"Sorry sir," the supply officer spread his hands. He'd just finished briefing everyone on the supply situation, which could be summed up with the word 'bad'. Standard sailing rations capable of carrying the crew for about six months could be stretched, but only so far.
"It's OK Roger, it's pretty much what I figured," Captain Mathews sighed. Jared fidgeted in his seat, still not sure why he'd been 'invited' to attend the meeting.
"Ops, any chance of juicing up the engines?"
The operations officer shook his head. "Not enough to matter even before we took battle damage. With one of our reactors offline, and the damage to the engines themselves? Not a chance."
Mathews leaned back in his chair. "Jared, I'm sure you want to know why you were invited to this conference."
"Yes," Jared nodded. "I mean, I'm not a ship driver. What can I contribute?"
Everyone looked down at the table. "I am Captain of this vessel," Mathews said slowly, gravely. "I possess authorization for many emergency protocols, some of which are possible, others of which are not."
"Protocols?" Jared asked, starting to feel a bit disturbed.
"How much did you understand from their briefings?" Mathews asked slowly.
"We're a long, long way from home," Jared said unhappily. "With our engines as badly damaged as they are, all we can manage is the half gravity we're currently using. At that speed -- acceleration, rather -- we're looking at a travel time measured in years."
"Jared, the soonest I can get you and your sons to Earth orbit is in about a year. And we'd go speeding past Earth so quickly we could never be seen," Mathews sighed. "In order to actually reach Earth, we'd need to decelerate, and our trip would be closer to a year and a half. And that ignores the light-speed limit, which we'll start hitting soon enough. Relativistic distortion will reduce the apparent time frame significantly, but they also make every single bit of space dust a significant impact hazard. No one on board actually knows how to calculate the relativistic effects of the journey, but we just don't think they'll be enough to change the basic equation."
"Someone said something about supplies?" Jared asked. "Though I thought ships like this were supposed to be able to go years without resupply," he complained.
"We weren't stocked for it," the supply officer sighed. "We'd just come back from a long-haul, and all we had was the minimum six-month emergency reserve. If we were going to go independent, we should have docked with a station and loaded up on nonperishable foods and the proper mixture of hydroponic plants to support that. We didn't. Worse yet, the main refrigeration unit took a direct hit; we lost more than half our supplies to battle damage."
Jared looked down at the table again. "So... what are the options?"
"If we ration food tightly, we can maintain a reasonable diet for the entire compliment for about nine weeks. After that, we start starving," Mathews told him. "So, one way or the other we have a bit over two months to live. Our communications equipment can't get a message home from this distance, so a pickup is impossible. We're broadcasting, but they won't pick us up. And even if by some miracle they could, there's nothing they could do. The FTL ships won't be finished for another year or two, and we'll be dead by then."
"So what do you plan to do?" Jared asked.
"I will aim to give everyone as long as possible to survive with as good a lifestyle as we can manage," Mathews continued. "We'll go about two months before we start running out of food. If some miracle doesn't rescue us, I'll have a choice to make. Face the hell that living on board a starving ship will create, or... not."
"Not?" Jared asked hopefully. "That sounds good! How do you plan to continue feeding us after..." Jared blinked. "Oh."
"I can overload the remaining fusion reactor. It'll be quick and clean at the least," Mathews nodded. "I've read historical accounts from back in the age of sail. I don't want to live through that."
Jared looked away. "Why are you talking to me about this?"
"You needed to know," Mathews shrugged.
"I suppose I did," Jared nodded. "I..." Jared wanted, needed, for his kids to survive. The knowledge that it was impossible was almost more than he could bear. And worse yet, the idea of making the terrible, horrible choice between buying his kids a few more weeks of life, or making their ends quick... He just couldn't do it. He was almost thankful the decision had already been made.
"Sir," the admin officer said slowly, "there have been... a few suicide attempts. Should we... under any other circumstances I wouldn't say this, but..."
"No," Mathews shook his head. "I understand why, and there will be no consequences for those who make the decision, but we aren't going to let people kill themselves. We are still spacers of the Federation Starfleet and marines of the Federation Marine Corps. We will comport ourselves as such until we die. Anyone who attempts suicide is to be put on suicide watch, and any ready measure for suicide is to be kept under guard."
"Aye-aye sir," the officers nodded at their order.
"This meeting is adjourned," Mathews said firmly. "Jared, remain. Everyone else... thank you for your time."
