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[2009: JUL-AUG] Liberty Falls

Kali Nicholotti

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The glow of red reflected through the department eerily, sending chills down her spine. Though the alarm had been silenced, the deafening roar of the battle still raged. Around her, there was no hesitation as everyone rushed to their jobs, piecing together the dying ship in an attempt to keep her alive just long enough to evacuate. The world was spinning, and though she tried to keep her hands steady, they were refusing to cooperate in the growing darkness.

Coolant leaks were popping up around her, and the air was filling with the thick clouds of disaster. The system was going into overload, and soon would be beyond repair. The floor beneath her shuddered as the great ship took another barrage. The decks were parting, and in her mind, she knew that the shields had been brought down. It would not be much longer now.

“All hands, this is the Captain, abandon ship. I repeat, all hands, abandon ship.”

There was sadness in his voice, and it resonated through the very core of the ship. Her heart sank, and she looked up momentarily before she returned to the task at hand. It seemed as if the rest of the department had chosen the same course of action; if anyone could buy the rest of the crew time to escape, it would be the engineers. The deck under her feet shuddered again, this time bringing her to her knees, and in the darkness she could hear the walls tumbling down on those around her.

“We’re trapped!” cried a fearful voice. Looking in its direction, she was able to see the thin shape of one of the junior officers pointing just beyond the threshold of the room that housed the warp core. Running to her side, Jenna gasped as the smell and the sight reached her senses at the same time. Instinctively, she drew her arm up over her face, pulling the junior officer into her chest and walking backwards at the same time.

The heat from the flames licked at their faces as they moved further into the room to escape the blaze. Perhaps they had remained in the department too long…and for what? Was there anything else they could really do for the great beast that was falling to pieces around them? It was crying, the whine of melting and twisting metals rang through the decks; a final testament to its glory. The ship that had so faithfully protected the children inside from the harsh realities of space travel was screaming out its last, “Give me Liberty, or give me death!”

Still, those with cool enough heads remained at work, attempting to patch the leaks and bring the core back under control. Glancing at the readouts, however, Jenna knew that it was pure impossibility. Another heave of the floor, and her boots lost their footing just as a pair of strong hands wrapped around her waist. Together, the two bodies sought shelter in the eaves of what was left of the room. As the smoke cleared for a brief moment, she saw that there were only a handful of crew members left, and most of them too young to know what to do. Still, they stood tall, and in that moment she knew what had to be done.

A deafening silence fell across the ship; the barrage outside seemingly ceasing, at least for the moment. Her mind was racing. Just beyond the gauntlet of flames were the escape pods and every one of the officers and crewmen left deserved to live. As the chief, she knew it was her job to get them to safety, even if it meant…no, she refused to think of any other outcomes.

“All Engineering staff to me, NOW!” She yelled. Startled, the handful of crewmen that were left began making their way to where she was standing, gripping the wall rail near the main entrance. As the staff collapsed on her point, she looked frantically for one specific face, and she nearly fell apart when it did not appear. Looking from one young face to another, she knew somehow that she would never see her sister again.

It was at that moment her fears were banished. Death itself was clawing at those who were still barely hanging on to the last dangling threads of life, and she was determined to face it and beat it. She would make sure that the brave souls in the engineering department that day would make it out alive.

“Kale, take the girls and the fire suppression pack and run,” She was yelling to be heard over the new alarms that were sounding, “Get in the first pod you see and go.”

She watched for a moment as her friend and long time lover pulled four crewmen together and quickly gave them instructions. Their eyes met, and he knew that this would be their final parting. Running to meet her in what was left of the deck, his passion for her erupted as he brought her lips to his, kissing her hard and deep. Giving into the moment Jenna nearly lost herself in the embrace.

The deck below them buckled, and threatened to give way. He backed toward the flaming gauntlet that stood between the few crew members that were left and the escape pods. Gripping the railing once more, her eyes betrayed all of her emotions at once, flooding with the love and passions they had shared. Then, within a blink of her eyes, the flames in front of them swallowed the group.

