“John, we have a problem.” Brimley was just given the news of the approaching Tsunami. “We’re on the Mariner. She’s an R Class ship.”
John knew immediately what that meant. Brimley would need a co-pilot.
“Once in open space I can fly her alone but to get her out of her berth, I need help.” Brimley confirmed what John was already thinking.
John sat at his desk, again revisiting that familiar sense of his desperation for Zee. “Brimley, I’m looking out my view down the station. If I make a space walk along the outer hub, to the collapse at your location, is there any way I can get from the outer shell to the bay floor?”
“That’s a negative John. All the debris you might have climbed down on would be at the other side of your position. There’s about one hundred fifty feet of nothing between the shell and floor.”
John thought for a moment. “The mariner is one of your science vessels. Does she have a grappling hook or arm of some sort?”
“Hold on, I think I see where you’re going with this.” Brimley was pulling up information on his view console. “I’m looking at the manifests right now. She was fit with a new arm about three months ago.”
Brimley dialed in on some data that was now showing. “Three hundred feet, the arm will reach three hundred feet.”
Brimley looked out the window and up to the massive hole left by the cave in, “I think I can get it to the shell rim and possibly further. This may work John!” Brimley was hopeful.
John looked at his watch. “I’m coming now. We’ll need to move quickly when I get there.”
“I’ll have the arm waiting for you. Be careful out there.” Brimley responded with a nervous laugh.
John gave orders for subordinates to take over evacuation procedures. In spite of their objections of him making the walk, Admiral Tucker felt he couldn’t ask others to risk so much. He needed to be the one to do this.
Having suited up, John made his way through the maintenance shafts. He exited through a portal door and was standing on the outer shell. As he closed the hatch and turned, he looked in time to see the last of the Teller vessels moving away from the station. All that were left was him, Brimley and Zee. A faint blue glow could just be seen along the space horizon.
“Brimley, are you there?”
“Go ahead John.”
Tucker continued, “I’m on the outer shell and just starting to make my way towards the collapse. I think this will take some time. You know how hard gravity boots are to walk in.”
Brimley laughed, “You should have seen Zee in them from the control room to the Mariner. And in that oversize suit! He’s quite a trooper you got there!”
John was smiling at the thought of Zee making a spacewalk.
“I can see the glow of the storm already. We may not have as much time as we hoped.” John tried to walk faster.
On Minas Terra, ground station was scrambling.
“He’s what?” Second Admiral Bryer screamed at the private who had just given him the news.
“Sir, Admiral Tucker is in space walk on Teller Station. His son and science officer are stranded on a ship in a damaged bay. He’s trying to get to them, to help fly it off the station.”
Bryer was irritated and concerned. “He’d better hurry. That storm has picked up speed and is going to hit Teller a lot sooner than initial intelligence reported. You need to radio him and let him know he doesn’t have much time.”
“Sir, we’ve lost all radio communication with him. There’s too much interference, we think from the approaching storm.”
Brimley had just finished maneuvering the arm into position close to the rim of the collapse. Hopefully John would be able to reach it. He wasn’t sure.
His thoughts were interrupted by a crackling communication, too broken up to understand.
“John, I can’t hear you.”
John was standing at the collapse looking down to the Mariner. He could see Brimley inside the cockpit.
“I’m here if you can read me. I’m going to try and grab a hold of the arm now.”
Zee was looking out the cockpit window and began to yell excitedly, “Look! It’s him!”
Admiral Tucker was on hands and knees, reaching for the grappling arm. There would be only one shot at this and he was doing his best to make sure he had a solid grip.
Satisfied with his hold, he let his feet swing free from the shell. He hung for a brief moment and then managed to swing them up and over the arm.
Brimley was watching from the cockpit too. He had lost communication and would have to make a guess as to whether or not John had a good grip. He decided it looked as if he did. Activating the arm, it began to retract without problem, bringing John towards the Mariner and bay floor.
“Zee“, Brimley instructed. “Flip those two bright orange switches”, he was pointing to the co-pilots panel.
Zee moved to the panel and flipped them. The Mariners outer entry doors opened.
Several minutes later, John was close enough to let his feet unravel from the arm and drop safely to the floor. He quickly moved around the ship to the four floor anchors and manually deactivated them.
As he moved towards the entry door of the Mariner, he glanced out the bay. The blue light from the wave was brighter, like a rising sun. It was approaching fast.
Once inside, he activated door closure and decompression. Now it was just a matter of waiting until it was safe to open inner doors to the ship. Brimley was monitoring the decompression on his instrument panels as well. He was flipping switches, starting engines and getting the Mariner ready to sail.
