his eyes. Like a telepathy, they both giggled at one embarrasing incident that had sent them to maintenance duty for nearly a light-year.


"Alright, when do I start?" Eo relented. He held one raised brow at Bog for what exactly his new mission had in store.


Chapter 2 by yourburgersarethebest
Author's Notes:

Please let me know what you think

Commander Bog returned to the meeting room and found the roundtable void of everyone. At the port to the space-view at the east of the starship, Bog saw his supervisor, the colonel, looking somewhere beyond the stars with his arms crossed and his lips bowed angrily. The dark-skinned colonel was still dressed in all black, as he was when he led the commanders' discussion of Captain Eo's renewal on the exploration fleet some hours ago. 

With his back to the room's entrance, the colonel said, "yes, Bog?"

"I hope I'm not disturbing you, sir," Bog greeted to his supervisor's head of greying, wooly hair when he was a welcoming distance away. "I only wanted to wish you a good night."

"Captain Eo has accepted the Mars voyage?"

"Yes," Bog said, allowing the corners of his lips to lift. "I believe he will not let us down." Bog prepared to make his exit.

"Stay for a moment, Commander."

Bog halted and returned to his post from the colonel. In case the colonel wished to tell him a longer message for his morning duties, Bog joined his gloves behind him and rested them comfortably on his back.

"I'm making Eo your responsibility for the voyage." The colonel said.

"My responsibility? What do you mean, sir?" Bog asked.

"It means that if Eo fails this mission, then you will be relieved of your duties as well."

Bog blurted an unlikely sound--a small gasp--that surprised himself and the colonel. The colonel turned to Bog and witnessed Bog's mouth slightly agape, forming one question and then a next, and a next. Bog's eyes, the colonel also observed, were--strangely--panicked, searching him desperately for answers. 

The colonel went on to explain, "if Eo is as capable as you claim, then you have nothing to worry about, commander."

"That is not fair," Bog muttered to his boots, his heart hammering his ribcage.

"It's the principle of the matter," The colonel reluctantly admitted. "Eo was your recommendation when I asked for a recruit. You had promised someone brave, full of integrity, with an energetic personality, and highly advanced soft skills."

"He is all of those things and more, sir."

The colonel shook his head in a delayed reply. "I know you are good friends with Captain Eo, almost too good. You were friends since childhood; Eo told me himself. You both dated the same officer, correct?"

"I do not understand your point."

"Eo constantly undermines your authority simply because you allow it to happen. I know that it was because of Eo that you chose to invest funds from this starship's budget to support 'Taco Wednesdays' in the concession hall."

"They are named: 'Taco Tuesdays', sir."

"Ever since Eo has joined the fleet, you have began to make unusual decisions because of his private influence."

"I assure you, there is no 'private influence' as you speak of," Bog replied, narrowing his eyes at the colonel as the colonel paced in front of the port.

"His last suggestion to..." the colonel let out a rueful laugh. "...deliver his gift of music to The Queen was another waste of our resources! The Queen is not a strong ally that we should concern ourselves with. I am surprised you even thought of moving forward with a captain's suggestion in the first place."

"I will forever stand by that decision." Bog said. "Sir, we must be acquainted with whomever we can in the stars. There's no telling who has plans to attack our ship; you know that. The Queen's Whip Warriors are highly effective at combat, if we should ever need assistance. Also, it is my opinion that every officer deserves a say in our strategies. The Commanders of this star-base no longer seek to be dictators, as of your generation, and neither do I."

"The Queen threatened to use her magic to turn us all into her slaves if Eo's welcoming gift was not adequate! It was nothing but luck that she had not turned Eo's crew into...what was it?"

"Trashcans, sir."

The colonel remembered and scoffed. "In my opinion, Captain Eo and his disgraceful crew would be more useful as such." The Colonel stood still and then he busied his attention with the passing starships of the galaxy. A mammoth craft of steel appeared in Bog's and the colonel's view and flashed its orbiters just before its sparkly insignia ribboned past their gazes. The Colonel, knowing the pilot who waved, smirked at the glass. "We have a mission on this starship, to foster strong relations with reputable neighbors of this galaxy, and with their help, relocate to a new planet so our future generations will have a place to call home, just as Earth had been for our ancestors. Do you still believe in this mission? You swore an oath to protect it, after all."

"I have never questioned and never will abandon our devotion to the future of the Human Race."

The colonel nodded, looking relieved. "Yes, I know. But Eo has made you dangerous to our future, Bog," he continued. "and I am beginning to rethink my choice to make you my successor. Can you do this assignment, or not?"

Bog understood the colonel's statement wasn't a question at all. "Yes, sir."

"Good night."

Chapter 3 by yourburgersarethebest

CAPTAIN EO DESCENDED his spaceship into the tangerine, hazy mist of Mars' atmosphere. As his spaceshield floated to the arid rock beds of the landscape, Eo kept a steady, white glove over the hull's micro-navigators. His eyes recorded the slight twitches of his fingers and matched the tilt of the craft's wings in milliseconds. Bog, standing by his side, judged the landing silently, not impressed by Eo's ridiscovered attention to detail in his presence.


Fortunately, Bog reasoned to himself, Eo's former crew were not needed for the simple students' escort to Mars' historical sites, and they had all more than agreed to take the requested vacation from mission duty. So far and so good was the consensus Bog reached after a routine departure and close-to-final landing on Mars' grounds.


The Academy students seemed bright and obedient, for they had kept their conversations in Eo's guest bunks to a reasonable level. Bog was relieved at the laughs and jitters of camraderie he had heard during the flight through the Milky Way galaxy, for the silence of space was always deafening, nearly tangible. Eo, who knew this as well as anyone, had been difficult to make conversation with, even after Bog had attempted an inside joke, leaving Bog to ponder if Eo wasn't speaking as his usual self at the command bay for the sake of the students' poosible listening ears.


Eo's reservedness had the air of a punishment, Bog thought, and it underscored how, frankly, boring the mission truly was. As if Bog hadn't already known that on a personal level; he and Eo had seen Mars more times than a toiletseat.


Reassuming his new role not as Eo's former roomate in flight training but as his reluctant superior, Commander Bog glanced over Eo's shoulder to make sure Eo's landing was correctly within the coordinates the Colonel had sent. "Easy...and a little to the left," Bog advised Eo lowly.


Eo toggled his navigation grips sidways, and the nose of the starship squeaked before the hull leaned left.


"Not so fast!" Bog shouted, gripping a balance rail. "Your model is an older and sensitive aircraft; be more gentle."


Eo obeyed, and soon his starship restored its balance. Bog sighed in relief at his navigation gizmo when the readers of Eo's starship showed that its real position and the landing coordinates were in-sync.


"Disengage all controls," Bog announced immediately, "and input power-saving mode, please."


