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Off Orbit

The start of a space adventure?

By Mohammed DarasiPublished 7 months ago Updated 7 months ago 11 min read
4
Created using Nightcafe AI

“What the hell are you doing up there?!”

Jack was a daredevil. He loved getting into places he shouldn’t.

“Didn’t you see the worksheet this morning?” Jack said. “They’re having us fix this antenna, I’m just tryna get it over with”

“I did see that. And these jobs are exactly why we have cranes, DUMBASS!” shouted Johnson. The boss.

“Relax man, no need to shout-” Jack replied. “-It’s fine, I’m hooked up, see” Jack tugged on his safety tether for confirmation.

“You think I’m stupid? You would’ve had to disconnect to get up there. There are no rails between S10 and E5”

Jack looked away guiltily. “Oh, there weren’t? strange”. He continued unscrewing the panel.

“I’ve been here at this ship for 10 cycles, and you have given me the most headaches BAR NONE!”

“You should relax and lower your blood pressure. It’s not good for you”

“He’s right, sir” Sarah piped in through the comms. “If your vitals maintain these levels, we will have to get you back inside. You won’t be able to walk for at least 5 hours, as per regulations”

“I’ve been working for Astra-Con since you were still in diapers. DON’T TALK TO ME ABOUT REGULATIONS!”

“Geez sir, what’s with the hostility? She’s just doing her job,” said Jack.

“GRRRARGGHHH” shouted Johnson in frustration and then turned around. “Why should I care if you float away?! Less headache for me!”

“That’s the spirit!”

“&#%!@?!” Johnson mumbled something and continued walking.

Jack clicked on the side of his helmet to change to a private channel. “Thanks for the assist”

“He’s right you know,” said Sarah “keep doing these things and they will definitely fire you. If you don’t float away first of course”

“What’s the point in being up here if we don't take advantage?”

“Doing parkour in a park is different than jumping like a lunatic between different sections of a spaceship” said Sarah, with her all too familiar stoic demeanour.

“Zero gravity baby! What can go wrong”

“You could miss a step and then your body will float in space for eternity” said Sarah, matter-of-factly.

“Such a buzzkill”

“Anyway, when you’re done there, head back to 01. The Chief wants to speak to everyone in an hour”

Jack paused. “The chief? Well, that’s a first. Suits don’t usually bother with us up here”

“Yes. So it must be important. Don’t be late”

“Yeah, that’s fine. I’m almost done here anyway”

***

“Heard you set a new record today?” said Crocker. He was the head mechanical engineer for this cycle.

“Hell yeah!” said Jack while walking out of the shower, drying his hair. “13 feet!”

“Phwwwwhht! That’s some distance” nodded Crocker. “Knowing you, you’re probably aiming to break it again soon?”

“Of course!” Jack started wearing his uniform “I only have two weeks left up here. Gotta make the best of it, right?”

“hahaha. Yeah sure, whatever gets you outta here quickest” joked Crocker, throwing the towel back at Jack.

“Dammit! Now I gotta fix my hair again”. Jack stared at the mirror with a comb in his hand.

“Sorry princess, I didn’t mean to ruin your hair,” said Crocker, walking out of the capsule and laughing. “You better hurry, it's gonna start in 3 minutes”

“Sheesh” Jack hurriedly combed his hair and then rushed to the common room.

***

Everyone in the station was present, surrounding the main screen. The screen had the Astro-Con logo hovering for now, and everyone was just sitting and talking amongst themselves. Speculating on what the meeting is going to be about.

Jack winked at Sarah and was met with the usual nonchalant look away.

“Hello everyone”. The screen came to life, showing the Chief of Operations at Astro-Con, Commander McPherson. “Thank you for taking the time to join me here. This is a very important meeting, and I needed everyone in the station present.”

Everyone became quiet. They’ve never had a meeting like this, and for the Chief himself to say it is important, then it must be.

“Last night we were contacted by the World Federation Navy in our emergency line.” Suddenly the tension became almost palpable. Everyone knew how important that emergency line was.

