2 09 2009

Brandon pulled his way along the passageway toward the ladder to the bridge. The loss of gravity was a tad bit annoying, but it was tolerable. He had done his time on outposts where gravity was a luxury. Amazing how the zero-g training kicked in when you needed it. In one smooth movement he hoisted himself up the steps of the ladder and allowed himself to slowly float until the interior of the bridge was in view.

There they were. Atlanta, Jason and Manuel were gathered around the holo-projector. Just as I thought, Jason and Manuel are in some inane discussion about the situation while Atlanta just loiters there, ignored. He was pleased to find that Jason was not fawning over her like he usually did. It sickened Brandon to see them interact like that. He was sure that she wouldn’t stay with him for long. It was plain to him that she would soon grow weary of his constant nursemaiding.

Jason is a fool. But patience will offer its reward. There are many events in the womb of time, which will be delivered, he thought as he allowed himself an inward smile.

Brandon turned his head slightly to regard Manuel. There’s an ignorant brute. A mere simpleton with little to do with his time but verbally spar with Jason over every infinitesimal thing. An ox who strained against the laborer’s yoke. All sinews and muscle struggling against a mass of witlessness.

They have gotten themselves into quite a predicament, Brandon mused. Jason is in over his head. He’s so sure that deciphering the message is the most important task. He thinks their best hope is to get in contact with that ship. Boy, is he wrong. Jason, the fearless leader, marching us right into the heart of a black hole. Brandon imagined the look on his face moments before the end. Can’t do anything right, can you.

Atlanta turned and noticed him. The look on her face was so priceless that he couldn’t help but smile and wink at her. She knit her eyebrows together and just stared at him. He realized his indiscretion and quickly put on a more serious expression as he turned his eyes to Jason. “Well Captain,” he said. “What can I do for you today?”

“What did you figure out about the signal?”

Brandon approached the holo-projector. “First of all, the signal wasn’t meant for us. Besides, do you really think we should be reading other people’s mail?” He got no response to a question they had all assumed was rhetorical. Actually he really was interested in the answer to that question, although he had an idea what the answer was. “Nobody sends messages by radio anymore, it’s too slow,” he said at last.

“Did you analyze the signal?” Jason said, flatly.

He hadn’t. “Of course, but it’s obviously encrypted. I’m afraid I wasn’t able to get anything meaningful out of it.” Brandon kept his face in a stoic mask as the others studied him. “However,” he began, nodding toward the holo-projector. “If we mean to board that vessel, we should do it now. I don’t imagine our orbit will stay very stable what with all the photon drag we are most likely being subjected to.”

“Photon drag . . .” Jason repeated questioningly.

“He does have a point there,” Manuel put in.

“Yes,” Brandon said, regarding Manuel with a blank look. “I understand why you haven’t broadcast the predicament we’re in to the crew, but it’s fairly obvious that we have crossed over into the black hole. I respect that. And I hope you respect the fact that we need to act quickly. They may have the resources we lack to get out of here.”

Jason’s jaw visibly tightened. “Or they’ve lured us in close in order to . . . ”

“In order to what, Captain?” Brandon cut him off, barely masking his contempt. “Our best chance is to pool our resources with that other ship.” He could tell he was winning the battle.

“Ok,” Jason said. Brandon had to respect one thing about his commanding officer, he was tractable. “I get your point. Manuel, get the docking solution figured out. You and I will gear up and pay a visit to our counterpart.”

Atlanta broke her silence. “I’m coming too.”


“What happened to ‘I need you by my side’ and ‘we work better as a team’?”

“I . . . look. This is a dangerous, unpredictable situation we’re heading into. I’d feel much more comfortable with you here. I don’t want my command decisions to be compromised by . . . by”

“By what?” Atlanta raised her voice.

“By worrying about your safety,” he said through clenched teeth.

Brandon watched the exchange with interest, disguising the glee he felt behind unflinching eyes.

“I get it.” She compressed her lips into a line and shook her head. “You expect me to stay here, barefoot and pregnant, pining for your return. Typical!”

Jason’s face turned red, beaten again. “Fine. Fine! Get suited up and meet us at the airlock in ten minutes.”

Atlanta stalked out of the room, at least as well as a pregnant woman could in zero gravity. The tension in the room lingered even after she left with Jason simmering in his juices. Finally he turned to Brandon and said, “I want you to come too. We’ll meet you at the airlock.”

“Aye, captain,” Brandon said as he retreated fleetly from the room. Things can not have gone better, he exulted to himself after he was out of view.






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