At The Speed of Light – Part 1

The shuttle pulled away from its freighter and slow-burned towards its destination. As acceleration-induced gravity took hold of the cabin, Mike Wiggins got his first glimpse of the Tochka Gagarina relay through the narrow viewport. It wasn’t anything special, just a landing gantry with a small centrifugal gravity deck bolted to one end, something of a step up from the work-shack stations that orbited even the most isolated planet, but not by much. Along the gantry was a trio of sleek express courier ships, each a lifeline of interstellar civilisation despite being little larger than the shuttle, and the boxy shadow of a Russian gunship. He fumbled in his pocket and looked over the itinerary sent out by the company a week before. Something big was happening back on Earth, something that needed his presence and specific expertise in person, and it couldn’t wait for the sedate pace of a normal passenger ship. He looked back out the viewport as the shuttle’s own docking rig extended to meet the gantry and sighed. One of those tiny courier ships would be his home for the next few days. He wasn’t looking forward to this.

The relay’s interior was typical of Russian space stations, he was more than familiar with them now. Probably built by some domestic corp like Vezirov or Alfa to be as rugged and easy to repair as possible with little regard to aesthetics, Spacers always joked you could knock off half a Vezirov station and no-one would notice. It was probably not the best idea to think about it while inside one, Mike decided. He propelled himself along the corridor that ran along the gantry’s centre with the grace of a seasoned space traveller, floating around the few people working in free-fall. Transferring to a rotating section connecting to the centrifuge, he rode the cramped cage elevator down to the public sections of the station. The gentle two-thirds gravity managed to make the station even more claustrophobic, but he quickly found what he was looking for. 

Inside a set of bulkheads labelled Hub in a dozen of different languages was a room that ran the whole width of the centrifuge that had clearly once been a canteen but had been repurposed slightly as a makeshift bar. He stood at the entry and took a breath of recycled air that reeked of bootleg alcohol, looking over the Hub’s occupants. A card game was underway at a table towards the far end and one of the players wore the distinct Corporate Teal utility jumpsuit of a Santiago-Lansing employee. Edging his way across the room, stumbling slightly in the unfamiliar low gravity, Mike stood behind the card player and politely cleared his throat.
“Excuse me, Captain Cole? Captain Owen Cole of the… what’s the name…” He fumbled with the itinerary as every set of eyes at the table focused on him. “The XCS Pikes Peak?”
“That’s me.” The man in the jumpsuit replied, after a moment’s thought.  “Though if I owe money, you’ll have to give me a second to win some back, know what I mean?” The other players all laughed.
“No, nothing like that. My name’s Mike Wiggins.” He got a blank look from Captain Cole. “From the Company? The itinerary from Transportation said you’re doing the New Albion run, and you’d be expecting me.” He handed over the sheet of paper, trying not to stare at the prominent scar on Cole’s forehead.
“Let’s see, wouldn’t be the first time those suits‘ve done something without telling us out here.” Cole scan read the sheet, and almost instantly his mood darkened. “Well, shit. Looks like you are my problem after all.” He checked his chronometer and gathered up his winnings. “Sorry, guys, I leave in half an hour, and have to give Mister Wiggins here the grand tour. C’mon, you.” He stood up and gestured at the door.

