V&A Shipping 2: Hollow – Chapter 8
Why had the lights gone out? For that matter when had the lights gone out? Was he still out in space? Had he fallen off the ship? He could be floating in darkness light years away from the ship. What if they hadn’t noticed?
That didn’t make any sense. Of course, he wasn’t out in space. First of all, he’d be seeing stars, not complete darkness. It wasn’t complete darkness; he could make out a faint light. The ship was rarely in complete darkness. There was always a light on somewhere. Where had all the sound gone?
Vic started to sit up, but two things stopped him. The first was his head hitting something. He didn’t remember having such a low ceiling over his bed. He reached up and touched something smooth over his head. Glass? Why would there be glass over his head?
The second thing that prevented him from getting up seemed a little more important. A pain in his side. He reached down, since he couldn’t look down even if he could see anything, and felt a metal rod in his side. It moved slightly when he touched it.
“The patient will remain still while anesthesia is administered,” a mechanical voice said.
“Wait, wha…” Vic was back in darkness before he could finish.
He wasn’t sure how much time passed before he heard “Administering stimulant,” in that mechanical voice again and he woke up.
A motor whirred over his head and he could sense the glass above him moving away. He reached up and could feel it moving away. Before he sat up he felt his side. The rod no longer being there allowed him to finally sit up. After rubbing his eyes he looked out and waited for his eyes to adjust.
“June? Joey? Anyone?” He struggled just to get his voice out in a whisper.
He knew he was back on the ship. They must have placed him in the medical pod, but why? They were inspecting the outside of the ship while Muffin was busy analyzing what was hitting the ship and where the objects were coming from. So if they’d brought him here, something had to have happened to him. Now where had everyone gotten off to and why was the ship dark?
He waited, but no answer came.
“Oh great. You’ve got to be kidding me. Did everyone on the ship fall asleep at the same time?” Vic took in a deep breath to shout, but the pain in his side stopped him from doing that.
He put his hand on the side of the pod and slowly worked his way out. Everything hurt from the dull ache in his head to the sharp stab in his side. Even though he felt like lying down and going back to sleep, he needed to find out what had gone wrong. The last time this happened they’d all nearly died.
Going up the ladder was almost as painful as getting out of the pod, but it needed to be done. He couldn’t hear anyone, but at least there was emergency lighting from the upper deck. If they made it out of this alive he’d have to make sure more emergency lighting was installed. The realization of the emergency lighting made him stop and smell the air. Nothing out of the ordinary. No fire, no blood, no smoke, nothing. The air smelled just as clean as it had before he’d gone outside. So where had everyone gotten off to?
He slowly made his way to the bridge. He could see Argmon’s arms resting and not working any of the controls. His partner just sat in his chair. That wasn’t a good sign. Even the controls on the console had gone dark. The feeling in the pit of his stomach twisted harder. He thought he might throw up.
“Argmon?” His voice came out as only a squeak. He stomped his foot on the deck.
Argmon hopped up out of his chair and barked twice and snorted.
“I’m good. I’ll be fine. Just help me get to the chair so I can sit down.”
Before he’d even gotten the words out, Argmon was at his side helping him to the bridge.
“What happened? How long was I out? Where is everyone?”
Argmon shrugged his four arms.
“What do you mean you don’t know? What about Muffin? I wasn’t out for that long, was I?”
Muffin beeped, but the tone didn’t sound like her normal beep as if she was about to start talking.
“Muffin? Is everything alright?”
A harsh voice said, “System starting.”
“Oh, that can’t be good at all. So are we running on emergency power only right now?”
Argmon pointed at the console. Even though everything looked to be at full power, all the systems had gone down. Perhaps the outage was because Muffin had to do a hard reboot or something. If Joey was here he might be able to shed some light on the topic. The kid was smart with computers and things like that. He wasn’t here though. Everyone but Argmon had gone missing.
“Vic! I’m so glad you’re alright. I had thought things were worse and you’d be in that medical pod for so long that I might never see you again. Then the lights went out and I was certain that I’d never see you again. I got so scared. Please tell me that you’re alright. Why aren’t you talking? Don’t tell me your brain has been damaged!” B.O.B. rushed forward with his two metal-claw hands and tried to put them on Vic’s head. Argmon intercepted.
