“Stranded”

(October 15th – Personal Journal of Captain Helen Booth)

It wasn’t my turn to check the O2 valves, but I was checking them anyway. I find that I check them every day now, my turn or not. It isn’t that I don’t trust my crew, no. A Captain needs trust, especially in times of great distress.

I just need to be sure.

My ultimate job is the safety of those stationed under me, while keeping the mission in sight; to consider all possibilities and have a plan in hand for any occasion. If that means putting trust to the side, then so be it. So I continue to check the valves.

It is day fifteen and we are still stranded. Still anchored to asteroid GA13, floating through the empty space just outside the GA cluster. I continue to have hopes of finishing our job and charting them all, despite the damage to the ship and the casualties suffered by my crew.

Jesus, I sound so cold. But I can’t help it. We need to finish this job. I need it. I cannot accept failure.

The explosion fifteen days ago feels so fresh in my mind. Perhaps because every day that passes I think of the four crew members who died. Perhaps because my headaches are getting worse despite Doctor Spring’s assurances that we are only just below ideal oxygen levels. We have enough to function normally once our bodies are adjusted, but it is still low enough to make one feel groggy. I try to keep an eye on them all, looking for telltale signs of hypoxia; the lightheadedness and fatigue; disorientation, behavioral changes. I’ve yet to see anything like that, my headaches aside.

I ran into Spring again this afternoon. The good Doctor saw me in the control room since it was her turn to check the O2. She seemed suspicious. Of me! Ridiculous. I was just checking that the valves remained at eighteen percent saturation. She had the gall to question me, asked me how I was feeling with those searching eyes of hers.

And she called me Helen. I have to remember to talk to her bout being so informal.

She said something that stuck with me, something she’s said times before with that accusatory tone to her voice.

“Helen, we can’t raise the oxygen levels. We can’t sacrifice today for the chance at tomorrow, because that chance is born in today.”

I am not sure what she thought I was doing. Why she would look at me with those damn eyes and say something like that. Didn’t she know that I knew that? All of their damn lives are my responsibility. And those who died fifteen days ago? I was responsible for their lives too. Doesn’t she know how serious I am about my responsibilities?

The lengths I’ve gone to protect them?

 

(October 15th – Crew Briefing Transcript)

Captain Helen Booth: Welcome everyone. Let’s do a quick roll.

System Engineer Gilbert Burns: Really? We’re obviously all here.

Captain Booth: Roll.

Medical Doctor Bailey Spring: Doctor Bailey Spring.

Analyzation Officer Marc Olewande: Doctor Marc Olewande.

Junior Flight Officer Luke Stine: Luke Stine, uh, pilot.

System Engineer Burns: Gil Burns. Here, present. Presente’!

Captain Booth: Captain Helen Booth. Good. Doctor Olewande, supply update.

Analyzation Officer Olewande: Right Captain. Our supplies are diminishing at the previously calculated rates. That is to say, consistently and as planned. I do not see any change in our rate of resource utilization. Power levels remain stable. Oxygen remains to be an issue of course, the recirculation equipment is running smoothly but unless the O2 conversion tanks miraculously repair themselves, we will be in trouble in less than three weeks. All in all though, we are not in an ideal situation but we are handling it ideally.

System Engineer Burns: Real nice Marc. You practice that?

Captain Booth: Doctor Spring, your report.

Medical Doctor Spring: No updates here Captain. You all seem to be holding up, sure as I can tell. Ship med-sensors show your vitals as being stable which is great considering the stresses we’re under. And no reported medical issues, right? You all feel ok?

System Engineer Burns: Fucking great Doc.

Medical Doctor Spring: Right. In my opinion, we’re all in the best shape we can hope to be in this situation. But I remind everyone that should you see any signs of extreme fatigue or headaches that won’t go away, confusion and such, that you come see me right away. No tough guys, right?

System Engineer Burns: No tough guys here Doc, right Luke? Tell her ‘bout how you pissed your bunk the other night.

Junior Flight Officer Stine: Shut up Gil.

Captain Booth: That is enough Gilbert. Your report. And only your report.

System Engineer Burns: My report? Let me see. Communications are still down. No word from anyone; nothing. We don’t even know if they know what happened out here. The damage to the O2 conversion tanks mean we can’t make any more but that’s ok, we’ll just slowly suffocate and die in a few weeks. I hear you don’t even know you’re dying before you drift off to sleep. That is assuming our anchoring equipment doesn’t break down and we drift into the fucking asteroid cluster out there. Yeah, that’s my report. We’re still fucked, and we’re still here. There you go. Want me to write it down? That way when you ask me for my god damned report again, you’ll already know.

Medical Doctor Spring: Come now Gilbert, no reason to get all batty.

System Engineer Burns: Shit Doc, come on. Reports? What the hell are we still doing out here? Every report’s the same. We’re screwed, that’s all the reporting we need.

Captain Booth: Enough.

System Engineer Burns: But we’re not dealing with the facts Captain. Ok, I’m sorry I lost my temper. But I think we should discuss our options again. Every day that we don’t is another day lost. Another day our chances for survival grow less.

Captain Booth: I don’t know what you want to discuss. We are waiting for the Consortium. We are doing our jobs.

Medical Doctor Spring: It can’t really hurt though, right? Captain? Going over things again.

Captain Booth: Ok fine. Let’s see. Option one. Lower our oxygen levels even more and try to make it back to Earth. And how long would that trip be? Luke.

Junior Flight Officer Stine: Well, even with the navigation a little wonky, I figure it would take just under two weeks. Ten to twelve days.

Medical Doctor Spring: But lowering the oxygen would put us all in a right state. They’d be a chance, without an acclimation period first, that we’d all get some form of oxygen deprivation sickness. Nasty thing that.

Captain Booth: Right, so that’s out.

System Engineer Burns: Whoa, wait a second.

Captain Booth: What?

System Engineer Burns: We can fix the damn equipment that’s what.

Captain Booth: We’ve already been over that. It’s too dangerous.

System Engineer Burns: Marc. Tell her. Tell her what you told me.

Analyzation Officer Olewande: Gilbert and I have brainstormed about it Captain and we understand your hesitancy to attempt repairs in that part of the ship.

Captain Booth: Yes. And I wonder why. Perhaps because of the large hole in the hull and the fact that the entire section is sealed off. Or maybe because the explosion also damaged our supply of pressure suits.

Analyzation Officer Olewande: Yes, well, I believe the damage to the pressure suits can be fixed. In fact in my down time I have already repaired one and have nearly completed work on another. I believe Gilbert and I can safely get into the breached section and work on the processing and conversion equipment.

Medical Doctor Spring: Now, that does sound promising.

Captain Booth: And how do you know the suits will hold up? We have already lost four members of our crew Dr. Olewande. If anything happened to any one of us, it would put us all in danger. We are only just managing to run this ship, shorthanded that we are.

System Engineer Burns: And what, sitting around waiting for a fucking rescue that we don’t even know is coming. that’s a better idea?

Captain Booth: Can we have one conversation Gilbert without your inappropriate language.

System Engineer Burns: Oh, fuck my language. I don’t know what your problem is. Don’t you want to go home? Make it out of this? Or are you content with dropping the ball a second time.

Medical Doctor Spring: Gilbert.

Analyzation Officer Olewande: This is not the time my friend.

Captain Booth: No. Go on Gilbert. Go on.

Junior Flight Officer Stine: Shit.

System Engineer Burns: We all read Wu’s report Captain. “Irregularities in the equipment.” A heightened chances of malfunction. It’s all right there but did we turn around? Did we at least fucking stop working long enough to do a full assessment of the equipment? No. No, we kept surveying, kept right on so that the Consortium could make their money. You just toed the God damned line and took us all with you.

Junior Flight Officer Stine: We all wanted to make money out of this trip Gil.

System Engineer Burns: Yeah but we all know they don’t care about us. They. Don’t. Care. About. Us. We’re just contractors, dispensable surveyors. But you know what? Wu was right. The equipment failed and now he’s dead. Hector’s dead. Corrine, Kunle. Gone. Lying in a God damn freezer in the ass of this ship waiting to go home to their families. And we’re here, breathing ourselves to death and she won’t even listen to our ideas. Won’t even give them a chance!