Cole led Mike back up and out on to the docking gantry, offering an occasional nod to other occupants of the station. He was clearly in a deepening foul mood, and wasn’t doing anything to hide it. About a third of the way along the gantry, he stopped and blocked the way with his arm.
“This is us. Look,” He started, sounding severe. “Nothing personal, but I really don’t like having you dumped on us by some desk jockey in another star system.
“I completely understand, Captain…”
Cole cut him off with a raised hand. “Our job’s all about efficiency and speed, understand? Even at the best of times a passenger’s a spanner in the works, but right now it’s a bigger strain on resources than I think people realise.”
“Right now? What’s special about now?”
Cole gestured to the far end of the gantry, where a couple of Russian marines in full combat gear guarded their gunship’s airlock. “Geopolitics.” He said, flatly. “The Chinese and Indians are at each other’s throats again out on the far frontier, so everything’s a little… volatile right now.” He pulled himself down the docking arm.
“But that’s lightyears away, and Russia doesn’t even share any systems with them outside home. Why would it cause trouble here?” Mike protested.
“Opportunism or something.” Cole replied, shrugging. “Usual bullshit. Either way it’s trouble. Probably why you’re wanted back in the office.” He pushed himself hard off a railing and down the narrow access-way, as if that settled it.
Mike got his first view of the Pikes Peak from the thin viewports lining the docking arm. It had the shape common to most modern civilian craft: A long, thin tube with a powerful fusion rocket at one end, but scaled down to as small as it was possible to make interstellar craft. The hull was Santiago-Lansing Teal and pockmarked with a lifetime of micro debris repairs, clearly the vessel had been in service for decades. The most prominent feature was a dizzying array of antennas and other protrusions arranged in a ring around the ship’s rear. Before he had a chance to take in the entire craft, they reached the end of the docking arm. In front of them was the big plug door of the Pikes Peak’s airlock, standing out from the hull in bright orange and adorned with the company’s logo of interlocking diamonds overlaid with a black star. Cole banged his fist against it, the effort gently pushing him back into the tube. After a moment of silence, he pulled a pocket comm from his jumpsuit and clicked it on.
“Jordan, I’m back, open up.” He said to an unseen listener, and the door whirred into action and swung back into the ship. “And here we are, get in.”

The interior of the ship came as a surprise to Mike. Beyond the tiny airlock chamber was a messy corridor. Every visible panel was hanging open, exposing rusting structural braces, and bundles of cables snaked around the deck. It seemed like everything was held together by zip ties or duct tape, and tetanus was only a minor accident away. Even the rickety freighter he came up from the planet on looked good in comparison. Using the missing panels, Cole pulled himself down the small corridor and beckoned into a hatchway at the end. On the other side was what Mike assumed to be a tiny cargo bay, barely a storeroom, occupied by a short woman with brunette hair, seemingly there just to provide evidence of other crew members.
“You’re back early, skip,” The woman addressed Cole, with a wry grin. Her accent suggested she was British, probably an Earther too. “Who the hell’s this? We getting inspected again?” She gestured at Mike.
“Turns out we’ve been lumbered with a passenger.” Cole replied, “Mike Wiggins, this is Jordan Pliego, our jump navigator and second-in-command, Jordan, this is Mike Wiggins, Santiago-Lansing’s generous gift to us this trip.”
“I see.” Jordan feigned a polite smile. “Nice to meet you Mister Wiggins.”
“And since you’re the first poor bastard I’ve come across, he’s your problem now,” Cole grinned. “Give him the tour, settle him in, keep him out of my hair. I need to go arrange some extra supplies before we leave. Welcome aboard, Mister Wiggins.” Cole gave a facetious salute and pulled himself out of the room without a second word and an awkward silence filled the room.
“So, er, Hi.” Mike piped up. “I get the impression your captain doesn’t like me much.”
“Don’t worry about it, that grumpy Californian bastard doesn’t like anyone.” Jordan said, trying not to laugh. “He’s a bit sore at the inconvenience but don’t take that to heart. That an Australian accent I hear?”
“What? Oh, yeah,” he was caught off guard by the question, “Canberra, but not in about twenty years. Hell, not been on Earth in about five now.”
“Know what you mean. Same with Gibraltar, myself.” She kicked off a container and floated towards a hatch on the far side of the room. “Leave your stuff in a locker and I’ll show you around.”

