In response to some emails, YES they do get off the Star liner… Geez…
As usual, unedited, stream of consciousness…
Lherson brought up the power to 5%, and felt the shuttle react against the pitching. He gingerly moved the joystick, and felt the resistance of the shuttle reacting against the clamps holding it. He closed his eyes, and taking his hands off the controls, mimicked the movements his mind said he would have to do to get them out the hangar door and clear of the ship.
He started combat breathing, deep breaths and measured exhales, slowly placed his hands back on the controls, and said quietly, “Here we go.”
He slammed the guillotine switch, brought up the power, twisted the joystick as he twitched it to the right and spun the shuttle on its axis. Pushing the stick forward, he started rolling the shuttle left to try to match the tumble of the ship, and almost made it out the hangar door clean. He scraped the right side, almost trapping the shuttle as the tumble of the ship slowed the momentum and starting to bind the shuttle in the hangar door.
He frantically slammed the joystick all the way over, ran the power all the way up, and muttered, “Come on you bitch, get the fuck out!”
Suddenly the shuttle came clear, and blasted out into space, rolling wildly. He vaguely heard a scream, as he muttered, “Nose, wings, power. Nose up, wings level, minimum power, nose…” after a few secs, he had the shuttle more or less stable in space, drifting freely and clear of the debris from the ship.
He cranked up the plates to 1G relative, and signed as his butt settled into the chair. He turned, “Can you get the Nav up, Ma’am? I need to go hit the fresher, if you don’t mind.”
“No fine, err, yes, go I think I can get the Nav up.”
He staggered as he got up, then walked slowly out of the pilot station, holding his ribs. Gotta find a pain pill. Can’t believe I didn’t kill us, but I gotta go now!
He found the fresher just forward of the passenger compartment, and quickly used it, then stepped into the wash section, still in his undersuit, and stood there while he punched the refresh setting.
Solly found him there, almost a div later, collapsed on the floor and sound asleep. She shook her head, and went to check on the others. She eased the matriarch out of her soft suit, but she still did not regain consciousness. The younger dragoon had thrown up in his soft suit, so she left it on him for now, after freeing his head. He snapped at her, and she batted him saying. “No! Stop that.” She moved back two rows and knelt in front of the young girl, “Cedar, are you okay?”
“Want mommy and daddy. Scared, and my arm hurts.”
Solly got Cedar out of her soft suit, and said, “Okay, honey. Let’s see about that arm.” Taking her arm gently, she felt it and saw what was going to be a bad bruise, but thankfully nothing was broken. “Let me get you an analgesic. I think you just bumped your arm. You need to go to the ‘fresher?”
She nodded solemnly, and Solly led her to the aft fresher. After she’d finished, she got a couple of E-rats out of the bag, and handed one to Cedar, the carried the other up to the young Dragoon. Peeling it open, she dropped it in his lap, and moved over to check on the Matriarch. She was still breathing, but the bag attached to her pic line was empty.
Cussing, Solly went back to the bag, rummaged around and found four more bags. She carried them back and, after a minute, puzzled out how the bag attached. She disconnected the empty bag, replacing it, and giving it a squeeze to start the flow.
She walked back to the forward fresher, looked down at Lherson, then nudged him with her foot. “Wake up, Spacer.”
He jumped and scrambled halfway up, then collapsed back with a groan. “Oh, my fu… my ribs. What the hell?”
“You’ve been passed out in here for over a div. I figured out where we are. What’s the matter with your ribs?”
Gingerly getting up, he cupped his ribs, and replied softly, “I think I broke some ribs when the ship was attacked. I guess I just pushed through. Can you find a med kit? I really need something for the pain.”
She looked at him, “Oh, let me go find one. Just… I’ll be right back.”
He eased himself back down on the toilet, and sighed, Scatterbrained? Or just a youngster, fresh out of academy? Well, for better or worse, I’m stuck with her…
Solly handed him a packet, “This should help. I need you to get us on course as soon as you feel up to it.”
He got up with a groan, after choking the tabs down. “Now sounds like a good time.” He looked back into the passenger compartment as he turned toward the pilot’s station, asking quietly, “How are the others doing?”
