Chapter 2: For Every Action
The airlock door slammed shut. Silently, now that the atmosphere of the small corridor had escaped. Eddie stared at the hatch, stunned. His mind was fighting to reject what he’d just seen. The command module was gone. Timmons, Kowslowski and Alexei. Gone. Alexei, at least, had been suited up. The suit would keep him warm and breathing for a couple of days. The others, if they weren’t in environmental suits, would be dead already. Eddie blinked, and realized he was very cold. Connecting the last modules seemed very unimportant suddenly.
Something in the way the command module was torn off the rest of the ship had altered the spin, and Eddie found it easier now to move. Not quite a return to zero-gravity, but close enough that he was able to reach across the corridor and pull himself into the Bubble, his name for the Engineering station. His station. He pulled the sweater he kept tucked away out of a storage bin and put it on. He thought of Nelly, who’d said nothing to him.
“Assessing our situation,” she said. She might be just a chip 1cm on each side, but she considered herself, if not human, a person at least. And one concerned about her survival.
Only some of the displays within the spherical Engineering station were operating correctly. Eddie shot a quick glance at the data relays, and sure enough, most of them had been ripped apart when the command module turned away. What he could see told him the reactor had gone offline, the solar generators had failed, but the fuel cell was providing emergency power.
“No data from the main engines,” Nelly reported. “Thrusters are operational and control has switched back to Emergency Command.” Eddie stuck his head out of the Bubble and looked back down the corridor to where it curved away out of sight. He felt himself shivering, and he made up his mind.
“Can we get in?” he asked as he shoved himself out of the Bubble, and started climbing against the pull of the spin toward the main part of the Vasco da Gama. He was worried about getting past the airlock to the Habitat.
“I should be able to override it,” she told him. “Otherwise you might have to charm it open.” Nelly liked to say that computers don’t have a sense of humor, so she couldn’t be one.
The atmosphere in the corridor was being restored. So was Eddie’s sense of hearing, but something was off. There was a dull pain in his ears. He touched his right ear, and found blood on his fingers.
“Blew my ear drums,” he said. That would explain the buzzing that blanketed other sounds, including an ominous metallic creaking coming from everywhere around him. The da Gama had been built with state of the art materials technology to withstand enormous pressure, stresses and heat. Events, the catch-all term for the unforeseen or unavoidable, could easily be powerful enough to overcome mankind’s best efforts. As he reached the airlock, Eddie’s mind was running through possible causes for the da Gama’s distress. Collision with a small meteorite or space debris seemed most likely.
“I have video from cameras on Habitat.”
“Let me see them,” Eddie told her. He closed his eyes. He would see the video with his eyes open, but felt more comfortable with out the distraction of his own vision. In his mind, he could see the video just as if he was watching it on a large monitor. There were four clips, each no more than ten seconds long. All of them showed a bright flash of light, but no direct collision, and moments later, the cameras failed. Disconnected cables, Eddie thought sourly. The cameras also transmitted a lower quality signal wirelessly. It was possible recordings of the cameras farther aft would reveal what happened.
“No connection to the PCPU,” she explained. She meant the Primary Camera Processing Unit, a suitcase-sized electronic box tucked into a wall behind the Science station within Habitat. The volume of data put out by the PCPU required cable, to prevent overloading the wireless signals in the ship. There were something like two hundred cameras built into the da Gama. The PCPU could, using their input, construct a fantastically detailed, real-time three dimensional image of the ship, which could be projected into any monitor for inspection.
Eddie turned his attention to the airlock. He could see into the airlock through a small window, but the window on the opposite side was covered. The access panel next to him was dark, without power.
“Can you open it?”
“I have to override the lock-down. The system is password locked. Do you know the password?”
Eddie chuckled. “If I knew it, you’d know it, right?”
“Yes, of course. Attempting to hammer it.” She was offering the airlock controls every possible combination of letters, numbers and symbols. Eddie knew that a truly random password might takes days to discover. He also knew that he was the only one on the crew who would use any sort of complicated passwords. Which is why he wasn’t surprised that Nelly found the right one in just a couple of minutes.
“Guaro,” she told him.
“That’s it? Is it supposed to mean something?” Eddie asked.
“Alcoholic beverage popular in Central and South America.”
“Of course, Morales.”
There was a pop and a hiss, as the outer airlock door slid open. Eddie pulled himself in. The window on the inner door was covered by something dark and strangely patterned. It gave off a reddish glow. Eddie cycled the system and the outer door slid shut again. A moment later, the inner door slid open.
Morales was there to greet him. Carmen Morales, PhD in planetary sciences and astronomy. Commander of the da Gama. Costa Rican hero. Floating in front of him, in a cloud of blood and without much of her head. Eddie screamed.
Copyright 2013 by Michael W. Bay. All rights reserved.