Beyond the far hatch was another corridor space just as messy as the last, but with a wide section in the middle containing the ladder to access the rest of the ship. Jordan braced herself against it and paused.
“So this is the middle of the ship,” She said methodically, as if trying to recall a pre-planned speech, “Ladder only most of the time, I’m afraid, but we have a cargo hoist if we need to do heavy stuff.” She gestured towards hatch on the ‘floor’ with her free hand. “Down is the engine room, this deck is cargo, the airlock and the storage computers. All off-limits during flight, so ask one of us if you need anything.” She pulled herself up the ladder and helped Mike up. “So what do you do that’s so important to dash to New Albion for, Mister Wiggins?”
“It’s just Mike,” He replied, “I’m a senior insurance assessor with San-Lan Insurance’s Outland & Colonial division.” He gave the question some thought as he floated up into a large room on the deck above that was clearly a communal space. “Honestly, buggered if I know why they want me back so quick, I’m usually corporate and government stuff. Just happens the quickest route home is hitch with you guys to New Albion then catch the next Earthbound. It’s as much a pain for me as you, trust me.” He looked around the new room. It was still messy, but less cobbled together mess, more the debris of every day life. It seemed to resemble the photos of early space stations every museum in the cosmos always showed off.
“Very…” He searched for the least insulting word. “Homey.” Jordan laughed.
“Well, it will be for the next few days, sure.” She pulled herself over to a hatch along the wall. “Galley and facilities are that wall, and this is your berth. It’s not, much but it’s soundproofed at least.” She opened the hatch and Mike glanced inside. The space beyond was barely more than a bunk with a shelf, smaller even than capsutel rooms. “Oh, and if you need them, there’s some sick bags in the locker. Y’know, if you need them.”
“Now hang on,” Mike pulled back into the main room, mildly insulted. “I’ve travelled interstellar before, I can handle it.” There was a derisive laugh from across the room. Mike and Jordan turned around to see another crew member emerging from a hatch across the room. Jordan groaned.
“Mike, this is Ramin Paracha, our resident cynic and communications technician.”
“You might have travelled interstellar, Mike, but I guarantee not like this.” Ramin glared at Mike. “We jump as soon as we can, on time, every time. We don’t wait for you to recover, we don’t wait for anything. I doubt you’ll be able to handle it.” He floated over to the ladder and grabbed on. “And now if you’ll excuse me, I have better things to do than babysit.” Jordan watched him go and turned back to Mike.
“Yeah, he’s always been a bit of a dick.” She sighed, then checked her chronometer. “We’ll be getting underway soon and I need to prepare. You get yourself settled in and you can meet the others up on the flight deck later.” She nodded and left him to his own devices.

