I really wanted to come to Willow’s rescue. Her personality, our interactions and her disease all made me feel like it couldn’t be her. “Well, when was the code made?” I asked. “Maybe if we can find out when the code was written we can cross reference camera footage and figure out who did it.”
“Can’t do that,” Asher said with a deep exhale as he pushed both hands through his hair causing the skin on his forehead to go taught. “I can’t see when it was written, only that the code was set on a time delay. The log files for executing automated commands shows this entry with a request to run the script today.” Asher pointed to a line of text in a long wall of lines of text. “Typically, scripts and files also include a creation date, but the code that ran also set the creation date to today. It could have been written any time from when our ship was created ‘til immediately before the power outage.”
“What was the goal of it?”
“Well, without power it wouldn’t be long ‘til we ran out of breathable air, and it would get cold pretty fast.”
I couldn’t help but think of Willow in her pod, how BCD was tearing her apart. I found it hard to wrap my mind around her sabotaging Lalonde’s Dream. I knew that the chances of her getting back to Earth were slim to none regardless of what happened to either ship, but still, could the shortness of her life really lead her to shorten the lives of the rest of us?
“Why would she do it, though,” I asked. “Willow must know that there’s pretty much no chance of survival on the Raven? Why get rid of the only option home?”
“Don’t ask me.” Asher said, his brow was furrowed and he was looking at me over the frame of his glasses. He was obviously upset by the situation, but his tone remained gentle. “If you ask me, she doesn’t always seem capable of rational thought.”
I nodded. I wanted to tell him it was because of her illness, that it was getting rid of her mind’s ability to stay in the present moment and see things clearly. Then I thought about how that didn’t offer her any real excuse or way to avoid blame.
“I wish you would tell me what you’re thinking,” Asher said. He raised an eyebrow at me. “Your lips are tight, I know there’s something more that you want to say.”
“It’s just that Willow isn’t exactly healthy.”
“What now?” He said with a small laugh. “That’s brand new information!”
I half smiled and rolled my eyes at him in an exaggerated way.
“But really,” his tone was more serious again. “Does that mean she couldn’t have done it?”
“Nope,” I said, “but we have no real proof that she did do it either. From what I heard of the two of them talking, it sounded like Skyler was really the one interested in sabotage.”
“Do you really think he’d be capable of coding something to take down the LD?”
“Me neither.” Asher said as he glanced back at his console. “I guess I need to do some more digging.” He tapped on the engineering displays, a great deal of information started scrolling past on the screen. I didn’t understand most of it.
“Look here,” Asher said pointing to a highlighted line of text. “Skyler accessed a file on the Raven.”
“What file?” I wanted it to be Skyler that had sabotaged the ship, without any help from Willow. I wanted Asher to find some evidence that cleared Willow of any potential wrongdoing. I really wanted a female friend on the long voyage back home.
“Situational Management Procedures.” Asher tapped on the file, and it opened up. “There are hundreds of pages of information in this document,” he said. “It covers everything that the Raven crew should do in almost any situation.”
“Can you tell what part Skyler was reading?” I asked.
Asher scrolled through the document, every once and awhile I could make out a heading, but most of the words rushed by far too quickly.
After a few moments, Asher stopped. He tapped on some text and it was highlighted. “I have a good guess,” he said taking a step back so I could see the screen more easily.
On the display was a section entitled, ‘Interception or Competition’ and highlighted was the last paragraph of text which simply stated, ‘if no contract of collaboration can be reached to split the rewards, the duty of the Raven crew is to sabotage their competition to reach their goal.’
“I think I should tell the Captain,” Asher said just as I finished reading the text.
“Do you really think Skyler could have sabotaged the ship?” I asked.
Asher was already at the doors to the engineering compartment. They swung open with a loud hiss. “I don’t know that he could have done it without help, but either way, I don’t think we can risk having him or Willow awake anymore.” Asher exited the engineering compartment.
I turned my attention back at the text. It was one small section in a manual of nearly a thousand pages. With both Willow and Skyler on Lalonde’s Dream, I couldn’t fathom how it could be helpful for them to sabotage their best chance at getting home.
I started to think about what Asher was going to tell Emeric, and how he would react and knew that I needed to be the voice of reason. I exited the engineering section, and immediately, I could hear distant voices yelling downstairs by the crew quarters. I almost flew down the metal stairs, and as I got closer, I could make out more of what was being said.
“I didn’t sabotage anything!” Skyler’s voice was loud, confident but strained.
“We found the Situational Management Procedures document that you accessed on your ship,” Asher said. His tone was more factual than accusatory. It made me feel less panicked that this situation was going to spiral out of control.
“I should just throw you out the airlock right now,” Emeric said.
And with those words went my sense of calm. I arrived in the aft section, near the lower engineering doors. Asher and Emeric were standing between the doors and the bunks. Skyler was standing, his back against the metal frame, as though he was backed into a corner, unable to retreat any further from the attack.
There was a look of panic on Skyler’s face. His hands were up at his shoulders, palms open and facing Emeric and Asher. “Hey, look guys. I opened that file to find out what advice they had for dealing with a sick crew member. We all know Willow’s not right. I’ve just been worried about her”
He paused for a moment before continuing, “and to be perfectly honest, I also tried to send a message to Earth asking them what I should be doing, but communications apparently requires a security code. I didn’t feel much like I could ask anyone here.”
I couldn’t tell if Emeric was listening to what Skyler was saying. His eyes were glaring intently at Skyler’s face, scanning his eyes, lips, nostrils. It was like he was trying to find a tell that would give him permission. Permission for what, I did not want to know.