16 09 2009

The force of the explosion knocked the breath from her lungs. Or rather it was the force of the rushing air pressing her against the buckled door frame in its wild escape that was stifling her breath. Before long, an equilibrium had been achieved between the near vacuum of space and the formerly pressurized air lock compartment. Atlanta checked all over her envrion-suit to ensure that nothing had punctured it, although she was aware that if anything had she would be well aware of it by now.

She turned her attention to the opening in the hull of the ship and made her way toward it. She had not been aware of it before, but now she could sense the threshold between the artificially generated gravity of the Proteus and the zero gs of elliptical free fall called orbit.

She could see Jason crouched on the hull of the Delphinus about fifty meters away. He was still holding his rifle somewhat in firing position, but he had the look of a meerkat peeking above its close horizon for signs of movement. She could not see his facial expression from that distance, but his body language read relief. It was obvious now what had made the difference in rupturing the hull; Jason had fired his rifle. Atlanta’s rifle was one of the larger object floating in a debris field just above and out from her position. He gestured to her to jump and she realized that the two ships were diverging from one another.

She crouched in position and tried to judge her path of attack, but hesitated with the realization that if she misjudged her attempt, she would overshoot the Delphinus and become a permanent satellite of the singularity. That is until her orbit decayed and she fell into it.

She had to push it from her mind and just make the leap of faith. Positioning herself in the crouch that would determine the accuracy of her aim was difficult with her pregnant belly in the way. Another concern was timing the release of the magnetic devices in the soles of her boots so that she would actually take flight.

To add to the difficulty of it all, the Delphinus was rotating slowly. Jason had to re-establish his position several times to keep in a position opposite her. While she was timing her jump, he climbed higher up on the hull.

Here goes, she thought to herself as she pulled up the sleeves on her environ-suit. She numbered off her launch countdown in her head. Three . . . Two . . . One . . GO!

She was airborne. Jason and the Delphinus grew larger in the faceplate of her helmet. Slowly, slowly she approached. She could finally see Jason’s face. She gasped when she saw the expression of panic on his face and realized that she was too high. She contorted herself the best she could to try to changer her trajectory, but it only resulted in more adrenaline being pumped.

Jason stood to his full stature and reached one hand above his head. She got the idea and succeeded in positioning herself so that she came in upside down. There was a chance if she could reach his hand that he would be able to pull her down next to him. She stretched with all her might as the distance dwindled down to less than a meter and then he had her, pulling her down to the outer hull of their ship. They held each other there for several moments, taking in the tactile reality that yes, they had made it to safety.

An added bit of good news awaited them within. Ryan had completed repairs to the gravity drive and their crew would become the first people to successfully escape from a black hole. Their crew minus two – Manuel and Brandon.

Brandon watched the touching scene of reunion from the control room of the Proteus. He was past anger now, he let the slow burning coal of resentment sink down into his soul. The compartment he stood in was a shambles and the main airlock destroyed, but he would figure out a way to cope.

There was only one last thing to do. He slid himself comfortably into the command chair and let his fingers fly across the control board. The course set, he strapped himself tightly into the seat. All emotion was gone from his face. It was a stoic mask of indifference. The caverns behind his eyes grew even more destitute of feeling, what was a cold, dark place before had become even darker. His eyes had become black holes.

The Proteus thrusters fired and she fell toward the singularity. He knew that the pull of gravity would have him there in seven seconds. A toroidal shape of complete blackness loomed ahead of his ship, in the center a smudge of light. In seven seconds he burst through the center and his mind ripped into pieces and then back into a whole again. His head lolled back and blackness overtook his senses.

When he came to, he was in the vast emptiness of space. Alone. He looked about the compartment and unstrapped himself from the seat. The half dozen or so floor panels were still broken up which meant that the main air lock would still be nonoperational. His mind immediately went to Manuel and the hibernation bay. Although through experience he had learned that the body would be gone, he still went through the motions of inspecting to be sure.

He thought long and hard about how things had gone wrong and the state of disarray his ship was in now and how he could change things in the next iteration.

The next several weeks of waiting afforded him time to mold his plan and to repair, the best he could, the damage to his ship. Then, finally the expected day arrived.

He took his place in the command chair and turned the view screen on. There before him, right on schedule, was the freighter. He mussed up his hair and put on his practiced expression of lunacy in preparation for the incoming hail from the freighter.

The freighter that would take him to Rigel 7.

Rigel 7, where he would meet Atlanta and Jason for the first time…

The End





One response

30 05 2011

This is a great story. Good thing it wasn’t longer or I would have stayed glued to the computer all day! Looking forward to reading more stories.

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