The hallway was oddly empty, as if the man with the beard had cleared the deck. Malik stopped to drink it in—silence on the Baalshamin was unknown to him. Since the day they boarded, the massive ship had been a hive of human activity, everyone working towards a common goal of survival; both day by day and as a species. He was staring down the corridor, usually as crowded as he remembered the train stations in Japan and saw nothing but carbon fibre paneling and open air. The goosebumps were halfway up his arm when Kamau’s voice caught his attention. The other two men had made pace down the hall, Malik had to jog to catch up.
Kamau sounded like he was pleading, “…Ambassador Singh—"
“You mustn’t hold the young ones to such a high standard, Kamau.” The ambassador’s voice was barley above a whisper yet cut through the air like a knife.
Kamau stopped in place, “it’s not the children I hold accountable, it’s their parents, Hadir. You remember our childhood, do you not old friend?”
The Ambassador turned to face Kamau, “I do indeed.” He focused his eyes on Malik, “Thank you for joining us Malik.”
Kamau paid no mind, “Then you remember how my father acted as your own, and mine as yours. It takes a village, Hadir, and you know it first hand. We would not have survived if it weren’t for our community back home.” He spit the words at his childhood friend, which caused a reaction in the Ambassador, until now, unknown to Malik.
The Ambassador seemed to float across the ground, his feet moving with such speed and grace their movements could barely be seen. He stood toe to toe with Kamau, looking down his nose and into the eyes of a man he’s known for fifty years. A fire burned in his eyes, but his features remained stone, as always. His voice was imperceptible to Malik, but he watched as Kamau’s face dropped and his dark complexion began to pale.
Though Kamau calls Malik his bother, their bond was formed in space rather than Earth side. In the first year of the journey, Kamau, a heavy-duty mechanic back on Earth, was replacing heat panels as part of a routine maintenance run. They worked in two-man teams, and Malik was assigned as his partner.
On typical maintenance runs, the Baalshamin travels slower than usual while maintaining high radar sensitivity, to monitor any sort of incoming debris while the crew was on their spacewalk. This was not a typical run. The Baalshamin had just come through a small nebula and needed emergency repairs to the paneling, and Malik and Kamau were the fastest space-walkers on board.
They worked side by side, trying to go as fast as they could—warnings of incoming meteors were flashing on their Heads-Up Displays. Being a deep space vessel, the Baalshamin was armed with an automatic hull defense system to breakup and or destroy any incoming debris without the need of a gunner. The cannons on either side of them began to fire silent shots into the vacuum. The men could feel the shockwave of gravity hammers on tungsten bolts as the guns fired into the void behind them.
Kamau finished the spot weld of his final plate and turned to see what was happening. Malik rounded the edge on his last piece and turned just in time to catch Kamau, who had just been knocked off his feet by a shock hard enough to disengage his mag boots. The man shouted in pain as he grasped at his face shield; Malik’s HUD analyzed the damage. There was a small hole, less than the size of a pea through the shield, as well as through the rear of the helmet just below Kamau’s ear. He was decompressing rapidly.
Malik, with both hands on Kamau’s chest, thrust the man into the hull of the ship and put one foot on him, his other secured to the hull by his mag boots. “Voice command: Malik Yotsuba, link command with Walker 1014, Oluoch Kamau.”
His HUD flickered and displayed a spinning wheel for a small eternity before confirming the link between suits.
“Engage fluorocarbon bladder.”
Both suits reacted to the command, releasing a jet of gas from a vent in their backs and filling their helmets with a thick pink liquid. The holes in Kamau’s expelled the fluid rapidly, but it filled faster than it could empty through the tiny openings. The men took deep breaths, allowing the fluid to rush into their lungs. Malik’s HUD registered their lung capacities and when they had reached their maximums, a clear film—not unlike thick cellophane dispersed within their helmets and spread over their faces, sealing the fluorocarbon liquid in their bodies. The two men were now breathing liquid.
A voice came through their radios, “Rescue dingy incoming, four hundred meters on the starboard side. Arrival in three… two…”
It was thanks to Malik’s quick thinking that Kamau survived at all, he acted selflessly, knowing full well his allergy to the fluorocarbon liquid. He spent the following six weeks in the medical bay on dialysis. Kamau has been loyal to Malik since that day, despite their deep contrast in personality. In all the time he has known Kamau, he’s never known him to fear anything—but the look on his face at he listened to Ambassador Singh was a look of sheer terror.
Writer, performer, producer and musician from Alberta.