Stories by the Fire presents- The Bold Horizons



Hey Friends,

I wanted to share this written version of the short story the Bold Horizon. If it sounds familiar, that's because it was the story I shared on the second episode of my podcast stories by the fire.


The artwork was created by me, trying to represent the dual realities of Tucker this story's protagonist.

Of course, if you prefer to listen to the dulcet tones this tale is available in the links below on Youtube and most available podcasts.







As always, thank you for your continued support. Without further ado, I present to you the second tale of Stories by the Fire, The Bold Horizon.


 

Space. The final frontier. Some see it only as a dark endless void. Other’s see it as a place of possibility, adventure, and hope. For one little boy, he views outer space as the backdrop of a fantasy world where he is a valued member of the spaceship crew, the Bold Horizon. In this world of make-believe, he is the literal pilot of his own destiny and part of a community that values his courage, friendship, and wonder.

However, in truth, his reality is a much darker existence. There, he is still a terrified little boy, huddled in the shadows, clutching his favorite action figure, as he helplessly watches a horrifying act unravel before him.

Welcome to a tale of adventure and woe. Welcome to Stories by the Fire.


 

The Bold Horizon


“Red Alert! Red Alert! All hands to battle stations! This is not a drill! We have an enemy ship dropping out of warp! Reading indicating its trajectory originating from sector 4442842, the Regis Nebula.”


Ensign Tucker let the words wash over him as he stared at the combat screen. Somewhere behind him, a sharp inhalation rifled through the bridge as the image revealed an enormous acorn-shaped vessel that emerged from a trans-space portal.


Ensign Tucker felt his voice react unbidden, “A Vra’ac Destroyer!”


Lieutenant Pierson from sensors shouted out, “Captain, the Vra’ac Ship has its weapon bays opened and primed.”

Everyone looked at the central command platform where Captain Brent Stevens stood statuesque. He studied the screen intensely for a moment before he slowly turned to meet every set of eyes on the bridge crew. His gaze fell lastly on Ensign Tucker, whom he nodded to reassuringly. He looked back up on the screen, and his deep voice spoke in a conversational tone that reached all ears on the silent bridge, “Everyone remain calm. Panicking won’t make this serious situation any better. We’ve been in dire circumstances before, and we’ve made it this far. We will do what needs to be done. However, our ship is the junior member of this convoy. We will see how the flagship reacts and respond accordingly.”


Tucker’s Mommy was mad.


She only half-heartedly read him his bedtime comic before she tucked him into his bed for the night. She didn’t remember to kiss him goodnight before she stood up and started pacing the living room behind him. He pretended to sleep as he lay on his side facing the wall with his cookie monster blanket snuggled up to his neck. He gripped his favorite toy and watched her shadows as they danced back and forth across the wall.


Tucker knew that she was furious with her boyfriend, Matt.


He hoped that this was one of those nights when Matt would come home so late that Mommy was already in bed or didn’t come home at all, which happened sometimes. Those were the nights when he would show up the next day with cuts and bruises and occasionally wearing a hospital bracelet.


Tucker suddenly heard the roar of Matt’s truck pull into the driveway through the apartment’s paper-thin walls. The shadows on the wall paused. Mommy heard it too. Tucker’s eyes screwed up in his head with concentration as he tried to hear Matt’s oncoming footsteps on the second landing. In the six months that he and Mommy had stayed with Matt, Tucker learned that it was the cadence of Matt’s oncoming footfalls that would prove to be the greatest indicator of just how drunk he was. Tucker studied his approach with a survivor’s curiosity. He knew the light swishing steps usually accompanied with rowdy singing was tipsy happy Matt. Tipsy Matt would give him candy and call him a good kid even though it was weird for a five-year-old to wear diapers. Tipsy Matt had not shown up in months since his football team’s season was over. Now there was stomping Matt, who should be avoided at all cost. He would come in shouting and crashing his way in. Stomping Matt always wanted to hurt someone, and his usual target was his Mommy.

Swaying steps and humming tunelessly, Matt approached the door. Tucker shuddered. This was drunk-as-a-skunk Matt. Matt usually only wanted to kiss his Mommy grossly and awkwardly usher her into the apartment’s sole bedroom as fast as possible. Drunk-skunk Matt tended to be happy, but his mood was extremely unpredictable and didn’t take much to set him off as bad as stomping Matt.


