Alaska Girl Publishing features author Tiffee Jasso. I think you will enjoy her books, wit and humor.
Here are the first three chapters of Blue Lucy Revelation: Angels of Another Kind. Please note formatting is different for this website than book will be in either print or ebook form. I have footnotes in printed book at the bottom of the pages to alert the reader to words they are not familiar with. In ebooks and on this website it works differently and I have to put the footnotes below the paragraph the word(s) appear in. Also do realize I could have made mistakes. Formatting on a small laptop screen is not the same as using my Word program.
Blue Lucy Revelation: Angels of Another Kind
My tale begins April 4, 2094 with a group of prospectors, or target hunters as they are known in the trade, on board a spaceship sitting in the Six Mile Desert on planet Mars. Five explorers from Earth, and two beings from another dimension, make up the ship’s crew. The five humans aboard the spacecraft have no knowledge there are any other life forms on their ship, but them. Today— they take their first step toward enlightenment.
“One clap of thunder, and all eyes turn toward the heavens. That is as it should be.” —The Atlantis Tablets: Stone One.
Captain John T. Striker, former US Air Command pilot and co-owner of a refitted space freighter, newly christened the Blue Lucy, is a Texan. He is a tall, proud man with the bluest of blue eyes and sandy-colored hair. Generally, he has a lot of patience for what life throws at him, but not today.
Captain John T. Striker, former US Air Command pilot and co-owner of a refitted space freighter, newly christened the Blue Lucy, is a Texan. He is a tall, proud man with the bluest of blue eyes and sandy-colored hair. Generally, he has a lot of patience for what life throws at him, but not today.
Striker straightened up and took several steps back from the erosion grotto he had been burrowing into. Taking his geo scanner out of his pouch pocket, he turned it on and pointed the small handheld machine at the quartz stringer he had exposed. The white ribbon of rock glowed as the scanner’s light passed over it. He stopped the scan and checked the data on the tiny screen, and was disappointed to find the rock contained no minerals of real value.
He blew a breath of frustration which fogged-up his faceplate, and then rolled his eyes in self-reproach. He knew better than to exhale forcefully into his oxyhelmet, but it had been a hard week and he was out of time. An oxygen line on the ship had ruptured due to a rough landing, and they had lost most of their air supply. Tomorrow, they would beam off-planet to Ring City, the largest and nearest, space station from Mars that had oxygen for sale.
He tried not to think about what it was going to cost them to replace the oxygen at space station prices. Their bank account was already at a low point.
Thank God, we don’t have to worry about water too, he told himself.
That thought gave him an idea. The Blue Lucy had been built before spaceships began using the new flame resistant corrite sludge for fuel, and had two fool’s pools. Perhaps, they could trade
the new beamer engines on the Blue Lucy. He and his partner, G.T., had looked the tanks over and decided to leave them in place as a backup water supply.
Striker smiled as he thought about how the water tanks had gotten the name “fool’s pools.” While the tanks did save ships from turning into blazing fireballs, they did so about half the time which left most spacers believing you were a fool to depend on them.
Striker glanced upward as the sky lit up in the distance. His brow furrowed as he studied the growing dark haze on the horizon. By the size of the rising dust clouds, they were in for another electrical sandstorm. He decided it was time to head back to the ship. They could not risk being caught out in the open during a Martian sandstorm. In addition to the storm’s fierce lightning and being scoured by gritty winds gusting in excess of a hundred miles an hour, the dust cloud kicked up by the wind would block out the sun’s light. It would be impossible to fly their bootscooters back to the ship in the dark.
When another bout of lightning from the storm brightened the horizon, he hurriedly switched on his rock hammer’s built-in black light and aimed the purple beam into the dark crevice to take one more scan. The underlying rock now, glowed in the soft iridescent colors of common minerals. Three small bright pink dots were the only noticeable colors he saw.
Striker pursed his lips as he studied them. While gems were not exactly on their list, he knew Aphrodite garnets were found on Mars, and could be valuable. That is, if you were to find any crystals large enough for the jeweler’s trade. He made a mental note to check the current market rate of the gems when he got back to the ship.
