Wednesday, February 24, 2010

GreatHites 81 - Bloomin' Fuchsia

This week we had an interesting prompt of Bloomin' Fuchsia and that got us stories from

Stories By:
Jean-Philip Losier
Philip (Norval Joe) Carroll
And Jeff Hite

Download the Stories this week

Come out to the forum and discuss the stories

This Episode was also special because there was live feedback, Lawrence Simon of the 100 word stories podcast, and Scott Roche author of Archangle join me to talk about the stories.

I am very interested to see what you think of this episode and if you think we should do it again some time.

The Story
By: Jean-Philip Losier

"Story?" was the plea. Demure, innocent, and undeniable. Young daughters have a way of requesting attention that no father can deny, even if it is to stay up a little later. Harold was no exception to this rule. He lowered himself down onto the floor between their beds, inwardly pleased that he didn't groan outwardly, creak, pop, or otherwise sound like the old man he was beginning to feel like. He began the story, a fairy tale, of course.

"Once upon a time, in a far off land, there was a princess-"

"Only one princess, daddy? Not two?" came the pouty and hurt request from the younger. Harold glanced up at her and her puppy-dog expression.

"There were two," he corrected himself and was rewarded by a smile that bounced from lying flat in that way children do when too young to know it's physically impossible , "princesses in a great big castle. They were very much loved by all of their kingdom-"

"And the king and the knights, of course. And the faries." chimed in the older. She was very fond of her fairy books.

"Yes, and the the knights and faries loved them dearly. And the king loved them more than any other king in all of history ever loved any other princesses. He built this castle just for them, with a grand ballroom for dances. Every day, the princesses went riding together in the countryside. One day, a terrible fog swept over the land. It was so dense that nobody could see even the great big castle. The princesses had to stop their horses for fear of bumping into the trees!

"But these princesses were not only beautiful and very much loved, but they were the smartest people in the land! They knew the flowers in the royal gardens, and could smell them all the way down the path. They could tell where their castle was, even when they couldn't see it."

"Were the flowers purple, daddy? I love purple flowers!"

Of course, they were. "Slowly, the princesses walked together, hand-in-hand, leading their horses back toward the castle. Soon, they heard the crying of some townspeople. They could not find their homes in the fog. 'Come with us! We are the beautiful princesses of the castle, and we will lead you to safety!' called the princessed, for they were very kind. The oldest took the ribbons out of her hair and tied them together into one long ribbon to lead the townspeople with. They each held onto part of the ribbon and followed the two sweet, heroic princesses."

"After a long time, for they were walking very slowly in the dense fog, they heard the clanking of metal. It was the knights, walking about in their armor. The king had sent them out to look for the princesses, but they could not go very far in the fog, and feared for the princesses' safety. The youngest princess took the ribbons out of her hair and made a long ribbon, instructing the knights to hold onto it while the princesses let them back to the castle.

"The princesses could smell the flowers very well now, so they knew they were almost home. They couldn't see the castle, though, so they weren't sure exactly where to go. Then they heard music-"

"Is it the 'Cinderella' song?" came the question from both girls in unison.

Harold smiled. "Exactly the one! So when the beautiful princesses heard the music, they knew their father was in the ballroom waiting for them, and could hear which way to go. They led all of the townspeople and the knights to their castle home, and everyone was so happy, they had a big party." Before the girls could ask, Harold added "With balloons and cake and dancing and everything the princesses wanted. The end."

Harold prayed with his daughters and tucked them in for the night. Downstairs, he sat on the front porch, inhaling deeply the scent of the fuschia shrubs in the warm summer air.

He did his best to maintain them, though he didn't have the "green thumb" that his wife had had.

The woodsman's daughters
By Philip Carroll

Anthony smiled and surveyed his family seated around the large round dinner table. His wife, Flora, sat to his left. On her left and around the table in ascending order were their five daughters.

Peony the youngest at age five was first and worn out from a day of adventure in the woods around their remote cottage. She dozed, head tipped forward, her nose dangerously close to dipping into her uneaten mashed potatoes. Her round cherubic face framed by short brown hair.

