We were diverting to Venus, sitting out there in screen, lonely as a cloud, if there could be clouds in space.
So, I wondered if the Captain had a special reason why I should head the team going to the freighter.
It was an opportunity to take one of the new class of shuttles, reported to be faster, more stable, and larger so that we could carry more people and cargo. It would be overkill today.
The crew assigned to collect the cargo were aboard, and my co-pilot for want of a better name was Myrtle, an officer that joined the ship with me, and had excellent qualifications.
We were going through the preflight, ready to lift off.
“In a shuttle, no. In space, real space, more or less.”
I don’t think I wanted to know what more or less meant.
“There’s nothing to it.”
The captain’s voice came over the speaker, “You’re cleared for departure, they’re expecting you imminently.”
“Very good, sir.”
It was never a gentle lift off, unlike landing, and that initial jerk was an annoyance. Then engaging the thrusters, we began to move forward slowly towards the cargo door, and at the synchronised time, the doors opened and there was nothing but empty space before us.
Outside, we increased speed, turned, and flying under our ship, just to get a look at it, something I knew the people aboard might be interested in seeing, then onto the Aloysius 5 drifting off our port bow.
“Do you see what I see?” Nice to see Myrtle wasn’t blind.
“I do, and that’s worrying.”
What was it? A scorch mark on the side of the Aloysius 5, in a place where we couldn’t see it from our ship, and a direct hit on one of the exhaust manifolds. That would stop a ship dead in it’s tracks without wrecking it.
“Captain,” I said, hoping he was listening.
“I think we have a problem.”
© Charles Heath 2020