By: Jez Anthro
Chapter 1 Another Day at the Station
“Welcome to “Foxtrot” station 143. You are currently in the staff entrance airlock, please scan identification to proceed or use main entrance.” said the feminine computer voice after the airlock pressurized. Jenny reached her paw for the ID card tied around her neck. She pressed the card against the computer screen and the voice responded, “Lara Avvie, species: red wolf, position: head of orbital corrections. Good evening Mrs. Lara, station time is eighteen hundred hours and twenty minutes; spindle temperature is sixty-five degrees Fahrenheit. Please check in with security before proceeding to other areas of the station.”
The large round door in front of Lara twisted open reviling another small cylindrical room. A security guard was standing in the middle of the room and behind him was another computer console and door. When the guard saw Lara he smiled and said, “Hey Lara, remember me, its Jonathan, from station 624.
“Johnny? How could a silly raccoon like you? So you finally got that transfer, so how is the largest station in orbit treating you?”
“It’s great, much better than that old relic I was on before, the thing was falling apart. Actually I would still be on it but the guard I’m replacing is sick so I was transferred early.”
They continued talking as Jonathan scanned both his and Lara’s cards on the computer console. The door opened and Lara started on her way to the control room. As she floated down the large semicircular tube she thought, “You can only truly appreciate the true size of this station form the spindle tubes. This one is only one eight of the size of the spindle there’s enough room for a large truck to pass through it. The larges station in existence and they plane to triple the number of rings in the next few years. It’s simply amazing what they…”
Her thoughts were interrupted when she heard someone yell out her name. She then noticed that she was upside down and facing the opposite direction from where she was going. A quick twist and she was facing the tall arctic fox who had called out to her. He seemed very anxious and tense as he spoke. “L-Lara,” he stuttered, “where have you been you were supposed to be here two hours ago.”
“Hey I’m sorry I didn’t know they put the shuttle control operator in charge of me. I’m late because station 312’s airlock broke down and I got stuck in it. So if you don’t want to put me in a really bad mood I suggest you leave me alone Jacob.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude, but the rings have been stopped for three hours now and people are starting to complain, not everyone appreciates zero gravity as much as us. The entire station is shut down until we finish the corrective burns.” He reached down and unstrapped the magnetic plates attached to his shoe, “Here Lara, take these and run to the command center, you don’t want the station commander to see you randomly floating about, he can be a royal pain in the ass.”
“Thanks Jacob and you should get some rest or something you look a little sick.” With that she started again for the control room. The large door opened up to reveal a moderate sided half cylindrical room broken up with three rows of standing computer consoles. On the wall opposite the room was a large screen broken up into three sections, the larger on featured the side view of the station, the one of the smaller screen showed a front/back view of the station, and the other showed a radar screen. On the two station views the rings were blinking red and under each ring showed the words, “Ring locked for orbital correction, Rotation zero rotations per minute, locked.” She was greeted by several familiar faces as she made her way to the empty console. She sat down and scanned her card on the screen, which then came to life showing representations of Earth, Foxtrot, and the stations and vehicles around it. A few keystrokes and two lines appeared from Foxtrot, one showing current orbit and how many revolutions until it entered the atmosphere, and the other showing a stable orbit and information of fuel requirements and burn times. A few more keystrokes accepted the new orbit, Lara got on the stations intercom system and announced, “This is Lara Avvie of orbital corrections, I will begin a series of five corrective burns. The first will start in one minute starting now.” She sat back in her seat ant thought, “Nothing to do now but wait for the computers. I hope everything goes right the first time, if it does then this should only take about thirty minutes.” She played with the pen attached to the console while she waited for the burn. The feminine computer voice came over the intercom system, “Thrust in ten seconds, repeat, thrust in ten seconds.” Lara gripped the armrests on her chair and braced her feet against the console. The voice then started the countdown “Thrust in: five, four, three, two, one, thrust.” The entire station shook and the sound of metal bending reverberated down the spindle as it bowed slightly from the engines at its extremities. After a few minutes the engines cut off and the vibration stopped except for a short, but powerful wave that had been introduced by the spindle’s bow. Lara looked behind her at the other people in the control room and said in a rough manner, “Hey you forgot to turn on the wave brakes, if this keeps up the station’s going to shake itself to pieces.” Shortly after that the wave cased. This happened four more times, the computer count down, the engine start up, and about two cycles of the powerful wave. After the burns were finished Lara checked to see if the station was back in stable orbit. When she saw that it was she returned station control to the other consoles. The sound of the ring locks disengaging rang through the station. A male voice came over the intercom saying, “Rings one and four brace for startup.” The big screen in the front of the room displayed a warning and the representations of rings one and four, the two larger ones on either side of the station, began to rotate. The lights in the room dimmed and the screech of the ring clutches could be heard from the opposite side of the station. Seeing that she was no longer needed in the control room she started her way back to the airlock and her ship on the other side. About halfway from the airlock Jacob stopped her and apologized for their earlier meeting buy nervously saying, “Hey Lara, let me make up for earlier by buying you dinner.”
