The shouting came from the living area. He walked through from his bedroom to find chaos abounded; a chess set scattered in pieces on the floor and two small boys rolling around aiming punches at each other. He jumped in the middle and, with some difficulty, pulled them apart; feeling their muscles strain under his grip in their eagerness to continue their brawl.
"He started it," one boy began.
"No, he did," the other protested.
The unwelcome buzz of the comm system wrenched him, reluctantly, from the arms of his dream. He awoke on the sofa, fully clothed, confused and disoriented, the insistent electronic buzz still ringing in his ears. Dragging himself to his feet, he wandered to the wall panel and pressed a button on the intercom. "This is Tate."
"Sir," the voice of one of the night shift ops betrayed controlled excitement. "We've picked something up on the long range scanner. I think you need to see this."
"What is it?"
"We believe it is another transporter."
"Any communication yet?" Tate was already pulling on his shoes.
"No sir, we're trying to raise them."
"Keep trying, I'm on my way."
Tate headed to the door, about to leave, his fingers resting on the exit panel as he paused for a moment. He gave a glance toward the chess board on the table.
"See you later, lads," he murmured, before he shook his head at his own idiocy and hurried to the ops room."
"What do we know?" Stella asked.
After speaking to the night ops team, Tate had hastily arranged an early morning key staff briefing. Apart from Stella, those present were Cass, Fleur, Jack, the head of communications, the head of supplies and several members of the Council, including Julius Berger. Stella wasn't sure if he had been explicitly invited, or if Tate was simply humouring him.
"It's CT8. From what we can gather it left Earth seven years ago, and when it failed to arrive after the usual five year journey we assumed it was lost," Tate explained. "So far our efforts to communicate have failed."
"No one home?" Cass mused.
"It could be a failure of their long range sensors", Stella interjected. "They'll be in visual range within three hours. Let's hope we can communicate at that point."
"They're two years late," Jack muttered. "Why?"
"I don't know," Tate shrugged. "That will be one of my questions, assuming we can speak to them."
"We should make preparations for their arrival," Julius began. "The survivors will need support; guidance. With your permission I…"
"Thank you, Julius," Tate snapped. "With respect, I would rather wait until we make successful contact with the ship and find out what we're dealing with. For all we know it could be a floating morgue. At the moment our efforts must focus on repairing the damage from the Whiteout."
"Of course. I respect your decision, President Tate." Julius nodded, his face impassive.
"I will keep you all informed of any developments." Tate rose. "If you'll excuse me, ladies and gentlemen. Stella, with me, please."
Stella stood, and walked with Tate back towards his office.
"You know Daniel can't be on that ship, don't you?" Tate asked gently.
"I know," Stella nodded, her eyes clouding for a moment, before she clicked back into efficiency mode. "CT8 is an A-Class transporter, built to take a crew of ten thousand. If they're alive up there, and survive the landing, that is a lot of new arrivals to accommodate. I'm not sure, given our recent circumstances, that we are in a position to cope."
"We have no choice. If they are alive then we will welcome them in any way we can. We had nothing when we first arrived and we managed. We may just have to get creative."
"Well, we'll know in three hours," Stella smiled. "Julius is chomping at the bit to be the welcoming committee."
"Recruiting new flock for his church, no doubt," Tate sighed.
They reached Tate's office and Stella paused. "Out of all the people to find God..."
"Ah, but he prefers a less 'divisive term,'" Tate made quotation marks with his fingers to emphasise the point. "But, if it gives comfort to people, then who are we to argue?"
"True enough. I'm going to get an updated damage report on accommodation and supplies," Stella said. "At least that will give us an idea of where we stand."
"See you back here in three hours then." Tate nodded to Stella, and then stepped through the door into his office. For a split second he thought he saw someone in the corner of the room, but when he turned his head they were gone. That's what you get for not sleeping, he chided himself, as he sat as his desk and flicked on the monitor. The pulsing image of CT8 swam into view; so near and yet so far.
Tate shook his head. Maybe, just this once, he would be with Julius in asking his higher power for a miracle.