Jared waited as the officers in the meeting filed out. "Yes?" he asked.
"Jared, I..." Mathews took a deep breath. "We were having a conversation before all this started."
"Yes, we were," Jared said. "As I recall, you needed to be drunk to have it."
Mathews lips pursed for a moment. "I don't have enough rum left in my personal stock to manage that. And we need to have the conversation sooner rather than later."
"Alright, let me make it easier for you, Kode," Jared took a deep breath. "I forgive you."
"What?" Mathews blinked. "You..."
"You knew something, and it's tearing you up inside that you didn't act on it," Jared said. "I forgive you."
Mathews swallowed as tears began to stream down his face. "Grams had a private investigator dig into Angela's past."
"Your grandmother was a smart woman," Jared sighed. "I'm sorry I missed the funeral, but..."
"You weren't wanted," Mathews agreed. "My fault."
"Actually, I was deployed at the time," Jared said dryly. "Anyway, what did the private investigator discover?"
"That Angelina Burton had been known, at various times, as Angelina Jacobs, Angelina Richards, Angelina Caldwell, and Angelina Curry. Each of the individuals she married was, socially speaking, just outside her 'station'. She climbed her way up the social ladder one husband at a time." Mathews said with disgust. "Almost inevitably, they'd discover they'd been set up one way or another, and divorced her. Of course, it would all be kept as quiet as possible to avoid embarrassing her former husband, so the next one had never heard anything about it."
"Damn," Jared whispered. "Talk about damning evidence."
"It gets better," Mathews sighed. "Or worse, if you prefer."
"How?" Jared asked.
Mathews frowned. "She didn't have two children. She had four."
"Four," for a moment Jared didn't understand. His mind refused to process the information. "My God..." he whispered.
"One is fifteen, the other is eighteen, and neither one wants anything to do with their mother," Mathews continued. "I still have the contact information, and they may want to talk to their brothers. Except now..." Mathews broke off. "Now there won't be a chance. I'm sorry."
"There is always hope," Jared said softly. "I'm not sure what our hope is, but there is always hope."
"Yeah," Mathews nodded. "There is always hope."
"So, you knew she had a tendency to use people," Jared said. "Did you actually know about the drugs?"
"Know," Mathews said softly, almost tasting the word. "If I'd known..." Mathews shook his head. "I suspected. But I never knew. If I knew, even my pride..."
Jared crossed the small conference room to sit next to Mathews. "So, you didn't know."
"I didn't know," Mathews agreed quietly.
"I still love you," Jared said softly.
"Jared, I... I..." Mathews stuttered.
"I still love you," Jared repeated, "but now isn't the time to take up past relationships. I'm sorry, but I need to be there for my kids right now. Maybe... after a few weeks... Not that there's a lot of time..."
Mathews nodded. "I... I can't have a relationship with anyone on board ship anyway. Regs."
"I'm not in your chain of command," Jared laughed.
"Yes you are," Mathews said softly. "Starfleet regulations are based in large part on US navy regs, but they aren't a carbon copy. Guests on board are considered a part of the chain of command, reporting directly to the captain or any individual the captain designates. They are obligated to obey lawful orders and show appropriate respect to all individuals on board."
"You aren't joking, are you?" Jared asked, surprised. "So my kids are military now?"
"No," Mathews laughed. "You're still civilian. You just have a place in the chain of command."
"Weird," Jared shrugged. "Anything else I should be aware of?"
"Not... not right now," Mathews said unhappily. "I think I need a few minutes alone, and then I need to make the announcement to the crew."
"I should go talk to my kids," Jared nodded.
"Good luck," Mathews said softly before reaching for the control panel.
Jared left the conference room, carefully sealing the door behind himself. Starfleet vessels were just as bad as the few naval vessels he'd been on board as far as wanting every hatch sealed at all times. They didn't insist on the use of scuttle hatches, but the miniature airlocks all over the place were, if anything, worse. A scuttle hatch didn't threaten to slice you into two parts if it decided to close itself. On the upside, most of the corridors were actually left open when the ship wasn't at battle stations.
Or, he laughed in realization as he ducked down a deck to detour around a set of sealed blast doors, when the section of corridor in question was exposed to vacuum. They wanted those blast doors kept nice and tight. Given the lethality of the vacuum on the other side, Jared couldn't really object.