He powered off the hammer’s light and slipped the tool back into its sling strap on his utility belt. He turned around and began to search the nearby terrain for his field partner, who today, happened to be his younger brother, Billy. He searched for a tall skinny figure in a bright yellow oxysuit, and gave a short grunt of irritation when he failed to spot his brother’s tall lanky form.
Striker walked toward the rock shelf, Billy had been working on. He grumbled to himself along the way. The kid knew the rules. Stay in sight of your field partner at all times! It had been the first thing he had drilled into his brother’s head this morning as they had waited for the airlock hatch to open.
It is well-known that time and distance for a target hunter out in the field go without notice. Space prospectors have been known to fall prey to Foley Smith Fever. A syndrome named for the two men, Stan Foley and Ned Smith, who had the misfortune to be the first to die that way. The fever had nothing to do with body temperature, but rather, the folly of running out of airtime before one could get back to one’s ship.
Striker knew that. He had experienced the phenomena for himself on his first target trip to the moon. His mind kept telling him the next big strike might be that next rock outcropping, or the next canyon. If it had not been for the Foley alarm on his oxypack, he would have never realized his oxygen supply was at the halfway mark.
“Where are you, Billy?” he murmured over his comm unit as his dark blue eyes scanned the surrounding terrain.
Lightning lit up the sky again, and a low rumble of thunder followed.
The next thing Striker heard was Billy’s excited voice spike over his comm unit. He looked around and saw boot prints in the wind-blown sand between two rocks. He followed them. The trail led him through a narrow canyon and into a small valley.
“John!” Billy shouted out when he spotted his brother’s figure emerging from between the rocks. “Look what I found!”
Then, without giving his brother time to look at what he had found, Billy leaped feet first into the gully before him.
Striker winced as he watched Billy land, and then, propelled by Mar’s lighter gravity, shoot forward and slam into a large boulder. About that same time, he realized he was not looking at a ravine made by natural means, he was looking at a gully-wide crash alley made by what was left of a downed ship. He stood there completely taken by surprise. When he reached up to rub his jaw, the thonk, his gloved hand made as it collided with the base of his helmet, broke the spell.
“You all right?” he asked when he saw Billy rubbing his arm.
“Hit my elbow on that rock. Hurts a bit, but nothing’s broken,” Billy answered as he flipped his wrist over to make a quick check of his suit’s environmental meter.
When Billy started toward the spacecraft, Striker told him to stop where he was. “You need to run a RAD check before you get any closer. That wreckage is apt to be hot.”
“Uh, right... I forgot,” Billy said and reached for his field scanner. He quickly switched the machine on and pointed it toward the crashed ship. “It’s not hot!” he called out smugly, and began moving forward, only to stumble over another rock.
Striker waited for Billy to regain his balance before he spoke. “Don’t move!” He ordered. “You did not give your meter time to power up, let alone calibrate a cycle. This time, I want to hear some numbers. Also, if you would slow down, you wouldn’t stumble around so much.”
“Sure thing, boss,” Billy said, giving a mock salute.
Striker ignored his brother’s subtle protest that he was being too protective. Radiation sickness was not an option as far as he was concerned. He had dealt with radiation victims during the war, both live ones and dead ones.
“Three, two, one, calibrated!” Billy called out when the machine gave a small ping.
This time, Billy carefully moved the meter back and forth across the entire expanse of the crash alley. “It’s not hot,” he announced. “The RAD line is no higher than point three and the signal bands are green. So, if you don’t have any more objections, I will now proceed to yon piece of space junk,” he finished, sweeping a hand dramatically toward the spacecraft for emphasis.
“Not yet! Just stay put until I run a backup check,” Striker stated as he took out his own scanner.
As Striker waited for his machine to calibrate, he quoted from his favorite off-planet survival guide. “Fact number three: If you are too bloody lazy to scan, you are too bloody stupid to live!” Striker smiled as he saw Billy’s head swing toward him. “That axiom can be found along with nine others in “The Bloody Field Guide to Space Survival,” by Lord Allard Krake. Have you read it?” he asked.
“No,” Billy answered, shaking his head.
