It felt like days instead of hours. Bridget had worked them tirelessly sealing off certain sections of the ship while reinforcing others. The sheer number of areas that she expected to be totaled by their “landing” was making Dimitri and probably everyone else nervous. Both Fletcher and Zaine had made asses out of themselves questioning Bridget and her calculations until she decided she’d had enough.
“Do you have a better idea? No? Then stop wasting our limited air supply bitching and get back to work.”He’d felt like applauding but didn’t want to encourage the internal sniping. Ryan on the other hand didn’t bother censoring himself and just laughed out loud. He was going to have to remind him that they were still on the clock and he needed to act like it. Granted they all needed the laugh to relieve the tension but they’d have to find another butt for the jokes or else it’d just piss off the two already testy researchers. The last thing they needed right now was more antagonism in the group.
Things were not getting better with Lazen and Lawrence. If anything, having a plan was making things worse. They both were trying to run things and it had caused mass confusion until he stepped in and had the group vote on how to split up the tasks. It had put him on both Lazen and Lawrence’s shit lists but at least things were getting done now.
They were almost finished sealing the last three doors. After that it was a matter of securing their supplies then themselves and flipping on the Twitch Drive. On purpose this time. Easy right? Riiiiight. He fully expected some problem or snag to pop up. If things went off without a hitch he’d keel over from shock. Heading over to a wall console he sent in a call to the biolab.
“D here, we’re done sealing off section 5.”
“The others have finished sections 6 and 9. Come back and we’ll finish preparations.”
Lazen cut off the connection and Dimitri sighed as he turned to head back to the others with Cecil. He’d better get the rest of the briefing from his stoic friend before they got back.
“So Lawrence was trying to pump you for information?”
“Yes. He was also questioning why I wasn’t taking charge since I’m older. Seemed to think that I’d fall in line with him since we’re around the same age.”
They both had a laugh about that. He had wanted to support Lawrence in the beginning but the way he argued and picked at Lazen it had a personal feel to it. To get everyone home alive they needed to work together so until Lawrence put the personal agenda on the back burner he’d do whatever he had to in order to keep the group functioning.
“I told him we have a chain of command at Fenton. Our procedure for this type of situation is also very clear so that’s what I’ll be following. He seemed discouraged but accepted it. I still don’t know what he was hoping to accomplish but I’ll keep an eye on him.”
“Thanks. We’re also gonna need to come up with a plan for after we get to Berith 2. Whoever lands after us isn’t going to be happy that another crew beat them to it. We may end up in deeper shit than we are now.”
“I was thinking the same thing. From everything I’ve heard the other companies are still about a month away from completing their ships so we’ll have time to come up with a plan and set up some defenses.”
Nodding he started mentally reviewing everything the recon drones had reported about the planet. The majority of the surface was freshwater oceans with strings of islands and a few small continents. The land based animals were all avian, none larger than a seagull. It was a tropical climate where they were crashing with abundant plant life. The oceans were also supposedly teeming with life. The planet was thankfully oxygen based and could support humans so he was looking forward to not worrying about his air supply again.
Coming up on the biolab he saw they were the last to get back. The minute he saw Bridget’s face he knew he wasn’t going to like whatever she was going to say. Leaning against the wall he decided to get it over with quickly.
“Okay, Bridget. What’s gone wrong now?”
“It’s that obvious, huh? I have good news and bad news. The good news is that we were able to seal off all the sections that are likely to take damage. The bad news is the consoles in the section 7 passenger bay aren’t working. That means we can’t start the takeoff sequence for the Twitch Drive from there.”
Letting his head fall back to thunk against the wall he closed his eyes. Wasn’t that just fucking peachy? He was seriously going to hurt whoever back at Fenton had decided to accept this contract. If he ended up dead his ghost was going to find a way to get back home and haunt the bastard. The groans around the room told him he wasn’t the only one loving this newest development.
“We can still do the plan but someone is going to have to use the console in the engine room then get to the third level passenger bay. It’s the closest place to the engines that’ll be safe during the landing.”
“The crash landing, Bridget. Can’t forget the crashing part. How long will whoever starts the Twitch Drive have to get to their seat?”
“About five minutes, same as last time. Who’s the fastest runner?”
Even with his eyes closed he knew his crew were all looking at him. Damn Kenric and his signing him up for track back in high school. All the marathons he’d also been signed up for too. He really needed to get his brother a new hobby besides running his life. Raising his hand and opening his eyes he accepted the inevitable.
