From Angel in a Box

Chapter 5

No sound, no light, no movement.  The purple haze was gone, as was the lightning.  The main display panel was completely dark. Small lights that once dotted various locations around him that had seemed so unimportant before were also gone.  Somehow, there was a faint glow that crept into the cabin through the main window. It was just enough to make out the outline of what he knew was still in front of him, but nothing else. 

Travis’ eyes strained to find sensory input, but the darkness was overwhelming.  His head was ringing, or was that his ears?  Releasing his grip on the chair, he drifted free from his seat and moved forward in the room to press his face to the glass separating him from the void of space beyond.  

There was no sign of Captain Braun’s ship, but that was little comfort since he couldn't see behind him at all.  A sigh escaped his lips, and fogged up the window just inches from his face.  That puzzled him, because he had never seen it before.  But he had bigger things to deal with...

He drifted away from the window and started feeling his way toward the rear of the ship.  After bumping his head twice, he remembered that he still had that antique palm-sized computer he'd won in a game in his pocket and pulled it out.  Activating the screen, it's dim glow at least gave him some light to help avoid smacking his head again.

In the darkness, the ship was a mysterious labyrinth, while only an hour ago, it had seemed pretty straightforward.  The strange thing was, there was really only the one hallway from the main cargo room and cabins to the command section. When he turned another corner and realized he was moving back toward the pilot's chair again, he stopped and forced himself to calm down.  In his mind, he went back over all the places in the ship he'd been in earlier and visualized everything.  Using the internal map in his mind, he felt his way through to the main hatch, which had been near the rear of the ship.  He couldn't recall any portals back here before, and no light greeted his eyes as he entered the space.  For some reason, that was enough to make him stop and realize that he didn't hear any hum of the engine either.

If the engine wasn't running...

No life support.

The chill that ran through him might have been all in his mind, but it didn't matter.  He was right, and he knew it.  He had to get the main engine back on-line.  While he wasn’t an engine tech, he knew where it was.  Or rather, where it was when he could see anything!  He had to find that access panel that led down to where he and Liam had put that weird box earlier.

He felt around the floor, and finally found a familiar looking handle.  As he pulled it back open, he started to question if he’d even put it back in the first place.  The question would have to wait, he decided.  He tossed the door panel aside and it floated in the air only to bounce off a nearby wall before he reached up and stopped it's movement.  His eyes immediately saw the green light on the box and a surge of hope ran through him.  Propelling his way down into the space, he shined his computer-light over the surface, looking for anything that might re-activate Angel.

The cold was creeping in, making his fingers jittery. He blinked away the lack of oxygen and kept searching, positive that there had to be a button somewhere on this blasted box that could bring her back!

Futility.  Utter futility.  There wasn't a single button anywhere on the stupid box.  As if it was even shaped like a box...

He took a deep breath and became aware of his panic. There should be plenty of air in the ship for some time, and he really wasn't that cold.  He needed to think, not panic.

So he let himself drift in the dark, literally, and started attacking the problem with his head.  He'd need to restart the computer, except that it was probably fried from whatever had happened during that lightning storm just a few minutes ago. Most likely, it had been some form of electrical surge.  He'd never seen blacklightning before, so that was his bet as to the culprit.  Truth be told, he’d never actually seen lightningbefore in his life outside the classroom.  He blew out a sigh, and instantly realized that it had sent him slowly tumbling backward.  He chuckled at his odd predicament and reached out to brace himself before he hit something.

That green light caught his eye once more, and he knew that was the only thing on this entire ship that was still functioning. He moved himself back to it, and this time started feeling around for some kind of access panel.  He remembered where he'd attached the power leads, which were right...

One of them wasn't connected anymore.

He perched his pocket computer/light on a nearby ledge and started working the problem out.  It took several times of re-placing the light, due to it's penchant to drift away, but he found his tools that he’d left nearby and hooked the wires back up to the strange box.  Glad I didn’t pick these up, he mused while looking at his screwdriver in the dim light.

"What happened?" Angel's sleepy voice suddenly carried throughout the ship.

Travis blew out a sigh of relief and grabbed onto a bulkhead to steady himself.  "The ship's computer is fried," he explained, deftly throwing his screwdriver toward his tool satchel.  "I have no idea how to restart the engines, and we're adrift somewhere,” he finished with a feigned delighted smile that quickly faded as the screwdriver bounced around in the small compartment.

There was a long moment of silence, during which he started to wonder if she'd shut back down.  He finally caught his screwdriver and placed it in the satchel before closing up the bag to prevent the contents from floating around.  "Oh," she finally replied.  "That explains why it feels so empty now."

"I would have to guess that you're on some sort of backup battery right now..."

"I feel pretty tired, if that's what you mean,” she interrupted.  "How do I fix that?"

He started to say something, and caught himself, remembering to treat her like a person despite his better judgement. "You'll need to find the power systems and reset them," he started.  "That might get the engines going again - which would help you feel better."

He heard a small sigh that seemed to quietly echo throughout the area.  "Can you see me?" he asked, testing a theory.

“Umm… no," she replied.  "I'll need a minute," she warned.

He wanted to ask why but thought better of it.  There was no sense in hanging around here, and the view was better from the command section anyway.  So he started to push himself up, then he stopped and worked at closing the access panel back up.  Otherwise, he'd have panels floating around the ship bumping into who-knew-what.

"She'll get it," he mumbled under his breath, working at reassuring himself.  

The main window was awash with a yellow-green light when he rounded the corner into the Command section.  He bypassed the chair on the right and got an up close and personal look through the window once more, taking in the light and trying to get a bearing on his surroundings outside.  Stars, and black empty space welcomed his return with empty, soundless applause, but he couldn’t make out anything recognizable.

