Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Artefact. Chapter Three.

Captain Brewer shuffled in his seat on board the Eclipse Shuttle. Foster had done as instructed and disembarked quickly, and his pre-flight checks were almost complete. The sooner he was away from this place, the better.
The filthy, industrial Dutch Gate seemed to clash with the sleek, clean Eclipse, and this made Brewer on edge.
That wasn't the only reason that Brewer was anxious though, he'd been to this place before, in a different capacity. That hadn't ended well, as the pain in his right leg reminded him.
Levitt, the helm controller signalled that the shuttle was ready to launch, and the Captain replied with a nod.
Levitt tapped a few buttons and engaged the engines. The hairs on the back of her neck stood on end as the gentle hum from the engines resumed. She deftly navigated the Eclipse away from the Dutch Gate's docking clamps and turned the ship to face back into deep space.
"We're clear of the Gate, sir." She announced as a matter of protocol. "Setting course for rendezvous with the California."
Again, Brewer replied only with a nod. His pilot was young, yes, but he trusted her implicitly to carry out her duties without constant orders.

The Eclipse shuddered as it passed through the Dutch Gate's defensive energy barrier. Levitt flicked a switch and the engines went to full power, leaving the giant space station to shrink rapidly in the rear view monitor.

Brewer flicked through a few files on his terminal then stood, stretched and made his way to his quarters, just to the left of the small shuttle bridge.
Levitt entered a few more commands into her console, looked over her shoulder to check she was alone then clicked a button on her PIC.
"Coffee, milk, two sugars," She ordered. "And make it snappy."
The holographic face of a young man appeared above the PIC.
"Yes, dear," He sighed. "Up in a minute."

The young man appeared at the entrance to the bridge almost immediately, holding a massive mug of steaming coffee and carrying a small sealed bag.
"Got you a treat," He smirked as he sat in the co-pilot's chair next to Levitt. He passed her the bag, seeming quite pleased with himself. "Go on, open it."
Levitt gave her boyfriend a suspicious look then, like a child opening a Christmas present, she tore the top from the bag, which hissed satisfyingly as the sealed atmosphere escaped.

"Cal, you're wonderful!" She squealed, as her face lit up. She took the chocolate muffin out of the bag, putting it down a little to carefully, she then hopped out of her seat and onto Cal's knee. She kissed him once on the lips and twice on the cheeks.
"It's been so long since we've been docked," Said Cal, triumpantly. "I thought you might be missing real food. Found that in the stores when i was doing inventory."
Levitt didn't reply, for fear of covering her boyfriend with her mouthful of cake.
"So how long til we're at the Cauliflower?" He asked.
"California." She cleared her mouth. "It'll be about three hours, although I've not heard from them. Why?"
"Oh, no reason," He smiled. "I just miss an actual comfy bed. These bunks are okay but..."
"But?" She raised an eyebrow.
"Well, they're no good for two..." His smile turned into a cheeky grin. "And these pilot chairs are only going to take so much more..."
Levitt smacked Cal on the head, then kissed him. The remaining half a muffin got knocked to the floor, ignored.

Brewer sat in his quarters alone, drinking white wine, or at least what the food dispenser called wine, and started flicking through the entertainment channels on the viewer. He scoffed at a number of the shows before settling on the Extreme-Gravity Athletics channel.
It was mere moments before Brewer was asleep, the viewer continuing to play to no-one in particular.

Brewer woke up with a start as the shuttle shook violently, knocking the nearly-full wine glass to the floor. Alert instantly, he made his way to the bridge, where Levitt and Cal were occupying both seats at the helm, struggling to regain control of the ship.
"Report!" Commanded Brewer, jumping into the Captain's chair and activating his terminals.
"We've entered a debris field, multiple impacts!" Said Cal, transferring files from his terminal to his captain's.
"On screen." ordered Brewer.
The viewscreen faded into life, buzzing with static.

In front of the Eclipse was a massively dense field of screwed up metal, shattered plastic and burning debris. Levitt had control of the ship again now and was expertly avoiding the largest pieces.
Brewer had a terrible feeling at the back of his throat. He tapped a few buttons on his terminal.
"How long was I asleep?" He asked, standing and approaching the viewscreen.
"Just three hours, sir." answered Cal.
"Oh no..." Levitt understood first. "Oh no..."

Brewer tapped a button on Cal's console and the viewscreen zoomed in on a large section of debris. A nameplate was visible.

CALIFORNIA.

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