I can hear a song, ringing through empty corridors, tinny from a distance. There’s good and bad news in that. Good news; the ship is pressurized. The bad news is that on a ship this size there should be a constant hum of hundreds of machines, most of which are responsible for survival in the harsh vacuum of space. Only reason I can hear that damn song is those machines have all stopped. Just as I fear, I open my eyes to darkness, no lights and dead monitors. Everything is washed of colour, a world of greys and blacks out by the faint light of the starfield that hangs past the portholes. I slowly turn, absorbing the silence. My breathing, that echoing song…and nothing else. It’s hard to accept that I’m alone. Harder to accept that the strip lights, air scrubbers, gravity could are all inoperative. To say nothing of the engines themselves. I don’t remember what happened. How I came to be floating on the bridge. I’m just one of six technicians on this flight, the only reason I’d have to come to the bridge would be to fix a minor fault, like a flickering light or an unresponsive display. More to the point, if I was here when…whatever, happened then why was I left behind? If everybody really had left, why leave without me? I may be brave enough to travel through the unforgiving void of space for a living, but I’m not the self-sacrificing type.
That thought brings me up short. I’m probably going to die here. I don’t want to, but I can’t imagine another scenario at present. My problem with this is that with the ship engines down I might not live long enough to slowly asphyxiate once the air is too stale to breath. I’m more likely to be shredded on a cellular level by stray cosmic rays or did in explosive decompression caused by a random micro-meteorite impact. No power means no shields. I might be able to do something about that. Moving with purpose, I propel myself into the corridor and head for the aft of the ship. I have to use chemical lights to find my way through the ship’s interior; we’re bio-engineered for low light conditions, but not pitch blackness. As I move through the ship I see no signs of life. No signs of damage either. All the while, that song plays, on a loop, almost inaudible. When I reach the engine compartment, I encounter a problem. Lack of power and isolation aside. The door is shut, sealed. Above the handle there is a small red panel. That’s bad. It indicates explosive decompression has occurred in the engine room. I can’t immediately recall the nearest emergency supply locker, but that doesn’t really matter. If I got the door open I might depressurize the entire ship. And without knowing the nature of the problem there’s no guarantee I’d be able to get life support functioning again.
There’s an odd sort of comfort in the hopelessness of the situation. I’m resigned to my fate, my death at some indeterminate point in the future. Still, if I’m going out I might as well do it in relative comfort. Scuttlebutt holds that the first officer maintains a modest liquor cabinet. And while I’m in the crew module I can do something about that damn song. I make my way through the crew module, the song growing steadily louder. And there it is. I had no idea Henway was into retro earth music, would’ve had them pegged as a Jovian beats fan. I flick through the track listings, settle in something slow and mellow. Time for booze and oblivion.
I’m half a bottle in, surrounded by space heaters with internal batteries. Fate seems to be soaring me so far, funny as it is to say so given my imminent demise. I briefly considered trying to wire together every portable power supply onboard to try and power the ship’s systems. Then I realized I’d likely get myself in the attempt. It’s still bothering me, not knowing what happened. I’m not even sure how far along our course we travelled. I tried using the hardcopy starcharts to figure it out, but astronavigation is not my forte. We were about two thirds of the way to our destination. Launchpad. Official designation a string of letters and numbers most people don’t bother to memorize. It’s where they launch deep space probes from. A giant railgun, out past the boundary of our solar system. For safety reasons, although it’s a commonly held belief that should the thing fail critically, we’d find out catastrophically. It’s a well-paid posting. Not my speed though, hanging out in the void, just…waiting. Oh. I suppose my death’s be ironic. I wonder if the crew survived. Whether they reached safe harbout. The company supply out hefty settlements. Enough to retire on. That’s pretty funny, in a morbid sort of way They’ll be able to spend the rest of their lives kicking back and drinking. Just like me.
I’m half awake and start trying to turn over when I remember where I am, what happened. Most of the heaters are powered down, and my mouth feels disgusting, so I assume I’ve been asleep for quite some time. I’m restless. Maybe I’m not as resigned to my fate as I thought, because this ridiculous notion has entered my head. I use some of the emergency supplies to freshen up and then I head for the airlock closest to the engine compartment. Whatever happened…I probably can’t fix. But I need to know. Suiting up for a spacewalk solo isn’t regulation, but I’m fairly sure the deals are secure. It takes longer than I expected to work the manual cranks to cycle the airlock, my arms and legs feel leaden. Like I ran a marathon. The exterior of the ship looks as undamaged as the interior. No clues here to the mystery surrounding me. I slowly plod across the curve of the hill towards the rear. The problem is immediately apparent and I fight the urge to cackle. The engineering compartment is…not there. The hull terminates abruptly, a carbon-scorched edge in a ring around the space where the engines should be. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It explains the lack of power, the evacuated crew. I just…I can’t, I…my mind feels, what…I
I awaken to an insistent beeping and a view of the starry void. O2 is running low. I switch the bottle for a fresh one and take a deep breath, two. I must have blacked out. I didn’t know that was a thing I do, it’s never happened before. Explains a lot. The panic of, well, whatever happened, must have triggered a blackout. I guess in the chaos they just didn’t notice me floating there in the dark. Wow, what a time for that to happen. I make my way back inside, slowly. The air inside is starting to smell wrong, sort of musty. I feel short of breath. Must be about that time. I go back to the distance I’ve fashioned for myself and work on what’s left of the officer’s booze. I’m a whim I turn the music player on and set that song to repeat. I like the symmetry. As my eyes begin to close, I wonder if the ship, this oversized coffin, will ever be found. Maybe I’ll drift until the stars burn out. I wouldn’t mind that. A dead astronaut, in a dead ship, sailing through a dead…