(No One is Ordinary) Inkwren x Knix

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Inkwren

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Joined
Apr 15, 2019
Location
The Prairie Hermitage
They had chosen only the best. A diverse crew of brilliant minds and exception skills - and her. One young but ordinary woman. That's what the propaganda promised.

Sarah Coalman stood among her crew mates on the platform surrounded by flags and microphones. Press talked over one another trying to get their questions answered. It made one’s head hurt, but the Director of Frontier Diagnostics & Mining was an old pro and filtered out good questions from bad. His voice was just the right balance of intellectual precision and excited explorer to fuel the imaginations of all who listened.

“Director Mattu, is Ms. Coalman truly ready to handle the rigors of deep space travel?”

“Sarah is more than ready. She is a full fledged member of this expedition. One ordinary woman will be given the chance to touch the stars. Her place on board the Mayflower I is what sets this research & exploration expedition apart. I believe in the human spirit to explore, to learn, to handle any challenge with ingenuity. Sarah represents that spirit. Because of that spirit in every human being across this beautiful galaxy, no one is ordinary.”

Voices rose once again, craving more soundbites. Officer Ann DeClan clapped Sarah on the back and she couldn’t help smiling at the medical officer. She wanted nothing more than to get on with the it. The massive ship stood behind them, ready and waiting. The tests were complete. The stores for the journey and to set up a colony somewhere in the outer edge of the Andromeda Galaxy were loaded into the pods that ran along the length of the vessel like egg sacs on some futuristic insectoid.

She had never dreamed when her father spent the lost of their precious savings, instead of continuing his treatments that the money was anything but lost forever down the gullet of a company on the verge of collapse. Many had agreed with her and called the lottery a stunt, a hail Mary pass by a losing corporation to beat their greatest rival to a corner of uncharted space that promised material riches. But, the ordinary men and women who had taken part in the lottery felt differently. The colonies had grown crowded. People wanted to believe they could build a new life. It was the land rush of the 24nd century. People like her father had been the backers of this grand enterprise and when the Mayflower I left the space dock orbiting Home World: Earth, one of their own would be on board.

Sarah Coalman, daughter of Andrew & Faith Coalman, mining tech and teacher from a desolate little moon in the outer spiral of the Milky Way, would be on board. In an effort to scuttle Director Mattu's scheme, the Federation had insisted that the winner had to go through the same testing and exams that the rest of the hand selected crew had undergone.

Though her feelings concerning the twists of Fate that had led her here were mixed at best, she was not one to back down from a challenge. Her mother had been a school teacher and had insisted that her daughter be well read and able to reason.

"I am teaching you the tools you need to learn anything, my angel. If you can think for yourself, you can do more than just survive." She’d studied the Mayflower's systems in order to have a general understanding of its workings as was required of all the crew. She found that many systems weren't that different from those that operated the equipment and machinery of the mining colony she's grown up in. She taken the emergency medical training and her innate compassion made up for the tremor in her hand when applying FleshMesh to an open wound. She wrote well for one with only a General Completion Certification. She thanked her mother's star for those days of effort with her as a girl. And when she was able to complete the physical education with better results than the desk jockey scientists and researchers, she had thanked her father's star for their active life of chores and projects that had calloused her hands and strengthened her limbs.

She had in fact proven to the Federation that Director Mattu just might be right. She was not the ordinary girl they had assumed. She’d been assigned duties of her own. While the rest of the crew kept detailed and secure logs, her personal journal was published daily for avid fans and naysayers to discuss. As they had moved closer to the launch date, the numbers of viewers had reached billions. People all over the colonies were listening to her impressions of this adventure.

The space program had become the career of the future again all thanks to one brown haired, green eyed only child. Thanks to her logs, every ordinary man, woman and child in the colonies would be an pioneer aboard Mayflower I.
 

Knix

Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2019
The Mayflower I sat behind the crew, looming over them like a foreboding tower. Of course, the restless crew member loved the vessel as if it was is own creation. He had been working hard towards this voyage for most his life. He had spent years learning, preparing, training. The result was a very fit, muscular frame. Naturally a level of personal neglect came with the care he put into his work; his hair was longer than it needed to be, and currently tied away in as good a bind as a man could make. His beard had been left for a month of two as well. It gave him the edge he needed, joined with his frame and his height, he looked nearly as intimidating as the Mayflower behind them. He crossed his arms over his chest and shuffled around restlessly.

"Damn it, Jackson." Peters hissed beside him. It was only when Kitt looked down at the man that he realized he was standing on his foot. He shuffled off the techie's boot and grumbled half an apology.

In all honesty, he was beyond excited for the mission, to set up a new frontier on a new planet. It was insane. Not many people got the opportunity. Compared to the amount of colonies they had, this handful was the luckiest people to have ever lived. It was just a pity to him that there was such a buzz about it - about one person in particular. This stupid lottery had every Tom-Dick-and-Harry knowing his name. Not to be humble, or more of a hermit than he was already accused of being... he just didn't like being watched and reported on.

He had followed her blogs for the longest time, paranoid that she would mention him or anything about him. He didn't want people knowing what he was up to, how excited he became over the mission, how lively and kind he could actually be. He acted like he wasn't phased, like he was a stone wall, because it was all he wanted the people on the outside to think of him. Otherwise, there would be criticism. Once he seemed the least bit soft, then there would be people trying to talk to him and trying to be friends with him. He could quite simply not imagine that. He had all he needed, right there on the Mayflower.

