I rose to return to my seat and saw Colin coming out of the bathroom, and then there was an explosion. The gravity plating ceased to function and the engines that had become so much a part of our lives that they had ceased to exist for us, suddenly went silent. All I remember at the time was total pandemonium. People were screaming. The stewards were trying to restore order but were having little success. I had to get upstairs. I had no idea why, but I knew I just had to go.
I yelled at Colin over the ruckus. “Colin, help get these people back into their seat. You’re good at this. I’m counting on you.” I don’t know why I said that, but it seemed to galvanize him into action. I kicked off toward the stairs with somewhat less grace.
My mother snagged my arm. “Where are you going? You have to buckle into your seat before we slow down any further.”
Her grip sent us both careening out of control in off the wall directions (literally). Colin caught my mother and propelled her safely into her seat and then caught a child and headed in another direction with it. I didn’t catch what he said but I heard the kid giggle.
With an utterly graceless bounce off the ceiling and then the wall, I managed to find the stairs and head up to the first class level. The stewards were having less luck here. Everyone was shouting over each other, demanding an explanation immediately. The stewards had no answers to offer so the passengers continued to yell. Very few of them were willing to do as the stewards were telling them.
I continued past this floor and on up to the operations deck unhindered and unnoticed. Huddled in a corner near the door to the cockpit, was a young officer. I knelt down by him and asked, “What happened here?” When he didn’t answer, I shook one of his shoulders and asked again.
Finally, after a light slap on the face he took notice of me. “What did you say?” Then he realized that I had to be one of the passengers. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m here to help,” I said. “Tell me what happened. Tell me why you’re out here like this.”
He looked around and then began to shake. “I . . . I just had to go to the head. I was only gone a couple minutes. I should have been in there too.”
I could see that, if I wanted any further information, I couldn’t let him dwell on this much longer. “What happened in there?” I asked again and I shook his shoulders to encourage him to answer. I knew there must be some way I could use my magic to help calm him, but I didn’t know how to do that.
“We must have hit an asteroid or something,” he said in a very small voice. He pointed to a red light over the door. “There was an explosive decompression. The cockpit is compromised. Hell it might not even be there anymore,” he continued.
“We need to get in there. We need to regain control of this ship, to send out a distress call, to . . . .” I wanted to tell him that I intended to fix what I could, but he wouldn’t believe that. Sometimes I hate being a kid.
He looked up at the red light again. “We need to get in there, you’re right.” He stood up and opened up a small panel beside the door. After he flipped some switches, I felt some motor in the wall come to life. “Yes, the airlock works.” He turned to the wall he had been huddled against and started to open cabinets.
In those cabinets were pressure suits for the flight crew. Finding what he was looking for, he passed one of them to me. It had ‘Lisa’ on the chest. “It’s the pilot’s suit. I think it’ll fit you well enough.”
I felt uncomfortable putting on something that belonged to someone who was so recently dead, but it was the most logical thing to do. I probably didn’t need it, but to spend magic unnecessarily would be foolish.
Climbing into a space suit in zero gravity was an interesting task, but amazingly enough I only took a couple minutes longer than he did. I put myself into a somersault in the process, but he caught me and helped me finish sealing up the suit and turning on the air.
After we got through the airlock, I could see the extent of the damage. Something had punched through the glass that made up the ‘windshield’ and smashed a good deal of the consoles in the center of the room. Where it went from there, I don’t know. It was like a bullet the size of a cannon ball had been through here and everything that had been torn loose or wasn’t bolted down had been sucked out of the compromised windshield. Obviously, the crew hadn’t been buckled in. Frankly, I didn’t look at that hole very closely. I might have to deal with it later, but I’d put it off as long as possible. Right now, we needed engines, navigation and communications.
“Buckle up,” said the crewman; I didn’t know his name yet. “We’re going to be dropping out of F.T.L. soon.” He was buckling himself into a chair and flipping switches at the same time.
I found a seat that was closest to the destruction and buckled in as well. The fact that the straps were in tact, confirmed that its previous occupant hadn’t been buckled in before . . . .
“That’s the pilot’s seat. You think you can fly this thing?” said my companion.
Of course, I couldn’t fly this thing, but I was confident that I could make it do whatever we needed it to do.
He was madly flipping switches. “Damn, I can’t get anything to work.”
I reached my hands out, touched the closest consoles and closed my eyes. A search of the chaos between him and me revealed that there was indeed chaos. I saw nothing but scrambled remnants of billions of wires and twisted remnants of the brackets that used to hold everything in place. All of that ‘everything’ had been sucked out of the sizable hole in front of me. I couldn’t fix this. I didn’t have a clue where to start.
Instead, I began to identify systems that were still intact but cut off from any power source or control. I found a system that had been a way for the crew to look in on the cabins below us and used it to do just that. The people in the common cabin were all strapped into their seats and looking scared. The first class wasn’t nearly so well organized. Only about half of them were sitting in their seats, glowering.
I found the announcement system and used it to magnify my voice. “May I have your attention please?” I said and then had to repeat the request two more times before getting some sort of response. I couldn’t hear anything they were saying, but I wasn’t too interested in that.
“This is an emergency. This is not a drill. This is an emergency. Everyone must prepare for an unplanned reduction in speed at any moment. Return to your seats and buckle your seat belts immediately. Stewards, you will buckle yourselves in now.” I watched the stewards cease to argue with the passengers and go directly to their seats. I was relieved. I needed them to be safe so that they could manage the chaos that would be sure to come.
“What did you say?” asked my companion, but I was immersed in the workings of this ship and I barely heard him. I found how to turn on the gravity plating but opted not to, because with gravity restored, I feared that more people would feel confident enough to leave their seats and harass the stewards.
I found the life support system and was relieved to see that it was automated aft and had been undamaged. Then I found what looked like a safety system and a force field went across the hole in the windshield. Atmosphere began to equalize and I could hear my companion cheer that something worked.
I found a count down to sub-light and broadcast it into the first class cabin. That worked better than anything else had so far, but they were obviously a stubborn lot. Then I found the navigation system and heard another cheer from my companion once again, but the sound turned disappointed since I couldn’t do anything with it.
As I immersed myself deeper and deeper into the workings of the ship, my external awareness of myself got dimmer, with the small exception of the voice of my companion. I needed him to tell me what to do.
Then it occurred to me, in my diversified mind, that I needed to tell him that. I had no more than toyed with that idea when we had slowed enough to drop into sup-light speed. The wrenching compression was just the opposite of when we moved into faster than light speed, but I was so distracted that I barely noticed anything other than the way everything felt sluggish and heavy now.
“Now what do we do?” I asked, feeling as if my words were coming out too slow.
“Now we have to send out a distress signal and figure out a way to stop this thing,” he replied.
‘Stop this thing. I think I can do that.’ Motion in space is relative to surrounding objects. I sent magical feelers out to a number of those objects then I located the control circuits. Fortunately, most of those controls were located in front of me and had escaped the destruction on my left. I located the retro jets and set to firing them at measured intervals. My goal was to match our speed with those far away objects until there was no difference between their motion and our motion. While I struggled with this, I started calling across the radio waves using the frequency supplied by the ship’s computer.