GRAVEYARD OF SHIPS
Alarms and lights blared from every direction. Matt still held Keiko in his arms. He had spared her harm by having her land on his body.
“You can take your hands off my breasts now.
“Sorry but I had to grab hold of something.”
“Nice that you think I have enough to grab hold of.” She grabbed his hands and removed them. “Next time ask first. So, what just happened?”
“The logical conclusion is a large object much had impacted the hull of the ship.”
“In orbit, that doesn’t sound right.”
“Luckily for everyone the hull remained intact.”
“How can you possibly know that?”
“If it hadn’t everyone would be flying through space.”
Having no luck contacting the control center Matt and Keiko suited up and made their way through the dark corridors. The emergency lights finally came on as they got to the first level. They entered the control center to the image of a graveyard of derelict ships floating in their path.
“You sure don’t see that every day.”
“Glad you could join us Major,” came a scowl from “Chief” Conrad.
“Is that how you address a superior officer Chief?” Quinn asked.
“Damn Right.” Conrad said. “I’m not showing any special treatment not even for the Captain.”
“Chief,” Quinn was not happy to hear that. “Glad you’re here Major.” He looked at him with trepidation. “The command stations, were supposed to be on automatic control but nothing is working.”
Matt looked around at stations which except for Travers at the Pilot seat were empty. “Everyone in the Infirmary. Luckily know serious injuries.”
“They’re ours, aren’t they?” Doris asked her voice cracking. “Maybe even the Lewis and Clark?”
“Maggie reported the Lewis and Clark crash landed on the surface.” Matt placed his hand on Doris’ shoulder. “They put up a hell of a fight.”
“Yeah, and they lost.” Keiko added cryptically.
“MOTHER, please respond,”
“The whole system’s failed?” Conrad surmised. “Ain’t it your job to keep it going Mr. Engineer?”
Quinn gave Conrad a stare.
“Let’s not jump the gun, we just got here,” Matt added. “I suggest we go to manual.” Matt blessed with a photographic memory, ran the images of the system blueprint through his mind. “With your permission, Captain.”
“Pilot Travers, Give the major your station.”
Matt sat down and began switching all consoles to off position. “I’ve purposely bypassed all the safety protocols I figure they’re not working anyway.” The console made a cranking noise like shifting gears and a joystick popped up.
“Now you’re talking,” Doris said clapping.
Matt found the thruster controls and the Horizon shook, rumbled, and sprung to life. The huge debris the ship had collided with shattered into shads and slammed indiscriminately into surrounding chunks of wreckage flying everywhere.
The ship rocked to port side as they hit something. Then the force of the next collision shook the crew. Again, something slammed the starboard side.
“Major, where’d you get your pilot license?” Quinn snapped.
Suddenly the debris began to be fewer and fewer until they were all in the visible plane in front of the Horizon.
BACK TO NORMAL
Matt took a deep breath. Making his way back down the ladder he stopped at the bottom rung. “Damn I’m so conditioned to battle I’ve developed psychosis.” He entered the nearby engineering station to try and normalize the situation.
There in the window was the planet’s features rolling by. Matt brightened up. “Maybe it’s just rust or maybe I’m just getting old. After all, being out of commission for 15 years maybe it’s finally happened, the big MENTAL BREAKDOWN”
Matt entered the locker and sat on the bench and attempted to calm down. DAMN MY SPIDEY SENSE IS STILL TINGLING He started to get changed at his cubicle.
He was lacing his boots when Dr. Keiko Matsui the ship’s Japanese science officer strolled from the Array Section into the locker room. Expecting to find it empty and was startled to find Matt sitting there.
“What in the world are you doing here?” She said in her native Japanese. Then she realized that she was standing there naked. Keiko instinctively covered up as best she could. She bent over to get her towel from the hamper and she wrapped the towel around her. “Don’t be getting any ideas,” She said in English as she walked past him toward the adjacent room. Before she got there, she let her towel fall allowing Matt a clean view.
