“They’re coming in hot Captain.”
Blaz was watching the old scope, a worthless heap of junk that predated anything more advanced than firing a laser out into space and timing how long it took to come back. The thing didn’t even pick up AIS tags.
And right now it was showing a shadow. A pretty freaking big shadow. Something was closing in on them.
“Just hold steady. Hold her steady. Could be they’re just a refinery running quiet,” Geary said.
He’d been running this tug for a decade. Hauling the kind of stuff people needed quickly and quietly. He didn’t ask what or why and in return he made more credits than he would have picking up stranded ice haulers.
“Yeah and maybe it’s Sinterklaas on his way to Neptune,” Blaz said.
“We getting inspected again?”
Kara drifted in from the hatchway. Above or below lost distinction in space. Down was where gravity pulled you but the moment you cut the engines and lost acceleration down was whatever you stuck a magboot to. You could always tell who was born at the bottom of a gravity well and who was born (or at least spent most of there youth) in zero-gee by how they drank.
A ground-pounder, they take a sip and they put the drink down. Only they don’t really think about it. Sip, sit. Sip, sit. In space, for one, you don’t drink beer. Spirits maybe, but beer is too bubbly. You can’t burp without gravity. It’s one of life’s little ironies. So you sip, from a little bulb that looks like a plastic nipple so nothing leaks out, and then you just let go.
The bulb, it floats there, until you knock it one way or another. Newton’s first law in action. You take a tablet or a bulb or a five hundred kilo piece of engine shielding and you just leave it there. Floating.
All of this was a roundabout way of saying, the rules on the ground don’t count for shit once you’re past the Kármán line.
“No. Pincer shadow. Blaz is scared,” Geary said.
Kara said it with her usual matter-of-fact delivery, but Geary could hear the tremble in her voice. The same way she’d been on their first run. They’d got through that, they could get through this.
“What are vamps?” a new voice piped up.
“Nothing for you to worry about little one,” Geary said, before Blaz could open his mouth and ruin the kids dreams.
“I want to know.”
Blaz took in a breath but Kara elbowed him, hard, and he shut his trap. Geary sighed and looked at the scope. There were no windows on the bridge but that was because they were nestled in the heart of the ship. It didn’t make sense to put your most valuable control point on the skin of the ship especially when everything was viewed and controlled by fibre.
You didn’t want to make it too easy for them to get in.
“In space, there are two things you need. You’ve gotta have heat and you’ve gotta have air. So say you’re a mean nasty pirate, you don’t want to have a big fight, risk punching holes in bulkheads and suits.
“So you just suck the life out of a ship.”
Geary wondered how much detail to go into but realised anything he didn’t say Blaz would be more than happy to fill in, with the added bonus of detailing every gore effect it had on the human body.
“Vampires. They’re called that because they latch on and they suck the life right out of the ship. They take the O2 until the scrubbers are pumping nitrogen. When the crew is nice and docile, they crank on the heat exchangers. They take out the cooling panels.”
“I thought you said they want to make it cold?”
“Oh they do. But to do that they’d have to take out the primary and secondary gennies, shut down power. No one of doing that without going inside. No, you see ships make a lot more heat than they need. And it’s really hard to get rid of that heat when your only method is radiating it away. Most of our hull is one big heatsink.
“You take out the cooling panels and before long the ship starts to get hot. The crew, probably curled up with emergency regulators by this point, have a choice. Boil to death as every deckhead turns into a giant hotplate or shut down the generators.
“It’s just a matter of time.”
“They’re moving on,” Blaz said, still watching his scope. “They’re moving on.”
“Don’t worry kid,” Kara said.
Prompt originally posted by alexshatberg on reddit and received 2 upvotes.