MILK RUN Scene 27 v1 – Realization

Below is the first version for this MILK RUN scene/chapter.

This was a tough one to create. Click here to read some of my thoughts on this chapter.

OK, so before you read the scene, first a little background.

Earth is losing the war against the Telrachnids, and our young Captain Toby Nathanael Louis is assigned to deliver a new weapon to a secret star base. But what our hero thought would be an easy first mission turns out to be a test of his ability to lead a crew and ship much older than he against an enemy that is using his own fiancée to destroy him, his ship and his mission.

To make things worst, Toby is having a hard time with his second in command, Commander John Louis who dislikes young space captains that have been promoted over him. But then something happens.

In the prior chapter (Scene 26 v1- Escape), Captain Louis and his team make their way to the airlock of the Telrachnid gunship after securing the D-Jump device and rescuing Smriti (Toby’s ex-fiancée who just happened to be the captain of that gunship–forced to do so by injected Telrachnid venom). They finally make it to the airlock, but not without sustaining damage.

Captain Toby Louis has lost his left arm and both Commander John Emerson and crewman Villani have been exposed to the Telrachnid venom. Villani is starting to succumb to the Telrachnids who will surely turn him against the crew. Now it’s Emerson’s turn to resist the venom’s influence.

Having made it to the airlock, Toby and his crew now must make the dangerous spacewalk to the shuttle that will take them back to the USS Princeton.

So, here’s Scene/Chapter # 27- The Realization

As Emerson checks the patch on Villani’s suit, he pauses then wavers a bit.

“It’s starting to happen,” cautions Smriti.

All eyes turn toward Emerson.

“How do you feel?” she asks him.

The airlock’s yellow light reflects off Emerson’s orca suit helmet as he ignores the question. Surely to downplay the concern.  After an odd moment in the cautious light, he just utters “almost ready,” referring to the airlock’s obvious progress as the remaining air hisses out the small room.

Then a deep red color illuminates the entire airlock. 

“We can open the outer hatch,” says Emerson as he quickly pushes his way through the door.

Toby calls out on his intercom, “Princeton shuttle #2, this is Captain Louis.”

“Captain this is Princeton shuttle #2 at your service,” comes a quick reply from the welcomed sight of the ball shaped craft that looms in front of the airlock.

Everyone should make it across that short distance, figures Toby but he takes no chances. “Move in close and open up now, we are running out of air.”

“Roger, we’re on it,” comes the desired response.

The green and red shuttle strobe lights fill the room as Toby and the crew push their way out from the gunship.  But floating in empty space seems to have made the shuttle appear a lot further away than originally thought.  But there’s no time to assemble a crosswalk or perform the necessary static charge elimination procedures.  Besides its best to avoid any ship-to-ship contact that might allow Telrachnid spiders to make their way back to the Princeton. 

Toby looks out toward the shuttle.  This will be really close he guesses as he unravels and attaches himself to a carbon fiber tether. 

Then Emerson pulls out from a small backpack on Toby’s orca suit another rope rocket and hands it to Toby. Toby connects it to the tether as Emerson grabs the tether’s other end and with a compressed air hand thruster maneuvers back to the others making sure that everyone is secured to the line. Now at the back of the line, Emerson attaches an unconscious Villani, then himself and the D-Jump device to the tether.   

After programing the rope rocket and receiving the final OK from Emerson at the back of the line, Toby aims it toward the shuttle then presses its gun trigger launcher.  A silent silver white flash of light and exhaust speeds the rocket on its way pulling the carbon fiber tether taut. 

Suddenly, the tether yanks Toby then Smriti, then Wagner then Susan then Villani then Emerson then finally the main purpose of the mission, the D-Jump device like a string of pearls through the rope rocket’s expanding white exhaust back to the shuttle.

With their arms and legs splayed open like a big floppy “X”, it’s clear that this is Smriti’s and Susan’s first rope rocket ride, as they called it back at SpaceComm training. 

Looking back at them with a smirky pull across his face, Toby strains to see through their darkened helmet face covers for a glimpse of surprised expressions.  But the accelerating pull of the tether against his waist yanks that smile back to a more serious expression of a captain’s obligation, a responsibility to lead crew members to mission completion.

So, Toby twists around to face front, with a straight pose, just as the rope rocket’s fuel burns out with a final flash from its rear nozzle.  Momentum will carry them the rest of the way to the shuttle. But the blackness of space, lit up by trillions of bright stars, seems to swallow the shuttle whole.  It’s a disorientating sight that makes him wonder . . . which way is up?

Then a sharp tug from behind jolts Toby to another dark reality.  It’s followed by another tug and the word “CRAP” from Emerson.  In a skipped heartbeat, Toby twists back around to see Emerson and Villani lumped together in an undulating ball with arms and legs flailing about.

“What’s going on Commander?”

No answer, just panting is all he hears.

“Commander!” Toby yells out.

