The man looked bleary-eyed at the console as it beeped out the readings from the arm of the chair. The blue light reflected in his light grey eyes as the readout danced across it. The console was not as fancy as some of the newer ships they had read about back home before they lost communications. The more modern ships had holographic heads up displays that could be cast anywhere in the room for convenience. This display could be a pain in his aging neck sometimes, but at least it was dependable. Besides, getting his hands on one of the newer displays would mean dealing with the corporations that his grandfather, Randolf Davids, had warned him about.
Randolf had lived on Earth originally, in a time when everything seemed to be coming apart at the seams. Nations guarded the secrets contained in them as dogs huddled over a half-chewed ham bone. All that was needed was a little push to get the tip over and put the world into anarchy. There were to convenient blast in Tel Aviv by Muslim terrorist and Russian mobsters attacking the west coast of California. Little incidents like these set the stage for the fuse to light. Soon the world was in carnage, and the wars seemed never-ending.
A space corporation offered conveniently available ships, for those who wished to escape the chaos. If the person would sign a contract for the settlement of the corporations choosing, the company could guarantee them safety off of the Planet Earth. The people of Earth left in droves, sometimes whole towns signing up for a single ship. Randolf had been a cargo captain, ferrying cargo to Mars Colony PriNorth for the United States Government, when he was approached by the corporations to go on the G.S.S Freestar. Davids respectfully declined; the troubles planetside had never bothered him. After all, he worked in space. Most of the time he was millions of miles away from the nearest nuclear missiles.
It was the next week he received a draft notice from the department of defense for a pilot. Randolf immediately took up the captains position and left Earth quietly, not even returning for his possessions back at his residence in Montana. Now here sat his grandson, a descendant of Earth, but strangely an alien at the same time. Captain Davids read the screen carefully, reaching down to pick up the cup of scorching hot black coffee in the ceramic mug beside him. He could feel the ION engines humming happily through the metal plating on the floor, and he could hear the soft clicking of the deck officers as they performed their duties on the bridge.
His ship was ran with a curious mix of military and civilian. The crew was separate but the same as the civilians. The crew answered to no one save the captain but were encouraged to mingle freely with the civilians. After all, when they did finally make it to Eden III, his command would be terminated and the crew absorbed into the fold of civilians, but until then, the safety of every one of these people was his and his alone.
He pressed a button as he gingerly sipped at the scalding coffee and he nodded in appreciation. Seventy-two percent nitrogen and twenty -one percent oxygen that was close enough for him to be habitable, the pressure was a hair over a bar, but there seemed to be quite a temperature flux. He had tried to scan better, but there was a lot of radiational flux coming from this system that could not be accounted for. The levels on the planet were well below the thresh hold limit, but outside the atmosphere, it was interfering with long-range scanning.
The helmsmen cleared his throat as he flicked his eyes nervously at the console. Howie had always been one of the Captains favorites. The big black man had a genieal attitude about him, even when he lost everything on the Friday night poker games. Davids poked his head up from his display.
"What is it, Ensign?"
"Sir, I am reading a significant pull as I began the deceleration protocol you called for. We are not losing speed as we should--" the ensign frowned largely at the display as he adjusted some more on his touchscreen "--we are gaining it instead sir."
Captain Davids gingerly set his cup down and pressed a button on his armrest. The comm crackled to life, and Jenson's voice came over it. She was the ships Chief as everyone called her. She had learned all she could from her father before he retired, and from her grandfather. Jenson spent most of her time in the engine room, caring for the hundred and fifty-year-old reactor.
"Sir?" a strained feminine voice came over the coms. From the sounds of the background, she was repairing another failing part of the ancient ship. The Chief took care of her ship meticulously, immediately answering repair orders with crews.
"Jenson, are you recording any problems with the IONS?"
"No, sir. Not to my knowledge, the midnight crew just ran a full diagnostics last night in preparations of the deceleration burn that would start today."
"And the engines are holding fine?" the Captains voice had a slight edge of worry. They would not be the first generation ship to run into gravitational anomalies during the deceleration burn. The G.S.S Gerald was lost when the pull from the planet had been greater than had been anticipated. The Gerald was one of the older ships that still ran on liquid fuels and could not compensate for the increased flux, luckily Captain Davids was in command of a vessel that utilized IONS, a type of thruster that worked of electrical power and could fire indefinitely. His main concern is they had seen too many kilometers for his likings. If the engines could not hold at a higher than expected burn than they had flown a long way for nothing.
"Captain, these engines have run longer than any other engine in a civilian or military fleet. If you are asking me if they will give under strain, the answer is probably but not definitely. What is the problem up there?"
"We have a pull from dead afore. We need to bring the engines higher than expected."
A string of oaths and the sound of clanking of tools could be heard as the Chief scrambled from what she was doing. Her breath could be heard a few moments later as she neared the mic, "Just how much are we talking so I know how soon I get to see if I win our bet?"
The ensign raised an eyebrow at his CO questioningly. The Captain waved a hand at the Howie to ward off the question and walked over to look at the readouts on the forescreen. He wrinkled his brow in concern as his lips moved with the mathematical calculations.
"We are going to need thirty percent immediately, but I am correct by the end of the day, we will need a minimum of seventy percent from the old engines--"
"SIR!" the cries came in unison from both the helmsmen and Chief.
"We will not have that power sir--" the Chief objected, "Even if the engines will hold, dubious, but let us say they would, we lost one of the three reactors last year. I will need to shut down half the systems on the ships including shielding. We will have to abandon the outer portions of the ship."
"Acknowledged, but the contents in the outer portions won't do us much good dead. Ricky?" He turned to a decorated elderly man, "I need to organize security and start evacuations. They are mandatory No one disobeys these orders. If you have to, create a makeshift brig in the middle somewhere and lock up the whole damn ship."
"Yes, Sir!" The old man saluted and motioned to some crewmen on deck to follow him. Their boots could be heard clicking with a metallic ring on the deck plating as they left.
"Jenson, start the process, I will be down there shortly to assist."
"Aye sir," she snorted, "Just who I want to die with! At least then you can pay up."
The Captain chuckled slightly as the comlink went dead and he turned back to the ensign, "Howie, bring the IONS to thirty percent. I will be in Engineering. You have the con till Douglas gets here."
Ensign nodded a sweat formed on his brow. He looked nervously up at his CO, his black skin glistening slightly, "Sir?"
"Yes Ensign?" the captain asked as he went to leave.
"Just what is this bet you and the Chief have?"
The Captain turned just far enough for the ensign to see a mischievous grin, "Whether there is a god or not."
The Ensign swallowed hard as the Captain walked out the door.....ns126.96.36.199da2