“B.O.B. I’m fine. Really. I know I’m going to need some rest. Do you know where everyone is?”
“Of course, I know. Not everyone tells me everything, but I do know where they are. They were worried about you. June looked on the verge of tears. Sometimes I wish I wasn’t an artificial so I could cry when I’m sad or scared or…”
“B.O.B.!” it hurt to yell, but he needed to get the bot’s attention. One day Vic would have to pay for an actual artificial. “Where are they?”
“They got into the Iron Butterfly and were going to go outside. They couldn’t get Muffin to respond to commands, so I think they’re still down there.”
“Is Dexter down there as well?” Why couldn’t B.O.B. just answer and make this all so much easier?
“Yes, he’s down in the weapons locker. Would you like me to get them for you and let them know you’re alright?”
Vic adjusted himself in his seat. It was so difficult to get comfortable. “Yes, please go down there and bring everyone up to the lounge.”
The lights flickered but didn’t come on.
B.O.B., who’d started pacing back and forth, stopped. “Oh, Little Miss Silver Muffin won’t respond for fifteen or twenty more minutes. I know when I go down, it can take me at least an hour to wake back up. Muffin is far more complex than I am and she’s integrated into all the systems. A check will need to be performed of each system one by one and as the systems check out, they’ll come back online.”
“So the lights are good. Is the life support on?”
“That’s a critical life system and isn’t under the direct control of the ship’s computer. Muffin can access it, but if she goes down, it’ll stay online.”
“What about the engine?”
B.O.B. looked up at the ceiling as if searching for the answer. “From what I understand of the manual for the ship, that system would be put into a shielded stasis to protect the ship and the crew.”
Vic rubbed his head. Why couldn’t he have just stayed unconscious until all this had passed over? “So what you’re telling me is that we’re dead in the water.”
“I don’t think I ever mentioned water. If we were near water then surely all the life forms aboard the ship would drown. I remember a time when my uncle…”
“As interesting as your uncle is, it was a figure of speech. I mean we’re not going anywhere fast.”
“We’re not going anywhere slowly either. The ship put protections in place.”
Vic sat up and listened for a minute. “The banging stopped.”
“Yes, that stopped as soon as the ship went dark. There hasn’t been any other occurrence. I thought you might want to know so I’ve been keeping track of all that.”
“Is our cargo still secure?”
“What? In the cargo bay? Yes.”
“And the planet?”
B.O.B. started clicking his claws together. “I don’t have sensors for that. Perhaps that’s what June and Joey had intended to do.”
“B.O.B. I need you to get everyone into the lounge now. That planet is worth a lot of money. I’m thinking we might be under attack from pirates. It’s the only thing that makes any sense. Go!”
The robot turned and sped down the corridor.
Vic couldn’t remember the last time the ship had been under attack from pirates. It only made sense. They were towing a planet worth an enormous amount of money. The commission wasn’t anything spectacular but would give them all a chance to take some much-needed time off. Pirates might be in a nearby system and it would be easy for them to grab the planet and disappear. He’d have a difficult time trying to find it again.
“Argmon, what was the last system we passed through?”
The Shathar shook his head and pointed at the controls.
He needed to punch something, but just clenching his fist made the pain flare in his side.
“Why us? Why do these things keep happening to us? I mean we finally went straight and we’re doing the right thing now. This is just so unfair.” Vic rotated his chair and slowly brought his boots up and put them on the console. “I need a beer. I should have sent B.O.B. to get one. You want a beer?”
Argmon gave a half-smile and got up.
The console lights flickered and went back out. Muffin needed to hurry up and come back online. He needed to secure that planet…again. He’d like to get the client to pay more for this shipment being so difficult, but everything they’d run into so far had been all his fault. It wasn’t like he’d run across the Galactic Patrol trying to shut him down or anything. He had his license to tow a planet and all the paperwork was in place.
Argmon returned with two beers. He handed one, already opened, to Vic.
“Here’s to getting this one done and taking a few days off.” They tapped cans and Vic took a long pull. He nearly spat out his beer when a voice came over the com.