Issues In A Vacuum

Right! I’m getting straight to my point this week and that is, this is not the story I was intending to write. Not at all. This wasn’t even a planned story. I sat down with a completely different idea in mind, but when I started writing this is the story that came out. Not complaining, but I will say I found it quite odd. Never happened before. Not sure what I think about the fact that it did. Anyway, that is enough from me. To the story!

Out in the depths of space a starship suddenly drops out of its transit FTL tunnel. Shrapnel plumes in the aftermath of the craft that has violently and unintentionally remerged into normal space. Smoke billows but is quickly whisked away as the starship sits listing at such an angle that even in this vacuum suggests that the damage is a great deal more than superficial.

Inside the transport vessel Damascus sparks fly and small fires burn. Suppression gases directed from small pipes and nozzles that are embedded into the walls, ceiling and decking quickly work to dispel the fires. If they don’t then the fires could easily have a chance to take hold and rage, unchecked, throughout the interior of the small, thirteen three long, vessel that is comprised of nothing more than a cramped cockpit, storage bay and passenger section.

The engines of the Damascus are attached toward the rear section of its blue and silver cylindrical body by support stalks, three for each engine, of which there are two engines total. One engine on the left and the other on right side of the fuselage. In many ways the Damascus resembles a plane, except without wings of any kind. Because of this it looks like it would back heavy and unwieldy to pilot.

“What the fuck just happened?” Sonya, a woman with long straight blonde hair and green eyes, cries out loud to no one in particular as she attempts to scramble back to her feet but quickly decides that such attempts are too much for her at this time.

The throbbing pains in her hands, wrists and one shoulder are her focus for the moment, and it doesn’t take her long to conclude that her palms bore the brunt of the impact. Though, the pain in them is dull. It’s a good sign. If only she could say the same for the short and very sharp bolts shooting up her wrists. She doesn’t think they’re broken but knows the only way of checking is attempting movement. She does and it’s painful but not to the point that she feels compelled never to attempt moving them again. That’s positive, she tells herself, but can’t imagine why her left shoulder is throbbing. It too is a dull ache.

She casts her gaze around her immediate vicinity. What she hopes to find she hasn’t a clue. Nothing probably, but she does it nonetheless. Her eyes however aren’t over compliant and though they move wherever she wishes, they do not focus at their normal rate. Because of this Sonya is forced to wait and as she does she becomes aware of the ringing in her ears. There’s no pain so it seems unlikely she’s burst one or both eardrums, but she would be amiss if she did not admit that the dulled ringing is a distraction most unwelcome.

When Sonya’s eyes finally focus on the point she has chosen for no other reason than whatever it is is closer to her than anything else, she finds that she is millimetres from a row of seats. In that moment her mind whirs to the conclusion that during her attempt to slither out of her seat for better security she must have been thrown forward into another row of seats. It makes sense and explains perfectly her aching shoulder and yet she doesn’t remember it at all.

Before Sonya has the chance to panic over that she feels a presence close to her, very close, then a hand on her one good shoulder. Distant sounds that she thinks are a voice are barely audible to her. Regardless whatever they may or may not be, she follows the hand on her shoulder, up the attached arm until she reaches the face of a man. His eyes are brown and kind but his face is partially smeared with blood which is pouring from a wound on his forehead. She sees his lips move but still cannot hear a thing, so she focuses in on his mouth hoping that she’ll be able to read his lips.

“Are you OK, miss? Is anything broken?” Sonya works out on what she thinks are the man’s third attempt at getting a response from her.

Sonya nods slowly and carefully. She doesn’t think she has at any point hit her head, seeing as there is no pain coming from it. Yet, she feels compelled not to take the risk encase she’s wrong.

“Can you get up?” The man with the kind brown eyes asks.

This time Sonya semi hears him. His voice, softer than she would have considered for a man with his rugged looks, is still too quiet for her liking. Its progress, she thinks in the moments before she has to consciously consider what her response will be. That isn’t normal she knows but for now she’ll have to cope with it.

“I-I think so. I’m not sure.” Sonya shouts her reply unable to hear her own voice in any way.

The man with the rich tan and several days worth of stubble forces a smile as he offers his hands for the woman, who he literally watched fly from five rows back past him, slam into the row ahead of him and then not move again until maybe a couple minutes ago.

“Steady.” The man named Richard says as Sonya attempts to slowly stand back on her own two feet.

