March 11, 2012 1 Comment
Did you know I co-present a podcast called SCI-FIVE where we investigate all things SF in approximately 5 mins? No, well, I do, and it is up to episode 62 already…you should go take a listen:
Recently we have launched the SCI-FIVE SHORTIES, a series of 4-8 minute new SF themed short stories. I’ve written a few, and for those interested here is the second one, plus the audio link if you are interested in listening:
“SAYA’S LAST GASP” by Neil Gardner
‘Bugger!’ Saya shouted as her fingers, encased in their heavy-work gloves, slipped another few inches. ‘Bugger, bugger, bugger!’ Slip, slip, slip.
There are few, if any, good places to find yourself hanging on to by your fingertips, but for Saya, right now, she couldn’t think of any that could be worse.
‘THREE MINUTES TO ACTIVATION’ the robotic computer voice sounded in her ears, her telepathic communication link to the ship still working in one-direction. Damn it, why couldn’t they hear her?!
‘Buggeration, buggery, bugger!’ she continued to swear, loudly. She knew no-one could hear her, but the profanity helped keep her calm, and she kind of enjoyed the idea of what someone would think if they were to suddenly be able to hear her. The thought of a stream of invective roaring around the ship’s telepathic PA system gave her a momentary diversion, before her mind refocused on her predicament.
This was such a stupid, typically-her way to die. ‘It couldn’t happen to anyone else, could it?’ Saya thought to herself, the joints in her fingers screaming in agony, the gloves gradually slipping further. Why had she even volunteered to do the job? She was no system specialist, and she certainly wasn’t the best at zero-g working. Then there was her habit of losing all sense of direction once outside in space, and of course her general dislike of the cumbersome heavy-work space suits. Combine all that with her clumsiness, lack of balance and all-round inability to do anything right, and Saya quickly realised just why she was stuck where she was stuck.
‘This is the Captain speaking,’ the warm, mellifluous voice had come over the PA. ‘As you all know we are soon to enter Relativity Drive for the jump to our next destination. However, the onboard systems tell me that we have 1042 minor faults that need to be repaired before we make the jump. Since we are on a strict schedule, and the engineering teams need to focus on the most complex tasks, I need volunteers to help fix the small stuff. If you would like to help, and earn a gratitude chit for your assistance, please telpath my office before 0600. Captain out.’
Saya was a good person. She cared about her job, her ship and her crewmates. But sadly she hadn’t made a good impression, ever since she joined up four Relativity jumps ago. She had been hired as a junior systems analyst and assistant, but it had become very clear, very early on that she had lied on her application. She had basic systems knowledge, gleaned from years spent in salvage yards and on steamer ships doing the intra-system runs, but she had no clue how a Relativity Cruiser worked. So she had been downgraded to second assistant environmental systems apprentice, lost two-thirds of her pay, been forced to move in to a shared dormitory with 5 other apprentices, and generally got the scummy end of the hydro-mop.
‘TWO MINUTES TO ACTIVATION’ the computer droned.
She had jumped at the chance to show the Captain and crew that she was made of better stuff, and to earn that gratitude chit. She was already at MINUS 16 gratitude chits (a new ship record) and desperately wanted to break even before she was inevitably thrown off the ship.
And so she had telpathed her request to volunteer, and then she had waited. And waited, and waited some more. Eventually the Captain’s office telpathed to say there was one job left, it was on the outside of the ship’s hull and needed next to no skills except the ability to hold on, turn a spanner clockwise and climb back aboard before the jump occurred.
Saya, although scared and worried about a zero-g external excursion, headed for the appointed airlock, got her instructions from the bored and less-than-amiable engineering assistant, climbed into her heavy-work space suit and headed out in to space. Sadly she banged her helmet on the steel-girdered airlock door, and broke her telpath antennae, thereby missing the engineering assistant’s hurried warning to ‘Stay clipped on to the guide rail’.
Once outside the ship, Saya had worked her way towards the small hatchport that needed 3 of its 4 locking bolts refastened. She had a small digital heads-up display in her helmet counting down the minutes until the ship would blast in to Relativity Drive and span the vast distance to its next port of call. She sill had 30 minutes to get the job done and get back inside the ship. ‘No worries, easy as anything,’ she had told herself. But while confident in her ability to tighten 3 locking bolts in no time at all, she was starting to get concerned as to why she couldn’t hear anything from the ship’s telepathic PA system. She should have been getting all sorts of messages and updates. She ran a quick diagnostic on her suit and was dismayed to see that it was damaged. The telpath comms system was broken. the onboard diagnostics was able to get the system working in one-direction only. ‘Oh well, its not like they need to hear from me, is it?’ Saya had told herself.
‘ONE MINUTE TO ACTIVATION’ came the voice of the computer
Quite how she had forgotten to attach herself to the guide rail, Saya couldn’t think. And why she hadn’t remembered that she was using a power-wrench, she really couldn’t say. But put those two things together, add in the build-up momentum of the ship as it prepped for its Relativity Jump, and you ended up with Saya, gripping on for her life, to the exterior hull of a spaceship, slipping towards the engine mounts and about to be either [a] left behind to float in space until she died of asphyxiation, or [b] fall into the engine mounts just as the Relativity Drive powered up and she was atomised in an instant.
‘Bugger me, bugger me, bugger me! Won’t SOMEONE hear me? Please, I need help! Don’t fire up the engines. I’m still out here….’ she screamed, gasping for breath, desperate to be heard. She felt the vibrations in the hull building, her gloved hands slipping. She screamed once more…
‘Oh come on you bastards, you must know I am here…help!’
The Relativity Drive powered up.
‘Oh bugger,’ she gasped.
(c) Neil Gardner, 2012