Gaia ripped off her mask and sped up the ladder to the chamber where her crewmates were trying to order the mechs to return. Turning to Sander, she asked, “Where’s Jason?”
“Good question,” Sander replied. Raising his palms to face Gaia, he said, “Let’s find him.” Gaia placed her palms against his and the two interlaced their fingers. Gaia closed her eyes and let her mind expand throughout the large ship. She didn’t recognize Jason at first. He didn’t look human; he didn’t feel human. His electrical patterns were too regular, not random enough.
The bridge dissolved around them as Sander moved them through a dimensional shift. Gaia’s eyes were wide open when they arrived at the small command center of the large ship. Jason was standing in a chamber in the back of the compartment. The larger vessel had executed a course change and was heading for Nova Terra. Sander and Gaia sat at what appeared to be the ship’s navigation and communication stations. There were already warnings for the larger vessel to divert its course.
Gaia opened a channel to reply to the incoming messages. “This is Gaia Wald of Nova Terra. We are attempting to divert course, but the ship is not responding. We are requesting consideration of one hour.”
“This is Nova Command. You have 59 minutes.”
Gaia closed the channel. She turned to face Jason. He was standing perfectly still, eyes open and staring ahead of him. Gaia noticed that he wasn’t blinking. “What the…” Suddenly, Jason stepped forward and locked his eyes on Gaia.
“Welcome aboard the Arctic,” he spoke in a relaxed tone. “I’m suppose you want an explanation.”
“Keep it short,” Sander replied, “We have less than one hour to save this ship, if it’s worth saving.”
“It is a treasure trove. The last of every living thing on Earth preserved for transplant on some lucky planet. And Nova Terra is that lucky world.” Jason sounded like a used spaceship salesperson, and neither Gaia nor Sander was buying his pitch.
Zack and Thaniel had already set about getting themselves off the ship before it was blown out of Nova’s sky. The Novan mechs were modular and Gaia had insisted that the evacuation modules were loaded aboard the Antarctic before launch. The spaceport guards had even allowed it.
Gaia thought back to Speaker Law and his question about the Antarctic’s long-range ability. It dawned on her that he wasn’t asking her about that because he wanted her to go on a deep-space mission. He wanted to know if the ship had already flown a long-range mission. It had been Jason’s ship originally; he had arrived in it.