Two days had passed since Howard and Sam had spoken. Though Sam wasn’t yet ready to believe Exo might be dangerous, he had nevertheless started to observe the Guardian’s behaviour more carefully.
He tried to not to let his suspicions show during his training with Ayla though. Presently, he was waiting for her to come to the bay for another session.
‘Hello, Ayla.’ Sam said as Ayla walked into Exo’s central core room on the ship. The display tube showing the face for Exo flickered to life. Exo looked at the two of them.
‘Hello Sam, Hello Exo,’ Ayla said happily.
‘We’re going to be making a jump here in a few minutes. Exo wanted you to learn what he does to make one. I thought it would be a good idea as well. You need to know these things. You can help teach a new Guardian how to travel among the stars if you know this.’
‘And Exo will teach me?’
Exo’s face drifted from Sam to Ayla, ‘I will teach you everything you need to know. Please switch your uplink on.’
‘Okay.’ Ayla answered over the uplink
‘Now Ayla, I’ll be right here if you have any questions. Exo, you can begin.’ Sam said.
‘The Captain of any vessel will always want to know what is going on. It’s considered a courtesy and a duty to inform him when we are ready with the jump. I will do so now.’ Exo said.
A few minutes passed, with Sam and Ayla watching Exo through their cybernetic links. Ayla observing everything he did, and Sam reviewing it against his own memories.
The Captain’s voice came on over the ship announcement system ‘All hands, prepare for jump. We’re almost there. One more jump to go.’
‘Now, we upload the final jump calculations into the navigation computer. These calculations would have been completed after about the first week after the last jump. What we were truly waiting for would be the regeneration of the energy reserves for the Jump drive. They take a large amount of power. For a brief moment, we exist in both locations at once. It’s faster than any device can track. In fact, human scientists only theorise that it’s that way. There is no proof, of simultaneous existence, only theories.’ Exo said.
A communication panel beeped. Sam walked over to it and switched it on.
‘Hello, Samuel Jennings here.’
‘Hello, Sam. This is James Bennett, I’m in charge of our colonies power infrastructure. Specifically, I’m in charge of our solar arrays and power infrastructure. I’ve got a few questions for you, and the Captain said you’d be the man to ask,’ said the voice. In a meeting with all the department heads, Sam remembered him having a Scottish accent, though there were hints of the accent, it different.
‘Did he now? I’m a little busy with the jump right now.’
‘It’s actually in relation to that. I can wait if you’re busy, but it is somewhat urgent.’
‘Exo, is there anything wrong with the communication system? ’ Sam asked.
‘I can run a diagnostic. It will delay the jump for fifteen minutes.’ Exo replied.
‘No... Carry on. I’ll go check it out.’ Sam said.
‘Should we wait for you?’ Exo asked.
‘Continue your lesson. Just warn me when you are about to jump.’
‘Is something wrong Sam?’ Ayla asked.
‘That man has an accent in my memory. But now it sounds different.’ Sam said.
‘Should I alert the captain?’ Exo Asked.
‘No, I’ll do it on my way.’ Sam said.
‘Are you still there Sam?’ asked the voice.
‘Yes. Where are you?’
‘I’m in the cargo bay with the solar arrays. I assume you know where that is?’
‘Yes, I do. I’m on my way.’
Sam exited the room and muted his uplink. He fished a portable communicator out of his pocket and keyed it to the captain’s channel.
‘Captain, this is Sam.’
‘What is it, Sam? Is there a problem?’
‘I don’t know. I just got a call from James asking me to come down to the solar storage bay. His voice sounded a bit off.’
‘Off?’ Howard asked over the comlink.
‘Yeah. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but it sounded... disjointed. I’m going to head down to the bay and check it out. He may be in trouble.’
‘Do you want me to send someone?’
‘It should be fine. If it’s someone doing something ill-conceived, it’ll take a lot to harm me. My body is built like a tank.’ Sam stated confidently.
‘I’ll have someone come anyway, just as soon as the jump happens. Which will be in another three minutes.’
‘Roger that. Sam out.’
Sam switched off his communicator and put it back in his pocket.
He reached the bay a minute later.
Stepping through the door, he saw James sitting in a seat looking up at the disassembled parts hanging from their rigging on the roof.
James saw Sam and stood up, ‘Sam what are you doin’ here?′
‘I was hoping you could answer that James,’
‘What do you-’ a communication panel at Jame’s central computer station beeped, ‘Hang on.’