Captain Booth: Enough. This conversation is over. We are sticking to our original plan and waiting for the Consortium. Yes, Wu was right about the equipment and yes, it was a mistake staying, one I will have to relive every day. But only once this mission is over. We will keep to our present regiment. And when the repair ships come, they will take our fallen crew back home while we finish the job we were given. That is what we all agreed to do, and it is what we will do.

Junior Flight Officer Stine: Captain. How long…

Captain Booth: This meeting is over damn it. This is my ship, my decision. Now go do your jobs.

(Audio recording ends. Ship diagnostics register speech patterns signifying continued conversation long after.)

 

(October 5th – Transcript of Medical Doctor Observation Report)

My name is Doctor Bailey Spring and I serve as medical doctor aboard the survey ship Minerva. What follows is my report on the health and mental condition of this ship’s crew; those who survived the devastating explosion of four days prior. We lost four of our crew that day. Four friends. Four men and women, two of whom who were parents. And right brilliant folks too. Top of their field, all of them. All of whom contributed everything they had to this ship and our mission. Their hard work and loyalty will be missed, as will their friendship.

Attached are profile links of those crew members who’ve passed. You will find full autopsy reports within each –

  • Pilot/First Helmsman Kunle Peters – Minerva_Roster: PeterKunl
  • Environmental Engineer Doctor Corrine Murphy – Minerva_Roster: MurphCorr
  • Chief Mechanical Engineer Philip Wu – Minerva_Roster: WuPhil
  • Equipment and Payload Specialist Hector Ortega – Minerva_Roster: OrtegHect

 

Here are preliminary observations on the surviving crew members. Profile links are included after each –

Name: Luke Stine

Age: 28

Observed By: Dr. Spring

Notes: Luke is a strong young man. Though, I would say he used to be more confident before the accident. He lost a mentor when Kunle died and a lot of his drive. I believe the accident has forced him deal with the loss of his own parents who died years ago on one of the first Consortium surveying ships. The boy seems distracted and conflicted. I can see him struggling between relief at being alive and grief at the loss of a dear friend. He’s gone into that shell of his. And it’ll be up to us to try and get him out. I expect him to come around though, he has too much potential not to. I believe he has a bright future despite his rough beginnings.

Minerva_Roster: StineLuke

 

Name: Marc Olewande

Age: 43

Observed By: Dr. Spring

Notes: Doctor Olewande seems to be handling things the best of us all. He is truly a marvel, but that is to be expected with his background. His years working for the South African Department of Expansion have readied him for these types of horrendous events. He has seen his share of loss and his method of coping is one I hope we can all mirror. Yesterday I asked him how it is that he seems to be keeping his head while we all seem so lost in our own forms of mourning. The man replied that he learned long ago not to make mountains of mole hills. I asked him, “But isn’t this a mountain by itself?” And he said, “Not when you train yourself to only see the moles.” I wish I could have his outlook. I don’t doubt that he feels the loss of his friends, but his focus will see us through. I’m sure of it.

Minerva_Roster: OlewaMarc

 

Name: Gilbert Burns

Age: 38

Observed By: Dr. Spring

Notes: Good ole Gilbert. Honestly, I don’t know. The man is a genius. Smartest person on this ship really. But for what he has in brains, he lacks in emotional maturity. I guess it’s to be understood. He lost two close mates in the accident. He and Wu went to university together and he worked with Hector six or seven times before they started on the Minerva. I think he shows the most signs of post-traumatic stress. He didn’t always used to be so confrontational; his temper so close to the surface. But if I am honest, it’s hard to diagnose anyone at this point. I think we’re all suffering from post-traumatic stress in some way. How could we not? I will continue to keep an eye on Gil though, despite his best efforts to push aside my concerns.

Minerva_Roster: BurnsGilb

Name: Helen Booth

Age: 43

Observed By: Dr. Spring

Notes: I hardly know where to start with our stoic Captain. She has been no less short of amazing frankly. She has done her best to rally us but I can see her fatigue in the way her shoulders hunch when she walks and the dark circles under her eyes. I know she hasn’t slept much since the accident. In similar cases I’ve read about, the captain of a ship can feel unwavering guilt when faced with this kind of loss. Survivor’s guilt, sure, but also something akin to a parent’s guilt at outliving a child. We’ve all read Phillip’s report, where it says that we should return home due to malfunctions on the ship. But to fault her for continuing on her mission, no, on our mission, is much too short sided. There aren’t many women in positions of power in the Consortium and she must be under considerable stress. Yet she has always carried her self with professionalism. A shining example of how hard work and loyalty can trump age old sexism and outdated gender norms. Captain Booth, especially in light of this disaster, has proven time and again that she is the right person for this job. So she can be excused for her tired shoulders and dreary eyes. I have the utmost confidence in our Captain and know the rest of the crew share that sentiment.

 

(October 17th – Personal Journal of Captain Helen Booth)

     I spoke with Hector Ortega again last night. He appeared in my room while I was preparing for bed. I thought it was one of my living crew at first but no, it was Hector. Clear as day. He apologized for killing his crewmates. All while laughing at having done it right under my nose.

A dead man was laughing at me.

I have lived with the regret of not listening to Wu’s suggestions each day since the accident seventeen days ago. Each day. It is a regret that I alone deal with. Not Bailey or Gil or any of them. They still haven’t read the full report. I redacted so much of it, I doubt they even know of Wu and my suspicions. No. But they know enough; that I did not listen to a wise man’s concerns; that I kept them in danger while one of their own was attempting to kill us. God damn you Hector.

We spoke about a lot of things, but one thing Hector refuses to tell me is the ‘why’. I think he was one of those anti-expansion extremists who protest every time a survey ship heads into space. One of those who feel our place is on Earth, where God made us, not traversing the stars against His divine plan. And what plan is that exactly? Over population and war? The murder of your friends in the name of a higher cause? Hector won’t tell me why. He just laughs in my damn face.

I recognize this means I am going crazy. I am not that far gone to refuse to see the signs. And I have enough of my strained wits to know we may still be in danger. And not because of our depleted oxygen. Another thing Hector refused to mention is if he was working alone. My gut tells me he was not. Someone else was working with him while he tore my ship apart behind my back. Was it another of the ones who died? Or did he have help from one of the four still walking the decks. Luke? Bailey? Marc? Gilbert?

God damn Gilbert. That man would be a traitor. If only to spite me. I hate him. I do. But I also trust him. Hell, I want to trust all of them. I wanted to trust Hector too.

That is why I redacted Wu’s report. Why I can’t let any of them near the damaged conversion equipment or attempt any repairs. Because I can’t know if Hector was working alone and no one can know what Wu and I suspected until I know for sure. The Consortium will come, they will interview the crew and do their own investigation. Then I’ll know.

Then I’ll tell them, assuming they continue to listen to me.

I would give anything not to be so suspicious of them. But what is that old saying, about fooling me once?

 

(September 27thMinerva Diagnostic Concluding Opinion)

Date: 9.27.2125

Reporting Officer: Chief Engineer Philip Wu

I am not sure how to start my report since I don’t really want to be writing it. I am not one for baseless suspicions. I am as level minded and rational as any other but I cannot help in letting a certain level of disbelief skew my report. Let me say at the onset that I have always been inclined to trust every person on this ship. I helped Captain Helen Booth choose each and every one of the people here. But there are some things I just cannot explain. Equipment missing. Internal wiring disturbed or tampered with. And lest one think we left in such a compromised condition, I refer back to my initial report prior to departing for this mission. (See attached.) The Minerva was in perfect shape. As good as any Consortium constructed vessel of like design. So to find issues with the equipment at this point means I must, unfortunately, assume the worst.

I have come to the conclusion that the irregularities discovered during my last diagnostic review were caused by human hands, i.e. someone on the ship. For what reason, I cannot begin to ascertain but the damage is clear. Wires do not cut themselves. Coupling links do not disengage from their bases without deliberate force. I have made the Captain aware of my findings but she has made clear, in accordance with my own thoughts, that such a scenario does seems unbelievable.

But the facts are inescapable. At this point, to continue our mission is to risk our lives to some individual or individuals seemingly intent on causing this ship irreparable harm. While this is simply supposed to be just a summary of my scheduled diagnostic testing, I fear I need to insert my own opinions here. We are in danger. Had I not found the issues, we might have sustained much more debilitating damage.

