JANE IN SPACE
Miss Polly Connor
Chapter 7 – In which disaster is imminent. Isn’t it always?
No, not such that he could feel young Ensign Roberts approach, as he stood on the starboard deck and ran through the star-mapping data, checking for velocity and looking out for solar flares. But certainly enough, that one look at his face warned Jon of trouble imminent.
“What is it, Ensign?” he asked, keeping the disquiet out of his voice.
“Sir,” this wet-behind-the-ears young kid replied, standing straight and with an awkward earnestness fairly radiating out of him, “how long is it until we dock on the terminal port at Rasjra satellite, and unload the first batch of — um — cargo?”
It was an odd question. The spacecraft schedule was available to all crew-members, and Roberts ought to know so, full well. “Eleven days yet, Ensign,” he answered courteously, in any case. “But you know that, don’t you? So why do you ask?”
Ensign Roberts swallowed. He had the sensitive skin of one who’d not quite quit adolescence yet, and though he’d fought off acne he was still prone to a flaming redness of nose and cheek. As now. “Well, sir. You know how the cryo-sleep cargo pods are supposed to keep the – the creative units in stasis until after destination landing? Um. Turns out, they were under-charged before launch. Typical commercial operation skimping,” he sniped, bolshy as any recruit from the publicly-funded military schools. Except the Federation was in recession, and the Fleet wasn’t hiring, so plenty had to sign up for unglamorous commercial outfits, if they wanted to eat, these days.
“And?” the Captain asked. Although he knew already, really. It was only putting off a nightmare of paperwork, bills of lading, damage to product and customer care. For a moment, no more than a moment.
Roberts had rather fetching china-blue eyes, and gazed at Jon helplessly, with them. “The cryo-freeze creative units are – well, they’re waking up. They’re awake, sir. And I rather think they want to know what the hell is going on.”