The mistakes began some hours after the familiarities started.
After the flight deck officer gave the order to keep the landing pad clear. “He’ll be back in 10”, was all she said. “Bet it will be more like five”, was the answer she got from someone in her crew. Heard it in the rush of the engines starting up.
Someone later put a coffee dispenser directly below the deck. Strong stuff, which is probably obligatory for the Federation’s rescue ships. Awful taste. Which is definitively obligatory.
It kept me awake. It just did not prevent the mistakes.
Lift-off. A tight turn while boosting. God, I hate the Python. Cannot get its stern around without the kick. But it carries more passengers than my Krait. Count-down of the FSD starting just when the ship starts to lose speed. Timing. Navigation basically on sight. Breakout within seconds.
Then the view of the burning station. This one just like the last one. Fires in its depths. Something eating its hull, glowing in the dark. Approach warnings on the radio. Come on, Control, this is the Probable Rescue
. Why do you think I christened her like that?
Loosing speed just in time to turn into the mail slot. Heat rising. Routinely firing one heat sink prior to extending the landing gear. The explosion knocks her into the railing of the pad. Losing my bearings for a split second. A second lance rams into the ship. It happens. When you are not fast enough. When you make mistakes. Hull damage.
Not on the way out, though. Passing the slot in steep acceleration, turning for the rescue ship. Metal scraping on metal, another mistake, a mere annoyance to be considered only during the countdown to the jump. Breakout. Hard acceleration, getting close. 7.5 clicks. Hailing Control. Jamming in the computer for automated approach. 30 sec of rest. Fires burning behind closed eyes.
Silence on deck as the refugees disembark. No jokes that only answer to the grimness of the situation, the loss of life, the relentlessness of the attacks anyhow.
“Push her in the repair bay”, is the only order that is given. “Mike… you have time for a shower”, is an ok suggestion.
Messages of improved status, refused payments, time bonuses pour in, just like the recycled water. The fires won’t stop burning.
“Commander?” A hand reaches past. The rain stops. “Commander, it’s been an hour.” Boots scrape in a tight space.
“The Probable Rescue
is ready. Landing Pad 07. As always.”