I recommend we return to Earth immediately and that the Consortium issue independent reviewers to question everyone on the ship and further inspect the equipment to identify any other as-yet unfound attempts to incapacitate us. To delay would be to tempt fate and leave us at the hands of what appears to be a destructive force aboard this vessel.

Captain Booth has made her decision to remain in space clear to me but I must say I do not agree. Let the record show that I fear for our safety. I fear for our lives. Captain Booth has chosen to trust our crew more than the evidence would dictate and so we remain on mission. I have recommended diagnostic reviews done twice daily, with only the Captain and myself privy to the findings and increased testing. I hope that will allow for sufficient time to reverse what I have to assume will be continued efforts to kill us all.

My God keep us.

– Philip Wu

 

(October 19th – Unofficial Transcript; Crew Meeting, Mess Hall, Minerva)

Burns: Ok. Where should we start?

Spring: How about with the fact that this feels wrong?

Burns: Really? Wrong?

Stine: Doctor, come on. You got to be seeing what we been seeing?

Spring: But to meet behind her back?

Olewande: It is the only way Bailey. She has become a danger. To both herself and to the rest of us.

Spring: Jesus.

Burns: Yeah, I know. You worship at the church of Booth. I get it.

Spring: I would tell you to kiss my arse Gilbert but you may get the wrong idea. No, I agree with Marc, I do, but maybe we can talk to her again. Whatever your feelings, she is still the Captain of this bloody ship. We owe her that, don’t we?

Olewande: Bailey. Even with what you observed today, you still think the Captain is capable of rational discussion?

Burns: Wait, what’d you see Doc?

Olewande: Bailey came to me earlier today. To tell me that she had walked in on the Captain in the control room looking dazed and distracted.

Burns: Shit, again? Didn’t you find her there during your shift a few days back? Poking around the oxygen?

Spring: Yes. I did.

Stine: And this time?

Spring: This time she had actually lowered the O2 levels.

Burns: Shit.

Spring: Dangerously low. I just don’t understand. We would have all been feeling the effects within thirty minutes. Would have probably passed out soon after. And the look on her face Gilbert, when I approached her. So vacant. I grabbed her hand and she snapped out of it. Apologized quickly and turned the levels back to where they were. Then she just, walked out as if nothing had happened.

Burns: Because for her, maybe it didn’t happen. So it’s official. She’s lost it. And now she’s either so far gone that she doesn’t know what she’s doing, or maybe she does know what she’s doing. I’m not sure which is a scarier thought.

Stine: So what then. What does this mean?

Spring: Yes, what do you propose be done? Isn’t that why you called this little tete-a-tete?

Burns: Well, first thing is, I think we move forward with that repair attempt. Marc’s got the two pressure suits all patched up; him and me could get into the breached part of the ship and make the repairs on the conversion equipment. We could have oxygen filling up our sad, empting tanks in no time. I really believe that.

Spring: Yeah?

Burns: I mean, that is of course assuming that the contents of the room haven’t floated off through the breach and into space. Once the pressure equalized, it’s a pretty good bet that most of the stuff that wasn’t bolted down is just floating around waiting for someone to go in there and use it.

Olewande: That is very likely.

Burns: Second thing, well, we obviously can’t let the Captain anywhere near the repair attempt. And not just cause she didn’t want us to try it. We can’t trust her, can we?

Stine: Really?

Burns: Yes, it’s the Captain. She’d take a bullet for all of us. Right. But I’m not sold.

Spring: What do you mean?

Burns: Listen, maybe I’m just feeling exhausted from everything that’s happened but I mean don’t you think the events of the last few, what, weeks have been kind of off?

Spring: Yes, I guess so. But what are you getting at? I feel like you’re not telling us something.

Burns: Fuck it. I’ve gone through all of Wu’s damage reports from the last month right? And some of these malfunctions and irregularities with the ship that he’s writing about seem strange. I’m not the genius Wu was, by any means but even I could tell that something wasn’t adding up. I think that stuff he was finding was done deliberately. Then he writes this summery report, suggesting we abort this freaking mission but it’s all redacted. Heavily. Who knows what he actually wrote. All we can tell is that he saw something wrong and wanted to go back to Earth to check it out.

Spring: How can we even begin to speculate about Wu’s intentions Gil?

Burns: But just think about it? Who redacted his last report? Captain Booth. And then three days later we have an explosion that takes out our oxygen conversion equipment? Kills four of our people? Pops a God damn hole right in the hull? I mean, I hate to think it but…

Spring: Are you implying that the Captain had something to do with the explosion? You can’t be serious Gilbert. This is too much, even for you.

Olewande: It is hard to believe, I agree. But I would be lying if I said it wasn’t in the realm of possibility. Surely it is not something we wish to accept, but it is suspicious at best.

Spring: So you’re saying, just so I’m clear here, that Captain Helen Booth, the same woman who’s taken countless survey and mining ships into space on successful missions, actively sabotaged this ship and what, hid Phillip’s suspicions? Do you understand how that sounds? The insanity of it. For what possible reason would she do something like that?

Stine: Those anti-expansionists. Maybe she’s one of them whackos?

 

Spring: The Captain? Are you serious? Is that what we are considering? That Helen Booth is an extremist bent on keeping us from expanding into space. Captain Helen Booth? You have all gone off your rockers. Honestly.

Olewande: I think we can rule out the anti-expansion angle. If that were the case, Captain Booth would not have contradicted the suggestion that we return to Earth. The very fact that she chose not to return should rule out that idea.

Stine: It was just a thought. I guess you’re right. I just don’t know what to think.

Burns: No, Marc’s right. But I’ve been around and I know the Consortium has enemies; other contractors just like us. And money can do strange things to people.

Spring: Ok, I’m done. Now you’re saying Captain Booth sabotaged our ship, killed our friends, for money. No. I won’t listen to this nonsense another second.

Olewande: Bailey.

Burns: Doc, please, stay. Sit down. Please. We’ll move on. I shouldn’t have mentioned it.

Spring: No, I should say not.

Burns: But can we all agree we should try these repairs?

Stine: Yeah, we should.

Olewande: You know I agree Gilbert.

Spring: That I will agree with. If we have a chance of fixing the oxygen conversion equipment then we should take that chance; despite the Captain’s apprehension. Which I would like to add, is pretty justified considering the inherent dangers involved.

Burns: Sure.

Stine: You know, I just thought of a problem though.

 

Burns: Yeah? What’s that?

Stine: How’re we going to keep the Captain from interfering with the attempt?

Burns: Leave that to me.

 

(October 19th – Personal Journal of Captain Helen Booth)

The bug in the mess hall has finally paid off.

 

(October 19thMinerva Computer Entry, Found During Post Docking Investigation)

F:\>/login

[username] Backdoor/GilB

[password] **********

ACCESS GRANTED

F:\>/cqmain

F:\>/cqlock/user:boothhele

Crew Quarters for Booth, Helen – locked

F:\>/quit

 

(October 21st – Transcript From Repair Attempt Of Conversion Equipment)

Spring: Ok it’s on. You’re good to go Marc.

Olewande: This is Doctor Marc Olewande aboard the survey ship Minerva, here with Engineer Gilbert Burns.

Burns: Hiya.

Olewande: We are in the processing and conversion station, site of the catastrophic explosion on October first, twenty days ago. Engineer Burns and I will be attempting to repair and re-program the oxygen conversion equipment so that we may attempt to return to Earth and fully assess the events of the last month.

Spring: How are you two feeling?

Burns: As good as can be Doc. Suits are a little tight. How’s it look from your end?

Spring: Looks stable, but then again I’m safely behind three feet of emergency glass and you’re essentially in a vacuum.

Burns: You have a point.

Olewande: Bailey, are the seals on the suits holding?

Spring: Of course they are Marc, you fixed them yourself. Watch that heart-rate though Gilbert.

Burns: Right, right. Did you need to activate the bio-monitors in these things?

Spring: Considering that we didn’t have time to fully test those fancy suits you two are dancing in, the least I could do was monitor your vital signs.

Olewande: I am sorry. But we need to continue. We only have so much time.

Burns: Sure. Hear that Doctor? We’re being shushed.

Spring: Of course Marc. Please continue.

Olewande: I will now go and start repairs to the conversion equipment on the far end of the room. Gilbert, you will be standing by the computer here, working on the circuitry to get the controls online. We cannot know how badly damaged the controls are. You will have your work cut out for you.