She shrugged, “I don’t think the matriarch is going to make it. She lost a leg and didn’t handle the surgery the doc did very well. The med comp was keeping her stable, but all I can do now is give her the stuff through her pic line. And we’re down to four bags of that left. Her… Son? Grandson? Threw up on himself, so he’s still in the suit. The little girl, Cedar wants her mommy and daddy, but…” I tear ran down her face. “Her mom went back to their cabin to get a form…”
Lherson eased into the pilot’s chair. “Okay, where are we, and where do we need to go?”
Solly sighed, “We’re two jumps from GalPat space. We’re in a dead system. There was apparently one habitable planet here, but it was destroyed sometime in the past. Two jump points are the only reason to drop in here.”
“Well, that and the forward particle shield failing. That was why we dropped here. Can’t go into hyper without it.”
She glanced at him, “We’re a little over a light second from the jump point. We need to head one three five, up eighty-eight. We don’t have enough mass to get there, so I’d recommend full power until we’re at fifty-four percent of mass, then cut power and drift at what ever speed we get. I figure we’ve got thirty-four days of food, water, and unlimited air, as long as the scrubbers hold out.”
He threw up his hands, then groaned. “Shit. Really? So all we can hope is somebody comes through here in the next thirty-four days is the best you’ve got?”
“The jump points here are unmanned. If we get close enough, maybe we can hit a beacon that will be picked up and relayed. Our other choice is point this thing at the sun and ride it in. I would prefer not to do that.”
Strapping in, Lherson said, “One three five, up eighty-eight, max power. Aye, aye, ma’am.” He gradually fed the power in as he fiddled with the joystick until he had the shuttle on the required course. Mumbling to himself, he scanned the displays until he found the mass totalizer. Looking at the flow rates, he did a quick set of calculations and said, “Looks like twelve, maybe thirteen divs unless we start getting vibrations.”
Solly nodded, “Okay. Do you mind if I get some rest?”
“Go for it, ma’am.”
“Call me Bridget, please. What’s your name?”
Surprised, he turned and looked at her, “Uh, Dean Lherson, ma… Bridget.”
She stuck out her hand, “Pleased to meet you Dean, and thank you for saving our lives. I’ll come back in four divs and give you a break.”
She eased out of the pilot’s station, and disappeared aft. He thought, Well, that’s fucking strange. Never had any officer in the line ask my name, much less give me their first name and want to be called that. Settling back in the chair, he stared morosely at the panels as he tried multiple frequencies to see if there was anyone in the system. Do I really want to hit the beacon now? What if whoever shot at us is still here? Nah, I’ll wait until… Holly comes back and we can discuss it.
Twelve divs later, Lherson watched the mass totalizer run down to sixty-five percent and shut the power down. Solly still hadn’t come back to the cockpit, so he confirmed the heading was still good, put the sensors in autodetect, and got up, stretching slowly because of the ribs. He moved quietly back to the passenger compartment, noting Solly passed out and curled up in one of the seats, with Cedar sleeping in the next seat, a hand touching Solly’s hip.
He checked the matriarch, and she was still breathing, the IV still running a slow drip. The young dragoon appeared to be asleep as well, and he moved cautiously by it. He found the e-rats and pulled out four energy bars. None of them looked that appetizing, but he needed to eat, so he peeled one and started chewing away. Taking the other three, he started walking back forward as the young dragoon yowled. He dropped one in its lap, and smacked the dragoon on the nose when it snapped at him, “Not food,” pointing to the e-rat, he said, “food. Eat it.”
That woke Solly up, and her moving woke Cedar, who sobbed quietly. Lherson handed the energy bars to both of them, “L… Bridget, I shut power down early. I forgot we need to conserve mass for the APU. We’ve got a little over two hundred eleven thousand meters per second of speed now. I figure we’ll get within maybe a half light second before we run out of fuel and food.”
Solly groaned and scrubbed her face and head, “At least we’ll have a chance if somebody drops into this system.”
Nodding toward the dragoons, he asked, “What are we going to do with them?”
She smacked her head. “Dammit, I forgot.” Scrambling up, she went forward to a compartment behind the cockpit, and he heard, “Ha! They’re here!” She came back dangling something on a lanyard and he realized it was a GalTrans.
“What are you going to do with that?”
