The Explorer Voyages
I never thought of keeping a diary, log call it what you will. Usually what I have to say goes down in the daily chit-chat (officially The 24 Hour Appraisal Number-whatever), but with what’s filtering down to us in Maintenance & Auxiliary I been thinking maybe a record should be kept, just in case. Because this jaunt sounds grim.
The team is still five strong (self, included) and we think we know The Explorer’s bones and innards better than most, having been in and about her even before she was habitable. We understand all her little quirks and foibles and have a pretty good idea where and when something might go wrong; Den’ my P.O had it spot on when he gave us the unofficial title of Team THG; standing for TWITCHES, HITCHES and GLITCHES.
Of course the alarm would have to go off when we were all down in the innards on the usual Day 10 plumbing check. The budget for comfort, and stabilization ended one deck up. Never mind what the designers and builders claim when The Lady rears up and starts to plough the stellarness, in the innards you can feel the kick and you grab hold of anything bolted down, it’s also why I am very strict on no one leaving any equipment lying around; gravity and magnetics are not necessarily stable in those circumstances and I’ll not lose anyone to a flying wrench. Mind you I shouldn’t moan too much; we were right on station when a fracture sprung in a main pipe, we were lucky it was just plain water supply one and the gravity held; a sewer rupture in zero-state is a site to behold and a challenge to rectify and clear up. Three times I’ve reported this tendency when The Lady goes at full steam ahead (I love these old nautical terms) topside Engineering are sympathetic and have even been down to look but they have to refer it down to Earthside and it’s too late to worry about it now.
We’d ditched the disposable coveralls and were thus dry and clean as we ambled along been grumbling and joking about surprise drills. All of this stopped when we entered The Mess, two of the bridge crew were scuttling out with food packs, wide-eyed worried folk are never good news upon any vessel, much less one in space. Normally if it’s bad we would have known about it mostly likely having discovered it. And food packs always indicate folk will not be moving from their posts much
“What’s the panic?” I asked, casually of course, as befits any officer.
The younger managed a salute and still hold onto what might be their only source of nutrition for the next ten hours
“It’s a genuine emergency Lieutenant. The Achilles has been attacked out at Saturn. Alien contact,”
And off they sped. That’s the trouble with being in the innards, communication channel go off when The Lady speeds.
Well the news sank the humour right out of us. You attend the lectures. You read the latest appraisals. You also know there is a lot of stuff which is Security Classified and never reaches us humble ‘rude mechanicals’, that’s out of Shakespeare (I should mention Jennifer; she’s British with an accent that indicates she’s likely ‘Jennifer with a title’. She has a classical quip for every circumstances). So you chat and speculate amongst yourselves. But none of that prepares you for the news up front and in your face.
So we were a pretty quiet crew as we settled down for what would no doubt be a very short spell, we ate and drank what we could, all lost in our own thoughts. I couldn’t let this settle for too long, The Lady would be relying on us to be focused and sharp, sleep not an option yet.
So irrespective of feeling that suddenly Earth was light years distant and even a slum would be a welcome sight I put on my best assertive yet calm voice and announced we were going to check all electrics before someone came along and ordered us to do it but get the priorities all wrong. It raised a smile.
We left with extra rations in food; we can get them because we never complain, because we never know when we will get a chance to eat in a civilised manner at such times.
There’s not much to say about what we were doing, I’d either bore or confuse you with a great deal of technical chat. And how can that compare with the notion of something Hostile and Alien. Be fair to yourself, don’t try and be polite and pretend interest in checking little lights and switching things on and off. You want to read about things that you hope you’ll never see. Suffice it to say we did our job, and I promptly answered any enquiry from anywhere at any time that we had already done whatever they were asking us to do. I thought myself lucky to have been through these checks so often I was on automatic, because the communication chatter was suggesting we not only had come close to the incident but had something on board. At least the Achilles was still in one piece.
Well, all checks were done, we swapped rumours we had picked up from other crew and we were debating on Mariano’s suggestion that whatever it was on board should not be on board but floating out there because The Lady would not take kindly to having indigestible stuff within her (Mariano can be quite paternalistic about The Lady, comes with spending so much time with her electrics- or her thoughts are he calls them). Then all debate stopped when up strode one of the security team carrying a large important looking box.
“Lieutenant, sir. The situation now requires all crew to carry side-arms sir,” and while we were all goggling or frowning he had me sign for the box, tapes out a code and there are our service-issue D-7s; the D stands for ‘Disisters’, so they aren’t really designed to kill, which must be nice for the diplomatic corps. Koinet whose family have been owning cattle since who knows when reckons at full power a D-7 would dissuade a calf. So he made that joke again and then laughed, which was just what we wanted to hear, because if Koinet doesn’t laugh at something then it’s getting very, very bad. Anyway Den was the one with combat experience, and was the one to take us through the drill. I insisted seven times, I joked for ‘D-7’, but have an attachment to the number ‘7’; we all have our superstitions out here.
That done I ordered every to stand down and rest; which I knew was going to be difficult, but since no one was bothering with THG we might as well take the opportunity. Of course I filed and transmitted my report, secure in the knowledge that no one was going to read it.