A science fiction short story
Last year and most of this year was taken up by a change of genre in my writing. I decided to give science fiction a shot, being a big fan of the genre in movies and books. I’ve read everything Crichton wrote and plenty of other sci-fi besides, i’m also a huge sci-fi movie fan and so i wanted to see if i could write something that was not fantasy. What follows is a short story i wrote for last semester at university. It’d be great to get some opinions on it.
“Core malfunction alert.”
“Yes, damn it, I know.” My knuckles burn against the heat pulsing off the core casing. I grind my teeth and force my fingers behind the titanium panel. I smell my flesh burning. Every instinct in my body screams at me to pull away, but I need to get the panel off. I need to get to the core before—
“Core malfunction alert.”
The ship’s hollow voice echoes around the circular chamber again. And whether it is the sound of the voice, setting my teeth on edge, or the terror pumping through me I forget the pain and manage to get my fingers far enough behind the panel. And I pull. It comes loose and I throw it aside, tightening my fists in a vain attempt to lessen the pain. I look down at my trembling, blistered hands. Numbness spreads through my fingers. I shouldn’t be able to feel the effect of the core’s radiation. Not yet. It’s working faster than I thought it would.
“Core malfunction alert.”
I shake my hands, clenching and unclenching them as I examine what the panel has concealed. Black and white wires strangle a thick silver tube studded with bolts. I reach inside, probing the wires. Most are severed and scorched, spraying hot sparks that sting my arms. I close my eyes, willing my addled thoughts to order. Anna’s face appears in my mind. Eyes closed. Face glazed with frost—
“Impact imminent. Core has suffered irreparable damage.”
I open my eyes. “Tell me something I don’t know!”
I run my fingers through my hair, staring into the tangle of wires. I realise I cannot feel my hair, and I bring my hands to my face. My breath catches in my throat. It looks like someone has scrawled across my hands with a marker; every vein stands proud and black against my raw skin. Tears sting my eyes. I will not have time to get to the core—I need more time. But even if I did reach the core, what could I do? The radiation will kill me before I can even get close enough.
I turn away from the panel.
Sparks flare against the intermittent dark, spewing from cables that explode from the ceiling as panels buckle and warp. The roar of the engines is absolute, save the eerie moments of silence when they stall. I glance to the narrow window on my right, and look through the splintered glass. Flames and debris rush past in the dark.
“Computer!” I say.
“What is the probability of passengers’ survival after impact?”
My heart quickens. “What is the probability of cryo-chamber three withstanding impact?”
“Impossible. Damage to core is irreparable.”
“List emergency protocols for core meltdown.” I close my eyes, willing that hollow voice to tell me what I want to hear, willing it not to say what I know it will—
“All emergency protocols are futile. Damage to core has disabled all available vessel functions.”
My legs buckle beneath me, and I fall. I hit the charred floor. Something whistles over my head, so close I feel it brush my hair, and there is a metallic clang as whatever it is hits the wall opposite. Anna’s face comes to me again. This time she is smiling. Her green eyes stare into mine. Her soft, soft hand touches my cheek. Through my tears I watch sparks of electricity fizzle out against my hands. I don’t feel them. I feel only the tightness in my chest.
Anna’s face disappears.
I push myself to my feet. The floor tilts beneath me and wreckage hurtles at me from all angles. A crate careers across the room, spilling its contents. I launch myself at the door and hook an arm through the handle just as the ship lurches to the left. Pain throbs through my bicep, but I manage to hold on long enough for the ship to right itself. My knees smash into the floor; I ignore the flaring pain and slam my palm against the glowing lock panel. The door slides open and I clamber through.
Thick pillars of smoke leak from the walls. Debris rattles across the floor and wires swing back and forth from the ceiling. I haven’t taken two steps when the ship tilts again and I’m thrown forwards. I am airborne for less than a second before I slam into the far wall. My head hits a door handle and suddenly everything is muffled. Pain carves a burning line across my skull. The explosions rumbling beneath me are dull punches of sound, and the lock panel is only a blur of pale light behind white flashes. I realise I am sprawled against a door. It’s the Cryo-chamber door. I splay my hands against the lock panel and the door slides sideways beneath me. I fall. As the ship lurches again I manage to get to my feet.
I see the silhouette of Anna’s head through the frosted glass of her Cryo-tube, on the far side of the chamber. My gaze lingers there for a second before I look to the airlock five feet to the tube’s left. My chest tightens again. I know what I must do. I know there isn’t time for anything else.
The flickering lights fail altogether and the chamber is plunged into near darkness. A pillar of blue light projects from the window of Anna’s Cryo-tube, and I use it to guide myself to her. Warped shards of metal shift around my feet as I slide across the chamber. I collapse against the airlock. I look through the door’s window, past the tide of flames swirling across the fuselage, and see Earth. Deep blue and verdant green—like her eyes.
Sound rushes back. Everything seems louder and closer. The numbness creeps up my arms and my legs buck and shiver beneath me. I don’t have long.
Calling on what little feeling I have left in my arms, I heave myself over to the Cryo-tube. I trace the outline of Anna’s face through the glass with fingers I cannot feel. I wish I could see her face, her eyes, if only for a moment. One last time before I… I turn away, kicking open the clamps holding the Cryo-tube to the wall and hold it in place as it lurches forward.
Pain breaks across my chest, cold and sharp. I manage to roll the tube in front of the air-lock. Using the heels of my hands, I ease an energy rod from my belt. I depress the cap with my teeth and feel the rod vibrate to life; it starts to glow a muted orange, gets brighter.
I press my forehead against the cold window of the Cryo-tube and imagine Anna’s soft whispered voice in my ear, telling me everything is good, we are going to be fine; we would go for a walk after dinner, watch the stars come out. She tells me how she has always wanted to see them up close. And I tell her I’ll take her to them one day.
“For you, Anna,” I say.
I slam the rod against the airlock’s seal.
A flash of white, hot light and the door is gone.
My throat tightens.
The Cryo-tube pulls away from me, spins out through the airlock and I follow it.
My lungs contract.
I see the tube—Anna—spinning away from me.
I see her smiling face again.
Debris and fire engulf me.
And then all I know is cold.
And then there is only darkness.