Her attempts, heavily reliant on Richard, take more than a good minute to turn from hopes to reality. But once achieved; the man, her helper, smiles warmly. It is clear he is trying to reassure her.

“Hey, we need a hand over here!” A voice, a male one, calls from somewhere toward the back of the Damascus.

Richard’s head turns swiftly, yet not swift enough to cause him any sudden dizziness. He knows he’s hit his head and that it could be bad. He doesn’t feel bad but feelings can be deceiving. He could, in theory, drop at any time. Still, he feels obliged to help as much as he can. Before he rushes off he first has to make sure the woman he has just helped back to her feet is going to be alright.

“Is your balance alright? Do you need anything?” He asks with a hurried yet polite voice.

“No. I’m fine.” Sonya says more confidently than she would believe if she could properly hear.

“OK. I need to leave you now. But I’m only going to be just over there. You need anything you call for Richard, that’s me. You shout my name I’ll be straight back here, got it?” Richard explains with as a calm tone as he can muster. To him it doesn’t sound that calm but this woman doesn’t know him so maybe his false confidence will go unnoticed and be taken as real.

“Yeah. Yeah I got it.” Sonya manages with a ragged nod of her head and a forced half smile.

Richard returns her half smile with one of his own, hesitates for a couple seconds aware that the woman before him is swaying, and then with her swaying having come to an end scrambles over some of the detritus that is now littered about the once pristine interior of the transport vessel.

This is not how this day is supposed to be going, Richard thinks as he stumbles off the other side of the pile of debris. How it came to be piled in the middle of the passenger section like it is he hasn’t a clue.

As Richard returns to having his feet back on flat ‘ground’ he begins to move forward again toward the man who had called for help when one of the suppression gas lines breaks, spraying its contents right in Richard’s face. He exclaims in surprise and turns away. As he does so he maintains his momentum, which in turn sees him trip over something, he doesn’t know what and with his eyes closed he can’t see it either.

Richard goes over and slams face first into the bulkhead. He bounces off it, blood splattering the bulkhead where the impact was made and then topples sideways only to end up impaled through the heart by a piece of broken ragged pipe.

Sonya sees it all and screams as the thick red blood continues to spill all over the area surrounding the now motionless Richard. She wants to move, to run to the man’s aid, the man who helped her and yet she can’t. Her legs refuse to work and so she remains rooted to the spot staring in horror at the sight before her.

“Oh God!” A woman calls as she and another guy rush past Sonya and quickly descend on Richard in hopes of saving him. It’s too late, he’s dead. It doesn’t take either of the pair long to conclude that and then quickly move on. The man pulling the woman away as the guy near the back calls her help again. Though, Sonya swears as the woman departs she sees Richard’s jacket flop back against his side.

“Everyone, this is your captain. I feel compelled to inform you that we have suffered a catastrophic failure and are now drifting without engines toward a deserted planet.”

“What the fuck does that mean?” Someone cries sounding as terrified as they all feel.

“No, no, no. I don’t want to die. I can’t die. I’m too young. This can’t be real. Please don’t let this be real.” Another passenger cries hysterically as they rock back and forth on the spot.

“Huh…uh…To make…w-worse…I must inform that…anyone with medical training…would be welcome in the cockpit.” The captain of the Damascus sounds different now. His breathing is laboured, pained even and slow. It’s as if he is out of breath from having just finished a long and overly hard run up steep inclines.

Everyone pauses and exchange looks with one another, except for Sonya. She just stands there eyes fixed on a point on the floor barely past the toes of her now heavily scuffed brown leather shoes.

“That can’t be good.” A female voice says verbalising what most are thinking.

“What are we going to do?” A male passenger utters panicked.

“I still need a hand back here!” The same guy from before calls for what is now the third time. At least it is the third from what little Sonya knows about his pleas.

“I’ll help the captain.” Sonya hears herself volunteer after what feels like hours of silence.

No one responds because no one is listening. Not that Sonya expected them too. Or maybe she did. She doesn’t know. Regardless of whatever she thought, she takes a step. In truth it’s more a shuffle and sees her foot move perhaps six or seven centimetres forward from where it had been before. She doesn’t feel able to physically pick up her foot and take a proper step. Especially after what she witness happen to Richard.

Following the step she pauses. Not because she is having doubts, as there are no thoughts going through her head at all, but because that is just what she does. Seconds tick by until finally Sonya takes another shuffle step. This one is completed quicker than the first and is soon followed by a third and then a fourth.