Kitt couldn't say that he was entirely opposed to Sarah's presence. On the contrary, Coalman had proved herself to be useful and smart! She was rather beautiful, too. He recognized that there was an age gap between them, a rather big one. Not that it entirely mattered. The issue was that there were more suited men, more age appropriate, on the mission with them. Also, he couldn't imagine flirting with her while that thing around her neck recorded everything. Imagine being turned down in that moment. He had walked into her before, by accident. He had to catch her, pull her back on to her feet. He had been about to make a joke, but his eyes went to her collar, then to her face. He quickly let her go and hurried off to his chambers.

He stared at her for a moment, then looked around again. He closed his eyes and sighed as flowers were thrown at Sarah, many of the petals landing in his face. He cracked an eye open, his sharp features on the back of her head. She was probably eating it up, all the attention. He just wanted to get on the damn ship already.

"Let's go." He said in his deep voice, turning with his colleagues to filter on to the ship. "Are you ready?" He asked the woman beside him, having thought for a moment that it was Rita Greeves, one of the quieter among the crew.
 

Inkwren

Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2019
Location
The Prairie Hermitage
Sarah sighed in relief as the crew began to turn and board. She moved to join them and nearly ran into the back of the imposing man who had been fidgeting behind her during the fanfare and speeches. She knew him. She had run into him just days before and he had managed to keep her from landing on her face. She had been so embarrassed when he took one look at the collar and left with a scowl on his rugged face. He had seemed more like a pirate in appearance to the older and more clean cut members of the crew.

Side stepping so they didn't collide again, she looked up in surprise when he spoke to her. "What?!" She felt so small in his imposing shadow and her fatigue and innate shyness kicked into overdrive. "Oh, yes of course. Are you?" She looked away appalled. Of course HE was. He belonged on this mission. He wasn't a glorified mascot! She dodged a crewman given a long and very wet kiss to his partner. Her cheeks flamed and she angled her body to keep the camera from catching them. She hated when her vid-feed stole not only her privacy but the privacy of everyone around her.

Only Anne Declan didn't seem to care. She had become a good friend and Sarah wondered where on earth she'd vanished to as she took two steps for every one of the man beside her. She brushed at a petal that had clung to her uniform and watched it flutter only to regret setting it free. It would be weeks or even longer before she would see or smell something so pretty again, but before she could rescue the little stowaway, the sturdy heel of another crewmate filing up the gangway crushed it into the unforgiving metal ramp.
 

Knix

Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2019
Kitt saw brown hair from the corner of his eye - not red as he had thought he would. It dawned on him that he wasn't speaking to Rita at all, but to Sarah herself. He had half a mind of quickening his pace, running from her or pretending that he was talking to someone in front of him or behind him. It was, after all, such a kind and caring question to ask. Making sure someone else was alright and ready.

He was trapped as soon as she responded. His head turned to her completely, his brows raising at her. He never imagined someone whose life was on full display for the entire world to see would actually be so... shy? He couldn't help but grin. One of his favorite past-times was teasing the shy. Really, it bordered on torturing. He remembered that she was live, then reconsidered. She answered his question, then turned it on him. What did she think he was? He frowned, his brows changing expression almost instantly. Perhaps she was nervous, or just trying to be kind. He very nearly muttered 'oh, no. I failed all the tests, so I hope this is easier.' He knew better though. He knew half the crew was immune to sarcasm. Imagine what the world would think.

He knew her back story, or at least the bit she spoke about in her logs and vlogs. She, on the other hand, didn't know his. He had it pretty tough and had to fight his way to where he was, tooth and nail. If ever anyone had to work their ass off, it was that dirty blonde haired, green eyed man. He decided to open up a little, to show her his soft side. "Nervous, but ready." He answered as he paused by the doorway, his hand leaning against it as if he was holding a door open for her. He gestured for her to go first, then stepped in behind her. The ground crew were in last, showing each crew member to their suits. They helped them step in and suit up. "Tighten her boot." Kitt quickly pointed out to someone who was brushing over Sarah's comfort. He had seen that happen more than once with the women. Sure, the suits were made for them, but it still had to be tightened in the right places.

It wasn't long before the ground crew was ushering everyone to their seats. They started to strap the crew in, ladies first, then checking to see if the men had done their binds right. There was no shame to it. Even the bravest men's hands were shaking. Kitt himself was taking his time with his clip, willing his hands to be still. He was trying hard to not think about how this could fail, how they might need to deploy their parachutes before even leaving earth's atmosphere.

"Skin be steel, flesh be stone." He said aloud, his eyes on his buckle. The helmets were busy being fitted, sealed to each member's suit. He had to carry on, now that he had accidentally begun out loud. "Nerves be strong; as gem of bone. Let pain be but kisses, or breaths of air. Magic be my armor, for I will not bear neither the sufferings of the dead, nor the agonies of hell. Runes of blood, now serve me well." He could see Rita the redhead taking a deep breath, and Peters the Techie drawing some religious symbol over his chest. His eyes wandered to Coalman next, giving her a firm nod just before his helmet was sealed over his head.

