Cnsev tormalinas lost, p.6

CNSEV Tormalinas, Lost, page 6

 

CNSEV Tormalinas, Lost
 


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  Chapter 5

  CNSSS Sigma Alpha Epsilon

  Amy woke up in her hypersleep pod, still in her full spacesuit, cold, shivering. No tingling sensation this time moved up her spine, no burning at the base of her skull, but her eyes hurt in their sockets.

  “Tormalinas, I need an update,” she said rubbing her eyes.

  “Yes Ma’am. You were placed in your hypersleep pod by orders of Colonel Keeghan.”

  “In my spacesuit? That son of a bleep was trying to kill me.”

  “Unlikely Ma’am. He suspected your abilities as a portal navigator would shield you from the harmful effects associated with any bio-mechanical interference.”

  “I want out. I want out now.”

  “Yes Ma’am. Colonel Keeghan ordered me to revive you at this time cycle. As required, I have alerted Colonel Keeghan as to your revival.”

  “Where are we?” Amy said tapping at the touchpad on the back of her wrist.

  “We are within one span of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Launch and Extraction Space Station,” the Tormalinas’ sentient said.

  “How did the crew get this far in their suits?”

  “The Colonel ordered last man up protocols and then recycled life support from suits after crewmembers succumbed to the infecting bugs.”

  “You gotta be bleeping me.”

  “No Ma’am. I bleep you not.”

  “That son of a bleep, didn’t”

  “Yes Ma’am. He did and it was well within his command authority to do so.”

  “So he just sacrificed his crew so he could live,” Amy said it more than asking it.

  “Yes Ma’am. It was a successful strategic ploy.”

  More than 30 spans in hypersleep, and her body barely felt the difference. She felt rested, but she also felt mad, burning mad. She tried to breathe through the flood of emotions. I’m emotionally imbalanced, she said to herself. Something almost never heard of in a portal navigator. Get optimal Major. She pulled herself along the walls toward the command room, swimming at times in a sea of swarming bugs, fighting against the waves, the tide. The millions of legs skittering against every surface looked for something to cling to, to consume, to infect.

  When she made it to the command room, she had to wait for her eyes to adjust to the low lights there. She found Colonel Keeghan strapped in his chair and Lieutenant Huang in her executive officer seat. Upon entering, Colonel Keeghan spoke to her as if nothing had happened. An alarm broke through the silence.

  “Take your seat, Major. I’m going to need your steady hand to guide us into Sigma Alpha Epsilon. We are contending with several compromised command and control systems. Please deal with our latest system failure.”

  “Yes Sir,” Amy said.

  Huang moved through the waves of black bugs back to her seat and Amy sat in her seat and worked the consoles, brushing aside bugs there. “Tormalinas, I need command visuals and verbal control,” she said.

  “Yes Ma’am.”

  “Tormalinas, this is General Akram Khan of CNSSS Sigma Alpha Epsilon. We are reading your life signs. I am registering you now as a level J contamination risk. All instructions will be given by the station MEDSTAC General Bridgette Nunez.”

  “Sigma Alpha Epsilon, this is Colonel Ian Keeghan. We read you loud and clear.”

  “Colonel Keeghan, this is General Nunez. I am scanning your vessel for life signs. I am also in visual link with your vessel and can see inside all compartments of the Tormalinas. I won’t lie to you or exaggerate, but your chance of surviving this infestation of lifeform 0098649 is not very optimal. Is there any chance once we clear your crew and take samples of the lifeform you can leave this sector and scuttle your vessel?”

  “No Ma’am,” the Colonel replied. “Once I established our course and speed from Askelon, we lost a number of control systems and our high engine burn capacity. My vessel will be dead on arrival. We do still have thruster capabilities.”

  “Okay. Please maneuver your vessel to quarantine docking bay 37.”

  “General, with our systems compromised by the contaminating lifeform, we call them bugs, I think we should leave the ship adrift here and attempt rescue of the crew.”

  “Colonel Keeghan, my orders are to attempt decon and to secure samples of the bugs for examination. If you can get the Tormalinas to bay 37, we should be able to decontaminate the vessel and rescue your remaining the crew and secure our samples.”

