(Continued from Part 10)
“I, I’ll try, but Kendall.” Katya said.
Kendall could hear the fear in her voice.
“Dmitry,” Kendall said. “Do the best you can from the Quad, son.” He and A4 had a terrifying view of the incoming rogue. “Do it now. Program the peak of the lateral wave to be right at the time of rogue passing. Becca knows the dynamics. Team up. We need a miracle.”
“Houston concurs. We are notifying all emergency channels of your situation. Good luck, Polaris.”
“Dad,” Dmitry said. “Becca and I are refining the polar equations for the satellite matrix.
“Dmitry,” Becca said. “You’ll have to sacrifice some gain margin.”
“But, what about stability?”
“It’s margin,” she said. “It’s there for safety. It will all be for naught if we don’t push it, use a global edit to modify gain margin on all parameters for the string of M-Sat values.
“Dmitry? This is Flight. We are receiving your parameters. Connecting you through to station control system. Ready to execute control on your commands.”
“Executing lateral wave maneuver now,” Dmitry said.
Kendall and A4 discontinued their cable descent, wrapped arms and legs around the nanotube firmly as the constellation and wing moved almost undetectably in a lateral direction.
“Captain Parker,” Houston said. “34 seconds before rogue collision.”
“We see it. Oh my… Houston, lateral offset is increasing, but very slowly. We are holding on. Here it comes…here it comes…”
“We are entering the Quad now,” Katya said. “Enabling Quad controls.”
Kendall held tight to his life’s work, looked straight down toward the Earth, toward the space elevator base where his family would either save the station, it’s purpose, and their lives, or lose everything.
“It’s just not fast enough,” Dmitry’s voice was heard over the radio again. “The frequency response is too low. I need real-time…”
The radio from the Quad went dead.
“Good-bye.” Kendall looked down again, imagined Katya, Becca, and Dmitry looking intently through the Quad upper windows at the station straining to see the last of their husband and father. He reaffirmed his grip when the station lateral movement unexpectedly increased.
Kendall’s space suit environmental pack hummed it’s moderate tone. The nanotube emitted its gentle fifteen Hertz vibration. The radio emitted static. His breath was silent. His heart stopped.
“It cleared,” Kendall yelled, his heart beating again. “It cleared. It passed so quick we couldn’t turn our heads fast enough. No debris, no impact, no shock, no sound.”
Kendall finally turned enough to see the departing M-Sats. “There! Look A4, 479’s reflection moving above the satellite stream and out into space.”
The radio suddenly saturated with cheering from Houston and the Quad.
When the applause died down, Flight broke in. “That was amazing, Dmitry, Becca, Katya. And you too, Kendall and A4.”
“Thank you, Houston,” Katya said, “Dmitry, give me that tissue box. NASA, you picked the right team for this mission.”
“Katya,” Flight said. “There must be a problem with your beacons. Telemetry shows the Quad still docked with the elevator.”
“Katya, Katya,” Kendall’s heart trying to get back to normal. “You came back to the elevator didn’t you?”
“We never left, Dad.” Kendall heard his daughter’s voice. “It was Dmitry. At the last moment, Dmitry went back into the elevator and connected with the station bus. It was just fast enough to…”
“Becca, Dmitry,” Kendall shouted. “You did it. You did it!”
Kendall then lowered his voice. “My Katya, you are the best. I love you. Now quickly, get up here so I can show you just how I feel, and show you what it’s like up here. It’s more phenomenal than we ever imagined. See you in three hours. Enjoy the ride up.”
“Sir,” A4 said.
“Yes, A4,” Kendall responded.
“We have a problem.
“You mean we had a problem,” Kendall said.
“On its current path,” A4 said, “by Newton’s laws, M-479 will reach Octans Station in 43 minutes.”
Kendall stopped. “I know A4, but one emergency at a time.”
“The Callahan’s are in danger,” A4 continued. “If it clears Octans Station, we will then be ‘running the gauntlet’ again forty-six minutes after that.”
“The gauntlet?” Kendall asked. “Where did you get that ‘idiom’?”
A4 promptly replied. “I found it in my latest download. A gauntlet is a…”
“No, wait, what was that message this morning… the gauntlet is thrown? SEPA? Grappler Sub?” Kendall resumed a more rapid dissension to the station. “Let’s go, A4. I don’t think 479 was not an isolated anomaly.”
“Dad.” Kendall heard Dmitry on his private family channel.
“I’m getting an automated status log from the wing suspension system, specifically the maglev field intensity controls.”
“What are you talking about, and why are you on our private channel?” Kendall said. “Why would the maglev send you a message?”
“In all of my software systems, I code a back door input and reporting routine.”
“Of course you do.”
“It’s A4,” Dmitry said.
“What?” Kendall said.
“It’s A4. That station vibration you had this morning?”
“Yes. What about it.”
“The suspension software log indicates that A4 transmitted a half Hertz field calibration wave into the maintenance buffers several days ago. It has a 24 hour period. This would explain the periodic station oscillations you’ve been getting. And it looks like his protocols have been changed too. Possibly to hide the transmission.”
Kendall paused his descent and looked at A4 without speaking.
“Dad,” Dmitry continued. “Did someone modify A4’s protocols?”
“No,” Kendall replied. “At least not that I know of. Wait a minute. A4 asked me about that this morning. But, if you put a back door in the code, could someone else use that back door to insert commands?”
“Only if.” Dmitry said. “Only if they got my password.”
“Dmitry? Does your password have something to do with knights, and the middle ages?