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Exhibit Hall For the exhibition of artistic creations by our members, from poetry and prose to drawings, photography, and digital art.

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Old Jan 31 2006, 04:01 PM   #1
edith
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Default A non-McCaffrey related piece by me

right, I don't know what people will think of this-its vvvvvvv much wip, but I thought I'd post a bit to see what people think. It's caaled Beyond the Dream at the moment- which is a name I thought up for a GCSE english story set in ancient Crete! and somehow i ended up using it here!
oh and this bit's called the Awakening

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Captain Stroud? Captain Gleick Stroud?”
Stroud groaned. The persistent voice echoed round his aching head.
“Captain Stroud? Captain Gleick Stroud?” The voice sounded uncertain now. “Please, whoever you are, wake up!” It was a woman’s voice, a worried voice.
“No response?” A man, brisk, efficient, cool.
“The readings say he is very much alive, look at those readings, he should be fully conscious by now, just look at those readings! He just won’t respond.” The woman said with amazement.
“Once more then or he’ll just have to go to Red Wing as he is.” The man sounded resigned
“OK then.”
“I’ll go talk to the other patients, Shessin says one’s talking.”
The girl began her litany again, calling his name. Why? He decided to respond.
“Wha’ ‘s it?” was that his voice? It was quiet, rasping, he was sure he had never sounded like that before.
“Captain Stroud, I am Dr Sergeant, you have been rescued. You are safe.” She sounded relieved and her voice became cool and calm. “I am going to move you now. Don’t try to open your eyes or talk anymore. Just relax until we get you into a room. We’re going to lift you into a stretcher now.” The woman began to whistle and click and a pair of bony, claw-like hands suddenly took one side of him, while the woman took the other. He was sitting up! Last thing he remembered was switching off the light above his bed. He had been lying down then.

As they lifted, he was swept by a wave of nausea that caused him to retch and choke but he wasn’t sick. He should’ve been. Dinner that night had been the best for a long while, a celebratory meal. All there was now was a curious emptiness and a metallic taste in his mouth.
He was placed on a stretcher and trundled off through a large place full of strange noises and new smells. Wafts of fresh air caressed his skin on odd occasions and he was sure that he could hear loud birdsong nearby.

The stretcher stopped and the same hands lifted him onto a bed. Someone removed his uniform and cold sensors were attached to his skin before he was dressed again in new, unfamiliar garments.

He felt the sharp point of a needle enter his arm and the clicking and whistling continued noisily as he dropped back into unconsciousness.

####################

He woke several times during that period and each time Dr Sergeant was there, each time she would test something or administer some drug or other. Then she told him to open his eyes.
It was totally black! He panicked for a moment until her reassuring voice told him that the room had been darkened. “I’ll raise the light levels gradually, tell me when you can first make out anything, or if the light becomes too bright.”
Slowly he began to make out dim shapes around him, then details. He was in what was undoubtedly a medical facility, although all the features were totally new to him. A woman was standing at the foot of the bed, dressed in a uniform he did not recognise.
“I am Dr Sergeant,” she said. “Welcome to the First Aid, Repeat Medication and Care centre, Pharmacy for short. You are on Commonwealth Ground station. Though any record you will have read refer to us as Generation Ship Commonwealth. This planet is called Shehshah, and no, you won’t have heard of us.” The girl laughed. “Most people don’t, we don’t like to be too well known.”

He felt a surge of panic, had he been captured by pirates? No, these weren’t pirates, when had pirates ever cared for an injured naval officer? Especially after the battle of Bristol Station, he remembered that tragedy all too vividly. Bristol had been a small station, staffed mainly by civilians and it had been besieged by a fleet of pirates, who had then threatened to kill all on board unless their demands were met. The government had refused of course. So the pirates massacred everyone on board and left. It had been little consolation to anyone that all the enemy ships had been destroyed in the ensuing battle. He’d heard their announcement as had everyone else, and he’d gone to pick up the bodies. He’d been a very junior Midshipman then, fresh out of training and he could vaguely remember the captain, a large, powerful, remote man crying like a child when he identified one of the mutilated corpses. No, these weren’t pirates. He hoped!

“We here, both human and native Shehshahns crave peace and as this planet is small and worthless to the Government they don’t bother with us, except for the odd medical matter.” The girl smiled. “Although I think your safe return from Beyond the Dreams, will stir up the mud somewhat.”
“From where?” the strange term puzzled him.
“Beyond ssa drrem.” Hissed a new voice. “Is vhere you go ven you zleep in suspension, is vhere sa ah, ssa mind is quiet, still…” an alien face moved into his vision. A slim face with a long beak with a faceted band of eye in a wedge-shaped head, perched on a long neck covered in what was neither fur nor feathers but something between the two. The head was cocked towards him slightly and it gave a little bow. “Now you Ssirr ver Beyhonnd ssa drrem Feefdy of your years. Fife year more than vought pos-see-ble, and wiv sa kinked tube. Feefdy year. I dunno how. I! Sahoo Ahasd! Ze highest doch-dorr in Sheshah for Beyhonnd ssa drrem. I dunno how? You?” the alien had a soft, inquiring, warm voice, which rose in pitch as it talked.
He slowly shook his head. “Fifty years? How do you know? I don’t even know HOW I ended up here!”
“We know,” it was Dr Sergeant again, cool, calm and collected. “Because that was when the last distress call of the Rutherford, your ship, was transmitted. How you ended up here however, we know nothing of until the Salvage Shuttle Canada found you.”

Distress call? Distress call! A fleeting memory of hitting the button with his fist, of locking the other survivors into the Suspension Chairs on the bridge and of strapping himself down returned with a sickening rush. Yes… “I can remember now.” He said. “I know how I got here.”
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Old Feb 1 2006, 04:54 PM   #2
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I like writing- I do it mainly to distract me from everything else-trouble is that I'm a perfectionist- I spot mistakes in everything I do, so I never really finish anything! It's also taught me grammer-though I have to admit that that is not always obvious. Anyway...

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Nightmare

“I was asleep when it started. We’d had a celebratory meal the watch before, The Second Officer’s birthday I think it was, his fortieth, and I’d collapsed on my bed straight afterwards to sleep it off. The Rutherford was a Courier shuttle you see and as the crew was so small and the demand so great, we’d been sent off on missions long after we should have been on leave. Not that I blame any of this on my crew, you understand, perhaps we might have noticed the fault a little earlier if we were not so tired but we couldn’t have stopped it, not even if we were fresh out of port with twice the manpower.

Anyway, I was woken by my junior officer halfway through the next watch. I remember that she looked scared, she had reason to be nervous, it was her first voyage and beyond routine drills, she had faced nothing like this…”

#####

“Sir! Sir! The First Officer sent me to fetch you! There’s a fire in Engineering!” It was Midshipman Ellis, dressed in a crumpled sleeping suit with her sweater dragged over the top. “Sir!”
Stroud groaned. The meal the previous watch had been particularly filling and he had wanted to sleep it off in peace.
“Sir! Sir! Fire!” At that moment her shouts were accompanied by the siren that began to wail. “Sir!”
“I’m coming.” He muttered, pushing off the bed covers, suddenly wide awake. “Is everyone else at their stations?”
“Yes sir, the Engineering officer has taken all but the duty engineer to fight it and the designated fire crew too. The rest are all on the bridge, as are the passengers.”

The passengers… There were only two – thank chance! But they were important, two envoys from a disputed planet. Someone had found useful minerals on a farming planet and suddenly a corporation had stuck a claim, dislodging the inhabitants. The two passengers, both women were matriarchs of two of the larger communities, sent by their council to plead their case in front of the Government. They were waiting for him on the bridge when he arrived, still adjusting his uniform, Matriarch Smith, the older one looked worried, but young Matriarch Cooper was merely over-excited.

“Captain Stroud, is there any risk of the fire spreading?” asked Matriarch Smith, clasping her thick, worn hands in front of her.
“There shouldn’t be,” he said reassuringly. “But if there is any problem we will evacuate the crew from the engine section and jettison it, it will cause a slight delay but we can send for help easily, there’s no need for concern.”
“Thank you captain. Where shall we sit?” the matriarch said, glancing around the tiny bridge.
“The seats along the back wall there would be best.” He said, waving a hand vaguely in the direction of the seats. “Now, if you’ll excuse me I have some diagnostics to run.”

####

A little while later and the fire was still burning, the secondary fire defences had malfunctioned and it was still too fierce for the primary defences to have any effect. The First Officer took another party back to help leaving Stroud with the bare regulation crew, one navigator, the junior officer; the medical NCO and the bridge engineer. Stroud began to compose an SOS message and set it so that one touch would broadcast it on all frequencies.
In the bridge they waited.

####

“Captain, its getting too much, we’re going to have to jettison!” the First Officer’s voice sounded worried, even through the suit mike. “I’m just setting the tertiary fire settings.” There was a click, “OK then, we’re about to open the connecting doors, is the centre section sealed sir?”
“Yes First.” There was a long pause.
“Sir, could you check that please?” the First officer sounded puzzled.
“Secondary section is sealed on all computers, First.”
“Tertiary is sealed sir!”
“Negative, all computers say tertiary is green.” Stroud insisted.
“It’s sealed! I can’t over-ride it!” he was panicking now.
“Attempting to unseal you here First! Computer says you are OK to move!”

There was a clunk and the ship seemed to shudder.
“ENGINE JETTISON FAILURE! ENGINE JETTISON FAILURE! JETTISONING SECONDARY SECTION! JETTISONING SECONDARY SECTION!” The computer blared, and red lights flashed on the console. “JETTISONING SECONDARY SECTION!”

Stroud tried to override it, but it was on automatic. The fire in engineering had set the ship into Emergency One mode and it would only climb down when all sensors crept back towards normal, until then, the ship would not respond to any commands, not even his own. “Damned safety features!” he muttered under his breath.

“Sir?” it was the First officer again. “What’s happening?”
“Computer malfunction, First.” He said reassuringly. “All crew to wear full suits and try to get into secondary section immediately!”
“Roger sir, all crew suited.”
“Right First, ship seems determined to get rid of you! It’s automatically jettisoning secondary and engineering sections. I want you to get into Secondary and try to manually jettison engineering and then wait for assistance.”
“Roger that sir. Engineer Black has managed to open the first door, oh…”
“First? First!” Stroud shouted.
“Sir! SIR!” there was a jolt as the ship separated and there was silence for a moment as the communications system changed frequency to compensate for the change. “Sir! Help! It’s gonna…”

The explosion roared through the speakers as the fire filled the screen. The little Primary section spun as it was hit by a piece of debris. A locker burst open and its contents flew out. Gravity was on yellow, on amber, on red, the life support meter dropped rapidly as did the oxygen level.
There was only one thing for it.

“Get into the suspension chairs everyone! Now!” Suspension, the lifeboat of the spaceship. Only used when there was no other option. Everyone knew the risks of a stay longer than a few hours but there was no other choice now. Flicking the switch for the distress signal, Stroud helped the survivors into the chairs, checking and sealing each one carefully. He checked his own and sat down. The cover closed smoothly, cutting out some of the noise of the sirens. He strapped himself in, wincing as the needlepoints entered his skin.
Oxygen, green;
Nutrients, green;
Recycling, green;
Drugs, green.
He placed his head on the rest and hit the red button.
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Old Feb 1 2006, 05:47 PM   #3
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well, this is it for now, the rest is no way near ready yet!
~~~

The Other Nightmare

“And that’s it.” He finished. “You know the rest!” he sighed. “And now I’m going to have to explain it all to the Government.” He gave a groan. “Now, that is going to be hard!”
“Don’t worry, we sent our own damage reports when we found you.” Dr Sergeant said. “Plus the other survivors sent their reports off too. Like I said you’ve stirred up a LOT of mud!”
“Other survivors?” Until then, he had not thought about other survivors. “Who are they?”
“Midshipman Ellis, Crewmember Braun and the two Matriarchs.” Dr Sergeant said calmly.
He went through the list in his head until he remembered the missing name. “Sergeant Cook?”
“He didn’t make it through the first week a far as we can tell, I’m sorry.”
“What happened? It wasn’t the equipment was it?” If he had killed Cook by his ineptitude…
“No, probably heart. Sometimes suspension can’t support life. I’ve seen it happen before. The subject just slips away.”
“It was his last trip.” Stroud said. “He told me that he was ready for retirement. He hated being put into suspension, he’d had bad experiences there before, two weeks when his last ship had a gravity problem and a month when he’d been badly injured when he’d just joined the service.”
“That might be why he died, suspension can do strange things to people and repeat suspension, especially in the older being is not recommended.”
“Verr drue.” Sahoo confirmed. “Ash Shaddingk, my pre-de-cessor, he went there too often. I know, I was zhere, I turned off ssa machine. Too late.”
There was a bleep and Dr Sergeant looked at her wrist. “I’ve got to go, Phipps wants me to take a look at Crewmember Braun, he’s developed a twitch in his left hand. Sahoo, can you stay with Captain Stroud for a while, show him how to access the browser.” With that she swept out of the room.
When she had gone he took a good look at his new companion, after the initial shock he was quite impressed by the alien’s appearance. Sahoo would be over two metres in height when standing straight and her long black robes were fastened loosely around what could be vaguely described as the waist, just above the long, muscular, tail. There was a pair of very peculiar wings, which split into two at the first joint into wing and arm. He squinted trying to force tired eyes to focus on the alien’s ‘hands’.
Sahoo looked up from its datapad. “Cap-dain Stroud, you need some-thing?” she said softly.
“I was just wondering about your species.”
“My species? Well I am doch-dorr for them as well as you. I can say.”
“Thank you.”
“We are sa Shehshans, an av-i-an race. However, unlike sa Ridorians, instead of a ssird set of limbs, what you describe as wings, ssa Vrrazim, are split at ssa first joint, ssa Vrafoin or el-bow into the sail, or Vrrayuk and the arrrm or Vrravun. Zis is kept volded against ssa Vrafoin by slipping into a pouch, sa Vrrayip, against ssa bone. Look!” Sahoo demonstrated.
“I can see that,” he said impatiently. “I mean, do you have male and female, and what is your society like?”
“Yes, we have male and female, I am feemale. Society? Zat does not in-ter-est me. You read file in data pad that Doch-dorr Ser-gee-and made vor you. See, I show. Zat chooses ze file, zat scrrrolls up or down and zat moves sa page back or for-ward! See!” Sahoo bobbed her beak at the screen impatiently. I go work. I answer quest-ion zough, if you need me. I dry do speak your tongue, is easier if you learn mine.” She turned back to her curiously shaped datapad, whistling and clicking softly as she worked.
He turned to the one she had given him and selected the first file, helpfully labelled BASIC TIMELINE: READ FIRST.
It was a traditional timeline with files branching off, each colour-coded to a particular topic. He clicked on the first article. MYSTERIOUS DISAPPEARANCE OF TOP COURIER SHIP! It was about the Rutherford, full of speculation and insidious suggestions. There were links to other news report, The Solar Times and the Comet speculated over a terrorist attack; The Galactic Economy, bigoted, imperialistic and biased as normal, said it was the fault of the “backward yokels” that it was conveying. While the Starburst, had squeezed half a paragraph saying it was the fault of “weird things we can’t explain” next to the usual pin-up, a blonde dressed as a courier ship captain, Stroud supposed that they had thought it appropriate. He clicked on.
“Search called off!”
“Crew declared dead!”
“Replacements sent to conference!”
“A victory for the Civilised Capitalists!”
“Conference Failure for Ousted Farmers!”
“Outcry over Conference Bribe!”
“Talks end in Failure! ”
“Beautiful Blonde lawyer Celina asks: Should we go to war?”
“It’s War!”
He read on in silence.

After a while Sahoo looked up from her work, unnerved by the silence. The human was crying. He was staring at the datapad. Ever so often he would select something. Then he was still again.
Sahoo rustled her wings uneasily and dropped her head. An involuntary croon shook her Head-quills and she turned back to her work. She knew what had happened over the last 50 years.

Click. Click. Click.
He was still reading. Still crying softly. He must be reaching the critical years now. The Wiping. The Long Trip. The Slaughter.
Sahoo rattled her quills, then tried to still them before he heard. The slaughter had been before she had been born, but Ash had told her about it. How Admiral Ustinov had switched off anything that could make the Enemy attack them. Everything, down to the very last datapad and food key. They had sat hidden in the caves of the Great Desert for months, with just the basics needed to survive, and not always even that much.
She remembered how old Ash had shaken his head-quills with the memory. He said that that was why the planet was so unified. He said he could remember the message Dah Huudhooh had flown in from the listening station the final night…

“Aileen!” he cried. “Aileen!” He was crying loudly now, his thin body shaking with the effort. “Aileen!” She could not stand it any longer.

He stared at the file in front of him in horror. It was a short article from the Comet.

Rutherford Widow dies.
Aileen Stroud, widow of the Late Captain Gleick Stroud of the Rutherford died in hospital today after the attack on her home by the Capitalist War Aid Society.
Stroud (43) has been vociferous in her cause to end the pointless crusade against the smaller colonies, which began after the Rutherford was mysteriously destroyed ten years ago. Even though fragmented remains of the rear two sections of the ship have been discovered, Mrs Stroud was adamant that her husband had not been killed as the front section of the ship was never found.
Mrs Stroud was a staunch supporter of the colonies even after the death of her only son Simon in a CWAS bombing three years ago.
The Society For the Protection of Colonies has called for more supporters to join their cause to avenge this gentle lady’s death.

Aileen. She had meant everything to him, her and Simon. He remembered waving to them as the Rutherford for moved into position for takeoff. She had been holding Simon who was waving a toy shuttle at him. Little Simon, who had been his hopes and dreams for four years. Dead. With a jolt he realised that the boy could not have been older than eleven when he died. Only a child, and Aileen too. She must have put everything into that campaign. She always had done. Aileen…

He felt the wing envelope him, and the soft material of the cloth against his cheek. He looked up and saw Sahoo looking down at him,
“Is hard?”
he nodded dumbly.
“Is no your fauld. War long time brewing. Sa drial, he was just an excuse, a cad-al-ysd at most. Sa las’ den year, there many drial. Sa whole old sys-dem was rodden strew. To-dally rodden!”
“But I still started it!”
“You did not!” Sahoo ripped the pad from his hand. “See! Rodden strew! Alpha-Jones! He rodden strew! Smid and Smid, sey rodden strew! You? You were sa victim, sa one who was left do drift for feefdy year. Not your fauld!” She crooned softly.
“But Aileen’s still dead!”
“Eye-Leen?”
“My wife, she was murdered. So was my son.”
Sahoo’s wing wrapped more tightly round him. “I’m sorry. I did nod know. I sought you just sad about war. Here, drink.” Her free arm held a glass up to his lips. “You want me to go?”
“No, please stay. Tell me quickly what happened. No more details, I’ll look for those gradually. I’m afraid of what I’ll find.”
“I will. Den more year, zere was dwendy year of fighting till government stopped it. Dwendy year of pointless slaughter. Sen den year chaos as sa gov-ern-mend dry do sord id out. Sen dwendy year of rebuilding lives.” Sahoo bobbed her head. “Sen we find you.”
“Thank you Sahoo. I’ll look at the files later.”
“Do you want to sleep?” she asked, sounding concerned. The spines above her beak rattled a little.
“No, not really. Or hungry.” He could vaguely remember the persistent voice that during his semi-coma kept asking if he was hungry. He now realised that it had been Sahoo. “Why are you so worried about me being hungry?”
“Because alzo every-zing else work even-du-ally, even fingers afder a few days, your diges-dive sysdem has nod.”
“Oh…”
“Perhaps improve, if nod nu-dri-end bag good for now!” she said, tapping one of the bags he was attached to. “And la-der you use ar-de-fic-ial means. Zad is diff-I-culd here zo.” She shook her head.
“Oh, but there’s still a chance?”
“Yes.” She said eventually. “A chance. Soon I wanna see you walk. Bud now I need do do more ex-am-in-a-shons.”
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Old Feb 8 2006, 04:38 PM   #4
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Here's the latest bit!- hope you enjoy it! I'm a bit busy at the mo so I only finished this a minute ago!

~~~~~

The morning after

Captain Stroud groaned and rolled over in the bed, pulling the blankets over his head. For the last few days he had been poked and prodded, stretched and squashed and made to walk up and down the room by an over-excited and enthusiastic Sahoo and a calm and collected Dr Sergeant. Then, the doctor from Earth had arrived, ignoring Sahoo and patronising Dr Sergeant, and left leaving Stroud with an artificial digestive system and sore muscles, sore muscles that still ached even now, nearly a month later.
Stroud smiled to himself and chuckled at a memory; it was a good thing that the ‘good doctor’ hadn’t been able to understand Sahoo’s comments. The little he had understood had been… funny. A bit cruel at times, but funny, especially in response to the doctor’s comments. That man shouldn’t have been let aboard a ship let alone an alien planet. His comments had been xenophobic and patronising, and Stroud wondered how he had slipped past the vetting procedure, money probably, or they were really desperate!

“I suppose that you have a modern hospital here?” the doctor had said as he strutted into the room.
“Have we a nice basic one to show him? How about the little field clinic out at Ffric-click, that is only ten years more advanced than his. The museum might have something about his level, if the clinic is too advanced.” Sahoo said loud enough for anyone to hear.
“So what is it like having alien personnel working for you?” He fussed over the equipment.
“I don’t know, some are intelligent beings, especially those I have known for years, some, I’d even count as friends. Some have been born here even! Visitors though, hmm it depends on how friendly they are!”
“Is that thing clean, those feathery things can’t be hygenic!” He vigorously pumped the sterilisation spray dispenser.
“I washed this morning! Surely those furry things on that thing’s face are a playground for germs! They do look greasy!”
He was still trying to stop himself laughing when the anaesthetic started to work, he would have loved to have heard what else Sahoo had said. He hoped that the next out of system visitor was a little politer, or at least if not that, that Sahoo would have taught him some more Shehshahan first.
Still, at least now he could explore the area and Sahoo was taking him today!

