Jenkins’ biggest problem was not the huge hole that had been carved out of the hull of her ore runner by the uncharted chunk of rock in space, nor was it fighting off the insanity of being alone and stuck in space. Her biggest problem was working with a robot that she hated.
“Shit.” The voice was almost inaudible.
Jenkins looked across her navigation reports to the operations station where Christo was bent over his screen intently muttering to himself. “What is it?”
Christo didn’t reply at first. The only noise was the slight hum of the exodrives pushing the ship forward at faster than light speeds.
Christo finally looked up. “Cut the drives!” Jenkins saw terror etched deeply in the face that now looked at her.
“What? There’s nothing out-”
“Do it!” Christo yelled, cutting her off.
In all the years of pushing ore across the stars Jenkins had never heard Christo lose his cool. She hit the emergency stop without even thinking about it. The ship shuddered out of exospace as the stress of the sudden deceleration threatened to rip the reinforced hull to shreds. A horrible vibration rattled the deck accompanied by the muted sound of metal tearing.
The silence after the violence was deafening. The crew of Ore Runner Teresa knew that even in an emergency stop, the ship should hold together. What they heard and felt was not normal.
“What was that?” Jenkins asked, breaking the silence.
“Something hit us.”
“Impossible.” Jenkins replied, “Nothing was on the scope.”
“Then the scope must be broken, because we are losing atmosphere. Send a repair bot to check the scope while I do a hull scan.”
“Aren’t those damn things supposed to keep on top of the scope? That’s why we bought ‘em.”
Christo ignored the mutterings of his partner. Jenkins had never liked the idea of robots on the ship; she didn’t trust them like she did humans. Sometimes Christo himself wished for more people to man the ship, even if it was just to have someone other than Jenkins to talk to, but the truth was people were expensive. Not just in wages, but also in food, air, and weight. The three repair bots weighed as much as one average human, didn’t eat anything, and could do jobs that were too dangerous for humans. Like repair the tear in the hull he just found. With a sigh, he sent a command to bots two and three to head to the airlock to start repairs.
Jenkins peered over Christo’s shoulder. “Find somethin’?”
“Tear in the hull.” Christo replied pointing at the display, “I bet it was just a crack caused by hitting something but got bigger with the emergency stop. Did the bot report back on the scope?”
“Ya. Looks like some sort of overload. No info on what caused it.” Jenkins looked in awe at the hole in the side of the ship. “Lucky you caught that. If it had gotten any bigger it could have caught in the slipstream and ripped us open like a can opener.”
They watched as the repair bots made their way across the hull to the breach and started working.
“Admit it,” Christo said “even you would rather have robots doing that than be out there yourself.”
“I guess so.” A light started blinking on the navigation panel drawing Jenkins’s attention. “Looks like the scope is back on line.”
Just as Jenkins started back to her post to check the readout a siren screamed out a warning. Jenkins ran to the panel and saw that the warning was too late. Something was about to hit the ship and she could do nothing about it.
“Hang on!” she shouted to Christo just before the stray meteor smashed into the hull causing the ship to lurch out of control.
About David S Reynolds
David S Reynolds lives in Tucson, AZ with his lovely wife, a crazy dog, and a demanding cat. He splits his time between teaching GED classes, taking photos, flying model airplanes, writing short stories, and riding his motorcycles around southern Arizona.
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