Flash: Ship’s Center (Beep Part 2)

Photo by Hermes Rivera on Unsplash

Julius drew back from the edge where they stood questioning if flying, for even a single moment, to be truly Sky-Born, would be worth the fall. Their father and the surviving elders of the Sky-Fallen, outcast from the stars, shrieked no with every angry-betrayed breath and sobbed yes with every grief-filled long stare. Last Ra-cycle had been worse than most after their parent woke screaming, shuddering for hours in their arms, whispering about the blacker than black of Q space when eyes invented shapes and colors just to see something, dust within the vacuum where emptiness was both an illusion and a harsher reality than can be conceived, planets with snow and moons where people can see their breath and dance in the twilight between days, and most of all, the Endless. Each of the Sky-Fallen had stood where Julius had been standing and witnessed the eternity of the universe.

Until they could witness it no more.

Again, the unnatural sound interrupted the silence of the coffin of failed dreams.

Unsure if the change would bring hope or further nightmares, Julius followed the periodic beep into the third inner circle of the ship. Uncaring true gravity mocked the orientation of artificial pathways made to operate with centrifugal force making the travel challenging and convoluted. They slid down ladders still lit after forty years with a red glow, and used others to cross gulfs of hallways running vertical on the grounded ship. Deeper in the ship the natural light from the twin stars disappeared, making Julius grateful for the lighting mechanisms meant to shine for the generations it would take to cross space.

The outermost layer of the ship was barely different from the surrounding world because First Homes had been built from scavenged paneling initially, but integral bulkheads eventually became more of a trial to dismantle than using the abundant natural woods and stones to build shelters.

They reached center of ancient ship after a backtrack to avoid a Growler’s nest. Outside, Ra should have given way to Raet by now, and Julius was overdue for their chores. After waiting another count of thirty-seven, they narrowed the source on the bridge to the communications module.

Running a hand over the module’s damaged entry panel, where someone long ago had beaten the panel into uselessness, Julius discovered long-forgotten neural pathways established during childhood training waking. Nanites created them during the second infusion: how to operate an escape pod, how to seal a hull breach, and how to operate the distress beacon. Things every person on board This Giant Leap needed to know.

Breathing out slowly, they moved around the sealed module, turning their head with each beep until they found the crack at the base of the module allowing the sound to carry throughout the ship. It looked like it went through the bulkhead. Another trip up to go down, then sideways brought them under the bridge and the communication module in what used to be the incubation chambers, the most protected area from interstellar radiation. Avoiding the empty equipment still attached walls, which had been floors when the ship used to rotate, Julius found the crack again, this time they could slip inside the pitch-black area.

They left some skin behind, but made it in. For once, their small size played in their favor.

The beep happened again and the programmed instinct took over, guiding their hands over equipment they never seen before and couldn’t see now. The beep was replaced with a hum.

Then a burnt smell.

And, finally, hologram lasers danced in the abandoned air.

(words 602; first published 9/25/2022 – I asked if anyone wanted one of the Facebook visual flash expanded to 500 words, and they asked for Beep.)

Beep Series
Beep (7/26/2020)
Ship’s Center (9/6/2020)