Trying to write some Sci-fi pulp fiction. Will delete and update each rough draft as I go. Hope you like it!



The Beacon

The massive spasm that wracked him knocked a few palm sized opaque discs of blue ice raining down onto his naked body. He was freezing , he barely had the strength to turn his head to the right as more the ice cold fluid continued to leak out in mucus strings from his wretching lungs. There was a blockage in his mouth, a tube, a thick rubbery snake that buried deep into him ,way past his esophagus and into the depths beyond. He momentarily wondered why it hadn't been removed by a medbot before a fresh paroxym caught him and more of the ice cold oxygel spattered out from his tortured lungs. The tube had been pushed out a further half centimeter now and his tongue worked round the back of the mouthpiece trying to free up more space as he willed his lifeless and wasted limbs into activity. Another retch, then another, the oxygel was flowing freer now, the gelatinous pool spattering and slaking down the inside and then slowly out of the partially open sleep capsule.
He blinked the ice crystals from his eyes and observed the faint emergency light above flickering hesitantly through the skein of blue ice covering the inside of the capsule. Again he dimly wondered why the capsule was only ajar and why the necessarily medbots weren't scurrying about their business attending to his post-stasis state. He willed his fingers to move as the painful paroxyms continued. They trembled out a shaky tapping on the capsule slab just as a massive wave spasmed his body, his bony knees smashing into the capsule lid raining down more ice.
Through the gaps in the ice crust, he could make out more details of the medstation now. The cabinet roll shutters were down, the vague outlines of the instruments still perfectly stowed away on their hooks, shelves, and recesses. the emergency lights beyond flickered in random patterns very occasionally syncing up to throw the station into a momentary flash photograph of stark clarity. None of the workbots or avatars were around. As another retch caught him, his fingers clenched and fluttered like an injured bird, he felt them land on a rubbery tube. Instinctively he grabbed and held whilst throwing his head to the left. The tube came out of his mouth another few inches. He spidered the slack through his fingers and repeated the manoeuvre a few times more, each time his actions punctuated by sounds of panicked and desperate retching and splattering. Finally ,after what seemed a lifetime, the tubing slipped free and fell away and into in the semi darkness beyond the small gap from the partially open capsule. He was gasping and coughing more freely now. Great watery rattling coughs, the oxygel and sputum foaming in equal quantity over his long straggly beard. As he thawed out he was aware of how desperately cold he was, the outside air, although warmer than that of the capsule was a bitterly cold draft. He knew if he didn't find protection soon he'd be slipping back into a coma from which there would be no recovery. Gritting his teeth he pulled up one of his legs till his knee was pressed hard against the capsule lid. Then slowly the other knee joined the first. His hands trembled their way upwards locking weakly onto his shins and he waited for the next inevitable wracking cough. It came shortly afterwards, his body jerked and his knees hit harshly into the capsule. More blue ice rained down, but now the capsule had sprung half open. He followed the next coughing retch with a roll into space off the slab slapping brutally onto the floor below various pipes, hoses, and monitor pads and cables ripping painfully from cavities and veins, and scalp as he fell.
He weakly paddled his way through the slimy goo and cables on the floor. the flickering lights beat on their incessant rhythm. The coughing spasms where easing up now and being replaced with a violent shaking, an adrenalin, hypothermia mix. He lifted up his head and willed his eyes and mind to focus. There was only one objective, to heat up his core temperature. He eyed the drawers and considered chemical stimulants, but they were too high up, his weak legs weren't ready for the task. Then he saw it, the cubicle in the corner, the sunshower.
Scientists discovered quite early on in the infancy of space faring that whilst you could keep the human body fit with regular exercise, nourished with balanced nutrients, and the mind sharp with dream architecture and game theory, certain individuals, despite their high personality profile ratings, became depressed and withdrawn on long voyages.
