A Valiant End
The Valiant wafted silently in orbit around the small moon. The yaw and pitch slowly spinning, had she not been in the gravitational pull of the moon she would be drifting aimlessly. Her running lights and portholes lay dark and motionless. Gravities tide would eventually pull her into the moon, to a silent unmarked grave. Lieutenant Simms’ eyes fluttered reluctantly open, dazed she glanced around the cabin. The darkness was overwhelming. The only light was reflecting in through the portholes and gave the light grey walls a bluish glow. She quickly looked back and forth trying to recall what had happened. The air burned her throat and her head throbbed. There was no indication of anything amiss; everything appeared to be in order aside from the darkness, deep cold and no one in sight.
Realizing she needed to get to the Bridge as quickly as possible, Simms swam through the air to the nearest hand rail and pulled herself along what would have been the ceiling. Her ears rang in the silence, usually the sounds of the engines would pulsate through the cabin combining with the whir of the instrumentation. As she passed the threshold of the bridge pressure door her eyes shot wide with horror. Blood splattered over nearly every surface. She gasped, “What the hell...” she wondered aloud. Quickly she scanned the cabin for a body, but found none. With a deep breath she pulled herself the rest of the way into the Bridge. She flipped switches and spun dials to reactivate the silent ship. Nothing worked. Panic started to well up under her heart like dam water in monsoon rains. She scanned the windows, trying to get the slightest idea of where she might be, the moons hulking body crushed out the blink of the stars as the Valiant rotated aimlessly. Simms’ eyes shot wide as she realized she was in orbit, but with no control of the ship she would eventually crash into the surface. The waters of panic sloshed slightly over the dam wall. The moon was, at this very moment, the least of her concerns. If she could not get the ship’s systems back online then she would likely suffocate or freeze to death well before the degrading orbit would be of any consequence.
Again she tried initiating the start up sequence to no avail, she spun around to face the doorway. ‘Engineering, I need to get back there and see why the Bridge isn’t getting any power.’ She kicked off and floated elegantly through the door and back through the crew’s common section, down a small corridor passed the cargo bay until she came to rest at the doorway to Engineering. She reached out for the handle to unlatch the door and stopped suddenly as her eyes dropped to it. Next to the handle on the white door was a bright red hand print. Simms’ gasped, ‘what the hell had gone on here?’ She peered through the small porthole in the door and a gust of gratitude struck. The hand print had given her pause when she was just about to pull the handle and yank the hatch open. She stared at the engineering room taking in the devastation, it looked as though the whole room had been engulfed in fire. The plastic floors were melted and the hatches around the engines were seared black, there were several sections of hull that had burnt away exposing the empty space outside. The waters of panic flowed more and more over the wall of her internal dam. She balled up and shivered.
‘Engine room’s gone, the Valiant is dead... I’m dead.’ She floated, fetally, for some time. Her mind slowly going over options, however the lack of power seemed more than she could cope with. She ran through a mental checklist of anything on board that may be of any assistance. She wept.
Suddenly she recalled something they had been taking to Sunlight Station, an small shuttle that was intended to ferry goods to docked ships. It was only equipped with directional thrusters and Simms was not sure if they would be strong enough to break orbit. ‘It’s better than being stuck here.’ She quickly kicked off the Engineering room door and back down the small corridor. Snagging the door jam and flipping her into the Space Walk room. She floated into the changing room and without hesitation stripped off her top layer leaving her in thermal tights. She pulled her suit from its locker and slid into it easily, as she pulled the first layer zipper up she realized the front had been slashed wide open. She gasped but quickly sloughed off the suit. She moved to the next locker, Captain Williams’ locker. He was bigger than she is, but at this point she did not much care if the suit was a perfect fit. Again she pulled the suit out and slid it on, and again she found huge slashes invalidating it. A grumble of frustration escaped her throat. She pulled the suit off and threw it over her shoulder moving to the next locker. This time she checked the surface for slashes before bothering to pull it out. ‘Who would have been cutting the suits? what the hell happened here?’ She could not recall anything of the past few days, and the last thing she could recall seemed perfectly fine. She ran through the events in her head. The only thing that stood out was Trevor Bailey, the navigator, had seemed more irritated than usual. Could that have been it, did Trevor do all of this?
