27 08 2009

The yellow flashing lights and klaxon startled Atlanta out of her concentration.  She had been tinkering on the ion screens in the auxiliary engine room.  One of her many jobs on the ship was that of Machinist Mate, which she insisted on performing despite her condition.  The sounding of the alarm was a common occurrence aboard her ship, the SS Delphinus.  Several of the systems were touchy and it didn’t take much for some of them to trip the alarm.  She ran a quick diagnostic of the usual offenders and found nothing obvious.

The alarms always made her feel uneasy.  It was a reminder of how truly  vulnerable they were in space.  Ever since the first sailor had ventured into the great unknown of the seemingly endless expanse of ocean, it was understood that the sea was a cruel mistress.  Despite the fact that the ocean had been traded in for the stars, not much had changed.  Her uneasiness was turning to genuine fear so she decided to venture to the bridge and see what was going on.

She deftly maneuvered her pregnant frame down the aisle between the incongruously shaped equipment in the engineering space and up the ladder.  Ladder was an apt term considering the uncomfortably steep slope of the steps.  She was huffing a little by the time she got to the main passageway at the top.  Amazing that man was able to advance sufficiently to explore interstellar space, but was unable to figure out how to build decent stairs.

Atlanta started down the passageway toward the ladder to the bridge.  That was where she saw Brandon.  He stood slouched against the side of the bulkhead at the base of the ladder, partially blocking the passageway.

He looked his natural calm.  His gray eyes were steady in the almost blank stare others that knew him were accustomed to.  He noticed Atlanta as she approached and he allowed a small smile to crawl across his lips.  His look of expectation sent a chill down her spine. “Hello, Lanta.”

She shuddered inwardly. Brandon had always given her the creeps.  She didn’t know why he did.  Perhaps it was the counterfeit politeness that he always showed her.  His mouth smiled, but it never spread to his eyes; the cold calculating eyes that stared through her without blinking.  She found her mind wandering to the primal pit of her nightmares as she stared back.  She broke the silent deadlock of his gaze by looking down.  “Brandon.”

The distant smile never left his lips. “Looks like the alarm has roosted you from the nest.”  He allowed himself to glance up the ladder toward the bridge. “What’s the word from the grease pits?  Everything is in working order, I hope.  You look like you’re about to faint.”

“Everything checks out.  I ran diagnostics on the equipment and it’s all running within spec.  And I feel perfectly fine, by the way.”  It was a half lie.  She was feeling a bit light headed.  Lies came easily around him.  His personality seemed to foster them.  She hadn’t wanted to give Brandon any occasion to find a weakness in her.

Brandon appeared slightly bored with her answer and the scene suddenly seemed out of place to her.  Something wasn’t right.  Her brow creased as she forgot her qualms and ventured a searching look into his vacant eyes.  It was now obvious that he was hiding something.  This time when he met her gaze, his normally guarded eyes gave it away.

He could tell that she saw it.  He fought the urge to look up the ladder again and clenched his teeth instead.  After a moment his manner changed almost imperceptibly.  It was as if his mind had decided upon something.

“Jason wanted me to divert you.  He didn’t want you to be worried what with all that is going on.”  The ship shuddered beneath their feet as if to accentuate the fact that something was very, very wrong.

She set her jaw and made her way to the foot of the ladder.  In her pregnant state, she was barely able to squeeze past Brandon.  His duty completed, Brandon made his way aft and abandoned his post.

Whatever worry the alarm had brought was bolstered with the expectation of something far worse.  The door at the top of the ladder was open and she made her way onto the bridge.  What she saw stopped her in her tracks.  The normal banter between the two men was replaced by a palpable hopelessness.

When Jason turned his eyes to her, the fear she saw there shook her to the very core.






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