The seconds passes and on the Tycho not a word was said, everyone held their breath. Then in a dizzying flash the core detonated. The screen went blank for a moment as all the visual sensors were over loaded. McKinley turned to Neila.
“Now would be a good time!”
Neila was already on it, the engines powered the Tycho forward. The spacecraft vibrated, shaking the structure. Illuminated schematics showed red alarms on the 3D image of the ship. The engines were being strained close to their working limits.
“What’s going on?” McKinley barked at Neila.
“The engines are giving it all, but we’re not moving commander!” she shouted back. The groaning of the engines was immense, it was hard to hear anything.
“What do we do now?” Seanna shouted at McKinley.
“Hang on!” he shouted back as he thought, the image had returned to screen 4 and a huge spatial vortex had opened up in the fabric of space where the Titan was, the was no sign of it’s massive hulk. There was no time to worry about what had happened to it now.
“How long until we reach the event horizon?” McKinley shouted.
“Less than five minutes!” one of the science station crew barked back.
“what’s our projected escape velocity?” McKinley asked. He knew time was tight, but he also know panicking wasn’t going to get them out of this.
“We would need to give power equivalent to three times the speed of light to escape this commander!” The science officer shouted back.
For a moment, McKinley was thoughtful. “What range would a class five fusion warhead cause damage to Tycho?”
“About one hundred thousand kilometres” the defence chief advised. All eyes suddenly turned to McKinley, the crew were all expecting him to pull a rabbit out of his hat.
“How many class five warheads do we have?”
“Three commander, but we’re not permitted to use them without strict instructions from command!” The defence chief protested.
“Well” McKinley replied with irony “if you like you can wait for command, but I’m going to launch them. I want them to detonate within three seconds of each other at 200,000 kilometres, 150,0000 kilometres and 120,000 kilometres.” McKinley explained in detail.
“That’s so close!”Seanna exclaimed.
“On launch I want the engines to be firing as close to 200% capacity for ten seconds!” The crew looked around at each other in astonishment.
“You heard him! Seanna yelled out! Neila prepare the engines, remove safetys and prepare to fire them. Williams prepare the warheads! Come on!!”
All of them returned to their stations, there was only a few minutes until the event horizon was reached and the engines were firing hard already. The sound of the straining engines drowning out all but loud voices.
“We’re ready!” Neila asked out. Awaiting the order to commit.
“Execute manoeuvre now, now,now!” McKinley shouted, making sure he was heard. At that moment the engines noise rose to above deafening, Seanna secured herself into a science statiosn chair as McKinley was clipping up. Waiting for the warheads, hoping. McKinley was trying to count the seconds, then before he was ready the first, warhead,exploded, then the second, then the third so fast together the time between them couldn’t be counted, each warhead rocking the ship more than the last.
“We’re moving commander!” Neila shouted. “10,000kps, 20,000kps!” Her voice barely audible above the roar. McKinley was trying to think through the seconds he could keep this up for until the engines exploded or the Tycho tore itself apart. A metallic groan tore through the ship as his questions was answered almot immediately.
“The engines are pulling away from the hull! Neila shouted. “We have to throttle back!”
“Not yet, keep giving it to her for just a few more seconds!” Seconds passed like hours as McKinley waited with his crew. Like a judgement on their lives, would the universe spare them or destroy them? Just as he was about to order to throttle back the vibration stopped as the Tycho was suddenly released from the grip of the spatial rift. Shot like a powerful missile out in to the void.
“I think we can throttle back now!” McKinley shouted.”bring them back down to 10% slowly Neila so you can assess damage. Then bring us to a stop.” The engines were throttled back before he had chance to finish, Neila relived to be doing it. “We can observe the anomaly from this safe distance. McKinley tapped out some commands into his chair and the spatial rift appeared on the screen, uncoupling himself he stood to gaze at the marvel. A moment later Seanna was at his side.
“That’s something else sir!”
McKinley grunted a reply back, not wanting to talk away the wonder. After a few minutes he turned.”Take the ship off alert status and inform the crew we’re clear and safe please”
“What do you think happened to them?” Seanna asked.
“I’m not” McKinley replied bluntly “I can’t. Endevin and his people are gone who knows where and I feel some responsibility in that.”
For a moment Seanna was silent, thoughtful “shit” was all she could reply.
McKinley raised his eyebrows as he turned from the screen to look at her. “Very philosophical lieutenant commander, but I doubt that remark will get into any great writings.” McKinley half smiled as he was saying this, Seanna looked up at him.
