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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3. Chapter 3

Jenal hurried down the corridor towards the turbo lift and went down to the engineering deck. She stood in the lift, jittery with anxiety to see what damage there was to the machine she had designed. It was her pride and joy and if the slightest thing went wrong, she would not have a good day. Small things that went wrong could easily decimate her enjoyment of a day and there were few things that could brighten it up again.

The doors opened unexpectedly and Jenal looked up. A smile instantly came to her face. There was one of the people that could cheer her up. Linus Do’Hemary, a tall, slim man, with a silly smile and a mess of dark hair. He said goodbye to the group he was talking to and stepped into the turbo lift. He stood at attention next to her and fixed his gaze on the doors. When the doors closed and they were alone, Linus beamed a grin at her and scooped her up in his arms. He hugged her tightly. Jenal giggled and wrapped her arms around his neck.

“Where have you been hiding, Jenal?” he teased, as he put her down.

The Major General’s words still dancing around her mind, all she could do was shrug.

“No, seriously!” he continued, more forcefully, “It’s been almost a week since I’ve seen you. You been busy?”

She nodded. “There’s been lots for me to do,” she sighed.

“I’ve heard.” Linus lowered his voice and lent close. “I’ve heard that people aren’t happy with you, Jen. They’re blaming you for everything that’s going wrong.”

The Major General had warned her about this. Whoever was behind these malfunctions in the relatively brand new ship would want to find a scapegoat and she, being its designer and creator of its engines, would make a good target.

“I want you to tell these people,” she huffed and crossed her arms, “that if there’s something wrong, it’s because they don’t know what they’re doing when they work on her.”

Linus laughed. He had a wonderful laugh. “It’s adorable the way you call this ship a ‘her’.”

The lift doors opened just at that moment. They were on the engineering level. She made to step out of the lift but Linus grabbed her arm. “Just be careful, okay?” he whispered. He gave her arm a reassuring squeeze and walked to his station. His body stiffened visibly as he went back into work mode. As she stepped out, she watched him for a moment but her thoughts were interrupted by a cough.

Jenal turned and saw a short, squat man standing in front of her. His balding head in her eye-line glistened irritably at her. She looked down to see that he was holding a schematics screen and his small eyes were narrowed and fixed on her.

“You’re late.” Goevvel Quitus shouted.

“I’m sorry, Quitus,” Jenal spoke, without looking at the small man, and moved to the main display panel that monitored the engines. She surveyed the flashing lights, the figures that calculated the capacities of each part, the diagram of the mechanics, and she did not look again at Quitus.

He stood at her elbow and shouted, “How am I supposed to get anything fixed around here when you don’t even show up on time!” The seven or eight other people in the chamber stopped what they were doing and looked at the two, even Linus, the consummate professional. “You come and go as you please,” Quitus continued, spit flying from his moustachioed mouth, “as if you own the place! Well, listen good to me, missy, if you don’t ship up then you can ship out!”

Jenal, meanwhile, was tapping on the screen, seemingly not paying attention to the small man. It was difficult not to hear him though, or to take everything he was saying to heart. She was working. She was always working. Even though Quitus was Head Engineer, she knew more about what was going on than he seemed to. Perhaps it was him? Perhaps he was sabotaging the ship, to try and get rid of her?

“You may have friends in high places, girl, but so do I! I can get you booted whenever I want!” Quitus’s shining head gleamed with perspiration. “And your current childish attitude will definitely make it easy. Everyone will agree with me, won’t you?” He looked around for support but everyone averted their eyes and returned to their work, pretending not to hear. “See? I’ve got everyone’s support! You’ll be adrift before the end of the day! I swear on all the heavens and moons!”

“Have you tried to purge the hydrogrip densifiers?” Jenal asked simply, still not looking at Quitus. “She seems to be trying to do it herself, however I think someone may need to do it manually.”

Quitus lifted a finger, took a deep breath to begin shouting again, but then stopped. “Do what?” He was clearly confused.

Jenal tapped the diagram on the display. “This thing,” she said, finally looking at him. “Has someone checked the hydrogen levels that the densifier is pumping in?”

His watery eyes blinked a few times, first at her, then at the screen. “I … well … you see …” he coughed. “Rajis, did you do that?” He was shouting again.

The tall woman, Nanya Rajis, turned from her work and stood at attention. She answered flatly, “No, sir. You instructed everyone to not go in until Kane got here.”

“Oh, yes … so I did,” Quitus grumbled. He whirled around on Jenal again. “Explain to Rajis what to do and get it done, Kane, or so help me …” He clearly thought that threat did not need explaining and walked off.

Jenal took a deep breath and let it out slowly. Rajis moved toward Jenal. She was a skinny woman, taller than Jenal, with a strong jaw. “What do you want to do, Kane?”

The two women spoke for a few minutes about the best way to help their ship, Anion, repair herself. They could see the heat rising in the couplings so action needed to be taken quickly. There was the option of doing it all from their screens, making commands that Anion then had to carry out herself. Rajis pointed out that that would not be possible, as Jenal pointed out, the ship was already struggling to do so. It was decided then that they would have to go in.

They grabbed the required tool boxes, put their heat proximity suits on, and made their way to the entry chamber. Shoo Tholmon offered to help them from the outside; he would open and close the doors for them and oversee the levels and evac them, should they need it. Tholmon checked that the coms were working and then gave them the okay to enter.

A mechanical hiss sounded as the first door to the anti-chamber opened.  The door took a long time to open so the two women chatted about their plans for the coming off day as they waited. Once open, they stepped in and waited some more.

“This is a very inefficient system,” Rajis observed in her stiff manner. “We could be her all day and by the end of it there’ll be no more days left for any of us.”

Jenal thought about it for a moment. “You’re right,” she said, as the air purified and cleansed them, “but it shouldn’t be this slow. That’ll be something else for us to check once we’re done here. Tholmon,” she asked into the coms, “please make a note of that.”

The doors opened and they stepped into the engine chamber. It was a magnificently large space, with all manner of shining lights and humming parts that sounded to Jenal like the heartbeat of her dear ship. Quickly, they moved under the heated water pipes, around the central gasioconversion unit to where the hydrogrip densifiers (the troublesome couplings she had been hearing about all morning) were situated. They set their tool boxes down and had a look.

Rajis removed the panel of the gasioconversion unit and had a look inside. Jenal looked at the couplings themselves. They had little indicator lights on them that meant something to her.

“Try the third filter,” Jenal suggested. “Once we replace that filter and run the purge operation, the couplings should cool down.”

Rajis was busy inside the long box, tall enough for a person to fit into, for a while and did not reply.

Jenal moved towards the box. “What’s wrong?” she asked. “Is it stuck?”

She peered inside. Rajis stepped aside, her darker skin gone pale and her eyes were wide.

“What is it?” Jenal asked, irritated now at being ignored.

Then she saw, she saw what had frightened Nanya Rajis so much. Where any of the nine large filters should have been, there was a box made from some sort of hypercalor acrylic so they could see what was inside perfectly. It was a head, the skull of something that looked so alien, with large canines and pronounced orbits. Rajis, with a shaky hand, pointed to something at the bottom of the box. Jenal leaned forward and saw it was a note, on paper! Of all things.

It read:

You’ve gone too far. Soon you shall all perish. 

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