"I did that already," Eo muttered. "Let's get this over with." Eo said, advancing towards the cabin's where the children from the space academy were waiting. Eo felt a hand push his center square once more with Bog's shoulders.


"Not quite." Bog said. After an indifferent pause, Eo remembered and he turned off the light-beams of his starship's rears, fins, and nose beacons with gentle flicks of his controls.


"Don't make faces," Eo said, ignoring Bog's satisfied smirk.


Meanwhile, in the starship's guest cabins, the academy pupils were waiting for Bog or Eo to knock on their port and escort them to Mars' geosphere.


One alien space academy student was Org. It was a salmon colored, four-foot, squid-like anthropod that buoyed above its own gravity emitted by its body. It didn't say much because it simply couldn't say much, for it didnt have vocal chords after all.

It hoped to find some rare Martian plants it had seen in a e-log and take their measurements so it could reproduce a model of them back at its home in the star base. It did not trust the other two students, mainly because they talked much more than usual, and they didn't like to include it in their conversations.


It did not blame those Human descendants, for it could not talk after all, but it did not like the feeling of lonliness, for it had suffered a lot of it in space academy classes. Org turned its head to his center when his name was mentioned.


Another student, a ebony-skinned, almond-eyed, and short-haired girl named Zephyr, had told it, "Org, you're so boring it's annoying. Anyway," she then turned to the third student who sat next to her on a comfortable bed.


Zephyr continued sharing to her partner that she wished to see all the nature that Mars had to offer, and hoped to take plenty of pictures to show her family, astronauts, and friends. She secretly hoped that during their tour, her knowledge of Mars´ geography might impress Xavie beside her, who was the last Mars exploration student of their group assigned to Captain Eo. 


Xavie, olive-skinned and athletic, shared to everyone that a group of older classmates had betted that he would fail a ritual they had all done on their past visit to Mars, which was to go to the scariest part of the planet's ruins to touch 'the thing'.


He recoiled at Zephyr's zealous encouragement, but tossed her a nervous smile in knowing that her words were good-natured. The two humans, mostly Zephyr, talked on aimlessly.


Org did not look forward to being an outcast for the day, but it was inevitable, it seemed, that Xavie and Zephyr were getting along more by the minute. Org made a quiet burble to itself, looking low. Suddenly, it turned to the port when it heard a knock on the port.

Eo ushered all the students outside. "We have arrived on Planet Mars, known by Martians as the Red Planet. Your current position is safely within the free-exploration section of Mars' ancient ruins. I am sure you have heard before that ninety percent of the ruins are prohibited to non-Martians. Pause for effect." Eo recited to the students with his eyes glued to his gizmo's reader. "On Planet Mars, your objective is to learn all about the...."


Eo squinted at his gizmo, and then glanced at Bog, who Eo realized had inserted a hard-to-read correction to his briefing.


"Components of the universal geospheres, and the philosophies and anthropological origins of extraterrestial civilizations." Bog said.


"That," Eo continued, "and to complete all essential benchmarks needed to fulfill the requirements of your very first mission badges." Eo moved on to attendance, "Okay, let's take roll. Zephyr?"


"Present!" She said.


"Okay. Zah-vee?"


"It's Zay-vee." Xavie said.

Eo shrugged and texted himself a reminder. "Org?"

Org's tentacles breathed in place.

"It looks like everyone is accounted for. On to the ruins."

"Hold on," Bog interrupted quietly. "You forgot safety."

"Bog. It's an abandoned rock garden."

"Anything could happen. Please just follow protocol."

Eo adjusted his boots to a comfortable stance before his long recital, and then sighed, "It is important for everyone to remain safe at all times, inside and outside of a spacecraft. At all times we will use the partner system. You may know that the space force's motto has always been 'no man left behind' for centuries. That applies then, and that applies today, and for every single mission, including field trips. There will be no person seen alone, and if I see anyone alone, neither of you will earn your mission badge today."

Bog nodded with approval, and added, "You have been equipped with a safety laser on your toolbelts. Have you all been trained on it?"

The students agreed.

"Excellent. We are sure you will never have to use it, but if you may use it, always use two hands, and never aim at anything if you do not intend to stun it. Is that perfectly clear?"

"Yeah," Xavie said, "but how come you guys have two lasers and we only have one?"

" 'Cause one's for killing," Eo replied.

Bog regarded the students' excitement and reminded them, "it is highly unlikely we will ever need to use our other lasers, it is only for your safety. Now, to the ruins, shall we?"

The teens went ahead, with Org floating behind them at a distance.

"Eo, don't encourage them!" Bog said once the students were out of earshot. "They're unpredictable and unruly as they are!"

"I just told 'em the truth," Eo chuckled.

Bog huffed. "This may seem like a simple student's excursion Eo, but one slip-up, and...." I'll lose everything, Bog thought to himself.

Eo fixated on him with an incredulous glare. "What makes you think I'm going to mess this up?!" Eo accused.

Bog recovered, "just please follow my lead exactly this time, Eo, and we'll both be sure to get home safely."

"How about this? I'll follow my own lead, because I know exactly what I'm doing!!" Eo said. "And it's 'captain' to you, from now on." He recallibrated his guns and stalked ahead.

Bog sighed behind him and then he tracked Captain Eo and the space academy students towards a labryinth of massive, orange canyons on the horizon that led to Mars' ancient ruins.

Chapter 4 by yourburgersarethebest
Author's Notes:

Thank you for reading, please rate and review :)

"SO HOW OLD IS MARS, ANYWAY?" Zephyr piped up, following tightly behind Captain Eo and Commander Bog by hoisting her lower half over a bed of flat, crimson boulders. Behind her, Xavie leapt over a small ravine to reach her and Org drifted upwards, with more effort than the start of the hike up the corridor of a mountain path.

In the same nasally tone due to an airtight, oxygenated helmet, Captain Eo panted, "close to five billion years. Watch your feet!" Just in time, Eo and Bog hopped together across a wide crater, and then Bog, bending deeply and jumping, deftly forced his heels to plant onto another flatbed of rock. He followed his momentum to balance upright and continued on the marked climbing path.

Ahead, Bog continued to evade the more jagged formations that signaled the ancient ruins were near and focused on sure ways up the mountain. Eo instead looked for the riskiest foot holds to propel himself closer to Bog's impressive distance above him.

"Showoff," Eo grumbled to himself when Bog disappeared briefly out of sight on a wide ledge and peered below him to wait for everyone.

Zephyr glanced down in time to avoid a crater her heel nearly slipped into. Just before she took Eo's hand to settle on the ledge with Bog, she heard a piercing, low howl coo in the air.

"What was that?!" Xavie exclaimed. "Not that I'm scared, or anything."

