Copyright 2017 Dell Sweet all rights reserved.
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The alarm warning had come on taking him completely by surprise. The low oxygen alarm had not gone off at any time in the past that he could recall. He stared, his thoughts spinning freely, he had already begun to feel the effects of oxygen deprivation before he got the emergency mask on and snugged it down. A rush of oxygen awakened his thoughts that had begun stumbling over one another. A quick check of the alarm interface showed the amount of CO2 in the air and before the alarm came in from three decks down he had the fresh air systems on, purging the carbon monoxide from the system. A few seconds of searching found the highest concentration and he closed and sealed the bulkhead adjoining that space to cut off the flow. Baylor was barking at him over the intercom, he reached forward; plugged into the com system routing it to his mask and answered.
“All good… At least with me: Petra is in quarters and may have been affected. What is the situation?”
“Uh, the situation seems to be a half baked escape attempt. There is going to be an inquiry about this one I think. A Fed crew member diverted the carbon monoxide from the auxiliary lighting generator test mechanism. He then freed an inmate thinking we were all out; never got the inmate anywhere out of containment… Two of my guys nabbed them both… The bad guy tried a shootout with some of my guys… Had an old style taser pistol. He’s done up. Inmate is being locked down in solitary. Going to have some sickness all around; I’m missing six crew members… Let me know about your navigator, Mike. Make sure you get her on oxygen, purge that CO2 as fast as possible.”
Mike took a deep breath, turned from the console, grabbed another mask and stood slowly. He pulled a radio unit from a clip on the console: Another thing he had never done in all his years on Star Dancer. The radio put the bridge and all conversations on a private channel: Funneled away from the main communications trunk; strictly meant for emergency situations. He keyed the side button. “Baylor… On the move, secure com,” he headed for Petra’s quarters.
The door was unlocked and so there was no need for an override. Petra had obviously tried to fight it when she realized what was happening. She was collapsed on the floor near her rack. Mike bent and checked her pulse: Strong and steady. He gathered her into his arms, settled her onto the rack and fitted the mask over her face. He switched on the oxygen, tightened the straps on the mask and then smoothed Petra’s hair away from her forehead.
“Hey,” he tapped her cheeks lightly with an open palm. “Come on, Pet come on.” Her took one hand between the two of his and rubbed it briskly. He felt her hand close loosely on one of his fingers and then go limp once more.
“Come on, Petra come on.” He patted her face again. “Wake up, Pet come on.”
She mumbled and her eyes crept open slowly. They were unfocused for a second, seeming to search around the room: They slowly settled on his face. “Pet?” She asked.
“What?” Mike asked.
“You called me Pet… Pet, you said Pet.” Petra said. She struggled to her elbows and immediately grabbed her head. “Oh my God that hurts.”
Mike grinned. “You’re back.”
“I’m back… What the hell was that? What happened?”
“I don’t know. Some crew member on the Fed side tried to break a guy out of the cellblock on three. Shot some carbon monoxide into our fresh air.” He rose; walked to a wall cabinet with a red cross stenciled on it and opened it. He withdrew a small bottle, picked up a disposable cup and filled it at her sink and then returned. “Take this, it will help.”
Petra eyed the bottle and then twisted off the cap. She shook out two tablets, added two more, pushed the mask aside and downed them with the water. The water itself seemed to knock the headache back instantly to where it was much easier to handle.
“Hundreds of years and we still rely on aspirin,” Mike said. His voice was muffled slightly by the mask. He jabbed one finger at his wrist implant. “Oxygen levels coming up… A few more minutes and it will be safe to breath.”
Petra tried a slight smile on her face and then stretched her mouth and rubbed the muscles in her face. “Feels frozen. How can something like that happen?”
“It isn’t supposed to be able to happen,” Mike said. “I’m thinking that every intra cruiser is going to be refitted after this. It seems like all that this guy had to do was dump carbon monoxide into the air system and it poisoned the air ship wide. That makes sense in a way, it is all connected, but damn that is so stupid. I can’t believe I never thought of it myself.”
“How did you manage to not get caught by it: You and Baylor too, right?”
“Bridge alarm,” Mike laughed aloud. “Ironic that it can tell you there is a leak or a contaminant in the air yet it can’t do anything about it.” He shook his head. “That is how. I was already feeling it by the time the alarm sounded and I realized it was a real thing. Almost didn’t make it.” He realized suddenly that he was sitting on her rack, her legs were pressed against one side of one of his own legs and his upper body was still leaned forward over her. He moved away, realized there was nowhere to move too and started to rise. Her hand came up; closed around his forearm.
“Don’t,” Petra said. He settled back down, feeling the warmth of her legs as they came to rest against the length of his thigh once more. Her eyes stayed on his own as he settled his weight back onto the bed.
“Okay,” Mike agreed.
“I’m just a little afraid… Sick too…”
“I can get something for the sickness,” Mike said. He made to stand once more and Petra increased the pressure on his forearm. Her grip was firm, heavy, compelling, he settled down more fully onto the bed.
“You called me Pet…” Her voice was low, husky. She smiled.
“I…” He nodded, considered his words, started to speak and the radio he had clipped to his belt interrupted him.
“Michael, I’m on my way up to you in the el… Levels look good down here. No serious complications with my crew…” Static spit and crackled. “How’s your navigator, Stanovich?”
Mike smiled at Petra and pulled the radio from his belt.
“Good… She’s a little sick, I think she’ll be okay… How’s a thing like this happen, Baylor?”
“On my way to you on the el… I have the answers with me. The incident is over, the ship is secure. The inmate is locked down in solitary.” The radio spit static and then cleared to a low hum.
“I think the headache is lifting.” Petra said. She shifted and one breast pushed firmly against the inside of his forearm.
”Good,” Mike agreed. He had sat back quickly, not wanting Petra to get the wrong idea. His face reddened and he turned away as he stood. Petra stared at him from the rack, her eyes wide as he turned back to her.
“Help me?” She asked.
He looked at her stupidly for a moment until she waggled the fingers of one hand. He thrust his own hand forward and helped her to her feet.
“Sorry, I can be an idiot sometimes,” Mike told her. Her body came up against his own as she made her feet, making him aware that he was in her sleeping quarters and that the space was very small.
She smiled. “I should go with you.”
“You should? … Of course you should… Yes… Baylor will be up,” Mike said as he turned and walked out into the narrow hallway. He caught Petra’s eyes once more as he turned and saw confusion there. Great, he thought. Great.
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