One Problem at a Time

This might be the end. Through her suit, the chaos around her was muffled, like she were hearing it from the bottom of a pool, but to Kassidy that only heightened the unreality of the situation. Sparks were flying and gas was venting. Smoke billowed down the corridor, and the deck beneath her flexed and buckled. The red emergency lighting masked the blood trails—is that why emergency lighting was always that color?—but the handprint shapes revealed them for what they were. The Alluttu was going down fast. Someone was screaming for help, and someone was screaming we need to get to the pods!, and someone was screaming at her.

“Kassidy, get in the goddamned tunnel!”

It worked. She shook off her daze and lumbered into the lock between the corridor and the service deck—lumbering was about all you could do in a service suit—and sealed herself in. The lock began to equalize with the atmosphere in the service space, and all the chaos of the corridor dissolved. She could focus on the task at hand: fix the coolant leak. Until she did that, they couldn’t maneuver the Alluttu away from the CME that was pummeling the ship and frying the life support systems.

The service door swung open, though it seemed to jam up partway through the motion. It was raining on the service deck. She crossed the threshold and felt something crunch underfoot. She lumbered forward another two steps and then spun herself around to examine what she’d crushed. It looked like a thick icicle, attached to an icy white hand. The door swung back closed to reveal shattered pieces of one of her crewmates. The coolant had flooded the service deck and dropped the temperature so low the nitrogen in the air was condensing into liquid. Everyone who’d been inside was bathed in LN2.

Kassidy barfed in her suit, obscuring some of the faceplate and forcing the air scrubbers to work at maximum, but it did make her feel a little better.

She could find and patch the leak, but that would take time she didn’t have. The Alluttu was going belly-up in a hurry. She’d have to improvise. She decided to cut a hole between the service deck and the compartment where the fuel lines were contained. It would wreck the compartment and cascade into more failures, but at least it would get the engines back online. One problem at a time. Her suit’s integrated grinder started spinning and she pressed it against a hull panel, putting her weight behind it. No going back now.

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