"Hector! Get up would you? You're going to be late again!"
Her voice rippled through the air, glistening in his minds eye like the dust in the stalks of sunlight.
"You're going to be late again!"
The yard was vast; yellow wheat stretching to the horizon in every direction. A blue sky, spotted with white puffs crowned the golden fields. The drapes in his window danced in a warm summer breeze.
There was a flash, and the hilltop erupted into a ball of flame that raced toward the house. He leaped from the bed and ran to the doorway "Momma!" He yelled down the stairs. When he turned to look out the window once more, the land rippled and a deafening rumble crushed his ears and sucked the air from his lungs.
He gasped, his eyes rolling in his head, trying to focus on the dim light before him. He felt chill to his bones. When he moved, his suit crackled. The dream of his past had gotten his heart into a frenzy, but now, his labored breaths condensed on the inside of his helmet. The blood smeared on his canopy reminded him of where he was and what had happened. He wondered briefly about how long he had been unconscious, but dismissed the question, knowing it was unimportant. His mind, finally staring to recollect itself, began analyzing the situation.
The Hornet was disabled, he was adrift in a field of debris. Nothing was responding, even life support was not functioning. If he were to survive, the Hornet had to be repaired. Reluctantly, he transferred all available air into the reservoirs of his suit by manually releasing the valve. He then pulled the lever for the canopy. In complete silence, the seam cracked, sending glittering puffs of ice flying into the abyss. Pressing his back against the seat for leverage, Subtext pushed the canopy to the open position. Weightless, he slid out of the cockpit and grabbed on to the maintenance handles; small specifically located nooks in the Hornet's hull designed for zero gravity maneuvering.
The damage was extensive. Plumes of super heated gas and coalescing energy had slid across his hull during the uncharted jump, ripping away material at the atomic level. Many of the Hornet's major components were damaged. For now, life support was the priority. In his current suit, without knowledge of the radioactive forecast of the unknown system, he could have already been exposed to deadly doses of solar radiation.
Under the nose of the Hornet, Subtext popped open an access hatch and pulled out a blackened control card, the circuitry and components required for life support to function. He sighed, and then cursed at himself for having done so as it took precious energy. The card was completely fried. The only course of action was obvious.
A bright reflection flickered against a scratch on the hull. His shadow darkened the access panel. Turning to look over his shoulder Subtext saw the star, a massive orange disc, sliding out from behind the black sphere of a planet. In the sharp rays, the field of debris lit up like golden powder.
Somewhere in that debris was a life support control card, and Subtext's only hope for survival.
The Scipio drifted as close to the anomaly as safely possible, a distance that was changing at every moment.
“Sir, we have to reverse thrust, the anomaly is growing in size again.”
The Captain clenched his teeth. “Make it so.” He turned to Commander Williams. “You have the bridge, I must have a word with Admiral Jameson.”
“Don't do anything until I return. Understood?”
The Captain nodded, walked passed the command chair and toward the Admiral's ready room. The door slid open with a hiss.
Admiral Jameson was at his desk, leaning over a glas, stylus in hand. “I heard you were coming.” He said, continuing to write with the stylus without raising an eye to the Captain at the door.
“We aren't leaving.”
“I beg your pardon?” Admiral Jameson said, finally raising his glance from his work.
“I'm not leaving my men behind.”
“With all due respect Michael, there's a Battlegroup waiting for us to rendezvous with and we're already behind schedule.”
“This anomaly isn't just some new jump point Richard, we both know that. Something is happening here and we aren't just going to leave when I have two men missing in action and a growing spacial sinkhole that could potentially threaten the lives of everyone in this sector.”
“The anomaly will be kept under close observation by an incoming scientific research unit that is being dispatched as we speak. The rendezvous with the Battlegroup is utmost priority. Someone in your position should know these things. My hands are tied Michael, we don't have a choice.”
Michael slammed his fist against the door frame. “Damnit Richard. We haven't even gone into combat and I've already lost two of them.”
Jameson got up and walked toward his friend, placing a hand on his shoulder. “Listen Michael. These are the decisions we have to make, as leaders. Pilots will die. Pilots will go missing. All we can do his try our best to stem the collateral and bring the brunt of the losses to the enemy.”
Tears brimmed in Michael's eyes. He took a deep breath and let them clear. “I know these things Richard, I'm not incompetent.”
“Then you'll allow me to bring the Scipio to the rest of the Battlegroup without further resistance?”
Michael hesitated, his bloodshot eyes locking on to Jameson's. “Yes.”
“Then give the order.” Jameson squeezed Michael's shoulder again.
Michael nodded and turned to leave the room. He stopped as the door opened. “I want an update from that research unit on my desk every day. Can you do that for me?”
Jameson smiled. “I can.”
The door closed behind him. Jameson returned to his desk and continued writing. He heard the engine's hum grow in frequency and amplitude, and felt the soft tug of dampened inertia.