Farlost, Episode 35
"Officer, I can't see your face!" Ron Taggart sighed, and let go of the spanner, careful not to lend it any spin. He leaned back, one hand on still on the pinched frame surrounding the airlock to the cellar, and looked up at the most powerful man he'd likely ever meet. Chairman Goss floated in the window. His expression was serious. Some might say intimidating, but not Taggart. He had faced down gang-bangers who wanted his milk money before he was twelve. That, and he could see someone's hands under the armpits of Goss's modded-for-zero-g business suit, holding the old man still in the airlock door's window. Goss held the airlock handset to his ears with boney hands. His nostrils flared beneath his thin beak of a nose. This was not a man used to being ignored. "You know you look stupid in that suit, right? I mean, come on: a tie in space?" The old man's eyes narrowed. Ron stared back, letting his annoyance play on his face. "You have to adjust your thinking, Chairman. Haskam's a long ways away right now." He found the wrench and held it up. "You want me to try and crank the pressure down on that airlock door and get you out, I'm gonna have to ask you to step away from the window and give that handset back to the duty officer." Ron watched the old man throw the handset at the window, and bark something. He floated backwards, like some sort of horror movie extra. Taggart couldn't help but chuckle. HOLD ON. He froze and listened. Where had that voice come from? He tapped the arm of his suit. "Say again, C&C?" Rose Okoro's voice came back. "This is C&C. What's your situation, Officer Taggart?" Not them, Ron thought. Behind the airlock glass he heard whispers and his back stiffened. Not again, he thought. It didn't hurt, having freeze-frames of other people's mental states dumped into his noggin. It was weird as hell, but he'd got used to it fast. The more he focused on something external, like turning the wrench to reduce the pressure on the seals around Cellar Two's door, the more he could block it out. Now it was flaring up again and he could make out images, emotions, but not who they belonged to. Just like he could back in C&C, after the thing that had pretended to be his brother told him not to let the lights go out. "Disregard, C&C. I'm..." I'm just goin' crazy, he thought. THen he shook his head. No I'm not, he told himself, but I'm not sure what's happening ain't worse. "Continuing my attempt to decrease the pressure on the airlock door to Cellar Two by cranking back the frame leading into the connecting tank." He rapped his knuckles against the glass of his helmet. "Am suited in case of depressurization. Please direct additional muscle this way as soon as possible." C&C acknowledged and killed the line. Duty officer Green reappeared in the window, an apologetic look on his face. Ron didn't blame him for the old man bossing his way onto the comm line. Green worked for the man. Had kids, too. Ron's moms had other kids to take care of her if he didn't return, and plenty of cash from his older brother's disability pension to rely on if he did return unemployed. All of which added up to his not giving a damn about the silly old fart's attitude. Goss was scared, too, Ron knew. Or senile. No reason letting someone unhinged getting under your skin. Speaking of unhinged... He grinned, remembering the look on Villanueva's face when he'd talked to the man about his wife. The grin softened as he thought about the acting First Officer's actions since this clusterfuck had started. The man had stones he'd never shown before. And there was something about feeling his soul directly too. He was a good man. Ron knew. What he didn't know was how he knew, or what was going on, but the way Arnel Villanueva reacted to his words proved he wasn't nuts. So, it was what it was. He looked back at the open panel at the bottom of the airlock, and the series of bolts that he needed to turn to try and reduce the pressure that had jammed the airlock shut - likely when space rocks started swiss-cheesing HHL-6. Ron hadn't been able to budge them. He sighed and tightened his grip on the wrench. Yet. He pulled in on the line he'd snapped from his belt to the airlock and dragged himself back down to work. There was a click on his helmet speaker, then Green's voice agian. "So...aliens." "Uh...huh!" Ron grunted as he put as much of his weight behind the wrench as he could without sending himself spiraling. He'd pay cash money for a magic gravity machine right about now. "This is pretty cool," Green mused. Ron looked up at him, panting, and grinned. Green wore 'this is pretty cool' on his face like a secret shame. It was wrapped up in grief for those they had lost and a well of terror Green worked hard to keep locked away. And it poured off him in waves that Ron was pretty sure he alone aboard 6 could see. "Yeah," Ron said with a grin. "Pretty damn cool, man." HOLD ON. Ron sucked in a breath. His whole body shuddered with...hope? "You alright, Taggart?" Ron ignored Green's concern and turned to look up at the ceiling at a skewed angle. It was there. Right there. And coming fast. What was? the rational part of Ron's brain screamed, wishing for an instruction manual to make more sense out of the shit-ton of crazy-pants psychic data pouring into his head from somewhere else. A sense of something intense. Something good. "It's coming!" he whispered. "What's coming?" Green asked, more concerned now. "Officer Taggart!" Ron stared at him and smiled, even as he unclipped his safety line and kicked off towards the other end of the tank, and to C&C. They had to know. "Got no idea, but it's comin'... Keep 'em calm in there, Richard. I think our odds just got a whole lot better!"
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