Climbing, or given the reduced gravity jumping, back up a second ladder, he heard the 1MC cackle to life. "This is the Captain speaking. All hands, this is the Captain speaking." The quality was better than any other 1MC system Jared had ever had to listen to, if not quite as good as your usual PA system could manage. "The situation has stabilized, but is far from resolved. Fact one, we are nearly three light months from Earth. I'm sure scuttlebutt has kept all of you informed, so I won't dwell on that fact. What I can tell you is our navigator has checked and double checked his calculations. At the one half normal-gravity acceleration we are limited to, it will take us over a year to return home. Worse, the supplies remaining on board will only last us about two months. I am issuing immediate orders to enforce a strict ration, which will allow us to maintain reasonable diets for that time frame."
"Hydroponics has already begun an emergency upscale in production, but it takes time to grow plants. If we had hydroponics at maximum capacity right now, we could produce more than enough to survive on. Unfortunately, hydroponics is currently focused on oxygen producing plants, not food producing plants. The time it will take to shift over to food producing plants is several months, and our supply of seeds and seedlings is limited. We won't be able to get any significant production going in time to save our lives."
Mathews voice was grim. "I'm sure many of you can do the math. If we reduce the number of people on board, we can live longer. Unfortunately, without any hibernation or cryogenic chambers, our only way to manage that would be to kill a significant portion of our crew. I will not do this. I will not allow this. I will use my overrides to activate our remaining fusion reactor and overload it if required to prevent it."
"Many of you will feel like committing suicide. I understand the impulse, and I implore you to resist it," Mathews continued. "While life remains, so does hope. Since we locked our position relative to Earth, we have been continually broadcasting our current position and course. While seemingly impossible, a miracle may yet save us. I'm not going to count on it, but I would ask that you not discount it, either."
"If you have any supplies, any supplies whatsoever, that may assist the food situation, you are hereby ordered to report that fact. I don't care if it's a box of Oreos you keep under your bunk, I want to know about it now." Mathews took a deep breath. "I don't like this order any more than the rest of you, but it needs to be given. Anyone attempting to steal or horde food will be executed. No appeals. We are in a survival situation as defined by the regs, and any act which counters our survival is a court-martial offense carrying the death penalty. I intend to be lenient regarding normal shipboard matters, but under survival conditions I can execute you for almost any infraction against normal shipboard discipline. Don't try me."
"If you have any suggestions, questions, comments, or concerns, send them up through the chain of command. That will be all." Jared rested his hand on the control panel to the room he and his kids had been given. They had to have heard that. Taking a deep breath, he keyed in the access code to open the hatch.
Cody and David were huddled together on their sides in the middle of the rooms three racks. The three racks were stacked against one wall, with a desk space opposite and just enough room to walk around if someone was sitting at the desk. For a ship, incredibly spacious -- the person at the desk should have to get up to let people walk past him. For two active, growing boys, not much. Jared sighed, wishing he could climb in with them, but the small space simply made that impossible. Each rack was just large enough for one adult to sleep in. Maybe a bit bigger than a similar rack on a naval ship would be, but that was because each rack was designed to function as an independent life-support bubble when needed. Jared hoped that wouldn't ever prove necessary, since there was no way for him to hold his kids in that kind of last ditch survival cocoon, but it would preserve their lives if it came to that.
"Hey guys," Jared nodded to them. Sitting down on the floor beside the racks, he pulled his knees up a bit. "Wanna come cuddle?"
The boys slipped out of their racks and cuddled up against him. Jared stayed quiet for a while.
"Dad," David managed to say eventually. "Did... did the Captain really say..."
Cody started crying. "I don't wanna die!"
Jared took a deep breath. "The situation isn't good, kiddos. I won't lie to you about that. But... hope springs eternal. There is always hope."
Jared looked up at the ceiling. "Maybe a miracle will happen. Maybe someone will figure out a way to stretch our food, of we'll run into one of the slow-boats filled with religious nuts headed for the stars. We don't know."
"But the Captain-" David started.
"The Captain said it isn't likely," Jared said firmly. "The most likely outcome is that we are going to die out here, yes. But that's two months away. That is a lot of time for something to change, for some lucky break to occur."
"Not long enough," David whispered. "The Captain said-"
"The Captain," Jared interrupted again, "said to hold onto hope. Hold onto hope, David."
David pressed into Jared just a little bit harder as Cody started to snore, exhausted.
