Capsule 7

“Welcome to the Davidson Mark 2 Space Survival Capsule! In case of emergency, fasten harness securely and pull the red lever!”

The tinny voice came through the speakers again. It was a woman’s voice. A voice too damn cheery for what could become a floating tomb if they never found you.

I’ve never been a lucky man, and I thought my transfer to the Liberty would be an exception. Finally get off-world and see the stars. Seemed like the only way to get out there was on a Coalition ship, and in peace time this was a no-brainer assignment.

I’m a shield technician. The heat and radiation kind, not the fun weapons kind. Those guys get to sit on the bridge and scream dramatic updates. “Kinetic shields at 47% Captain!” The Environmental Shielding team gets to say quietly “Shields holding on approach to Star A24-667f.”

Captain Denton never visited us like he did the weapons team. That’s where the promotions were, but that just meant we were able to be a bit more… lax with our standards.

“Welcome to the Davidson Mark 2 Space Survival Capsule! In case of emergency, fasten harness securely and pull the red lever!”

The damn recording again, this time a little slower. Liberty’s emergency power must be failing. The old Chicago-class ships weren’t exactly known for their robustness. We were built for planetary bombardment, dropping big kinetic rods from space to devastate cities. Pinpoint targeting lasers. Nuclear smart bombs. Stuff like that.

We weren’t meant for scientific expeditions so I don’t know what the hell Command was thinking. Sending us this close to a previously unstudied star. We had no idea what kind of solar activity to expect. They didn’t even tell us in Environmental Shielding we were doing anything but cruising through the black. They probably told the Weapons Shielding team. The bastards.

Oh god, I see someone moving through the clouded view port. Poor guy will be dead within a minute.

So we were playing cards, right? And no one tells us whats up. Redundant shield generator 3 goes offline. Now, if we were on one of those new class battle cruisers, like the Avenger, the computer would’ve fixed it. On the old Chicago-class ships, you needed to climb through a tube for ductwork and electronics, breathing coolant that would shorten your life by years unless you wore the rad suit. If you wear the rad suit, you get tangled in the cables and cause more problems. They never thought to give us simple respirators, or the ability to shut off the coolant without having to shut down the engines for a day.

Sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself.

So the next hand we wager who has to go flip the breaker. It was the least important bet at the time. I was already up 3 months worth of credits, never been that lucky, so I counted my blessing when breaker-duty was the hand I lost.

“Welcome to the Davidson Mark 2 Space Surv-” and there goes the recording. The capsule’s generator doesn’t even start unless you detach from the ship.

So there I was, on a winning streak when I decided I’d reset the breaker after I lost my next few hands. Needless to say, it wasn’t for some time. I’m usually a shitty poker player, but my god, you feed some of these boys some jury-rigged distilled moonshine and they lose all ability to play.

I can only imagine what was happening on the deck. The Shields Officer probably ignored the small red light on his console as they stared at the approaching star. Anyways, that’s why we had 1 and 2 shields, right?

There’s Denton, smug in his Captain’s chair while all of a sudden the star chooses that particular moment to flare. And I mean fucking flare. I’d wager it was some kind of record but I imagine the Science Officer won’t be around to tell anyone about it.

First shield just pops instantly, the backup starts to weaken, and I see she’ll break no matter what.

Wait, was that something else? Goddamn grime, can’t see a thing out there.

Well, I grab my credits and run. There’s no way to stabilize the shielding after that big of a hit. We’re going to be toast in minutes. Our emergency alarm is offline. Tom was supposed to fix that yesterday. I breeze past some others before I think to hit the next ‘abandon ship’ alarm box.

The Captain never gave the order until I was in the pod, and by then they were walking dead men. See, the escape pods are built with the understanding that you need a shit-ton of materials to protect from radiation since you lack shields. Shuttles, fighters, and capital ships at least have rudimentary shielding, so more material is set for ablative armor and the like. Radiation shielding is usually an afterthought thanks to the redundancies.

With the third shield we may have made it through this. But we would have anyways if they deemed fit to send the Wanderer instead right? That was their goddamn job! I don’t know if this was some kind of PR Navy cruise where we demonstrated even our orbital weapons cruisers could do peace time shit, so that’s not on me. They never should have approached the star without talking to us anyways. At least then we would know to be sober.

I slam the door shut on the pod and lock the bolts. Shield 2 gives way and radiation floods the ship, killing nearly everyone instantly. I admit, I was crying so hard I couldn’t see the red handle to disconnect the pod. I finally find it, pull it, and… nothing. I shove it into position and pull it again. And out comes that cheery fucking voice.

Through the shielded view port I can see people stagger and collapse as a fire rages out of control in the escape bay. No one makes it to another capsule.

I check my engineering manifest and find a note from the life support team. Capsule 7 is offline. Explosive bolts have been removed, and should have been reinstalled two days ago.

My heart drops. If I can get out quickly enough, maybe I can make it into 6 or 8 before the rads and heat from the fire gets me.

I pressed the button to open the door and nothing.

Wait, no I definitely see movement out there. Maybe a rescue team? I pound on the metal door with my wrench, they have to be able to hear that!

This damn capsule is stuck in a computer loop. Since it hasn’t blown its explosive bolts, it won’t shift to its own power. Once you’ve pulled the handle, it thinks it has blown the bolts and doesn’t let you open the door into space. But you’re there. Stuck in limbo. Without a redundancy.

Thud thud thud

Knocking on the door back, yes!

I strain to see the rescue team. Their lights aren’t penetrating the carbon build up on the glass from the fire. The Captain did something right after all. He must have activated the emergency jump beacon.

I see a spot begin to clear on the window. They’re writing something!

I scream for help, “I’m a survivor! Please get me out!”

A shriveled and burnt finger appears and begins to write.

“No survivors.”

The power fails, and I hear the sound of tools hitting the metal door.

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