Command and Control

Food, as everything else was in short supply. All, it seemed, except for misfortune and misery. The hydroponic gardens were failing. Water recirc units were running at half capacity. Air scrubbers had been under constant repair for the last year. Rumors of sabotage began to surface among the crew.

Captain Morrow contemplated the issues at hand from his command chair on the bridge. The voyage had been long—over four years, yet they were only two-thirds of the way to their destination; Enceladus, the enigmatic moon of Saturn.

At the present rate of failures, they would all be dead before reaching the end of their journey. The spaceship, flown mostly by computers, would arrive, park in orbit and initiate surveillance of the surface. It would transmit all of it’s data back to Earth for the scientists there to ruminate on. The computers would perform their preprogrammed duties until the engines on the lifeless hulk failed and the most expensive manned space mission in history ended in a rapid descent and an unobserved crash of destruction.

Their voyage was historic. After decades of little activity in space apart from the routine Lunar ‘roundabouts’ and a single, manned foray to Mars, space exploration had been non-existent. Morrow and his crew had been selected to make the first manned expedition to the Saturnian system.

Robotic missions would have been able to gather as much or more useful information, but NASA, in attempts to rekindle interest and reassert its authority as the world’s preeminent space exploration agency had decided on a manned mission. The captain had pushed for more redundancy on the systems but his requests had been denied due to launch window time frames and budget constraints.

The mission had started well enough; nothing of import during launch or refueling at the LEO fueling point. The problems had begun at aphelion. Radio communication had been randomly inadvertent. The nav-computer now required frequent calibration to keep them headed in the proper direction. Environmental controls appeared to be temperamental at best. The captain, as he was trained to, became a constant force, a visible manifestation of command. He issued orders, demanded system checks, wanted to know what the hell was wrong with his ship. Answers were scarce and incomplete. The whispers of sabotage grew more frequent.

Morrow, now deep in the throes of madness, plotted his next move and, more importantly, how he would avoid detection.

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