The commander of the resupply ship made several attempts to dock with the hospital and then gave up. The hospital oscillated beyond what the docking computer could handle, and the entire fiasco put the commander on edge. He started snapping at his pilot for no good reason at all. Freddie spoke up from the rear of the flight deck about using the flex-dock from the hospital. The commander looked taken aback. It took him a moment to process the idea, and then he snapped at Freddie to have at it and ordered his crew to the cargo bay. They had to get the cryo-pods prepared for transfer to the hospital.
During the brief shuffle on the deck, Freddie turned to Penny and asked her to rummage for a tranquilizer gun in the corpsbun's medical supply locker. Freddie's bad feeling about this adventure worsened. He wondered about the crew of this ship. The fact that he had to tell them about the flex-dock completely sunk his mood. To him, they looked more and more like a bunch of mercenaries. But he kept his cool and started to reposition the ship a few meters to his left to line up the vessel with the flex-dock. Freddie watched as the hospital module moved up and down, like a ship in heavy seas. He activated the flex-dock and watched on a monitor how a large tube with a docking collar extended toward the ship. The collar sensed the location of the docking station, and with the help of small thrusters kept itself steady relative to the ship. Then a gentle shudder went through the craft as the collar made contact with the hull and stuck to it like a leech. Slowly, it worked its way precisely to lock onto the craft's dock. Freddie watched how the tube connecting the ship with the hospital flexed and waved. After another moment, the ship signaled it had a clean seal with the flex-dock. Curiously enough, a moment later, the monitor showed the hospital module had stopped bopping up and down. Somebun had stabilized it, and Freddie wondered who.
The commander growled at Freddie and ordered him to go to the cargo bay. Freddie froze in place. Then, a loud noise from the intercom filled the flight deck and spooked everybun, even the commander. They heard somebun pleading for evacuation assistance. Freddie didn't know it was Mel. He figured out that it was the S.O.S. signal from the hospital, but he had no idea it was coming from the module where Mel, Hopper, and I were hiding. In the next instance, Freddie recognized my voice yelling something.
The commander moved toward Freddie, but before he could get much closer, his eyes glazed over and he became motionless. From behind the commander's limp body emerged Penny. She was holding a spent tranquilizer injector. Her paw was shaking, and her mouf trembled. The still body of the commander floated ever so slowly toward Freddie, and he gently pushed it to the side.
Somebun in the hospital still had a stuck mike, and the sounds of the scuffle continued to fill the flight deck. Finally, the fight died down, and an unfamiliar voice declared that the auxiliary command station of the St. Cinnamon's hospital was secured, and the three "patients" were neutralized. Freddie pushed off from his seat and moved toward a control panel of the cargo bays. He punched in a command on a keypad to display a video stream from the cargo bay. The crew was almost done getting the cryo-pods ready for transport to the hospital. They untied the last pod and were ready to move. Freddie prepared the code to blow out the cargo door of the bay and paused. For a while, he pictured everybun getting sucked out into the void of space. Cryo-pods, badgers, and rexes, all would be gone in a matter of seconds. He wondered if he really wanted to go through with this. Freddie couldn't get the sound of the fight in the hospital out of his mind, especially the silence when the fight was over.
Yep, he was ready to execute the command.
Yep, he was ready to execute the command.
Penny noticed what was going on, floated to the panel, and hit the "cancel" button. She grabbed Freddie by the paw and dragged him away and toward the EBA suit locker. Now, Freddie felt numb and was glad to follow her orders. He slipped into a generic, dirty suit and Penny helped him put on a helmet before starting the pressure check routine. Then she suited up herself and grabbed a bale of tether line. ***
What Penny and Freddie heard on the flight deck was the ending of our attempt to take over the auxiliary command station of the hospital. It had all started well enough. We encountered no bun on our way to it, and we let ourselves become convinced that this module was abandoned or already evacuated. As soon as we got to the control panels, Mel initialized the breakup of the station. The hospital was reaching a breaking point, and the automated safety system would trigger the modules to separate from each other anyway. We just didn't want to wait for it. If the security squad was coming for us, we would make them work and pay for closing every inch of distance between them and us. Hopper and I got to work on the radio. We couldn't transmit, and it took us a while to realize that the communication system was already locked down; we had to crack it. We finally got the S.O.S. broadcasting again, and we requested evacuation assistance.
We were so absorbed in the radio work that none of us saw the two badgers sneak into the control room. Poor Mel. He was strapped into the seat as he tried to stabilize our module. Until he did that, no ship could dock with us. They got him first, with a tranquilizer in the neck.
They almost got Hopper too, but the badger missed. I lunged toward the riffraff and took a good swing at his lower belly with my flashlight. The badger groaned and folded in half. Hopper got him in the head with a helmet. That's when Hopper caught a dart in the leg from the second badger, but before he passed out, he pitched his torch at the dude and got him right between the eyes. Again, I took a swing at his noggin with my flashlight and cleaned his clock. I think I cracked his bell. I closed and locked the door to the room. Thinking the place had to be safe now, I turned around to check on my guys. I felt a little sting in my back. It made no sense! I'm still not sure how we lost track of the third badger or even if we ever saw him. I got so sleepy ...
At about the time I went down, Freddie and Penny tried to leave their ship and rushed off to the airlock and the flex-dock collar. Freddie held on to one end of the tether line, and Penny made her way across the dock to the hospital side. Freddie released the supply ship from the dock and triggered the maneuvering thrusters ever so gently to push the ship away from the hospital. By now, every bunny working in the cargo bay had to have realized that something was amiss. Freddie took out a tube of welding epoxy from a pocket on his suit and applied a healthy dollop of it to three of the twelve docking latches on the outside of the airlock. With the joints of those latches welded shut, the airlock was useless. As the gap between the supply ship and the hospital grew, he pulled himself by the tether line into the flex-dock. Freddie worked as hard as he could to cover the short distance to Penny. Once he made it safely across, they released the flex-dock from the hospital and pushed it away.
Once inside the hospital, Freddie and Penny carefully moved toward the control room. Since they didn't know if or how many security personnel were still in this module, they moved slowly, hyper alert for any signs of trouble. They heard a dull clank and felt the module gently shake. Freddie's heart sunk. Something docked, but he had no means of checking who and thought it was the supply ship commencing abordage. Freddie had hoped that he had gotten Penny and him more time than this.
"Don't stop now, Freddie!" yelled Penny. "We can seal the control room and depressurize the module. Let's just hope that they get out of their pressure suits, whoever they are." Penny tried to cheer him on.
Freddie and Penny snuck up to the control room very quietly. They peeked inside through the door window, and there he was the third badger. He was tying Toes and Hopper together. Penny armed her tranquilizer gun and took aim through the window. Freddie opened the door, and Penny pulled the trigger. Freddie held onto her as she started to float back from the recoil. The surprised badger turned around and pushed off toward Penny, but it was too late. By the time he reached the door, he was in no shape to inflict anything on any bunny. His limp body hit the door and slowly bounced back.
Penny and Freddie got into the room and sealed the door. Freddie looked for a console, trying to identify what had just docked with the module. After a moment, he yelled, "Look at this! It's not the supply ship." But Penny had no time to pay any attention to him. She was busy untying Hopper and Toes. "That's good. Now, give me a paw here, will you?" asked Penny. Freddie floated over, and she pointed to the seat where Mel sat, unresponsive. Freddie floated over to him and checked his pulse. The guy was OK. He was just out cold.
Then, somebun was banging on the window, and it was Penny and Freddie's turn to jump and almost suffer heart attacks.
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