Trevyr sat on the bed in his cabin, his eyes on the monitor that hung on the wall across from him. Sweat trickled down his forehead in the abnormally warm and muggy cabin. The space station, once a barely visible pinprick on the screen, had grown in size to the point where he could make out every detail. It was not unlike other space stations he had visited; an outer ring structure rotated around a stationary central axis, providing its residents with gravity. The hangar was located within the axis of the ship, the entrance at the bottom of the axis.
He leaned forward and wiped the sweat from his forehead with his sleeve. Life support was already on its last legs and he prayed there was enough air for him to reach the station alive. It was, after all, his only hope.
It was time. He stood up and returned to the cockpit. He strapped himself in while his eyes scanned the various screens for the current condition of his vessel. His fingers danced over the controls one final time as the autopilot finalized the docking handshake and prepared slip through the hangar opening and dock. Reflexively, he tapped the fuel gauge one more time, as he had done a hundred times since his failed jump dumped him in this godforsaken solar system. There was no point, of course. Fuel didn’t magically appear out of nowhere.
It was his own fault, he knew that. A typo with the coordinates he entered into the jump sequence had thrown everything off course and it hadn’t taken long for him to realize that his attempt to save a few credits by not filling up the fuel for the jump engine had been a fatal mistake. When his initial scan for the nearest populated structure had come up empty, he had almost fainted as the realization had set in that he was truly lost. It was only after a modified scan picked up the navigational beacon of this station that hope had made a hesitant return.
As he waited for the ship to dock, he once again tried to make a voice connection with traffic control but he was once again met with silence. It wasn’t surprising. He knew the comms on his rustbucket was unreliable and he had made the conscious choice to live with it, against his better judgment. His wallet of credits had agreed with his decision at the time. Now, all the credits in the universe couldn’t improve his situation.
The ship and the station came together in a cold, shaky embrace, metal against metal, as the ship settled down on the landing pad. Metallic claws locked down the ship and then the whole landing pad was lowered into a hangar. A docking tunnel extended from a side wall and connected to the external airlock of his ship.
Trevyr unbuckled his seatbelt and took the ladder to the airlock in fewer steps than he ever had before. He quickly suited up in an enviro-suit, breather and made sure the flashlight was charged. It was time to say hello to his saviors. With his hand on the button that opened the outer door of the airlock, he hesitated. The station, only identified by the number 17 in its publicly broadcast ID, was not present in his database. Neither was the solar system he was in. There had also been zero signs of life from the structure he was just about to enter. What if it was empty? What if it was abandoned?
He banished the thought as soon as it entered his mind but he couldn’t shake the churning feeling in his stomach and the tightness in his chest. He took a deep breath and forced himself to focus. He slapped the button. The door slid open with a hiss and he took a tentative step into the dark tunnel. Bright, recessed lights flickered to life above him as he followed the tunnel to a large bulkhead door. D1 was painted in large, red letters on it. Dock 1, perhaps? A small window let him peek through to the other side. There was darkness lit up only by flashing orange lights. No sign of life. He felt his chest tighten further.
The controls next to the door contained the unlocking mechanism. He easily tapped through several key sequences until he was rewarded with a hissing noise as the door slid open, sluggishly, like the thick metal vault door of a safe. After a moment’s hesitation, he stepped across the threshold and waited while the door behind him shut. Just ss in the tunnel, the lights came on automatically, revealing an empty arrival area filled with several rows of empty chairs. Trash and papers were strewn all over the place, a thin layer of dust covering everything. At this point, the joy he had felt when he first had discovered the beacon of the station was long gone, replaced by increasing dread.
Signs on a pillar advised of the directions for the various compartments. Crew quarters, the bridge, exercise areas and food court. He started with the crew’s quarters. Empty, as if the occupants had left in a hurry, grabbing only the necessities. Clothing and other personal items littered each room.
He continued to the bridge. As the door slid open, he was greeted with silence. His approach to the controls caused panels to flicker to life around him, full of angry flashing alarms. What he assumed to be the captain’s chair embraced him as he sat down and tentatively touched the screen in front of him. A message flashed lazily across the screen in red letters.
LIFE SUPPORT CRITICAL – EVACUATION COMPLETED – SHUTDOWN IN PROCESS
He felt a chill run down his spine and sat straight up in his bed, his shirt drenched in sweat, his heart pounding the inside of his chest like a jackhammer.
A hand touched his arm. “Honey, are you alright?” a sleepy voice to his left asked him. “Nightmare again?”