To Tucker’s bewilderment, he had never understood how his Mommy couldn’t pick up on these cues. Hence his Mommy’s initial reaction was both worrisome and maddening. Tucker didn’t want to endure another night where he hid under his blanket while screaming and wild banging shook him in his cot. He didn’t want to hear his Mommy crying and apologizing. Tucker wasn’t sure about such things, but he didn’t think she had done anything wrong.


As the door creaked open, his Mommy stood in the doorway. “Where have you been?” She demanded.

Tucker could hear the impish grin on Matt’s face. “Hey, baby. Well, if it isn’t the sweetest pair of tits in town! Come on. I’ve got something to show you in bed!”


“Don’t touch me!”


Matt slurred, “Hey, baby, what’s put that stick up your ass, other than me, in the next few minutes. Heh heh!”


“Dammit, Matt! I asked you a question. Where have you been?”


“I was out with the boys! What’s it to you?” The grin left his voice.


Mommy began, “I don’t care if you got wasted with your friends—”


“You better not! I’m a man, and I work hard for my money, and I can do as I damn well please!”


Hesitancy in Mommy’s voice told Tucker she was beginning to sense the shift herself, “That’s fine… baby, but tell me did you give our money to the landlord?”


This time Matt paused, “No, I didn’t.”


“Okay, that’s fine. We’ve been this late so far. What’s an extra day. Just give me the cash, and I’ll get it to him first thing in the morning so that you can sleep in.”


Tucker could feel the wall of silence that came from Matt.


“You do have our money, don’t you?”


“No.”


“Dammit, Matt, did you spend our entire paycheck while you were out! We needed that money for rent!”



 




“Captain!” called Ensign Leads from sensors and communications, “Negotiations with our flagship are going poorly.

“How so, Ensign?” asked Captain Stevens.


“It seems that the Vra’ac are challenging our presence in this sector.”


Captain Stevens back stiffened, “This is a neutral sector of space, and we have every right to be here!”


“Do you wish for me to relay that message, sir?” Leeds asked.


“Belay that, Ensign. We will let our flagship do our talking, but I do not think that it will do any good.” Lieutenant


Commander Gregson, what are chances if this should prove to be hostile?”


Lieutenant Commander Gregson, a powerfully-built man, did not look up as he studied his display screens. He answered in a brusque tone, “Not good, Sir, the Vra’ac ship vastly outmatches the combined strength of our two ships in shield defense, hull integrity, and weapon capacity. Our flagship might be able to pierce their shields initially, but I doubt it. Our weapon systems wouldn’t even do that much.”


“Options?”


“We might be able to outrun them for a while, but it will most likely overtake us deeper into this system’s gravity well.” answered the Lieutenant Commander.


Ensign Tucker felt his shoulders tense up even more. The helm was his station.


“We are not going to abandon our Flagship,” Captain Stevens said aloud.


Ensign Tucker relaxed slightly.


Suddenly warning lights blared red, and Ensign Leeds screamed, “The Vra’ac vessel has charged up its weapons. They’re firing at our flagship!”


 

Smack!


Tucker’s head snapped around as he saw blood and spittle fly out of his Mommy’s mouth as her head reeled back from Matt’s backhand. She staggered back into the living room’s grungy couch. She clutched it for balance.


“Let’s get something straight, bitch,” Matt snarled. “This is my place, and I took you and your fucking little brat in! You don’t get to tell me how to spend my money! EVER!”


“You . . . bastard.” She wiped the blood off her mouth with the back of her hand. “I think you broke my tooth!”


“What did you call me!” Matt lurched forward, his hands balling into fists.


Her hands came up defensively, “No! No! Stay away from me! Oof!”


Matt’s fist drove into his Mommy’s belly, knocking her backward in a crazy somersault over the back of the couch. She crashed to the floor on the other side, grasping her abdomen. Matt thundered around the sofa, his thirst for malice still unquenched.


Helpless and afraid, Tucker ducked beneath his blanket for protection against the backwash of violence. Hyperventilating, he looked at the action figure in his hand.