After half an hour of frantic preparation, the Pikes Peak disengaged the docking arm and slowly pulled away from the station. As the fusion rocket roared into life, the force it created generated gravity for the ship’s four tiny decks, a gentle one-third at first, increasing up to one whole Earth at full acceleration. Mike had been using the time to try and get comfortable in his tiny alcove, and even the onset of gravity hadn’t been a great improvement. Compared to even the most cramped passenger ship he had flown, this was worse by far. It wasn’t just the size, it was the noise. Most passenger ships put as much as possible between customers and the engines, but being only a couple of decks, barely twenty metres, from the fusion reactors made the entire ship reverberate like a bell at times. At least he would only have to endure it for a couple of days before returning to a normal routine. Bracing himself against the end wall, he pulled the trashy spaceport novel he had bought before leaving Tochka Gagarin, likely the only Anglophone book in the place, and tried to read in the dim overhead light. Before he even got past the first page, the crackling voice of Captain Cole echoed through the ship’s PA.
“Mister Wiggins, could you join us up on the flight deck please?” Cole’s tone sounded relaxed, but there was a certain insistence to it. Mike groaned and dragged himself out of the berth.
The flight deck was a single room that took up the entire diameter of the ship inside the nose cone, and was much taller than all the others, with walls that tapered upwards to create a domed ceiling. It was also the only part of the ship with any sort of external windows, a ring of portholes were set above the various equipment banks which gave the look of a cupola. Cole, Jordan and Ramin were all hard at work at various stations along the wall, and a woman Mike hadn’t been introduced to, younger than the others, sat in the bulky pilot’s chair at the centre of the room.
“Ah, Mister Wiggins. Welcome to the nerve centre of the Peak,” Cole said, looking up from a console. He ignored a derisive snort from Ramin. “Allow me to introduce Shuang Xun, our pilot and now, thanks to you, not the newest person on board.” The pilot leant over the lip of her chair and offered an unsure wave.
“Charmed,” Mike replied, “You sounded like you wanted something?”
“Yes!” Cole clapped his hands together enthusiastically, “Like all spacefarers, us courier crews have our own rituals and superstitions. It’s good luck to have everyone aboard on the flight deck during the first jump of a trip, and we’re about Jay minus Five here. Plus, I doubt you’ve ever seen the full procedure, no matter how often you’ve travelled, eh?”
Mike considered for a second before replying. “Yeah, sure, sounds fascinating.”
“Great! Just take a seat back there,” Cole gestured at a set of grav-cushioned seats at the far side of the room. “And someone give Mister Woodward a poke. I don’t want to curse us because our damn engineer has a short attention span.”
Mike took his seat and watched them go through the motions that, on reflection, every ship crew must have had to go through before an interstellar jump. It was true, despite being a seasoned traveller, he had never actually seen how crew prepared. Honestly he never really gave it much thought at all, no traveller did. As long as he got where he was going, he tended not to care. Sitting on the flight deck he was beginning to see how involved the process was. While it was mostly inputting data into computers, the concentration across everyone’s faces showed how vital their tasks were. As Mike watched, the final crew member hauled himself up the ladder on to the flight deck.
“Brett, nice you could join us.” Jordan looked up from her console and called across the room, “How’s it looking down there?”
“Oh, pretty good. So long as that new duct tape holds we’ll barely explode at all this trip. Aha, Passenger!” The man stopped and vigorously shook Mike’s hand. “Brett Woodward, ship’s engineer, so pleased to meet you.” Mike struggled to find an adequate response, but before he could speak Cole raised his voice.
“Right, now we’re all here we can begin. Everything green across the board?” He asked and received a flurry of replies from the other crew. “Great, if everyone can be seated, Mister Paracha, make the call.”

The deck went quiet as everyone took to their own seats. From somewhere just out of Mike’s cone of vision, he heard Ramin fiddling with a headset.
“All ships in vicinity, this is San-Lan Express X-ray Charlie Two-Niner-Zero-Four-Five-Two-Six,” He rattled off methodically from memory, “We are commencing Jump preparations, do not approach within safety cordon.” A loud burst of static echoed around the room, followed by a click. “Good to go, boss.” Cole walked across the flight deck to a console directly opposite Mike and unlocked a panel on its top. He reached in and produced a metal cylinder about the size of a fist that had several complicated prongs sticking out one end.
“Proceeding with Drive Activation,” He declared and inserted the cylinder into a corresponding slot in the console. “This will be Jump number eight-sixty-seven.”  He turned the cylinder a half-turn clockwise then forced it down in to the console with a loud, mechanical thud. Immediately all the screens on the flight deck cleared and a warning tone started to sound.
“Drive Key engaged.” An emotionless digital voice began rattling through a standardised checklist. “Jump systems are cycling to Active Mode. All personnel to Jump stations.” The Drive Key console lit up with blinking white lights, and a volumetric star map filled the screen above it. Cole quickly made his way across the deck to his own grav-chair.
“Nav data inputted,” called Jordan.
“Destination coordinates set. Awaiting final confirmation.” The ship continued.
“Everything is green, we are good to go,” Cole replied and the ship lurched forward dramatically, the acceleration pressing the crew into their grav-chairs.
“Confirmed. Safety interlocks disengaged. Ship is now under automatic control.” The Drive Key console lights switched to a uniform blue as the computer voice went on, and all the screens on the deck switched to a timer counting down. “Preparing capacitors for discharge. Jump coils online.”
Through the portholes high on the walls, Mike could see the stars moving rapidly as the ship swung itself around to orientate itself with the eventual destination.
“All systems green. Go for Jump in ten, nine, eight…” The Pikes Peak accelerated up to full speed and gravity quadrupled in response. “…seven, six, five…” Mike grimaced as he was pushed further into his chair, fighting to keep focused on the voice as the blood was pushed from his head. “…four, three, two, one…”
From outside the ship appeared to wink out of existence, replaced by an expanding wake of lightning that surged outward and faded away.

