Content Warning: fear, and bodily injuries.
People’s smarts were coming back on as Mollin darted out of the control room. Leo set his to max brightness and then snapped it off his wrist. “Everyone, we need some emergency lighting. If you can, snap your smarts to the walls,” he said, doing exactly that as he said it.
A line of people had strung together along one side of the hallway outside the control room; crew members who had been drawn by the counting and then stayed due to the glow from the panels. A few stood and snapped their smarts to the walls, providing hopeful lighting in the otherwise perfect blackness.
“Leo?” Lastin called quietly. “Shiner’s readings are back to what they were before the pulse.”
“We knew they’d recover a lot faster than they think we will.”
“They started moving,” Lastin said.
“Captain and Lissa shouldn’t been too much longer. The lifts not working will add a couple minutes,” Leo assured everyone he knew would hear him. Lastin continued watching the hypnotizing rotation with dedicated intensity.
“Leo?” Lastin called after a moment, his voice strained but still controlled.
“Yeah?” Leo asked, trying to make his own voice sound calm and grateful more than anything for the standard year of bolt conversations with Trevor which had given him the talent of controlling his tone so well.
“There’s something… I don’t…?” Lastin’s voice was shaking too much to finish the question. Leo left the old handheld on, adding its glow to the dim light from NavCom’s screens, and strode over to see what Lastin was looking at.
Shiner’s non-engine energy readings were spiking. Their speed and course were bringing them closer to matching Dockland’s orbit and their hull size was… Leo leaned closer to the screen. Shiner’s hull size was increasing along their horizontal. As he watched, energy readings dropped back to normal and their horizontal hull size remained at the new measurements.
“What just happened to them?” Lastin asked.
“I don’t know,” Leo said, shaking his head to the negative. “But look!” He pointed to where the assembly yard flashed in the rotating scan.
“Ha!” Lastin blurted the single laugh and slapped Leo on the shoulder. Two of the component transporters already had energy readings and were starting to move. “I wonder how they got transporters moving so soon?” Lastin wondered, the question obviously rhetorical.
“Yards have accidents that send out pulses all the time,” Mollin answered. Leo spun and smiled at the top of Mollin’s head. It was the nearest part to Mollin’s face to smile at because the Analyst was looking down and concentrating at keeping his smart in the center of the handheld’s frame.
“What are you doing?” Leo asked.
“I corrupted my smart after coming on Dockland so I could synchronize with system linked handhelds and get into bridge systems without being flagged for external access. My smart’s got a bunch of corruption tech and syncing was a faster way of corrupting systems to prank you and Trevor,” he said, distracted by what he was doing. “But, with Dockland offline, I have to keep the screens physically aligned or else I lose the link. I’d have to waste time bypassing Shiner’s external access security through the handheld if I don’t use my smart.”
“You’re terrifying,” Leo stated.
“I know,” Mollin grinned back and then swiped up. The holoscreen from his smart appeared above the handheld showing a standard ship’s bridge interface starting page, the identification stamping for Shiner in the bottom corner.
“What are you into?” Leo asked.
“Enough that I wish I’d been sent on exploration assigned to Shiner. What do you want to see?”
“I want to know why Shiner’s horizontal size just increased,” Leo said. Mollin got to work navigating through the standardized systems as Lastin plucked at Leo’s sleeve to pull his attention back to the short range weapon panel screens. Lastin’s hand was shaking as he pointed to the red proximity circle that had appeared around Shiner.
“Docking bounders,” Mollin whispered, his voice no longer working.
“Relay yell! Brace for impact!” Leo yelled as loudly as he could. The relay echoed down the hallway and – Leo hoped fast enough – around the ship. “Which way will the impact send Dockland?” he added, aiming the question toward Lastin.
“Landside,” Lastin replied. He hadn’t moved yet to grab onto the safety rails or to drop into the nearest seat with a restraint.
Leo slapped the back of Lastin’s head. “Buckle into the seat!” he ordered.
“Why?” Lastin asked. He gestured to the gap on the screen between Dockland and the distorted planet surface flashing past in the rotating view as everyone else in sight set to buckling in, holding on, or wedging against.
“Dockland is a Class Nine Odyssean,” Leo stated loudly. “This ship is not some thin-skinned scanner! Shiner’s bounders will be lucky to dent the hull!”
“We don’t have engines or navigation, though. They don’t have to damage Dockland. Gravity will,” Lastin said, his eyes wide as he stared at the hypnotizing rotation of the screen. He didn’t move to hold onto anything.
Leo wrapped one arm tightly around the nearest safety rail and the other tightly around Mollin. Mollin tucked the linked handheld between their bodies and grabbed onto the safety rail with his other arm. They entwined as solidly with the safety rail and each other as they could, wrapping their legs together as if pitted as opposing combatants in a wrestling match.
Sound boomed through Dockland and everything jerked hard. Floors buckled, walls heaved, and the hull crinkled without tearing along the line of impact. Then there was nothing but the same near silence as before. Hull sensors flared and the screens everyone had mostly ignored for the past cycles became the focus of attention.
“Report!” Captain’s voice yelled from a distance, almost angry, the demand coming from somewhere in the hallways on the same level as the below decks control room.
Leo turned his head and forced his eyes to focus on the needed screens and not on where Lastin’s body had been tossed by the impact. Nothing in this control room had been built to dull shatter. “The hull…” Leo croaked. His lungs burned but he was able to force a complete inhalation. “The hull is intact!” he yelled. It wasn’t nearly loud enough, but the shout was relayed.
Mollin was gasping, trying to pull in a full lung of air. They’d both been slammed against the wall and had the wind knocked out of them, but fast checks proved they were otherwise only bruised.
A bad thought occurred to Leo. He blinked and then stared at his friend. “The link?” Leo rasped.
“Still an active link,” Mollin confirmed. They finished unwrapping from each other, stumbling from a secondary hit.
Mollin held on to the safety rail and Leo grabbed the handles mounted on the hull integrity monitoring panel. He stared at the rotating display for short range scans beside him. “They’re pushing us,” Leo announced.
“They’re pushing us!” someone braced in the hallway door yelled.
“What systems are live?” Captain’s voice called, closer now.
One voice croaked ‘life support’ at the same time another wheezed ‘weapons’.
“Life support and weapons!” The same someone started with yelling, but quickly their volume dropped to speaking as they shifted out of the door frame.
“And a live link to Shiner’s systems,” Leo said, looking back to see Captain stepping into the below decks control room.
A weekly blog updating on Fridays with quick personal blurbs about me, as in what's going on during my life as an Author and mom, and that doles out my short stories and novellas in bite-sized parts for everyone to read for free!