"I wonder who will be the first to trip and fall on their asses on the new Terra." Jackson suddenly laughed over the helmet mic. He couldn't miss the opportunity.

"Damn it... Jackson." Peters grumbled at him. It was something he knew he would hear, without a doubt. "I was supposed to do the mic check."

"At least we know it's working." He responded, gripping on to his seat. Al that was left was for the Mayflower to be sealed, then they would be on their way.
 
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Inkwren

Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2019
Location
The Prairie Hermitage
Launching a ship of this size from any planet's surface hadn't been done in over 100 years. While vessels of the same era and even class were still operational today, though in dwindling numbers, they only orbited the planets, moons or stations that they made deliveries too Shuttle craft would ferry goods and persons to the surface or docking stations. In truth, ships hadn't even been built in gravity for even longer. Frontier Mining and Diagnostics had once been on the front of technological advancement, but the last 150 years had seen the company flounder under scandal, bad management and rival companies' espionage.



The director had continued in his forefathers' "crackpot" footsteps by insisting on retrofitting the last great relic of their glorious fleet. The Frontier-Y6N19 had once been the most sought after freighter with the greatest carrying capacity and most powerful engines of its time. He renamed it the Mayflower I in honor of the seafaring vessel that had been instrumental in the settling on the New World hundreds of years ago. The vessel was not like the streamlined cargo freighters being constructed today. It was long with the bridge and quarters in the front nose that looked like the bulbous head of a grasshopper. In the slender body that was over two football fields in length, ran the specially designed skip engine. The cutting edge and fiercely guarded systems required the length to harness BEC-matter from a star like our sun.

Along the fuselage were pods of various sizes and shapes. These pods had once transported grains from the grassland world of Diana to troops to the War of the Arisen front lines. Now they contained medical supplies, construction equipment and more. Once the Mayflower reached the Andromeda galaxy and found a suitable planet or moon, the ship would land and the pods decoupled to serve as shelter and storage units for the small band of pioneers.

Lightened of its burden, the Mayflower would make its return on autopilot, skipping from preset buoy to buoy till it arrived to safely back at Frontier headquarters. The technology proven and the investors mad to take part in the venture, the Director would in one daring move restore his company to preeminence and a new era of discovery would begin.

As Sarah settled back into the seat that would keep her safe till they broke orbit, she closed her eyes and thought of her father.

She could see his rugged face with its permanent lines of fatigue and humor, laughing in the darkness as he lay on his back on the roof of their housing unit and pointed to the stars.

"One day, Boo, we'll make it off this rock. There's worlds on worlds covered in green grass and tall trees and wonder still waiting to be touched by the hand of man."

"Or a girl, Daddy. A girl can touch the stars too...can't she?"

"Oh yes, it is where your sweet kind came from. Bright and pure, teaching us wild men how to behave and how to love."

"
Someday, I'll go catch a star and bring it home to you and Mommy."

"If anyone can, it's my very own girl. Now sleep. I have to get to work. I'll see you in the morning."

She didn't see Jackson look her way as he checked to make sure everyone was safely strapped in. Tears fell. Her lips pressed together as she heard his voice utter some ancient prayer. It soothed the ache of loss a little. If only her father could have lived long enough to see the launch, to get his star.

Her fingers dug into the cushioned arms of her seat as the booster engines fired. These engines had been added to the back of the ship and would only be used to exit the atmosphere and get them to the Earth's sun where the first buoy would be delivered and the real journey would begin.

The vessel vibrated. It had passed on its inspections but the metal framework still groaned as it lifted off with a roar. It felt slow at first, as if all they did was hover just above the ground like a troubled bumblebee. Yet a moment came when the strength of the Mayflowers engines overcame the pull of gravity. Sarah felt herself pressed back into her seat as if the planet itself were trying to pull her back. She cried out as if desperation, unaware of the sound. She would not be left behind! Her own will pressed her forward, fighting the restraints. Sweat trickled down her back and then as if by magic, the travail gave way to the peaceful weightlessness.

The Mayflower I had made it free of Home World: Earth. Soon enough, the artificial gravity generators would fire, but for just this moment, she felt her heart lift and settle. She would find her father's star and make a home on a new world in its orbit. She laughed aloud, but softly.
 

Knix

Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2019
No one knew the ship better than Kitt Jackson did. His father, Jack, was an engineer. He had built things with his bare hands and made a very small living for Kitt and himself. His mother hadn't been around. Kitt vowed to never be like his father, despite the abundance of respect he had for the man. Jack was a pushover, the kind of man who laughed when he was the butt of other people's jokes. Other people took credit for his work, made him out to be a simple craftsman who carried out other people's orders. He passed when Kitt was still a teenager.

The Mayflower was Kitt's pride and joy, something he's been working hard on. Hard and long. He had sleepless nights over the thing, figuring out how he would put it back together. He was promised a spot on the Mayflower to the new frontier, if he was able to fix it up good and proper. the director had stayed true to his promise. It was the very reason Kitt was clinging to his seat, forcing himself to keep his eyes wide open during takeoff.

He didn't want to miss a single second.