“Dinner hmmm, no I’m sorry Jacob but I’d really rather get home early, it’s been a rough day. But thank you for the offer.”
A frightened look flashed across Jacobs face when he heard this, but he quickly regained his composure and said a little more sternly, “Oh, no really I insist, it may brighten your day. Besides how could you turn down a free dinner? I won’t take no for an answer.”
“Well, fine I guess I might as well. Won’t take no for an answer, honestly.”
They continued past the airlock and to the restaurant. After eating for a few minutes Lara noticed that Jacob had hardly touched his food, and when she asked if he was alright he just nervously chuckled. As she was finishing eating Jacob’s phone rang, he checked the number and then quickly answered it. A frightful look came across his face as he listened to the person on the other end of the line. A weak “Ok” was the only thing he said before he closed the phone and excused himself, “I’ve got to go now sorry, it was nice talking with you. See you soon.”
‘You’re sure everything’s alright Jacob, your starting to make me nervous.”
“Hmm? Oh, yeah every thing’s fine don’t worry. I’ll catch the bill on my way out”
And with that he took off. Lara looked at her watch and decided to start on her way as well. She walked back to the airlock where Jonathan was still on guard. “Leaving already Lara, you really should stay and take in the sites instead of jumping from station to station like that. But it may be more exiting what you do. My job is just to stay here and scan you guys in.”
“I may come back tomorrow, it’s my day off. I’d like to see all thin station has to offer. Hey do you know what’s up with Jacob? He’s acting kind of weird, it’s probably nothing but still, he’s so jumpy.”
“Sorry, I haven’t had many dealing with Jacob recently, but I can keep an eye on him if you’d like.”
She declined Jonathan’s offer saying again that it was nothing serious. She opened the first door to the airlock and entered the outer lock chamber. When she tried to open the ships door she noticed that it was locked. She pressed the comm. button and the pilot answered her saying, “Oh I’m sorry the lock doesn’t work from the outside, let me open it from out here, just a few seconds.”
Chapter 2 The Hand of Power
As Lara stood there waiting for the door to open she thought about what would happen if the ship wasn’t on the other side of the airlock and how the doors would open and she would be sucked out into space. She unconsciously backed to the other side of the lock and leaned up against the station entrance. Her backward motion caused her ID card to float in front of her face. She heard the ships door open and she pushed the card out from her sight, and then gasped at what she saw. Standing in the door way were four wild dogs, two with crossbows and two with tasers, and standing in the middle of them was a tall black fox who was holding a chrome pistol in his white, left paw.
He waved the gun and said, “Ah, so you must be the lovely Mrs. Lara, we meet at last. I bet your wondering who I am and what this is all about. Well to start off my name is Vilham Fleeze and the rest you will find out soon enough. Now do you know what I have in my hand here?”
“Yeah, that’s a gun.” She said shaking.
“That’s right a gun, .45 magnum to be exact, loaded with armor piecing rounds. Nasty little things tend to go right through people and station plating like it was never even there. If you don’t want to experience decompression first hand I suggest you do as I say, am I clear?”
“Oh yes, yes Mr. Fleeze I’ll do whatever, just don’t shoot that gun in here.” Lara said in a panic.
“Good girl now scan back into the station and we can start on our way.”
Lara slowly grabbed her card and pressed it to the computer screen which opened the door to the security check point. Jonathan, who was still on guard looked at Lara and said, “Is everything alright, oh shit….” Just then Lara heard a whoosh and clicking sound and saw Jonathan fly back to the opposite wall. Gripped in his paws and lodged deep in his chest was the object that had launched him a bolt from one of the crossbows. He coughed up deep red blood and then limply drifted to the back wall. Lara jumped out to Jonathan and her magnetic boots attached themselves to the ceiling.
“Now, now Lara, we can’t have you climbing on the roof every time someone dies, that may start to get annoying.”
“You didn’t have to kill him; he didn’t do anything to you.”
“Believe me woman if only one person dies today, you can call me a failure.” said Vilham coldly. He motioned to one of the wild dogs behind him who then walked up to Jonathan’s body and ripped the ID card from his neck. “Ok lady, you go with him and scan in.” said Vilham.
“Just why should I help you? What are you planning on doing anyway; steal an entire space station, this thing’s bigger that the state of Rhode Island, you can’t just hijack something like that.” Lara firmly said.