“Good mornink Cap-dain! You de-cend?”
“Descend?” Stroud was puzzled; Sahoo’s attempts at human sounds were not that good at times.
“De-cend! You know! Cloze on!”
“Oh decent!” he said with relief.
“You are?”
“N-No!” he said hurriedly. “I’ve only just woken up!” he protested.
“Hurry den! Is my day off! I wand do do zings!” she said wistfully.
“I am! I am! I just need to find my clothes!” he said, standing up and limping over to his cupboard.
“Hah! You should be more di-dy!”
“I would be, except that I’ve only been allowed up a few hours a day! I have more to do than tidy my room!”
“You wand do sssday now? Explore anosser day?” she asked wickedly.
“No!” Stroud said hurriedly. “No! I can tidy up tomorrow!” he flung on a top and trousers. They were creased, but he was not on duty now, they would have to do. “You can come in now!” he opened the door and Sahoo shuffled in.
“We go now?” she said ruffling her head quills impatiently.
“In a minute,” he said. “Just let me clean myself up!”
“Fine, fine!” Sahoo said settling down on the low Shehshahan chair. “I wait!”

Sahoo leapt up as soon as he left the shower room. “Now?” she asked plaintively.
“Now!” Stroud said. “Where are we going?”
“First we ged you I.D card, then we ged break-fasd! I’m hungry!” Sahoo led him briskly down the corridor to the public area, and a tiny office next to the exit. “Drrrim? Missss Ssssmiss?” she rapped on the door.
An elderly female human poked her head around it. “Sahoo? Is that you?”
“Yes Miss Sssmiss! I bring Cap-dain Sdroud!” she pushed Stroud forward.
The old lady smiled and held out a hand. “Good morning Captain! Are you here for your identity tag?” she said in a clipped accent
“I suppose so.”
“Jolly good, come on in then. I’ll just tell Mister Drim that you’ve arrived.” she bustled off.
Stroud sat on the uncomfortable plastic chair that Miss Smith directed him to, and waited while she berated an unknown figure in the next room, who by the sound of it was more interested in their breakfast than visitors.
“Cap-dain G-like Sdroud?” A shehshahan shuffled out of the next room. “I am Drrim Durrink, Chief bio-med-rics officer on this sdash-i-on.” He said slowly and carefully. “Would you sid in dis chair?” he pointed at what had to be a biometrics chair, although it was completely different from the naval ones he had used before, he supposed that some things must have changed in fifty years.
Drim lowered the head mask and fasten the gloves and sensors to Stroud’s skin. “Please sday sdill! One, doo, dree! You may move now!” the sensors were removed and Stroud was handed a small computer terminal. “Pick a pin number!”
“A pin number?” Stroud said in amazement, they had been obsolete fifty years ago! Eighty years ago even, he had not needed one when he had applied for his first ID.
“Yes four numbers only you know!” Drim explained patiently.
“Why?”
“In case the bio-med-rics break down again!” he said matter of factly.
“Oh!” Stroud could not think of a reply to that and tapped in four numbers.
“Well good morning Cap-dain! Go have your break-fasd!” Stroud had an ID card thrust into his hand before he was ushered back into the corridor where Sahoo was waiting impatiently.
“We go now?” she said as soon as he stepped through the door. “I’m hun-gry!”
“Sure, sure! Where to?”
“Sis way!” and Sahoo led him back along the corridor to a bustling canteen. Dr Sergeant met them at the door.
“Good morning Sahoo! Morning Captain!” she said smiling. Stroud noticed that she was not in uniform.
“Good morning Doctor!” Stroud said. “Are you joining us?”
“Certainly! Didn’t Sahoo tell you? Obviously not! I’m here to make sure Sahoo doesn’t do anything too stupid!” she winked and laughed.
Stroud was amazed, from what he had seen of Dr Sergeant in uniform,as she rushed from patient to patient, she had seemed to be a distant character, a bit cold even, but now she seemed to have let her hair down, which, to his amazement, turned out to be ash blonde and waist length!
He grinned back. “She’s just handed me over to the tender mercies of Drim and Miss Smith!”
“Oh, your biometrics tag! Let’s hope it works!”
“Why? That’s the second time someone’s said that to me!”
“Oh,” and Dr Sergeant began to giggle. “Drim’s cards are pretty good but Carla his assistant, let’s say, well, if I’m feeling kind, that she’s the type that has mood nail polish and high hemlines! She managed to produce a whole batch of dud cards because she forgot to differentiate between species! We had to have an old-fashioned pen and paper tab sheet in the canteen and have a security guard on all the doors! After that Drim introduced the pin numbers!” She pointed surreptitiously to where a leggy blonde enthusiastically flirted with an obviously uninterested security officer. “That’s Carla there!”
Sahoo shuffled pointedly to the breakfast queue and laughing, the other two followed her.
Mercifully the queue was short, breakfast being nearly over by the state of the washing up racks, and it wasn’t long before they arrived at the two long rows of food tables. Sahoo shuffled left and Stroud went to follow her when Dr Sergeant stopped him. “That’s Shehshahan food, and I’d say, looking at what I’ve seen there before, about half of it’s poisonous and most of the rest indigestible! If you want to try some we’ll go to Urrick’s for lunch. Right now though, I could do with a decent mug of coffee at least!” She led the way down the assortment of human foods that lined the right-hand table.
“We had a message from the Government last night, transferring you, rank and back pay to here.”
“Very generous.” Stroud said, trying to identify a vat of a grey mush. “They must be feeling guilty!” he sniffed.
“Guilty and at the mercy of the press! You’re news again Captain Stroud!”
“I suppose so.” He opened the lid of a container containing sausages, and, although they were not what he was used to for breakfast, he took one, relieved that he had found something that he recognised.
“Are you alright there?” Dr Sergeant asked after a while.
“Fine,” he said firmly. “Fine, except that I can’t find anything that I particularly like.”
“What do you want, it’s a long enough serving table, and even I should be able to find something that you like.”
“I’ve spent most of my life eating Naval rations. I was born on a Naval station! I’m not that used to unprocessed food.”
“Well we’re a bit short of ration packs here!” Dr Sergeant said with a laugh. “There are some fresh croissants though that Srrip made, and I’d recommend the Ferri fruit juice, I’d say that it’s far nicer than orange juice any day. Is that close enough to what you’re used to?”
Stroud nodded. “I’d like some coffee though.” He said as Dr Sergeant served him.
She nodded and poured him a large mug before showing him over to a table. Sahoo was already there, holding an animated conversation in Shehshahan with a slim man and a dishevelled Shehshahan.
“Morning Windsor!” Dr Sergeant said cheerily. “Morning Dah!”
“Mor-ning Doch-ter.” The Sheshshahan said. “You bring sa cap-tain?” he craned his neck slowly. He was far duller in colour than Sahoo, and smaller, while his fur-feathers were coarser and thinner.
“He’s here. Captain Stroud, this is Dah Huudooh.” Dr Sergeant pushed Stroud forward.
“Good morning sir.” Stroud said politely. Then as he remembered the history that he’d spent so long catching up on. “It’s nice to meet the hero of the Hiding.”
Dah rattled his quills appreciatively. “It is nice to meet sa hero of sa bat-tle of Mald-wen. I foll-owed zat so closely, we all did.” Dah sighed. “Sit, sit! It is nice to meet you!”
Stroud took the proffered seat and picked at his breakfast. It had been too long since he had eaten proper food; it was as if his body could not take in all the flavour. Eventually everyone else seemed to stop stuffing their faces and he was able to give up on his half-eaten croissant.
“Are you joining us today?” Dr Sergeant asked Dah and Windsor as they stood up.
“I’m afraid not.” Windsor said with a mock grimace. “I’ve got to work today. Paperwork doesn’t get done by itself.” He laughed, “I’d better go.” He strode off, a tall slim figure in neatly tailored uniform.
Dah laughed. “Windsor always has paperwork! If he spent more time working and less time with his friend he would not have to give up sa free day!” he chuckled. “I on sa ozzer hand have to go see a friend, ozzerwise I would come with you.” He rattled his head quills. “It has been nice to meet you, Cap-tain. It is not often I meet someone born in sa same year as me!” he shuffled away.
Stroud watched him until he left the room. The same year! He had been thirty-nine when the Rutherford was lost. Dah was getting on for ninety!
Stroud sighed. If the Rutherford had not been lost, he would have been ninety, white-haired and surrounded by great-grandchildren. Instead, he was still thirty-nine and he would never have grandchildren, he no longer had a son.
He noticed that Sahoo was watching him, so he forced his face to smile as he walked towards the exit. “Ninety!”
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Old Feb 15 2006, 06:02 PM   #5
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Here's a little more!
Let me know if you're getting bored with this or if it's too long! I won't mind- I like critisism when its to do with my writing- it lets me know where I'm going wrong!
I'm getting a little concious of the length now-its more than 7000 words in total now!

##########

The Light of Day

Stroud found himself dragged through the door into a world of bright light and strange sounds. Sahoo had grabbed hold of one of his hands and was pulling him towards a row of sleek looking vehicles. “We need do go!” she said. “Osser-wise sa mar-ked do busy!”
Dr Sergeant laughed. “You lot are never active before noon in these latitudes!” she said, pulling on a heavy coat. She glanced across at Stroud. “Didn’t Sahoo tell you to wrap up warm?”
Stroud shook his head. Now that he was standing still, he could feel the chill creeping through his clothes.
Dr Sergeant sighed and called to a passing worker. “Redd, can you ask Windsor if he could possibly find a spare coat for Captain Stroud, it’ll be returned as soon as we return!” The man saluted and ran off.
“We’d better go and stand inside.” Dr Sergeant said. “You too, Sahoo!” she led the way back inside.

A little while later Stroud found himself squashed between Sahoo and Dr Sergeant, huddled in a coat several sizes to big for him, in the back of one of the sleek vehicles as it skimmed along the road, through fields and parkland to a paved area in front of a large stone building, that glowed like a sunset in the bright, cool winter sunlight.
They got out and Dr Sergeant led the way over to a door built of the bamboo-like local “wood”, it was faintly purple in colour and smooth grained. An old-fashioned wrought-iron doorknocker, like one from an old film on the Nineteenth century, hung there invitingly, but Dr Sergeant pressed the more modern intercom switch and waited for the reply.
“Insert ID cards in illuminated slots.” A cool female voice demanded as three slots in the metal panel beneath the intercom, and Stroud entered his card, watching nervously as the machine swallowed it.
“Stroud, G. Please present your left eye to the illuminated inspection panel.” The voice demanded.
Stroud did so, and then stood back as Dr Sergeant and Sahoo did likewise.
“Welcome to the Commonwealth Administration Building. Please observe the rules at all times. This is a Restricted Area.” There was a click and the door swung open.
Inside, they were met by an impeccably dressed young man, who took their coats, and an older man, even more neatly, if that was possible, dressed, led them through the paved antechamber to the lift, where they were handed over to a girl, dressed in a neat dress.
“Good morning Doctors, Captain. Admiral Elliott will see you immediately.” She led them into the lift and, as smoothly as Stroud could remember, they shot upwards, until the lift stopped with a ping and the woman led the way out.
They walked swiftly down a long, carpeted corridor, a corridor that once more could have appeared in a period drama. Eventually they stopped outside a magnificent wooden door and the neat woman knocked twice and said. “The visitors you requested, sir.”
“Send them in!” boomed a cheerful voice from the other side of the door and Stroud was led into a conference room. At once end was sat a man in an old fashioned uniform, a high-ranking officer by all the gilt. “Captain Stroud!” he said standing up. “Please take a seat, the doctors as well.” He smiled.
Stroud sat down in the nearest seat and waited uncomfortably for someone to talk.
“My good captain, there’s no need to look so serious! I’m not about to chew you out! All this wood and scrambled egg isn’t my usual dress code, but according to Miss Tell, my historian, the Navy in your day set great store by formality.”
Stroud shook his head. “High up, possibly, but not in the Courier service, we had no time.”
“I’ll inform Miss Tell immediately.” He laughed. “I must get down to business though, it’s always very busy on market days. My name’s Admiral Elliott, and I am the nominated leader of the Human colonists here. It is my job therefore to work out what we’re to do with you!”
Stroud looked nervous.
“Don’t worry man! We’re glad to have you! I would personally be glad to have you in my fleet once you are recovered enough!”
“Th-that would be good.” Stroud said.
“Until then, what shall we do with you? Is there anything that interests you?”
“I’m not sure really. I haven’t seen much of this place yet!”
“No, you wouldn’t have.” He looked down at the datapad on his desk. “How about teaching? Or if you feel that you can’t face children in the schools yet, how about lecturing, I’ve already had a letter from the university, asking if you would be interested in talking to the students about your experiences.”
Stroud stood there for a moment. Could he face children, other people’s children, now? He was not that used to children anymore, he had always been too busy. However, lecturing- no! Students always asked the wrong questions, the ones that you never wanted to hear, let alone answer. He should know! He’d asked enough of them in his time at university. “I’ll teach.” He said. “I don’t know what though, I’m fifty years out of date!”
“You could teach them about what you learned then, how you lived, what was happening. Its not often they can learn from someone who was there during pirate wars and political battles. No one here was off the planet during the Twenty Years, so all they know they know from texts. Our children love to learn Captain Stroud, they would think that it was an honour to be taught by someone as important as you.” He smiled.
“It would be an honour for me sir!” Stroud said.
“Good, I will send you the information. Now Captain, just one more thing before you go. Do you wish to transfer?”
“Transfer?”
“To The Shehshahan Navy, my Navy. You can be honourably discharged if you want and retire here in peace, or you can be transferred, rank and all to my staff.”
To retire… Not to follow military rule, to eat, sleep, work as he liked, to rest… It was tempting, he had not rested since her had joined as a student volunteer seventy years ago, but he couldn’t. Besides, he had had fifty years paid rest! Did he really need more? He smiled, “Fool that I am!” he muttered under his breath. “I’ll stay!” he said firmly. “If you’ll have me, sir!”
“I’d be glad to Captain!” Admiral Elliott stood up and held out a hand. “If you go to the tailor on London street and hand him this note, he’ll find you a uniform. I’ll send you any orders I may have later. Have a good day Captain!”
“I will sir!” Stroud stood to attention before marching out of the room.
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Old Feb 21 2006, 01:02 PM   #6
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I've written 3 chapters more now! Mostly last night, here's the next bits and I'll post the other bits together as I'm getting concious that its getting a bit long (10,000 words so far)

##########################

Lazy Afternoon

London Street was busy by the time they reached it. The crowds jostled them and street vendors, both human and Shehshahan heckled them as they passed. Sahoo fluffed her fur-feathers and rattled her head quills. “Is nod nice!” she said. “You see why I say go early!” she gave a long lingering rattle of her quills. “I dond like crowds!”
Dr Sergeant smiled kindly. “Well Williams’ is never busy Sahoo. Have you ever been there?”
“Why would I wand uniform?” Sahoo snapped. “Is nod som-sing I can wear! Zey do nod allow for sa wings!” she rattled her quills and sulked.
Dr Sergeant merely laughed and opened the door to a quiet room, a warm and musty room filled with a long counter, behind which an old man stood.
“Good morning Dr Sergeant, how may I be of assistance?” he said politely.
“It’s not for me today Mr Williams, although if you have managed to get hold of some more of those Drrim-Fra blouses I might buy some.”
“I am afraid that the latest shipment has been delayed, Doctor. However, I have just received a new shipment of cloth containing a roll of velvet that immediately came to my attention as just the colour for you.”
“Oh? Perhaps later then, as I said, I’m not here to buy for me. This is Captain Gleick Stroud. Captain Stroud, this is Montague Williams, the sixth Williams to own the shop.”
Mr Williams gave a grave nod. “Indeed Doctor Sergeant. What do you require sir?”
“Admiral gave me this to give to you.” Stroud said. He was feeling overwhelmed by this small, elderly man.
Mr Williams glanced at the note. “If you will step into the booth I will take your measurements.” He walked over and opened the door to an old-fashioned laser fitting booth. Stroud stepped inside and the door closed behind him. Eventually the red light that filled the chamber was replaced by a gentle green glow and he stepped out again.
Mr Williams was already glancing at the figures. “You are still very much underweight Captain, I shall allow for your predicted weight gain in the fitting. Please return in two hours and I will have everything ready for you to try on. Until then Captain.” He held the door open and they walked back out into the busy street.
“Shall we go to Urrick’s now, or shall we take the Captain to see the market first?”
“I need do visid sa mark-ed anyway.” Sahoo said. “Urrick’s nod open yed!”
“Fine,” Dr Sergeant said. “To the market!”

Never in his life had Stroud seen anything like the market. The first thing you noticed was the sound, a wall of noise that hit you like a brick, and then, once the sonic concussion wore off, you noticed the smell, hot food, bread and coffee and spices, mingled with the sharp scent of a bluey-green fruit and the perfume from bunches of a brightly-coloured flower-like object that hung from the supports of a tent-like structure nearby. Eventually the brain calmed down enough to take in the sights of the markets, the crowds, the multi-coloured stalls and the multitude of different products on offer.
Sahoo shuffled and hopped over to a stall by the side of the road and began a rapid conversation in Shehshahan with the proprietor. Stroud tried hard to stifle a giggle as they clicked and whistled, shook head quills and wings and stretched necks as they bargained.
Eventually Sahoo shuffled back to them. “You need anything?” she said.
“No,” Dr Sergeant said. “It’s a bit busy today to show Captain Stroud before dinner as well.”
“So leds go do Urrick’s.” Sahoo said.

Urrick’s was squeezed in an alley of tree-like Shehshahan towers, built of the purpley “wood” as were most of the Sheshahan buildings, reinforced here and there with large pieces of orange stone. The door swung open as they approached, letting out two humans and an exotic, spicy smell. Sahoo clicked in anticipation.
“Is early enough for sa Ssressri do be fresh.” She said excitedly. “You will like Ssressi Sstroud!” she said sibilantly. “Iss so good!” She grabbed hold of Stroud’s arm and led them inside.

Urrick’s consisted of one large, high roofed, circular room with a hotchpotch mixture of human and Shehshahan furniture around seven eighths of the room and a large preparation and serving area in the centre, a human waiter took their coats and led them to a low table with a padded bench and a Shehshahan couch. Dr Sergeant motioned for Stroud to sit next to her on the bench, while Sahoo took the couch. Then Dr Sergeant gave the order, telling Stroud with a smile. “You wouldn’t know what to pick, and Soho’s choices can be a bit eclectic. I’ve ordered what should be a good mix of dishes.”
“Ssressi?” Sahoo asked plaintively.
“Yes, Ssressi, if you look it’s coming now!” Dr Sergeant pointed to where their waiter was crossing the room with a tray.
Stroud looked at the dishes that were set out on the table with interest. Ssressi were curls of a sweet, nutty wafer, served with dishes of sauces and wedges of fruit, some of which were totally alien to him, while others were the peaches, pears and strawberries that had been a rare treat in his former life. They obviously ate out of a common dish, and at a nod from Dr Sergeant, Stroud selected a wedge of fruit and dipped it in the nearest sauce. Even with his muffled taste buds it was delicious, far fresher and juicer than anything he had eaten in his life, Greedily he selected a wafer, and dipped it in a golden sauce, flecked with red and green.

“So, Captain, how is everything?” Dr Sergeant asked.
“Wonderful!” he said, licking the fruit juice from his fingers. “Is all Shehshahan food this good.”
Dr Sergeant laughed. “Anyone can tell that you’re station bred. Half of these are human fruits, there’s pear, peach, mango, strawberries, grapes and apple…”
“I know that!” Stroud interrupted. “I mean, it tastes so fresh!”
“Any food would if it’s grown organically and naturally and conveyed by Airtruck this morning! Though I have to admit that most stuff here’s delicious, the stuff that’s safe of course. That’s mainly fruit and vegetables although we can’t eat Frevv and Thogloc and Shehshahans can’t eat potatoes, tomatoes or red meats like beef or lamb, although they can eat pork and poultry and game. Finished?”
Stroud nodded.
“Good, the waiter’s bringing water and cloths, so that we can clean up before the next course. I’ve only order the two courses today, and coffee of course!” She laughed. “I remember, the first time my father took me in here, he was a doctor too, and he ordered a full five course meal. I was used to the simpler meals that they served in the school canteen and I gorged on Ssressi so much that I couldn’t enjoy anything else that meal.” She laughed. “I must have been six or seven then!”
Stroud laughed. “I’ve done similar on several occasions, don’t worry. Well Doctor, what are we having now?”
“Oh, please don’t call me that here at least!”
“What do I call you then? Sarge? Doc? I don’t know your first name!”
“You don’t?” Dr Sergeant looked surprised. “It must have slipped my mind. My full name, complete and unadorned is Rachel, Elizabeth, Mary, Victoria, Sergeant, but you can call me Rachel, most people do.”
“Well Rachel, you can call me Gleick, that’s all the fancy names my parents chose to saddle their only son with.” He laughed. “Sahoo is Sahoo isn’t she?”
“I am Sahoo to you, Ra-shel and sa whole planed!” Sahoo said indignantly. “Look sa nexd course is here!”
The conversation subsided as the next dish was brought in.
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Old Feb 22 2006, 03:14 PM   #7
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yes I have been bored recently-not much on TV etc, so here's another bit and a picture that sort of goes with it! (Spot the perspective error!)

