The holographic data images reflected brilliantly off the Commander's bright hazel eyes as he stares intently at the floating digital readouts. The computer is running through a series of possible landing procedures until it's comes up with the best possible scenario for the ship to touch down safely on the planet's surface. Jason breathes in and out, his breaths hesitant, his heart pounds. The direness of the situation ever present in his mind.
After a few moments another holographic screen pops up accompanied by the computerized voice "Statistical report, landing pattern scenario failure. Insufficient power output for safe landing deployment." The data was showing a system failure for a safe landing pattern, due to the ship's critically low power output.
Jason grits his teeth "Damn." he says lowly. He depresses a few more control "Override normal patterns. Divert all remaining power to main landing apparatus and run scenario again."
"Running simulations now." says the computer as it goes back to it's task of running the landing scenarios through it's system statistical bank.
Jason stares on intently, his gaze affixed on the holo-screens "C'mon you bastard, you can do it."
"Pattern scenario failure, insufficient power output." the computer says again.
"Shit!" says Jason as he slams the counter top and nervously wipes his face. He gets up and after a few seconds of pacing, he pushes up against a nearby wall trying to get his thoughts together "Ok think dammit…" he lets out an exasperated breath of air "Think, think, think." The problem was that there was simply not enough power to survive re-entry of the planet's atmosphere as well as deploy the landing gear for the spacecraft to make a smooth landing on the surface. Slowly, Jason walks over to a small visual port that had a clear view of Threshold 1 beneath "Ok, we've got small landmasses dotting the face, with two humungous puddles in between. Puddles, puddles…that's it!" He runs back to the main computer terminal and starts to frantically input several more sequences "Computer, divert all remaining power to heat shields upon re-entry in a water landing sequence, negative deployment of landing gear, run scenario now."
"Running simulations now." says the computer.
"It's gotta work, I know it will."
"Scenario successful in theoretical computations." says the computer.
"Yes!" the commander exclaims "It ain't much, but hell it's better than nothing."
Alexia Kincaid began to gradually regain her sense of footing as Chow guided her back to the lower flight deck, where Dubois awaited. Her hibernation sickness seemed to be wearing off at an astonishing rate, because with each passing second, she felt more of her strength returning. Visions passed through her mind as she began to steadily think back on how she ended up in this most unusual of circumstances.
"This is so strange, to feel vulnerable again. Shit I haven't felt like this since I was a kid. I was trapped back than, there was no way out. I swore to myself I would never feel like that again, ever. I don't even know what the hell is going on, could we really have survived that virtual suicide run? This doesn't even seem real, maybe it's my brain flashing a last memory. I'm probably dreaming, yea that's what this is. Some weird, screwed up dream. One moment I'm a crew chief mechanic on a flight line, the next I'm called to be a flight engineer on some super top secret space run to one of Saturn's moons…what the fuck? I'll never forget that day though."
I had been working as a flight line mecha for a couple years on the Eastern Sector. I had scored a job at the Old LaGuardia Freight Runners Corps. They did a lot of supply hauls to satellite stations that were in in between orbits from the Earth to the Moon that would run data feeds to the boys in the lunar mining outfitting squads. It was steady work and it paid the bills. I had to work twice as hard to get ahead of the crowd, but I finally got promoted to a crew chief because I was damn good at what I did. I was always the kinda girl that wasn't afraid to get down and dirty with the rest of the grease monkeys. Hell, not only was I unafraid, I quite enjoyed being knee deep in engine muck and oil grime. That kinda shit just came with the job. But that one particular day, it was a Sunday or maybe a Friday, don't quite remember. One of the pilots pulled in a jack runner that had major engine damage, not to mention all the shock stabilizers were shot; and the internal wiring, don't even get me started on that. Needless to say it was a pretty big job.