“I’m not surprised,” Striker said. “Many professors believe the book to be too graphic and the language too raw to be of any use as an instructional guide. Also, it is considered outdated as it was published before spaceships began using light beaming reactors. But, it is one of the better books on space travel which is surprising, considering the book is by a British Lord. Krake does more than just draw you a verbal picture of what you need to know. He brings to life, not only the wonders to be found beyond Earth’s atmosphere, but also the harsh realities of space travel. My favorite axiom is number one. “Life is too spoofing* short. Don’t make it shorter!”
[*Spoof: Screwed by machine. A popular slang word used around the world created by putertechs (computer programmers).]
Billy’s laughter rang out at that statement.
“Yeah, I know. Made me laugh the first time I read it. But, I soon learned Krake was not being humorous. There are stories in his book about incidents and accidents in space that anyone even thinking about blasting off Earth should know about. It could save their life. We have a copy in the Lucy’s data base, I suggest you read it.”
“Read it, I will, when I get back to the ship,” Billy promised. “But right now, it is that ship or what’s left of it that interests me.”
Striker checked for other dangerous substances that might cause problems, but found nothing out of the ordinary. He motioned with a hand for Billy to go ahead and approach the ship.
While Billy made his way toward the wreckage, Striker stood on the edge of the crash alley. His eyes narrowed in concentration as he tried to match the unusual ball and pipe shape of the ship’s hull with a known corporation, or country, but nothing came to mind.
Billy walked slowly along the side of the crashed vessel, searching for clues that might tell him where the ship hailed from. He stopped to take out his field scanner, pushed the vidcam key and began a detailed description of the downed space vessel to take back to the Blue Lucy.
Frustration set in when he found the layers of red dust and grit covering the craft’s hull was so thick they hid any tags, logos, or other clues that would solve the mystery of who owned the vessel. Or rather, who had owned it, he reminded himself, since the ship was now just a piece of salvage.
“Hey! I think I found an exit hatch,” he called out to Striker as he spotted a rectangular-shaped variation in the dust layer. He wiped at the spot with a gloved hand. When he found himself staring back at his own reflection, his mouth dropped open.
“Whoa!” He exclaimed. “When did they make chrome-plated ships?”
“I don’t know. I can’t recall ever seeing or hearing of one,” Striker replied as he walked up and stared at Billy’s and his own reflections in the silver mirror-like surface of the ship’s hull. “But, it might help tell us more about it and where it came from as I doubt there will be very many models like this one in the files.”
Striker turned away and moved on to inspect the part of the ship that had slammed into the rock wall, halting the spacecraft’s disastrous skid as it had plowed through the rocky terrain. It was plain to see, by the damage done to the surrounding area, the runaway ship had hit the rock wall at a terrific speed. Yet, he saw no signs of structural damage to the vessel’s hull.
He stopped to look back down the length of the vessel, searching for signs of hull breaches or surface ripples that would indicate metal giving way as it impacted with the planet’s surface. He saw none. Now that’s got to be one for the books, he thought.
As Billy wiped away the dust, his glove slipped across the metal surface and revealed a small panel of black colored triangles. Each button had a design etched into it. He did not recognize any of the icons.
He longed to put a comm link through to the Blue Lucy, and ask Kalo to check the ship’s computer files, but both Striker and G.T. had strictly forbidden any field contact with the Blue Lucy. They had given him a lengthy explanation on how communication of any kind was automatically picked up by remote satellite jockeys that orbited every planet in the system. “The info is then sold to anyone who will pay for it. Next thing you know, someone will be jumping your claim,” G.T. had complained.
With a quick glance to make sure John was not watching, Billy cautiously pushed on one of the black buttons. When nothing happened, he tried the others. When he tired of trying different variations he turned and looked toward his brother.
“I found a panel on the right side of the hatch, John,” he stated. “It has six triangular-shaped keys and each one has a different symbol, but I don’t recognize any of them.”
“What kind of symbols? Iconic, letter, or numeral?”
“The top one has something that looks like a seashell,” Billy replied. “One might be a fish. It’s hard to tell. The rest look like scribbled lines—not letters, or numbers, just scribbles.”
“It might be something from Taz Inc., or one of the other islander corporations. They all use various aquatic icons and native ciphers in their logos.”
Billy stared at the designs more intently and nodded. The scribbles did kind of remind him of some of the primitive designs he had seen on artifacts displayed at the Phoenix Museum of Ethnology.
