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Untitled Gatch Ficlet-- Episode 12

We’d managed to escape death three times already, but I didn’t think we were going to make it out of this one.  The tumble from the cart down into the tall clear cylinder left the three of us dazed just long enough that the sudden movement caught us all by surprise.

“Damn it!” Ken cursed, as the world began to spin around us.  “It’s a centrifuge!”

Within moments, the whirling motion had pressed us flat against the walls and floor of the centrifuge chamber.  I could just barely hear Ryu muttering something above the roaring in my ears; he lay sprawled at my feet.  And it just kept going faster and faster, until it felt like I was going to black out, my brain starved for blood, despite how I’d tightened the muscles in my abdomen.

Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do in high gravity?  I could have sworn that’s what Ken said . . .

Come on, Ken!  Now’s the time to pull a plan out of thin air and save us, I thought.

But he was just standing there, enduring, like Ryu, like me.  I could see the muscles in his jaw jumping. 

Or maybe it was my eyes playing tricks on me.

“Ken,” I ground out, my teeth gritted.  “At this rate, we’ll end up solidified!”

He looked at me, and I had to close my eyes.  I saw the sudden awareness of our deaths in his eyes, and I just couldn’t face it.

We aren’t supposed to die like this . . .

The pressure increased with each revolution of the damned thing, and the morbid part of me started to wonder what Galactor would do with this chamber once our blood and body parts had been smeared all over it . . .

Probably have one hell of a party . . .

Then I heard a sound that forced me to open my eyes, no matter how difficult even that small action was.  Ken was slumped against what had been the bottom of the centrifuge chamber, but was now the outermost wall.  He was still upright, if only barely, but it was that sound he made, that strangled groan whether in pain or in protest I couldn’t tell, that drew me over to him.  I fought against the unbearable gravity, stumbled over Ryu and fell against the wall beside him.

He managed to open his eyes, stunned that I’d covered even that short distance.  But I could see relief, too.

It’s not supposed to be like this . . .

Sweating, straining, working my muscles to their utmost and beyond, I passed one arm around his waist.  I could feel the edges of the “G” buckle even through my BirdStyle, and was certain that the Galactor bastards would find the emblem imprinted in my flesh when our bodies were recovered.  I pressed close to him, near enough now to see the pulse in his throat, to hear his own labored breaths even over the roar of machinery.

This is how it’s supposed to be . . .

And I smiled.  Putting my helmet against his, I said, just for him, “At least we’ll die together.”

He smiled back at me, then closed his eyes.  If he hadn’t been pressed against the wall, I knew he would have nodded.  He tilted into me a bit, his shoulder and arm hard against my chest, and the muscles in my arm constricted, pulling him even closer.

We’d cheated death many times, and laughed at fate.  Fate had to catch up to us sometime.

But apparently it wasn’t going to be today.

Quite suddenly, the centrifuge lost power, and the world wasn’t spinning so wildly around us.  Then it stopped, the chamber teetered back into its upright position, and Ken and I tumbled to the floor.

We were alive.  I didn’t recognize the thought at first, through the rapid pounding of blood in my ears, and the way my ravenous lungs greedily gulped air.

We were alive.  And that meant we still had a good chance to go on living.

“Saved at the last second,” Ken breathed.

“A few more seconds and we’d have been torn apart,” I replied, still panting heavily.  I felt like I couldn’t get enough air, like it had been all pressed out of my lungs.  A quick glance at the others showed me they felt the same.

“I feel like my life’s been shortened by about ten years . . .” Ryu muttered into the floor.

I grinned over his head at Ken, and received a fond smile and a shake of his head in return.

Even when the floor fell out from under us a few seconds later, my relief couldn’t be dimmed.

If we died, Ken and I, we’d die together.  Nothing would change that.


May 18, 2004

© randi (K. Shepard), 2004