Wayward Guardian

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Last Words

Outer hull of Azure Dream

Mark walked along the spine of the ship. He had started fleeing as soon Danny had sacrificed himself. The hull plating on his back was protecting him from the armed robot, but every now and again, a shot would hit next to his feet or ricochet off the plate. He had nothing to fight back with, all he could do was keep walking.

He caught his foot on one of the struts on the spine of the ship and stumbled, falling forward. A shot lanced out and caught his right arm as he flailed The suit’s auto seals sealed the breach, but could do nothing about the pain. Mark hit his helmet against another strut as he was thrown forward and blacked out.

Guardian Control Room

Howard recoiled as Mark went down, the armed robot was no longer firing, it was now waiting for the welding robot to move in. Mark was still held to the spine by one of his magnetic boots.

Howard closed his eyes and let out a long ragged breath. There was nothing left for him to do.

‘No... That’s impossible...’ Exo said.

‘What is?’

‘I’m reading a la-’ The lights in the bay switched out and Exo’s holographic head disappeared from existence.

Howard lay back once again, a bitter smile on his face. He closed his eyes and let sleep take him. Whatever was left for him to do, could wait that long.

Howard awoke to a knocking on the metal door to the bay. There wasn’t much he could do. It was still completely dark, and he couldn’t see his way to the door. He curled his fist and knocked as hard as he could on the floor.

Two more knocks came from the door. Howard knocked again.

There was silence. Then a bright light started to work it’s way down the seam between the two doors, unsealing the weld job Exo’s robots had done to trap him.

After a moment, the light stopped, and the door slid slowly open. A shaft of light from someone’s flashlight lanced into the room.

‘Captain?’ said a voice through a speaker.

‘Hello. Who are you?’

‘It’s Keith sir!’ He walked up and looked down at Howard, ‘What happened here?’

‘I had to use the emergency seal on my arm. The suit was ripped.’

‘Oh. I’m so sorry sir.’

‘It’s okay. I’m alive. How is your suit still working? The EMP should have shorted it out.’

’Engineering is shielded, sir. Well... most of it anyway. A few of the systems flickered off, and I figured out what happened. I guessed you’d be needing some help, so we suited up with what we had and unsealed the doors.

‘How is yours still working sir?’

‘I don’t think it is. I’ve been asleep for some time. How long as it been since the EMP went off?’ Howard asked.

‘Little over two hours sir.’

‘Have you found anyone else?’

‘We picked up Mark on the spine. He’s in bad shape, but he was unconscious so he wasn’t using as much air as normal. Lucky for him... Well, not lucky really.’

‘Yes, I know. How’s his arm?’

‘It’s bad,’ Keith paused, ‘Though not as bad as yours. He’ll recover.’

‘Exo was showing me everything. Have you found anyone else?’

‘A few people sealed in emergency lockers. We managed to get the doors all closed, and we’re re-pressurizing what we can. Let’s get you out of here to where there are people and air.’

Howard tried to push up from the ground but found he couldn’t. His remaining arm burned from the effort, but he couldn’t get up.

’I could use a hand, Keith.

‘Of course Captain.’

Howard winced in pain as Keith bent down and helped him to his feet. Soon they were on their way.

Howard stood in the hallway, his helmet held in his good hand. People tried to not look at his missing arm, but Howard noticed how their eyes lingered. He felt guilty from their gaze, others had lost their lives.

While someone with first aid training looked at him, Howard listened to Keith as he gave him a status report.

’Damage to the bridge is far too severe to even hope to fix with the handful of people I’ve got. But since Exo’s gone we’ve got control over systems again, at least the systems not fried by the EMP. Thankfully we’ve got some limited life support. Most of those systems are pretty sturdy. And we’ve still got our sub-light engines. The Jump drive was shielded, but without Exo to do calculations, it’ll take us longer between jumps.

‘Which is a bit of a moot point seeing as we don’t have much fuel anyway. There’s no way we can do repairs to the engines and rework the fuel systems in our state.’

‘Have we talked to the colony yet?’ Howard asked

‘When Exo was taken out of the picture, the long range comm came back online. Well sort of, we had the array in the slot, but it wasn’t hooked up. We were interrupted in our task of replacing it. Anyway, we went out there and plugged it all in, and thankfully the fact that it was all offline seems to have spared it from too much damage by the EMP. As soon as I turned it on, a massive data burst that had been in limbo in the buffer transmitted itself, and then I hailed the colony.’

‘A data burst?’

‘Yeah, a really big one. It’s like it had just been sitting there until we fixed the comm,’

‘And the colony?’

‘The colonial overseer says they haven’t got any power from the solar arrays, but other than that, they’re doing just peachy.’

‘Given the state of the ship, there’s not much we can do about anything. If we have the long range array back, we can call for help and that’s about it.’

‘Honestly Captain, it’d just be best for us to send the message, abandon ship and just wait on the planet for someone to come check on us. With the colony set up, we should be good. We can use the ship generators to keep things going smooth.’

Howard looked at Keith, ‘We’ll pick up our people in the solar bay first. Then we’ll make our decision.’

‘Isn’t that where the EMP came from? They may be out of air before we get there.’

‘James set up a safe room in the workshop, if they’re in there, they should be fine. Lots of air there.’

‘I’ll head down to engineering and put us on course for that.’

‘Thank you, Keith, I’m sure they’ll appreciate the assist.’

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