More grunt sounds then Villani’s voice, “must go back, get away from me . . .”

Then Wagner’s voice cuts in, “watch out Commander, he’s trying to rip your repair patch off.”

Toby considers heading back but momentum carries him and everyone else forward towards the shuttle.  He could pull himself back along the tether, but numbness from where his left arm use to be casts doubt on that success. Besides, someone is needed up front to manipulate the rope rocket launcher’s joystick control to ensure it remains aimed at the shuttle. Can’t do that if he tries to make his way around Smriti who now appears humped over and lifeless. 

Regardless, the Commander needs help—-screw it!  So, with his remaining right arm, Toby pulls on the tether to make his way back toward Emerson and Villani.  Then a soft but high-pitched alarm suddenly sounds in his helmet as a mechanical voice calmly warns, “oxygen nearly depleted.”

Got to conserve energy.

Still balled up, Emerson and Villani fight and tug at each other as the entire team slowly begins to drift off course.  Then Toby suddenly stops as Emerson’s usual grumbling chides away somewhere in the back of his head—-delegation is another captain’s prerogative. Toby turns around and returns to his position—-The geezer’s right.

So, Toby barks out, “Wagner, Susan, you ok?”

A double “Yes” comes back from both.

“Make your way to help Emerson, I need to steer this thing,” Toby tells them as his remaining thumb pushes against the launcher’s tiny joystick that activates compressed air maneuvering thrusters to adjust the rope rocket’s trajectory.

After making the course corrections, Toby turns around to see what’s happening behind him.  But Smriti’s body blocks the view. So, Toby calls again. “Emerson, what’s happening back there?”

“Repair patch unraveled. Villani ripped it away, No . . . no . . . air.” 

Toby yells out again, “Emerson, Emerson!”

The only response Toby gets is a breath stopping callout from his orca suit control system. “Oxygen depleted; air scrubbers inoperative; air scrubbers inoperative.”

Now, Smriti’s still body begins to drift to one side to reveal what’s behind her. Toby’s crew looks like a string of dull elongated pearls that’s twisting on itself. Wagner and Susan continue to tug their way back. Emerson’s and Villani’s bodies are now separated.  Villani’s arms and legs continue to squirm as if in a struggle to free himself from the tether. But Emerson’s suit appears still, deflated and concaved with wrinkles- a result of rapid depressurization. What was it that Emerson called them? Yea, spacebodies.

A cold realization stiffens Toby. Time is running out for his commander— someone he once thought should have gone down with his previous spaceship. 

Toby once thought Emerson was just an angry old sea dog who would rather take orders from a mermaid than a captain fresh out of SpaceComm school. Since Toby took command of the USS Princeton, Emerson seemed nothing more than a mutinous, backstabbing, old fogy trying to reclaim a glory he once had.

But now an almost too late recognition falls on Toby.  So much has been learned from that burly brute who once refused to knock before entering Toby’s captain’s quarters. Now he took a laser blast to save Toby’s life. To protect the captain, Emerson said.

After all they went through, the disagreements, the brig, the derelict of duty accusations; Emerson should be the last person in this galaxy to forge a captain-commander bond. Now, they seem to be on the same page. Emerson’s criticisms no longer seem hostile; more like a protective demeanor of appreciated wisecracks that probe subtle kinks in Toby’s new captain’s armor. But the realization may have come too late as Emerson’s deflated orca suit threatens to dissolve it all away.

Toby sighs begrudgingly, like a disbelieving captain who’s about to lose his ship’s anchor.  That chiding voice in Toby’s head, drilled in there by Commander Emerson, is now indispensable, something every captain needs to see the complete picture.

Another jolt from the tether pulls Toby back to the present.  This tethered walk to the shuttle seems to have gotten longer and longer as the tone from Toby’s orca suit helmet becomes more urgent, “oxygen depleted, oxygen depleted.” 

“Shuttle 2 to Captain, please say status.  You are starting to go off course again.  Please say status!” comes a call from the shuttle.

“No oxygen, Emerson in trouble,” is all Toby says in one quick breath. 

Then the suit’s internal warning changes in message, urgency, and volume, “air scrubbers inoperative. CO2 build up imminent.”

What was supposed to be a short trip to the shuttle seems to have stretched all the way out for miles as things seem to slow to a stop. More unintelligible communications from the shuttle spills out from Toby’s orca suit helmet speakers as Wagner and Susan inch closer to Emerson and Villani. Fuzzy vision now makes it hard to tell Wagner from Susan as one of their heads seem to turn forward. 

Numbness from losing his left arm now turns to pain as the air inside Toby’s suit becomes stale and heavy.  Struggled breathing replaces the sound from the suit’s alerts.  Everything now seems to speed up except for the fog that rolls across Toby’s visor in warm moist waves and an oncoming drowse that slowly saps away any fight to remain conscious. That was the last thing he remembers.


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