Slowly Sonya closes on the hatch beyond which lies the cockpit. Between her and it are piles of rubble and several motionless forms. She acknowledges neither. Her eyes still staring blank and largely motionless in their sockets until sometime later she realises she is at the hatch. It’s mere millimetres away from her and she raises her hand and puts it, open palmed, against the surface of the door. She doesn’t know what else to call it other than a door, but finds it strangely comforting that the metal surface is cool to her touch. Shortly after, she begins to slide her hand across its smooth surface as if she is examining it.

Finally, she stops her touching of the surface, balls up her fist and then wraps on the smooth metal twice. There is no answer, so she knocks again. Still she gets no reply. At this point Sonya gulps, her mind beginning to whir with possibilities. None of which are things she wants to consider right now as the Damascus continues to drift toward the unnamed planet below them. The same planet that is beginning to exert its gravitational pull on the disabled and damaged starship they are aboard.

Sonya feels a shiver make the muscles of her back twitch in the seconds before she is compelled to hammer her fist, quickly, against the metal door a number of times. As she does she hears herself say, “Captain…can you open the door so I can help you? Captain…open the door, I’m here to help. Captain!” Each statement is more frantic and at a higher volume than the last that passes her lips.

Still, there is no reply and Sonya feels her shoulders sink. Then her head moves forward, falls really, until her forehead is pressed against the remarkably still cool surface.

“Isn’t he answering?” Someone asks, another woman Sonya can tell by the pitch of the voice, who is stood a half metre behind Sonya, who shakes her head from side-to-side in answer to the question.

“Do you want me to try dear?” The woman, Sonya notes now as she actually listens to the voice, sounds bossy as the freshly issued question is uttered.

Sonya shrugs in reply like a defeated teenager, and makes no attempt to move as she stands with her head still against the door to the cockpit. Her arms hanging down limply in the empty space between the door and her slightly angled body.

“A-are you…Why have you got your head against the door dear?” The woman asks fumbling her words sounding concerned. The bossy tone previously present significantly curbed.

“It’s nice and cool. I like it.” Sonya replies as the sensation grows stronger.

“It-It’s cool. Still?” The woman replies confused.

“Yeah.” Sonya murmurs without really concentrating on the woman present with her.

“You need to step away from the door dear.” The bossy sounding woman demands, sounding bossy again, in the short seconds before Sonya feels a hand come to rest upon her shoulder.

“I don’t want to.” Sonya fires back in protest.

However, the woman ignores Sonya’s protest, grips a hold of her shoulder and then pulls her away. As she does Sonya screams but not because of the grip the woman has on her. No, instead she is screaming because of a searing pain in her head.

“Oh!” Sonya hears the woman exclaim now that she is left staring at a section of exposed bone that is now visible on Sonya’s forehead.

“Cockpit breached!” The woman roars at the top of her lungs soon after but to who is unclear.

Sonya realises in that moment that this woman isn’t a passenger, like her, but a member of the crew. That explains her bossy tone of voice, yet all Sonya can think about is the pain in her head, along with a new sensation. It takes her a moment to decipher what that sensation is but when she does it is clear that it is a trickling one.

Curiosity gets the better of her and Sonya raises her hand, slowly, past her face and up to her forehead where she thinks the trickling is originating from.

“You don’t want to do that dear.” The flight attendant, who is dressed in a now grubby and dirt speckled white and blue uniform, says as she attempts to stop Sonya from touching her ruined forehead.

Unfortunately, she fails because Sonya wrenches her hand away, makes the touch, lowers her arm, and unfurls her hand only to find that her fingers are caked in thick red blood. At the sight of blood, her blood, panic hits Sonya. Her green eyes go wide and then she looks at and through the flight attendant with the dark red hair and very blue eyes.

Sonya’s hand starts to shake. At first it is barely noticeable. However, it doesn’t remain that way and before long her hand, smeared with her own blood, begins to tremble uncontrollably.

The flight attendant grabs a hold of Sonya, via an arm around the blonde’s shoulder, and hauls her away. As she does so several other members of what Sonya guesses are the passengers rush past her. She doesn’t understand why and cannot, at this time, think about it as the only thing on her mind is the blood, and how it has come from her head. She wonders how it happened and when it started, while the flight attendant sits Sonya down and then drops into a squat before her so they are face-to-face.

“Try and calm down dear.” The flight attendants tone is reassuring, but Sonya has to admit it isn’t helping at all for some reason.

“I’m going to patch you up. Nod if you understand dear.” The woman with the dark red hair then declares.

