That night Captain Ritzer spent the night in the Lab. He said that he wanted to reread the messages that his capsule had picked up over the last 100 years. I would have to find him a better place to sleep. Finding quarters for all of my crew was something that I needed to get used to. Having a crew would take some getting used to also. I had been alone for so long. Now I would have to be the one in charge.
“Claris,” I spoke to the wall,” Do you think the ship can hold 3 people and 4 Faree? “
“Of course it can this ship was designed to hold five adults. That is only looking at the crew quarters. If you use the cargo hold this ship could accommodate several more.” Charis answered.
“Do we have enough food for everyone?” I had never carried a lot. I had always relied on protein bars, which are cheep, easily stored and required no preparation to eat.
“I have not finished inventorying the supplies that Ted sent over before we left but my calculations have the supplies should last about two weeks. We could stretch that even longer if you use the hydroponics unit Captain Garret left, ” Charis responded.
This was the first time Charis had ever mentioned the former captain. I guess it showed how tired I still was since I dropped off to sleep without even asking her questions about what else she remembered about the old captain.
The next morning I woke, but I had no clue where I was. I could smell coffee and pancakes. I thought at first that I was back at my parent’s home and mom was cooking breakfast. Then I remembered, my parents had died in a bus accident when I was away to college, so I could not be home.
Charis saw I was awake and said, “Good morning, Bill, Anne and Captain Ritzer have breakfast ready. I was just about to wake you and Lance.”
When I entered the kitchen, I could not believe what I saw. There was a table set for four people. That was one thing I forgot to ask Charis last night would I have enough dishes for every one. At first I did not recognize the dishes that were on the table. Then I remembered, I had helped a fellow miner get a virus out of his computer system. The virus had made it impossible for him to fly his ship. The payment he gave me was a set of dishes. I had always planned on selling or trading the set of dishes but I very could find a buyer. I guess that was a good thing now. Normal chairs were set in three places. A crate was set in the fourth place. I guess that one was for Captain Ritzer. Captain Ritzer was standing on a crate with a spatula in his hand looking into my only frying pan. As I walked in he quickly turned something that looked like a pancake.
“Excuse me,” stated a quite voice behind me. I almost hit the ceiling; I am not use to people sneaking up behind me on my own ship. Ann was standing with some of the food stores that Ted had gathered. I quickly recovered my manners and helped Ann put the food supplies away.
Just as we finished putting the supplies away safely Lance stumbled into the room. He was still dressed in a night jumper and he looked half asleep. “Ann you will have my undying gratitude if that is coffee, and how in the world did you find the makings for pancakes,” he said.
Laughing Ann handed us both a cup of coffee and told us to sit so we would not be in her way. She and Captain Ritzer served us breakfast. Captain Ritzer flew between the table and the counter. I was amazed to see how easy it was for him to travel between two points.
As we ate Anne explained the pancakes. She told us that the people who lived on government rations of protein pills, and bars learned to be creative. One of the forms of entertainment in the apartment where she lived was a cook off. The rules stated you had to make a food item with just ration bars and no more then three other food items. Pancakes were made from the breakfast ration bar, a little yeast, sugar and water. This was one of many recipes she knew. She could do better once she got the hydroponics unit working.
The talk about the hydroponics unit brought me back to reality. I would have to find a way to keep this group feed. Last night I decided that I would have to be authoritative. A strict captain that gave the orders and everyone obeyed without question. Who was I kidding I could not get my computer to obey. This morning Ann had shown me that she had several good ideas. That made me decided on trying a democracy.
I served another round of coffee, and showed the crew the problems.
Ann, as I hoped, volunteered to set up the hydroponics unit. She had hoped that we had some rice seeds with the equipment. Charis assured her that there were some rice seeds but she could not guarantee how well they had survived. Lance offered to help her with the crates.
Charis and Captain Ritzer had stayed up all night talking about how to find the other pods. The Faree had used subsonic frequency on their pods. If other people heard the signal they would figure that it was just background noise. Captain Ritzer guessed that his people had been too cautious. If they had used a signal that would have been easy to detect, he would not have been asleep for so long. Charis and Captain Ritzer decided that they should try the asteroid I found Mike’s wedding gift on. Charis’ database stated that a sound matching the signal from Captain Ritzer Pod was found in that area. Charis had spent several hours calculating the possible spot for the asteroid.
Calculating the position of an asteroid is not as easy as calculating the distance to the nearest store. Asteroids are always orbiting the sun. To make the calculations more interesting asteroids move around with in the asteroid field. This particular asteroid had no useful metals but it had been one of the larger asteroids. It was large enough that I was fairly certain that it would still be there after two years.
Charis decided best path and told us it would take ten days to get there. Lance and Ann left to work on the hydroponics unit, while Captain Ritzer and I worked on the air exchange system. Once the hydroponics unit was running, the plants would help keep oxygen in the air but for now we had three more people breathing then the system was used to. When I lived a lone, that had been one of the last systems that I had taken the time to repair. I was surprised to find the job took less time to fix then I thought. Captain Ritzer was small enough to fit into the area easily, and do most of the work for me.
Over the next several days life fell into a routine. Ann made most of the meals. She and Captain Ritzer worked the hydroponics unit. We did have some good rice seed. Ann was excited. She said when it got older we would have something called a stir fry. Captain Ritzer insisted on sleeping in the cargo hold. The hydroponics unit required constant attention in the beginning. This was one of the reasons that I never bothered using it. This way Charis could wake him up and he could add the nutrients without disturbing the rest of us.
