Excerpt for Angel in a Box: Episode 2 by , available in its entirety at Smashwords











Angel in a Box

Episode 2



Wesley Foster



what do I gotta do since you only got like, thirty minutes?…”






I dedicate this to The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and me.

He is the One who gave me the gift to write, and the challenge to develop it into something.

Thank-you God, I appreciate all You’ve done for me.







Angel in a Box

Copyright © 2017 Wesley Foster

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 9781370515059


“L1ly”

Copyright © 2017 Wesley Foster

All rights reserved.

Cover Art

Copyright © 2017 Dakota Foster

All rights reserved.











Episode 2







1.


Marooned amongst the stars, the deep blue triangular spaceship was nearly imperceptible in the black vastness of the cosmos. The ship’s polished surface reflected the abundant array of glowing pearls that hung in the universe around it, while a dim glow of light could be seen through the large forward-facing window.

From inside the ship, the stars were taunting reminders of just how very lost he was. Somewhere out there was a human colony. Whether it was Lunar Delta, Titan Alpha, or even the new colony that had begun on Europa. The trouble was figuring out which ones led to something, and not aiming for the wrong one.

Okay, Travis admitted to himself, the first step was making this sleek-looking starship actually move again. Seated on a round stool in front of a console at the back of the command section, Travis Harding returned his gaze to the one thing that might yield some hope in that area. Floating on the black console screen in front of him was a long rectangle that was slowly filling with blue color from the left toward the right. It was a progress bar. Another one of those infuriating things that always felt like it took too long. Not that timers or percentage meters were any better. He just hated to sit there and wait for something that he felt shouldn’t take this long. Especially when your mind played tricks on you and you could swear that progress bar just lost some ground…

He ran his left hand through his short-cropped brown hair before a yawn stretched his mouth open. Coffee…

The only sound to reach his ears was the slight hum of the ship’s engine core that was drowned out by the soft passing of Travis’ breath through his nostrils. Even when the three foot metal pink sphere floated into the room, hovering a foot off the metal floor plating, there was no sound from it’s approach. “Sorry I took off like that” Angel said in startling clarity as the robotic form drew near him again. “It feels so good to be able to run around like deese!” Her sharply accented voice seemed to emanate from the droid’s body in an odd, room-filling manner.

Travis swiveled the round stool around to face her/it to ask a question when the lights in the area flashed a dim reddish glow for an instant before going right back to the standard white-blue light. “That was odd,” he remarked in curiosity.

“System restart has commenced,” a metallic, female voice announced.

“How many voices does this thing have?” he wondered aloud.

“What do you mean?” Angel queried.

He turned to face the floating pink ball with two brown circles for eyes that was now Angel, “First it was your voice, which sounded different before,” he pointed out. “Then it was some guy’s grating voice that made me want to plug my ears,” he continued, “and now it sounds just like your voice did before, just less… I don't know.” He thought a moment, “Smooth?”

Angel studied Travis’ face a moment, searching his brown eyes for the hidden meaning. Her own brown eyes blinked from circles to slits, then back to circles before the one on the right narrowed, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I always sound like deese.”

“No,” he corrected, shaking his head. “When you first took over, you sounded like that did just now,” he explained, pointing at the terminal. “Only your voice was more polished, like I just said.”

Both brown circle-eyes narrowed, and the body turned a mix of pink and orange. “You were just too pollo loco, that’s why you not hear me like deese.”

Travis shrugged and turned to look at the terminal screen and found a soft, undulating blue color wavering like water on the screen. The progress bar was gone! He wasn’t sure whether to be happy or concerned about it though. The last time he had seen it, the bar still had about fifty percent left to travel…

“Computer?” Travis asked hesitantly.

“Full functionality will be restored in… two minutes,” the voice responded.

“She sounds kinda… fake.” Angel observed.

Travis shot her a knowing look, “Like I said before…”

“I am The Sapphire,” the voice stated. “I am not designed to be a human emulation in keeping with the Malchovist Accord of 2097.”

“And yet, you’ve cable-less data transmission technology integrated into the system,” Travis pointed out with a smirk.