“Oh you foolish woman, that’s where your wrong, I can hijack this station in its entirety, and I will, with or without you cooperation. If you want a chance to make it back to Earth alive, I would suggest that you just do as I say and not ask too many questions, they try my patience so.” calmly said Vilham as he put the barrel of his gun against Lara’s nose.
“You crazy sonofabitch, you really think that you can get away with this. The NASA and the station owners will not allow you to steal the station.” yelled Lara.
• Vilham just laughed at Lara’s sudden rage and then pulled his gun’s hammer back with a clawed finger saying, “You’re being a very bad girl Lara; I think you need a time out.”
• Lara didn’t have much time to ponder what he meant by this because as soon as he finished she felt two needles embed themselves in her upper arm. Her thoughts were instantly dashed as rapid fire bursts of electricity shot though her body, causing her paws to clinch tightly, her vision faded and then everything turned black.
Chapter 3 Personnel Issues
Lara awoke in a daze and for a few moments could not recall what had happened. This sweet oblivion was soon shattered by the burning, throbbing pain in her arm that with each heart beat seemed to get worse. Her memory flooded back as she grabbed her bruised, knotted arm and for a few moments she just closed her eyes and wished to wake up from the nightmare.
“Good, you’re still alive.” said Vilham’s cold voice, “You woke up just in time to see my little firework show.”
Lara opened her eyes and realized that she was in the observation dome, a large glass semi-sphere adjacent to the control room that allowed visual monitoring of the rings and docking platforms. She was floating about five feet from the floor of the dome where Vilham was standing.
“Look to the docking arm and see what I have in store for this corrupt company.” Vilham said with sadistic glee as he pointed towards the platform arm.
The docking arm was a bundle of tubes half the diameter of the spindle that intersected the station through the middle. It had several small airlocks along its length and it was capped by a large airlock/loading platform. Lara looked and towards the middle of the arm, between two passenger shuttles was a small private space cruiser. Lara watched in horror as the small shuttle exploded taking with it the shuttles and a twenty foot section of the arm, causing it to separate from the rest of the station. A flash of light against the rings showed that the same thing had happened to the other side.
“Such a thing of beauty is it not. Three years of careful planning and everything is falling into place. Now no one can get in and no one can get out.” Vilham said, surprised by his own achievement.
“You are a madman; you blew the station’s wave breaks and auxiliary engines. Just what are you planning to do anyway, blow up the station piece by piece?”
Vilham flashed his gun again saying, “Woman, you try my patience, everything will be revealed in time. Now get down here and follow me to the control room.”
Vilham reached out and roughly grabbed Lara’s leg to pull her down. He then shoved her in front of him and pushed her along the short hallway to the control room. The room had been cleared of station staff, save for two people; the station commander and Jacob.
“Lara are you alright?” asked the commander.
“Yes sir, do you know what’s going on, where is everybody??” questioned Lara.
“Dead, they’re all dead. I’m sorry Lara.” answered Jacob.
Lara was puzzled by his apology and before she could ask what he meant Vilham answered the question.
“Sorry, why should you be sorry, you’ve been a great help, to me.” he said mockingly. He then turned to Lara and continued, “If it wasn’t for your friend here I never would have known you were in the station, and we never would have gotten airlock clearance.”
“Jacob, you traitorous bastard, how could you help this psycho. What were you thinking?”
“I needed the money. Next week I was going to be out of a job, how I’m I supposed to support my family. I didn’t know he was going to kill people, I thought he was just going to damage the station, shake up a few people.” stuttered Jacob.
“Well isn’t this lovely the traitor asking the betrayed for forgiveness. Unfortunately we don’t have time for all this sentimental crap. Woman get over to the thruster controls. It’s time to finish this.”
Vilham grabbed Lara by her jumpsuit and threw her against the computer console. He then walked over to the console and scanned Lara’s card. “Tell me woman how do you activate the main thrusters.”
“Main thrusters, why do you want access to them?” asked the station commander.
Vilham just ignored the commander and pressed a few buttons on the console. A grin came across his face as he reached for Lara again. “Hmm, this is easier that I thought. Just have to tell this thing where to fall…. Damn, it says I need to give a palm and retina scan so I hope you don’t mine if I use yours.”
Vilham grabbed Lara by the back of the neck and grabbed her left hand. He forced it open and pressed her paw on the computer screen. A small eye scanner raised out of the console. “Now are you going to behave or do I have to do this the hard way,” Vilham said in a disturbing voice.
“Don’t you hurt her, Vilham, you promised that you would not hurt her.” warned Jacob.
Vilham didn’t acknowledge Jacob’s warning and forced Lara’s head towards the scanner. Lara pushed as hard as she cold against the edge of the console. Just as Lara managed to push away from the scanner, Vilham thrust his thumb into Lara’s side causing her loose her grip on the console. Vilham shoved Lara’s head into the forehead rest with so much force that the scanner almost broke from its supports.