  “Yes Ma’am.” Keeghan said. With the communications link closed, he said, “They’re after our bleeping bugs. Bet they don’t give a flying bleep about us.”

  “Sir,” Amy said, “the controls are responsive at less than 83%.”

  “78.63 percent to be exact,” the Tormalinas chimed in, “plus a 2.34% roll at 5.77 degrees counter balance.”

  Amy asked, “Tormalinas, can you complete the docking?”

  “No Ma’am. My systems are severely compromised and all automated override functions have been cancelled.”

  “Give it your best shot Amy,” the Colonel said.

  Amy began verbalizing her commands to the Tormalinas. After a few orders, she disconnected her safety restraints and pulled herself through a wave of bugs to a panel under the console. She twisted latches on the panel and it popped open, bugs poured from inside the panel.

  “Bleep,” she said.

  She pulled a tool kit from inside the panel and unlatched several other panels. Reaching inside and feeling her way past bugs in the panels, she reached wires and pulled them out. She twisted and reconnected circuits and then strapped herself back in her seat. Now she could command the vessel verbally and by use of her hands on the consoles.

  “Impressive Major,” the Colonel said. “I’ve never seen anyone do that before”

  “Learned it from some pirates,” she said.

  Amy worked at the controls and soon the Tormalinas listed back to its port side to compensate. As it approached the docking bay, Amy quickly calculated their speed.

  “We’re coming in a fraction too hot. Brace for impact.”

  The Tormalinas sounded a horn through all communications channels that all its crewmembers and all the crewmembers of the space station were sure to recognize as a collision alarm. Amy steered the vessel using manual controls. At the last possible moment, the fired the forward reverse thrusters, causing the Tormalinas to flip over and then she fired full forward thrusters until the vessel hit something solid to the rear. They crashed into the rear wall of the docking bay, coming to a complete stop with minimal damage to the ship’s rear and top sections.

  “That was phenomenal,” the Colonel said.

  “We have you Tormalinas,” General Nunez said. “Please stand by for decontamination sequences.

  The MEDSTAC ordered various treatments to attempt extermination of the bugs.

  The remaining crew, of which Amy refused to even verify their numbers, were told to remain restrained in their seats during the decon attempts. Amy seethed in anger during the process.

  “I’ve never been in a spacesuit for this long before,” Colonel Keeghan said, trembling. “How about you two?” he said to Lieutenant Huang and to Amy.

  Amy answered without looking his way, “Navigators are tested by spending not fewer than 100 spans in spacesuits at the academy. It’s part of the career position description, a critical core skill; able to enter and operate in dark space indefinitely.”

  “A hundred bleeping spans? Indefinitely? So you two are not tired of your spacesuits?”

  “No,” Amy snapped, almost hissing, rolling her eyes and looking away from the man.

  “No,” Lieutenant Huang said.

  “Tormalinas, give me a personnel report,” the Colonel said.

  “Sir, there are 14 crewmembers remaining. Two crewmembers expired in their spacesuits in the last span. Also Sir, your life support will expire in a matter of minute cycles, 4.67 to be precise.”

  “Bleep, Sir,” Lieutenant Huang said. “Can we share some life support from our sui
ts?”

  “Don’t you bleeping think about it. It took us several tries to cross connect life support systems. I saw five or six crewmembers expire while we tried to figure it out. I won’t have you and the optimal Major here killing each other just so I might have a chance to live. I’ve killed enough people. Major Porter, if this decon doesn’t work, you will have to get us out of here and order detonation of the Tormalinas.”

  Amy closed her eyes, lowered her head and breathed a series of deep breaths. She thought about Keeghan now. He was a good commander, he wasn’t her enemy. He tried to stick to the protocols and he didn’t let his personal feelings get in the way. She tried to be okay, wanting to be optimal with that.

  “Sir, don’t you feel we should calculate more options?”

  “You know the protocol. That’s a bleeping order Major. I apologize to you and my crew and to our stockholders. The full responsibility for the loss of these profits are no one's but my own. Tormalinas, document my final statement and transmit it.”

