“We have to travel thirty-nine, no, almost forty light-years for an eggplant?” he asked in disbelief.
“Aubergine,” I corrected.
“Aubergine, brinjal, eggplant, whatever you want to call it–forty light-years for a vegetable?”
“And you said ‘yes’ to this mission?”
“It’s important. It won’t take long.”
“It’ll take us at least three years if nothing goes wrong.”
“No other ship can take the job–it’s government commissioned.”
“What does the government want with an eggplant? We have plenty on home planet.”
“It’s not an eggplant. It’s an Aubergine.”
My friend of ten years cum second-in-command wasn’t a bright person. He was courageous, ambitious, and zealous, but had no skill in deciphering hints no matter how obvious they may be–everything had to be spelled out for him. Unfortunately in this case, I could only insist on ‘Aubergine’. I was sworn to keep the nature of this mission a secret. And, as silly as it might sound to Gregson and my entire crew, we would still have to travel to Trappist-1 to retrieve the said vegetable.
“Ah, it’s because we’re a small ship, isn’t it?”
“It is,” I replied.
“Making us run errands–pointless missions,” he muttered under his breath.
Despite the fact that our size–a spacecraft of only one hundred men–was the reason for being chosen, it had nothing to do with being sidelined from expeditions of seemingly great importance. Far from it, our size had put us on a hazardous path. A path Gregson would be excited to embark on if only he knew.
“Can you call for a crew meeting?” I prompted.
“When do we depart?”
Sighing, Gregson nodded and excused himself from my cabin. Shortly after he left, I headed to the main deck where my men had gathered. They donned their dark grey and ocean blue uniforms–their ranks marked by the number of stars on their shoulder pads. As I stood on the balcony overlooking the excited crew–ready for an adventure after months on the bench–regret swept up my shore.
If only I didn’t answer the call. If only I wasn’t as courageous, ambitious, and zealous as Gregson. If only I didn’t accept the mission out of a desire for some action. Even after hearing what the Excalibur had to do, I still said ‘yes’. If only my conscience pricked me then and not now–not when I had to keep a secret that could possibly cost lives.
“We will be heading to Aquarius,” I announced.
“McLaughlin, set course for 2MASS J23062928-0502285,” Gregson ordered.
“It’s a simple mission,” I said. “We are to locate Destiny–a cargo ship that last pinged near Trappist-1–and retrieve the Aubergine on-board.”
“A brinjal?” McLaughlin asked, as he tapped on his tablet.
“Eggplant,” Gregson said.
“Aubergine,” I replied.
Murmurs rose from below. My men didn’t raise their voices, but the disappointment on their faces betrayed them. Should I tell them the truth? I had sworn, but they deserved to know. After all, they were putting their lives on the line. Still, would knowing guarantee their safety? I chose not to the tell.
“Yes, it may seem like a pointless mission,” I stated. “But as part of this ship, you have taken an oath to go where no man will go. This time, it’s Trappist-1. Next time, it might be the Magellanic Clouds. The Excalibur has never chosen the adventures–we let our adventures choose us.”
It was a lie, but a lie worded to cloak their reality. Yes, my vessel and the men within have never chosen their adventures–I chose them for them. But this time, it was important. We had to successful return the Aubergine to our home planet. It wasn’t just a vegetable of seemingly little importance, it was a child–a baby in cryosleep that needed to return to earth. For if we didn’t save this child, leaving it to the wolves out for its throat, humanity would face complete annihilation. Home planet would cease to exist. And it would be the end of adventures… for good.
“We will depart tonight,” I said. “If any of you wish to sit out on this mission, you can disembark and leave your uniforms behind.” That was the least I could do.
“None of our knights will surrender their swords, Arthur,” Gregson said. “We shall all go!”
Many cheered. Some chuckled. A few shrugged.
“To save a vegetable,” Gregson whispered to me.
“Aubergine, brinjal, eggplant–who cares?”
I did. I was the only one who could.
Trappist, aubergine, and baby were words given by Vincent Lim on Facebook. Honestly, trappist set the direction of this story–if not for what I found on Google, I wouldn’t know where to start. Talk about random words!
Now, it’s your turn! You have until the end of April to write a story of your own with the three words given. A shout out to Vincent for making this even more difficult than it already is.
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3 Words, 1 Story © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)