“Right,” the captain had said decisively, not as if someone had just told him his ship was facing a violent unknown. “How long?”
“Three minutes, sir, tops,” Jon had replied.
Sullivan had glanced at Lieutenant Philip Piper over at transmissions, who’d nodded immediately. Piper would send out a warning to the crew; meanwhile he’d get the engineering chief for the captain. “Henricks, have you been following this?” Sullivan had queried.
“Yes, sir. Robert has kept me fully apprised,” Lieutenant Commander Sara Henricks had said. Robert Simpson was Sara’s second, but she’d never liked command center duty, preferring to stay in engineering, and she invariably assigned Robert to the command center. “I’ve no frame of reference, though, to say whether or not we can make it. If we can’t get out of the way, I suggest we broadside into it.”
“No, sir,” Jon had interrupted, his tone sharp. The very fact Jon had interrupted like that would’ve grabbed Sullivan’s attention. Jon wasn’t the kind to push himself forward; doing so in such a situation meant he felt strongly about what he was saying. “This is acting like a storm, like a violent hurricane at sea; you must turn your nose into that. Broadside and it will crack you like an egg.”
“We’re not at sea,” Sara had shouted irritably.
“I know that,” Jon had replied, “but the effect is the same. It’s coming in like waves, only waves of energy, right, Manny?”
“Yeah, that’s it. I’ve discovered it’s chock full of ionizing radiation and that’s pulsing against some other energy I don’t recognize. It’s forming waves behind the leading edge.”
“I still can’t say for sure if we can withstand this…storm,” Sara had reported. “The hull was made to take a lot and the shielding is in good order, but…”
“Sir?” Jon had queried, looking hard at his captain, who’d regarded him intently.
Jon had seen the moment the captain came to his decision. He’d nodded. “Whatever you think best, Jon.”
“Yes, sir.” Jon’s voice had been surprisingly calm. Inside, he’d felt like ice. God, I’d better be right, Jon had thought, as he’d swung the ship’s bow forward into the terrible energy surging toward them. Manny had told him time and again he had to trust his instincts.
“Henricks, supplement structural integrity support systems. Back up whatever other systems you can.”
“Barlow, make sure all bulkhead doors are secure and everything is battened down.”
“Already on it, Captain.” Glancing at the view screen, Barlow had added, “Can we survive in there?”
“We’ll know in one minute,” Manny had called.
Without needing to be ordered, Piper had opened the communication channels again and announced ship-wide, “Now hear this. Contact with the storm is imminent. All hands make preparations.”
Jon had noted Piper didn’t say what preparations to make—none of them knew exactly how they could prepare other than to hold on—but the man had to say something. Jon had been aware many of the command center crew were watching him, probably praying he knew what the hell he was talking about. His stomach had twisted at the knowledge that all their lives were in his hands. He’d prayed, too.