Sonya nods, barely perceptibly, though the flight attendant catches it.

“Good. Good. This may sting but you need to stay still.” The woman in Sonya’s face says as she unfurls bandages from a medical pack that has appeared in her lap from seemingly, to Sonya, out of nowhere.

“I’m Jill. What’s your name dear?” The flight attendant says introducing herself.

Jill hopes her words will serve as a distraction for the injured woman who has a section of her forehead missing as a result of it being ripped clean off by the freezing cold metal hatch to the cockpit. Jill knows the only reason the hatch would be that cold is because the cockpit beyond has been breached, meaning that the artificial atmosphere has been sucked out and lost to the void of space.

“S-Sonya. I’m Sonya.” Sonya hears herself say without thinking as Jill’s arms come into and disappear back out of her line of sight every so many seconds. Sonya can’t say how many and in a manner as though she is unable to count. Yet, she remembers the numbers. It just seems to be the timing she can’t quite decipher.

“Well Sonya, we’re going to get you patched up.” Jill promises without the previously bossy tone she had possessed during most of their previous exchanges being present.

Jill flashes a fabulous smile. It’s the kind that Sonya has only ever seen on models in pictures. She finds it comforting and even feels a flicker of a smile attempt to cross her lips.

“That a girl. Keep your chin up.” Jill adds before falling silent to finish off wrapping Sonya’s head as best she can.

Once Jill is satisfied that the bandage will stay in place she fires off another winning smile and says, “All done. But you need to take it slow, you hear?”

Sonya nods slowly. Her head feels funny and not because of the bandages that are wrapped around and pressing against her head and hair in a way that she finds most irritating. No, instead she feels like a part of her is missing and that is in addition to the slight sensation of dizziness currently afflicting her.

It makes Sonya wonder if she should tell Jill. It takes her only seconds to decide better of it. The flight attendant has done enough for her and will surely be needed elsewhere with everything that has happened. Yet, she hasn’t scurried off like Sonya would have imagined would be necessary. Because of that Sonya feels compelled to ask, “What are we going to do?”

Jill’s face drops. Only for a second though, and afterwards she radiates with a warm smile that makes her face glow. But, Sonya caught the split second drop in the other woman’s face. It was impossible not too with them being face-to-face like they are currently. She doesn’t mention it however. Instead, she waits for a reply. It’ll be either a comforting lie or the cold hard truth. Sonya can’t say which one she would be more comfortable with right now. Maybe neither, but it’s hard to say for sure.

“I don’t know dear.” Jill admits after nearly a full minute of silence.

During that pause in communication Jill considered and went back and forth on lying to Sonya until ultimately she came to the realisation that she simply couldn’t bring herself to lie to the blonde.

It strikes Jill as odd seeing as she lies all the time to placate passengers on transport ship runs. Yet, something about this woman’s soft features dissuade her from doing so. Jill just hopes that her honestly will not send Sonya into a meltdown. If it does and she becomes hysterical Jill isn’t sure what exactly she will or can do.

“Jill, we’ve sealed the cockpit off from the rest of the ship.” A man with a long blond beard advises as he stands a third of a metre from her right shoulder.

Jill’s head drops ever so slightly before she pulls it back up and then turns to look up at the man, Piotr. He is the other member of the flight crew. A co-pilot who should have been sat alongside the captain and would have been had he not taken a bathroom break to relieve himself.

Suddenly all Jill can think about is poor Captain Brandon and the terrible way in which he must have died. It is almost too much to bear and yet somehow she manages to keep herself together still and query, “Is the cockpit…?” Jill begins but quickly trails off so as not to begin crying.

“Yeah…it is.” Piotr replies with a deep sigh. He doesn’t need Jill to finish her question. He knows exactly what Jill was going to ask and why she can’t bring herself to. He wouldn’t be able to either and can’t. It’s why he too gave such a curt response.

“I need to talk to you…” Piotr starts to say until all of a sudden one of the passengers cries, “Is someone going to tell us how we’re going to get out of here?”

Piotr, having been interrupted, stops dead in his tracks before turning to see a number of the surviving passengers advancing toward him and Jill. Their expressions are angry and fearful.

From what Piotr has seen eight passengers are dead. He isn’t sure how many were onboard to begin with other than to say they were certainly not carrying a full compliment. In many ways he’s relieved about that.

“You, you’re part of the crew. Tell us what is going on? Why we had to seal the cockpit off?” A burly man at the head of the passenger group demands as he stabs a fat index finger at Piotr’s shoulder.