He heaved, then let out a few chuckles as the craft raised off the ground, then further and further away from earth. The thrusters were going strong. His ship was taking off well. Of course it was. It had been tested over and over again and it was perfect almost every single try. There was no way this mission could fail - unless something was to truly go wrong. Unless he and the three engineers who worked for him really missed something utterly vital. The fact was that it happened. He just hoped it didn't happen with them, on this mission.


Soon enough, they were able to unbuckle their binds and get out of their seats. They had reached orbit. Kitt had known they would, but still it was amazing. He had worked out in orbit before. He was sent up to repair a satellite that was meant to record data from the ocean. Imagine the surprise that was to be had when it instead captured data about the forests. At least, what was left of the forests. There was a global outcry. The 'naturalists' who contributed to the destruction of the earth as much as any other man, wanted to riot and protest. Once that was fixed, they were left with more damage than they had started with. It was always the case. The people would even burn down or vandalize schools in protest for not having schools. Ironic, right?

That was why Kitt was so excited about starting anew. A new and equal community made up of hard and smart workers. It was why Rita was on board. She was some kind of political and cultural expert, there to ensure that the new home didn't have all the problems that the old one did.

He pushed himself out of his chair and floated towards the controls. "Everyone ready? I'm turning the ship's gravity on." He said as he flicked a few stitches. They had to float around like true space men for at least a minute! Not experiencing that made it almost pointless to go into outer space! He flicked it on, then his feet slowly started to sink towards the metal they would be walking on.

"Lunch, anyone?" Peters asked with a sigh.

"More like dinner." Rita mumbled as she checked her watch.

"Whatever it is, let's eat. Mayflower will start skipping soon." He pointed out, fiddling with some more controls.
 

Inkwren

Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2019
Location
The Prairie Hermitage
Sarah felt her feet settle on the deck of the bridge and her heart back in its proper place. She kept quiet, in truth because it was her nature, but also she had found that others reacted strangely to her. She cracked a rueful smile as food was discussed. She really wasn't hungry but she would help in the galley to set up the simple meal because this small group was supposed to work together.

She waited and moved down the corridor in the middle of the group so that there would be people on camera and voices all around her. This had taken some getting used to. So had keeping her hair up. The media gurus had tried to force her to get it cut and she had literally fought them tooth and nail until word had reached the Director and he had come to reason with her.

She could still see his face, so old and wise with his laughing almond shaped eyes and shock of white hair. She had been wedged behind the chair where she was supposed to get the makeover almost any other girl would die to have clutching the stylist's scissors like a weapon. He had stared at her for just a moment and then turned calmly to the styling team.

"I think it might be unwise to try to sheer a tigress. Perhaps you should come up with some other solution for the sake of our girl." With a little bow, he left.

Now as she walked into the galley, her hair swung in a simple looped braid that hid the length of it and kept her 360 degree camera unobstructed. Anne joined her and flashed her outgoing smile, never caring what the camera might see. "Come to my cabin later and well share the champagne I managed to smuggle past Peters."

Sarah's eyes darted to Peters who was the leader of the expedition. Decisions that would affect the group as a whole were decided as a group. Yet in the design, Peters and the redhead, Rita each had 1.5 votes and the rest of the group shares 2 votes. The group could never overrule the leaders if they were in agreement. Peters had the ears of a bat and Sarah shushed her hastily but gave her friend a quiet smile, enjoying the conspiracy in spite of her innate desire to be a rule follower.
 

Knix

Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2019
"Peters, what's the ETA?" Kitt asked as he checked the monitors. He left them alone for the time being, following after the rest of the crew as they eagerly headed for the gallery. He was a big guy, so he ate a lot. It took a lot of calories to help him keep his muscles in shape. They each had a diet worked out for them by the best nutritionists in the world. It not only gave them what they needed as individuals, but also provided for the known and the unknown effects that space travel would have on their bodies. Kitt was happy with his plan, especially since it had a lot of red meat and cheese in it. Of course, they would need to incubate the animal embryos once they landed, then raise the cattle and produce many of the things on their own. That was the reason for Takashi, a farm expert, being on board Kitt's beloved Mayflower.

Another concern was safety. It was more or less a wildcard where they would land. The planet needed to be inhabitable. Inhabitable meant that there could be indigenous species living there. Ones that they could possibly live with, and ones that might be a threat. For that, there was 'Baron.' Baron was a stout Frenchman who was in charge of security. He wasn't allowed to have guns with him at takeoff, for the fear of the cabin pressure causing it to misfire. It was all locked away, with only Baron and Kitt knowing the code. Kitt was a trusted member of the crew. Unfortunately deep space travel could have unknown effects on the mind. In actuality, poor Baron was suffering already - but not because of space. More so because he had severe separation anxiety from his weapons.

"We will only know once we have a planet, and once we start skipping. It can be anything from a day or two, to a week or two... to a month or two." His answer was too vague for Kitt to be happy with it.

He grabbed his meal pack and smacked it on to a tray. He slipped into a chair at the lit up round table. "At least we don't have to go into cryogenic chambers. Any of you been in those things before?" Kitt asked, groaning. "It's hell. Takes your body too long to recuperate afterwards." He wanted to talk, but everyone seemed somber, as if they were upset about leaving the shitshow that their earth has become. It was basically the apocalypse back on earth. It was high time they find another earth, and this time be stricter about procreation and the likes.
 