Matt rolled his eyes. LORD HAVE MERCY Then it occurred to him, what was she doing naked coming out of the Array Room?
Keiko stuck her head out of the other room and yelled, “I hope you enjoyed the view; it’s the last you’ll ever get.”
This time she had on a tee shirt that was just barely long enough to cover her jockey briefs. She placed her hands on her hips and stood in front of him. “You can put your eyes back in your head now Major,” when she walked past him she could feel him staring at her admiring her athletic legs. She knew he couldn’t help himself. She stopped and turned back towards him, but this time she was smiling. “So, Major Hero, what else are you any good at?”
Matt worked his way up to saying something stupid but he never got the chance.
The force of the impact knocked everything into the air. Matt grabbed hold of Keiko wrapped her in his arms and held her tight. The Horizon tumbled repeatedly and sent them bouncing from floor to ceiling. DAMN I HATE WHEN I’M RIGHT That was his last thought before losing consciousness.
SOME EXPLAINING TO DO
“Ten-hunt,” Conrad yelled as Lt. Commander Quinn entered.
“At ease,” Quinn said.
Matt sat quietly as the members of the command staff took their seats.
“So why did you stop the wedding?” Keiko said before Quinn could speak.
“It seemed the right thing to do at the time.”
“You’re lying, it was the prophecy,” Keiko interrupted. “He had to save the Princess so he can marry her.”
“Dr. Matsui please,” Quinn pleaded.
“Are you jealous?” Deforest blurted out.
“Maybe,” Keiko admitted.
“Do you think Major Stewart was under some kind of influence?” Schenckler asked incredulously.
Sadia Finally raised her hand to speak. “What are you talking about? What exactly is this prophecy?”
“Matt is predestined to marry Princess Aurora.” Keiko explained. “That is why he stopped her marriage to keep her chaste and save her for himself.”
“Is that true?” Sadia asked her voice trembling.
The buzz in the room was loud enough to cause Conrad to quiet them down. “LISTEN UP.”
“Major would you mind,” Quinn asked trying to get some order back.
Matt looked around the room and then leaned forward his arms on the table. “That’s totally ridiculous.”
“The wedding was illegal.” April said surprising everyone. “He made the right decision. He was there so had he done nothing it would have been a serious breach in protocol.”
Matt looked at April and gestured, “Thanks.”
“So, you are saying under the circumstances given up our element of surprise was not as important as stopping the marriage.” Quinn was not satisfied.
“Are you making an excuse for the Major’s conduct?” Keiko asked. “Well Major, you want to add something.”
“It wasn’t the prophecy that was controlling my actions it was my military training.”
“Now we have the Khad on our hands.” Conrad said bluntly.
“I had to find out what the Khad were up to, so I did some investigating.”
“Is being tortured part of investigating.” Sadia asked.
“It’s the fastest way to find out what was really going on.” Matt admitted, “Maybe not the smartest,”
Dr. Schenckler shook her head, “You got that right.”
“Unlike us humans who are all the same species the Khad are made up of three different species, forced to share the same planet. The faction running things on this planet are the ones I’m worried about. They are the warrior class and they will be looking for a fight.”
“Then lucky for us the Governor is in charge.”
“For how long, we need to take whatever action necessary to shut the Khad down and we need to do it now!” Matt asserted.
“Even though they are willing to negotiate a peace treaty?” April asked sincerely.
“Peace, peace is a waste of time.” Matt exploded out of his chair. “My gut is never wrong. This colony is in danger. There’s a time for peace but this isn’t it.”
April was finally mad. “He’s in charge here?”
“Well, apparently, he thinks he is.” Schenckler said.
“You were right to stop that wedding major, but that does not make you the right person to lead.” Everyone in the room stared in disbelief. “If it wasn’t for my quick thinking there would have had a war right there in the street.”
“We would have won.” Matt quipped.
