Wayward Guardian

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Solar Array Storage Bay

James sat in the dark. Not even the lights on his suit worked. All he had was the light of the stars and the sound of his breathing. The air was getting hot and hard to breath in his suit. He was so tired.

He sat against the wall next to the unconscious man and watched as the planet turned below them. As they orbited over Veil, the central star of the solar system peeked over the curve of the planet. The white light blanketed the bay.

James closed his eyes and took in a long breath. He exhaled.

‘Such a nice sunrise...’ he said to himself.

The valve was continuing to supply him and the unconscious man air, but the CO2 levels were building up. James was finding it hard to stay awake. He unplugged his suit from the valve and plugged it back into the unconscious man’s suit. His hand slipped down and he blacked out.

Howard stood to one side, his pain numbed by medication that was given to him by a surviving crew member. He stood in engineering, as Keith piloted their wounded ship using their surviving pilot’s station.

‘It’s going to be close Captain. They’re going to have been out of air for a long time by the time we get there.’

‘I know Keith, but we have to try. They’re the only reason we survived,’ Howard said.

Behind them, something in the drive systems whined and rattled.

‘It’s amazing it still flies. This ship has been through hell and back again,’ Keith said.

The remaining crew was also in engineering. Most of them were standing around the pilot’s station, waiting for them to reach the bay.

They all knew that the people on the bay were the only reason they were alive.

Lacking any direct sensors, Irwin Fritz was out on the hull wearing a pressure suit and keeping in touch via the comms.

He had been one of the crews lucky enough to be trapped in an emergency locker. He had been very grateful when Keith had gotten him out on his way to the bridge.

‘I see the bay. We appear to be on target,’ Irwin said from outside.

‘I’ve got it pegged with a range finder laser Irwin, I can see how far I am, but I won’t be able to line up very good.’

‘I will be your eyes Mr Loheim.’ Irwin said.

Howard watched as the readings of the range finder got smaller and smaller.

‘The bay... it’s got a massive hole in it. It’s missing most of the side facing us,’ Irwin said.

‘What?’ Keith blurted, ‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean it’s just gone. Kaput. There’s a large portion of the hull that’s been blown outward. I don’t see the air lock anymore. I don’t think our first plan will work. We can’t just dock with it.’

‘So what do we do now?’ Keith asked.

‘Line it up, and I’ll push off and look for survivors.’

‘You’ll have to direct me.’

‘Can do. Give it a nudge more to starboard,’ Irwin said.

‘A nudge isn’t very helpful as far as measurements go,’ Keith replied.

‘Half second burst at about ten percent power.’

‘See, now that’s more like it.’

Keith did as he was directed. The engines let out a low moan.

‘They don’t like being set at this low of power right now,’ Keith said.

‘We’re almost there. Two-second clockwise spin, thirty percent,’ Irwin said.

Keith nursed the controls.

‘One more second on that. I misjudged.’

‘That’s okay Mr Fritz, you are doing fine,’ Howard replied.

‘Thank you, captain. That’s got it there Keith. Just hold that.’

‘Okay, Irwin, we’re holding a position.’

‘Roger that, I’m shutting off my boots and pushing off, one moment please.’

The crew around them were deathly silent. Howard could scarcely hear them breathe.

‘I’m approaching the opening. It’s very clearly been damaged and bent outward. This is not looking good,’ He was quiet for a moment, ‘I don’t see anyone.’

Howard felt the disappointment wash over him. After all this, still more dead.

‘Hang on, I see two bodies near the back room. I’m heading over to investigate.’

More silence, ‘It’s James and Saul.’ I’m going to try and bring them back, ready the airlock.′

‘Be careful Irwin, don’t endanger yourself,’ Howard said.

‘It’s worth the risk Captain.’

Howard turned to give the order, but Keith was already rushing to the air lock. One of the crew handed him a helmet and he put it on, getting into the airlock and starting the cycle.

Another crewman walked up to the pilot’s station to take his place in the meantime.

‘I have James with me, I’ll come back for Saul, he seems to be plugged into an air supply. I’m pushing off now,’ Irwin said, ‘Wish me luck.’

‘Keith is cycling the lock now Irwin,’ Howard said.

Behind him, the airlock finished, and Keith stepped out onto the hull.

‘Do you see him, Keith?’

‘Yes, captain. He’s coming in pretty fast though and off target.’

‘Yes I am, little more weight on the way back, I misjudged.’ Irwin said with remarkable calm.

‘I’m attaching my tether to the hull. I’m going to try and catch him as he goes past.’

‘That’s a risky move, Keith.’

‘It’d be bad to let him bounce off the hull with James.’

Howard closed his eyes, a pit of dread in his stomach.

‘Here he comes,’ Keith said, his voice tense.

Seconds passed by. There was a dull thud on the hull.

‘I’ve got him! We’re a little rattled. I’m taking James to the lock now,’ Keith said, ‘Someone else come out here and goes help, Irwin.’

‘I’m heading back to the bay,’ Irwin said.

Another crew member suited up and went into the airlock as soon as Keith got back inside.

Howard rushed over to Keith as they tore off James’ pressure suit. He was unconscious but still breathing.

Someone began to check him with their limited medical gear.

Suddenly, James took in a deep breath, and his eyes flew open, ‘I’m alive? You’re alive?’

‘Yes James, we’re alive,’ Howard said.


‘Taken care of.’

‘Oh, fantastic. By the way, there are other survivors in the bay. They’re sealed in the back room.’

‘You heard that Irwin?’ Howard asked.

‘Roger that captain. We’ll figure out how to get them out.’

‘One of them is Ayla,’ James said.

Howard couldn’t help but feel happy at this.

‘What happened over there James?’ He asked.

‘Ayla happened.’

It had taken some effort, but they’d managed to coax the ship into a better position and set up emergency airlock against the back room. It had allowed them to break the seal, and get pressure suits to those inside.

Once they were all safe and sound, Howard had walked up to Ayla, who had just been sitting on the floor with her head between her knees, hugging herself.

She heard him approach and looked up, ‘Captain? I’d like to see my mother now please...’

Howard just smiled sadly, ‘We’ll go down to the planet and you can see her.’

Ayla’s face scrunched up, and she started to cry, she moved quickly and clung to Howard’s leg. Howard just picked her up and held her. Her body shook from the tears.

Between sobs, she asked, ‘Is Exo gone?’

‘Yes Ayla, Exo’s gone.’

She calmed down a little.

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