Inkwren

Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2019
Location
The Prairie Hermitage
Weeks passed. The only change in the monotony of the void were the stops to drop another buoy and recharge the skip engines.

Routines were established. Sarah would move through the ship in a predictable pattern that the media team and Peters insisted she maintain. She did her best to engage with whatever crew member she might pass to varying degrees of success.

She posted to her journal and tried to keep things interesting for the viewers and readers. She sat now in her narrow quarters writing her journal, cherishing being alone.

**Jackson loves this ship. He seems to see it as an entity of it's own. This skip will put us into the outer ring of Andromeda. Everyone is on edge. Even Anne, who's smile has gotten me through ship fever more than once is eager for the journey to come to an end and speaks with less patience than usual.

But Jackson, I think he might be wishing to return with the ship. Not because he is scared. Personally, I find him a bit scary. But because this ship is dear to him. I have seen him speaking to the bulwarks, giving a panel a caress.

And maybe I have just been alone too long but sometimes I think it is those gestures that keep everything running. That she listens and cares for him as much as he does her.**

She paused, hearing something. What was it? Suddenly an alarm sounded. It pierced her eardrums. She rose. Staggered. Moving to the door, it opened sluggishly, as if hesitating to let her go.

Slipping through the gap, she listened trying to hear something above the claxin shriek.
 

Knix

Member
Joined
Feb 7, 2019
The calendar in the common room was the only indication that time was passing. Rita was busy creating an algorithm that would allow them to simply enter details of their new planet, then they can create a new calendar that didn't run on earth time.

It was all coming closer and closer. He was coming to terms with staying behind and letting the ship return to earth. At least, he was trying. He hated the idea. The Mayflower was more than just work, or a job. It was his life. The inanimate object he had grown closest to. He called her May, when he spoke to her, when no one was listening. He was just finishing up with the current fix, a simple valve that was not doing it's job too well.

"Now, I'm going to have to tighten it up more than last time." he warned her, as if she was a beloved patient on the operation table. He patted her as soon as she was done, then got up and walked through the steel corridors. His wrench swinging in his hand. He wanted to go tease Rita, or maybe torture Peters. It was the only thing that broke him out of monotony. He was sure that the others loved it too.

Kitt stopped at the door, clearly seeing the others beyond the door, through the well enforced windows. Each door sealed like the doors to the outside. It was a safety measure, one that had featured in the ship since it was built.

He frowned, realizing that the door wasn't opening. He raised his arm and waved at the sensor.
It still didn't open.

"Door four, open." he mumbled to the controls, swiping his ID card.
Nothing.
"Override." he said as he swiped his card, then punched in some numbers. He saw Rita raising her head before the alarm went off.

"Fire in bay five." the ship sounded, the alarms ringing in his ears.

Kitt turned to run towards bay five, which was actually beside the common rooms. The ship suddenly shuddered. He grabbed the steel walls, bracing himself. Sound didn't travel in space. It was kind of a weird sound, an explosion only sounding inwards where the cabins were pressurized.

"No." Jackson gasped as he turned around again. He pressed his palms to the door and peered through the glass.

"No, no, no!" he pounded on the glass. The crew inside the room were scattering about. Rita was fighting full force against the hutch that held the oxygen masks. Baron was hoisting a table toward the bent steel that was caused by the explosion. Peters was gasping in space air.

"Mayflower, no!" he yelled as he pounded on the glass some more. His attention went back to the controls, desperate to open the door.

"Denied." the electronic voice beeped back at him. It flashed him the status of the cabin pressure. It was dropping. He peered through the glass. It was starting to frost over. The crew was lifting off the ground, all of them seemed to be gasping for breath.

Kitt tried override after override, even trying to overthrow the operating system and to manually control it, but it was hopeless. The longer he stared at the controls, the more futile he knew his efforts were. Instead of looking back through the glass, he sunk to the steel floor and clutched his head.

The ship shuddered, the balance thrown off. He felt utterly helpless. Everyone was in there. He was sure of it. He was alone. He would need to man the ship alone. He may as well go all the way back home. Unless the ship was going down, then he may as well go down with it.
 

Inkwren

Member
Joined
Apr 15, 2019
Location
The Prairie Hermitage
Sarah had realized she was running to down the corridor until she reached one of the heavy doors that segmented the ship into pieces. It was a safety feature not unlike seafaring ships of old. If one part of the ship came to harm, it could be closed off and the ship kept from sinking into the depths.

She had nearly collided with the door in her unconscious race toward the common area where everyone would have been taking their noonday meal. She had slipped off for a bit of peace and quiet as Peters and Baron were having one of their philosophical debates again. Anne was trying to make needed adjustments to their meal plans as they would soon be needing to boost their immune systems to handle a new environment with new contagions. Rita was busy with her algorithm and Jackson was somewhere loving on "May".

When the vessel pitched, she knew something was very wrong. Unlike a seafaring vessel, there was no true up and down in space. Artificial gravity systems did more than hold a person to the surface, they provided that sense of position in three dimensional space. If something had happened to the ship to confuse the AG systems and cause them to make it seem to her that the ship was listing, it couldn't be a good kind of something.

She tried the comm and heard only static. She called out anyway. "Is everything okay? Anne? Rita?"