“Sir, calm down. This isn’t the time…” Piotr begins trying to placate the man before him only to be cut off for a second time.

However, this time the interruption is on purpose and is accompanied with hard stabs of his finger as he spits, “No. You listen here. We are passengers. We paid for this transit. So you, as crew, answer to us. And I’ve asked questions. So now it is up to you to start answering them.”

Piotr gets the feeling there is a silent or else implied there that the man, for whatever reason, didn’t feel like actually uttering.

Even though Piotr doesn’t like this man’s tone or demeanour, he can’t argue that he is right in some ways. However, there are much better and more civilised ways to go about doing it than this.

“And what will you do if the answers you’re given aren’t to your liking?” Jill barks back having suddenly risen back to her full height and then put between Piotr and this angry mob of passengers lead by a decidedly problematic passenger. A man who since boarding has been making lewd inappropriate comments to the guy who had been sat alongside him and then issuing orders when confronted about them as if his remarks had been imagined by Jill.

“Not the time girlie! You might have been a pretty piece of ass to look at before but this is real shit we’re in now.” The burly man’s tone as condescending as is humanly possible as the words pass his fat lips.

“You bastard!” Jill screams as she delivers a swift slap across the burly man’s face that sees his head snaps right. The loud thwack ringing out in the still artificial air of the Damascus’ passenger section.

Jill’s face is twisted and angry, while the passenger she has just slapped slowly turns his head back toward her, shifts his jaw side-to-side seemingly to assess the likelihood of any permanent damage and then smiles before uttering, “I take it we’re fucked then. Cause there is no way you’d have done that otherwise girlie.”

“Sir, this isn’t…” Piotr cuts in hoping to stop any further physical altercations and perhaps deescalate the whole situation, even if only a little to begin with.

“Fuck off Johnny!” The man spits shoving Piotr away as he steps forward attempting to put himself between the burly passenger and Jill.

The passengers’ use of Johnny being an ancient reference related to someone being foreign. A term that had been long forgotten for centuries but that has witnessed something of a revival amongst certain groups in society who have intolerances toward anyone who is not like them in some way or another.

With Piotr having been shoved back, the burly passenger takes the opportunity to grab a hold of Jill’s wrist and attempt to pull her toward his body.

Jill screams with a mixture of pain, from her wrist as this brute of a man crushes it, and fearful surprise.

The passenger ignores her outburst and simply laughs, while none of the other passengers attempt to say a thing.

“Get your hands off her!” Piotr roars outraged with how this passenger is acting as he throws himself at the burly man.

The burly passengers’ response is to cackle as Piotr approaches and then bat him away once he is within range and all while continuing to squeeze Jill’s wrist, painfully.

The flight attendant doesn’t stand their helpless however as she flails her one free arm attempting to break free but can’t. And while she thrashes desperately Piotr stumbles backward.

He screams, it’s a short, sharp scream, but clearly one born out of some just suffered injury now that he is on the floor of the Damascus’ passenger section.

“Not so tough now are we?” The man chuckles and then continues, “I suggest you stay there, where you belong, while I ask my questions. Do you understand or is your Johnny brain too small?” The burly man sounds pleased with himself for having played a large part in whatever Piotr’s injury is when suddenly Sonya rises to her feet and puts herself between the passenger, who is stood side on to her with Jill on the side furthest from her, and Piotr.

The man smiles, snarls and then says having bowed his head so his mouth is close to Sonya’s face, “Move little one. You’ll fair no better.”

Sonya makes no attempt to reply nor does she make any attempt to move as the burly passenger has insisted she should. So the man raises his free hand in preparation to forcibly move her through the delivering of a backhanded slap. He’s sure it’ll be enough.

However, as his hand begins to swing ever closer toward Sonya she grabs a hold of it, crushes it and then wrenches it back, sharply. In response the hurly man howls in pain, releases his grip on Jill’s wrist and crumples to his knees. All of it occurring in less than three seconds.

Jill though, doesn’t move at all. She stays rooted to the spot and watches with wide eyes as Sonya then grabs the guys’ hair, pulls his head back and examines him as he whimpers and whispers pleas of mercy. His pleas go unanswered, but quickly come to an end when Sonya brings her bent left elbow down onto the man’s left temple. The strike, which is as vicious as it looks, has the desired affect and renders the man immediately unconscious.

