V&A Shipping 2: Hollow – Chapter 5
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With Dexter’s jump and Vic being hit by something, that left only Joey secured to the hull of the ship. The tether keeping them all attached had been cut. The object, about the size of a basketball, had hit between Joey and Vic and broken the tether before hitting Vic and knocking him off the ship. Dexter had tried to jump at the last minute and deflect the object but had only succeeded in spinning Joey around. He felt dizzy. He felt sick. He’d only done a couple of spacewalks and the loss of direction made his head swim.
“June, Vic is floating away, what do I do?”
“What do you mean floating away? I thought the three of you were tethered together.”
“We are. We were. Well, whatever hit Vic must have snapped the tether. How do I go get him?”
A hologram of June appeared in his helmet. “Joey, pay attention. This is very important. Don’t lose sight of Vic. You’ll lose him quickly in the stars. Do you still see him?”
“Yeah, he’s not moving very fast. Sort of spinning a little bit.”
“Are you still tethered to Dexter?”
“Release the tether.”
“Eep! Eep! Eep!”
“It’s alright, Dex. Joey needs to do this. You be ready to catch the two of them on the way back.”
“Wait a minute, catch us?” Joey asked as he untied the tether.
“Joey! Keep an eye on Vic. Don’t look away. This is very important. I should have been out there. Anyway, lift your right arm and point at him, and put your left arm straight out in front of you. Got it?”
Joey looked at his arms. He followed his right and he was still pointing at Vic. The suit had a way of holding your position even when you relaxed. It made him feel comfortable knowing he could stay in this position as long as he needed to.
June’s hologram flickered. “Now I want you to look at your left arm. Are all the lights green?”
One of the lights blinked from green to yellow back to green.
“One of them should have just blinked.”
“Okay, you had me scared there for a minute. What happened?”
“I took control of your suit. Well, partial control. I’m going to fly you out to Vic and you’re going to catch him. Look down your right arm and make sure you can still see him.”
“I’ve got him. Now you’re going to do what?”
The ship dropped away. Not slowly, but fast. He thought he might lose his balance or veer away from pointing at Vic, but Vic came up fast.
“What do I do?”
Joey lashed out and grabbed for Vic, but missed. The tether trailing out behind him had come close and he managed to grab the end to make a loop that caught Vic’s arm. The two started spinning away from the ship. He fought with the tether as he pulled Vic in and finally grabbed onto him.
“June, I think I’ve got him.”
“Don’t think right now, Joey. Do you have him or not?” The hologram of June kept looking down and back up. “Joey!”
The stars spun around. Joey closed his eyes. “What happens if I get sick in my suit?”
“Joey! Listen. Do you have Vic? You need to secure your suit to his. Pull the black plug on your right shoulder and connect it to the matching plug on Vic’s suit.”
“But I’m on the back of him. How can I…”
“Don’t think about it.”
He started to reach for his shoulder but their rotation caused them to separate. He pulled Vic back in harder. He tried twice more and the same thing happened.
“I can’t do it.”
“You need to get this done.”
She wasn’t helping. Her yelling was making him stress out. The stars spinning by were making him sick. He tried to keep an eye on Vic. He needed to get them connected. He got a better grip with his right arm tucked under Vic’s right arm and reached for the plug with his left hand. This time they stayed together. A long cable came out with the plug. With his right hand, he tried to get a hold of the plug on Vic’s suit. It took a couple of tries, but he pulled Vic’s plug free and connected them.
“I think I’ve got it.”
“What did I tell you about thinking?”
Joey looked at the connected ends. “I’m connected!”
After a brief sensation of being pushed sideways, Joey assumed that he and Vic were moving back toward the ship. He was holding on tightly to Vic and didn’t dare look around. What if they didn’t make it back into the ship? Would that be so bad? They’d run out of oxygen, but at least they’d know how long they had. Onboard the ship with a black hole for a power source there was no telling when things would go wrong or how badly they’d go wrong.
He needed to stop thinking about that. Right now nothing was more important than getting back on board the ship. To safety. Joey hadn’t looked inside of Vic’s facemask so he didn’t even know if Vic was alive or dead. The impact of that rock that hit him, or asteroid, or comet or whatever it was had knocked him for a loop. Literally. The hard suit should have taken the brunt of the blow, but now Joey needed to make sure Vic got inside.
