Farlost, Episode 50
Lou's ears rang, and she fell to her knees. The lights went out, and blood red strobed through the engine room iwth an emergency klaxon she barely heard through the roar in her ears. "Get up, Montagne." She almost passed out again, then jerked back, sure she just heard Ed Dyer's voice. Taggart was beside her. She tried to scream. She didn't know what she tried to scream, but Taggart didn't hear it anyway. Her pain came out on just a hiss of air. She looked her security officer over. His face was grim, but he looked unharmed. She squeezed his arms but got herself up, just as the lights came back up—only half as bright as before. Lou's ears vibrated more with pain than sound. Her head hammered. Somehow she could still see, through tears streaming down. Her eyes focused on the ugly spray of what used to be Burkov. He meant to kill them all, she knew, but the fool hadn't work with explosives before. She doubted he'd worked anything besides a screen or a cocktail party a day in his life. Gruber was next to the machine, shouting something, pulling a massive lever on the side of the machine he'd mated the power cable from Six. It was smoking and sparking, some of the big sparks hitting the big Engineer. She heard him scream with rage. Captain Travis raced to Gruber’s side and helped pull the lever down. The power main popped out of its port on the front of the machine. More lights went out. Red strobed from wall panels. Lou shook her head, taking stock of her body as she watched Captain and engineer carry the line from her ship to another, identical machine a few meters away... on the other side of the wall art that had once been a Haskam Vice President. Travis slotted the heavy cable into place, and Gruber threw his weight behind another massive switch. The lights came back up to full, and Lou held a hand up to protect her throbbing eyes. That's when the other screams made their way past the pins stabbing into her ears. She looked back… and saw the bodies on the floor. Arnel had two fingers on Stan Renic's throat, checking for vitals. Taggart held his hands to Rose Okoro's shredded, bleeding side. As if she'd stepped on an elevator in free fall, Lou’s stomach lurched. She wobbled to the young woman's side and stared down. Helpless and angry, she watched the life drip out of her Nav officer. Renic was still beside her, blood just barely trickling out of the mess of his throat. She saw the wounds in Rose's side and the wreckage of Stan's throat and chest and put the scene together: he'd put himself between her and the explosion. It didn't look like he'd done enough. "What the hell happened!" The high-pitched, frantic voice roared from hidden speakers. "Power went down to half the ship. Captain Sam! Ben, are you okay? Don’t leave me alone!” At odds with the terror in the voice, it was accompanied by an explosive fart. "Stop screaming Wish!" Travis panted. "There was an explosion, but we're fine. Mute him, Daisy!" Travis stumbled over to where Lou stood, watching. "Not getting a pulse," Lou heard her first officer call out coldly, stating facts even as he moved his clasped hands to Stan's chest, administering compressions. Taggart looked up from Rose, his face empty and angry. He shook his head at Lou. Gruber had come over, and he caught the look. “Ah, hell!" the big man growled. He reached for a long cylinder mounted on the wall. It was yellow and black metal, reminding Lou of a fire extinguisher but three times as long. "Clear back!" He shouted as he tore the cylinder free. Travis's hands locked around Lou's middle and pulled her back out of the way. She smashed into his shoulder with her elbow and he grunted. "You need to make room!" Part of her was shocked she could move at all, part of her was good and goddamn sure nothing was keeping her from Rose and Stan. Captain Travis spun her around, and then raised both hands into the air, palms towards her, indicating surrender. "Stop! Ben's trying to save them!" That got through to Lou, who hissed and ceased her fight. She skittered backward then, wide, helpless eyes returning to her crew bleeding out onto the floor. Travis raced around to take the other end of the cylinder from Gruber. It was a long metallic scroll-like contraption. They dropped the scroll down to the deck plating just to the right of the two on the ground, then they pulled it apart. It emitted a high-pitched whine when they began pulling. Lou watched them walk backwards until they carried a good third of the bulk of the meter-plus long tube back a dozen paces, still connected by extruding film, til it was well clear of Rose and Stan's feet. They sat their burden down. It clunked hard into place, too as if it were filled with industrial magnets. Gruber tapped at a screen on its side. Writing Lou had never seen before filled that screen, and he nodded up at the Captain. Lou watched, helpless and angry and without a clue what they were doing, as they elbowed Arnel and Taggart back away from her fallen crew. Both resisted, then complied with Lou's barked order to stand down. Travis roughly pushed Rose and Stan closer together and half-lifted, half-rolled them onto the film, careful not to come into contact with the stuff himself. Beacham knelt over the film, reaching down to touch it. "Hey!" Gruber ran to the physicist and lifted him roughly under the armpit. "You wanna die? Don't touch it!" Beacham nodded, stepping back a few paces, white as a sheet. "You can save them, with this? You can?” Gruber ignored him, running back to the first half