I originally wrote this piece two years ago for a colleague. I was trying to convince them to begin watching the TV show (The Expanse), and they had the idea for me to write a short story in-universe that would sway them into checking it out. They ended up enjoying it, and after digging the story back up, I figured I'd post it here.
My skills have likely improved over the years, but if something does seem like it could be changed, feel free to let me know. Always possible I haven't noticed potential for improvement.
A metallic shriek sprang out from the opening bay doors. For a few scant moments, the high pitched cry of old, grinding metal rang out through the room before being smothered by the void. On the opposite side of the door, the endless expanse of vacuum quickly began to drag the last pockets of air out into the cosmos. While barely any, there was enough for the crew to feel a slight drag towards the door. Lee realised that had the airlock functioned correctly, there would have been no atmosphere left at all.
“I thought we had this bay fixed back at Ceres?” inquired Lee, his impatience more than noticeable.
Jacobs, current engineer aboard the Torri, hammered his transmit button. “W-we did, sir! I had that jamming problem fixed the moment after touchdown. Door opened like a charm!”
Lee spun round to face him, furrowed brow lit up by the lamp situated on top of his helmet. The angle of the golden glow accentuated a more grim visage than usual. “I know about the damn door, I’m talking about the vents.” By the look of confusion he received from Jacobs, he could tell it wasn’t even covered. Or noticed for that matter. “I’m more worried about getting blasted halfway to fucking Pluto than I am about waiting an extra minute for the doors to open. Get it handled after we’re done.”
With that, Lee turned face and started marching. The magnetic locks on Lee’s boots clicked into place with each careful step, accompanied by a loud thud reverberating up through his suit. Behind him, Jacobs sheepishly plodded along in close formation, Gray not far behind. Outside the airlock, the umbilical stretched out over twenty meters in front of them. Inside, a long ladder and series of rails extended between the two vessels. The outer casing, comprised of a mesh similar to the thick bars on a cage, stirred and flexed ever so slightly as the the two attached ships drifted in imperfect synchronisation.
Leading the group, Lee hitched himself to the rails inside the umbilical and disengaged his magnetic locks. Angling himself horizontally, he took hold of the ladder and began to shuffle forward, taking notice of the small flecks of debris now floating through the exposed, cage-like tunnel. A number of telltale vibrations skittering through his gloves gave him indication enough of a few larger pieces bouncing off the outside of the umbilical.
From what he could see of the nearby vessel along the climb, large chunks of the outer hull had been either blown clean off, or ruptured straight through. Towards the rear of the freighter, a large gaping hole revealed the stars behind it.
“They were pumped hard, boss,” commented Gray through the crackled comms. “Some of those holes are heavy caliber. Bigger than a gunship, looks like.”
That was worrying.
“Earth or Martian?” Lee replied, trying to gauge the likelihood of ending up like the wreckage in front.
“No clue, eh. Common Earth shipping lane, but it ain’t like Martians to shred a freighter and run. They’re more the boarding type.”
Running into a trigger happy MCRN warship was not a thought he’d like to entertain. With the current breakdown in relations between Mars and Earth, he doubted it would be a situation he could talk his way out of. This close to Jupiter, a Donnager-class could be on its way.
Having reached the end of the tunnel, Lee began to examine the airlock door. The outside panel was dead, as was the interior. Completely untouched, but then again there was no need to board through the airlock. They had cutting tools for just this occasion, but the mysterious aggressors had left a much easier method of entry.
“Door’s dead, we’re going through that hole in the side,” announced Lee, swinging his arm out to the left.
“Oh, uh, are you sure we should do that?” Jacobs replied, trying to appease the decision. “That section could collapse in on us, or our suits could be shredded by debris, or- or-”.
“Oh, uh, get your knickers unbunched,” remarked Gray, prodding Jacobs ego. “Or are you so shit-scared you need me to hold your hand?”
Had they been face to face, Gray would have enjoyed seeing Jacob’s face grow all flustered. Despite the insult, Jacobs appeared to remain silent. The lack of a witty or, rather, unplanned retort indicated that he was heated enough to have forgotten to hit the transmit button. Complaining to himself inside his own suit, she thought.