By S Rain Lawrence
(The Chuck Wendig flash fiction challenge)
Dr. Emma Torrez trimmed the edges of the electrical tape meticulously and closed the access panel with a defeated sigh. It would hold for now. She double checked the hatch door and was relieved to find it was working again.
A soft edged explosion shook the corridor of the space station. Warning claxons blared and the few functioning emergency lights that remained in the corridor flashed red.
A string of curses preceded her colleague, Dr. Jack Hardy as he came barreling towards her.
“What happened now?” Emma asked.
“We asked for insulation!” Hardy screamed. He screeched to a halt in front of her, grabbed her by the shoulders and shouted “INSULATION! What the fuck am I supposed to do with more damn pipe fittings?”
“Yeah, I was there,” Emma sighed. “I’m asking what the explosion was.”
“Hardy! Torrez! What’s going on?”
“Landon! I’m so glad you’re here,” Hardy exclaimed as he clutched at her arm. “We’ve got to get out of here.”
Hardy had become increasingly more unhinged over the past few months and Emma was hesitant to take anything he said seriously. His tangle of brown hair was tied back from his face and his beard grew unchecked. Dr. Gina Landon folded her arms across her chest and pursed her lips. Her coveralls were worn and pieces were patched with the same tape that Emma held in her hand.
“Is this an actual emergency?” Landon asked. “I’m trying to finish decommissioning section five before it snaps off the station entirely and kills us all.”
“We have to abandon the station!” Hardy said emphatically, his eyes wide. “NOW!”
“Pretty sure we don’t get paid if don’t finish fixing this place up,” Landon said.
Emma peered down the corridor. Was that smoke?
“Hardy, what happened in the research section?” Emma asked hesitantly.
“I keep telling you! It finally happened! I was rewiring the containment apparatus so it would pressurize properly. But they didn’t send us insulation AGAIN on the last shipment. How many times have we asked for insulation? How many times did we tell them we need properly insulated wiring? But no, the last three shipments we get random shit that isn’t anything like what we asked for!”
“Hardy! Focus!” Landon shouted.
Hardy stopped and blinked vacantly at them.
“Electrical fire,” he said. “Something got into the uninsulated wiring. The whole thing is in flames.”
“Oh shit…” Emma whispered.
“Shit won’t save us now!” Hardy said with a cackle.
Emma glanced down the corridor again as it began to fill with smoke.
“Escape pod! Escape pod!” Landon chanted.
Emma turned and ran, leading the way through the twists of the space station past crumbling debris and half-finished repairs. Only a few more meters. Emma had never been so relieved to see a functioning LED panel. She scanned the readings quickly, making sure the pod was ready to go. She pulled the air lock hatch and opened the door to the escape pod.
The scientists piled into the pod and Emma sealed the hatch closed behind them.
“Do we even know how this thing works, Torrez?” Landon asked over Emma’s shoulder.
“If you give me some space, maybe I can figure it out!”
Emma scrolled through the operation screen inside the pod as it flickered under her shaking fingers. She found the launch sequence and tapped through it as quickly as possible.
The pod burst free of the space station and shot towards the moon base. Emma looked back at the station to see the entirety of the main section crumple with the flames. The pegasus logo next to neatly etched name of the space station melted before her eyes.
“What a fucking joke,” Hardy said.
“What are you talking about?” Landon asked.
“They just stuck us on there for months and expect us to fix the place with no support? The technical debt was an abomination. What were we supposed to do? Patch the holes with our PhDs?”
The pod began to shake and warning klaxons fired.
“Whose job was it to maintain the escape pod?” Emma asked.
Hardy cackled hysterically.