Burns: Nothing I can’t handle Marc. You be careful over there. Don’t forget the duct tape.

Olewande: Your humor is appreciated Gilbert.

Burns: Oh shut up. Turn on your mag-boots. Good luck.

Olewande: Boots at forty percent.

Spring: Careful now Marc.

(There are unspecified sounds on the recording that last five minutes.)

Burns: Standing by.

Olewande: Moving to the rear (inaudible). Boots at (inaudible) percent. Moving.

Spring: I’m getting some interference Marc, on the audio transmission. Say again?

Olewande: (inaudible)

Burns: Marc, what’s up? Switch channels or something, you’re not coming through.

Olewande: (inaudible) to channel seven. Are you able to hear me?

Spring: Perfect. Something must have been interfering with the transmission.

Burns: I’m not online and this section should be isolated from the rest of the ship. Can’t imagine what it was.

Olewande: Doctor Spring. Can you please do a frequency scan of my present position? Basic level scan.

Spring: Why? Do you think it was something with the conversion equipment?

Burns: What are you seeing over there buddy?

Olewande: Please. Bailey. A basic scan.

Spring: Marc. Why is there a radio frequency coming from the conversion equipment. That doesn’t make any sense.

Burns: Radio?

Olewande: Yes. Something you might see from a small local transceiver. Let us see if these helmet cameras work. Can you see my video feed? Gilbert, it should be in the lower left of your visor, a small image.

Burns: I don’t see anything? What’s going on, what do you see?

Spring: My God.

Olewande: A small radio receiver.

Spring: Marc.

Olewande: Crudely taped to what looks like…

Burns: Marc, I’m not getting anything.

Spring: Marc, please.

Olewande: A brick of plastic explosive.

Spring: You have to move Marc. Move, now.

Burns: What the fuck?

Olewande: And a timer. An alarm clock actually.

Spring: Gilbert, you both have to get out of there. Move. Move now.

Olewande: The same type we have in our dormitories.

Burns: Marc, set your mag-boots to zero and float your ass over here, now.

Olewande: I do not think we are going to be able to make these repairs.

Burns: How much time do we have?

Spring: What are you still doing there, the both of you. Move now!

Olewande: Not much time. I could throw it, through the breach. But no, there is too much of a chance of it missing and hitting the wall.

 

Burns: He isn’t moving Doc, what the hell. Marc, come on.

Spring: Please…Marc. Please.

Olewande: We know one thing my friends. The Captain was not behind the accident that killed our friends. This explosive, it was not here during our walk-through yesterday.

Burns: Yeah and she was already locked in her room by that point. Got it. Move your ass Marc. Move your ass and we figure this out when we’re all safely out of here.

Olewande: This explosive. It will do irreparable damage to the ship. We could not move to a safe enough distance in time. There may not be a safe distance. There is only one other logical option.

Spring: What are you doing Marc? What are you bloody doing?

Burns: Put it down Marc.

Olewande: Boots at zero percent. Pushing off.

Burns: (inaudible)

Olewande: Yes, I was right. I fit perfectly though the hole.

Spring: No. No. No.

Olewande: Find Luke, detain him. (inaudible) Live my friends. And Gilbert. Make these (inaudible) repairs. Get yourselves home.

Burns: No!

(transmission interrupted by concussive interference)

 

(October 21st – Consortium Message Recovered From Minerva Communications Queue)

From: Captain Wilum Martin

To: Captain Helen Booth

Re: Ten Hours Out

Captain Booth. Reconnaissance ship Mercury has detected your position and is making preparations for initial contact at 0200 hours. Prep crew for arrival and removal. We are in the final stages of our deceleration and will be ready to begin crew transfer soon thereafter. I know it will be hard to leave your vessel behind, but I assure you it will only be for a short time. We’ve completed preliminary scans and are fully prepared to save as much of your ship as we can while a shuttle returns you to the Persephone space station for medical screens and debrief by Consortium investigators. You and your crew will be back surveying asteroids in no time.

On a personal note Helen, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You should leave the private sector and become a Consortium Captain. Enough of the independent stuff. You would have to serve under senior Captains while your review goes through but we both know that the benefits of having the full support of the Consortium fleet behind you is worth its weight in gold compared to these small time Consortium contracts you live off. Put your ego aside and think about the rest of your career. For once.

Because your communications have been offline we are coming prepared for all scenarios. I am sure you are your crew are hanging in there.

See you soon Helen. And stay safe.

 

Captain Wilum Martin

UCSM-Mercury

16:00 hours – 21/10/2125

 

(October 21st – Personal Journal of Captain Helen Booth)

There are voices that repeat themselves in my mind. Philip’s voice is chief among them telling me to forget about it all. To put the guilt aside and accept the choices I’ve made. I try and focus on his voice but it’s hard. Hector continues to laugh at me. He’s sitting on the edge of the bed, playing with the alarm clock and looking at me with a mocking smile. He still hasn’t told me who he was working with, just that I was a fool not to notice. I must be a fool. Locked in my room like an unruly adolescent. A damn fool.

Yes, let history show that I know I have gone crazy. Is it always like this? Are the insane so aware as I am as they fall through the rabbit hole? Or am I special?

And what pains me the most, what threatens to unravel me quicker than the voices of my dead crew whispering in my ears, is that my living crew think I betrayed them. Only Bailey considered how absurd that notion was. And I was so hard on her.

Why can’t I catch my breath?

And why do I hear them? I keep asking them to please tell me. How deep does this go? Did they suspect Hector or anyone else? Are the people he represents so against our work that they would kill so openly? The answer is yes. Yes, they would kill and lie and deceive until everyone was as tethered to Earth as they were.

Bastards.

They are the reason I am here. They are the reason I shoot at Hector with my service pistol and only hit the god damn wall. The reason I can’t catch my breath and my crew think I’m a traitor and the only way to stop the god damn voices in my head from killing me is to point my pistol at them, and pull the trigger.

 

 

(October 31st – From The Desk of Major Mark Burrum, Consortium Command; Persephone Station)

From: Major Mark Burrum

To: Gilbert Burns, MAE, PhD

Dear Mr. Burns,

It is with great remorse that I write you now. I cannot say that I truly understand what you and Doctor Spring have gone through but I do know loss and it is never easy. Take solace in knowing that the Consortium commends your courage and appreciates the efforts you made to get the remainder of your crewmates to safety. Let me freely admit my appreciation for your dedication to your fellow crew members and for your bravery in the face of true disaster. Your efforts, and those of the selfless Doctor Marc Olewande (as explained in your debrief) have brought to light a growing cancer amongst the ranks of our contracted surveying teams. Both Pilot Luke Stine and E&P Specialist Hector Ortega were licensed and trusted members of the Consortium Surveying Contractors Guild and their betrayal comes as a huge shock to those of us who trust the screening and testing procedures currently in place. I can assure you that a major overhaul of our standards will follow this gross breach of trust. The CSCG will have a lot to answer for.

In light of your and Dr. Baily’s actions, it should come as no surprise that you both have been offered full time positions within the Consortium, specifically as part of the crew of the outer-system space station, Persephone. Your experience and level headedness under pressure would be a welcome addition to her crew and to the Consortium as a whole. As we continue to try and tame the great expanses of our solar system, we could use people like you in our ranks.

I understand that while Dr. Bailey has accepted this new assignment, you are more reluctant and have sent in two denials. I would ask that you reconsider. If not for yourself, then for the human race. For what is more important than our continued survival in the stars?

