Asher clicked the comm panel. “Captain?” He said, his pitch slightly higher than usual. “I’m gonna need you to come up here to engineering.”
I couldn’t help but notice a slight change in the ambient sound of the ship. Maybe I was imagining it, but it seemed like the engines were slightly louder than before.
Emeric groaned. “Alright, but I just got comfortable so this better be good.”
“Actually, it’s very not good.” Asher mumbled.
I watched as Asher swiped, tapped and adjusted various information on the displays around the primary reactor.
“On my way.” Emeric’s tone had suddenly taken on a much deeper and serious note.
Asher’s forehead was wrinkled, his eyes tight, his mouth was moving wordlessly, and his fingers tapped furiously. I could see that he was still trying to figure out what was going on and it looked like he wasn’t getting anywhere.
“Anything I can do to help?” I asked.
“Yeah,” Asher replied, his eyes stayed fixed on his screen. “Can you call up the data on the Raven we got from our initial scans?” He absently pointed to his left and I walked to that screen and tapped on the main file index. The computer system was very intuitive, presenting me with all of the new updates in a reverse chronological order. I tapped on the bridge recordings, and the computer loaded multiple windows of graphs and charts.
“What am I looking for?” I asked.
“I am looking for the difference between their reactor’s stated maximum output and their ships expected relative speed compared to what our scanners picked up, so that I can check to see if they are experiencing this same incomprehensible effect.”
I pointed at the screen and then shrugged. “Say again?”
“I want to see their reactor output and current speed.”
I touched the screen and slid two large graphs over towards Asher. They moved from my display to his.
“That’s what I thought…” He said squinting unhappily at the screen.
The hiss of the doors alerted us to Emeric’s presence and Asher and I turned almost in unison. Emeric nodded at us and straightened his shirt. He was slightly out of breath as though he had been running.
“Let me have it,” he said to Asher.
“Well…” Asher explained. “You aren’t going to like this.” Asher expanded four graphs to fill the primary display and pointed at it.
Emeric audibly sighed before looking at the data being presented. It still mostly read as gibberish to me, but as his eyes moved to the bottom, I could see a light of understanding coming over him. “We are slowing down like the Raven,” he said.
“Yes. Exactly. Anaya and I have looked over the data.”
“Hey, don’t blame me for this,” I quickly interjected. “I don’t even know what I’m looking at.”
“Anyways,” Asher continued, “there is something definitely wrong with these numbers. They aren’t possible. It is like we are flying through water, and not space.”
Emeric put on his stoic command face. It usually meant he was going to come up with some grand idea to fix a problem, or at least attempt to.
“Any way we can increase the power to the engines to compensate?” Emeric asked.
I smiled and looked at Asher as it seemed like a practical solution to the problem to me.
Asher swiftly moved his right hand towards his face, palm open, but before it arrived, he snapped it back down to his side. “Captain, our engines are at full power. If there was a way to move faster, we would have done that from the start of this expedition.”
Emeric’s face didn’t show any sign of being embarrassed by the mistake. “Well, what can we do about this?” Emeric paused waiting for an answer, but none came. “I want us to get to the Raven, transfer them aboard, and get to our goal as soon as possible so we can get back in cryo. That way we aren’t rationing supplies on our journey back.”
“Captain, I don’t think you understand. What is happening now is impossible,” Asher said. His tone was one of frustration with a tiny bit of condescension.
“Figure it out Asher. That’s why you are here. Use whatever resources you require.”
Asher looked at me and smiled. “Does that include Anaya’s help?”
“Whatever you need,” Emeric said turning to leave the engineering compartment.
After the door closed, I stepped over to Asher’s display terminal, standing near him. He looked at me and flashed another smile. Instantly, I felt aggravated. “How am I supposed to help you with this?”
“Two heads are better than one, right?” Asher said as he brought his arms up in defense and stepped backwards.
Hours later, my head spinning with numbers and graphs, my eyes burning with the strain of staring at screens, we still had no answers. Asher had me look at endless charts of data, and review the results of his test scenarios. I don’t know what I had expected, but Asher’s focus and determination were inspiring.
I walked back down to the lower level. I took a left at the bottom of the stairs, and then a right into my quarters. I got my towels, toiletries, and pjs and then crossed the hall for a shower.
The hot water felt wonderful as it poured over me. The smells of the soap and shampoo reminded me of home. I closed my eyes and entertained thoughts of being back in the old house with a window to my left overlooking the backyard. The sound of kids and dogs from the hall. It was hard to fight off the homesickness.
When my shower was done, I got into my pjs and stood in front of the mirror. My time in cryo and deep space had not been kind to my face. My green eyes had dark circles around them. My thin angular face had lost the pinkish glow it had back on earth. My freckles seemed extra dark next to the paleness of the rest of my skin. I shrugged it off, I wasn’t out here to win a beauty contest. I brushed my teeth and then walked back across the hall to my room with all of my things piled high in my arms. The thin carpet was soft on my bare feet, but did little to hide the coolness of the metal it covered. With my elbow, I pushed the button to enter my room and dropped all of the stuff from my arms onto my table. I turned on the small independant display there and glanced at the time. It was 23:47 SST. Almost midnight by ship standard time. We’d been up for roughly eighteen hours and Asher had asked me to meet him in engineering at 06:00. I ground the palms of my hands into my burning eyes and then glanced at the heap of things I’d just brought back from the washroom as well as the cryopod suit pieces strewn about on the floor. My bed looked so inviting. I took a few steps toward it and then flopped down on my stomach.
‘I’ll deal with the mess in the morning,’ I thought and then I laughed to myself knowing it was unlikely.