“At this point,” Asher continued, “if we can’t get past whatever is causing this, we will never reach our goal.”
I could almost see the look of disappointment and sadness on the faces of my family back home on Earth at the realization that my entire expedition and sixteen years away had all been for nothing. A waste of time and resources.
“Do whatever you have to do to get us moving forward again,” Emeric said with a stern nod.
The bridge doors swung open and Skyler stood front and center with Willow off to one side behind him.
Out of surprise and reflex, I looked at my display. I couldn’t believe that they had arrived on the bridge without me noticing it.
I watched as Skyler looked around, he was likely noticing the lack of any other seating. It was just another way that the Lalonde’s Dream was not designed for a crew of five. I wondered why the designers couldn’t have put some extra chairs on the rear wall of the bridge. It felt like such a small change and one that would have helped their integration.
“So, what are you all talking about?” Skyler said as he stepped forward. He stood just inside the bridge. His head almost touched the bulkhead above him.
Willow followed. She leaned against the wall near my station and the doors slid shut behind them.
“Just our plans for moving this mission forward,” Asher said.
Skyler stepped forward and leaned on my console. He flashed me a smile that made me want to turn invisible. I began to feel like there wasn’t enough air on the suddenly cramped bridge for so many people.
Willow glanced at me, and she looked as uncomfortable as I felt.
A loud pulsing squeal filled the bridge. I had never heard anything like it before. Asher calmly swung in his chair and looked at his displays.
“What is going on? The sensors are down,” Asher said.
Emeric stood up and swung around behind Asher, almost pushing Skyler out of the way in the process. Skyler, only needing to take two steps, moved behind Emeric and looked over his shoulder.
I watched as Asher tapped furiously, his face tight and expression confused. “This shouldn’t be happening,” he said.
“That is really strange,” Emeric said to Asher.
“Anything I can help with?” Skyler said.
The main lighting in the bridge dimmed. The emergency lighting came on and cast everything in a crimson glow. The hum of the ship, it’s constant background noise, shifted to a lower register, and was noticeably quieter.
“Is this from whatever has been slowing the ship down?” Emeric asked.
“I don’t think so.” Asher replied. “I need to go to engineering. Something is seriously wrong.” He stood from his seat, stopped short of the door, and turned to look at Emeric. “We should hold this position until I figure it out.”
Emeric slid back into his chair and it moved to the very front of the bridge. At his station, he gestured wildly before slamming his closed fists on the controls.
“Can someone explain what’s going on?” I asked. I looked at my display terminals for answers, but much like the confused expression plastered on both Asher’s and Emeric’s faces, I was lost.
“It won’t stop,” Emeric said turning to face Asher.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” he replied. He sat back down at his console.
“Why won’t the ship stop?” Willow asked.
For a moment, I had forgotten she was in the room. Skyler was much more imposing, looking over shoulders as he stood almost attached to Asher’s chair.
“You sure there’s nothing I can do to help?” Skyler said.
“You know what would help?” Emeric said, on the verge of yelling, “all of you getting the hell out of my way! I need some space to think.”
I nodded at the captain, stood and placed a hand on Willow’s and Skyler’s shoulders to guide them out of the room. “Come on, let’s give the guys some space and time to figure this thing out.”
Once we were in the hall headed back towards the eating area, I noticed that Willow was staring past me at Skyler. Her eyes were wide and her mouth was twisted in a look of disgust. My mind flashed to the conversation I had overheard them having. I fought to keep my breathing steady and to keep thoughts of a slow death in the vacuum of space out of my head.
“What?” Skyler snapped defensively. He stopped dead in his tracks, arms folded across his chest, staring at Willow, his jaw set.
“What, what?” Willow replied, her tone sharp.
“Stop looking at me like that!”
“Oh, now who’s being juvenile?” Skyler rolled his eyes at Willow and then turned his attention to me as if expecting me to agree with him.
“I don’t know,” Willow said, she looked away from Skyler and then around the hall. Her brow furrowed and her breathing quickened. She was noticeably agitated. Her eyes flicked around wildly. It was as though someone had flipped a switch and everything about her was different.
“Willow?” I said, as I reached out to touch her arm, hoping to ground her.
“Don’t touch me!” She yelled.Edit
“Whoa, calm down,” Skyler said. His tone was more authoritative than I would have expected from him.
“You calm down!” Willow screamed, she raised her hands to her ears. “I don’t know what you want from me, but I promise I’m not worth anything. I just want to go home!”
“Willow,” I began quietly, trying to keep my tone gentle, “we don’t want anything from you.” I had my hands up, palms out, showing her that I was unarmed. I elbowed Skyler, hoping he would do likewise.
“Yeah,” he said, raising his hands, “we’re all friends here.”
“Bull!” Willow yelled again. “We’re not friends. I’ve never seen you before in my life! Where am I? Please just let me go home.”
I knew we needed to move her, to get her to the infirmary. I knew she needed a sedative. I also knew that trying to communicate any of this to Skyler was only going to escalate her further. I really wished I had telepathy at that moment.
“We can’t go home right now,” Skyler said, his tone soft.
“Let me out of here!” Willow hollered, and shoved Skyler. She rushed towards the door in front of her, it would lead her back onto the bridge.
The door opened and Emeric stepped forward. His eyes were fiery, and his lips tight. He reached around Skyler and grabbed Willow. His often muted muscles bulged as he wrapped her arms around herself in a fluid motion, holding her from behind with hands locked on her wrists. “Anaya. Sedative. Now!”
Willow thrashed and screamed as Emeric half-carried and half-dragged her towards the infirmary and the pods.
I squeezed past him to grab a syringe. It was slightly more difficult to do with the emergency lights still casting an eerie red glow over everything. Loading the needle full of sedatives, I turned and jabbed it into her thigh.
She continued to flail and her foot almost connected with my leg as she started to exhaust any remaining energy she might have. As her body went limp, Emeric moved Willow into her cryo pod.
“Yes, sir,” I replied.