“They’ve informed us that an unknown object was discovered travelling at high speed, heading towards SM-366”. Many in the common room gasped. Seems like some of them lived on SM-366.

“As of yet, they haven’t determined the nature of this object, only that it is heading towards this moon. The reason we’re having this call is because we don’t have time to prepare. The speed of this object, and the delayed discovery means we have very limited options here. Only one option, in fact.” McPherson paused, looking away. He clicked his pen against the table a few times before looking back at the camera. “The Gallant 211 is the closest vessel to this thing, that is capable of potentially intercepting it.”

Murmurs became louder in the room.

“I’ll hand it over to the WFN liaison, General Thompson, to explain further.” McPherson stood up and gave way for a man wearing a WFN General’s uniform.

“Thank you, John. As mentioned already, this unknown object is travelling fast, close to 102,000 mph, and all calculations of its trajectory show it heading straight for SM-366.” He pulled up the trajectory calculations on the screen. It showed ‘object X’ travelling at a highly elliptical orbit around Proxima Centauri and heading straight to SM-366.

“As you can see on the screen, time to impact is projected to be 74 hours. Our scientists calculated that a blast of around 1 megaton should be sufficient to divert the object by 0.2 degrees, allowing it to safely pass SM-366.”

“Can I ask a question” Someone raised their hand and didn’t wait for the all-clear to speak. “You want us to somehow do what you’re proposing there, but where in the hell do we get a 1 megaton bomb? The stuff we have are barely kiloton explosives we use for mining. Even if we put all the ones we have here together, it’s barely 20 kilotons.” Oscar, the explosives engineer spoke up.

“You are right. Your explosives won’t do anything to this object, we never expected them to,” Answered the General “but there is something on board that can do the damage”

Oscar seems to click on. “You don’t mean–”

“Yes, the power cells from the escape pods”

The General let the whispers go on for a short moment. “As of 0930 Central Federation Time, the Gallant 211, and its crew, have been activated as emergency responders under Clause 2.101.33 of the WF Space Safety Directive, to intercept and divert the incoming celestial object, currently known as ‘Object X’, to prevent the destruction of SM-366 and its inhabitants.”

Shouting erupted. None of what was said was discernible of course, as everyone was angry and scared.

“QUIET!” a thunderous shout exploded in the common room and made everyone stand still. It was a voice they were all too familiar with.

“On the trajectory you showed us, ‘Object X’ was orbiting around our star, right?” Johnson said.

“That is correct” answered the General.

“I’m no astrophysicist, but how in the hell did this thing just suddenly appear out of nowhere? I thought all objects orbiting Proxima Centauri were catalogued and tracked for over a hundred years now”.

Jack was reminded about the many interrogations he had from his boss in the last few months. When Johnson becomes serious, he can be quite frightening.

“You are correct–” ahem. “The last object in the catalogue was indeed added 121 years ago, and no new object appeared since”

“You saying those in Astro-Con Observation messed up?” said Johnson in an accusatory tone.

“No, not quite correct” replied the General. “Here is a trajectory of asteroid PCX-088. First discovered 254 years ago and has since been orbiting Proxima Centauri in a normal elliptical orbit.”

Everyone was confused as to why he was telling them about this asteroid.

“3 days ago, the Federation Observatory found that PCX-088 was no longer on its orbital line”

A collective “Huh” and “What?” rang.

“In the process of trying to locate PCX-088, we located Object X. Originally thought to be a new object, scientists started the process to catalogue it. During observations, it was found that this object’s dimensions and features exactly match the missing PCX-088”

“Are you saying what I think you’re saying?” Jack asked. He couldn’t hide the inappropriate excitement in his voice.

