“Captain to Engineering,” the ship’s speakers blared. It was Asher.
“What’s happening?” Willow asked.
“I’m not sure.” I was excited by the interruption, and that only served to make me feel worse. “I am hoping that Asher has figured out what is happening with our speed.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, it looks like our ship is slowing down, and he’s not sure why. Maybe you could help him figure it out?” I tried to steer the conversation in a positive direction.
“I don’t think I’d be much help with that,” Willow replied.
“You kept the Raven running despite all of its problems,” I said and smiled.
“I’m what,” Willow paused, “at least twelve years behind the tech on this ship?”
I could see the frustration on her face. Integrating her and Skyler, and making them feel like more than just passengers on our journey was going to be difficult.
The bridge door opened, and Emeric walked through. There was a heaviness on his shoulders, a weight that I had not seen before.
“Are you okay?” I asked Emeric as he approached.
“Yes. You two should follow. If for no other reason than staying informed,” Emeric said.
“Should I call for Skyler to join us?”
“No.” Emeric said firmly as he continued walking towards the engineering compartment.
As we all entered, I could see Asher leaning over the primary control display. One hand was on his forehead, and the other, a balled up fist, resting on the display. Tools were strewn about and the panels normally covering the power and data conduits were lying flat on the floor exposing some of the interior of the ship.
“What’s going on?” Emeric asked.
“We’re continuing to slow down,” Asher replied, his eyes seemed heavy and his tone lacked its usual bounce. He ran his fingers through his thick black curls. I noticed that his hair was getting somewhat shaggy. “I have a theory as to why, though.”
“Oh? Please do enlighten us,” Emeric said. He picked up a tablet, and it looked as if he were going to take notes.
“I believe it might be a spacal anomaly, some kind of localized energy field causing drag on the ships.”
“What’s this about now?” Skyler broke in. We all turned around and saw him standing at the still open doors. “That sounds fake. You just don’t want me to win the prize!”
“Skyler,” Willow moaned, “Please stop.”
“They’re talking sci-fi garbage! You expect me to believe any of this?”
“You’re talking like a crazy person,” Emeric replied. “Now close your mouth and let my engineering specialist explain.”
Everyone turned and looked at Asher. With all eyes on him, he winced slightly. “Our sensors are not picking up anything. I have looked through our logs and the Raven’s logs and I’ve found that there was definitely a point where this started. As we’ve continued to progress in this direction, it has only continued to get stronger.” Asher paused. I watched as he looked from person to person, likely looking for a reaction.
I didn’t know what to think. Emeric and Willow looked just as confused as I felt. I knew Asher was trying to tell us all something, but I felt like I already knew everything he had said.
“Don’t you see? If there was a point where this started, then it is localized. Even if I can’t tell what it is yet, it doesn’t mean we’re beat.”
“So, what are our options?” Emeric asked, his arms folded across his chest, the tablet forgotten in his left hand.
“We could try to go through it, change course to see if we can quickly get around it or go back to where it started, and try a different path,” Asher said.
“Which option would you suggest?” Emeric asked.
Asher shrugged. “I think we should try to push through. We might already be most of the way through it. Or maybe if we get past the halfway point, it might start to affect us less.”
“Okay,” Skyler started again, “but you don’t know for certain, right? It might be some kind of weird alien force field out there, and this could just get worse…”
“I’m not saying there’s a force field out there!” Asher interjected. ”All I’m saying is that there is a localized anomaly that is causing our ship to slow.”
“But anyways, saying that there was,” Skyler continued, ignoring Asher’s comment. “What if we get stuck? Or what if it destroys us? What will we do?” He fired off his questions in quick succession, leaving no time for Asher to respond, and no doubt that he was being sarcastic.
“I don’t know what is going to happen,” Asher said, his eyes wide, he over annunciated the words. “All I know is something exists that is slowing us down. If it continues to decelerate our ship at the current rate, we will be at full stop, despite putting maximum power to the engines in a few more hours. If it gets close to that point, I’ll recommend we turn around. This ship wasn’t built for scientific discovery.”
“So the scientist doesn’t know everything,” Skyler said, his tone much like that of a taunting child. “Maybe you should turn around now and go back to Earth?”
It took all of my self-control not to slap Skyler for his remarks and the tightness of Asher’s jaw, his clenched fists and the vein in the middle of his forehead told me he was having difficulty with his own self-restraint.
It was, however, Emeric that chimed in. “If you cannot contribute to the discussion or keep your mouth shut, you can leave.”
“Who do you think you are?”
“I am the captain of this ship and I am ordering you to leave. Go below deck.”
Skyler stopped leaning against the door frame and stood up straight and tall.
“I’ll go with you,” Willow said softly, as she walked over and took Skyler by the arm. She glanced at me and I could see that she wanted to stay. “Come on, Skyler. Let’s see if we can get some of your fan mail. Wouldn’t that be fun?”
“Yeah, better than this discussion,” Skyler said and followed her out of the room.
Once the two were out of earshot, Emeric turned to me. “Anaya, go keep an eye on those two.”
I didn’t want to leave either, as I wanted to know what was wrong with the ship. Emeric must have seen my hesitation.
“That’s an order,” he said.
I nodded silently and left the room.
I walked down the stairs, I wasn’t trying to be sneaky, but I have always had a soft step.
“Skyler,” Willow’s voice sounded shaky. “Do you realize what you’re saying?”
“Yeah, I do.” Skyler’s tone had taken on a serious note I hadn’t from him before. “It was clearly stated in our mission outline that we should try to win no matter what. Sometimes you have to stand on the backs of others to rise above.”
“Well that’s a poetic way of putting it,” Willow mumbled. “What are you even thinking of doing?”
“I don’t know. It’s not like we need to blow up the ship or anything.”
“You do realize even a small act of sabotage could have the same effect as blowing up the ship, just slower and potentially more painful, right?”
“I just want you to understand the blood of three people would be on your hands.”