“Kalo told me Liinka has most of ACTS* on file,” Billy told Striker as he made a careful sweep of his vidcam back and forth over the area. “He should be able to match it up with something in those files.”
Striker groaned inwardly at the thought of the putertech and Liinka, hacking into the American Center for Technology in Space. Should the Government Investigations Agency, trace their highly illegal activities back to the Blue Lucy, their ship’s computer tech would not be the only one that got hauled off to prison. The real question would be, who arrested him and G.T. first, ACTS or GIA*?
*ACTS: American Center for Technology in Space (formerly NASA).]
[*GIA: Government Investigative Agency: (Replaced the FBI & CIA in 2087).]
“Of course, maybe this thing is not from Earth at all.” Billy said with a laugh.
Striker ignored Billy’s remark as he was busy using his scanner to take measurements. The craft was 12.3 meters long. Large enough to be a survey ship, he told himself, considering it was only a section of the original ship. There had to be more pieces of it somewhere else as he still had not been able to locate anything that resembled a power or propulsion port. It occurred to him the ship may have been powered by one or more separate nacelles that had sheared off as the ship impacted the planet.
His attention drifted to what he did not see. He ran a quick scan of the crash alley and found the ship had slid 840 meters from where it first impacted to where it finally came to rest. The force of impact had cut a 10 meter wide channel, close to 3 meters deep. Those figures stated the ship should have broken up upon impact and, what was left when it hit the rock barrier, should have folded up like a beer can. Instead, the craft had miraculously defied the laws of physics, and not only stayed in one piece, but also appeared to have sustained no external damage.
Striker slowly walked back and forth along the crash alley’s bank, scanning for any variations in his previous readings. A red blip on the meter caught his attention. He stopped to check the meter. He ran new RAD scans, and found each time he passed by the same section of the ship, the instrument’s radiation register jumped. There was definitely a small area on the craft that was radioactive, but it appeared to be at acceptable levels. Still, his curiosity was piqued. Atomics had been banned more than thirty years ago after the Beijing Lotus’ reactor had exploded on takeoff at the Shanghai Spaceport. Within seconds, a million people died, and millions more were injured. The accident had spewed deadly radiation across the continent, and many of those who had survived the initial blast, died later from the aftereffects of radiation exposure.
A loud banging interrupted his thoughts.
He turned around and saw Billy trying to pry open the recessed area with a lode chisel and a rock hammer. “Put that hammer away,” he commanded.
Billy jerked as Striker’s voice boomed over his comm unit. He then gave a yelp of pain as his hammer slipped off the chisel and crashed down on his gloved fingers.
“Bangers!” He exploded with a rush of breath. “That hurt!”
“Do not touch another thing unless I tell you to!” Striker ordered without sympathy. He was angry that Billy was dumbbot enough to try hammering on the craft in the first place.
“Yes, sir,” Billy said contritely, using his good hand to put the chisel and hammer back into their slots on his utility belt.
Striker climbed toward a rock shelf that hung out over the spacecraft. Once he had reached his goal, he jumped onto the top of the craft. He landed safely enough, but his feet began sliding out from under him. He dropped down onto his belly and spread his arms and legs out. When his body quit sliding, he slowly rolled himself around until he once again faced the rock ledge. He then reached for his grapple gun. Bracing himself for the tool’s percussive kickback, he shot the grappling hook toward a group of rocks above him and then reeled the line back until the claw caught in a crevice.
He tested the cable and found it stable. For safety and balance, he wrapped the cable around one leg. He slowly tightened the feed. As planned, he slid headfirst over the top of the ship and down toward one of the oval outlines he had spied earlier. When he was even with the area he was aiming for, he locked the cable’s slide. Holding onto the line with one hand, he swiped at the dust with his free hand, revealing what he had hoped to find—a viewport. He twisted around and reached for the lightwand hanging off his belt.
“Do you see anything?” Billy asked as he watched his brother peer into the ship.
“There are a few lights glowing on some panels, but it’s too dark inside to see much else,” Striker called back. “The port is solarized, and so the light doesn’t penetrate more than a few feet, but I don’t see any bodies.”
“Bodies?” Billy questioned, swallowing nervously as the word echoed in his mind.
