[READING] [V & A Shipping] Chapter 73
June sat up abruptly. Something wasn’t right. She coughed and rolled out of the bunk as the smoke overtook her. She stayed for several moments as she coughed and hacked trying to get a clear breath. Vic hadn’t moved, but Joey’s bunk sat empty.
She braved the smoke and pulled Dexter from the upper bunk and dropped him to the floor. He may end up with a concussion, but at least he wouldn’t die from smoke inhalation.
The smoke-filled passageway blocked her vision. Even on her hands and knees the haze blurred everything. For the first time she closed her eyes and reached out with her mind. Always the emotions she’d felt from others, she’d never gone in search of them. If Joey wasn’t in his bunk, he could be in danger.
She reached out and felt an immediate grip of terror. Not fear, but absolute terror. Something terrified Joey to the point he was certain he was about to die.
June crawled toward the cargo bay. Something told her that’s where Joey was and he needed help. As she crawled along his feelings changed. His emotions shifted from fear of dying to sadness to acceptance of his peril.
Emerging into the cargo bay she saw what scared Joey to death. Joey hung off the end of one of the containers and Mike — how had Mike gotten out of Tootsie’s stasis field? — pulled on his leg. Mike wouldn’t fall because of his spider appendages, but Joey, Joey would fall to a certain death.
Then Joey let go, grabbing onto Mike as he fell. He punched, kicked, and finally freed Mike from the side of the container. Both of them tumbled end over end down toward the floor of the cargo hold
“No!” she screamed in futility.
Mike punched back, but never stopped Joey’s relentless fury of blows. All the way down Joey punched and fought. June wanted to turn her eyes away, but couldn’t. She had to know how it all played out.
Joey, by nothing short of a miracle, ended up on top of Mike. Mike hit the floor first, his abdomen bursting and spraying yellowish gore in all directions. Joey bounced off of Mike and hit his head against the container.
She lost him after that. He had to be alright. He just had to be.
The ladder’s rungs took forever for her to climb down and the intense heat stopped her half way down. The first container burned and sent acrid, black smoke up into the cargo hold and finally into the rest of the ship.
“Tootsie!” She screamed. No response returned. Tootsie’s systems were still tied up navigating the ship. It just wasn’t worth it any more. Not at all.
“Computer? Whatever your name is!” The computer from the Iron Butterfly had kept the fires under control. It didn’t respond either.
As quickly as she could, she made her way down the rest of the rungs. Dead or alive, Joey would have to wait until she got the fire out. They kept some basic fire fighting gear in the weapons room. She just hoped it would prove enough to extinguish the tower of flame that now threatened the cargo doors of the SS Acid Rat.
She ran into the weapons room, grabbed the extinguisher — it had a shape like a rifle blaster except with a wide opening at the end — and ran back to fight the fire.
June aimed and pulled the trigger. Flames disappeared instantly, but still expelled a glut of smoke into the cargo bay. She worked the tool, aiming it higher and higher, but she couldn’t be certain if she moved too fast to get all the flames out. The black smoke grew thicker as the fire died out.
When she thought all the fires had been extinguished, she collapsed to the floor. Her eyes burned. Her lungs burned. Her head throbbed. Her muscles ached. She wanted to fall into a deep sleep and never wake up.
She couldn’t do that. Vic and Dexter were still alive and hopefully Argmon was as well. Their position in the ship demanded that she evacuate the smoke and refresh the air. She’d have to do this manually as well as Tootsie and the Iron Butterfly’s computer were both out of commission.
She crawled and clawed her way toward the engineering room. Her body didn’t want to move, but she had to. She just had to get there and flip the switch to turn the ventilators on and refresh the air inside the ship. She had…
A hand grabbed her wrist. She started. She looked up the arm and into Mike’s hairy face.
“No! I saw you die.”
Mike didn’t respond. He only had three arms left, and of those three, two hung limply on the sides of his decimated body. One eye twitched and refused to open and his lips peeled back in a wicked sneer as if he could actually stop her.
June shook Mike’s hand free and he collapsed to the floor. The fright had forced her to take several quick breaths, refreshing her slightly. She stood and staggered into the engineering room.
The controls had been jammed, most likely by Mike, but she easily regained control. She hit the switch to activate the ventilators. Once the light came on and she saw the graphic on the screen showing the air being recycled, she crumbled into the engineering seat and passed out.
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