So I took the seat to Gary’s right at the controls, strapped in, and went through the rest of the pre-flight checklist with him. Soon enough we were on our way out of the flight bay, and zooming ahead of the Discovery to Achernar four. Once the flight was well underway there wasn’t much for either of us to do at the controls, but nobody seemed to want to speak up or start doing anything to fend off the boredom.
Jody finally said something about twenty minutes into the trip. “Aren’t you guys going to turn off the seat restraints sign and resume standard gravity?” The pinnace had artificial gravity generators built into the deck, like Discovery did, but Gary had never activated them, even though the main thruster was pushing all of us backwards into our couches at a little over double our usual weight.
There was a few seconds worth of silence. “No, sorry honey,” Gary called back. “The mission requirements are specifically that we get to the planet and land with all possible speed, considering the medical emergency. Unfortunately, that means that we can’t divert the power for reducing g-force.”
“Oh,” Jody said, and I could hear her sigh from up in the cockpit. “I still have a headache, and the pressure is making it worse.”
“Ensign Quinton,” the exec officer snapped. “Were you examined by medical personnel before reporting for this duty?”
“Yes, sir,” Jody replied, her voice stiff with the chain of command. “Doctor Haverman looked me over himself – he did remark that he’d like to have me resting and under observation, but understood that I was needed on this mission.”
“He consulted with me before coming to that conclusion, sir,” Colin chimed in. “I did ask about the likely progression, and it seemed that Ensign Quinton would be able to function for long enough that we could complete our task and she could then receive treatment.”
That was assuming there would be any treatment to be had – either among the aliens, or if Carla and Jody managed to pull off a miracle back home. Discovery would be proceeding to orbit about the planet at its own best speed, and we’d be able to go back there if they had the cure.
“Lieutenant Archer, considering that you were apprised one of the team has a health concern, did you check to make sure that the mission roster included a trained field medic?” Exec continued.
“That’s me, sir,” Gary volunteered. “At least, I’m certified, and I’m not sure if anyone else is.” He left a pause, and nobody else identified themselves. “Should I conduct an examination of Ensign Quinton at this time, sir? There’s no pressing need for me to be at the flight controls.”
Exec took a moment to answer. “Yes, go ahead.” Gary considered, then turned the gravity generators enough to reduce weight by about a quarter of what it was, and tilt us, so that the ‘floor’ of the deck was now a highly inclined slope instead of vertical. He fastened a retractable tether from his acceleration couch to the belt of his uniform and tumbled out towards the passenger compartment. It sounds like he was going to a lot of trouble to avoid reverting to normal gravity, and maybe so – I’m not familiar enough with the specs to know how much of an impact that would have had on our travel time.
I was keeping careful watch on all of the engine readings and the navigational sensors while Gary was occupied, so I didn’t worry about listening to what was said back there. I did hear when Gary delivered his report. “I think that a strong analgesic should help Quinton deal with the pain and the pressure of gravity. If she can’t endure after that’s had a chance to take effect, we may need to reconsider using the gravity generators at a significant power level.”
“Yeah, just give me the drugs and I’ll be fine,” Jody muttered. “Everybody’s making such a big deal.”
“Nobody wants you to be in pain, Jody,” Melissa told her. “Especially not when it’s you that we’re counting on to talk to these people on the planet.”
As Gary slowly winched himself back up towards the cockpit, I found myself hoping that it would be that easy for Jody to bridge the communications gap.
It was about ten hours before we began the landing at Achernar Four. For a lot of that time, Gary and I were pretending to sleep in shifts – I’d pretend I was piloting while he slept, then pretend I was sleeing while he piloted.
To be continued…