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Tell me what you think!
This is an entry for a short story competition at school.
By Leon Fox O' Brien
The ship cruised along with a faint drone from the engines.
It was almost midnight. Not that it made much difference. Not up here. The only indications were the clocks, silently counting above the entrance to every door. The slightly tinted windows displayed huge galaxies and star clusters. Just at the edge you could see the surface of Mercury, as the ship began to enter its atmosphere.
Shaun looked away from his window, to the screen by his bed. The touch controls were unresponsive, and it took him a while to bring up a diagram of the ship. Shaun was an engineer. He looked after the maintenance on the ship, along with the other engineer, Maria.
Something moved outside the window. It cast a shadow across the whole room. It was gone now.
Shaun looked back to his screen. Something wrong in the engine room. There was always something wrong in the engine room.
The thick door to Shaun's living space slid into the ceiling, revealing the sterile white complexity of the ship's main quarters. He placed his hands on the grips at either side of the doorway, then gently pushed against them, propelling himself forwards. They weren't quite into the atmosphere of the planet yet, so it was still safe for him to be pushing around in zero gravity.
As Shaun glided over the large entrance to the engine room, he placed his hands on the wall and slowed himself to a halt. He unhinged the clamps on either side of the engine room door and pulled it up, descending deeper into the ship.
The engine seemed fine, with everything working. There was some kind of makeshift coil on one of the two riggers, although it looked to be working perfectly so he didn't tamper with it. Most likely Maria had made it earlier.
He heard the door sliding open behind him and a voice rung out.
Turning, Shaun saw Maria in the entrance.
“You shouldn't be down here," she said, "we'll be entering the atmosphere soon.”
“I know,” Shaun replied, “The system said there was a problem here.”
“Yeah, one of the coils overheated. I put in a new one. Graphine; should work better than the old one. Come on, Paul wants us in the cockpit. We can't be floating around here.”
Shaun followed his colleague to the cockpit. The heavy lock on the other side clanked open and the doors vanished into the walls.
A huge window covered most of the front wall, casting an orange glow across the room as the ship got closer to the planet. The surface looked almost like a sea of mountains, with a small clearing right in the middle.
Almost startlingly, the captain, Paul, pushed his chair backwards so that his face was shown to Shaun and Maria. His thick beard indicated that he probably hadn't shaved since they left hypersleep. He extended a finger towards the clear valley amidst the mountains.
“That,” he said, looking right at Shaun, “is where we're placing the Solar Panels. Hopefully with these we'll have the energy to operate whatever machinery we'll be bringing down next.”
The ship shuddered, and there was a jerk from somewhere in the corner of the pod.
Everyone looked to Arra, the copilot, who had been focused on her flying the whole time.
“We're beginning to enter the atmosphere!” She called.
Paul strapped on his belt as the door behind him closed itself and the locking mechanism pushed back into place.
“Get to your seats!”
Shaun and Maria fastened themselves into seats behind the pilots just as the ship began shaking violently.
The orange glow over the room was intensified by a red flashing, and an alarm rang out.
Looking to one of the screens, Shaun read:
"WARNING: ENGINE FAILURE."
"The other rigger must overheated!" Shaun screamed. You could barely hear anything over the alarms and the sound of the ship struggling to stay together as it descended into the atmosphere.
"There's new coils in the boxes beside them!" Maria yelled back.
Shaun squeezed at his belt. Suddenly, it popped open and he was flung into the wall. Holding onto the edge of the doorframe, he pulled at the lock until it opened. He had about a minute until it closed again.
The door to the engine room was still open. He grabbed the ceiling and angled himself towards the engine room. Letting go, he slammed down into the room.
He fumbled with the box of coils, frantically trying to untangle them. Finally, one came loose and he pulled himself up to the rigger, spotting the overheated coil. He pulled a pair of thick rubber gloves from his pocket and pulled them over his hands. Grabbing at the coil, he attempted to rip it from its place. A huge spark flew out and Shaun flinched back. He pulled at it again, and it snapped free. Quickly, he fitted in the new coil. The difference was almost immediately noticeable, with the violent shaking calming down considerably.
He didn't have much time left. Using indentations in the walls, he climbed his way back to the cockpit, pulling his legs in just as the door slammed down behind him.
He looked up at the window and saw that the ship was hurtling down towards the planet's surface.
The helmet felt heavy over Shaun's head. They stood in the airlock, each member of the crew holding a corner of a massive solar panel. Paul looked back, and put his thumb up to the crew, before opening up the hatch.
