The Fae Worlds

Sabotage?

Escape

Keeping a ship like the Paladin on track to get to where we were meant to be going was complicated. We were all mortal, so we had to make use of stasis to make sure there would be someone there for the entire journey. Each crew worked a little differently, but, for us, the system meant keeping ten of the hundred crew awake at any one time, with the rest in stasis. Our job, in general, was relatively simple. The ships were made to last, and I’d never known one not get to where they were supposed to be.
Of course there was no way back for us. We’d all made the decision, the same way everyone else had, to leave our old lives behind. Their new world would be our new world. At the time we started the journey it was easier to accept than it sometimes would be later on. During my decade on duty, as one of the first group, I’d gone through all kinds of emotions. I understood what it was like, but we’d all helped each other through it.
I believed, as I was put into stasis, it would be decades before I was woken again. When I woke, to alarms I’d hoped never to hear, I had no idea how long it was, but it didn’t matter. What mattered was throwing off the stasis as quickly as possible, so I’d have a chance of being able to help.
Every part of me ached. I’d been warned in advance, the way we all had, but experiencing it was very different to having it explained to us. Doing my best to ignore it I moved through the corridors. Others did the same, although I knew they’d been taught to head straight for the life pods. If we managed to fix whatever the damage was we’d be able to pick them up, and if we didn’t they’d at least have a chance of being able to live some kind of life, although it wasn’t something I’d wish on my worst enemy. It also wasn’t something I’d wish on myself, although I knew it was a possibility I might end up down there with them.
Tom was the first of the engineers I came across, so I’d been in stasis for somewhere between ten and twenty years. We all knew each other, knew what shift they’d be on, and when his eyes met with mine he shook his head. After working with him for a couple of years it was all I needed to know what he thought of our chances of being able to fix the damage.
“Although I hate to say it I think, from what I’ve seen, this was sabotage.”
For a few seconds all I could do was stare at him. “Sabotage?”
“Likelihood was, considering the scans, a heavy hit from an asteroid. The thrusters on the left hand side took it the worst, but when we looked deeper there’s much more to it. Generator one has been failing for probably the last six months. Generator two has been failing for about four. They’re… well, it’s not looking at all good. If we’d known back when they started failing we’d have been able to fix them, only we didn’t, so I honestly don’t believe we can.”
Biting down hard on my lip I thought through what Tom said. Whenever anything went wrong with any part of the ship there should have been an alert. Generators had parts in them which could, with time, get to the point where they’d need replacing, but never so early on. They should have lasted at least fifty years, and when it happened there were warnings they should have received. In the early days, when the part was beginning to wear, there’d have been a ‘fix generator’ light. If that was ignored the Paladin would have become more pushy about the issue. No warnings wasn’t normal.
Other ships had disappeared. Everyone on board knew something could go wrong, so they were as prepared for it as they could be. Same as us. We always assumed those lost ships had something natural happen to them, especially as we’d never heard anything from the survivors… and anyone who did survive knew they were on their own. No one was going to send a rescue party out into deep space for a small group of people who’d signed up to go to an entirely unknown world to build a new life.
“Nothing from the Paladin?”
“Silence.” Tom shrugged. “For that to happen someone had to turn off the sensors, so the Paladin didn’t know happened. It is just a ship. When the thrusters were damaged badly enough for the Paladin to set off the alarms it was something they couldn’t stop. Since then we’ve been working to try to get the generators running again, only we don’t have half of what we need, because it’s gone missing.”
“Who’s gone missing with them?”
“Everyone who’s meant to be here is.” He ran his tongue over his bottom lip. “Means we have three possibilities, none which seem too likely. The first is someone is playing the long game, and they’re trying to fix the damage they caused, for reasons unknown.”
“Regret, maybe?”
“Yeah, maybe. I can see it. A moment of madness, something they tried to hide from us, until they couldn’t any longer.”
“Doesn’t do us any good, though, does it?”
“Not really.” Tom sighed. “Then we have one of us having woken from stasis early. If they did then this was more likely a purposeful choice, but it seems unlikely, considering how much time we spent checking into our backgrounds. Everyone was chosen carefully, to make sure we wouldn’t break.”
“In reality there was no way anyone could know for certain one of us wouldn’t. This isn’t the kind of situation any of us have been in before, Tom, and answering a few questions isn’t the same as journeying across space for decades to get to another world. We were even told it was possible being in stasis might affect our minds, so it’s not impossible.” I raked a hand through my hair. “I remember how close I got a couple of times, and I thought I’d be fine.”
“True. There have been a couple of points when it got hard for me too, but I’ve been able to work through it. Someone else might not have been able to.” He breathed in deeply. “The final possibility, the least likely one, is a traveller being the one to sabotage the ship, but we’ve been checking on everyone in stasis, and it doesn’t look like anyone is missing.”
“Especially as they’d need to have clearance.”
“Could be a hacker. I know the travellers are less closely checked, because they don’t need clearance, so anyone could be in one of those stasis pods. Course that could also be my paranoia getting the better of me, considering all of this. For now, though, I think it would be best for you to get off the ship, Alex.”
“Don’t you need the help?”
“More than anything I think anyone who survives is going to need the help.” Tom studied me. “We’ve worked together long enough for you to know I wouldn’t say this if I didn’t think things were bad. You’re someone who could be more useful on the ground, if we don’t manage to fix the generators.”
“Do you think you can?”
