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The Crimson Sea - Part One

Short story By: Cabe
Science fiction



When the Crimson Sea has a wave of accidents and deaths, tensions rise when the crew fear that one of their own is responsible.


Submitted:Jan 20, 2008    Reads: 228    Comments: 1    Likes: 1   


THE CRIMSON SEA
PART ONE
SHIP: CRIMSON SEA
CREW: 11
LOCATION: APPROXIMATELY 14 DAYS FROM EARTH
The Crimson Sea was a small smuggling ship, sneaking in mostly small arms, which would then be sold, on the black market for a neat little profit. The Captain, Cara Stiles, had handpicked this crew from the first day she'd come into possession of the Crimson Sea, winning it in a card game. Her pilot, and boyfriend, Imag Splint had been with her from day one, along with his little brother and co-pilot, Lee Splint. When it was just the three of them, they made their money by smuggling in refugees to Earth, mainly those who'd been exiled to the prisons on the outer planets, Mars and sometimes Jupiter.
When smuggling weapons seemed to fetch more money on the market, Cara hired Alex Todori, an engineer and his apprentice, Drake Vanner. During a smuggling run several years earlier, the ship had come under fire from space pirates, resulting in Drake having an arm severed in the attack. This forced Cara to bring Michelle Tack, a doctor, onboard. Over the years, four more crew had joined the ship, Tim Memphis the navigator and three former Colonial Marines who were dishonourably discharged for disrespectful actions towards their superior officer. They were Jill Kesa, Han Kay and Damien Chowski.
That was the entire crew of the Crimson Sea, apart from the hitchhiker that had paid good money to come aboard the ship several days earlier. He was a mysterious guy, saying only that his name was Silas and that he needed to get to Earth. Everyone kept his or her distance from him, not entirely trusting him.
Fourteen days from Earth and the crew are getting restless, sick of traveling, wanting to get home, get paid and take a vacation.
Cara sat uncomfortably in her chair in the cockpit of the ship, watching Imag and Drake pilot the ship with awe. There were so many controls, flashing lights and buttons, Cara wouldn't know where to start to even fire the ships engines up.
"I think it's about time we chucked it on auto-pilot, yes?" asked Lee, nearly falling asleep behind the controls.
Imag looked at his little brother and nodded. Tapping some buttons on the console in front of him, Imag put the ship into autopilot, giving him and Lee a much-needed break.
In the 'Chill Out' area of the ship, consisting of a few lounges and cushions, Kesa, Michelle and Chowski sat around on the various lounges, eating either bowls of cereal, a candy bar or a packet of chips. Conversation was short, as everyone was way too tired to talk. Just outside of the Chill Out room was Todori and Drake, repairing the light and PA systems.
"You're doing it wrong," noted Todori, seeing that Drake was using the wrong type of tool to replace a shot battery.
"No I'm not Alex, this will work fine," countered Drake, continuing with his work.
"Your funeral," said Todori, stepping back and out of his way.
All of a sudden zap! Drake was sent flying backwards as an electrical spark shot out. Drake hit the wall behind him hard, his hair frizzy from the shock.
"Told you," said Todori as he correctly finished what Drake had started.
In the infirmary, Michelle spoke with Memphis. Memphis felt as though he was on the edge of a nervous breakdown. Several weeks ago, he'd given the wrong co-ordinates to Imag and Lee. The misadventure had cost five days of travel time. Memphis hadn't been on solid ground for going on two months now, and it was really starting to make him go a bit crazy and paranoid.
"How are you feeling today Tim?" asked Michelle.
Memphis sat on a table, constantly rubbing his hands together nervously.
"I want to go home," said Memphis quietly.
"We all do, and we're nearly there. Only two more weeks," comforted Michelle.
Todori's voice suddenly came over the PA system.
"I have an announcement to make, the PA system is fixed. Now over to you, Captain," said Todori.
"Thank you Alex. Dinner in the mess hall guys," said Cara.