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Old Feb 22 2006, 03:23 PM   #8
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OK, sticking bits together spoils the flow so here's a part of it, feel free to critisise etc!
edi


~~~~


A new day

Stroud looked critically at his reflection in the mirror, the new uniform still looked strange to him, as did his own image. The last uniform he had owned had fit snugly to his body, showing off the work of years at the gym and running up and down ships to keep things going smoothly. This uniform hung off a skinny frame, gone were most of the muscles, gone was any pretence of handsomeness in his face, even after the months he had spent here he was finding it hard to put on weight. Sahoo said that it was to due with the inefficiency of the artificial digestive system, and Stroud believed her, that thrice damned stomach never worked properly, it did the job most of the times, but twice now he had had to resort to the nutrient tube.
The uniform was not too bad he had to concede. Rather than the skin tight navy and white of the navy with its bold insignia, it was a loose fitting, rather too loose fitting, jacket and trousers in a blue-grey material, with a neat white shirt, an old fashioned hat and a tie! A tie! Stroud was sure that they were being phased out at the times of the first space travel, and here he was today wearing one! It did look smart; he had to admit that, although the thin gold insignia kept catching his eye. Still, it could have been worse, he had seen enough ridiculous colonial uniforms in his time to be reassured that his was merely old fashioned. He picked up his hat and walked over to the window.
It still felt strange living in an apartment in a city, even one as unusual as this. Sahoo and Rachel had found him this one for when he left the hospital and once again he was grateful that they had picked this one. He looked out of his window and along the long street, a jumble of human and Shehshahan dwellings and across the placid Rriss-shli river to the flat blue-green parkland that stretched towards the horizon.
He was teaching today for the first time, Admiral Elliott had arranged for him to take some children around the city’s space museum, a place Stroud had not yet found time to visit. He sighed, he was only to tell them about the bit to do with his time, there were history teachers that knew the rest, but still he was apprehensive.
He glanced at the clock on the wall, Rachel and Sahoo would be working now, he would have to face the world without a reassuring message. He glanced at his reflection once more and walked out of his apartment ready to face whatever hit him.

The school was waiting for him when he got there, two harassed teachers, one a yellowy-green Shehshahan, the other a greying, middle aged woman, stood with their lively charges outside the entrance.
“Good morning Captain Stroud.” The Shehshahan said rattling his head-quills. “My name is Rah Yudee and this is Elsa Jones.”
“Good morning.” Stroud replied, trying to keep the surprise from his voice. “I hope that I’m not late?”
“No, we have only just arrived ourselves.” Rah replied. “Now we will enter the museum. Children!” He led the way inside.
Stroud, dawdling along at the back of the group eyed Rah with interest, Sahoo and Rachel had told him about mimics, about how some Shehshahans, gifted at birth developed their natural mimicking ability to be able to mimic practically everything. It was a trait that was held very highly in Shehshahan society and one that they felt that anyone should have the chance to develop; there were even some human pupils. Some Shehshahans on the other hand could not mimic at all though, and Sahoo was one of these. Every word she spoke in a human tongue had had to be learnt painstakingly by rote, adapting strange syllables into sounds more suitable for beaks and quills. That was why Rachel, and Stroud, now that he was beginning to pick it up, used Shehshahan whenever possible, using the accepted finger and hand movements to mimic quills and neck positions, it was easier for them to make Shehshahan words, and, Stroud had to admit, it was fun!
The museum seemed quite interesting once they had got past the reception with its restaurant area and gift shop and Stroud looked in interest at a reconstruction of one of the early rockets that had taken off from earth at the tail end of the Twentieth Century in the old dating system. Today however, they were not visiting this section and they walked quickly on.
They stopped eventually in a large hall full of machines Stroud recognised, mostly wreckage but here and there were a few gleaming examples and the odd, painstakingly accurate reconstructions.
“If you have any questions on the history of the time children,” Rah said. “Ask us or Captain Stroud here, who as you all know was rescued by the Shuttle Canada recently after spending fifty years of suspension. Captain Stroud was a captain in a courier ship so he is bound to know a lot about how ships were run. Now off you go, and remember, some of the exhibits are delicate, so don’t touch until you have permission.” The children dispersed and Elsa Jones walked over to Stroud.
“I hope everything’s ok?” she asked.
“Yes fine.” Stroud replied. “Do you want me to stay here or wander?”
“Oh wander as you please, Captain. The children will find you if they want you, they always do.” She gave a deep, theatrical sigh, before striding off towards a group of youngsters arguing vociferously next to a short-range shuttle. Stroud wandered.
He was wandering alongside a twisted piece of a cruiser engine housing when a gaggle of children of both species.
“Captain Stroud!” demanded a precocious looking eleven year old, “Can you tell us what this was used for?”
“What are you looking at?” he asked, hoping that he remembered enough of his engineering training to identify what bit of space junk they had found.
“This thing!” and the group hustled him around the corner to where a long, slim craft stood in state on a long platform.
“That?” and Stroud was silent for a moment. “That is New Day, and she was a racing shuttle, my racing shuttle!”
“Your racing a shuttle!” a small boy said. “Wow! You raced this!”
“For one long season, yes.”
“Did you win?”
“A few races, not the championship though, I came second in that.”
“That’s still great!” the small boy replied. “What was it like?”
Stroud sighed. “Very fast and very dangerous, far more dangerous than today. There were far more crashes, and the season before had been cut short due to the Ridgeback scandal, where one team had modified their shuttle just too much that it became unstable in the low altitude sections, and one shuttle crashed into another and the debris disabled half the others. The Day was safe though, very safe, she was known as the lucky ship, I remember catching my rival patting her for good luck once!” he laughed. “Then I got promoted and I had to abandon the sport I loved, and I never saw another game until I came here.” He sighed.
How had the Day arrived here and still sparkling, the little placard nearby said that she had been mothballed, but although the paint had faded a little, she was almost as she had been the day that he had said goodbye.
Then he had a thought, if she was still intact, maybe… “Can we touch the Day?” he asked.
“Not really.” The precocious girl said. “You could though if she was yours.”
Stroud smiled inadvertently. “Maybe I could, but maybe it’s best if we fetch a curator. Could you go and find one?”
“Sure thing!” and the girl ran off among the exhibits.

A little while later a harassed looking curator had been hounded over to the shuttle where he eventually gave Stroud permission to board her. Stroud eased himself into the pilot’s seat and ran a hand under the console until he found the hidey-hole and then gingerly he removed the jacket and unwrapped the capsule.
There was quite a crowd by the time he was back on the ground with the plastic tube, and as they noticed what was in his hands, there began a wave of whispering which faded into silence as Stroud sat on the edge of the platform and unscrewed the end.
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Old Feb 27 2006, 02:48 PM   #9
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It wasn't the studies, it was me forgetting to take my USB stick home!
anyway...


~~~~~~

The End of the Day

“So it’s over.” Paulo said as he eased his way out of the Day’s cramped navigator’s compartment.
“Yes, I’ve been called back, you’ll be called up soon enough and no one will want to race in a war, they don’t want to travel and they’ve far more important things to be doing anyway!” Stroud finished his post flight checks and scrambled out of his seat, jumping agilely to the ground.
All around them their fellow racers, friends and rivals alike were also parking their craft, already, Jules Dupont, their greatest rival and friend, had parked the Rapide and was striding his way over, the red winner’s flag crumpled in his hand.
“So it ends,” he said despondently as he flopped down onto the ground next to the Day. “Our race, our rivalry, our life.” He sighed. “My call up has already been announced, if you check your Messengers there’ll be a priority message waiting.”
Stroud glanced at his and nodded. “I’ve been promoted to First Lieutenant and Second in Command of the Relativity cruiser. You?”
“Junior officer in Feynman Station, defence squadron.” Jules said. “Paulo?”
“Ground defence.” Paulo said shortly. “If only they could have waited one more day!”
“One more day,” Jules replied. “Then we could have had a proper race, not this farce. I wanted to fight for the title, not be given it by default!”
Stroud nodded. “I know, but that’s life!” he sighed. “This time next week, this will all feel like a dream. I know.” He sighed.
“We’ll race again though, I mean this won’t last long, Pirate Wars never do, I mean we’ve seen three these last ten years!” Paulo said optimistically.
Stroud sighed inwardly, Paulo was only twenty, too young to remember what the first wars had been like in detail, yes, they had been short, but they had been bloody! He should know!
Jules caught his eye, he knew as well as Stroud did what little chance any of them had of meeting again.
“We’ll meet again, Paulo, don’t you worry!” he said lightly.
Stroud snorted but nodded. “We need to take back our rightful victory!” he said throwing down their blue runners up flag.
Jules dropped his on top. “Then I will prove to you that it is rightfully mine!” he laughed bitterly. “Oh, to be able to race properly! I don’t want this red rag, not if it’s won like this!” he sighed. “If there was somewhere safe to keep it, I would hide it ready for the return match.”
“There’s the Day.” Stroud said. “No one’s likely to race her again except me, she’s set up differently to most crafts, no one else, not even you Jules, can fly her. There’s the cubby-hole under my console where the guidance system used to be, if we can find something to put them in, they can go there.”
Jules nodded. “I have a clean food canister, that’ll be big enough.” He strode off towards his craft.
He returned a little later with the canister and a few pieces of film. “Promotional pictures.” He said shortly as he flung them down next to the flags. “One for each of us. We sign them and the flags as a sign that we will return for them one day. I asked Claus, my navigator to sign too, but he has to leave straight away, in fact he’s gone! His ship leaves in five hours and he needs to see his wife.”
Stroud nodded. “I’m glad I’m not married! Pass me a pen!” and Stroud scrawled his signature across the film and the blue flag and passed the pen back.
Finally they wrapped the flags together around the films, tying them together with their team bracelets before easing them into the canister. Jules flicked the switch and the whirring of the vacuum pump filled the air, Stroud passed Jules his racing jacket.
“Pack it in my jacket to stop it jolting, I won’t need it any more and it’ll stop it rattling.”
Then, reverentially, they placed it in the ship, closed the door and walked away towards the future.

DUPONT, JULES PHILLIPE:
BORN: 7/2/514 SD
CALLED UP: 16/4/548 SD
DIED: KIA 13/9/549 SD

STELLA, PAULO DAVID:
BORN: 23/6/527 SD
CALLED UP: 16/4/548 SD
DIED: KIA 25/6/548 SD

STROUD, GLEICK VICTOR:
BORN: 5/10/517 SD
GRADUATED: NAVAL COLLEGE (EARTH) 20/6/536 SD
MISSING: 7/3/558 SD

THE FOURTH PIRATE WARS (16/4/548 SD to 27/8/553 SD)
The fourth and most brutal of all the PIRATE WARS and by far the longest in duration. Over seven million members of the forces were killed and over eleven million civilians, the total numbers of pirate casualties have never been ascertained although it is known to be in excess of sixteen million. The FOURTH PIRATE WARS have been said to be responsible for the excessive capitalism that then drove the known universe back into chaos for twenty years. (Hanson’s Encyclopaedia, seventy first edition, 600SD.)
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Old Mar 1 2006, 04:04 PM   #10
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The Day returns

There was a sharp hiss as Stroud twisted open the lid, at least the vacuum seal had survived for sixty years packed carefully in the cubbyhole. Gingerly he tipped the bundle out onto his lap, the bracelets had held and he carefully slid them off the roll, laying them out neatly side by side on the platform, two bracelets in black and gold and the third in dark green and silver. Then he unrolled the bundle and laid out the two crumpled flags and the three films. The colours were as bright as the day that they had been stored and he could still make out the smear at the edge of his signature, G.V. Stroud. He looked at the films for a minute in silence; it all seemed so long ago now, a fading, pleasant, summer dream and this was all that was left. He wept.
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Old Mar 3 2006, 12:59 PM   #11
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Another Nightmare

Stroud hung his jacket over his arm as he walked down the hospital corridor. Sahoo had sent a message the previous day asking if he could visit when he had time as she had something to show him, and as he had today free, Stroud decided that he was going to enjoy himself.

It was good to be able to have the time off, especially on such a fine, warm day. He began to whistle, and then checked himself; he had got into lax habits recently! A year or so ago, he would never have dreamed of whistling in uniform. He imagined what Admiral Elliott would have said if he had caught him, or Captain Hendon, his first commander. He mouthed an apology to his long dead leader, before laughing at his whimsy. He flung open a door and then suddenly he stopped. He was lost.

He knew the hospital quite well by now, and the route to Sahoo’s door even better, but somehow he had managed to take a wrong turn somewhere further back, probably near the Old Research lab where the corridors opened out into a wide common area, and new passages opened up for every direction and level. He had taken a wrong turning there before now, but never one as wrong as this. He was now below ground level and in a dusty, downward sloping corridor lit only by the emergency strips on the floor and ceiling, and even these were long past their replacement date. They flickered and dimmed randomly as he looked around, and the air conditioning fan grated unpleasantly, sending gushes of freezing air towards him. He put his jacket back on and looked around anxiously, there were no light switches and no signs at all.

There was an antiquated Notice Board on the wall to his left, with a flashing notice for a Dr Fentiman, reminding him to hand in his transfer form by the end of January, and a calendar stuck on the year 580 SD.
Curious, Stroud walked on, either this area of the hospital was unused, or the cleaners skipped this bit most days, somehow he suspected the former.

Eventually the corridor flattened and the lightening brightened slightly. “Good,” Stroud muttered to himself. “This bit must have been abandoned later than the bit back there. That means that there has to be another way out and if I carry on this way, I’ll reach civilisation again!” He walked more quickly, still taking in the abandoned appearance of the section. It was quieter than Bristol Station.

Eventually the corridor widened out into a wide junction area with corridors branching off from each wall. The passages to his left and right were in almost darkness, indeed, the one to his left had been sealed off with warning tape, so Stroud walked on where the emergency lighting was brighter.

This corridor was cleaner and Stroud looked about him in interest, this was an area he had never visited before and he was curious to see where it led. There were no Notice Boards or pictures on this wall; it was cold and clinical with white walls and gleaming metal. Stroud gave an involuntary shudder and walked on, most of the hospital was painted in warm colours and panelled in dark wood, this was altogether more sinister.

There was a door nearby, a wide sliding door standing half open, it was dimly lit inside and computer terminals flashed, chattered and hummed. Stroud, ignoring his misgivings about entering a research area, slipped inside, perhaps there was a map or a member of staff in there that could help.

The first thing he noticed was the quiet hum of computers in a soft harmony, accompanied by a staccato clicking from a machine to his left and an intermittent drone somewhere to the right. Directly in front of him was a bank of Shehshahan computers, Shehshahan text scrolling lazily down the large monitors, and panels of charts, all showing steady zigzags in many colours, flashed and glowed. Stroud walked around them and into the main body of the room. Then he stopped. He gave a gasp of fear and backed away.
Behind the bank of computers was a row of suspension chambers of all ages and designs, and in them were bodies both human and Shehshahan, each frozen in a dreadful parody of sleep. Directly in front of him was a Shehshahan male, head drooped onto his chest and loose tubes and cabling spewing onto the floor of the capsule, to his left was a woman, black hair, clipped close to her pale skull, a thin line of dark, congealed blood running from just above a neatly shaped eyebrow. There were more, next to the woman was an ancient capsule, scratched and battered, through the clouded panel Stroud could just about make out two figures, a woman and a man, their faces in a frozen parody of fear. He shuddered and walked on. This place was sending chills down his spine, but he felt compelled to explore.

There was a curtain shielding the far side of the room and the computers were silent, he pushed the curtain to one side and screamed.
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Old Mar 7 2006, 11:26 AM   #12
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Here's a bit more. If people want to leave feedback please do, if they don't want it here let me know and I'll set up a seperate thread.
edi


Sleep and Death

Sahoo heard the screams as she shuffled back to the work she had left running in the laboratory and she rushed inside the room. Stroud was huddled on the floor crying and she shuffled over to him, clicking and whistling with concern.
“You murderer!” Stroud screamed as she approached. “Murderer!” He turned to face her and his faced was lined with fury. “Is this your doing?” he spat.
Sahoo backed away, quills raised, sending an emergency message to Dr Sergeant with the Messenger in her pocket.
“My doing?” she said slowly in the human tongue. “What is my doing?”
“All this!” he shouted, waving at the curtained off area. “These frozen people! These, these…”
“Dead bodies?” Sahoo rattled her head quills nervously.
“Dead bodies!” Stroud leapt up and shook her violently, his fingernails digging into her skin. “Dead bodies! This is a hospital! All this time I thought you were good, I thought you were my friend, and then I find this! Murderer!”
Sahoo shuffled backwards. “You z-z-zth-think sat I, I do this?” She hunched her shoulders angrily, half spreading her wings, sharp claws gleaming. “I?” She arched her back, and curved her neck, quills rattling violently, her whole body poised to strike; and a harsh, rattling hiss escaped from deep down in her throat, filling the room.
“Who else did then?” He shouted. “No one else here has this morbid fascination for those in suspension! Tell me Sahoo, tell me if you possibly can, who else would move suspension capsules into a room?”
“I would!” said another voice, coolly and hostilely. Dr Sergeant stood there, hands on hips, a tranquilliser gun in her right hand, held loosely against her leg, a finger curling toward the trigger. “Sahoo! Back off! Now! I’ll deal with this! Captain Stroud, what do you mean by being in a restricted area?” she snapped.
“You!” Stroud rushed at her, then stopped short. “What do you mean a restricted area?”
“A restricted area, re-str-ict-ed meaning limited access and area meaning this room. This whole level is restricted!”
“I wonder why?” he said sarcastically. “So you could hide your crimes!” he growled.
“They are not crimes!” Dr Sergeant snapped. She raised the tranquilliser gun.
“Then what are they? Tell me!” Stroud snapped.
“A rescue attempt.”

Stroud stopped and stared at her in disbelief. “R-rescue?” he stammered.
“Yes, rescue! We’re trying to help! Do you seriously think that either Sahoo or I would possibly put people here for fun?”
Stroud slowly shook his head. “Not normally.”
“Then why do you call us murderers?”
“Th-there are bodies behind that curtain, very dead bodies, in suspension capsules.”
“That’s our morgue.” Dr Sergeant said quietly and patiently, the gun lowered again. “Not all of our patients are alive. You should know that not everyone survives Suspension.”
“But why don’t you send them home, or bury them or something.” His voice cracked.
“We do when we can, all these have no home to go to, or are unidentifiable.” She drew the curtain back to reveal the grisly display. “Take this one here, the ship was found crashed into a moon orbiting an uninhabited planet. The capsule had been punctured, just a little, but it was enough. We’ve sealed it in another capsule, just in case there’s a chance we can date it, but I doubt it, Owen says that the technology’s at least a hundred years old. Most records from then have long been archived.” She drew the curtain again. “Sometimes our research bears fruit, often it doesn’t, but while there is a chance to identify someone, they stay here.”
“But why here?”
“It was empty. The Birth Defect Research Group was moved to it’s own purpose built site years ago, so when Sahoo and I took over from old Ash we moved down the less pleasant parts here. It’s not ideal, but it’s roomy.”
Stroud sighed. “So all you do is research?”
“Every capsule is here for a reason, you don’t realise how lucky you are Captain Stroud, you’re alive and relatively healthy, so many things can go wrong in suspension. Look at Ron Braun if you want to see what could happen, he looked healthy when he awoke, look at him now! He’s ill, so ill, slowly dying, bit by bit, cell by cell, organ by organ, all because of suspension. If we had known that then we would not have woken him, he would have stayed here, waiting until we could do something. That’s all we want to do, free these people!” she waved a hand at the rows of capsules.
Stroud looked at his feet. “I’m sorry.” He muttered. As his rage abated, he noticed that he was shivering.
“No need Gleick.” Dr Sergeant said, putting an arm around his shoulders. “Here, let’s go upstairs. It’s not far to my office from here.”
“Good.” Stroud murmured as Dr Sergeant propelled him towards the door. “I hoped it would be.”
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Old Mar 12 2006, 05:59 PM   #13
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The Dream changes

Admiral Elliott was in all his finery as Stroud marched into his office that morning. “Good Morning Captain,” he said pleasantly, though he was obviously annoyed. “Please take a seat.”
Stroud sat down. He had a feeling that it was going to be a long meeting. It always was when the Admiral was wearing his “scrambled eggs” as the senior officer liked to call the gold braid that adorned his best uniform and hat. The admiral steepled his fingers and sighed deeply, taking a deep swig of coffee.
“I hope that you’re more awake than I am Stroud, we’re going to need all our wits about us this morning.” He said wearily. “I’ve been up half the night preparing for them.”
“Why sir? If you don’t mind me asking.”
“Why? We’ve got visitors Stroud, government visitors.” He sighed deeply. “I wish that we didn’t, but they insisted.”
“Bureaucrats never change.” Stroud snorted. “I should know.”
“Be careful Stroud,” The admiral warned. “I don’t want any more work than I already have today, thanks to our visitors.”
“I’m only a message away, you could have woken me up at any time!”
“And risk the wrath of Sahoo?”
They both laughed.