The solution turned out to be quite simple. SAD syndrome. Put simply, like some Earthbound dwellers in the northern hemisphere, the lack of sunshine in the Winter months led to a deficiency in Vitamin A and then depression. At first it was thought simply upping the vitamin intake would be enough to combat any such issues in space. However testing proved that there simply was no substitute for real full body low level UV light exposure a couple of hours every month. For centuries now, all ships had a sunshower cabinet in their medlabs and all crew were required to spend a minimum amount of time in there every month. Suddenly the pasty faced spacefarer was a thing of the past. Indeed once the dangers of skin cancer had been eradicated, it was not uncommon for disagreements and fights to break out as crew fought to spend much of their recreation time in there, especially with built in features like antigrav and hologoggles. Why not spend your free time floating in the sea by a beach in Tahiti with a beautiful woman or man beside you? The nut brown fake tan of the over zealous spacefarer had been the butt of so many jokes, a comedians staple source for years now.
As he slowly dragged himself towards the cabinet, he pondered his chances that it would function. It appeared that the ship had suffered some sort of catastrophic systems failure and was running on the merest drip of emergency life support power. But he also knew that sunshowers had a small but significant source of independent power. Outside on the hull, a special array of mini solar panels not only provided a charge for the machine, but also gathered a steady stream of radioactive ions, that once filtered of their tissue damaging properties were also put in the mix to enhance the natural vitamin A production process. There was every chance this sunshower would still be operating in some capacity.
Twice his hand caught and flapped uselessly at the manual door-pull mechanism. On the third attempt he caught a grip and grunted his body into a roll as the door whispered its slide open. He heaved himself up over the threshold and with a series of awkward shivering hefts and pulls, finally got himself inside in an untidy heap. Whispering an incomprehensible prayer through gritted teeth, his shaking hand pattered its way up the wall behind him and palmed the power switch.
The UV lights pinged and plinked on in a random tune as the cabin door whispered shut with a click. He passed out.....

CHAPTER 2
He awoke blinking against the stark light, his skin felt tight and shrunken. He vaguely remembered the feeling from a lifetime ago, he was sunburnt. The automatic shutoff protocols had failed to engage. Still, he thought, that was the least of his present worries- at least he was warmed through. He’d passed out with one leg tucked under another at 90 degrees and the urgent tingling of numbness and pins and needles meant that it was going to be even more of a struggle with his already wasted muscles to move anywhere.
His mind was processing quicker now, his trembling fingers clenched and unclenched as he weighed up his options. He needed clothing and he needed to move. He peered through the glass of the cabin door to the med station beyond. Yes there was clothing over in the other cabinet. If he correctly recalled there was also a fire retardant jumpsuit amongst the medical gear. One of the greatest fears of the space trader had always been fire. Fire is utterly unpredictable and almost always fatal inside spacecraft. Every licenced trader was obliged to buy and maintain his or her own firefighting gear as well as undergo many hours of training and drilling on an annual basis. Any captain who failed to follow protocol was automatically reported on by the ships AI and usually summarily dismissed. Unless of course he was a freelancer.

Still ,he knew most ships didn't gamble with safety and most ships doctor were highly trained. There was an extremely good chance the suit would be there. The doctor! His gaze darted around the drawer and the walls and alighted on the frosted glass drugs cabinet opposite. Hi grav meds ! When the ship used to trade with hi gravity worlds, the entire ships’ crew would be roused out of hibernation early to receive hi-grab meds. Basically an evil brew of steroids , cloned stem cells, nanobots, adrenalin substitutes and blood drive medicines. Whilst not exactly condoned by the medical profession, their purpose was to quickly build up artificial muscle mass making movement less arduous. Even then, or some worlds, an exoskeleton was still required and even the act of simply breathing required massive effort and weeks of advance weight training and cardio fitness. Of course even artificial enhancements require nature’s help, he’d have to eat upwards of 4000 calories a day to assist new muscle mass. But that was a concern for later. He needed any help in the predicament he could get.
