The Vikings built ships. That was what they were good at. They built ships, and they sharpened their weapons, and they sailed the stars to find planets to pillage.
They also liked women. Or men, depending on the individual Viking’s preference.
They sailed for years and always came back home with loot and slaves and tales of glorious combat.
Only Fiske was left behind.
He helped build the ships, but his hand-eye coordination wasn’t as good as a shipbuilder’s. Which meant every single Viking in colony.
“It’s okay,” his mother said. “You’ll find other ways to contribute.”
“No, mother,” he complained. “I’m worthless. I can’t do anything right, I’ve tried everything!”
And his mother would hold him tight and place his head in her bosom and say, “My dear son, everybody is good at something.”
But the years went by, raiding parties came and went and still, Fiske couldn’t find what he was good at.
And his mother passed away, and his youth came and went and still, there was nothing he was good at. The others tolerated him. He survived because he owned two pieces of land that got good rain during the seasons, so he rented those out to more capable farmers. At some point he kicked them out and decided to farm them for himself.
Naturally, that was the year he almost starved to death, so he was done with that nonsense.
No, Fiske was no farmer, that much was certain.
So he collected his pitiful income and simply existed in the fringes of his society. Never wed, because what family would want him as a son? Never raiding, because what party would want him as a crew? Never useful, never a problem, never contributing, never annoying, never nothing at all.
Fiske was an afterthought in every Viking’s mind, a joke, a person to point at when one wanted to insult another.
One night, he had enough. He gathered up rations, bolted up windows and doors as he was not coming back and there was no one to tend to his home, and he went off into the night.
Under the construction yard, there it was, a trusty old ship. It had seen better days, and it had seen battle. The scars on its hull were deep, gashes from some proton beam that threatened to cut it in two. Fiske licked his lips. “You will be mine,” he whispered to the ship.
He knocked out the guard with a pipe. He was the colony’s idiot, a person that was more useful than Fiske. The guardpost was a joke, after all, who would go steal a ship? It was madness, you would not set sail alone, go raid alone, Vikings did nothing alone.
All together, they did everything. Drinking, merrying, even fucking, sometimes they did that together. The women decided if they were in the mood, and they invited handsome men or curvy women into their marital bed. There was no jealousy involved, for they always picked well.
Never Fiske, of course. Never him.
Fiske got up to the bridge. Touching the controls, detecting warrior DNA, they came to life. He started to breathe harder. Excitement! Why had he been waiting all those years to do this thing? Why was he feeling devoted to a peoples that did not love him back? No one would miss him. No one would mourn for him. They’d miss the ship, for certain. And the fuel. But they wouldn’t miss him, so why should he think about hurting them?
He closed the external hatch. The ship still needed repairs, he could see it from the outside, but it told him the same, in the form of Helpful Thor, a pint-sized hologram next to his hand.
“Ship is undergoing maintenance,” Helpful Thor said.
“Shut up,” Fiske replied, looking ahead. He flicked the startup sequence, the ship whirred top to end.
Smiling wide, Fiske made a little dance and then sat back down on the captain’s seat.
“Ship is scheduled for ten days ahead,” Helpful Thor said again. “We will go to the far quadrant, there’s treasures aplenty.”
“I don’t want treasures,” Fiske said.
“What else would a Viking want, other than lootin’ and a glorious death?” Helpful Thor asked.
“I’m only Viking in name,” Fiske said and felt shame.
Then he held his hand over the button that would take him away. From his peoples/not peoples, away. From the grave of his mother, away.
“From my years wasted, away,” Fiske said and slapped the button.
The ship roared. It farted a plume of flame, sputtering jets of methane.
“What’s wrong?” Fiske asked, pressed down on the seat.
Helpful Thor propped himself up on his minuscule Mjölnir. “We are setting sail.”
“Yes, but what’s wrong?” Fiske screeched, his face going pale.
“This is how a ship sails,” Helpful Thor said again.
The ship took to the air, lining the night’s sky like a light made of hair. It rose and rose up and away, having no real destination but awaiting input anyway. It flew into the night, kicking Vikings with its might. They woke up to the last man, and got out and gawked at the flare.
The Viking ship blew up, in a mighty explosion. And the Vikings eyes shone, and there was a lot of commotion. Pieces kept falling to the ground, simmering red. And they all felt relieved, because the raiders could have been dead.
Helpful Thor’s hologram debriefed the Viking Chief.
The was-to-be pilot said, “He saved them, that pesky old thief!”
A Viking pointed up and said next to him, “Two thousand raiders would have gone on that flight.”
And the woman agreed, “That useless ol’ Fiske finally did something right.”