The ship exploded out of the wormhole just barely holding together; massive blast holes littered the hull while laser fire had melted parts of the titanium armor plating into a sort of goo. The jump rattled my brain, but I managed to win the battle of willpower and spat out words.
“Status Report!” I hissed.
“Sir, Multiple hull breaches have been detected and life support systems are falling!” said a crewman to the right of me.
“Cut the engines and reroute power to the main life support systems! I don’t want us to have come all the way just to die from air loss!”
“Aye sir!” he replied while speedily typing on a touchscreen.
A low whir stirred throughout the ship as the engines went to sleep.The blaring red wall lights flickered in and out until they maintained a steady vibrant green. I sighed a breath of relief and glanced around. Solemn faces and tired bodies occupied the stations around the bridge control room. We survived our battle, but the war waged on and remained ever unyielding; none of us could dare rest until we were sure everything was secure.
“Where the hell are we?” I asked.
I pulled a lever at my command terminal and a low rumble reverberated around the room; natural light quickly spilled in as the front window shutters began to rise. I stared out into the void with a blank mind and dull expression. I was only broken from my trance when a crewmate’s voice reached my ears.
“Did you get that, sir?” said a plump man in his early thirties;
No, can you repeat yourself?” I asked.
“I was saying that we jumped near an intact solar system, but there’s one problem- it’s too far away.
“Right, we cut power to our engines and are currently drifting. If we were to turn them back on, our life support wouldn’t be able to stay functional. Is that right?
The crewman gulped and gave a simple nod.
“And how long will it take to reach the system at our current velocity?” I questioned.
“At our current speed, roughly fifteen years.
"Fifteen years?! Our food provisions are only rated to last us five!
I pinched the top of my nose and took a deep breath; these men and women needed a leader they could count on. I'd be damned if I let a moment of panic destroy our chances of survival!
With a fresh breath and a clear mind, I spoke.
"Alright, everyone maintain your stations and operate at maximum capacity. What's the status of our communication systems?
"Thankfully, they are still functional. Would you like me to contact certain sectors?" said the same plump man.
"Yes, ping Cyro and tell them to get every pod ready," I responded.
"Ready? You don't mean-!?"
"That's exactly what I mean. If we don't have enough food to last us, we'll have to go on ice," I finished.
"Aren't you worried the enemy will catch up to us? He questioned.
"Not really. We were on the front end of that jump. If anyone followed us, they would have been vaporized to dust," I replied.
I stepped down from my terminal and strode towards the back of the half oval-shaped room. A single two-door exit occupied the flat gray wall. I just about went through when a crewman stopped me.
“Sir, where are you going?” She asked.
“Just going for a stroll. Stay alert and monitor the situation. Notify me if anything changes.
“Yes Sir!” She said with a salute.
I gave a nod in return and headed through the exit. The doors slid into their respective left and right sides with a smooth hydraulic hiss. Once it closed behind me, I was left alone in that deserted hallway with nothing but my thoughts and fears as company; my heavy boots made a loud clash against the cold metal floor with each step I took.
I slowly continued down the dimly lit hallway as far as I could until I met a sealed blast door. The readings on the digital screen told me there was an atmospheric breach on the other side. Luckily, the central maintenance walkway was still intact; its positioning meant that navigation throughout the ship remained unobstructed even with multiple breaches.
I turned to my left and punched in my access codes into the small door. It opened with a slight hiss and I stepped through. The slightest light from the hallway soon became snuffed out the further I went into the claustrophobic walkways; they twisted in all sorts of directions and reminded me of the hedge mazes back on Earth. I fumbled with my left leg pocket a bit before I seized my prize-a small flashlight.
I grasped it with an iron grip while giving it a quick whip straight down. The artificial light sparked to life and illuminated the cramped passage. I quickly made a series of turns as I recounted the path I had taken numerous times before. After a few minutes of walking, I finally found an intact hallway. I sped out into the open and felt relief wash over me like a soothing shower.
This hallway had been much better lit than the last; bright turquoise lights sat embedded in the tops of the walls near the ceiling. I noticed another thing as well- the silence had vanished. I scanned my surroundings and noticed I now stood near the Cryo room. The clear glass-like two- door made a shimmer from the lights and looked like it could break from a simple punch, but looks could be deceiving.