“Well, we know somebody was piloting this thing when it went down. There are probably a couple of bodies inside, maybe more as I can’t recall hearing of any rescue missions. Also, G.T. and I checked the data base before we filed for our site permit. There were no crash sites listed for this part of Mars.”
The thought of dead spacers made Striker lose his enthusiasm for trying to see what else might be inside the vessel. He let his legs slide slowly downward until he was in position to use the cable to pull himself back up to the rock ledge.
“Bangers!” Billy exclaimed again as he realized he had found more than just a crash site.
“Fortunately, for us, we won’t be the ones that do the removal. Once we get inside and see what we’re dealing with, we will file a salvage claim,” Striker explained. ‘The investigation and removal of the casualties falls to the Star Guardians. All we have to do is wait for them to finish their job. Then we can start the salvage operation.”
Billy felt his stomach churn as he listened. He stared at the hatch area he had been banging on and gulped. The only dead bodies at a crash site he had ever seen had been on news channels.
“But, right now, we need to get back to the Lucy. Our airtime is counting down,” Striker stated.
Billy nodded and started out of the alley, but paused at the hatch area to reach out and touch one of the black triangles. About that same time, the sixty-minute alarm on his oxypack went off like a mini-siren, startling him. He jumped back so fast, he almost lost his balance.
“Kill the switch!” Striker shouted over the alarm’s high pitched screech.
Billy hit the alarm button and the wailing stopped.
“That, practically gave me a heart attack, John,” he told his brother as he followed him back through the gap between the rocks.
“Well, now you know the Foley alarm works,” Striker said with a chuckle. “But, if it makes you feel any better, my heart did a dance too.”
Billy’s brow went up in surprise at that confession. He had never known anything that could scare John.
“If that storm lasts as long as the last one, we’re not going to be able to come back tomorrow,” Billy complained as he eyed the dark cloud bank coming towards them.
“We will be back. The storm should pass by morning,” Striker said. “By then, we should have a better understanding of what we are dealing with and what type of intruder defense system the ship has. We don’t want to activate it when we pop the seal.”
“Intruder defense system?” Billy questioned, alarm on his face. “You mean, like in explosives?”
“Exactly! Most ships have some type of IDS, and some of them can be rather nasty. Not enough to damage the ship, but more than enough to disable someone trying to breach a ship’s security hatch code,” Striker explained as he mounted his bootscooter.
Once he had positioned his feet on the scooter, he looked up and saw Billy standing there, a puzzled expression on his face. “It’s called protecting your investment, kid. Anyone boarding the Lucy without permission would find themselves in for a few surprises too.”
Striker smiled inwardly as he thought about Billy’s statement. The Blue Lucy did not have a regular defense system. It had an invisible—when she wanted to be—force, by the name of Liinka and her pet dogbot Puzzle. While the robot might not be dangerous in the sense of being armed, it definitely could be hazardous to one’s health. He had a couple of healed ribs that would testify to that.
“Maybe we should bring Hazey with us when we come back” Billy suggested. “He told me he used to clear booby traps for the Air Command, during the war.”
“We could, but I doubt Hazey knows how to handle an airbike well enough to fly it across Martian rock fields.”
“I could bring him on one of the sleds,” Billy offered.
Striker nodded, but did not comment. He was busy looking up at the stars above his head. Even if he could not see them, he knew three SAT* jockeys orbited Mars. He also knew every word spoken over their helmet links had been picked up and analyzed for content and the information had been passed on to the brokers who owned the jockeys. The discovery of an unidentified craft, no matter what kind, or where it was found, would spark a lot of interest. He decided not to wait to file salvage rights. Tomorrow could be too late, he told himself. He reached for his comm unit, opened a direct link to the Blue Lucy and entered three nines followed by the command sign. It was the spacer’s code for “salvage found.”
[*SAT: Satellite Activated Transmission.]
Using the data off his field meter, he carefully keyed in the exact coordinates of the crash site and sent the information to Kalo. It would alert the putertech to file a claim with the Federation. This would ensure they got first rights to take what they wanted off the craft. Whoever got second rights would depend on who could outrun the rest of the pack, and get here first.
“Hell of a time to run out of oxygen!” he muttered to himself as he mounted his scooter.
