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By Robert Lynch

Warmth covered my face. Pleasant, but not the kind of thing that seems normal. I tried to open my eyes and only my left eye opened, my right was stuck closed. The metallic smell of blood filled my nose. Yeah, that warmth was definitely blood.

My hands were bound to the chair armrests. My mind raced to remember how I got here but brought up nothing. Right… head wound, probably a concussion. Could be some memory loss, it definitely explained the nausea and dizziness.

Can’t do much with my hands in these restraints, I looked around to see if there was anything I could work with. I was on a ship, in the pilot’s chair. The window outside showed a deep rich brown atmosphere, either we were landed or the ship’s inertial dampeners were working, because I couldn’t feel movement. There was a person strapped into the chair next to me. Unconscious and bound the same as me.

Right… There was a girl who hired me to do something… find someone?

My feet were free. The console in front of me was an older configuration, it looked similar to a freight hauler I had flown in the Navy. If it was the same then the restraints were for emergency medical purposes. There should be a manual release under the armrest. I could feel where the button should be, but it had been removed. Dammit.


I closed my eye and tried to remember the schematics. The Navy didn’t let you touch one of their ships unless you knew it inside and out. The G-type haulers weren’t combat vessels, they are support craft. Medical restraints, part of the AutoDoc system, should disengage if the fire alarm is triggered. The smoke detector system registers as triggered if the signal is cut, so all I have to do is find the right wire; environmental controls, including the fire systems, were routed to the console I was sitting at.

I kicked at the panel under the console, denting it in and creating an edge on the left side that I could use to pull the panel away from its housing. I tried to wriggle down to see the exposed wires better, but there wasn’t much wriggle room in the chair. From what I could see much of the wiring followed standard codes. Fire control systems were red. Gently but awkwardly I pushed the wiring around with my feet until I isolated just the red wire, then I yanked as hard as I could.

The alarm screeched and the restraints of both me and the unconscious person unlocked and receded. Hands free, I tapped the console and turned off the alarm. I got up and checked on the person in the other chair. Her black hair was matted in blood, but she was breathing.

The cockpit changed colour as the light from outside changed. The brown from the outside changed to white/grey. Was were going through a cloud band. That could only mean we were descending in atmosphere. The navigation computer was off, so I grabbed the manual controls. Unresponsive.

This was becoming quite a day.


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