by Will Webb / innerfish
KT-Maru: Low Earth Orbit
A piercing blast sounded over KT-Maru's comm. When it finally stopped, Joey rubbed his aching ears. It would repeat if he didn't get to the console. He untethered and launched himself in the direction of the bridge. He passed over M, the engineering robot, who was bending a piece of metal with the strength of hydraulic arms.
"Show off," Joey remarked as he sailed by.
The bot spun her head in his direction. She looked like a small woman despite her strength. "I need to replace a broken panel. Would you prefer to bend the sheet metal for me?" she asked.
Joey grunted. It was his way of saying no. He kept sailing and disappeared through the bridge portal. Just then the ship's horn detonated a second time.
"Dammit!" Joey cursed and stopped himself against a flight seat. He cleared the notification.
Ruby Sue appeared behind him. "Status?"
He glanced over his wide shoulder at her. Ruby was a good leader. He respected her as his captain. He also had a hard time keeping his eyes off of her. Her tight black neoprene suit kept out the cold without sacrificing on fashion. It was two piece. Her short black hair seemed to defy zero-g, probably with lots of product.
"We're closin' in on the target," he said.
"What class of debris?"
"Chart says unknown. I'm thinkin' either Iridium or Cosmos. Somethin' from the big smash up." Joey wasn't looking at the screen.
Ruby pointed. "There!"
A solitary blip of gray appeared below them, just above Earth's horizon. It was no bigger than a speck. Joey strapped into the pilot's seat. "This is your pilot speakin'," he said for fun. "Time to buckle up." He peered at Ruby. Her blue eyes glowed back at him, contrasting with all of the black she wore.
He nodded in the direction of the flight seats. She glided into one, leaving another empty between them. He waited for the light indicating the bot was secure before gripping the flight stick. "Moving in."
KT-Maru hissed propellant from puffer ducts all over her hull and raced closer. The debris grew from blip to blob. Then the blob took shape. It was cylindrical. Broken on one side. Tumbling.
Ruby zoomed the view. The sun was behind the Earth and the gray, broken cylinder was hard to see in the dark.
"Floods on," she said. Floodlights on the ship's belly sprayed beams of bluish light down onto the debris.
"You thinkin' it might be worth somethin'?" Joey asked, hopeful.
Ruby fiddled with the camera controls. When the tumbling cylinder filled the entire screen, the view locked. "We'll know in a minute. Scanning."
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