Part II – Drifting

Lorville – Hurston – Stanton system – UEE Space

After my mistakes and failures in Lorville my superiors decided I needed to be transferred. To do that of course, I had to report in at one of the regional headquarters of my company. But large corporations pride themselves on efficient use of manpower so obviously they couldn’t just book me a Starliner ticket.

I ended up filling an engineer slot at a Starfarer bound for some space station where I was supposed to board a Hercules to Terra as an engineer for the tanks that were on board.

The crew of this particular Starfarer was an okay bunch, the captain didn’t give me too much trouble. I guess he was glad he would have an engineer on board for the time being. The pilot was the merriest of the bunch, his name was Jackson as far as I recall. He would crack jokes all day and night and he knew how to make the giant ship dance.

I made my transfer to the Starfarer at one of the R&R stations around Hurston, it was stopping there to refuel before the next leg of it’s journey. It was docked there for almost 48 hours after my arrival. I took this time to perform some minor repairs and tuning of it’s systems. After I removed the annoying banging inside the air conditioning system the crew began accepting my presence more. I didn’t ask what happened to their last engineer.

Travel to our starting jump point was supposed to take about 12 hours. At one point in the journey it was just me and Jackson on the bridge, the rest of the crew went to sleep for the remaining few hours before our arrival. I didn’t see a problem with that, everyone was tired from their previous journey.

“Yo, I’m getting some weird reading on the drive.”

Jackson’s voice awakens me from my nap in the captain’s seat.

“I’m gonna take a look.”
I grab my helmet and make sure it’s properly sealed on my head. I detected an unusual amount of beta particles around the drives and power generators so I wanted to be careful until the levels stabilize.

“Comms check.”
Jackson responds with a nod.

“You should go get some shut eye after you are done.”
“Yeeeep.”

I make my way to the drive. The radiation seems normal but I keep my helmet on. I pull up readings on the engineering console. They are…odd.
Before I have a chance to investigate further the ship lurches to the side and I’m thrown off my feet. I struggle to regain my footing but the artificial gravity fades.
“JACKSON!!”

My brain feels like cotton. I can’t see. The only thing I can make out is sharp beeping and a faint hiss. As I regain my vision I realize that my visor is cracked and the beeping is my suit’s oxygen alarm. I fight my own body to place my palm on the crack, hoping to slow down the escaping gas. There are droplets of blood floating inside my helmet.

That’s all I’m able to say before the ship jolts again and inertia slams me against the bulkhead…

With my other hand I locate the OxyPen on my belt and inject it into my suit’s oxygen receptor. The beeping slows to a less annoying frequency and volume. I reach into one of the pouches on my suit, it contains an epoxy sealant spray. I take my hand off the visor and immediately spray the whole tube of sealant on it. I give it a minute to dry and become transparent, it’s not perfect but the beeping stopped completely. I will live…for now.

At this point I realize that I’m floating around the inactive drive and that the ship has no power or life support. There must be a hull breach on the engineering deck. I pray that the crew quarters sealed in time.

“Coder to bridge, respond. Jackson!”

There is no answer. A dull headache of concussion starts setting in. I consider using one of my MedPens to relieve the pain but I dismiss the idea, it would make me too drowsy.

I switch my comms to ship wide frequency.
“This is Coder to any crew, please respond.”

Once more I get no answer.

“Fuck” I think to myself and I mag lock my boots to the floor. Nausea immediately takes over and I have to fight my own body to not throw up inside my helmet.

I look at my mobiGlass to get a basic reading on my surroundings. I have 45 minutes of oxygen left, the ship appears to have lost power completely so I can’t get any status readings.

With some luck the other crew members used their escape pods, but I’m not reading the distress beacons on my radio receiver. I do the math. Whatever happened, happened during a quantum jump so it’s possible that the escape pods are scattered far away from me. I don’t want to leave the ship before I make sure everyone is off.

I create a new checklist on my mobiGlass:

  • crew
  • reserve power
  • hull breaches
  • life support
  • distress beacon
  • comms
  • propulsion

The engineering deck is completely depressurized, I worry that this might be the case for the entire ship. I suspect we might have several hull breaches that might be the cause. The flashlight on my helmet is broken, through the haze the concussion has induced on my brain I remember that I have a few glow sticks somewhere on my armor.

Corporate listening station LST-X235R

“Sir, I just lost flight MS2178 on long range sensors.”

The young sensor technician manually sifted through the data the sensors received before they lost contact with the Starfarer.
“They were performing a quantum jump, correct?”

The shift supervisor was leaning over the technician’s shoulder, trying to make sense of the readings.

“Yes, sir. There is heavy solar radiation activity in that sector, might just be a bad reading.”

