"Captain, they're trying to shut down the reactor."
"I know that, Clark, and there doesn't seem to be much we can do about it, is there?"
"But we're out here light years from home, asteroids everywhere, and without power...."
He let the the thought go unsaid....sure they'd have enough oxygen for a week on the mile-long ship, but without power to keep the shields up and maneuver, it would be only a matter of time before a piece of rock hit and killed them all.
"I'd break out the spacesuits," the Captain said. "It'll give us a few more days, and by then, if they're dead, we might be able to get back there and restart the drive." He and Clark were the only survivors of the original crew of 24 on the interstellar Sojourner. It left a year year ago to take 249 remaining members of a radical religious group to a new home where they would no longer threaten the finally peaceful, unified Earth trying to start Armageddon.
But they'd overpowered their keepers in the rear of the ship where they were quarantined. While they couldn't get to the control cabins, they'd managed to break into the reactor areas.
All the Captain and Clark could do was helplessly watch on the control monitors as they tried to sabotage the drive systems.
"Can't they set off an explosion?" Clark asked. He was a navigator, not a nukie.
"No, but they might make a mistake and release enough radiation to kill themselves," the Captain said. "That would be their own Armageddon."
"And ours," Clark thought, because then there would be no way to get back there and restart the drives, without dying of radiation.
"And for us, death by radiation or lack of oxygen, some choice," he mumbled.
"It's amazing to me that with all the planning that went into this relocation, nobody thought about the effects of a shutdown," the Captain said.
"Relocation" was such a nice word, Clark thought, thinking back to his ancient history lessons about the Earth's treatment of colonized people, like the Palestinians, the Jews, the American Indians, the slave ships. But they'd never had the chance to shut down a government. If they'd only known how easy it was to disrupt the majority.
Then he remembered, there was one instance where a radical minority back in the 21st Century caused the collapse of an entire civilization, just by forcing a shutdown of the government. At first it had just been some kind of revolt against a law, mixed in with religious fervor.
It amazed him how the followers of religious leaders who preached love and goodwill, peace and compassion could be so hateful and violent throughout history. And of course they hadn't seen or thought about the consequences, once their government quit functioning ... uncontrolled sickness and plague, financial collapse mixed with invasions from enemies taking advantage of the paralysis. All of them ended up in labor camps and died of starvation or disease, prisoners in the land they helped destroy, with no government to protect them.
"Like us," Clark thought. "Prisoners in our own land, and about to die of starvation or sickness.
"All just because of a shutdown."
The lights flickered and the monitors went blank. The two-hour emergency lights came on. He and the captain reached for the spacesuits.
He heard something hit the hull of the ship, and the lights went out.
"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding watercolor, metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.