“That’d be me unless there’s any other runners? No? Great. So how do I work the console?”
It had taken another half an hour before Bridget was satisfied that he had the sequence down correctly. He almost wished he’d messed it up. Another breakneck run for his life, this time with a few flights of stairs added, was not his idea of fun. At least this time he knew what should be happening and he didn’t have to be on the lookout for people on the way there. All he had to do was get his ass in his seat on time. The seat with the already adjusted headrest, no more concussions for him today. He’d done a few dry runs to make sure he had the route down before Bridget gave him the okay.
Ryan clapped him on the shoulder. “Good luck D.”
Katcha grinned at him before offering her advice. “Run like your ass is on fire, got it?”
“Thanks Ryan, much appreciated. Cheshire, if some shit goes wrong down there and my ass really does catch on fire I’m blaming you. Call me from section 7 when you’re all set and I’ll get the drive twitching.”
Bridget ran him through the sequence one more time before she nodded and headed off. Cecil just gripped his shoulder tightly before letting him go. Marvin and Jude both wished him luck but he doubted there would be a problem. Kenric had been taking him on morning runs, drills and endurance exercises practically his whole life so even the part on the stairs wasn’t likely to trip him up. The rest of the group passed by with only Zaine and Lawrence nodding at him. Now it was his turn to head out.
Walking through the halls he took a moment to soak in the peace and quiet. With everything that had happened having a moment to himself was welcome. Fuck he missed Kenric, he hated being in charge. Swallowing past a lump in his throat he refocused himself on the task at hand. Had to get through all this crap so he could get home. Thinking of the lectures his brother would heap on his head had him grinning. For once he was looking forward to Ken being a mother hen. Coming up on the engines he slipped through the door and over to the console. He wasn’t waiting for long before the call from Bridget came in.
“D here. You guys ready?”
“Yeah. Get the sequence started then get out of there okay? Good luck and we’ll see you on Berith 2.”
“Safe trip guys. See you hopefully soon.”
Alright, time to get this show on the road. Stretching a bit first and running through the sequence again he took a few deep breaths before punching in the codes and directions that would send them all on another rollercoaster ride. He really needed to consider a career change.
“Prepare for Twitch Drive jump. Please secure yourselves for Twitch Drive jump.”
He was out the door and halfway down the hall. First turn to the left toward the hydroponics tanks. Need to count the stairs, make sure he didn’t miss the fourth stairwell.
“Twitch Drive jump will activate in four minutes.”
Shit, he was already a minute in. Top of the stairs, go straight across to the end of the hall and then a right. Weave through the equipment strapped to the floor and down another hallway. He needed to get to the second set of stairs.
“Twitch Drive jump will activate in three minutes. All personnel please proceed to your seats.”
Second set of stairs then to the left and up the last set to the passenger bay. Still have two minutes to get into the seat and buckle up. Double check the headrest, make sure it wasn’t going to bash in the back of his head. Buckle up and pull the straps tight across his chest. He was in his seat with a minute to go. Yay! He still had time to second guess everything and panic!
“Twitch Drive jump will activate in one minute. Please begin breathing protocol.”
What the fuck was it with the breathing protocol? He kept forgetting to ask someone. Would anyone on the ship even know? Fuck it, he could ask once he was back home. Taking deep breaths he tried to calm down but there was too much adrenaline in his system. He might as well be hooked to a live wire.
“Twitch Drive jump sequence initiating.”
The ship gave a massive jerk pushing Dimitri back into his seat. At least this time he knew relatively what to expect up until the whole crash landing part. He hoped the ship held together again. Great, now he had an image in his head of it tearing apart and flinging them out into space or across an ocean. Again. Why did his imagination hate him? It was difficult to tell how much time passed but he was ready to throw up by the time the computer piped up again.
“Proximity alert! Proximity alert! Impact imminent! Please assume crash position!”
Crash position? How the hell were they supposed to assume any kind of position being strapped in like they were? Who came up with this shit?
“Proximity alert! Impact imminent! Please assume-”
The computer was cut off as the ship made contact with the ground and metal screamed all around him. He forgot to breath as he was tossed about in his harness, neck painfully snapping forward then sideways as he could feel the ship spinning around. Oh shit! His feet and ass were NOT supposed to be over his head! Neither were the lower unstable parts of the ship that Bridget had said were going to be torn up in this crash. They were flipping. The multi-ton flying deathtrap was flipping over. Who the fuck had he pissed off to deserve this shit?!