“Give it to the little Dragoon. He doesn’t have one yet. The matriarch told me they were on their way to Star Center for his implant.” She followed her words with actions, and walked back to where the Dragoon was still strapped in his seat. Punching a couple of buttons on the GalTrans, she looped it over the Dragoon’s head and let it settle against his chest. The lanyard automatically retracted until the device was nestled in the area of his throat, as he looked curiously at them, growling.
Solly waited a couple of minutes, then said, “Do you understand me?”
The GalTrans emitted a series of sounds and the young Dragoon looked down at himself, then yammered something. The GalTrans spit out, “What is this? How can I understand you? I thought…” He looked at the matriarch, and growled. “My Mother? She lives?”
Solly reached over and checked the IV and lifesigns, “She lives. She was badly hurt saving you. We are doing what we can.”
The dragoon gave his equivalent of a nod, “She lives. She must live!”
Lherson asked, “Do you know how to use the fresher? Can we trust you to do that?”
More growls and a whine, “Filth off! Clean, yes.” Straightening, he looked squarely at Lherson, then gave a long answer in his language, “I, Ton’Skel, heir to Ton’Mose do give my parole.”
Solly and Lherson looked at each other, then Lherson released the straps, helping the young Dragoon up and back to the aft fresher. He walked back forward to Solly, “Uh… Bridgit, what they hell was that all about?”
She shrugged, “I’m not sure. But we’ll see what happens. While he’s back there, I’m going to take Cedar up front and let her clean up.”
“Okay. I’ll wait here.”
Six days later, the matriarch’s IVs ran out, and she passed quietly, never regaining consciousness. Ton’Skel curled up next to her body and cried for over four divs, before finally passing out. They let him sleep and grieve, moving Cedar into the cockpit and letting her play with the controls after Lherson safed them. Cedar finally fell asleep in Solly’s arms, crying for both her and Ton’Skel’s losses.
The next clock day, Ton’Skel finally came awake and turned to Lherson and Solly, his GalTrans spit out, “My mother’s body must be preserved until she can be properly buried according to custom.”
“Dave, what can we do? If she stays in here, she’s going to decompose, she’s already started…”
Lherson nodded, “Let me check something. I’ll be right back.” He disappeared through the aft hatch, mumbling to himself. A half div later, he returned to the cockpit. “I think we can put her in the aft airlock and bleed it down. That should mummify her body to the point that it keeps him happy, and doesn’t contaminate the rest of the shuttle. If we seal her in the soft suit, maybe… I don’t know…”
“I think that would work. The question is, will he accept that?”
“If he doesn’t, I’ll space his ass too!”
“Quiet! Let me go talk to him, okay?”
Solly came back a few secs later, “He agreed. He made me promise you, we, will not space her body. I think he’s in shock right now. Cedar is sitting with him, holding his hand.”
Rolling his eyes, Lherson reached up, “The sooner the better.”
“What are you doing?”
“I’m going to drop the grav down so we can move her. I’m not up to trying to maneuver that much weight under one G.”
“Let me warn them first, okay?”
“You’ve got a sec to do it.”
Solly left, mumbling under her breath. As the clock ticked down, he dropped the G to .3G and swam out of the cockpit. Ton’Skel was crooning something in their language, as Cedar cried quietly in her seat. They waited until he finished whatever he was doing, and gently closed her back into the soft suit, sealing the tabs and gently picking her body up. Ton’Skel cradled her head, tears rolling down his face, as he continued crooning softly. They moved the body back to the aft airlock, and gently placed it on the floor, curled up and facing away from the inner lock.
They had to pull Ton’Skel back into the shuttle, and Lherson slowly closed the inner hatch. Once it was closed and locked, Ton’Skel pasted his nose to the viewport, and watched as Lherson slowly lowered the pressure to a couple of pounds, explaining to Ton’Skel that he would leave pressure on the airlock to prevent either door being opened.
Lherson went back to the cockpit and cranked the inertial compensation back up to 1G, then turned to Solly, “I’m going to run one aircycle for the emergency scrubbers to get any particulate that may be in the shuttle. It’ll take about a half div, if you want to warn them. Then I’m going to climb in the fresher and try to get myself clean.”
She nodded and left without saying a word.