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::::::::: FILE NAME: INCIDENT10.TXT :::::::::
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Murphy's Law states "Anything that can go wrong, will
go wrong." Scientists and engineers use this law to examine their ideas for
potential flaws, thereby preparing themselves for potential failures. When the
inevitable problems occur, they are ready to handle them. I also abide by this
law, readying myself against potential disaster. But sometimes I overlook things.
End of Prologue
Location: In Orbit, approaching Virtupets Space Station
Time: 1:50 pm NST
After the adrenaline rush from takeoff
had worn off, we experienced the joy of weightlessness. It's hard to describe,
really -- sort of like flying and falling at the same time. Some people (like
myself) love the sensation, and bitterly regret being confined to the chair
restraints. Others (such as the unfortunate Lupe two seats in front of me) are
just glad that there are barf bags available.
Even the joy of zero-g wears thin after
an hour of flight, however. I settled myself into my seat as comfortably as
I could (blast those restraints!) and gazed out the window to watch the eternal
night of space drift by. Unfortunately, this side of the craft was tilted away
from the planet, so I was unable to watch the more interesting view of Neopia
passing below us. Without realizing it, I drifted off to sleep.
I was inside the space ship. Only something
was wrong. People were yelling, screaming in panic. Feeling as substantial as
a ghost, I drifted outside of the craft, and watched with the unconcerned eyes
of a sleeper. The sleek metal hull of the ship sparkled in the light of a thousand
stars. But the sleek metal was scratched.
That's not right, I thought,
that sort of thing would be repaired before they sent the ship into orbit.
A piece of this ship twitched, and slid along the side of the ship, blocking
a view port. Only it wasn't part of the ship. It was something - else. Something
I awoke with a start. People around me
were yelling and screaming in panic. Odd noises from the ship let me know that
something was seriously wrong. Infernus was looking at me, worried.
"I had a nightmare," I said, hurriedly
undoing the restraints that held me to the chair. Infernus' eyes widened in
understanding, and he began unlacing his restraints as well. We floated out
of our seats and pushed towards the cockpit, drifting past panicking passengers.
"I saw it!" yelled an Aisha as a Grundo
attendant tried to calm him. "It's out there! You've gotta believe me!" Infernus
and I pushed our way into the cabin, brushing aside a protesting lady in an
"I'm an engineer," I said, as the Grundo
pilot turned in his chair. "What's the problem?" The pilot opened his mouth
to explain when something scuttled across the glass of the cockpit. Its shape
was impossible to distinguish against the blackness of space, but two eyes,
white pinpricks against the darkness, glared in at us. It scratched at the glass,
but the specially treated material didn't even scratch.
"That's the problem!" the Grundo yelled,
gesturing at the thing outside. It scuttled out of view, although we could hear
it as it moved across the outer hull of the ship. "That thing has torn up the
sensor array on top of the ship. We can't find the station without it, and if
we can't get to the station we're done for."
I muttered a few words under my breath
that should not be repeated. I looked back towards the passenger cabin. "Infernus…
let's get our bags. We're going to suit up."
"Wait," the pilot spoke, confused. "You
mean you have your own spacesuits?" I nodded.
"We've been to the station several times
before," Infernus explained. "We also have a kit full of tools that can work
in space. We can fix the sensor array."
"You're going out there? With that thing?"
the pilot asked, looking at as if we had suggested playing Zurroball with the
sun. A clang on the hull emphasized his point.
"Not much choice, is there?" I replied.
Location: The Airlock
Time: 1:59 pm NST
"Okay," the pilot's voice spoke in my
suit's radio, "the creature is on the other side of the ship. I'm opening the
airlock now." I checked my indicators, displayed in a ghostly green heads-up
display on the inside of my helmet. The external air pressure indicator dropped
to almost zero, then the door in front of us slid noiselessly open.
Infernus exited first, clinging carefully
to a series of handholds built into the side of the ship. The white material
of his suit billowed out slightly as he flexed his wings, which were covered
in an array of metal plates and solar panels. I followed him, careful not to
lose my grip on the side of the vessel.
