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6. The Big Send Off

     It took the military twelve hours to find the people on Eric’s list, and while some of them refused to come along, most of them were okay with the suggestion of safety from the asteroid. When it was all said and done, the last person they were waiting for was Drummond’s son. The Sergeant skipped the main building and drove his car right up to the hangar where The Elpis was already starting to hum its engines. It was a clear Friday afternoon, and the skies only had a few scattered clouds. People for hundreds of miles were going to see something spectacular and record it on their cell phones, which would in turn put the White House on the hot seat not only with the media and the people, but other nations as well.

     Only American and Canadians were supposed to be allowed on board any of the Stargazer ships, but Eric took that more as a suggestion than an actual order. He had several engineers and their families from Japan, South Korea and even the United Kingdom. He was mum about this, but Eric was sure he was going to need as many techs and engineers on Mars as he could possibly spare. He was never the kind of guy to put all his eggs into one basket, so he made sure that each ship had the same number of engineers onboard so if one of them didn’t make it, they wouldn’t be shit out of luck on the red planet without someone to fix stuff when it broke or didn’t work properly. Farmers, botanists, and even architects were included in Stargazer crews. Even a chef to teach the residents how to cook the future crops of Mars. Eric took being in charge of the Stargazer project seriously and was doing his best to make sure that nothing was left out to insure success, which was survival. When Drummond pulled his car up to the ship in the hangar, Eric and a few officers were there waiting for them.

     “Don’t worry,” Eric called out, “We weren’t going to leave without him.”

     “I appreciate that,” Drummond said as he and his son walked over with several big bags that he had packed for his son. A little more than what the average person had packed for the trip, but Eric was willing to let it pass since if it wasn’t for Drummond, Eric wouldn’t be in the position he was in to leave the planet and take his chances on mars while an asteroid threatened to wipe out all mankind.

     “Did you take my advice?” Eric then asked, “Did you pack up for the bunker so you wouldn’t have to go back home?”

     “I did,” Drummond replied, “Do you really think the people are going to flip out that badly after The Elpis leaves orbit?”

     “I hope not,” Eric honestly answered, “But people have lost their shit for lesser reasons, haven’t they?”

     “Touché.” Drummond said, as he walked up to shake Eric’s hand. “Please take good care of him.”

     “I promise,” Eric said, holding onto Drummonds hand and not letting go.

     “Is there something wrong?” Drummond asked.

     “I’m sorry,” Eric then told him.

     “For what?” Drummond asked.

     Drummond didn’t realize it but one of the guards had snuck up behind him, and just as Eric let go of his hand the guard hit the Sergeant with a taser, knocking him unconscious. He laid there on the ground shaking like a leaf until he stopped moving. Gabriel looked back at Eric, with a shocked look on his face.

     “What did you do that for?” he called out.

     “Do you want to leave him behind?” Eric replied with a question of his own.

     “No, I don’t.” Gabriel answered.

     “Neither do I,” Eric told the young man, “That’s why he’s coming with us.”

     “He is?” Gabriel said, as he couldn’t believe it.

     “He is,” Eric confirmed, turning to the other guards behind him, “Get the Sergeant’s things from his car. Let’s hope he packed lighter than his son.”

     Once all the stuff from Drummond’s car was packed onboard, Eric make one final check before locking the ship up. He had the guards take Drummond and his son to his quarters, where Jessica would take care of them both. From there Eric went to the bridge to monitor take off. As he reached the bridge, there was a man wearing a naval uniform waiting for him there.

     “Are we all set, Doctor Saunders?” The man asked Eric as he arrived.

     “All set, Captain,” Eric replied, “We’re good to leave when you are.”

     Without telling the military, Eric had secretly recruited some of the best Captains from their naval fleet. Some of them were still active, while others, like Captain Webb were retired and commanding cruise ships for big money. Eric wanted Captains who had combat experience and would never crack under pressure. Someone who knew how to command a boat and he had lifted the best that were available. Webb used to command an aircraft carrier, so there was no one he trusted more to command The Elpis, whose cargo was the most valuable of them all. While the first Stargazer carried only engineers and crew, Eric also made sure that each vessel afterwards carried at least a few thousand civilians, just in case The Elpis had issues and didn’t make it. Worst case they would have just over ten thousand for the colony, where the best case would be close to forty thousand if all hands made it safely. Ambitious, but Eric wasn’t taking any chances as he was going all in with the Stargazer project.

PJ Lowry

Edited: 18.09.2019

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