 

Major Mark Burrum

 

 

Stranded

(October 9th – Personal Journal Entry of Captain Helen Booth)

It wasn’t my turn to check the O2 valves but truth is I’m checking them every day, turn or not. Not that I don’t trust the rest of the crew. No, that’s one of those things you need most in times of great distress- trust. I just have to be sure. A Captain’s ultimate job is the safety of her crew; to consider all possibilities and have a plan in hand for any occasions. That most sacred rite, “trust”, be damned.
Its day fifteen. We’re still stranded, anchored to an asteroid and floating around space like a toy boat on a pond. We finally found out what caused the first explosion; a malfunction in the drill shaft. The second explosion? We still don’t know. We still don’t.
I’m getting more and more headaches. Doctor Spring assures me that we are only just below ideal living standards with life support. And I saw them myself, the gauges. Oxygen is at eighteen percent saturation. Enough to function normally if you were used to it, but still low enough to make you feel groggy if you weren’t. I try to keep an eye on the rest of them. Signs of hypoxia, however slight, need to be caught early.
Doctor Bailey Spring. She caught me in the control room, staring at me while I was checking the O2 cells. I wasn’t talking to myself, was I? No, I don’t think so. She’s always questioning me, looking at me with those begging eyes. What was it she said? “Captain. Helen. I was coming to check on the levels, it’s my shift. What are you doing here?”
I have to remember to talk to her about being so formal with me.
I remember her exact words. She’s said them before,
“Captain, I know you voted to keep the oxygen levels lower, and I know we can’t use the damaged two oxygen cells despite anything we’ve tried. But we can’t sacrifice today for the chance at tomorrow. Because that chance is born in today’s.” She was stammering, but now that I think of it, she stayed between me and the switches the whole time. She’s right of course. It was a weak moment, checking the gauges when I should have been doing more important things. I didn’t tell her that I check them every day. Why do I do that? Was I going to drop the O2, if she didn’t come in? I don’t know. I should think about that later.
I thought that was a good line. About chances for tomorrow being born in today. I told her so but it’s so damn hard not to sound condescending when I speak to her. She keeps asking how I’m feeling. Keeps calling me Helen when no one is around. Damn, I hate how informal she is. The only two females on the ship. She always acts as if we have some unspoken bond. Something shared by all women, I guess, in this male-dominated enterprise known as asteroid mining. Need to remind her I’m not a woman. I’m the damn Captain.
I said something like, “I’m fine Doctor, thank you. Make sure you-know-who gets to the briefing on time. He’s just wasting oxy at this point.” That’s slang. ‘Wasting oxy.’ Wasting time. Casual lingo to describe our slow death.
How witty we were, us damned.
Note to self – Don’t ever talk like that in front of Spring again.

(October 9th – Morning Briefing Transcript)

Captain Helen Booth: Welcome all. Quick roll.
Communications System Engineer Gilbert Burns: Really? We’re all here for gods sake.
Captain Booth: Roll.
Medical Doctor Bailey Spring: Doctor Bailey Spring.
Chief Analyzation Officer: Analyzation Officer, Doctor Marc Olewande.
Second Flight Officer: Pilot Luke Stineman.
Engineer Burns: System Engineer Gilbert Burns.
Captain Booth: Captain Helen Booth. Good. Doctor Olewande, supply report.
Officer Olewande: Well Captain, we have less then yesterday.
Engineer Burns: Nicely put Marc.
Officer Olewande: What I mean to say is, it is consistent. Consistently diminishing at the, uh previously calculated rates that I presented at our briefing last week. We’ve been keeping to our regiments, so I don’t see any change in the rate of resource utilization levels. Power levels are good so that is a plus.
Engineer Burns: You know, I’ve never heard someone say “We’re dying on schedule.” so eloquently.
Doctor Spring: I wouldn’t put it that bleakly Gilbert.
Engineer Burns: And how would you put it Bailey?
Captain Booth: This isn’t the time. Doctor Spring, updates.
Doctor Spring: I don’t have any Captain. You guys all seem to be holding up well. Ship med-sensors show your vitals are all stable. No one’s reported any headaches, any more then normal. Nor any other signs of the lower O2 levels; decreased motor function, things like that. It is in my opinion that right now, we’re all in as best shape we can be. Considering the circumstances of course.
Engineer Burns: Yeah, I feel great.
Captain Booth: Gilbert, no one asked for your opinion. I am asking you for your report though. And only the report. Please don’t waste time.
Engineer Burns: Waste time huh? Ok, my report. Let me see. Still no communications. Still no word from anyone. No messages waiting in the queue, nothing except the first communiqué before things went to shit. What did it say? A command to hole the fuck up and wait for further word. Nothing else. O2 cells? Those are fucked too. We got two cells damaged in the second explosion, two cells slowly being sucked dry. Oxygen conversion equipment? No shit, that’s not working either. Which means we can’t even replace the O2 we’re using up. Report done. Here, I’ll write it on a piece of paper for you. So when you ask for my god damned report tomorrow, you’ll already know.
Pilot Stineman: That how we’re talking to each other now? Wow. My turn Captain?
Engineer Burns: Oh come on Luke, reports? What the hell are we doing here? Lets talk about the real issue. We’re screwed. There’s all the reporting we need. It’s been days since we last talked about real options. We go around, doing our jobs, pretending things are all going to sort themselves out…
Captain Booth: I wouldn’t say that’s what we’re doing.
Engineer Burns: But we’re not dealing with the basic facts Captain. Jesus. Ok, I’m sorry. I lost my temper there. But I think its time we discuss some other options again. Every day we don’t is another day our chances get more dire.
Captain Booth: We’ve been over this. There was a consensus…
Engineer Burns: Well I think we should discuss it again. Minds might have changed.
Doctor Bailey: It…can’t really hurt to just go over it again, can it Captain? It’s important to remain abreast of our options.
Captain Booth: Fine then. Fine. Let’s see. Option one. Use up our last power reserves to try and head back to Earth. Stineman.
Pilot Stineman: We have the power to make it Captain. Even with navigation a little wonky after the accident, I could get us back in under two weeks.
Captain Booth: Except?
Officer Olewande: We do not have the oxygen Captain. Not what would be needed for a trip such as that. With our ability to create more hamstrung, we make due with what we had at the time of the accident, which at this point is just not enough.
Captain Booth: Not to mention that would go against our last command, and put us at risk of missing a Consortium rendezvous.
Engineer Burns: Oh bullshit Captain…
Captain Booth: Gilbert we’re discussing our options. Like you wanted. Don’t piss and moan if you don’t like what you hear. Ok then, next. Attempt a repair of the processing and conversion equipment.
Engineer Burns: Exactly.
Captain Booth: Repairs we are hopelessly unprepared to undergo.
Engineer Burns: Marc, tell her what you told me.
Captain Booth: Doctor Olewande?
Officer Olewande: Well, Gilbert, Luke and I have been brain storming since the last time we discussed it. I’ve worked on those damaged pressure suits and think we have a change to get into the breached station and work on that processing equipment. I have some ideas on how to get our O2 production back online to refill our functional oxygen cells.
Captain Booth: We lost seven people down there during the accident. Four in a flash fire and three to exposure. Seven. How can you be sure the suits will hold up? The damage to them was almost as bad as to the equipment itself. We cannot take those kinds of risks, not now.
Officer Olewande: I understand your point Captain but in light of certain decisions that have been made, I see no other choice. This is, as you American’s say, the bed we have made.
Captain Booth: What is it you’re trying to say Marc, huh? The bed we made? Or the bed I made.
Doctor Bailey: Captain no one is saying…
Engineer Burns: We should have listened to Wu.
Doctor Bailey: Gilbert.
Engineer Burns: No, fuck that. If we’d listened to his recommendation, we’d be on our way back home instead of sitting up here breathing ourselves to death. And why didn’t we stop production and leave? Because the god damn Consortium just had to squeeze more nickel out of that damn rock down there and our beloved Captain just toed the line.
Captain Booth: Enough. No. No one is going down there. This is over. We’re sticking to the original plan. We wait. The Consortium is coming. We stay with the regiment. We keep on going so that when they do come, when our equipment is replaced, we can continue with our original mission. That’s what we do. That’s what we agreed to do.
Pilot Stineman: Captain, how long is that going to take…
Captain Booth: This meeting is over damn it. It’s been decided.
(Audio recording ends. Ship diagnostics register speech patterns signifying continued conversation long after.)

