Children Of Earth (Tales from the 23rd Century Book 1)

By: Paul J. Fleming

Glancing over towards her he held up both his hands in her direction to encourage both patience and his desire for her to just wait for a moment as he turned his gaze to the store room. There was a sinking feeling as his sight took in the shelving running unbroken about the three walls facing him and for a brief moment he experienced a sense of panic that they had just sealed themselves into a dead end.

It made no sense. Why put an airlock system in a sealed room? In a sudden flash of realisation he noticed the air was definitely very thin within the room and his helmet was still firmly grasped in his right hand. Gesturing for Maia to follow his example, he raised it upwards he slipped the transparent helmet over his head and it soon made an automatic seal with the collar of his smart suit, micro circuitry establishing contact and his suit systems establishing a pressurised environment to protect him from the lack of atmosphere externally. Albeit safe for the time being, without the provision of air tanks to connect into the suits’ systems they both had a very limited amount of time in which the suit could cycle the emergency supply before they would be forced to emerge from the depressurised room and into the waiting arms of the Martians, who by now would have gained access to the kitchen area only to be frustrated once more by the sealed pressure doors. Pulling on the protective gloves he retrieved from his jacket pocket, he pushed away the negative thoughts in his mind as the gloves made a seal with the cuffs of his jacket. An idle glance over to Maia told him she had followed his lead too, now fully contained in a limited protected environment. It would suffice for the moment.

Almost instinctively he glanced upwards, more out of frustration than expectation, but the sight of the large hinged hatch set within the roof of the room almost made him physically jump for joy. This was tempered at his apparent stupidity for not realising that delivery ships would simply establish a stationary orbit above the store room and lower the crates of supplies down into the room without any of the crew having to disembark to manhandle the delivery. The staff of the diner would then be tasked with opening and storing the goods on the shelving about them once the room re-pressurised after the delivery was complete.

The problem they now faced was that there was no need from within the store room to have a detailed control panel. Just a simple pressurise/depressurise over-ride control for safety requirements. The main panel with the more detailed controls, including the opening of the roof hatch, was now on the other side of the sealed doorway within the kitchen area.

Moving from his secluded position to the side of the now closed doorway, Maddox moved to the large observation window set within the double doors. Maybe there was a fleeting chance their pursuers had given up on following their quarry and were exiting via the customer entrance in expectation of the potential escape route Maddox and Maia had chosen. His hopes were dashed as he found himself staring into the face of a rather amused looking Martian trooper who simply waved at him through the transparent alloy view port and then pointed upwards, indicating that he wished Maddox to look in that direction.

They were annoyingly confident and the resounding clunk and grinding noise which began from above Maddox’s head signified that they had begun the process of opening the outer hatch set into the roof. That meant they had obviously arranged a reception party to be present up above for when the two fleeing targets tried to emerge. Frustration began to take hold over his thoughts as he heard Maia almost pleadingly asking him what they were going to do now.

The simple fact was he was running short on ideas.

Out of that frustration and a further act of defiance, Maddox grabbed one of the foam fire extinguishers which was sat on the floor to his left by the door pillar and pulled the release pin, bringing the hose upwards and then squeezing the trigger to liberally coat the observation window with thick gloopy foam. He decided he’d rather not have his impending capture watched and gloated over by the Martians in the kitchen, at least he could deny them that small pleasure.

The pressurised jet of foam streamed out and covered the window and door as desired, but the resultant pressurised stream caused Maddox to be pushed backwards with surprising force into the centre of the store room. As he released the trigger, he gazed down at the container and then upwards at the now rapidly opening gap above them both. It would not be long before whatever reception the Martians had waiting for them was sprung into action. However, even though there was artificial gravity plating in the body of the Diner itself, the store room did not seem to be outfitted with it and subsequently they were subject to the very meagre limited natural gravity the asteroid exuded as it spun around on its travel through the belt. Above him, he could see the blackness of space scattered with a myriad of pinpricks of light from the multitude of stars in the universe.

‘Maia, grab that extinguisher from over there and come over to me quickly. We’ll only get one shot at this,’ he urged her intently over the open comm. channel of his helmet.

‘Captain,’ chimed in another voice over the open channel. ‘I have been monitoring your situation with regard to your unexpected guests and presently am moments away at high velocity. There is a naval patrol vessel standing off the Diner’s location at station keeping which I am just starting to receive identification requests from as I continue my approach. We have to assume they intend to intervene should I refuse to respond, which I have done so far. I fear that making ground-fall for any period of time may prove difficult under these circumstances.’