Saturday, January 16, 2010, Central Time Zone, GMT
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McGuire's Pub, Saskatoon
' . . . anyway,' Jack concluded, 'that's why the ship doesn't have any engines. It doesn't need them. They just towed it towards this sort of "Gate" thing and let momentum do the rest. But, like I say, it was a one-shot effort that had never been tried before. They weren't even sure it would actually work. And even though it did, evidently they guessed wrong . . . but still, considering all the variables, it's a miracle they actually managed to pull it off at all.'
Mike, Ian and Arley digested this in stunned silence for several long moments, each lost in their own thoughts.
'My God,' Ian muttered. 'My God.'
'I feel like I was better off not knowing,' Arley muttered with a sick expression. She took a deep, shuddering breath. 'I mean, what are we going to do? What can we do? If those people couldn't figure out a way to save themselves, then what the hell chance have we got? They're the ones with the technology, and it didn't save them! And now we're in the same boat!' She sighed, thinking. And then, her expression changed. 'Those poor kids! What a horrible thing to do to them! A lottery for a chance to get away, on one ship that may or may not survive the end of the world, and their families are torn apart, their fathers and grandparents and friends are all left behind . . . and then everything goes wrong, and now they can't leave the ship! The whole thing is so cruel!'
'Yeah, but it makes sense,' Mike said. 'When you think about it, leaving the men behind allowed them to cram maybe three times as many people on that ship. Look, if each woman was pregnant, as Short Stuff says they were, that means at least one child for every woman, and when you figure that they can just keep artificially inseminating themselves from their sperm bank, then their population would go up maybe five times in, say, five to ten years, and by that time all the kids would be old enough to start producing children of their own. But now . . .' he sighed. 'Goddamn it! They're stuck on that ship with no way off . . .' realisation caused him to go very still and pale. 'Jesus! They may already be dead. What did Short Stuff say would happen if they were found out?'
'She doesn't know,' Jack told him. 'I'm guessing they kept a lot from the kids, including a plan for mass suicide if they were detected.'
Ian shook his head, his eyes full of dread. He swallowed. 'They must already be dead. Why else won't they answer when Yelina calls them?'
'She's certain they're still alive,' Jack said. 'She showed me with that communication device she made. Everything inside the ship is still operational. But everything is passive, not active. If they're alive in there, then they're listening . . . listening and waiting.'
'Sure that's not just wishful thinking, Jack?' Mike asked him, reasonably.
Jack was speechless for several long moments. At last, he muttered, 'I don't know. It may be.'
'Wouldn't they have shut everything down, or destroyed the ship?' Ian put in. 'I mean, I don't think they'd kill themselves but leave their technology intact. After all, that's why they haven't come out, isn't it? To keep us from destroying ourselves by meddling with their technology? Yelina didn't say so in so many words, maybe, but reading between the lines, that's the impression I got.'
'There's something else,' Jack told them. 'Yelina says she can get inside the ship.'
The others' eyes lit up with hope and despair.
'Oh, that's just great!' Mike bit off. 'How the hell are we even going to be able to get near it?'
'I think,' Jack said, 'that that's what we have to figure out. And I mean have to. We need that technology if we're going to have any chance ourselves.'