The screech of metal continued as the ship settled back onto the lower levels and they slid farther before a new impact was felt and…Were they sinking? Fuck. They must have overshot their landing. Please don’t let them be in the water. That would be very very bad. Finally the ship came to a shuddering stop and he could breath again. His hands were shaking so he took a moment to try and calm down. He also had to swallow the bile in the back of his throat. No time to throw up.
His hands were still shaking a bit but he managed to undo his buckles. His head and neck protested the abuse he’d just gone through but he was steady on his feet. Slowly moving around the debris the impact had ripped loose and thrown around the passenger bay he made it to the hallway. The way he had planned to take to section 7 was toast, he needed to contact the rest of the group. Moving to a wall console he tried to call the passenger bay in section 7 but nothing was working. Great, the crash had taken out their communications.
Looking up and down the hallways he knew what his team would do. Ryan would head out, probably with Bridget, to try and meet up with him. Normally he would stay where he was and wait for them but he had no way of knowing if they were okay. In this situation he had to go against the ‘sit tight and wait for help’ rule and find a way back himself. The hall he used to get to this section was trashed so he couldn’t go that way. The other way looked relatively clear though. He stopped to check each of the wall consoles he spotted along the way but none of them were working.
“Of course they’re not working, D. Why the fuck would anything be working in this shithole? Why am I talking to myself? Great, I’m going loopy.”
Navigating through the scattered equipment and fallen beams he slowly forged a path back to the section of the ship where the others were. He kept trying the wall consoles whenever he saw them but it only confirmed that their communications were out. The neck communication units still weren’t connecting either so he was on his own. At least the lights were all working, if he had to do this in the dark he’d be in a lot more trouble.
“I so need that rum after this.”
Coming up on one of the ruined stairways he had used earlier he was wishing for the rum again. A small crane had gone crashing through the steps leaving a gaping hole in the floor. Laying down on his stomach he leaned over the hole to try and assess the condition of the hallway below. He was cut off from the other stairwells so this was his only way down short of trying to move the debris out of his way. Considering how unstable things felt that would likely be a bad idea.
It looked clear below so he took a breath and swung his legs around. Carefully lowering himself to the floor below he was happy he was tall, it wasn’t a far drop. Things were more clear down here, less debris and fallen beams. Looking up at the ceiling he hoped that it continued to hold. Moving forward he checked the wall consoles and hoped the group had fared better.
Wandering through the halls, doubling back in a few places where debris blocked the way he felt like he was making good time. He was almost back to section 7 and he had to admit the ship wasn’t as bad as he had feared. He was kicking himself a moment after that thought tripped through his head. The smell of water led him down a hall to a cargo bay that was quickly filling up with water.
If the cargo bay wasn’t as huge as it was the water would have already started filling the halls. Shit, if there was a breach here then other areas of the ship had started taking on water too. Sprinting down the halls he only stopped to glance into the other rooms with exterior walls. A few of them had leaks too. They were so fucked. He didn’t have the shit he needed to seal off this part of the ship, all that crap had been left strapped down in the bio lab.
“Fucks sake, can’t something go right on this job?!”
“D! Is that you?!”
He’d never been so happy to hear Ryan’s voice as he was in that moment. “Over here! We need to seal this section, we’re taking on water!”
“This day keeps getting better.”
Rounding the corner he saw Ryan and Bridget. They looked a bit dusty but he didn’t see any injuries so he figured the landing hadn’t been as bad for them but he still needed confirmation.
“Everyone’s fine, looks like you got all the excitement. Plan?”
“Get the gear and seal off this section. Any sign of leaks or water on the way here?”
“Not a one but we can do another sweep. We’ll have them meet us at the bio lab, the consoles are working on this side of the ship.”
That was a huge relief. Letting Ryan work the closest console to call the rest of the group Bridget used another to bring up a map of the ship. Zooming it back she brought up a few menus that did he had no idea what.
“The ship flipped over so both the top and lower levels got tore up. We also overshot our landing. We’re now in the lagoon and taking water from multiple areas. We already sealed off these areas but we’re going to need to do these sections too. While we’re doing that someone needs to get the scuba gear from the marine biology lab, Jude will have to show you where it’s stored. It was too heavy for them to carry back with the canned goods when we searched the ship earlier. The bio lab is one of the few areas that has an air tight seal. We hold up in there until the ship reaches equilibrium then put on the scuba gear and get the hell out of here.”
“Sounds good. We’re all licensed to use that shit so we can help whoever isn’t. Hopefully we’ll have a pleasant surprise for once and a few others are certified.”
