Early in the Prometheus 21’s mission, before his ‘accident,’ Jones had made a fuss, asking questions about exposure levels and radiation poisoning. Then Jones lost his right arm on one of the larger exterior service armatures and bleed to death in space. After that no one asked any more questions about radiation levels. We aren’t near any major stars at the moment but as the eggheads seem to think, most of space is just filled with radiation. Most of it was just remnants from the Big Bang. I’m just a roughneck, I don’t know about any of that. I just load, unload, and maintain. Lather, rinse, repeat. Day after day after day.
While I’m no genius, I’ve never trusted the design of the Zion class C freighters. Not one bit. Totally unnatural way to design a ship. Sure, not having a roof over the main cargo bay greatly simplified loading and unloading, but it was very unnerving to walk through that area without a pressurized spacesuit. The Zions are sleek rockets essentially with half an outer wall missing over the entire cargo bay. The light is very dim in the holding bay because we usually only go in there during loading and unloading.
The rocket spins around its major axis and generates a little gravity which helps to keep the atmosphere in the bay from escaping into space. And there are several Weisman field generators to help further hold our oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen on the interior of the rocket also but it’s still damn unnerving to walk under stars, and be able to see that the top of your ship is simply not there! One could, if they were dumb, climb up and just slip right out into space! The Weismans would give you a little zap on your way out but that wouldn’t be fatal. Benson used to throw empty argon canisters right off the ship like some drunken redneck hurling empty beer cans out of his El Camino speeding down some dark road. It’s bad for the field generators and the tiny canisters spark pretty brightly as they pass through the field.
Benson was an idiot and now he’s a dead idiot.
If there were light in here, in the rambler, I could probably see his bones. At the other end of the rambler is where the creature is chained. He can’t reach us. I lean to my right a few inches, tentatively exploring the black space with my right hand. Clayton is gone. I dozed off earlier, that must have been when Clayton bought the farm.
Well, okay I guess that makes me the lucky one ladies and gentlemen. The sole survivor of Prometheus 21, a Zion class C freighter presently en route to Ionia, in the Andromeda galaxy.
When the creature, gets hungry it activates the hydraulic pistons and the rambler tilts up 40 degrees. The low gravity and the slick floors in the rambler mean that whatever or whoever is inside, slides down the ramped floor and right into its horrific, ravenous mouth.
For the most part we are only in the cargo bay during loading and then unloading phase. Other than that, we tend to stay in the forward, conventionally enclosed cabin. But we came out when the ‘object’ crashed into our bay. All seven of us had responded. That was unfortunate. But the tedium and boredom of space travel had made everyone on board ready for anything to break up our mundane existence.
The tiny alien ship setting in our cargo bay, its engines still hissing and outgassing god knows what. The huge cosmonaut with his leashed monstrosity, staying out of sight until all seven of us had poured into the bay. Shutting off our only reasonable hope of escape. Jenkins, Silverberg, Klaus attacked the interloper and were vaporized with the smallest matter scrambler I’ve ever seen. The other four of us; Benson, Clayton, Ortiz, and myself all forced into the rambler, then the pet was chained in with us. I guess the cosmonaut needed to feed his creature and we were like a convenience store for him.
But then he / she / it took off in the little sleek ship. Leaving four of us to be periodically rattled into this creature’s mouth. The sounds are just the worst. It’s a mercy that it’s dark in here and we can’t see it but the bones crunching, the screaming, and I can swear I can now say I’ve heard skin ‘tear,’ are just awful.
The ship is on auto-pilot and will be for about another 37 years. If I could get out of the rambler, I might make it to the forward cabins, activate the emergency beacons, jettison the rambler, climb into my sleep pod, set a new course, something. But the only exit is near the creature. For now, I’m stuck here.
The cosmonaut never checked us before locking us in the rambler, which was lucky for me. I had four large rare earth magnets in my pockets I had been using as I repaired one of the lepton suppressors in Benson’s sleep pod, when I came into the bay. Where they are in my pockets, even at forty degrees, I stay stuck to the non-slick walls of the rambler.
But I know it knows I’m here. It can sense me, hear my breath, maybe even feel my body heat, I don’t know. So, for now I guess I wait.