With the threat banished, Sonya looks away from the limp body of the burly man as he lies slumped between rows of seats only to cast her gaze over Jill and the other passengers behind and around her.

“Oh shit Piotr!” Jill exclaims shaking herself out of paralysing disbelief, which is the result of what she has just witnessed, and remembers the co-pilot whom she rushes over to check on.

The rest of the passengers make no attempt to move. They are too busy feeling terrified of Sonya who glares at them with surprisingly cold eyes.

“Sonya, I need your help.” Jill exclaims, her voice cutting like a knife and breaking Sonya’s stare in the moments before she hurries over to Piotr’s side to join Jill.

“I need you to put pressure here.” Jill orders with a shaky voice and hand as she points to where Sonya needs to apply pressure.

Without as much as a word Sonya complies and quickly applies pressure right where Jill demanded. Piotr winces in response and lets out a swiftly silenced whimper.

Right after another of the passengers volunteers, “I can help.”

However the response comes from Sonya, whose head comes whirring round and delivers them a look that quickly results in them raising their hands as if to assure that they mean no harm.

“Please.” Jill begs ignoring both Sonya’s silent judging stare and the volunteer’s terrified expression.

However, before the woman can reach Piotr to give aid the Damascus turns along its own x-axis, violently.

The result of this sudden turn is that everyone is thrown from whatever position they had held before toward whatever bulkhead is the nearest.

The force and pressure exerted on their bodies prevents them moving, in any way, from where they are now pinned, while a warning siren blares and then an automated voice informs, “Gravitational collision impending. Repeat: gravitational collision impending. Adjust trajectory immediately to avoid catastrophic impact event.”

Unfortunately, no one can do anything to counter the warning and that is because, even if they could somehow move and were not being held in place by the g-forces being exerted upon their bodies as the Damascus spins around and around, the cockpit is sealed off from the rest of the starship.

In theory they could, now that they are within an atmosphere, re-enter the cockpit and attempt to break out of the dive the starship is in. However, the reality is that in practice no such thing will be possible as the barrier field they erected to stop any breach opening between the compromised cockpit and the passenger section is single use, and can only be deactivated by a rescue crew cutting through the circuits on the exterior of the starship.

Both Jill and the impaled Piotr know this but neither of them, unsurprisingly, happen to be in a state currently to explain or inform the passengers of that. Instead, they are struggling just to stay conscious with the forces being exerted on their bodies, while flames lick at the damaged skin of the transport ship as they fall through the atmosphere of the unnamed planet that they had been drifting toward since their drop from FTL.

All of a sudden, there is an enormous boom as the compromised cockpit explodes and is torn free from the rest of the silver and blue fuselage. The force of the explosion forces the remainder of the vessel into a volley of incredibly aggressive vibrations that shake everyone aboard to such a pitch that they have to screw their eyes closed over fears that they might otherwise be shaken loose from their sockets.

Some of the crew even manage to mutter prayers to whatever Gods they may or may not have believed in before this very moment. Though, all of them are sure they are about to die.

Then there is a second boom. Like the first it came unexpectedly. Unlike the first however it isn’t an explosion, but a piece of debris from what had once been the cockpit that has finally lost its desperate battle to stay vaguely in place. Now that it is loose it strikes the fuselage several times, even managing to pierce once killing several of the passengers in the process, before denting the outer skin of the Damascus and then spearing through some panels barely five centimetres from the rear of the vessel, so that it now appears like some kind of tail fin. That fin in turn creates enough air resistance over the fuselage to wrench the remains of the starship out of its spin and stabilise the wreckage all while it continues to plummet toward the planet’s rocky barren surface below.

The effect of the sudden loss of the lateral g-forces upon the bodies of those still alive is immediate, but that doesn’t mean that any of them feel capable of moving after what they have suffered through.

When finally someone does try to move it is Sonya, but she finds she cannot stand. All she can do is crawl on her belly. The artificial gravity and the near vertical dive of the Damascus make it feel like her body weighs eight times more than it would normally. Yet, she feels compelled to keep crawling forward. The other passengers around her stay still as they scream and ball waiting to die. Like the passengers Jill is also screaming as tears roll down her face. Piotr is dead, he bled out. The g-forces literally forced the blood from his body via the wound he sustained to the side of his abdomen.

Sonya reaches the door to the storage bay but finds she can’t reach it. She snarls, frustrated, but refuses to give in as she tosses her head this way and that, at a much slower pace than would be normal for her, in search of something that she might be able to use to hit the panel. There is nothing. Defeat begins to gnaw at her as a result until as if by some miracle the Damascus does a quick, short flick along its x-axis again.