Eo chuckled, and walked on to lead the students after Bog. "Are you sure about that?"

"It is only wind, Cadet Xadie. You may hear it differently on this mountain." Explained Bog.

"Just call me Xadie," Xadie corrected. He claimed a water break with Zephyr and shared a weary chuckle with her in happiness that the most physically demanding part of the hike was through. He turned his attention to stretching his calves when Zephyr's gaze lingered and she wouldn't look away from him first. Away from view, Zephyr hid her blush. 

To Eo, Org looked nearly white in the mountain's shade. "Are you okay?"

Org blurped.

"You look dehydrated. Take my canteen," Eo offered. He unbuckled his full flask of dihydrogen monoxide and fed it to Org, who pinched his proboscis around the straw and slurped shakily.

"I'll carry you the rest of the way," Eo declared. When Org was done, Eo nestled Org under one elbow and toted him along.

The entrance to the ruins took only a short walk longer along a dark, paven cliff's edge. Once the crew was huddled safely near the mouth of a wide, sunlit cave, Bog surveyed his gizmo. He looked pleased that the group made it to the ruins many minutes before schedule. 

"There's no one here." Zephyr mentioned to Bog.

"This isn't the most exciting destination on mars, nor the most creative level of the ruins. Most like to see one specific formation from the summit of this mountain, although, there are many interesting exhibits along the way."

"'Kay," Zephyr replied. "So what's this one?"

Zephyr pointed to a simple, humungous gravestone at the cave's entrance. It was planted directly in the path of explores and hosted a long string of geometric hieroglyphics. The crew gathered near the stone, tilting their heads upward to follow the shapes from top to bottom. Eo and Bog mentally translated the code to read a somber and reverent notice that no being was to disturb the intentions of ones who came before them. Meanwhile, the cadets stood by in confusion.

"Captain Eo, can you seriously read that?" Xadie said. The echoes from the cave amplified his challenge.

"Of course I can." Eo whispered, finishing his translations. He and Bog timidly met glances. Bog watched as Eo's eyes glinted full of memories from their rookie trip to Mars as former students. They then acknowledged to themselves that they were standing in the very spot they had first met.

"What does it mean?" Xadie reached out to touch a stone inscription, and had his wrist swiftly grasped by Eo's white glove.

"It says: if you touch anything, I will send you home without a pulse, and without a badge!"

"Eo," Bog scolded. "Xadie, and everyone: as you go through the entire ruins, I want to remind you that you must not touch a single thing. This is very, very important."

"And if we do?" Zephyr asked in true curiousity.

Bog genuinely raised his brow, and his lips squirmed into a gentle-like, dumbounded placement. "I am not positive."

"Better not to find out the hard way. Let's go," Eo commanded, still lugging Org close to his hip. To Eo's relief, Org had turned nearly two shades of pink that would bring him closer to his healthy salmon-colored shade.

Eo urged Org to take and finish his canteen of water and return with the other cadets, which Org obeyed good-naturedly.

Eo knew there was plenty of more water stores and oxygen tanks on his starship, and they all would more than likely return to it in no time after the short tour, so he didn't rush to refill his canteen at any of the cavern springs the group dawdled past. Eo reconnected at Bog's side once he had started the other cadets at a steady walking pace.

Eo leaned in toward's Bog's shoulder and suggested, "do you remember that one place here we visited, way back when...."

"Yes, I do," Bog chortled lowly, starting Eo into his own snuffed laughter. Bog stammered, "we certainly do not have time to visit; the cadets are our first priority and we cannot leave them long distances from us...."

Eo interjected foxily, "when is the last time you've been here, Bog? I mean seriously. It's been years. We have to see if it's still there!"

"Perhaps, perhaps, if there's time, Captain. Lower your voice, or the children will become suspicious." Bog said. Upon hearing voices from other visitors who appeared to be older cadets than the students he led, Bog resumed his serious countenance and tightened his steps along the smooth rockbed of the first grounds.

"You don't actually have to call me Captain," Eo said, apologizing for their spat at their arrival to Mars. "I'm sorry, Bog. I just want you, or someone at least, to have a little faith in me."

Bog looked to Eo and nodded once. "I can give you more than a little." His dark-brown eyes pocketed warmly from below when Eo held a mellow, grateful expression to him that Bog hadn't seen before.

The cadets followed the grinning starship leaders in front of them along the rocky exhibits as they took their own times to observe the basic cave formations of the initial ruins display.

All the while, Xadie discreetly kept his eyes shuffling the royal-orange stalagmites, stalacties, and columns of Mars' cavernous, ancient ruins for The Thing.

Chapter 5 by yourburgersarethebest
Author's Notes:

Hi, I'm back. Thank you for choosing this story and for reading. It means a lot. I hope to start picking up the pace with things by the next chapters or so. 

Org's pronouns are it/it's. If there are any others, it's a typo, and I will be updating those pronouns typos soon throughout the story, and I'll also do some editing for other typos, probably with the next chapter so that I don't bump other stories down.

EO AND THE GROUP RETREATED after an uneventful first half of the mission schedule to come to a rest and dining area in the Martian ruins' visitors center. They settled at an undistinctive round dining table of copper-colored, sedimentary rock.


Eo slurped on a cherry-flavored electrolyte liquid while Bog had plain snacks to eat. Bog shared his limited supply of jerkied vegetarian snacks he had stored in his pockets the night before liftoff to Mars with Eo, under the dining table, along with two tongue-tablets.


Feeling trapped at Eo's side, Xavie meandered his hand in a bag of zesty, flaky Asteroid Puffs.


Org nursed Eo's refilled water canteen in its probiscis.


At the same time, Zephyr dipped her eating instrument in a frothy pillow of her candy-sweet Milky Way parfait Bog had bought her.


Eo used past years of practice from boring Academy lectures to take Bog's uppers in plain sight. As he suspected, the cadets hadn't batted an eye. Once one small disc dissolved in his mouth, Eo felt his heart thump faster and a warm chill fall to his toes, making him feel alert enough for the trip's second leg and possibly until the whole flight back to the cadets' Space Academy.


Eo sighed quietly in relief, and he then realized Bog was chortling at the sound of him with pity.


"The frozen ice pool in the rocks was really pretty," said Zephyr.


"Mars' geosphere is truly a sight to behold. I am sure you took many photographs on your journaling device," Bog said, grinning once at Zephyr.


"Xavie dropped some already. You should see it; he has a good eye," Zephyr said. She turned from Eo's surprised smile over to Xavie, who ignored the compliment and stared at a tiny-pawed creepy-crawler roaming the rocky ceiling of the dining area overhead.


"Cadet Xavie, what was your favorite exhibit?" Commander Bog said after his patience had worn thin.


"Just Xavie, mister," Xavie muttered. He let out a wind from his mouth and crossed his arms. "I dunno. They look all the same to me."


