So there they were.
The sounds of Jonah's footsteps echoing down the hall like a countdown to their time running out sped up Orion's already racing heartbeat until it felt like it was going to jump out of his mouth. He and Felix were the only two left to combat the pilots, so there was nobody to man the controls, meaning that if Jonah suddenly emerged, he would be able to erase the progress they'd already made and turn the ship back around to the moon.
Orion stopped still for a second to stare out of the window to his left and the sight that met him struck fear into every inch of his being: the enormous, looming moon almost entirely filled the whole window. It seemed like there was absolutely no hope whatsoever unless Mason turned up with Cass in under a minute before the captain arrived. It would help even more if Leo was fully conscious and could help out a little bit, but of course he couldn't because he was seriously damaged and was missing most of his face, along with a few bits of his right hand.
All hope was draining from Orion's system and he was just about to give up, before he heard the doors slam open and the familiar voice of his cousin call up to them.
"Don't worry, guys!" Robyn shouted, "Mason and Cass are going to be on their way pretty soon."
She leaned over to check that Leo was alright – which he wasn't – and hurriedly assured him that everything was going to be OK.
Leo wasn't even fully awake and couldn't see, but he heard her and he didn't believe her for a second. He could hear his friends, as well as Olan and Michael, all calling to one-another in a very distressed manner, and he knew without even having sight, that everything was not OK.
It was worth mentioning at this point that the two pilots were having a slight change of heart. The threat of what Jonah would do to them if they disobeyed his orders was shadowed by what would happen to them if they did. They would slaughter all of the residents of the SC Ginga in cold blood, and that included themselves. It would be so much better if they could save everyone and be remembered for being brave in the face of certain death… wouldn't it? Whatever they did, whoever was in the control room, and whether they could land the ship back on Earth, though, wouldn't matter if Jonah returned to the escape pod and left the SC Ginga with his niece. Mason was determined to prevent that happening.
The blueprints that she had found a few days previously, which had gotten her suspicious of the whole thing and which in turn may actually save the people, had actually been of surprisingly convenient use. The documents were all about the escape pod and how it worked.
Mason willed her keycard to work with the lock on the door. She knew it probably wouldn't, but she was sure that she could find some other way to get through, even if it meant smashing the whole mechanism with a shoe.
Everything was a lot calmer up here in the captain's cabin, but Mason was just as stressed out as everyone in the basement was. She knew that there was a small change Cass may be safe if she did leave with Jonah, but Mason wasn't about to take that risk: Jonah didn't care for her, he didn't want to keep her safe, all he cared about was making sure that he kept his reputation in-tact by obeying what was in his older brother's will – and that was to keep Cassiopeia alive.
Cass was scared and angry. She'd done nothing wrong. She'd trusted her uncle with her life and never thought that he'd ever do anything like this, and now she had to put that trust in Mason and the rest of her friends, who were doing all they could do help. To her android's dismay, though, the keycard didn't work on the door to the pod, but Mason wasn't going to let that get in the way of saving her friend – there had to be something around here, something like…
"A spare card…" Mason breathed, spying a red card lying on the coffee table in the middle of the room.
All the keycards had different colours to indicate where you could enter with them: Yellow only let you into the store rooms and your own designated cabin. Everyone had one. Blue was the second, that staff had, that granted access to the engine room. Purple was the android key, which let you into anywhere but the captain's cabin, but red was supreme: a skeleton card that let you anywhere and everywhere, and only Jonah and Felix had one.
The red one on the table had Felix's details on it.
"Good old Felix…" Mason smiled – Felix must have known that Jonah would take Cass to the escape pod and left his card on the table so that it was possible to unlock the door. He might have been an anxious, clumsy steward, but he was cunning, too.
With a quick swipe of the key, the door to the escape pod scraped open and Mason could retrieve her friend.
"Mason!" Cass panted, looking absolutely terrified, "You came!"
"Of course I did, but there's no time to wait around, we have to hurry back downstairs," Mason blurted out, locking the door again and taking Cass by the wrist to drag her outside.
"How's it going in the control room?" Cass gasped, "Is everyone OK? How about Leo?"
"I don't know!" Mason retorted, bounding down the stairs to the main floor, "I have to go… back down, but you… should hide in our cabin. If Jonah finds you… we'll only have to do this all again," she ordered, in short little bursts, "Now go!"