“Smile pretty for the camera. We wouldn’t want to have to go through this again, now would we?” mocked Vilham.
“I told you not to hurt her, I’m warning you.” Jacob said with added fervor.
Just as the scanner finished Lara felt Vilham’s grip on her neck loosen. Seeing an opportunity Lara kicked Vilham in the upper leg. As he stumbled backward Lara jumped up in an attempt to get away. As she jumped her foot caught the keyboard overhang of the console, this slowed her down just enough for Vilham to catch her foot as it passed. He pulled her back down so hard that he was lifted a few inches of the ground himself and Lara was sent crashing onto the top of the console crushing the scanner and cracking a few of her ribs. Lara gasped in pain, and before she knew what was happening Vilham had thrown her against the back of another console and was standing over her.
“Tsk, Tsk, Tsk. I’ve warned out time and again not to screw with me,” he said as he brought a heavy paw across her muzzle. “This is the final straw; I no longer have any need for you.” He continued striking her again, “You have been a very bad girl and must be dealt with accordingly.”
“Dammit Vilham I told you not to hurt her.” Jacob raged.
“Fuck off, you greedy sonofabitch. It’s a little late to be righteous.” Vilham growled. A sick, twisted smile grew on his face as another blow landed on Lara’s face. As Vilham crouched there beating Lara, Jacob sprinted towards him planting a powerful kick to Vilham’s side. Vilham flew about two feet and he lost his grip on his gun, which flew towards the ceiling. Jacob again ran towards Vilham, but this time Vilham was ready. He flicked out a switchblade and shoved it into Jacob’s stomach. Stunned, Jacob stood there as Vilham pulled his knife back and in a quick motion drew it across Jacob’s throat. He grabbed his neck as blood poured out and congealed into horrid red spheres. Jacob made a few gurgling sounds as he slowly crouched, blood clung to his fur, sharply contrasting its snow white color. Vilham, who seemed to have forgotten about Lara, calmly walked back to the orbit control console and typed a few commands saying to himself, “Hmmm, where should I land this thing, New Jersey, no not important enough, California, no. Ah, Washington D.C., that sounds like a good place. Not that it really matters this thing is so big I could devastate a quarter of the United States.”
Lara laid there watching Vilham, hating him. His beating left her barely able to move and only able to see out of one eye, but with that eye she saw it. Slowly rebounding off the ceiling was Vilham’s gun. As Vilham stood their talking to himself, Lara gathered the last of her strength and leapt towards the floating pistol. She yelped as pain shot threw her body, but she got to the gun before Vilham could turn his head. She pulled the trigger and the powerful recoil sent her flying back. She shot again and again, all three shots hitting Vilham, two in the leg and one in his chest. Vilham had not lied about the ammunition in the gun and the bullets continued going unhindered. Through Vilham, the console, and the station wall into empty space. The command center started to quickly depressurize, clipboards flew to the holes and before the decomp. packs blew; Vilham was sucked to the back wall. The packs blew releasing small rubber pads that covered two of the three holes; however, Vilham was pinned to the other and the command center continued to depressurize. The leak was slow enough that Lara didn’t have to worry about being sucked back, and she jumped back to the damaged orbital control console. What Lara saw horrified her; Vilham had fired the station retro rockets and started the station crashing to Earth. Even worse was that one of the bullets she had fired had damaged the keyboard. She looked around and saw on the giant screen that she had ten minutes to decide what to do until the station started entering the atmosphere. She tried the communications console but the screen had been shot out. She noticed how hard it was to breathe and thought, “The station may have ten minutes but I don’t think I have even five.”
Her ears dropped when she realized what she had to do, she slowly walked over to the main station controls and scanned her card. Without access to the thrusters and with no communication with Earth, she had only one option; break up the station before it entered the atmosphere. If the station was intact it would not burn up in the atmosphere and would hit the ground; however, if broken up it would mostly burn up and only small pieces would ever impact. This was the only option she had.
She entered the codes and started for the enter button, but then remembered the people onboard the station: residences, people going to and coming from moon bases, and tourists. At least six thousand people were currently on the station, all of whom would die if Lara pushed that button. She just floated there in front of the console staring at the unholy key. A popping sound broke her from the trance, one of the rubber pads had been sucked through the hole in the station. Lara could feel the air pressure drop but still could not bring herself to press the key. Finally she thought, “Dammit, Lara, if you don’t do this hundreds of thousands might die from the station impact.” Slowly she pressed her paw against the button. A few moments later the first explosion shook ht station, the far end of the spindle a section a quarter mile in length broke free from the station and separated into four pieces. Two more explosions and Lara started to black out, but before she lost consciousness she felt the large explosion of the first ring shutter the station. After that: darkness.