(Part 1 of 4. An introduction to Drifters Rising, the first novel in the Finding Earth series. Drifters Rising will be available to purchase on 5/2/2017.)
“Status.” Piers barked the order even though he stood over the technician manning the environmental station. He hated feeling useless, especially with five thousand lives on the line.
Fola didn’t look up from her screen. “One planet meets our environmental needs.”
“Can we be there in one hundred and twenty-seven hours?” Gilles asked as he entered the bridge. “Some status pods are leaking power from the meteor hit. As we wake people in impacted pods, ship environments can’t handle the load. If this continues, we’re out of breathable air in just over five days. We simply can’t recycle the air fast enough.”
Using the information available, Laird ran the simulation a couple of times before he winced, and admitted, “We can be there in one hundred and twenty-nine hours, if we push beyond safety limits.”
“Push.” Piers patted Laird on the back before turning to Gilles, “Shove people in environmental suits to take some of the burden off ship oxygen.”
“Yes sir. Once we land, the suits will be useless anyway. I’ll put Keala in charge of suit rotation.”
“Good plan. She could sweet talk the devil himself. Gilles, you have the bridge.” Piers walked down the metal steps remembering a time when he was young and would have slid down the rails for speed. There hadn’t been a need for speed in a while. He and his command staff had rotated through the pods to keep the ship functioning, while the colonists remained in the pods with no discernible aging. He detoured to see his wife and kids in their pods. She still looked like she was in her mid-thirties. He looked fifty. Sixty, if he were being honest. He placed a hand on the pod close to her face. “Morning love. I’ll get you to safety, just like I promised.”
He left the pods and walked to the conference room, knowing that Laird would have spread the news and the naysayers would be waiting for him. Alas, he was not disappointed. Focusing on the one person guaranteed to complain, he asked, “Nelson, is there a problem?”
Nelson’s face turned an impressive shade of red when he snarled, “Why are we being forced into environmental suits?”
“We’re running out of air. A meteor shower we passed threw out a couple of rogue meteors and we took damage to some pods so we had to wake you to keep you alive. Now we are a few hours short of breathable air before we make landfall.”
“Shouldn’t your crew be in the suits?”
“The crew will use up the air in the environmental suits faster since they have to move around. We can sit quietly – meditate or sleep – when it’s our turn in the suits,” Keala smiled. “Piers and his crew are charged with getting us to a habitable planet and they’ve done it. We’re going to make landfall! Those of us that were brought out of stasis early will make a minor concession of twenty-four hours in an environment suit. The crew has worked hard to get us here and we can help them fulfill their mission, by taking our turn in an uncomfortable suit. This way everyone lives.”
“Can’t we pull air from some of the working pods?” The question came from the back of the room.
Even Nelson turned toward the voice, shocked by the question.
By the creator, some fool wanted to kill others just so he wouldn’t have to wear a space suit. Piers stood up and used his two meters of height to tower over the room. “Suit up or walk out the airlock. Those are your choices.” He turned and walked out of the room.
Gilles set his unappetizing MRE down beside Piers. Meals Ready to Eat, had long been a staple of military life. They weren’t bad, but it’s all he had eaten since this journey across the stars began. Heck, it was all they had eaten the last few years before they left earth. He started with dessert, as was his custom. “Did you really threaten to throw Nelson out the airlock?”
Piers turned from the view. Only in the observation dome, where the crew ate, could you see outside without the aid of video. “No, I told the whiners to suit up or walk out the airlock.”
“Aha, they’re now calling you a tyrant and, my personal favorite, an evil dictator. Keala is calling you our savior.” Gilles grinned, knowing Piers would hate that most of all.
“Good grief.” Piers finished his meal and turned to dessert, since he ate food in the proper order, and leaned back as Keala joined them. “Savior, really?”
Keala smiled, displaying two dimples. “I thought it might help. Instead, it seems to have upset Nelson.”
Gilles finished chewing before adding, “Everything upsets Nelson. How did he pass the tests to get on a ship?” Twenty-five ships, each holding a total of five thousand people, left earth heading in different directions, searching for a new home. The majority of Earth’s inhabitants remained behind, stranded on a dying planet. Mental and physical tests were given to everyone to determine who got a pod.
“He’s some type of logistics wizard and his wife is Nevada. She’s the survivalist who helped define the strategy for the ships, and her immediate family who passed the tests were assigned to her ship.” Keala shrugged.
“Nelson, a fool who can’t tie his own shoes, is married to Nevada?” Gilles looked over at Piers, “I guess opposites really do attract.”
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