“System restored.”

Travis gave Angel’s pink ball a cryptic look, which the smooth robotic facade was unable to return. However, the body of the droid did turn to a stronger orange glow. “That’s cool,” Travis commented with a smile.

Angel tilted her whole body questioningly, “What?”

“You changed color again,” he said, pointing at the droid’s once pink body that now was shifting from the orange color to soft blue.

A series of clicks preceded an ‘arm’ that unfolded out of the right side of the body of the sphere. As Angel lifted the equally soft blue-colored appendage upward the color instantly changed from the soft blue to a cherry red. “Aiya!” she said, the surprise evident. “What is deese? ¿Soy como un camaleón?!”

“Say what?” he asked, baffled by her verbal avalanche.

“Chameleon,” she clarified, “You know, one of those…” she trailed off, her body changing to a softer shade of red. “Why don’t I remember what those are?” she mused in concern.

“I don’t know,” Travis shrugged. “There are a lot of things about you I just can’t put my finger on…” He brightened suddenly, “I remember! Chameleon, right?”

,” she confirmed.

He paused a second to consider whether or not to ask what she’d just said. “That’s one of those extinct lizard-things,” he tried, resigning himself to ignoring the strange use of the word ‘see’.

“What you mean, ‘extinct’?” Angel challenged as she turned orange again while her appendage began folding back into her spherical body.

“A lot of animals were classified extinct after ‘The Cleansing,’” he clarified. “That tends to happen with nuclear devastation.”

Angel’s metal body went white as she hovered in one location. “¡Oh Dios mío!” she whispered after a brief silence.

Travis gave her a considering look. “I take it you didn’t know about that?” he asked slowly.

Angel allowed her body to sink lower toward the floor until it was hovering in place a mere inch from the metal deck plating. “What happened?” she pressed, aiming those two brown orbs on her body to look directly into Travis’ eyes. Not that she needed to. She could see all the way around herself at the same time. It was just a habit to turn her ‘front’ toward him.

He studied her ‘face’, which was really just those two soft, brown ‘eyes’. The body was taking on that soft blue hue again, and he had to admit, even though she lacked a real face, she looked sad. “Where have you been?” he asked her, looking deeply into the droid’s face. “I thought everyone knew…”

“Life support is in near failure and is estimated to no longer function in… two hours,” the gritty female voice interrupted without any consideration of the moment.

Both of them turned to the blue screen. “What broke now?” Travis complained, annoyed at the interruption.

“External trauma has damaged wiring that is operating at, ten percent, efficiency. Recommend replacement wiring be installed immediately,” the female voice offered flatly.

“Oh great!” Travis shouted sarcastically. He stood up, turned to look out the main window and sighed. “And where exactly should we plan on buying this wiring harness?”

“I see no available parts locations within the necessary time window,” the computer replied.

Travis shot a wry look at Angel, “I think I liked it better when you were in charge.”

“I don’t think I would have caught that,” Angel admitted. “Wait a minute,” she continued, turning a soft shade of orange, “you’ve got tools.”

“And?” he retorted, “I have no idea where this thing is, what it looks like, or any way to get to it in the first place.”

Angel’s shade of orange deepened to a burnt pumpkin. “You give up too easy, my brothers would not have had much fun with you.” She physically turned her robotic body toward the blue screen, “Can you show us…” she trailed off for a moment, turning blue and rotating toward Travis. “Do I have brothers?” she asked softly.

Travis shook his head, surprised at her question. “Not that I know of.”

Angel audibly sighed, and her color slowly shifted from blue to orange once more as she turned back to the blue screen. “Can you show us what this thingy looks like?” she asked the computer.

The swirling blue screen cleared, and a three-dimensional image literally floated from the screen into the room as if it had just evolved into reality. Multi-colored wires, plugs and other things that Angel recognized as computer parts slowly rotated in mid-air for her to see. “So what’s wrong with it?” she asked casually, tilting slightly to one side. “Looks fine to me.”

