Jason slid himself out from under the captain’s station in response to the all too familiar voice, clutching a soldering iron in his right hand while using his left to propel himself.
He couldn’t help but experience a sensation of déjà vu as his eyes made contact with Eve’s contagious smile.
“Thank you,” he smiled back at her, glad for the welcome distraction. “Won’t you join me down here?”
He sat himself down cross-legged on the steel floor of the bridge and gestured for her to sit down next to him. He shut off the portable soldering iron and placed it a short distance away on the floor, where it wouldn’t accidentally burn either of them as it cooled.
Eve made herself comfortable next to him and handed him a mug which was filled almost to the brim with his favourite drink, brewed to perfection.
“Cheers!” he said, taking a sip of the sweet, warm, aromatic liquid.
“You are most welcome, Your Majesty,” she smiled back and planted a kiss on his cheek, making him blush a little.
“Dr. Eve Lomax!” he began in a deep, formal tone reserved for public speaking, but burst out laughing a second later.
“Jason King, laughing?” she responded. “Now this is a rare honour!”
“Ok, let me try this again,” said Jason with a huge smile on his face.
“Eve, thank you for being my rock, especially over the last four years. I have something for you, so wait right here and don’t you go anywhere!”
She looked at him questioningly as he hurriedly drained his mug in a few quick gulps, stood up and ran off leaving her surprised and curious.
Jason returned less than two minutes later looking a little flustered and out of breath, evidence that he had been running really fast.
“Happy birthday!” he smiled, one hand behind his back, obviously hiding something.
“But how did you know?” she asked. “And what are you hiding behind your back?”
“I replicated this just for you,” he smiled triumphantly, handing her a little clay pot which boasted a single stemmed brilliant yellow sunflower in full bloom.
Eve was speechless.
“I know it’s not much, but this is the only sunflower in existence on the entire planet, and it’s a flower which reminds me of you, as you’re always so warm and full of positive energy.”
Eve simply hugged Jason tightly, without saying a word. Jason embraced her warmth and lost himself in the moment.
“Two hours to launch,” chimed a somewhat mechanical sounding female voice, rudely interrupting the moment and startling Jason.
“You had better get back to work,” said Eve breaking off her embrace, “Or you’ll delay the launch.”
“Yes, you’re right,” responded Jason almost reluctantly but with a look of excitement in his eyes.
“This last minute addition to the captain’s station shouldn’t take me more than a few minutes to complete.”
Four years of hard work and obsessive dedication had been invested in the creation of the successor to the once mighty Equinox.
Whilst there was no shortage of manpower, Jason insisted on working hands on, on this behemoth of a spacecraft, which was now the largest, most heavily armed and fortified vessel in his considerable fleet.
Working on this project helped him focus on something other than the tragic loss of his beloved Jasmine, while his desire for revenge grew daily.
The Equinox B, measuring almost two and a half kilometres in length and seven hundred metres across rested patiently on her platform in the midst of the vast desert of red sand while a small army of engineers and technicians went about performing final pre-flight checks and tests.
The sound of footsteps approaching interrupted Jason’s thoughts once more, just as he fastened the last bolt, closing up the panel beneath the captain’s station.
“Jason?” Vince called out questioningly, not sure if the figure dressed in red and blue overalls lying on his back with his upper body immersed in the space under the console was his friend.
“Vince!” exclaimed Jason crawling out, “And Thomas Wayne!” he quickly added, seeing that Vince was not alone.
Vince was much older than Jason, taller and well built. He wore his long hair in a neat ponytail today. His dark brown eyes were framed by metal rimmed spectacles, even though his short-sightedness could have easily been corrected by laser surgery.
Standing next to Vince, even the muscular Thomas appeared tiny.
Jason nodded at Thomas, acknowledging the presence of the young engineer.
Thomas Wayne had been handpicked for the Equinox project by Jason after he graduated top of his class at the University of Octavia. He was both intelligent and intuitive and proved himself to be an invaluable asset to the design team.
“All set, Captain?” asked Vince.