The cabin door popped along its seam in protest of the pressure imbalance . The arctic embrace of the the frigid air seeped in as the warm cabin air scurried up , out and away from its onslaught. He felt a momentary sense of dread, it felt as if the trembling bony fingers of the reaper were reaching out for him. He heaved himself over the lip and out of the cabin into the lab. The drawer with the meds couldn’t be more than 3 metres away, but his progress was slow, his legs a dead weight behind him, his forearms brittle matchsticks on which he inched his weight forward.
The shakes were starting again as he fumbled with the hypo gun. He had no idea how much to administer. He vaguely recalled a shot in each limb once a day for 3 weeks. He knew that too much adrenalin might kill him, but then so would the cold. Heaving himself into a sitting position, with his back to the drawer unit he nodded in silent agreement with himself and swiftly clicked a double dose into either thigh muscle, a single into each calf and one into each bicep. A slow aching burn rippled out from each injection point as the millions of nanobots, like a colony of soldier ants, went zipping about their pre-programmed task.
Despite the freezing cold, he felt the sweat break out on his forehead as the internal whirlwind gathered pace. His legs were randomly twitching and trembling now in a palsied dance. He rolled back on to his forearms and heaved his way to the clothing cabinet. A simple push on the door this time and it clicked ajar. He saw the fire suit and grabbed weakly at the legs flapping at them like a petulant terrier as he tried to work the shoulders off the hanger . Finally freed from the hanger, the thick jumpsuit flopped down onto the floor of the cabinet into a strangely supplicant kneeling shape beside him. He pulled himself into a sitting position and threw the stiff suit over him. It was rear entry. His breathing was rapid and raggedy now, the adrenalin was working its way round his whole body rousing long dormant nerve connections into action, flooding his brain with archaic beserker sentiments. He pulled and bent each leg in turn towards him and then pushed awkwardly partly down each leg. The aching heat from each injection point had spread outwards till they had almost met. His arms and legs were awash with fire, his veins full of boiling oil. He was struggling to put in each arm now. He pulled out the wrinkles in that suit as best he could from his sitting position, but he could feel the dizzying abyss of unconsciousness a few heartbeats away. He flopped onto his belly using gravity and his mass to push himself further into the suit. He was panting furiously now forcing his mind to forget the narrowing dark tunnel of his vision. He pressed the activation stud on the collar and vaguely registered the beetle crawl of the mechanised zipper system moving upwards from the base of his spine as he once again lost consciousness.

CHAPTER 3

This time when he woke it was only his face that was freezing. He pushed himself onto his back, as he rolled his head, he felt his frozen right cheek peel painfully away from the floor. He dimly wondered if he had pulled any skin off but dismissed the idea just as quickly as the floor of the med station wasn’t made of metal.
He looked up at the flickering lights and reassessed his situation. He could feel his toes, the could move his legs a little. His arms , though working felt leaden and heavy as if he’d lost a hundred playground wagers and received a hundred dead arm penalties in a row. He had no idea how long he’d been out, but the adrenalin urgency appeared to have receded into the background. His mind was racing now. He allowed himself for the first time the luxury of questioning what had gone wrong, where everyone else was , and what could have happened. This particular meditation was equipped with three animation capsules he raised his head to peer at the other two, trying to mentally cut out the distracting strobing lights. Like his, the other two capsules were opaque with blue ice, but unlike his which had a few isolated illuminated lights on the attendant control panel theirs was dark. Completely dark.
They? Who were they? He closed his eyes and tried to remember who they might be. Nothing, there was no recollection. He? Who was he? What was his name? The same. Nothing, no memory at all. He mentally shut off this line of enquiry. He allowed himself to let in some anger and annoyance a courtesy byproduct of the meds. He caught this mental flame and nurtured it as he worked out the next requirement of his survival.
Whilst he had no idea who or where he was, he dimly registered that a medical station of this size was unlikely to be the main one of the ship. Traders ships usually had 3 or 4 smaller stations all critically placed where statistically the most accidents occurred , air locks, loading bays, canteens, engineering: each duly equipped with the relevant equipment. He slowly looked round the room for any telltale signs or machinery. Looking at all the strange bits and pieces he wryly smiled as worked out he wasn’t a doctor. There was something familiar about that one piece over on the table. It was quite unremarkable really. A hinged oblong box with an arched shape hole cut in each end. With it’s handle on the top it looked very much like a pet carrier, something you might transport a cat in. Cat. It was a crush box!!