The shimmering image shifted quickly, rotating to only one fixed view. Several wires were highlighted, then the outer covering stripped away to reveal a clear substance inside. “This is the cause of the inefficiency,” the computer explained. “The retention coating on cables 83-A-443, 83-A-444, 83-A-563, and 83-A-709 have been damaged.”

Travis leaned into the image, marveling at the incredible detail that made up the hologram that floated in the room now. It was as if he could grasp it with his hands, and pull out the wiring harness right there. He reached out, and touched the air where the cables had been highlighted, “What damaged them?”

“Cause unknown.”

“So, you can show me this much…” he trailed off a moment in thought. “Computer, how accurate are these images?”

“The image representation is based upon efficiency calculations acquired from strategic monitoring points throughout the system.”

“Except for the fact that I’ve never seen wires that look like that,” Angel puzzled, “Can’t you just, I don’t know, wrap some tape around it or something?”

Travis’ look of light disdain told her otherwise. “That coating prevents the bio-electrical energy from escaping,” he explained. “It’s not something that somebody can just ‘patch up’ like that.” His look changed as he studied the image closer, then he stood up straighter in sudden realization. “Wow,” he mused under his breath. “I’ve never seen anything that works like this before.”

“What do you mean?” Angel asked in reflex.

He pointed at the image, “I’ve never seen a complex computer system that could extrapolate it’s own issues with this level of detail.”

“Huh?”

Travis sighed, “It’s just really cool, that’s all,” he resigned. “Do you have any spare parts aboard?” he asked the computer.

“There is a parts locker in the aft storage bay,” the computer responded in it’s flat tone.

Angel’s body shifted to a salmon color. “I knew you could do something,” she remarked proudly.

The next half hour was spent digging through the surprising number of storage lockers in the cargo bay where Travis found several small rolls of the cables he needed. However, he came up short on the replacement pieces for the ends of the cables. “Well,” he resigned, trying to hide his frustration. “Can’t say we didn’t try.”

“What if I bring you the broken parts?” Angel suggested, her body a solid orange. “Can you do anything with that?”

Travis pursed his lips, considering. “Well,” he began, “the second you unplug that harness, life support will go down.” He shifted his attention to the walls and asked, “Computer, how long will the available air last before the ship’s atmosphere gets too bad for me after she pulls the plug?”

“I’m sorry, I can’t find available air near here.”

Travis rolled his eyes, “Really?”

No response.

“I don’t think she understood your question,” Angel pointed out. “So much for the ‘really cool’ computer,” she jibed with a slight giggle. After a pause, she asked, “Okay computer, how long does the air stay… safe, after the life support shut down?”

“Estimated time until oxygen depletion is thirty minutes per section.”

Travis shot Angel a wry look, “Nice.” He looked over the parts he'd scavenged in consideration, “I think that just might work…” he trailed off. “I never did ask where this damaged harness was.”

“The item is located on the underside of the hull, under panel 83-A.” the computer replied helpfully.

“As if I know where that is,” Angel cut in sarcastically. “I already know I gotta be the one that goes out there, so maybe you tell me where I'm going?”

An image of the ship floated into view in the storage room they were in, which slowly rotated over to be belly-side up. The image became steadily larger, until it was zoomed in on a very specific one meter square section. On one corner, in soft blue lettering was ’83-A’.

A dull red glow started to override Angel’s orange cast. “Well, that explains that.”

“How are you going to keep from floating away?” Travis asked with a considering look.

“I remember when Luis went out, and he just floated, like I do now. I think this body just uses magnets or something. So,” she said with a serious note, “what do I gotta do since you only got like, thirty minutes?”








2.

In the dark vastness of space, littered with stars, a distant red star gleamed a little brighter than the others. Other than that, there was nothing else to see as Angel floated over the bottom of the ship. From her perspective, it was down and she was on top, regardless of the fact that she was hovering along the bottom of the ship. “Okay, I see the panel,” she stated, knowing that her voice was echoing inside the ship. Just like the holographic image she'd seen earlier, all of the panels she saw had pale blue lettering in a corner that identified them by number-letter combination. It didn’t take her long to find the one that read ’83-A’ on one corner.