  “Yes Sir,” the ship said.

  The Colonel removed his helmet and the bug swarm swallowed him in his command chair. Amy looked away.

  “Tormalinas, this is MEDSTAC. We will begin subatomic neutralization on the bugs lifeform within 45 second cycles.”

  Amy closed her eyes, but Lieutenant Huang watched as waves of blue energy rays swept through the command room, destroying the bugs at a subatomic level, leaving behind only an atomic residue of the bugs. Huang watched as the rays also disintegrated Colonel Keeghan, leaving behind his spacesuit and helmet and the same residue. The treatment worked.

  The Tormalinas said, “The decon treatment is 78 percent complete. I’m showing the decon treatment has had an adverse effect on three more crewmembers who expired due to exposure to the rays of the decontamination device.”

  “Their spacesuits must have been compromised,” Lieutenant Huang said.

  “I am reporting the death of Colonel Keeghan,” Amy said, struggling with the words, staring at the floor of the command room.

  “I confirm the death of Colonel Ian Shane Keeghan,” the Tormalinas said. It then rang a bell three times and said, “Major Amy Porter of the Commonwealth of Nations Stellar Exploration Vessel 119, CNSEV Tormalinas, you are now acknowledged as the commanding officer of this vessel. Congratulations Ma’am. Decon is now 83% complete.”

  Lieutenant Huang looked at Major Porter and said, “It will be optimal Amy. It will be optimal.”

  Amy wanted to say something back to Marleen. She wanted to think of something maybe Colonel Keeghan might say in this situation, something harsh about using his first name maybe, but she didn’t have time to say anything. A series of explosions somewhere in the vessel shook them out of their shock.

  “Tormalinas report,” Amy said.

  The Tormalinas failed to report.

  “Tormalinas report,” Amy said again. “Tormalinas report.”

  “The Tormalinas is off-line and dead,” Marleen said, undoing her restraints. “We’ve lost visuals.”

  “Lieutenant I need a report,” Amy said.

  Marleen swept rust colored residue from the console to her right and said, “There’s a breach in our hull from an explosion in our quantum fuel cells. Tormalinas life support is now at zero percent. We are venting plasma and it’s possible the Tormalinas will be lost. There’s significant damage to the docking bay.”

  “Can you reestablish visuals?” Amy asked.

  “Yes Ma’am. Here they are.”

  Amy began disconnecting her restraints and said, “I’m seeing it in my visuals. The bugs are still present at about 12 percent in aft sections near where the explosions occurred. We’ve got to get inside the station if we want to live. Follow me,” Amy ordered.

  Marleen and Amy pulled their way from the command room, through the Tormalinas, through empty corridors towards the vessel loading bays. When Amy pressed her palm to a glowing touchpad, doors opened to the main loading bay and cargo area. There they saw swarms of bugs floating in the smoke and fire filled room. They felt the heat through their suits.

  Amy closed the door. They moved past the bugs leaking out and continued, sweating inside their suits. They moved down another empty corridor and then up and through an access route past several burning compartments to the Tormalinas’ rear loading bay. Another small swarm of the black bugs floated in the air before them. They reached the bay door control panel, but found they needed to work the pneumatic cranks manually to force the damaged loading bay doors open.

  When the doors opened enough for them to exit the vessel, they then pulled themselves into the breach and floated towards the docking bay hull. They moved past thousands and thousands of bugs spilling out into space from the Tormalinas, floating into and onto the space station, crawling up the sides of the large structure.

  Inside the space station, crewmembers pulled themselves along by the wall and ceiling handrails as fast as they could. None of the station crew wore spacesuits. Marleen and Major Porter still had on their suits. The space station’s crew moved with a sense of urgency. Alarms sounded. Someone in passing Marleen and Amy spoke of alien bugs contaminating the station. Then they heard another series of alarms on the station linking systems speaking through their implants.

  “This is General Nunez. All hands evacuate to escape pods. Make haste and escape, stellar space station protocol golf-nine.”

  “Golf-nine protocol,” Marleen said. “We’re going to have to make it to escape pods.”