Crush boxes were a staple item aboard any self respecting space trader. However careful you were, however well trained, moving cargo around on planets with varying degrees of gravity frequently lead to accidents. Drop a box weighing 2 kilograms onto your foot on a 3G world and you’re likely to do yourself most damage than a bruise. It was an occupational hazard, limbs got broken, arms crushed. fingers and toes pinched. Administered quickly (hence the handle on top) crush boxes could repair the damage very quickly before the body’s genetic (and counter productive by modern standards) protective mechanisms set in. Simply insert the injured part and push the red principally button on top. Crush boxes were almost always located in engineering and cargo areas.
Assuming that this was a regular trader, he was at the bottom of the ship somewhere down there between belly and rear. He pushed himself into a sitting position and coughed and spat up a little dribble of green fluid as he tried to work out his priorities. He was warm enough for now. He wasn’t hungry, but he knew his slowly waking system would be craving solids and gnawing on itself internally before long. The ship , or here at least, appeared dead in terms of the main power. grid He wasn’t ready to face trying and open the other capsules. He knew it would be a long and difficult up path to the bridge in his current condition and without working gravchutes.
An exoskeleton! There had to be a few in the hold. Probably in their long dead charging racks, but , like his fire suit , still with enough internal charge.
He thought about what he might need in the hold. If there were shuttles ,they’d all have plasma fusion cells. If there were emergency escape rafts, they’d all have food. He could feel the start of a pounding headache as the few reserves of his body were being brutally consumed by the swarm of nanomeds in his body. He needed to crack on. He sat up and reached up and over to grab the edge of the examination table. His mind had somehow vaguely assimilated a pattern to the spluttering and pinging overhead lights and he mentally counted himself down to the moment of the big synchronised illumination with which to launch himself to his feet. Fireworks exploded in his head and he grunted and struggled his way up. He immediately had to flop over the table top to relieve his legs of their sudden terrible burden. The drawer with the anti grav meds and hypo guns was still open, He wasn’t sure if he should take anymore now, but he had to take them and any other stimulants he could find with him before he left this room. He pushed his way clumsily over and jammed the hypogun and a few vials in his pocket. Holding himself upright with one locked arm, he frantically pulled open the nearest drawer and cabinets and rifled the contents. Traders were a tough lot. Life aboard could be stultifyingly boring and physically exhausting at the same time. Time in port was long shifts of hard graft followed by a few precious and sleepless days of hedonistic shore leave. Traders didn’t know names of what they took to get through, they knew colours and shapes. A blue triangle, a golden round, a crimson torpedo…Ships doctors had learnt the hard way, rather than deal with the fall out of crew hooked or damaged by the local illicit drugs of choice, to give them what they needed (within reason) to get them through their sojourn and back in one piece. Head Office knew it was going on, but plausible deniability was the order of the day when you’re light years away from your homeworld. Everyone knew the risks . Besides, shore leave didn’t actually start for anyone until they’d fully concluded any business with the planet including loading up. And then it would usually be around a week or ten days at system thrust before they’d be at a Möbius-LaGrange station waiting their slot to jump. He finally saw some pills he recognised as uppers , took a handful and and slipped the bottle into another suit pocket.
The corridor outside the lab looked dark and foreboding. There didn't appear to be any working emergency lights. He used the surfaces and ledges available to work his way back to the wardrobe. Sure enough, there was a red holdall sealed with wide velcro straps at the rear, he almost stumbled headlong into the cupboard to retrieve it , but managed with some difficulty to pull it out and swing it up to an adjacent table.