“Jump.”

Ever since its discovery, scientists had claimed that an Interstellar Jump, no matter how far, was effectively instantaneous. Those who actually experienced them often, however, sometimes claimed to be aware of time passing between origin and destination. 

“Jump.”

There had never been an adequate explanation for this, to the point where modern science flat out refused to believe it, but what was certain was that Jumping had a profound adverse affect on the human brain. Seasoned travellers described it as a cross between lightheadedness and drunkenness, and some could bear it, some could not. But everyone got it, seasoned travellers and first timers all.

“Jump.”

The ship winked back into reality on the edge of an uninhabited star system. The displacement hit Mike immediately, and as the ship decelerated he tried to ignore it as he came to his senses. The other crew were already getting out of their chairs by the time he had started to see clearly again.
“Capacitors fully discharged. Jump Successful.” The ships stated, completely unfazed. “Estimated Jump of six-point-two lightyears with a navigational accuracy of ninety-eight-point-seven percent. Returning ship to manual control. Safety interlocks re-engaged.” Cole moved to the Drive Key console and caught it as it was violently ejected from its housing. “Drive Key disengaged. Jump systems cycling to recharge mode. Estimated time until next cycle: Eight hours, twenty-three minutes, six seconds.”
“Ok, guys, we have our time. We eat in two hours.” Cole declared as he went for the ladder. “Brett, I thought you’d fixed it so we didn’t lurch like that.”
“Sorry, boss. Thought that I’d cracked it. I’ll give that regulator another look next time we’re in dock,” the tall engineer replied, following along.
By now Mike’s brain had stopped swimming and he pulled himself out of the grav-chair. There was still gravity holding him to the deck, so clearly the ship was still accelerating, but it was far gentler now. Looking around the flight deck, he saw the remaining crew members busying themselves at the various consoles. Jordan looked up and smiled.
“So, how was that?” She said.
“A bit hard, but no worse than any other jump.” He shrugged.
“Yeah, it’s always been like that,” Jordan stretched as she talked. “Something broke years ago that Brett’s never quite fixed. Anyway, not so bad, eh?”
“Oh, no, one Jump in, got the hang of it have we?” Ramin butted in with an incredulous snort. “Got it all sorted.”
“Oh, leave him alone.” Shuang called, and Ramin just rolled his eyes.
“All I’m saying is he’ll hit the wall soon enough.” He started down the ladder. “We all did, he’s no different. Just you wait.” Without further comment he vanished down into the ship.

After the first Jump, Mike started to make an effort to get used to the routine of life on the Pikes Peak. The only time he ever saw all five crew members together at once were at meal times, which almost always consisted of the kind of bland and dry protein rich food paste usually consigned to emergency rations. Outside of this, he mostly kept to himself in the common area, trying to power through the trashy novel and occasionally interacting with the crew. It was Jordan and Ramin he saw the most, though the latter remained eternally grumpy and cynical. Since both of their assigned roles required very little time on the flight deck, between Jumps and sleeping they both kept occupied at either end of the galley, occasionally having snark-offs across the room. As for the others, Mike occasionally had interactions with Captain Cole and Shuang when they swapped piloting duties, but he almost never saw Brett emerge from the engine room. Jordan and Cole both got great mileage out of jokes about him worshipping at the “Altar of the Mighty Fusion Reactor.” But despite this, the crew genuinely felt like a family to Mike. An unconventional and probably slightly mad family, but a family nonetheless.

