eneral Charles Escat watched the small vessels on the view screen in front of him. He had ordered a weapons lock on them the moment they had docked and had personally kept a close eye on the ships while they were attached to Earth One. Especially The Unity. He dreamed of blowing it out of the stars with Elstone at the helm. One quick order from his lips and poof!, no more Aron Elstone. The little shit and his silly little followers would no longer present any sort of threat. Arturo had told him that under no circumstances was he to engage with The Unity without explicit orders and Escat’s loyalty was unwavering. As far as he was concerned, Arturo was God. His faith never waned in that God. Still… Poof! He saw rebellion in Elstone’s eyes. He knew a traitor when he saw one and if he ever found out the truth about his daughter, he would have to be taken care of quickly. A father’s insanity for a lost child would be uncontrollable. He watched the blinking running lights on the hull of The Unity and wondered if Elstone was on board yet. The only thing that had stopped him from slitting his throat a year earlier was Arturo’s order. Thoughts of that night at the colonial FTL briefing when Elstone had clocked him across the jaw came rushing back. The pair had been alone and had ‘dropped ranks’ following an argument
about food rationing. He had to admit Elstone had a fine right hook on him. Escat had drawn his blade and was about to run him through, but orders were orders, and he had never disobeyed a direct one from the chancellor. He had simply rubbed his jaw and smiled.
“Someday we’ll meet on a proper battlefield, my friend, and you won’t see my eyes. Just my guns,” he had said.
“Here’s hoping,” the defiant Elstone had said. In another life he would have probably been one of his best soldiers instead of a scrappy unkempt little upstart. He knew Stanley would more than likely take care of the problem in deep space during this ridiculous assignment they were about to go on. Following his briefing from Arturo about The Agathon signal earlier in the day, he had known that Elstone was more than likely about to be retired.
, he thought.
“General, the tracking beacon is ready for deployment,” said a young man dressed in a dark jumpsuit.
“Understood,” replied Escat, “Do it quietly,” he said.
“Yes, sir,” the young man replied, moving away from the general. He looked back at The Unity and smiled. A small proviso that the chancellor had allowed the general, was complete autonomy when it came to defending Earth One from the threat of insurrection. In such circumstances, lethal force was to be employed with extreme prejudice. The Kandinsky outgunned The Unity ten to one and while the small ship was faster and more manoeuvrable all he needed was one clean shot from one of the enormous pulse cannons mounted onto its hull ... and poof! Elstone was a hot head and the general planned on using that to his advantage very soon.
“See you on the battlefield, my friend,” he said to the view screen.
The procedure for dealing with the dead in the colony was simple. Due to the risk of infection, bodies were disposed of quickly by assigning them to deep space through an airlock. Aron’s wife, Jennifer,
had suffered a postpartum haemorrhage after the birth of their baby girl. While the child had been born healthy, he had been told that there had been complications and she had been whisked away to isolation for observation. He had only held her tiny fingers for a few seconds before she had been bundled up and removed from the surgical chambers. He had been allowed to say a brief goodbye to his dying wife before she too was isolated. The next morning there had been a small service outside the main airlock before her body had been blown out into nothingness. A few days later he had simply been told that the child had not survived and that due to genetic illness, the body had to be incinerated. He owed India his life after that. She stood guard over him for nearly six maddening months as he pleaded with her to let him airlock himself. She had to stun him a few times with a pulse gun to stop him from doing it. Emerging from the darkness had taken its toll on their friendship and while deep down he harboured some resentment towards her for not letting him choose to die, he was forever in her debt.
He had called his daughter Maya and for one brief moment he had known what happiness was. The only thing he had to remind him of her, was a tiny ankle bracelet, which sat neatly on a small locker in his quarters on board The Unity. He sat on the edge of his bunk and twirled it round his fingers. It helped him think.
“The Agathon,” he whispered to himself, “You hear that Maya? She’s out there. Bet you didn’t see that one coming, ay?” He looked out the small porthole.