“Please, not in front of the crew.” McKinley answered softly, he then quickly turned and strode off towards the exit he turned to her “You’re in command Seanna, affect necessary repairs, but hold this position for now, I need to talk to command before we move off.” He turned again and was gone, down the access tunnel. Seanna stood there for a moment, gathering her thoughts.
McKinley was deep in thought as he walked around the lower decks, assessing damage to the Tycho in person and how the crew were. The powerplant had been severely affected by their efforts to escape as well as the drive system. The chief engineer wasn’t happy and wasn’t hiding this fact at all. McKinley was listening but with this thoughts elsewhere and exhaustion he wasn’t taking in anything.
The ships crew was on nightshift and the Titan crew,including Seanna had been dismissed and sleeping for some time. McKinley had sent his message to command hours ago and wasn’t expecting a response for at least a day or two. But something inside him had him thinking that this was his last mission in command of this or any ship. He entered the landing bay where Tranquility still stood having made its high speed landing. He looked up and down the mechanoids, stood in deathly silence. He was thinking that maybe with Dave gone they were unable to operate any longer. Walking up to one, it towered over him as he looked up at it.
“Oi!” McKinley shouted up at it “Are you still in there?” No response at all came. McKinley huffed and walked off. “So much for future technology!” He mumbled as he walked off.
“They are operational sir – merely charging.” Came a voice that he heard but couldn’t believe. He spun round almost falling off his feet.
“Yes sir” he replied.
“I – what the… I thought you were… gone! Dead!”
“Death is not something I can experience as I am not alive. But I am not gone.”
“How did you get get here? What’s going on with these guys?”
“So many questions sir! The other mechanoids were able to initiate a matter energy transport of me to their location before the core detonated. they used immense power to do this so now they are in a recharging cycle, we are inductively harvesting power form your vessels systems to recharge our power cells. I trust this is acceptable.”
McKinley had been told by someone that power was being drained from the systems somewhere, he had ignored it as something to worry about later, but now of course he knew.
“That’s… fine.” McKinley shrugged. He walked up to Dave “thank you.” He said, with a touch of finality.
Dave made some kind of robotic beeping noises. But said nothing, as if he didn’t know how to reply. “You’re exhausted sir, please rest. You should also be aware that as the holder of the key and without our own ship, you are now are our controller.”
“Thanks, I didn’t know that. I had better sleep” walking away smiling McKinley had forgotten the disc, is fingers found it and he wanted to make sure it didn’t leave him as he finally reached his quarters and took to his bed. Despite his exhaustion he took time time to find sleep.
McKinley’s sleep was restless, he woke much later that he should have to incoming messages. He sat up, his head hurt, for a few moments the memories weren’t there. Then one by one they came flooding back, groaning as he realised it had all been real he slowly made his way to his desk where his terminal was bleeping. He pressed a button and it came to life, there were two messages the first was a simple text message. It didn’t say who it was from, it merely read:
“I knew you would help. Thank you.”
His headache meant he wasn’t in any mood to think about this now, the next message he knew and was from command. For a moment he stared at the screen,wwondering if he could get away with ignoring it. He pressed to access the message.
Seanna was in the control centre, looking through all the damage control reports and how the repairs were going, she had been up a few hours now, only a skeleton crew were there as they were still waiting and watching there was no need for everyone to be there doing nothing.
“How soon do you think it will be before we can get underway?” She asked the engineering chief.
“I don’t think we can, the drive coils are melted and I can’t give assurances that they’ll operate at all or not blow themselves to pieces. The only thing you can do now is use the navigational trusters to give you some propulsion!” The engineering officer protested. He had spent the last half hour all the damage that had been caused and how long it was going to take to repair. Seanna could sense he was going ro start over again “The ship needs to go into a drydock and get a refit…”
“Ok, I get the point!” Seanna cut in. The chief engineer looked at her, a little hurt and a little disapproving as he left control to get back to his duties. She sat back in the command chair and went over the priorities, she was waiting to McKinley to surface and give her an idea of what was happening next.
“Seanna, come and see me in my quarters please.” The call surprised her, he never called officers to his quarters “I need a full update when you get here please.” Seanna looked round, everyone looking back, she rose and went down. Pausing outside the entrance to McKinley’s quarters she pressed the entry button.
“Come in!” She heard him shout, the doors opened and she stepped in. The doors closing behind her.
“How bad is it then?” He smiled at Seanna as he turned from his view of outside, the rift clearly visible.
