part two is here
The blaring claxon of the warning beacon whipped him out of his berth and into his jumpsuit before his eyes were full open. He glanced over to where she had been…he’d taken to calling her Jen, and found her laying rigid, staring at him.
“Go,” she said, her voice modulated to calm, but he felt fear behind it.
“What is it?” he tugged on his heavy boots.
‘Breach’ she said simply.
“Fuck!” He was at the door, grabbing his airsuit from the emergency slot beside it, and dressing speedily.
“Section 34B…meteorite broke through…hurry.”
That was bad news. Section 34B was the area where a lot of crew quarters were located. If anyone had been sleeping there when the breach happened, they’d be space flotsam now.
Though it felt like he was moving through viscous air as he hurried to the right area, he was one of the first responders on scene. As one of the top guys in the Mechanics department, he began barking out orders. He was the only one in full gear, and he realized that the computer had given him inside information, likely before anyone else, excepting the Captain.
“Lockdown this corridor, NOW,” he barked to a dazed yeoman. The woman complied releasing the lockdown doors. The clear panels slid from the walls, shutting him in here. He opened the unit that had been breached. A hole the size of fist punctured the hull here., near to where one of the side fins met and branched upwards to the A section. Likely a fucking dumbass hadn’t done a proper overlapping when the two sections were mated.
In his hands he carried a thin, strong sheet of plas. As the pressures equalized, he began to float. Grav had been shut off in this section at last, and he no longer felt the tug of the vacuum pulling him towards the hole. He moved closer, and slapped the plas over the hole, pressing it into the hole, forming a kind of skin from the inside. He took the nozzle from the porta-tank and pressed it firmly against the plas.
“Half-grav” his voice echoed inside the chamber of his helmet. His feet slowly came into contact with the floor as the computer responded instantly to his order. Depressing the lever, he began spraying the lock-fill into the cavity. It took several minutes, packing and pressing the fill material into the hole tightly.
“Tell the crew to get me another tank, and another few sheets of plas, and put it near the field. Then expand the field to the next airlock. I don’t want full pressure against that seal yet, or we’ll have another blow out.”
He heard the muted sound of communication, and a few minutes later, the computer spoke to him.
“William, the tools you needed have arrived, the field has been expanded. Captain is looking for an update. May I com him to you?”
That was a first. She was a sneaky computer. He smiled. She was protecting him from the Captains moody wrath.
“Go ahead and let him know that I’m working on it. No one was in here, no loss of life. And no, I don’t have time to talk to him just now.”
He focused all his energies on making the repair, filling any possible gap, insuring that there would not be a blow-out when full grav/oxygen levels came up. He remained in the unit, watching his patch harden, as the ship was normalized. He would suggest that the person who berthed here to be moved, and have the unit fully sealed in case the breach opened again.
Moving out of the unit, he was surprised by the crowd that had gathered outside the lock-down. As the computer changed the lock to isolate the damaged room, they began clapping. William pulled off his helmet, and stared at them. Embarrassed, he rubbed a hand through his sweaty hair, and pushed through them muttering “cut it out” to them.
The Captain met him at the end of the corridor. Serious faced, William thought he might be in for a bit of a reprimand, and was surprised when his still-gloved hand was grasped by the man, and shaken firmly.
“Good job, Masters, good job. I’m redirecting the ship back to Station Earth now for repairs. You’ll get a fine bonus out of this.” The Captain shook his hand once more, then headed back to the bridge.
It seemed he’d be getting to the South Pacific sooner rather than later. Turning from the crowd, he headed down to the engineering section to begin his regular shift.
The warm tropical breeze ruffled the leaves on the palms that lined the beach. The sound of the occasional ‘thud’ as a coconut fell to the sand was a counterpoint to the sigh and rush of the waves on the beach. Occasionally a gull would soar overhead, crying it’s longing for food, more food.
William Masters lay in the hammock on his front porch, taking in the blue sky, and the bluer lagoon. There was no replacement for the kiss of the air on his flesh, the heat of the late morning building, shimmering up from the white sandy beach. He was happy. Two months here and he wasn’t bored yet. Late morning meant siesta during the heating of the day, evening meant doing chores around the house. He’d developed a routine. He was a routine kind of guy.
His com rang. Picking up the remote unit, he answered.
“Ships done and ready to come out of drydock. Are you *sure* you don’t want to sign on for another round?” The voice of Sheridan, his supervisor sounded shocked that William would turn down such an opportunity.
“Sher, I’m laying here in a hammock, watching the waves on the beach, smelling the lush tropical forest around me.”
“Yeah, I’m sure you are…and likely bored to tears. Why don’t you get your fucking lazy ass UP here and …”
He cut Sheridan off before he got a full head of steam.
“nah, I’m good. Happy. Relaxed. That bonus helped me buy the place here, and I’m really good. If I get itchy feet, I’ll sign up next time you’re in port. But for now? I’m happy hanging here. Safe skies, my friend.”
He put the com in his pocket.
“Who was that?”
Her voice was soft and beautiful. He watched her move out of the house, a basket of fresh-cut flowers in her hands. She put it on the table, “dressing it for lunch” she called it.
Waggling his hand to her, he gestured her to come closer.
“No one, just a goodbye call from a shipmate. C’mere, Jen.”
He tugged her closer, then with practiced ease, pulled her into the hammock with him. How Computer had generated her here, a week into his stay, had been something he didn’t want to know the details of. It was way beyond what he believed she was capable of…yet they programmed super-intelligence into her, so perhaps not. And the proof that she could do it was laying here in his arms.
Together they lay, watching the sun dancing on the waves.