A transporter carrying water from Neptune gets hit by an asteroid
|Fate of Spector
“Sir,” Joe cried running into the room with a cassette in his hand. “The rescue team had salvaged the black box from ‘Spector’.”
Michel sat up straight. In front of him, Chief Harry Stevens turned to see Joe.
“Do you have it?”
“Yes sir,” he said waving the cassette in front of Stevens’ nose.
“Play it then,”
Joe got busy with the assigned task. “They said its captain’s personal log,” he spoke as he inserted the cassette into the player. “It’s his own voice recorded till the blast.”
Michel found his heart thudding hard. He would hear Randy, his best friend’s voice almost after six months. He glanced at the glass of water by his side.
The room filled up with static as Joe pressed the play button.
Then it subsided and someone cleared his throat. It was Randy or rather Captain Randolph Maxx. The man-in-charge of Spector, a transporter allotted to deliver water from Neptune to Earth.
“Date: 3rd April, 3003,” the heavy voice said in a calm tone. Michel looked up at the player as if Randy was there. In the background, one could hear the cacophony of sirens blaring and men shouting. “Time: 14:23 earth hour. Location: quadrant 4, a hundred and fifty-two miles into the asteroid belt. Spector had been hit by a stray asteroid on the port side just below the radar. We are… Captain,” the narration was interrupted by a female voice.
It was first mate Zoa Knoll, Randy’s fiancée.
“Captain,” she said. “We just finished the initial scanning for damage. The radar is gone, the first engine is choking and the stabilizer is falling apart. What will be our orders?”
There was no comment for some time being. Behind the sirens blasted at full volume. Men shouted for safety and security. Someone asked for an extinguisher. There must have been fire on board.
Then Randy spoke. “Ask Phill to split the water into barrels. Load the barrels into the pods. As many as you can. Assign one man per pod. Ask Xi to activate the teleporter.”
“What? Are you crazy?” Zoa cried above the clamour. “That thing is still experimental.”
“Well, it’s time to put it into use,” Randy said. “One pod at a time. Ask Don to meet me.”
Zoa left and a little later a male voice sounded.
“Captain,” he said. From his tone, it was hard to decipher that the ship he was on was about to disintegrate.
“Don,” Randy said. “Contact Earth. Ask for Michel Fox. Once you connect to him tell me.”
The recording went off.
“That’s all?” chief Stevens asked.
“No sir,” Joe replied. “He had probably turned it off.”
Randy’s voice came back again.
“The ship is falling apart. A fire had broken out in the lower deck and gallery. Engine one had died. Engine two is coughing. The asteroid that had incapacitated us was of the size of a baseball. But it had taken down a major part of Spector. I am going to try something that hadn’t been tried before to save my crew and cargo.”
“Captain,” Zoa’s voice came up. “Cargo is 70 per cent unloaded. The pods are being prepared. We need…” she broke off probably to save herself from falling for something crashed and Randy cursed.
“The ship’s trembling like a leaf,” Zoa commented. “As I was saying. We need landing co-ordinates.”
“I am waiting for Mike,” Randy said.
“The pods, if they survive the teleportation, will never survive the heat and friction of Earth’s atmosphere. They will…”
“Leave it to me,” he said. “We must do everything possible to deliver water to Earth. Only twenty per cent of our last shipment is left and there are no natural sources of water left on Earth. Thousands of people’s lives are depending on it.”
Zoa sighed heavily. “I’ll see to the loading.”
“Zoa,” Randy called. “Be careful.”
There was no reply. Michel swallowed and found tears rolling down his cheek.
The player remained quiet for some time. The three men sat on the edges of their chairs waiting for the next phase of recording. The chief had his brows knitted together. Michel looked down at the floor trying to push back his tears. Joe gaped at the player as he chewed on his nails.
“Captain,” Don’s voice startled all the three men in the room. “Captain. Contact established. The connection is weak and might break any moment.”
Randy didn’t waste any words and seemed to rush out after him. Only the blaring sirens and cracking fire filled the room.
“Mike,” Randy’s voice came up cheerful compared to the strained ambiance around him. Michel shot up his head on hearing the voice and then slowly lowered it. Randy continued. “I have a little pickup job for you.”
“Randy,” Michel said. “What the hell’s going on?”
“No time to explain. You’ll find everything recorded on my personal log. Now listen. I am going to deport some pods with water cargo just a mile from Earth’s ionosphere. You’ll have to collect them and deliver to the depot.”
Michel remembered his astonishment and confusion of the moment and how he laughed. He could hear it in the recording.
“Have you lost it man?”
“I am losing time Mike. Yes or no?”
Mike had taken three seconds to agree and within that time Spector had lost its left wing.
The transporter was carrying a crew of ten and eight pods capable of carrying two men.
“Zoa,” Randy called. “Report.” He was probably speaking over some communicator.
“Pods loaded,” she replied. “Ready to…” she was interrupted by an explosion. “Just lost engine one. Pod ready to launch.”
“I am sending in the coordinates. Board a pod Zoa. Make sure everyone is boarded.”
“Don’t worry, Cap. Everyone is on board.”
The communicator went out. Only Randy’s voice remained.
“Pod one deployed, teleporter working. Hope this helps. Pod two deployed. Pod three…”
One by one the pods went and Michel remembered how they appeared and he dragged them in with his tractor beam. From each pod a man emerged, thanking heavens and praying that their captain was safe.
“All pods deployed,” Zoa said.
“What are you doing here?” Randy’s voice cracked under strain, the first time in the crisis. “I ordered you to…”
“I won’t abandon ship,” she said and probably stepped forward. Her voice softened, “or you.”
There were no words spoken and then an ear-deafening blast that seemed to shake the core of the three men in the room.
Chief Stevens sighed and stood up.
“I guess that concludes the investigation,” he said and left.
Joe, wide-eyed, ejected the cassette and followed suit.
Only Michel remained staring at the glass of water by his side, each drop of which had been won at the cost of his friends’ life.