  “That’s not optimal,” Amy said. “We need to find fresh suits. Pods are for station personnel. It will be very difficult to locate an escape pod that isn’t overcrowded. We have a better chance if we locate fresh space suits, plus we have no way of knowing which crewmembers are infected by the bugs. Trust me on this.”

  A random crewmember overheard them. “Are you saying these bugs infect people?” He then screamed and brushed a bug off his arm. As the bug floated away, the man cringed in the corridor, holding on to a single handhold strap.

  “Stay optimal,” Amy said to the man. “You’ll be fine if you make it to your escape pod.”

  Marleen knew the Amy had just lied. If just one infected crewmember made it to a pod of 25 personnel, the entire escape pod would be lost. If just one bug made it into an escape pod, the entire escape pod would be lost. She calculated the odds of any one of these happening to be about 89%. A number of bugs crawled along the walls to her right and above her on the ceiling.

  “The escape pods are not certain to be free of bugs. Only the spacesuits have a higher guarantee,” Amy said.

  “I will follow you Major,” Marleen said, “but my space suit life support level is critical, less than 0.3%.”

  “Give me your hands Lieutenant,” Amy said, extending her hands. Marleen extended her hands and clasped Amy’s.

  “Now pray with me,” Amy said.

  They closed their eyes and just floated, silent for a few moments in the corridor of the space station, ignoring the growing chaos around them, ignoring the screams, ignoring the small explosions somewhere above their location.

  “Feel the presence of the universe,” Amy said. “Feel the dark universe and the light. Feel the macro and the micro. Feel the quantum entanglement of energy that’s in all of us. Feel that you have somewhere to go, something important to do no matter where you are. Feel the infinite power of something bigger than you, something higher.”

  “I feel the universe Major. I feel the biggest parts of all this,” Marleen said.

  “Now let’s continue Lieutenant.”

  They heard and felt an explosion somewhere in the lower station levels. They hurried now, pulling themselves up four levels, past more scrambling crewmembers, grabbing tools along the way. Marleen slammed a deck hammer across the face of enraged crewmember. Amy crushed the head of a transmogrified beast, splattering blue bio-liquids into the weightlessness of the station compartment .

  “There, main level Verde Alpha, that’s whe
re we need to be,” Amy said whipping the thick blue goop from her face shield. “We’re almost there.”

  They pushed past more chaotic crewmembers and then decided to take a maintenance tunnel around a section where 15 to 20 crewmembers fought over space on an escape pod. A dead crewmember floated past them with a broken jaw, bleeding from a hole in his neck. To circumvent this fight, the Marleen and Amy had to go down one level, over two sections, up another level, and then back two sections. Marleen pressed the life support readout on her wrist. It read, “0.00 %.” She remembered the prayer moment Amy had shared with her. They kept moving.

  They arrived at a section labeled “Displacement Extraction Assembly Crew Only.”

  “We’re here,” Amy said, entering the workspace. “This is it. There will be spacesuits in here, fresh suits.”

  Marleen said nothing. Amy looked back. Marleen floated there in the doorway, her dark brown eyes glazed over.

  Amy moved with a fierce sense of sheer urgency now. She pulled Marleen into the mechanic’s area. The mechanics had all made it to their escape pods and left the station, leaving behind the specialized advance displacement suits they used for reassembling vessels and equipment after displacement extraction.

  Finding several fresh suits still in their containers, she ripped into the packaging, put one on, and then worked to move Marleen into a fresh suit. She removed Marleen’s helmet, gave her mouth-to-mouth revivication, and watched as the color returned to her face. Marleen, still unconscious, breathed in and out on her own now.

  Amy watched several of the black bugs crawling along the walls. A few of them floated in the area. A small wave of the bugs seemed to move towards them now. Once Amy had Marleen in a fresh suit with all her suit seals closed and locked, Amy pressed the activation on the suit’s interface and said, “Revive.”

  Marleen woke up.

  “Thank you, Major Porter,” she said. “Am I contaminated at all?”

  “No, you are optimal, Marleen.”

  “Major, every way I calculate out of this, results in our deaths when we implode the station according to Commonwealth protocols.”