The sky was a pale green colour, and the dark orange mountains towered all around them. It was an almost blinding contrast to the monochromatic interior of the ship. Paul picked up the corner of the solar panel opposite to Shaun, and with the two women at the back they stepped out onto Mercury's surface.
The ground was dry. Shaun's visor had a smudge, but he wasn't too bothered. The panel began to feel somewhat heavier.
"Beautiful, isn't it?" Arra asked.
"It's nice." Shaun said.
"More than nice," interrupted Paul, "it's incredible."
Maria was silent.
"What do you think, Maria?" Shaun inquired. Still silence.
He looked back to find the panel dragging its corner along the sand. Shaun stopped. The other crew members stopped also.
"Why'd you stop?" Paul asked.
"What happened to Maria?"
Paul looked at Shaun confusedly. "Who's Maria?"
Shaun paused. Who was Maria? He didn't remember.
"I... I don't know." He said.
Arra opened a hatch at the back of the solar panel and pulled a short pedestal from it.
"This seems like a pretty good area to set it up." She stated, before screwing down the pedestal.
Shaun and Paul did the same on their sides. Shaun was still confused, but he wasn't sure why. It was probably nothing.
They made their way back to the ship.
Shaun let the air flush over his face as he removed the helmet. He took off his suit and hung the two up in the spacesuit cabinet before heading to his living area. His body felt cramped, as he had become so accustomed to zero gravity. Just as he was getting comfortable, his computer rang out again.
"WARNING: ERROR IN COCKPIT."
Sighing, he tapped the "more details" box underneath the message.
This confused Shaun. This confused Shaun more than whatever had confused him earlier. The computer was built into the hardware, so it should be able to log some kind of description if it could detect the error. He grasped a handle on the wall and pulled himself up, his knees cracking. Taking a basic toolkit from a compartment on the wall he left for the cockpit.
The door was locked.
“Paul?” He asked, knocking, “Are you in there?”
“Yes Shaun?” Paul spoke over the ship's intercom. His voice couldn't be heard through the heavy door.
“Paul, there's some kind of malfunction in your area. Can you let me in?”
Paul paused for a few seconds.
“I'm not letting you in.”
“... Why not?” Shaun asked.
“We can't leave, Shaun.”
“What do you mean? What are you talking about?”
Paul paused for even longer this time.
“We can't leave the planet, Shaun. If we leave we'll kill it.”
“What are you talking about? Kill what?”
The answer was immediate.
“We'll kill it.”
Shaun was afraid. He didn't understand what Paul was talking about, but he had a strange feeling that something was wrong.
“Is Arra in there?”
Paul didn't respond.
“Paul...? I'm overriding the door. We're leaving this planet, Paul.”
As Shaun neared the ladder up to the command centre Paul spoke out again.
“We can't leave Shaun. We'll kill it.”
Shaun ignored his cries and climbed the ladder up to the command centre. Paul kept repeating his phrase, but Shaun didn't pay it any notice. The centre was full of buttons and flashing lights, and several screens all around the walls and ceiling. Paul was still talking. He opened a menu on one of the screens and pulled down a knob. The sound of the door decompressing below could be heard through the hatch. Paul stopped talking.
Shaun stepped into the room. The windows were pitch black. Paul was nowhere to be seen. Arra was nowhere to be seen.
In the centre of the room, floating, was an inky black orb; about the size of a clenched fist.
Shaun stared right into the orb. And the orb stared back at him.
Shaun couldn't think straight. All he could think about was the orb.
Shaun's feet weren't on the ground. He was floating. All around him was nothing. The sky was empty.
“Shaun.” A voice spoke out, seemingly from all angles. It was a strange, unfamiliar voice, almost inhuman. He couldn't see anything, but he could tell that this was the voice of the orb.
“I'm dying, Shaun.”
Shaun tried to speak, but he couldn't. He couldn't move.
“Your reason. Your world. It's killing me.”
Shaun wanted to help. He wanted to help the orb.
“Shaun, I'm dying. Please help me, Shaun.”
Yes. He wanted to help. Shaun could help.
The voice echoed out infinitely.
“Come to me Shaun. Help me.”
Shaun noticed that he was no longer floating. His feet were on the ground.
“Come to me Shaun. Help me.”
Shaun put one foot forward and stepped into the madness.
Everybody get up it's time to slam now
We got a real jam goin' down
Welcome to the Space Jam
Here's your chance do your dance at the Space Jam
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