“This is a diplomatic mission, not a military one.” April’s assertiveness surprised everyone. “I’m confident that conflict can be avoided,”
“That’s if they continue to negotiate with us in good faith.” Quinn added cautiously. Quinn had a look of apprehension on his face. “The mission parameters have changed.”
Matt realized he was as upset as his adversary. “Damn,” the game’s been taken over by bureaucrats. Matt had to ask himself why he was itching for a fight.
Suddenly Matt’s implant sounded. “YOU HAVE THREE LARGE METALLIC OBJECTS HEADING YOUR WAY.”
He turned to Alexa. “See princess, I hate when I’m right.”
At that moment, Omori Shi showed back up with his heavily armed private Guards. The governor stopped him in his tracks. “I ordered you to stand down.” He said to Omori Shi who just gave him a defiant laugh.
“Ha, I’m just getting started, trader.” The governor tried bravely to contest Omori Shi but this time he nodded for his guards. “Get him out of my face.”
One of the armored crew pulled April behind him for protection. “Stay right here and don’t move.” The metallic voice told her. She had every intention to follow orders.
At first it looked as if Matt was running for cover too but Omori Shi couldn’t believe his eyes when Matt grabbed a laser rifle from one of the crew and throwing his cloak to the ground he walked back to meet him.
At the edge of town three mollusks shaped tanks showed up. “Now we see if you are so heroic Earthman.”
One of the armored landing party ran up to Matt and handed him a utility belt. He put it on and moved toward the tanks. “Let’s see I think I’ll set the PFC at level 7.”
Omori Shi signaled and there was a bang from the cannon as a rocket launched towards Matt. But it never touched him. Instead it blew apart when it hit against his force field only knocking Matt back two steps. When the smoke cleared, he stood unharmed and in the same position.
“Level 7,” Matt gave a thumb up. “Now it’s our turn,” he fired his weapon which plowed a huge hole in the plate of the middle tank followed by an explosion that blew the side open. The other tanks opened fire but every target they attempted to hit could not be penetrated. Matt signaled and the troopers opened fire and the remaining tanks were easily destroyed.
Omori Shi drawn his weapon and approached Matt. He fired several times but his effort was useless. “You cheat Earthman.”
“It’s called technology and I’ve only begun to cheat.”
The guards came running to inform the Khad leader. “Sir, there were two huge explosions just kilometers from our main hydro plants.”
“Target their ship and return fire.” Omori Shi ordered.
“But sir we can’t. The ship can’t be found.”
“Your ships hide from us.” He said mockingly.
“Shall we target the real thing?”
The governor made his way over to Matt. “Please let us resolve this peacefully.”
“We have your entire infrastructure targeted from space.” Matt informed him.
Omori Shi pointed his weapon at the governor but this time he and walked away his guards followed.
“Are you still willing to negotiate?” Leeg Tor Pleaded.
Matt looked over at April. “What do you think Ambassador?”
“No harm will come to the settlers.” The governor assured him with a bow.
Alexa came running back out. “I can help you with that. I know the general better than anyone. Let me be of assistance.” Before she could make another move one of the team stepped in her way.
“How did I do Major?” The metallic voice sounded and Sadia beamed removing her helmet.
“Storm, Are you out of your mind? Who ordered you to do this, Quinn?”
“I volunteered for your information.”
Alexa looked on incensed. Sean walked over along with Omar.
“Looks like the Earth guy is already taken. And from what I can see she’s really handsome.”
Omar laughed, “See I knew he wasn’t from the Outlands.”
Omori Shi’s eye narrowed to slits and his scales stood up on the back of his neck. Out popped a high crest on the back of his head a high fin-like crest perturbed down his back. For the first-time Omori Shi was impressed with his opponent.
“This has to be some kind of trick,” Alexa rang out, and then she turned to see Omori Shi’s face.
At that moment two aircraft flew overhead so fast they were nothing but a blur. Matt placed his fingers in his ears. BOOM! A sonic boom followed as everyone dove to the ground except Omori Shi, as Matt and his adversary stared at each other.
The shuttle landed a few yards away. Six troopers in black armor with laser rifles raced out and took strategic positions.
