Tuesday 19 September 2017
The blistering sun was well behind them now. Protected by the heat shields, and now great distance, the small team of terra-formers could rest easy until they reached their final destination.
‘I thought we were toast, no pun intended. I thought we’d never make it to RK-422.’ Billy Marshall wandered around the galley as he whined about their recent near-catastrophe.
‘You need to have more faith in Constance. She knows what she’s doing. She’s a veteran of six missions, Bill. There was no way she wasn’t getting us out of that one.’
Billy sneered. ‘That’s the trouble with you, Weisz. You live by faith. You’re an airy-fairy, wishy-washy humanities studying muppet. You and Constance. The rest of us, well, we’re science and logic based people. We put our trust in what we can see, what we can quantify, what we can study. Faith doesn’t come into it because it’s an unquantifiable entity. No, it’s not even an entity. It’s just bullshit.’
Weisz shrugged off Billy’s response. ‘One day, Billy, one day, something will present itself to you, some conundrum that can’t be explained by science and logic, and it will be faith that you have to put your trust in.’
‘The reverse can be said for you. Something will come along that faith can’t explain, and you’ll have to rely solely on science or logic. Your faith will fail you. Inevitably, it always does. For everyone.’ Billy threw himself down into the only available chair, next to Constance. She raised an eyebrow as he smiled smugly at her.
‘You’ve been awfully quiet during this little discussion, Constance. Do you always let Weisz do the talking for you?’
‘Do you always let your arse do your talking for you?’ Weisz replied without skipping a beat.
She’d put Billy back in his place. With a single question, Constance let him know that she was the commander of this mission.
‘If there’s anything you have a problem with, Lieutenant Marshall, feel free to take it up with central command when we get back home. Until then, you take orders from me, and you damn well better respect every member of my crew because if you don’t, not only will I ensure you’re court marshalled, but I’ll see to it that you’re on reduced pay until you can respect every member of my crew. Is that understood?’
‘I’m sorry, Lieutenant, I didn’t hear you?’
‘Yes, ma’am. Understood.’
‘Good.’ Constance pushed her half-eaten plate of food to the centre of the table, and walked out of the galley, leaving her subordinates to finish their meal without her company.
She wandered back to her cabin, the last two days weighing heavily on her shoulders. Had she miscalculated any manoeuvre, misjudged anything from the speed of the vessel to the gravitational pull, the Anna Maria and her crew would have burned up in Jericho’s sun. Constance lowered herself onto her bed, kicked off her boots, and rested her forearm across her eyes. Two days of no sleep, and a mountain of stress, had taken its toll on her mind and body. In no time, her breathing slowed, her mind stopped running, and she was in a deep sleep.
In the galley, Billy Marshall sat in silence devouring the rehydrated slop that the company tried to pass off as food. Weisz rubbed her eyes with the backs of her hands, and yawned.
‘You should hit the sack, Weisz. Get some sleep.’
‘Yeah, think I might just do that, Doc. My head’s killing me.’
‘Come on, we can stop by the med bay, and I’ll give you something for that.’
‘Thanks. Appreciate it.’ She rose, took an unsteady step, then fell backwards against Billy.
‘Fucking watch out, you bitch!’ he snapped, not realising Weisz hadn’t voluntarily collided into him. He turned to see her convulsing on the floor, blood leaking from nose and ears, and eyes rolling back into her head.
‘Jesus Christ. What the fuck is wrong with her?’ multiple voices screamed.
Doc, the only calm voice, ordered Toller to collect his kit from the med bay, then sent Hammett to fetch the Commander. Gabriel, on his knees beside Weisz, tried to make her comfortable.
‘Doc? What are we dealing with here?’
It was a conversation Doc had no intention of having with the engineer. Weisz’s medical history was between her, Doc, and Constance. No one else need know she wouldn’t make it back home after this mission.
‘Hard to say, Gabe’ Doc lied. ‘Have to get her into the scanner. Where the hell’s Toller with my med kit? Billy, get to med bay and hurry that son of a bitch up.’
Wanting nothing more than to be as far away from a medical emergency as he could be, Billy raced from the galley without looking back.
‘Don’t worry, kid,’ Doc whispered to his patient, ‘you’ll be fine. I’ll get you right. Whatever this is. I promise.’
. . . To be continued . . .