"This is breakfast?" David complained, spooning the mush in his bowl distastefully.
"The alternative is nothing," Jared said firmly. "At that, you're getting more than a lot of people on-board."
David frowned, knowing that was the absolute truth. There had been more than a few grumbles about it in the week since rationing had begun, but Captain Mathews had put his foot down firmly. Malnutrition during developing years had lifelong negative effects, and he was not prepared to to give up hope. Beyond that, the regs gave priority to individuals with exceptional nutritional needs, requiring that injured individuals, children, or other people with valid medical requirements be given all the nutrition their health required. "And if we give up any part of the regs, we'll wind up giving up on all of them," Mathews had said angrily. "No!"
"It's ucky," Cody drew Jared's attention back to the present.
"I've never cared for oatmeal myself," Jared sighed, "but its breakfast. Eat it up. You'll need it."
Cody made a face and pushed his bowl away.
"Cody," Jared said more firmly, "you will eat it."
"No," Cody snarled.
"Cody Daniel Warren, you will eat your breakfast," Jared said loudly. Cody glared back at him, and Jared returned the favor with his best Sergeant Major face. "Now," he added, and Cody folded, starting to cry as he ate the mush. Slowly, but he still ate it.
"Any questions, David," Jared asked, still in Sergeant Major mode. He didn't like doing that to his kids, but he couldn't afford to have them skipping meals or refusing to eat what was provided. Wasting food wasn't going to be tolerated, and while he doubted anyone would even think executing someone for not eating food, he didn't want to risk the ill-will it might cause.
Besides, he was in a grumpy mood. He hated oatmeal.
David shook his head and started eating without another word. Jared stared down into his bowl as he finished his, far quicker than his kids had. Setting the example was all well and good, but if he walked off and they simply 'disposed' of the remaining food...
The door to their small stateroom chimed. Frowning, Jared pushed away from the small table and turned around. Hitting the entry key, he opened the door. "Captain Mathews!" David said excitedly, running away from the remaining oatmeal as quickly as he could, Cody right at his heels. Jared hastily pushed his chair back into the aisle between beds and desk to provide room for the rushing herd and their guest.
"Hey you two," Mathews smiled. "Go eat your breakfast. I need to talk to your dad for a moment."
"I'd rather not leave," Jared demurred. Mathews frowned, then flicked his eyes over to where the kids were very busy trying not to eat any more than they had to.
"You don't honestly think they'd try anything stupid, do you?" Mathews asked quietly, almost silently. Against normal hearing, the sounds of the ship would have kept the kids from overhearing, even though they were sitting less than three feet away. Heck, Jared would have had a hard time hearing him without his augmentation.
"They're kids," Jared said in a normal tone. "Can't always predict what they'll do when it comes to food they don't like."
Mathews jaw didn't drop, but the shock in his eyes was quite clear as Jared stretched for a moment, Lacing his hands behind his head casually, Jared tapped one of his regrowing ears with his thumb. Mathews' mouth formed an 'O' as he understood. "Well, if they do anything that stupid, they won't like the consequences," Mathews sighed. "There have been some... grumblings about how much food you guys are getting."
Jared sighed. "I'd predicted that."
"The reason I wanted to talk to you is that somebody mentioned how convenient it would be if there was an accident," Mathews frowned. "He's up for Captain's Mast thanks to that little comment, but... there was some agreement."
"That would be a very bad idea," Jared said flatly. "If I find out about any accidents..."
"You'll only get them after I have," Mathews ordered. "And I'm probably only going to get my crack at them after my XO is through. And as many people agreed, a lot more expressed their own opinions on the matter."
"In short, just keep an eye out," Jared sighed. "Dammit, we were supposed to be safe!"
Mathews' jaw bulged as he ground his teeth in anger. "I will see you safe, for as long as I can," he promised angrily.
"You OK?" Jared asked. Mathews was looking a bit worn but Jared knew him pretty well. Both of them could handle a lot of stress. Mathews losing his temper like that was the clue Jared needed to realize that something was wrong. "You aren't looking so good."
"Just tired," Mathews shook his head slowly. "I've been running ragged trying to keep control of everything. I need some rest."
"Take some then," Jared suggested.
"I can't," Mathews complained. "Captain's job. I have to be on call twenty-four seven."
"Can't your XO take some of the heat?" Jared asked, surprised.
"He is," Mathews laughed. "He hasn't even had a chance to go looking for his door yet."
