Thursday, 12 January 2017

Icarus (part 2)

"That's a red giant." Clio whispered, her repetition achieving nothing. The sentiment had already spread and they all basked in their terror and the crimson glow.
Avksenity backed away from the window, as if he didn't want to risk instant vaporisation. There was no preventing such an unfortunate event, however. If they got too close, all the Pardium in the Cosmos couldn't stop them from turning instantly to ash.
"How close are we to it?" Po whispered, clambering up and looked towards the sun. She shielded her eyes, not because it was bright- although it was- but because she didn't want to consider it.
"More than one Astronomical Unit." Clio said. "That's one hundred and fifty million kilometres in old money."
"How do you know that?" Po whispered. She didn't know why her voice was becoming quieter, perhaps out of reverence for the situation they were in.
"You have to be at least one AU away from a red giant to avoid incineration and we're not dead yet." Clio replied. "I remember stuff, it's my thing."
"Remember how we got here?" Po asked. "That'd be real handy."
"Arguments will solve nothing." Avksenity said, creeping back over to the window and allowing Whizzer to close it once more.
"What're you doing, big guy?" Po shouted. "You scared of the sun?"
"No." Avksenity replied as the window closed, banishing the light. "But Lourdauds find extreme light painful, don't they, Luna?"
Luna, who hadn't been able to see since the window had first opened the window, nodded gratefully. A massive, unmoving caterpillar of glowing light covered her view but a few blinks managed to slay it. "Very painful."
"Oh. Sorry lass." Po said and itched her fur. "Right then. I think we have four questions we need to answer."
"Only four?" Clio frowned. "I can think of at least twelve."
"They're rather general questions." Po said. "Question one: Who are you all? Question two: How did we get here? Question three: Who put us here? Question four: What are we going to do about it?"
Avksenity raised his hand. "I think we should revise those questions. Question three and two are basically the same. I think it would make more sense to insert a new question four in the theme of: How long do we have to do something?"
"I don't think the questions we're asking is the important thing here, Av. I think that it's more of a case of answering them." Po said. "But point taken. Now, question one. Who are we?"
"You said you were an astromech." Clio said. "I'm a clerk. What do you two do?"
"I'm a droid tech." Avksenity said. "Luna?"
"I don't know." She frowned. "It hasn't come back yet."
"Lourdauds are statistically more vulnerable to Antimnem Patches." Clio pointed out.
Po raised her fluffy white eyebrows. "How can you remember that but not why we're here?"
"I hate Antimnem Patches." Clio whispered, then said, "I don't know how we got here but I have a theory about the other two questions. If we could get that trap door open, Po could probably fit in and fix the computer to turn us around."
"How long do we have left?" Luna asked.
"I reckon, from the heat of the walls, about twenty, thirty minutes at most." Clio said. "I worked on a Solar Harvester once and they taught me how to recognise the heat traces. Thirty minutes, if that."
"We better move quickly then." Po said. "Av, can you give me Whizzer to take up with me? I'm going to need tools."
Avksenity looked at his feet and then shook his head. "I can't. Whizzer... he's, part of me."
"He's a droid." Po said. "I get people are attached to the silly beggars but still. Share, matey."
"No, I can't." Avksenity sighed. "Look, I, oh Gods, I've never admitted this."
"What is it?" Luna asked. Clio, whose internal circuitry was designed to detect alterations in the visible emotional states of her surrounding counterparts, noticed something she suspected was shame beginning to consume the droid technician.
"I was a soldier, in the Falout Civil War." His voice faltered, that powerful confidence beginning to waver. "I was on the winning side, before you begin panicking and thinking I'm some sort of aristocratic, self obsessive, out of touch monster. It was after the ambush, the Crown had fallen, every man for himself. The coalition government, having deserted the Crown, were hauled up in a bunker beneath the Pantriatic Mountains. We launched a creeping barrage and then the men crept behind, the idea being that we would enter the blown open bunker and take out any survivors. I was one of the generals leading, in an old Oyweian battle tank that'd been 'liberated' from a museum. It was all going to the plan, tank hovering across the remains of the field and then..."
The way his voice trailed off was spooky. It gave Luna the shivers, conjuring images of a legion marching through the smoke and mist of a war torn landscape, there one second, lost in the mist the next.
"What happened?" Clio asked. Her reassurance filters were fully at play, suggesting she reached up and patted his shoulders. She did just that.
Avksenity said nothing. "One of the missiles hadn't exploded. Our hover pads detonated it. The ship, it was torn apart. Erupted the nuclear drive in the process. Every soldier for a twenty mile radius was vaporised, turned to nothing more than radiated ash. Apart from me. I was sat in the pilot's chair, so I was insulated from the full force of it. I landed but in one piece, except for the shard of metal that had sliced through my body. I lost an arm when they dug me up." A tear trickled down his cheek. "I was kept in a decontamination vault for three years. They only let me out when I stopped glowing. Patched me up and stuck a bionic arm on me, controlled by a motor connected to my back, the rest of me kept alive by life support stored in the same area. I've spruced him up since, little Whizzer, but still." His left hand reached over and patted the right. "They grew it, most realistic than any prosthetic before it, but it's still just silicon. My real arm died, like all those..." his voice tipped over the edge and there was no recovery, "all those poor, poor boys."
There's something powerful in watching anyone cry, Clio supposed. She wasn't the type to experience emotion but she could understand it. To see someone as big and powerful, to see someone so used to power and command, crumble before her very eyes... it made her emotional sensors indicate sadness.
Luna padded over to him and draped her arms around him. "They didn't die because of you."
He said nothing.
She hugged him a little tighter and whispered, "And we're not going to either. Save us, General. This is your chance."
He took a deep inhale and shrugged her away, wiping the tears from around his eyes. "Po, I can survive for ten minutes without Whizzer working as life support. We'll get the door open, you'll get in there, and then we'll take Whizzer off. Do you understand what I'm saying?"
Po nodded. "We're going to have to be quick."
Avksenity clambered up and followed Po over to the ladder. The small, furry one clambered up and gave the trapdoor a shove. It didn't quite move so Avksenity dropped the cable from the bottom and handed it up to Po to use. An attachment folded out of the multitool and began to plasma cut through the metal, until the panel was loose and Po was able to use it. Then Avksenity took a very deep breath and pressed a button hidden beneath his shirt. Whizzer detached, the right arm going slack, and Luna carried it over to Po.
"Ten minutes." Avksenity said. "Any longer and I die."
"Any longer and we all die." Po said, and then scuttled away into the inner workings of the ship.

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