Prompt: The first Day
Scene: A space station.
Characters: Commander Stryker, Lt. Jenson and Ensign Taggart.
Synopsis: Commander Stryker is on her early morning run when she gets a red alert from Lt. Jenson. She goes to the walk-dock and sees that there’s a malfunction with his suit, so she has to get out and pull him in manually. A total cluster-fuck and he’s very injured.
The siren rang hard in Commander Stryker’s head. A red alert. Someone was in serious trouble. She stopped her mid-morning run, which was something she never did – it was a sacred time for her, when the decks of her ship were utterly abandoned and she felt the calm control and surrender of space through her booths. Nevertheless a red alert was a red alert. She stopped her run and pulled up the icon on her viewwatch. Bay Six. That was odd. Bay six was a docking and loading bay, and there were definitely no authorised shuttle launches this morning. She turned and pounded the metal grilles heading starboard and across the ship’s starwise bridge, through a series of identical-looking corridors and made her way to Bay Six, where there was a red light flashing, and a concerned looking Ensign Taggart, clear-eyed outside.
“Sit-rep.” She demanded, and Ensign Taggart stood up straighter in her presence and began to speak.
“The bay is locked up, captain. The computer has sealed it internally. Probably some kind of rupture or hull breach. Needs an override code and my access clearance isn’t high enough.”
“Well stand aside then.” Commander Stryker pushed forwards and towards the door, offering up her palmpirint and stating her name for the ship’s computer log. “Commander Joselyn Stryker”. The computer thought about it for a second, offering them nothing but a series of whirrs and bips. The dull thrum of the internal grav-units was their only accompaniment – a constant aboard their ship.
“Nothing doing, I guess we’ll have to prepare for the worst.” Stryker said, and made for the hatch on the side. In the hatch were two quick-fasten airsuits. Not useable for long-stints in space, they were an expense that Stryker had insisted on and paid for out of her own pocket because the company wouldn’t have forked out for them. She was glad she had. They were exactly what she needed right now. “Put it on.” She said, gesturing to Ensign Taggart, who looked at her strangely.
“I have no need for artificial life-support, Commander.” He said.
“Right.” Said Stryker, shaking her head and stepping into the suit. Immediately, the smart-sensors in the fabric activated and the orange material wrapped itself around her, forming a tight seal around her clothing and creating a collar at her neck. She grabbed the helmet which had about ten minutes of oxygen in it and felt the satisfying *click* of safety as it latched onto the collar. She went to the wall panel and locked down the corridor. There were two small thuds immediately as the heavy metal airlocks came down on the end-sections of the deck.
“Let’s do this.” She said, and opened the computer panel once more “Command override, open Bay six doors – authorisation Commander Joselyn Stryker.” There was a small clank and a sudden rush of air, but the hydraulics pushed the two doors apart and Commander Stryker and Ensign Taggart were sucked through hard by the vacuum of space.
Damn but space was cold. Stryker braced against the surge and engaged the anti-grav magnets on her boots. She instantly clanked down onto the ships decking and she felt Ensign Taggart do the same next to her. A few small scraps peeled off from the walls of the corridor – posters and trash that were pulled through the doors of Bay Six and out into space, but everything else on the ship was fastened down. Hullbreaches weren’t common, but they were common enough and damaging enough to prepare for.
Inside Bay Six, there were three docked shuttles, and Commander Stryker was glad to see that their clamps were holding fine. The struts, ladders, and loading gear was all safely stowed and the comms tower looked healthy too. All in all, Bay Six would have passed inspection were it not for the nasty twelve-foot hole in the side of the Starwise wall.
Something large had ruptured their outer hull. It was always a risk in space, but they hadn’t been flying with shields up because they were in friendly territory and there were no asteroid belts or obstacles to warn of. Stryker made a mental note to flag this area as a dangerous sector of space to fly through when she returned to her log, and turned her attention more immediately to the lines that ran taut from the wall to the great expanse of space outside. Someone was tethered on the wrong side of her ship. Lt. Jenson was taking a space walk.
Stryker tried to raise Jenson on the comms.
“Lt. Jenson, this is Stryker, over.” No reply. “Jenson, this is Stryker, do you copy?” Nothing but wide-band static.
“Perhaps his comms unit is malfunctioning?” Offered Taggart, and Stryker nodded but knew that wasn’t the case. She told Taggart to go and winch in the Lt from the outside. Whatever he was doing, he was in total breach of protocol and Stryker just hoped that she’d be able to tear him a new one when he got back in safe and sound.
The controls for the winch didn’t work, because of course they didn’t. Something was very wrong on her ship.
“We’ll do it manually, come on!” She said, and charged across the bay, as swiftly as she was able with magnetic boots, to try and pull in Lt Jenson by the power-lines of his suit. She grabbed on and pulled, but the lines barely moved. That didn’t bode well, as the lines extended out into space.
“There’s some kind of obstruction!” Stryker shouted over the comms to Taggart. “I’m going out there.”
Taggart’s frame appeared in front of her, his skin rippling slightly against the cold of space. “I would advise against that, captain. You are the ranking officer on this ship and the danger presented by an unknown-”
“I’m going out there, Taggart. You just better pull me back in.”