“Jump.”

The ship’s progress was beginning to take its toll on him, however. For all the bravado about being a seasoned traveller, the quicker succession between Jumps was beginning to bite. At least normal travel allowed for recovery on top of the recharge period, but on the Pikes Peak, every eight hours or so he was put through the same experience. Rather than fading away, the mental fatigue and mugginess caused was morphing into a persistent headache that wouldn’t shift. How the hell did these people do this constantly?

“Jump.”

He was starting to experience something akin to the worst hangover of his life. His complacency from previous experience meant he had refused to bother with any of the many remedies available to the modern traveller, and now he realised how foolish this was. Despite this, he was trying as hard as possible not to let it show, not because he wanted to look good or tough, but because he suspected that Cole and Ramin would mercilessly mock any sign of weakness they caught sight of. The best he could manage was to lock himself away in his berth and try and sleep it off. One thing was certain, after getting to Earth he was going to have a long break from travelling and would never take the slow path for granted ever again.

Jump.

At the journey’s mid-point the crew assembled for a celebratory meal. Instead of the bland protein paste and freeze dried blocks, there was food of actual substance and flavour, although it wasn’t exactly “fresh” as planet-bound populations would understand it. Despite the better food, Mike found himself unable to enjoy it thanks to the growing discomfort. As the crew finished, he tried to excuse himself while Ramin and Cole were left cleaning up the galley.
“Looking a little green about the gills, there, Mister Seasoned Traveller,” the comms-technician said without looking up. “Not feeling the burn, are we? I thought you were used to this.” He laughed.
“Ramin, go do whatever it is the Company pays you for, ok?” Cole cut him off, his tone turning it in to a direct order, and Ramin shrugged and hauled himself up the ladder to the flight deck. “Mister Wiggins, I might have just the thing you need, hold on a second.” Cole pulled open a locker above the galley and produced a small cardboard box.
He tossed it at Mike, who caught it and turned it over in his hands, it was a brightly coloured box of Yoshima Pharmaceutical Interstellar Disorientation Remedy.
“Wow, thanks,” Mike said, slightly confused, “But, I didn’t expect… you.”
“Yeah, well, when I first started out I used to get it real bad. These,” Cole gestured at the box, “only things in the known universe that ever worked for me. Keep that on the down low, though.”
Mike was about to thank the captain when a sudden shudder rippled through the entire ship, followed by every light in the room flickering. Immediately Cole switched from friendly to professional, activating the nearest comm panel.
“Brett, what the hell’s happening to my ship?” He yelled into the microphone grille. There came a panicked response that Mike couldn’t quite hear, then Cole slammed his fist into the wall panel. “Shit, well find out, and how to fix it.” He shook his head, then made for the ladder.