“Yes.” Answered the General, ignoring the glee in Jack’s voice. “We believe PCX-088 somehow changed orbit and increased its velocity. Due to this massive change in its nature, we believe it was mischaracterised as an asteroid, and have thus given it the moniker ‘X’, as it is now unknown”

***

This mission required efficiency and minimal crew so in the end, the crew was composed of: Captain Zavier Johnson, Pilot Yuri Volkov, Comms engineer Sarah Fisher, Explosives engineer Oscar Clarence, Mechanical Engineer Jack Manson and Astrophysicist Alistair Norman. Everyone else left using the other two escape pods.

***

“Everyone, listen up” Johnson connected to the intercom, his voice projecting across the ship. “We’re not soldiers, so don’t think of it that way. We’re just placing an explosive on a coordinate. Nothing we haven’t done a million times before”

“Except, of course, the asteroid barrelling at us at top speed,” said Jack sarcastically

“Yes, there is that” Oscar seconded.

“Let’s just drop this thing off and get it over with.” huffed Johnson. “Oscar, how’s the cell coming?”

“It’s coming. Slowly dismantling it so that, you know, we don’t all die in a nuclear explosion.”

“heh” laughed Johnson nervously.

“I still need the power calculations from Ali, or we won’t get the explosion needed”

“Alistair, did you hear that?” Johnson diverted his attention. “Alistair?”.

“He probably took out his comms. He does that when he’s concentrating.” Jack offered up an explanation.

“I can never catch a break, can I” sigh. “Alright, go and find out if he’s done with the calculations,” Johnson ordered. “Sarah and I will go out on a walk”

“Why me?” Jack wanted to be the one going out to retrofit the clamps for the power cell.

“Because I said so”

***

Jack kicked the door open with frustration. “Yo, astro-dude. You done yet?”

“SHUSH”. Alistair was slumped over some machine he hobbled together “I think I can hear it”

“Huh? What’s that?” Jack was curious.

“Remember what the General was saying? The Observatory thinks PCX-088 hit something causing it to change direction and speed?”

“Yeah, so?”

“Accelerating at this rate is impossible via natural means. The Observatory knew this. they just wanted us to come close and find out what it is.”

Jack put his hands on Alistair’s shoulder “Have you been drinking?”

“You think I’m joking? Listen to this” He increased the volume so Jack could hear.

“It’s just static,” said Jack, after humouring him for a few seconds.

“NO! listen carefully. You can hear the electrical humming of machines! A few minutes ago, I managed to lock on to them! with a few more minutes, I’m sure I can deciph-”

“Everyone we have a problem!” Yuri’s voice sounded over the ship's intercoms. “Object X increased its speed. We need to leave NOW! There’s no time to drop the bomb”. Immediately after, everyone felt the ship sway to the side and speed up.

“HEY! SARAH AND I ARE STILL OUTSIDE” Johnson bellowed. “WHO TOLD YOU TO LEAVE THIS POSITION. OPEN THE HATCH”

“Sorry sir, there’s no time. This thing is after us! It changed its trajectory… ITS FOLLOWING US!” Yuri shouted over the intercom

“WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT” Sarah lost her usual stoic demeanour. “OPEN THE FUCKING HA-” she couldn’t finish the sentence. She saw a bright light heading straight for them. it was a lot smaller than they expected, and much more agile.

The bright light filled the entire ship piercing through everyone’s vision. It was the last thing they saw.

ThrillerScience FictionMysteryCliffhangerAdventure
4

About the Creator

Mohammed Darasi

I write fiction, poetry and occasional articles about interesting topics. I recently created a website (just because) which I will be posting my writing in (among other things). it would be great if you check it out. https://mindpit.co.uk/

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Comments (4)

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran7 months ago

    Whoaaa something knocked it out of orbit causing it to change directions and increase it's speed and now it's following them and has finally caught then?! I need more please! Don't leave me hanging!

  • Dana Crandell7 months ago

    This is a space adventure I would definitely read. Great piece of writing, Mohammed!

  • Donna Renee7 months ago

    I LOVE your dialogue in this story!! It really made for an exciting pace and gradual reveal!

  • Test7 months ago

    Nicely written! Enjoyed the character development, the pacing, the dialog, and it was really gripping and tense at the end. Great story 💙Anneliese

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