Go home. Come back more prepared, I told myself as I drifted past the airlock doors. No. The Coalition should make it here within a day. I don’t have time.
If that were true, wouldn’t you have heard from them by now?
I shook my head to silence my doubts. I knew the fleet would arrive suddenly and unexpectedly – that was the point. And the very purpose of me coming out here was to do damage when it was not expected.
Besides, the Saturn and Jupiter districts were probably only now coming to understand what had happened. Mars was likely still in confusion. No messenger could get here faster than half-light speed, and the Coalition would have a head start on them. Only Imperial-approved media would have the privilege of reaching us early, and that was guaranteed to be censored.
“State your intentions.”
My hair stood on end and I turned myself frantically in the suit to find the source of the voice. There was no one there. Relief washed over me as I realized that it must have been the on board intelligence. “Maintenance to the atmospheric systems,” I said.
“Your voice is stressed,” he remarked accusingly.
“Well, you startled me,” I admitted.
“I see. Well, carry on.”
Apparently they hadn’t put much personality into this intelligence. I liked Lars a lot more. Then again, I was biased.
The door to the atmospheric regulation area was already ajar, unlocked by Chris’s code. It was as thick and heavy as a vault door. I pulled it open and pushed myself down the hallway, taking a hold of the railing here and there to keep myself on course. The hallway led to a small room which contained ten or fifteen displays with statistics of various systems scrolling across their holographic surfaces.
Where was I going to get hydrogen from? It was unlikely they were just going to leave that lying around. Wait, maybe they had an emergency oxygen generator. Most bases did. Normally oxygen was recycled from the carbon dioxide, removing the need to replenish from other sources, but in the case of a hull breach or some other accident, if too much air was lost, oxygen could be generated from the water supply. It wouldn’t be thinned by the proper levels of nitrogen, but it would save lives until a rescue could be effected.
This process was done, of course, by separating the oxygen and the hydrogen and venting the hydrogen into space. If I could change the arrangement, I could vent oxygen and keep hydrogen instead.
I went to the display nearest me and began to search for the back up oxygen system, touching the display with my gloved finger tips, and cursing when it occasionally misunderstood my input. Eventually I found it, and set it up the way I wanted.
“Why have you inverted the emergency oxygen generator?” The on board intelligence piped up.
“I’m testing it,” I lied.
“That is not a standard maintenance routine.”
“Well the boss wanted me to try out some different stuff, just in case a scenario called for it. I’m going to fill the place with hydrogen, just to see if it’s possible. Don’t worry, I’ll be replacing the water supply later.” I felt rather proud of myself. That was a pretty good ball of yarn.
“Hmm,” he intoned noncommittally. “Very well.”
I activated the system and watched another screen that was displaying the air content percentages all over the station. The generator was very efficient in its electrolysis. Hydrogen was filling the place pretty rapidly. In only a minute and a half there was a substantial concentration everywhere. I stopped the generator and pushed myself up to some vents that connected throughout the ship and placed my C4 inside, piercing the block with a detonator. Then I made my way back to the hallway and through it, exiting the vault-like door, and closing it behind me.
“You are intending to leave with the hydrogen at this level?” The intelligence queried.
“Just for the moment,” I said. “I’ll be back with a water supply and extra atmosphere so I can vent the place and restore it to normal.”
“Why don’t you vent it now?”
“Too much pressure. Venting it now would bump us off course. Plus there’s no hurry. I’ll do it with the proper procedures when I get back.” Damn I’m good, I thought to myself, smiling inwardly.
“Hmm,” he said with his classic lack of enthusiasm. “Ok then.”
I slipped into the airlock of my pod, and from there I made my way to the pilot’s seat, flinging off my suit as fast as I could manage, and strapping myself in. From there I sent a signal to open the docking port. The inner door closed loudly, and the outer door slammed open. The pressure inside the dock pushed my pod out and away from the station.
Something on the display flashed, letting me know that the on board intelligence was trying to contact me. I opened the connection.
“It is good that there is nothing volatile in here which might set off that hydrogen you generated. Just so you know, I have been informing patrols of your actions here and several of them are on their way to intercept you. I do hope your intentions are as sound as you say they are, but you see, I have my doubts.”
That sneaky little rat. Didn’t even tell me what he was thinking all that time. I wanted to tell him what I thought of people like that, but I didn’t, because then he would have the certainty that my intentions were malicious, and he might vent the hydrogen, and perhaps even open fire on me.
I reached frantically for the detonator switch, and immediately flipped it on. I had wanted to wait until I was a little farther away, but by then it might be too late. There was an instant of delay as I turn my pod toward earth and began gunning for it. The explosion threw the pod forward and I slammed into the atmosphere with way more momentum than I had planned for.
Shit. This was not turning out to be a good day.
My entry for the word prompt “Hair” in Rachael Ritchey’s #blogbattle
Copyright 2016 Grace Petrelli