The Adventures of Captain Arcolier, Part Seven

(Welcome back. In our last installment Captain Arcolier had used a desperate gambit and launched an engine pod as an impromptu animatter missile. She succeeded in hitting the enemy ship, but had she struck so hard to destroy the ship and kill One-Eye and the First Marines? If you're new to our tale you'll want to start here.)

     One-Eye dropped another Cantrellan soldier and took advantage of the brief respite to survey the combat. A unit of Marines was ten able bodies, counting the Sergeant. Eleven men would have been sufficient to take possession of a civilian freighter, but they were badly outnumbered aboard a Navy vessel. Two Marines had been wounded already and one looked like it might be fatal. Luckily access to the small bay was limited and their initial attack had seized the space around Assault Pod One. Sergeant Riker and his men could likely hold the access hatchway for a time, unless the Cantrellans quit playing chivalrously and gassed the bay. Hell they could simply shut the blast doors and vent the bay to space, if they wanted to simply murder the First Marines. One-Eye's only real hope was that Captain Arcolier could rescue them. And that likely meant getting Assault Pod One spaceworthy again. He shot a quick glance over at Sergeant Riker whose bulk nearly filled the access hatchway completely. "Sergeant, can you hold the access while I attempt some quick repairs? I'll need one man to assist."

     Riker snapped off a crisp military nod while never taking his eyes from the hatchway. "Yessir! Michaels! Help the XO patch up the boat. Rodriguez! Step up to the plate and help me gut any Cantrellan fool enough to peek around that corner. Wilson, see what you can do for the wounded."

     One-Eye nodded companionably at Michaels as the burly Marine saluted and looked over at the patch of hull that hovered to the side of the pod. Trailers of retardant foam clung to it, wavering in the gentle airflow. "Reckon we can weld that back in place, sir?"

     "That's my hope," One-Eye said and broke off as Stinky Pete cried "Away!" in his earpiece. "Oh shit, they didn't . . . everyone grab some deck!" One-Eye suited action to words and dove to the deck, grabbing a pair of handles and dialing his boots up to maximal magnetic grip. He studied the floating hunk of hull closely, nervous about being so close to a large unrestrained mass. Around him the Marines all hit the deck and just in time as a massive explosion rocked the Cantrellan ship. The lighting flickered out and the air fans shut off briefly, leaving a deep silence in the darkness. The silence spoke of death in a shipboard environment, in a place where mechanical hums always lurked under conscious notice. These noises and hums were a womb to seasoned spacers; a subliminal promise of oxygen, of life, and of keeping the void at bay. A long moment passed before the fans restarted and red emergency lights flickered back on.

     One-Eye exhaled in a long relieved breath as the ship's systems spun back into life. His earpiece still crackled static, telling him that communications with the Revenge were still offline. He carefully stood back up and surveyed the bay. The hull piece had struck Assault Pod One instead of any of the Marines and most of the Marines had successfully battened down before the impact. One of the casualties had been unconscious, and One-Eye groaned as he saw the broken ragdoll body stuck in the V joint of a girder above him. There had been several Cantrellan bodies left from the intense fight and the resultant gore smeared many of the walls and bulkheads. He nodded at Michaels again as he carefully walked over to the hull piece. "Let's get this patched back on, double-time. If the Cantrellans are still on emergency power we should be able to escape without getting tractored in."

     The trick to zero-g repairs was to respect mass. That missing hull segment was weightless in zero-g and relatively easy to move, but it still had mass and it still had inertia. If it built up velocity it could easily crush a person. And they had to guide it back into place where the Cantrellans had cut it aside, and stop it at precisely the right moment - while under battle conditions and working fast. It was far from an ideal situation, but it was the best chance One-Eye figured they were likely to get and he dove in without hesitation.

     Michaels and One-Eye got the piece in motion, creeping along with glacial speed. One-Eye longed to move it faster but he knew this was a matter for slow and steady, not for a sprint. It took several agonizing minutes to get it to the gash in the hull, and then they had to slow it to a stop and carefully rotate it until it fit the gap. A metal clash rang out from the hatchway where Sergeant Riker engaged a fresh group of Cantrellans, but One-Eye had attention only for the ponderous task at hand. He heaved a huge sigh of relief as the piece slid into place with a satisfying deep thump. Before One-Eye could speak Michaels opened the proper airlock and was retrieving the field repair kits. These kits contained small patches, some goop that could be used to seal minor punctures, and a small welding torch with self-contained oxygen reservoir.

     One-Eye's earpiece crackled back into life with a burst of static. ". . . calling First Marines. Repeat, this is the Beauteous Revenge calling First Marines" came the welcome drone from Stinky Pete.

     "Aye, laddie it's good to hear you," replied One-Eye with a relieved chuckle. "We're seeing if we can patch up the Pod here, what's your status?"

     "We're into electro-grapple range now and the Captain wants to know if she should board?" Stinky Pete said. "One tick and we'll have the video feed back online."

     Michaels slapped a repair kit into One-Eye's hands and began slathering sealant goop on one side of the cut. One-Eye cracked open his kit and mimicked the repairs on the far side. "I'd advise waiting. They seem to be on emergency power here. If we can reseal the pod, we should be able to escape in ten minutes or so. Can you see the status of their main powerplants?"

     "Aye XO," Stinky Pete said with concern. "The engine must have caused a feedback surge when it hit the tractor unit. It looks like their primary plant exploded. But we see signs of a secondary plant coming online now. If they have a second tractor unit you may not have ten minutes."

     "Acknowledged. Give us what you can and we'll be out of the potty as soon as we're able." One-Eye bent to his welding with a vengeance, ignoring the combat raging a few feet behind him.

(Tune in next week to see if One-Eye can get launched before the Cantrellans get their powerplant online!)

(See the next installment!)