Author : Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Berk stroked one gloved hand along her skin, feeling for the gentle rumble of her heartbeat. The beating found, he carefully measured three hands-widths down and slightly inwards along her belly.

He cut here first.

The plasma torch flared, then narrowed into a fibre thin blade, carving through the outer layers of skin without hesitation. Soon he’d opened a hole more than large enough to fit his hand.

Berk extinguished the torch, pushing it away from him and letting it play out on its tether, out of his way but within easy reach if needed.

Blindly slipping a hand inside her belly , he closed his eyes and visualized the maze of her insides from memory. He’d done this more times than he cared to remember, his hands guided by hard earned experience as much as any of his studies.

As he worked, he sensed more than felt the warm fluid oozing out of the gaping wound, it’s heat transferring easily through the surgical gloves he was wearing. As the liquid breached the cavity it boiled away in a cloud of streaking vapor to disappear into space.

Berk followed the coiled mass of tubing with his hand, feeling around in her guts trying to locate the source of the leak.

His fingers transitioned from the smooth natural surface he was accustomed to, to the stark unfamiliar and jagged surface of a foreign object.

Careful not to cut himself, he gently tugged the foreign body free. It had been trapped between two lengths of tubing, each pushing it out and into its neighbour until it was wedged in a weeping mass of scar tissue and leaking fluid.

“Berk. Are you almost done yet? We’re way behind schedule as it is.” The captain’s voice crackled through his headset, the only sound save his own breathing and the gentle rumbling of his heartbeat.

“Yes captain, I just need to patch her up.” Berk responded, trying to hide his annoyance. “Five minutes, give or take then we can prime the cooling system and bring her back online.”

As Berk withdrew his hand he picked away the scabby tissue that had surrounded the projectile, and within moments he could feel her innards healing the way they were designed to. The flow of coolant slowed, and by the time he’d reeled the plasma torch back in it had stopped completely.

He held the rectangular slice of skin he’d removed earlier back over the hole, and refiring the torch, laid a pattern of staple grafts down around the entire seam. As the last of the staples was being tacked in, her hull was already bonding the fabric around the first, solidifying the skin into a solid barrier again. These weren’t the first scars she’d earned, nor would they be the last.

His job done, Berk laid his hand on the healed outer skin for a moment, giving it a quick rub before pushing himself away into space and reeling in his tether towards the maintenance hatch.

“Hurry it up Berk, we do have a schedule to keep. Is the damn thing fixed?”

Berk pulled himself through the hatch, letting it close itself as he reoriented himself to the ship’s gravity.

“She’s all patched up, sir. She’s ready to go.”

Berk cut off his comms as he unclipped his helmet, the seal breathing deep as the pressure equalized with the cabin.

Peeling off a glove and laying his hand on the hull, he spoke to her softly. “You’re all better now, aren’t you girl?” Berk rubbed the alloy with apparent affection. “I’ll gut that prick like a pig if he ever sees you hurt like that again.”

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