Helen turned away from the console. ”Nope, I don’t understand it. Two days ago the navicom had us firmly on the flight plan, but now it’s just ’lost’”.
”But, we’re in Earth orbit, look it’s there,” Commander Johnson needlessly gesticulated at the Earth through the cockpit window. ”How can we be lost?”
”I’ll explain this just once more Commander,” Helen’s respect for her ’important passenger’ had faded rather over the last several hours, ”This is a small ship used to move people and freight from Station One to Station Two and back again. It’s 99 percent automated and right now that automation is telling us it’s lost. Comprendre?”
”But you’re the pilot, get us back on course,” the tinge of fear in Johnson’s voice made it a plea not an order.
”Yes, I’m the pilot. I’m here to turn the automation on when we depart, and off when we arrive, and I’m here to use this,” Helen touched the red panel marked ’Emergency’, ”when things go wrong.”
Helen paused to calm herself. ”We’ve food in here for 5 days.”
”Will they find us in 5 days?” Johnson asked.
”Not a chance, more like 10,” Helen lied. She knew it would be more like 30 days if ever. Helen also knew the food they had could be eked out for at least three times what she’d said, but she had Johnson where she wanted him – in her control.”
”Don’t worry hunger won’t kill you. Now get to the freight hold and see if there’s anything we can eat,” Helen turned to the console, ”I’ll give the navicom one last try.”
With Johnson in the freight hold Helen’s hand moved to the Emergency panel.
There were just three buttons. The first, marked ’Beacon’ she’d used 2 days ago, she used the second, ’Seal’, now. All the doors sealed tight. She pressed the third, ’Eject’. Good to its word the button opened the freight loading door letting the freight, and Commander Johnson out into space.
”Oops,” was Helen’s response. ”What did I tell you Commander? Hunger won’t kill you.”