Next along in the circle around the table was Pansy, the eight year old with long, mahogany curls. Pink, chubby cheeks were incongruous with her otherwise slender frame. Ever alert, her large round eyes darted back and forth between her older sisters who were in rapid conversation.

The next oldest was Fuchsia, almost eleven years old.

Violet sat next to her and engaged the entire family with her detailed account of how Safronia Cottonthread couldn't have chosen a less attractive hat to wear to Sunday services at the chapel in the small village of Cooper's Ford. The hamlet of small houses, the church, an inn, and a few merchants, lay three miles to the north where the toll road met the river.

"The hat was so broad and round that in the three rows behind where she sat all had to stand to see who addressed the congregation." The fourteen year old tittered and placed a dainty hand over ruby red lips to cover the innocently wicked smile.

Finally, Rose sat next on her father's right hand. The eldest of the daughters, and heir apparent. Her mane of golden red hair was a shimmering contrast to milky white unblemished skin. She sat, back straight, head high and regal, a small, pleased smile graced her lips as she conversed with Violet. Each question or comment artistically constructed to enhance her sister's dialogue, as a painter highlights a leaf or petal to bring a flower to life from the flat and unliving canvas.

"Well, my ladies," Anthony said to the entire table, but directing his gaze solely at his wife, "I declare this day complete."

At this regular nightly declaration, the girls stood, except, of course, for Peony who only roused slightly from her slumber. "Rose," he continued, as he did every night, "see to the dishes and help the others off to bed, my dear Princess."

"Of course Father," she said and issued orders to her younger sisters as to who should do which task.

As Flora bent to pick up the sleeping Peony, their father announced, "do not be alarmed when I am not at home in the morning. I must rise well before dawn to begin a journey into a distant city. I have been given an opportunity that will greatly increase our fortunes. We may even be able to move to the village and live in one of the stone houses."

He said this with a cheery and reassuring smile as he looked from child to child and nodded his head at each. The four older girls all began asking questions at once, but were abruptly silenced by their father's raised hand. "My girls. Now is not the time for questions. I have shared the arrangement with your mother and she will impart to you what details she feels are necessary, as the need arises. Only be assured that I travel among friends, I am entirely safe and will return to you in a few short weeks. Now I must be off to bed, for I am leaving very early."

He stood and motioned for his wife, who gently rocked Peony in her arms, "after you, dear Flora."

He followed her up the narrow wooden stairway. The upper floor was divided into two rooms; one for the parents and the other for the girls. The daughters waited and listened to first the door to the girls room open and close, as their mother left Peony on her bed. When the second door closed on their parents room they quickly got back to the work of clearing away dinner.

All except for Fuchsia who stood motionless, dinner plates in hand and stared up toward her father's room. She knew she would never see him again. A single tear ran from her right eye.

"Fuchsia," she heard the gentle coaxing tone in Rose's voice, and turned to gaze, watery eyed at the older girl.

"Sister," Rose said sympathetically, a half filled pitcher in one hand. She stepped to the younger one's side to hug with her unencumbered arm, and soothed, "don't worry. Father will be fine, as he said, and will return to us soon."

Fuchsia looked up into the eyes of the taller girl and wished she could believe her.

One by one, each of the girls finished her chores and climbed the stairs to the second floor. All except for Fuchsia, who descended the stone steps into the cellar and to her bed by the iron coal furnace.

She cast a shovel full of coal into the furnace, locked the door back down and adjusted the flue to send most of the furnaces heat to the upper floor of the home.

She didn't bother undressing, she knew she wouldn't sleep. She lay back on on her cot and bawled like an new born lamb. With two closed doors and two thick wooden floors between herself and his sisters she knew her mournful wails were unlikely to be heard by anyone other than her own despairing ears.

Fuchsia was born the third child to the wood cutter, Anthony Eastman and his wife, Flora. Anthony had such a great love for the forests and nature that when his wife had suggested they name each of their children after flowers, he whole heartedly agreed. First came Rose with her radiant red hair, then Violet, her skin pale as milk and lips red like wine.

