In a quiet small garden, recently opened to the public, Jacob found Daria on a bench, looking at the simulated night sky. As in other parts of the ship the current starry display around the ship was displayed. Over time it changed, constellations would emerge and disappear. Over large amounts of time that change was observable.

“I can’t really find a difference.” Immediately she leaned against him as he sat down. Looking at the sky he replied that he couldn’t either. Obviously to him she referred to the sky they had looked upon at their first date, five years prior, in a mess hall where the night sky display first had been tried out. “Only the location in the ship has changed.” Her arms wrapped around him.

Both knew they were far away from the location they had been in space back then, but objectively only their relative position in the ship had changed.

“It seems so.” He sighed, thoughts about the Ark1 still occupied his mind, but the presence of Daria was more inviting. “How was your day?”

With a shrug of her shoulders Daria dismissed the question. “Come to think of it, a planet is not much more than a space ship. Going round and round, around a star, which in turn moves through space.” Feeling philosophical, are we? “Come to think of it, all the lunatics who believed in a hollow earth, and how our ancestors lived on the inside of the planet, wouldn’t be so totally wrong right here and now.” Daria turned towards him, he too faced her. For a moment they stared at each other, before breaking out into laughter.

“I love you, Jay.” She purred, in full confidence that she was the only one to call him by that nickname. “I love you too.” He kissd her lips.

“How was your day?” Uncertain what to tell her about the Ark1, or whether to tell her at all Jason too shrugged his shoulders.

 

Silently the horribly disfigured body floated through the coridor of twisted metal. Boils of radiation caused burns were frozen in place along with everything else. Bulged eyes and dried bodily fluids that had boiled inside, evaporated out of every pore and then freeze dried covered the skin, a horrid silent scream was forever shock frosted into the face.

Letting out a scream of his own Jason sat up in bed.

Almost immediately a gentle hand reached for him from his side. “You alright?” Clearly sleep drunk and confused Daria sat up too. “Just a nightmare.” Taking a deep breath Jason sank back into the sheets. “It’s the Ark1. We found it, and I’m doing a feasibility study for docking with it.”

Suddenly wide awake Daria turned on the lights in her quarters. “Why didn’t you tell me before?”

“Didn’t want to worry you. There is radiation residue, but nothing we can’t handle.” A moment of silence passed between them.

“I doubt that a communications technician could be of help, but maybe you need a little outside insight?”

Tired but grateful to be able to talk about his work he took his tablet computer and opened the latest sensor readings. “We wanted to tether it to Explorer, but the recent telemetry suggests that would be close to impossible without tearing it apart. So we’ll send a pod. It is very likely that the crew, or part of it, survived in cryogenic chambers.”

“So this is a rescue operation?” Daria studied the sensor readings carefully. “Why don’t you send unmanned probes first to determine whether there are people in need of rescue? A powerful field for back and forth communication could ensure continued communication with the probes.” A broad smile decorated her lips, certain that the others who were tasked with the Ark1 hadn’t thought of that possibility.

“That communication field might interact with the electronics of the cryogenic chambers, too much data needs transferring. Autonomous probes might do the trick, but those that we have aren’t built to heave the chambers, and there’s no time to build new ones.”

Nodding without needing frequency diagrams for her proposed idea and why it might not work Daria looked at the presented data. “It looks like you’re going to have to do a docking with a pod.” She enlarged the details of bottleneck between the compressed bit and the forward section,which was relatively unharmed. “This looks promising. But the Ark1’s rotation might disrupt communication.” She typed a few commands into the computer, the image zoomed out, displaying a crude representation of Explorer alongside the Ark1, a narrow beam shot towards the bottleneck. “High energy communication, just like my proposed idea, only it is concentrated here at the docking site, internally communication can be ensured using tranmitters.”

She handed him the tablet. It detailed that communication would only seize to be permanent from the moment cryo chambers were brought into the field. Thusly no remote controlled drones.

Awestruck Jason stared at her idea. “This might work. We need you on the team.” He smiled, laying the tablet down on the nightstand.

“Gladly. Talk to your boss.” She winked, pulling him down to the pillow.

 

This is not what I had in mind. Shaking, both from nervousness and adrenaline, as well as the grinding movement of the pod, Jason stared at the display in front of him. It detailed the distance to the Ark1, as it shrank. Some pilot sat at the helm, a copilot next to her. From his side he noticed a waving hand.

Daria.

Barely recognisable in the spacesuit. A large figure with a black blob for a face. Were they close to a star, or later to radiation, shielding in the visor would turn that black blob into a blob of silver-metallic nature.

Her graceful slim hand was now a gloved paw, that she put on his paw like glove.

Still the pod was shaking, as the pilot maneuvered into a docking position, even more vibrations shook the pod as the drills engaged, to cut open an entrance.

“We’re in.” Simultaneous with the pilot’s calm voiced announcement, the vibration stopped. “Please remain seated, until we have successfully tested the entrance.” Her copilot got up from his seat, working in zero G was not new to these military types, Jason noticed. With ease the man flew from his seat in the cockpit to the back of the pod. In advance they had pumped the atmosphere into tanks, so they wouldn’t vent it into space or a dead ship. Silence filled the area outside his helmet. All Jason was hearing came over the radio, vibrations in the ship that translated through his seat and suit to him, and his own breath and heartbeat.

It was distressing.

“Alright, we can enter.” With a few swift moves the pilot locked her station, also flew from her seat. Two days. Two bloody days of training in the tubes. Not enough, at all. Fidgeting with his seat belt, Jason cussed low enough as not to trigger the voice activated radio. A helping paw came from his side, undid his belt, moments later he and Daria floated off, following the pilots.

Two anonymous technicians met them at the airlock.

Pilot Sylvie van Froon, copilot Jorge D’silva waited just outside the pod for the technicians Theodore Allister and Emilia Bernsteen.

“Radiation levels are tolerable.” Jason read from his scanner. It was a glorified tablet, rebuilt to detect radiation, much like a geigercounter. But it also was detecting other forms of radiation than only gama radiation.

Behind the technicians came Daria with a suitcase like object. She too floated past the airlock into the Ark1.

The large corridor they had drilled into was largely intact, debris, cables and wall panels floated about, some of which came from the drilling, not the initial catastrophe. “We’re in a connection tunnel, sort of like our tube network. Forward section is this way.” Sylvie directed them along, to which Jason took a reading from the direction she pointed in. With a wave of his hand he gave the go ahead.

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