The Wrath O' Irra

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                                                                                 MACK

                           The Battle of Juno, Deep in the Disputed Planetary Zone

                                                                     (Inner Asteroid Belt)


    

A shout. A scream.

Smoke. Fire. Blood. Death...

...and then...

I can't die like this, I keep thinking.

I can't die...I won't die...not like this. Never like this! Tucked in the bowels o' a sinking war sloop, hollering all cowardly like I ain't got no guts to me. No. Not like this! Somebody like me ain't got no space for yellow-belliedness, not even in death.

I can't die...I won't die−

Suddenly, the ship stutters as its gyros drop power too quickly. My belly goes sideways from the force o' it. My VacSuit's dampeners can't compensate in time. Pain, endless and mind-numbing, twists inside me as if a black hole had just ripped open right inside my guts. Feels like a million angry, little hands all up inside me, scratching my innards with their jagged fingernails. Tears crawl outta my eyeballs, bile rises to my lips, but I squash both down before they spew over inside my helmet.

I won't die like this, I keep telling myself, even as the Irra yaws too hard for the magnetics to compensate. Now my belly just doesn't know which way to go. Up or down. Inside or out. I grab the handrails and hang on for dear life as every bulkhead and dead body gets flipped on its head and left sprawling on its back. Those invisible fingers dig deeper into my entrails till I can't even feel my own breath inside my body. Bile comes up again, this time with a load o' blood attached to it.

This can't be good.

Bile and blood and all the bits and chunks like that ain't got no gods-damn business being outside my body. They slop around the inside o' my VacSuit's helmet, shapeless balls o' red and green and puss-yellow filled with chunks o' unidentifiable fleshy bits eager to enjoy the freedom that weightlessness and the Irra's failing magnetics gives. The sight o' the chaos inside my helmet makes me catch my nerves, it does! If my suit fails, then I'm dead-dog-dead.

The ship twists again. Hard. Fast.

Bile-vomit flops around inside my helmet.

Gravity throws a wild tantrum 'cuz 'tain't got a clue what to do with itself. I try to hold on as best as I can, but I lose my grip. The Irra wastes no time in making a rag-doll outta me.

A shout. A scream.

Smoke. Fire. Blood. Death...

...and then...

I can't die like this.

My wonky belly and my bile-vomit every which way possible. I flail and kick and scream till my left glove catches on something hard and stable. Sweet gods! I grab hold o' handrail and right myself...just in time to see rolling flames claw their way along the corridors towards me. And those flames look as hungry as a wolf pack on the hunt, empty-bellied and ravenous to pick my bones clean o' their flesh and to boil my eyes inside their sockets. Burn the life right outta−

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