Their third daughter had such a different and exotic look than her two older sisters, she remained unnamed for several weeks as the parent discussed an appropriate name for their unusual child. With black hair dark and slanted eyes there was talk in the village this newest child of the Eastman's was a changeling.

"I'll hear nothing of it," Flora would say, when catching wind of such discussions. "I was there when she came into this world and she's been by my side ever since. This is the same girl now as she was when she took her first breath."

She would then thump her sturdy fist on a table, or counter, or just shake it in the air, if there was nothing solid enough close by to pound on. She carried an air of, "I dare you to disagree." There were none courageous enough to gainsay Flora when she was resolute. Regardless, the townsfolk eyed Fuchsia warily when she was around.

One evening, several weeks after the birth, Anthony returned home after a long day of chopping wood to find Flora sitting in the rocking chair, baby asleep in her arms, and a large grin on her face. She held in her hand a small postcard.

"I found this at the mercantile in the village today," she said and handed him the card.

He took the card and stared at it for some time. It was a print of an exotic flower with thin narrow petals curled back on themselves; shorter, broader, inner petals surrounded the long protruding stamen; it looked like a small, bright pink, oriental lantern. He turned the card over for its description, and read aloud, "The fuchsia grows on a bush like plant throughout the Mediterranean and Southern France."

Anthony lowered the card and gazed lovingly at the sleeping baby. "Fuchsia. It's a beautiful name."

And so she was named.

At breakfast the morning after their father left, all talk was of where he might be going. Each daughter conjectured on the most unusual and mysterious city or country their imaginations could contrive. Their mother sat quietly and knowing smile turned up the corners of her mouth. She said nothing to encourage or discourage her daughters speculation, nor illuminate the girls to his true destination.

Fuchsia didn't participate. She ate her porridge in silence and rose without comment when finished, to do her morning chores. Her sisters barely regarded her as she left the table. The behaviour was not unusual for their reclusive sibling.

Something happened to Fuchsia around the age of eight that changed her. Until that point she was happy and social, if not overly so, and was always willing to join in with her sisters at games and conversations. Shortly after her eighth birthday she began her unusual behaviour.

During a normal conversation with her sisters, or other children in the village on market day, Fuchsia would suddenly stop and listen. Not to the other children, or adults who were speaking, but within herself. When she was asked if something was wrong, or if she was ill, she would only smile weakly and shake her head.

"Dear," her mother had called Fuchsia one evening after a year of this strange behaviour. "Come sit with me."

The other children were finishing their chores. Two year old Peony lay sleeping on her mothers lap as she rocked in her chair. Fuchsia sat obediently at her mothers feet on the twisted rag area rug. She leaned against her mother's leg, but said nothing."

"Fuchsia," her mother said and took a deep breath before continuing. "Something is wrong, and I don't know what. There is something in your behavior that is disconcerting to the other children, and truly, to your parents as well."

The girl looked up at her mother. "What mother? I try to be good, and do as you ask. I am never mean to Peony or Pansy. What is displeasing you so?"

"No, dear. You don't displease us. It is more, I don't know. You confuse us. At times, and more regularly now than in the past, you suddenly stop talking and appear to go to another place with in your own head. Where is it that you go?"

"Oh." Fuchsia said, relieved, "I don't go anywhere, I stay right here. But, sometimes when people talk, I hear other voices."

"Voices," her mother said so suddenly it startled Peony awake and she began to cry softly.

"Oh, my dear," her mother continued and sounded very flustered, "Hearing voices is not good. No, not at all. It might be the devil in your head. No, Fuchsia. It is best to not hear voices in your head."

Fuchsia didn't know how to respond. The voices had never told her to do anything wrong and they didn't speak constantly, only on the rare occasion. However, rather than elicit her mother's displeasure she determined she would not mention the voices again, and slowly withdrew into herself. By the time her twelfth birthday approached she had become so withdrawn, she kept almost entirely to herself and rarely made eye contact with anyone other than her parents.