In a side pocket he found the headlamp and some ground flares. He didn’t spend any more time examining the contents as he knew little or nothing of the gadgets and medicines inside. parking his buttocks on a ledge, he used both hands to pull on the headlamp and switch it on. He fiddled a moment with the white blue beam twisted the focus to illuminate as wide an area as possible. as an afterthought he peered once more into the cupboard, this time the light throwing the contents into stark relief, shadows danced on the rear panel as he moved his head from side to side. On a thin shell above the hanger pole he saw a folded white balaclava. Rather like the ones used by the formula one drivers in the fossil fuel era, their purpose was to complement the fire suit and stop flammable hair and sensitive skin from getting roasted. He know it would afford some protection from the coldness of the hold , so he took a minute to take off his headlamp and replace it atop the balaclava. He still felt weak and shaky, his headache was a crippling pounding grind, his skin beneath the suit inflamed like a boiled lobster and sensitive to the irregular chafing at the joints, and yet he was feeling better. The will to survive, the fight to live, had brought him this far ,and as his higher functions returned, he felt a grim anger, a steely resolve to find out who he was , where he was, and what had happened to the ship. He slid the door open and stepped out into the inky void.

CHAPTER 4
Unusually for a trader, there wasn’t any sign outside the lab, His lamps did a perfunctory scan of the walls . Nothing. He lit 2 flares and tossed them left and right from the doorway as far as he could. In the red flickering light he could make out bulkhead doors equidistant from the medlab. The one to the left was marked ‘H”, the other “I”. That settled it , go left. With the exception of a few old ships from the archaic Arabic and Asian trade alliances. All ships built in the last 50 years followed a standard letter deck assignation. Any ships contradicting this were more than likely to be museum pieces, long taken out of service.
There was a fair amount of tingling, burning, shaking, trembling and altogether unpleasant activity happening in his legs now, but through his queasiness, he could feel some strength returning. Whilst not able to support his full weight he could move them and bend his knee. As an afterthought , just before he stepped out of the cabin, he reached behind and grabbed a small stool tucked under the bench to his right. It was light and strong and he could easily weight bear on it.
The 25metres to the bulkhead door were Hell. He was aware of the irony of his body aflame and bathed in sweat in the firesuit, and yet his nose and lips stinging with the cold. He reached the door and opened up the hinged compartment beneath the electrics panel. The hydraulic jack canister was still intact.
In any kind of emergency involving sudden depressurisation, all bulkhead doors always seal to maximise survival potential of the ships occupants. In the early days of spacefaring however, this had often proved deadly as traders perished in sealed compartments unable to get the doors open again in events where all electrical power had also failed. Hydraulic jacks were one shot old fashioned mechanical deals. If you found yourself in a sealed compartment and needed to get to a lifeboat or another part of the ship in the event of a complete system failure, these explosive compressed air devices would force the doors apart as long as there wasn’t a vacuum on the other side. Once jacked open however, there was no way to reseal the doors unless ship power was restored. He pulled down the primer lever till he heard it click and released it to return to its original position on its spring.
“Bang!” The doors parted half their width into the recesses either side. Placing the stool through the gap first, he followed it into the next compartment. He felt the first pang of fear and apprehension as the cloying inky blackness seemed to ooze into the fear centres of his brain. He brusquely cracked open another flare and threw it into the darkness ahead. Another 25 metres distant he saw the expected Bulkhead G door. He clacked his way along the corridor and released the next hydraulic jack.
This time the bang reverberated into a much larger space. Somewhere in the distance he could hear an occasional echoey drip and splat from a ruptured pipe. This time when he threw the flare, he saw the the unmistakeable outlines of landers and scout craft in the foreground. He was in the main hold.
Protocol dictates that all vehicular craft are always hangared aboard with all doors open and this was the case as he made his way to the nearest one. It was a system scout, range about 4 weeks, berths for 4. It was typically the sort of craft used when touting for business in a system with more than one populated world. What a plethora of technology never overcame was the personal touch when making deals. The time spans and distances involved made simple trust an implicit and integral part of any deal. In a world of AI’s and avatars anyone could look like anyone or anything. business, especially new business existed almost exclusively on face to face meetings.