"I'd say so," Eo cut in. "It's easy to get lost in here." Eo slurped his electrolyte mix once. "There wasn't anything that you remember about the Forbidden Caves?"


"No," Xavie grunted. "why 'forbidden' if there's nothing to see?" He crunched puffy crisps in the quiet that descended on the table. Around them, visitors' conversations and laughter became louder.


Org bubbled its lips timidly, alerting everyone.


"Oh yeah, I forgot about Org!" said Eo. "How did you like everything so far?"


Org made a quiet, pleased burble.


"Glad to hear that," Eo grinned. Eo slurped his solution again and finally finished it. "Okay, kids. We'll stay here for a few moments and then...we'll go on to a secret passageway. It's somewhere a little off course...."


Bog's eyes flashed upwards from his last cards of dehydrated veggie-jerky. "How do you mean 'off-course'? The star-base is tracking our every move, captain--one degree out of the norm is not authorized."


"Believe me Bog, Colonel has way more important things to worry about than watching us digest in 5-K resolution. Follow my lead, like you promised."


"Where's it on the map?" Zephyr asked, cleaning her frozen dessert bowl.


"It's an old spot of mine and Bog's that we found when we were here getting our mission badges on Mars, just like all of you three," Eo said. Eo scanned the bunch, ignoring Bog's crazed glower, and then he rested his eyes finally on Xavie, who had his own eyes shut under brooding brows.


Eo, vexed some by Xavie's boredom, decided not to wait any longer to throw in the punchline. A smirk jimmied his lips into a cheeky smile. "A spot where we found a certain 'Thing'."


Xavie's eyes opened and roved Eo's way. "What're you talking about?"


Bog interrupted, "something that probably was a figure of your captain's imagination--!" he said swiftly. "We can barely remember if what we saw was even real!" Bog insisted in a pleading voice a volume above what he thought the cadets should witness, "Captain: no, and that is final!"


"What's the problem?" Eo chuckled. "It's not like you're putting your job on the line."


Bog recanted with a glance away from Eo along with a feeble, uneasy stammer.


"These kids may not get a trip like this for a while; let's have some fun! Everything'll be okay; trust me!"


Bog, feeling it was impossible to say no to Eo's eyes that were shining at him like two gigantic and brown Suns, nodded evenly.


Eo announced, "voting-to-go-off-route-in-one...two...!"


Eo and Zephyr giggled when they were first to shoot their arms in the air with Xavie, who had lifted his hand with gentle enthusiasm. Org looked agreeing--at least, everyone thought it did because it hovered in place without disagreeing.


That left Bog. Bog considered the disobedience to strict orders by the star-base was in a small way a repaid debt to Eo since he had accepted the Colonel's orders like a coward. He only hoped their detour to the dangerous ravine in his memory was quick and that everyone came out alive.


"Alright," Bog cheeped.

End Notes:

Please rate and review! Thanks for reading. :)

Chapter 6 by yourburgersarethebest
Author's Notes:

I am sorry I didn't mention this before, but I had imagined this fic's Commander Bog to look nothing like the man from the original movie, but like Neo (Keanu Reeves) from The Matrix. I think Neo's brooding but quiet-confident look suits Bog the best for this story. I will add cast images later to the cover page.

ZEPHYR GIGGLED SECRETLY as she followed Xavie, who was meters ahead of Org as they all continued to trot along the rocks with Captain Eo.


Bog felt comfortable on the flat terrain that led away from the main center of ​​the Matrian exhibit, but the ground became less trodden the further he took the group away from the clustered gift shops, and the sun became a furnace.


Bog scouted their trail to a hazy memory of a ravine that probably housed the creature they were looking for, kicking hot cheddar dust with the others along the way.


They were hopelessly late for the excursion—a full half Earth-hour—and it was all his fault.


Eo was naturally in his element with the children, chatting non-stop with them and completely distracted from the danger in which he and his cadets wanted to put themselves.


Bog cursed those damn big brown eyes of Eo’s, remembering how they had begged him to forget orders and continue this ridiculous side quest for The Thing.


Bog hated that he would do anything to make Eo happy, even if it meant losing his job. Being around Eo made him feel like a big kid, and somehow Bog always found himself giving in to playing by his rules.


Bog’s stomach churned. The colonel had read him like the stars. Eo indeed had a secret influence on himself that Bog couldn’t explain. Whatever it was, Bog was afraid to even consider exploring why.


Bog, squiting through a susurrus of red dust, turned to Eo, who was still enraptured by Zephyr’s tale, which was being told slowly between her wandering over the bumpy path behind Eo.


Bog took a needed pause as he placed his boots on the leveled ledge, the cape behind him as a black flag for the crew.


“The sooner we reach the cave,” Bog panted, his voice muffled by the wind and helmet, “the faster we can complete the coordinates of our assigned mission. Hurry.”


“Yes sir!” Eo tweeted. He beckoned the cadets forward until he retreated behind Org, his own white and black cloak flapping dust in his own eyes.


Satisfied with Eo’s rare and polite response to an order, Bog continued on his way and let his thoughts reappear.


As futile as the detour to find The Thing was, the enthusiasm of the crew had some merit. Bog hadn’t seen The Thing in years: it was a mythical, rare creature.

Unsurprisingly, rumors of what The Thing really looked like persisted even after he and Eo had completed their missions.


But he and Eo had been the only ones to glimpse it, and had told no soul where. Until now. Why Eo had chosen to show their secret to a group of juveniles, Bog had no idea.


It didn’t seem like a good time to ask Eo why in front of them, so Bog kept his reservations private.


Xavie suddenly walked past Bog with a defiant look on his face.


“Stay behind me, cadet,” Bog ordered, shoving him back for a second time. “Perhaps you can direct me without an e-compass when you pass your navigation capstone.”


Xavie snickered. “I already did, mister. With honors.”


Xavie lingered close to Bog’s boots, looking so sure of himself that Bog resolved to keep a sharp eye on him if he tried disobeying again.


The year Bog and Eo met during their academic pilgrimage to Mars, instead of a bone stolen from the Martian rocks that had usually been sufficient enough to pass for a talisman from a real Thing, some try-hard had mutated a claw of a common butterfly rat, a species that even Eo had made a pet.


The claw had been shaved to match the imagined monstrosity of The Thing, convincing even the traveling astronaut then that it had really come from the enigma.


Unlike cadets from his own generation, Bog had a feeling that Cadet Xavie was not an unnecessary liar and would not leave Mars empty-handed without something authentically forbidden.


For the rewards of legendary popularity if Xavie trapped the real animal, Bog already knew, Cadet Xavie would do anything.

After passing more rusty outskirts the Martian exhibition, Bog, Captain Eo and the cadets slowly made their way to the mouth of the gorge.