"That old trick?" Jared smiled. "Hope he finds it soon."
Mathews laughed. "It's entirely possible that he'll spend the next two months looking for it," he grinned. "I happen to know where it got hidden."
Jared's eyebrow rose. "How did that happen?"
"I tripped over it," he laughed. "They slid it behind some lockers, but forgot to secure it for zero-G. It shifted out a bit, and wound up in the corridor."
"So what did you do about it?" Jared asked.
"I ordered the nearest sailor to properly secure the loose gear and limped off, cursing about a stubbed toe," Mathews said dryly. "Took me until I was back in my stateroom to realize what I had tripped over."
Jared laughed. "You realize when the XO hears about that, he's going to be convinced you were in on it?"
"Probably," Mathews shrugged. "It isn't there anymore, they relocated it somewhere safer. And, hopefully, remembered to secure it this time."
Jared frowned. "Wait a moment, how did they remove the door? Everything on board seems to be blast doors!"
Mathews cocked his head for a moment. "You haven't actually had a chance to drop by my office, have you?" he realized. "The CO and XO have offices with honest-to-goodness doors on them."
Jared blinked. "Seems strange," he commented. "Everything else is air-tight this and air-tight that."
Mathews laughed. "Tradition," he shrugged. "Sooner or later they'll get around to replacing our doors with something a little... stronger, but so far they haven't. Given that both of our offices are pretty close to the bridge, they've gotten away with it. Accidents just don't reach that deep."
Mathews looked down, face suddenly pained. Jared frowned for a moment before he understood. Looking away, he knew his face was a match for that pain.
After all, it was his fault. Accidents don't reach that deep into a ship, but enemy action had. And this war was his fault.
"It isn't your fault," Mathews placed a hand on Jared's shoulder. "That bastard made his own choices, and did this on his own."
"It still doesn't make sense," Jared sighed. "Why the hell would anyone..."
Mathews laughed angrily. "I know exactly why the former Vice-President got involved."
Jared frowned. "What do you mean?"
"Intel picked up the info months ago. Trails that they've been following for years, rumors about a founding member of the INGC," Mathews sighed. "A young man who believed in the cause from the get go, but separated when they began to turn terrorist."
"I don't understand," Jared frowned.
"We picked up... hints. Bits and pieces," Mathews shook his head. "Just enough to worry us. We knew the INGC wasn't shut down like everyone thought. Worse yet, it looks like they were holding blackmail material over someone's head. The idiot got in over his head. If the news got out that Gregory Wilson, California State Senator, was once a member of the INGC, even before it became terrorist, he'd be out of office in a heartbeat. Never get re-elected. Never move on to become governor, then senator, then Vice-President," Mathews shrugged. "He's riding the tiger, and doesn't dare get off."
Jared blinked for a moment. "OK, I suppose I can understand why he's doing this. Every time he turned around, he got dragged in deeper, didn't he?"
Mathews nodded. "Exactly. Sucks to be him, but..." He shrugged. "He made his choices. He could have been honest, tried to endure the fallout. Might have even worked."
Jared glanced over at Davey. "Don't even think about trying it, mister," he warned his elder son. Davey frowned before proceeding to finish off the last of his bowl. Cody showed Jared his empty bowl before stacking it with Jared's. Jared smiled at his younger son and gestured at the desk. "See if you can't finish some of your homework," he suggested, standing up and flipping the seat back around before putting it back under the desk so his son could use it. There was plenty of room for his younger son to scoot past him and get at the desk, given how small the boy was. They both had to stand with their backs against either side of the small space, but there was ample room for the procedure.
Didn't mean that Cody didn't grumble under his breath about it. Or that Jared disagreed with that grumbling. Living on board ship was a pain. Wrapping a metal box around a room was easy enough, but making that box airtight, providing air, light, heat, radiation shielding, and the thousand and one other necessities of life was not. Unfortunately, doing all that was also expensive, and every cubic inch dedicated to 'life' spaces was a cubic inch that couldn't be dedicated to the other equipment the ship absolutely had to include. Weapons, particle shielding, radiation shielding, engines, sensors, and all the other myriad systems necessary for the ship's mission took up space, and money, as well. It was simply impossible to fit everything on board a ship, and still provide living quarters 'decent' by civilian standards.
It was an age-old problem that stretched back to the 'wet-navies' that still existed on Earth. The answer was, as it always had been, that you simply learned to live with less space than you thought was necessary. It wasn't fun, it wasn't easy, but it worked. Mostly.