(September 24th – Hephaestus Accident Report Concluding Opinion)

Date of Accident: September 23rd, 2025
Reporting Officer: Chief Engineer Philip Wu

Let me start by saying – I told you so. Debris in the drill shaft. I called it. It has continued to be an issue. Our lock onto the asteroid is stable. The mine shaft to the nickel reserves is strong. The problem was the retrieval back to the ship. Too much energy was being used to make up for imperfections in the shaft. Ore wasn’t going to the processing equipment smoothly enough. I first reported an inconsistent vibration at the base of A-Drill in my report, dated September 22nd (of which a copy has been attached).I make reference to the vibrations and the dangers associated with the pockets of methane that we had trouble anticipating. You do not want random and errant vibrations when dealing with metal and methane. We believe there was a spark. A-Drill is no longer functional, though our water processing and the four Oxygen cells have been unaffected. It could lead to further problems though if not dealt with immediately. Frankly, I have little faith in the stability of the other drills. As I have consistently mentioned to the Captain, my lack of an inspection at the outset of this expedition has left me dubious of the structural integrity of the drilling equipment. I was assured by both Consortium scientists, and past safety records for the Hephaestus, that any issues with the drills were taken care of. As is evident by the malfunction in A- Drill, I should have instead trusted my instincts.
It is my recommendation that we cease all operations immediately, in preparation of a comprehensive review of all equipment. A review conducted by me and my team. We should return to Earth at the earliest possible moment, and in the meantime shut down all drilling and processing equipment. The Captain has reminded me of the cost of such a recommendation but to hell with costs. We need to do further testing before something really bad happens. And I and my team need to do it. Not that I don’t trust the Consortium “experts”. I just trust myself a whole lot more.

(October 12th – Personal Journal Entry of Captain Helen Booth)

I’ve known my crew for years. So that I think one of them might try to kill me is very disconcerting.
This isn’t our first time out on an asteroid and I have no intention of having it be our last, though, I wonder what the seven people who died would say about that. Would I trade places with them? I wish I could trade Burns, damn him. Should I be this flippant about death?
I am just making the point that I know this crew. I know those four people out there, and they know me too. Have seen me through both good and bad situations. They know they can trust me, have seen me under pressure, have seen me at my best, and would be able to recognize me at my worst.
I was cornered by Spring again. “How are you feeling Helen? How are you feeling Helen?” It could drive someone crazy. I’ve known Bailey the longest of all of them. She’s been on more missions then even she can remember. She’s older than I am but I can feel how she sidles up to me, like you would to an older sister. Maybe it’s the rank. Or maybe that’s just how she is. But its an added stress I do not need. I should tell her my suspicions; the plots I suspect going on behind my back. I do have my enemies. Or maybe she’s in on it. Didn’t she speak up against me the other day? Didn’t she agree with Olewande and that prick Burns?
My headaches have gotten worse. Its hard to concentrate. I don’t say anything because of how they already look at me. But its becoming a problem. Sometimes I catch myself just staring off into space. I have to keep it together.
No, what I have to do is keep an eye on Gilbert. He always resented my authority. But the god damn man’s brilliant at what he does. He’s fine enough during good times but these aren’t good times. And I don’t think I can trust him. Shit. When did things become so complicated?
I’ve always suspected that the second explosion was sabotage. It was too convenient, caused too much damage. We’ve never discussed it on record so who knows what the others think. It could have been a charge, or other small explosive; anyone could have done that. Maybe even one of them who died. I think about it often. The explosion was huge. Seven dead. I could have been one of them. Communications, out. Our in-space resource processing, out. Two oxygen cells, out. It was too much; the explosion was too centralized. So I watch everyone now. Ship med-sensors, cameras, motion sensors, safety stations. I track them all. There’s been nothing to tip me off, but then, what more did any saboteur have to do? We are effectively brain dead up here.
Anyway. There is more on my mind then the explosion. I can feel my authority seeping away. They challenge me openly, they disregard orders, they scoff at my suggestions. And when I say ‘they’, I really mean Gilbert. What I wouldn’t give to have him off this ship. To have any one of the dead back here to support me. They would know the right course. You don’t put your eggs into one broken basket! Repairs? We just need to be patient and wait. The Consortium will come.
They, Gilbert and Olewande, they cornered me. A favorite of my crew these days apparently. They wanted another ‘meeting’. Though, its obvious they did it just to appease me. Make it look like they respected my position as Captain. I acquiesced. We had the stupid meeting, the five of us. Doctor Spring gives me sympathetic looks, Luke often just looks away. Gilbert and Marc talk; telling me about pressure seals, and random techno-babble. They really believe in their work. I honestly admire their drive.
Jesus, when was the last time I slept? Its been days at least. Every time I close my eyes I see a hole in the side of my ship and bodies flying out of it. Am I losing it? My god, what if?
I agreed to the repair attempt. I had no choice but to. They’ll have their attempt. It isn’t what I would do. I would hold firm, wait for the Consortium ship I know is coming.
Hell.
I’ll be the god damned first to admit I may be wrong. I may be, what? Losing my mind? Is that even something I can consider? Honestly? Because if the answer is yes, then what’s the point. Whats the fucking point of all this. Better we just lie down and die.
So no. I can’t even think it. Can’t even consider that I may be wrong. Stay focused. Really, I may be the only one seeing things clearly.

(September 27th – Copy of Medical Doctor Observation Report)

I hardly know how to begin a report such as this. Frankly it seems, I don’t know. Useless maybe? But that can’t be helped. So, formalities I guess. My name is Doctor Bailey Spring. I serve as doctor aboard the mining ship Hephaestus. Forty-eight hours ago, there was an explosion in the main processing lab. We lost seven crew members. Seven people. Seven friends. Seven men and women. Three of them were parents. All at the top of their fields, well respected and in constant demand by all the mining and expedition companies. I studied with Philip in medical school, before he decided he yearned for a future in engineering. All seven are missed dearly by us who survived. And I can not help but wonder, what if we had followed Phil’s recommendation to halt the mission. Maybe this could have been avoided… We’ve barely had time to even process the loss, much less assess the full damage to the ship. The shock of it all is too fresh, but space hardens men and women alike I guess. And so I go on.

I have attached the profile links of those crew members no longer with us to my report:
• Pilot/1st Helmsman Hans Pearlman – Hephaestus_roster: PearlmHans
• Environmental Engineer Doctor Corrine Philips – Hephaestus_roster: PhilipCorrin
• Chief Security Office Hector Ortega – Hephaestus_roster: OrtegaHector
• Chief Mechanical Engineer Mel Lucatorto – Hephaestus_roster: LucatoMel
• Payload and Equipment Engineer Kunle Peters – Hephaestus_roster: PetersKunle
• Chief Structural Engineer Philip Wu – Hephaestus_roster: WuPhilip

What follows are my preliminary observations on the surviving four crew members after the accident. I will include their profile links after my summary:

Name: Stineman, Luke
Age: 28
Observed By: Dr. Bailey Spring
Notes: Young, and brilliant comes to mind. Over confident in his own abilities which I guess is normal for kids his age. Though of late he has shown a propensity to question himself. That’s easily understood. He lost his mentor when Pearlman died. He lost his best friend and has now closed himself off to the rest of us. We spoke this morning; he balances relief at still being alive with his depression over the loss of his friend and teacher. He is a strong kid though. And his reactions are normal, considering the circumstances. No family history of mental disorder, he’s physically in good shape. I expect him to make a full recovery at some point, assuming he is able to consume himself in his work for a little bit. Build up that confidence again. And god knows there is much to do.
Hephaestus_roster: StinemLuke

Name: Olewande, Marc
Age: 41
Observed By: Dr. Bailey Spring
Notes: Doctor Olewande seems to be handling things the best of all of us. He’s truly a marvel. I asked him how he seemed to be keeping his head so well, while we all seemed to be lost in our own forms of mourning. He responded that he had learned long ago not to make mountains from mole hills. I asked him, wasn’t this a sufficient mountain by itself, without making it seem more then it was? He replied, when you train yourself to only see mole hills, you can clear them easier. I think we all are going to need some of that philosophy before the end. I have very little concern for how Marc will proceed after the accident. In fact, a part of me feels he may be our best hope to survive all this.
Hephaestus_roster: OlewaMarc

Name: Burns, Gilbert
Age: 38
Observed By: Dr. Bailey Spring
Notes: Gilbert. He…he is hanging in there. But honestly, I don’t know. He lost three very close friends. School mates. He postures and acts like he is the strongest of us all, and in some ways he may be. But his is just a façade that I hope for his sake breaks soon. I hope he lets one of us in to help him heal. But that is way too much to ask so soon after something like this. He shows the most signs of post traumatic stress, even when he doesn’t think anyone is looking. I see him. How his eyes glaze over and he’s stuck in the moments just before the explosion. The way his thoughts have been disjointed and his temper so close to the surface. But again, if I am honest, I would have to say we all are suffering from PTSD in our own ways. How could we not be? How could I even begin to diagnose myself? I will keep an eye on Gilbert’s recovery though, despite his best efforts to belay my concerns.
Hephaestus_roster: BurnsGilbe

Name: Booth, Helen
Age: 43
Observed By: Dr. Bailey Spring
Notes: Where do I begin with the Captain? She has been amazing during the last day and a half. I admire her grit, and determination more then ever. She’s done her best to rally us, but I can see the fatigue in her shoulders. She tries to hide it, another sign of her selflessness, but I can tell. I doubt she’s slept since the accident. In fact, I know she hasn’t. She speaks, and acts as if she perhaps blamed herself for what happened. The level of guilt under the surface of her actions is discernible. Its absurd but, she says things sometimes that would indicate some deeper sense of responsibility. I’ve never seen another ship captain who cared for her crew as much as Helen does. Yet, I fear that same unwavering affinity for the safety of her crew could affect her deeper, and harder then the rest of us. She is much too smart and too strong for that though. I have faith in the woman I see. I just hope I am right, and there isn’t a bastion of dread hiding amongst her determination.
Hephaestus_roster: BoothHelen

(October 12th – Unofficial Transcript of Crew Meeting, Mess Hall, Hephaestus)

Burns: Ok. Where should we start?

