Sunday, February 12, 2017

Star Trader Update - Academy Brats - 020.7

Sorry for this chapter being late this week. Got a case of flu in the house and it is taking up a lot of my time. This chapter is short, but I promise more next week to make up for it.

Chapter 7

I flopped down in the chair next to Callen’s. I had removed his helmet and manually checked his vitals – they were all within acceptable limits, but he was still out.

“I can’t find anything wrong. We’re just going to keep an eye on him and wait for him to come around.”

“They’ll have a med-team when they send the rescue vessel,” Tiff said.

Okay, now this was going to be the hard part, as if having a comatose youngster wasn’t enough. I cleared my throat of the lump that had immediately jumped into it when she said rescue vessel. 

“There won’t be a rescue vessel coming soon.” That wasn’t a lie. 

I did hope the drones would report in their logs that a ship entered their airspace, maybe even report Ma-rye-a by name. Then a sharp attendant at LockDown Inc. would see the log entry in the billions that passed by on his monitor, would flag it, contact his superiors, who would then contact the Galactic Forces, who would in turn send a rescue ship.

Yeah… Right… In truth, the attendant on the monitor at LockDown Inc. was probably a bored, overweight watcher with a Rank Tussle comic in one hand and a Vudu pastry in the other, who could care less about the measly pay he received for keeping an eye on the screen. The notice would most likely scroll past before he even looked up from ogling Miss Monthly Universe.

“You sent out a Mayday, right?” Drake asked.

“I did, but I can’t confirm it was heard.” I felt they deserved the truth. I also felt the kids needed to know where they were so they would give their circumstances the proper respect. I didn’t want them getting curious about our situation and unlocking the bay door to go out and take a look around. We were safe at the moment. It would take a lot to break into Ma-rye-a. Drilling or cutting equipment I didn’t think they would have on a penal planet. “When Ma-rye-a left the Window, she landed in a red zone.”

“Like a penal planet – red zone?” I swear I saw Drake’s Adam’s apple take a leap.

“Yes, that’s the reason we crashed - the drones fired on us.”

Tiff huddled closer to Mims in the chair next to mine. Drake leaned over the back of it and placed a reassuring hand on Mims’ and Tiff’s shoulders. They were pulling together, which was good.

Mims put her arm around Tiff. “The drones will file a report.”

“Yes,” I assured them all. “They will and hopefully the attendant on the other end will see it and send a rescue ship.”

“Because, even if we get Ma-rye-a up enough to send a message, the drones will block it.” Drake was catching on.

“Yes, the drones are very effective in keeping communication and vessels from reaching or leaving a penal planet.” I confirmed. “When you go through the Valarian Mapping Academy they present a full day course on red zones. Nothing larger than the descent pod, the criminal is delivered to the planet in, is allowed through the red zone. My hope is we can get Ma-rye-a back online, but even if we do, there is no leaving the planet without a Galactic Forces escort.”

“So, we’re stuck here?” Tiff looked like she was going to cry.

I leaned over and put my hand on her knee. “We’re safe in here.” I stood up. “I think we all need a cup of something warm and maybe we can find some of Moby’s cookies in the galley.” I looked at the girls. “Can you see if you can rustle us up some? I want to stay here with Callen.”

Mims and Tiff rose immediately. They wanted something to do – something to occupy their minds and hands. They headed out the door leaving Drake behind.

“What happens if the guys out there find the cracked gun turret?” Drake had reported that the turret had a large torso sized boulder stuck through it.

“It looks like Ma-rye-a embedded herself pretty darn deep into the side of the foothills we hit. I am hoping no one can see the turret, and if they can’t see it, then they won’t try to dig to it as a means to get in.” I placed my hand on Drake’s shoulder. “Let’s just hope that LockDown Inc.’s attendant is monitoring his screen.”

“And not reading or pigging out on Pastel Pralines,” Drake said with a shrug.

“My thoughts exactly.”

*****

I assigned each of the three kids a shift when they would watch over Callen. I still couldn’t see anything wrong with him. He just continued to sleep peacefully in his C-chair.

I worked on trying to get the gun turret door closed. It would have been easy enough for me to do if it had not been damaged in the belly slid Ma-rye-a did when we crashed. It was bent and it would not give. Unfortunately, there were no other hatches to close and lock between the turret and the bridge.

I kept looking out the two ports on the far side of the ship that were not obscured by the rocky cliff we appeared to be wedged up against. The window in my room looked out over an expansive plain. There was scrub brush, tall grasses and a few sparse trees. I could see at least three different grazing-type animals and had glimpses of some unusual birds with inordinately long tails and wide dual wing sets.

One small corner of the viewport on the left side of the ship was also clear. From there I could see the mountain range and the lower foothills we hit as it snaked out in front of us and to the left.

I surveyed the fire damage and started a methodical search though Ma-rye-a’s operations system hoping to find the reason she had gone rouge on me. It was a slow process, but I had nothing better to do. I had put the two kids who did not have the ‘Callen watch’ on inventorying the stores we had available. We were close to the end of our journey, so the pantry was not as full as I would have liked. If I had been by myself, I could have done fine for at least six months. I would have lost weight, but hey, I could always use a bit of trimming down. But, with the kids here I estimated we had maybe a month worth of stores – six weeks at the top.

“Captain, Callen is coming around,” Mims announced over the com.

“I’ll be right there.” I pulled myself out from under the main console on the bridge and closed the panel.

That’s when I heard the distinct sound of boots treading on the bulkheads of the bridge above my head.

Art by Sherry D. Ramsey for The Star Traveler Series by Theresa Snyder

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