3 min read

Bare Metal | Chapter Eleven

Bare Metal | Chapter Eleven
Photo by Galen Crout / Unsplash

Station Bravo
Beaufort Sea, Arctic Ocean

Emmett emerged from the stygian darkness of the cargo hold into the dishwater light of an overcast morning. He had spent the most terrifying night of his life huddled between two pallets of supplies as the storm raged all around him with boundless fury. At some point—he couldn’t recall exactly when—he had finally drifted off to a fitful sleep, only to awaken to an absolute stillness.

He could barely comprehend the destruction before him. What used to be the north end of the platform was now little more than a metal cliff with a commanding view of the Beaufort Sea. The kitchenette and the dining area were gone. The same applied to the couch where he often slept. Gone.

Emmett picked his way across the room, drawn inexorably toward the void. He was about three meters from the edge when a mournful groan emanated from somewhere beneath him. A moment later, a violent tremor tore through the deck, nearly sending him to his knees. Emmett braced himself as he waited for the shaking to stop. When it did, he put his right foot forward and slowly shifted his weight there. Nothing happened. He waited a second and took another step. It’s fine, he told himself, not believing a word. Everything’s going to be alright.

When he got within a half meter of the precipice, he dropped to his belly, and crawled the rest of the way. His stomach did a little somersault as he peered over the lip at the sea far below. He craned his neck so he could see the underside of the platform. The habitat sat on four tubular legs, each as big around as a school bus. While three of the four stanchions appeared to be intact, the fourth one, the one closest to him, was a mangled wreck. This explained the noise. As he watched, a wave washed over the damaged support. As the crest passed by and the trough of the next wave arrived, a gap appeared. The chasm grew until it became as wide as Emmett was tall, before slamming shut with a muted clang.

Emmett swallowed hard. He couldn’t fix this. He’d need industrial welding equipment and some serious schooling in how to weld. The encounter with the rogue ship hadn’t killed him, but it may as well have. All it would take now would be a collision with another ship, or a particularly bad storm, and everything would come tumbling down.

He shimmied away from the precipice and got to his feet.

Then he put his hands on his knees and promptly threw up all over the deck.

***

Emmett shook his head in disbelief as he stared at the lifeboat mounted on the side of the habitat. After the utter destruction of his living quarters, he had expected the worst, yet by some miraculous turn of events, the stubby orange boat had somehow escaped the assault unscathed.

He popped the main hatch and crawled inside, conscious of every creak the boat made as he moved about. The interior was musty and dark, and smelled of plastic and the sea. A reddish-orange glow suffused everything. He dug out the operator’s manual from its waterproof packet on wall near the door, and read through it twice to make sure he understood exactly how the craft worked. According to the booklet, it worked just like the EAM. Pull a trigger and the vessel would automatically detach from its mount point. After a brief trip along a series of guide rails, he would plunge into the ocean. He turned the page to the section on what to do once he got underway. The boat came equipped with a compact fuel-cell motor, stowed in an aft compartment. He set the instructions on the seat and went to the motor. While the cell looked intact from the outside, no amount of button bushing would activate the display on the top of the unit.

“Fuck me,” he said with a groan. He was going to have to row.

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