Spring: How about, this feels wrong.

Burns: Really? Wrong? The woman is…

Olewande: Bailey, surely you are seeing what we are seeing?

Spring: But to meet behind her back.

Olewande: It is the only way. She, she has become a danger. To both herself, and to the rest of us.

Stineman: Jesus.

Burns: You have something to say kid?

Stineman: Kiss my ass Gil. I mean, I agree with Marc but maybe we can talk to her again. Explain our concerns. She’s Captain Booth for Christ’s sake. We owe her that don’t we?

Burns: You saw her earlier today. She barely agreed to our repair attempt. She looked disinterested and lost, you really think she’s up for any more conversations?

Olewande: Bailey. Even after what you told me, you still don’t think we need to do this?

Burns: What she’d tell you?

Stineman: What’s going on Bailey?

Olewande: Doctor Spring walked in on Captain Booth again this afternoon, in the control room.

Burns: Shit, again? Didn’t you find her there during your shift a few days ago? Poking around?

Spring: Yes. Yes I did.

Olewande: And this time?

Spring: This time she had actually lowered the O2 levels.

Burns: Shiiit…

Spring: Dangerously low. I don’t understand. We would have all been lightheaded and sleepy within thirty minutes, how low she put it. Maybe worse. And she had such, such a vacant look on her face. It was brief but, it was there. And then it was gone. And she apologized and turned the levels back to where they were. Then she walked out as if nothing had happened.

Burns: Because for her, maybe it didn’t happen. She’s lost it. And now she’s either so far gone that she doesn’t know what she’s doing. Or she knows exactly what she’s doing.

Stineman: Oh man, I just got the chills.

Olewande: I want to believe she is just ill. Nothing more malicious.

Burns: Shit, but the O2. Its worse than we thought.

Stineman: So what does this mean?

Spring: Yes Gilbert, what do you propose be done? Isn’t that why you called this, little tête-à-tête?

Burns: Yes Doctor. Thank you. I think the first thing is obvious; she can’t be anywhere near that repair job. I mean, shoot I felt that way before but now…she obviously can’t be trusted.

Stineman: But…

Burns: Yes, its Captain Booth. She’d take a bullet to the left nut for all of us.

Spring: If you have nothing else to say Gilbert, I’ll just as soon rather sit in my room alone.

Burns: Sorry, ok? But this doesn’t make me feel any better than you guys. I think the time for taking chances is over. The Captain’s right about that. And that means keeping her as far from the repairs as we can. You know…

Olewande: Gilbert, I do not think…

Burns: Marc, they should hear it at least, no?

Spring: Hear what?

Burns: We talk Marc and I, and we don’t think that second explosion was an accident. A breach in the hull, our processing and conversion equipment severely damaged? We think it might have done on purpose.

Spring: Oh please Gilbert, really? Sabotage? Even Wu said that if we didn’t halt drilling…

Burns: I know what he said ok, but I don’t know. I don’t. There are all sorts of nuts out there who don’t like this new expansion we’re doing. The Consortium had too many enemies to count. And the Captain…well what if she’s had some alternative motive. Who knows if anyone is going to come, right? I mean, the likely outcome is that our oxygen runs out before anyone even makes it to our part of space. And I think she knows that.

Spring: That is just insane. Helen did not have anything to do with the second explosion. Its ridiculous.

Stineman: Ok, so conspiracies aside, cause if you are trying to say that the Captain had something to do with that explosion you are so full of shit Gil. All that aside. She’d never agree not to be a part of the repairs. You heard her. She wants to be there.

Burns: But why? She wouldn’t be able to help Marc or myself, she’d be in the way. Unless she didn’t want to help.

Olewande: We cannot lose ourselves to speculation. We must deal with the facts at hand. Now. If keeping the Captain from the repairs could be done, if it was not a problem, what then? Do you both agree? Would you agree that she can not be part of the team to do the repairs? Based on her current mental state alone.

Spring: Yes. I would agree. She seems to be dealing with the stress worse then the rest of us. Medically, it is not an ideal situation.

Stineman: I guess.

Olewande: Then it is decided. Because I believe our very lives rest on these repairs. And if it is our lives against the ego of our Captain, then…

Burns: Then we live guys, right? Then we live.

Stineman: But how Gil? How do you suppose you’ll convince her.

Olewande: Gilbert and I know of a way. But we must all be in agreement.

Spring: I would like to hear this.

Burns: Good. Because nothing happens unless we all agree. We have to be together in this.

Spring: That’s a nice sentiment, especially from you Gilbert.

Burns: I’m not the god damned enemy here doctor.

Spring: I wasn’t saying…

Burns: I know what you were saying. I’m not a monster. I’m just an asshole who doesn’t like seeing his friends get killed.

Spring: Gilbert, I’m sorry.

Burns: I know.

Stineman: Ok well. What’s the plan then, when are we doing this?

Olewande: Tonight. Now.

Stineman: Wait, tonight?

Olewande: Tonight.

(October 12th, Personal Journal Entry of Captain Helen Booth)

The bug in the mess hall finally paid off. Things have just gotten interesting.

(October 12th – Hephaestus Computer Entry, found during post docking investigation)

F:\>/login

[username] Backdoor

[password] **********

ACCESS GRANTED

F:\>cqmain

F:\>cqlock/user:boothhelen

Crew Quarters for Booth, Helen – locked

F:\>/quit

(October 14th Mid Afternoon – Transcript from Repair Attempt Of Processing and Conversion Station)