Michelle looked to Memphis.
"Dinner time, c'mon," said Michelle, taking Memphis' hand and leading him to the mess hall.
Within a few minutes, everyone sat around the large table in the mess hall. Today's meal was spaghetti with tomato sauce. The ten crewmembers got stuck in right away, devouring the food that lay in front of them. Silently, Silas entered the mess hall and took a seat. Cara slid a bowl of spaghetti over to him.
"Thank you," he said quietly.
"Don't mention it," said Cara, looking at Silas.
She still hadn't worked the guy out. He seldom talked and just sat alone all day and slept through the night.
"So how long until we're back home, Cap'n?" asked Kesa curiously, shoveling down the food in front of her.
"About two weeks give or take," Cara replied.
The crew nodded, most moaned. A quiet beeping sound started to echo through the mess hall. Memphis looked at his personnel tag, a watch-like object each crewmember wore so they could be located and keep in communication with each other. Memphis' tag flashed, indicating that something concerning navigation was in need of his attention.
"Back in a minute," he said quietly and moved away from the table.
"He better not have put us in the wrong fucking direction again," said Chowski, still annoyed at Memphis' mistake.
"Leave the guy alone," said Han.
Memphis came running back into the mess hall.
"Get the fuck up! We've got an asteroid field dead ahead of us!" yelled Memphis.
The crew sprang to life. Imag, Lee and Cara ran immediately to the cockpit, Memphis following close behind. Kesa, Han and Chowski moved quickly to the cannons of the ship. The three would each take one cannon and blast apart any asteroid that got too close. Todori and Drake followed them so they could reload the cannons once ammunition ran out. Michelle and Silas had nothing to do at the moment, so as Silas stayed silent in the mess hall, Michelle went up to the cockpit.
Imag and Lee jumped into their seats and the controls sprang to life as they punched in several keys, restoring the ship back to manual control. Cara and Memphis sat behind them, looking over the computer screens showing the ships position and the asteroid fields position.
Can we get around this thing?" asked Cara.
"No, it's too dense and wide. We've got to through," said Memphis.
"Aw shit," muttered Cara.
The Crimson Sea reached the edge of the asteroid field.
"All guns manned and ready?" asked Imag into the radio.
"We're all good," replied Kesa.
"You know the drill, shoot anything that comes too close," said Imag, maneuvering the ship through the field.
Michelle arrived in the cockpit and watched the others work. She could hear the loud blasts of the cannons defending the ship.
"How far until we're through?" asked Lee, struggling to keep the ship level and intact.
Memphis looked over the computer screen. "Not too long, sixty seconds if we remain at this speed."
"This'll be a long-ass sixty seconds," muttered Imag.
Standing behind the ports for the three cannons, Todori and Drake held large canisters of ammunition; ready to reload one of the feeders when Kesa, Chowski or Han yelled for them to do so.
"I'm out!" yelled Han.
Drake moved immediately and fed a canister into Han's ammo slot, re-supplying him with bullets.
"Reload!" yelled Kesa as she too ran out of ammo.
This time Todori fed a canister in. So far, everything was going great. Suddenly, Chowski screamed out, "Need ammo!"
Seeing as how Todori had only just fed a canister into Kesa's slot, Todori didn't have another canister, nor did Drake. Todori ran to the other side of the room to grab an extra canister.
"Need ammo people!" yelled Chowski a second time.
Todori grabbed the canister, turned and slipped, losing his grip on the canister. A loud bang occurred and the whole ship shook violently. Another bang came a second later, stronger vibrations tearing through the ship.
Drake picked up the fallen canister and reloaded it into Chowski's slot. The vibrations stopped after that. About a minute later, Cara's voice could be heard over the speakers.
"We're through, good job everyone."
Ten minutes later, everyone except Drake and Todori sat in the Chill Out room. Drake and Todori were inspecting the ship for damages. They arrived back not too long later.
