Saturday, 18 July 2015

Lost at Space

The indicator light blinked incessantly on the edge of Dackson's vision. Like a petulant child, the red light flared once a second, every second, demanding his attention.

'Three hours of oxygen remaining'

That's what the tinny voice of the computer kept insisting. He pressed himself from the fuel pump and floated through the all-white interior of his shuttle. He looked at all the whirring meters and spinning dials with thin eyes; unsuccessfully willing them into better numbers. Two steel doors hummed open, showing the crisp polyester seats and the starry blackness he drifted in.

He pulled himself into the seat and clicked the buckles together while his hand reached and flipped a single switch on the console. He grumbled as he stared at the blinking light again. He stretched a flat palm out to the light, hovering it over the light. He drew his hand back and scratched his dark hair.

He reached and toggled a different switch on the panel - one close to the panel edge and away from the oxygen warning light. The dial was yellow, with two oval eyes and a stretched smile. He twisted it slightly. An unoccupied patch of metal on the console flipped over and white lights shone up into the full face of Feed 41, the shuttle's artificial intelligence.

"Hello Pilot Dackson," the digital voice intoned without emotion.

"Computer," he barked, "show me the vital signs of the cargo." The holographic face melted into six smaller ones, each accompanied with numbers showing things Dack didn't understand.

"Vital statistics on the cryogenic passengers are normal," the voice replied. The six faces melted back into one, "Be advised, there is currently two hours, forty seven minutes, and fifty three seconds of cabin oxygen remaining."

"Divert oxygen from the private tank."

"I'm sorry Dackson, I cannot do that. The private oxygen tank is specific to the individuals in cryogenic storage."

Dackson hammered his gloved fists onto the control panel. "I will not die here!" he shouted at the thinning air. "I will not die here. In a can. Adrift. I will not have that blinking light blink forever."

The stars glittered through the cockpit glass as Dackson panted with his fists on the control panel. The ship grew murky through his tears as he wasted air with his angry breaths.

"Object detected," Feed 41 said. Dackson smeared the tears out of his eyes.

"Full scan," he groaned, "aft thrusters fire so we can see it." The stars outside whirred in white streaks until a grey sphere loomed in the distance.

"It's identity signal addresses the object as: The Cape Town Biosphere." Dackson's hands darted to his hair, gripping them in tight fists as he brought them down before his chest, shaking them in celebration.

"Home," he sighed. He flipped switches with frantic, spidery hands and in an instant, the Biosphere loomed closer. It grew to dwarf the stars around it as the docking arms on the base of the great sphere with spired patches. Great clunks pulled the ship inside as fresh air hissed through every cabin and every compartment. Men in blue uniforms lifted the capsules with the six onto their floating supports and ferried them out the shuttle.

"Pretty long time for a milk run," his friend Salford said by the airlock. Dackson dumped the command key in the breast pocket of his blue uniform.

"Too long," Dackson admitted, "nearly left me breathless. All that matters now is that I'm back." He patted his friend on the chest and strode into the Biosphere, making the slow walk home.

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