Sunday 5 – Monday 6 November 2017
‘For once, Toller, you’ve said something that’s put a smile on my face,’ Constance replied to Toller’s crackly radio message. ‘Do we have an E.T.A?’
‘About an hour, I think. Comms cut out before we could discuss specifics.’
‘Right, boys, collect everything that you want to take with you. Leave unnecessaries. We don’t want to take up too much space on our rescuers’ ship. Get moving.’ She looked at Billy, and saw the relief spread across his face.
‘Can’t wait to get away from that murdering bastard. Any chance we can dispense a bit of deep space justice?’
She was quick to respond. ‘You know I can’t authorise anything like that. We’re terra-formers, not vigilantes.’
‘And Doc was supposed to be our doctor, but it turns out, he’s a murderer. Slightly different ends of the decent human spectrum, don’tcha think?’
Connie couldn’t argue with Billy’s logic. At the very least, she wanted to beat Doc to a pulp. It was an idea that she’d contemplated a lot over the last few hours.
‘No,’ she said, ‘I’m not authorising vigilantism. But I do want you to get to the med bay, and get Weisz, and Gabe.’
‘We’re taking Gabe?’ His question came out more accusatory than he’d anticipated. He realised how he’d sounded before Connie could reply. ‘Sorry, boss, didn’t mean it to sound that way.’
She gently grasped his upper arm, and squeezed. ‘It’s okay, Billy. We’re all on edge.’
A flash of a thought crossed her mind. It was possible, just, that they might be able to get away with a little retribution, if she considered the angles.
‘Get Weisz. Bring her to the docking bay. I don’t care if it’s on a gurney, in a chair, whatever. Just get her to the docking bay. Then get Gabe’s body. I want to take it home. His daughter deserves that much from me. Leave the Doc predicament with me for a while.’
Billy nodded. Now wasn’t the time to push. The fact that Connie was reconsidering what to do with Doc meant that she might be open to a little crew justice. He dashed passed Connie, determined to prove his worth to her by following orders to the letter.
* * * * *
‘You know, Doc, Billy, Hammett, Toller . . . they all want to exact their revenge on you for killing Gabe.’
‘And what about you, Connie? What do you want to do?’
She dragged a chair from Doc’s desk to the bed he’d been restrained on, and sat within inches of Doc’s face.
‘What I want, Doc, is irrelevant. I’m the Commander of this vessel, and of this mission. I’m held to higher standards than others on board.’
‘The thing is, Constance,’ Doc whispered, ‘if you do follow what the boys want, there’ll be no difference between you and me.’
‘What are you talking about?’
Doc scoffed. ‘They want to kill me. Retribution for Gabe. You let them do that, you’re a murderer too. Aiding and abetting.’
‘That’s a good point, Doc,’ Connie replied. She’d pondered the pros and cons of allowing the boys to do what they needed to do to avenge Gabe’s death before deciding that a short conversation with him would be better. ‘But, the thing is, as you so aptly put it, Doc, is that none of them are going to lay a finger on you. They gave me their word, and I gave them an order.’
His laugh, high pitched and almost hysterical, raised the hairs on the back of Connie’s neck.
‘You’re a mad man.’
‘You can think that if it helps you sleep at night, but I’m not. I was paid to do a job, that it just so happens, I very much enjoy.’
Connie left the med bay, unable to stand listening to another word that Doc spoke. When she had returned to the bridge, she summoned Billy, Hammett, and Toller to join her.
‘And hurry up, gentlemen. I have a job for you to do.’
* * * * *
Toller grinned like an idiot as he boarded the rescue ship. He’d done what Connie had asked, and she’d slapped him on the shoulder for his efforts. She’d never done that before, expressed her appreciation for a job well done.
‘You guys couldn’t have come at a better time. We were royally fucked until you showed up,’ he offered to the five crew members who’d arrived to greet them at the docking bay. Hammett and Billy gently manoeuvred the gurney carrying Weisz through the docking bay doors. Connie followed behind pushing a gurney carrying a body bag. She offered no explanation to the crew.
Connie glanced at the young lieutenant. He couldn’t have been more than twenty, but wore his stripes with the poise of a man of many more years of experience.
‘Yes.’ Connie’s reply was short and sharp. Hammett, Toller, and Billy exchanged a look.
‘Might wanna tell your boss to get us the hell out of here. The Anna Maria doesn’t have much life left in her,’ Billy insisted. ‘She’s ready to blow.’
The young lieutenant, having noticed her commander’s star and stripes, looked to Connie for confirmation.
‘It’s true. We, uh, had some difficulty with Jericho’s sun. Lost O2 tanks, lost an engine, barely made it out in one piece. It’s only a matter of minutes, probably, before the old girl gives up. We need to get as far away from her as possible.’
Without another word, the lieutenant raced from the docking bay. Connie could hear him frantically talking on his radio, presumably to his captain.
‘You think he bought it?’ Billy asked Constance.
‘I fucking hope so,’ she replied, as the two crew members took control of Weisz and Gabe’s gurneys. ‘Be careful with them.’
Hammett sidled up to Connie and Billy. ‘What’d he say? Doc,’ Hammett whispered despite Toller’s great work keeping the remaining crew occupied.
‘The O2 tanks, the engine, they were both him,’ Connie replied.
‘Believe it or not, Hammett, the arsehole was paid by a bigger arsehole to sabotage our mission. And when we get back, and I find out who it was, I’m going to nail his balls to the wall.’
‘So,’ Hammett continued, ‘Jericho’s sun?’
Billy took over the explanation. ‘Jericho’s sun was a coincidence. What Doc did to the Anna Maria helped that situation along.’
‘Yes, Hammett, shit indeed,’ replied Connie.
* * * * *
It didn’t matter that Connie wasn’t in control on this ship’s bridge, she still felt comfortable and at home. Relaxing in the first mate’s chair, she waited for the Anna Maria’s final moment to play out in front of them. Captain Moore would have no idea that Toller and Hammett had rigged her to blow. Nor would anyone ever know that Billy had ensured that Doc knew exactly what was going to happen after their rescue.
‘It’s her big grand finale, boys,’ Connie said to her crew. ‘She’s taken us here, there, and everywhere, and this is her last goodbye.’
* * * * *
Bound tighter, and utterly unable to move from the bed, Doc screamed until his throat bled. At any minute, the Anna Maria would self-destruct thanks to Connie’s orders, and the extraordinary technical efforts of Hammett and Toller.
‘You’re the same as me, Connie. The same as me. Murderer! Murderer!’ Doc screamed with his last breath.
. . . The end . . .