  Amy paused. She closed her eyes. Marleen noticed one of her eyes twitching as if strained by the stress. When Amy opened her eyes, Marleen could see a red trickle of blood collected around her left pupil.

  Amy said, “Sometimes we can rewrite protocols in the moment. We need to get to the control deck. Did you notice how on the Tormalinas the bugs seemed to be concentrated more near the command center? Let’s go there. I think I have a way out of this.”

  They pulled themselves through the station. The new suits, more bulky and less maneuverable inside close spaces forced them to work carefully to get to the level they sought. Where some areas were vacant of people, other areas were full of swarms of bugs and panicked station crew. They passed a workstation where the space station’s hull had been breached by some sort of explosion, a blowout. Mangled bodies, ripped to shreds as if by a machine, floated by, covered in bugs. They also saw one of the Tormalinas’ crew mutated into one of the strange beasts.

  They recognized the torn and ripped spacesuit, one of the junior archeologists. The beast tried to fight against the weightlessness to get to the two of them as they passed. They watched as it suddenly convulsed, its belly expanding and bursting, exploding more bugs into the weightlessness of the area. They moved with a faster sense of urgency now.

  When they reached the station control deck, they had to move through thick floating clouds of the bugs. The bugs clung to their suits looking for an entryway. They found the command room empty of life except for bugs. Command staff had either escaped or perished. Two unfortunate officers floated amongst waves of the bugs, contaminated and expired.

  “Here,” Amy said attempting to wipe away bugs and then pressing her gloved left hand to a sensor panel. “Station, this is Major Amy Porter, Executive Officer of the Commonwealth of Nations Stellar Exploration Vessel 119, CNSEV Tormalinas.”

  “Good day, Major,” the station’s sentient said. “How may I be of service?”

  “Sigma Alpha Epsilon, by my command, please initiate self-destruct.”

  “Wait,” Marleen yelled. “Are you sure we need to do this?”

  “It’s protocol,” Amy said in a hurry, “golf-ten protocol required, but I’m thinking we might make it out optimal though. You’re going to have to trust me. Initiate self-destruct.”

  The station’s sentient said, “Major Porter, you are the ranking authority as the senior remaining officer onboard Sigma Alpha Epsilon Launch and Extraction Station CNSSS 15; however, your command cannot be confirmed at this time.”

  They heard and felt another explosion above them.

  The station’s sentient said, “Lieutenant Huang, you on the other hand may order self-destruct. Do you wish me to confirm Major Porter’s request?”

  Marleen lowered her head and tried to breathe slowly. “Yes. Initiate self-destruct.”

  “Do you require a timer for self-destruct?”

  Amy said, “Yes. Set timer for 15 minute cycles mark.”

  Marleen said, “Yes. Agreed. Set for 15 minute cycles mark.”

  The station’s sentient then said, “Mark. All ships and personnel in this sector, a self-destruct of Sigma Alpha Epsilon Launch and Extraction Station CNSSS 15 has been authorized. All Commonwealth vessels within 25 spans are now at risk. Counting down mark. 14:59 and counting.”

  The station continued, “Lieutenant Huang, this station’s implosion will terminate five Commonwealth properties consisting of this station, four stellar vessels, and 1,456 personnel will also be terminated.”

  “Understood. Now upload all station data to a portable container.” Amy said.

  “Yes Major,” the station said. “Download will take approximately 32.17 second cycles to complete. A command portable container is located in panel 14-12-C.”

  Amy went to the panel and opened it. Bugs spilled out. Amy fought her instincts to recoil and back away. Instead, she reached inside and retrieved a small silver box about the size of her palm. She placed it inside a zippered pouch on her upper right arm.

  “Download is complete,” the sentient said. “13:00 minute cycles and counting.”

  “Now what?” Marleen asked.

  “Now back to the Tormalinas,” Amy said.

  They hurried, pulling themselves up and through the station the same way they had come, straining to maneuver in the bulky spacesuits past dead bodies, flailing bug beasts, and mangled walls and doors.

  “9:00 minute cycles and counting,” they heard through their linking implants.

  {Return to Table of Contents}

 
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