 

“Ensign Tucker! Ensign Tucker!”


“What?” Ensign Tucker looked around, startled. The chaos on the bridge had consumed the entirety of his attention. Lieutenant Commander Gregson shouted and shook him, “Quit staring at the Captain and pay attention to your console!”


Ensign Tucker spun around, and his wide eyes fixed on the combat screen. Their flagship was heavily damaged. Artillery fire had marred its hull, it bled atmosphere into space from several breaches, and its force fields flickered in and out of existence. The much larger Vra’ac vessel loomed over its weapon bays charging for another battery.


“The Flagship has taken several casualties!” cried Ensign Leeds, “Multiple systems failures, Life support at a critical low. Wait!” Ensign Leeds looked up at the main combat screens as he spoke. “Her weapons are charging!”


On the viewscreen, the flagship’s weapons’ bays flashed as its crew fired everything it had in its desperate salvo.


Missiles, beams, and even anti-fighter laser pulses blasted out in the blackness of the void to collide with ineffective brilliance against the barrier of the Vra’ac shields. All save one stopped short. A sole beam punctured their shields where it carved a thin line across the Vra’ac’s hull. A moment later, the Vra’ac’s shielding snapped closed, blocking the attack. Fire bloomed across the scar on the Vra’ac’s exterior.


“Ensign Tucker, take us forward into combat range! We’re going to engage Vra’ac!”


Ensign Tucker looked down at his controls and froze.



 

Matt staggered back. “You kicked me, you bitch!”


His Mommy gasped, as she tried to push herself up, “Get away from me, you . . . bastard!”


“You’ll pay for that!” Matt’s heavy steps stomped as he charged.


“Noooo!” his Mommy screamed.


Beneath his blanket, Tucker shivered violently. He wanted to make the screaming stop to make their rage go away, but he knew it wouldn’t. This fight was far worse than all of the ones before. For one so young, Tucker’s instincts for such things were well worn. He knew that something fundamental had broken between his Mommy and Matt. He wouldn’t have called it love. His Mommy had used that word to describe her feelings for Matt, but that had always felt hollow to Tucker. Tucker understood love. He loved his Mommy truly and dearly. Whatever his Mommy felt for Matt wasn’t love.


This breach felt similar to the one he felt between Mommy and her last boyfriend, Owen. Owen was a heavily tattooed, chain-smoking man, who barely spoke to Tucker. Other than his complete apathy towards him, Tucker did not have any real problems with him. It was his twelve-year-old son David who was the real problem.


David would harass and bully Tucker every chance he could get. David would hit him when no one was around, steal his food, and in the dark of night, he would tell Tucker horrible things while he tried to sleep in the room that they shared. Tucker would try to tell Owen or his Mommy. When his Mommy would confront him, David would adamantly deny Tucker’s accusations. Owen would always side with his son, sometimes ignoring Tucker’s bruises to the point of absurdity.


Thankfully, his Mommy believed him and set him up a cot in the living room. For the first time in months, Tucker went to bed that feeling safe. His feeling of security was short-lived.


He awoke to David leaning over him with a dangerous gleam in his eye. David placed a finger over his lips, “Shhh!”


Tucker began to shiver.


Suddenly the finger on Tucker’s lips became a whole hand pressing over his entire mouth and nose. Tucker tried to scream, but nothing escaped David’s tight grip. His eyes bulged as he realized that no air came either. Tucker tried to jerk free, but David pressed his head back, and he felt two knees on his chest. Tears welled in his eyes as he was forced to stare up at that face. David stared back at him with an excited smile below his wild eyes.


Darkness formed on the edge of his vision, and in that moment, Tucker knew he was going to die.


Except—


“What the hell are you doing!”


A hand clawed David off of him, and Tucker gasped as the blackness took him.


In the blurred events that followed, Tucker awakened to see Owen physically hauling his mother back as she wildly tried to attack David. In the night, Mommy had awoken suddenly and decided to check on Tucker in his new bed. She found David on top of him, and now she is trying to kill the twelve-year-old boy while her boyfriend restrained her.

In the chaos that followed, Tucker only remembered one thing above all else. He looked over, and his eyes locked onto that of David’s. It was what Tucker saw in that moment that resonated with his current circumstance. David wanted to hurt him then, just as Matt wanted to hurt his Mommy now.


