Sunday 1 – Monday 2 October 2017
‘Well, shit. On a scale of one to ten, this situation is currently at what-the-fuck-we-need-to-get-on-this-now.’ Toller’s pale face in Constance’s line of sight made her angry.
‘Get out of my face, and go do something constructive. Hammett, go with him and make sure he doesn’t screw up anything else.’
‘Like what?’ Toller asked.
‘Anything. As long as it’s away from me, because if I have to look at your face a moment longer, I’m likely to use you to plug any hull leak that we find.’
Hammett didn’t need to be told a second time. He understood perfectly well how irritating Toller could be. He grabbed Toller by the scruff of the neck, and dragged him from the bridge. Constance threw Hammett a smile, and mouthed a thank you.
‘Boss? Any ideas?’ Gabriel stepped up next to Constance. She gave the instrument panels and screens a cursory glance. She knew the Anna Maria inside out, her creaks and groans, her idiosyncrasies, every little part of the ship.
Gabriel waited for her to continue, but instead she absentmindedly tapped the screen displaying the operating levels of the engines, and stared into space.
Constance grimaced. ‘When we were fighting the gravity of Jericho’s sun . . .’
Gabriel nodded as if he knew what she was going to say. ‘We’re screwed, aren’t we?’
‘And yet, despite knowing that we are screwed, I still want to know exactly what the problem is.’
‘It’s not just one thing, Gabe. We’ve got a few problems, and the resources to fix only one of them at a time. My problem is in choosing which order we fix the problems.’
‘You’re not answering my question, Connie.’
She sighed. ‘Engine two’s gone completely. Only way to diagnose the problem is to do a walk outside, rip her to bits and check it manually. We’ve got a tear in the outer hull. The inner hull is only just protecting us from death. And we’ve, somehow, lost three oxygen tanks.’
‘Right,’ Gabe whispered. ‘So, in summary, we’re going to die in one of three ways. Firstly, we’ll end up drifting aimlessly around space. Or we’ll get sucked out into space. Or, finally, we’ll suffocate to death. Nice.’
‘Just about covers it. And you see my problem? Which do I fix when all of the problems have a similar outcome for us?’
Gabriel clasped Connie’s hand, and they stood on the bridge in silence until Billy stormed in.
‘Outer hull’s breached on C deck. If I go out there now, I should be able to repair the tear before it gets any bigger. Inner hull’s holding, for the moment, but we took a battering from the asteroid belt around Jericho’s sun, so . . . Hey, I’m curious, does Jericho’s sun have a name?’
‘Jericho’s sun,’ replied Gabriel.
‘Right. Original name. Easy to remember. Bloody pain to keep referring to it as Jericho’s sun though. Anyway, you want me out there fixing the hull, Commander Taylor?’
Constance pulled her hand from Gabriel’s grasp, and rubbed her forehead. The decision wasn’t as easy as it should be.
‘Commander Taylor?’ Billy repeated.
‘Um, yeah, Billy, go out and take a look at it. If you can manage a repair, do it. If not, plug it up as best you can until I can figure out a way to seal it permanently. Gabe, go with him. Billy’s going to need someone reliable and responsible on the inside to look after him.’
‘Him? Why can’t Hammett do it?’
‘Hammett’s keeping Toller out of my way.’
Billy nodded. ‘Fine. Come on, Gabriel. Let’s go.’
She watched as Billy and Gabriel left the bridge. Now that she was alone, she allowed her emotions to surface. Tears welled in eyes hers and fell down her cheeks, her throat tightened, and forced a wail from her body. There was no way out of this situation. Her final mission, and it was going to be the death of her. Everything she’d worked for, everything she’d tried to build for her family, her children, all gone because of a stupid mistake that took them into the gravitational path of Jericho’s sun. She’d never wanted Toller on her crew again. Not after the trouble he’d caused on their previous mission. But here he was again, on her crew, because his father in law pulled a few strings.
* * * * *
For everything he wasn’t, Billy was expert at his job. He’d prepared his tools, and suited up in no time, and was out of the airlock and examining the tear in the outer hull not more than fifteen minutes after speaking with Constance. Gabriel monitored Billy’s progress from the Engineering bay nearest the hull breach.
‘You’re looking good, Billy. All lights are green, and the breach is maintaining stability for the moment. Get that sealed, and get your arse back in here as fast as you can.’
Billy looked towards the nearest external camera, and gave Gabe a thumbs up sign. ‘Roger that, Gabe.’ He disappeared from Gabe’s view as he inspected the hull breach.
‘Gabe? Tell me, how bad is it? Are we gonna make it toRK-422 or are we all gonna buy it out here in the middle of no-fucking-where?’
‘That partially depends on whether or not you can seal that breach.’
‘And the other partially?’
Gabriel measured his words. A panicked space walker was not what he needed right now on top of everything else that was going wrong.
‘We have a few issues, Billy. The breach is one of them. We’ve got an engine problem, and an O2 supply issue as well. We’re in a lot of trouble. But what I need you to do right now, is to focus on sealing the breach properly. Can you do that?’
‘Roger that, big fella,’ Billy replied.
* * * * *
Angela Weisz groaned, and gradually opened her eyes. Her head throbbed, her body ached, and she couldn’t remember anything after the Anna Maria and her crew escaping from Jericho’s sun.
‘Where am I?’ Weisz’s groggy voice drew Doc to her bedside.
‘You’re in the Med bay, Ang. You collapsed earlier in the galley.’
‘Did I? I don’t remember.’
‘Not surprising. Just take it easy for me, and don’t try to get out of bed. You need to rest.’
‘Don’t worry, Doc. Don’t think I could get up even if I wanted. I’m guessing we made it far enough away from Jericho’s sun to keep going on the mission.’ She closed her eyes again, allowing the gentle hum of Doc’s medical equipment to send her to sleep before Doc could answer.
‘Yep, sure did,’ he replied.
Doc reached for the vial he’d placed near Weisz’s bed. He shook the contents, took the syringe he’d laid next to it, and filled it with the liquid from the vial. After gently sterilising a small area on Weisz’s upper arm, he jabbed the syringe into her flesh, and emptied its contents.
‘What they don’t know, Angela, won’t hurt them. Unfortunately for you, what you don’t know, will hurt you.’
He wiped the vial and syringe clean, and disposed of them in the biohazard med-waste bin in the corner of the Med bay. No one would think to look for anything in there. No one would want to look for anything in there. It was, Doc believed, the safest and most secure hiding place on board the Anna Maria.
. . . To be continued . . .