“D, they’re all going to the bio lab. Jude is on his way to start getting the scuba gear ready. We passed the marine biology lab on the way here and the way’s clear.”
Grateful Ryan had been listening while talking with the rest of the group he set a quick pace to get the bio lab. They had to stay ahead of the leaks. They were closer than the rest of the group so they ran in, grabbed the equipment they needed, and ran out. Sprinting down one hall he saw Cecil leading the others down another.
“We’ll get things sealed, someone needs to help Jude carry in the scuba gear!”
Cecil nodded at him before they lost sight of each other around a corner. Focusing on closing the doors and using the torch to seal the sides helped keep him from thoughts of drowning. Fuck, he hoped there was enough gear for everyone. How far from the surface were they? He knew the animals on land were all birds but most of the life here was in the oceans. Were there large predators like sharks? If they found out he really hoped it was Lazen or Fletcher. Then again if anything attacked a Fairgold employee it was his job to put himself in front of that employee. He was going to be pissed if he got chomped protecting an ass like Lazen.
“D! We got problems!”
Water flowed past him soaking his feet. They hadn’t gotten everything sealed in time. Shit. Grabbing the equipment he ran to Ryan and saw the even bigger problem. The water had gotten up to the door and Ryan was having to hold it closed. Adding his weight to Ryan’s he tried to get the lock set but it wasn’t locking. The fuck? Seriously?
She came over running and swore a blue streak before disappearing around the corner to get a few pipes that were laying around. Moving around them she had D hold up the bars as she used the torch to weld it in place.
“That’s the best I can do, these won’t work with that water coming in. We need to move to plan B.”
“What’s plan B?”
“Run like hell for the scuba gear and hope they found enough for everyone.”
While Ryan and Bridget were talking the water level on the other side of the door raised past the circular window and something caught Dimitri’s eye. An empty backpack was floating by but it was the colorful fish circling it that had his attention. They were beautiful with shiny almost iridescent scales in shades of red and blue. They reminded him of the fancy Japanese fish back home. Of course that’s before the school of fish converged on the backpack and tore it to shreds in less time than it took him to back away from the door and shove both Ryan and Bridget toward the bio lab.
“RUN!! Stay out of the water, we’ve got fucking piranha guppies!!”
That had them booking it back to a door they could lock. Along the way they saw Jude jogging up carrying an air tank. D grabbed the tank out of his arms and shoved him forward. When the researcher looked about to fall Ryan picked him up and tossed the smaller man over his shoulder.
“Stay out of the water! You see a technicolor guppy stay the fuck away from it, they’re piranhas!”
When the hell would they get a break from the running?! They had to get to the lab and seal the doors. How they were going to swim for the surface with those things in the water he had no fucking clue. They heard a couple of cracks before a louder boom and the whoosh of water. They ran faster. Coming down the hallway they saw the doors to the bio lab open and everyone laying out the scuba gear.
The bio lab wasn’t close enough for them to hear the pipes cracking or the door slamming open from the water pressure. Lazen looked up and Dimitri could see the man’s eyes grow wide. He could only guess that a wall of water and carnivorous fish were behind them. Before he could call out Lazen reached the door locks. Oh no, don’t you fucking dare. The bastard shut the doors!
“OPEN THE FUCKING DOORS!!”
He saw everyone else look up and Katcha run to the doors but they weren’t opening. Cecil moved her out of the way and started working on the door lock as Katcha grabbed Lazen, yelling. They didn’t have time for this shit. The water was right behind them. The hallway was lined with shelves welded to the walls with netting along the front to keep supplies from falling. He and Ryan barely glanced at each other before they were moving. Ryan tossed Jude up onto one of the top shelves, holding the netting down so the other man could get over the edge before he climbed up onto another. Dimitri cupped his hands so Bridget could climb up before pulling himself to hopeful safety.
When the water hit their end of the hall it felt like someone had shoved him against the back of the shelf then tried to pull him off. After the initial surge he saw the water level wasn’t high enough to reach them yet. Gripping the netting to keep from being pulled into the water he didn’t have time to feel any relief before he heard ripping and a splash.
The netting on her shelf had torn when the surge receded and there was nothing for her to hold on to. Dimitri was in the water before it really registered. He was closer than Ryan, he could get to her faster. Pushing her up he barely got her to safety before he was slammed into the bio lab doors. Ahead of the others, a bright blue fish sank its teeth into his arm. The blood drove the rest into a frenzy and he felt bites in his arms and side. Fuck.