There was a tap at the door and Dr Sergeant and Sahoo were admitted.
Admiral Elliott nodded at them and they sat down. Almost casually Stroud noticed that they were formally dressed. Rachel Sergeant in a trim medic’s uniform, and Sahoo in a long tunic, devoid of the usual pockets and clips, and a vividly coloured sash that swept down towards the floor. She flicked her head quills at Stroud then sat motionless, except for the nervous flicking of her quills and wing tips.
Dr Sergeant was motionless, but when Stroud glanced at her, he noticed that she was very pale, and her eyes were red-rimmed as if she had had very little sleep.
The tense atmosphere remained until there was a knock at the door. The admiral stood up, and the others did likewise, trying to look as relaxed and confident as possible, but all failing miserably.
The Government officials marched into the room and took their seats near the head of the table. There were two of them, one, a hard faced woman in her fifties, the other a youngish man, although he was already balding, with a worried expression and a clipboard.
“Good morning gentlemen, ladies.” The woman said sharply. “Shall we get down to business?”
“Certainly, if you want…” The admiral paused, craning his neck to read the official’s name badge.
“Miss Reynolds.” The woman said stiffly, “and this is Mr Tombs, my advisor.”
“Certainly Miss Reynolds, however, would you care for some refreshments before we continue? It’s a long, dry journey from the space station.” He stood up and waved a hand towards the refreshment trolley in the far corner of the room.
“We are perfectly refreshed thank you,” she said stiffly, although Stroud was certain that Mr Tombs gave a just audible sigh. “I wish to continue.”
The admiral nodded slowly and sat down again. “Very well, let’s begin.”
Miss Reynolds stood up. “Very well, it has come to the attention of us in the Council of Medical research, applied medicine committee, technological mishap subcommittee, that there have been far too few research reports from the Centre for Suspension Research and Accident Recovery here for over a year, we at the committee wish to know why.” She sat down, glaring at Sahoo as if this was all her fault.
Sahoo arched her neck angrily but subsided as Stroud gave her a warning glance, now was not the time for Sahoo’s little tricks. Instead she stood up and, straightening herself up to an impressive two and a half metres, with wings and claws spread and beak held high, began to speak.
“If we had s-the e-quip-mend of the osser groups we could do so much more, if you sent us cases razzer than letting us find the scrapings, the for-got-ten ones, we could, if you gave us deep space ships and crews, razzer than leaving us to search our perimeter, if you gave us permission to travel, then, then Missss Rey-noldsss, ssen, ssen, we will do bedder!” She sat down; rattling her quills a little, obviously ill at ease.
“Miss Ahasd, I assure you that it is not in any of our interests to deny you travel, however, it is unfeasible to spare you any more equipment, the manpower alone would swallow up far too much of our budget.”
“The manpower? How can that be?” Stroud said. “In my day you could crew a courier ship with a captain and nine crew. A small recovery vehicle took only six crew, including the captain, and specialists were shipped as they needed.”
“But crews need to be paid.” Miss Reynolds countered.
“You came by a private courier vessel didn’t you?”
“As befits a committee member, yes.”
“Then you can spare a crew for a small transport.”
“A crew, a crew of low-specialists is feasible, but you need an experienced captain, and they, Captain, and this may be far different from when you were last permitted to command a ship, they want paying a premium, a premium that we can’t afford.”
“A premium you can’t afford Miss Reynolds.” Stroud said mockingly. “Just like one of your predecessors decided that the thorough testing of a new safety feature on the Rutherford was an unaffordable luxury.”
“I object to that comment.” Miss Reynolds said stiffly.
“You do, do you?” Stroud said loudly. “Well I object to petty bureaucrats that put their own comfort before the safety of others!” He sighed. “You say that you need an experienced captain, well you’ve got one here in front of you! Me! I may, thanks to petty bureaucracy be fifty years out of date, but I’m here, and I’m willing!”
“But you will need paying!” Miss Reynolds objected.
“Expenses only…” Stroud began.
“Wait a moment Captain.” Admiral Elliot interjected. “I am your commanding officer remember.”
Stroud nodded tensely.
“Good, I’m glad that you remember. Now I believe that we should have a deep-space ship and that Captain Stroud here is ideal to command her, but, I do not wish for him to, A, be paid expenses only, and, more importantly, B, I don’t want him to be under the command of anybody but myself.”
Miss Reynolds frowned. “Where is the catch, Admiral?”
“The catch, Miss Reynolds? There is no catch, Captain Stroud will need to attend a refresher course of course, but I am sure that you are more than capable to organise that!”
“And if I refuse?”
“Well, then you will have to find another captain, I value my aide very highly Miss Reynolds.”
Miss Reynolds spluttered. “Very well, but he will have to pay his own way!”
“I am more than capable of that Ma’am.” Stroud said calmly. “After all, I have got the fifty years back pay that your department awarded me.”
Miss Reynolds turned red and stood up again. “Come on Tombs, we must return to the ship. You papers will be sent as soon as possible Captain.” She nodded and stalked out of the room.
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Old Mar 15 2006, 06:32 PM   #14
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before Lady Mae wears out her carpet, and as I have managed to write most of this tonight...

~~~~

Sleepless Nights

Stroud hefted his bag over his shoulders and marched smartly out of the shuttle. He was conscious of the crowds of uniforms, and the flash of weapons as a patrol of guards marched past.
He glanced at his instructions and stepped onto a moving floor at the back of a long queue of people. The woman in front of him was in what appeared to him to be a Courier service Commander uniform, and in front of her was a man in Station dress.
“Pass please…sir.” The guard at the gate said as the strip stopped. Stroud was conscious that his uniform was a matter of some interest to those around him.
He handed over his pass card, and the guard swiped it through the machine before passing Stroud the key-chip that spewed out of a slot. “Carry on sir.” He said, glancing at Stroud in surprise. Probably his birth date, Stroud reflected as he stepped through the gateway.
He lugged his bag across a wide communal area, glancing at the number on his card. This place was enormous! Corridors led off in all directions and eventually, after a lot of searching, he found the correct hallway, and eventually, the correct room.
The door hissed open and Stroud ducked his head and slipped inside. The room was tiny, there was barely enough room to squeeze between the bed and the desk, and he had had to duck underneath a service pipe that ran across the ceiling near to the door. He flung his holdall on the bed and glanced at his schedule. He had half an hour before his first meeting, just enough time to unpack. He hung his jacket and coat up and unfastened his bag.
The sweet smell of Shehshan filled his nostrils as he removed his clean clothes and stacked them in the small cupboard under the narrow bed. Fortunately he had not brought much with him, he had had experience of training stations before. Even so, he felt that the few items he had brought, crowded the room.
Finally he unwrapped the picture from the bottom of the bag and sat down on his bed, which was, as he had expected, hard, and he stared at the hurriedly framed image for a while as he killed time.
It had been taken the night before he left, at a party Sahoo and Rachel had thrown for him. He laughed as he remembered what had happened.

He had been tired as he trudged along the corridor to the flat, the day had been spent filling in forms and signing documents in the Admiral’s office and he had collapsed in his armchair, hoping for a night in. Then, as he was working out what would be easiest to cook, he had noticed that his Messenger was flashing. He flicked the switch.
“Hi, Gleick, I’m sorry to interrupt you when you’re busy, but please could you come to my office now.” Dr Sergeant’s voice sounded strained.
Stroud sighed and picked up his hat again. Something would happen now!
The office had been dark when he arrived, but, assuming that Rachel had just gone out for a moment, Stroud opened the door, he knew that she would expect him to wait there anyway, and he could not stand any longer.
“Surprise!” someone called as he flicked the switch.
They were all there, Rachel, Sahoo, Dah, Windsor, Miss Smith…
“Come on Gleick!” Rachel said. “You didn’t think that we would let you go without a party.”
Stroud laughed. “I guess you wouldn’t!” Oh well, he had been packed for days…

The door alarm went and Stroud hurriedly put the picture into a drawer.
“Come in!” he said loudly.
The door was pushed carefully open and a trio of officers came in. One was the woman who was in front of him in the queue, and with her were two male officers, one a Station officer, the other a Cruiser man by his insignia.
“You’re Captain Stroud aren’t you? Which section are you from?” The woman said bossily. “I am Captain Taylor, Courier service.”
“Gleick Stroud, Shehshan, transferred from Courier Service last year.” He countered briskly.
The woman looked at him disdainfully. “Shehshan, I’ve never heard of that! What made you leave the courier service, I mean, you don’t look that well, but you’re too young to be retiring to a backwater!” she eyed him suspiciously.
“I’m older than I look.” Stroud said dryly. “I’ve been grounded for a while, medical problem.” Well, it was true, sort of!
The woman sniffed. “How old are you then?” she said disdainfully.
Stroud whistled. He’d been round Sahoo too much; he was beginning to pick up her sense of humour, he’d better be careful, these weren’t old friend you could banter with, he’d better be careful. “Chronologically?” he said brightly.
“That’s the usual way!” she snapped. This one had a short fuse, Stroud noticed.
Stroud tried not to smile. “Ninety-one years.”
She was silenced for a moment, and before she could answer, the Station man butted in.
“Stroud, you’re the one they found last year!” he said excitedly. “You were stuck in Suspension for fifty years!”
Stroud nodded. “You see why I need a refresher course?”
The man laughed and held out a hand. “Sure do! I’m Joshua Fischer, Station personnel, at least until I pass this course!”
“You want to transfer?”
“Yeah, I’m fed up with stations, it’s all admin! I want to explore!” Fischer sounded exasperated.
Stroud nodded. “I know what you mean, I’ve had an unhealthy dose of admin recently. I’ve been aide to Admiral Elliott on Shehshan.”
Taylor snorted, and pulled the conversation away from Stroud. “We’d better go. We’ve got a briefing before lunch.” She tossed her head and marched out of the room. Stroud shrugged his jacket on, picked up his hat and followed, trying very hard not to laugh.

Stroud sighed as they entered the mess hall. He had got too used to Shehshahan food and the stale odours that drifted over made even his artificial stomach turn. He walked over to the counter with trepidation.
It was a standard station dispenser, a row of machines spewing out containers of pre-packaged, re-heated food. It was early on, so there was a relatively good selection and Stroud chose carefully. Even so it was a disappointment when, after he had found his place at the long table reserved for the students, he slit open the containers.
The container, supposedly containing casserole: beef flavour, contained a brown sludge with a few lumps of greyish meat substitute, while mixed vegetables came in a tube. Stroud sighed, and thought once more of Shehshan.

It was mid-evening and Stroud had wandered over to the buffet table. Rachel smiled as he approached.
“You need feeding up before you leave!” she said laughingly. “I don’t know how bad station food was when you last visited, but it was uneatable, last time I went. I lived on pureed fruit and ration bars.”

Stroud reflected on this as he pushed his food around his plate. Eventually he pushed it to one side and sighed.
“Full already?” Fischer said jokingly.
Stroud grimaced. “I’ve been on land too long.” He said with a mock grimace. “I was beginning to think that food was meant to taste of something.”
Fischer laughed. “I’m used to it I suppose! Still, this stuff is pretty awful! You need a ship full of condiments to get it to taste of anything!”
Stroud laughed. “I wish Sahoo was here, she’d know exactly what to call this stuff!” He grimaced. “Actually, perhaps not! Sahoo can be a bit blunt about things!”
“How blunt?” Fischer asked curiously.
“Well, by now, she would have shuffled over to the head chef, quills rattling and wings rustling, and then thrown the entire contents of the container over him!”
“Quills? Is Sahoo… alien?”
“I suppose she is,” Stroud said slowly. “I haven’t really thought of her as alien since the first few days I’ve known her. Besides, really, we’re the aliens on Shehshan!”
Fischer nodded. “We get a few on stations, but they tend to keep to themselves. I’ve never known one well enough to call a friend.”
“You’ve never met Shehshahans! They never keep to themselves! Sahoo’s one of the worst too! She has to know exactly what’s going on and she wants you to know exactly what she thinks of it!”
Fischer laughed. “I’d like to meet her!”
“She’d like you. She gets on with most humans eventually, those she doesn’t care for, she just shuts out. Trouble is that she doesn’t get on with many Shehshahans! She’s a little too blunt to be acceptable to their society.”
A claxon sounded and Fischer stood up with a deep, theatrical sigh. “Lectures!” he said. “Space protocol!”
Stroud nodded. “It’ll be interesting to see what’s changed!”
“Changed? Oh!” Fischer grinned. “Oh, yes, there’s been change!” he laughed.

Stroud flung his hat on his bed and hung up his jacket. Things certainly had changed in the last few years! He pulled his data pad out of his pocket and plugged it into the terminal, letting the data transfer automatically as he pulled off his shoes.
He glanced at the scrolling text as he changed out of his trousers. There was a cleaning chamber in the corner of his room and he washed quickly, wrinkling his nose at the astringent smell of the cleanser.
The admiral had insisted that he had a private cleaning chamber, and glancing at his reflection in the mirror, Stroud could see why. He was in no state to reveal his body to anyone! He was skinny to the point of emaciation still, the artificial stomach was good, but not perfect, and there was only so much food it could process. Even with the diets Owain Harding kept prescribing for him, he was only gaining a little weight. Then there was the stomach itself and the “easy access” sockets on his left side. However careful you were with arti-skin and concealer, it still showed. As the cleanser dried Stroud checked the remote monitor and found the medi-dispenser of enzymes he needed.
The food on this station was going to make digestion fun! He was glad that Rachel had made sure that he had spares of everything. He was going to need it!
He slipped into his sleeping suit and selected some soothing classical music to listen to as he reviewed the lecture on the wall-screen.
Eventually he turned the monitor off and got into bed. He picked the picture up and stared at it for a while.
It was of him, Rachel, and Sahoo, sitting outside the hospital. Sahoo had been startled by something and her quills were raised slightly in surprise, while he and Rachel were laughing at Windsor, who had just sneaked up behind Sahoo and tweaked her tail.
He smiled and dimmed the lights. He missed them already.
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Old Mar 29 2006, 05:41 PM   #15
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here's a bit more, hope you like it.

Insomnia

The alarm woke Stroud at five by the station’s clock. He hauled the covers over his head and groaned before leaping up.
This was one thing that had not changed since his training days. He had half an hour to get everything in order before breakfast.
At least the shower had decent heat settings; he set it on cool and let the blast wake him up.

He met Fischer and Taylor in the corridor outside. Fischer seemed to be half asleep but Taylor looked as if she had been up for hours.
“Morning!” Stroud said cheerfully.
“…’ning.” Fischer mumbled in return.
“Is anyone else up?” Taylor asked.
“Not a clue!” Stroud said flippantly. “Who else is on this corridor?”
“Barrinov and Wang.” Taylor said.
“I haven’t heard them.”
“Let’s go without them then.” Taylor said officiously. “Otherwise we’ll be late for breakfast.”
Fischer nodded. “Yeah, I could do with some coffee.”

“How come you two are so indecently awake?” He groaned as they walked down the corridor.
“Cold shower.” Taylor and Stroud said simultaneously.
“Cold?” Fischer said with an expression of distaste.
“Cold.” Stroud said firmly. “It’s something you learn early on in courier ships.”
“But cold showers! Brr!” Fischer shuddered.
“You get used to them.” Stroud said. “I remember the sergeant at the academy I attended, he fixed the shower console so that it was permanently on cool. After a week or so we stopped complaining.”
“I quite like them.” Taylor said with a smile, the first Stroud had seen her make.
“But they’re cold! Then the cleanser never works that well with cold water, even if the manufacturer insists that it does!” Fischer looked at her as if she was barmy.
“I wash in warm water, then wake up with the cold.” She explained. “You should try it!”
Fischer sighed. “Think I’ll stick to coffee!”

The odour of coffee drifted out of the canteen as they approached. Fischer sniffed appreciatively. “I can feel the good it’s doing already!” he said with a deep sigh.
The doors swung open and they saw the queue.
“I can feel all the goodness going away again.” Fischer muttered weakly.
Stroud looked around at the queue. “Come on, it won’t take too long!”

The choice seemed slightly better at breakfast but Stroud chose an energy bar and a portion of fruit over the masses of cooked breakfasts on display.
“Learning?” Taylor said dryly.
Stroud nodded. “I was warned by Rachel before I left.”
“Rachel?”
“A friend.” He said quickly, almost too quickly. He hoped that he was not turning as pink as he thought.
Taylor nodded. “I hate this stuff!” she said. “I’m from Earth so I’m used to real food. I can stand it on a ship, it’s a necessity there, but here it’s just laziness and pointless cost-cutting!” She sniffed at her coffee. “Cheap stuff.” She said. “I can tell you what when we get to a table.”
Fischer laughed. “It’s coffee! The taste isn’t important! It’s the caffeine that counts!”
Taylor snorted and turned away from him in mock disgust.

“Cheap, low quality, strong, too bitter really, it’s been brewed wrong. It’s been sitting too.” Taylor took another tentative sip. “I’d say that it’s a colonial coffee, somewhere like New Amazonia, from one of the Coffee Islands. Yes, it’s from a damp but relatively infertile soil.”
“How do you know such things?” Fischer said.
“My parents ran a food distribution plant. Specialist stuff, decent coffees, specialist chocolate and fruit, that sort of thing.” She replied. “I grew up among containers of coffee, and I learnt to sort them in my holidays. Once you learn something like that you never forget.” Taylor shrugged. “It’s a bit of a disadvantage out here though!”
Stroud nodded. “Good food is addictive!”
Fischer snorted. “It’s food!” he said. “And I’d like to eat it before it gets cold!”

Apart from the changes in practical work Stroud found the course easy. Some of the others did not. Fischer had no leadership skills at all, although his tactical knowledge was superior to them all, and Taylor, despite the confident image she had given at the start, was nervous and unwilling to take charge for major matters. She was a good second in command though and between the three of them they managed to make an efficient team.
If only he could have them on board the new ship that was waiting for him back in Shehshan, with them, Rachel and Sahoo he would have the nucleus of an excellent crew.

“Let’s go and find one of these so-called restaurants that the guide said were around here!” Taylor said looking at the large wall map.
It was the end of the last week and the trainees had been given the evening off to explore the station.
Stroud nodded. “That sounds good. I wouldn’t mind looking at the shops too. I want some stuff to take back for Rachel and Sahoo.”
Taylor nodded. “Sure, will they like station stuff though?”
“Sahoo will. If it glitters or is bold enough she’ll find a home for it. Her home is like living in a mirror ball. Rachel, I’m not sure. I’ll just have to take a look.”
Taylor nodded. “Yeah. Hey! Look at Fischer!” she pointed.
Stroud looked and tried to stifle a giggle, failing miserably. “I know one thing I’ll have to send to Rachel - a picture of this!”
Taylor snorted with laughter. Fischer was dressed outrageously in a riotously coloured baggy top in a fine, floaty material, and tight trousers of something equally light.
Fischer strode up to them. “What’s up?” he said.
“N-nothing!” Stroud spluttered.
“If it’s nothing, I need my dinner!” Fischer said petulantly. “Come on!” He led the way into the public area, his sleeves billowing as he strode off.

The food was far better than anything he had had so far, still not up to Shehshahan standards though, but for the first time since he had been here, Stroud enjoyed the food as well as the company. If only Rachel had been here though.
He thought back to the end of that last evening. He had offered to walk Rachel home as Sahoo lived in the wrong direction and there were no taxis for hire that late at night.
The streets had been empty and the moonlight gave a silver sheen to the buildings. Rachel had shivered in the cool night air so Stroud had leant her his greatcoat. “Thanks.” She said softly.
“No problem.” Stroud said.
“Won’t you get cold?”
“In this uniform? Never!” he laughed.
“The advantage of good tailoring!” Rachel had said jokingly.
“The advantage of trousers!” he had replied. “It’s an archaic advantage, but you get away with more layers if you’re male!”
She laughed. “I should have thought about bringing a coat with me, but there wasn’t time.”
“There was no need to dress up for me!” he protested.
“There was!” she said as they stopped in front of her door. “I like you a lot Captain Stroud.”
“I like you too.” He said. He sighed. It was now or never, he had to leave first thing in the morning. He kissed her.

“Rachel, it’s me here, Gleick.” Stroud began as he began his voice message home. “I hope everything’s ok. I brought you something today, but I’m not telling you what it is. I’m sending you a picture though. Make sure you show it to Sahoo! It’s of Fischer, you know who I mean by now! Apparently it’s all the rage on stations, and I did see a few more people wearing them, but still…” he coughed. “Anyway, you can rest assured that I haven’t brought any!
Well, I hope you are well. It’s results day tomorrow, so by my next message I’ll know whether I’ve passed or not!
I’m missing you still!
I love you!” he ended the recording and sank down onto the bed. One more night here and then he could go home. It was almost too much to bear.
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Old Mar 30 2006, 04:24 AM   #16
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lol
I've started the next chapter but i'm v v v v v v v busy at the mo!
so as I've got easter holidays coming up I'lll post it sometime then!
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Old Apr 7 2006, 06:33 AM   #17
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you can stop pacing now!
I've been writing in between data sets. I need to if I'm going to remain relatively same
edi


Home

His door alarm buzzed in the small hours of the morning and Stroud put down the photo and stood up, checking his reflection in the mirror.
“Come in!” he said. The door opened and Taylor stood there.
“I couldn’t seep.” She said, and I noticed that your door light was on.
“Me neither.” Stroud admitted.
“Is that Sahoo and Rachel?” Taylor asked, pointing at the picture.
Stroud nodded as he picked the photo up.
“You’re lucky.” she said. “Both of you are!”
“I suppose we are!” Stroud said reflectively. “Come and sit down.”
“Can I come in?” Fischer poked his head around the door. “I can’t sleep.”
“Join the party.” Stroud said wryly. “Pull up a bit of bed.” He switched the monitor on.
The blank results page came into view and he set it to refresh constantly.
“How long?” Fischer asked.
“Three hours.” Stroud said, glancing at the clock.
“Three hours!” Fischer gave a theatrical groan. “There’s no way I can wait three whole hours!”
Taylor gave a snort. “You’re going to have to!” she said. “I don’t like it any more than you do, but we’re going to have to wait.” She sighed and leant her head against the wall. “Is there anyway to split the screen?”
Stroud nodded, stood up and did so. “Is there anything you want to see?” he asked.
Taylor shrugged. “Not sure.” She said. “What’s on the news site?”
