Archer pressed the “Open Airlock” button after everyone donned their helmets and gave a thumbs-up. Hissing began. The passenger compartment was engineered as a self-contained airlock, for quick deployment. The pilots of the shuttle were housed in a pressurized area, set apart from the main storage areas.
The hissing diminished. The locking mechanism clanged. The door of the shuttle slid open. The airlock chamber of SMS-347 was dark except for a low light emergency LED.
Archer turned on his helmet light the rest of the team followed his example. Archer stepped into the chamber. He carried two extra oxy bottles. Each of the marines carried four. They placed all the extra bottles on the floor of the chamber.
Archer resealed the airlock chamber. “We’re on. We should have enough air to keep going until you resupply us.”
Archer’s comm buzzed back. “Roger, Captain. We’ll be back in a couple of hours. Holler if you need us sooner.
“Thanks, Bert. We should be good,” Archer replied.
“OK team,” Archer spoke to his group. “We are going to take it slow and steady.”
“I should be up front, Captain. We need to make sure you are covered,” Lieutenant Armstrong insisted.
“Sure, Lieutenant, let me get this hatch opened first.” Archer went to a panel. He turned an inset locking ring. The panel opened revealing a glowing key pad.
Archer pressed five numbers. The airlock lit up. Archer could hear the hissing as the pressure equalized with the main station.
The door slid open.
Armstrong pushed past Archer with one of his men. The other covered the back of the group.
The hall was dark, only the lights of the company lit the path.
“First passageway on the left, Lieutenant. Then we go up two levels on the stairway.”
The rotation of the station provided a pseudo-gravity. The effect was nearly half of earth’s gravity, which made the walking a little difficult. Archer saw Armstrong turn.
The stairway was located and Armstrong began to climb. He held a small sparker in his right hand. He nervously turned at the different flights of the stairway.
Archer turned to look behind. The rear marine walked mostly backwards, covering the party with a larger, deadlier sparker. Archer felt like making a rude comment on how they expected anything to be alive in a zero air and near freezing environment.
Armstrong waited at the top of the stairway for directions.
“Sorry, Lieutenant. The main bridge is towards the right, and then straight ahead.”
“Roger, Captain.” Archer watched the lieutenant turn and walk.
The walk took about ten minutes, Archer reasoned. The door to the bridge stood before them.
“Commander, Harland, I believe you have the codes for this room?” Archer asked.
Marjorie Harland worked her way to the door. “Aye, Captain.”
“Lieutenant Armstrong, when we open the door, please secure the room. Please refrain from sparking anything, hopefully we’ll find some friendlies here.”
“Commander, I think we are ready.”
Harland opened the panel. The key pad glowed red. She punched in a six digit code. The panel glowed blue. Harland then punched in a ten digit code. The panel glowed green and the door slid open.
Armstrong and his two marines entered the room. Archer stood with Harland in the hall, each illuminating different approaches to the room.
“All clear, Captain,” Armstrong reported after five minutes.
Archer followed after Harland. She moved to the main control console and sat down. She started pushing buttons.
Archer hit a comm button on his wrist. “This is Team One, we have reached our objective. Please report your status.”
“Team One. This is Team Three. We have just cleared the airlock and are making slow progress.”
“Team One, this is Team Two. We are close to our objective.”
“Roger Teams One and Two. Please issues status updates as needed, but I want to hear from you both in no longer than thirty minutes.”
Both teams acknowledged Archer’s orders.
He walked to Harland. The main Operating screen was up.
“It’s rebooting, Captain. It looks like it went to a complete shutdown,” Harland reported.
“How long until lights on?”
“I started in safe mode, Captain. I won’t to control each system as it becomes available. Lights and life support are generally first in the queue, unless this has weird programming.”
“Do the best you can do, Marjay. Ultimately, all we need now is lights, air, and heat. I don’t want any other systems until we do a complete check.”
“Got it, Captain.”
Archer checked his air gauge. He still had two and a half hours. They would probably need to get the air tanks soon. Hopefully, with lights.
“Captain, Team Three here. We have reached our objective. We are standing by for power up.”
“Roger, Team Three. Shouldn’t be too much longer. Once power is up, please check for any entries that we should be aware of.”
Archer didn’t think there would be any survivors. Shouldn’t there be bodies.
The lights came on.
“Yay, Marjay!” Archer said.
“Sorry, Captain. This will not be long. We have about three hours of back up. I’ll have to get to engineering and get the main reactor started. We have limited controls right now. No sense getting the air and heat going. That will kill all the backup power.”
“Sounds good, Commander. Any idea of time?”
“I don’t know, sir. If there is any problems, I would have to assess. If things are good, three four hours, full power by eight hours.”
Armstrong assigned one of the marines to escort her.
“Let me have a sitrep when you get there,” Archer said as Harland stood.
She gave him a thumbs-up.
“Captain, Team Two here. We have reached our objective.”
“How is everything there, Lieutenant Brower?”
“Honestly, Captain, I’m not sure that there is anything I can do here. Not until we get full power, that is. It seems this is just a back-up to the bridge.”
“Makes sense, Lieutenant. Commander Harland is on her way to engineering. Perhaps you would be more use on the bridge,” Archer said.
“We’re on our way Captain.”
“Captain, this is Lieutenant Dontsman.”
“Yes, Lieutenant, what have you got?”
“The chills, captain.”
Archer waited for an answer.
“What do you mean, Lieutenant?”
“This medbay is spotless, Captain. There is no sign of any illness that may have struck the crew. But there is a note, Captain.”
“A note, Lieutenant? What does it say?”
There was a long pause, as if the nurse gathered her strength. With a sigh she read the note, “They are coming.”