“He’s here to kill me you know,” he said softly, “Maybe I should let him, then we can finally meet face to face.”
A chime rang indicating someone was at the door.
“Come,” he said placing the bracelet back on the locker.
The door opened and India stepped into the room.
“Sorry for interrupting, sir, but we’re locked up here, ready to go. Our passenger is on the flight deck,” she said. He smiled at her.
“Sir, no disrespect, but what the fuck is he doing on my flight deck?” she said.
Aron stood and walked over to the woman placing a hand on her shoulder.
“I needed help controlling you,” he said.
“Not funny,” she replied, “You don’t actually think we’re going to make contact with The Agathon, do you?”
Aron took a deep breath in.
“I really hope so. Just remember what we talked about when he makes his move. Stay sharp,” he said.
He opened up the locker and pulled out a bottle.
“Have a seat,” he said slapping his bunk. She raised an eyebrow and walked gracefully over to him sitting on the bed next to him. He took a metal cup sitting on the locker and poured a glass of clear liquid.
“What’s this?” India said taking the cup as he handed it to her.
“A little something one of the boys cooked up. Careful, I think Ollie uses it to clean the engine manifolds,” he said.
“What should we toast to?” she said softly looking into his eyes. Aron took another metal container and poured himself a glass.
“To Maya,” he said after a moment. India looked at the ground.
“To Maya,” she replied taking the cup and downing the liquid all in one. Aron took a sip and felt his throat explode as the powerful liquor ran into his mouth. India coughed.
“Jesus,” she said wiping her mouth.
“Yeah,” replied Aron through a splutter, “Okay, let’s do this thing.”
She nodded as he led her out of his quarters and into the hallways of The Unity.
“He’s a barrel of laughs this one,” she said as they strolled through the corridors. The Unity was a simple ship. Aron had given the crew a bit of creative freedom with the interior design instructing them to try and liven up the exposed conduits and meters of exposed pipework along the walls. Oliver Jones fancied himself an artist and had welded sheet metal in varying shapes and sizes along the bulkheads giving them some character. It had become somewhat of a competition among the crews of the other ships, but Aron had to admit that
he had done a fantastic job. The Unity had become a work of art. The crew of just under one hundred scurried about the halls doing various things. They saluted him as he passed and smiled. Most looked tired after a long haul of mining and were looking forward to some R&R, but they never complained.
They made their way through the ship towards the flight deck checking in with the crew as they went. When they arrived at the main entrance to the cockpit, Aron stopped and turned to India.
“Be calm,” he said looking at her.
“Always,” she said smiling.
He pressed the control panel and entered the code releasing the door mechanism. It swung open and they stepped inside. Hector Stanley was sitting neatly in India’s flight chair and pressing some buttons on the control panel.
“Ahem,” she said getting his attention. He stood ominously and rounded the chair staring at both of them. Aron could feel the tension mounting as the pair faced off.
“Mr Stanley, nice to see you,” he said feigning courtesy. He turned to India who looked unimpressed.
“Okay, so how’s this gonna work?” he said.
“Work?” asked Stanley raising his eyebrows, but still looking at India.
“Yeah, work. The chancellor wants you here as an observer, right? Just in case we need… assistance. So does that mean you’re gonna be in our faces this whole trip or you gonna let us do our jobs?” Aron was careful not to overstep his mark, while he reckoned Stanley would put up a good fight, he still had the Colonial Guard at the press of a button and would wipe out the other crews, not to mention their families, in a swift stroke. Stanley was dangerous and he knew that he would have to deal with him, but not now. It was too soon. Stanley took a moment before nodding and stepping aside.
“There’s always a place for you in the guard, Ms- Walder,” he said sitting at the back of the flight deck.
“I’m honoured,” replied India unclenching her fists and taking her seat. Aron let out a slight breath and sat next to India. He could feel Stanley’s eyes burning into the back of his neck, but he tried to ignore it. He let his eyes briefly flick to the hidden compartment he had under the main navigation console. He made a note not to turn his head towards it. He wondered had Stanley already found it and the pulse gun that lay inside? How long had he been in here before they had arrived? He glanced at India who was giving him a look that clearly indicated she was thinking the same thing.
