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Random Fiction #2 – 121618

“Uh, oh…” crackled a nervous voice through the earpiece.

“Uh, oh, what???” Panzer asked. “Now is not the time for ‘uh, oh,'” he said. Wise words considering he dangled dangerously high above the deck of a carrier in the furthest reaches of space outside the Denham system.

“Nothing,” Crisp said, his three remaining fingers tapping nervously on the smooth frosted glass console in the mission control room aboard the Neielenham, a new model Cambridge class destroyer. The ship launched with much pomp and circumstance from Cape Canaveral two weeks prior, rushed into service before the USSS Navy ironed out all the kinks.

Panzer took a deep breath, feeling the air from the spare oxygen tank kick in as his main supply ran low. He'd completed his assigned mission minutes before, sneaking onto the carrier from some new enemy and pulled the data files and got back out without a scratch. All he had left to do was get back to the Neielenham and deliver the goods.

Panzer took another deep breath. The sounds of Crisp's furry fingers tapping rhythmically echoed like cannon fire in his ear. He'd worked with Crisp long enough to know when something wasn't right. And now something seriously wasn't right.

“Gotta give me a little more love there, Sparky,” Panzer said. “I'm running low on go-go juice, and my jet pack wasn't designed for hover mode. You gotta get me back to the ship ASAP.”

“Um…Roger that,” Crisp said. He also took a deep breath and felt the beads of sweat beginning to form on his brow. He ran his massive right hand with its stubby, hair covered fingers, through his mane of crimson hair. The bone-white tips remained in the air, the low gravity allowing the impossible.

Crisp leaned over and stretched his arm to reposition the third monitor for a better look. He wasn't sure what was going on, but something with the warp coupler caused the teleport module offline. He swiped past multiple screens, scanning through hundreds of lines of code for the culprit. The clock ticked as Panzer waited not very patiently to get back on board and out of the void.

“OK, guess I'll just hang out here,” Panzer said, crossing his left leg in front of his left as if standing on a street corner waiting for a bus back on Earth. “I'm really hoping those jasperriks don't notice the data manipulation hack I just pulled before you get done with whatever it is you're doing.”

Panzer crossed his arms and tapped his white-gloved fingers on the back of his arm. He glanced looked at the digital display strapped to his left wrist. The bars representing the remaining oxygen tank danced around with his every breath. “That's not supposed to happen,” he thought. He tapped the sapphire crystal casing, hoping to jar it back to work.

The sight of a man in a white space suit loitering above a massive star cruiser looking like he's nervously awaiting rescue in the wrong part of town would have been comical if it weren't so deadly serious.

“I'd love to say I have all the time in the world, but I really don't,” Panzer said. “You got me hanging out to dry here, and I'm about to wither away, with my insides sucked out from the vacuum of space.”

“Almost there,” Crisp said, swiping through screens as fast as the system allowed.

“Oh, so there is something wrong?” Panzer asked. “I mean, I knew there was when I didn't teleport right away, but I was giving you the benefit of the doubt.”

He took another deep breath as he watched the bars of the oxygen dwindle further on his wrist display. “My tanks are about empty, so I'm going to stop talking now and just hold my breath for as long as I can.” He inhaled deeply as the warning lights flashed on the display.

Panzer closed his eyes and relaxed. He'd learned in SEAL training to calm himself and not panic when missions went south, and this mission was going south in a hurry. He thought back to his last night on Earth the week before. His mouth watered at the thought of the 36-ounce, 49-day dry-aged porterhouse he'd devoured with delight. He washed it down with a bottle of Robert Hall old-vine zin from Paso Robles. And realized how alone he'd been, much like his current situation.

The first display to Crisp's left flashed a yellow warning as the systems in Panzer's suit shut down one by one. “Hang in there, buddy, we're almost there,” Crisp said.

After a quick glance out of the corner of his left eye, he found the errant code out of the corner of his right. He double-tapped the display to bring it up in the middle monitor. His fat fingers flew over the keyboard to quash the bug and install a quick fix.

It was too late.

The video feed in the overhead display showed Panzer's motionless body as his oxygen supply ran down to zero. In an instant, Panzer disappeared from the screen as the teleportation module kicked in.

The warning lights on Crisp's left monitor switched from flashing yellow to solid red. His eyes grew wide, and his lips quivered as he processed his failure. He stared at the comm link to the right of the keyboard, hesitating to make the call. He scrunched his eyes tightly as he tapped the call button.

“Um, Captain, we have a problem.”

Copyright © 2018 Chad V. Holtkamp.

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Niketh Vellanki

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