Sole Remnants

“Are we ready?” Jeff asks having wandered, for the third time in the last hour, back into the space he refuses to call anything other than a cockpit. It’s one of the decisions he has reached during the tedious wait that he was forced to suffer through while the Journeyman’s diag decided to fail twice.

The first time it failed at three percent, resulting in a quick whack on the side of the console by Vanessa and her wrench which seemed to do the trick. The second failure came at sixty three percent and saw the percentage begin counting in reverse after a long period of nothing which in turn forced Sam to abandon that particular diag attempt by cutting power to all but the life support systems and then allowing Vanessa to go rummaging for the issue. She had found the root cause quite quickly and explained it as a series of interlinked cables and sensors that during construction should have been isolated from one another to prevent the exact issue that they were experiencing. Unfortunately, the discovery of the problem was not the bulk of the delay. Actually reaching and being able to isolate the sensors and cable reels from one another was. Not just because of the lack of available and negotiable space but also due to the fact that what was needed to isolate the sections was not something they had aboard. As a result, that had led to a period of twenty minutes of creative thinking which thankfully ended when Sam suggested the use of one of the fire suppression canisters compartment separation modules. Vanessa had been so happy at the sudden spark of an idea that came to Sam that she almost kissed them. Vanessa didn’t though the look on Sam’s face had been one of equal parts alarm and joy. In that moment Jeff reassessed his previous non-conclusion that perhaps relationships could be possible amongst this crew. He swiftly put such contemplations aside whoever and instead watched eagerly at the expert way that Vanessa dissected the fire suppression canister. Then carefully detached the compartment separation modules, and all while explaining that this is not something that should be attempted when in a pressurised and atmosphere filled space, like a starship. Jeff, stupidly he later realised, had queried why. The response he got was that of Vanessa gesturing with a single hand, detonation. Jeff had muttered but a single word in reply, oh. Then he had fallen quiet and doubled his focus as he held his breath until Vanessa assured them the risk of death was over.

With all the trials and tribulations having been navigated, Sam gives the succinct reply, as though Vanessa is starting to wear off on them, of “We are.”

“Then full speed ahead.” Jeff says with a forward throw of his arm and an outstretched index finger.

Sam looks at him quizzical but says nothing as Vanessa chuckles and then offers, “It’s an old Earth gesture Sam. It seems the Doc here has a penchant for the historical.”

Jeff aware the out datedness of his action then wonders with surprise how it is that Vanessa knows what he just tried to recreate. Meridian’s are not known for studying the past, especially when compared to the other branches of humanity who themselves show little interest in many of the now lost gestures that were once, according to what Jeff believes he has dug up during his career, so common place amongst the people of Earth and its founding planetary colonies.

Before Doctor Welty gets the chance to offer a query in regards to this and perhaps learn how Vanessa possesses such knowledge, the Journeyman is buffeted by what he can only describe as turbulence. However, unlike the turbulence that might have been experienced when flying aboard in-atmosphere airplanes of the twentieth and twenty first centuries this is far more severe. It would be more correct to compare it to the motion of a bucking bronco except with the added danger of instantly vapourising flames and crushing pressure.

It’s all to be expected, and yet Jeff would be lying if he didn’t admit that he has never gotten used to re-entries. And that discomfort is the reason why all his public speaking gigs on a single tour are either upon a single titan planet or across a string of orbital and deep space installations. That way he doesn’t have to face the barbarity of the sickness and loss of vision that always afflict him, and which he is now again suffering from.

Vanessa looks over and spies the green tint that Jeff’s skin tone has taken on. Her only thought is that she hopes he doesn’t pop and spew all over the consoles seeing as it would be her job to then survey and assess every part of the console to ensure his vomit has not degraded or damaged any components. This brand new vessel has enough problems as it is without her employer adding to them, she thinks. Not that she’d chastise him for his ailment. He can’t help re-entry sickness and she’s seen many an experienced star-skipper do just the same. She just hopes he can keep a lid on it for the next few seconds, which is all it should take for them to break through the atmosphere.

Still, she can scarcely believe the real reason they are out here. At first she had thought it some kind of Centauri or academic joke she didn’t understand, but it wasn’t. Doctor Welty had been dead serious about them being out here to survey the sight of possible extraterrestrial life.

Though, Vanessa had put it to Jeff that if they are the ones who are the visitors then would it not make them, the trio aboard a fault prone starship, the extraterrestrials. It seemed he enjoyed her fresh take and had even wished to go into a deep conversational analogy with her in regards to just that thought alone. Vanessa had quashed that almost immediately. She isn’t a thinker, she’s an engineer and her job here extends only as far as that. Thankfully, he had not sought to push the issue, which she had been grateful for, even if she didn’t communicate as such. After all, she is a Meridian and as is the norm for them does not convey every emotion, unlike most other humans. Unless its anger, frustration or hurt. Then Meridian’s make sure to communicate everything, in abundance. It’s just their way and has developed over the near millennia they have inhabited the system they originate from, Meridian. Well, technically they don’t originate there as all humans can trace their source back to Earth, but you get the point.

The Journeyman stops its wild bucking, rocking, and side to side slithering. Jeff is the only one that offers any response now that the ride is over and it comes in the form of a long exhalation. With it some of the green tone in his face fades. Vanessa has to admit she is impressed. At one point she was sure the Doc was going to pop. One less job she in no way would have enjoyed to do, she thinks as she turns her attention forward once more.

Sam meanwhile is oblivious and brings them out of the steep dive that had been the Journeyman’s traversal through the upper atmosphere to an end. Instead, they keep the ship high but level so that it can skim effortlessly across the orange sky dotted with purple clouds and a single green sun.

The system star however is not actually in any way green in colour but in fact blue. The trace elements in the air of this world cause a shift in the colour spectrum making the system star appear green. Those same particles are without doubt also the cause of the orange appearance of the sky. It’s intriguing to Sam but they have a job to do. A more complicated than they originally expected job, but a job nonetheless.

However, some of Sam’s fear had been assuaged when they had learned that Vanessa had also been utterly unaware of the true purpose for being out here beyond the limits of human space. Which in itself is an achievement seeing as after more than fifteen hundred years of growth humanity now occupies some thirty thousand worlds. Many of which remain uninhabited, at least in terms of colonisation. Rather, those systems serve as mining ports or research points for the newest rounds of technological and biological development that could lead to the next stage in human evolution, growth, development and prosperity.

“Closing on site alpha.” Sam then says without a hint of emotion in their voice. They don’t have time to sound happy, sad, eager or anything else seeing as piloting the Journeyman is a fully immersive role that they must commit themselves to entirely.

If they don’t then the Journeyman could quite easily end up buried nose first in the ground with all of their fates sealed if not immediately delivered. Though, for them not to suffer instantaneous death the starships overlapping magnetic skin shield would need to hold, and after the issues they have suffered thus far on their voyage Sam is not at all confident that such a thing would be probable.

They shift their hands effortlessly over the conductive grey gel interface that is the one and only way of piloting this vessel. As they manipulate the vessel they make slight adjustments to the trajectory and altitude of their transport so that they have more than a single digit percentage chance of making the landing site coordinates that were slipped to them on a nav-chip by Doctor Jeff Welty before commencement of the dive through the planet’s atmosphere.

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