"What's the damage?" asked Cara.
"F deck was breached and was sealed off. There's also some panel damage to the starboard side that will need to be fixed or the whole ship could depressurize," explained Drake.
"That's not too bad. Where's the panel damage on the starboard side?" asked Cara.
"Just outside the airlock," answered Todori.
"I don't think we need to repair the damage to F deck, too far from the airlock, we've got no support cables that reach that far. We'll just leave it as it is and repair the panels," said Cara.
"F deck must be repaired," said Todori quietly.
"Why? It's fucking dangerous to do it without cables. What if you lost grip of the ship? You'd float off into space," explained Lee.
"F deck contains all of our food stores. With it sealed off, we can't get any food. We'd all starve," countered Drake.
"Can't we just go into F deck from E deck?" asked Han.
"Can't," sighed Cara. "This ship has a locking mechanism as a safety precaution. You can't get into a depressurized zone until it is re-pressurized. So in short, we've got to fix the damage to F deck from the outside and not the inside."
The crew sighed. It was going to be a dangerous job.
"So who goes outside?" asked Lee.
"Those panels are pretty big. We need two people to hold them, and two to do the actual work. I'll go. Todori and Drake are the engineers; they're going to do the repairs. One more person has to come," explained Cara.
"I'll come," said Imag.
Cara shook her head in response. "We can't risk our pilots."
"I'll come," said Silas as he entered the room.
"You? Why you?" asked Imag curiously.
"I've yet to prove my worth on this ship. All I've got to do is hold the panel, I can do that," he answered.
Everyone looked to Cara for her answer.
"Okay," she nodded.
Twenty minutes later, Cara, Todori, Drake and Silas were getting suited up in their suits, helped by Kesa and Chowski. The rest of the crew sat in the cockpit in front of eight computer screens. Four screens had a split-screen camera of what the person in the suit could see and the actual person in the suit. The other four screens had stats of the suit and person, such as heart rate, oxygen supply levels and so on. Chowski and Kesa came up into the cockpit after they'd finished helping.
"Opening airlock. You all ready?" asked Imag.
"Yeah," replied Cara.
Imag opened up the airlock. Cara, Todori, Drake and Silas watched in awe as they saw the vast space in front of them. Cara and Silas moved out first, each holding the end of a large steel panel. The pair carried it outside, floating through the space towards the damaged area. Todori and Drake followed behind them.
"Place it gently over the damaged area," said Todori.
Cara and Silas carefully moved to the damage and placed the panel over it, holding it in place as Drake and Todori started the welding. In the cockpit, the group watched as the heart rates of all four were racing, after all, it was pretty nerve racking being in space.
"Captain, you need to calm down a little bit. You've gone through quarter of your oxygen already," noted Lee.
"Sorry," she replied.
They watched her heart rate go back down.
"Good girl," said Imag.
Fifteen minutes later the panel was firm in place and the first part of the repairs were done. The four returned to the airlock to restock oxygen.
"Good job guys. You're halfway done," congratulated Imag.
The next job was harder. The damage to F deck was over forty meters away from the airlock. The Crimson Sea didn't have any cables reaching out that long, so if something went wrong, they were on their own. Cara and Silas had to carry four panels this time, each about forty square centimeters, so they carried two each.
The four moved out of the airlock for the second time. It took ten minutes for the group to get to the damage and start work. Imag watched their oxygen levels nervously.
"How long will that take, Todori?" asked Imag curiously.
"Fifteen minutes," replied Todori.
"They'll be fine, Imag. They've got forty minutes of oxygen and ten reserve minutes. Ten to get out there, fifteen to repair, that's only twenty-five minutes, they'll have less stuff to carry on the way back so they'll be back with plenty to spare," said Lee.
Imag nodded in agreement.
Three of the four panels were now attached, with only one more to put on. Silas passed the panel to Drake who noticed something about the last damaged spot on the hull of the Crimson Sea. The hull was bent outwards, like something had been sucked out and bent the hull outwards. He would have to cut the entire piece of in order to replace it.