Burns: Ok, it’s on. You’re good to go Marc.
Olewande: This is Doctor Marc Olewande, here with Engineer Gilbert Burns.
Burns: Hiya.
Olewande: We are in the Processing and Conversion station, attempting to repair and re-program our equipment so that we may begin to create oxygen again and refill our near empty O2 cells. Repairs on the two damaged cells have proven to be impossible, as the damage to them is too extensive.
Spring: How are you two feeling?
Burns: We’re as good as can be doc. My headaches are not going away and it’s a little hard to catch my breath sometimes but… How’s it look from your end?
Spring: Looks stable. You’re doing great Gil.
Burns: You did a great job with those pressurized suits Marc.
Olewande: Doctor. Are the seals holding?
Burns: Of course they are, you fixed them yourself.
Spring: Yes Marc, the seals are holding. Watch that heart-rate though Gilbert.
Burns: Right right, and did we need to have the life-monitors activated in these things? We’re all showing signs of oxygen deprivation, what’s the point.
Spring: You know we didn’t have time to fully test the suits. The least I can do is monitor your vital signs is the only way to make sure there aren’t any breaches in the suit’s exterior. .
Burns: Yeah, and make sure we don’t pass out. I will say though, besides how ugly these things are, I think they’re holding up nicely.
Olewande: I’m sorry but we need to continue. We only have so much time.
Burns: Sure, sure. Hear that doctor? We’re being shushed.
Spring: I’m sorry Marc, continue.
Olewande: Thank you doctor. I will now go and start repairs to the conversion equipment up by C-Drill. Gilbert, you work on the computer down here and get the controls working again.
Burns: Yeah, got it. You go play fly boy and I’ll stay down here doing the really tricky work. Go, don’t forget your duct tape.
Olewande: Your humor is appreciated Gilbert, but you know how much you hate zero gravity.
Burns: Right. Right.
Olewande: Ok. I am going to head up. I’m lowering my boots to forty percent magnetism.
Spring: Careful now Marc.
Olewande: I appreciate your concern. But this is the easy part. Ok, I am pushing up toward the equipment.
Burns: Standing by.
Spring: You’re good and stable Marc.
Olewande: Twenty meters. Fifteen. Ten.
Burns: Steady man.
Olewande: (loud grunt)
Spring: Marc, you ok?
Olewande: Harder landing then I thought. It is hard to adjust in these suits.
Burns: This is too funny. Smartest man in the world, floating around like an idiot.
Olewande: Boots back to one hundred. And thank you for the confidence Gilbert.
Burns: Haha, you look good upside down.
Olewande: Ok. Beginning repairs.
Burns: Starting on my end too.
Spring: Do you know if Helen, the Captain I mean, if she knows we’re here. Right now. Trying to save all our lives.
Burns: Who cares. She’d rather let us wait here in god damned space and die of hypoxia.
Spring: She seemed so confident didn’t she? At first? I don’t know. I just don’t know when it all changed. When she became so…
Burns: Has a god damn death wish is what. She lost it man. She’s in her room, chewing the fucking furniture for all we know. She disabled the camera. Stineman’s sitting outside her room like some sentry, been there for two days and hasn’t heard a thing.
Spring: God I hope she is ok. That she knows we are doing the best thing here.
Olewande: Doctor, do me a favor.
Spring: Marc?
Olewande: Please. Do a frequency scan of my present position. Basic level scan.
Spring: Why would we…
Burns: What you seeing up there Marc? You fix it already? Hot damn.
Spring: I don’t understand Marc, a frequency scan? Radio?
Burns: Need me to come up there buddy?
Olewande: No! Do not come up here Gilbert. For all you love, do not come to this position.
Burns: What the hell is up with you man. Fine, fine.
Spring: Marc, why is there a radio frequency coming from the conversion equipment.
Olewande: Let us see if these helmet cameras work.
Spring: What do you mean?
Olewande: Turn on the monitors. I have turned on my camera.
Burns: Hey, I got my HUD up and I don’t see anything. God damn it Marc, what do you see?
Spring: Wait…
Olewande: A radio receiver…
Spring: My god…
Olewande: …crudely taped to a brick of plastic explosive…
Spring: …Marc, Marc you have to….
Burns: What the fuck…
Olewande: …and a timer. An alarm clock actually. Like we all have, in our rooms.
Spring: Gilbert you have to get out of there. Marc, come down now. Now!
Olewande: I do not think we are going to be able to make these repairs….
Burns: How much time…
Spring: You both have to go now! Now!
Burns: He’s not moving Doc. Fuck that, I’m coming up to get ya Marc. We have to go. Who knows when that thing’ll go off. What the hell is going on, Jesus!
Spring: …no time! Dear God!
Olewande: No Gilbert.
Burns: Oh hell no Marc, put it down. Put it down now. What are you thinking?
Olewande: I could throw it, through the breach but then, no. Too much of a chance of it missing and hitting the wall. There is only one other option then. Boots at zero percent. Pushing off.
Spring: No! Marc!
Burns: God fucking damn it! No Marc!
Olewande: I was right. I fit perfectly through the breach. Live my friends. And Gilbert, make these repairs. Get yourselves home.
Spring: NO!
Burns: Marc…Marc turn on your boots, throw the damn thing, throw it…
(An explosion is heard from outside the ship)
Burns: Bailey…
Spring: No no no…
(Transmission interrupted by concussive interference.)

(October 14th – Consortium Message recovered from communications queue date stamped early morning)

From: Captain Wilum Martin
To: Captain Helen Booth
Re: 10 hours out
Helen. Recon Ship Mercury has detected your position and is making preparations for initial contact at 0200 hours. Prep crew for arrival and removal.
Captain, the reconnaissance and rescue vessel Mercury is 10 hours from your position. We are in the final stages of our deceleration and will be ready to begin crew transfer soon thereafter. I know it will be hard to leave your command behind, but it’s only momentary. We’re fully prepared to save as much of your ship as we can. You’ll be back out drilling asteroids in no time. I know how much you love having your own ship but I would recommend you switch and become a full Consortium Captain. Enough of this independent stuff. You’ll find that Consortium ships don’t often malfunction in the middle of missions, not like your contracted boats. Whatever your man Wu said. You know how much of a stink he created? As if his crew was any more skilled then Consortium inspectors. But that’s in the past. I wouldn’t try to blame a man for an accident in space
Your communications have been off-line since the accident, so we’ve come prepared for most contingencies. I can only hope you and your crew are hanging in there, not that we’d expect anything else from Captain Helen Booth. While I can admit now that you did not have the best crew with you on your mission, you had people you felt you could trust, and I cannot fault you that. Even if your Equipment guy Peters used to run with those militant Anti-exploration groups, I’m sure you knew what you were doing. I only hope next time you put more faith in the Consortium staff.
See you soon Captain. Hope you and your men continue to stay safe.
Captain Wilum Martin
USSM-Mercury

(October 13th, Final Personal Journal Entry of Captain Helen Booth)

I write now to stop the voices from overtaking me, those that call to me in my mind, that I am sure no one can hear. Those voices of the dead.
I hear Lucatorto telling me to abandon all hope. He tells me that the other side does not have the same treachery that I find here on my own ship. They’ve locked me in my own coffin. Along with the dead, I can hear Stineman outside my door, stalking like a wild cat. I am his prey. I am already gone.
How did I find myself here? I was keeping them alive, wasn’t I? But then I also brought them to this damned place. I got Luke Stineman into the cockpit with Pearlman. I got Gil Burns back into respectable circles, back into the Consortium’s radar. I gave Kunle Peters another chance when he had already been written off as an extremist. I thought I was saving them, but I only cursed them to die here with me.
The headaches have stopped. I guess that is something. Though now there are only the voices. I am so tired. I want to sleep, close my eyes and wake up somewhere else. But I know that as soon as I do it’ll be over. My hands are numb but so is the rest of me. So I deal with it. I go on. For how much longer, I do not know.
I spoke with Philip Wu last night, as I was placing the charges. He said that he knew this was going to happen. Not this exact thing perhaps, but something like it. A disaster. We should have gone back.
Hector warned me they were plotting against me. He told me to be ready, so I was ready. He showed me there the explosives were, walked me through setting up the clock. They won’t get away with killing me, no. I have shown them exactly who I am. The Captain of this ship.
I figured it all out when I heard them plotting in the mess. They’re the ones who wanted us all to die. Who needed to be stopped. And when the Consortium finally comes, they’ll find my notes, my records and know I was the only one who understood what was going on – we were infiltrated by extremists, and those four were traitors to our cause.
It is so hard to type, I’ll have to switch to the voice recorder soon. I’ve written all I needed to though. I stopped the traitors. I killed the disloyal bastards. I am the Captain of the Hephaestus and I am a hero. I am a hero.

(October 24th – From the Desk of Major Mark Burrum, Consortium Command)

From: Major Mark Burrum
To: Gilbert Burns
Dear Mr. Burns,
It is with great sadness that I write you now, from Consortium Command. I cannot say that I truly understand what you and Doctor Spring have gone through but I do know loss, and it is never easy. With that sadness is extreme appreciation for your dedication and courage in the face of true disaster. Your efforts, and those of the brave and selfless Doctor Marc Olewande, have brought to light a cancer growing amongst the ranks of our contracted mining teams, and the Consortium as a whole. Through your survival and genius, you have uncovered treachery at its highest level – that of a ship Captain, entrusted with the lives of her crew. And you have ensured the return of precious resources aimed at the survival of the Consortium’s young and fragile existence. You and Doctor Spring should be proud. Should feel lucky. All of us here fully appreciate your work and your courage. That is why we would like to offer you a full time position aboard our outer-system space station, Persephone. Your experience and level headedness would be a welcome addition to her crew and to the Consortium as a whole. As we continue to try and tame the great expanses of our solar system, a man like you could make a grand difference. I hope you will consider it.
With the utmost appreciation of your sacrifice and sense of duty,
Major Mark Burrum