Stars Passing By will tell the story of Tripp and Rosie, two of the original characters from my Starship fanfic Learning to Dance. You can find parts 1-3 here.
He knew they were all dead the moment he arrived. They had to be. Sickbay was unrecognizable, and far too quiet. The lights flickered, casting eerie shadows on the broken machines and overturned examination tables. Pristine white was now charred black, and Tripp was nearly overpowered by the sickening stench of smoking human meat.
His stomach clenched.
His soldier’s instincts kept him on his feet, kept him moving. This section of the ship had not yet had their shields restored, and the robots must have known, must have had sensors to tell them that. He hadn’t been quick enough. He’d failed them.
He’d failed her.
Bile rose in his throat, but he forced it down and kept walking, rounding the corner into surgery and stopping in his tracks.
A hole big enough for a Bird of Prey to fly through had been blown in the side of the ship. Tripp was staring out at space, at the stars. And he was perfectly fine. But how?
And then he saw it, the faint greenish glow, a trail, leading from the gaping hole to a sinister-looking ship that was close and getting closer.
“It’s a transport,” he said aloud, finally understanding. “They don’t have the weapons to finish us off, so they’re sending in the troops.”
Tripp nearly dropped his zapper.
“Hello?” The voice that called was faint, and shaking, and most definitely alive.
And it was hers.
She coughed again, and he followed the sound until he found her on the other side of the room, eyes closed and half-buried under a pile of medical debris. He dropped to his knees, staring, hardly daring to believe what he was seeing.
“Rosie! It’s me, Tripp.” Come on, say something, you’re alive, you have to be-
She opened one eye, slowly. “Tripp?”
She’s alive. She’s okay. “I’m going to get you out of here, you hear me, Rosie? Just hang on.”
He started to move the rubble that had her trapped as carefully as he could, trying not to hurt her. Rosie watched him, dully, with confusion. Her face was black with soot and her hair burnt at the edges, but it didn’t matter, because she was alive.
“There was an explosion?” she asked, her voice raw, but getting a little stronger. She coughed again.
“Direct hit, without shields. There’s a hole in the side of the ship the size of Farm Planet. The robots are keeping it stable with a tractor beam.”
“The robots,” she echoed blankly.
Tripp pulled the last piece, a large slab of table, off of her and went very still.
“What is it?” she said.
The scrubs she was wearing were supposed to be a pale green, Tripp knew that. But the right leg of her pants was torn and soaked a dark, blackened red. So very much red.
She saw it now, too, and looked at her leg with some surprise. Then she looked at him. Her eyes were growing clearer.
“Cut it off, then,” she said.
He pulled the knife from his utility belt and sliced the material away, wincing as he pulled it from the sticky wound revealed on the front of her thigh. It looked deep, and as he looked closer, he thought he could see the jagged edge of something purple and glowing in the middle of it, nearly masked by her congealing blood.
“Dammit,” said Rosie, and he looked up. “The warp reactor. The auxiliary one that powers our equipment. It must have blown.” She gasped a little as she tried to sit up. He put his hand on her back to support her.
“That’s a shard of warp crystal in your leg,” he said.
“That’s right,” she said, like he’d just answered a question correctly on a test. “How long since the explosion?”
“Then we don’t have much time,” she tilted her head back, looking around. “There! See that black box? It’s a medical kit -”
He was back at her side with it in seconds, casting a worried glance at the tractor beam. The robot transport seemed closer now. She was right, they didn’t have much time at all.
Rosie was tying the sodden scrap of her pant leg tightly around her thigh. “Right,” she said. “This won’t be by the book, but-”
Was she going to operate on herself? Right now? “What are you going to-”
“If we don’t get this shard out I am going to die of radiation poisoning, and I’m going to die fast,” she said, much more calmly than anyone should ever say that sort of thing. She pulled a couple of frightening metal instruments and a flat wooden stick out of the box. “You’re going to get it out of me.”
“Everyone else – they’re dead, aren’t they?”
There might have been tears in her eyes, but it was hard to tell in the flickering light. “I think so,” he said, quietly. The smell of death was all around them.
“Then it’s got to be you, hasn’t it?” she said, and she was definitely crying now. “Or else you’re going to lose the only doctor you have left.”
He took the instruments from her, and looked at her helplessly. “I thought I had lost you already.”
She bit her lip, and blinked very fast. “Not yet,” she said, with half a smile, and put the stick in her mouth, between her teeth. “Do it!” she said, her words distorted.
Tripp had been a soldier for more than a decade. He’d seen his share of battles, and battle was always bloody, but this was something else entirely. Her leg quivered as he dug into the wound, following her instructions, delicately pushing aside scalded, blackening flesh to find the crystal shard. She went suddenly white, and he stopped, feeling like he was going to be sick.
“You’re not going to faint on me, are you?” she said around the stick, through gritted teeth. Sweat was forming on her brow. “You’re almost there.”
He found it, pinched it tightly, pulled. Rosie cried out as the shard slid from her flesh. Blood gushed anew, and, feeling quite woozy, he pressed a whole roll of gauze from the kit to it with one hand and held up the pulsing purple shard with the other.
“And you do this for a living?” he said, relieved to see the colour starting to return to her cheeks.
“It’s not usually quite this dramatic,” she gasped.
He bound up the wound as best he could, following her instructions, and chucked the dangerous crystal shard as far from them as possible.
