It felt like forever before we finally reached an airlock, I didn’t even want to know how many floors down from Cargo. We’d bypassed the first one just in case, Lindsi watching her air supply closer than anything. Four minutes, eleven seconds. That was how long we had left when we reached the second airlock, found the emergency release, bare and open to space. There’s nothing in the vacuum to protect it from, beyond cosmic rays, and a coverplate wouldn’t really do anything worthwhile about that anyway. Lindsi bent ‘down’ cautiously, tethered by her boots, and pushed it. There was a moment’s agonising pause, a light flashing: depressurisation in progress. Then the hatch opened, no rush of air this time, the way airlocks are supposed to work. At once, Lindsi swung herself in, using the handholds beside the hatch, and landed on… the wall.
Gravity comes back when the outer airlock door closes, I warned her. Lindsi looked at me and nodded, walking down to the ground, which took all of two steps.
Cycle the airlock, I prompted, and Lindsi blinked, then suddenly looked around for the controls, moving a little too quickly, jerkily. She pulled the lever, and the outer airlock door shut. I saw the gravity suddenly turn back on, dropping her hair down around her head, making her stagger. She leant against the wall, hard, and I started hearing sounds again as air rushed back in all around us. Lindsi was suddenly gasping for air like… well, like someone who’d just held her breath for over six minutes. I nearly did the same out of sheer reflex, but concern pushed it to the back of my mind as I watched her.
“I… I’m all right… I think…”
I couldn’t consciously tell how it was different, but it felt good to actually hear her voice again. She was still leaning heavily on the wall, but her breathing was already starting to calm down as the next of the airlock’s three doors opened, letting us through. Lindsi stumbled forwards, her hand fumbling around the doorframe. She said nothing as the second layer of doors closed again and the third and final one opened, letting us back into the Ship.
We weren’t lucky enough to be the only ones there. As the airlock sealed behind us, I noticed people passing by the end of the short corridor we were in: it looked like there was a ring corridor ahead, with a single set of rooms and other spaces between it and the outer hull. Lindsi wasn’t in any state to go anywhere, so I could only hope nobody looked down here and saw us. Or her, at least.
“It’s like a nightmare,” she whispered, suddenly. “Ever since I woke up in the airlock. It’s like a nightmare. Why?”
I shook my head. What could I say? They got orders from someone. I heard one of them object, but they did it anyway. They said you weren’t in control of yourself. I think it was to convince them to do it.
“I almost don’t feel in control of myself.” Lindsi slid down the wall and sat on the floor with her arms around her knees. “Maybe it’d be easier if I wasn’t. Everything is moving around me and I can’t keep up. I don’t know why this happened. Why is any of this happening?”
She was right, or at least it was the right question. ‘Why me?’ Why us? Why were we the ones stuck in the middle of all this? My mind rebelled at the thought of the impossible spaceship I’d seen half-constructed in Cargo, trying to relegate it to the status of a dream, or some kind of crazy hallucination, a terrible mistake. What were we supposed to do about it, just the two of us? Lindsi had been in an accident and I was dead, and because of all this she’d nearly just died as well. Someone had tried to kill her. Someone who was supposed to protect us had tried to kill her. They’d have tried to kill me too, if they’d known I even existed. It was all too much.
“I just walked through space,” Lindsi went on. “I’ve never so much as worked near the hull and I just walked through space without a faceplate.” She giggled in a weird, breaking kind of way that said she didn’t find it funny at all. “And now I’m here and I just have to hope they think I’m dead and-” Her head snapped up, and an expression of dread fixed itself onto her face. “And I can’t go home.” She dropped her head onto her knees, and I couldn’t see her face even from the side, silver hair in my way. “As soon as they find out I’m alive it’s going to go right back there. I can’t take that back with me.”
The worst thing of all was that she was right.
“What are we going to do?” she muttered, hopelessly, and I couldn’t answer her, because I didn’t know.
Neither of us said anything for a while, until I heard footsteps coming closer and looked up. Another biosuited figure was walking towards us, a mostly-shaven man in a biosuit, stubble on his head and chin, probably closer to three times her age than two. He looked at Lindsi with an expression of concern.
“Are you all right?” he asked, softly, glancing back over his shoulder. “You shouldn’t be down here. If enough people see you, someone’s going to talk.”
“I’m all right,” Lindsi mumbled, without lifting her head. As long as he didn’t see her face, she could be anybody. At least, anybody with silver hair. “I just needed to sit down. I’ll be back on shift in a moment, I swear.”
“Do you want me to stay with you?” he offered, kindly.
“I’ll be all right. Don’t get in trouble on your shift too. I just want to be alone for a minute.”
“All right.” The stranger straightened up. “Just be careful.” He turned around and walked off, and I didn’t even ask Lindsi what he was talking about. I could figure it out, anyway. Of course in a future like this taking a break had to get you punished. I wasn’t even surprised any more.
Maybe a minute or two later, Lindsi got to her feet, suddenly and purposefully enough that it took me a moment to stand up beside her. She started walking, and I followed.
Where are we going?
“You were right, back when this started,” she said to me, turning right and walking like she knew where she was going, her head down. “We need to know what’s happening. We’re going to the Bridge — I’m going to ask the Ship.”
The Fused by V. L. Bending is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.