Within minutes, the entire crew had assembled on the flight deck. There was a tangible feeling of worry. Brett was constantly fidgeting and muttering to himself, which made Mike feel even more uneasy, and Cole had been pacing around deck glaring at different consoles. Suddenly, he stopped in his tracks and wheeled on the rest of the crew.
“Ok, What broke.”
“We-ell,” Brett replied, looking down at his tablet, “looks like panel forty-six on the Jump coil’s fused again, but it’s blown the regulator this time. Must have been something missed last maintenance cycle. Can’t Jump with it in this state. Not safely, anyway.”
“Shit. Is it fixable?”
“Oh yeah, there’s spares down in the hold. With one of them and some cabling, we should be able to hack together something that’ll hold ‘til New Albion at least.”
Cole rubbed his temples, “How long?”
“Give me about half an hour to rig the replacement, then, say another hour out on the hull installing it. We’ll have to stop accelerating for that, obviously.” Brett tapped at his tablet again. “And we’ll have to discharge the coils first.”
“Shit.” Cole put his head in his hands. “You’re certain there’s no other way?”
“Not unless you want to test how vac-suits stand up to a few thousand kilovolts.” Brett thought for a second, then added with a grin, “Though I do hear shocks can be quite invigorating.”
The captain clearly didn’t see the funny side of it. He turned and looked at the clock on the console behind him and swore under his breath.
“This is going to put us nine hours behind schedule. Ramin, go help Brett out on the hull.” He ordered, to grumbles from the technician, “You’re the only other EVA rated here, so just do it. Shuang, kill the engines and purge the Jump capacitors so we can do this. Jordan, find some way to shave a Jump off the trip. And Mister Wiggins,” Cole stared at Mike and paused for a second to choose the right phrase, “Just stay the hell out of everyone’s way.”
As the others started to go about their tasks, Jordan crossed the deck and confronted Cole.
“Owen, are you insane?” She demanded. “Shave off a Jump? You of all people should know how dangerous going off itinerary can be, and you want to do it for, what, keeping the Peak’s damn record with a bunch of your drunken mates?”
“This isn’t open for discussion, Jordan,” Cole snapped back, “You knew the score when you signed up: We stick to schedule no matter what. Besides,” his manner softened, “You’re the best in the business, you wouldn’t be on my crew otherwise. If anyone can do this without smearing us across open space, it’s you.”
“I hope you realise what you’re asking, I really do.” Jordan sighed, before storming off down the ladder.

Mike spent the majority of the next hour in his berth, trying to shake the uneasy feeling. The medicine Cole had given him was working, but the sudden return to zero-G was just making things worse. The audible crunches coming from the pressure hull as Ramin and Brett worked out in the vacuum were not helping either. Long ago, he had decided to cope with space travel by ignoring how painfully thin the barrier between safety and the uninhabitable, lethal void could be, and the constant audible reminder had shattered that illusion. After a while he decided that perhaps a ‘walk’ was in order to clear his head, and he opened the hatch and floated in to the common area. On the far side, Jordan was at the table, looking harassed. In her hand was a battered tablet that she was working away intently on, occasionally muttering to herself. Mike pulled himself across the room and cleared his throat.
“Anything I can help with?” He offered.
“What?” Jordan looked up with a start, before realising what was being said to her. “Oh, no, not really. Unless you’re any good with fourth dimensional mathematics or have a degree in Interstellar Navigation you never told us about.” She sighed before adding, “Thanks, though.”
“Still working on what the Captain wanted?” He braced himself against the table to avoid floating away.
“Yes. That bloody idiot still wants to put our lives on the line for the sake of his reputation.” She sighed, “A veteran captain should know why you don’t do these things.”
“I had no idea it was that dangerous.”
“No, few do. No one gives a damn what happens to us so long as their mail keeps coming.” Anger was seeping in to her tone. “Most people don’t think about these ships or their crew, how the job takes its toll, how many are lost. So long as things are comfortable nobody gives a shit, do they? Same as it ever was, as long as civilisation keeps ticking no one cares who has to suffer, be sacrificed, to keep it going.” The room fell silent for a moment as Jordan seethed. Mike considered what to say next carefully.
“You’re right,” He settled on, “It is easier not to think about these things, and it’s unfair that people have to suffer. But, while I can’t speak for anyone else, this trip’s certainly given me new perspective. Don’t think I’ll ever look at a corporate bulletin in quite the same way ever again.” Jordan smirked.
“You’re a good man, Mike Wiggins.” She said, mood lightening. “Shame it might be just you. Now, I’ve really got to get these done, I don’t think any of us want to end up stranded god knows where, new perspective or otherwise.” She gave a sympathetic smile before turning back to her tablet. The sound of repairs through the hull was getting more insistent, making everything feel more uneasy than ever.


PART TWO >


This story, its characters, setting & imagery are ©2019-2020 Dom “Ndro” Barlow, All Rights Reserved

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s