IV - The Diary of Jonathan Flynn.
It's funny, I never met him: Captain Garland. Everyone talked about this great man, the only one who could lead humanity to the stars. As I sit and think about it you would have to be some kind of superhuman to keep all those egos in check...
...He's a monster, we brought him with us. I thought he was my friend, one of us, but after what he did i'm surprised they left any of us alive. As we come to the end of it, as I face never again sitting with a cup of tea and writing the details of our journey I have to wonder. What would have happened to humanity if we had never interfered?
Chapter Four: Mascinations
Earl's head was thumping, the pain in his leg was scratching at his consciousness as he lay on the cold metal table top. He kept his eyes closed hoping his tormentor would think him still knocked out. The sudden cold sensation that swept over his leg forced him to open his eyes. Staring groggily down he watched as a young woman spread the cooling liquid over the torn flesh of his leg. "It's a simple medicinal compound, it will help it heal" The voice was quieter and calmer than the harsher tone of his earlier inquisitor, Earl relaxed a little. "Where am I?" There was a pause, Earl caught sight of the young woman glancing nervously at the man stood behind him. He craned his neck to try and catch sight of him. "You truly do not know?" The man's head appeared suddenly at Earl's side, making him jump, he winced as his leg moved. "No, sorry… I know that seems to be annoying everyone." The man tutted, "the most audacious and not to mention expensive venture in mankind's joint histories and you have no idea you are aboard it. Forgive me but as much as I detest my colleague's methods I understand his scepticism." Earl tried to turn to address the man, to try and explain, as he'd been unable to do with the other man. As he tried he noticed the restraints, "hey..."
"Your leg is broken, and not cleanly, it is a precaution to keep you still, and until we know your motives, one of the conditions of our chief of security, Commander Yang." Earl shuddered at the mention of him, "I am Director Lal, chief of surgery on-board."
"So this is a ship, I saw it being built on your screen, looked like no ship I ever saw."
The man who had until that moment been pacing the dingy metal cell came to sit at the foot of the table Earl was strapped to. He motioned the woman away, "thank you Sarita I will finish this." He took up the binding of Earl's leg and the woman nodded quietly and left. "Thankyou" Earl muttered as she passed, then turned his attention back to the man. "I am going to assume sir that the cryogenic process has led to some form of temporary amnesia. Ordinarily I would keep you here for observation and think no more of it, stranger things have happened with applied cryogenics. However whilst you were out I had a chance to check the crew manifest. You're not on it." Earl stared at the man, he was talking softly whilst calmly finishing the wrapping never taking his eyes of Earl's leg. With a nod of satisfaction he finished, "that should do. Now you see, with you not being a crew member, I have to worry as to who you are. Now I have no doubt your memory will return but so that you feel comfortable resting that leg I want you to be aware of two things, the first is that we have departed and you are in space, with nowhere to go. The second, outside that door is a corridor, along that corridor is this ship's bridge, on that bridge is our mutual friend Commander Yang, to whom you shall go if you leave this med bay whilst I am gone. Understood?" Earl nodded mutely, feeling thoroughly sick at the whole affair, a few hours ago things hadn't been nearly so complicated. "Your name. You do remember it?" "Yeah, it's Earl." Despite himself and the restraints Earl tried to extend a hand. Smiling Lal took it and gave it a light shake, "when your memory returns I am sure we shall sort this whole thing out, in the meantime you must rest," he placed a small pad in Earls hand, "press that button if you need anything, Sarita is only next door."
Earl nodded, if nothing else he was better off in the care of this doctor than that evil Commander.
They raced back down to the central sphere they had all started from. Skidding into the area they paused, "its brighter in here, lights are turning on" Jonathan whispered, suddenly nervous. "Guess whatever owns this thing is waking up", was Tom's muted response, he had been watching space float by a lot longer than Jonathan, he'd had longer to think. He saw Jonathan's eyes widen as the same thought he had had earlier forced itself into his new friends head, "whatever... you think... they're not human?" Tom shrugged, "well you ever heard of NASA making something like this?" He moved to the control console where they had left Earl. "Well I just kinda guessed it was some kind of CIA thing, or... I dunno, we were in the future or something." Jonathan mumbled the last almost to himself, steadily losing confidence. "Truth is" Tom continued, "We don't know anything, and pretty soon I reckon this place is gonna be swarming with this ships owners. Right now what we need is leverage, something to keep us alive, I say we try and find a gun, or at the very least something important we can threaten to break." he finished matter of factly and waited for Jonathan to catch up, he was really young Tom suddenly realised, he was going to have to look out for him. He hadn't really stopped to think about it much, he was too busy trying to survive, but this could be just about perfect for him, there was no IRS in space. He stood up from where he'd been leaning near the control panel, ignoring the various blinking lights. "C'mon." He strode off in the only direction they hadn't tried, and which was currently the least well lit. Jonathan followed mutely but soon he started asking questions, slowly at first but then as quickly as his mind worked, "but the panels were in English, and everything's set up so easily. Why a gun? Should we mess with a space ship, Tom where are we going?" The last question finally brought him to a halt. "Right, well I figure lights mean aliens and we know what doors no.1 and 2 lead to so I figure door number 3." With that he slapped the door controls and strode through. He stopped suddenly, throwing his hand out to stop Jonathan. The corridor was the same as most of the others, narrow, long with a few doorways spaced at the sides before the next hatch. But the door directly to their right as they stepped in, the one Tom now found himself directly in front of was lit. He kept his arm taught, struggling to keep Jonathan back, somewhere in the back of his mind he wanted Jonathan to keep thinking it was aliens. Through the narrow window in the doors frame Tom was staring at proof he was wrong.