Office of the Chancellor
“Florence, I am leaving you in charge in my absence,” said Arturo. He almost laughed out loud at the mere thought of it, but what could the woman really do? Besides, he had left a standing order for her to be observed very closely by the Colonial Guard. If she even dressed incorrectly, she was to be eliminated and the colony to be put on lockdown until his return.
“I am honoured, Chancellor,” she replied looking at the ground.
“Of that I have absolutely no doubt,” he said while typing encryption algorithms into his computer console.
“You are under instructions not to discuss my whereabouts with anyone in the colony, is that understood?” he said pausing for a moment and looking coldly into her eyes. He knew she understood the consequences of disobedience. The scars on her body should have had the desired effect at this stage.
“Of course, Chancellor,” she replied, “May I ask how long you intend to be gone for?”
“It should not take longer than a couple of weeks,” he said, “I will be contacting you twice a day at the designated time slots. If for any reason you are not available to take those communications, you will be… replaced.”
“I understand completely, Chancellor. I will obey your instructions to the letter. Are there any specific tasks you would like me to take care of in your absence?” she asked.
The sound of defeat in her voice comforted him. He had broken the poor woman years ago and had to admit he had done a superb job doing it. He remembered the attractive assistant she had once been, in days gone past. She had looked at him with glassy wondrous eyes and had once had the most beautiful smile he had ever seen. Not so now. He felt like he was being haunted by this withered up old woman who tended to his needs. Definitely time for a replacement when he returned. Although her administrative abilities had their uses, a man of his position had certain needs that she just couldn’t fulfil anymore.
“I am leaving the tribal database open to you while I am gone should Vishal require any volunteers for the power plant. I am giving you discretion on this matter, just leave medical and engineering personnel out of the selections for obvious reasons,” he said.
“Yes, Chancellor,” she said, “Will that be all?”
“Yes, Florence, you may leave me and attend to your daily duties,” he said.
She bowed slightly before turning and moved gently out of his office. His comm system bleeped. He waited for a moment while Florence left before answering.
“Yes, General Escat,” he said.
“We are ready for you now, sir. The Unity is moving off and preparing for its sub light jump. We should get moving,” he said.
“Did you install the tracking beacon successfully?” Arturo asked.
Yes,” Escat said.
“Very good, General, I am on my way. Arturo out,” he said closing the communications channel. He looked out of his window at Aron Elstone’s ship which was currently drifting away from the docking ring.
arrington and Tyrell entered the engine room to scenes of chaos. There was cabling all over the place and most of the engineering staff were buried in broken consoles. Sparks from laser welders lit up the walls of the room. In the centre lay the Faster than Light drive, The Betty. Its spinning blue orb sat like a beacon of light at the heart of a network of large conduit cabling and metallic rods. They approached it and stood looking up at it.
“Captain,” shouted a voice from behind one of the bulkheads. Daniel Tosh emerged. His shoulder had a regeneration clip attached to it. He manoeuvred his wheelchair around some broken metal that was lying on the ground and approached the two men. He rolled up beside them and smiled.
“You should be in sick bay, Doctor,” Barrington said.
“Nonsense, that woman is far too stressed out at the moment. She patched me up and I’ll live. Besides, this place is a fucking mess. She’s not gonna fix herself you know,” he said.
Barrington looked around the broken engine room at the destruction caused by the alien life form that had taken the form of Amanda Llewellyn. The damage to the outer casing caused by Chavel’s pulse grenade was substantial. He looked back at Tosh. There seemed to be a dent in the side of his wheelchair.
“I was sorry to hear about Landon, Doctor,” he said. His former Irish chief engineer had lost his life in the battle. Tosh nodded.
“He was a good lad. Cheeky fucker, but knew his way around an engine room,” he said smiling. Tosh looked at Tyrell.