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Artemis 7: One Giant Leap (#4)

April 20, 2018

The crew was shaken. You can't shrug off witnessing an apocalyptic event. The images stick with you. Hargrove stared out into space, but the crumbling of Artemis Station and the sight of Earth turning black and orange refused to go away. Her mind fought it off by remembering they were in a survival situation now, no one was coming for them. They only had enough rations for a day, maybe three if they were particular. 

"Alright people let's find the nearest habitable planet," Hargrove announced. "I'm not going to sit in here waiting to die."

To their credit, the crew eagerly went to work. Anything was better than focusing on what had transpired. "I've got a couple readings,"  Reed reported. "Give me a second."

"How are we holding up?" Hargrove inquired.

"We took some damage, I'm not sure yet how it'll effect planetary entry," Stavos announced.

"We're low on fuel, if we set down we better be sure it's habitable, because we're not getting back up," Brooks announced.

Hargrove nodded. "Drake?"

"Radiation levels are off the chart, big blue out there won't make this easy."

"Should we try somewhere else?" Wilson asked. "Make another jump."

Everyone looked at him as if he'd suggested killing a puppy.

"What if the same thing happens again?" Keller challenged.

"I'm sorry, are you thinking of putting down roots here? This place means nothing to us," Wilson argued.

"There could be other lifeforms out here, things we've never seen before, these worlds could have the potential to become something great. You'd risk destroying that?" Keller fired back.

"We've already destroyed one that matters to us, what's one more?" Wilson squared up to Keller.

Hargrove slid her hand between the two, pushing Wilson back a step. "Reed?" she addressed.

"It's not looking good, even the sections here that are planet-esque are loosely formed conglomerations of rock. It's unlikely to have any type of water or food source."

Hargrove hung her head. "Then we have no choice, Keller send Brooks the coordinates for a more suitable location."

"Captain!" he began to argue. 

She wheeled around on him, making her presence felt despite his height. "If you're so eager to die, there's an airlock over there." Her hand pointed towards the small portal they'd entered through when they started the mission. "This is a survival mission now, that means we're going to have to do things we're not comfortable with. Understood?"

Everyone else nodded. "Keller?" She looked up at his dark brown eyes. He nodded and sat back down. There was a series of clicks as everyone adjusted their harnesses. Hargrove's heart drummed quickly in her chest. She'd never been more afraid in her life. The image of destruction popped back into her head. 

Brooks started up the system, a wave of nausea stirred within Hargrove. She swallowed it down just as the stars began to shift. Then there was a flash, and they were under an orange sun. Hargrove let out a sigh. "Report," she commanded.

Everyone reported they were good, she turned to Brooks. "Then I guess I get the bad news. We're out of fuel. I can get her down to a rock, but we better be committed to it. I doubt these places have a pump anywhere."

Hargrove nodded in understanding. "Then let's get to work people."

Hargrove paced from bow to stern while her crew whispered among each other, trading information and verifying results as time passed. Occasionally she'd peek over their shoulders to get a glimpse of their results. but it did little to settle the butterflies in her stomach.

"We've got something," Reed announced. Hargrove looked at him intensely. "Good news, it's habitable. We won't burn up, or freeze." He paused. "The bad news is, the air isn't breathable. At least by us. My scans pick up forms of life, but not much more than that."

Hargrove searched the room, glancing at her crew. "This is our best option?"

Reed nodded. Better to die on your feet than choke on your own tongue, she thought to herself.

"Then strap in everyone, we're moving in."


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