Beryl felt a thrill of childish glee as he entered into the bowels of the ship, Fife calling out behind him, “Wait, what the hell just happened?”
Warm light seeped through semi-transparent paneling inside the ship like bio-luminescence or a flashlight covered by the palm of a hand. Nothing so crude as a severed wire could prevent power from reaching from one end of a Post Human’s ship to the other. This ship would die slowly.
But it was dying. Beryl knew that the moment he stepped into the ship. The pulsing walls bleated their pain. Illness reeked in the smell of charred plastic that was not a result of the crash. The smell made him reconsider his assessment. No, the ship might die quickly and he didn’t want to be on board when it did.
Fife caught up to Beryl.
He turned to her, all playfulness stripped from his voice, “We have to get to the bridge.”
Her expression said, don’t think for a moment you’ve dodged my questions, but she pocketed her curiosity for the time being.
They made their way to a rounded chamber with corridors extending spoke-like in the six cardinal directions.
Beryl looked upward. The ovoid passage was dotted with pimply handholds, but there was no way he had the strength to climb it. Fife had already leaped up and caught the wall. She was contorting her feet up to a purchase, hefting herself further away.
“Don’t mind me,” Beryl called at her ascending ass. “I’ll just wait by the door to let you out the same way I let you in.”
Beryl ambled back the way they’d come, a simple plan clear in his mind. He found an appropriate-sized locker by the hatch and yanked it open. Inside, a flock of seeker drones huddled together. They goggled at him with bulbous mechanical eyes and gave every impression of possessing life within their beige and blue, disk-shaped bodies.
One couldn’t support his weight in a gravity well, but two ought to do the trick. He gave an ancient command and two drones wriggled out of the pile, let out brief puffs of compressed air, then unfurled fluttering wings.
Beryl grabbed hold of the drones’ belly handles, one in each hand, then said, “Take me to the bridge.”
* * *
Beryl passed Fife near the top of the shaft, each hand clutching the handle of a drone as they lifted him up to the bridge. The look on Fife’s face as he flew by almost ameliorated his concern that the ship was further along in its death throes than it appeared.
The drones set him down on the ship’s command deck as Fife threw a leg up onto it and pulled herself over the lip.
“Did you know about the drones the whole time?” Fife asked with exasperation, breathing heavily for perhaps the first time since their acquaintance.
“I only just thought of them,” Beryl said truthfully.
Fife pinched her fingers together. “I’m this close to holding you down and beating your secrets out of you.”
Before he could respond a third person spoke, startling him into silence. Fife dropped into such an exquisitely balanced crouch that he had no doubt she could have made good on her threat.
The person spoke again, muffled, indistinct, but something of the sound tickled at Beryl’s hind brain. Fife slid forward silently. Beryl clomped a step behind her.
A dozen acceleration shells were rooted to the deck. They peered around the edge of one of them and found the man or woman who had made the sound. The person stuck in the acceleration couch stopped speaking. He could hardly wiggle his nose, clamped as he was into a position the couch deemed safe.
The person was hairless, their skin had a shine like lacquer. Fife relaxed, judging the individual harmless, and even pulling the emergency release lever on the side.
The acceleration shell vomited the individual, male incidentally, naked incidentally, onto the floor of the bridge. He spoke in a rasp.
The word he said made Beryl blanch. He teetered and caught the nearest acceleration couch to keep from falling. A geyser of emotion surged through Beryl. He ground his teeth. The man had called out a name, a name Beryl would never forget. It couldn’t be.
Fife saw his reaction and responded by scanning for a new threat. “What is it?” she hissed.
The man cocked his head, looked at Fife thoughtfully, seeming to struggle to understand her words. He had heard her words and was making adjustments. He spoke again, the same name as before, but in a different language.
“Water,” he said.
Beryl had not yet recovered himself. Tears stung his eyes.
“What is it?” Fife asked, louder, but no less urgently.
Beryl turned away to hide his face. “He’s thirsty,” Beryl said. “Get your canteen. He’s thirsty.”
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