Crunch Time

This is another piece of flash fiction from Writer’s Digest Feb Challenge— day 18: time. I scrawled it in a notebook while waiting for an eye appointment, and just now came across it again. It kind of stops abruptly, due to my being called away for the exam, but I think it still works as is.

“Go! Go! Go! Everybody move!” Captain Bofin waved his squad into the waiting shuttle, giving each soldier a gentle push, not that they needed one. As the last of his unit clambered aboard, he mashed the hatch button and raced to his own jump seat. Restraints fastened, he nodded to the pilot. “Punch it.”

The pilot turned to her controls, firing the shuttle’s thrusters and pulling back the yoke. Overloaded, the frame shuddered as the craft struggled to get off the ground. “Come on, baby, you can do it,” she cooed. As if it understood, the landing claw released and the ship began to rise.

A series of warning lights began flashing red. “Not now,” muttered the co-pilot. He reached under his console and yanked out a handful of wires. The warning lights went dark.

“What the hell did you just do?” barked Sandy.

“Bought us some time, I hope.” Tevya tossed the wires over his shoulder. “Thirty more seconds and safety protocols would have kicked in.”

Sandy gave a curt nod, understanding. The ship had taken a lot of punishment in the forty-seven minutes since landfall. No wonder they were getting systems warnings, but there would be time for diagnostics later. Right now they had maybe ninety seconds to clear atmosphere before that…thing caught up with them.

“Uh, commander?”

Make that sixty seconds. “Shit. How does something that big move so fast?” She began to flip a series of switches on the panel overhead.

Alarmed, Tevya demanded, “What are you doing?”

Sandy grinned. “Buying us some time.” She raised the cover on a big red button and jammed her thumb into it.

The ship lurched skyward, rapidly picking up speed. Behind and now underneath them, a large chunk of the ship fell away. 

“You know you could get court-martialed for that, right? Hyperdrives are restricted technology, and you just left one where—“ Tevya stopped short as Sandy raised a finger indicating, just wait.

The beast that had been unleashed on them swallowed the fallen engine whole, and a heartbeat later it exploded in a technicolor spray of flesh, bone, and volatile fuel.

“There, see?” Sandy grinned from ear to ear. “What hyperdrive?”

“Yeah well, we’re still going to have to explain why we need pick up. Unless you have some other way to get to the fleet?”

Sandy dismissed his concerns with a casual wave. “It’s going to take a good thirty-six hours before anyone gets here. That’s plenty of time to come up with a good story.” Indicating the console Tevya had lobotomised, she continued, “In the meantime, you might want to put that back together. I’m pretty sure you disabled access to the head.”