When they all reached the wall of the gorge, the stone gates of the giant cave were barred by a ladder of laser beeams.


“That’s strange,” commented Eo.


“I guess they’ve beefed up their security since we were here,” Bog reasoned. They did it smartly. His relief flooded him; they were now out of danger.


“Easy stuff,” Zephyr whispered. Everyone turned to look at her. She shrugged and gestured to the senders. “I can hack them in two seconds.”


Xavie said, “prove it.”


“You’re pretty handy, aren’t you?” said Eo. He fished out his logger to record the moment.


“Your log is useless,” said Zephyr. “The starbase still thinks it’s in starship mode. I changed your’s and Commander’s settings when we took a water break just now.”


Eo’s eyes widened. He saw that his device was in complete disarray and set to an emergency radar. “You little sneak,” He smiled.


Xavie looked at Zephyr. “Seriously?”


Zephyr shrugged at him, but couldn’t help but respond to seeing his dimples by beaming a smile of her own.


Org warily waved his tentacles in the air when Bog’s brows carved over his eyes at all of them.


“Cadet Zephyr,” Bog said. “You should have checked with me first. Right after lunch I already shut down some tracking systems just in case, but it would be highly suspicious for the base to find Captain Eo and I in emergency stealth-mode. Now we are completely cloaked. The base has no idea if we’re still on Mars or lost in a wormhole!!”


Zephyr’s face paled. “I can put them back!”


“Well, I think it’s very funny,” interrupted Eo. “You’re very bright in your profile. But you overstepped your bounds. But I think you should also apologize to us. You took our equipment without permission; we need them to protect you in case we need backup.


“If you want to go in the cave, we need everything we can to protect you. You are not as experienced as we are and you are not at the peak of your physical fitness. If the Thing ran at you, you would run and hurt yourself.”


“So, The Thing is in there...right now?” Xavie asked, taking a step away from the cave.


Zephyr said, “if you were already going to break the rules, Captain Eo, why are you mad at me? I just helped you do it faster!”


Eo shared a look with Bog for solidarity, but Bog instead looked back at him contest. “The main thing is,” Eo continued. “It would be nice if you showed some remorse.”


“Ok. I’m really sorry for taking your loggers without permission.”


“Thank you, Zephyr.”


“And I’m sorry for stealing all of your jerky, Commander.”


“Pardon me?!” Bog exclaimed.


“And I’m really, really sorry Captain Eo for using your lip gel; I think you’re out of it.”


“You little sneak!!” Eo shouted.


“Perhaps...we should be concerned with actually getting inside this formation, since we have walked all this way.” Bog said.


He surveyed the gorge’s cave gaping before them. “And doing so without being seen,” he added, perturbed by a lens-like flare in the corner of his eye at a place embedded in the rocks.


Eo looked over the grounds too. He caught what Bog might have saw. It was only an ionized sliver of rock. Eo knew Bog had just realized the same, because he suddenly lost interest in the spot.


The ravine’s location was too remote for cameras, Eo reasoned. And, the Martians loved booby-traps. The crew had not been attacked yet, so there was likely no fancy traps involved with the cave.


“Go on, give it a hack,” Eo said to Zephyr. He pressed a conspicious button on one of the emitters, and then a holographic display unfolded before them all.


Org, Xavie, Eo, and Bog watched Zephyr bend to the emitters and toggle some controls to release a floating board of scripted key-blocks.


The screen listed a passcode request for access to the emitter’s control panel.


“Have you finished your Martian classes yet?” Bog addressed Zephyr after a while of watching Zephyr’s eyes race over the keys and poke a timid sequence.


“I’ve got a few lessons left, but I think I got this.” Zephyr tried typing a code, and after the fields had filled, the glowing, sans-serif calligraphy dissolved, resetting a blank query.


Zephyr grumphed and tried again. And again.


Eventually, Xavie pushed her aside and typed in a string of passcodes.


“Try: we come in peace,” Zephyr suggested. “That’s literally on Mars’ flag.”


“I already did. That’s a little way too obvious,” Xavie mumbled, spelling another code with more fervor.


Org blurped.


Zephyr rolled her eyes that Org thought anything he said would mean anything, but waited to see if his suggestion would work.


“Try what Org said,” she pushed.


Xavie huffed, “I don’t speak jellyfish-nerd, sorry.”


“Be nice, cadets!” Eo interjected. He wondered if he should intervene more harshly on their bullying of Org, and wondered how long Org had to put up with them in the Academy.


“Let me--” Zephyr interrupted.


Xavie held out an arm before Zephyr took over the hologram’s query. “No. I almost got it!”


Zephyr said, “I’m just trying to help.”


“Well, don’t,” Xavie muttered.


“Why are you so mean to me all the time? In class too. All I’ve ever been is nice!”


“Because you’re annoying.”


“Enough,” Bog said. He waved the cadets out of the way to let Org try. Org rushed to the screen. He carefully read the keys and began to strike them with his tentacles.


Eo placed a hand on Bog’s arm when Bog returned. “Give it time; this is actually a great learning experience for them; you know they’ll never get in right?” Eo whispered. “They haven’t spelt one word right in Martian. I was kind of let down with Xavie.”


“At their age, I was a polyglot,” Bog whispered back. "What the hell are they teaching kids these days?!”


“He didn’t have our teacher,” Eo chortled. “Remember astronaut Levensky?”


Bog broke into a grieved smile. “Let us allow them a few more tries, and then return to the original iternary. Hopefully we can adhere to it from this point forward? Much time has already been wasted.”


“Yes, sir, I understand,” Eo admitted sheepishly. It was getting a bit too toasty in the remote area they had trailblazed. The insides of his gloves were becoming squishy with sweat.


All at once, the cadets gasped. The lasers shielding the dark cavern vanished before everyone’s eyes.

Chapter 7 by yourburgersarethebest

THE LASERS HAD VANISHED. Then, the darkness within the cave consumed them as they ventured forward, depending on their equipment for guidance.


Eo couldn't shake his uneasiness, questioning if they were really ready for whatever waited inside.As the lasers disappeared, the crew exchanged looks of surprise.


The cave was now open for them to explore, and Eo felt a sudden sense of excitement. This was what they had come all this way for, after all.


He turned to the cadets and said, “Alright, let's move in. Zephyr, you and Xavie take point, Bog and Org will cover the rear. Stay alert, and keep your eyes open for anything unusual.”

As the crew made their way inside the cave, they were met with complete darkness. They had to rely on their equipment to guide them, and Eo was grateful that they had managed to get it back from Zephyr. He could not shake the feeling of unease that was creeping up his spine, and he wondered if they were really prepared for whatever lay ahead.

Suddenly, Bog stopped in his tracks and held up a hand to signal to the others to stop. He pointed to a strange object lying on the ground.