He stumbled his way up the ramp and palmed the seal switch. After a moments consideration, probably to switch everything to internal power ,all doors in the craft sealed shut , the lights came on, hot air flooded into the compartment and the vehicle pinged, shuddered slightly and hummed into life. He peeled off the balaclava and flopped down on the semi circular padded wall seat that accompanied the crew table at the rear of the flight deck, and flipped the central holoconsole on. He highlighted all the images of food on the first page and hit the request button. Directly Below him in the bowels of the vessel, some machinery struggled awake. He dialled up water and the effect was instantaneous, A glass rose up from the central part of the table superimposing itself on its holotwin image. He reached in with both hands and shakily brought it to his lips. It took a number of sips before his gag and retch response finally capitulated. He was draining the last drops when the table pinged and his food rose up in the centre of the table to meet its holotwin.
He ate sparingly, his throat felt ragged and raw,. He knew his stomach would be completely devoid of all the usual useful natural digestive aids. He chewed thoroughly and slowly and dialled up some orange juice. 20 minutes later he flopped over and slept.
CHAPTER 5
This time he awoke to the reassuring hum of functioning circuitry. A soft but insistent pinging , its tone somehow warm and welcoming, gently roused him from his sleep.
It felt as if an army of kids had gone to town on him with baseball bats. He felt like a veritable human piñata. He dug into his pocket as full blown consciousness prickled up and swam into life and quickly shook a few more pills into his hand. Swallowing them down without water he vaguely noted as they lodged halfway down his gullet where they were starting to dissolve, a bitter taste washed back. He pushed himself to his feet and was surprised to find so much more stability there. He followed the pings and pushed his way along the walls to the pilot chair and settled into it, noting how it still moulded itself to his form, the shoulder straps started snacking and ticking their way towards the central locking mechanism between his legs. He countermanded them with the push or a button and they receded back to their station.
The pinging was the main ships AI trying to establish a link with the scout. It must have noted the activity aboard.
He pushed the coms button. “ Report!”
“zzzxxgyi pfrrrrrrrr skizzit”
He flipped to a different channel. “Report!”
“fzzt krrkrr gzzzz power Sir! “
He clicked it off. If the AI couldn’t clearly communicate with the scout, then the fusion cells must be operating at absolute minimum life support capacity. He took a moment to consider this. He’d never heard of fusion cells actually running dry. Whilst true cold fusion still remained tantalisingly achievable it was still just out of the reach of viable commercial and industrial application. Fusion cells however, could last for many decades and were usually kept in a cycle of maintenance and charge through a myriad of ways in a busy commercial environment. For the ships power to be so low, the cells must have gone on running unchecked and unmaintained for a very long time. It could only mean he was the only living person aboard, and given his tooth and nail struggle to get out of a decrepit cold status unit, something catastrophic must have happened. He scanned the pilots monitors. The scout had power, and plenty of it, without a conscious thought he reached out and tapped the docking lights on. The hold blazed into perspective. Scanning the monitors he could see at least 3 other craft, all scout class. He made a quick calculation, there should be 12 power cells in total. Whilst they were a lot smaller than the ships ones, assuming they all had a similar charge, that’d be enough to boot up most of the ship wide systems and get the essential maintenance routines and up and running. He flicked on all the external spotlights and cycled through the monitors till he saw what he was looking for. Anti-grav sleds. Basically a large flat oblong of reinforced metal and electronics than once activated, acted as a simple carrying device. Over in the far wall there were racks of different sized ones, the largest the size of small family house just big enough to fit through the massive hold doors, the smallest designed to comfortably transport items all gangways within the confines of the ship. Normally automated, they could be set a destination and sent on their way, but as they central AI was on the frizz, he’d have to jostle them along the old fashioned way. He stopped to ponder why the ship with such little power appeared to still have gravity. He came to the inescapable conclusion that as he was in the belly of the ship, it must be barrel rolling along on it’s linear trajectory. Whilst he still didn’t really know who he was or where he