Chapter 54

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"You want to do what?"  Given the lack of any actual visible manifestation of EJ, Cam found himself shouting up at the ceiling.  "Are you out of your mind?"

"Well—I was, for a bit.  Not anymore, though.  At least, I don't think so."

"EJ, you're not exactly inspiring much confidence, here."

"Look, I said I had a plan—I didn't say it was a good one."

Rumpled and grimy, his undersized Rigellian castoffs now distinctly worse for wear, Cam wasn't looking his best.  Now, having just heard what EJ had in mind, he wasn't exactly feeling his best, either.  He ran a hand through his disheveled hair.  "OK.  Talk me through it."

Eyes growing progressively wider, he listened intently as EJ did so.

"Whoa—that's some plan.  So you can't think of another way?"

EJ's reply was resigned, but emphatic.  "No."

"And we definitely can't get back into orbit?"


"And you're sure this plan will work?"


"Okay, let's do—hey, what?  You're not sure it will work?"

"Cam, this has never really been done before.  In theory, if everything goes perfectly, it could work.  If everything doesn't go perfectly—well, let's not go there."

Uncomfortably aware that perfect wasn't really a term he readily associated with EJ, Cam managed a grim smile.  "Well, I guess bugger-all chance of saving the Earth is better than none."

"Exactly," replied EJ.  "I now have access to more processing power than you could jab a twig at, and I've run every simulation you could imagine, every possible angle.  This is the only way that has any chance of success.  But we have to decide, now.  Getting the engines back slowed our descent, which has bought us some time—but not much.  Our window of opportunity is closing fast."

"Alright, then."  Standing a little taller, Cam reefed up his Rigellian pants, exposing his knees in the process.  "Let's do it."

"Do what?"

Blinking in astonishment, Cam whirled around to find the source of the voice, standing in the doorway to the chamber.  "Zlep!  What the hell are you doing here?"

Stumbling as the floor lurched beneath him, the Rigellian walked into the room and placed a hand on Cam's shoulder, as much for support as in greeting.  "Well, my friend, it's like this; either I stayed on the station, risking almost certain death while trying to help you save a planet I hadn't even heard of until a few weeks ago—or, I flew out of here, saved my butt, but then had to explain to the other baristas why I left you behind."

Cam raised an eyebrow.  "When you say 'the other baristas' you really mean Mel, don't you?"

Pale-faced, Flenson managed a faint smile.  "Possibly."

"Well, you're going to have to risk it.  Get your arse on that shuttle and get out of here."

The Rigellian shook his head.  "Not happening, my friend.  I've made my decision.  Besides, we're too deep into the atmosphere, now.  At this speed, the shuttle would be torn apart the second it left the docking bay.  So, here I am.  Now, what's the plan?"

"Well," his expression dubious, Cam glanced up at the ceiling, "apparently, we're getting scrunched."


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