She moved on to the next locker, again the suit was destroyed. Finally she pulled open Trevor’s locker, the suit was seemingly fine. She pulled it on and quickly pulled the boots and gloves on, sealing the junctures. She pulled the helmet down from the shelf, it was heavier than it should be, it did not float as easily as it should have. She turned it over... Oh my god... there was a head still in it. She dropped the helmet and it floated off slowly. Simms closed her eyes, breathed in deeply. ‘The helmets junction should be the same size, I can use mine.’ She turned back to her locker and pulled the helmet down. Hers was empty. She turned to the airlock door and pulled the crank, yanking it open. The small chamber on the other side was not much bigger than the changing room she was just in. She pushed the door shut and cranked the latch down hard. She pulled the helmet on, normally she would have had assistance with this and fastening the junction was nearly impossible. She finally managed. A few buttons and adjustments made and she was breathing normally on the condensed suit air. She had over an hour which she figured would be more than enough to get to the shuttle and get off the Valiant.
Without power the outer door of the airlock required a series of cranks and latches to open. Simms hurried through them, but it was a long process. The sound of the rebreather drowned out the air squelching out as she opened the final latch on the exterior door. She pulled through the doorway and floated out into the cargo bay. Holding onto the handles just outside the airlock, she flipped around and just in front of the control panel for the bay doors. She pulled the handle to no avail. ‘Course, no power.’ she closed her eyes, took a deep breath then looked up to the bay door manual latches on either end of the bay. She kicked up floating effortlessly up to top of the bay and right to the latches. She breathed hard as she worked the rotational handles. The lights on her helmet were the only illumination she had to work by, but it was enough. ‘One open...’ she kicked off and flew across the doors to the other set of latches. She pushed the thought of conserving her air out of her mind. With no power in the Valiant and the degrading orbit she had no choice. She rotated the handle until finally the doors were open and climbed the nearby ladder back down to the bay floor.
She avoided stacks of crates strapped down and huge barrels until she came to a long semi-oval shape with a tarp belted down over the top. ‘Well I hope all of this is worth while.’ She floated along next to the shuttle, stopping long enough to unhitch the straps securing it to the floor and flipped the tarp up and out of the bay. She watched for a moment as the tarp drifted out, into oblivion. She took a deep breath and pulled herself to the shuttle hatch.
This was not her ship, she didn’t know anything about it. She held her breath as she pushed the entry button next to the hatch. It had occurred to her that there may not be any batteries or fuel on board since they were transporting it for its maiden voyage. The button lit green and the hatch door swung open. ‘Great, it’s got batteries. Hope there’s fuel too.’ She pulled herself though the hatch. The shuttle recognized her presence and lights automatically flickered to life. The lay out of the interior was UASA standard, Simms nodded her helmet knowing she could fly it with out issue. She pulled herself into the pilots seat and began flipping switches and pressing buttons for the start up procedure. Her hand hesitated for just a moment over the ignition button, ‘Fuck, I hope it’s got fuel.’ She pressed the button and for a split second there was nothing. Then the silence of the vacuum was broken by the muffled sound of the thrusters firing up.
Simms breathed a heavy sigh of relief as she pulled the seat restraints over her suit. With steady hands on the controls she pulled the shuttle upward and free of the Valiant’s cargo bay. Her eyes scanned the control panel, everything was working brilliantly. One thing caught her eye as her smile faded, the fuel gage flashed red. ‘They must have just put enough fuel in to maneuver in and out of the cargo bay.’ She watched as the Valiant sunk beneath her. She could see the burnt skin of the hull over the engine compartment and wondered again what had happened and why she could not recall anything. Lieutenant Julie Simms pressed the accelerator to full in an effort to break orbit and thus a gravitational demise. She held her breath with anticipation as the small shuttle's thrusters fought to break the pull from the moon. The shuttle shimmied as the last of the fuel was spent and the thrusters fell silent.
Simms’ eyes fell back to the control panel, the altimeter continued to rise as a wave of relief washed over her. She had broken orbit.The shuttle was only intended for short distance travel so it was equipped with life support but only a short distance communication laser and no Nav-computer. She set the laser to repeat an SOS and hoped she would luck into it reaching a shipping lane or passing transport. The life support system pressurized the cabin and Simm’s pulled her helmet off, letting it drift over her shoulder. The shuttle drifted away from the moon and into unknown open space.