Last Call

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The surviving crew of the spaceship 'Odin' must face their own mortality as the clock runs down on their final moments, with no hope of rescue. Prompted by Writer's Digest 'Your Story #73' contest (700 Words) — "I'm going to disappoint you. But you knew that already."

“I’m going to disappoint you.  But you knew that already.”  Marybeth looks up at me.  Her hair is a mess floating around in zero gravity.

“I can’t take much more disappointment,” I say with a dry laugh, white-knuckled around the MIT mug I had brought all the way from home.  There’s nothing inside it.  It’s useless to be drinking out of an open container up here.  But I want to hold something.

“We’re on our own.  No one’s coming.”

I give a long sigh.  “I mean, what could they do?”

The red emergency lighting casts everything in a pink glow.  It all looks so strange.  This module, in the heart of our ship, was the closest thing we had to home.  We ate together here.  Worked, talked, and sometimes cried.  The four of us became a crew here.  And then we fell apart.

“So what now,” I ask her, our fearless leader.

“We could try to get the engines back.”

“How?  They’re Swiss cheese and we have nothing to repair them with.”

“We could try.”

“We already did.”  The warning alarms were making my head ring, but I did my best not to let it show.  “How long do we have?”

“Three hours, before hypoxia sets in.”

“I guess that’s not so bad.”  There were worse ways to go.  Just ask Chu and Romanov.

I lifted the mug to take a sip.

Nothing.  Right.  More disappointment.  

It was over before we knew what had happened.  Debris came through the cockpit window.  Port side.  We lost Chu and Romanov instantly.  I had been in the lab when the alarms blared.  Marybeth must have been somewhere in her quarters, still going through the last transmissions from home.  We met in the corridor, racing blindly towards the nose of the ship.

What did we think we were going to do?

Odin took a spray of debris from belly to nose in the first wave and rolled when the second hit.  The rock and satellite wreckage cut through us like we were paper.  Marybeth stabilized the spin, but by the time we’d straightened out, the entire ship had taken damage.  A dead satellite, decrepit and drifting, had been struck by a rogue asteroid.  We were as good as blind on the other side of the heavy-metal planet.  It just looked like a blip on our scopes.  Then the wreckage hurtled into our path and ripped us apart.

More than two thirds of Odin had been rendered inoperable.  Locked up in the mostly undamaged middle, we were hemorrhaging oxygen and listing like a slaughtered beast.  I could picture Odin drifting out in the black vacuum, surrounded by the glittering shards of our own guts.  Everything we could spare had been diverted to maintain life support.  There’s some irony for you.

“So what now?” I ask again, forgetting that I’m on repeat.

Marybeth shakes her head and she looks me in the eyes.  “There’s nothing to do.”

An hour passes.

I’ve figured out how to silence the alarms, but our claustrophobic module is still red-hued.  I can’t fix everything.  Marybeth has a laptop.  We won’t be able to speak to anyone in real-time.  At the edges of the galaxy, we’re just too far away.  So we’ll leave a message for our loved ones and send it out into the empty universe, hoping that by the time it reaches Earth, we’ll have quietly slipped away.

“Be good.  Je t’aime.”

When she stops recording, I can see from across the room there are tears in Marybeth’s eyes.  I’m startled.  I’ve never see her cry.  The tears glitter as they softly kiss away from her face, like pale rubies.  They float around her and she waves them off.

She steels herself when she looks at me. 

“Are you ready?” 

I’m holding my mug again.  I feel sick, like I want to vomit.  But I nod.  I’m scared to speak too soon.  I drift over to her and she hands me the laptop before giving me some space.  I stare at the screen and hit record.  I can see myself on-camera, pale, red, and scared.  I try my best to smile.

“Hey, guys.  It’s me…”

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