This story is by Miguel Rivera and was part of our 2018 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
“Well, this can’t be good” The alert for oxygen levels was going off. This is only to let you know you will die soon, not that you are dying.
I switched it off, there’s plenty of breathable air left at the moment, that alarm was just put in by engineers who panic at the first sign of distress.
“Was that the oxygen levels?” My ship commander buzzed “Everything good?”
Everything is far from good. “Uuuuuuuhm all good down here Chief, just tell everyone to stop talking so much and save their breath” I tapped the glass on the oxygen meter hoping it would refill magically. It didn’t.
“Chief, I gotta be honest here, I’m not sure what to do at this point. I can divert what little power we have left to the carbon filters and get us some more air buuuuuut I’m not sure how much we’ll get out of it. If I do that though, , we’re losing the artificial gravity system, electronic doors, and basic facilities. Realistically, if we do that, I can get us an extra 5 hours of oxygen.” I was hoping that would be enough. Someone would be able to find us by then, right?
“Hmmm” I could picture the commanders nose flaring, she always does that when she’s trying to think. “These people need to breath. Is that the only thing we can do at this moment? What are the engine systems looking like?”
“I haven’t heard back from maintenance but from what I’m seeing, primary and auxiliary power nodes are gone, there’s no way to get juice to the engine.” She already knew that, I think she just didn’t want to be the only one who knew. “What should I do Chief?” I had to ask, I didn’t want this on my shoulders.
“Hold on Enzo, I’ll get back to you in a sec. We’ve got bigger issues up here.” She didn’t even give me a chance to disappoint her.
“Whatever you say Chief.”
I haven’t had a chance to survey the damage but from what maintenance first reported to me, it’s a disaster up there. I guess space rocks traveling at 20 miles per second leave more than just a scratch. My guess? Shields were brought down so passengers could look at the nearby nebula and we just happened to be in the path of a possessed asteroid. Probably tore right through hull, shattered and the shrapnel took out a bunch of systems kept on the underside of the ship. I felt the impact all the way on my end and alarms immediately went off signaling catastrophic failures in 70% of our systems. Fire suppression kicked in but the damage was done.
“Enzo!” I was wondering when maintenance would get back to me
“What’s up Freddy?”
“Crews quarters, completely gone”
“Jeeeesuuuus…you serious? What’s left?” I guess I didn’t want to understand how bad it was.
“Nothin man, anyone in there was torn to pieces or sucked out. I’ve never seen something like this man. What’re we gonna do?”
Freddy, if I had any idea, you would be the first to know. “Waiting on the Chief, Freddy. Engines are gone, habitat facilities are gone, and I think we have enough backup power to last us for another 10-12 hours.” I was being generous with that estimate I didn’t want to scare him. The impact also damaged the lines that carry clean oxygen throughout most of the ship, we’re out here leaking like bloody pig.
“I think we’ll be fine, we already sent out our distress signal anyways. I bet we’re gonna get picked up before I can finish off all the booze I snuck into my office. Hey, you hungry? I can bring you down a snack.” Freddy always had time to snack for some reason. I always said those maintenance guys were slacking.
“Nah I’m good, I’ll see you when I get up there” I have a feeling I won’t be leaving any time soon.
We sent out a distress signal upon impact, standard protocol for all space-faring cruisers. That was 36 hours ago.
Dead in the water as they say, the nearest port is a few days away and we haven’t heard back from anyone since we sent out our beacon. These whales are built to support 7000 people for weeks at a time without needing a resupply but we’ve got a huge hole in ours and I don’t think running out of food is a concern now.
If the instruments are correct, we’ve lost pressurization throughout most of the ship. without pressure we don’t have oxygen. Shields came back on as soon as we got hit so that gave us some semblance of pressure but that’s all dependent on power. Main power was lost when the asteroid destroyed our converters. We’re on backup power now. We were lucky the batteries are in a separate compartment and run through a different set of lines then the main power. Whoever thought of that, you’re a genius.
“Enzo” The commander was finally back “What if we reroute what power we have left, all of it to the oxygen systems. How much time will that buy us?” I’m not gonna point it out but that was my original idea.
“I’d say about five hours. If I shut down the artificial gravity that’s another three and if I cut the backup lights we are on, that’s maybe another three or four. So maybe another 12 hours if we are lucky, giving us 22 hours of oxygen, conservatively speaking”.
“Wait, I gotta check one more thing Enzo.” Phew, I wasn’t ready to pull the plug the just yet, thanks Chief.
“It’s just me and you now, Enzo” The commander came through on a different channel, I’ve never seen that frequency before. “Enzo this is a private channel, I’m reaching out to you from the captain’s quarters. I need you to be be honest with me, how bad does it look?”
The captain was starting to scare me “Uh Chief, shouldn’t someone be coming by to pick us up?”
“I’m afraid not Enzo. We found out the amplifiers that boost our communications were damaged upon impact. Our beacon has been going nowhere, no one knows we are out here.”
“Ooh….shit” I could barely muster the words. No point in being formal around the Chief now.
“Enzo, how much oxygen do we have left? I know you tried to shut off the alarm without me noticing but I saw it, how much do we have left?” There was a crack in the commander’s voice.
“Between you and me Chief, two, maybe three hours. If I shut down the backup systems like you said, shut down the lights then I can buy us a couple more but at the rate we’re leaking oxygen, I don’t think it will…” A gunshot cut my sentence short. Seems like our captain didn’t want to wait as long.
Thanks for that Chief. Looks like it’s my call now.
I guess we’re gonna suffocate in the dark then.