Cass did as she was told and dashed down the hall to her and Mason's room to wait it all out. She had confidence in her companions and didn't ask any more questions. She willed Mason to get down to the cockpit faster. She wished she could help, too, but it wasn't worth the risk…
Mason's heavy steps racing down the stairs were drowned out by the commotion that surrounded her. Nothing on the SC Ginga had ever been this dramatic. The sound of children wailing made the whole thing too real. She stopped on the staircase to stare down the hall at the commotion. Everything seemed to run in slow motion. There was panic all around and nobody could stay calm. It was heartbreaking to see the faces of practically everyone Mason had ever known, all terrified of their impending fate, drying their tears with their sleeves. They knew.
They knew this was it.
There was no way that they could save the ship now. They should never have even tried. All their efforts had been in vain. Why did they ever think they could-
CRASH! That was the sound of everything in the storerooms, and the crockery, pictures, furniture and all in the restaurant and café, falling over and smashing to the ground. The force of the ship turning so quickly even knocked Mason off her feet and to the floor, her uncovered metal fingers scraping along the flooring like a cat's claws as she slid across the ground and fell down the last staircase with many loud, clanging thuds. Her vision blurred as she opened her working eye to find herself lying on her side on the floor in the basement, staring past behind the staircase to the door to the cockpit.
The sounds appeared to be very far-away and fuzzy, and Mason remembered back to 2136 when she was leading a young and confused Cass away from the smouldering rubble of their former home just as it started to collapse. It had been a traumatic time, she had been seriously damaged already, but after making sure Cass was safe, she went back to the house to see if she could save Levi. Of course, to no avail. The house was in total flames. It had been night when it happened, and Levi would probably have been asleep. If he wasn't, then… Mason didn't even want to imagine what he went through. She couldn't remember much, but she recalled the same feeling she was having now… She closed her eyes, ready for it all to be over. Back then in the fire, she'd felt that that was the end of her life, that her circuits would burn up and shut her down forever, almost like a warning she was programmed with, and right now she was having the same thoughts. This was until she heard her name being spoken, softly, and the clicking sound of a cane on metallic floor.
"You can't just give up now," came the elderly voice.
Mason's eyes shot open and she adjusted her gaze to stare upwards, where she saw somebody she hadn't seen in almost a year.
"Hiroshi?" She swallowed, nervously, gazing up at the old robotics genius who she used to be such good friends with before he disappeared into his office and never came back out. That had been over 6 months ago.
"What are you doing just laying there?" Hiroshi asked with a weak smile, "Your friends need you up there."
"Me? I can't be any use to anyone," Mason croaked, wondering how he could smile at such a time. She head more things crashing upstairs and what could either be people cheering or screaming, "If they need anyone, they need you," she rasped.
"You're giving up?"
"You didn't give up in the fire when you had to save Cass, did you? You were already injured but you made sure she was safe and even then went back to see if you could save anybody else."
"I had to save Cass. I had to save everyone I could: it was my duty."
"And it still is."
Mason blinked once and opened her mouth to speak, but couldn't find anything to say. It was and always had been her job to ensure the safety of the residents of Ruhigdorf, and now of the SC Ginga, and she wasn't about to abandon that now. So she got up. She got to her feet once again, thanked her long-time friend, and limped her way to the door, pushing it open with all strength she had left in her arms and stepping through.
"They did it, Mason! They did it!" Was the first thing she heard, although it sounded like the owner of the voice was underwater. It was Robyn, who grabbed Mason by the shoulders with the widest grin on her face that the android had ever seen.
"W- We're not though Earth yet back on," Mason stuttered, her circuits failing her and her speech muddling. She shook her head and heaved a sigh, "Until we're back safe again, they haven't done anything," she corrected herself. She knew that it was unreasonable to say that everything was sorted out right now; she'd seen the moon towering over them and she knew that Jonah wasn't the sort of person to give up easily.
She shook Robyn off, made her way to the ladder and shakily climbed it. It was risky going up to the control room where Jonah, Olan or Michael could shove her off the side again, but she had to know what was going on up there.
To her complete surprise, Olan and Michael were back in the pilots' seats. Orion and Felix were holding back Jonah with all their might, and the whole ship was clear of the moon.
"Guys?" She started, confused, but Orion turned about and hushed her, indicating that everything was going to plan.
Everything was running in a blurry slow-motion as Mason stumbled forward to take a closer look out of the window.
They were clear of the moon. Earth was… right in front of them.
"You can try all you want!" She heard Jonah yell, "But you are never going to land this ship."
And with that, the captain broke free of Orion and Felix's grip and stormed off down the ladder.
And for the first time in hours, Mason smiled.
She stared out into space and lay eyes upon the huge blue-green planet that they were nearing at a good, steady pace. She heard Olan and Michael communicating to each-other, checking over systems, spouting procedural jargon, and she couldn't understand a single word of it, but one thing she did understand was that the SC Ginga was Earthbound once more.