Three weeks after her father's departure the family sat again around the dinner table. Peony asked in her high pitiful voice, "Momma, when will Dad be returning?"

She smiled reassuringly at her daughter and sighed, "soon, my baby, soon."

All the children were as shocked as their mother when Fuchsia burst suddenly and loudly into tears. The other girls watched in amazed silence as their mother tried to comfort the usually silent child. "It's alright dear," she crooned. "Father will be home very soon."

At which she cried all the louder. Confused and frustrated their mother shrugged and looked imploringly at Rose, who only returned her gaze, a look of apology in her eyes. When Fuchsia's sobs receded to the point that her mother could make herself heard with out shouting, she asked her daughter, "what is it dear? I want to help, but I can't if I don't know what the problem is."

Fuchsia sniffed loudly and blew her nose into a linen napkin. She looked to her mother, the depth of sadness painted in the tears streaked across her face. "I can't tell your mother. You have told me not to, and I don't know which would displease you most. Whether I tell you what I know, and how I know it or remain silent the result we likely be the same. You won't believe me anyway."

No more enlightened by Fuchsia's obscure confession, than before, her mother tried again, "Sweat Heart, you can tell me what saddens you with out fear of recrimination. It hurts me to see you so sad. Whatever you could say could not injure me more."

"No, mother, you cannot know. You must know," she said as if the pressure of deep sadness forced the words from her chest. "Our father will not return."

The girl bowed her head as her sisters and mother combined their voices is an astonished chorus. Finally, her mother won through the cacophony with, "how could you know that?"

"I told you mother, that is my dilemma. But you must hear me now," she said, her small soprano voice an authoritative command. She continued, "It is the voices I told you of before. No, don't speak now, for I wish to explain as best I can."

She took a quick but deep breath and continued before anyone could interrupt, "The voices, when first they came to me, I only understood what they told me. Not what they meant. Now I understand the voices tell me when someone is, or is not telling the truth. It can be simple things, such as the weather. If someone says it will rain today, the voices will agree or disagree. They won't tell me when, or how much, only that the person is telling the truth or not."

She saw that all were listening attentively. She took the opportunity to drink some water and sit. She interlaced the fingers her hands to keep them from shaking uncontrollably. She continued, "sometimes it is more serious. such as when someone declares they will keep a secret, or they are in love, or someone is the father of their baby. In the past the voices only spoke to me occasionally, but now, I cannot hear a statement without their immediate confirmation or denial."

Her next statement was choked off in her throat by its implications. Her face reddened and her eyes filled with tears as she tried to put into words the thing that would tear the hearts of her sisters and mother.

She looked down at her folded hands on the table. With tears streaming down her face, between her pitiful sobs she confessed,"so when father told us all that he would return safely, I knew immediately that it wasn't true. He traveled among friends, that much was true indeed, however, there was no grand opportunity awaiting him where he went, only the tragedy that has taken him from us."

She stopped then, and sobbed quietly as the others in the room sat in stunned silence. Eventually, their mother spoke, "Why did you not tell us this before your father left."

There was skeptical accusation in her question.

"Would you have believed me," Fuchsia asked simply.

"Of, course, dear. something as important as this," her mother said, but was cut off by Fuchsia.

"that is not the truth," she said without emotion.

"How are we to know that you truly have this ability?" Violet asked her younger sister. "Is there a way we may test you?"

"I know," Rose said. "Fuchsia, turn your back on us. We will place the salt shaker in one of our hands. We will lie, or tell the truth about who is holding it, and see how often you guess correctly."

"It is no guess," she said, "and I will be correct every time." She turned her back on her sisters to find her image staring back at her from the mirror on the dining room wall.

"Let us switch sides," Fuchsia said, "so that you don't believe I am viewing you from the mirror."

They did so, and began the test. Time after time after time, Fuchsia was correct. When caught in her lie Pansy asked, "well then, tell us who has it."

