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Castaway Resolution: Chapter Eighteen

       Last updated: Friday, January 3, 2020 06:39 EST

 


 

Part 3: POSSIBILITIES

    Sue Fisher leaned back in the bath, luxuriating in the hot, soapy water and the fact that after tomorrow she’d have seven glorious days off. Orado Station had gone back to the old routine in the months since Outward Initiative had staggered its way into the system, and she happily embraced routine after that disaster.

    Seven days would be more than enough to go planetside, visit Mom and Dad and maybe her brother if he wasn’t somewhere on the other side of the world by then, and hit the beaches before going inland. She’d already talked with her friend Kate about doing some mountain-climbing in the middle of the week. And some night-life afterwards sounded real fun.

    She chuckled to herself. “Boy, sounds like I’ve planned a lot of work for my vacation,” she admitted, and stretched a bit in the water — that stayed in place courtesy of the carefully-controlled spin of the station providing a good ersatz version of gravity.

    There were, of course, fun things to be had in her job, besides the long slack periods that let her catch up on all the reading and viewing she might want — fun things like the letter she was reading through her retinal display. One of the fast couriers had brought back the latest edition of The Journal of Interstellar Spaceflight, which featured the final version of Analysis of an in-flight malfunction of a Trapdoor drive system: implications for the structure of Trapdoor space and the potential for self-reinforcing resonant field disturbances, which was the long-winded title of the article she had authored with Numbers.

    The letter was from Dr. Helen Glendale, current Director of the Board for the Interstellar Flight Foundation, which published the JISF. Dr. Glendale — a sidewise descendant of the Dr. Glendale who had been instrumental in the initial colonization of Earth system way back when — expressed her reaction to the paper:

    “. . . a startling set of claims bolstered by some solid theoretical and practical research. The Kryndomerr Resonance is an invaluable discovery in the purely scientific sense; all the reviewers agree that this discovery is almost certain to provide us with insights into the actual nature of Trapdoor space and, perhaps, higher-order spaces beyond it.

    “In a more practical vein, of course, this discovery will undoubtedly save countless lives. On the basis of this paper a detailed Industry Safety Bulletin was prepared and immediately dispatched to all colonies and relevant organizations. We already â“”

    ERRRT! ERRRT! ERRRT! ERRRT!

    Sue froze; reminiscing about the prior disaster and involved as she was with the letter, she thought for a moment she was flashing back to the earlier alarm.

    Then it penetrated. Another emergency alert?

    She lunged to a stand in the tub, comfort forgotten as she hit the drain and dry control. Hot air blasted from the side vents, scouring the water from her body and her hair; she ran her fingers through the shoulder-length brown waves and they dried swiftly, even as she triggered the connection to Orado Port’s AI control.

    A shiver of déjà-vu sent goosebumps chasing themselves across her body even in the hot-air blast, hearing the received transmission.

    “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday,” it began — and like that other time, the words were not those of a controlled automated system or the self-assured confidence of the command crew of a vessel, but the exhausted, frightened, but somehow victorious sounds of an living human at the end of their endurance but not of their hope. “Orado Port, this is LS-42, lifeboat off of Outward Initiative, out of Earth. If anyone can hear this. . . please send help. We are out of food. Multiple systems failed. Mayday, Mayday, Mayday. . .”

    LS-42? One of the lifeboats arriving now? It should have arrived months ago, if it was going to come at all! “Orado Port, what resources do we have in that area?”

    “The nearest vessel to LS-42 is a manned construction and mining vessel, the Bill Williams. The nearest official Orado vessel is the OIS Zenigata.”

    “Do either of them have a good intercept vector for LS-42, and if so, how long until they can reach the lifeboat? Or would I be better off taking Raijin?”

    Orado Port could calculate all the variables involved faster, really, than Sue could possibly have spoken the question; it was more programmed courtesy than anything else that made the system wait for her to finish the query before answering it. “If you pilot Raijin with your customary skill, you would arrive with emergency supplies approximately thirty-one hours before Zenigata could intercept and forty-seven hours before a best-case maneuver by the Bill Williams could bring them in range.”

    So much for the vacation, she thought with a touch of ruefulness — but only a touch. This was what she was employed for, and no one would kick about her having to reschedule in this situation. “Transmit to LS-42: Mayday received, LS-42. Help is on the way. Emergency Watch Officer Susan Fisher, Orado Port. Repeat message until you get an acknowledgement or I have arrived at LS-42, whichever comes first. Who’s the medical officer on watch?”

    “Doctor Haven, but he is not cleared for emergency flights at this time. Doctor Ghasia has been alerted.”

    She nodded. Buriji Ghasia. . . he’s good enough. And almost as small as Carolyn Pearce, so that would help in the transport area. “I’m getting ready. Can you make sure Raijin is loaded with food, clean water, and medical supplies, as well as basic repair materials?”

    “Already underway,” Orado Port replied. “Do you intend to undertake a tow?”

    “Advice? You can run the numbers a billion times faster than I can.”

    “Bill Williams will bring them in faster than you could manage the tow. Raijin could be used to transport critically ill patients if it was necessary to do so faster than the tow could manage, but the OIS vessel has a good infirmary on board so this may not be necessary.”

    She grimaced, looking at a secondary display of data she hadn’t read in months. “But it might be, at that. Given the passenger and crew complement and the known supplies on that ship, they should all have starved to death at least two months ago.” She stared at the faint moving dot in another display. “I don’t know how any of those people could be alive now.”


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