Stroud nodded and opened up the page. “Not much.” He said critically
Taylor nodded. “Typical.” She said.

There was silence for a while.

“Do you think we’ve passed?” Fischer asked nervously.
“I hope so!” Taylor exclaimed. “I’m stuck if I don’t!”
“Stuck?” Stroud asked.
“Oh, you wouldn’t have heard about the new rules!” she sighed. “About ten years ago they introduced new age limits for junior officers. All junior officers on courier ships have to be under the age of thirty-five. I’m thirty-six next year. Then there’s the three-strike rule. Three goes at senior officer training and then you’re not allowed to continue. This is my third go.”
Fischer nodded. “Ouch!” he said sympathetically. “This is my first. I’m just fed up with station life, and there’s more chance of getting a post on a ship if you have senior qualifications.”

There was silence again.

There was a beeping. Stroud glanced down at his monitor and sighed in agitation.
“I’ll be back in a minute. I’ve just got to add some more proteases to my digestive system.”
Taylor nodded. “It’d better be a minute though. The results are out in less than five minutes now.”

“Gleick! Hurry! They’re being posted!” Taylor called.
Stroud slammed the lid of the medicine case shut and pulled his shirt back on. He made it back just in time for the results to appear on the screen.
They had been placed in mark order and Stroud began to scroll down the screen.
“Stop!” Taylor said excitedly. “I can see your name!”
He stopped. There, in the middle of the first-class students was his name.
“Eighty-five percent, that’s a good mark.” Fischer said. “Scroll down again.”
They scrolled down again. Taylor was in the lower half of the second-class results. She grinned excitedly though. “I’m through at last!” she said. “Where are you Fischer?”
Fischer’s name was missing in the remainder of the second-class results and it was nowhere to be seen in the pass section. They found it eventually, top of the failures, one mark short of a pass.
“Oh well,” he said resignedly. “Some guys are just born to be admin officers.” He laughed. “Better check our postings, mine’s unlikely to change, but yours might.”
Stroud loaded the new page. Fischer was right, he was still listed as a junior administration officer on board Space Station Silver. Stroud knew what his position would be, but it was still satisfying to see the actual paperwork, Captain, recovery ship (to be named), Shehshan.
Then, her hand shaking, Taylor clicked on her name. She turned white. “The, the, the complete…” she began to cry.
Stroud glanced at the monitor. There, next to Taylor’s name were the words, on leave, pending transfer.
“I knew he’d do that some day!” She exclaimed angrily.
“Who?” Fischer asked.
“My admiral, he doesn’t like me, he’s getting me transferred, and knowing him, if he has his way, it’ll be out of the service!” she was shaking.
“Look, don’t panic.” Stroud said kindly. An idea crept slowly into his mind. “I still need a first officer, why don’t you apply?”
She looked up. “But you’re in a special ship? Surely you won’t want me?”
“You’re a good officer Taylor, I’d like you as my second in command.”
She wiped her tears away. “Would you really?”
“Of course I would! My admiral would like you too! Write to him! Here, use my computer.” He switched the monitor over to a writing program.
“I suppose you wouldn’t want an admin officer?” Fischer asked hopefully.
“I’ll see you both on Shehshan.” Stroud replied.
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Old Apr 10 2006, 03:17 PM   #18
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lol
not long to wait for this chapter, next chapter... well I need to do some drawing first

sorry if its a bit soppy- Simon and Garfunkal are not good to listen to for writing rational stuff .normal service will be resumed soon


Home again.

Stroud was dozing when the shuttle captain announced that they were now entering Shehshan’s atmosphere. He woke up, peeling his cheek from the window, leaving a grey smudge of grease and moisture on the window glass.
He looked out, below him Shehshan looked like a blue and green jewel, the glass began to darken as the entered the atmosphere, and he tore his eyes away from the fading view. He picked up the remains of his lunch and disposed of it in the waste holder before strapping himself down.
The shuttle slowed into a shallow glide and the glass cleared again. He looked outside at the clouds that skidded by. So close now!
The shuttle skidded to a halt outside the terminal building at the spaceport. The stewardess helped him out of the safety harness and he stood up. She passed him his hat and jacket and he donned these, picked up his bag and walked out into the daylight.

They were waiting!
He just managed to stop himself running down the steps to the ground, Admiral Elliott returned his salute with a smile, but Stroud barely acknowledged it. Rachel was waiting with Sahoo. He grinned, gave up all pretence of dignity and caught her in a large bear hug.
“I’ve missed you.” He mumbled, his face buried in her hair which smelt faintly of flowers and herbs.
“I missed you too.” She whispered in response.
“Come on,” he said, moving so that he had one arm wrapped over her shoulders. “I’ve got to be debriefed, but as soon as that is over we’ll go and have a coffee in the cafeteria.”
They walked together in that undignified position until they reached the terminal door and Stroud had to salute the sentinel.

“So, what was it like?” She asked when he sprawled on one of the comfortable couches at one end of the cafeteria.
“The trip or the debriefing?”
“Both!” she said, pushing a large mug of coffee towards him.
He took an appreciative sniff at the aroma before smiling.
“The coffee was awful!” he said with a grin.
“Did Elliott tell you if you’ve got those two officers you wanted?”
Stroud nodded. “Yep, they’ll be arriving in about a week. Where’s Sahoo?”
“Working. Trying to sort out her paperwork. She’ll be at Urrick’s tonight though.”
“Urrick’s?”
“Yes, we thought you could do with some decent food after a month of station meals.”
He nodded. “Definitely!” he said.
Rachel glanced at her Messenger. “I’ll have to go soon, I’m on duty.”
Stroud nodded. “I guess that you have to.” He said sadly. “Shall I meet you outside your apartment?”
She nodded. “Yep, at half past six.” Her messenger bleeped. “Typical,” she said as she read the message. “I’ve got to go. Emergency. I’ve left you sandwiches at your apartment if you want them.”
Stroud stood up. “Thanks!” he said. He kissed her on the cheek and watched as she hurried back to work.

She had tidied the flat too, Stroud noticed as he came in. A large bunch of flowers gave off a seductive smell that filled the rooms, while the promised plate of sandwiches were waiting in the fridge, along with a flask of freshly squeezed fruit juice and a large slice of cake.
He changed into civvies before he collapsed on the sofa in the living room with the food and some music. It was good to be home.

It was still light at six thirty now, when Stroud had left it had been dark by six. It was a mild night and there were many people outside enjoying the spring air.
He rang the bell for Rachel’s apartment. A window a few floors up opened. “I’ll be down now!” Rachel called. The window slammed shut and Stroud counted to forty before the door open and Rachel burst out.
He smiled as she flung her arms around his neck. He didn’t object and they stood there for a while before he shifted slightly and she looked up.
“We’d better go!” she said, glancing at her watch. “We’ll be late if we don’t.”
“One moment!” Stroud said. He took a long narrow box out of the bag of gifts he was carrying. “I have a present for you.” He opened the box.
Inside there was a set of delicately wrought metallic jewellery.
“It’s beautiful.” Rachel exclaimed.
“It’s only costume jewellery, but it’s very popular among regular travellers because it’s so light, and,” Stroud placed the pendant across the grey-blue sleeve of his jacket. “It goes with whatever you wear.” The “stone” in the pendant changed colour from black, through navy, to a golden yellow. He placed it on Rachel’s pale blue dress and the pendant turned a deep emerald. He hung it around her neck.
“Now we can go.” He said.
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Old Apr 17 2006, 10:19 AM   #19
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Here's a bit more

A good morning.

“Ah, Stroud!” Admiral Elliott boomed as Stroud crossed the landing site a week later. “I’ve just had word from the contractor, the ship will be here in ten minutes or so.”
“Only half an hour late then!” Stroud said with an impatient snort.
“That’s practically early for contractors!” Elliott snorted. “Come on, I’ll take you to Traffic Control, there’s usually someone there who’s making coffee and it’s got a good view of the runway.”
“Have you heard from Taylor and Fischer?”
“They’re on board too; Taylor didn’t sound too happy about the condition of the ship when I spoke to her. Swore a lot! It sounded as if they were having a few problems.”
“Any details?”
Elliott shook his head. “No, not really! Nothing repeatable anyway! Just a warning to have emergency crews on standby.” He opened the door to Traffic Control.
The chief controller stood up as they came in. “Message from Commander Taylor, Sir.” He said. “They’ve entered the atmosphere. Approximate landing time is in three minutes.”
“They’re back in range sir!” a technician called. He flicked a switch and Taylor’s voice filled the room.
“SN control, this is SN332T, we’re on the final stage of the glide, about thirty kilometres away according to the dials, but they keep sticking so we’re relying on landmarks. Is it possible for a visual signal to be set up on the field?”
“Affirmative SN332T, a red light pad will be lit at the far end of the runway, aim for that.”
“Roger Control, will transmit from now until landing.” The sound of rattling mingled with the sound of footsteps as Taylor switched the system to continuous.
“Coffee sir?” a junior controller asked Stroud.
“Yes please, white, no sweetener.”
“Certainly sir.” He passed Stroud a mug.
“Not having naval standard then Stroud?” Elliott said jovially.
“Nope!” Stroud said sipping at his coffee. “Never have done!”
“Does anyone?”
“Not that I know of.” Stroud shrugged. “Legend goes that it was devised for the early courier ships, I mean the really early ones doing the old Earth-Mars route. Some statistician working in catering logistics decided that if he could calculate the average taste for coffee, he could reduce the quantity of coffee canisters in the dispenser. Unfortunately, it turned out that no one actually liked average coffee, but the statistician just carried on issuing it anyway, since it was very probable that someone would probably like it at some time!”
Elliott laughed. “I met someone once who claimed to like it. He said that it cut down on the amount of his sweetener ration, this was when everything was rationed after the war, he drank his coffee so it was almost like syrup and by using standard coffee he could half the amount of sweetener he needed.”
The noise from the communications system changed slightly.
“This is SN332T,” Taylor’s voice said over the background shriek. “Landing in approximately forty seconds. Have all emergency crews prepared for a potential undercarriage failure.” The shrieking grew louder. “Fischer!” Taylor shouted, so loud that it made the signal distort. “Grab hold of that lever! Don’t let go whatever you do. Brace yourself against the walls if you have to!”
Stroud glanced out of the window. Outside, a rusty looking salvage vessel glided erratically towards the surface. Its undercarriage was out, but Stroud could see the telltale trail of disconnected systems cables and leaking hydraulics. “Taylor,” he said. “This is Stroud; you have no systems cabling to the front undercarriage!”
“Roger that Stroud, I’ve got Fischer working the manual override.” There was a pause, then; “Brace! Brace! Brace!”
The ship touched down, hopped a little, and then skidded to a halt just short of the inflatable barriers. The emergency crews swarmed like flies around the grounded vessel while Fod teams searched the area for debris, their vacuum cleaners buzzing as they went.
Stroud donned hat and greatcoat and followed Elliott outside to see the ship.
Close to, the ship looked even worse than it did from the window. It was streaked with rust marks and the outer hull was pockmarked with holes and covered in dents. It also looked as if the salvagers had used their stock to repair the ship. The hull was a patchwork of odd shaped pieces of metal, painted in a variety of shades of grey, while the door was dark blue in colour and was obviously from a far newer hull design.
All fifty metres of the battered vessel creaked and groaned, as the door was eased open. “Can someone send a set of steps in this direction!” came Taylor’s voice through the doorway, muffled by something, probably a helmet. “There’s only a ladder here and it doesn’t look that safe!”
A set of steps were trundled over and five helmeted and suited figures came stiffly down the stairs.
The lead figure removed their helmet as they went. It was Taylor. “Commander Taylor reporting for duty!” she said. “SN332 is ready for inspection.” She looked exhausted, her cropped hair was rumpled and greasy, and there were deep bags under her eyes. “I’d recommend biohazard suits though sir!” she added.
A group of fully suited medics was waiting to one side, Rachel was with them.”
“Dr Sergeant!” Elliott called over. “Take the crew of the SN332 to the decontamination chambers, find stimulants and fresh clothes for them before sending them to the briefing room.”
“Thank you sir!” Taylor said with relief as the group was led off.

“Well sir,” Taylor began when they were all seated in the briefing room with an impromptu buffet set out along the table. “I hope that you didn’t mind that chaotic landing, it was the best we could manage in the circumstances.”
“No worries!” The admiral boomed. “From the outside I’m surprised the ship didn’t burn up on re-entry!”
“It would have if the contractors had flown her down on automatic as they planned. That’s why I took command of her.”
“Very good. What’s she like inside?”
“Even worse!” Taylor said. “We were only on board for twelve hours but that was enough. There’s no artificial gravity, no life-support at all. We were suited the whole time.” She looked hungrily at a plate of sandwiches but did not take one.
“Help yourself!” Elliott said. “You’re not on a station now; we’re a bit more relaxed here! It’s all due to the feather faces here!”
One of the ‘feather faces’ gave a long chuckle. “Is true. We like eating and talking, is much better, stops arguments!” He rattled his head quills in amusement.
“See!” Elliott said. “Tuck in!”

Suited up, Stroud followed Taylor and Elliott into the ship. Even through the filters in his mask the small was awful, rancid sweat and leaky hydraulics.
There was a whiff of disinfectant and Stroud spotted a decontamination crew at work in what, presumably, had been the galley. Stroud glanced at it briefly and gagged. Quickly they walked on.
Stroud saw more shorted electronics, more splintered optical circuits and jammed mechanical systems that day than he had in his entire career to date. He looked critically at the optical systems processor. “This lot needs stripping out!” he said as the brittle plastic broke in his hands. “All of it!”
Elliott nodded. “Definitely!” he said. “I’ll send a crew out as soon as they’ve finished decontaminating. This is bad even for the bureaucracy!” he snorted.
Stroud nodded. “Definitely! Now, let’s get out of here before I’m actually sick!”
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Old Apr 24 2006, 06:42 PM   #20
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Coffee and Insomnia

“You should rest Gleick.” Rachel said as she brought him a mug of coffee. “Surely these forms can wait?”
He shook his head wearily and loaded the next page. “Not if we’re going to leave on time for our first mission.” He scanned the page before signing it and loading the next page.
She sat down at the opposite side of the table and pushed his mug of coffee towards him. “Can’t Fischer do any of this?” she asked.
“He has been! All this is stuff I have to do! Taylor’s busy refitting the ship and Fischer’s here there and everywhere. He’s supervising the unloading of the new optical circuitry at the moment, he’s already returned three faulty units, which means that they’ll take a month or so to send the replacements.”
“Can’t we build them here? The optical systems in the hospital were built a few kilometres away, and I’ve never had a problem with them.”
“We’re not registered as a naval supplier, all ships contracted to the government have to have parts from a registered supplier. They also have to meet a checklist a kilometre long and fall within a standardised budget margin.” Stroud sighed. “So we have to make do with what we’ve got!”
The door alarm bleeped and Taylor’s voice came over the intercom. “I’m sorry to interrupt you sir!” she said tiredly.
“Come in.” Stroud said.
Taylor came in and saluted. “Afternoon sir!” she said. She looked exhausted, her hair was untidy, her eyes were shadowed and red and she moved stiffly.
“Sit down!” Stroud said. “You look awful! When did you last take a break?”
“Oh, this morning I think.” Taylor said wearily. “There hasn’t been time to stop.”
Stroud stood up. “Sit! Now!” he ordered. “When did you last sleep?”
“Oh, I grabbed a couple of hours before dawn.”
“Have you eaten today?” Stroud was amazed that Taylor was still standing.
Taylor shook her head as she sank down onto the cushioned armchair that Rachel led her to.
“I’ll get you something to eat.” Stroud said, walking over to the door. “Then you’re going to rest. Who’s in charge at the ship?”
“Lieutenant Redd, the new engineering officer and Orrig, his deputy.”
“I’ll contact them and tell them that you are having a few hours off.” Stroud picked up his messenger and strode off to the kitchen.
Taylor sighed. “There’s so much to do!” she protested weakly. She yawned and shook her head to try to revive herself. “Could I have some coffee?” she asked. “I’m having trouble staying awake!” she yawned again.
Rachel shook her head, noticing that Taylor was shaking slightly and that her skin was slightly grey. “I think you’ve had too much already today. How much have you drunk?”
“I don’t know.” Taylor admitted. “I lost count not long after dawn.”
Rachel sighed. “I’ll get you some juice, you’re probably dehydrated after all that coffee!”
Taylor nodded. “I suppose I am.” She said taking the glass of juice that Rachel passed her. She emptied the glass and Rachel refilled it for her.
“Help yourself to more if you want it.” She said, placing an insulated jug on the table.
Stroud came in with a roughly made sandwich. “Lieutenant Redd says that everything’s fine out there, eat this.” He said.
Taylor promptly bit into the sandwich. “That’s better!” she said in between bites. “I hadn’t realised how hungry I was!”
Stroud laughed. “Eat up!” he said returning to the forms.

He looked up a while later at the sound of something falling on the floor. Taylor had fallen asleep and her Messenger had fallen out of her pocket. Rachel walked into the room and smiled.
“Help me to take her into the spare bedroom.” She said.
Stroud took hold of Taylor’s upper body while Rachel caught hold of her feet.
“Did you…” Stroud began.
Rachel shook her head. “She was exhausted, I thought that she might fall asleep if she sat down for five minutes.”
Stroud snorted. “You made the bed up!” he said in surprise.
“As soon as I saw her drop off.” She said, pulling the covers over Taylor.

They moved back into the living room. “You look tired.” Rachel said. “It’s your turn to rest!” she opened the door to his bedroom.
“But I’ve too much to do!” he protested.
“You’ve got two minutes or I’ll put you to bed with a sedative!” Rachel said. “I’m going to find Fischer.”
Stroud slammed the door shut.
Rachel laughed and left the flat.
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Old Apr 27 2006, 07:00 PM   #21
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Default Re: A non-McCaffrey related piece by me

here's a bit more I'm getting onto the more adventurey bits after this! Needs more planning

A rest

Stroud yawned and stretched lazily as he sat up. He glanced at the clock. It was late afternoon. “Drat!” he said. His monitor beeped and he pulled his dressing gown around him, somehow he had managed to get undressed before collapsing on his bed, his clothes lay scattered on the floor. As he did up the cord he remembered that Taylor was sleeping in the spare room, there was no time to change properly though, his monitor was on red, he’d just have to risk it. He crept out into the corridor.
The first thing he noticed was that the room had been dimmed and the curtains drawn. Then he heard the snoring. Fischer was asleep on the settee, his head propped up by cushions and a blanket draped over him.
Stroud crept over, Fischer’s mouth was slightly open and his chest moved up and down with a regular movement.
“I had to drug him.” Rachel said softly. “Sorry.” She sat up from the armchair where she was sitting. “He wouldn’t stop.”
Stroud nodded and his monitor bleeped rapidly.
“Go and sort out your digestive system!” Rachel said, pushing him towards the bathroom door.
When he returned, she was checking Fischer’s blood sugar levels. “Awful.” She said to herself. “Simply awful!” she administered a dose of some substance. “Oh Gleick!” she exclaimed, spotting him.
“How is he?”
“Pretty bad, I don’t know how he’s lasted so long.”
“He’s Station crew, they’re known for being able to go on when everyone else has given up.”
Rachel sighed. “Well, at this rate he won’t be going on much longer if he doesn’t rest! None of you will! I checked while you were asleep!”
Stroud glared at her. “What do you prescribe then Doctor?” he asked.
“A holiday! In fact, from this evening, you are all on sick leave!”
“Sick leave?” Stroud bellowed. “I’ve had fifty-one years of sick leave! I don’t need it now!”
Rachel placed a finger to her lips. “Shush! You’ll wake the others.” She hissed.
“Damn right I’ll wake the others!” Stroud said angrily. “I haven’t got time for fooling about Doctor Sergeant! I’ve got a ship to refit!”
“We’ve got a ship to refit.” Rachel said soothingly. “I’m your medical officer after all.”
“Then you should know how important refitting this ship is!” Stroud snapped.
“Of course I do!” she replied back. “If you remember, I spent nearly a year refitting you!” she sighed. “If you can remember that far back, you’ll also remember that I needed extra help in some areas!” she poked him in the stomach.
Stroud backed off. “I haven’t got any expert help!” he said. “That’s half the trouble!”
“Not any more! Check your Messenger!”
Stroud went back into his room and picked up the devise, it was flashing and he scanned through the new messages. “Rachel!” he bellowed.
“What is it?” she said.
“You’ve told Admiral Elliott, haven’t you?”
“Why?”
“He’s sent me a message, I’m on leave for a week from tomorrow!”
“Oh that, I did happen to pass by his office when I fetched some supplies from the hospital.” She said sweetly.
“Huh!” Stroud said. “So you told on me! The whole project is in jeopardy just because you couldn’t keep your mouth shut!” he bellowed.
“It’s not!” she insisted.
“It is!” he said. “This refit is tricky! We need all the officers here! Not gallivanting off somewhere! If those bureaucrats had bothered to send a halfway decent ship, if they had even sent a specialist refitter, we wouldn’t have these problems! But as it is, it’s my responsibility to get this ship running and I mean to do it on time!” He banged his left fist into the palm of his other hand to emphasise the statement.
“Did you read the rest of your messages?” Rachel asked.
“Did I… What do you think woman? I haven’t got time to read all that mess! I’ve got work to do!”
“Read them Gleick!” she ordered coolly.
“Very well.” He muttered. He scanned through the messages. “How in all the names of the galaxies!” he exclaimed.
“Found it?” Rachel said, far too innocently.
“Found it? Of course I’ve found it! You knew didn’t you?” he grabbed hold of her shoulders.
“Of course I did!” she said. “I told you that I saw Admiral Elliott on the way here.”
“You, you… Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I meant to.” She admitted. “You didn’t give me the chance to!”
“You, you…” he kissed her. “I’d better tell Taylor.”
“She’s asleep!” Rachel protested.
“No she’s not!” Stroud replied. “Listen!”
At that moment the door opened and Taylor wandered sleepily through it. “Thanks!” she said sleepily. “I needed that. What was all the shouting about?” she collapsed into an armchair. “Oh! Fischer’s here, I see.” She curled up among the cushions.
“We’ve got specialist support!” Stroud said gleefully. “Enough to refit the ship, and they’ll be finished at least a month earlier than we could!”
“That’s great!” Taylor said, instantly awake.
“That’s not all!” Rachel said. “We’re all on leave for a week from tomorrow!”
Taylor looked at her in disbelief. “Leave!” she squeaked. “How wonderful! Where can I go?”
“Admiral Elliott has reserved places for all of us on the next transport to Glock-Click, we leave in the morning.” Rachel said with a smile.
“Glock-Click?” Stroud asked.
“It’s a small island south from here.” Rachel explained. “It’s warm, dry and relaxing.”
