“Central, we’re cleared from here,” Emily said, eyes darting between the various gauges and instruments on her dashboard. “How does it look on your end?”
A prompt reply came from the Communications-Unit, only slightly distorted by the recording device. “Central here, reporting ‘All Clear’ for vessel DAMUS-N05. You are cleared to commence takeoff. Good luck out there.”
Emily signaled to her pilot. ”Roger Central. Pilot Kaneshiro, if you would start the countdown and take us up.” She leaned back as Koneko counted down the 10 seconds to launch then hit the switch, igniting several hundred tonnes of fuel, beginning this particular journey to Mars.
As their vessel began leaving Earth’s atmosphere and the crew relaxed, Koneko Kaneshiro kept a light grip on the flightsticks. “The DAMUS has been in service for over 5 years. It is no longer about luck, just routine.”
Emily glanced down at the Comms display. Central was still logged on the emergency line. “It was simply a gesture of goodwill, Koneko,” Her pilot scoffed at her, in possibly the most british way she had heard her japanese colleague act for years. “Though I do agree. The DAMUS isn’t exactly cutting edge or treading new ground.”
There was a click as Varzhov removed his safety harness. “I heard McGyver talking about some new models coming to Central in the next few months. In other words, in high time for the serious chokliks to be worked out before we return.”
Koneko glanced about the familiar control cabin, instruments reassuringly silent. “That would certainly be something.”
Their 4th crew member had not said a word since takeoff. Peter kept a close eye on the various gauges displaying the measurements on such important quantities as oxygen, carbon dioxide-buildup and fuel. They were fast approaching the final point of return should a vessel from Central experience critical problems. At first they had been called ‘Obstacles’. What a load of rubbish. What constitutes an ‘obstacle’ to an Earthbound vessel could easily eliminate the crew of a space vessel. From her position, Emily could not glean any useful information from the instruments. “Any unpleasant news, Peter?”
The dane did not look up from his dashboard. “I would have mentioned it, captain. But no, N05 is displaying optimal values. We are green to go beyond the cryo point.”
“Trajectory and engine firing solution plotted.” Koneko piped up from her seat.
“All systems showing green, Central-Emergency and Sol-Vector showing no delay beyond expected values.” Varzhov said, going through the motions.
Emily signed the final piece of the pre-cryo checklist, the holo-display removing the file from her vision. “Acknowledged. Engaging auto.” She flipped the cover open, turning the auto to On. Around the control room, displays switched to acknowledge the change. Soft blues switched to harsher yellows, illuminated the faces of the crew in strange ways and framing the darkness of space visible through the windows. Emily always found it off-putting, and thankfully she would not have to look at the lighting for long. The crew disengaged from their harnesses, slowly passing through the living quarters. The living room was spotless since the preparation-crew had gone over it with a fine comb. The table was still folded into the wall, and would remain there until they had arrived at their destination. Emily left the cabin last, doing one last check of her display. As the door between the living room and control room began to close with an almost silent hum of electronics, she fancied something looked back at her from the void of space visible through the thick viewport glass.
The cryogenics-room beyond was just as well-kept, each pod closed and curtains drawn. While each crew was allowed to spend the time during automated transit as they wished, transport flights could carry very little non-essential cargo, so there would be next to no entertainment for the week-long flight. Cryo-sleep was the preferred option. The chemically-induced sleep would come fast, passing weeks of space-flight in what would seem like an hour.
Koneko stared forlornly at her pod as the crew began preparing their own cryo-pods. “This is always the worst part. You would think we could make it less uncomfortable.”
Varzhov was sitting up in his open pod. “I think it’s just a side-effect of the cryo-sleep and the chemicals. Not much a pillow can do about those,” he leant back, engaging the activation sequence, “at least we can have some food once we get up. Good night.” With that, his pod closed. One by one, the crew fell asleep in their pods. Emily was, as always, last to go, the eerie feeling of being watched chasing her into a dreamless sleep.