Pendulum Ch. 21: EVA

Achim looked over his shoulder. The engine room was a mess. It hadn’t been hit the way the ship itself had suffered from the crash; in fact, there was no physical damage at all, but his small crew of technicians was all over the place, spatially and mentally. Even so, the chaos was organised in the way ants ran their colonies, those magical little creatures that were now among the few rulers of earth’s surface, but would perish, too, when the planet turned into a bigger version of Venus, eventually. Achim shook his head and drove the unproductive thought out. He had work to do. The Tuatha was in terrible shape, and a myriad of tasks had to be organised and carried out, some of which he had to do himself.
“Branan, let’s go check out section C,” he said. The lurikeen and he had switched to first names quickly. Technically still part of the Agency, and therefore a military unit, the engineering crew could do without a stick up the arse.
“Aye. Waiting for the scans of the thrusters, but it doesn’t look too bad.”
The thrusters were in better shape than most of this ship, but they were also critical. The rock they had kissed would do nicely as a makeshift shipyard, after they mined it and hollowed it out.
“Can’t you retrieve the data anywhere?” This was a rhetorical question. Of course, they could connect from all sections of the ship. The nervous system had survived the impact thanks to its myriad of redundancies, a veritable network of receivers and senders all over the two decks of the Tuatha De Danann, but Branan didn’t look happy. Achim could understand him. Getting in the zone was tough enough, and it was this ability of his team members that had qualified them for this job. Being able to switch off and focus on important tasks in the middle of much-too-much was such a critical skill to have. He got up from his chair and stretched. A long day lay ahead of him, and his to-do list was endless.
“Come on, let’s go. There’s a place I want to check out.”
Branan groaned, but didn’t protest. Not that it’d have changed anything, anyway. The small man had picked up on that quickly and didn’t even try anymore. Achim grinned.
He opened his main menu and sifted through modules. His account on the ship’s system was working fine again. No residual wonkiness, but he had downloaded his most-used programs. The whole thing smelled of sabotage, and if whoever had fingered the security systems once, could maybe do it again. The entire ordeal was impossible to prove, but Achim recognised bullshit when he saw it. When something malfunctioned like this, with no direct harm to the greater system, the most likely culprit was human. Or human-ish.
“Where are we going?”
The door closed shut behind them with a clank that didn’t sound quite right, but not bad enough to worry about it while there were still items with a higher priority.
“Sensor phalanx.”
“Think that’s what crashed us?”
Achim scoffed. This was a silly thought. Not only had the phalanx been dysfunctional before they even cast off. They had landed right on top of the asteroid when the ship had reentered Einstein’s continuum. The best and fastest sensors couldn’t have saved them; but he got where the lurikeen was coming from. Space was vast, and running into a rock was almost impossible. Most pilots would probably fail if they tried.
“Nothing like that. I have a hunch that we might find something interesting there.”
They entered the small armoury and grabbed their EVA suits. Thick, clunky combinations that would weigh them down, not at all on the same mobility level as suits for combat specialists, but even he had no access to those. Normal EVA suits had other perks, though.
“Could have sent one of the engineers,” Branan said. His beard danced with every word, as if to send him a second message. It did so successfully, but Achim wouldn’t budge.
Getting out of the ship was easier now than it had been before the rock had sliced it open like a can of algae synth meat. Nice.
“Be careful. One false step and—”
“I can see that,” Achim said.
Nice of Branan to remind him that all safety measures were currently offline, but Achim was no idiot. This had been the first thing he’d checked before going out for a walk.
Deck One itself had artificial gravity, thanks to the arch druid, but that effect didn’t extend to the outer hull. It made sense for this to be the case, but it was inconvenient now. Maybe it was better this way, though. Can’t trust those shifty druids and their tricks. If the old man in his cabin suddenly decided to take a nap before the spell ran out, while Achim was out there, walking along the hull…
The opening was intimidating. Looking out a window into the darkness of space was one thing. Standing on the edge of an open hull, embraced by the uncaring coldness, was completely different. He could jump, and his body would drift forever, long after he died of asphyxiation. He wouldn’t even decompose. But now was not the time for weird intrusive thoughts. He had to get it together. It was Branan who grinned now, staring at him out of his small, slightly tilted eyes. The Aes Sidhe was an excellent judge of human nature, it seemed.
The armour platings alone would require an ungodly amount of metal, but a quick analysis of the resources available was promising. Their key problem was the transportation times. The first planet not only had a ring that would turn into a moon soon—in only a few million years—but also an enormous iron core and large deposits of other valuable material. Sending drone ships there to mine it and carry it over to them wasn’t impossible; it was what they’d have to do for now, since most of the rocks in their corner of the system were icy. But moving closer was a point far, far down on his list. If nobody came to tow the Tuatha home, that was, and the chances for that to happen were like… hitting an asteroid. He laughed, and laughed even more when Branan’s eyes turned big and round in surprise. Then even harder when the lurikeen’s face turned red.
“This is the wrong side. The damaged phalanxes are on starboard. That means we’ll have a long walk ahead of us.”
Branan rolled his eyes, and he didn’t even try to hide it. Achim liked the little guy.
A notification popped up. Shitty timing! But he couldn’t ignore it, either. He opened the small overlay and froze. The message from the captain ruined everything and threatened to mess up the day completely.
“Change of plans. Back to the engineering room.”
The lurikeen cocked his head and raised his eyebrows, but he was quick on the uptake.
Achim’s fingers glided over the edge of the torn hull, an uneven wound with sharp lumps and bumps. He’d get back here when this was done.
Back in the armoury, the lurikeen was out of his suit before Achim hadn’t even freed his torso from the clunky mess. He folded the suit and put it back in the locker, while Achim was still fighting with the left arm.
“Wanna tell me what’s up?”
No, he didn’t. Branan would be with him when he’d meet the captain in just a few minutes, then he could hear it directly from his mouth. They didn’t know for sure if it had been an accident or murder, anyway.


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