“Alright, log it as interference. They will pop up in a few hours.”

Back at the Starfarer

I’m holding the bright green glow stick above my head with one hand and use the other hand to steady myself against the walls. The headache feels like being stabbed in the eyes, blood is smearing the inside of my visor. I finally get to the ship’s primary power generator. The glow stick has a magnetic strip that allows me to attach it to the panel above. The generator looks completely dead, I set the controls to start up position and hold the button for 5 seconds, nothing happens.

“Well, this sucks…” I mutter to myself.

I think it’s internal power pack might be drained, it needs that to start. I push back another wave of nausea as I walk down the corridor to the emergency power generator. I see water droplets floating around me, the water reclamation system may be compromised.

I release the wall panel covering the emergency generator, it floats off down the corridor. I crank the handle five times and a red button lights up. My morale soars as I push it and the generator jumps into life. The output value gauge is rising steadily. I wish to conserve it’s fuel so I set it to the lowest setting and use the adjacent breaker box to route the power to the main power generator’s battery and to emergency lights.

The lights are dim, but it’s better than the glow stick. I leave it stuck above the emergency generator. I try the comms again.

“It’s Coder, I started emergency power. Anyone out there?”

There was no answer. But one item on my list was checked, at least for now. I advance through the dimly lit corridors to the bridge. First I notice that the port side turret bulkhead is ripped off, it hangs on to the ship only by a few cables and a bent support beam. I decide to seal this breach immediately as I’m now sure that there will be others. It takes me several minutes to attach the seal to the jagged edges of the breach I then spray it with more sealant and it hardens into a more solid barrier. Solid enough to hold air in if I manage to bring back life support.

The airlock heading to the external catwalk is open on both sides. I use the manual lever to shut the external door. But not before I take a quick peek at the damage done to the rear of the ship. The port side is ripped off, the tanks floating around still attached to the ship with refueling tubes. The catwalk itself and the starboard side appear undamaged. I check my oxygen levels again. 28 minutes. I still have one more OxyPen left on me, that’s further 30 minutes if I need them. Inside the airlock I find a spare helmet light and swap it with mine.

The small room before the bridge is undamaged, but no escape pods are missing. As I walk further I see that the bridge window is breached, shards of it floating all around the room. Jackson is still there, strapped to his seat. His body is dried up and flash frozen, punctured with shards of glass, his face locked it a permanent expression of utter horror. There is no way to free his body from the seat right now, but I will have to eventually. I start a new recording on my mobiGlass.

“Accident log of flight MS2178. Emergency power online, multiple hull breaches, all primary systems dead…”

I swallow a mouthful of bile that rose up my throat, the headache is almost unbearable and I’m starting to get tunnel vision.
“Pilot, Thomas Jackson. Lost to the void. Correction, cause of death: depressurization and multiple shrapnel wounds.”

I open one of the ceiling panels and use the lever under it to close the blast shield, sealing the broken window.

I’m almost sure the same fate befell everyone else on board. But I can’t continue my search yet. The crew deck seems to be sealed and I don’t want to risk depressurizing it in case someone is still alive.

I try the primary generator again with no avail, I’m starting to think it might be destroyed. I increase the output on the emergency generator and walk over to the oxygen scrubber. It’s control panel comes alive after I press a few buttons. It works, it won’t be able to pressurize the whole ship in this state, but it might allow me to pressurize the bridge and use the escape pod room as an airlock.

“It’s Coder again. I managed to regain some life support.” I say it to the dead air, more for the record than for anyone to hear. The life support panel is now remotely connected to my mobiGlass.

I close the internal door of the escape pod room and set the room and the bridge to pressurize. It works there are no leaks. I remove my helmet and immediately vomit. It freezes into a floating icicle of my half digested dinner. The heaters will take a moment to work but I still collect it into a plastic bag and seal it.

There is a deep gash at the side of my head, but it’s not bleeding anymore. I bite down on some gauze as I pour disinfectant into the wound. I bandage it as best as I can and wipe the inside of my helmet clean.

I locate the long range distress beacon clamp it to the floor and activate it. I hope someone hears it.

At this point the temperature is raised above freezing and I move Jackson’s body into a body bag I found near the beacon. Even half thawed, his face is filled with horror, I almost throw up again as I break his bones to fit him in the bag.

Once that terrible and nauseating act is done and the bag is safely secured to the floor I unlock my mag boots and float. I can barely see anything. The headache is overwhelming all my senses. I take a MedPen, place it on my neck and inject myself. The relief is almost instant I fight to stay awake but finally I lose consciousness and darkness engulfs me.

TO BE CONTINUED…

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