"Fuck, give me two minutes on this here," said Drake as he grabbed his blowtorch and started to cut away at the hull.
"You guys have got eight minutes of main oxygen before you have to switch to reserves, just a warning," said Imag.
Lee looked over the stats of the ship. He noticed something odd about the pressure in F deck.
"Imag? Look at this. The pressure in F deck is nearly normal, those first three panels did pretty good," said Lee, pointing to the readouts on the screen.
"Did you say nearly normal?" asked Imag.
"Yeah, 94%," replied Lee.
"Oh fuck! Stop cutting, Drake!" yelled Imag as loud as he could, but it was one second too late.
Drake broke through the hull and prepared to remove the damaged piece, only to be blown backwards as F deck depressurized completely. All of that pressure vented through the hole that Drake had just cut, forcing him off the outside of the ship.
"Whoa shit!" screamed Drake as he was flung off the ship, speeding backwards through space.
"Drake!" screamed Todori as he reached out for his apprentice, but he was already over one hundred feet away from the ship, and floating further and further away.
The crew in the cockpit watched in horror as Drake went off radar and his camera cut off, out of range.
"Drake? Drake?" asked Lee into his radio.
Drake's life signs went off, as the sensors were also out of range.
"Does anyone have a visual on Drake?" asked Imag to the others still outside the ship.
Silas, Todori and Cara looked around for any sign of Drake, but he was long gone.
"Negative. We've lost him," said Cara sadly.
"We need to get this finished," said Todori, trying to keep his mind on the job.
Silas held the new panel in place and Todori quickly welded it on.
"Job is complete, returning to airlock," said Todori, as he, Cara and Silas made their way back.
"Switching to reserve oxygen," said Silas.
"As am I," said Todori.
"Same," said Cara.
Cara led the way back to the airlock, Silas and Todori behind them. Cara started to breathe heavily, too heavily. Everything was going darker and her head became very dizzy. She was light-headed and could barely move.
"Cara, your oxygen is out, get back to the airlock ASAP!" yelled Imag into the radio.
Cara lost consciousness and floated aimlessly through space. Silas and Todori grabbed onto her suit and pulled her along with them until they reached the airlock. The trio moved inside and waited until the airlock was sealed. The doors closed and they immediately ripped off their helmets and tore off Cara's.
"Captain? Captain?" asked Todori, trying to get a response from her. Imag and Michelle rushed into the airlock seconds later.
"Get her to the infirmary," ordered Michelle.
Imag and Todori carried Cara to the infirmary. Getting assistance from Kesa and Han, Michelle worked on Cara, trying to get her back.
Imag, Todori, Chowski, Lee and Silas waited anxiously outside the infirmary. After an hour, Michelle came out of the infirmary in tears. She moved straight to Imag, who sat nervously on the edge of his seat.
"Is she okay?" asked Imag.
"She's dead, Imag. We couldn't get her heart to beat again; her brain was deprived of oxygen for too long and shutdown. We tried to revive her but we couldn't. Sorry," explained Michelle.
Imag broke into tears and rushed into the infirmary to Cara's side. He stayed there for the next four hours, holding her hand and crying. Meanwhile, Todori, Kesa and Chowski were down in the airlock examining the suits that they'd worn.
"You'll never guess what I just found guys," said Todori, examining Cara's suit.
"What is it?" asked Chowski.
Todori held up Cara's oxygen tank. "Her oxygen lines were cut. She never had any reserve oxygen."
Chowski and Kesa looked at the cut lines to the reserve oxygen tank. Chowski's mouth hung open and all Kesa could say was, "The Captain was murdered."
"Someone did this, and I'll bet I know who," said Todori.
"Who would do this? We all loved the Captain," said Chowski.
"Who hasn't been here very long? Who didn't love the Captain?" asked Todori.
Kesa realised what he was saying. "Silas."





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