A Drip of Water on Metal
The jarring claxon, strobe lights, and freezing temperature could
mean only one thing — hull breach.
Lonicera jerked awake and fought the blinding panic within her. She
could not move. “Deep breath, close your eyes, think,” she whispered.
She felt giddy with relief as she unsnapped the harness which had held
her captive so that she free-floated above her hammock.
Other passengers tore in mindless frenzy at their harnesses, or
floated above them. Most dirt-dwellers were prejudiced against her
and her fellow Space Lab Nationals. They called her people Spa’Labs to
their faces, and Sp’labs behind their backs. She pitied the dirt-dwellers
now — most of them had no idea how to deal with this situation.
She swam over to a Wrangler with a dozen orphans in his charge.
Wranglers were dirt-born, but spent their adult lives traveling, so this one
knew what to do. Lonicera helped him release the harnesses of his orphans.
“Go to the central corridor and follow the waltzing lights to the
escape pods!” Her voice carried surprisingly well above the howls of
the trapped passengers. “There’s no gravity, so hold hands!”
“Waltzing lights? What the Mother are waltzing lights?” A grim young
man swam up next to Lonicera.
“Those.” She pointed. “They strobe ONE two three, ONE two
three.” She did not waste time explaining that colored lights were
useless in an emergency. Various gases, especially those released during
a hull breach, could make colors appear to be different. The waltz was
soothing and calming; its effect on the human brain was life-saving and
had proven so for millennia. There was no time to explain any of this
to the dirt-born young man. They had less than a sitcom to reach the
escape pods during a hull breach before the bulkheads were sealed.
The young man nodded fiercely and pushed off the wall into the
main corridor. He turned back. “Aren’t you coming?”
“There are still people in harnesses in here.” Lonicera swam to
the closest hammock and smacked a woman’s face until she stopped
screaming. The stranger was beside her in a click and wrestled with
the woman’s companion. Once freed from their harnesses, he pushed
them toward the corridor.
Lonicera and the stranger worked quickly and within five comshells
had the entire pod cleared of passengers. She took his hand as they
entered the corridor.
THOMB!! Gravity smacked them hard onto the floor and then
released them just as quickly.
“Bend your knees and brace for gravity spasms again!” she shouted.
The young man wiped blood off his lips and watched the blood bubble
and float away.
Three more gravity spasms swiftly struck them and then the strobe
lights and claxons stopped.
“Oh no,” she groaned.
He clung to her. “This is not a good thing, is it?”
“No.” She bunched her legs under her and in the darkness threw
the larger man onto her back. “Hold onto my shoulders, not my neck.”
She sprang against the wall and rocketed toward the darker darkness
which — in her mind — marked the end of the passageway. Because of
the sudden silence, she knew the bulkhead doors were descending. She
believed that they had just enough time to get beyond them. She did not
want to die, so she put all of her strength and faith into her movements.
Another gravity spasm hit as they passed the threshold. “Roll!”
she screamed. In tandem, they rolled underneath the barrier just as it
“Listen!” Lonicera hissed. The whining immediately stopped, but
she was not sure if it had been him or her whining.
A soft beeping registered somewhere to her right. He grabbed her
hand and they ran toward the sound and sprang through the air when
the gravity released them again.
“It’s an empty pod!” He dived into it and pulled her behind him.
She punched the door closed.
“But there’s room for three more in here!” he protested.
She wrestled into the nearest hammock. “There’s no one left.”
“What’s your name?” She helped him buckle in.
“Nat. Nathaniel. Myrthyr Nathaniel.”
“Nat.” She grimaced and took his hand as the escape pod’s
ventilation system began blowing stale air into their faces. “We were
the last. There’s no one left alive on the other side of those doors.”
“But—” Nat whimpered and started to cry.
© Evelyn Rainey