Original title: Lesson of Chaos: Space Trip Steps
Present title: Other Voices: Space Trip Steps
Present text of the finished story:
"Oh no! DON'T TOUCH THAT LEVER!"
He had to move.
He had to move fast.
Knuckles thrust the Air Necklace between his teeth. The shuttle's open door howled at him.
Eyes squeezed shut. Exhale through the nostrils. Giant hands flew up to cover his entire face.
He was dragged into the abyss.
'What's this?' he thought. 'Can't fly or climb.'
'Oh yeah. Need an atmosphere to glide.'
Nothing he couldn't handle. Couldn't risk exposing his eyes to see where he was going anyway.
'I could just float. Hope I don't die.'
Invisible flecks of rock sliced through his naked skin.
No big deal. Good thing he could heal.
Out of sight meteors like clouds rolled through the omnipresent sky, bashing into each other.
The shattered Controller's cry of fear drawing him on was the only thing that mattered.
Steady. Control the breath.
Six, seven, eight, nine, and ten.
A sip of air from the necklace.
Don't hold it in! Exhale quickly!
'It worked. Good. Count to ten again.'
Some kind of current was pulling everything in one direction. He could sense the shards of the Master Emerald all drifting that way. There seemed to be faint traces of Chaos energy at the source of the pull, distinct from the weeping of the Emeralds. Whatever it was, the same current was taking him closer to where he needed to be, and it was stronger than the gentle push of breath seeping through his gloves. His hastily devised plan was to use that alone for propulsion as he felt out each shard's location in the void, collecting them blindly with a free hand one at a time until either the gems were all together again or the necklace ran out of air, and then praying that the shuttle turned around to pick him back up.
New plan: stay conscious long enough to figure out what he was floating towards, then pray it was a safe spot to pass out in.
He should have yanked Tails out here with him, regardless of the fact that the fox had no assistance from a breathing apparatus. Tails would know how space worked, use some gadget like those Jet Anklets to get to the Master Emerald pieces or help him move around. What did the kid say about stuff like this?
Was it Tails that told him a lot about space travel?
No, no that wasn't right. He heard it from someone else.
Maybe it was Vector the Crocodile, one of the guys he ran into when Eggman took over the....
"What makes those yellow things so important anyway? I mean, if they are so hard to fix and all."
The tall, round human at his side was still focused on the window that spanned the wall in front of them. The window was a marvelous device, showing them views of the Launch Base Zone from many different angles, as opposed to just one angle like normal windows. There was a series of buttons under the glass, where the man's long fingers seemed to wreath wildly in an effort to press as many in sequence as possible, somehow altering what the window could show them.
"Those yellow things are barrier generators." his new friend replied. "They ensure that the portions of the Death Egg not protected by the main outer structure are not open to the vacuum of space."
Little besides the persistent tapping of buttons filled the air for a precious moment.
"Eye-voh, what is a vacuum?"
The sound of tapping finally stopped, replaced by an irritated sigh.
"My name is pronounced 'eh-voh', as in 'it', not as in 'I am', Knuckle." Ivo corrected, making sure to stress the use of Knuckles' nickname, which earlier had been established as only something the Flickys were allowed to use, as the small birds couldn't really chirp out the whole word.
"A vacuum is an absence- in this case of air pressure, as there is no air in space. Outside of the planet's atmosphere it is impossible to breathe or even to hold one's breath, or more problematic for me, impossible to move without a means of propulsion. You see my machines would be sucked out of the Death Egg if the barrier generators didn't create a wall around the exposed sections because of the difference in air pressure outside from that of the atmosphere inside."
Knuckles wanted to say something about being referred to by his proper name, but was too busy trying to wrap his mind around this information as Ivo continued speaking.
"That being said, once the Death Egg's artificial gravity is fully functional, it will be possible to sustain a thin atmosphere around the ENTIRE STATION and allow normal movement to be made outside the main structure. Although accomplishing that would require having enough gas around the gravity field that the exterior pressure is close to that of the interior pressure, otherwise the robots will still get sucked into space. A tricky process, prone to miscalculations. In an emergency situation it is better to completely enclose the station and prevent such mishaps. Now IF ONLY I could repair these accursed generators..."
The Echidna's confusion didn't really abate. He gathered however that vacuums were bad and atmospheres were good.
"So... what exactly would happen if you got sucked into a vacuum?"
Ivo had returned to his rapid button pressing, but never the less gave the question some consideration.
"You'd probably have 10 or 15 seconds of time to think of a way out of your predicament. Until you pass out from oxygen starvation. After that, you won't care."
He thrust down the shame that choked him every time he thought about the days spent helping that criminal.
'I ain't the criminal. Crime don't pay.'
'Alertness pays. Could save your life one day.'
The echidna was unsure how many cycles of quick breaths from the Air Necklace had gone by. His lungs were burning from the long periods of emptiness and he was starting to get dizzy. Eyes felt puffy for some reason. The moisture in his mouth was gone. In fact his entire body felt curiously dry despite the layer of water from his extensive swim prior to entering the shuttle. He had no idea how long he’d been floating or how much more time he had before the air ran out. It occurred to him that he could have thought this through a little better. At least he was getting closer to the source of that faint Chaos energy signal.
Suddenly his concentration was spoiled by the violent popping of his ears. The force tugging him along was slowly becoming much stronger. He could feel it- he was moving with the flow of sharp rocks now, approaching the hum of the Emeralds at increasing speed. A particularly large stone smacked him hard across the skull, causing his Rings to be ripped out of his body. In those invaluable seconds of invincibility he pulled his hands off his face to let loose a piercing scream of pain.
Wait a second.
‘I can hear myself screaming in space?’
He chanced to open his eyes. Between the flashes of stark white that clouded his vision after losing Rings he saw a black expanse dotted with sparks and streaks of orange under some gray mass that took up what should have been the sky. Stars and falling meteors, he realized, the latter being drawn what should have been downwards to a strange series of completely motionless bodies below the face of the Space Colony ARK.
Knuckles flailed like a creature possessed as the brief salvation of invincibility took its leave and his Rings vanished into the torrent of meteors below. He certainly didn’t need to worry about something as trivial as breathing now!
Atmospheric reentry wasn’t so bad. He just had to position his body so he faced the ground and the tiny meteors were hitting him in the back of the head instead of his face. Spread out limbs to create more air resistance. Catch the breeze with his dreadlocks. Just don’t hit the ground- or whatever he was falling towards- at full speed. Nothing to worry about.
A burning rock twice the size of his body shot passed his right arm.