Lou (Part 2)

Submitted into Contest #60 in response to: Write a funny post-apocalyptic story.... view prompt

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Funny Science Fiction

Nothing could be worse than marching to your own death.

I clutch my helmet under my arm as we enter the loading bay. Wrench is already seated inside the transport ship, looking blue. That’s a preferable color when it comes to feeling ill. Although, it could also mean she’s experiencing frostbite. I reach my hand into the air of the ship. Nope, we’re in luck. We won’t freeze to death. Well…

“Go on,” Ace coaxes me, “the faster we start our mission, the faster it ends.”

“Oh yeah, I’m really looking forward to running to my death,” I mutter. Even so, I step onto the ship and fit myself beside Wrench. Neither of us wanted to take the helm beside our pilot. Who, by the way, refers to herself as ‘Pilot.’ No, it’s not a joke. 

“Everyone here?” Pilot’s voice booms through the small craft. She’s already seated up front. I hadn’t even noticed her, which is actually odd. She’s a walking whirlwind of noise. Between that and her overconfidence, she’ll probably get us killed. But hey, we’re on a suicide mission anyway. I think I’d prefer she kill me with a stray bullet, instead of being torn apart by a space monster.

“We’re in position,” Ace confirms, taking his seat beside her. “Just need the Commander’s go ahead.”

“Sir,” Pilot nods. She’s still taking the chain of command to heart. I, however, could care less. She volunteered me for a suicide mission, whether or not she’s a higher rank than me, I will not respect her. Or maybe I will. No, I won’t. Ugh. Ace has been messing with my head for too many years. 

“Commander?” Pilot’s radio crackles. 

“You are green,” our Commander responds. “Take off when ready.” Pilot rolls over the engine, and then we’re hovering. I hear the room outside depressurize. The sound sends a rolling chill down my spine. 

“Buckle in,” Pilot advises us. Wrench scrambles to clip her X-belt over her chest. I already have mine fastened. If being a firefighter taught me anything, there’s a truth in ‘safety first’; archaic as it now sounds. 

“Brace,” Ace warns us as the alert sirens sound overhead. The bulkhead doors part before us, beckoning us to the black depths ahead. I close my eyes, gripping the X-belt with both hands. I wasn’t trained for G-force. This better not be where I die. I will not die to air. Do you hear me?!

The craft lurches forward, bursting through the doors. My body resists the motion, even as I try to relax. And then Pilot shouts. “Whoo! Damn it feels good to be flying again. I cannot take being cooped up in there. How about you Lou?” She really does know me. How?

“I preferred my bunk,” I grunt through clenched teeth. And then it stops. Our acceleration slows and Pilot laughs. 

“Sorry, I forgot you three probably aren’t used to this,” she jerks us slightly to the side, and then accelerates us to a steady speed. Maybe she’s rusty, but naming herself ‘Pilot’ seems preemptive.

“Where are you planning to dock?” Ace asks her, squinting at the quick approaching ship. My first assumption had been right, it’s nothing but a wreckage. Pieces of the ship are floating broken around it. 

“Their landing bay still seems intact, but orders are to try to make contact first,” Pilot replies.

“We couldn't have tried to make contact while we were still on our sistership?” Wrench whispers. Her blue color has transitioned to a shade of purple. Is her suit too tight? At this rate, she might die of poor circulation.

“Commander wasn’t really thinking straight,” Pilot retorts, shrugging. “He rarely is anymore.”

“Most of us aren’t,” Ace mumbles, peeking at me over his shoulder. Is that a pointed insult or a regretful comment? It’s hard to tell with him. 

“So, we make contact first,” Pilot maneuvers us over some debris, before she angles us towards the landing bay. She’s not wrong, it’s still fairly intact, but there’s a gaping hole in the bulkhead doors. At least that gives us access. Who am I kidding? I’m as relieved by that as I am by being sacrificed. If there wasn’t a hole in the door, we’d have to find another way in, and that may lead to us not being able to find any way in. Then we could just go back. 

“Can you change my frequency?” Pilot asks Ace.

“Right,” he messes with some of the dials. How should I know what they are? I’m a firefighter, not a space explorer. As soon as he finds the right frequency, the SOS message hisses over the radio. It’s playing right through the screaming again. It’s not fraying my nerves at all. Not one bit.

“Sister-” Pilot begins, then glances at Ace for help. 

“-if there’s anyone aboard, please respond.” Ace finishes for her. Her finger slips from the transmitter with a click, and then we fall silent. The SOS message continues to play. We wait through a full two cycles of the message, before Pilot raises her radio to her mouth again.

“Sister, please respond,” she practically begs. As she clicks the transmitter off again, our hearts seize. But then the SOS message returns. Ace exchanges a look with Pilot, then turns his attention to our sistership. 