“Affirmative!” grinned Jason. “We will launch as scheduled. Shall we take our stations?”
Thomas Wayne made himself right at home at the engineer’s station while Eve sat herself down in the navigator’s chair as the launch drew closer yet. Vince seated himself at the first officer’s station while Jason walked around the captain’s station, admiring his handiwork and making sure that every bolt was in place before he too sat himself down in his comfortable, body hugging leather chair.
The bridge of the Equinox B was designed exactly like the original. It was a circular room located deep within the ship where it would remain protected in the unlikely event of a hull breach.
The captain’s chair and control panel were located dead centre, about five meters away from the main viewer, with the first officer’s station to the right, and the navigator’s console to the left. Behind, was a whole array of instruments, displays and various stations for the engineers and gunners.
Cameras and sensors around the enormous ship fed information to the main view screen which was currently dark.
Jason turned around and addressed his young chief engineer.
“Mr. Wayne, begin the pre-launch sequence immediately.”
“Yes sir!” responded Wayne, the excitement and enthusiasm evident in his voice.
“Is there any reason why I can’t see anything on the main view screen?” queried Jason with a hint of sarcasm.
“Sorry,” responded the young engineer sheepishly, quickly manipulating a touch panel to his right and activating the large screen which displayed the vast red desert with such clarity, as if looking out through an open window.
Moments later the bridge came to life with all the display screens lighting up, showing status messages and flashing symbols as Thomas continued to manipulate other controls at his station.
A gentle breeze began blowing through the bridge as the life support and advanced climate control systems kicked in.
“Equinox advanced voice recognition and interactive interface version five zero one is now online,” chimed a pleasant sounding female voice, replacing the harsher voice from earlier.
“The navigational array is now active and ready,” reported Eve, trying to impersonate the ship’s voice, causing everyone to burst out laughing.
“The main thrusters will activate in sixty seconds,” cut in Thomas. “And the anti-gravity drive is functioning.”
“Is the new experimental quantum entanglement communicator online?” asked Jason.
“Affirmative!” confirmed Thomas, grinning.
The quantum entanglement communicator was a recent addition, the brainchild of Thomas Wayne. It was a point to point communications device which allowed instantaneous communication across vast spatial distances, based on a phenomenon which was once described as “spooky action at a distance” by Albert Einstein.
“Well Jason, here we go again,” nodded Vince from the first officer’s chair.
“Wayne, please switch to manual and transfer flight control to my station. I want to take her up myself.”
“Done!” responded Wayne. “..Four, three, two, one..”
The Equinox B shuddered and shook as the powerful dual main engines activated for the very first time, first the one, followed a few moments later by the other.
“The engines are now at normal operating temperature,” announced Thomas about five minutes later. “You may take off when ready, Captain,” he added, a moment later.
“Equinox computer, overlay the ship’s telemetry data on the main view screen,” instructed Jason, addressing the ship’s computer directly.
“Yes, Captain,” responded the computer promptly carrying out his request.
A smile played on Jason’s lips as he took control of the massive ship. Ever so gently, he eased her off the ground. Slowly at first, and then exponentially faster she gained altitude, quickly rising high above the red sands of Zalhar and beyond Carac’s atmosphere. Jason marvelled at the amazing view of the planet down below and the stars which were now visible as they entered space.
“Equinox computer, bring the main shield on line,” he instructed.
For a moment it appeared as if the Equinox B was covered in a delicate purple haze which increased in intensity and disappeared.
“The regenerative shield is now at full power,” responded the ship’s computer.
“Excellent!” remarked Jason. “Let’s see if she performs as expected.”
He caught Vince giving him a questioning look from the corner of his eye and swivelled his chair to face the first officer’s station.
“Vince, old buddy,” smiled Jason, “This new regenerative shield will dismantle any object making contact with it, at the atomic level, and convert the object into energy, feeding itself.”
Vince looked at his friend in surprise and awe but said nothing. He simply nodded.
“Ok, Mr. Wayne, return the ship to computer control. Eve, set a course for the asteroid field. Twice light speed! Let’s test this shield!”