Lance and I worked on long needed repairs and did regular maintenance. It was nice to have a person with whom to bounce around ideas. By the third day we had created a connection between the Faree pod and Charis’s systems. Captain Ritzer and Charis spent hours trying to figure out where the other pods could have landed. The calculation for gravitational shifts in an asteroid field over 100 years was too much even for the combined computational skills of my ship and Captain Ritzer’s pod.
Lance surprised us by creating a chess set out of the create Ann used to smuggle herself on board. The first night we played with the set the pieces were a rough carving. As we continued he improved the carvings. Ann saved the coffee and tea grounds so half the pieces could be dyed a darker color. Soon we were playing chess or checkers every night. Charis and I had often played chess on a computer screen on long trips between mining places, but this was a lot more fun. It was nice to actually hold the piece and move it on the board. Who would ever think I would develop such antique ideas.
Ann had turn out to be a great cook. She soon showed that she had other useful talents. Livings in the lower apartments she had learned how to save. When she was not cooking or working on the hydroponics unit she was looking at my junk. It cost a lot of money to throw stuff away. I know several miners that just throw their junk on the asteroid when they leave. Not only is that illegal it also makes the place look terrible. So since I had more space then money I stored my junk. Most of it had been in Ann’s room. Captain Ritzer had a real chair now that was perfect for his height. She had also created a set of dishes that made it easier for him to eat.
Despite Ann’s skills our supplies would not last forever. Fuel for a ship was not cheap. We were also running low on water. This was a problem I had never had. Not only did I have 3 extra people on board, but the hydroponics unit took a lot of water. Our progress was already slowed by the two facts. First we had to stay away from other vessels. Captain Ritzer did not want to be seen by other humans, and two of us were fugitives. Second thing that slowed our progress was the fact that we were constantly scanning for the other beacons. Four times a day we would stop so Charis could listen for the beacons. Twice Charis had “heard” sound on the right frequency, but both time it turned out to be just background noise.
Over breakfast one morning I brought the subject up to the crew. I wanted to stop on a close asteroid to do some mining. I thought Captain Ritzer would be the one I would have to convince. That morning he surprised me, he was the one that convinced Ann and Lance. “They have been asleep for a hundred years one day more would not be terrible.
We soon found an asteroid that has a lot of ice on it and some minerals that we could sell. If I had been alone I would not have bothered with this asteroid. I had always been looking for the big find. Now I was working on survival and taking care of a group.
Lance and I were the only two that could go outside since I only had two suits. Ann had never been in space and did not want to try. Captain Ritzer wanted to join us but there was no way he could fit in either suit. Lance and I took one of the servos and went to find minerals. Charis directed the other two servos to chop ice and retrieve ice. Once servos were on board Captain Ritzer and Ann unloaded the servos placing the minerals in storage and the ice in the purifier. While on the asteroid ran one of the ice servos ran across a junk pile. Ann directed the servo to pick up sever of the items. One item surprised me it was a bolt of cloth. Too bad none of us could sew. Ann had only two old jumpers to wear, one I donated to her and the other Lance had donated to her. Captain Ritzer had only his uniform. That uniform was over 100 years old.
When we finally arrived at the asteroid, Charis announced that the same sound was coming from the asteroid. She said that she would have never heard it from space, there was something muffling the sound. I guess it was lucky that I had stopped on this asteroid before. She did caution Captain Ritzer that the sound could only be background noise. Lance and I suited up while Ann and Captain Ritzer used the three servos to search the surface. Just as we were finished they had found something interesting for us to check out. The sound seemed to be coming from the side of a hill. If the pod was buried that would have explained the fact that the signal muffled. Lance and I grabbed digging gear and prepared for a long day outside the ship. I wanted to use the servos to dig, but Captain Ritzer would not allow us.
It took us several hours of careful digging. With each hour the signal got closer so we kept digging. Lance and rotated out to replace our air supply and get some food and warm drink. I know you are not supposed to feel the cold of space in these suits, but I felt it anyway. Ann met me outside the air lock with food and air when it was my turn to take a break. Ann told me that Captain Ritzer was frustrated that he could not be out there digging too. I was amazed at her ability to put up with the agitated captain. I soon left to return to digging just to avoid him.
Just before I was ready to go in for more air, Lance found something green. Captain Ritzer let out a yell that almost knock out the sound system. He must have been glued to the monitors. After Charis tuned him out Lance and I started working on the area. The buried shape was identical in size to Captain Ritzer’s pods.
We carefully loaded it on one of the servos and headed back to the ship. The other servos quietly followed us. Charis thought of everything. When we got back to the ship Captain Ritzer and Ann took the pod to the Lab to open. It would take some time for the reawakening process so Lance and I could take our time. We both decided that a change of cloths and a hot shower were needed. Charis could call us if we were needed. Ann stayed with the captain. While I took my shower I could hear him pacing. Charis warned me that the time was almost up so I grabbed a cup Earl Grey and hurried to the lab.
When the pod opened there lay a girl Faree. It was interesting to watch the face of Captain Ritzer. I could tell that he was disappointed and angry and relieved at the same time. I looked again at the person in the pod, which was when I noticed her stomach was strangely extended. I had heard that exposed body had weird deformities. My first thought was “Oh no she’s dead we were too late.”
I was definitely not prepared for Captain Ritzer’s explosion. “Amair, why didn’t you tell me you were pregnant?”