was, he’d obviously been so long on spacers and experienced so many different grav worlds with and without medication than he genuinely couldn’t perceive subtle differences in gravity until either his legs felt supremely heavy, his neck ached and his chest laboured with every breath, or he flounced around with an unnatural feminine spring to his step. He might therefore assume that as he approached the engineering deck, usually located centrally to the rear of the ship he’d have difficulty finding purchase. As it was the scout fuel cells were fairly large and unwieldy, he doubted he’d be able to shift more than 4 at a time. He dialled up a quick schematic diagram of the ship. It was an interstellar freighter called “Mutual Agreement” obviously a corporate name. He flipped through a few pages of technical specifications: Built in 2940, a mere few decades from the very first Mobius Legrange Waystation by the Globus corporation, it has been sold to an independent in the twilight of it’s trading years in 3030. It was re-registered as having a home port of Noxia in the Cassiopia quadrant. It had a maximum complement of 68 souls. 68 souls! He felt sure he was the last survivor. He fidgeted a little in the chair and felt the ache and burn of the nanobots coursing through his body. He suddenly remembered about the exoskeleton. He flipped through the outside monitors again until he saw the storage unit, not far from the sleds. He felt the pangs of hunger as his stomach gurgled and rumbled. The accelerated changes to his body were needing more calories. He made his way back to the mess table and chewed his way through another large meal. Again he let his mind and body drift into sleep.
He awoke feeling a lot better this time. Apart from the unyielding thirst than plagued him, the crushing headache was a dull ache, and his limbs felt puffed up and stronger. This time he rose to his feet without the support of a table edge. He went over the plan once more in his head , he was thinking more alertly now, he quickly realised he’d need also some heavy duty gloves and rummaged around the maintenance bay till he found pair and, in another cupboard , mag boots. Pulling his balaclava over him and switching on the headlamp, he palmed the airlock door and stepped once more into the cold. He made his way directly to the exoskeleton locker, and hit the door switch. It was dead. This locker, like every other on the ship, was also an emergency decompression survival unit. It too had a hydraulic jack. He flipped up the perspex cover and activated it. Bang! The doors half parted with a explosive burst. His headlamp played along the racks of exoskeletons. Some were giant robotic units with menacing hydraulic pincers, others were literally a skeletal frame. As he walked a little deeper into the locker his foot bumped into a dusty pile clothes from which a plume of dust motes rose up. Except it wasn’t dust. With a grim expression he played the light over the mummified body. He/She had died in the foetal position , probably asphyxiation and extreme exposure. It looked like the locker had indeed been used as a survival pod and that there had been catastrophic decompression of the main hold. The dust particles danced and swirled in the headlamp beam and he involuntarily held his breath as he stepped over the corpse to the smaller exoskeletons at the rear. He found the one with the most residual power 16% ,probably enough for about 3 hours of light work, activated it and stepped in. It calibrated itself to his body in seconds as cables and straps snaked out from all over its frame to firmly attach themselves to his limbs and torso. The neck plate with its attendant biometric analysis moulded itself to the top of his spine. The headband slipped over his forehead and the heads up display eyepiece glided quickly over his left eye. As soon as the green light winked into his vision , he quickly stepped out with his left foot, detaching himself from the rack and he strode out of the locker carefully avoiding the huddled heap on the floor. Only then did he allow himself to breathe once more.
Chapter 6
Activating the grav sled really wasn't hard. Again he checked the residual charge in all of the smaller units. After selecting the best one for his needs, he heaved it off its reclining position where it was leaning against the wall and simply let it fall over over. As it fell backwards towards the floor an array of lights lit up along it entire perimeter and it froze it a perfect parallel position 60 centimetres above deck plate. He swiped his finger along a bar of stepped green lights and the sled gently rose another 60 centimetres,. He vaguely wondered how it would perform in the lower grav areas of the ship, but reckoned as long as there was mass below it in the form of deck plating, it should actually work ok. Either way he was going to find out. He pushed it with consummate ease towards the first of the dark scout ships.