“Onward and inward,” Pilot announces as Ace flips the frequency back. 

“Commander, we couldn’t get through to her. We’re heading in,” Ace holds the radio in his head as he awaits the answer. 

“Proceed,” our Commander replies. Ace is about to return the mouthpiece to the dashboard--is that what it is? Whatever--but the radio crackles to life again. “With caution. Proceed with caution. We await your news.”

“Sir,” Ace mutters, and then he places it back. He immediately reaches for his gloves. I follow suit. He may be a cruel wreck, but his military background is nothing to sniffle at. I’d trust this man to keep me alive through, well, anything. I’d only die if he decided I wasn't worth it anymore and killed me himself. That wouldn’t be so bad. When he’s not looking to torture me, he’s merciful. 

“Wrench, gloves and helmet on,” Ace orders her. He then glances at me. “You too, Lou.” My gloves are already secured, but my helmet is another story. I’m certain it’s on backward. As I move to fix it, the ship slams us back. 

“Sorry!” Pilot exclaims. “I uh, underestimated our width.”

“Don’t tell me we’re stuck,” Ace growls, his head whipping to Pilot. 

“Not stuck, per se,” she won’t meet his eyes, “just slightly damaged.” Yup, preemptive. 

“Can you get us through without ripping off a hull-plate?” Ace wonders. 

“Of course!” Pilot guns it. We scrape through the hole, the lights above us flickering. We jerk. Then shift, only to jerk again. But we make it through. 

“Hell,” Ace grits his teeth, probably to keep the slur of expletives from escaping his throat. I have a few I’m holding back myself. I retract my statement before. No, not the pre-emptive one. We might die of frostbite. “Get us down on the ground.”

“Sir,” Pilot lands us near the inside doors. Her landing is smoother than expected, considering her prior showing. I see what she’s been practicing. As we settle, I have the chance to lock my helmet in place. I got it right the first time. It didn’t require a couple spins. I swear.

“Lou,” Ace is out of his seat before she even releases the engine. “We’re going to lose gravity as soon as we exit. I want us to be tethered together, but I…” He gestures towards the wall behind me. Oh yeah, give the firefighter the tethering job. I definitely tied us together a lot when I was a trainee. How did he know? 

I’m not a boy scout.

“Arm me with an axe then,” I announce.

“Sorry, what?” Ace is taken aback. 

“An axe,” I repeat. He furrows his brow. “You wanna treat me like a firefighter, fine. Give me an axe.” His brow furrows. He looks to Wrench as though asking for assistance in communicating with me. She shakes her head. She’s finally learned to stay out of it. “If one of you dies, I’m not going with you.” Alright, so I’m not the nicest person out there. I’ve never claimed that, have I? I mean...I call myself a degenerate louse.

“We don’t have an axe,” Ace finally regains his words, “will a laser cutter do?”

“That’s like handing me a nail file,” I grumble, ripping the tether down from the wall. I hook the clip into the back of my suit, and then turn to Wrench. She’s fumbling with her X-belt. Leaning to help her, I rip it free, and clip her on next. “You really think I can cut through this with a nail file?”

“Will this do?” Ace digs an arm into his backpack. When he stands back up, he lowers a knife into my hand. 

“Just fine,” I nod. Before I can accept the knife from him, he’s tightening the belt around my waist. 

“Just don’t lose it,” he warns me, clipping himself onto the tether while he’s at it. “I’ll take the lead. Keep close to me.” He drags his backpack onto his back, and then hovers his hand over the door press. I’m prepared for him to release it, but he pauses. “Pilot, slowing us down here.” 

She fumbles with her bag, clipping it around her waist. But she doesn’t even have her helmet on yet. Ace jabs a finger at his own helmet, eyes wide with annoyance. I’m starting to relate. Wrench helps her to lock it into place, and then Pilot gives us a thumbs up. “Finally,” with his growl, Ace smashes the button. We depressurize. I feel my body rising. Zero gravity, my favorite. I love being ill for hours after. 

Ace kicks off the ship, using a grappler to drag himself towards the inner door. It’s at an upward angle from where we landed. In fact, it’s up on the far wall. The ramp that used to lead to it is practically gone, but there’s just enough left for Ace to climb up. The tether tugs us with him as he pulls himself to the doors. He pauses for a breath, then hooks himself to the wall. Crackle. He’s adjusting our helmet communication. 

“Can everyone hear me?” He wonders over the line.

“Loud and clear,” Pilot practically shouts back. The radios screech with feedback and static. 

“Ow,” even Wrench’s soft whimper comes over the line. Great. I can’t wait to hear their every noise as we move. Ace takes ahold of our tether, dragging me towards him. I ready myself to land. When I’m about to, I clap his outstretched hand, tightening my fingers around his. He’s panting, right into my ear. Ugh.

