An Ark named Anion

We destroyed the Earth, yet we survived.
We destroyed the second Earth, called Eon, yet we survived.
Now, we are adrift in space and someone seems to want to destroy those who are left.

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2. Chapter 2

“Kane?” the intercom above her head crackled into life.

Jenal Kane groaned audibly before rolling over in her bunk and propping herself up on an elbow. She brushed her hair out of her face and gazed, blurry eyed, into the monitor. The face of the Major General’s aid was staring through the display screen. She clung to the edge of the screen for extra balance and tapped the answering key on the screen with her thumb.

“Yeah?”

“Sorry to bother you so early.” The Major General’s Aid was brief, as always. 

Jenal looked at the timekeeper on the screen above the Major General’s aid’s head. 4:51 AM. She rolled her eyes. She only had forty minutes left till she had to wake up any way. What could possibly be so important that it couldn’t wait forty minutes?

“What can I do for you, Sully?” The use of his nickname made him visibly uncomfortable. Jenal just stared.

“Well, it’s ...” he began, shifting his weight in front of the display capture. He cleared his throat and tried again. “It’s the conductor couplings again-” Jenal rolled her eyes and sighed heavily, not needing to hear more. Major General’s Aid Sullivan continued hurriedly. “-and Major General Tietrus would like for you to make your way to his office before heading to the lower levels.”

Jenal had moved to get up but as the Major General’s Aid continued she settled back into her lying position. She stared at him for a moment, studying his face. Over the past few months they had been in space Jenal and this particular Lieutenant had seen a lot of each other and she could still not read him to save her life.

“The Major General?” she repeated, as though saying it would make it untrue.

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Come on, Neenee.” He was playing with her now. “You know he wouldn’t have told me that. He wants you at his office, zero five hundred.”

Jenal stiffened at this informality too. He could play the same game, it seemed. She nodded once. “Fine.”

Sullivan nodded too and cut the display.

Left alone with her thoughts, Jenal wondered why the Major General would want to see her and why during an emergency. Alright, so it was not an emergency yet but left too long it might become one. No, it definitely would become one. That’s how they’d lost the Archimedes. And if it had occurred here as well there was definitely some foul play going on. That’s the only possibility that she could come to ... maybe that was why the Major General wanted to see her. Maybe he had worked something out. Maybe. She didn’t have much time to think about it though, five o’clock was fast approaching.

Rolling out of bed, Jenal grabbed the closest pants and pulled them on. She stared at her reflection in the mirror on her locker as she pulled on the first shirt she could find. She opened the washing facility and splashed her face with a few handfuls of water before she grabbed her brush and tried to tame her messy hair. Giving that up, she fastened it into a loose bun and grabbed her boots. She glanced quickly at the time and left her cabin, pulling her boots on as she walked.

There were never many people awake before six so the corridors that Jenal flew down at a jog were mostly empty. Slowing down to a brisk walk, Jenal breathed deeply as she approached the Major General’s office (lucky for her it was on the same level as her cabin). She pressed her thumb to the print scanner, letting it announce her arrival, and she stood, shaking the sleep out of her still tired body.

A mechanical hiss sounded as the door opened and, after a beat, Jenal walked in. Major General Tietrus’s office was a simply decorated room, with a few objects from Eon in it: an old couch, a painting of a wooded area and a house, a fancy looking vase that seemed out of place … it could not have been from ... surely not from Earth? Such artefacts were heavily sort after and rare, incredibly rare! It seemed inconceivable that the Major General would have such a rare article on display if it was from Old Earth. Jenal stared at it for a second before the Major General emerged from another room, preceded only by the gangling of beads that hung in strings in front the doorway. She had been told once that the display of this kind was from a bygone era when making noise was the only way to announce one’s entrance into a room. Jenal caught herself staring and quickly stood at attention.

The Major General stopped a few steps out of the doorway and looked at the woman before him. “Kane,” the Major General growled, “so good of you to come.”

Not that I had much choice in the matter... Jenal thought, trying to keep it out of her face.

The Major General studied her for a moment, silent, only his dark eyes gave away that there was something happening. Then he continued his walk to his desk. It was the standard desk but it was cluttered with report screens and, most surprising of all, boxes of non-military design. The Major General sat down behind his desk and looked at it with a resigned air, like he had accepted the clutter with his new promotion.

Jenal stood silent and watched.

The Major General began scratching around the desk. He flicked through piles, moved others, peered behind boxes and eventually gave up, falling back into his seat. “I’ll find it later,” he muttered in his grizzly voice. “Kane, come closer.”

