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Last Day Aboard Ship - chapter 7
By
rolandlytle

Last Day Aboard Ship - chapter 7

It’s the willingness to sacrifice yourself for others that is heroic, not the action itself.

Romero looked at me and said, “This is my bitch to slap. Get to your lifepod. I’ll buy the time you all need.” I waited a moment. “Ensign, get your ass out of here and kiss my girl for me when you get planet-side.”

I asked him, “Which planet?”

“Any, sir! I have a girlfriend on every one!”

Just like a jarhead to have a woman on every planet and station. He was a brave man. We both knew if he remained, he wouldn’t be leaving this old bucket. I just hope he gets the opportunity to be a hero and save us all by giving that bandit a bloody nose.

No that’s wrong. He’s already a hero. Just placing his life on the line makes him a hero. It’s the willingness to sacrifice yourself for others that is heroic, not the action itself.

Most of the time, if you abandon ship in the deep black, you’re probably already dead. I hoped we were the exception to the rule.

I was going to engineering to get Carmen. The ship shuttered and rocked wildly. One-hundred-five seconds remained; this was going to be tight.

I cycled through the airlock. In the passageway, I removed my helmet and gloves dropping them outside the airlock. Ninety seconds remained.

I felt the engines stop. Every unexpected shake and vibration was the BharatBenz being attacked by the mysterious vessel. I moved through the passageways hurriedly. In less than fifteen seconds, I had reached engineering.

As I opened the hatch into Carmen’s domain, I heard unremitted screaming. It was unlike anything I had heard before. The sound was horrific. There was major damage from an explosion. Engineering was devastated. The emergency bulkhead separating engineering into two sections have fallen into place.

ABS Chavez had tried to dive under the emergency bulkhead when it had dropped into place. He didn’t make it.

The upper third of his body was on this side. The descending bulkhead had severed his body across his abdomen. Blood was everywhere. The red fluid of life and darker viscera flowed freely from where his lower body formerly was attached. His arms flailed around and he was screaming as though all the pain and anguish experienced by humanity was escaping through his tortured cries.

Earlier Chavez had taunted me about my frakup with Carmen and I had flipped him off. Chavez was still alive, but I had to categorize him as dead in my consideration of actions. There was nothing that could be done and no time to tend his hellish suffering.

The other side of this compartment was in total disarray. The overhead had partially collapsed. Loflin stood alongside Carmen, who was situated next to a control panel at a peculiar angle. Blood was pouring from her around an eight millimeter wiring conduit that was protruding from her right breast. Evaluating the scene took about ten seconds, but seemed much longer. The vision will stay with me forever.

We had to hurry; there was only about a minute before the ejection sequence stared on the lifepods. I knew what needed to be done.

I dashed for Carmen’s office while I called out to Loflin, “Grab the emergency kits from the storage locker and carry as much as you can in one trip to the lifepod. We will meet you there.”

I didn’t look to verify the engineer’s compliance. He had good training and was an experienced spacer. He knew to follow orders. I ducked into that cramped office where Carmen had ripped on me earlier. The cage to the tools was locked and I didn’t have any idea where the keys were secured. Picking up a heavy spare-components storage box, it took two hard smashes to break the lock open.

I grabbed what I needed and ran to Carmen. She was conscious, but in terrible pain. Chavez lay unmoving upon the deck and had stopped screaming; thank the stars.

“Hold on Carmen, this will only take a second.” I said as I energized the laser torch.

I saw Rolo running towards me as I slapped the heat sink around the conduit as close to her back, where it entered, as possible.

As the laser sliced through the pipe like it was Choco Creamwhiz, I yelled, “Where the frak have you been!”

Rolo held up a full med-kit from the aft damage control locker and looked seriously into my eyes as he said, “She’s going to need this.”

Carmen grabbed hold of me as she came loose, with a thirty-centimeter section sticking from her chest and a third of that length from her back. I cradled her in my arms when Rosie spoke from the intercom.

“Ensign Richards, you must complete bringing the micro-pile reactors online in accordance with emergency procedures set by Captain Leopard. This has top priority. I can not finish the startup due to damage in the control circuitry, but it can still be operated manually.”

