Silent Witness by Margaret Price © 1993
Author's Note: This is the fourth in an arc with companion Jason Krystovan, who was introduced in the story, "The Alliance of Death."
For those who have not read it, here is a quick rundown: Jason is an Alterran, a silicon-based non-humanoid lifeform with the ability to change form. (Yes, you need to know this for this story.) He is just over one hundred years old but takes on the appearance of an eighteen-year human male old. He is a physician, herbalist, chemist, and is trying to learn as much as he can from the Doctor about time travel.
BY MARGARET PRICE
After months of careful planning, the evacuation was finally underway. They had lost contact with their home system and then single-handedly repelled an alien attack. Then basic supplies started to run dangerously low, and it was all too obvious that help would not be forthcoming. No one had responded to their numerous distress calls. Eventually the crew of the decaying Spaceport Excelsior came to accept the fact that they were completely cut off from the rest of the galaxy and plans for the current evacuation began in earnest.
The nearest planet had already been surveyed and approved for colonization before a distant war broke out. The plans for the colony were abandoned as the government turned its attentions to matters closer to home, apparently forgetting all about the station and its crew at the same time.
With no other options, the station's Commander decided to create a colony of his own by moving the entire crew of just over one hundred and fifty to the planet's surface, abandoning the decaying station for good.
Teams of technicians, mechanics and pilots swarmed over the Spaceport, stripping essential systems and transporting them to the surface, reassembling them to form the base around which the colony would be established.
In one of the station's stripped offices, a young woman was going over a checklist. Her dark uniform contrasted sharply with her golden blond hair, its unusual iridescent highlights no longer able to soften her features. She looked up when the intercom buzzed and a voice called, "Aurora, aren't you even going to say good-bye?"
Aurora had to hit the button with her fist to get it to work. "I'll be there in a minute, Sandy. I wanted to make sure you hadn't forgotten anything."
"Oh, Aurora, don't be such a worry wart. If we've forgotten anything, you can bring it when you come," Sandy said brightly before switching off.
Aurora sighed heavily, wishing she didn't have to stay behind yet again. One of the spaceships had been renovated for the sole purpose of shuttling the crew to the surface. Lots had been draw to determine the order in which everyone would be evacuated. After this trip, there were only seven people left to transport, one of whom was Aurora.
Half an hour after talking to Sandy on the intercom, Aurora was watching her depart. As the craft pulled away from the Spaceport, she sighed heavily. It would be another two days before the shuttle returned for them.
"Well, now what do we do?" asked Eric, a sandy-haired young man who had been just as unlucky as his companions.
"You mean besides wait? Again," replied Shawna.
"I suppose we should ask our Acting Commander," Eric said playfully, turning to the baffled Aurora.
"Me?" she gasped unbelievingly. "Why me?"
"Because you're the highest ranking officer left onboard," Chief Technician Ramsay informed. "Ridiculous regulation, isn't it?"
"I'm not a Commander, Ramsay, I'm a medical officer," Aurora protested, much to the amusement of the others. In the midst of this minor upheaval, there was a loud clang and the Spaceport was rocked by the apparent impact of a large meteor. The lights flickered momentarily and several of the main systems, including long-range communications, shorted out.
A few hours later, there was more bad news. During the shuttle's landing, the guidance system malfunctioned and instead of a gentle touchdown, it experienced what was more like a controlled crash.
"I'm sorry to have to tell you all this," the voice of the station's true Commander said through the static, "but I'm afraid the ship will never fly again."
After a stunned silence, Ramsay replied, "Commander, there may still be a way. Get all the technical people together and have them set up the transmat station. You should have everything down there to build one. If I can boost the power at this end, we might be able to beam over to you."
There was a long silence as the Commander considered. "Are you sure you have everything you need?" he asked pointedly.
"I'll strip down what's left of those derelicts in dock, if I have to, sir. So tell those Techs over there that they've got work to do."
What followed was one disheartening failure after another. The ground crew had been able to beam up some supplies during a test run, but after this the station's power started to fail. In the end, there was nothing left to do but wait for the inevitable as the decaying Spaceport ground to a halt.