“Zee”, Brimley yelled over the engine noise. “Belt up.”
Zee knew what to do. Taking his seat at the navigation console a few feet behind the pilots seats, he strapped in.
Decompression had since completed and hatch doors opened allowing John to finally enter. He quickly removed his space suit and made his way forwards to the cockpit.
“Man, it’s good to see you guys!” John exclaimed.
“Dad!” Zee shouted. He was very relieved to see him.
There was only time for a quick hug as John made his way to the co-pilot’s seat.
“The storm is on our doorstep,” John reported. “We gotta go now.”
Immediately both pilots were engrossed in their code talk and final preparations made for takeoff. Zee felt the ship rise from the floor.
He looked out portal windows, this time not closing as they had done when he came aboard the station earlier in the day. There were no shields to pass through. Zee could see their whole exit out.
As the Mariner cleared the bay, Zee was blinded by the intensity of the bright blue light and had to shield his eyes.
John confirmed, “Flight path set and clear. Engage engines”.
Brimley followed, “Engaging engines now!”
Zee was pulled back into his seat with such force as the Mariner began her leap forwards. This was very different than what he experienced earlier on his flight to the station. This time there was so much to truly be scared of. Ironically, Zee wasn’t afraid.
“John, we’re not going to be able to outrun her.” Brimley spoke matter of fact.
“Slingshot”, John blurted.
Brimley obeyed without question turning the Mariner towards the current.
“We’re always cutting it so close.” He turned towards Zee and winked.
John was trying to be a good actor for Zee’s sake, but he was very aware of the grave danger they were in. Ahead, he could see the current. It was brighter than usual due to the intense bright light of the storm reflecting off it.
“Dad”, Zee screamed.
John turned to see his son disappearing into the blue light as it slowly crept forwards and was swallowing the ship. To him, it looked more like a thick blue fog was over Zee, but Zee seemed okay.
He sat harnessed in his seat and looking around. John thought he saw four or five soldiers like the ones who had attacked the station, standing around the chair.
Zee couldn’t see his dad anymore. In fact, he was no longer even on the Mariner. He was still belted into his seat, but it was now sitting in the middle of a wooded path. A thick fog just feet in front of him was moving very slowly away, revealing more trees and path as it went.
Soldiers surrounded him, talking in a language he didn’t understand. He recognized their markings as being the same kind of soldiers that had attacked him and Brimley in the control room on Teller Station. They were trying to figure out how to undo his seat harness.
As one of the soldiers leaned down to grab the belt fastener, a shot rang out from somewhere behind Zee and off to his left. The soldier undoing the harness was thrown backwards, having been hit in the head by the blast. A battle was unfolding.
Now that his captors were distracted, He frantically undid the harness himself. Freed of the restraint, he jumped up with the intent to run. But then, his dad emerged out of the fog, firing his weapon just over Zee’s head. John ran past him, body slamming three soldiers to the ground.
Rolling to a knee, a blast from his side arm took out one of the attackers. But before he could shoot again, he was kicked in the face by another, causing him to drop his weapon.
It was now a wrestling match to the death, John pitted against the remaining two. Zee was frozen with fear as he stood watching his dad in a fight for his life.
It was then that something caught his attention. A flicker of lights all around them in the woods. He turned his head to see.
The lights looked like beings of some kind, vaguely familiar to Zee though he didn’t know why. They were phasing in and out. Many stood all over the woods as if supervising what was going on. One was next to him. It reached out and touched his face.
Immediately a tingling, like electricity was on his cheeks and in his eyes and ears. He suddenly remembered his dream, when the creatures were intending to search out Mr. Carr and he tried to object. A being like the one he saw now, was also there in the dream and touched him. He felt the same tingling then too.
“You aren’t dreaming Zee. We met on the Space Station.” He heard it clearly in his mind.
“Ambassador Pjorn?” Zee now recognized him.
A strange inner strength, a peace and courage washed over him. Everything happening in the woods at that moment seemed as if it were in animated suspension, moving in super slow motion.
Zee felt something in his hands. Looking down, he was holding a thick stick. He looked at the Ambassador, whose hand was on him. He was talking although his mouth wasn’t moving,
“You’re afraid. It’s okay. Help your dad.”
Both enemy soldiers were on top of John. One held a large knife. The other was helping push the blade towards his dad’s throat. John resisted, his hands grabbing the knife wielder’s wrists, trying to push the blade away. It was clear he was losing the battle as the knife crept closer.
