Original fic: Venture
by jennickels (aka Jen Connelly)
The air sizzled, the smell of burning ozone tickling my nose. Klaxons wailed from all over the ship, their red lights creating shadows across the metal walls. Like I need more warnings. I shimmy under the control console of the command center. Half the controls aren’t working—there had to be a short somewhere in the system.
“Gery, where’s my bleeder?” I reach my hand out for the tool. “Gery!”
This ship shudders, tosses me around a bit.
“Hoyt, get up here. We are going in!”
Shit. I scramble out, barely making it to my seat when we hit atmo. I’ve only got one arm in the harness so next thing I know I’m in the air again, slamming hard against the twelve inch thick ClearMet of the forward window. I slide across the panel, landing on the floor between our seats. Gery’s already hauling me to my feet before I can see straight.
“Quit screwing around,” she yells. “I can’t be worrying about flying this thing and your safety.”
I feel a little grin pull at the corners of my mouth. Maybe she does care a little. I strap in, the harness snugging up on it’s own. The ship continues to shake violently making it nearly impossible to work the controls as I try to divert more power to the engines. The ClearMet dims on it’s own as the flames intensify. Out of control reentry is not how I planned my evening.
“If we can’t hold her true we’re going to burn,” I shout at my pilot. She flips me the bird which just makes me smile wider. The noise is deafening, the vibrations threatening to shake my fillings loose.
We need thrusters to correct our pitch. The only power we have left is life support, but that won’t do us much good if we don’t survive reentry. The lights flicker then go out as I draw every bit of power into the attitude control. Come on old girl, I think, you can do this. I know it.
And then we’re through. Green sky flashes by through angry gray clouds. Gery pulls back on the controls, but the ship protests with a loud screeching sound. Not a good sign. I’m already out of my seat when Gery calls, “damn wings won’t deploy.”
The emergency control panel down the hall, and blinking all orange and yellow. “Stupid piece of junk.” I flick some switches, but nothing happens. “Goddamn, useless, worthless, piece of scrap metal!” I give it a good kick. Then another. Every ounce of fear and rage goes into kicking the crap out of that one panel. The metal is dented and cracked when I’m done, but the wings unfold with a grinding sound that shakes the deck.
“Yes,” I scream, pumping my fist in the air. My celebration is short lived.
Next thing I know everything is upside down and inside out. I’m not sure how long I was out, but I wake up with a headache and a pain in my side—probably some cracked ribs. The ship is a mess, all busted and split at the seams. Almost unrecognizable. I feel a pang of regret. We’ve been through a lot, this ship and me. She was a good ship, she deserved better.
It takes me awhile to work through the debris, but eventually I make it to the command center. The door is buckled and only half open. I squeeze through, gritting my teeth from the pain. Inside I’m horrified to find half the room gone. Just not there anymore. The rain splashes in right where Gery’s seat should be. My heart clenches up at the sight. Not Gery. I’m still trying to process the scene when a lot hum starts somewhere below me. It reverberates through the decking setting the metal buzzing.
“What is that?”
The ship shakes. Harder and harder. I lose my balance, crashing to the floor. Then just as suddenly it stops.
“What the hell is going on?” I’m not sure who I’m talking to, but I sure wasn’t expecting any answers.
I spin, mouth gaping. I’m sure I look like an idiot, but I don’t really care. “Gery?” I whisper. “You’re alive.”
She gives me that lazy half smile that I’m powerless against, one hip jutting out. I’ve never seen anything so beautiful in my life.
“Yep. You, too.”
I smile so wide my face hurt, and I can’t help, but scoop her into a quick hug. She pats my arm awkwardly so I put her down. That might have been a little overboard. My face flushes as I duck my head.
“All right, then. Our chances of survival just increased.”
“It’s point oh two percent now.”
“That much, huh?”
“Better than usual, right?”
She grins, but it doesn’t reach her eyes. They look a little watery; so are mine. Then the humming starts again.
Everything goes sideways, crashing us against the far wall. We tumble along it heading straight for the gaping hole in the side. And there wasn’t a damn thing I could do about it. I try to yell a warning to Gery, but it’s too late. My legs hit air—I’m falling. The ground is wet and soft where I land. Seconds later Gery is beside me. The ship keeps rolling along leaving a field of debris behind it. That should be impossible, but I don’t have time to think about it. The humming has gotten worse.
I peer through the gloom, but only see a hulking mass in front of us. I have to tilt my head way back to see the top of it. And it has teeth. Huge ones. And a paw the size of a shuttle.
It’s got dark brown fur and smells of dead things. I gag, too scared to run or even move. It cocks its head at us.
“What the hell is that?” screeches Gery.
I don’t answer, I just grab her arm and run. It’s pointless, but I can’t just stand around waiting. The paw swats at us, sending us sprawling. I’m up on my feet again without looking back, but then I see Gery’s body fly past me, landing with a thud a dozen feet away.
“No!” I scream. I grab her shoulders as I pass, hauling her through the underbrush. The monster slams into the trees like a freight train, but can’t get through. It’s massive jaw snaps at the offending trunks and branches, breaking many of the smaller ones. Gery comes to in my arms, blinking rapidly. She’s a little dazed, but she can move.
“We have to run,” I whisper into her ear.
“Wha- What was-”
“No time, come on.”
We take off away from the creature. It thrashes around, head caught between trees, trying to get out. We might have a chance, but I know that was the wrong thing to think as soon as it forms in my mind.
Gery slides to a halt. The ground rumbles under us. The hum growing and growing, much deeper than before. I look up—way up—into giant yellow eyes. This one is twice as big as the other one, at least thirty feet tall, with three foot long teeth. My heart stops.
“Game over,” whispers Gery.
Her hand slips into mine, fingers tightening. I look down at them then slowly up to her face. “Just for the record, Hoyt,” she says, sadness in her eyes, “I-”
I don’t let her finish. “I know, Gery. I think I always have.” I squeeze her hand.
She grabs my face, pulling me down for a kiss. It’s nothing like I’ve ever experienced before—full of more passion and emotion I ever thought possible. I can’t breathe, my throat closes up with the pain of it. When it’s over I look into her beautiful green eyes, into the depths of friendship and regret. I wipe a single tear away with my thumb. This is what I want. This—love and acceptance—is the last thing I want to see.
And it is.