the_missionI was in the Med Lab. My hand was shaking. I reached down, clutched the edge of the exam table, and held on firmly. With two full stim injections coursing through my system, my heart thumped vigorously in my chest, my eyes widened, and my hurried thoughts became absolutely clear.

I had to leave. This foul, ravaged ship had multiple dead LMOs strewn throughout. They came here to kill me and erase what knowledge I had about their past. Since their arrival, strange gravitational disturbances had been threatening to either tear the ship in half or deposit it in some unknown place in time and space. Over the course of nearly two years, it drove them murderously mad. Unbelievably, my own body, a version of me from some alternate timeline, was lying lifeless on a below deck, a victim of the LMO’s hostility. They tortured and murdered an innocent man. The last words of that dying man still echoed through my head. He urged me to get something of importance from my own ship and take it back to an as yet unknown group of insurgents. Although the particulars were hazy at best, my immediate mission was entirely clear.

I am getting off this ship.

There was little time to waste. The ship routinely shook and rumbled like it was skidding across a rocky plain. Inside the Med Lab, a volley of supplies emptied from the cabinets and shifted from one end of the room to the other. In the wave of debris, I located a container of pain suppression injectors. I grabbed the tumbling container, opened it, and put a handful of the injectors into my hip pocket. I also tore open a surgical drape packet and made a makeshift sling for my injured arm. With a double-dose of stimulants running rampant through my system and my wounded shoulder dressed, I finally felt strong enough to evac the ship and make my way back to the SM5. My fear was that I would not have enough time before this ship shifted again. And I did not want to find myself lost in time and space.

I moved to the Med Lab doorway and started down the main corridor. Choking dust and flying debris filled the passageway. An electric smell hung heavy in the air. Another violent trembling was followed by a loud metal-on-metal squeal that came from somewhere in the belly of the ship. In the dim light, I thought I saw a bulkhead bend outward into the passageway. The doorway to the cockpit was roughly 35 meters from the doorway to Medical, but the shaking and lurching of the ship made it all the further to travel. Once inside the cockpit, I could use the onboard systems to call up the SM5, and formulate a plan to move again from ship to ship. With no survival pod available, it was likely that I would have to make the journey in one of their Heavy Evac suits… if there were any suits left onboard at all.

Step by step, I carefully picked my way through the obstructions. I favored my wounded ankle with each footing. With my one good arm, I alternately felt my way along the dark passageway and used it to protect my injured shoulder when the shaking became rough. Near the end of the passageway, I was violently knocked to the floor. A stunning impact rocked the ship, as if we were struck by a large object. A stasis chamber, dragging a tangle of connection wires and feed tubes burst through the doorway of the Chamber Lab and skidded across the corridor to smash into the Observation Lounge hatchway. Sparks and a spray of fluids trailed the runaway chamber. I could hear a hissing from the Chamber Lab and the oily odor of stasis gas began to fill the air. This was not something I wanted to breathe. I quickly rose to my feet, held my breath, and made the last few meters to the cockpit in double time. Stepping out of the corridor was a relief but the cockpit had little comforts to offer.

Normally, under any type of physical assault, the cockpit would be awash in red lights and sirens. During my trip down the corridor, I wondered why the onboard AI hadn’t set off every alarm on the ship. Everything was coming apart. The answer was in the cockpit. The crazed LMOs had done their damage here as well. The AI interface was beaten and completely dark. The consoles were wrecked, screens were shattered, inputs smashed. Very little appeared lit and working. I saw one blinking console buried under a small pile of fragments and litter. I swept the console clean.

There it was. The display showed my ship, the SM5, with distance and coordinate information. Overwhelmed, I collapsed in the chair in front of the console and stared at the data. This vile ship had been drifting further and further away for the entirety of my time aboard. The distance between here and the SM5 was now over 1300 km, much too far to reach in an Evac suit… alive.

I wasn’t going anywhere.

[Communication sent: 16FEB2186 Shinkai Maru 5]    Send article as PDF