Silence followed my question. The Paladin had four generators, and two of them failing meant the other two would be struggling hard to keep the ship in space, especially with some of the thrusters damaged too. Two generators could be enough, with a smaller ship, but the Paladin, due to what it was, was too big for those two generators to keep it from eventually crashing. What I should do was stay, work to fix them, but Tom was right when he said any survivors on the ground would need help.
Choosing whether or not to stay wasn’t something I ever imagined I’d have to do. If there was some kind of problem I assumed I’d stay on the Paladin, rather than abandon it, but keeping the ship in space wasn’t my only job. We were there to help the travellers too, so splitting into two groups was probably the better option.
“Any of the others chosen to go?”
“Not so far. The weight of their duty to the Paladin was stronger.”
Nodding, I raked a hand through my hair. I understood it, but the people who survived needed at least one of us, especially as they’d have nothing. All the prefabs would go down with the Paladin. Breathing in deeply I realised staying would be the mistake. Whoever did was going down with the ship.
“There’s a planet close by?”
“Close enough this might have been planned.” Tom shrugged. “Supplies in the pods are enough to get one person through about six days, as long as you’re careful. Travellers should also have bags on them, if they stopped to pick them up, with some extras in there, including anti-nausea tablets. You seem to have been lucky enough not to be hit too hard by the sudden waking you got.”
“I’m okay.” Body still ached, but it was something I could work with. “What you going to tell the others?”
“You chose to go down to help the survivors, at my suggestion.” Giving me a smile, which barely lasted, Tom gently pushed me in the other direction. “Sooner you start moving the better off you’re going to be. I saw some of the first pods going down, so there are people who have been with it enough to get to them, and they’ll need you.”
Knowing he was right I turned away from him. “Good luck.”
“Thanks. You too. Hopefully we’ll be able to come get you in the not too distant future, but if not maybe I’ll be lucky enough to survive the crash.”
Making my way back down the corridor I thought about next steps. Get to the pod, get to the ground, and then what? Find water, and shelter. We’d have food for a few days, but it would need to be found sooner rather than later, on a world I knew nothing about. Not that I knew much more about the world we were travelling too. We believed it was a world we should be able to live on, only there was no way to be certain until we got there. This was exactly the same.
On reaching the pods I saw less of them were gone than I imagined there would be. Everyone on the Paladin went through emergency training, so they knew what they were supposed to do, but being thrown out of stasis the way we were was going to be hard on everyone’s body.
“Get in the pod, Alex.” Bonnie’s voice came from behind me, and I glanced at her. “I know what you’re thinking, but trying to be the hero is going to get you killed, the same way it would anyone.” She sighed. “Leaving people behind isn’t something I want to be doing. It’s just something we need to be doing, if we’re going to survive this.”
As much as I hated her for saying it she wasn’t wrong. The main thing we were taught was to focus on ourselves. We put on our own masks before we went back for others, only in this case there was no going back. All we could do was go down to the planet, to help those who had managed to reach the pods, and there were multiple different groups of them throughout the ship, to make it was easy as possible for everyone. She put a hand on my shoulder.
“You came straight here, didn’t you?”
“Seemed like the better option, to be honest, because those alarms would only be going off for something catastrophic.”
“I wish I could say you were wrong.” I stepped into the pod. “See you down there.”
Closing the door I waited for a few seconds, until I was certain it was safe, and then pressed the button which would detach the pod from the Paladin. It dropped fast, the gravity of the nearby planet stronger. For moment it was almost as though I was in two places at the same time. Fortunately my body caught up quickly enough with my mind. It definitely wasn’t the kind of experience it was exactly easy to put into words.
Unsurprisingly I found myself wondering if I’d made the right decision. There was a chance, albeit a slim one, I was the person they needed up there, but Tom had more than one reason for asking me to be the one to leave the Paladin. Engines weren’t my speciality. Had I been there all I’d be able to do was follow orders, and there were already enough of us in place who could do something similar. My skills would be more useful elsewhere, with people who needed help, rather than with those who didn’t.
Bonnie was the same. Her choice to leave the ship made sense, and I was grateful I’d know someone down on the planet. The two of us hadn’t worked together much, she was on the fourth shift, so spent the entire time I was working in stasis, but when I met her during induction we got on well enough.
Finally the pod touched down, and the door opened onto the new world. Two people, one man and one woman, were already there, which was better than nothing. Some of the other pods might have ended up on different parts of the planet, depending on how the gravity drew them down based on where they dropped from the Paladin. I stepped closer to the two of them, as Bonnie’s pod dropped down behind mine.
“How are you doing?” I looked between them, as the man tugged the woman a little closer to him, seeming protective. “I’m Alex, one of the engineers from the Paladin. Came down to help out, if I can, although nothing about this is going to be easy.” I gave them what I hoped was a reassuring smile. “Bonnie’s the same.”
Footsteps from behind me told me Bonnie was coming closer. “Pleasure to meet you both.” She stopped beside me. “Either of you dealing with stasis sickness.”
The woman nodded, and I could see by her eyes she definitely wasn’t feeling well. “I’m doing okay.”
“Let us know if you aren’t. Stasis sickness can be nasty.” Bonnie glanced at me. “Dealt with it a couple of times before, but this time I got lucky. We have spare anti-nausea tablets in the pods. Got a few other essentials in them too, so best thing we can do is start gathering up what we have, and then go from there.”
As the man studied us, seeming uncertain, the woman stepped away from him, although he didn’t let her go far, grabbing hold of her hand before she managed to get any distance from him. When she looked at him, eyebrow raised, I was almost certain the two of them hadn’t known each other before they landed.

A Plan for Survival?