"The creature hasn't moved -- I don't
think it knows you're out there," the pilot whispered nervously over the radio.
"Can we get to that thing from here?"
I whispered back, momentarily forgetting that sound couldn't travel in the vacuum
"No, there's no hand holds over there.
You'd have to use the suit's jets, and I don't think that would be a good move.
It would see you coming for sure."
"Okay, then we'll just head to the sensor
array. If it moves towards us, we should spot it before it gets to us."
"Alright," the pilot replied. "We'll listen
for it and let you know if we hear it move." I signaled to Infernus and we slid
along the hull of the ship, moving towards the top. After about a minute, we
arrived at a radar-like dish that had been partially pulled out of the ship.
Claw marks scored its surface, and exposed wires had been shredded.
"This would be the sensor array," I radioed
to Infernus. "Let's fix it up so we can focus on nailing that creature." Infernus
nodded and detached a screwdriver from a magnetic clasp on his belt. I reached
down and pulled out a laser cutter, and together we began to work.
"LOOK OUT! IT'S HEADED RIGHT FOR YOU!"
the pilot's voice blared out. I turned, only to be struck head-on by something.
I had a vague glimpse of a spidery, many legged creature clawing at my faceplate
before Infernus lashed out with a fist and knocked it off of me. It swam through
the vacuum of space as if it were water, landing on the ship and scuttling towards
"Grand Lightning Beam!" roared Infernus
over the radio, extending his hands towards the creature. Nothing happened.
The creature leaped for Infernus. I frantically thumbed on my radio.
"Infernus! The vacuum of space! Electricity
can't travel through it! You need direct contact! Direct contact!"
If Infernus heard, he gave no sign as
the creature tensed, then sprung forward. Infernus leaned forward, arms still
extended. The creature landed on one arm, claws attempting to tear Infernus'
suit and expose him to the cruel vacuum surrounding us.
"Grand Lightning Beam!" Infernus yelled
once again, touching both hands to either side of the spider-thing. There was
a flash of light, momentarily blinding me. When my vision cleared, the creature
was gone. Infernus had released his hold on the ship, and was drifting. As I
watched he pressed a button on the wrist of his suit and a jet of compressed
air shot from his backpack, propelling him to a safe handhold. He grabbed onto
the ship, then turned towards me, reaching up a hand to turn on his radio.
"Thanks for the advice. Looks like direct
contact was all I needed."
"What happened up there?" the pilot's
exclaimed, unable to see what had occurred.
"The creature's gone," I reported over
the radio. "We're fixing the sensor array now."
Location: Virtupets Space Station, Reconstruction Zone
Time: 4:12 pm NST
The rest of the trip had ended without
incident, and we had landed to a brief heroes' welcome. The pilot had tried
to insist on taking Infernus and me out to eat, but we had declined. We had
work to do. Besides, I felt a bit guilty. Although the attack was Nightmare's
fault instead of mine, the fact remained that it wouldn't have happened if I
hadn't been there. We left the Docking Bay and proceeded down the metal corridors
towards the Reconstruction Zone.
The Reconstruction Zone of the Virtupets
Space Station isn't pretty. During the first Sloth War, the station was badly
damaged. The Reconstruction Zone is a maze of twisted metal and debris that
is slowly being put back into working order. It didn't take long to find what
I needed. With Infernus' help, I had the component free in under an hour. I
had already checked with the station authorities - the piece in question was
of no value to the station, so no one minded us cutting it free and taking it
back with us. Shortly we were on a ship heading back to Neopia (with me drinking
two sealed tubes of Neocola to keep from falling asleep on the flight again).
Carefully stowed in my bag was a lump
of titanium, one of the lightest, toughest metals around. The fire sword Kiddo
had given me was about to get an upgrade.
::::::::: END OF FILE: INCIDENT10.TXT :::::::::
To be continued...