Never daring to argue with such a person, Jenal did as she was commanded and moved closer. She glanced at the antique vase on its own plinth as she moved to stand next to the desk, daring to go no further. He had said closer but how close did that mean?

Major General Henrick Tietrus turned his seat to face the twenty-something as he sat, his hands firm on the arms of the chair. “I’m sure you’re wondering why I’ve called you here...” he trailed off, clearly regretting his choice of words. He sat further back in his seat and looked up at Jenal again. “The reason is that you are one of the few non-military personal on this craft who has an intimate knowledge of how this ship runs.”

“Yes, I do, sir,” Jenal confirmed.

“Non-military and still calls me sir,” the Major General commented to himself with a bit of a chuckle, shaking his head. He looked down at his hands and studied them as he began to speak again. “The thing is, Kane … you see, what it is … is that …”

“Spit it out, sir,” she said, flatly. She did not enjoy mincing words and she did not like it when others did.

“Yes!” Major General exclaimed, “there it is!” He pushed himself up from his chair, shaking his index finger at the young woman. “That is it: you are probably the only person who does not tread on their toes around me. You will tell me what’s what when it needs telling. You will give me the facts as straight as you have them and to me all of that is invaluable. Kane,” he stood before her now, smiling down at her, “I need you to promise me something.”

Jenal just looked at the Major General. When she did not respond he continued.

“Promise me that you will always be honest and straight forward with me. Promise that no matter how difficult it gets, you will call me a fool if I need to be called one. Promise me you will always be yourself around me.”

He stared at her, his eyes meeting hers. Jenal saw no reason why she would ever not be so with the Major General so nodded her head.

“You need to promise, Jenal.” The informality was striking.

She was taken aback by his tone and said before she could stop herself, “Alright, I promise.”

Major General Tietrus smiled at the young woman. “Good,” he mumbled, “good.” It was almost a sigh of relief.

He smiled at Jenal contently and this bothered her.

“Why must I make this promise, sir?” While she was mildly annoyed, she never forgot her manners.

The Major General sat for a moment, smiling and staring at Jenal. He waited a moment before he spoke. “We have been out here how long now, Kane?”

“Four months, sir.”

“Four months … yes. And in those four months, how have things been going?”

“I beg your pardon sir, I don’t quite understand.”

The Major General lent forward and began rummaging around on his desk again. He handed her the reports screen he picked up.

“What’s this?” she asked, activating the display.

The blue light of the display flickered, then stayed on and showed her a series of reports to do with her expertise: maintenance and upkeep. She glanced over them, recognising each that she had dealt with and remembering reading the reports of the jobs she had not been a part of.

“I don’t understand, sir,” she said, placing the display on the desk. “Have the reports been poorly managed?”

The Major General looked at her expectantly.

“Or are some not on file?”

“Don’t get me wrong Kane, you manage your division well … however,” he paused.

It was a dreadful word to hear, ‘however’. She waited patiently to hear the rest.

“… however, there seem to be a great many reports of maintenance that needs to be done.”

She thought about this for a moment. Sure, she had been busy the last four months but this being Anion’s first flight, Jenal thought it normal behaviour for her.

“More than there should be?” she asked tentatively.

“Yes.”

“It’s her maiden voyage though, sir,” she strained the word, the courtesy. “There are bound to be some humps and bumps somewhere.” Jenal was shocked to find herself repeating a phrase that her mother often said but tried to keep herself calm. She did not like being questioned about her duties or responsibilities or how well she was doing her job. She also did not like being insulted.

“Kane, relax,” the Major General insisted, reclining in his seat again, as though that would calm her nerves. “All I’m asking is if you think there are too many maintenances that need … doing, I guess, for a brand new ship. Just think about it. In the last week, how many things have you needed to repair?”

Jenal knew the answer off the top of her head. It had seemed a great many by the time the end of the work cycle had come but she had paid it attention. Why should the Major General?

“A fair few,” was all she said.

“And the cycle before?”

“A fair few.”

“And since we’ve been on this boat it’s been a fair few after a fair few after a fair few, am I correct?”

Jenal was floundering. Where was this going? She did not want to get herself into trouble but at the same time could not see where this was going. She was flying her hydrogen glider through star dust but couldn’t see the dangers behind the clouds.

“I guess so, sir.” This was as much answer as she could give.

“Does it not seem odd to you that a boat you helped design would need so much fixing after such a short time in the air?”

This threw the young woman for a loop. She had not even almost thought of that. She had been too busy fixing things to see the bigger picture. She needed to sit down. She glanced from side to side but saw no chairs so simply flopped onto the floor. Worriedly, she looked at her captain and guide and asked weakly, “What does it mean, sir?”

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