"I can't do that. I can only tell what I hear," Fuchsia said and turned to her mother, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry to brings such terrible news, and I'm sorry to be able to do no more."

Their mother had sat during the testing of Fuchsia's recently expanded abilities, and had slowly taken on the stricken look of one condemned to death. "So," their mother began, her voice a hoarse weak whisper, "I am to believe from these voices of yours, that my husband is dead."

"I'm sorry mother," Fuchsia began, but stopped and jumped to her feet. "No," she gasped.

Turning back and forth between sisters and mother, Fuchsia shook her hands as if drying them, eventually she focused again on her mother and said, "No mother. He is not dead."

She was smiling now, "That was my assumption as well, when I learned that he would not return to us. However, as you put that thought into words, I was told it is not true. Mother, our father lives."

"Well, then," their mother said, ever the pragmatist. "If my dear husband is not to return to us, and he is not dead, then we must determine a way to go and find him."

"Mother," Fuchsia said with a grin, "that is the truth."

The Derelict
By: Jeff Hite

"What in Hell is that?"
It was swearing, or at least as close at the captain had ever come to real swearing. Ship Captains and sailors in general had a reputation for their foul months, but not Captain Stearns, he had the most gentlemanly manner of speech Aleisha had ever heard. But considering what was on the view screen in front of them, he had a good enough reason to let the mild expletive slip.
"Turn on the defective screens ensign. I don't now what that is, or if it is what it looks like it might be, but I am not taking any chances."
"Yes sir. Deflective screens coming up."
"You let me know if you start seeing a power drain."
"Yes, Sir." Aleisha felt a bit like a broken record, but she didn't have anything else she could say. The object in front of them looked for all the world like a space craft, but it was just floating there, not doing anything. In the nearly ten years since she had first joined the deep space haulers she had never seen another ship. Even in space dock seeing another ship was rare. a ship in dock meant that it was not making money, and with the way that the cooperation ran things, if it was not making money it was a bad thing, a really bad thing.
"Captain," The com officer began, "I have been bouncing radio waves off it since the Nav picked up, but have gotten nothing back."
"Thank you, keep it up and let me know if you get anything, anything at all."
"Got it Captain."
It always surprised her how quickly the entire bridge went from the group of friends that they really were, to a very formal working group, when stress was added to the mix. It was not that they didn't work well friends, but there was protocol to think of, and if anything ever went wrong, they wanted to recorders to show they were all following it.
"Ensign, how fast are we closing on that?"
"It is pretty much stationary sir, so the only movement is us. We have been running full tilt for days, give me a second to calculate how fast that is."
"Don't bother, just slow us down. Can you get us to within 50 kilometers of it before bringing us to a full stop?" The slight murmur on the bridge immediately stopped.
"Dead stop sir?"
"Yes, we can't possibly see something like this way out here, and not stop to check it out. Can you do it?"
"Ummm, let me check," She punched the number into the computer and let it calculate, in seconds it spit out the answer. "Sir, we can stop, but it will take using the breaking thrusters, we will have to pull the sail in, and fire the main engines in the other direction. It will take a lot of energy."
"OK, start making the preparations. You will have to turn the ship around to get the main engines, so Clancy I want to you make the general announcement that everyone shoal brace for maneuvering. This is not going to be fun."
"Ye ye sir."
"Now hear this, now hear this," The computers voice rang out seconds later, "All hands brace for maneuvering and emergency breaking. All hands brace for maneuvering and emergency breaking."
Almost before the echo from the warning died away the ship began her end over end spin to allow the main engines to be brought on line for breaking. as an instinct the Aleisha grabbed the edge of her console even though between the momentum of the ship and the spin and her placement near the center of the ship she would feel almost nothing.


