The Present – ESS Endeavour
Lieutenant Tareen had enjoyed his lunch with Commander Lin but duty called and he still had a mystery to solve. He was on his way to the engineering deck to see what clues he could gather from the staff there. He was having no success looking through Murphy’s logs and he needed to try a new approach.
The corridors of the Endeavour were narrow and they formed a complex network like an ant’s nest. He had seen pictures of old aircraft carriers, back when ships travelled the sea more often than they travelled through space. They had a very similar look to them and were apparently just as difficult to navigate. The average destroyer, which Tareen had served on for most of his career, was much smaller than an Ark ship and so wasn’t as easy to get lost in.
Having almost taken a wrong turn, Tareen arrived in Engineering.
“Lieutenant Tareen isn’t it?” Chief Petty Officer Henderson asked. Tareen nodded. “What can we do for you down here in Engineering?”
“I’d like to talk to you about the sabotage to the ship.”
“Yes of course, the Captain was down here asking us about that earlier. It seems that it’s all people can think about right now. I have half my staff going through the computer looking for clues.”
“And what have they found so far?”
“Nothing I’m afraid. There are a lot of lines of code to go through. Whoever performed the sabotage knew what they were doing.”
“So you’re contending that some malicious code was put into the ship’s software systems?”
“I don’t see any other explanation for the anomalies we’re seeing.”
“But how could anyone have done that? Who would have access?”
“That’s the thing, all the checksums were valid when the software was installed which means the sabotage was not done before the ship was launched.”
“So it must have been someone in the crew?”
“As much as I hate to say it – yes.”
“Who would have access?”
“Without the change being detected, only the most senior of engineers, in fact, possibly only me – and I didn’t do it – not that I can prove it to you.”
“What about anyone outside the engineering staff?”
“The only ones that could override the security lockouts would be a commander level officer, which means the first officer or the Captain.”
Tareen nodded thoughtfully. “And Commander Murphy was hardly going to kill himself. Have you spoken to the Captain about this?”
“Wait a minute Lieutenant, you’re not saying you suspect Captain Bell are you?”
“I’m just considering all possibilities, and right now, you and the Captain are the prime suspects.”
Herderson scrunched up his face. “I can’t lie to the Captain or hold back any information that he orders me to give.”
“I understand that Chief, but I don’t want you to volunteer it either. If you do I’ll have you for obstructing my investigation.”
Henderson said nothing.
Tareen tried to steer the conversation away from emotion and controversy, and back to hard facts. He still needed the Chief’s cooperation. “So you mentioned the checksums were valid before the ship launched. Is that still the case?”
“So far. We’re still looking.”
Tareen scratched his head in thought. “Take me through it again.”
“The ship was instructed to travel at maximum speed. Every time it did, the engines responded that they could not go above 25%, but they acted as if that was their maximum speed.”
“So the sabotage has to be in the systems that control the engines.”
“That would be obvious, but we can’t find anything wrong in those systems.”
Tareen let out a long frustrated sigh. “It doesn’t add up.”
Handerson shrugged. “I’m sorry Lieutenant. We’ll keep working on it, but it may take some time. On top of all this we have our regular duties – plus we’ll be picking up Colonel Millwood’s plane shortly which will need repairing and that will take some of my manpower away.”
“I thought the aircraft on a ship were maintained by a separate team of technicians.”
“Usually that would be the case, on a carrier or a destroyer, but the Endeavour only has a small squadron, and responsibility for their maintenance is left to the engineering staff.”
Tareen allowed the conversation to drift to the subject of Millwood’s plane. Sometimes, when answers could not be found, the brain needed to be given space to think.
“It must be frustrating for him out there – dead in space.”
“Absolutely. The most annoying thing is that his engines are fine, he just can’t get them up to speed because…” Henderson suddenly went silent – mid sentence.
“I’m sorry Lieutenant, I have to go. Thankyou so much – you may have just given me the key to solve this.”
Before Tareen could get another word in, the engineer ran off and began yelling orders at his crew.
The Surface of Xinju
Laura Banks put the bottle of water down on the soft soil next to her other sample containers. She had just been to the river. It had been a pleasant walk. She appreciated the time alone to absorb the atmosphere of this planet. She’d seen a spot on the other side of the river which would be an ideal place for a home. She wondered how the land would be divided up. If she had the opportunity, she would waste no time in claiming that particular area and build a house there.
Her next task would be to catch up with Spearwood and Toledo. After they had unsuccessfully searched for Gardner’s slug they had all gone back to their duties. The zoologist had surmised that the creature had simply been after the Private’s blood like an Earth leech. Given its size, Gardner had been wise to get rid of it as it would have had a much bigger appetite.
A bird song sounded up in the tree tops. Perhaps Toledo would have some luck cataloguing wildlife after all.
Her happy reverie was interrupted by a pained groan. She looked over and saw Private Gardner doubled over holding his gut.
The soldier looked up. “I feel terrible Doctor.”
“Show me that arm.”
Gardner straightened and revealed his arm. The area where the creature had attached to him was red and swollen.”
“Does it hurt?”
“The skin is pretty hot to touch, and I’ve got the most awful cramps. I think that thing was poisonous.”
“You might be right.”
“Oh man, I don’t wanna die out here Doc, not from a slug bite.”
“Tell you what Mate, if this thing kills you then we’ll name this whole area after you. How does Gardner’s Clearing sound?”
The solider chuckled.
“I might call in the shuttle and arrange and early pick-up – just to be careful.”
She pulled the radio from her belt and called up the shuttle. There was no response. She tried again.
“Yeah, I can’t raise the shuttle.”