“The transport ship is getting closer all the time. We’ve got to get out of here. Did they install a radio in here yet?”
“Yes,” she said, as he helped her stand, shakily. She felt lighter than he expected in his arms. “There – by the scanner.”
He made sure she was stable on her feet, leaning on an overturned x-ray machine, before moving to the radio.
“Lieutenant Tripp to the bridge, repeat-”
“Tripp!” Up’s voice sounded relieved. “What’s the situation down there?”
Tripp explained the hole in the ship, the robot transport. “They’re going to board as soon as they dock, we’re going to need reinforcements down here asap-”
“Any survivors, Tripp?”
He paused. “One.”
“It’s Rosie, Up.” He coughed, so that she wouldn’t hear the tremor in his voice. “It’s Rosie.”
Rosie was half-listening to Tripp on the radio as she surveyed the room. It couldn’t be sickbay, not her careful, gleaming workplace. Not this war zone. Not this crematorium.
And she couldn’t truly be the only one left. Faces streamed past her vision, faces she’d grown accustomed to over the last six months aboard the Eagle. Wise faces, harried faces. Young, old. Living faces. Nothing but ash.
No, she couldn’t be the only one. She couldn’t.
A medical scanner lay discarded amidst the rubble. She picked it up and turned it on, and as the screen flickered to life her heart became a sloppy puddle of racing hope.
“Tripp!” she called. “There’s someone else still alive in here!”
Still on the radio, he turned to look at her. His eyes showed surprise, relief, a million other things she couldn’t quite define. Her grip on the x-ray machine began to slacken.
“I’ll send reinforcements,” Lieutenant-Commander Up’s voice came through the radio. “You get anyone who’s left out of there, understand?”
“Yes, sir,” said Tripp, and then he was at her side. She held out the scanner and leaned against him, grateful for the support, for his strength, his warmth.
“Four life signs,” she said, through the fog trying to overcome her. “There are two others, Tripp! Two others still alive!”
“You stay here,” he said. “I’ll find them, and then we’re getting the hell out of here.”
She nodded, and gripped the x-ray machine as tightly as she could. She was still loosing blood, and she was weak. Tripp hesitated.
“Go!” she said, putting all the strength she didn’t have into her voice. “Find them – I’ll be fine.”
He gave her a long look before turning away, those dangerous eyes of his threatening to drown her altogether. She watched him go, her eyes moving from the breadth of his shoulders to the blackness of space beyond, the oncoming robot ship quickly blocking it from her view. You might want to be quick about it, though.
She watched the robot ship approach with rising dread as she waited, focusing on the pain throbbing in her leg to stay conscious, stay upright. Images she’d seen on the news ran through her mind, images of screaming children and fiery hellholes, of deadly metal beings devoid of compassion, devoid of humanity, devoid of life. The newsfeeds were all she had to go by. She had never seen a real robot before.
It looked like she was going to now.
With a grinding screech, the robot ship docked. A hatch filled the space where a hole had once been. As it began to turn, Tripp came careening around the corner, a limp body slung over each shoulder.
She knew them. “It’s Sam,” she said. “And Audrey. They’re medical assistants, ensigns with the G.L.E.E. They’re alive?”
“They have pulses,” he said, “But that’s about it. Can you manage on your own?”
She nodded, though she wasn’t entirely sure if she could. Before they could move, however, the hatch swung open and Rosie found herself looking at row upon row of robot sentinels, huge and silver, altogether terrifying and very, very real. She stumbled.
He turned, saw what she was seeing, and dumped the two unconscious figures unceremoniously beside the x-ray machine. He reached for his zapper, and suddenly the air was filled with light and noise, smoke and whirring and mechanical laughter.
“Get behind me!” he shouted, and Rosie hastened to obey. She was weaponless, and wouldn’t have the first clue what to do with a zapper even if she had one. She made a mental note to make weapons training her first priority if they made it out of here alive.
“Come on, Up!” Tripp was muttering as he fired, his aim quick, deadly, accurate. “We could use those reinfor-”
His sentence was cut off abruptly and Rosie screamed as a robot’s blast hit him in the chest. He fell backward into her, looking surprised. Her knees gave out as she struggled to support his weight and they both fell to the ground, next to the still-living medical assistants he’d saved. Pain resonated from her knees to the wound in her leg, trembled throughout her body, and she couldn’t help but cry out.
Tripp’s head fell back against her chest. His eyelids fluttered, and she could feel life still pulsing within him, but he was far, far too still. Rosie hadn’t realized until this very moment quite how much she’d been depending on him.
How much she needed him.
Her arms around him, she reached for the zapper still held loosely in his fingers, and raised it at the robot sentinel advancing on them.
“Ha. Ha. Ha.”
Was it laughing at her?
The zapper was humming in her hands. She wasn’t sure, but it looked like he’d had it set to pew.
“Pew is good enough for me,” she said. Hands shaking, she pulled the trigger.
The kickback nearly knocked the gun out of her hands, but the robot’s chest exploded. Suddenly the room was filled all at once with shouting and more frenzied zapper fire, almost blinding in its fervour, and Rosie realized that the reinforcements must have arrived. She dropped the zapper and held onto Tripp instead, trying to shield him with her arms, willing what little strength she had left to become his, wishing she could save him the way he’d saved her.
The room grew hazy, and her head fell forward onto his shoulder as Rosie did the one thing she’d swore she would never do when she started medical school.
Thank you so much for reading! Your thoughts?