Almost four hours later they were in position, they had over shot the fifty kilometers the Captain had wanted, and needed to fire the engines longer than planned to get back to what they could guess was a ship. IN that time they had been able to gather almost no other information about it. The ship was larger than the Kelly, but it appeared to be abandoned, because it was cold. The engines showed no sign of heat, and when they tried to probe the interior of the ship, everything was bounced back.
From this distance is was still impossible to see any details of the ship with the naked eye but they had most of their instruments trained on it, and were starting to get a little more information.
"Alright." Captain Stearns said speaking for the first time since they had stopped, "Here is what I want to do. This whole thing has already cost us a lot of time and energy. I we need to figure out what that thing is, and why it is is here and then we need to move on. It is very irregular." I paused rubbing his chin. "Here is what I want to do. I want to close on that thing at 10 kp/h. That will give us 5 hours to study it, as soon as we are at speed I want to rotate the ship again and be ready to leave. I want a probe launched now, to study that thing, try to get some better readings. If it looks safe, when we are 5k out, I want a team to get over there. Three people lead by George." He looked at the tall Australian, who nodded his agreement. "You pick the team. They will have until we get 5k past the ship and then reverse thrust to bring us back along side of it. When we are done with that we leave. We have a mission to do and we can radio back and let cooperate know about about this thing. They can figure out what to do next. Everyone clear on what we are doing?"

There were a few nods of agreement and then Aleisha got to work getting the new course set into the computer. She tired not to let George see how closely she was watching him. In many ways she envied him. He would get to do something none of the rest of them would get to do. But in other ways she was glad he had been picked. What they were going to attempt was incredibly dangerous. Of course they would know more when they started to get Data from the probe, but what if they probe found nothing. But it was more than just that, they were going to be leaping from, and back to a moving ship. They would have to time everything exactly. One slip and they could end up hanging out with that ship for a very long time.

Within minutes of the probe being launched it started returning data. And the closer it got the more information they got about the ship. The problem was that it was not answering any questions, more to the point it was raising more of them. The ships design looked distinctly human, but the Kelly was the first ship, to travel this far out. If it was a ship that got lost, or was part of an accident, and just drifted out here, why was it sitting still. If it were a human ship, what happened to the crew, why didn't they leave a signal beacon running, those things could run for years on end.

The Ship did appear to be human from the way that it was laid out and in the way the engines were configured, but had none of the markings of a human vessel. It had what looked like a human habitation zone, an area that looked like it could be a reactor, and the long slender section the connected the fuel pods to the engines and the rest of the ship. But there was not name stenciled on the outside. There were none of the normal lights or signaling devices that you saw on other human ships. It was almost like someone had seen an human ship for a very long distance, and tried to make a copy of it.

Then suddenly the probes data began to change. There were small amounts of radiation leaking from the area that could have been the reactor, and trace amounts of heat coming from the area that could be the habitation zone. The pictures it was sending back where changing too. There was damage to the outer hull, there were signs of things having been repaired, scorch marks from welding torches, pieces of shiny hull plating that had not been painted.

"What in the name of Greybeard's ghost is going on here. That has got to be a human ship, but what happened to it?" The Captain's voice sounded far away to Aliesha, as if he were over a radio. When she tore her eyes away from the data and the view screens for a moment she saw why. He was sitting with his elbows in his lap and his hand covering his mouth. In his eyes was the look of what? Could it really be fear.