Tears began to fall, and she fought hard to suppress them. Looking around her, she pulled together what was left of her engineering crew and quickly prepared them for the flight through the fire. The stench of melting metals and burning wires was growing stronger, threatening to strangle them before they could escape. The last junior officer stepped up to the threshold and took the lead. Jenna pulled up the rear, making sure that everyone was out.

She had taken a single step towards the flames when the metal plates shuddered again, sending her flying through the air only to smack against the wall with a sickening thud. The taste of blood filled her mouth as she tried to clear her vision enough to see where she had landed. The door was still in front of her, and she crawled towards it in an attempt to pull herself free of the tangle of wires and consoles. It was then that her hand brushed another uniform.

Her head snapped to the side and her already spinning mind took a dive for the worst. The blood soaked hair that fell around the uniform in next to her sent her into a frenzy. Putting two fingers on the officer’s neck, she could feel life still coursing through the veins.

“SASHA!” Her blood curdling scream swept through the empty compartment and echoed back to her in the deathly stillness that had taken the ship after the last upheaval. The eyes of the girl flickered open, and a small, weak smile spread across her face. She opened her lips to speak, but no sound came out.

Adrenaline kicked in, and Jenna was soon on her feet despite the growing feeling of vertigo. Dragging with every ounce of her strength, the girl, her sister, was soon free of the tangled mess. Her legs were visibly broken, and the white shards of bone protruded through the delicate white skin of the younger woman. She was fading, and doing so fast. Looking to the rising flames, Jenna knew that there was but one chance to make it for both of them. Lifting the girl on her back, she ran full speed into the blazing inferno.

Heat flooded across her body, fusing her once perfect uniform to her skin. The stench of her own burnt flesh quickly overtook her sense of smell, sending her stomach into knots. From all sides, there was nothing but a wall of fire and heat so intense that it was melting her boots. Weakness was taking her, and it was doing so rapidly. Burns were making it difficult to grip the woman on her back, and her skin itself seemed to be melting from her very bones. Pain shot through her small body and she pushed on, the punishment pummeling the few nerve endings she had left. Blood began to seep through the cracks in the burnt skin, and her breathing became more and more labored as her lungs tried to cope with the superheated air. She knew enough to realize that she was burning, both outside as well as in.

The escape pod hatches came into view as she involuntarily slowed even more, the pain and agony bringing her to her knees. Blinded by the heat, it was the knock back that she felt when hit with the fire suppression chemicals that clued her in to the help that was just beyond the fire. With the last of her waning strength, she heaved the smaller woman over her and pushed her in the direction of the man made wind. Hearing voices in the distance, she collapsed into the flames as the floor buckled and then dropped out from under her.

Somewhere, somehow, she could hear the loud hiss as the airlock pressurized and the last of the escape pods got away. Letting go of her fear, she fell as the ship imploded beneath her, flopping like a rag doll against whatever was left of deck floors and bulkheads. In the final moments of the flight of the Liberty, Commander Jenna Hart lay on what used to be a cargo bay. Her body was broken; nothing more than a bloodied heap lost within the twisted wreckage of her beloved ship. What remained of her limbs were bent at awkward angles on the mass of metal she had finally fallen on, and what was left of her skin and uniform were burnt and blackened. Through her unrecognizable, sightless eyes, which had been burned as well, she envisioned the last glimpse of the stars that she had called her home for so many years.

Far above her, the flames from the gauntlet rose higher and higher until the great ship could simply take no more abuse. Having reached a critical stage, the great heart finally exploded; the core breaching and sending the ashes of the ship, as well as her loyal children into the vacuum of space.

Jenna, content in knowing that her duty had been completed, felt the agony vanish as her life instantaneously become nothing more than a memory.

Edited by KNicholotti
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