Captain G.T. Eagle
“Damn her ghosthide!” G.T. cursed, and in what he knew to be a childish gesture, he hit the delete key, dumping her figures off his screen. He fervently wished there was a delete key he could use to wipe her from the ship’s computer.
Gilbert Tafoya Gray Eagle, co-owner and registered captain of the Blue Lucy, and member of the Navajo Nation, had been named for both of his grandfathers— Gilbert Tafoya and Gray Eagle. However, his grandmother, who was living with her daughter, Lucinda Eagle at the time, forbade anyone to use the name of her ex-spouse “Gilbert” in her presence. His father, Charlie Eagle, always the peace maker, promptly dubbed him, G.T. As he grew up, most called him Eagle, but to family and friends, he is always G.T.
G.T. sat at his comm station studying the figures before him with a frown on his face. Some days are just worse than others, he told himself. No matter what numbers he applied, the end result was the same. The ship’s oxygen supply was at 69.7 hours and fizzling down with each second that passed.
He sat there beating himself up for failing to check the valve couplings on the oxygen lines before they left Skyhawk, not after they failed when they landed on Mars.
A message box opened up on his flatscreen and the words, “Cutting life support for engine halls and hydroponics is not advised,” appeared.
“Get out of my computer, dammit!” G.T. muttered, angry that Liinka was monitoring his work.
He forcefully struck the delete key. Her words disappeared, but then, so did his numbers. Before he could react, a new set of numbers appeared. He looked them over and made a sour face when he deemed her calculations were correct. The eight hours of airtime he had hoped to gain, had dwindled down to less than one hour. They would have to beam off Mars within the next 24 hours in order to insure their oxygen supply held out until they could get to Ring City, the nearest space station.
A rough landing had snapped a coupling off the Blue Lucy’s main oxygen line when the ship set down on Mars. The computer had switched life support to the auxiliary oxygen supply and closed the leaking valve, but that was ten days ago. They had replaced the coupling and checked the rest of the system. Now all they needed was a supplier. Ring City did have oxygen for sale. He had checked on that yesterday.
“Have Hazey and Jesse run a prelaunch check on the beamers, Sitka!” G.T. commanded, swiveling around in his chair to look over at the slim dark-haired woman who sat across the room at the nav station. “Then, chart a path to Ring City. But, do not file it with Earth Station*, until we are ready to beam out.”
[*Earth Station: Large satellite space harbor and control center orbiting the moon.].
Sitka Garcia turned away from the comm screen she was monitoring, long enough to nod at him, and then relayed G.T.’s command. First to engineer Jack Hazey, who was running a diagnostic on the starboard beaming engine, and then to her husband, Jesse Garcia, the ship’s mechtech, who was in the freight bay working on one of the bootscooters. She next changed all the status lights on the ship from dead red to prelaunch yellow.
G.T. saw the status lights change color and nodded. He admired Sitka’s ability to master all the protocols required of both a navigator and pilot. He also liked the fact she did not question his authority or stop to ask questions. Good pilots are that way, he thought. They tend to take off first, and ask why later.
When Striker had bragged to him about Sitka’s piloting skills in flying freight to remote parts of Alaska, he had pictured in his mind a yard-wide female with a fierce look, on her face. He knew his own face must have mirrored his surprise the day he found a young, slim woman, in her late-twenties, with black cropped hair, standing outside the Blue Lucy’s main hatch. She had a huge red leather handbag slung over her shoulder. When he saw the brand name, he raised a brow. The handbag probably cost as much as their new computer. Of course, he had to admit it did spice up her white t-shirt and faded blue jeans. After giving Striker a warm hug, she turned and introduced herself.
Jesse had arrived a few minutes later, in a cargo van, with a Skyhawk field maintenance crew. He was a short husky man with hazel eyes, and about the same age as his wife. When a freight hauler loaded with more boxes and crates pulled in behind the truck, G.T. realized why Jesse had brought help with him. He was going to need it.
G.T. turned his chair around and went back to staring at the figures on his flatscreen. There was nothing he could think of to add, and so left the figures where they were. Clasping both hands behind his head, he leaned back in his chair and swung his feet up on the counter before him, thinking to take a break.
