3 min read

Bare Metal | Chapter Nine

Bare Metal | Chapter Nine
Photo by Johannes Plenio / Unsplash

Station Bravo
Beaufort Sea, Arctic Ocean

Emmett awoke in absolute darkness with his bladder about to burst. He dragged himself from the couch and staggered across the hab to the bathroom, where he urinated for what seemed an eternity. The reek of yesterday’s piss still sitting in the bowl made him gag, and he made a mental note to collect some sea water later to manually induce the toilet to flush. As he was finishing, he glanced over his shoulder in the direction of the window in the next room. Although his internal clock told him the sun should be coming up soon, he could see nothing. He zipped his fly and went to the main hatch, opened it, and poked his head out to get a better look. Ice-cold raindrops on the bare flesh of his neck sent him scurrying back inside.

Shit. So much for talking to Kelvin today.

The rumble of thunder made the entire station vibrate.

Emmett went to the window and stared into the night. His training dictated that in case of inclement weather, he should check the primary survival systems to make sure they were in working order. He chastised himself. He should have checked them when he first arrived.

He vacillated: Go outside now? Or later? There was only one correct answer. “Fuck it,” he mouthed, turning from the window. He’d check the lifeboat and call it good. That was the most important thing out there, anyway.

His survival suit lay in a crumpled heap near the door, where he had left it when he had arrived topside. The thought of donning it again made him want to be sick to his stomach.

Skeletal fingers of lightning traced incandescent tracks across the pitch-black sky, briefly illuminating the room in stark white light. Thunder roared, much closer this time. Emmett clenched his jaw. If he didn’t go now, he would lose his chance. Screwing up his resolve, he shed his clean clothes and climbed into the dirty suit. The lingering stench of stale sweat and fear made his stomach turn. He cinched the hood tight and pulled the integrated mask over his face, adjusting it so only his eyes, mouth, and nose were exposed to the elements. He immediately began to perspire. From the gear locker he retrieved a two-meter-long nylon strap, one end of which he clipped to the D-ring on his chest. The other end went over his shoulder.

Satisfied with his preparations, Emmett popped the hatch and ducked outside. He attached the tether to the nearest section of railing with a solid clack he felt but didn’t hear and was turning to close the door behind himself when a sudden gust of wind crashed into him with the force of a locomotive. Before he knew what was happening, he was on his ass, skittering along the rain-slicked catwalk like a stone skipping across a pond. For a terrifying instant, Emmett saw himself shooting overboard and plunging into the raging seas below. But then his tether snapped taught, and he came to a bone-jarring halt.

Emmett dragged himself to his feet. His heart slammed against his ribcage like a caged animal. He shook his head. That’s enough. The lifeboat can wait.

An ear-splitting shriek shattered the night. The deck lurched and Emmett stumbled as the platform tilted violently to his right. His tether creaked, but held as the deck suddenly whipsawed in the opposite direction. The platform rocked back and forth like a metronome, each oscillation slightly shorter than the last. When the world finally stopped moving, Emmett raced for the door.

Inside was worse, though, as the building shuddered and the floor pitched and heaved like something alive. Emmett could barely stay upright. He didn’t know what was going on. He had never seen anything like this before.

Fueled by blind terror, he did the only think he could think to do, and he sprinted for the cargo hold.


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