“Remember to check the tether,” she heard Travis say. “Without it, the panel could drift out of reach and we'd be without proper shielding on planetary approaches.”

“Yeah, yeah. I know,” she replied. “I don't forget things, remember?”

“Like your name?” he jibed.

“Hey!” she retorted, “that's not very nice you know. It's not my fault I don’t remember that.”

“That’s called ‘forgetting,’” Travis remarked with an audible smirk in his tone.

She couldn’t see him like she had before when she was inside the ship’s computer, but she could tell by the sound of his voice that he was smiling. “Whatever,” she dismissed. Her pink droid body was putting out a soft glow that illuminated the ship below her and caused the lettering to glow in a fluorescent light purple. She transformed the two arms from her sides and moved to spin out the bolts that held the panel in place. The deep, dark blue panel had only a faint line that separated it from the other panels around it, which made the hull of the ship appear seamless from a distance. Up close, she could see the square recesses of each bolt that kept the panel in place. Without thinking about it, she extended her right arm and found that one ‘finger’ had a square point on the end the same size as the bolts. It was able to bend and flex, much like a real finger, even though she had no idea how it worked. As she had been instructed, each bolt only required one full turn before it was considered ‘loose’. When all eight bolts had been turned, the panel lifted effortlessly free by using both of her arms and four-fingered hands.

Underneath the panel, she saw a multitude of flashing lights in a variety of different colors. “Okay, I’m in,” she commented.

The metal ‘tether’ that Travis was so concerned about was indeed attached to the panel, so she was able to let go of it and let it float freely with the bolts still attached to the panel. The majority of the light seemed to be coming from the exact same location as the damaged group of wiring that Travis had called a harness. “If all that light is supposed to be inside the wires,” she mused aloud, “then we got a problem.”

“Life support at two percent efficiency and falling,” she heard the computer say.

“Sounds like you found it all right,” Travis commented. “Ready to extract it?”

He really liked his fancy words. “Yeah, I’m ready,” she stated.

“Computer, shut down life support,” Travis commanded.

“Life support is off-line,” the computer’s female voice responded in a deadpan tone. “Warning, available oxygen supply necessary to sustain current occupant is at ninety-eight percent and falling.”

“Great,” Travis remarked blithely over the comm link. “Okay, pull it.”

Angel reached out and carefully wrapped her robotic ’hand’ around one of the cable ends. She wasn’t sure how much force to exert, but the cable pulled free without any adjustment. The other three ends also pulled out without an issue, and she was soon gliding across the hull back toward the hatch, which was on the top of the ship.

She gracefully descended inside the circular opening, and pressed the blue button on the way inside to close the doorway. Twin panels slid from either side of the opening to seal the large hole, leaving her shut inside the aft storage compartment of the ship once more. A blast of air flooded the small room with the purpose of equalizing the pressure inside to the same as the rest of the ship. Another door opened right after that, and she was ‘face’ to face with Travis once more.

“Here you go,” she said, handing him the damaged wires.

He looked it over for a moment, as if preparing to say something.

“You might want to hurry,” she reminded him. “You’ve only got like twenty-six minutes left in here,” she said.

“Right,” he admitted, and turned on his heel.

The process was tedious, demanding a lot of concentration and small tools as he sat on the floor. There was jabbed fingers, a mumbled curse word or two, and at one point she had to hold two pieces together while he did something called ‘splicing’ of one cable. At just over two minutes left in the room, she told him, “You might have to move somewhere else, or you’re gonna pass out.”

“Just one more,” he confessed, pressing the end of a cable into one of the ‘terminal blocks’ as he called them. “Okay, It should be ready,” he said, wiping at his brow.

He looked tired, which she somehow knew meant that the air was getting too thin. “Fine, now you need to get yourself outta here,” she ordered, accepting the bundle from him.

“I’ll just clean up…”

“No,” she corrected. “You’ll get your butt in the front section,” she told him. “Don’t you make me waste time to put you there.”

“Fine,” he droned, rising from the floor like an old man. His knees ached, his elbows ached, and his back was screaming. He started walking toward the wrong door, completely oblivious to the fact.


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(Pages 1-14 show above.)