Eo moved closer to get a better look. It was a small, shiny object that seemed to be emitting a faint glow. He couldn't quite make out what it was, but he knew that it couldn't be good news.

"Zephyr, can you scan that object and see if it's safe?" Eo asked.

Zephyr nodded and pulled out a small scanner from her backpack. She pointed it at the object and waited for the scanner to give her the results.

"It's definitely not safe," Zephyr said. "It's emitting a high level of radiation."

Eo cursed under his breath. They had to be careful not to touch it or they risked getting radiation poisoning.

"Alright, we need to keep moving," Eo said. "Everyone, stay alert and keep your distance from that object."

They continued deeper into the cave, their footsteps echoing through the cavernous space. Eo couldn't shake off the feeling that they were being watched.

"Hey chief," Xavie called to Bog, whispering because of the insanely loud echo in the dark caves.

"Do you have a question?"

"No, but the reading came in. It's just a cave sprite. Those little floaty things that triple-wing moon-bats eat."

"Please pay attention to Captain Eo and I, or you will lose us in the caves."

"You forgot, didn't you?" Xavie snickered with Zephyr and Org.

"I may have forgotten some fauna on Mars. It has certainly been a while, ten years in fact, and there are many planets with many different creatures. Please keep up, this part is very dark."

As if on cue, the outlines of Bog and Eo briefly blackened, and all everyone could see was the faraway twinkles of some cave sprites.

Xavie jumped when he felt fingers curling around his own.

"It's just really dark," Zephyr whispered shyly.

"Let go!" Xavie shouted in a hush. He was glad the darkness hid the warmth on his cheeks that probably were making them red as Jupiter's eye.

Suddenly, they heard a faint noise in the distance. It sounded like footsteps, but not like any footsteps they had ever heard before. They stopped in their tracks and listened closely.


The noise grew louder and closer, until finally, out of the darkness, emerged a figure.

Chapter 8 by yourburgersarethebest

IT WAS HUMANOID IN SHAPE, but its body was covered in a shimmering silver armor that seemed to be pulsing with energy. Its face was completely obscured by a helmet, and it was armed with a weapon Eo had never seen before.

The crew immediately reached for their own weapons, but the figure held up a hand to stop them. It spoke in a language that none of them understood, but its tone was calm and measured.

Eo stepped forward cautiously. "We come in peace," he said, hoping that the figure could understand him.

The figure seemed to analyze Eo for a moment before responding. This time, its voice was translated by a device on Eo's wrist.

"Greetings, Earthlings."

Eo felt a shiver run down his spine as the figure spoke. It was the first time they had ever made contact with an extraterrestrial being, and he wasn't sure if they were ready for it.

"Greetings," Eo replied, trying to keep his voice steady. "My name is Eo, and these are my fellow crew members."

The figure seemed to nod in acknowledgement, but it made no move to lower its weapon.

"We come in peace," Eo repeated, hoping to ease the tension in the air.

The figure considered Eo's words for a moment before responding. "I am aware of your intentions," it said. "But your presence here is not welcome."

Eo felt a sense of dread wash over him. He had a bad feeling about this encounter, and he knew that they were in deep trouble.

"Please," Eo said, holding up his hands in a gesture of peace. "We mean no harm. We only seek to explore this cave and learn more about this planet."

The figure continued to hold its weapon at the ready, but Eo could sense a slight softening in its stance.

"Very well," the figure said. "You may continue your exploration. But know that this planet is not to be trifled with."

And with that, the figure turned and disappeared back into the darkness of the cave.

Eo breathed a sigh of relief, but he knew that they had narrowly avoided disaster. They had come all this way to make contact with extraterrestrial life, but they had not anticipated the danger that came with it.

As they continued deeper into the cave, Eo couldn't help but wonder what other secrets this planet held. They may have escaped unscathed this time, but he knew that they could not afford to let their guard down. The universe was full of surprises, and not all of them were good.


The crew continued their exploration of the cave, keeping their weapons at the ready and their senses on high alert. Eo couldn't shake the feeling that they were being watched, and he couldn't help but wonder what other dangers lay ahead.


As they turned a corner, they were met with a sight that took their breath away.

Chapter 9 by yourburgersarethebest

THE WALLS OF THE CAVE WERE COVERED IN A STRANGE, GLOWING SUBSTANCE that seemed to pulse with an otherworldly energy. The floor was littered with strange, alien artifacts, and Eo could sense the immense power that was emanating from them.

Eo turned to the rest of the crew, his eyes wide with wonder. "This is incredible," he said. "We could learn so much from these artifacts."

Bog nodded in agreement. "But we must remain cautious," he reminded them. "We don't know what kind of power these objects possess."

Eo knew that Bog was right, but he couldn't help the excitement that was building inside him.

Org examined a crystal-like object with a tentacle, and felt the energy spread through its neurons.

"Trippy shit, huh?" Xavie said.

Org made an indifferent sound. Waves in water did the same thing to its brain, the soft and calm pulsations, as he communicated in assorted blurps to Xavie, who was one of the few students in their class who spoke its language, Anthropodian, and New English.

Xavie crossed his arms and walked to his own section to reverie in slight boredom like Zephyr, who had decided to take selfies on her gizmo. To its surprise, she knew a lot of cute poses.

In order to distract himself for an important moment, he began to talk to Org. "You're not that bad for a nerd. Sorry for being so sucky to you this whole time."

Now Org was listening. He cautiously made eye contact to the human with its eye.

“When I was a kid, I was, well, the best in everything at the academy. I don't really like sharing credit with others." Xavie winked a smile at Org. “Maybe it's not as bad as I thought."

A happy Org saw Xavie more as a challenger than a competitor.

Xavie shifted on his feet, letting the lighter silence between them speak for itself. Then, he saw a reflection in the distance, and below. In the dim luminescence, he jogged over to it, with Org following behind him. Org got in front of Xavie when he trekked too far.

"I'm just gonna see what it is! Relax, squirt-jello!" Xavie whispered.

Org meeped in frustration; Xavie's favorite nickname for it still lingered, but at least it now had an endearing ring.

Xavie looked back twice at Captain Eo, who was nose deep in some stupid glowing crystals. Commander Bog caught his eye, and he quickly retreated back into a dark corner of rock, quickly hopping down to the new site.


"Cadet Xavie, you are out of bounds--return immediately!"

Chapter 10 by yourburgersarethebest
XAVIE WAS TOO FOCUSED ON THE BREATHTAKING VIEW ahead of him to pay attention to his commander's rants. He had stopped in front of a tall rock formation, and found himself transfixed by a large group of sprites gliding through a misty landscape which he thought must be water. For once, something besides the idea of seeing The Thing on Mars captured his interest for more than a few seconds, turning into minutes.