Something started pulling in short jerks. He tried to turn around, but could only see the edge of the ship getting closer.
“Dexter, pull harder. You need to get them inside the ship.”
“Eep. Eep. Eep.”
When had the hologram disappeared? Looking out into the stars and being pulled toward a spaceship, Joey wondered once again what would happen if he suddenly got sick. Did the suit account for that? Would it clean itself?
Dexter’s face looked in at his. Joey lowered his feet down onto the ship’s dura-plasti hull and they stuck instantly. He was safe. Now he and Dexter needed to get Vic to safety.
They tethered together and pulled Vic along with them. Joey never liked the sensation of stepping over the edge. He felt like he was going to start falling, but Dexter was moving with a purpose and it was all he could do just to keep up. As soon as they were back in the airlock, the outer door slammed closed and the inner door opened up. B.O.B. stood there tapping his robotic fingers together looking like a nervous Nancy.
“I was watching the whole time. Muffin has hooked me up to the video cameras. I couldn’t see the hull, but I could see the three of you and I was so worried when that pod hit Vic and knocked him off the surface of the ship. I thought for sure he would be flung off into space and we’d never be able to get him back again. Please, please, please tell me that you’re not going back out there for a long time.”
Joey popped off his helmet. “We’re not, now help me get Vic’s suit off. We need to get him into the medical pod.”
“Certainly. Right away. Let me just prepare the right tool.” B.O.B.’s hand retracted and a bright, blue flame shot out the end of his hand.
“No! Wrong tool.”
“So sorry, is this one better?” A whirling blade replaced the flame.
“B.O.B. just use your hands. We can undo the suit and open it up. We don’t want to do any more damage getting him out. Understand? Slow and careful.”
“I understand. Shall I hold him? Or perhaps I should be the one to…”
“Stand back, B.O.B. I’ll take over.” June allowed the bot to slide out of the way and helped Joey get Vic out of his suit. “You boys couldn’t wait a few more minutes for Muffin to finish her calculations. You had to go rushing out into space to look at the outside of the ship. I knew something like this was going to happen.”
“Less scolding, more helping?”
June was mad and she had every right to be, but right now they needed to get Vic out of his suit and into the medical pod. None of them could see what might be wrong with Vic, but the medical pod could not only check him out but keep him safe until he either healed or they got to a port to get him the medical attention he needed. Joey tried to shake off his suit’s gloves but wasn’t successful. It was almost impossible to help Vic out of his suit.
Dexter appeared at their side, already out of his suit, and put his three arms to work helping Vic. Joey sat on the floor next to B.O.B. as June and Dexter half-carried, half-dragged Vic away.
“I guess we weren’t much help, were we?” Joey asked, not wanting an answer.
“Should I go and offer my assistance? It seems that I was only getting in the way, but if you think there is something I can do for Vic I will gladly go and do that. What do you think?”
“I think you did enough already. Why don’t you just take a break?” Joey laid back on the deck as B.O.B. went in circles for a few minutes before finally tucking himself into a corner of the cargo bay.
They had been a little hasty about going out to inspect the ship. For a few minutes, it’d gotten Joey’s mind off the black hole the ship carried around. He just couldn’t wrap his mind around how something like that could power a ship safely. It defied all logic. Black holes weren’t safe, they were dangerous. They destroyed life, not aided it. Even if it was a microscopic black hole, it could obliterate the ship. And if it was large enough to capture a planet, even a small planet, and control the orbit of the planet, that meant it had to be a sizable black hole and not something insignificant.
He needed to just go to sleep and maybe when he woke up he’d be thinking clearer about the situation. Vic would be better, they’d be closer to the delivery point. Everything would be alright. That’s all. He just needed a nap. First, he’d have to try to get himself out of his suit. Getting in had been easy enough, but it was always an easier task when you had a little help. He tried to sit up, but that didn’t work. He tried rolling to his side. That also didn’t work. The suits were designed for work in zero-G, not for lying about on the deck of the ship.
Should he call for help?
No, everyone was busy or incapacitated. Everyone except for B.O.B. Joey groaned.
“Hey, B.O.B., can you give a guy a hand?” Even as he asked, he knew they were words he would regret.