The last memory I recall before we were hit, still like a photograph in my mind and as clear as if I were holding it in my hands now, was Von’s peaceful visage looking overblown, as if his entire face had been terribly overexposed. I remember thinking how beautiful he looked in the light, and although I’ve said it before, I feel compelled to say it again, for there are moments, images if you will, that you are certain will remain with you, as vivid as the instant, for all your days; and Von’s peaceful white sublime face is one of them.

The flash could not have lasted for more than a second, and although I felt my body was stuck in slow motion, my mind raced like fire with wind on a dry day. I knew what was happening and I knew Von knew what was happening, and I know this will sound strange, but I simply couldn’t take my eyes off of his expression and there was a part of me that wanted that peace, that acceptance without resistance, I wanted to ascend to a higher plane of existence, and I knew, don’t ask me how, but in just a look I knew Von was in that place and I felt envious.

The sound of impact, for you have to remember Bravo had virtually no defenses, well, how do I say this; we felt the sound as much as heard it. Hynerians like to put things in neat containers with neat labels, this and that as Papa used to say, and so we tend to do the same with sight and sound and touch as if they were separate things. They are not. Every bone in my body rattled, my teeth ached, my elbows stung and my head pounded with a headache from the inside out as if the bats of hell had awoken and wanted out but could not find their way.

I looked at Von and his eyes looked without looking, they looked with the glassy appearance of the dead, with the look of not looking, and if you had told me I was looking at one underwater, one who had given in to the sea, I would not have argued. I saw movement and at first I thought there was someone else on board, that we had been invaded, violated, but then I realized the only thing moving was Emy and Von and myself, and we were moving not of our own volition, but at the whim of sound and light and impact. Like dolls we were tossed about and the very confines of our haven, Bravo’s bridge with edges sharp, threatened us the most and, believe me, the irony of being impaled by my own ship crossed my mind.

From blinding flash to utter darkness, of ship and mind, must have been less than a second or two. How long I was unconscious I could not say. I woke to the familiar coppery metallic taste of blood in my mouth, a pounding pulsating headache and the most eerie quiet you can imagine, which only made the throbbing of my head all the more noticeable. No hum of systems, no shuffling of crew from here to there—nothing. One emergency light shone, flickered as I recall in a rather aggravating way in the upper corner of the bridge and a small amount of light came in from the forward window. Upon that light I spied what I call the lump of Von and the slightly smaller lump of Em.

I pulled myself up, rubbed my temples, to no avail, and looked around through the dim light, trying to find my bearings. With my heart banging in my chest I went through the routine. Whenever you suffer dramatic injury, your body releases such a shot of adrenaline that often you never feel the extent of your own injuries. So I stood up, walked around, stretched and felt for blood until I was sure I was still whole and well, or at least well enough. Then I checked on Von and Em, without waking them, and they both seemed to be, at least outwardly, okay. I didn’t want to wake them until I had a better understanding of what had happened and what could happen and exactly what the condition was of Bravo. I also knew, if they were injured, I couldn’t take care of them, although I would feel the need to do so, and that need would hamper what I could do. As Papa always said, never let what you can’t do interfere with what you can. So they remained in sweet repose.

I walked, rather stiffly, to the central control panel, and through the haze of light and the fog in my mind I began flicking dead switches, over and over again, as if one more flick would magically fix everything. All systems were down. When I say all, I mean, with the exception of temporary auxiliary emergency power, Bravo was for all intents and purposes, dead in the water. If whoever or whatever attacked us wanted to destroy us, not that we could have done much about it before, but if they wanted to take us now, in any way, shape or form, there was nothing we could do. To make matters worse, our sensors were down, so I had no way to determine when the next blow would come, what direction it would come from or even who exactly had or was attacking us.

As you might imagine, with the surge of adrenaline pumping through my system, my first response was defense. Well, we were defenseless, and I rationalized, it was just as well I let Von and Em sleep, for if another blow was coming, what purpose would it serve to wake them. And, just for a moment, for the second time, I envied.

With the passing of each minute, I felt the fear of imminent destruction pass and I relaxed. As I collapsed in the captain’s chair, the familiar warm venusian leather felt oddly cold to my touch and a bolt of lightning shot through my aching body. I jumped up, and quickly perusing the minimal data available from the auxiliary power, realized the threat we faced was of a different order. You see, we had no communication, we had no power, and in a matter of days, we would have no heat and no air.

Categories: Story, Kyra