“A lot of COMs traffic now,” Jeremy said looking at a display. His eyes followed the bundle of cables that snaked around equipment and covered most of the deck. They were getting more and more communication from outside the ship as the Kerwood thundered toward Earth orbit. There was increasing concern that the Kerwood was still at maximum cruising speed. The decision was made a few days after the trial to burn hot and hard and request assistance once they reached the Earth.
That was the plan until our COMs array was struck by space junk, Jeremy thought bitterly. They were only a few days away, and their rescuers should’ve been days into preparation, but with no way to ask for help, humanity was left to watch the crippled silent ship head straight for them.
It didn’t help that the Matsue broadcast stories of mutiny, treachery, sabotage, piracy, and kidnapping. The Matsue captain and crew set the narrative and without Captain Hayes and the rest of the Kerwood crew to set the record straight, public opinion was solidly against them.
“It won’t help us, so we ignore it,” Adelaide declared from under a console.
She was trying to create a communications array by linking a series of forearm clusters together and trying to patch the signal through the telemetry array or some other such nonsense. Adelaide seemed to have one crazy plan after another. In the last two weeks, Captain Hayes was seen less and less. He appeared to throw himself into the work required, and it fell to Adelaide and Jeremy to get them home. Even with the trial uncovering the saboteurs, the captain seemed resigned to the fate that awaited him if they made it home. Each new problem with his ship led to him being more and more focused on their salvation. He and Femke holed up together. He became a living ghost wandering around the ship fixing this and that. He spoke to no one and had decreed that his portion of the dwindling foodstuffs be split among the rest of the crew. Femke, Marisol, and Gauge followed his lead and did the same. They were thinning now, and the captain was now a skeleton of a man. But then again, they all were. Jeremy ate his last piece of food the previous morning.
“Can you get this working?” Jeremy asked of his Main Propulsion Assistant.
“I’ll get it working, or die trying,” Adelaide’s voice sounded out from under the console.
“Not slagging funny, Bähr,” Jeremy retorted, the ire he felt evident in his voice.
“Look, ChEng,” Adelaide said with a heavy sigh, “you hovering and interrogating me won’t get this done any sooner.” She pushed her way out from under the console and locked her eyes on his. “In fact,” she continued, “It might even make me screw something up.”
Their eyes were locked for a moment. “I read you five by five,” Jeremy hissed.
Adelaide shrugged and scooted back under the console. Jeremy knew that he had been summarily dismissed. As he walked through the airlock to Main Engineering, he didn’t even have the energy to be offended by the behavior of his subordinate. He stumbled over a piece of equipment, made brief contact with the bulkhead, and staggered down the passageway. It could very well be the last opportunity he’ll ever have to see the engineering marvel that was the Kerwood.