“Start on the door,” he orders me. I roll my eyes, but he’s too busy helping Wrench to notice me. I imagine the power reserves on the ship have depleted, which means opening the door by hand. I clamp my gloved fingers down on the teeth and lean back. I don’t think I have the strength. Firefighter? I’m nothing but the timber that burned. Damnit. I’m frustrated. No, I’m furious. This is infuriating. How pathetic am I? I glance around us. There’s a ram just a few feet away from us, broken and melted. But more importantly, it leads to a control panel.

Wrench grabs my back, steadying herself. And then she’s reaching her fingers in the teeth below me. “Pull together,” she mutters. Fine. One more go. We time our efforts, but it’s not enough. The only one with any real strength is Ace, and he’s busy fussing with Pilot. Even when he finishes, I don’t think his strength will suffice. 

I unclip my tether. Am I insane? Maybe. I’ve thought about it several times now. And I’ve always concluded the same. I’m not not insane.

“Lou?!” Wrench yelps at me, latching her small hands around my arm. “You clip that back on right now!” But her demands are falling on deaf ears. We’re going to die on this mission at some point anyway. 

“Lou, do not do what you’re doing,” Ace barks at me. Man has a way with words. I peek at him over Wrench’s shoulder and wink. Pressing my arm free from Wrench, I then push off from the platform. The only way this door is opening, is if we reroute just enough power. The ship is currently using its reserves for the SOS signal. We might have enough left to spark the door.  

“Wrench,” I call out to her, “I’m going to need you to walk me through this.”

“Yeah, I don’t think so,” she states. “Come back over here and maybe I’ll consider it.”

“Little late for that,” I announce as I land. Perfect landing. I could have been a gymnast, missed my calling. I scale my way from the broken ramp to the panel on the wall. It’s flickering, though the light is dim. Yes. “Come on Wrench.” She relents, walking me through the painstaking process. 

Buzz. The door groans open. 

And that’s what I call a valiant effort rewarded with success. I wind around to face them and still. I’d managed to get myself over here, but that’s because I’d leapt down. I glance at the upward angle between us. Who was I to have called Wrench brave and stupid? What a wake up call. The neon lights are surrounding me: brave and stupid. I can almost feel their judgment. 

“Lou,” Ace’s voice vibrates through my helmet. “Ever play baseball?”

“Nope,” I reply.

“Football?” He tries. 

“Played wide receiver,” I mumble, confused, “why?”

“Catch.” I glance up as soon as the words leave his mouth. And then I see his grappler. It falls down to me with grace, as if he’d just handed it to me himself. I knew I chased his friendship for a reason. “One click to release, two clicks to recoil. Hope your grip is better than your brain.”

“Laugh all you want. I got us inside.” I raise my arms forward. This may be my one strong suit, grapplers that is. He’s right about the hair-brained ideas I scheme. I really don’t think them through. 

Snap. The grappler releases, tightening itself into the wall just above the door. As long as the grappler holds, I may not die. That’s a welcome thought. I tug on the rope, checking if it’s secure. And then I click the trigger twice. It rips me upward. My body whips like a rag doll, until I slam into the bottom of the platform. Well, turns out I found something worse than marching to my death. 

Nothing could be worse than falling to your own death. 

Oops.

September 21, 2020 17:18

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6 comments

Lani Lane
19:40 Oct 21, 2020

PLEASE MAKE A LOU NOVEL.

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Molly Leasure
20:55 Oct 21, 2020

HAHA! Lou probably doesn't have the patience to write himself a full novel

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Charles Stucker
21:20 Sep 21, 2020

“Where are you planning to land?” In space, you would dock or approach, but not land. At this rate she might die of poor circulation. comma after rate “Can you get us through without ripping a wing off?” Ace wonders.  No wings on pure space craft, only on those which go through atmosphere. Change wing to hull-plate, or 'ripping a hole in our side' or etc. Easy fix. "We’re going to lose gravity as soon as we exit." Artificial gravity, how nice. This is actually the right way to bring it up. When it's got a problem. Aboard a large sh...

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Molly Leasure
23:02 Sep 21, 2020

Another round of super helpful advice, gosh! I've been researching space like crazy and then I go and mess up the most random words...dang it! When it came to the wings I guess I was envisioning the puddle jumpers from Stargate Atlantis, but now I realize they aren't wings, they're engines. I agree, artificial gravity is very handy, especially when you're somewhat of a space novice (like me)! I really, really appreciate all the time you're taking to help me out :). You're an amazing writer, so it's a wonderful feeling to have you critiqu...

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Charles Stucker
00:00 Sep 22, 2020

Oh, a novelette. I'm about to look at part three. You realize this could easily be turned into a novel by the time you're done.

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Molly Leasure
00:22 Sep 22, 2020

You're so right! Depending on how part four ends up...it very well might!

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