Zee moved towards them. Swinging the stick as hard as he could, he hit the top soldier square in the face. Instantly, the action was moving in real time, no longer in animated suspension.
The blow was just enough to weaken his dad’s attackers and allow John to move the knife to the side. It harmlessly penetrated into the ground instead.
At that moment, another fleet soldier dove into the side of the man on top of Tucker, tackling him to the ground. John, now able to retrieve his weapon, fired on and killed the last two assailants.
By now, more fleet soldiers had arrived. “Thank you for your help.” John was bent over and trying to catch his breath. “I’m Admiral Tucker, from Teller Station.”
“You’re welcome Admiral. We’re with the Mars Vessel Reunion. Looks like your ship got caught in that blue light wave like ours.”
The Admiral concurred. “Our station was attacked, Shifters of some sort. I think this is all connected.”
Zee, in a quiet, soft voice, called out, “Dad?”
John put an arm around Zee, pulling him in. “This is my son Zee.”
“Admiral, there will be more soldiers coming soon. We have to regroup with anyone left of our crew.”
Admiral Tucker agreed. Breaking Zee’s grip he stooped down and put his hands on Zee’s shoulders.
“I’m okay Zee, thanks to you and that great swing of yours. You were very brave. I have to help these people now. I love you, but it’s time for you to go.”
“What?” Zee mumbled.
John screamed in his face, “RUN ZEE”.
Zee watched his dad disappear with the other Fleet soldiers, then turned to leave himself. He made it to the edge of the fog when something tripped him from behind, causing him to fall to the ground.
To his horror, an enemy soldier stood over him. The soldier looked Zee in the face and laughed, his weapon raised to shoot.
At that moment, a hand reaching through the fog grabbed the soldier’s wrist. Before he could fire, Brimley had him spun around. A quick violent twist of the head broke the neck of Zee’s attacker. Brimley dropped him to the ground.
“Let’s go Zee.” Brimley helped him to his feet.
For a moment their attention was on the forest behind them, distracted by the sound of battle. Then they were running, through the fog and back into the Mariner. The blue haze had reached the cockpit.
“Belt up,” Brimley was shouting.
The view ahead was beginning to slowly fog over and the faint outline of the forest trees appear. The light wave was close to completely swallowing the ship. It was just a matter of seconds.
Zee looked up from latching his seat harness. An enemy soldier had grabbed Brimley from behind and was strangling him. Brimley was fighting hard but couldn’t break the grip.
Zee frantically looked around. Spotting something, he reached down and grabbed hold of a cockpit fire extinguisher from alongside his seat. Again he was swinging as hard as he could, catching the attacker in the mouth. It was enough for Brimley to break free.
At that moment, the Mariner hit the slingshot. An immediate forceful thrust forwards pulled Zee hard into his seat. He could see the tree line disappear as he felt himself passing out. Everything went black.
Zee awoke to find Brimley over him, coaxing him awake. “What happened?” Zee asked. “I have such a headache.”
“You kept your word Zee! You saved my life. Thank you!” Brimley chuckled. “You took the slingshot like we all did the first time.”
“Where are we? Did we make it?” Again Zee was asking questions. He was feeling a bit disoriented.
“We made it.” Brimley responded.
“And the storm?” Zee asked.
“It bounced off the current as the slingshot pulled us free.”
“My dad?” Brimley shook his head, no.
“He’s alive Brimley. I saw him run into the woods with other Fleet soldiers. They said they were from the Mars Vessel Reunion.” Zee thought about telling him of the other beings he saw, but was distracted by the throbbing pain in his head.
Brimley handed Zee a cup of water and some pills. “This will help with your headache. You go ahead and rest.”
Zee swallowed the pills and water. Handing the cup to Brimley he put his head back. It didn’t take long for him to fall asleep.
Brimley took a seat in the cockpit. Looking down he saw the fire extinguisher. It was slightly dented. He couldn’t help but smile as he looked back at Zee who was now snoring.
“What an amazing kid!” He thought.
Turning to the controls, something caught his attention.
“What is that?” He picked up a strange object from the console.
It reminded him of a cuff-link or a lapel pin of some sort, but none he’d ever seen before. There was strange writing inscribed on the face of it. The fire extinguisher caught his attention again. He thought of the fight.
“I must have pulled it off the soldier who was trying to strangle me.”
Pocketing the object, he settled back into his seat realizing how exhausted he was. Auto-pilot was engaged. He couldn’t help but join Zee in a much needed sleep.
The current had carried them pretty far. He estimated at least fourteen hours to get back to Minas Terra. But it didn’t matter, Zee was safe now and they were heading home.