Lamont looked around curiously before lifting his wristband to his ear. Was he hearing things? No, the other occupants of the asteroid pod’s cockpit were doing the same.
“It’s Raj!” Abigail exclaimed, naming the navigator that filled her position on Westward’s second shift. “He’s broadcasting on the intercom channel!” She pressed the transmission button on the side of her wrist radio. “Westward, we read you. Repeat, the asteroid pod reads you.”
“I don’t think our wrist units can cut through the noise,” Spratt said, his hands flying across the control panel. “I’m switching the pod’s radio to that band.”
Abigail lifted the radio handset to her lips again. “Westward, this is the asteroid pod. Are you receiving?”
They all heard Raj Singh’s voice again, this time through the cockpit’s speakers. “This is Westward,” he confirmed. “Boy, are we glad to hear you. Where are you?”
“About five minutes away,” Ed answered, unceremoniously snatching the handpiece from Abigail’s grip. “Why are you on the intercom channel?”
“The electrical systems are on the fritz,” Raj answered, his voice briefly masked by static as if to emphasize the point. “We’re still trying to piece things together. Oh—here’s the captain.”
“What the devil happened out there, Spratt?”
That was Captain Carter’s distinctive New England baritone. Lamont couldn’t help but notice that Rosemary’s eyes flooded with tears, presumably of relief, to hear his voice.
“I was going to ask you the same thing,” Ed countered.
“All right,” Francis acknowledged. “A small, unidentified object passed at a very high speed between us and the tower. It released a powerful electrical discharge along the way, hitting both the tower and the ship. That’s as much as we saw before the situation went haywire here.”
“We were in the top of the tower when it happened,” Ed replied. “We saw it. What’s the damage?”
“The electrical system is in a bad way,” Francis confirmed. “There’s structural damage in the fore. We’re not sure of the extent yet, but it’s clear that we’re leaking oxygen. We have lots of injury reports, but no fatalities that I’m aware of. What’s the status of your team?”
“Ashton’s still in the tower, condition unknown. The rest of us are fine and in the pod. I’m going to take us in for a closer look at the damage. Can you get the storage bay doors open?” Ed returned the handset to Abigail.
“I’m deploying some techs to make it happen,” The captain replied after a moment’s silence.
“Acknowledged,” Said Abigail into the handset. “It’s a relief to hear that everyone is still alive, sir.”
“We feared the worst,” Francis admitted. “Especially after the incident. I’ll be glad to see all of you.”
“Almost all,” Rico muttered darkly.