The Endeavour had several small meeting rooms for briefings such as this one. The entire senior staff didn’t need to be present; Captain Bell just wanted to meet with Doctor Banks and Lieutenant Kerensky.
“So how is your task progressing?” Bell asked.
“I’ve already got a short list of two seemingly ideal locations for a settlement Captain. Both are close to fresh water. They have large flat areas which will be ideal for agriculture – some of it already relatively clear. They are in reasonably defensible positions. One of them is near the coast.”
“So we can take up surfing at the beach on weekends?” Kerensky said jovially. Bell ignored the comment.
Kerensky continued to talk, this time in the more serious tone that Bell was used to. “We need to take into account the fact that we’re in a binary system. That may have impact on the climate and the seasons that we experience. Research needs to be conducted in this area.”
Bell nodded. “What about animal life?”
“We have detected evidence of animals on the planet. That’s good because it means we’ll have access to meat.”
“Nice to know Doctor. It looks like you’re ready to go take a look in person soon. I assume you’ve already got aerial surveillance organised.”
“Organised yes, but I’m a long way from being ready to take a team down Captain. There is still plenty of planet to look at. We’ve found some potential locations, but there are three major continents down there. We’ve barely scratched the surface.”
“Doctor, I know there are probably a million possibilities on the planet, but we can’t sit around and wait for the perfect location. We have a lot of sleeping bodies on this ship. The sooner we can start shipping people down to the planet the better.”
Doctor Banks was obviously ruffled by this comment. Bell always found it difficult working with civilians. They didn’t have the respect for chain of command that military personnel had.
Just as Banks opened her mouth to make objection, the phone on the wall of the meeting room began to buzz. Bell stood and picked up the handset.
“Bell, meeting room 2.”
“Captain,” the voice belonged to Commander Lin. “We’ve just received word from Ensign McDermott. Lieutenant Millwood’s inertial dampeners has been damaged. He’s dead in space and he’s short on oxygen. They are requesting immediate assistance.”
Bell let out a frustrated sign as he thought quickly.
“We’d better set course for his location.”
“Captain, you want to take the Endeavour out there?”
“I know it isn’t ideal Commander, this ship wasn’t exactly built for hopping around the solar system, but it’s the best option. We could try to effect some kind of rescue with another plane but Millwood doesn’t have the time for that. If he can’t come to the hanger, then we have to bring the hanger to him.”
“Have McDermott continue on course here. She can meet us half-way, stock up on oxygen, then go back to Millwood. She’ll reach him long before we do. She can replenish his oxygen while they wait for us. I’ll be on the bridge in three minutes.”
Millwood replaced the handset and turned to address Banks. “Doctor, you have fifteen minutes to get your team on a shuttle bound for the surface. Endeavour is going on a trip.
Doctor Banks hated being rushed. In fact, it was safe to say that nothing made her angrier than over-bearing military men who expected you to jump to attention according to their timetable. Bell was obviously used to having his own way – his words obeyed without question. She wasn’t a fool – this mission required her to work for the military, and that required a little understanding and adaption on her part – but that didn’t mean that she had to like it.
She kicked an empty sample canister across the shuttle bay in frustration.
She spun around to see who had spoken. It was Doctor Spearwood, her botanist. “No I’m fine Doctor. Just letting off a little steam.”
She started to walk toward the canister she had kicked.
“It’s just this whole time pressure. Science can’t be rushed. My job is to find the best plane on this planet to settle, but I can’t do my job because I have the Captain flexing his muscles in my face.”
“I see,” Spearwood replied non-committally, but sympathetically.
“Sometimes I think that men like Bell give orders for no reason other than the fact that they like to maintain control.”
“I would point out that Endeavour is leaving orbit, and that if we don’t go now it will be well into tomorrow before we’re able to get to the planet….” Spearwood stopped when he noticed the look that Banks was giving him. “But I guess you don’t need to hear that again – especially from me.”
She picked up the canister and started toward the rear cargo hold of the shuttle.
“In any case Doctor Banks, it’s good to see that you’re….um…fine.”
“Just get in shuttle will ya?”
“Aye aye Doctor.”
Spearwood scampered off and Banks stowed the canister away. Everybody else was ready for launch. It had been hard but she had managed to pull together all her personnel and equipment in time.”
She took a long deep breath, held it for a second and then let it out. This was no time to be angry. She was about to set foot on an alien planet. This was the moment her entire life had been leading up to. She hadn’t intended to get so riled up. It didn’t help that Captain Bell reminded her so much of her father.
Two minutes later, Banks was strapped in to her seat ready for launch. “We’ve just received clearance for departure,” the pilot announced. Banks hadn’t caught his name and didn’t really care. The shuttle began to shake as the engines roared to life. They lifted off the deck and began to move through the large open hanger doors. The sound was too loud for conversation. Once they were clear of the Endeavour, the ship banked steeply and headed for the planet.
“All right, here is the plan,” Banks called out – loudly enough to be heard by her team. “We’ll split into two separate groups. My group will take the southern-most site. It’s got slightly better farming prospects. Spearwood will be with me, plus Toledo.” Professor Toledo was a zoologist. He’d be cataloguing any animal life they encountered. “The shuttle will drop the second group at the other site near the coast. After we’re done, we’ll swap.” The second group was to be comprised mostly of the military escort that Bell had assigned. They could get the lay of the land from a defensive point of view. The real work would be done by her team.”
“Look at that!” Spearwood said, interrupting her little speech. Banks quickly realised why he’d spoken up. Out the window of the shuttle, they could see the most spectacular view of the planet – their new home. Banks stopped talking. The site had taken her breath away.