“Is this all you have?” Omori Shi said defiantly. “Is this all the earthmen you have to free your people with?”
Matt shrugged and pointed up to the sky, “From space we can scorch your entire western hemisphere in less than twenty seconds. What more do we need and shit?”
“NO!” Governor Leeg Tor rushed through the crowd. “We are willing to negotiate. I’m ordering you to stand down.”
A second shuttle, a transport hovered above the scene. The shuttle landed and Matt’s shock, out came Maggie Amen. She rushed to his side.
The governor greeted her. “We received your request and accept your terms to negotiate a peaceful solution.” Leeg Tor said in perfect English. The Governor shook Maggie’s hand. “We agreed to you as the spokesperson of your people.”
Omori Shi stepped in front of Maggie and pointed his weapon at the governor but before he could do anything else several Khad guards stepped in and carried the general off against his will.
The word spread like a wild fire as People were suddenly running out of their homes to get a view of the action.
Matt realized the villagers had inadvertently moved into the crosshairs of any incoming fire. He quickly moved his team between them and the Khad. “Governor we need to get these people out of the way.”
“Everyone clears the streets,” The governor pleaded.
Alexa stepped in his path. “Major, I must speak with you,” and gave Matt an enticing wink. “Maybe we can meet privately and I can debrief you.”
“Look Princess we’re in the middle of a crisis. That means you need to take cover.”
“Even if you take over we must go on with the wedding.”
“What would Viktor Frankl have said about this?”
Matt grabbed Alexa and literally flung her off the road. “Sorry Princess but I tend to be right about these of things.”
Sean saw that Alexa had been upstaged and signaled his people to grab her before she could start up again. Alexa was outraged by the interruption and was about to say something when Sean stopped her. “Sis, this is not the time.”
This time she trusted Sean and bit her lip. “This is no ordinary man.” She reluctantly left with Sean but never took her eye off Matt her strange new fascinating challenge.
Two reptilians entered the holding cell. Matt stood in the center of the room gazing up at the ceiling ignoring them. The guard behind him slammed his barrel into Matt’s back. Matt gave a polite bow. They ushered him out into the dawning sunlight. Matt squinted at the sunshine as he emerged from the compound and he stopped to cover his eyes.
As executions go there seemed to be a lack of real interest. The most glaring omission were the villagers. Matt figured very few people could attend. It dawned on Matt that the populace still feared the Basrilian’s and if he turned out to be a crackpot they would be in danger of reappraisal for defying the Khad. That being the case he could hardly blame them.
The only lookers on were Alexa and a small band of her followers standing ahead of them. Alexa then slapped Matt across the face. “Prepare to die.”
“Anyone else?” Matt said smiling.
Omori Shi was being helped on with a collar that was either a ritualistic thing or this was considered a proper formal military execution. Before Matt could say anything, Omori Shi moved in a menacing fashion to ominous looking contraption the resembled an Earth type guillotine. “Get ready to execute this animal.”
Unexpected a screeching sound emitted from under Matt’s cloak. It startled the guards who backed off him in amazement. There were several moments of confusion as the Khad patrol looked to Omori Shi for guidance. “My Lord; noises are coming from him.”
“Sorry for the interruption, knowing how you’re in a such a hurry and shit. It’s probably my ship.” The static sound came from Matt again, “I think they’re trying to reach me, they’re expecting me to answer them.”
“Well then by all means contact them.” Alexa laughed figuring he had lost his mind.
Matt rolled his right sleeve up and tapped his bare forearm. “This is Matt Stewart.” He said to his wrist.
They all laughed.
Alexa stood frozen. How could this be happening?
“MAJOR YOU’RE HOURS OVERDUE FOR CHECK IN.” The voice came from his wrist. “We were getting worried Major, are you in need of assistance?”
“I can’t talk right now, I’m about to be executed.”
“THE SHIPS ARE ALREADY ON THEIR WAY. ETA TWO MINUTES MAX.”