I said, “Rosie, Ensign Richards in incapacitated. How much time remains before lifepod ejection?”

Rosie responded, “Ensign Thornton, you are qualified for the procedure. You are now assigned that responsibility. There is twenty-five seconds until launch, but I will delay your lifepod for thirty additional seconds, but no more. Completion is critical to mission success.”

All I could say was, “Aye Rosie, I’ll take care of it.”

The computer doesn’t use terms like ‘top priority’ or ‘critical to mission success’ unless it was. I had to power up the reactors.

I handed Carmen to Rolo and said, “Take care of her and don’t wait for me. It will take at least forty-five seconds to get the reactors up; there is absolutely no way I can make it to the lifepod in time. Now go.”

Rolo didn’t take her, but stepped backwards, dropped the med-kit and said in a resolute voice, “Ricky, I’ll take care of the reactors. My life is in turd soup. Take care shipmate.”

Rolo sprinted out of engineering before I could stop him. That makes two heroes today and I’m still running.

I carried Carmen into the passageway towards the lifepod for this section. A massive explosion rocked the ship and the artificial gravity shut-off as we bounced off the deck. I pushed off like a swimmer through water.

I came to the corridor leading to the lifepod. The hatchway was open and Loflin was coming out. I heard noise behind me, turned my head and saw ABS Lesley Hornby helping Ensign Cal Erickson towards us.

Lesley, or Sticks as we called her, was the administrative assistant for the BharatBenz. Her bobbed blond hair, lovely steel grey eyes and flawless triangular face gave her the beauty of a model. She was average height and ultra slim. She may have lacked big curves, but not femininity.

Although Sticks looked like a young model, in reality, she was a no-nonsense, intelligent, thirty year old British lass. She was the ship’s backup medic and an avid animal rights activist. She was a seamstress and actually sewed her own clothes.

She was a bit too inflexible and standoffish for me, but I had been considering spending some time with her before Carmen and I got together.

Erickson was a decent officer and hard worker. Cal had short dirty blond hair parted on the right, strong facial features, and a sharp looking full garibaldi beard and mustache.

He was in charge of life-support and recycling. He was also a photographer and had a degree in herpetology, of all things. There was talk that he kept a colony of frogs in a water storage tank.

The Ensign looked seriously injured. He had a huge knot and a cut on his left forehead. His left orbital socket appeared broken. He was dazed but ambulatory.

Loflin took Carmen from me and carried her to the lifepod. I moved to help Lesley with Cal. There was another huge explosion that rocked the ship and threw us all against the bulkhead, overhead, and then the deck.

I hurt my left shoulder and had very little feeling or control of that arm. Cal landed across my legs. I picked him up. He was unconscious, but breathing. I looked down the passageway and saw Sticks four meters away. Her neck was bent at a strange angle and she lay motionless as blood ran out of her ears, nose and mouth, pooling on the deck around her head.

Another hero. She could have hurried to the lifepod. She would have been strapped in already and safe, well as safe as any of us were. Instead, Sticks slowed herself down, jeopardizing her life, to help Cal.

I started to go to her, when Loflin yelled out, “Hurry! Ten seconds!”

Rushing faster than I thought possible, I carried Cal one-armed, with no gravity, in an EVA suit, as the ship moved in its death throes. I egressed through the lifepod’s small airlock. I heard the airlock slam closed behind me, and then the lifepod ejected from the ship with great force flinging me backwards against the closed airlock.

The lifepod rocketed out from its mooring at high speed. The computer had held this lifepod longer than any of the others. I didn’t know if that was good or bad. Then I learned how bad it was. I wouldn’t learn about the good for quite some time.

Have Ensign Erickson, Ensign Richards, Ensign Thornton, Spacer Loflin escaped? Have the other lifepods gotten away? Will this enemy vessel hunt them down or was Romero successful in damaging their alien ship? And what is our ensign going to learn that is so bad? These and more guest appearances in the final episode of ‘Last Day Aboard Ship’. See you soon my friends!

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