Now, that was unexpected…

Like everyone who was in that artificially silent environment that was the flight deck of a shuttle, unexpected sounds caused unexpected results.

The Engineer cursed.

The Pilot, Myrtle, hesitated for a moment, as if not quite sure what to do, highlighting the fact she had not been in such a situation before, but quickly recovered, and brought up the incoming object on screen.

Note to self: amend the training program to allow for random objects to come out of nowhere.

We all looked at the object. Myrtle should have been taking us into the freighter, but had got overawed by the not easily identifiable ship approaching.

“Our ship will take care of the problem,” I said. “Take us into the freighter.”

AS if surprised that she should be asked to do so, she realised it was not her job to be staring at the screen, and muttered, “Oh, yes,” before resuming our passage.

Another note to self: Proper command structures and language should be used at all times.

A minute or so later we were in the cargo bay and the cargo doors were closing. Once closed and the atmosphere adjusted, the deck would become a hive of activity.

There was still a static picture of the craft on the screen, and it was one I’d seen before, an old vessel that dated back over a hundred years. I’d seen it in a space museum on the moon.

I was tempted to ask the Captain what was happening, but knew that to interrupt would not be worth the reprimand.

The engineer had seen one before too. “You don’t see those craft very often, if at all. Or this far out in space. They only had a limited trave distance, didn’t they?”

“Unless someone had been tinkering.” Several had been built as exploration ships, but the majority were freighters, used to build the outer colonies on the nearest planets.

A new drive would enable it to travel to the outer rim of our galaxy, but not much further if there were no readily available fuel supplies. Those that were available were tightly regulated by space command.

Cargo doors closed, deck pressurised, suddenly the whole deck was alive with people and machinery, our people meeting with the freighter crew and arranging for the cargo for Venus to be loaded. Myrtle was to stay with the shuttle, monitoring the loading.

I went down the ramp and was greeted by the first officer of the freighter, a chap I’d once served with, Jacko Miles. Jacko loved being in space, but no longer interested in the machinations of Space Command. The simple life of a freighter first officer was all he desired.

Except his face, right now, had the visual lines of worry.

“What happened?” We were past the usual introductions, and general bonhomie.

“Stopped, boarded, and a crate removed.”

“What was in the crate?”

“No one is saying, but whatever it was, it must have been important to attack us for it.”

My private communicator vibrated in my pocket. The captain was calling, and didn’t want anyone else listening in.

“Just give me a moment,” I said taking the communicator out of my pocket and answering the call. “Yes sir?”

“We have a problem.”

And in that moment, I had to agree with him. Jacko now had his hands in the air, and behind him were two people with hand held weapons trained on him, and me.

© Charles Heath 2020-2021

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