There’s a spaceship, a jumpsuit, and a moose.

Well, really, there’s just the jumpsuit and the moose. They just happen to be on the spaceship.

Oh, and there’s me. Trying to get to the jumpsuit. Being blocked by the moose. And about to die.

I’m used to this, I tell myself, as I try to stare down the behemoth bastard. Well, not exactly like this.

It always starts with some recruits getting cheeky. It’s a right of passage: pull something over on the old man. Make it look like anyone could have done it. Grain alcohol in the whiskey, cutting the zero-grav connections, re-wiring the food dispensaries so that everyone eats beans for a week — this is what I’m used to. You don’t head up a military contingent of an interplanetary academy for forty years and not get pranked. But put together a jacked-up kid from a forest world who just happens to have a sister with access to a state-of-the-art particle accelerator and a team of newbie recruits, and apparently you get a moose in the middle of your private launcher.

The blaring sirens and flashing lights of the sudden systems failure don’t seem to be doing too well for the moose, I think to myself, trying to crush the feeling of panic that’s rising in me like bile. The ridiculously large creature is snorting and pawing the ground and suddenly I’m thinking, what would be the harm in blowing a grenade launcher right through its rib cage?

But then I remember I’m not an idiot.

I realize with irritating certainty that there’s no way I can calm the moose down — I wouldn’t know how to start. And I can’t blow it up without getting chunks all over my stuff or, more significantly, blowing a hole in the side of the launcher. But the countdown’s started and I know what I’ve got to do: I’m going to have to knife the poor brute to get to the jumpsuit.

I pull out the diamond blade from the sheath at the top of my boot and find there’s no need for me to advance: the moose is coming right at me.

That’s when I realize that after forty years of active service, I’m about to die, not in a blaze of military glory, but strung up on the antlers of a caged beast because of a prank. My only comfort is the thought that none of the recruits will have a future to stand on, once the brass have their debrief.

I start to count my sins, see a few life flashes, and the moment I begin the Hail Marys, the moose is set to gore my gut — only to pass right through it.

It’s a second later that I realize the whole thing’s a hologram. It had nothing to do with the kid from the forest planet and his talented sister. It’s another one of the new recruits, the scrawny kid who used to work on gaming construction; and this one happens to be a genius — hacked the whole system, manipulated the launcher’s sight patterns, and put in a sound recording matching the holographic image. The Academy can use this.

I’m hard pressed to know whether I’ll promote them to special ops or beat them senseless.

I’m thinking I’ll do both.

Amelia Brown says: “I started writing officially as a humor columnist for my university’s newspaper. My work has been featured in Gramarye, Corvid Queen, Enchanted Conversation Magazine, 365 Tomorrows, 101 Words, and the forthcoming anthology Odd Dreams. I am also the author behind Fairy Stories & Other Tales, recently featured in the Warren Stories section of Dead Rabbits Books literary press website and the Tales of Bedlam podcast.”

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Every Day Fiction