The result of this flick throws Sonya into the air just high enough that she is able to stab at the open option on the panel before she crashes, hard, back down to the floor of the passenger section. The severity of her impact is enough to wind her, but she doesn’t care because her desperate attempt has worked; she now has access to the storage bay.

Before she has the opportunity to crawl forward the remains of the Damascus are hit by an upward blast of air from below. The blast originated from a vent in the surface of the barren rock, and is how the planet ejects hot air that builds up beneath the planets rocky during its long hours of being battered by the systems star. If it didn’t then the planet would have long ago suffered a planetary self-annihilation which would have blasted it to smithereens and sent chunks of rock out across this system.

The blast of air ends eleven seconds later sending the Damascus, which had been in a nosedive toward disaster, plummeting downward underbelly first.

The passengers resume their screaming and crying following the short reprieve during which most of them got their hopes up for more than they ever should have.

However, this change in the starships descent affords Sonya the ability to do more than crawl on her front and sees her instead manage to half stand and then slip inside the storage bay with relative ease.

Jill meanwhile is frantic, Piotr is dead and Sonya, the young woman with the head injury who had saved her from that brute of a passenger, is gone.

Her head whips round frantically as she feels a shortness of breath. All sorts of thoughts are going through her head. None of which are remotely positive. She doesn’t want to listen to even one of them, but she isn’t given the choice as a few come out of the back of her mind to stab loudly in her ears, including: She’s dead! Piotr’s dead! Captain Brandon’s dead! You’ll soon be dead! You’re weak! You failed! This is on you!

Suddenly Jill is wrenched from the torment by the feeling of a hand on her own. The presence of the hand isn’t something she had been expecting but cannot doubt that it saves her from her own internal torment. Without it she likely may have gone mad and yet she has not considered who it is that she placed their hand upon her own, so she looks. To her surprise she discovers that it is Sonya who is the one grabbing, and it is grabbing now and not just touching, her hand. Still, Jill smiles at the sight of the young woman just before Sonya pulls her away from where she had been, hard.

Jill doesn’t understand why Sonya is doing this but cannot bring herself to speak and ask what the blonde woman is doing. Rather, she shakes her head. The gesture has no affect as Sonya pulls again only for Jill to, once again, not respond. So seeing as thus far Sonya has been met with failure she instead decides to pull herself to Jill and whisper in her ear, “You need to come with me, now!”

Jill wants to scream why but she can’t, so simply waits for Sonya to pull back. It seems like an age before she does and when it happens Jill decides that she isn’t ready for it. Though, Sonya wastes no time in dragging Jill in the direction they need to go. After all, they can’t delay. As there isn’t time to waste.

Passengers watch all this, confused. In part because they weren’t aware they were able to stand once more. Now that they are they begin to scramble fearfully and slowly back to their feet. Sonya ignores all of them and when Jill attempts to pull away to aid those around her Sonya stops her.

“They need help. We must help them.” Jill cries in protest.

Sonya shakes her head slowly from side to side as she continues to pull Jill toward the storage bay. Finally Jill realises that that is where they are heading and asks, “Why are we going to storage?”

Sonya says nothing because she doesn’t want the other passengers to know. If they do it will only result in more senseless violence, as well as the possibility of a highly unfavourable outcome.

Jill suddenly feels afraid. She doesn’t like the fact that Sonya won’t answer her and keeps dragging her toward the storage section. Because of that the flight attendant tries to resist and break the grip Sonya has on her, but finds she can’t as the young blonde has a surprisingly strong grip for her size. Out of nowhere Jill recalls that she shouldn’t find it as shocking as she does seeing as she witnessed the ease with which Sonya took down the burly passenger who had hold of her.

That bastard killed Piotr, Jill thinks out of nowhere and as she is hit with the feeling of bile welling up from deep inside her, which builds to such a pitch that she can taste it at the back of her throat. It’s sickening and she wishes she could have revenge but… Jill shakes herself loose from her thoughts knowing that she has to stay in the moment if she wishes to have any hope of breaking free from Sonya’s grip. The flight attendant never imagined she would be trying to escape the woman who had saved her, but she is.

However, Jill finds that she is already in the storage section. Because of that she can’t help but admit that they got here fast. It’s a complete and utter surprise, but undoubtedly that is where they are as the automated voice declares, “Catastrophic impact event imminent. Repeat: catastrophic impact event imminent. Time until point of no return is reached: Five, four, three…”

“Let me go!” Jill screams loudly as though part of some final desperate act.