"Captain to the bridge! Captain to the bridge!" the 1MC roared to life.
"Duty calls," Mathews nodded before running out the door. You do not call the Captain unless the situation is urgent; you most certainly never summon the Captain anywhere except in the most dire of emergencies.
Jared frowned at the door for a moment. They were in what everyone was calling 'deep space', completely out of reach of any other vessel. What kind of emergency could possibly pop up that would require the Captain's presence on the bridge that quickly?
"Dad," Davey waved his empty bowl at Jared.
"Thanks for not fighting with me," Jared smiled. "I know this isn't the best of places, but-" Jared paused mid-sentence as some premonition of danger slammed into him. Later, that is what he'd remember. He knew danger was coming, even if he didn't know what it was.
Then the ship lurched. The multi-ton mass of steel, machinery, and people jerked several feet to the port, sending everyone and everything in it flying to the starboard. Jared bounced, hard, off the armored bulkhead at the foot of the beds, while his sons bounced across half the room before landing. The lower gravity made things worse than a similar jolt would have been in full gravity; without the strong pull of the Earth to pull you down, you just bounced around until the kinetic energy was disappointed, generally by smacking into things hard enough to break bones.
Which, unfortunately, Davey appeared to have managed. The way he clutched his forearm, and the slight bend at the point he grabbed, certainly suggested it anyway. "Davey, are you alright?" Jared asked as an alarm began to wail. Jared almost ignored it, more concerned about his sons' welfare than anything else, but despite their situation the ship was maintaining a strict drill schedule. If anything, the drill schedule was even more intense than usual, to help keep people's minds off their troubles.
Of course, the rather audible hissing noise would probably have clued him into the meaning of that particular alarm anyways. "Fuck!" Jared swore. "Cody, Davey, into your beds, NOW!" he ordered in his best drill-sergeant tones.
Cody was up and moving already with a speed that would have been jaw-dropping for a normal human being, his own augmentation spinning up to help him through the disaster. Jared noted that with a corner of his mind as he moved to help Davey, who didn't seem to understand what was going on. Probable concussion, some part of Jared's mind warned. Careful of his son's head, and wary of any possible issues with his spinal column, Jared carefully, but very quickly, picked his eldest son up and carried him to his bunk.
Jared's breathing was alright, but he noticed that his eldest son's was already labored. Some part of him was scared that his son was undergoing some form of respiratory arrest, but he was even more scared by the faint, tinny quality that was taking hold over everything he could hear. Davey wasn't having trouble breathing because he was hurt, he was having trouble because there wasn't enough air left to breathe.
Cody had already made it to his own bunk in the middle and slammed the air barrier down behind him, hours of unremitting drill paying off. Jared had to move slower, his elder son simply couldn't handle the force he and Cody could apply in an emergency like this one. Thankfully, the extra space between the beds and the desk area let Cody pull the barrier out and down without cutting Jared off completely -- presumably the exact reason for the extra, rather luxurious space. And again, thanks to countless hours of drill, Jared was moving through that extra space, rather than blocking the seal. The three inches of transparent aluminum sealed shut with a click, and then a thump as secondary bolts engaged, locking it in place until overridden.
Jared was having to pant now. They were losing air fast, some corner of his mind noted as he placed his eldest son into the top rack. Thankfully the air seals were designed with this type of emergency in mind and Jared had no trouble sealing the air door himself. Grabbing the 'lip' of the barrier he pulled it out from its compartment over the rack, then reversed his grip and slammed it down to seal it. The seals automatically engaged, and he felt rather than heard the thump of the locking mechanism.
Jared couldn't seem to get any air anymore. His skin felt incredibly tight, and his eyes didn't seem to work correctly anymore. He had to turn his entire head to look at something. But he was already halfway down to his own bunk when another blast rocked the ship, throwing him away from the bunk area entirely.
The blast impact lifted him up like a doll and bounced him across the room, and he spun around for several long moments before finally coming to a rest. He was already up and on his feet, but the dark spots in front of his eyes were growing, and he felt so very heavy. Whoever was strangling him just wouldn't let up, and he fell to his knees, just inches away from his bed. If only his attacker would let him get a breath... just... one...
As the blackness overtook him, he thought he saw his Cody's face pressed against the transparent aluminum, screaming at him to move.