of the tube. Travis knelt on the other side of that tube, and the two men counted down from three, then pulled again. A second chunk of tube separated, another thin film coming with it. Steam and a light blue glow emanated from the top of this film. They walked quickly to the far tube and carefully clicked the new segment into place. The blue glow and off-gassing grew, and the top layer of film gave off a crackling sound. Travis tapped more buttons. The wrap sank down all around the Rose and Stan. Lou noticed Stan's arms had been flung over Rose again, as they must have been when he'd tried to protect her from Burkov's attack. Lou's eyes widened as the film began to draw in from the floor on either end, disappearing from the floor and tightening around the two forms within. The Blue glow brightened. Lou held up a hand, instinctively. When the light disappeared and she lowered her hand again, a silver statue of two lovers lay on the floor. Beacham sank to his knees beside them. "Are--are they?..." Gruber grunted. "They're as safe as we can make 'em, for now." "Suspended animation?" Asked a twitchy but comprehending Beacham. Gruber grunted an affirmative. Lou saw blood dripping from Beacham's arm. Travis saw it at the same time, and knelt down to examine the tear in the space suit. She looked back at the the silvered bodies. "Can you save them?" "Ask me later, friend," Gruber said, not all that unkindly. "No time now to even guess." Lou walked to Taggart and Beacham, her eyes never moving from the new statues as she unzipped a pocket on her suit and held out a patch kit for Beacham's suit. She watched Travis kneel and hold a hand over the steam emitting from the silver. He let the hand get closer and closer until he touched it, and nodded. "Sam, over here.” Travis looked up at the Gruber’s words. Lou saw the careful look on the Captain's face as he moved to comply. "Ouch, shit, that hurts!" Beacham roared up at Taggart. Lou squeezed his good arm and nodded reassuringly at the physicist. "Sorry Doc," Taggart murmured gently, with a sympathetic smile for the man. Lou heard more quiet words from their hosts. More precisely, she heard their tone. The meaning was lost in the ringing in her ears, but she wanted to hear more. She looked at the statue on the ground, hoped hard for them both, and turned her mind back to survival. She stood up and walked past the smoking terminal Burkov had destroyed. Villanueva followed. Gruber looked up and sighed -not out of fear of discovery, but with the weight of something- and waved them closer. "Any more party guests hiding in my cargo bay we don't know about?" Gruber asked angrily. "Pilot Nishioka and Cargo Specialist Bosteder have left the bay to install Doctor Beacham's final pod," Daisy intoned from empty air. “The bay is clear.” Gruber breathed a sigh of relief. "Good to know. Okay, update time: we’ve got the engines online and accelerating, no problems with the connection, and we’ve heard from the tram." “They scuppered their Boomer!” He looked momentarily pleased over that. "Your pilot's okay, but you're down one EVA craft. They’ll catch up with us shortly. If we’re still where we’re supposed to be.” Gruber looked at Sam. “Posk.” Travis closed his eyes at the word. Lou didn’t have to ask what Gruber meant. A couple breaths passed. His eyes were hard when they opened. “What else can we do before the Boomers hit us?” “Pray to your favourite deity.” Gruber leaned over and gently rubbed the side of the power relay Six's reactors were now feeding. "This is our last power relay." His expression darkened. "She's a rebuild, from our last Ery network trade deal." Travis raised an eyebrow, looking like he was waiting for the other shoe to drop. "I was only halfway through her rebuild. When she goes, we won’t have enough energy to sustain Beacham’s black egg.” Travis’s face fell. "How long." Gruber chewed his lip. “She’ll go before we’re clear of the Thorn's gravity well, for sure. Any time, really." "Two boomer ships are left, headed our way. Be here soon." Whish's voice, out of the thin again. That was the one one that floats, Lou recalled, even without accompanying fart noises. "And Cap? The Eternal is climbing faster. It’s definitely following us.” “Daisy,” Gruber shouted, “keep him quiet, we’re workin’!” Lou heard a pop in the air, and the background noise from the bridge disappeared. Gruber pointed a stubby finger at his Captain. “Don’t even think about that spark plug right now!” Travis made a fist, but somehow refrained from punching the side of the ailing machinery. “How many frying pans and how many fires are we up against!?” The ghost with Ed’s face reappeared behind Lou’s shoulder. "Don't let the lights die,” he hissed. Her fists tightened. She breathed deep. I’m not crazy, I’m just trapped somewhere in the universe with aliens and Thorns and ‘Lights’—whatever they are. She hoped a vacation wasn't too far off. She wanted to cause some trouble for once, instead of preventing it. And soon. Then she smelled something. She looked at the machine that was funnelling her ship's power into the Betty's systems. A ring of yellow had started flashing all around the power cable. Gruber swore and ran behind the machine, slamming it open and plunging his hands inside. The machine hummed, then stopped. A dozen other machine sounds around Lou faded or ground down. And the lights went out again. “Now, what!” Travis yelled. “Now, you listen!” The ghost that wasn’t Ed whispered. “Or…you die!”
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