The Currents of Space – Episode 2.3

#1
‘The best way to keep a secret is to make sure as few people as necessary know about it. I think we are on borrowed time; eventually someone will talk.’

‘Achernar has been badly wounded and is in the starport hospital undergoing treatment. He is guarded by two Marines twenty-four hours daily.’

+++ SECURITY ALERT +++

Priority One – All security personnel respond

> Rioting on the Strip between local workers and off-duty US Marines.

+++ Priority Channel, OIC Marine squad Alpha to Captain Deladrier, USS ‘Alabama’+++

> Captain, Lieutenant Crossland reporting. Please have medical bay Delta reconfigured to an extreme interrogation suite.

> Deladrier to Crossland – under what authority is this order being issued? Delta bays are only to be used in this manner in exceptional circumstances.

> Crossland to Deladrier – The relevant order is in the computer – key CROU25V6L2H81. Please expedite immediately.

> Deladrier to Crossland – Executive order will be complied with, sir.

+++ Message ends +++

Jane Deladrier swung her command chair back to its central position on the bridge and drummed her fingers on the side of the console.

‘Damn! Again, I’m caught up in a situation not of my making; that I can’t control.’ She looked at the executive order again on her screen; basically it said; “give the bearer any and all assistance that you would give to a flag officer.”’ She issued the necessary orders; then opened another channel to her XO.

‘Call up all information we hold on Lieutenant Crossland, Serial number 023488.’

‘Captain? That’s a senior officers number.’

‘Yes XO, I know. Proceed.’

Crown Downport

The riots were escalating and a second squad of marines had been called in from the ‘Alabama’.

‘We can use this to our advantage’; Paula said. ‘Julio, can you grease a few palms to get us some kit?’

‘Etamin,’ he smiled back; ‘with some more help from Lady Bellatrix’s money of course.’

Between them, Etamin and Bellatrix obtained three Williams Model 9 stun guns, two smoke grenades and a tear gas grenade. The plan was to dress Capella and Etamin as medical orderlies with Bellatrix as a wounded casualty of the on-going riots. Once in the hospital; take out the two guards with the stunners and get Achernar out, using the smoke grenade as cover if necessary. They would rendezvous with Paula driving a Makita Armadillo and hide outside for 20 hours until the survey ship leaves.

The plan worked; the two guards went down and they didn’t have to use the smoke or tear gas. However, their route to the outside lock was blocked by the riots and they were forced to divert. They ran into two power technicians working at a junction box – they knew Etamin. They agreed to help and posted a [RADIATION HAZARD] warning at the entrance to the tunnel leading to Lock 27. They boarded the ATV and headed about 10k away from the port.

Achernar was seriously wounded; Capella did what he could.

‘He needs a hospital; the survey ship will have one. We need a cover story.’

Bellatrix shrugged. ‘It’s obvious, really. He was caught up in the riots and some rat-bastard Marine shot him.’

‘That’s a bit extreme!’

‘Explains why they might dig out a 7.78 mil caseless round out of him.’

Sitting around and waiting

‘What ship are we joining, and why?’

Bellatrix pulled up some data

‘The ship is the ECS “Oppenheimer”, GSV – 080610; chartered by the Parkfield Corporation to conduct detailed surveys of UV Ceti and Aurora. We are listed as a Planetary Survey Team.’ She smiled. ‘We have been listed as crew for the last four months, thanks to a little creative computing.’

‘So, how did they track us down? We didn’t file a flight path to Crown; as far as ATC knew, we were outside our window for the transit to Oppenheimer.’

‘It’s the child; came a weak voice from the couch as Achernar struggled upright. ‘We all said that the kid was inside our heads. She warned Crossland just before I attacked him. I think the military are doing mind-reading experiments.’

‘Is that legal?’

Despite their misgivings, they were able to board the ‘Oppenheimer’ relatively easily; the ship was landed at the port and their papers were well in order. They were shown to their quarters on the passenger deck and run through the necessary bio tests to calibrate the hypersleep pods. Achernar was taken off to the hospital; well-equipped as befitted a survey ship. The ship lifted on time; the ‘Alabama’ did a cursory check of the ship’s manifest; as it was a scheduled flight with no sudden changes to the crew manifest; it was let past.

Time to FTL transition point: – 3 hours 51 minutes. Just enough time to meet their new boss.

They were directed to a conference room in the Planetary Survey section of the ship; an Indian woman and a Sikh were already there, looking at a planetary map. The lady looked up and smiled.

‘Hello, welcome aboard. I am Dr Jayanti Bhatnagar; Mission Co-ordinator for the UV Ceti mission. This is Dr Prasad Singh, Head of Planetary Survey; you will be working for him.’

“She’s wearing a sari,” thought Bellatrix, “not exactly the best outfit to wear in space.” Dr Bhatnagar must have caught her look and smiled again. ‘I like to dress formally when I meet people; I like to make a good impression. When working, I wear work clothes and pants like everyone else.’

Dr Singh interrupted, gesturing at the map.

‘I understand that you are an experienced ground survey team. * There are several sites of interest on Aurora that Planetary Survey will be investigating; these will be allocated once we are in orbit. I run a tight ship and I expect results. I will speak later with all of my team leaders; all leaders will be expected to submit daily progress reports; which I shall analyse and categorise the data.’

Etamin raised his hand and spoke up.

‘Will you be joining us on any of the ground missions? Like, to get hands-on experience?’

Dr Singh frowned.

‘I may join a ground team if I think it is necessary; this would normally only be if progress was unsatisfactory.’

Etamin said nothing; his half-smile said it all.

Three hours later, with everyone safely asleep; the ‘Oppenheimer’ translated into hyperspace for the 11 day transit to UV Ceti.

Epilogue

USS ‘Alabama’

Captain Deladrier looked at the various reports on her screen and entered up the log. The riots on Crown had finally been contained; already complaints from both Makita and Haruna were being received on Earth. All Marine squads were back on-board; casualties had been light and there were no fatalities.

Her comms chimed, she sighed and keyed the channel open. As she had expected, it was Crossland.

‘Captain; a research vessel left Crown seventy-two hours ago. Why did you let it leave without a full search by a boarding party?’

‘Its manifest was in order and there was no reason to board it. Furthermore; all of my Marines were on the surface, containing the riots; my crew are not trained for EVA assault.’

‘Where ws that ship heading? I order you to set course to follow it.’

‘Order refused; you do not have that authority. Until I receive a direct order from Fleet Command, this ship will resume its normal patrol. Sorry, I didn’t quite catch that …’

The comms shut off. Deladrier ordered a course plotted for Armstrong (Procyon), then retired to her quarters. She called up a set of records and sat down to read them.

[Crossland, Davis/023488/ USMC O-5 (Lieut. Colonel)]

“So why are you masquerading as an O-2 working under an exec order when you are a short colonel?”

To be continued …

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GM Notes

* A logical assumption based on their skills. This doesn’t mean that they are going to be any good at it.

* Dr Singh is based on a manager I used to work for (his personality and attitude to his staff). Etamin is far smarter than he is and is always going to point this out.

* This is getting out of my control now!! I called the Game ‘The Currents of Space’ because I didn’t know where I would be blown (and I like the Asimov novel); right now I’m on a rollercoaster to …

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