Writer’s Note: So, I’m a liar. I lied. I did NOT finish this story this week. Sorry. A new avenue popped up concerning good ole Ramero that I had to explore a little. Unfortunately, you only see a hint of that in this post, so as far as you know I am also lying about this, and I would not blame you for the accusation.
Shmee watched helplessly as her sister disappeared after Ramero. The younger girl remained there, drifting alone in the dark hallway, her helmet’s flashlight the only source of illumination left. Tears welled up in her eyes, blurring her vision. She moved to wipe them away out of habit, and her gloved hand knocked into the face plate of her helmet. In a fit of frustration, Shmee fumbled at the safety locks behind her head until the helmet pulled off. The shock of cold air against her face had a calming effect, and she already felt silly for getting so upset. Of course Perdie should tell her to wait in the escape pod. Mom left her in charge, and it was the responsible thing to do.
A faint, metallic groan echoed from the bowels of the ship. Shmee reached for the nearest surface as she listened to the dead silence. She couldn’t breathe. The stillness of the air sat heavily around her, and Shmee found it difficult to breathe. She should go to the escape pod, she knew she should, but she couldn’t make herself move. She just had to get to the pod, strap herself into a seat and wait for Perdie to show up. Another groan shuddered faintly through the skin of the ship and Shmee whipped her hand away as if burned.
She looked around the abandoned hallway helplessly. The helmet’s beam of light shrank to a small bright circle on the floor to her as it floated away, allowing the darkness to grow and envelope her. Shmee’s hands found indentioned grips in the floor through muscle memory and she threw herself at the helmet before continuing on to the hatch she watched Perdie disappear through.
Even though children weren’t allowed near it, Shmee knew the route to the engine room. An entire childhood spent in the cramped hallways of the science colony ship left few corners unexplored. She could have turned off her flashlight and made her way by touch alone. In the eerie, dead silence she heard voices bubbling up from the darkness long before she reached them.
“Okay, Perdie, keep an eye on that panel and tell me if you see anything.”
Shmee saw a flash of someone’s light and jerked herself to the side of the hall, instinctively hiding her own light to avoid detection.
“… Uh… I’m not sure?”
“It’s not a trick question. Any glow or flicker will give me hope.”
“Oh! …No, sorry.”
Shmee heard Ramero laugh at her sister’s uncertainty, and felt a confusion of jealousy and withdrawal swirl through her insides.
There was a static noise that caused Shmee’s heart to jump with hope, but she realized the noise was coming from their helmets. She pressed a hand against the speaker in hers as the familiar gruff voice of Doctor Souchong spoke through it.
Shmee ducked another flash from the hatchway as the engineer adjusted the position of his own helmet to pinch the send button at the chin.
“I don’t know what happened. Everything is fried up here. Even if you get the engine going again, we’re still dead in the water.”
“We can always switch to driving her manually. Land her that way?”
“If she were a shuttle, yeah, but she’s a little too much… uh, lady… to dance, shall we say.”
Shmee heard a Ramero sigh, and her heart sank. There was nothing they could do. The escape pods were their only option now. Helmet in hand, she quietly kicked herself backward through the hallway.
Perdie pressed her chin down to join the conversation. “So is that it? What happens now?”
“With luck she’ll hold orbit long enough for one of the shuttles to come back up for repairs. For now… we can’t trust our luck to hold out. Everyone to the pods.”
“Got it. Let’s go, Perdie.”