“Pretty bad sir.” She answered with uncertainty. “What’s going on? Have you heard from command?”
McKinley nodded “Yes and they are, let’s say quite unhappy. They are struggling to understand how a simple reconnaissance mission has ended up with four dead and a fried ship that needs rescuing.” Seanna looked at him, saying nothing for a moment “But they’re also getting excited about some of the things we brought back. So they have done me a favour as they call it and decided To keep most of the details quiet and not investigate the incident too much.”
“How do you feel about that?”
“Mixed, I’m not sure I want to give up everything we got from this. So I need some time to think about what I’m going to do.”
“Should we move to meet the rescue vessel? Sir?”
“If it was up to me, I would say make them come to us. But it’s not anymore commander.” McKinley handed Seanna a tablet, taking it she read through the message.
“I’m in command? They promoted me?”
“Yes, it seems that your conduct was exemplary of a commander and that I was reckless! I never thought I would hear myself saying that to you!” McKinley smiled at Seanna.
Seanna smiled back but said nothing for a moment “Sir, I mean McKinley, what happened back there? No one will tell me, they keep telling me to talk to you. One moment I was in one place, the next… I don’t know what was going on!”
“Sit down Seanna” McKinley motioned to her and she sat, staring at him “I plucked you from death Seanna, from the point at which you died. From the other side of that time portal I watched as you were killed and… and I couldn’t live with that.” McKinley looked down from Seanna as if ashamed. He then looked back up at her “You’ve been the most amazing first officer I’ve served with and while you have frustrated the hell out of me at times I have respected your passion and drive. It looks like now that I’m going to lose this command, but I least I served with you and…” McKinley got up and turned from Seanna to look out of the window.
“And what?” She got up and stood behind him. “Tell me, I know what you’re going to say because, because I’ve felt it!”
“Really?” McKinley answered, not facing her.
“Yes, despite it all we’re connected and I can’t be without you anymore than you can be without me.” Seanna was shaking, as if all her life had been trusted to McKinley “you know that for years I’ve wanted to be a commander, you’ve old me it’s not all its cracked up to be and here and now, finally I see what you mean.”
McKinley turned and looked at Seanna “what will do you?”
“I’m turning down the promotion and if they kick you out, then I’m leaving too!” Seanna answered the tone in her voice was that tone McKinley had heard many times before when she had decided what was going to happen.
“Don’t, come on. You’ve waited years for this!” McKinley protested.
“It’s done.” She replied. “Like it or not, old man you’re stuck with me. I’m not going even if you send me away!”
“What if I did?” McKinley smiled.
“Don’t play games with me, you wouldn’t dare!” She replied, grinning back.
“Do you realise the trouble you’ve caused yourself?” McKinley smiled, Admiral West has always had a soft spot for you and has hated me for years, but hasn’t found a way to get me until now!”
“Was it West that dealt with you?” Seanna asked screwing her face up “I’ve seen him chew up and spit out officers that even I wouldn’t cross!”
“Yes, we have some history which I won’t go into yet. But he’s hated me having a grip over him as he sees it. I couldn’t care less but it seems now he’s going to be even more red faced as he wanted you in his little circle I think! Now I’ve taken his prize.”
Seanna raised her eye brows “I’m a prize am I?” McKinley didn’t answer, smiling at her instead.
“It’s going to take three weeks for the rescue ship to arrive, I think we might start finding out what we are in that time.” McKinley’s had stroked Seanna’s face, she reached up to strike his hand.
“I hope so too sir!” For a moment the two of them were lost in their moment, both of them wishing it not to end.
“Let’s get on with sorting out this old bird best we can eh? I’m struggling today, I’ll be up later.” Seanna smiled and turned to leavw, then McKinley stopped her “By the way – Dave made it back he’s down in the landing bay with the others! You can tell whoever had spotted the power drain not to worry about it, it’s them recharging.”
Seanna smiled “I will. Don’t stay in bed all day. You’re not in command now remember!”
McKinley smiled back “Neither are you!”
“I am for a day or however long it takes the message to get to command!”
“Yup, then no one’s in charge and there’ll be chaos I’m sure!” McKinley was grinning “Now get on with it Seanna and from now on – no sir!”
Seanna grinned as she left “yes sir!”
Three weeks later the crew of the Tycho gathered as they waited for rescue ship to arrive, the triumph had been unbearable and now they waited for their rescue. But in the direction the rescue ship was coming. Nothing was there.