#TeamSFHorror - Part Five: Unmanned Mission - @prose-punk

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To Distraction - Part 5 - krazydiamond


The artificial darkness of the VRI file shattered in a flash of white lightning.

It jolted through her system, the jack ejecting from her skull with a static crackle that made the port burn against the surrounding flesh. Hale cried out, her voice barely a rasp. The feed tube pulled free with a gush of thick warm liquid spilling over her lips and chin. A coppery tang filled mouth. She reached up, trying to staunch the bleeding with one trembling hand as she scrambled free of the pod.

A difficult task when her limbs were sluggish to every frantic mental command, like moving through wet sand. Hale grit her teeth and shoved herself free, landing hard on her hands and knees. The fluorescent lights flickered overhead , the only warning she had before the ship abruptly went dark.

The darkness was absolute, the power simply gone. Hale gave a strangled shriek as her body lost purchase of the ground, the artificial gravity no longer anchoring her. Panic surged. She flailed, trying to find something, anything to grab hold of, anything to keep her from floating, weightless, surrounded by utter black.

The auxiliary power hummed to life. Red emergency lights shredded the darkness apart, bathing everything is harsh bloody light. The artificial gravity was still out, but Hale could see around her now, including the floating globs of her blood orbiting the room. The light threw sharp relief on Hale's panic fueled mind, the true fuckery of her situation finally breaking through.

Holy shit.

The power was out. The power was out.

Hale kicked out, awkwardly propelling herself from the rec room. The corridors of the Ulysses were equipped with handles high along the walls for just this situation. Hale used them to push and pull herself toward the engine room. Questions rioted in her pounding skull. What the hell happened? Where were the dozens of robots responsible for fixing the ship? Had the back up power extended to the cryo tubes? What if the tubes lost power? What would happen to the frozen people within? Hale shuddered, trying to shove those useless questions from her mind. Get the power back on, figure out what happened, destroy the damn VRI pod. Three tasks to complete. The priority now was the ship, what should have been her priority all along if she hadn't let the VRI poison her mind.

She'd failed in her duties to the Ulysses, to the frozen unaware passengers. If they died due to her neglect...

Hale pushed herself faster. There wasn't a robot in sight in the engine room. Where were they? The power core throbbed like a fading heartbeat. She pried the operating panel open, frowning at what looked like a perfectly functional tangle of wires. Nothing melted or burned. Nothing frayed or loose to indicate why the power cut without warning. Hale slapped the metal side panel, frustration and fear twisting in her gut.

The core sputtered to life.

The artificial gravity snapped back on, dropping her in a short free fall to the painfully solid floor. Her teeth rattled from the impact but the power was steady, as if it never faltered at all. She slowly rose to her feet. Still not a bot in sight.

It was a hike to her work station from the engine room, but Hale set her jaw and made her slow limping way there. She wasn't certain what she'd find. It was both incredulous surprise and relief to see the rows and rows of vitals, normal, fine, they were all fine. The auxiliary power must have protected them.

Hale braced herself on the console, pointedly ignoring the wasted state of her arms as she looked for the information she dreaded. Her eyes found the time stamp, sending a chill through her shrunken frame.

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