Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
I’m no expert, but the big green flash followed by a noise reminiscent of a building collapsing makes me think it’s time to leave this habitat. Things about us start to shake. I look down, then tap the wall by his head to interrupt his concentration.
“Jimmy, it’s time to quit.”
He looks up at me, the lenses on his optics spinning as he refocuses up to people-size from the tiny circuit board in the control module.
“I only require a further four minutes, allowing for your interruption taking up thirty-five seconds of my time.”
A cloud of dust and lighter varieties of chunky flying crap gusts in from the left. I close my helmet and switch on the comms.
“Jimmy, we don’t have that long.”
My artificial partner gives a completely believable sigh.
“A sudden lack of breathable atmosphere is no impediment to my work, nor will the inevitable firestorm that follows cause problems, as my last integument upgrade rendered me impervious to non-stellar heat. Also, I will have sealed the control module by then.”
I love these new companion mechanics, which is why I volunteered for the beta, but their extended ramification processing is sometimes flaky.
“Jimmy, it’s not about the work environment or efficiency of repair. Nobody will need realistic summertime options in their climate suites after this accommodation wing is burned out. The whole habitat will be scrapped.”
The tiny soldering iron extruded from his smallest left finger goes dark.
“That is valid reasoning.”
“We should go.”
“I will close the control module first. It will be recyclable after the unit is scrapped.”
A long tongue of purple fire lashes from left to right across the hub we’re working in.
“Sealing is a complex process.”
Enough, now. I reach out and tap him on the head.
“Just put the lid on. It’s not worth losing either of us.”
He pauses and looks up at me.
“I am freespace rated. Only you will be in danger should this unit rupture.”
“Jimmy, it’s already compromised. There’s only a short period between event and emergency containment failure. If that happens, we’re likely to be lost in the debris field. We need to go. Now.”
“How do you know? There has been no status update issued.”
“The explosion probably took out the relay. That’s what happened minutes before the last time I nearly got killed surviving a habitat rupture. Things don’t blow around like there’s a storm for any reason except structural failure.”
“That is valid reasoning. I will simply ‘put the lid on’ as you suggest so that we can depart.”
The habitat upends as the gravity generator fails. Fortunately, it rises to the right-hand side, so I’m braced against the wall I was leaning on anyway. Jimmy flicks out a leg to balance himself without interrupting his work. I can feel increasing atmospheric turbulence through my suit.
“Jimmy. Abandon it. Time to go.”
“I only require forty seconds more.”
“We’ll be part of a cloud of freespace debris in less than thirty seconds. Abandon it!”
“How do you know?”
More than enough.
“Jimmy Jimmy. Override Kilo Tango. Cease repair. Exit unit.”
Before I can correct, Jimmy’s gone. I forgot how fast these things can be. The lid of the control module spins slowly away. I meant to get him to assist me – then again, being forced along at his speed might well do more damage than good.
Extending my incident armour, I curl up against a bulkhead corner before inflating joint bracing and setting my emergency anchor. See you later, Jimmy.
If you enjoy my stories on here, you might like to try my flash fiction collection – https://lothp.org/book/between-the-thunder-and-the-sun/ – or some of my other books.
They’re available as ebooks for all devices, paperbacks, hardbacks, and OpenDyslexic font paperbacks. You can find details of all currently available titles on my website – https://lothp.org/published-work/ (each book page has non-affiliate universal links for every available edition).