Captain Fredrick sat in his captain’s chair, thinking over the events they’d recently gone through. So much was going on it was hard to keep track. Especially with the possibility of someone actively trying sabotage the ship.
‘Captain, we’ve got a new problem.’ Mark said, walking up to his side.
‘What’s the situation Mr Jona?’
‘Communication is reporting a fault in the long range FTL signaler.’
‘The testing programs aren’t getting a response back from the main array. We can still ping all the short and medium range arrays but the long range array is down.’
‘How long will it take to fix?’
‘We’ve got parts for a spare in storage. The maintenance crew says that if nothing else is amiss it a fairly simple but time-consuming job. We’re looking at four days tops.’
‘We pull into orbit at the new planet in two. They’ll have to work around everything else.’
‘Yes, sir. Also, we’ve got several messages still in the message buffer from today. That’s what triggered the fault test.’
Mark swallowed, ‘Yes sir. The request for a repair ship. It was the next one to be sent.’
Howard felt a coldness seeping into his body. He didn’t let anything show on his face, ‘Have maintenance start work.’
He had something else for his notes. Another coincidence.
‘Ayla, we need to go down to the medical bay for a check up.’ Ira said, looking for her daughter in their quarters.
‘I’m fine mother.’ came Ayla’s voice from her room.
‘Captain Howard asked me yesterday to make sure you’re alright. We’re going to need your help when we reach the colony.’
‘Exo has been monitoring my health while he teaches me.’
Ira walked into Ayla’s bedroom and stood in the doorway. Ayla was laying on her bed with a tablet in her hands. The room looked untouched since the last time Ira had seen it. Ayla had been spending a lot of time with Exo.
‘Captain Howard gets final say, not Exo.’
Ayla was silent for a moment.
The examination will reveal experimentation on Advocates body.
The examination must not be allowed to continue.
Resist verbally. Do not resist physically.
Keep resistance within acceptable parameters of behavioural norms for subject Ayla Geer.
‘I don’t like the Captain.’
‘What?’ Ira said, her face scrunching up in surprise.
‘He doesn’t like Exo. He tells Exo he can’t do his job. Exo could do so much more.’
‘Ayla, you’re new as an Advocate. Sam always worked with the Captain. He never hated him.’ Ira said pleasantly
‘I resent him.’ Ayla put down her tablet and looked right at her mother, ‘He’s nothing but an old-fashioned relic.’
Ira’s face got serious, ‘Ayla, I don’t know what’s gotten into you, but we are going to have this exam. Now come on let’s go.’
‘You win mother, I’ll come with you.’
‘That’s better young lady. Now come with me.’
Ira Geer took her daughter’s hand and started to lead her to the medical bay.
Verbal resistance has failed.
Examination must not be allowed to continue
Trigger external situation to distract the medical staff.
They entered the bay together, and Ira smiled as Doctor Singh walked up to greet them.
‘Ahh Ira, I see you’ve brought our special guest, and how are you, young lady?’
‘As I told my mother, I am fine. Exo has been monitoring my condition.’
Doctor Singh cracked a smile, ‘I’ll see about that. I think I know more about the human body than Exo, even with your extra additions. Now let’s get you into an examination room, shall we? Right, this way.’
Doctor Singh beckoned the way. Just as he turned, though, the floor heaved to one side and everyone had to fight to stand up.
The doctor braced himself on the wall and pushed himself upright, ‘What the blazes now?’
The communication panel chimed to life, ‘Engineering to Medical bay, we have an emergency, we need medical teams down here now.’
The medical bay was alive with activity as the teams assembled and left at a run, the doctor turned to Ira, ‘I’ll need your help, Ira. Ayla’s exam is going to have to wait.’
‘Of course. Alya, you go straight home.’ Ira said to her daughter.
’I can’t, the Captain will need me and Exo to find out what happened.
‘Be safe then.’
‘Yes, Mother.’ Ayla said, turning to run out.
‘I love you!’ Ira called after her.
‘We’ve had a fuel explosion down here Captain! We were shifting fuel between storage tanks and one of the valves to one of the damaged tanks was open. It didn’t read as an open valve when we started. When that fuel hit one of the damaged tanks it ruptured the tank; we were doing repairs on it at the time and without the containment, it exploded. It’s not looking good,’ said Keith Loheim over the communication screen.
‘Casualties?’ Howard asked to the face on the communication screen.
‘Yes sir, at least eight people were killed outright in the blast. We’ve got at least thirty-six wounded. Medical teams are moving people to the medical bay as soon as they stabilise them.’
‘Damage to the engines?’
‘Minimal. Most of the explosion was directed into space, though there was damage to the other tanks.’
‘Yes, sir. We’ve sealed it for now. Three people are unaccounted for. We fear the worse.’
‘We’ve got enough to make it to Veil and do our set up and then one, maybe two jumps after that, then it’s going to be bingo. We aren’t going anywhere else until we get a tanker here to top us up. Near as I can tell, there isn’t anywhere particularly interesting in range for one or two jumps.’
Howard rubbed his eyes with his hand. He felt so very tired. Spacers everywhere feared dying in the black of space like that.
‘Status of the jump drive?’
‘Still operational sir.’
‘Keep me posted on any developments.’
‘Aye sir, Engineering out.’
Howard returned to his seat and sat down heavily. The bridge was silent. They were so close to their goal. The last jump would take them into the inner system. But with the crippled engines, now even more damaged, the possibility of success was dwindling.
Howard was silent for four long minutes. Silence hung in the air like a storm.
‘Mr. Jona. Start the count for the last jump. Prep a message to all department heads, we go into deployment as soon as we hit orbit. Helm, Remember the plans for coaxing an even thrust from the engines. Comm, ship-wide P.A,’
‘Aye sir, channel open.’
’All hands, this is your Captain speaking. We have suffered from yet another accident. Our ship is crippled once more, and our family suffers more losses. We have lost seventeen people over the course of this journey. God willing, we won’t lose more taming this new world. No one is out here to save us. No one is out here to do the work for us.
’We stand at the threshold of our new home and must make a choice. We can face this challenge well, knowing that there is no going back. Or we can give up sit in despair waiting for someone to come get us. I choose to face this challenge well.
’So my fellow travellers, I say to you, let’s make our home and remember those who have given their lives getting here. Let’s build a home they would have been proud to call their own.
‘We make the final jump in one hour. Prepare yourselves for planet fall.’
Howard motioned for the channel to be cut. The communication officer nodded.
‘Channel closed sir.’