"Where do you think they're going?" Zephyr's voice said as she settled beside Xavie.

Org watched a smaller sprite zip to a family of large, languidly moving ones. The largest one in the huddle enveloped the youngling as it oscillated.

"Dunno. They're probably hungry. Usually pods move together to find food, more eyes mean more chances. It's literally basic biology."

"They're beautiful," she said. The light from the sauntering sprites made her ebony features glow as she leaned over the ledge.

"Yeah, beautiful," Xavie said. He clasped Zephyr's hand fully and met her eyes, which were dancing at him. She quickly looked back at the pod over the black water, but squeezed his hand tighter in return.

Org rolled his eye.

As the captain and commander were examining the artifacts without the cadets nearby, they heard a faint rumble in the distance. It sounded like an earthquake, but Eo knew that it was something else entirely. The cadets all rushed over, their eyes wide enough to be seen in the dark.

"We need to move," Eo said, gesturing to the rest of the crew. "Now."

They packed up their equipment and started to make their way back towards the entrance of the cave, but the rumbling grew louder and more intense with each passing moment.

Suddenly, a massive creature burst through the wall of the cave, its enormous body covered in shimmering scales. Its eyes glowed with an otherworldly light, and its massive jaws were lined with razor-sharp teeth. The creature reeked of ozone, as if the air around it has been electrified. It smelled reptilian and unholy: the stench of scales, skin, and mud.

The captain and commander immediately reached for their weapons and fired them, but they knew that they were outmatched. This creature was unlike anything they had ever encountered before. It easily dodged any high-frequency beams piercing the air.

As the creature lunged towards them, Eo braced himself for the worst. But then, something unexpected happened. The creature seemed to hesitate, as if it was unsure of what to do. Eo took advantage of the moment of hesitation to try and communicate with the creature.

"We mean you no harm," Eo said, trying to keep his tone calm. "We are simply exploring this cave."

To his surprise, the creature seemed to understand him. It tilted its massive head and regarded Eo with a curious expression.

Eo took a step forward, trying to make a connection with the creature. "We come in peace," he said, making an expression at Bog that could have read as, why don't you come up with something better!

The creature seemed to consider Eo's words for a moment before stepping back. It then turned and disappeared back into the darkness of the cave.

Eo breathed a sigh of relief, but he knew that they had narrowly avoided disaster once again. They had come face-to-face with a creature that could have easily killed them, but they had managed to communicate with it and avoid a violent confrontation. Their skin all tingled with the adrenaline that oozed out of their toes.

Out of nowhere, the cadets made a loud whoop and starting cheering.

"That was The Thing!! I got it in 6k!!" Zephyr screamed.

Org made his own testament of the same thing, along with Xavie.

Commander Bog said, "let me see that," unable to keep his own exhilarated grin from showing. He swiped Zephyr's sparkly gizmo and studied it closely. Just as they had said, they got the first clear footage of the rare Martian creature, albeit her camera shaking like a leaf.

As they made their way out of the cave, Eo couldn't help but feel a sense of wonder and excitement. They had encountered many obstacles on the trip and yet came out unscathed. With a few souvenirs too. Eo nosed one of the small sprites following him that he had lovingly collected in his palms.

All of a sudden, Zephyr let out a pained yelp, and fell to her knees.

"Zephyr!!" Eo shouted, releasing the sprite.

The first thing Zephyr noticed was that her hands had turned a deep crimson. Rising to her feet, she tried to focus on her hands, but they were shaking too much to make much sense of them. She then noticed that her vision was fading to black in the corners and that the rest of her body was trembling in sync. Gravity slipped from her and shoved her on the rocky cave floor.

Zephyr’s jaw was agape, and the look of pain Eo saw painted on her face was the stuff of nightmares. Her wide eyes stared at a spot on her middle and she began to gasp for air from the shock of seeing the gash.

"Blazing hell!" Commander Bog yelled. He rushed to her side and helped her to sit as she clutched her stomach.

"She must have been too close to that thing!" Eo said, pressing his own gloves over Zephyr's hands. "Some part of it ripped right through her!"

Zephyr withdrew her hand and blood painted her fingers.

"Shit," Xavie exclaimed, shaking at the amount of blood on Zephyr's palms.

"We're so far from the ship," Eo panted feebly. He immediately laid Zephyr down carefully and put her on her side, unrolling a long tape of extra-sturdy mesh from his leg. "How is she going to make it back?!"

Bog looked hopeless, and even more worried for his job. He blurted, "Damnit--I knew this would end in failure. You have my job on the line!"

Eo looked surprised and stammered, "What in the hell are you talking about?!"

Chapter 11 by yourburgersarethebest
Author's Notes:

Final chapter!

"WE WERE ALMOST OUT, and somehow, we had to run into danger. I told you to not touch anything, and look where it got us! I hope you're happy. Neither of us will have a job when the chief finds out about this! I should have turned down the mission when the chief said you would be my responsibility."

"I can't believe this," Eo said with awe.

"Believe it, captain. We're friends, but maybe that's standing of the way of me being chief, and maybe I don't like it that way.

Eo fumed red. "Well, fine! Maybe you made a big mistake. Boo-hoo--cry me a river, just do it somewhere away from me." He muttered, "some damn friend."

"This is not the time for that kind of language, Eo, there are still three children around."

"Oh, fuck you."

"Excuse me?!"

"Guys!!" Xavie shouted. He couldn't help his voice from trembling at seeing Zephyr so pale. He squeezed his eyes shut as tears ran down his cheeks. "She's...she's bleeding really bad. Please let's just...stop fighting...and help her! Please, Captain Eo!"

Eo looked down. Zephyr blinked up at him hazily, making a weak but determined sound, and she did a good job of following his eyes. Org hovered against her cheek, and she seemed to beam from that.

A heavy weight of shame fell on Eo. Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Bog wristing his gloves in his hair, cursing in a mantra beneath the cadets' ears.

"We're getting out of here, all three of us, and we'll be back home in no time." He turned to Xavie and encouraged, "it's alright to cry. It's because of the stress. The more time you spend at the academy, the more you will get used to blood, gunfire, and other scary things. Right, Bog?"

Bog arose, looking somewhat calmer and grounded, remembering they had to think clearly. He then smirked. "That is correct. However, I distinctly remember you vomiting all over my new boots the first time we dissected a moonrat."

Everyone chuckled at that, even Zephyr, who's laugh came out in wispy breaths as Eo's fingers pinched her wound stable.

"I think I know where we should go," Xavie spoke up. He took out his gizmo and showed the captain and commander the pictures he took in the cave. "There's the path we came in, but it's kind of long, and I don't want Zephyr to pass out. But while Org and I were gone, we found this cool stepping path towards the entrance that led to some indoor water? It's kinda risky, but I think it'll get us there faster."