I fumbled up to the door and tried the access pad. I swiftly entered my access code only for a loud beep to assault my ears and tell me it’s wrong. Stange, usually my override code worked everywhere. I brainstormed every possible solution and didn’t even notice the Cryo engineer on the other side. The door suddenly snapped open with a grating noise into the left and right sides of the wall while the engineer stood in front of me with a perplexed face.
“What happened to the door?” I asked.
“I’m not quite sure, I think the jump damaged it. Anyway... You gave me quite the shock; the bridge told us to prep the pods, they never told us you were coming,” he fidgeted.
“That's because I never told them to. I wanted to see the extent of the damage in person. Speaking of that order, what is the status on the pods? I questioned.
“All systems are green and everything is ready to go! Is there really nothing else we can do? He asked.
I pondered for a moment before replying.
“I assure you this is exactly what we should be doing. I’ll explain the situation once everyone is here, you just have to trust me,” I expressed.
I gave the engineer a small smile while he gave a nod in return. He shuffled aside and I finally gazed at the Cryo Bay in its full extent. Thousands of human-shaped pods overwhelmed the multilevel racks as if they were wine bottles being stored in a warehouse.
The sight had a tinge of gloom and felt unwelcoming, but personal comfort would have to take a backseat in this game of survival. I took one last look before I activated my communicator.
"Cyro to Bridge Control, any change in situation?"
"Negative, there are no trances of pursuers and life support systems are at maximum efficiency," responded a female voice.
"Perfect. Ping all sectors and tell them to use the central maintenance walkways to get to the Cryo Bay. I've deactivated all codes so navigation shouldn't be an issue. That goes for you folks up there as well.
"Understood Sir!" She finished.
I ended the transmission and found myself sitting on a square crate. We managed to survive this long, but how far would we go? I took off my forest-green cap and rubbed my forehead. The fatigue finally caught up and hammered my body with a barbed club. I wanted to crawl into a comfy bed and snooze away my worries.
A few minutes had passed while I sat there. A footstep became two until they multiplied into the hundreds and thousands; seems like the crew were able to make it here in one piece after all. I sat up, put my cap back on, and walked towards them as if nothing had happened.
Their chatting quickly replaced the quiet hum of the cryo pods and I could hardly think. I boarded one of the cryo lifts so everyone could see me; they looked on with confused faces. I held onto my words as tight as I could and activated my communicator.
“Ahem, this is your captain speaking. I’m sure many of you are wondering what we are doing here. Believe me, I want to lie and tell you everything is going to work out, but the truth is, nothing is certain!”
The sea of faces turned darker for a moment.
“However, we won fight after fight while still managing to stay alive! We’ve gone beyond the call of duty and beyond what anyone has expected of us! We now stand in this room looking for something to hold onto, something to put hope into! But look around. Do you see what’s in this room? We have living, breathing, hoping, and loving humans standing shoulder to shoulder. So don’t wear that sad expression anymore because we haven’t lost! No matter how many times humanity is kicked down, we always get up!” My only question is will YOU get up!
“Sir, yes sir!” said every man and woman.
“How many times!” I yelled.
“Until our last breath!”
“That's what I like to hear. Now, our current situation had us jump to a random system. The only problem is we can’t turn on the engines without losing life support. Our previous encounter greatly damaged our ship. The plan is to go on ice and drift towards the system. With a little bit of luck and elbow grease, we’ll make it. Move it, double time!
The crew scrambled like ants and the pods quickly filled up one after the other. That once empty room devoid of life now housed human beings and their dreams; I’d be damned if I let a single one of those alien bastards take that away!
After a few minutes, everyone but me was sealed away from time. I stood in my pod with the door open. I reached into my shirt and took my locket out; it flipped open, playing a hologram of my daughter and wife surprising me for my fortieth birthday. I smiled while a tingle tear fell from my eye and made a splash on the ground. I closed it around my hand while initiating the pod.
The click of the button made the thick glass door swing down from the hinge until it made an airtight seal. Air colder than any winters on Earth soon filled the pod; my breathing slowed and my thoughts became scattered. I closed my eyes and welcomed the long sleep; it's just what I needed.
This is Captain James, signing off.