Countdown by Christine Clukey Reece

Presentation Thumbnail DSF LogoCountdown
by Christine Clukey Reece


“Five minutes, sir.”

Tanaka nearly stopped breathing as the wires slipped through his now-sweaty fingers for the third time. Time. I don’t have time to panic, he reminded himself as he re-sorted the radar console’s wires into the correct sequence. His tech assistant wedged himself under the console to hold the wires into place, freeing Tanaka’s hands to begin connecting the system. He could hear the captain’s voice as she directed two other officers through calculations that would help determine their currently unknown distance from the star they were surveying, trying to establish how much time they had to rewire the console before the Esperanza slipped far enough into the star’s gravity well that the ion engines couldn’t pull them away from it.

The solar flare had stunned everyone on the command deck with its brilliance and extent. Not an unknown or unexpected phenomenon, but unique in signature and strength…and even more hazardous when the unusual radiation pulse neatly evaded part of the ship’s shielding. The pulse had fried several integral systems, including the ship’s radar. They were navigating between an inner planet and one of its tightly-held moons, and Tanaka knew they couldn’t risk changing directions without knowing the exact positions of the star and its orbitals.

Two wires connected; fifty-eight to go.

Captain Vargas called to the communications officer from where she sat at the command console. “See if you can get any sound signature off the star or its orbitals and try to gauge distance. Our bearing was unchanged; speed was diminished by 100kps. The star should be directly ahead, with the planet slightly behind to starboard and its moon equidistant on our port side. Pearson, still waiting on the mass of that moon and the speed of its orbit.”

The tech assistant called out for a time check; another minute had elapsed since losing radar capabilities. Ten wires down; fifty to go. Tanaka could feel the deck vibrating beneath him as the crew responded to the various alerts, their feet and ministrations acting as drumsticks on the ship’s percussive surfaces. Fourteen wires down; forty-six to go.

Intermittent bursts of static came from the communications console as Captain Vargas and Lieutenant Pearson continued to work out the position of the moon and Tanaka made the next few connections. “Captain, solar gravity has increased our speed by 70kps!” he heard Eliott call out, and Tanaka mentally cursed the man for bringing so much homebrew to his birthday lunch.

Twenty-one down; thirty-nine to go.

©2012 Christine Clukey ReecePublished electronically at February 3, 2016. You may link to or share this post with full and proper attribution; however, the author retains the complete and unrestricted copyright to this work. Commercial use or distribution of any kind is prohibited without the express written permission of the author.

Variant Reflections: Science Fiction Short Stories (Digital Science Fiction Author Collection)

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