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Chapter 8 Main Chapters Chapter 10

Chapter 9:

The panicked cries and shouts finally died down into a horrified silence as the Voyageur plunged steeply towards the planet Loki.

D broke the silence that had formed by asking in a scream, "What happened!"

Dr. Warai lurched off the floor of the control room to bellow, "Ayuko, what have you done now! What insanity led you to do whatever this is?"

Ayuko, who had patched into the general comm system to learn what had happened, shrieked hysterically, "I'm not crazy! I'm not doing this!"

"Everyone be quiet!" Dr. Sanada shouted.

"Mrs. Sanada, Mrs. Nanjyoin, what's going on up there!" Dr. Rara said in a raised voice.

Mrs. Nanjyoin breathed sharply as she pulled her aching frame off of the console where she had been hurled. Akane didn't know if her own wrist was sprained or fractured. Gritting her teeth, Akane replied, "Ken, from what readouts we can still access, it looks like we're being pushed towards the planet."

Dr. Warai gasped. "The fuel tanks. All the shooting ruptured a fuel tank."

Kent spoke angrily. "Yes, Ayuko, you put the biggest cluster of your weapons on top of a fuel tank. All of the shooting around here pierced the hull and the pressure tank. The fuel shot out and it's pushing you into the planet."

"Perhaps you shouldn't have been using so many heavy weapons near the ship-" Ayuko began.

Dr. Rara cut her off, "Same to you. Now we need to figure a way out of this." He, Dr. Sanada and Dr. Warai had rushed out of the secure room and were using the closest computers to access their systems, but the logins, as they were designed to do, were taking precious time.

"Can the ship survive a crash landing?" Mena asked, her voice full of worry.

Dr. Sanada said reassuringly, "Hey, we've got tons of built-in shields and piles of armor. We should be fine."

Dr. Rara said witheringly, "Stupid Sanada! The ship may survive, but we may not. The crew will be flung all over the place."

"Even with all the thrusters, the Voyageur never return to orbit once she hits the ground," Slade said grimly.

Dr. Rara suggested, "Let's use our thrusters to bring us back to orbit."

Dr. Warai's console had finally accepted him, and he was able to look at damage reports. "I'm afraid that's impossible. Several of the thrusters were accidentally destroyed along with Ayuko's weaponry. There's not enough thrust."

Dr. Sanada now made his attempt at a suggestion. "Well, we've still got the faster-than-light engines, don't we? Let's just go back to Earth."

Plath's unwelcomed opinion came onto the communications system. She was walking on the planet's surface in her spacesuit towards the now-empty habitat. "Hey! We're still down here! You can't just leave us!"

Dr. Warai was so miserable that he actually didn't hear this ear-wrenching plea. He choked as he reported, "You don't understand. The fuel tanks were for the main engines. The fuel didn't only vent through the hull, some of it blew back into the engines, causing severe damage."

For a moment there was silence, then Alice gave a piercing sob.

Mitsuki Sanada seemed to have to kick each reluctant word out of her mouth to speak. "We can't go home?"

"You can fix it, can't you!" Ayuko hollered.

Dr. Warai's hands curled into fists. His vehement tirade issued suddenly: "We've lost half our fuel, we're plummeting towards an alien planet, and my diagnostic equipment is shot. I don't know if I can fix it! Certainly not before we hit!"

Dr. Rara set his face like stone. "We've got to abandon ship."

Dr. Warai turned away with a look of terrible pain, "You've killed my Voyageur, Ayuko."

Mitsuki Rara said urgently, "Dad! If we do that, there's no chance we'll ever get back to Earth!"

Mrs. Nanjyoin spoke in her usual calm tone, though each breath seemed to pain her, "Our equipment will at least allow us to live. We can mine ice on the planet and in space for water and oxygen."

"I don't want to live next to all those people Mother paid off!" Mits was alarmed. "They might try to kill us!"

Yayoi thought aloud, "We will have to decide what to do with the traitors."

Ayuko frantically spoke, "I never, ever, suggested killing any of you. Never. It was just like the old days, we just wanted to disable you."

Mits asked suddenly, "Kent? Kent, are you all right? You haven't spoken!"

Kent spoke slowly. "I've been trying to figure out if I, or any of us in robots, can even survive reentry. Himc's pretty badly beaten up, and all the heat shields for our robots are aboard the Voyageur."

"The shuttles can pick us up!" D insisted.

"They don't have much fuel left either, and oxygen is going to be a precious commodity if we lose the Voyageur," Kent's words were almost glacial. They flowed out steadily, but emerged in broken and ragged chunks. "That's why, in the order of people to be picked up by the shuttles-"

"Mitsuki, you have to make him stop!" Ryla said quickly. "He's going to try to sacrifice himself if you don't make him stop!"

Alice wailed, "Nothing's supposed to end like this! We finally all were together! We were happy! There weren't any more giant robots destroying things, we were all friends! Dr. Hayase, isn't there any way to keep us all together!"

Dr. Hayase swallowed, and fought to keep back the tears in her own eyes as she gave the last suggestion. "Can all of the robots and shuttles working together pull you back?"

"You'll be burned up by the heat of reentering the atmosphere before you can pull us back," Dr. Warai said despondently.

"Why aren't we abandoning ship?" Dr. Rara asked rhetorically of himself and everyone else still on the ship. He smiled ruefully.

Rhetorical questions aren't supposed to be answered. Everyone had expected that there would be a gloomy silence, or piteous wailing. Instead, there was a tremendously loud sound, perfectly audible to every human in the vicinity of Loki.

"That's Zinv," Dr. Sanada whispered.

Dr. Warai was astonished to find he could still laugh. "But in space, no one can hear you roar!"

Mrs. Nanjyoin watched as Zinv once again transmitted his roar over the communication system. The angrily determined mouth of Kazuki announced, "There's nothing to worry about now. We're all going to be all right, and we're all going home. Zinv and I will draw the Voyageur towards our mini black hole."

Now there was utter silence.

It was with great difficulty that Dr. Sanada broke it by asking nervously, "Kazuki, you're claiming that's supposed to help the situation?"

Chapter 8 Main Chapters Chapter 10