Chapter 15.2

“Fifteen minutes everyone,” Tom announced. “Whatever the decision, up or down, we need to be strapped in and ready to fire thrusters in fifteen minutes. That’s One Five minutes, people! Make certain all of the hatches on each deck are secured, police your immediate area and nail down anything on this deck that even thinks it’s loose.”

“Up or down?” Carl asked. “We still have that seventy-two hour fuel buffer. I’m not ready to give up, yet.”

Tom replied, “Me neither, but what if we get the word from M.S. that it’s time to fire Trans-Earth thrusters? How long are we going to be able to stall?”

Brandon offered, “I’ve been thinking about that. We could say ‘we could try to dock with the ERV in a couple of days for a safer, more comfortable ride home. That might give us the added time we need.”

“Yeah!” Carl exclaimed. “I’ll start running a plot for the rendezvous.”

“OK,” Tom agreed. “I doubt they’ll go for that, but it’s worth a shot.”

“Tom, I’m gonna need to keep my laptop with me when I strap in,” Jackie insisted.

Tom was against that idea at first, as it could slip out of her grasp and become a projectile, bouncing wildly around the cabin. But, knowing Jackie’s fragile state of mind, he obliged, “As long as you hold onto it real tight. If we wind up having to fire thrusters before the message comes in, you won’t be able to read it until we’re back in zero-gee and coasting again. And, if that thing gets out of your hands during the momentum, someone could get badly injured.”

“OK,” Jackie agreed. “I’ll hang on with a death-grip. I want to have it in hand, just…” DING!

Jackie almost dropped her laptop on the floor when the message indicator sounded. She sheepishly grimaced at Tom as she quickly recovered her composure and her grasp on the computer, then clicked onto the waiting message:

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