The hiss of air, the screech of metal, the rumble of engines, and the blaring of alarms filled the cargo hold from corner to corner. The clamor was near deafening, but through it all he could hear one voice barking orders and hollering to the ceiling itself.
“Can’t you see the five hundred-goddamn-ton rover on approach? Move those shuttles away from the loading bay! Dock five needs to be open in less than two minutes, so get a move on!”
Jai followed the voice across the cargo hold as he dodged from the paths of scrambling maintenance crews, who looked harried beyond belief. Soon Jai caught a glimpse of the familiar shock of curly hair bobbing in and out of view as a pair of hands waved frantically in the air.
“Get the wheel clamps and tie down straps prepped as well. We don’t know how long Overlook will be staying with us! You! That chassis doesn’t need to be moved. Where the hell would you put it anyway?”
“Jai, Sentry Overlook is now thirty seconds away from entering. I suggest you find Mriya soon,” Atlas stated.
Jai finally spotted the short figure of the Chief Officer. He came up behind her and put a hand on her shoulder. She spun around, and her curly hair, cut short around her face, twirled with the movement. Her expression softened when she recognized him, and she quickly pulled two ear plugs from her ears.
“I was wondering when you both would decide to stop by,” she told them. Her voice was considerably quieter now that she had removed her ear protection, and she smiled warmly. “Give me one moment before we talk. Sentry is just about to land.”
She turned away from him and drew in a deep breath before bellowing, “Open the bay doors! Clear the deck!”
A new alarm blared and echoed through the cargo hold, accompanied by flashing orange lights. Crewmen scattered from a large section that was marked off with a landing grid 300 feet square. From where Jai stood, he could see the enormous bay doors begin to inch open, revealing an expansive rust-colored landscape beyond. Sentry Overlook could be seen some distance away, but the rover was rapidly growing larger as it moved effortlessly across the rocky terrain. As it approached the loading bay doors, Sentry slowed then eased through the opening in The Vigil’s hull at a creep. Once safely inside, Sentry rocked once as the engines were cut. Technicians rushed to secure the massive vehicle to the deck with a multitude of clasps that rose from the floor.
Mriya glanced back at Jai after she was satisfied with the work her crew was doing. “So tell me, Jai. Why is it that, not nearly fifteen minutes after I deploy four fully-equipped rovers, Sentry gets recalled and I have to clear off an entire loading bay once more?”
Jai waited without saying anything, and he watched as Sentry’s own cargo was opened. A small group of crewmen stepped from the rover, and between them was a rather dirty looking man being led from the craft by the elbows.
“Him,” he said simply, crossing his arms and nodding at the stranger. “Atlas, have the man escorted to one of the interrogation rooms.”
“Of course,” the moth replied.
A woman standing amidst the crew from Sentry lifted two fingers to her ear, then she looked up at Jai and nodded. She turned to the men holding the stranger, spoke quickly, and the group made its way swiftly from the rover and toward a hallway leading back into the center of The Vigil.
“He’ll be placed in room three,” Atlas said.
“Come see me as soon as you finish up here, Mriya,” he told his Chief Officer. He sighed before following after the stranger. “Why is it that it’s always our ship that runs into these problems?” he asked wistfully to no one in particular.
Mriya frowned as she watched Jai leave. “It sure does seem like that sometimes,” she mumbled.