The pilot hopped out of the cockpit after blowing the hatch and casually climbed down off the smoldering rig. It was old Pete, one of our regular contract freight runners. Nice guy pushin his sixties, but his reflexes and his eyesight started showing their age. He kick started his Ion Drive way to soon without allowing his shielding to build up over his hull. This of course resulted in massive radiation burning all over the ship, all the while frying the engines and scorching the internal systems. Yup, no doubt about it, old Pete was definitely getting, old.
"What the hell did you do to it Petey?" I asked in a gruff yet somewhat understanding tone.
"Ahh, a guy forgets to shield saturate his hull one time before kickin his ions and look what happens. I'll tell ya they just don't build these jack runners like they used to Alex." says Pete apologetically.
I slightly rolled my eyes and patted him on the shoulder "It's ok Pete. I'll forgive ya this time." I said with a warm smile "Now get in there and register this heap, there's a couple of sweet packs waitin for ya."
Pete grinned back as he gently held my chin "You're the best Alex, your almost like the daughter I always wanted."
"Sure, sure old man." I said as Pete began to walk towards the flight inbound offices. But what the old guy had said was true, he was really the closest thing I had to a father. Why it was Pete who taught me a lot about being a mecha in the first place. I became so proficient on these rigs that I could practically build one of these engines from spare parts. That was my claim to fame so to speak.
"Alright you oil bums, let's get crackin on this rig! Jameson and Steger, you boys check the hull damage. Johns, Gallo and Mercado, you got internal wiring. Rodriguez, your with me on engines, let's move!" I shouted, my crew giving me the usual grumbles and complaints, but nevertheless snappin to work.
Than I felt a greasy, over plumped hand grab my shoulder and slightly spin me around. It was Briggs, my fellow crew chief who supervised the adjoining hangar. A sloppy dirt bag, who had a gut bigger than most people's duffels "Hey Alex, I could get my crew to overhaul this heap. That is of course for a fair exchange if you get my drift."
Now this son of a bitch had been hitting on me ever since I became a fellow crew chief and he was a persistent asshole to say the least. But by this time I had become accustomed to it, hell this had been happening to me for the better part of my life. I had been drawing the wrong kind of attention from men ever since I was nine years old. Guys tended to have this funny idea that if a girl had a shapely figure and a little bit of a rack, she was somehow asking to be slobbered over and harassed by every grunge puppet that came her way. I just shook my head and smirked "…and take away my field time, no thanks Briggs. My team can handle this one just fine."
The over stuffed pervert just stepped in front of me, blocking my path "Oh c'mon Alex, what do I gotta do to get ya to loosen up, huh? It could be fun ya know, you and me getting it on."
Now usually I could just blow Briggs off without a second thought. But today, there was just something that irked me more than usual about the guy, my patience had worn out. I strutted up to him a brushed my fingers across his collar, but in my other hand I secretly pulled out a set of plasma pliers. He was slightly short of breath from the little amount of mock attention I was showing and didn't even notice the pliers clamp around his crotch "Tell ya what Briggs. If your nuts can hold out more than five point two seconds without exploding, you got yourself a lay."
The man's face distorted in agony as his color began to go from flesh tone to bright red. I applied more pressure with the pliers as tears now fell from Briggs' eyes "Only three more seconds to go, I don't think your gonna make it."
"Kincaid!" a voice called out from behind, causing me to release my hold. It was one of the administrators of LaGuardia.
Briggs gasped and immediately fell to the ground, both hands cradling his groin. The crew inside the hangar let out heaps of laughter as the administrator walked right up to me. He briefly looked down to a stricken Briggs "Take care of him." he ordered as other crewmen began to tend to Briggs. He than looked down directly at me, stone seriousness on his face "Follow me."
Now I had been in trouble before because of my unorthodox approach to men who got a little too liberal with their mouths, but I got the feeling that this might have been the last straw. The administrator led me to one of the back offices "You've been warned about this kind of behavior before! You can't go around ball checking every guy you take offense to, these are our crew members your injuring and our profits your screwing with. You know your damn lucky I was just coming out to tell you about some special reps here to see you. Otherwise your ass would be out in the street, looking for other employment!"