“Good!” Taylor said. “Anything to get away from this drizzle, it’s been raining almost constantly since I’ve arrived!”
“It has been a bit awful!” Rachel said. “Elliott said that it’s like the Old Country was like back on Earth.”
“Old Country?” Taylor asked.
Rachel smiled. “Generation ship Commonwealth was a ship crewed mainly with members of what used to be the old British Commonwealth, there were people from England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the West Indies, practically every country that was a member. Elliott says he can trace his paternal ancestors all the way back to England, a place called Shropshire. Apparently, the stories go that it rained a lot in England.”
“It does!” Taylor said. “I’ve been there once or twice.”
“You have?” Rachel looked at Taylor in awe.
“I’m from Earth, it’s nothing special, I can assure you! Now, tell me more about this holiday!”

Taylor sighed and stood up when Rachel finished. “I suppose I ought to go and pack.” She said.
“Have you anything sensible to wear?” Rachel asked. “Anything suitable for a holiday?”
Taylor shook her head. “You can’t pack much if you’re travelling by shuttle.”
“Well let’s go shopping. You too Gleick, I’ve seen the state of your wardrobe, besides, we all need to order our working uniforms from Williams’.”
“What about Fischer!” Stroud protested weakly.
“Oh, he’ll be out for hours yet, I made sure of that!” she said airily. “We won’t be long! We’ll pick up a takeaway too, that way we won’t have to cook!”

Fischer was still asleep when they returned. Taylor and Rachel both carried overnight bags as Rachel had suggested that they all stayed at the flat. Stroud was in two minds about that decision, on the plus side it meant that Rachel was staying over again, on the negative side it meant that they would have guests. He sighed and put the insulated takeaway container down on the table. “Shouldn’t we wait for Fischer?” he asked.
“He won’t come round until morning.” Rachel said as she examined the sleeping officer. “I upped the dose a bit. I’m putting him on a slow nutrient feed for a bit too, he’s even worse about keeping fit than you two!”
“We keep fit!” Stroud complained.
“You keep exercised, yes, but you neglect your insides!”
“We haven’t really had time!” Stroud complained.
“I know that!” Rachel retorted. “That’s why you’re on sick leave!” she examined her datapad for a moment. “I’m banning coffee for the next week and prescribing you extra vitamins and minerals.”
“No coffee?” Stroud asked plaintively.
“No coffee.”
“Fischer is just going to love that!” Taylor said sarcastically. “Come on, let’s eat!”
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Old Apr 28 2006, 04:51 PM   #22
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sorry

I'm afraid there's no escaping those innards! They will return with a vengance! Unfortunately, with the chapters I'm on at the mo- Stroud's innards are mild compared to what happens!

Oh well, before then there is a short introductory section! I know I posted yesterday but I wanted to get a bit ahead and writing relieves the tedium of staring at powerpoint!


Landing Strip

Four officers of the Shehshahan navy stood staring at the gleaming hull of their newly refitted ship. One, a tall, gaunt man with captains rank stripes gleaming gold against the blue-grey of his working uniform turned to his companions.
“Well,” Stroud said, as he picked up his kitbag, shall we go on board?”
“Yes sir!” said the second officer, a short, compact woman, with her cropped black hair tucked neatly inside a beret. “She looks like a ship at last!” she exclaimed gleefully.
“That’s not a ship,” the second man said lugubriously, “that’s a flying pile of paperwork.” A smile split his swarthy face, revealing even white teeth. “I will admit that she looks fun though!” he rubbed his hands together with glee.
Stroud laughed. “Oh she’s fun alright, Fischer. Great fun, right up to the point that you actually have to do some work! Let’s get on board then!” he said.
The fourth officer, a medical officer, laughed and sneaked a hand around Stroud’s waist. “She’s beautiful!” she said.
Stroud smiled down at her. “She is, isn’t she, newly painted, newly re-hulled!” he laughed, “and everything inside is set up the way we want it!”
Rachel laughed. “Is Sahoo on board yet?” she asked.
“Oh yes!” Fischer replied. “She’s on board alright, my stores are already in chaos!”
Taylor, the second officer, snorted. “They already were in chaos!” she said dryly.
“They were not!” Fischer began.
“Children!” Stroud warned jokingly. “We’ve got to set a good example now. Let’s board!”
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Old Apr 30 2006, 11:21 AM   #23
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definately! I've done 3 chapters in between work- I keep getting stuck so here's another bit.

Infirmary

“How’s it going?” Stroud said as he strode through the door to the infirmary.
Rachel looked up from the console where she was working. “Not too bad,” she said as she selected something on the screen. “They’re all waking up now. Sahoo’s busy checking over their medical records and physical condition but they’ve only been Beyond the Dream a few months, so the risks are very low.” She stood up and stretched. “How’s the analysis going?” she asked.
Stroud sighed. “Fine, it wasn’t that hard to spot the cause of the accident. Nottingham’s just recording everything.”
Rachel gave a snort of laughter. “It’s very hard to miss a gaping hole!” she said.
Stroud nodded. “The rest is pretty routine. Rapid decompression of the hull, total vacuum achieved in the bridge section within thirty seconds, all bridge crew were found dead, all crew past the bulkhead were in suspension within five minutes. The inner bulkhead door failed after half an hour according to computer records but all suspension chambers remained in service until rescue.” Stroud shrugged, a nice, simple report. “Have you started the autopsies yet?” he asked.
Rachel nodded. “Yuri Kendal began almost as soon as they were unloaded.”
Stroud laughed. “I saw him supervising the medical crew.”
Rachel rolled her eyes expressively. “You can tell that he’s little more than a pathology student, he’s forever preparing the lab for the first cadaver! He’s so keen!”
“But, they, they’re horrible!” Stroud exclaimed, the colour draining from his cheeks. “I mean, rapid decompression, that’s a horrible way to die, and obvious! What fascinates him?”
“The challenge, the chance to find out more about what happened. I mean, he can tell if they died instantaneously, or if they tried to stop it the breach somehow.”
“Did they?” Stroud asked curiously.
“I don’t know. Yuri’s still busy.”
The door into the medical lab slid open and the young pathologist strolled into the room rubbing his hands together. “First one down!” he began before he stopped and saluted.
“Don’t salute!” Stroud said wearily. “You’re not wearing any kind of headwear. It’s a breach of etiquette to salute without it.”
Yuri stammered an apology.
“Don’t worry,” Stroud said kindly. “I see that the autopsies are going well.”
The young man’s face lit up. “Yes sir!” he said eagerly. “Almost perfect.”
“Almost perfect?” Stroud asked.
“Yes, it looks as if the Captain suffocated almost instantaneously, within a few seconds of the hull being breached.” Yuri looked puzzled.
“Isn’t that good? He died quickly.”
“Yes and no.” Yuri said, a puzzled frown on his face. “He died quickly, but…”
“But what?”
“Let me show you!” Yuri said, his long fingers already tapping out commands to the console. A schematic of the ship came up, it moved from the entrance through the forward bulkhead into the bridge section. “Most of the Bridge crew were on the Bridge which is accessed directly from the forward bulkhead door.” He said.
“Yes.” Stroud said. “I’ve read the report.”
“Well, as the report says, most of the dead crew were on the Bridge, except that the captain was in his cabin, which is parallel with the bridge and separated from it by an internal bulkhead. It is also on the opposite side of the ship from the meteor gash.”
“Yes, what’s so important about that?” Stroud asked impatiently.
“The door seals on the captain’s cabin were sealed before the accident and they did not burst until two minutes after the impact.” Yuri pointed at the correct place in the report. “Why then, did the captain die before the rest of the Bridge crew?”
“He what!” Stroud exclaimed.
“He died at least a minute before anyone else.” Yuri said gravely. “Before the impact.”
“Are you sure?” Stroud asked.
“Pretty sure.” Yuri replied soberly. “Owens’s test is accurate for rapid decompression cases within ten seconds, in slow decompression it’s accurate to five, besides, look at this.” A new image appeared on the screen.
“This is an internal shot of the remains of his respiratory system.” Yuri said, pointing at the image. “There’s the trachea. If you look here, some of the cilia are coated in a dark, sticky substance.”
“People do pick up all sort of dust and muck when they breathe Yuri.” Rachel said patiently. “If you looked at your own lungs you would see all sorts of gunk.”
“Not high-grade machine oil and hydraulic fluid, they’re hazardous fluids. Besides, you don’t normally breathe in oil!” Yuri insisted. “There’s more here. Look! In the alveoli.” He showed them another pinkish image.
Rachel nodded. “It does look suspicious.” She said. “What’s your diagnosis then Yuri?”
The young pathologist looked grave. “I think that the captain was murdered.”
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Old May 3 2006, 07:30 AM   #24
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Here's some more- I was bored so I editted this bit.

Salvage Bay

Lieutenant Nottingham, the Engineering officer looked up from her Messenger when she heard the door to her office open.
“Sir!” she said smartly. “I was just about to contact you!”
“No time for that.” Stroud interrupted. “Is the salvaged ship still in vacuum?”
“Yes sir, there’s…”
“Tell me the details in a bit, get suited up Lieutenant.” Stroud pulled her vacuum suit off the hanger and threw it at her.
Nottingham pulled her suit on and began to run the standard tests on it.
“Sir!” she said urgently.
“What is it!” he said impatiently as he checked over young Yuri Kendal’s suit.
“I don’t think that it’s advisable to send anyone else to examine the ship!”
“Why not?” He demanded irritably.
Nottingham sighed and collected her wits together, if the Captain was going to be difficult, she would have to mind her language. “There is an anomaly in my impact calculations sir, it makes the impact look suspicious, I don’t want to disturb more than I can help until an investigative team examines the ship.”
“Not another one!” Stroud groaned.
Nottingham looked at him in surprise. “What’s the matter, sir?” she asked.
“Firstly Yuri tells me the captain suffocated before the hull was breached and now you tell me that the impact’s wrong!” he picked up his Messenger. “Manilov!” he bellowed down the communicator. “Get here now!”
“Where sir!” the security officer said sleepily, Stroud remembered that Manilov had finished his shift, however, this was a job for the security officer, not his deputy.
“Nottingham’s office. Bring your investigative team with you, Yuri’s already here. Then send Sergeant Penn to the Suspension room, make sure that the patients do not leave the room, record everything they say or do.”
“We’ll be there now!” Manilov said quickly, before he signed off.

Five minutes later Manilov and his investigative team were in Nottingham’s office, they were already suited, with helmets tucked under their arms.
“What’s up sir?” Manilov asked as he checked his suit over one last time.
“We’ve got a murderer among our victims!” Stroud replied.
“A murderer?” Shock filled Manilov’s face for a moment before he grinned wolfishly. “Are we going to investigate the crime scene?” he asked.
“Certainly, there’re two places I want you to concentrate on, the captain’s cabin and the breach itself.”
Manilov nodded. “Brief us on the way!” he said. “Crime scenes wait for no man!”

Stroud stood with Nottingham, Manilov and the security engineer, a young man called John Lee in front of the impact site. Lee stood there grinning as he looked at the gouge. “Just like a chisel!” he said. He stepped up to the hole and ran a hand along it. “Some thrust here, the angle changed a little here, it braked here. Just like a chisel!” he stood there for a moment chewing on a stylus before, with quick, excited strokes he began to sketch on his datapad.
Stroud and the others watched with interest. “Is he always like this?” Stroud asked Manilov.
“Yeah.” The big man said with a nod. “He’s a genius.”
“Then how come he’s a security engineer?” Stroud asked. “Surely one of the universities would have gobbled him up?”
“They nearly did. The kid’s got spirit though. “I met him breaking into the university library.”
“What? Those places are guarded like prisons!”
“Ain’t that what they are?” Manilov grunted. “The one’s that are run like businesses, I mean.”
Stroud sighed. “I’d heard. I went to a military one, they’re more relaxed, more interested in students than money.”
“Yeah well, it turned out that some bureaucrat had been nicking other peoples’ ideas. Lee spotted something was up and decided to investigate. He gave me a report of what had been going on, with appendices containing the stolen theories. Just as if it had been something interesting he’d been studying in lab.” Manilov snorted. “That was why he broke into the library.” He grinned. “Well, the university didn’t want to press charges after I showed them the dossier, but I suggested to Lee that it might be a good idea if he moved on.”
“So he joined security.”
“Yeah, he finished his degree and got a doctorate through us. He’s one of the best investigators I’ve seen. Like I said, he’s a genius.”
The genius looked up and grinned. “I’ve got it!” he said. “This is a mining ship, right, a rapid excavation shuttle, it’s full of tools that could do this! Where’re all the mining robots?”
“In a room off the main mining bay.” Nottingham said.
“Good, has anything been disturbed there?” Lee said.
“No” Nottingham said. “I called off all operations as soon as I noticed that something was wrong.”
“Can you take me there?” Lee said eagerly.
“Certainly.” Nottingham said. “If you’ll just follow me. Be careful, the ship’s secured, but we haven’t checked this area for damage yet, treat it as engineering code amber.”

Stroud stepped into the room nervously, a mining ship was not a large vessel, it was a stout ship, designed for landing in inhospitable climates and for short working periods, but it used what space it had very efficiently. After many years of courier duty, Stroud was used to cramped spaces, but this was seriously claustrophobic! The robotics room was a long corridor packed with shelves, dismantled limbs with razor edged cutting blades or stout cudgel like ends hung from the walls, while the stout bodies were lined up along the floor.
He almost jumped at a glimmer of light that flashed from the headlights of an almost man-like robot that sat huddled against the wall. It looked so life-like! Then he saw that it was just a reflection from Lee’s torch.
“There are two missing!” Nottingham gasped.
“Two?” Lee said. “I was only expecting one, what are they?”
“A small-scale rock extractor and a crawler-camera.”
Lee nodded. “Is there another small-scale rock extractor?”
“Here!” Nottingham flashed her torch onto a squat device with a wedge shaped front.
“Just like a chisel!” Lee exclaimed. He measured the device’s dimensions. “Within a few millimetres!” he whistled. “What are the specifications of this thing?”
Nottingham found the manual attached to the wall above it. Lee tapped a few numbers into his pad.
“Perfect!” he said. “We’ve found our meteor!”
“What about the other missing robot?” Stroud asked.
“I suggest that we go and look!” Manilov said with a shrug.

They found it in the captain’s cabin, wedged by its suckers underneath the desk.
“Is it safe?” Stroud asked the investigative team that had found it.
“Perfectly!” Lee said as he pulled a pair of sterile gloves over his suit gloves. “Its circuits have blown.” He moved it into the light. “Deliberately too! It looks like someone’s put a charge here, and soldered together these power cables, hmmm, yes… I’ll have to take it to lab before I can analyse it properly.” He examined the robot’s casing. “Hey Yuri!”
“What is it?” Yuri said.
“I think that you ought to look at this. Someone’s been meddling with this crawler pad, besides, I think that’s a hair stuck on it! Greying, just like that captain.”
“Bag it up Lee.” Manilov ordered. “Singh! You lead a team! I want you to search this ship from bridge to cargo bay! Anything, and I mean anything, suspicious turns up, you plot it, bag it and bring it to the lab, pronto! The rest of you, back to your duties!”
“One moment please sir.” Lee said. “But could someone do the captain’s Messenger, datapad and main computer now, I want to analyse them straight away. Then the first officer’s.”
“Certainly. You do realise that they both died, Lee?” Manilov asked.
“Yeah, I want to look at them anyway. I’d like to look at the ship’s computers insitu too, but that’s out of bounds until this place is cleared.” Lee glanced at the walls, there were marks where things had been pulled off the wall by the rush of outgoing air when the hull had been breached, but a few objects remained, and one in particular his attention. “Do you see that, sir?” he asked pointing at a symbol painted on the wall.
Manilov looked at it for a moment. “Ain’t that a cult symbol?” he asked.
“Sure is!” Lee said. He bit his thumb. “I want everything in this room sent to my office, oh, and scan this room for bugs. Damn!” he swore. “This is gonna make everything more complicated!”
“What is?” Stroud asked. He glanced at the symbol. “Are the Four Elementists still going? They were more or less dying out in my day.”
Lee nodded. “They sure are! They’ve got quite a following in the universities. They don’t like me.”
“Why not?”
“I’m good at cracking their codes; I spent three months undercover as a lab technician trying to find out about a cell in Murdoch University. Damn!” He swore again. “This is gonna take days to crack!”
Manilov patted him on the back. “You can do it kid!” he said mock-comfortingly. “You’ve done it before!”
“I know! But Four Elementists learn! Every time I crack their code they come up with a new one!” He sighed. “Well, if the captain’s things are plotted, I’ll go and examine them.”
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Old May 4 2006, 06:05 PM   #25
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It's in. I've edited. I've begun a new chapter.

Security

“How’s he going?” Stroud asked.
“Still at it.” Manilov said. He stood up. “Take a look if you want.” He squeezed past Stroud and peered through the window into Lee’s tiny office. “He’s up to something at the moment, I’d leave going in until he says so.”
Stroud peered through the blue-tinted plastic window. Lee was sitting enthroned in the middle of a room full of bits and pieces. It was barely big enough for a desk and chair but there were shelves all around it and each shelf was crammed full of odds and ends, datapads, models, pieces of broken computers. The only clear area was the desk and that was where the dead captain’s computer and datapad sat.
“I’ve got it!” Lee exclaimed as Stroud watched. He began to type rapidly, filling the screen of his monitor with rows of symbols. He picked up a datapad wrapped in a multicoloured cloth from a nearby shelf and, after unwrapping it, he began to skip through the pages, suddenly he stopped and began to type, his monitor flashed and he grinned. “Lieutenant Manilov!” he shouted. “I’ve cracked it!”
Manilov opened the door and beckoned for Stroud to follow him. “What’s happened, kid?” Manilov asked.
“I’ve cracked the captain’s code. It was encoded by using the Book of Elements, they’ve upped the encryption since last time, but I saw a reference I recognised.” He typed again. “Afternoon sir!” he said, recognising Stroud. “I’ll just decipher the diary for you.” He typed rapidly and the diary appeared in plain text.
Stroud read the diary as Lee scrolled. It seemed pretty commonplace apart from the last few lines of each entry, which appeared to be prayers to the elements.
“Captain, Lieut, look at this bit!” Lee said. “I’ve researched the Four-Elementists pretty thoroughly, so I kinda know what their prayers mean. The captain’s sounding desperate here, it looks like their mother ship’s had a run of bad luck. He says that the elements are unbalanced.”
Stroud read the bit through. “But that’s medieval! The four elements theory has been out of date sine the first renaissance!”
“Four-Elementists believe that the theory still applies on the macroscopic scale, and only by balancing the elements can life occur.” Lee explained, before he turned back to the screen.
“Captain, I think you ought to read this.” he said, highlighting a passage filled with obscure squiggles and symbols.
“What is it?” Stroud asked.
“This bit here is an equation.” Lee said pointing to a set of obscure symbols. “The square stands for earth, the circle stands for air, up triangle for fire, down triangle for water. The equation here’s trying to balance the symbols, and this is the result.” He pointed at a sum at the bottom of the page.
“I’ve got that.” Stroud said. “What’s this file?”
“I think,” Lee said solemnly, “that this is the solution to our mystery.”
He glanced at it and nodded. “Yeah, it is, I’ll read it to you.” He sighed, cracked his knuckles and began to read out loud.
“It so pleases the universe that everything should be balanced.” He began. “Earth, air, fire and water combine to make us, the animals and plants we feed on and the minerals we mine. As long as we preserve this balance, life for life, load for load then the universe is satisfied and she blesses us. If we dare to disturb her balance then her wrath will fall upon us and our animals and plants will sicken and our mines yield no minerals. We have displeased her and she has shown us her wrath in the failure of our hydroponics and the lack of minerals in our asteroids. I, Basalt, brother of the guardians of the elements have seen this and shall rectify the balance. A fitting sacrifice must be made to the universe, and only my ship and the lives of all who travel on her will fulfil this. A sacrifice must be made.
I have arranged for two mining robots to be brought to my cabin by Brother Brook, my engineering officer, this plan must be kept between the two of us, as we are the only members of the brethren upon this vessel and the heathen crew will thwart our noble mission if they hear of it. Therefore, Brother Brook will reprogram two of the robots, the first one will act as the sacrificial knife, gouging a hole, like the hole an asteroid makes when it glances off a vessel, freeing the air of the vessel and the lives of the crew into the service of the universe. The second robot shall perform the first sacrifice, for while Brother Brook has promised to perform the sacrificial prayers on the bridge, I will become the first sacrificial victim, suffocated by a robot, so that my spirit may go forth to open the gateway to the universe to my brothers. It is a task I willingly perform.” Lee stopped.
“The rest is just a prayer to the universe.” He said.
Stroud nodded. “Manilov, let the prisoners go free.” He said weakly. “Lee, can you prepare a report on this?”
Lee nodded.
“Good, I’m taking us to the nearest station. Make sure your report is ready by then.” He pushed past Manilov and rushed into the corridor where he stood taking deep breaths of the cool, filtered air. He felt sickened and dirty and he pushed past startled crewmembers to his cabin and the shower.
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Old May 8 2006, 04:17 PM   #26
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Return to the Infirmary

“Sir!” Taylor said, snapping to attention as Stroud entered the bridge.
“At ease,” Stroud said wearily. He took his seat and signed onto the computer.
“Are you sure you ought to take this shift?” Taylor’s voice was full of concern.
Stroud sighed. “I’ve got to; everyone else’s busy or just off-shift!”
“There’s Fischer.” Taylor suggested.
“He’s still sorting out the supplies from the last stop.” Stroud said.
“They can wait!” Taylor said. “You know Fischer, he’s never satisfied. It’ll do him good to take a watch.” She summoned Fischer with her Messenger.
“Morning!” Fischer said as he burst through the bridge door. “You look awful sir!” he added.
“Fischer, take over here.” Taylor ordered. “We’re still on course for home. The captain’s ill and I’m taking him to the infirmary.”
Fischer nodded in response. “Yes Ma’am.” He said.
“Very well!” Stroud managed as Taylor propelled him from the bridge.

“Are you still having nightmares?” Taylor asked as they strode down the corridor.
“You know?” Stroud said in surprise.
“My cabin’s just the other side of the corridor. You’re a noisy sleeper!”
Stroud sighed. “Yeah.” He said softly. “I’ve been having nightmares, every time I close my eyes I hear my old first officer.” He bowed his head. “Just before he died he was trying to tell me something. I hear his voice, and then I see that mining shuttle, with all the crew lying in suspension, rows and rows of them, but they’re all dead! As dead as the occupants in the suspension chambers in Sahoo’s lab!” He shuddered. “I’m frightened to close my eyes now! Every time I shut them I see those staring faces, grinning skulls and rotting flesh! Every time, until I fall asleep out of exhaustion, and even then they dog my dreams!”
