Awake (Chapter 20)
Siris was lucky that the other two doors to the maintenance section of the ship were already closed, though a disconcerting pounding came from both. The doors were thick and designed to withstand immense pressure changes, but they were about a millennium past the foreseen constraints of the engineers. So far they held firm against the pummeling they received from the aliens on the other side, but it was only a matter of time before they buckled.
No, they weren’t the aliens. Siris had to remind himself that he was the alien. This planet was theirs. The only positive that he could see was that he should be considered one of their deities considering how they worshiped the reactor, but proving his worthiness would be…problematic.
Siris was a skilled engineer and could fix just about anything, but he couldn’t build a reactor, and he was worried that that might be what it would take to win them over.
He went to a wall console that was barely visible through the dark and beneath the grime that covered it. He wiped it clean then punched a button and swiped his hand up. Lights, too bright and too…artificial, glared down from the ceiling high above.
The pounding coming from the three corridors leading to the main room stopped as light spilled out into the beady eyes on the other side of the small windows in each door. The Rossian’s excited chittering could be heard despite the thickness of the steel that separated them. Siris shuddered. The language sounded worse than the pounding had.
He smiled regardless of the creepy voices. He had power, he had tools, and he had work to do.
There was a battery fabrication station in the corner of the room and Siris went to it.
The engineers and scientists in charge of the colonial missions knew that batteries would most likely degrade and be useless by the time the Samsara reached Ross 128b so they developed the plan to build batteries upon arrival. The fabrication stations would automatically construct batteries from stockpiled raw materials so that the chemical reactions that made batteries work wouldn’t be used up before they could be utilized.
Siris swiped the display to life and navigated to the batteries that he anticipated needing the soonest and hit the ‘start’ button. He wasn’t surprised when the robotics inside the station jerked and stuttered but then stopped and the display gave an aggravating negative tone. He sighed and opened the station’s plexiglass door.
It took him two hours of replacing wiring and greasing joints before the station was up and running and somewhere in that span of time the pounding had started up again. The Rossians had clearly decided that he was not yet deity. The fabrication station would take several hours to finish his list of batteries so he set about selecting his favorite tools and making sure that they were functional, then he pulled the tablet from his pack and brought up the Samsara’s schematics.
Somehow, he had to get to the next section over which was the motorpool. From there he should be able to escape out one of the bay doors. The problem was, from the sound of it, there were probably a hundred Rossians between maintenance and the motorpool.
The Fabrication station chimed and the machinery inside came to a halt. Siris tested each battery and packed up his gear. He found a tool vest and put it on. It was a little too big, but it held most of the tools he felt he couldn’t live without. When he’d first started making a list of the tools that he wanted to take with him there had been too many for a tool truck to carry, but he’d finally narrowed it down to his trusted favorites.
He had an idea, not really a plan, and really not much of an idea. If it didn’t work out then he’d be dead for sure, or at least captive again. Sitting still wasn’t an option though.
Siris grabbed the two improvised grenades he’d made off of the work table and went to the door. The heavy hydrogen fuel cells in his two hands felt…unstable. He knew that they were completely safe until he pierced the valve on top and lit them, well not completely safe. Nothing could be guaranteed after two-thousand years, especially not a hydrogen fuel cell, but he knew that most of his discomfort was in his mind. Still he’d made two bombs, and he was hardly an expert.
He smiled though as he realized that that was exactly what he was. He was an expert in most things that he’d ever done just because he was the only one in the Rossian system who had any idea how to do them. And that included the hopeless shareholder kids. Not all of them were hopeless at least. Iris was an expert at having beautiful eyes.
Siris realized that he was standing in front of the door and had been for some time. Several of the ugly Rossian faces vied for a view of the earthling through the small window. Their wet breath steamed the glass.
Siris put one of the bombs in a pocket of his vest and the other on the floor then pulled an auto-driver set from another pocket and went to work on the panel next to the door. He had the innards hanging from the wall in minutes and the two wires he needed stripped and ready. He took a deep breath and touched the two together then pulled them apart.
The door slid open just an inch or so, then stopped. He didn’t know if these doors had retraction gears or not and he was a little worried that the scrabbling fingers that snaked through the small opening would gain a grip and pull the thing the rest of the way open, but his fear was unfounded. The fingers did pull at the door, trying their hardest to slide it up, but the retraction gears did their job and the door stayed put.
Siris sighed in relief and pushed the wires together again, this time for a fraction longer. The opening near the floor was now about five inches, and Siris had to jump back when arms started through.
“Go Away!” he yelled, and felt completely ridiculous. His voice seemed to only heighten the animal desire of the creatures who’s clicking claws marked the floor in their desperate need to find his flesh.
He didn’t want to kill them. Not necessarily for some strange idealism that he felt toward them, but because he was sure that if he did, their anger would be even greater, their need to exact revenge would be unstoppable.
“It might come to that,” he said to himself. The sound of his own voice was reassuring somehow. He could barely hear it over the noise that the Rossians made, but he felt less alone as he spoke. Maybe he was going crazy.
The bombs were a last resort, he’d only use them if he couldn’t scare the Rossians away some other way.
He patted his vest, then remembered.
He looked toward the door and saw a grasping Rossian hand, sickeningly shiny with mottled skin and claws, pull the bomb he’d sat down through the opening.
Siris cursed and started toward the door, thinking that he’d close it until he was sure the bomb wouldn’t go off, when it did. The door caved in with the blast and fire flooded up from the floor in front of him. Luckily, he had been far enough away that the force of the explosion didn’t knock him out or kill him. It did knock him to the floor though. His head was swimming, but he knew that he had to get up and get moving. He looked toward the door which had been ripped apart and would do little to stop an onrush of Rossians.
Siris coughed, and didn’t hear it. His ears were ringing and his chest felt heavy, but he climbed to his feet and looked into the corridor. Carnage.
The musky smell mixed with acrid smoke and small fires dotted the corridor where bodies had caught fire. He remembered the bomb that was still in his vest and he very carefully pulled it from its pocket. He placed it gingerly on the floor then turned and stumbled away down the corridor that led to the motorpool.
He flicked on the light that was velcroed to his chest as he went and the beam bounced in time with his shambling run. He slid around a corner and saw two cowering Rossians at the far end of the short corridor. They were stopped outside the closed door that he needed to go through.
One growled at him, but it didn’t advance. They were obviously scared, which was a strange sight to see.
They were so intimidating looking to Siris that it was almost funny to see them holding onto each other while they watched him approach. He came to within four feet of them, easy striking distance of one of the things, but he stiffened his spin and tried to look as threatening as he could.
“Go!” he yelled, but that was the wrong thing. The closest of the things leaned forward and snarled a liquid roar into his face. Siris could practically see down its throat when the giant jaws and fangs parted. Siris pulled a tool from his vest, not even looking what it was, and flicked the switch. The whir of the power grinder kicked on and the torque almost pulled the tool from his fingers, but he gripped it tighter and jammed it at the thing’s face.
Screeching sounded and Siris swung out of the way to allow the riled and terrified Rossians to pass by. He didn’t bother watching them go, but swiped his way into the motor pool and shivered. The grinder made a dull clatter when it fell from shaking hands.
He wasn’t sure if it was the adrenaline, the fear, or the probable concussion that he had from the explosion, but nausea bent him double. He just kept from vomiting and after a few minutes he stood and surveyed his newly claimed territory.