I crossed my arms "Come again?"
"There are two suits in the next office who showed up a few minutes ago, specifically requesting to speak with you. From the looks of it, they're U.G.C."
I wrinkled my brow in surprise "U.G.C., no shit?"
"Yea well, like I said you had better hope they came here with a better offer. Because as of 1300 hours, your residency here is terminated." he said as he stormed off.
Again all I did was roll my eyes and precociously stepped into the office where the supposed U.G.C. reps were waiting for me. On the other side were two older men who were wearing the standard sleeve vest with black shirt and insignia ball cap the U.G.C. was known for. They both sat behind a desk and motioned for me to sit down.
"Miss Kincaid I presume. We're Representatives Clouse and Harris with the replenishment division under the science and tech post, United Global Council." at that they flipped some badges to show legitimacy.
Admittedly I was impressed and I whistled a bit to stage this fact. I sassily crossed my legs and being as perky as one could possibly be in cover-alls and jump boots I said "You gents are a long way from home aren't you? Tell me, what brings you all the way out here? Surely it wasn't just to grease elbows with us oil bums?"
Both reps chuckled a bit "No, no nothing like that Miss Kincaid. We're here with a very special proposal for you."
"What kind of proposal?"
"Miss Kincaid we're talking super hush hush type credentials here. The U.G.C. has just developed a new type of energy tapping space station around one of Saturn's moons."
Narrowing one eye suspiciously "So what's that got to do with me?"
"We'll be needing a full flight crew to get our pre-selected staff out there. We've been reviewing your record and it seems to indicate that your one of the best oil bums, as you so elegantly put it, that we've come across. How'd you like the shot at being the Flight Engineer on this mission?"
I blinked several times, fully believing these guys were trying to pull one over on me "Surely you jest." I said in a mocking and sarcastic tone.
"No joke young woman." said Harris, not a hint of humor in his face.
"So you think that by coming in here, flashing some fancy badges and buttering me up with some compliments is gonna make me just up and leave, huh? Sorry but you guys are gonna have to do a lot better than that." I said trying to sound like I actually had anything better do or had some flashy gig lined up that could possibly be better than what they had just offered.
But they seemed to see right through it "How's this, you just got fired from your job and your rent is about do. So it seems you've got a pretty clear cut choice here. You either accept the job or you can go back out there with no money and no place to live." said Clouse.
I placed my tongue firmly in my cheek as I leaned in closer "Just one question, what's this gig pay?"
Clouse formed a small grin as both he and Harris rose from their seats "If you'll kindly follow us ma'am, the entire mission will be explained fully back at H.Q."
"Yea well forgive a girl for weighing her options." I said as I followed the two men out the door.
Chow quickly makes it back to the flight deck and carefully sets Kincaid to rest on a nearby console "Just rest here for a minute."
"No, I'm ok. What's the situation?" asks Kincaid in a raspy voice.
Chow kneels slightly to meet the woman's gaze "I'm not gonna sugar coat this for you. The situation is pretty desperate. The ship is minutes from blacking out and the rest of the crew, save for us and the Commander, is dead."
Alexia swallows hard, an intense stare emanating from her eyes "Understood. Where is the Commander anyway?"
Alana's comm activates and Jason's voice bleeds through "Chow, Dubois, I've just finished a landing scenario that I think will work…I hope. What's the status report on the rest of the crew, over."
"Speak of the devil." says Dubois, who still crouches near the burned out controls of the Fission Reactors.
Alana just gives him a telling stare "Um Commander, I think your gonna wanna see this for yourself."
"Why what's wrong?" asks Jason.
"Just get up here." says Alana coldly.
"Alright I'm on my way up, Chavez out."
Dubois just silently looks up "How do you think he's gonna take this?"
Alexia coughs a few times "Gee I don't know, how do you think you'd take it if you just found out that most of your crew is dead along with eleven billion people back on Earth who were already dead."
Dubois narrows his eyes a bit "In case you haven't noticed, I just did, but thank you for playing."