Thursday, May 28, 2009

Daily Story 43: Reckless Endangerment

The world lurches, and I brace myself. The furniture is bolted down, but ten people and their bags go flying through the air and ricochet off of the walls, becoming weightless on the rebound and trailing droplets of blood that drift along like soap bubbles. Weightless or not they still have some momentum, and most hit a second wall before grabbing on to something. Four of them are left in the middle of the room, flailing about like idiots and trying to reach a handhold. The lights flicker and get dimmer, but I know this is by design rather than necessity - chances are we could still switch back to full power if we needed. I let go of the armrests of the chair and float to the nearest hatch, not thrashing helplessly like the new kids. And they are kids, eighteen or nineteen. I'm only twenty-three but there's a difference.

The panel by the hatch indicates that all three exits to the room are intact and pressure is steady, so our situation isn't that bad. Rather than trying to raise anyone on the intercom I type a message into the screen on my wrist, explaining that we're all safe and will await further orders. One of the kids is at another hatch, scrolling through the intercom directory.
"Private! Get your hands off that intercom!" He does, and looks surprised. "I am taking charge here, as I'm the only one who has been on the station before. None of you are to try to communicate with command - they're busy enough as it is. I've sent a message and told them that we're here, but we are low priority and may not hear from anyone for a while. Those of you near hatches, detach the vacuum and try to suck up the blood floating around before anyone inhales it or it makes a mess. Anyone who is currently bleeding, go to the center hatch for first aid. If you are not injured, helping with first aid, or vacuuming blood I want you to collect the luggage and tether it to a wall clip." They're starting to move, which is good. I'm the same rank as them so they could have argued if they wanted to, but they're just out of basic training and the conditioning is fresh in their minds. I grab the vacuum from the wall next to me and move out into the room to clean up the blood.

The injuries turn out to be minor, mostly bruises. The mess was from three bloody noses, all of which were able to be stopped. Everyone is taking turns looking out the porthole at the debris floating past, some of the chunks as large as the room we're in. Whatever happened was huge. They're all talking about the station being under attack, about wanting to get out there and fight back. The tough talk just gets rowdier and rowdier as they go into detail about what they would do if they weren't stuck here and could head off into battle, but then everyone goes silent. I look at the porthole and I'm not surprised to see why - a body is floating past. I can't decide if I should tell them the truth or not. Would it comfort them, or make them even more scared?

You hear things, if you talk to the right people. You hear about a sensor malfunction that tells a ship it's a mile off from where it actually is and the pilot is too drunk to pay attention, trusting the navigation computer which rams the massive supply ship into the station and tears the outer ring off. You hear about some drones that simply failed to identify anything as a friendly, and did so much damage that the station lost orbit before anyone could stabilize it. When chunks of a spaceport enter the atmosphere they hit with more force than any chemical explosive. Took out an entire city… and recruitment numbers skyrocketed.

The thing is, these kids… they hear about attacks, not accidents. They're told the enemy is at our doorstep but I've never seen a single battle anywhere near here in five years. Are they out there? Maybe. Probably. If they are, though, it feels like they might just win this thing by hanging back and watching.