Coming out of his reflection, Tucker realized that a strange quiet had enveloped the apartment. A compulsion beyond understanding made Tucker pull the blanket from over his face and peek over its top. Tucker gasped.


Matt had his Mommy pinned to the floor with his hands clamped around her throat.

 

“Ensign Tucker, I gave you an order.”


Ensign Tucker looked around at the Captain’s words and saw the Captain’s eyes bore into him. The whole bridge was staring at him.


“Ensign, did you hear me,” demanded Captain Stevens?


Ensign Tucker nodded slowly.


“Then why haven’t you obeyed my orders?”

 

Tucker whispered, “I’m scared.”


He looked down at his action figure.


After the incident, Owen took his son’s side once and for all and kicked them out that very night. Tucker and his


Mommy were forced to stay at a rundown homeless shelter. They shared a bed in a room full of other mothers and their subsequent children. The shelter was a very scary place. There were far too many people that stared at them in the same way that David had.


After the initial shock of their sudden upheaval had worn off, Tucker was devastated to realize that he had left Buford, his favorite Teddy Bear, behind. He’d never had many toys in the first place, but Buford was one he particularly treasured because his Mema up in heaven had given it to him when he was just a baby. His Mommy, to her credit, called Owen on the shelter’s phone to ask about the missing bear. However, David was the one who answered. When his mother explained the situation to him, David seemed to take sadistic pleasure in telling them that all of their stuff had been thrown in the dumpster. That night, both he and his Mommy held each other for hours and took turns crying.




The next day his Mommy told him they were going out for the sole purpose of getting him something special. So she took him down the toy aisle of the Dollar Tree, and that was when Tucker saw him for the very first time.


It was a Captain Brent Stevens action figure from the Galaxy Defense Force playset. Captain Brent Stevens had an eighteen-point articulation and came with a laser pistol, a comic book, and a miniature plastic replica of his ship, the Bold Horizon. Tucker loved him instantly.


He begged her right then and there to read the back of the box to him three times. She did so with one of her rare smiles those days.

It read: Brent Stevens, Captain of the Bold Horizon, an escort cruiser for the Galaxy Defense Force. Captain Stevens and his crew are charged with reconnaissance for the fleet’s defense convoy. Though it does not support the shields or armament of its much larger and more powerful counterparts, the Bold Horizon more than makes up for what it lacks by its sheer speed and maneuverability. Under Captain Steven’s brave and decisive leadership, the Bold Horizon has more successful ventures than any other ship in the fleet. For no matter the danger, Captain Stevens and the crew of the Bold Horizon will face it head-on.

His Mommy would read the back of the box to him or the comic book to him every night before bed. He looked down at the worn box back and comic book, left reverently by his cot. Tucker had kept them all this time. He guarded them at the homeless shelter. He quietly played with them the nights his Mommy left him alone in their next apartment when she would go to work. He held them close to his chest the day they moved in with Matt, where he slowly became accustomed to a new kind of terror.


He blinked back tears. He wished the real Captain Stevens was here instead of in space. He would protect him. Maybe even his Mommy would fall in love with Captain Stevens, and he would have a real daddy. Captain Stevens would take on Matt. For no matter the danger, Captain Stevens and the crew of the Bold Horizon will face it head-on.


He froze.


He looked at Matt choking his limp mother. He looked back down at his toy and kissed it. He placed it lovingly on his pillow and pulled his blanket off of him. As his bare feet touched the ground, one thought resonated through him.

 

“I am a member of the Bold Horizon’s crew.”


Ensign Tucker’s clear voice rung across the silent bridge. His hands flew across his console, and the ship lurched forward swiftly, garnering momentum. His intense gaze focused on the combat screen, “I am a member of the Bold Horizon’s crew.”


He repeated his mantra, “I am a member of the Bold Horizon’s crew. I am a member of the Bold Horizon’s crew.”


This time his voice was joined by another, Lieutenant Commander Gregson. The Ensign glanced back at his superior officer. Gregson nodded to him as his own hands flew across his station.


“I am a member of the Bold Horizon’s crew!” More voices joined theirs.