He found himself staring up at the streaks and stains on the ceiling above his head. His eyes landed on the black smudges over Striker’s comm station and he scowled at them. Most of the scorch marks were due to past smoke damage, and were evidence the ship had seen more than her fair share of bridge fires. However, the ones he was looking at were fairly new, and had been put there by the all-too-ingenious metal dogbot that parked its torso in the computer hall.
“G.T.!” Sitka cried out, turning to look over her shoulder at his reclining figure. “Striker just relayed a triple-nine code!”
That brought G.T. up so fast, he nearly fell out of his chair as he struggled to get his feet off the counter and back onto the floor. He quickly crossed the short distance to the nav station to take a look for himself.
“Salvage!” he exclaimed, his jaw dropping open as he dumbly stared at the screen.
There is no known salvage in this sector, or on the entire planet of Mars for that matter, he told himself. He had made sure of that before he had filed the permits for this zone. There had been no back claims, present claims, or future claims, registered, and there were no references to any missing vessels.
“Uh-oh,” Sitka said, shaking her head as she read the new SAT message on her screen, “The Dragon Queen is in moon orbit and has just entered a nav path with Earth Station. Her destination is Ring City, and she’s cleared to break orbit in one hour.”
Sitka waited for G.T. to explode. She knew from past experience any mention of either the Dragon Queen, or its captain,
General Alturas Modocco, generally set off fireworks with both G.T. and Striker.
“What’s the Dragon’s Queen’s ETA for Ring City,” G.T. asked between gritted teeth.
“She’s logged in to make the run from Earth Station to Ring City in just over thirty-two hours. That’s over four BEEs* per hour!” Sitka exclaimed. “I did not know a Warrior Class ship could travel at that speed.”
[*BEE: A rate of speed equal to 33,333 miles per hour.]
“Most cannot,” G.T. told her, “but the Dragon Queen is not most, she has triple quad beamers and a krakium hull.”
“Ah. Yes... I can see where that would give one an edge,” Sitka said, nodding her head as she pictured the giant quad beamers she had seen at the annual tech fair in Seattle, last November.
Both Sitka and G.T. fell silent as they contemplated the speed the large target vessel could travel, but for completely different reasons.
G.T. knew it was no coincidence the Dragon Queen was headed their way. Whatever it was Striker and Billy had found, the odds of holding onto it had just taken a hit.
His face grew rigid at the thought of losing another discovery to the General and his thugs, even if this one was just a salvage claim. He exploded with a string of curses in several languages.
Sitka jerked in her chair at G.T.’s outburst, but his anger did not surprise her.
After G.T. ran through every word he could think of to describe how he felt about the General and his ship, he turned and headed for the lift tube.
“I’ll be in the computer hall if you need me,” he told Sitka.
The Star Chamber
“It is time to power yourself on, Dub!” Odn stated as he contacted the sleeping android. “There are things to be done.”
Dub shook off the dull lethargy of inactivity as his visual receptors powered on. The faceted black ovoid-shaped crystals he used for eyes sparkled as they caught the light rays from the ship’s interior lamps. As he powered up the rest of his body, a low hissing sound emanated from the vocalizer located in his chest. He turned his head slowly from side-to-side to check the mobility of his neck ring and found it working properly. He then rotated the two short rod antennae on his head and noted both of his hearing units were in perfect order.
Satisfied, for the moment, with his physical self he began to check for memory and logic capabilities while tentatively reaching out with his mind to Odn. It pleased him to find the Star Chamber’s wellmaster was the one who had summoned him.
Dub scanned Odn’s files and found all was not good. Several of the Star Chamber’s memory wells had been breached, and life support for his charges had been confined to that which the chjube tree was able to produce. This information told him that, indeed, something terrible must have transpired. It was at this point he realized he had no information on what had happened.
He rapidly searched his core memory, but found he could not establish the whereabouts of the mothership. “Where is the Khaddi-Bior?” he asked.
Odn did not reply. Instead, he lit up one of his data panes and created a video log.
A silver-colored spaceship appeared on the largest viewing pane and was quickly replaced by an interior scene of the ship’s bridge area.
Dub heard the collision alarms as they warned of danger. He saw the looks of dismay on Judrn’s and Muro’s faces as the two android pilots stared at something he could not see. Before he could ask Odn for more information, the scene switched direction and focused on the crystal panes lining the hull of the mothership’s bridge. Dub extended his neck and moved his head toward the screen to get a closer look. He saw a large piece of space debris grow rapidly in size as it streaked across the darkness of space on a collision course with the mothership.