James walked briskly for the panel, Sam followed in behind him.
‘Exo?’ Sam said over the uplink.
‘Yes, Adovcate?’ Exo replied.
‘When’s the jump?’ Sam asked.
‘Five seconds, shall we delay?.’ Exo said.
‘No, go ahead.’ Sam said.
Sam parted his legs and took a deep breath, preparing for momentary nausea that always hit him when the jumps happen. He thought to warn James at his computer, but then the jump drive activated.
‘We have successfully jumped, Captain. All systems coming back online.’ Mark reported crisply.
‘Good. Prepare to stand down.’
One of the bridge officers at the sensor station looked tense, ‘Captain, sensors haven’t come online yet.’
The captain’s eyebrows furrowed in frustration, ‘Exo, we’ve lost sensors.’
‘Please stand by, I am rebooting the system now. Something in the control systems switched off.’
‘That’s completely unacceptable. We ran a full diagnostic before we jump-’
‘Captain!’ The officer at the sensor station shouted, ‘We’ve got an incoming energy wave. Massive surge across multiple spectrums. Closing fast. It will intersect us in 20 seconds.’
‘Exo! Emergency shut down of all primary systems.’
‘Shutting down all systems. As per electromagnetic safety measures, systems will reboot in five minutes.’
With that, the bridge went dark. Emergency lighting kicked on, and the room glowed red.
‘Captain? Why did we shut down the systems?’ asked the sensor officer.
‘When a massive wave like that is coming for us, we shut down all systems so they don’t overload and fry. They’re shielded, but they’re better able to withstand it,’ Howard grew aware of a vibration in the soles of his boots, ‘when the systems are all off. It’s like if there’s a power surge, it can’t effect any appliances if nothing’s plugged in.’
Howard was aware of a slight pressure on his chest.
Mark seemed to rock on his feet, ‘Are we moving?’
‘It feels like the sub-light engines are on,’ Howard said out loud.
Mark’s eyes grew wide, ‘The new drive system! It’s unshielded!’
‘It’s also supposed to be offline!’ Howard said surprised. He knew that’s what it had to be, but it seemed impossible.
Mark stumbled backwards as the ship was rocked by three sudden bursts of motion, ‘They seem to be firing unevenly.’
‘They’re uncontrolled!’ Howard said as the shaking started to grow worse.
Suddenly the ship jerked to one side sharply, and a violent shaking shook the deck and bulkheads. Mark fell to the floor, and everyone was thrown from their seats.
‘That felt like one blew up!’ said one of the bridge crew from somewhere out of Howard’s sight.
‘We’ve got to get the systems back online.’ Mark said.
Howard got to his feet and stumbled to the nearest command console. He had a system reboot code of his own, he keyed it into the seemingly dead console and waited. Nothing happened.
Howard looked at his watch. About four minutes had passed since the shutdown. The systems should be rebooting soon. Regardless, he went to the next console and tried his code again.
He tried three consoles when the systems started to boot up on their own.
‘Bridge to engineering!’
‘Engineering here. Captain, we’ve got a situation.’
‘I am aware of this. Did you shut down the engines?’
‘Just finished sir. We lost one of the primary drive nozzles and half of its fuel systems. Two neighbouring drives took some damage, but we’ll have to go out to get a better look. We’ve got some casualties.’
‘Sit tight until we know the dangers passed, we’ll get a medical team down there ASAP.’
Howard cut his communication link, he turned to the rest of the bridge. The crew were getting back into their seats, ‘Get a medical team to engineering. Sensor report?’
‘No sign of the wave sir. Looks like it passed.’
‘No sign of it? You mean we can’t even see it going away from us?’
‘No sir, but it’s possible the sensors are a little bit overloaded right now.’
‘Run a critical process diagnostic and let me know the results as soon as you have them.’ Howard ordered.
Howard looked at Mark and saw him talking into a communicator. He looked worried. Mark ended his call.
‘What is it Mr Jona?’
‘There’s been an accident in the solar array storage bay. One man is critically wounded, another has non-threatening wounds. I’ve dispatched another medical team.’
‘Who is it?’ Howard said, a sense of dread filling him.
’Samuel Jennings and James Bennet. Bennet is the one who made the call. Samuel was the one with the serious injuries.