‘Can we get sensors back online?’ Howard asked
‘We’ve been working on it. So far no.’
‘Not even short range or internal sensors? We can’t afford to be flying blind.’
‘Yes, sir. We’re working on it, but it’s not looking good. Exo’s made a mess of the secondary command pathways.’
Howard checked his suit. Its O2 levels were back to full.
‘I have an idea for keeping Exo busy.’
On the Hull
Howard suited up again. This time he had a proper manoeuvring pack from storage to allow him to move a lot faster. He flew along the hull, skimming above it, aiming for the section of the spine that he had removed the repeater from.
He saw the refitted robots that Exo was using as his army moving slowly along the support struts on their way to engineering. Evidently, Exo saw him because two on the spine turned and started to move towards him.
‘You’re moving awfully fast Captain. You wouldn’t want to injure yourself.’ Exo stated over the suit radio.
‘I’m certain your concern is nothing but genuine.’
Firing his jets again, Howard slowed his movement and brought himself down, onto the spine. His magnetic boots stuck to the struts. He detached the manoeuvring kit, it’s extra bulk too much to bring into the openings on the spine. He had a tether with it and tethered the kit to the spine. It floated to one side.
Howard began to climb into the spine and saw the section where he had taken the repeater from. Above him, one of the robots was working its way gingerly towards the tether to his pack.
Howard reached the section of cabling that he had picked over earlier and reached to a tool strapped to the belt on his suit.
Pulling the multi-tool free, Howard started work undoing the mangled casing of the secondary systems he had smashed before.
The case came off after a bit of effort, and he removed the internals of it. Grabbing a section of wiring, he pulled it out as much as it would give. When he saw it wasn’t quite enough, he grabbed another one of the wires and cut it as much of it as he could. He spliced the two together and fastened the end of them directly to the spine.
He started to crawl back through the spine, but he slowed when he saw the robots through the grating. One was waiting next to the opening that he had climbed through, and the other was using a plasma torch on the manoeuvring pack’s tether.
Howard smirked. He needed to send a signal. This would probably work.
Before leaving, a few key adjustments had been made to the pack. As the robot’s torch began cutting the tether, the pack suddenly exploded. The concussive force blew the robots off the spine and sent them spinning wildly into space.
Howard smacked painfully into the struts behind him.
‘What did you do?’ Exo asked.
‘I just took some precautions. We rigged the tether with a fuse to the fuel tank on the pack. I figured you might try to trap me.’
‘You can’t get off the spine in time. I have more robots at either end.’
‘I don’t plan on getting off just quite yet.’
Howard crawled out of the spine and grabbed what was left of the tether. There was about a meter of it floating in space, still attached to the spine. With his other hand, he pulled a high-powered flashlight off his belt.
Holding tight to the tether, he pushed himself very slightly off the strut. He aimed the flashlight at one of the observation rooms on the bridge section of the ship and turned the flashlight on, waving it towards an observation window
As he drifted off the strut, his tether was getting increasingly stretched. Twisting slowly, he tried to turn to look at the cable he had attached to the spine. It was sparking visibly. Twisting again, he looked towards the engineering section. Small shapes were floating off the hull.
Howard flicked the flashlight on and off at the observation room. The sparking stopped. Howard pulled himself back to the strut and activated his magnetic boots.
The radio was silent.
‘Captain Howard to the bridge.’
Howard started walking, heading towards the bridge again.
‘Captain Howard here, who is this?’
‘Keith sir. I’m using one of the suit radios. I’ve hooked it into what’s left of the comm system back in engineering. I’ve been trying to get a hold of anyone for the last hour. Exo’s stopped jamming.’
‘I think I may have confused him for a moment. We electrified the hull.’
‘That explains why the robots have stopped.’
‘What were they doing?’
‘They were welding all the entrances shut.’
Howard continued walking.
‘Probably to keep you from spacing the repeater.’
‘He told us as much. He was bragging over the suit com, trying to freak us out. I’ll admit he was doing a good job. He said he was going to punch a bunch of smaller holes in the hull when he finished welding and just wait for us to die before coming in after the repeater.’
‘I’ve set him back a bit in that regard. He’s going to have to wait until he’s got a new batch of robots,’ Howard looked off to one side and saw one of the robots floating helplessly in space, drifting away from the ship, ‘and I don’t know how much more we have left for him to use.’
‘So what’s the plan Captain?’
‘You sit tight. I’ve got an ace ready to be dealt out to me in one hour. I need to get back to the bridge before then.’