**Meanwhile back at Frontier headquarters.**

"Director." Mattu's chief of operations entered his office ashen-faced. The director looked up and his heart sank. Without a word he turned to the bank of monitors that he had muted earlier while he had prepared for a speech to the Galactic League of Planets.

On the large center screen was the feed from Sarah's camera. She seemed to be standing in the corridor where the crew's personal cabins were. He scowled a little as there didn't seem to be anything particularly interesting going on that would account for his COO to be looking so distraught over.

To the left were two smaller screens. One showed her latest journal entry. Something about Jackson's love affair with the Mayflower. It might make some good buzz in the media, social and news. The masses loved love, even if it was just one eccentric mechanics love affair with his ship. On the other was the scrolling feed of comments that were coming in response. It seemed a bit fast, but hadn't he just thought that the masses love love? What on earth was Mitchell staring at him like that for.

Mattu looked to the two screens to right of Sarah's feed. She was moving down the corridor back toward her room but the camera angle was off. Even as he took note of that, his eyes settled on the two right hand monitors. The top monitored Sarah's bio-metrics. Her heart rate and blood pressure were elevated but not dangerously. Then at last his gaze settled on the final screen. Where the one above focused on Sarah's data, the one below had boxes for each of the crew. It was a simple colored background for each person. The details being too small to read unless he chose to pull up a record full screen, the color coding gave him an at a glance summary of their current state.

For weeks the screen had been green across the board. The crew took good care of themselves and thanks to the funding from the lotto, Frontier had been able to take very good care of them. There had been one outbreak of the sniffles that had remained localized between two members of the crew leading to romantic speculations. The backgrounds had been yellow until the bug had run its course. Had there been a severe injury or sickness, it would have shown orange, but he stared in horror at the pulsing red background on four of his hand picked crew. THe fifth, Jackson, was yellow. And the last, one labelled "May", pulsed a dangerous orange.

"This can't be right, Mitchell."

He hit the button on a remote to unmute Sarah's feed; choosing to ignore the news feed with its Breaking New ticker.

The two men stood and listened to her breathing as she reentered her cabin and looked out through the tiny porthole but there was nothing but the streak of passing stars as they still charged forward. Her breathing seemed to settle comforted by the sight.

Mattu spoke. "What's with the angle of the camera? What has happened?

He was pulling up the vitals of the ship.

"All we can ascertain is that the AG system has malfunctioning. It is housed in the bay adjacent to the common area. All but Coalman and Jackson are in the common room. It appears that Jackson has attempted to override the doors to get inside. All bulkhead doors are currently sealed. Until Sarah or Jackson can get us a report, we honestly don't know what has happened."
 

Knix

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Kitt sat with his hands in his hair for a while. He wasn't sure how long. It felt like a while, like he had resigned himself to that position till death. He almost felt like he would look in a mirror and see an aged version of himself. He moved, finally deciding to do something.

Perhaps he would turn the ship around. Perhaps he would take it to the planet and populate it with the cattle and crop anyway. There was a mission to be completed. If he died now then his life would have been for nothing. He got up and wiped the blur from his vision. He would never admit that he was in fact shedding some tears. He was supposed to be this big and strong mechanic that feared nothing.

"Please... Don't let me down May..." he begged as he tapped on the screen again. He brought up the coms system, but he heard nothing but static. It didn't really matter that it was down. He tried everything, a graphic of the ship's vitals, even. It meant little if he couldn't fix it.

The Mayflower was basically injured. She was designed to take a hit, this hit had come from inside. It didn't just leave a scar, it crippled her. It was like the titanic. No warning, no preperation.

"Electrical failure detected in East wing." May's electronic voice spoke over the monitor.

"Do, it caused a fire and you didn't put it out?" He grumbled in response. Kitt tapped on the monitor some more. He attempted to access the electrical grid, and the crew's vitals popped up instead.

Kitt shut his eyes. He shook his head. It wasn't something he wanted to see, at all. He peeked his eyes open. Seeing the blocks all in red. All except for two. Okay, he was fine. Who else? He tapped and brought it up, seeing that it was Coalman, of all people.

"Impossible." he muttered. He tapped on the screen some more, finally bringing up the electrical grid. The wing in control of the coms was down. He abandoned that door, instead hurrying to the one that sectioned off the private quarters. He was sure that he had just missed some movement.

Jackson banged on the glass, despite that it was soundproof. "Coalman?" he yelled. According to him there was an off chance she might hear him. It was impossible though. If she was alive, then his life would have more purpose. He would have someone to talk to.

Kitt turned to the monitor. This section wasn't at risk. If there was a door he could open, surely it could be this one.

"Now you listen to me, May. You open this door or I ram a terraformer through it." he grumbled. Jackson pulled a screwdriver from his belt and jammed it into the monitor's frame. He pried it off the wall and dug his hands into the wires. The door protested and finally slid open.

"Coalman?" Jackson called, taking a few cautious steps through the doorway. "Sarah? Are you alive?" he called, hesitating somewhat.
 

Inkwren

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Location
The Prairie Hermitage
Something was wrong. She felt it even though there was the small reassurance that the ship was still moving forward. She moved back to her console and saw that her message had gone out. She tapped the screen to bring up the ship interface. She scowled to herself that she should have done so instead of looking out of the window.

When the vitals came up, only those watching her heard the soft cry of dismay.