Taylor pressed the lift buttons and they travelled up to the next floor and the infirmary.
Rachel was in the corridor when the lift door opened. She gasped in alarm when she saw Stroud. “Gleick!” she exclaimed. “Whatever have you been doing to yourself?” she took hold of his arm and dragged him into the infirmary.
“He’s been having nightmares.” Taylor stated bluntly.
“Nightmares! Not again!”
“Again?” Stroud asked. “I don’t remember having nightmares since you’ve known me.”
“You did. When you were first awoken. Constantly, I kept having to sedate you.”
“I don’t remember any of that.” Stroud admitted.
“You wouldn’t want to.” Rachel said bluntly. “It was bad enough just to watch.” She turned down one of the infirmary beds and flung a hospital gown at Stroud. “Get changed and into bed.” She ordered. “I’ll be back in a moment.”

Stroud woke slowly, the bed was soft and the room was quiet and dimly lit.
“You awake?” It was Sahoo. She bent her neck to look at him. “You sleep well?” she asked.
Stroud sat up. “I think so.” He said.
“Good!” she said. “You slept a long, long time!”
“What!” he exclaimed. “How long?”
“Oh, seven, eight hours, longer zan my shift.” She said with a shrug.
“Is that all!” he said lightly.
“Is all.” She aid seriously. “For now.” She bobbed her head. “Rachel says zat id is your shifd soon and you musd go, but come here af-der-wards.”
Stroud sighed and sat up. “Pass me my things then.” he said resignedly.

“How are you feeling?” Rachel asked as he came in to the infirmary after his shift. “Did you sleep well?”
Stroud nodded. “What did you give me?”
“A half dose of Berrifuneric Harterinoxide.”
“What?”
“It’s an intelligent sedative, it only works until the patient is fully asleep and then it degrades, allowing the patient to sleep naturally.”
“Well, whatever it is, it works!” he said. “I had no nightmares at all. Can I have some more for tonight?”
“No, capdain!” Sahoo said. “Is nod good for you, it was risky to give you one dose, two might be dan-ger-ous!”
“Berrifuneric is a primary suspension drug. The effects of an overdose can be quite spectacular. I’ve performed an autopsy on a suspension victim who was given too much Berrifuneric, he had severe brain damage and heart failure. You know what it is like when you have a bad nightmare. You wake up in a cold sweat, your heart is pumping, you’re disorientated and you have high adrenaline levels, now multiply that by at least ten, then you get the symptoms of a Berrifuneric overdose.”
“You know we call suspen-sion beyond sa dream.” Sahoo added. “Perhaps sat was a mis-trans-lation, perhaps it is better described as Beyond sa nighd-mare.” She shrugged eloquently.
Stroud looked at her in confusion. “But I don’t remember anything when I was in suspension.”
“You won’t.” Rachel said. “Beyond the Dream is a strange place, it’s Sahoo’s specialist area rather than mine but I can explain it. Something happens to the mind when the body is in suspension, there is some brain activity, but it does not resemble anything that occurs naturally. As you know, all the automatic functions of the brain in suspension are taken over by the computer, there is nothing for the brain to do, but it still does something!” Rachel sighed. “It might be causing pleasant dreams, terrible nightmares or even a temporary cessation of existence…”
“What?”
“It might be that the conscious part that is you, does not exist for a time, suspension patients have no memory of what occurs there. Something does, I’ve seen cases where equipment has broken and the victim has been brought out of suspension too rapidly, they’re invariably brain damaged. Something occurs there, but no one knows what.”
Stroud sighed. “Well, I certainly don’t remember anything!”
“But you’ve had these nightmares and nightmares seem to be a side effect of prolonged suspension. They might occur constantly, or, as in your case turn up after a period of stress or an unpleasant experience.”
“Like zat su-i-cide!” Sahoo added.
Stroud nodded. “I suppose so.” He said. “Can you do anything about it.”
Rachel shook her head. “No, nothing seems to work, none of the standard cures. The only thing that we can do is administer a small dose of Berrfuneric to stop the patient becoming exhausted.”
“Oh.” Stroud said. “Then what can I do.”
“Just try to relax.” Rachel said. “We’ll be home again soon, and then you can stop worrying about anything. Until then, you’ll just have to cope.”
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Old May 10 2006, 02:37 PM   #27
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You nearly got my lab acknowledgements list to read then! I'm afraid you're all stuck with the next chapter now though!

Cabin

Stroud flicked morosely through the entertainment channels. As usual there was nothing on worth watching. He sighed and lay back on the narrow bed, his hands clasped behind his head. He was so bored! They were on a routine sweep at the moment, and so far, every station they had visited had had nothing for them to investigate. He glanced at the clock n the wall, watching the digital seconds flow away. Rachel was on duty with Sahoo, some idiot had managed to crush the bones in his hand in a door. In a door! The doors weren’t meant to shut until the sensors showed that the area was clear, yet somehow there was now a man in sickbay with half a hand!
He sighed petulantly and stood up. Nottingham was checking all the doors now, for blips in their programming. He had always known that that holiday had been a bad idea! Redd had been a complete bungler! Stroud flicked through the pages of their missing ships list. He was so glad that Admiral Elliott had got rid of him.
The lights dimmed slightly.
“Sorry sir!” Nottingham called through the door. “There’s a loose connection here. Do you mind going somewhere else for ten minutes, sir?”
Stroud gave a deep sigh and stood up. “I’m going now. Do you need to get into my cabin?”
“I don’t think so sir.” Nottingham replied, still muffled by the door.
Stroud opened the door and went outside. “Let me know when you’ve finished.” He said as he strode off down the corridor.

“Hello Gleick.” Rachel muttered abstractly as he entered her cabin. She was reading something. She dropped her datapad suddenly. “I thought you were on your sleep period?” she said. “Nightmares?”
Stroud shook his head. “No, at least, not my nightmare. Nottingham is checking over my door.”
Rachel nodded. “She’s already been here! Take a seat!” she said pointing at a bunk. “Coffee?”
Stroud nodded. “Yes please!” he said.
Rachel went out of the room. Stroud glanced at her datapad. “New excavation on Kendy.” He read. Curiously, he flicked through the article; odd phrases had been highlighted, and here and there were links to memos.
“I’ve brought…” Rachel began. “Oh, did I leave that thing switched on?”
Stroud nodded. “I didn’t know that you were interested in archaeology.” He said.
“I’m not!” she said. “Just the results.” She ran through the article.
“The results?”
“Old technology, obsolete medical centres, lost documents.” She said. “I’ve got a case about this age. I was seeing if there was anything new.”
“Was there?”
“They’ve just uncovered an ancient suspension chamber but it’s about two hundred years older than anything I’ve seen. “ Rachel shrugged. “That was a few days ago though, they may have found more.”
“We’ll be at Amsterdam station in a few minutes.” He said. “You can download any updates then. We’ll only be there for a few hours though. We’re just checking for dispatches.”
His messenger bleeped. “Stroud here!” he barked.
“We’ll be docking for messages in two minutes sir, are you coming to the bridge?”
“I’ll be there in thirty seconds.” He said. “Coming Rachel?”
Rachel nodded. “That’ll be good.”

“Messages downloading.” Taylor reported.
Stroud nodded. “Anything interesting?”
Taylor scanned the list. “Mainly personal messages.” She refined the search parameters. “There’s an urgent one here though, for you.”
Stroud scanned it through. “Rachel,” he said.
“Yes?”
“You know you wanted to see if there was anything new at that dig.”
“Yeah…”
“Well, don’t bother with the download now, we’re off to Kendy!”
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Old May 12 2006, 06:30 PM   #28
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Old Friend

The view from the bridge as they slowly swooped through the atmosphere of Kendy was amazing. The landing site was situated near a large volcano, its shattered, cone-like peak evidence of the mystery of Kendy. A blue ocean shimmered in the distance, while herds of animals, some obviously of Earth origin, galloped across the green grass as the ship glided across the plain to the landing site.
“Welcome to Kendy!” The tall young man greeted them as he strode across the smooth ground to meet them. “Professor Zeeman is at the dig site.” He gave a relieved grin. “I’m glad that you’re here! It’s been a bit awkward here recently. I mean, paradise is alright as long as you can leave it!”
“I’m Captain Stroud, Shehshahan Navy.”
The young man nodded. “I’m Doctor Simon O’Donnell.” He said. “Who else is coming to see the Professor?”
“My second in command, Commander Taylor, my quartermaster, Lieutenant Fischer and Doctor Ahasd, one of our specialist medical staff.”
“Good, good!” O’Donnell said. He nodded at Taylor and Fischer and, to Stroud’s surprise, gave the correct hand gesture to Sahoo.
The Shehshahan rattled her head quills appreciatively. “Is good!” she said appreciatively. “Have you visided Shehshan?”
“No, but we have a Shehshahan archaeologist in our team.” O’Donnell grinned again. “We’ve had quite a lot of time to practice this trip!”
“How long have you been here?” Stroud asked.
“Just over three years. We should have left last month, but, as you know, our shuttle’s knackered!” he sighed. “At least we can leave the less vital items here.”
“You’re coming back?”
“Yes, we’ve got a few months rest and research, then we’re back.” He gave another grin. “We’d better go! The Professor’s very anxious that we get packed up as soon as possible.” He led the way to the semi-permanent settlement that had been built a short distance from the dig.

“Professor!” O’Donnell called through the door of the nearest building.
The door swung open and O’Donnell led them in. A little old woman was sitting in a padded armchair wrapped in a blanket. “Ah, Simon!” she said briskly. “Are these our rescuers?”
“Yes Tanya.” O’Donnell said, gesturing to the four officers. “Here are Captain Stroud, Commander Taylor, Lieutenant Fischer and Doctor Ahasd from the Shehshahan Navy.”
“Shehshan hmm. I remember now.” The old woman said. “You’re the specialist salvage unit.”
“Yes Ma’am.” Stroud said. “We were sent to you by the Archaeological Society.”
“At last.” The woman said dryly. “I’m afraid that we have no time to talk just now. Most of our equipment is packed but we need to leave quickly. It’s getting near the wet season here, in fact, if you look south you can see the clouds.” She sighed.
Stroud nodded. “I’ll send some of my crew under Lieutenant Fischer to help your team.”
“Thank you Captain. Are you taking our shuttle with you?”
“I’ve been ordered to.” Stroud said. “What condition is it in?”
“Broken.” Professor Zeeman said firmly. “We had bad floods three months ago and the shuttle got swamped.”
“Swamped?” Stroud asked. “I thought that shuttles were waterproof.”
“They are.” The little old lady stood up. “Unless someone leaves the doors open. I think that you ought to send your engineer to pick her up. I hope that you’ve got towing gear.”

“You don’t remember me, do you Captain?” Professor Zeeman asked that evening in the mess.
Stroud looked at her for a moment and frowned. “There’s something familiar, but I can’t quite place it.”
“Probably not.” She said. “It’s been more than fifty years.” She smiled. “I wasn’t Zeeman then either. I was Tanya Field.”
“Tanya Field!” Stroud looked at her in disbelief. “But you used to baby sit my Simon when we went out. Aileen used to talk about you a lot. She said that you used to come round and keep her company when I was away.”
She nodded. “Yes, I was there when they reported you missing.” She sighed. “Aileen was distraught.” She sighed. “I’d never seen anything like it before and I haven’t seen it since.”
“Tell me about it.” Stroud demanded.
“Are you sure?” Tanya said. “It’s not a, well, I don’t think I will ever forget what happened.”
“Tell me, Aileen was my wife! I should know!
Tanya nodded. “Very well.” She said. “I’ll tell you.”
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Old May 16 2006, 11:24 AM   #29
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Here's a bit more! Feel welcome to leave feed back here http://forums.srellim.org/showthread.php?t=2487

Mess

“It’s so long ago now, but there are some things that you can never forget.” Tanya began. “As I said before, I was babysitting at the time. I’d just arrived and Aileen was just getting ready to go out.

“Oh Tanya!” Aileen Stroud said, opening the door. “Please come in!” She smiled wearily.
Tanya smiled back; she was a slight girl with long dark hair that had been braided with colour-changing threads. “Is everything alright?”
“Yes, yes, it’s just that there hasn’t been a message from Gleick yet and he always calls me when he reaches a station!” she said anxiously.
“Perhaps he’s been delayed?” Tanya suggested.
“Yes, yes.” Aileen said quickly. “He’s been delayed, it’s so obvious!” she sat down on heavily on a chair.
“You’re worried?” Tanya asked.
“Yes, I know that I shouldn’t be, but you’ve heard all the news recently.” She sighed. “I’m so worried.”
“Captain Stroud’s a war hero! A little bit of an argument won’t bother him!” Tanya pointed out.
“But that was before I knew him.” Aileen wailed. “I’ve never had to worry about him before!”
“He’ll be alright!” Tanya said.
“Of course!” Aileen said. “I’d better go now.” She said. “I shouldn’t be too long today, but you never know!”
Tanya nodded. “I’ll let you know if there are any messages.”

Aileen looked terrified when she came home and there was no message waiting. She gratefully accepted Tanya’s offer to stay until there was word. She sat down in the living room and watched as Tanya read Simon another story.
The house messenger rang and Aileen gasped. “Answer it please!” she said in a choked voice.
Tanya picked up the handset and answered it. “Stroud, Tanya Field speaking.” She said smoothly and professionally.
“Ms Field,” an official sounding voice replied. “Is Mrs Stroud in?”
“Yes sir.” Tanya replied.
“Could you pass this message on for me.” The man paused significantly.
“Yes sir.”
“Please could you tell her that Captain Stroud and the Rutherford have been reported missing. Search and Rescue vehicles have been deployed and they have found pieces of a vessel that has been identified as a craft of that type.” The message ended.
“Mrs Stroud?” Tanya said. “Captain Stroud is dead.”
“Dead! He’s dead! Gleick’s dead!” Aileeen screamed and screamed again. “He’s gone!” she grabbed Simon up in her arms and began to rock to and fro. “He can’t be dead. He can’t be!”
“The man didn’t give any details, but they’ve found bits of a similar craft.” Tanya explained.
“Gleick!” she cried. “Where are you? I need you! I need you so much! Gleick!”
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Old May 19 2006, 04:25 PM   #30
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Discussions

“Stop! Please!” Stroud cried. “I don’t want to hear any more!”
Tanya nodded. “I did warn you.”
Stroud sighed. “I suppose that you did. Tell me, did she get over it?”
Tanya shrugged. “Not really, she just transformed her grief into determination.”
“I read the news reports.”
“Yes, I guess that you would have. They don’t say everything though. She was very brave.”
Stroud nodded. “She always was.”
“Rachel Sergeant’s like that too.” Tanya said suddenly.
“Rachel?” Stroud looked startled.
“Haven’t you noticed?” Tanya asked. She looked at him shrewdly. “I suppose that you haven’t. Rachel and Aileen are both very similar. They’re both very brave, very loving, very private and very dedicated.”
“I-I hadn’t noticed!” Stroud admitted shamefacedly.
“I don’t suppose you would have. You always did take people at face value. Ask Rachel about Major Smith and Doctor Adams.” Tanya smiled. “Perhaps then you’ll find out some more about her.” She turned away from him to talk to Doctor O’Donnell.

“Rachel?” Stroud asked that evening, as they were about to leave the Mess. “Who are Major Smith and Doctor Adams?”
Rachel looked at him sharply. “Have you been talking to the Professor?”
“Yes,” he admitted.
“About time too!” she said.
“Well who are thy?”
“You’ve met them.” She replied. “Well, you’ve seen them, anyway.”
“Where? When?” Stroud stared at her.
“In the lab back on Shehshan. If you remember there was a double suspension capsule among the patients that I couldn’t wake.”
“Yeah, they looked scared. I remember that.”
Rachel nodded. “I don’t know why, the professor found them on a dig five years or so ago. They were in an abandoned survey camp. There was no one else there and the camp looked as if it had been abandoned in a hurry. We managed to date it to about one hundred and fifty years ago, there were some odds and ends lying about the camp but most of it was ruined except for the equipment in the shelter where we found Smith and Adams. That was in almost pristine condition. We even managed to recover the music file they were listening to when they went into suspension.”
“What was it?”
“Some piece of ancient music, a copy of a song from the twentieth century AD. A bit odd, to be honest, something about a spaceman and ground control.” She shrugged. “There was lots of twentieth century stuff there; replicas mainly but there were a few pieces that were genuine. They’re all at the History Museum now, except for Smith and Adams.”
Stroud nodded. “Why can’t you wake them?”
“We don’t know how! The equipment is obsolete.” Rachel sighed. “If only I knew how I could wake them like that!” she snapped her fingers. “But I don’t!”
“Surely there are records?”
“They’re all archived, or they’re lost. If not in the Pirate Wars, they were destroyed in The Great Purge of the last war.”
“What about a private historian?” Stroud asked.
“A private historian? They’re worse than the public ones!” she sighed. “Besides, one hundred and fifty years ago does not appear to be a fashionable area!”
“What about Oliver Dresden?” Stroud asked.
“Who?”
Stroud looked at her in disbelief. “You’ve not heard of Oliver Dresden?” He exclaimed. “But he was the most famous private historian ever when I went into suspension! Young too! He was nearly a decade younger than me!”
“Not a clue I’m afraid!” she said. “The surname’s familiar, the Dresdens’ are quite a powerful family, but I’ve never heard of Oliver Dresden.” She thought for a moment. “Hang on.” She bit her lip. “The Dresden’s don’t like mentioning where their money came from. They do say that it came from publishing.”
Stroud nodded. “Oliver Dresden converted his knowledge into novels, good ones too!”
“That’d be why the Dresdens’ don’t mention him, it’s not exactly an approved profession among the wise and wealthy!”
“It used to be perfectly alright fifty years ago!”
“It went out of favour during the war. No one had that much time for writing, and those that did were felt to be hypocrites for having the time to write about great heroes when the heroes were dying like flies!”
Stroud nodded. “I suppose so! It’d be a good idea to find out what happened to Dresden and his work. I remember he wrote a book on a ship of that period.
“When we get to the station I’ll download his books.” She replied. “Good night Captain!”
“Good night Doctor!”
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Old May 26 2006, 06:55 PM   #31
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Old Friends

“I see what you meant!” Rachel said as she scanned the novel. “Have you found anything out about what happened to him?”
Stroud shook his head. “Not much. He was lost in a shuttle accident. His family inherited his research, book rights and private museum.”
“Can we see them?” Rachel asked.
Stroud shrugged. “I don’t know.” He said. “I found his family’s address but no more, he’s got quite a small presense on the net for such a popular author, even one from fifty years ago. His books are still in print too.”
Rachel glanced at the address and groaned. “It’s the same Dresden. That explains why there’s not much about him on the net! Drat! That’s the end of that train of thought.”
“Why?” Stroud asked.
“The Dresdens’ are the most close mouthed, tight fisted, puffed up bunch of nouveau- aristocracy that you ever hope not to meet!”
Stroud looked at her in surprise. “How come?”
“Have you heard of the Jewel affair?”
Stroud shook his head. “Can’t say that I have!”
“Well Jewel was one of those small agrarian planets that didn’t really get involved in the war, but it was owned by one of the corporations that were divided up after the war. Anyway, the Dresdens’ won it when it was auctioned off and they ran it pretty efficiently until the citizens asked for independence.”
“What happened then?”
“The Dresdens’ refused. Said that they had invested a significant amount of money into Jewel and that, in order to gain independence the planet would have to pay it back in instalments, but they slapped on considerable interest.”
“So,”
“Well they had to pay it back, but the interest is so much that they have now got to pay seven times the original price.”
Stroud sighed. “Oliver would have hated that.”
“You knew him?”
“And his wife!” Stroud snorted.
“You knew Anastasia Dresden?” Rachel sounded incredulously.
“Yeah, I met Oliver during the Pirate Wars, we sort of became friends, you didn’t become very close to anyone, the fatalities were so high. Then, after the war, we both became minor celebrities and Anastasia Green, as she was then, did her best to hook her talons into one of us. I met Aileen so she netted Oliver. They seemed quite happy when I last saw them. Why do you ask?”
“Because Anastasia Dresden runs the whole operation, Old Mother Dresden has had quite an impact in the last fifty years!”
“I bet that she did!” Stroud said. “She was that type.”
“Well, after Oliver Dresden’s death Anastasia forbade anyone to mention him in her presence and converted the explosion in profits due to his books into good, solid stock.”
Stroud nodded. “Well, let’s go and find her!”
“I wish that we could, but she won’t see anyone she doesn’t want to and mere officers and scientists are pretty far down the list.”
“I bet that she’d see me!” Stroud said with a wide grin. “Me and Anna go back a very long way. We’ll stop off there next time we’re in that area!” he grinned. “Anna Dresden in charge of a financial empire…” he began to chuckle as he stored the address into his datapad.
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Old Jun 7 2006, 06:10 AM   #32
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Sorry, it's been a while! I got back home last Tuesday and have been at work four times including the food hygiene course, since then! I wasn't supposed to start until this Thursday. Anyway, here's some more- if people want to leave feedback- or just tell me to stop! there's a feedback thread somewhere...

Night-time

“Come back safely Gleick!” Aileen said softly. She fell backwards, a gaping hole in her chest, a hole that grew in size until it turned into the slash carved into the side of a space ship. Stroud climbed through the hole and into a ship full of the floating bodies of the dead crew of the mining ship. He walked on and there were more bodies, he saw the body of his old first officer drift past, his hands held out pleadingly and a terrified expression on his deathly pale face, and then that of Sergeant Cook, apparently asleep, cocooned in suspension tubing and warning tape.
He walked on, and more bodies appeared. Nameless, faceless bodies, victims of the war his actions had started. He hurried past them onto the bridge where Taylor and Fischer sat sprawled across their monitors, their heads caved in, their rich red blood flowing over the floor, mixing with the bluey fluid that had once belonged to Sahoo. The blue and red flowed together, the fluids blending into a sickly purple.
He walked towards the commander’s seat and glanced at the navigator’s seat where Rachel sat, her body was rigid, but her neck was broken and she stared at Stroud through unseeing eyes.
“What have you done?” said a rich, mocking voice somewhere behind him.
He spun around to see a girl in the commander’s seat. She smiled and shook her head slowly as he tried to approach her. “Too late Gleick. You’ve tempted fate too often. You’re alone now, but remember that none of this would have happened if you had married me instead!” Anna said as she faded away into darkness.

Stroud woke with a start. He slumped back down onto the pillow and sighed. He closed his eyes again but sleep would not come. He reached out for the sleep inducers that Rachel had reluctantly given him. He was only supposed to take them in an emergency, but he needed sleep so badly. Tomorrow he was supposed to be seeing Anastasia Dresden, and, if little Anna was anything like he remembered he would need all his wits about him and a few to spare. He must sleep!