“I am a member of the Bold Horizon’s crew!” Half the bridge crew had joined in.


“No!”

All of their disheartened eyes fell on the Captain. Captain Stevens looked at them and once again stopped last on Ensign Tucker. Then Captain Stevens said very clearly, “We are the Bold Horizon.”


Ensign Tucker grinned. “We are the Bold Horizon!”


The entire bridge joined in, “We are the Bold Horizon!”


“We are the Bold Horizon!”


“We are the Bold Horizon!”


Everyone knew their duty and the consequence thereof. Regardless, they knew one thing above all else. No matter the danger, the crew of the Bold Horizon would face it head-on!


“We are the Bold Horizon!”


“Fire all weapons!” The Captain ordered.


“With pleasure,” exclaimed the Lieutenant Commander.


The ship shivered as its weapon batteries flashed across the screen towards their overwhelming foe. On their destructive path rode the voice of the crew through the silence of space.


 


“We are the Bold Horizon!”


Surprised, Matt looked up from his Mommy’s purpling face at Tucker’s war cry.


Tucker leapt on the large man and sank his teeth into Matt’s meaty arm.


“Ow! You little bastard!”


Matt sprang up and released his Mommy’s throat shaking his arm furiously. Tucker vaguely noted a gasp but ignored it as he held onto him as tightly as he could with his arms and teeth. His feet flipped around violently in the air as Matt shook him.


Matt’s other hand clamped down on the back of his head and yanked off him by the hair. Blood and tissue came free of his arm as Tucker was pulled away. Matt roared as he threw Tucker to the ground. Adrenalin pumping, Tucker bounded to his feet.


“I’m going to kill you for that, you little shit!”


He spat the gore out of his mouth and charged him again, “We are—


His words were lost as Matt’s backhand slammed against his face, hurtling him backwards. He crashed to the ground several feet and continued to tumble end over end until his back collided into something. A small object toppled into his lap.


Dazed, he looked around with one eye, for the other was rapidly swelling shut. Blood flowed out of his mouth and nose and onto the small figure onto his lap. He looked down to see that it was his Captain Brent Steven action figure. He landed next to his cot, and the toy fell onto him from its perch.


Tucker looked up as he felt the ground shake. Matt frothed at the mouth as he thundered towards him with clenched fists.


 

“Status report!”


Smoke and sparks filled the damaged bridge as the beleaguered crew that could still right themselves moved about the

bridge. Captain Stevens was bleeding heavily from his forehead. He gripped his chair to keep himself from falling out.


Moans of pain and coughing met his words.


Ensign Leeds wiped the blood out of his eyes and moved over to the smoking station beside him. The crewmember that tended internal diagnostics lay on the ground some feet away, not moving. Leeds cleared his throat before croaking out, “We’re heavily damaged, Captain. Weapon systems offline, life support failing, and we have multiple hull breaches on the lower decks.”


“Shields?” asked the Captain.


Leeds shook his head, “They’re rebooting, I think. But I don’t think they’ll be ready by the Vra’ac’s next salvo.”


“Did we at least hurt the bastards?” demanded the Captain.


Lieutenant Commander Gregson answered, “We’ve damaged them, sir, but not nearly enough before they turned the entirety of their batteries on us.”


“And our Flagship?”


“They’ve broken off their attack off of it to focus on us. We bought her some time, but not much.”


“Get engineering on the horn. We need those shields now.”


“Sir, they’re still trying to stabilize life support then—”


“No! Look at the screen! We don’t have time! Tell them shields first, then weapons! That’s an order!”


“On it!” Leeds cried.


“Captain, they’re preparing to fire again,” called Gregson.


Ensign Tucker looked at the screen through his good eye. The enormous craft was bearing down on them as the light of its weapons’ bays charged up.


Captain Steven’s voice boomed across the bridge, “I need those shields now!”


 

Tucker was too dazed to move as he watched Matt oncoming charge. The large man bared his teeth with an inarticulate scream. He drew back his fist. He was going to strike him with every ounce of power he could muster, and

Tucker was helpless to do anything but watch it come.


Or was he?


 

“Captain, they’ve fired all weapons,” shouted Lieutenant Commander Gregson.


“Everyone brace for impact!” shouted the Captain.


