It couldn’t end like this for Brandon and Avi. It wouldn’t. Not in a simple shuttle crash. Not after the years of training, the sabotage and intrigue, and finally the goodbyes.
Humanity hadn’t spent the last 20 years building a ship for interstellar travel, only to finally have two of the “Fab Five Grown Up” meet their fates by crashing into the very thing meant to lead mankind to its celestial promise.
“There’s no way we can land this, B,” Avi said between anxious huffs. He wasn’t even supposed the make that particular meteor run, but Brandon had talked him into it. “And if we take an external vector I don’t think we’ll ever come back.”
“Then we don’t take an external vector, man! Olympus, can you read us?” There was no response from the mothership.
At 23:05 the shuttle had made its approach to Olympus from a successful supply/fuel dig. At the last minute, Olympus’ EM net engaged, its shielding going haywire. Only Avi’s fast thinking had kept them from crashing into the mothership’s hull, an impressive feat he was too humble and insecure to ever cop.
The shuttle’s system had taken damage as a result. Life support was failing. Brandon felt the tingly fingers of the air scrubber’s failure reach into his lungs. They needed to get back to Olympus, and they needed to do it fast.
“I’ll bet you it was one of those avatars we picked up on Sirian’s moon. This entire competition’s rigged! And for what? To find a Fleet that might let us join if we collect enough artifacts like damn toys?!” Avi was a quiet man, an introspective man. His outburst was as animated as Brandon could imagine it to be.
Anger could be unproductive in these situations, but Brandon figured it beat out fear. Avi had kept them alive so far; now it was Brandon’s turn to get them home.
“Avi, can you show the EM spectrum on the screen?”
“Yeah, but what for? It’s just a jumbled mess.”
Brandon leaned in closer to investigate. Sure, the entire mag field around the mothership chaotically shifted like water over a ball, but there were zones that shifted much less than others.
“Right there,” Brandon said, pointing to one of the stabler regions 30 degrees from dock S3. “That’s where you’re going.”
Avi looked at him quizically. “I appreciate your optimism, but there’s no way we can control where we’re going in this mess.”
“Yeah we can,” Brandon said, reaching into a compartment for a pair of thick black gloves. “I’m going to the main charger and pop a short to the hull. We’re going to polarize this bad boy.”
“Just trust me, buddy. You do the vector, let me know when we’re close, and I’ll polarize the plates. We’ll probably lose what’s left of the thrusters, so you’re going to have to use the arms to grab Olympus.
Not that Avi had a choice. Brandon found the proper relay and got himself in position. He hoped the gloves were thick enough.
Of all of the Fab Five, those precocious kids who had communicated with an alien entity and convinced it Earth was worthy of a place at the intergalactic table, Brandon had always been the least likely to be here. He didn’t have scientist parents or come from military aristocracy. He was smart, but his IQ didn’t break the bank. His hometown consisted of dirt roads and Mississippi pride.
But here he was. A college grad. Six hours short of a PhD. Black and proud, with an attitude to match.
And most importantly of all, he actually knew his physics. The magnetic force equation. A charged particle moving in a magnetic field will undergo perpendicular acceleration. If his math was right, and if the mag field didn’t change too much too soon, their shuttle should veer right into the dock. Or at least close enough for Avi to grab the hull with the robotic arms used for material acquisition.
Brandon polarized the plates, filling his line of sight with white light. Heat caressed his face. Wires sizzled and popped.
Finally, a deep darkness consumed him.
“I’m not dead. I’m not dead,” he whispered to himself, hopeful. He felt the slight shift of G’s on his body. A sideways force.
“Brandon! You still there, man?”
Brandon didn’t feel like answering. If they survived, he’d have to take Avi out. Maybe try to get him laid by one of the military chicks on Olympus. Or guys. Or whoever. Brandon felt guilty for not being enough of a friend to know. Avi was a lot tougher than he thought.
Avi was a lot tougher than he thought.
If being outsiders was their fate, they’d be that together.
“Got it!” Avi said, as a lout CLUNK filled the air. “Brandon, come on, man! Talk to me!”
“I’m here, bro. I’m alright.”
Back to Olympus and its relative safety. Danger still threatened the ship, but no one ever promised the ride would be safe.
The task of the USS Olympus: to voyage the stars, to meet new life, to prove humanity’s worth, and to join those who would provide the means to save all life on Earth.
Conflict, Commerce, Adventure? Those were the choices given to the Fab Five kids all those years ago.
The adventure had only begun.