Stryker latched a mooring cable to her spacesuit and handed one end of it to Ensign Taggart. His biomechanical sturdiness was a comfort, as were his magnetised boots. She breathed for a second, fixing her eyes on the lines that hopefully led out to Lt. Jenson, and then grabbed a hold of one and demagnetized her boots. They were already in a depressurised zone so she was able to pull herself along the lines and out towards the gaping hole. She looked out at the stars winking at her across the endless night and gripped the lines tighter. She had seen good sailors lost to the sea of space and it was a horrible way to die. Every starsailor feared the void. It was what kept you alive up here.
She pushed herself gently through the tear in her ship and was careful to avoid tearing her spacesuit – it was a dense neoprene polymer which was resistant to damage but not impervious. As soon as she was on the outside, she could see the problem. Looking down the curving flank of her ship she saw the scorch-marks and the once-bright paint had been scored along by a large metallic object. Maybe a satellite of some kind, or possibly a space capsule. They were known as ‘Clanks’. Random bits of debris that people fired into space. The vast majority stayed trapped inside a home system, but there were a few exceptions, and it looked like she’d hit one. It had a pair of twisted fins as well as a curving and now obviously broken antenna array. It had just barely collided with her ship and embedded itself in the wall of the aft cargo bay.
The power lines extended beyond the Clank, but there was no sign of Lt Jenson. Stryker pulled herself fully outside the spaceship and re-magnetized her boots, reorienting herself to be standing on the hull. She had to crouch to make it easier to walk, but she made her way forwards, and felt the lines pull down towards the ship again. They were trapped underneath the Clank. That told Stryker two things. One, that she was going to have to either move the clank or else sever the lines to get Lt Jenson back inside, and two, that he had been making a space-walk when the Clank had struck. Stryker shook her head at the stupendously bad luck of that. That was too improbable to be a co-incidence. Something was going on here, and she was going to find out what if it killed her.
She reached the Clank and saw that it was just clinging to her ship without appearing to be dug in. As she stepped towards it, she felt her boots pushing against something invisible and trying to keep her away. Further progress was like walking through a wall of wind. It had a strong magnetic field that was keeping it attached to the ship. Stryker swallowed and looked up at the distant stars. She had a sudden image of herself as a very tiny thing stood on a small raft in a great ocean with no sign of land for miles. She pulled herself back to the task at hand. Focus, Stryker.
“Taggart, do you read me?”
“Yes Commander, loud and clear. Maintenance and Repair crews have been alerted and are suited up and on their way now.”
“There’s a Clank out here, Taggart, and it’s magnetised somehow. I’m de-coupling my boots. Hold fast.”
“Aye Captain.” Said Ensign Taggart, and Stryker de-magnetised her boots and felt her legs swing effortlessly up into the abyss.
She clenched onto the power-lines and pulled herself in towards the Clank. The lines were trapped at the bottom, pinioned between the Clank and her ship so she let go with one hand and grabbed onto one of the fins of the space-junk that had damaged her ship. It was cold. Colder than space, and that surprised her. She gripped with one gloved hand and let go of the power line, hefting herself around to grab the antennae with her other hand. She was holding on to the Clank with both hands and save for the cable held by the sturdy Ensign Taggart was completely removed from her ship. Taggart was right. This is insane.
“Jenson, do you copy?” She asked. Nothing. Damn it.
She pilled herself around the Clank, her padded fingers searching for purchase and a handhold on the cold metal. As she rounded the Clank she saw the lines coming out the other side and attaching to Lt. Jenson who was drifting in his suit. His visor was dark which meant that at least some power was lost, and explained why his comms were down. There’s another reason he might not be answering…
Stryker tensed her muscles and tried to pull her legs around to the other side of the Clank. She felt like an Olympic gymnast on the bars or the bench and her core screamed at her as she drove her legs down towards her ship once more. Thank you, enhancement training. Stryker’s legs made contact with the ship and she tried turning on her mag-boots. The powerful field from the Clank was too close and it pushed her legs out from underneath her. Stryker’s line became taut and she pinwheeled wildly trying to turn and catch the Clank again. Her boot made contact with the floating Lt Jenson and turned his suit around.
She stretched and got a desperate fingertip’s purchase on the edge of the Clank’s rear dorsal fin with her outreached gloves. Come on, come on. She said and stayed for a moment, allowing her momentum to bring her body close enough for a second lunge. This time she caught a metal strut from the Clank’s thrusters and gripped tightly. Now breathe, Joselyn… Stryker allowed herself a moment’s pause, hanging off the edge of space.
A flare glinted off of the bow of her ship and briefly lit Jenson’s suit from behind.
“What the hell?” Stryker said. There was a nasty slash across both arms of Jenson’s space suit. The tear was serrated and bloody and she saw the nasty person-eruption that happened when you violently depressurised a spacesuit in space.
“What is is, Commander?” Taggart’s voice came through on the comms.
“Jenson’s dead.” Said Stryker. “Something tore his space-suit up pretty badly. Horrible way to go.”
There was a loud thunk and Stryker saw a tiny green light she’d not noticed before go off amidst the antenna array she was clutching. The Clank had become inert once more and detached itself from her ship. Stryker watched with a sense of dread as her ship slowly began to drift away from her.
The prompt for this one was ‘The first day’. It’s Day 1 of an ‘Advent Writing Prompts’ series that the wonderful Amy Sutton is doing. You should read her stuff at amywritespoetry.wordpress.com
I’m many days behind but I’ll try to catch up. Let me know what you think either in the comments or hit me up on Twitter @Sellpen