Ensign Tucker’s eyes bulged as he saw a giant fist grow larger on his combat screen.


Suddenly a light flashing on his console drew his eyes.


Leeds exclaimed, “Sir! Engineering was able to repair the shields, but the control relays are severed! They had to reroute them to Ensign Tucker’s console!”


“Ensign Tucker activate the shields now!” shouted Captain Stevens.


“But I don’t know how?” moaned Ensign Tucker.


“Tucker, look at me!” commanded Captain Stevens.


Tucker looked back at his commander. The blood flowing down Captain Steven’s face framed the fire in his eyes, “I know you’re scared, son, but you can do this. If you look deep inside, you will know what to do.”


All of a sudden, he did. Ensign Tucker nodded resolutely and turned back to his console. He took a deep breath then jammed down the activation code. He heard the ship hum as he watched the encroaching fist on the combat screen.

 

Tucker did not flinch as he watched the scabs of Matt’s fist close in.


Suddenly he felt something warm in his chest. An instant later, he was enveloped in a strange glowing light a hair breath before Matt’s knuckles made contact.


Flash!


The glowing bubble of energy exploded outward from Tucker, momentarily blinding him. As the light rapidly faded, he saw Matt’s body crash into the back wall of the room. He crumpled to the ground in an unmoving heap.


Tucker’s good eye widened with shock. As it did, the strange aura faded from sight as the energy reabsorbed back into his chest. With its absence, the pain and the terror came flooding back in.



 

“Captain, our shields came back up just in time,” cried Lieutenant Commander Gregson. “The explosive backwash has destroyed the Vra’ac’s ship! We’re saved!”


The remaining conscious members of the crew broke out into a raucous chorus of cheers. Everyone except Ensign Tucker, who took the celebration in silently. Across the room, Ensign Tucker looked over at his commanding officer.


Captain Brent Stevens nodded to him. “Good work.”


“Thank you, sir.”


Captain Steven’s expression gave into a small smile. “It seems that this ship of ours is chalked full of surprises.”


 

“Oh my God! Tucker, baby, are you okay!”


It had taken several minutes for his Mommy to drag herself back to coherency. When she did, she scrambled over to where he lay bleeding. Her hands brushed his swollen face, “Oh my God! What did that bastard do to you! I’m so sorry, baby! I’m so sorry. I swear to God, next time I see him, I’m going to kill him!”


Tucker didn’t bother to direct her attention to the still figure lying behind her on the other side of the room. He didn’t know if Matt was dead or not. In truth, he wasn’t entirely sure if he cared. Confronting his sense of apathy saddened him a little. Still, he wasn’t going to help his Mommy hurt someone else, even if it was Matt. That was an evil that he could not stomach in anyone.


His Mommy made soothing noises as she scooped him in his Cookie Monster blankets, “Don’t worry, baby, Mommy’s here. Mommy’s here. We’re going to get you to the doctor.”


She started for the door and paused. She bent down, “We don’t want to forget your special things, now do we?”


Tucker beamed as he clutched his comic and back box cover next to his bloody Captain Stevens action figure.


“Don’t worry, honey.” His Mommy said as she put him into her car. “We’ll get you all better. And I swear to God I’ll do better for you next time.”


She peeled out of the parking lot and tore down the street. Tucker sagged against his seat and let the streetlamps wash over him as he closed his eyes.

 

Ensign Tucker looked around at the fully restored bridge. It gleamed with crisp efficiency.


“How are you doing, son?”


Ensign Tucker turned around to see the Captain standing next to his console.


“I’m doing fine, sir,” answered Tucker.


“How are you healing?” Captain Stevens nodded to the still swollen side of his face.


Ensign Tucker shrugged, “I don’t know. I guess it’s too soon to say.”


Captain Stevens said, “Well, I wanted to tell you that you did well against the Vra’ac.”


“You really think so, Sir? But I was so afraid that I froze.”


“True.” admitted Captain Stevens, “But the fact that you didn’t stay frozen is what counts. Plus, you helped come up with a battle cry that united us all.”


Ensign Tucker beamed.


Captain Brent Stevens nodded, “Now Ensign Tucker, why don’t you take us to full speed ahead. Let’s see what this ship of ours can do.”


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