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My eyes cracked open, seeing the room in doubles. My head felt like an expanding battery, overheated and swollen. I groaned as I heaved myself off of the standard-issue carpet lined floor of the bridge on the U.S.S. Constellation. I swayed as I tried to balance myself and looked around. The bridge looked fine, but it appeared that I wasn’t the only one to be thrown from my seat; the other officers were attempting to gain their footing as well. An early riser, Commander Lee, came to check on me.
“Sir, are you alright?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Check in with the other bridgemates, call Vanholz if any wounds need to be addressed.”
“Understood, Captain.” He saluted, then went off to find the medic. If something hit us, we needed to figure out what it was, and fast.
“Everyone, I want an immediate report of the ship’s integrity. Flores, check if we still have weapons and shield power. Talu, I want you to run a diagnostic scan on the ship’s hull. See if there are any breaches. Satra, check the ship’s distortion field generator and run a 360 degree scan of everything within 5 AU.” Three “affirmative”s answered and I set to work on the console in front of me.
Lieutenant Flores was the first to answer: “Shields and weapons are up, but we’re running on backup power, Captain.”
Lieutenant Commander Talu reported, “ No breaches sir, but I’m reading internal damage and an automatic lockdown procedure in the rooms near the…”
“Distortion field generator,” Lieutenant Satra says, cutting Talu off. “It’s been completely annihilated!”
“Can we run any simulations to try and recreate what might have happened?” A breach in the field generator means we would be stuck here until help arrives. A manual fix might also be possible, but it would take about as much time, and we’d have to land to do it.
“Yes, sir” she replies. “ I’m reading temperatures as high as 3,000 degrees Kelvin and there’s huge amounts of gamma radiation. My guess is that one of the tanks containing antimatter had a power fluctuation, weakening the magnetic field and resulting in a chain reaction that tore the field generator to shreds. However, our reserve powers stores are full, so we should have capability to do anything normally besides distortion travel.”
“At least that’s working. Were there any people working in the room at the time of malfunction?”
“Thankfully not sir, the emergency doors were mostly closed before the blast could escape. Two engineers walking down the hallway got minor radiation burns, but it could have been a lot worse. They are being treated in the infirmary as we speak.”
“Good to hear,” I say. That was a relief, though I’d still have to contact the headquarters at Earth about our current predicament, but even if they sent help, it would still take at least a couple of weeks for a ship with supplies and repair crews to get here. “How about those scans, Satra?”
“Scans report no threat in the vicinity, but there seems to be… Captain, you may want to see this…” I walk to her console and peer over her shoulder, “I’m reading one M-class exoplanet, oceanic, about twice the radius of earth, at about 2 AU away. It might be in the Goldilocks zone of this system,” she says.
“We still have engine power and fuel, right?” I ask, knowing that there would only be so much before we would have to switch to backups.
She runs a brief diagnostic, “Yes, our engines are fine, but we have only about 65% fuel remaining that we can use without tapping into emergency reserves.”
“Will it be enough to get us to the planet?” She brings up a program on the screen, sets a few conditions, and waits.
A couple of results show up and she says, “According to my calculations, if we follow the most efficient path, we can use another 40% of our total fuel.”
“Computer, load Satra’s flight course and bring us into proxy-scan range of the planet, activate stabilizers when in range, keep our heading and speed during the scan.” A few moments pass as the Constellation’s autopilot locks in the course, followed by a deep and distant rumbling as the ship’s engines roared to life, eager to move again.
Commander Lee walks in. “The injured are being treated, sir. Did I miss something?”
I give him the brief run down of the distortion field generator, the planet, and the crew. Afterwards, I decide that I have enough knowledge of the situation to inform the rest of the ship’s crew. I press a button on my own console and a sharp whistle rings out through the ship, “This is your captain speaking. We believe that the shockwave you experienced originated from the distortion field generator room during an equipment malfunction that set off a matter-antimatter reaction. Two crew members suffered minor injuries that are being taken care of. There are no immediate threats in the ship’s vicinity, and we are headed to an M-class exoplanet to land for resource extraction and repair. Avoid the distortion field room if at all possible. We are trying to vent the room and restore radiation levels to a safe threshold. That is all, thank you.” I end the transmission and set to work on informing Earth Space and Exploration headquarters of our current situation.
A small holographic display appears in front of me, followed by the face of Fleet Admiral Jonis. “Yes, Captain?” she asks in a cool voice. I explain our situation, everything from how this incident started to our current flight course for the exoplanet.
“An exoplanet, hmm? Judging from the location of your transmission, our superposition tracers seem to indicate that you are in the Kepler 22b system. Kepler 22b is a mono-planet system once held as a number one candidate for life to exist. Be careful down there, Captain. We have no idea what you might be getting into down there. Report the details back to me if you find anything. Meanwhile, I’ll send a supply and repair freighter your way. Any questions?”
“Stay safe out there, Walker. Jonis out.” the holographic transmission fizzled and died.