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Removed Blockage

The number five thruster wasn’t working they said, no output at all. Probably just a stuck valve they said, get down there and give it a whack. Ten minutes tops. With the last bolt removed and stowed, Mag lifted the inspection panel off and looked inside.
Steve Dean's short story Removed Blockage

This particular story came about when I saw some news about a major road being blocked by some activists who were subsequently being removed by the police. I filtered out just a few words that fit a SF short story about a faulty spaceship. Here is the result. As for the other imagery involved in this story, I presume it was triggered by something else I might have watched.

*          *          *

Mag made his way down the narrow access way, his shoulders brushing the walls and the large toolbox he was carrying knocking against the wall. The battered metal container was heavy, but he didn’t want to forget anything. Crawling all the way along to the port-side steering thrusters and then having to go back again was more than he could stand. He’d picked something up at their last stop, he was sure of it. A hot sweat ran down his body as he thought about it. Better get this done before he passed out.

Trying to ignore his fever, Mag pushed on. The number five thruster wasn’t working they said, no output at all. Probably just a stuck valve they said, get down there and give it a whack. Ten minutes tops. We’ll oversee from here, make sure it’s isolated so you can work on it. It had taken him fifteen minutes already, and number five was all the way at the opposite end. His radio was squawking away, mainly the duty pilot asking about the thruster. Mag didn’t rush; there were four more, they had extra for a reason.

Several minutes later, Mag finally arrived in the narrow crawlspace next to a large cylinder marked with a faded white ‘5’. A small indicator light showed the thruster to be off, which meant the bridge crew had got something right. With a huge effort of will, Mag opened his toolbox, selected a spanner and began opening the inspection panel. His thoughts wandered as he removed the multiple bolts one by one. This ship was capable of a good fraction of the speed of light, its engines on the cutting edge of what humanity could achieve, and here he was using a spanner to work on it.

With the last bolt removed and stowed, Mag lifted the inspection panel off and looked inside. He’d been expecting to see a stuck valve or some residue left by the cheap fuel they used, or even a dirty rag left behind by a previous engineer. What he hadn’t been expecting was a lime-green penis shooting towards his face.

Luckily, he managed to keep hold of the inspection plate as he tried to move backwards. The penis, complete with teeth and several eyes, impacted with the plate, scraping long gouges in the metal. Mag didn’t really have anywhere to go except back along the crawlway, and it was difficult to crawl without using your hands.

The penis pulled back, probably for another strike, and more of the thing was revealed. It was as wide around as his upper arm, sickly green, with a bulbous head. Its mouth was filled with short teeth and it had too many eyes to count. It struck again as Mag shuffled backwards using his legs and one elbow. He didn’t get far but managed to use the plate as a shield again. Sparks flew this time, and the impact nearly made Mag drop the plate.

As it pulled back again, he managed a couple more shuffles, then a few more as the penis swayed back and forth, presumably looking for a clear shot. The end of its body was still inside the thruster cylinder, even though an impressive amount of it was already revealed.

Mag moved backwards again, sweat pouring off his entire body. He felt lightheaded and dizzy, his vision blurring, but he really didn’t want to faint now. His elbow was very sore as he put his weight on it, but he really had no choice. The penis was following closely, its helmet swaying. And still, its body was inside the thruster; the thing must have been several metres long.

The head jabbed forwards again, smacking hard against the plate and driving it into his face.  He screamed with pain as one end of the plate dipped. The penis took full advantage and pushed in to attack. With no other choice, Mag grabbed the alien by the head. It was incredibly strong, it dragged him several centimetres back towards the thruster as it tried to free itself. Mag dropped the plate and took a firm grip with both hands. He was rocked from side to side as it thrashed around but couldn’t break free.

After a few moments of this, the penis stopped struggling and began to coil its body forwards, erecting short but sharp fins along its flanks. Mag didn’t like the look of that at all. In addition, his hands were burning, as if the penis was secreting something from its skin. It was either let go and try to back away or keep hold and try to strangle it or something. He looked towards the thruster where the body was still emerging and realised this thing had survived the vacuum of space, so probably didn’t need to breath very often.

It might have been his feverish mind, but he came up with a risky plan. Gripping as firmly as he could with one hand, he let go with the other, grabbed his radio and called the bridge.

“Bridge, Mag here. Give that thruster a blip, would you?”

“Bridge here. Thruster is showing as unsecured.”

“Oh?” Mag said as casually as he could, after all, who was going to believe the truth? The penis was really burning now and struggling to pull out of his hands. The sharp fin things were very close to his face. “It’s fine here, just give it a quick blip, that’s all.”

“If you say so,” the bridge crewmember replied.

There was a moment’s hesitation and then a high-pitched whine from inside the thruster. The penis stopped, drew back a little.

“Mag? Still nothing. What you playing at?”

Gritting his teeth against the pain and frustration, Mag replied. “Give it a longer blip.”

“Ok, here goes. Say when.”

The whine repeated a few more times and then the penis shot backwards, dragging Mag with it.

“When!” he shouted trying to clutch at his radio, “when, fucking when!”

There was a strange whoomping noise, a sudden roar of hot gas and then silence.

Mag laid on the floor of the crawlspace, his hands redraw, his hair and eyebrows scorched off by the thruster backfire through the open plate and he was getting a migraine.

A voice spoke, seemingly from the far distance. “That’s got it, bridge out.”

Mag really wanted to sleep but that inspection plate needed replacing before any more penis monsters came in. He giggled a little maniacally as he reached around and retrieved the plate. As he replaced and tightened the bolts, he wondered what he was going to write in his report and decided to keep it simple to avoid laughter and psyche evaluations. He took out his datapad and typed: ‘Removed blockage’.

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2 thoughts on “Removed Blockage”

  1. Nice little twist and turn. This is the definition of a good short story. Starts off smoothly and explodes near the end.

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