He strained to see where the glow of light was coming from, but it must have been off to the side far enough that it just wasn't visible directly.  After expending a moderate amount of effort in a futile search to discover where he was in the universe, he decided to have a seat.  The lack of gravity, however, made that much more difficult than it sounded, and he was soon floating up again.

He pulled out his pocket computer again, and the screen obediently lit up.  He’d never really had a chance to tinker with it, and he wasn't sure what it was for in the first place.  There were several glowing icons on the screen, and…

A message declaring that the unit was nearly out of power took center stage on the screen.  His choices seemed to be to ignore, or to engage low power mode.

Low power mode it is...

The message disappeared, leaving the colorful icons on the screen once more.  None of them seemed to make any sense to him, and since it really didn't seem like the time to play with old tech, he slipped it back into his pocket.  A small speck of light was moving in the far distance out of the window, so he spent some time watching it and trying to guess what it was.  One thought was that it was a comet.  Those were notorious for following ships, or so he'd heard.

What if it was turning to smash into thisship?

Without the engines, he was a sitting duck for just about anything that might be floating through the universe.  Not to mention that if Captain Braun showed up now, he'd be blasted out of... well, wherever he was.

His mind drifted back to his bunk aboard the The Phantom, which still had his gear.  Or had,since it was likely parted out as booty by now.  His jacket, extra clothes, and favorite boots were no more than a memory. Those boots were made out of the kind of material that had cost him nearly every credit he’d had three months ago, and then some.  They were also the reason he'd taken the job aboard The Phantomto escape the creditors that were out for his every credit.  Then there was his HoloBox.  He could see his locker, and the charging cable for the little computer that was dying in his pocket.  He let out a sigh, “Great…”

A hum, then a terrifying alarm sounded throughout the ship, cutting off his trip down the mental archive of recent life.  In the span of a breath, the alarm stopped. Then a small light in front of him lit up.  Up until this point, he hadn't realized that all of the buttons were actually icons on screens that could change to accommodate whatever function was desired. Much like his portable CPU.

"Okay, I found the power," Angel commented. "Now, about being able to see anything..."

Her image wavered into view to his left, as if she were some sort of co-pilot.  "You're floating again I see," she pointed out.

"Umm, yeah," he conceded wryly.  "At this point, it's just really great to have the power back on.  At least I won't freeze to death."

Angel shot him a puzzled look, "It's seventy-eight degrees in here.  I doubt you'll freeze in this."


"We're way too close to a star to get too cold," she stated.

"So, where are we?"

She stared off into the distance for a few minutes, then said, "I don't know.  The computer is totally blank, like there wasn't anything there in the first place." She turned on him with an accusing eye, "What did you do?"

"I engaged the stellar thing,” he blurted out defensively. "You left!  Some other computer took over, and the next thing I knew, we were flying into a black ball of-of… whatever!"

"There's nothing left in here," she said, putting her hands on her hips.  "I had to figure out how to turn on the ship by myself!"

"Why did you leave in the first place?" he demanded.

"I told you," she cut back, "It hurts my head when you do that... whatever that is," she finished with a dismissive wave of her hand.

"You don't have a head," he shot back, “you're a computer!"

A malevolent glare crossed her face that she pointed at him accusingly.  "And without me, you'd be stuck floating in space right now."

"I wouldn't be here at all!" he returned maliciously.

Her image wavered, and then disappeared altogether, leaving him alone once more.  "Okay, not fair," he complained.  She didn't answer, even though he assumed she could still hear him. "Never mind," he dismissed, and turned his focus on the flight controls.  He pulled himself down into the seat and gripped the chair with his leg to keep from floating away.  He looked over the controls...

There were no controls.

Only one single light was illuminated, which had a permanent description underneath it that read, 'Main Power'.  "At least there's that," he commented sarcastically. "Okay, very funny," he said, looking around the cabin.  "All the controls are touch screens," he pointed out.  "How am I supposed to be able to fly this thing if you won't turn them back on?"

Her image came back into view, mostly from the shoulders up. "I told you, there's nothing in here," she reminded him in annoyance.

"And what is that supposed to mean?" he complained.

She blew out a frustrated sigh, "I used to be able to tell the ship's computer what to do."  Her image moved back to include her upper torso, where she waved her arms around.  "There's no more computer in here anymore!  What do you expect from me?  I don't know what things are supposed to do, do you?"

Travis ripped his leg back out from under the chair when a cramp gripped at his calf, allowing his temper to get the better of him. The motion catapulted him forward into the ceiling, where he barely managed to avoid a full-on impact.  He blurted out a short curse on the lack of gravity and turned himself to move toward the rear of the ship.  "Can you at least turn on the lights in here?" he barked out.

Angel's image had become substantially smaller, as if she were trying to distance herself from him.  She appeared to be preoccupied for a few minutes, and then the main lights flickered to life, illuminating the ship.

"Finally," he bit out ungratefully.  "I will figure this out, just like always..."

He made the trip back to where he'd attached the box and ripped off the access panels without thinking.  The first one flew down the hallway, bouncing off a corner and disappearing from view.  The second went straight up, and the light above him exploded in a shower of sparks.

"Stop it!" Angel shouted, her voice echoing around the ship without her form.

"You won't do anything!" he shouted back. "You don't seem to be able to do the simplest things..."

"I'm not a computer!" she screamed.

"Yes you are!" he barked out, looking around for her image.  "When are you going to get that through your head?"

She didn't answer, leaving him to his frustrations once more.  He started looking over the box once more with the single light left in the room. "I can't believe somebody would program a computer A.I. that's so bloody useless!"  He pushed himself up to look for his tools when the access panel he'd carelessly tossed to the side earlier came back to him.  The impact struck him in the forehead, knocking him backward in a summersault that spun him into another wall.  Of course, by that time everything had gone dark.

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