New Arrivals

Nasci watched the information from the docking system.

“We have lock-down in three, two, one,” Ellan, his second in command, said.

There was no sign on the exploration ship that the newly arrived carrier had coupled; the connection had been perfectly executed. Nasci let his shoulders relax.

“We’re green,” Ellan told him.

“Good, let’s get over there and set things going,” Nasci replied.

The two of them turned and pulled their way out of the command room. When the ship had been in operation this had been the main point of control, now that it sat in orbit being used as a makeshift station they only visited this section for maintenance checks.

Nasci’s radio buzzed. “Pressure levelling is underway. We’ll be ready to go through in a few minutes.”

“Thanks, Mara,” the Commander replied. “Be with you as soon as.”

“I didn’t think I could get any more excited,” Ellan said, turning to grin at him as they coasted along. “Thousands of new colonists. This planet will finally start to feel like we’ve settled it rather than a wilderness with a couple of hundred humans dotted on the surface.”

“Thousands of colonists means double that in problems,” Nasci responded. “We have enough arguments now so think how it’s going to be when this lot get out of hibernation.”

Ellan span around so she could face him. Her long black hair drifted out around her face as she continued to coast. “Stop being such a grump. Of course there will be problems, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be fun as well. We’ll be able to get all those projects started and New Gillhelm will begin to feel like a real city.”

“You won’t have to do the babysitting.”

“Nor will you. Not for much longer anyway.” Ellan grabbed a handhold and pulled herself through the next door, performing a graceful twist as she pushed off a wall and shot up the next corridor. “That is, unless you want to run for Planetary Secretary. I’d vote for you.” Her voice echoed off the metal walls.

“I bet you would, just to cause me more grief,” Nasci muttered under his breath.

Mara was waiting for them at the airlock. “We’re ready to go, Com’, just say the word.”

“Have you checked through the ship’s logs?” Nasci asked.

“Yep,” Mara replied. “Nothing of note. She had a smooth run up out of Sol, no incidents along the way and everything remained stable during deceleration. Radiation count on the hull is a little high and there are a few pinpricks where the shielding seems to have weakened, but nothing that looks too serious.”

“Internals remain unaffected?”

“As far as I can tell.” Mara sounded confident. “Earth has clearly gone up a few tech’ levels since we left as they’re running a system I don’t understand. I can’t get some of the parsing right with the high end systems so I’ve no idea who all the passengers are, but that should clear when we get in there and I have direct access.”

Nasci turned to the airlock. “Good let’s go find out what they’ve sent us. Hopefully it’s not a bunch of marketing executives.”

Air in the large ship felt cold and crisp. Mara continued to use her suit to check various levels of exposure, but nothing showed up. The three of them moved in bubble of light as systems kept track of their progress.

At an intersection Nasci stopped. “Ellan, as you’re so eager to get to know the new colonists, why don’t you head over to containment. Mara and I will go up to the control deck and see if we can solve this communication problem.”

“Sure thing.” Ellan started to move away from them. “Catch you in a bit.”

The parsing issue turned out to be more difficult to rectify than Nasci had hoped. He and Mara had not got around to a full rundown of the ship’s status, when the beep from his radio made him jump.

“Boss, you there?”

“Yep, neck deep in coding problems,” he replied. “If you’re done we won’t say no to the help.”

“I think it would be better if you came to me,” Ellan replied.

Nasci still only had half his attention on her. “Why? What you found?”

“Something’s gone wrong,” Ellan said. “None of the colonists are alive. Every single one of them has died in transit.”

The Commander’s stomach was suddenly pulled down by non-existent gravity.

—————

23 July 2010
Around five hundred penguins have been washed up on the coast of Brazil. It is believed that they starved to death after their usual food sources had left the surrounding seas due to cooler temperatures.

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