Dub shrieked when the giant colony ship disappeared in a blinding flash of light. He now understood what had happened. Because the giant colony ship and the asteroid had occupied the same dimensional stream, they collided. Judrn’s theoretical argument of dimensional collision had come to pass.
“No,” Odn communicated. “Judrn’s theory has not been proven. What occurred is Pilot Muro moved the Khaddi-Bior out of the light stream in preparation to scout for the planet Attina. In doing so, he unknowingly, placed the mothership directly into the path of a comet. There was not time to engage the engines and move the ship out of its path before the comet’s core collided with the mothership.”
The android moaned and hung his head mournfully at that news.
Odn gently reminded Dub that not all was lost. “This Star Chamber has survived as well as its children.”
Odn’s words reminded Dub of his duties. He waddled across the length of the inner chamber to stand before the crystal tagnyte cylinders that encased and protected the two children in his care. Dub took heart when he saw the male and female floating tranquilly in the life preserving fluid that filled the decanters. “Just as it should be,” he murmured and moved in for a closer evaluation.
He first stood in front of the crystal cylinder that held his female child’s data. He found her life reading was twenty-two Vibs, her color excellent, her brain waves were active and normal. He then moved over to the next cylinder and saw the male’s life reading was twenty-four Vibs, two points higher than the female’s, but still well within the parameters required for humans. And that it as it should be, he told himself.
When the android finished his inspection and determined his children were in no immediate danger, he ran a check of his own systems. He found some of his of memory missing and his brow ridges wrinkled in concern. He complained to Odn, but the Wellmaster offered no solution, telling him he was still in the process of rerouting data from his own damaged memory wells.
“How long?” Dub asked.
“Unknown,” came Odn’s reply.
Dub gave a low sigh and went back to his passengers. He slowly circled the tagnyte cylinders and then moved over to where the chjube tree stood. He scanned the plant and saw not only had it survived, but had also grown in size and was touching the ceiling.
“Of course it survived, you stiff-wiffy!” he scolded himself. “Had it not, your children would have perished long ago. Without the tree, there would have been no oxygen.”
He shuddered at the thought of such a catastrophe.
Odn had idly been listening in on Dub’s discussion with himself. “Fortunately, the planet we are on has strong solar cycles,” he told the android. “It is all that is needed for the chjube tree’s survival.”
Dub reached out and stroked one of the tree’s larger branches. Its crystalline surface resonated softly to his touch. “Yes. You are quite right, Wellmaster. It is healthy.”
He turned away from the tree. “Have you finished your calculations?” he asked.
“Yes, we have been here on this planet 7,491 years in Atlantean time,” Odn answered.
“But how can that be?” Dub queried, shocked by the numbers.
“It can be because it is,” Odn stated. “Do you doubt me?”
“No, Wellmaster, I do not doubt you,” Dub replied. “Please ignore my small ramblings which I am sure are mostly due to shock and lack of programming,” he apologized.
“One functions as one can,” Odn stated.
Later, after he had had time to thoroughly examine every inch of the ship, Dub considered what he should do next. Odn had told him the planet they were on was not habitable for humans in its present state. If that be the case, he dared not wake the children. Once they entered into the awakening stage, the chjube tree would not be able to supply enough oxygen to keep them alive. He heaved the equivalent of an android sigh when he realized they would have to wait for someone to come rescue them.
“We had visitors earlier today,” Odn told Dub. “That is the reason I awoke you. However, they are not the ones we have been waiting for.”
“They left?” Dub queried, disturbed by the news. “Where did they go?” he asked.
“I do not know,” Odn answered as he powered on one of the smaller data panes to show the android.
Dub saw two figures in saffron-colored suits walking around outside the ship and speaking in a language he was not familiar with. He asked Odn if he was able to translate, but the wellmaster told him he could not.
Dub stood pondering the situation. When nothing occurred to him, and Odn offered no suggestions, he gave another sigh. There was little else for him to do, but wait. He moved over to his station, and with a click of his heels, anchored himself to his power port.
“Wake me if they return!” he said and then powered down to conserve energy.