A green light blinked on the main command panel. Zak swore. They twisted to look. Realizing the previously dead panel responded, they strapped themselves into the pilots' chairs. Kin training
returned as guilt assailed her in a litany, dereliction…dereliction…dereliction.
Green iridescent words reflected on the interior’s surfaces: renna markham3 recognized. report due.
The chronometer flashed 2179.356-18.17 ust and below the read, in red, another read announced: countdown sequencing 0:11:15.
Zak tried inputting the panel. Each time the red, ‘code invalid. access denied.’ flashed while an accompanying screeching pre-flight alarm filled the compartment.
“Shit. The damn thing has control of flight command. Suit up.” Zak pushed more pads with no result.
“How?” Dizziness assailed her. When she didn’t move, Zak pushed her clothes and suit into her hands. It was difficult to keep her balance. Only then did she notice gravity held her. She began to dress. “Something is happening. One of us should stay here.”
“No. None of the panels respond, our code is locked out. We’ll go back to the fore compartment, and access the escape pods if necessary.”
When she hesitated, he grabbed her chin and pulled her to face him. “Get into your suit, now!”
His rigid expression made her reluctantly don her exvee. She heard Zak talking to someone within his helmet. The sound was muted as she hadn’t put her connex on yet. She stared at the message on the board, fear crackling along her nerves. Zak grabbed her helmet and put it on, secured the attachments, and pulled her from the command compartment.
The walk seemed longer, darker, their movements unsteady. Gravity fluctuated with each step, and her feet landed in different places from where she anticipated. Whenever her boots connected with the deck, she felt the beat of the wild engine through the sole. The engine pulse sprinted in a synthesized rhythm of unchecked momentum. Their suit lumes emitted bent and twisted streams of bouncing light in nauseating illumination.
Before reaching the halfway point, a muted voice echoed through Renna’s helmet, …renna markham3…Her heart lurched and her breath caught. A subtle engine whine sounded through the gangway. She recognized the voice. Dom Dukan spoke to her.
They reached the hatch to the forward compartment. She helped Zak manually turn the latch. When the cover opened, Zak hesitated. Renna motioned him to enter, ready to follow. …renna markham3…the familiar masculine voice called her, multiplying into the collected voices of her dead kin. She looked down the corridor. Zak turned from inside the airlock to look at her.
“Ren?” Zak’s voice came through her helmet. She barely recognized his voice. …renna markham3…Sen spoke. Renna faced back down the dark corridor. The gangway blurred and refocused, elongated and returned to normal, moved about as if her eyes looked through a viewfinder. She must be hallucinating. Sen committed suicide. She was dead.
Her friend spoke over Zak’s voice and Renna hesitated. “Do you hear her?”
“Hear who? Hurry! Now!” Zak motioned to her to enter the airlock.
Renna took a step toward the airlock, hesitated while looking down the gangway she had just walked. Operational lights sprang on around the hatch. She heard the hatch mechanism start and turned to the sound. The hatch slammed shut enclosing Zak in the airlock, nearly catching his arm in its closure.
The lock’s click reverberated with noise proving atmosphere present. Lights kicked on in stages along the side partitions and overhead. In the shadows between the shifts in her perception, she saw the faces of her kin. Through her helmet audio, she heard Zak screaming at her. Images of the Markham3’s end overwhelmed her. Now, now was the time, they seemed to say.
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