"No, no. Anne! Anne..." She tapped open Anne's bio-metrics and read. *Subject deceased. Exposure.* Her knees gave out. Anne was dead.

Sarah pressed her hands to her mouth and tried not to sob. Who else? Who else?

The screen had been covered in red. Had anyone survived? She should look. She couldn't look. And so she sat and wept like a child, believing herself all alone in a failing ship on the edge of a new galaxy.

She heard something. Froze. A voice. A shaky laugh of relief escaped as she scrambled up and ran to the half open door of her pod, squeezing back through. "Jackson!?"

***
Back at headquarters and across the galaxy people were glued to their screens. There were still so many unanswered questions. What had happened? Was it true? They seemed determined to believe only what they could see and hung on every frame as Sarah ran toward Jackson's voice.

Meanwhile, COO Mitchell and Mattu were ignoring the press, leaving it to their media liaison's to answer questions as they scrambled to see if they could communicate with the Mayflower. "No transmissions are going out. I can't understand it!" Mitchell shoved angry fingers through his spiky grey hair.

"We will find a way to reach them. It might be so simple as a flip of a switch from their end. Jackson knows May....the Mayflower better than anyone, and Sarah will assist him. She's clever and steady."

Mitchell looked doubted. They had both seen her reaction when she had realized her friend was dead. Mattu rested a hand on his friend's sleeve.

"She wept, David. She is human. Tears are not a sign of incompetence."

"Yeah, yeah."

Together they looked at the screen as Sarah threw herself into the older man's embrace.

Mitchell spoke again. "Well, he isn't as unlucky as he might be thinking with that pretty young thing at his side."
 

Knix

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Jackson was breathing deeper than he thought he would. Knowing someone else was still alive was comforting. It calmed him, gave him purpose. He waited, listened she finally yelled his name and came running from her pod. It was like he was living the moment too slowly.

She ran to him, without slowing down. It was only when she was much closer that he realized to hold his arms out to her. He stepped forward, colliding with her.

What was he thinking, holding her like that? His hand on her hair, his arms squeezing her body to his. He was worried that he was hallucinating, that he would blink and she would be gone. He kept holding her, breathing on her neck, on her collar.

"I'm here." he assured her. She must have known the others were gone. She knew this ship as well as the others did, and she knew how to work the monitors.

"You are not alone." he admitted that he was reassuring himself of that fact, but she needed to hear it just as much.

"We need to get to the cockpit, or at the very least the control room." he said as he pried himself away from Sarah. How was it that she still smelled so good, after weeks in space. He blinked at her wet cheeks, as if her pain was his. Well, it was. He had just lost everyone too.

"Once we know what we have available to us, it will be easier to make a decision. We need to know if the ship is still on it's course or if more danger lies ahead." he straightened his thoughts out as he spoke. His hands were still oh Coalman's shoulders, his thumb stroking circles over the material of her sleeves.
 

Inkwren

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Sarah pressed herself into Jackson's massive bulk. God, what a comfort it was. For a moment his stern features and awkward behaviour around her didn't matter. She could find him intimidating again later. Right now, she needed him.

She wrote quietly over the mutual loss and the deep relief that she wasn't alone. His words, warm against her throat soothed her shattered nerves and she softened in his embrace.

When he drew back, for just a moment she tried to prevent it, to burrow deeper into him and pretend that they weren't in a terrible situation. But she couldn't. It wasn't right to try and hide away. It didn't honor the crew. Anne deserved better. Even Peters deserved better.

She swiped at her damp face and nodded. She didn't ask for more information. She simply stepped back and waited for Jackson to take command of what was now his ship. "Yes, sir."
 

Knix

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There was resistance when they parted. The best thing Kitt could think of to compare was the cheesy strings you got when taking a fresh slice of warm pizza from the box. It had been a while since he had pizza, but there was still that idea that he remembered the taste when he thought back to it. Food like that was more of a luxury on earth now. Sometimes they were able to receive spoils, thanks to the lottery, but pizza had never been on the menu.

He could also liken the cheese idea to the pulling he felt in his chest as they parted. It made him feel warm that she had run into his arms. It seemed selfish. Everyone was dead, and there he was looking at Sarah with starry eyes.

It only occurred to him when she called him sir, that leadership had fallen to him. He stood frowning for a moment. Sure, he was ready for it - but there were only two of them. He wasn't about to lead and take all her decisions away from her simply because leadership fell to him. That wouldn't be fair.

"As far as I know, every ship needs two captains. I'm not about to take leadership as if I'm in this alone and you are just tagging along." he argued, shaking his head. It was going to be hard. They were only two people, what if they disagree? Well, there was always compromise.

"What do you say about a fifty-fifty? Equal partners, equal vote, equal say?" he lowered his voice, watching her carefully. He offered her his hand, too. A smile finally formed on his face, though it was weary.
 

Inkwren

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His frown had her easing back. His face was so severe, every emotion so extreme with his dark brows and wide full lips. When he seemed to think she meant not to pull her weight and leave everything to him, she opened her mouth to protest. She was not a shirker! Hadn't she proven that even to him, though he tended to avoid her? Hadn't he seen enough to know that she could be counted on?