Jonathan freed himself, poking his head up next to Toms he stared in, "hey its Earl" he whispered. Suddenly Tom recognised him, the man lying prostrate on the cold table at the rooms centre was one of their companions. It should have been obvious, the 'crewman' standing over him was wearing entirely more appropriate dress for space than Earl. "We should go in, introduce ourselves if they've met Earl they..." Jonathan was cut short as the man inside the room suddenly lunged at Earl slamming a bar into Earls broken leg, "what the fu..." Jonathan's hand shot for the door control, Tom restrained him, he had been staring at Earl, Earl knew they were there, he was staring right at him, mouthing, "no". "We have to go Jonathan." Tom spoke softly, not wanting to move even as he said it. "But Earl..." Tom tried to pull himself together, "he wants us..." He was hyperventilating, he could feel the same panic as before this whole thing had happened. How could he have thought this was a good thing! Jonathan was still struggling, "let go of me!" Tom wrenched him back through the hatch, "no don't go, don't leave." He felt his vision fogging up, he couldn't concentrate. He needed to get out of this stupid tin can! A hiss from behind him sealed it, someone was coming through the hatch. Without thinking he grabbed Jonathan and dragged him back through the hatchway, passed the lit door where they now heard faint screams. He surged down the corridor, panic giving him strength. He slammed into the next hatch, scratching frantically at the control, it flashed red and buzzed sharply, Jonathan who was beginning to share his panic tapped Tom's shoulder, "It's locked, look down there!" Tom turned quickly, Jonathan was pointing down to a pipe that ran under the causeway they were stood on, "we can slide down under it, right up to the hatchway and out!" It looked tight but they could hear the footfalls of whoever had come through the hatchway into the next corridor, they didn't have time, "ok let's go!"
She had thought they were in a submarine, but the room before her was the size of an amphitheatre, its high edges filled with banks of green glowing machines that cast their light upon a central stage of enormous trees, surrounded by rows of ferns and other plants, the smell of life was intoxicating. "Nature has that effect on the best of us." The voice was the same quiet one from behind her. Liz turned quickly, it belonged to a beautiful woman, two strands of beads tied in her hair the only distinguishing feature not rendered bland by a facet-less jumpsuit. But Liz could see it anyway, she was stunning. She moved slowly into the room coming to a stop next to Liz, resting on a vine covered railing for support. She smiled at Liz's evident concern, "little too much sleep," she smiled, "evidently not a problem for my children though." She gestured about with a smile, "they were meant to hibernate too, it will mean a good deal of work to care for them now they are grown." Liz stared at the woman, somehow despite her soft voice and gentle smile Liz believed she would relish the challenge of rescuing this overgrown greenhouse.
She moved forward into the room, pushing some ferns aside she pulled out a white metal suitcase. Liz watched mutely as she pulled out instruments and connected wires, "i wonder how extended artificial gravity has affected them." Liz stayed silent, assuming she was talking to herself, "I'd have imagined the trees especially would have struggled in the low light, I wonder where they are getting their energy." Liz stayed routed to the spot, "thoughts?" She stammered as the woman turned from her crouched position by the suitcase and stared at her, "um... sorry, I never was much good at biology." The woman, rose and walked over, placing one of the instruments in her hand, "well this will start you off." Liz stared down at the readout, she'd seen something similar at the gym, it calculated whatever data you put in it but heavens knew what data it needed. "Just type what I say." the woman smiled, "my name is Deirdre." Liz typed and the machine beeped angrily. Deirdre laughed, a beautiful soft sound.
Liz was stunned, was this woman mad, how long would it be before she realised Liz couldn't possibly be meant to be here. "Sorry... erm… Deirdre, but i'm, well i'm." Deirdre turned waiting patiently as she spoke, "well i'm Liz, I guess." She stammered to a stop. Deirdre smiled, "pleasure Liz, now follow me." Dutifully Liz followed, typing in numbers every-time the woman read them out, moving from plant to plant, smiling when she told stories, and as she calmed into her role even reciprocating and giving opinions where she could. The woman's clear confidence and friendliness was starting to calm Liz, despite everything that had happened and was still happening this somehow felt so normal, like gardening with your aunt.