Sonya ignores her demand while Jill continues to make her vain attempts to cry for help, twisting her body to scream over her shoulder as she does so.

The other passengers, now on their feet, begin to rush toward her. In that instant she asks why now they are willing to help when they weren’t before. Jill curses them for their prior cowardice, compliance or whatever it was that led to their in-action before, but which seems to be long gone now.

Though, it strikes her; why is she begging for help when they are all going to die anyway?

Sonya kicks the panel to cycle the storage bay door closed as Jill continues to make her futile attempts to escape. If Sonya could she would tell Jill, but she can’t. At least not yet she can’t. The time will be upon them very soon; Sonya thinks as she watches the view beyond the door grow ever narrower.

The other passengers are very close, which is why they try and grab a hold of the door, but it’s too late. The door slips through their fingers, more powerful than any might the passengers may possess singularly or combined. Right after the door locks. They will never manage to get in. At least not before the Damascus crashes into the planet’s surface. It’s inevitable. Sonya knows it. She knew it long ago. The passengers know it too, as does Jill. But not everyone has to die here.

“Why are you doing this?” Jill shrieks, her voice breaking and not for the first time, as she feels defeat envelope her.

“Because I want you to survive Jill.” Sonya replies now able to be honest without threat of interference from the other passengers.

“Wha…wait…I don’t understand.” Jill stutters in reply just as Sonya releases her hold on Jill, turns and then begins tossing crates filled with the passengers’ personal effects aside like they are nothing.

In reality, those crates weigh anywhere from fifty to ninety kilograms each. The sight of crates being unceremoniously flung by anyone, let alone this woman, flabbergasts Jill. She knows it shouldn’t be possible for Sonya to be doing what she is and yet Jill is witnessing it, but can’t find the words to say anymore than she already has. Not that she needs to as Sonya explains. “I am choosing to save you Jill. You are deserving of survival. The passengers are not.”

Sonya at no point slows or hesitates as she tosses the crates aside clearly in search of something. What, Jill can’t imagine. Not that she is left to wait long as seconds later Sonya stops, turns so that she is side on to Jill and then takes a single step back.

“Get in.” Sonya orders with a gesturing arm toward the sarcophagus shaped object before Jill.

“What is…this is a survival pod! Why is there a survival pod onboard?” Jill exclaims as the passengers continue to bang and scratch at the metal door as part of their attempts to claw and pry their way in using whatever they have to hand, including their own fingers and nails.

“It’s mine. But I am loaning it to you.” Sonya states before adding, “Hurry. Time is short. The Damascus will impact in roughly about forty seconds.”

“But those are passengers out there! Innocent people and you’re condemning them to death!” Jill screeches.

“None of them are innocent. All of them have sordid pasts, including but not limited to: blood on their hands and deaths to their names. You, on the other hand, are a decent person. You are the only one among them that deserves to live. Now get in.” Sonya explains and then demands pointedly.

“What about you? Do you not deserve to survive too? After all, you saved me once before and now you’re trying to save me again.”

Sonya, in response, cocks her head, concludes that there isn’t the time for this discussion and so grabs Jill, who exclaims defiantly that this isn’t right, and then shoves her into the survival pod before sealing it.

Jill hammers on the inside of the pod with her fists. Sonya ignores the sound as she runs a quick systems check on the pod and the woman now inside it.

Suddenly a grating sound can be heard coming from the interconnecting door between the storage section and the passenger section beyond. Jill looks toward it and feels unbridled fear fill her lungs as if she was about to vomit.

Sonya meanwhile, content that the survival pod is ready, crosses the small storage area and reaches the entrance just in time to meet and cut off the passengers who are wrenching the door open.

Immediately, several of them catch sight of Jill in a survival pod. They exclaim in shock, anger and fear. However, Sonya forces them all back with deft ease but does not attack. Instead, she turns her back to the passengers, grabs the edge of the door and then wrenches it back toward its closed position. As she does so the passengers descend upon her. Jill screams bloody murder, desperate to escape the pod that is set to save her life while the unmistakable sounds of a brutal fight can be heard on the other side of the just barely open door through which Jill can see nothing.

Seconds later there is a mighty crash, her and the pod she is in are thrown forward. Jill’s head bounces off the transparent bubble that forms the lid of the survival pod sending her world into darkness.

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