All this hurt and adrenalin fueled sorrow went through her like a tsunami, so that when he continued and she knew he meant he wanted to share the decision making and shoulder the burdens together, she actually had to swipe at tears. "Ok...ok..." She took in a deep breath. Then another. "But...for the moment, you know more than me about May. You can help her...and I'll help you help her." She straightened, all 5' 6" of her and returned his cautious smile with one of her own.
 

Knix

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Kitt frowned. He hadn't thought that Sarah would slack at all. He only meant to give her a title too, to ensure that she knew she was equal to him. He had no idea what she was thinking. He only thought to smile at her as she agreed. He reached out and patted her on her shoulder. Surely, if nothing on the ship worked, then her cameras around her neck couldn't possibly be working either.

"Perfect. I knew I can count on you." He said as he took one of his utility belts off. It was one with some tools, half of his. He took the liberty of strapping it around her waist.

"Right, co-captain Coalman. We go through the main passage, to the left of the personal pods. We try to get that door open, and if it fails then we take a nap and try again." He suggested as he tightened his remaining belt. He started walking, leading the way to the door that stood in their way. He would definitely ram a terraformer through it this time. He needed to know where they were headed. It made a world of difference to him. Kitt used his knife to pry the screen away, then he started to rearrange the wires.

"The main system reboot switch is in there. Worst case scenario, we need to depressurize the whole ship before getting everything back on line. I told them May can be moody - but I agreed that this trip can't be delayed." He offered her insight to what needed to be done, then he complained at random right after.

"Hand me the pliers?" He asked as he reached his hand back, not looking back to spare her a glance.
 

Inkwren

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Location
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Their crew mates, their friends were dead. They were hurtling through space in a malfunctioning retrofitted spacecraft which would , at the very least, run out of its current reserves of power and leave them stranded. Sarah's heart was revving on the adrenaline while grief felt like a leash trying to hold her flight instincts in check. Having a goal, a purpose helped. It gave a direction to fly in.

She smiled as she fell into step beside him, two quick steps to one of his long strides. "How about you just call me Sarah? I can call you...Jackson if that's ok." Somehow calling him Kitt seemed just a little too informal. In spite of their weeks aboard the Mayflower, she really didn't feel she knew him.

When he asked for the pliers, she already had them in her hand. She wouldn't have had any idea how to get the door open, but she knew enough that pliers were the tool for this type of job and she smiled softly to herself again. *Thank you, Dad.*

"What....happened to the others, Jackson? Do you know?"

***

At Mission Command, technicians were scrambling to get answers and to re-establish a link to communicate back to the survivors. Psychologists and doctors monitored the screens showing Kackson and Coalman's vitals and Sarah's collar camera. Dr. Houston had to smile as she took note of Jackson's shift in behaviour around Sarah. As the Director stood beside her, she spoke. "I have held that Jackson has never been comfortable with the idea of being watched through that collar. It's clear to me he believes that it has gone offline with the rest of the communications systems. I just wish I could see Sarah's face. She still seems to find Jackson intimidating. There's subtle shifts in camera angles and distances that seems to speak to a guarded body posture."

"It didn't seem guarded to me. She practically threw herself into his arms."

Houston nodded. "Yes, it was an understandable reaction under the circumstances. What is that old expression? Any port in a storm."

Mattu nodded and chuckled before ending the sound on a sigh. "We were so close."

Houston glanced at the Director and noted the toll the last hour had taken on her boss.

"We still are close, sir. When they come out of skip, they can place the last buoy, turn around and head back. With all the buoys in place and power coming into the system from both ends, the trip will be a matter of days." Houston was a shrink, but the science of skip-travel excited her.

Mattu managed a smile. "I hope you are right. I really do. If the malfunction that took the rest of the crew's lives was isolated and not systemic, then there is no reason they couldn't do just as you say." He gave her arm a pat and moved off, his shoulders stooped.
 

Knix

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Feb 7, 2019
Jackson paused to frown at Sarah as she offered him a change in title. He nodded at her, but then continued to frown at the idea of her calling him Jackson. "No... no... call me Kitt." He said casually. It wouldn't do any good for them to be formal. This wasn't a formal situation. It was informal, an accident. They could save their energy and rather spend it on saving themselves. He knew she respected him, but he wouldn't take no for an answer on this.

"Sarah?" He said when she started to look a little lost. There was a look in her eyes. He reached out and took the pliers, but wrapped his hand around hers entirely too. He held on to her, and instead of just taking the tool he gently pulled her closer.

"There was a fire next to the common room. It was an electrical error, so May shut down the electrical grid before it could spread or spark another fire. Her fire extinguishing protocols kicked in but somehow she depressurized two sections instead of one. I think something bigger went wrong. May - Maybe something important shorted out or got shut down." He squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head. He wasn't aware of the fact that he was squeezing her hand, too. Somehow drawing comfort from her.

Kitt pulled her in a little closer. He let go of her hand and cupped her face instead. "Look, we're really lucky that we are still alive. That means we need to use that luck and make something out of it, alright? Let's not die too. I promise you, Sarah, I will do everything in my power to keep you alive." He insisted as he stared down at her. He liked the feeling of her young, soft skin under his calloused hands. He pressed his lips together and breathed deeply. To distract himself, he took the pliers from her hand and turned back to the screen, fiddling with the wires to get the door open.
 
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