Saturday, January 28, 2017

Star Trader Updates - Academy Brats .020.5

“Captain…” Horus said softly.

I groaned as I turned over. How did parents do this? We were in week three and I had already added ten more ‘don’t do that rules’ to my passengers’ list. Between the arguments over Stellar Speedster, and every other game in the program selection, I needed to put a sound level ordinance (even though they all had headphones) and a curfew in place.

Surprising to me was that Tiff, the one I thought would be the problem child, was really the easiest to get along with and the most obedient. She had withdrawn from the gaming competitions and often set with her headphones on and a tablet linked to Cassie or Moby’s program.

But, the other three were driving me insane. I could hardly wait to get to the Window and one step closer to the delivery of my ‘cargo.’

I rubbed the sleep from my eyes. It was 2:21 a.m. by the digital readout over the monitor in my bedroom.

“What’s wrong now.” I hated that peeved tone in my voice, but I couldn’t seem to hide it lately.

“Mims has snuck into Drake’s room and things are getting a little… Well…personal.” Horus’ tone sounded almost embarrassed.

I tugged on my boots, threw on a robe and headed toward Drake’s room. I was so upset I nearly squeezed myself in half tightening my rope belt.

When I got there, I didn’t even announce myself. I just barged in.

“Excuse me… I think you are in the wrong room, Mims!”

Mims popped up like a Free Rider in a Backwash. In the process, she smacked Drake in the mouth with her head. He rolled off her grabbing at his bleeding lip and hollowing expletives.

“I had hoped my prior warning would be sufficient. I told you I was monitoring you all. Did you think I was kidding?” I was so fed up. So, ready to be through with these adolescents.

Mims pulled her sleep shirt back down and tucked it into her pants.

“Go to your room!” I pointed as though she didn’t know which room was hers. “Ma-rye-a… Lock Mim’s door once she is in her room and don’t open it until Moby announces breakfast.”

Mim scooted past me and I heard her and Tiff’s door open and close.

“I will be locking your door every night for the rest of the journey, as well,” I told Drake. “If you can’t restrain yourself after being warned twice, then I can’t trust you to be out and about at night.”

I didn’t give Drake a chance to respond.

“There are first aid things in your restroom. Horus can assist you if you need advice.”

With that said, I turned and left the room. I heard Ma-rye-a lock the door behind me.

“They are a handful,” she said sympathetically. She had made inroads with Callen. Other than the competition over Stellar Speedster, which he had still not won yet, he was behaving himself. He seemed to have adjusted well to shipboard life. He spent a lot of time on the bridge with Ma-rye-a and Horus playing chess, reading and chatting with my two crew members about some of our adventures.

I wished I could get Drake and Mims settled. Mims was interested in Moby at first, but it seemed Daniel had not upgraded my cook to match Mims inquiring mind. She got bored with him and spent more time trying to figure out a way to blindside my AIs so she and Drake could meet up privately. That had led to a few monitors going toes-up with a little program she managed to sneak into Ma-rye-a via one of Cassie’s links. However, Sam found them in the gunner ball and tranked Drake before he got much further than a deep kiss and a quick feel. After Sam tranked him the second time – the young man had given my security AI a wide birth.

Oh well, there was only another ten days to the trip. With doors locked in the evening, hopefully, the rest of the trip would be peaceful, or at least tolerable.

*****

“Captain…”

I awoke immediately. I lay there quietly and tried to determine if Ma-rye-a had really called me or if I had dreamed it. The lights were still dim in my cabin, an indication I had imagined her call.

It must have been a dream. This trip had been rockier than I expected. I wasn’t sleeping well. I punched my pillow, rolled back over and closed my eyes trying to think of pleasant thoughts.

Only three more days to the Window and another five on the other side and I could sleep soundly again

Looking back, this was my last chance to stop what eventually brought about Ma-rye-a’s crash and our being stranded on Penal Planet #104C.

*****

“Everyone buckled in?” I had made sure they were all suited properly with helmets.

“Everyone is secure,” Sam confirmed. He was in charge of seeing that my passengers were snug in their respective C-Chairs for the jump through the Window.

“Entry to Window in sixty seconds.” Ma-rye-a started her countdown.

I hit the button on my waist-belt and the seat harness of my pilot’s chair dropped over my shoulders, firmly securing me in place. “Good to go,” I confirmed with Ma-rye-a.

We launched into the window and I immediately knew something was drastically wrong. I heard Ma-rye-a’s Hyper-drive scream as it shifted into high gear. The read-out on the monitor jumped to the top of the power chart and hung there as I felt her stutter and shake under the strain of a speed she had never attain before, or had ever been built to attain.

“Ma-rye-a! What’s going on?” I reached for the manual override.

Human reactions were not near fast enough in this kind of situation. Before I could take control of her, she had hit the edge of the window and we were spinning out of control. I was forced back in my seat, them flung forward to the extent my harness would allow. The force of the action literally took my breath away. When the movement shoved me back in the seat again, I gasped for air.

“Ma-rye-a Stop!” I shouted as soon as I caught my breath. “Sam! Horus! Can you override her and take control of the ship?”

My plea for help went unheard. No response from either of my backup AIs.

We were thrown out of the window at such a speed that I thought I might blackout.

“Warning! Warning! You are approaching a restricted zone!”

The warning was automated. A system beyond even Ma-rye-a’s control. It was only activated when you got way too close to the restricted area around a penal planet. Penal planets were drone protected and anything larger than a ten by four foot delivery pod was shot down the instant it entered the planet’s air space. We had to be in the path of a penal planet.

“Crap!” I strained for all I was worth to reach the controls as we continued to spin. “Ma-rye-a, respond!”

I caught a glimpse of the monitor as she swung around another time like a leaf caught in a whirlpool. There it was, in red on the screen, the restricted area around a penal planet. I could see the crosshairs of the drones taking aim at us.

How the Hell had this happened?

Ma-rye-a’s Hyper-drive continued to crank up higher and higher. She was going to explode before the drones had a chance to fire on her.

For better or worse, I was wrong, the drones fired and the blast hit Ma-rye-a like the solar wind from an exploding gas giant.

Art by Sherry D. Ramsey for The Journey Begins by Theresa Snyder


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