They were in amongst the tallest of the trees, beautifully slender pines when Deirdre suddenly rose and turned to her. "Don't look now dear, but up at the hatchway is a... colleague of mine, our security chief." Liz gasped, when had she called security? She took a couple of steps back from the woman, she had to escape! Suddenly Tom and Jonathan and Earl all came rushing back into her head, what had she been thinking playing in this garden whilst they were all out there somewhere. Deirdre moved up to her, "now now, don't panic." Liz stared at her, "look I tried to say!" she pleaded, the woman smiled, that infuriatingly welcoming smile, "I know, I know, if nothing else having to train you to use a tool every six year old knows how to handle tells me you're not supposed to be here." Liz's heart was racing, what was going on, "then what's happening?" The woman moved closer to her, glancing up at the gangway she whispered conspiratorially, "more on that later, but i've seen you're a decent sort and I never thought we were open and fair in selecting crew, everyone should have had a chance to come, not just Morgan Industry's favourites, so i'm going to help you."
"Commander!" The voice bellowed from the bottom of the high walkway the two women now occupied, "you're awake, who is that with you?" Deirdre pushed past her, "my assistant, if you hadn't noticed Yang we're somewhat diverging from planned growth here," she gestured around expansively. "Come along now..." "Liz" Liz hastily filled in for Deirdre as she suddenly fell silent. She could see Yang's scepticism, Deirdre shrugged, "well what do you expect when Morgan insists I take on his corporate vulture graduates, hurry up whatever your name is." Liz let her breath escape slowly as she saw the faint smile creep onto Yang's face, "don't let these drones affect you too much my dear." He paused then turned to leave, Liz could have cried for joy, she was all right. "Oh and uh, watch out for stowaways, it appears we have saboteurs on board, I will be sending Santiago round to collect everyone's ID chips when she has returned from the engine room." Liz's heart sank, ID chip! She could almost feel the smile on the man's face as he walked away, she was doomed.
She followed Deirdre in silence back up a muttered as they neared the top. Liz collapsed against a wall, letting the humming machine set in its surface vibrate through her, a soft current of air ran across her face from a vent above. Deirdre turned, "Liz, sorry about this but for now you have to stay on your own, my word is as good as ID at least for now, anyone comes, especially that Jackal Corazon and you tell them I have had it removed, they know my distaste for the things." As she talked she rummaged in another box and turned suddenly, with a flash she jabbed a sharp point into Liz's forearm, Liz yelled and fell to the floor, "and there's the proof, its the best I can do." Liz clutched her arm and watched as the woman walked hurriedly in the direction the man had left in, "keep working!" She shouted back from the doorway, though whether she meant it for Yang's benefit or hers she did not know.
He'd lost Tom. The pipe had worked, worked too well, it had had seals just like the hatches, they'd opened it and slid right under the feet of whoever it was who was heading for Eric's room. Eric, Jonathan couldn't believe it, not only where they on board a strange space ship but the crew were torturing one of their friends! Worse than that, after the first hatch he'd lost Tom. The pipe had angled down, he'd gone flying into darkness, Jonathan had slid after him but got caught in the pipes grating. Tom had flown straight through it, out onto a wide deck. Jonathan was all turned about but he was sure this was past the place he had seen all the bathtub pods. He'd been trying to get down to Tom when someone had lunged out of the dark, they'd dragged Tom off and left Jonathan hanging from the ceiling in a cold dark room.
After a few more minutes struggle Jonathan realised he wasn't getting out, he tried to turn his body, being careful to keep his neck free of the tubing and cables that were holding him suspended from the ceiling. Pulling his legs underneath him he forced himself back up into the pipe. Crouching low with his head pressed against the pipes roof he stared up the chute he had come down, no way back up there. He ducked his head out of the pipes vent, he couldn't get fully out, the mesh of wires was too thick, but it looked like he could follow a second route along the wall. He began to crawl, the pipes were all covered in some kind of gunge, he hoped it was something clever to do with the electronics but in his head he was climbing through a sewer without the smell.
He crawled slowly, feeling ahead for any sudden drops. The work of crawling was monotonous, the darkness only brightening when he came across another cable clustered vent. He decided they were clearly just to keep whatever it was he was crawling over cool, rather than allow anyone access. He hoped Tom was ok, and Earl, this whole day had been messed up from the start, he wished he knew just what the hell was going on. He'd love to just be sat about on the grass in his yard right now. He stopped, why was he thinking about grass. He suddenly realised, he could smell it, the closer he got to the next vent the stronger the smell of plant-life became. As he reached the opening he stared in and couldn't stop himself from yelling, "Liz?!"