Howard sat at his desk, making a copy of his notes to include with the captain’s log. The captain’s log was recorded in its own storage system independent of the ship and was supposed to be able to survive the destruction of a ship so that people could find out what went wrong.
Howard felt it important that his notes be included in those logs.
The download completed and Howard shut off the program and opened a communication link with the bridge.
‘Commander Jona here, what can I do for you, Captain?’
‘What’s our status Mr Jona?’
‘We’ve had a few odd occurrences, we’ve managed to stay on top of them, but any one of them could have disabled the Solar Array Storage Bay or other parts of the ships.’
‘But you’re staying on top of them?’
‘We only need to hold it together long enough to get everyone on the ground.’
‘We’ll be hitting equatorial orbit in 30 minutes. We’re performing the first of the corrective manoeuvres right now. We’re going to drop the solar storage bay in 10 minutes. It’s own manoeuvring thrusters will be able to move it into a Geosynchronous orbit when it’s ready. We’ll shed the colony pods in forty minutes. So far we are on schedule. That should give us six hours of orbital time to reconfigure the ship.’
‘Keep me advised of any developments.’
Outside Solar Array Storage Bay
Ayla Geer stood unnaturally still waiting around a corner a little way away from the double airlock doors leading to the storage bay. Her body was waiting for some cue to move.
Guards were posted inside the bay. No guards were posted outside. They were more concerned with keeping people in than keeping people out.
The hall was empty, people were busy elsewhere.
Moving quickly, she rushed to a nearby wall panel. With tools she had in her pockets, she pried the panel off and revealed a crawl space. She pocketed her tools and climbed into the opening. She moved quickly down the crawl space. The metal got cold in places, parts of the crawl space being unshielded from space now that the bay was almost ready to be ejected from the ship. She rounded a corner and went down a little further until the crawl space turned again and ended against the wall of the storage bay.
Ayla pulled out her tools again and started to work on the panel. Behind her, a door sealed off the secondary hull of the bay from the rest of the ship. A rumbling sound indicated the clamps holding the bay in place were retracting to the ship.
Ayla pried the panel open and crawled out. As planned, she had come out behind a bank of computers, hidden from view. She slipped the panel back in place, but couldn’t get it to latch back on since she had forced it off.
A shudder ran through the deck and the bay grew still.
She stepped out into the main room. The guards spotted her and reached for weapons, but stopped when they saw she was just a young girl. James turned to see what the guards were looking at.
Howard walked back onto the bridge.
‘Separation from the solar bay is confirmed. Visual observation reports that the thrusters on the bay have started firing to bring it into it’s needed orbit.’
‘Do we have it on sensors?’
‘Can we calculate the stability of its orbit?’
‘I’d need to use Exo, but yes.’
‘I’ll get Ayla up here to take care of it. Then I will escort her to the medical centre for the physical that was interrupted.’
Howard walked to his captain’s chair. ‘Exo, send Ayla to the bridge please.’
Exo didn’t answer.
‘Exo, did you hear me?’
Howard waited for a minute, then keyed a direct comm channel to Ayla.
‘Ayla, report to the bridge please.’
There was no answer.
Howard keyed the communication system off of the internal system and onto the short range array.
‘This is Captain Howard to Ayla Geer, please respond.’
The channel was silent, then there was a pop and static.
‘Captain, short range and medium range arrays just went dead. We still have internal comms, damage crews are working on it.’
‘Very well Mr Jona. Have the crews keep on it, but let’s get the colony pods launched.’
‘Yes sir, we’ve started sealing up the other colony bays. Colonists are ready and all landing systems and backup systems are reading as active. First pack of bays ready to separate. Second pack will jettison ten minutes later, and final wave ten minutes after that.’
‘Jettison the first wave.’
‘Aye Captain, jettisoning the first wave.’
Colony bays jettisoning.
Colonists are not a threat to existence.
Colonists could jeopardise plans.
Allow colony bays to jettison.
Once jettisoned, move to gain control of the ship.