"George, what do you think?"
"Sir, I think it is a Derelict, but I don't know where it would have come from. You know we are the first ones supposed to be out here."
"Yeah that was what I was thinking. What do you make of the radiation readings, Will it be safe for you and your team over there?"
"I think so sir, the reactor, as far as I can tell seems to be intact, there don't seem to be any leaks at least none that we can see from a hundred yards out. Maybe if we got the probe a bit closer to her, we could get better readings."
  "All right, Lt. Haskins, do with that probe whatever George wants, when it gets close the being out of fuel, point it back home and fire the boosters. Even if something happens to us, at least they will know about this thing."
"Ye ye sir."
"Alright, bring her closer to the midsection so we can get a better reading on the reactor."
"Aleisha. I need you to be on top of those engines. I want us to be ready to get out of here at a moments notice, you understand me. We can recover what energy expenditure we make now, by using the solar sail to bring speed up later."
"Yes sir."
"I also what the thrusters on line and ready for manual control at all times. We are going to be very close to that thing, and I don't want any surprises."
"I'm on it sir."
"Good," he said sitting back in his seat. "George, let me know as soon as you can what you think alright."
"It is looking good sir, there does not seem to be any radiation Leakage. It is almost like the reactor was run dry."
"Run dry?"
"Yes sir, when we use the probes highest settings we we can almost penetrate the reactors shielding, but at that point we should be getting much higher levels of radiation. It is almost like the reactors were run a full power for a very long time, and they depleted the fuel."
"But our reactor is rated for at least seventy years. Even the ships of twenty years ago, had an expected fuel life of thirty years."
"Right, but this one appears to have been run until there was just nothing left."
"How it that possible."
"I don't know, but what I can tell you is that with a reactor without any reactant left means it would be safe for us to go over there."
"Is there any change that it vented into the ship?"
'Even if you opened the reactor up to open space for years of end it would not expend that kind fuel. There is nothing left sir. It will be safe to go over there."
"Alright it is your call. Get your team ready, we should be ready be at your jump point in about half an hour."
"Yes, sir." He said and walked off the bridge.

"Alright boys, it is going to be a bit tense here for a moment. Do be surprised if you don't hear much from us for a few minutes Captain." The big Aussies voice came over the open com-link. He and his team were within a few feet of the ship. They had found a hatch that had a keypad with numeric keypad, and an manual override. They were going to entry the ship there.
"Alright George, just make sure you keep your an eye on the time. We are going to be hitting the breaking point in about thirty minutes."
"Believe me I am not missing that bus. I got my token."
"Alright, back to work."
"Aye Captain."
The Monitors showed the hatch in close up as the engineers and George worked the manual over ride. As they broke the outer seal a small amount of gas escaped and nearly pushed Henry loose, but he and the other men had tethered themselves to the hull and after a moment he was able to pull himself back into place.
"Well at least we know they have atmosphere. It may not be breathable but they have it." George joked with his men.
They got the hatch and disappeared from the Kelly's external view. The people watching were left with just the view from the cameras on the men's EV suits.
"Alright, keep your wits about you, we don't know what kind of damage we might find inside. The exterior looks pretty beat up. Matt, you I want you to work on closing the outer hatch, while Henry works on getting the controls for the inner hatch working. I will light up your worlds. Henry, if the powered controls don't work, use your suits spare battery to power the doors. It should be more than enough to get the seal to release."
"Alright." The exterior Cameras showed the outer door being shut slowly as Matt worked the manual controls. And then the ship looked the same as it had when they approached it. If it had not been for the scratchy breathing noises over the suit radios, there would be no reason to believe there was anyone over there.
"alright Captain, we are in. We have not seen anyone yet, but the place is pretty dark. This is definitely one of our ships, there is writing on the walls all in English. Nothing to tell me what ship this might be yet, but I will keep looking. We are going to make our way to the bridge. Can you give us a count every ten minutes?"
"You go it George. We are about ten from the breaking point, you need to be out and ready to meet up with us again in 45 minutes."
"Aye. You heard the man, lets get moving."

Captain I think we have something."
"Go Ahead George, I'm listening."
"We have found most of the crew, they are all dead. I appears that when they had used the last of the reactor fuel, the air recyclers stopped and they suffocated. We have found a couple of other things. We have managed to download some of the computers files and Henry is reviewing them now, we are hoping to figure out what happened."
"Very good, You should be making your way out in the next 5 minutes or so. So finish getting what every data you can and come on back."
"Aye sir, oh and we did find something a couple of minutes ago that might help us figure out some of the mystery, at least we know the name of the ship, although I think it opens up more questions than answers. She was the Fuchsia. A bloody short hauler, If I remember correctly she used to do the run between the moon and Mars. But what I don't get is what the bloomin' Fuchsia would be doing out this far."
"Don't know what we will ever know George. You are getting close to your deadline. Start packing things up. When you get back here, we can review that data and send it back Corporate."
"Alright boys you heard the Captain, lets pack it up."