"Alright, cadet," Eo said. "Lead the way."


With Xavie leading the way, they had to maneuver through the winding tunnels of the cave. The path was dark and treacherous, with jagged rocks jutting out at various angles, but they had to make it through for Zephyr's sake.

The group moved quickly and cautiously, with Eo and Bog taking turns carrying Zephyr when she couldn't walk. The sound of rushing water grew louder and louder as they made their way closer to the exit.

Finally, they reached the entrance of the cave, and Xavie's description proved to be true. There was a series of stepping stones leading to a small underground river. It was risky, but it was their best chance of getting Zephyr back to the ship quickly.

Bog hesitated. "This is madness. It's too risky. We'll never make it."

Eo glared at him. "We don't have a choice, commander. It's either this or we stay here andwait for Zephyr to bleed out."

Bog sighed heavily but nodded in agreement. They carefully helped Zephyr onto the first stepping stone and began to make their way across the river.

The water was icy cold, and the stepping stones were slick with moss, making it difficult to maintain their balance. But they focused on getting Zephyr back to the ship and pushed on, determined to make it out of the cave alive.

Finally, they reached the other side of the river, and they could see the ship in the distance. They ran as fast as they could, adrenaline pumping through their veins, and finally made it back to the ship.

The medical team was waiting for them when they arrived, as they had been pinged as quickly as possible by Bog and Eo, and the team rushed Zephyr into the star base's infirmary. Eo, Bog, and the other cadets waited anxiously for news, praying that Zephyr would be okay.

After what felt like an eternity, the medical team emerged from the infirmary with a solemn expression on their faces.

"She's stable, but she lost a lot of blood," the physician said. "We managed to stop the bleeding, but we need to keep her under observation for a few days."

The group breathed a collective sigh of relief, and Eo felt a sense of guilt wash over him. He had been too focused on his anger towards Bog to realize the severity of Zephyr's injury.

"I'm sorry," he said to Bog. "I shouldn't have snapped at you like that. We're all in this together."

Bog nodded. "I'm sorry too. I let my fear and frustration get the best of me." Bog relented to tell Eo of the information he had gotten from a fellow commander. He took liberty to softly interrupt Eo’s concerned glower at Zephyr’s monitors. “There is good news.”


“The chief has excused me from my post. For an undisclosed amount of time.” Bog sighed in bewilderment. “For now, I am demoted two entire degrees.”

“So that means–”

“Yes, Eo,” Bog chuckled. “I am a captain again. Assigned to any space-crew of my own choosing.”

Eo looked crestfallen. “Oh. Right.”

“That space-crew happens to be yours.”

Eo only smiled, looking more shy about Bog’s demotion than he thought Bog should notice. Bog gave Eo a slap on the shoulder and hugged his best friend as they submitted to a long laugh of relief.

The group spent the next few days by Zephyr's bedside, keeping her company and making sure she had everything she needed to recover, and sometimes leaving Zephyr alone with Xavie whenever he brought a lovely gift of flora he found on his final class missions of the academy year to other planets. They all talked about their adventure in the cave, laughing at the close calls and marveling at the rare Martian creature they had encountered.

In the end, they all knew that they had been through something life-changing together. They may have started as colleagues, but now they were friends who had each other's backs no matter what.

As Zephyr slowly regained her strength after nearly half a year, they all made a promise to each other never to forget the bond they had formed in that cave. They would always be a team, no matter what challenges they faced in the future.


And with that, they set their sights on the next adventure, ready to face whatever dangers lay ahead with the unbreakable bond of friendship and trust.

Chapter 12: EPILOGUE by yourburgersarethebest

CAPTAIN EO ARRIVED to the starbase wearing a completely new uniform in all-black.

The black uniform was adorned with various medals and insignias, signifying Eo's service and achievements in the Interstellar Fleet. As he walked through the corridors of the starbase, many of his colleagues gave him nods of respect and admiration.

Eo had been given a new command to inspect, a state-of-the-art spacecraft called the Void Chaser, a light-year away in battle speed compared to his rookie spaceship. Eo put aside his gizmo of inspection specifications to marvel at the sleek navigation bay of the craft.

As he sat in the captain's chair, he couldn't help but feel a sense of pride. The pre-exploration crew was made up of some of the most skilled and experienced personnel in the fleet, and they had been handpicked to serve under him. He knew that the Void Chaser would be a force to be reckoned with under his newly acquired experience and trainings. Just as he sighed and closed his eyes, he felt breath on his forehead.

"Do not get too comfortable, captain," Commander Bog stated.

Captain Eo sprung from his seat as Bog let out a healthy chuckle, more than any amount of laughter Eo had heard from him in their entire friendship.

"What's going on, Commander?" Eo asked with a hint of suspicion.

"You didn't think you were getting all dressed up for nothing, did you?" Bog said, his grin widening.

Before Eo could respond, the intercom crackled to life. Then, on the communication screen, the colonel's wrinkled face appeared.

"Captain Eo, this is your ship now. I cannot have you leading anymore missions on that pile of crater scraps!"

Eo's heart skipped a beat. The colonel had always been tough on him, but he had never expected to be promoted to a new ship so soon. He tried to compose himself, but he couldn't help the excitement that built up inside of him.

"Thank you, sir," he managed to say.

"I expect nothing but the best from you. Do not let me down from here on out."

Eo felt an adrenaline rush as he hung up the communication screen. He couldn't believe it. He had been given a brand new ship to command. The Void Chaser was a dream come true, and he couldn't wait to explore the far reaches of space with an experienced crew by his side.

As he settled back into the captain's chair, he couldn't help but feel a sense of responsibility. The Void Chaser was a powerful spacecraft, and with great power came great responsibility. Eo knew that the success of their missions would depend on his leadership and decision-making skills.

Commander Bog clapped him on the shoulder, jolting him out of his thoughts. "Get us moving, captain. Let's show the universe what we're made of," Bog said with a grin.

Eo smiled back, his heart swelling with gratitude for his friend's unwavering support. He activated the ship's engines and felt the thrum of power beneath him. The Void Chaser began to disappear into the atmosphere.

"I couldn't have done this without you," Eo admitted. "Thank you, Bog. For everything."

"Everything, indeed. It took me much longer than necessary to get my post back. Be grateful I remembered to put in a good word for you."

Eo chuckled, knowing that Bog was only teasing him again. He couldn't help the fondness he felt for his friend, even if Bog did have a tendency to be a bit dramatic.

As the Void Chaser soared into the vast expanse of space, Eo couldn't help but feel a sense of wonder and excitement for what corners of the galaxy they were meant to explore. As Bog and Eo passed the base's observatory, they waved down at a gathering of Academy cadets dreaming of their own futures in the stars.

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