October 14th, 2345
After our excursion outside yesterday, Mike scheduled a briefing for this morning. Instead of Command, we decided to meet in Observation, where the three of us could be more comfortable. Mike had rolled a particularly large joint, and we were passing it around. After the stresses of the last few weeks, I think we all came to the same conclusion that this should be a more informal meeting. Besides, we all knew what Jean-Marie was going so say.
“Still nothing,” Jean-Marie said, not unexpectedly.
“What does that leave us?” Mike asked.
“Not a lot,” Jean-Marie replied, “With no apparent physical damage to the Centaur, I think we can safely rule out that we hit anything physical.”
“Yes, but what else is there? If we didn’t hit something physical – or nothing physical hit us – how could we have hit anything?” Mike said to no one in particular.
“I don’t know, but my guess is we passed through an energy wave front of some sort,” Jean-Marie said.
“And you think that would have caused the ship to act like a giant gong?” I asked.
“It sure could have, in the same way a large sonic boom can shatter windows. Obviously what we hit – or passed through – wasn’t a sound wave, but something else.” Jean-Marie said.
“Yes, but what?” Mike said, rather unnecessarily, I thought.
“There’s just not enough data,” I said, “The external sensors didn’t record anything, and without any damage to the ship to analyze, we’re pretty much in the dark.”
“OK,” Mike said, obviously thinking, “What could make the sound we heard?”
“And Sol to disappear?” Jean-Marie added.
“I have no idea,” I said, “Since we’re the first ones out here, there’s absolutely no precedence for this phenomenon. No one in the history of spaceflight has recorded anything like this happening.”
“Of course,” Jean-Marie said, “no one’s ever been this fast before, or used the M-drive for such an extended period of time.”
“Are you suggesting our drive may have caused it?” Mike asked.
“I don’t know,” Jean-Marie said, “It’s possible, but we can’t know until we can turn off the drive and inspect the working components.”
“Which we can’t do until we get to Alpha Prime,” I said.
“Right,” Jean-Marie confirmed.
“So where does that leave us?” Mike asked, virtually repeating his earlier question.
“I don’t know,” Jean-Marie said, “I’ve run out of ideas. I’m not the real Engineer,” he added with a smile.
“What if we took the Colt out?” I asked. I looked back and forth between Mike and Jean-Marie, both of whom seemed to consider the idea.
“The lander’s external sensors might be able to detect something the Centaur’s can’t,” Jean-Marie said to Mike.
“They were designed for much more detailed planetary scans,” I added.
“Well, it’s certainly worth a try,” Mike said.
“But is it safe for us to take the lander out at this velocity?” I asked.
“It would be no more dangerous than our EVA yesterday,” Jean-Marie said with a pointed look at me. In return, I pointedly avoided his gaze.
“How long would it take you to get the lander ready?” Mike asked Jean-Marie.
“I’m not sure,” Jean-Marie said, “I’m not as familiar with the Colt’s systems as I am the Centaur’s, and it’s been in mothballs for over three years.” He thought for a second. “A couple days at least. We were supposed to have a week of in-system transit time to get it ready, but I’m sure we can get it warmed up in less time than that.”
“I can’t see what other option we have at this point,” Mike said, “Unless one of you can think of something.” He looked at me and then at Jean-Marie. Both of us were silent. “Very well, then. Engineer, please commence start-up and pre-flight checkout on the lander. Aric, start brushing up on your lander control.”
I glanced up at Mike sharply, about to ask the obvious question.
“Because you’re the Mission Specialist. The lander and it’s sensors are your area of expertise. When Jean-Marie gives the OK, you and I will take the Colt out and perform as thorough an inspection as we can.” Mike said.
“Will do,” Jean-Marie said.
“Got it,” I said.
“Dismissed,” Mike said formally.
Jean-Marie took a final drag from the turnip-leaf cigarette, handed it to Mike and left the room. I stood up to follow and Mike said to me “I’m sorry, Aric, but you’re going to have to clear out the Tunnel.”
I stopped and looked at him, as sense of dread flowing through me. He was right though, if we were going to start using the Docking Bay, we needed to have clear access to the lander.
“Understood,” I said. I’d just have to figure out some other sleeping arrangement. Which, of course, is easier said than done.
As weird and a little disconcerting as this mystery is, I have to say, at least something’s happening on this ship. Of course, this may fall directly in the category of “be careful what you wish for”. I guess we’ll find out soon enough. At least taking the lander out won’t be as death-defying as yesterday’s EVA. I hope.