Skyler stared at Emeric, his jaw set. His eyes scanned Emeric’s face as if he were trying to gage Emeric’s sincerity. “Well, what can I say to that?” Skyler said darkly.
Emeric shrugged. His expression soft, unreadable.
“I guess I have no choice but to trust you,” Skyler said. He folded his arms across his chest. “It’s either that or you throw me in stasis for the next eight years, right?”
Again Emeric shrugged, a slight smirk curled around the corner of his mouth.
Willow opened her mouth and took a deep breath as if preparing to speak.
“The probes!” Asher interjected.
I turned to look at Asher, I felt my eyebrow raise, my closed mouth pinched, I had no idea what he was talking about, and looking around I guessed no one else did either.
He looked at each of us in turn. I think he expected to see at least one of us share in his light bulb moment.
“The probes? What are you talking about?” Emeric asked.
“There were probes sent out years ago, before even the Raven launched. They mapped out the original route to make sure it was safe. I know they all passed the one lightyear mark.”
“Okay, but what does that have to do with anything?” Skyler chimed in, his pitch too high. A tendon stretched the skin of his neck, and his eyes were wide as saucers.
“What do you mean?” Asher asked, his tone sincere.
Emeric glared at Asher and gestured around him at everyone.
“Oh, I stopped paying attention to what you guys were saying a while ago.” Asher grinned. “Anyways, if they are still out here, I should be able to contact them. If they passed through this weird field, maybe we can too.”
Asher didn’t wait for approval from Emeric before taking off towards the engineering compartment.
We all followed closely behind.
As the doors closed behind us, Asher was already bouncing on his feet. The displays were all activated, and the light from them illuminated the entire room.
“Yes! I’ve connected to one that isn’t too far away.”
An image of a large circular dish with poles sticking off it it appeared on screen. It was long, with large struts, and massive engines. It looked similar to the Raven, but with large rectangular solar panels instead of the wing shaped ones that had given the Raven its name.
“So how does this help us?” I asked, still unsure.
“It should hopefully give us the information we need to either get through the field, or around it.” Asher spoke quickly as he touched various icons on the screen. “We are so close to where this one passed through the field. If there is a break in the field, or a hole, we can reach our goal.”
“How long would it take us to get there?” Emeric asked.
“Around two days. Maybe three,” Asher responded.
“What if we still can’t get through?” Skyler said.
I didn’t know what to think. With everything that had been happening, I had almost forgotten that we had a goal to reach.
“We should try it, right?” Asher said.
“Of course we should!” Skyler answered.
There was an excited and electric energy that spread through the room. I stepped back and watched as Asher, Skyler and Emeric worked together. They all worked on display consoles and brought up various information. They discussed the best route to take from our current position to where the probe went through. They shared ideas as fast as they could think them up, and no one was shooting anything down.
I couldn’t help but smile a large toothy grin. It felt right.
I glanced at Willow, standing beside me. She had her hands in her pockets and a slight sway to her stance. She smiled pleasantly at the boys, almost the same look on her face as my sisters would get watching their kids playing nicely with each other through the kitchen window.
“Okay, that all sounds good. I’ll be on the bridge,” Emeric said.
I watched him spin on his heels and leave engineering with Skyler only two steps behind.
“Where’s Skyler going?” I asked.
“Emeric invited him to the bridge,” Asher said.
“Is that wise?”
“They’ll be fine.”
Asher’s almost flippant comment didn’t comfort me. I took a deep exhale before looking to Willow.
“Well, I think I’m gonna take another nap. I’m beat. I am sure the two of you have everything under control here.” She smiled at me and gave a little wink as she left the room.
Asher turned and looked at me. He smiled brightly. I realized that I probably looked like a grinning fool and closed my mouth hiding my teeth.
“So, dinner again tomorrow?” Asher said.
I went with Asher to dinner, not only that evening, but the two nights that followed. We tried to focus on our duties, but I felt happier in his presence.
I stared into Asher’s dark brown eyes as he finished his water.
“We should be arriving where the probe went through in a few minutes. Want to go up to the bridge to see if it will work?”
“I heard the Captain say that the force slowing down the ship hasn’t changed. Do you think we’ll be able to get through?”
Asher adjusted his glasses. “I’m still hopeful. Either we will be able to, or we won’t. And if we can’t, then hopefully I can figure out why.”
“Has Willow been able to help you at all?”
“She’s more than half way through the training manuals.” Asher paused. “I’m surprised at how quickly she’s picking it up, but I don’t want to push her,” he said.
“I appreciate that. She should rest, but I feel like making use of her will improve her quality of life.”
The communication system chirped. “Uh, this is Skyler on the bridge. Emeric wants everyone to join us.”
“After you,” Asher said gesturing towards the door.
I got up and made my way to the bridge. I looked over at Willow in her cryo pod. She looked at me longingly. I had ordered her to take a rest and eat her dinner in there after a gross motor attack earlier that day. Seeing her now I realized she wanted my permission to get out of her pod and come with us, and so I quickly smiled and nodded.
Despite her condition, she leapt from her pod, and caught up quickly. “Thanks,” she whispered. The corners of her eyes crinkled with excitement, and though she was steady on her feet, her right shoulder twitched sporadically, a remnant from the recent attack.
The door to the bridge opened and Skyler was sitting in my chair. Asher moved to sit in his own, and I stood behind him. Willow stood behind Skyler. It wasn’t my intention to make us look divided, but we did.
Emeric slid backwards and turned around. His seat was now between Asher and Skyler. “I have punched in the coordinates to transition through whatever is slowing us down in the same spot the probe went through. If this works, in a couple of days, we will be the first humans to get to one light year away from Earth.” Emeric turned, and slid back towards his command console at the front of the ship. He tapped on the screen and the engines engaged at full thrust.
I could feel a slight sensation from the acceleration and the hum of the engines went up an octave.
“The ship is slowing down,” Asher said. His words didn’t sound as frustrated as I felt.
“I know,” Emeric responded. His tone more closely matched my feelings.