Burning in the Void
More than dark. More than numb. An utter absence of sensory input for a seeming eternity. Every nerve in Sera’s body was not only silent but gone, ripped away by the hungry mandibles of the nanobots as they digested her body, leaving nothing behind but a brain trailing a fine network of disconnected nerves from her exposed spinal column.
Sera knew she was still alive.
She could not have explained how she knew it but, despite the utter lack of sensory input, she knew that she was thinking about that experience. Suffering it. Aware of it.
Into that absence, a memory sparked. Not her own, of that Sera was certain, but something granted to her. A collection of fragmented thoughts, fears, memories, and monologues, like a message left for her by a departed friend.
Imagine you are looking at a field of stars, each one a fleck of burning gemstone against the black velvet of space…
Dominic threw himself from the airlock and triggered his maneuvering jets, angling all of them to drive him up and out of the trench that held shaft three. In his hand the small red numbers continued to count down. Unfortunately, the shaft was turning at such a rate that it took several excruciatingly long seconds before he stopped plunging down towards the core of the ship.
> Dominic! What the hell are you doing? Max sent to him.
>> I have to get this antimatter away from the ship. There’s not enough time.
> He is right, Max, Natalia sent over their shared link.
Dominic finally stopped falling towards the core and began moving upwards, accelerating as fast as he could. Dumping propellant at this rate, he had only thirty seconds of thrust remaining. Dominic glanced back down, but the airlock he had used to exit shaft three had disappeared behind the hub that connected the rotating shaft to the body of the Drake. He turned his attention back to the chasm of dark metal ahead of him, which opened to expanse of space thirty meters ahead.
>> I’ve got the antimatter with me. I should be able to get beyond the ship and throw it to a safe distance, Dominic sent to the other members of his force, as well as the Captain.
Thank you, Dominic. Your service will not be forgotten, the Captain said.
The final memory message flooded into Sera’s mind and she felt a sharp chill run through her soul as the emotions and actions unfolded. A wireframe view of the Drake unpacked from a single point of light, shifting to focus on shaft three. Red lights pulsed up and down the length of the shaft as flashing text callouts marked stress points. As Sera watched, the shaft shuddered on its massive bearings then began to slow in its ponderous rotation. A glittering cloud of silver appeared on the diagram, pouring forth from the bow of the ship and sweeping back towards shaft three.