Sunday 22 – Monday 23 October 2017
‘He’s gone? What do you mean he’s gone? He had a migraine,’ Constance bellowed at Doc.
‘I don’t know what to say, Connie. I think it’s likely he had a stroke or a subarachnoid haemorrhage, but I won’t know until I do a scan. I wanted to inform you of his passing first. Before I did anything else. I know how close the two of you are . . . were.’ Doc scratched the stubble on his chin. He was pretty sure the commander was buying into his story. A scan wouldn’t reveal that he’d killed Gabriel, especially given that he was going to be doing the scan himself. And if necessary, he’d doctor the scan. He wanted to giggle at the pun he’d made in his head, but as he was in Constance’s presence, he’d reserve his right to laugh at his own pun later.
‘I want a full investigation into why Gabriel died, and I’m ordering you to start it right now.’
Doc nodded dutifully. ‘Absolutely. Consider it done.’
‘And yet,’ Constance snapped, ‘you’re still here, standing right in front of me.’
Again, Doc nodded his understanding before quickly heading back towards the Med Bay. His exit was followed by Billy Marshall’s entrance on the bridge.
‘Commander, what’s wrong? You don’t look so good.’
‘Gabe’s dead,’ she blurted out without thinking of the consequences.
Billy stumbled backwards, as if physically hit with her words. ‘What? How? When?’
‘Doc just told me. He, Gabe, had a migraine. Doc took him back to the Med Bay and gave him something for it. I don’t know what happened after that. Doc just said he’d died.’
‘Shit. What do we do now?’ Billy couldn’t see any way forward. ‘Surely the job’s over for us. We can’t do it with a man down.’
Connie shook her head. ‘Once Doc gives me the results of his investigation into . . . once Doc gives me his findings, I’ll contact Riverland HQ, see what they want us to do.’
‘You know what they’ll say. They’ll order us to keep going with the job regardless of the fact one of our guys has died. They don’t give a shit about us, only their bottom line, and how many dollars we’ll make for them. They’re not gonna want to lose money, which is what will happen if we turn back.’
Billy was right. There was no question about the fact that the Riverland suits would want Connie and the team to continue. Crew fell under the umbrella of disposable resources – easy to replace and highly expendable.
‘Screw what they say. What the hell am I going to tell Gabe’s wife?’
* * * * *
It was hard to focus on the sounds around her. They continually faded in and out, just as the world did when she tried to open her eyes. She’d caught snippets of things Doc was saying, and had wondered if he was talking to her, or someone else in the Med Bay. A low groan escaped her lips. Doc rushed to her side.
‘Angela? Angela, can you hear me? It’s Doc. You’re in the Med Bay. Angela?’
In her head, she answered him with perfectly formed words. In reality, another low groan was all that came out of her mouth.
‘You’re safe, Angela. Just relax. Don’t try to move,’ he whispered as he cursed under his breath.
Doc looked at the medicine cabinet, and the vials it housed. It was too soon after Gabriel’s death for Angela to be put out of her misery. Connie would ask too many questions, despite knowing that Angela was on limited time. No, he chided himself, Angela has to live for a while longer to avoid suspicion falling on you.
‘Try to sleep, Angela. It’s important that you rest so you can regain your strength.’ Doc cringed as the clichés spewed from his mouth. With those words, he couldn’t be more of a stereotypical doctor if he tried.
Too difficult to stay conscious, Angela allowed herself to close off the world, and return to the blissful state of sleep she’d previously been in. Feelings of warmth and contentment wrapped themselves around her like the blanket Doc was tucking in around her body.
‘Night, Doc,’ Angela managed to mumble.
‘Night, Weisz. Sleep well.’
* * * * *
‘You think it’ll work, Billy?’ Toller asked, hoping that his ridiculous idea might hold water.
‘Dunno. That was Gabe’s area of expertise. I don’t know much about engineering.’
Toller pushed. ‘But do you think it’s worth trying? Hammett thinks it could – might – work. At least, long enough for us to get to RK-422.’
Billy considered the idea briefly before committing to a response. ‘I need to see some specs, and I need to see a proper plan of what you’re thinking. I’m not taking this to Constance without serious planning behind the idea. She hates me enough as it is. I don’t need her thinking I’m a moron too. We only have room for one of them on board.’
‘Really?’ Toller replied. ‘You’ll take it to Connie?’
‘Only if you plan it properly. Didn’t you listen to what I said?’
Hammett joined the conversation. ‘He never listens, Billy. You know perfectly well that’s half his problem. Give me an hour or so, and I’ll get a plan together. Then we can take it to Connie, see what she thinks.’
‘You sure this will work?’ Billy didn’t dare pin his hopes on Hammett’s left of centre plan. Not yet. Not until the details were hammered out.
‘No idea. But it won’t do any harm if we’re gonna die anyway.’
Billy smiled at Hammett. ‘You’re right. Won’t do any harm.’ He paused to think of the most diplomatic way of continuing. ‘It’s a . . . big job, Hammett. Bigger than the three of us could cope with. You’re talking about converting part of the air flow system to a recycle unit. I’ll need to know what we’re gonna need to do this. Everything we’ll need, from the number of rivets to how much oxygen we’re gonna expend doing it. Got it?’
‘Yep, got it.’ Hammett grinned. This was his chance to show Constance he was more than just a shit kicker. ‘Like I said, give me an hour.’
Constance’s voice crackled over the Anna Maria’s intercom. ‘Lieutenant Marshall to the bridge. NOW!’
Billy exhaled a long breath, and walked past Hammett, clapping a hand on his shoulder as he passed.
‘She says jump, I ask how high. It’s never ending, Hammett, never ending.’
Without missing a beat, Hammett replied, ‘And you love it, Billy. You’ve had a thing for her for years. We all know it. Well, she doesn’t, but we do.’ He winked at Billy, then went back to scribbling out his plan for an oxygen recycling system.
Billy trudged back towards the bridge, grinning from ear to ear. It wasn’t Constance he had a thing for, so his misdirection had been effective. Angela had caught his attention, not Constance. Never Constance, not in a million years.
‘On my way, sis,’ he said as he walked the bowels of the Anna Maria.
. . . To be continued . . .