The trip down to the Tranquility Base took just over two hours. During that time, Sted and Commander Olsen reviewed the list of everything that had to be accomplished aboard the Revere before they could deploy again.
Blyleven, on the other hand, sat quietly in her shuttle seat looking out the viewport and speculating on what the next two months would be like with them trying to meet clandestinely. They were going to continue the ruse that the two of them were at odds with each other, and the captain would call her into his office every so often to chastise her. That was easy for him but very difficult for her. She was the one who had to cause the disharmony on the bridge and bear the brunt of criticism from the rest of the crew. She was the one who had to act sullen and upset all the time while inside she was actually ecstatic to be in a relationship with her man. Every so often she would glance over at her two superior officers, and just seeing Sted caused her stomach to do flip-flops. She knew the next two months on the bridge of Revere would be torturous, and that made her angry.
The landing at Tranquility Field was uneventful. The three passengers donned their helmets and exited the shuttle about 300 meters from the airlock entrance to the base. On the short trek across the rough ceramacrete landing field, Olsen turned to Sted.
“That asteroid must be fairly close to the Earth/moon system already, so it also must be small enough to have gone undetected until very recently. I wonder how they intend us to alter its orbital path in such a short time span.”
Sted paused and opened the outer door to the airlock. “Do you speculate like this before all of my briefings?” He smiled. “Have just a little patience, Olsen. All will be revealed shortly.”
Sted entered first and punched in the base access code as Olsen and Blyleven entered behind him and secured the outer airlock door. They all heard the air rushing into the airlock, equalizing the pressure with the interior of the base. As they watched the gauge on the panel cycle upward, Olsen was about to ask another question when Sted gave him an annoyed look. Then all hell broke loose.
Sted saw a bright flash of light as he was thrown against the inner lock door with both Jeremy and Lorraine’s suited bodies crushing against him. The sound in the enclosed space was deafening, but it was nothing compared to the scream that Sted let out from the searing pain he felt in his lower legs and feet.
As he faded into unconsciousness, Sted caught a last image of bloodstained pieces of his two crewmates’ shattered helmets flying overhead.