He felt his limbs begin to feel heavy as the inducer took effect. His panicked breathing slowed to a more steady rhythm, before his eyes closed and he fell into a dreamless sleep.
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Old Jun 27 2006, 06:09 PM   #33
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I know I haven't done any for a bit (and I thought holiday meant I could rest) but here's a very little bit!
Boy

“Lady Dresden?” the station manager drawled as Stroud showed him his credentials. “Lady Dresden won’t see the likes of you my boy!” he looked at him. “Ah, and that’s where the problem is too. If you were a boy now, then she’d see you. If you’ll excuse my mentioning it though captain, you ain’t no boy anymore. You’ve had what, fifty-five years, if you’ve had a day!” he sighed. “But if you were young, you’re not having an invitation would get you past all Lady Dresden’s guards without too much trouble!” the garrulous man paused for breath as his monitor bleeped. “You’d better go sir! Miss Dresden will be here soon and she does not like unscheduled visitors!” The station manager opened the door of his office and shooed Stroud away.

“A boy.” Stroud mused as he answered the sentry’s salute. Who could he send that would satisfy Anna’s sense of taste? He sighed as he went through the list. Not Fischer, he was far too stationy for her and Yuri was far too excitable to even get past the manager. Then there was John Lee. Lee, yes, Lee could do it, he was a security officer anyway, and he looked the part, and he had the brains to fool even Anna…
“Richardson!” he snapped at the sentry. “Contact Lee, tell him to meet me in my cabin yesterday!” he strode off towards his cabin, a slight smile on his face.

“Sir?” Lee asked nervously once he was seated in Stroud’s cabin. “What do you need me for?”
Stroud smiled. “Tell me Lee, do you have much experience in charming old ladies?”
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Old Jul 27 2006, 04:57 PM   #34
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Sorry it's been a while- I've been busy!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Old Dreams

Stroud read the gold edged invatation card Lee had given him and smiled. “Lady Anastasia Dresden invites the Captain and officers of the Shehshahan Vessel Kenya to a Grand Ball, held in memory of her beloved late Husband this evening at seven.” He read. He smiled as he took his dress uniform out of the wardrobe. This was going to be fun!

“Lady Dresden,” Lee bowed ingratiatingly. “I would like you to meet my captain, Captain Gleick Stroud, Shehshahan navy, Courier Service, honour graduate, order of the Galaxy and bar.”
Stroud bowed at the plump lady sitting enthroned in an antique chrome throne. He recognised it as the Neo-Deco chair that Dresden had used when he was writing. She nodded her head gravely then looked up suddenly.
The years, or most probably surgery had been quite kind to Anastasia Dresden although she had let her hair fade to a snowy white. She looked as if she normally ruled her household like an empress of legend. Her shrewd eyes widened with shock.
“Stroud… Gleick! I thought you were dead!” she glared at him. “You don’t look a day over sixty!”
“The preservative effect of Suspension my dear Anna!” Gleick gave a mocking bow.
She smiled at him. “Well, its such a pity that Aileen and my dear departed Oliver can’t be here to see you again.”
“Indeed.”
“Tell me captain, what brings you to my domicile?”
“A question?”
“A question!” Anna laughed. “My dear Gleick, what question requires you to drag your crew to such a remote place as this?”
“A question that only your husband’s notes can answer.”
She looked at him, all the humour gone from her face. “Then you have come to the wrong place. My husband’s notes are not here.”
“Where are they then?”
“A question that the salvage crews did their best to answer nearly forty years ago my dear man.” She looked at him. “My husband and his library disappeared on their way to our home here thirty eight years ago. They have not been found yet! Look for them if you wish! They’re probably just atoms floating through the cosmos! Search my dear Stroud, search like Aileen searched for you! You won’t find him!” she laughed cruelly. “Go now, I have other guests to greet!”
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Old Aug 12 2006, 04:19 PM   #35
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Here's a bit more. The feedback thread's here http://forums.srellim.org/showthread.php?t=2487
so here goes!

A Flight

“Laura! Laura!”
Laura Reading scrambled to the edge of her nest and looked outside. Sharee was waiting, her head quills rattling in excitement.
“What is it?” Laura asked, wriggling her fingers curiously.
“It’s not raining!” Sharee said excitedly.
“Is the monsoon over?” Laura asked.
“Drigg says so!” The young yellow-green Sheshahan flapped her wings in excitement.
“One moment!” Laura said and she scrambled back inside. A moment later, after Treesh had sent her back to brush her hair, she scrambled down the rope to the ground below.
“Can we go now?” Sharee pleaded, her quills rattling with impatience.
“Sure!” and Laura scrambled into the little aircar she had been given in order to keep up with her avian companions. She took off and Sharee followed, quickly catching up with the pottering craft.
Sometimes Laura wondered what it would be like to fly like her friends and family. She was the only surviving human in Hrrigg-Grah and had been brought up by the Shehshahans. Every now and again someone from Hiss-Glock would turn up to see her, and twice a month she, and the other youngsters would travel there for extra lessons, but Laura didn’t mind, Treesh and Fregg looked after her as well as any human foster family could and her friends were all here. She felt a little lost around humans anyway; they were so much stiller than the Shehshahans that it was difficult not to get impatient when they spoke.
“Where are we going?” she asked over the radio.
“Vrig-Crawg!” Sharee said with glee.
“Isn’t that forbidden?” Laura gasped.
“Normally, but Drigg says that there’s been another mudslide and that we can over fly it for him as long as we don’t land!” The mimic took on the tones of her father. “We’re old enough now to be able to make independent observations for ourselves!”
Laura chuckled. “Well, let’s go!”

Vrig-Crawg was a sea of mud.
“More of the town has gone!” Sharee exclaimed as they flew over the abandoned settlement.
“It’s uncovered some more of the caves though.” Laura did a flypast of the ancient homes that had been found after the first landslide ten years before. “Sharee!” she exclaimed, pointing towards a cave halfway up the hillside. “There’s a ship in there!”
“A ship?” Sharee flapped over. “I see it!” she exclaimed. “What do we do?”
“Do?” Laura thought for a moment. “You can’t do anything! That bit’s too dangerous for you to land on but I can take a look!” she pointed at a rocky ledge above the caves. “I can climb down!”
Sharee clicked in agitation. “Are you sure?”
“Yeah! You can’t climb. I’ll use ropes though and if you’ll stay with my ship you can pull me up if there’s trouble!”

“Are you there yet?” Sharee asked nervously. “There’s not much rope left!”
“I am now!” Laura tested the cave mouth gingerly. “It’s solid. Pay out some rope for me!” She walked over to the ship.
“Hey! This thing’s been here a while! The glass has gone all cloudy. Hang on, I can see something here. Pull me up!” she screamed suddenly.

“What was it?” Sharee asked as she helped her friend to her feet. Laura was white faced and shaking.
“There’s a body in there!”
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Old Aug 17 2006, 10:22 AM   #36
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Morning Message

Stroud sat up gingerly, his head pounded and his digestion monitors were bleeping loudly. He waited for his vision to clear before he slowly stood up. He stumbled across the room to a small cupboard and took out the bottle of stimulant that sat there hidden among more mundane objects. Ignoring the dosage cap he took a deep swig before shoving the bottle away again.
He slumped back onto the bed waiting for the medicine to take effect. Slowly, he felt his limbs lighten and the fuzz of sleep drain away from his brain.
The he stood up suddenly and began to tidy his room, scooping up the bottles of sleeping tablets and calming syrups and throwing them back into their hiding places. He did not want Rachel finding them. She was bad enough over the sedatives she had prescribed him. If she found a single pill she had not issued, he was going to be dead!
His monitor was whistling wildly now and he began to add the digestive fluids. The balance was wrong again! He sighed. If Rachel, or Sahoo, for that matter, found out that his stomach was malfunctioning as well, they’d ground him until they found the solution and Stroud did not have time for that! He needed to find something out! Even if it killed him, even if it killed his crew, he needed to know what had happened to Dresden’s research. The fragments of information that still drifted through his mind told him that there was something very important there, something vital to do with suspension but he could not remember what it was. He sat cross-legged on the floor trying to meditate, trying, as he had been taught as a student, to clear his mind and solve the problem but mundane facts and images kept flitting through his consciousness.
The doorbell rang and he scrambled to his feet, sighing with impatience. “Who is it?” he snapped.
“It’s me, sir!” Taylor replied. “I’ve got an urgent message from Admiral Elliott.”
“One moment!” Stroud pulled on his uniform. “Come in!”
“Morning sir!” Taylor said. “The message drone was waiting for us at the com station.” She passed Stroud the datapad and he glanced at the message.
“Set a course for home.” He said as he passed the datapad back. “We’ve got a ship to salvage.”
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Old Aug 23 2006, 03:17 PM   #37
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A New Mission

“Ah Stroud!” Admiral Elliott beamed as Stroud entered his office. “I hope you are well?”
“Yes sir.” Stroud replied.
“Good, good! I see that you got my message.” The admiral beamed again. “Now, I sent for you specially as I thought you would take a personal interest in this case. Besides, you have got the best salvage crew in my navy, and you will need a good salvage crew for this one!”
“Where is it sir?” he asked.
“At an abandoned settlement, Vrig-Crawg in Greesa on the Long continent It was an ancient Shehshahan town which became a mixed settlement after colonisation. It was abandoned fifty years ago after it was partially drowned by a mudslide.” Admiral Elliott pointed at the map that filled one wall of his office. Then he showed Stroud the pictures he had been sent. “These were taken by Drigg Garredd, a Shehshahan archaeologist investigating the remains of an ancient civilisation discovered after a slide ten years ago. It was his daughter and a friend that found the ship while doing a sweep of the site after the latest monsoon.”
Stroud clicked through the pictures. “Is that the site?” he asked. Elliott nodded.
“Yes, it’s not very accessible I’m afraid.”
“There’s all that flat land, surely we could land there?”
“It’s all mud. The ground’s not very stable there; the only access point is that ledge above the cliffs.”
Stroud looked at it for a moment. “The crew will have to be winched in.” he said. “Have you any better pictures.”
“Yes, this one shows the cave and the craft, and the craft is the real reason I think that you’ll ant to take a look at this one.”
Stroud looked closely at the image on the screen; he saw the front two sections of a familiar type of ship. “But that’s a modular courier, just like the Rutherford!”
“It is indeed!” Elliott said as he zoomed in still closer. “In fact, from the hull markings I can tell you that it is the Feynman, sold to a Mr O Dresden and piloted by a civilian captain, G Samuel. It was reported missing forty nine years ago, just before the war began.”
Stroud nodded, trying to suppress his elation. “When do you want me to leave?”
“Oh, the crews are already waiting Captain; I have my aircraft waiting for you outside.”
“Your aircraft?”
“Certainly Stroud, I wouldn’t want to miss this excavation! Besides, I would like to see where all my budget goes.” He grinned unashamedly and Stroud found himself grinning back.
“Certainly Admiral, I see that you’ve got coveralls ready already, so shall we go?”
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Old Aug 27 2006, 07:44 AM   #38
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Right, this is as far as I've got for now. I've got time to write now. Finally!!!

Sister Ship

The crews met just outside a small Shehshahan village where they were met by a yellow-green mimic who introduced himself as Drigg Garredd.
“Good afternoon Captain.” He said politely before he clicked and whistled a greeting to Sahoo. “Do you want anything to drink before we leave?”
“No thank you.” Stroud said. “I’d like to meet the two girls who found the ship though.”
“Certainly captain,” the Shehshahan bobbed his head. “They’re by the river at the moment. Shall I fetch them for you?”
“No, I could do with the walk. Where are they?”
Drigg pointed out a group of young Shehshahans huddled beneath one of the tree-like plants on the river bank.
“Thanks. Sahoo! Rachel!” Stroud strode over to the river bank where a group of young Shehshahans were playing, Rachel and Sahoo following closely behind.
“Is Drigg Garredd’s daughter here?” he asked slowly in Shehshahan.
“She’s over here!” called a human voice from slightly above his head. He looked up.
Hanging upside down from a branch above his head was a young girl of around ten or eleven with long black hair that hang down in a long curtain. She performed an amazing twist and sat upright. “Sharee!” she called.
A juvenile Shehshahan female shuffled along the broad branch. “Good afternoon.” She said politely.
“Ah, Miss Garredd, I want to talk to you about the ship you found. Is your friend here, the one who found the ship?”
“Yes.” The Shehshahan rattled her quills in amusement. “Laura!”
The dark haired girl grinned. “What now?”
“The gentleman wants to talk to us about the ship.” The young Shehshahan was almost as good a mimic as her father!
“What do you want to know?” she leapt down from the branch.
“I’d like to know about how you found it.”
Laura bit her thumb. “Well, there isn’t much to say. I climbed down cos Sharee can’t and I found a skeleton sitting in the ship. So we went home and Drigg took over.” She looked a bit annoyed at that.
“Thank you Laura.” Stroud said with a smile.
“No problem!” the girl said. She turned back to her friends.
“Er, Laura…” Stroud quickly made up his mind.
“Yes?”
“Would you and Sharee like to come with us?”
The girl’s eyes lit up and she leapt down from the branch. “You bet!” she said with a grin. “I didn’t get a proper look the first time!”
Stroud laughed. “Come on then, I’ll find you seats!”

Stroud steered the little shuttle over the site. A landing site had been marked out on the cliff above and he glided towards it. “How did you manage to get down there?” he asked Laura.
“I climbed.” She said and grinned. “It wasn’t that hard.”
“Well, you’re not climbing today! Commander Taylor has set up the lift for us.” He pointed at the small cage that hung from the cliff top by heavy steel cables.
The girl looked at it critically and nodded. “It’ll do!” she said.
Sharee snickered. “Laura!” she said disapprovingly. “It’s very good!” she said. “Can we go in it now?”
Stroud laughed. “Come on then. We’ll go with Rachel and Sahoo.” He landed the small craft.

The cliff was a solid looking structure, and as they decended Stroud could see that some ancient hand had carved designs into the rock.
“What is this place?” he whispered to Sahoo.
“Iss sa home of my ancesstorss.” She hissed back. “Is ver’ good?”
He nodded. “VERY good!” he said approvingly. “Is it sacred or anything?”
“Is a nest sacred? No, is just an old nest, ver’ old, ver’ interesting, but jus’ a nest!” she rattled her head quills in amusement. “Zere is a lot in the museum, zere was more but it was lost in sa first mud slides.” She shrugged. “It’ss not something I know much about!”
The lift stopped with a jolt and the door opened. Stroud took a deep breath and stepped off the platform and into the cave.

The ship had crash landed, skid marks still gouged the floor from where its unprotected belly had ploughed along the bare rock, and its nose just brushed the far wall.
Nottingham was measuring the skid marks while Lee was waiting by the second compartment hatch.
“Can’t you get in?” Stroud asked.
“Just waiting for the all-clear.” Lee replied with a grin. “Don’t you just love surprises!” he laughed and swung his arms from his shoulders, clapping his hands together. Then he saw the two youngsters. “Afternoon girls!” he said and he grinned, if that was possible, even wider. “So you’re the ones who found this beauty. I’m Security Engineer Lieutenant John Lee, but you can call me John, it’s easier.” He held out a hand.
Stroud smiled and left the two girls for Lee to deal with while he talked to Nottingham.
“How’s it going?” he asked softly.
Nottingham looked up from her datapad. “OK.” She said abstractedly. “Looks like a perfectly straight forward crash landing. Very well executed, and by the look of it, just a ship sheltering from a violent storm. Only thing that worries me is that there’s only two thirds of the ship here. I want to know where the other part is!”
Stroud nodded. “Perhaps the computer can tell us.”
Nottingham sighed. “Very well, I’ll open the second compartment door.” She took a tool out of her belt and gestured Lee to stand to one side. “Respirators on!” she ordered and pulled hers down over her mouth. Stroud helped Laura on with hers while Sahoo helped Sharee.
The respirator monitors went wild for a moment as the stale air from the ship was exhaled into the atmosphere. Stroud looked at his monitor, the carbon dioxide levels were at critical. He waited until the air cleared and then raised one hand. When three other hands were raised, including her own, Nottingham gave the order to remove respirators and they went inside.
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Old Sep 21 2006, 08:20 AM   #39
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Wires

“Slight buckling of the internal structure here.” Nottingham pointed out to Lee as they went through the door.
Lee nodded. “Yeah, crash landing?”
Nottingham sighed. “Most likely. I want to run some tests towards the rear though, just to see if there were any separation difficulties, there was evidence of that in other vehicles of this type.”
“I’ll go forward then. I want to access the computer system.” They separated, Nottingham moving towards the technicians at the rear of the vessel and Lee walking forward to where Yuri and Manilov were organising the moving of the body of the pilot.
“The computer’s over there.” Manilov said after Lee had saluted.
Lee nodded and walked jauntily over to the large protective case. He stopped just short of it and whistled. “Did you break into the case?” he asked.
“Of course not!” Manilov grunted. “That’s your job. Besides this room was sealed until two minutes ago, when would I have had time to?”
Lee ran long, thin fingers down the side of the casing. “Hmm, it’s not a new crack. Pass me a microscope.”
He examined the screen for a moment. “Yeah, there’s considerable wear along this edge. How was this room sealed?”
Manilov grunted again. “Standard pressure, although the atmosphere had a higher than normal percentage of carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide.”
“The guy’s in his suit isn’t he.” Lee said. “What did he die of?”
“I’m not certain yet.” Yuri said. “But I’m ninety nine point nine percent sure it was asphyxiation just by looking at him.”
“Phew! Not a nice way to go!”
“Oh, not too bad!” Yuri said with a shrug. “You just slowly drift away. What worries me is why they didn’t get out!”
“They?”
“Yeah, we had to move the second body to get in. He was slumped against the door. Sahoo’s dealing with him now.”
“Was the emergency open button used?”
“The glass was smashed.” Manilov said. “Take a look!”
Lee examined it closely. “Yeah, but the lock didn’t release. The manual override became standard after the loss of the Rutherford and the Newton, so it’s definitely fitted.”
“Go take a look.” Manilov said. “I’m going to see what they’ve found back there!” He pointed to the security staff examining the living quarters of the ship.
Lee nodded as he carefully broke open the protective casing of the manual switch and began to probe the delicate circuits within.

“How’s it going?” Stroud asked as he came in, Lee was kneeling on the floor next to the switch, wall panels were stacked on the floor next to him as he examined the cables and circuit boxes crammed into the wall space.
“Slowly sir!” He said as he prised another piece of panelling off the wall. “It’s a right bird’s nest!” he ran a probe along a wire and shook his head. “There’re so many dead ends! What’s happening out there?”
“They’re just unloading the cargo.”
“Cargo? But these ships weren’t designed to carry cargo!”
“This one was adapted. It’s full of books, old computers, data carriers and artefacts. I haven’t been able to get near it though. Manilov won’t open the cases until they’re back at base.”
“Old computers?” Lee asked. “How old?”
“I’m not sure. The only one I recognise was an old Picotronic Guidance computer. There was one of those at the Academy.”
“Not much use here then.” Lee sighed. “You wouldn’t know how the access codes work would you?”
Stroud shook his head. “No, I had the information codes but only the compengineer had the access codes.”
“Damn! And it’ll take days, even with the Nutcracker device and courier shuttle codes are still classified!”
“He’s still alive.” Stroud sighed. “Although, I don’t know how we’re going to get him up here!”
“Why?”
“He’s practically paralyzed.” Stroud sighed resignedly. “I’ll go and find Rachel.” He turned to leave. “Oh! Drat! I forgot! Lee, take care of Laura for me!” He loped off down the corridor.
“Don’t you just hate it when he does that?” Lee muttered to himself. Then he turned to the waiting girl. “Hey there Laura! Where’s your friend?” he smiled at her.
“With Sahoo. There wasn’t a suit for her so she’s in the lab.”
“Pity!” Lee stretched. “Take a seat will you!” he said. “I’m kinda busy at the moment, but I’ll be right with you!” He prised off another sheet of panelling.
“What are you doing?”
“Tracing a wire.” He pointed to a long blue cable that ran the length of the vandalised wall.
“Can I help?”
Lee shrugged. “How strong are you?”
“Pretty strong. Dr Rees at the medical centre says that I’m in the upper percentile for my age and build.”
Lee laughed. “Well, if you can rip off that panel for me. Use the crowbar from my kit.” He pointed at an old-fashioned toolbox.
Laura picked it up. “Which panel?” she asked.
“This one. To my left!”
Laura levered the bar behind the panel. “Why’re you doing it this way. Surely you could use a magnetic grappler or a cutter or something?”
“Nah, I don’t want to damage any of the systems.”
“But it’s a crowbar! What if something gets smashed?”
“Smashed? Nah! There’s a protective layer of foam between the panel and the boards. All you need to do is hook that out once you’ve broken through and you can access the boards.”
Laura shrugged and prised off the panel.

“That’s odd!” Lee said as he traced the last length of blue cabling. “Take a look at this will you?”
Laura hopped off the stool and looked closely at the cable. “It looks alright.” She said.
“OK then, run a probe along it.”
Laura placed the probe against the wire. “It’s fine!” she said.
“That’s what I mean!” Lee said with a grimace. “There’s no fault, yet the door’s jammed shut.”
“Is that why the poor guy couldn’t get out?”
“Yeah, there was plenty of air in the cave and with standard rations they could have lasted months, enough time for any search party to find them.” He sighed and began to stack the panels up. “Shove the bags of foam in that crate will you?” He sighed. “We’ll have to wait until Captain Stroud gets back before we can do any more.”
“Why?” Laura asked.
“Because I can’t access the computer without the codes.” He sat down on the floor. “If you want, I’ll call someone and you can go and get something to eat.”
“I’ll stay.” She said.
“If you’re sure. I think you can break your suit now, just stay on the sheets.” Lee pulled his helmet off and began pulling off his gloves.
“So,” he said as he sat back on his heels. “How come you’re the only human in the village?”
Laura shrugged. “The rest’ve them died. There was only half a dozen of us and mum and Dad left me with Treesh and Shess while they went to explore the ruins. Shehshahan’s can’t climb that well, so the humans were going to go ahead to set up the base camp in one of the empty caves. There was a storm and they were all crushed by a mudfall. They sent a team out to find them, but they had to return after two more were killed.” Laura shrugged. “So Treesh and Shess looked after me until the authorities arrived, and when they found out that there was nowhere else for me to go they kept me.”
Lee nodded. “That’s good.” He turned his head towards. “I think the Captain’s on his way back.”
“How do you know?” Laura asked.
“That damned monitor of his! It’s forever bleeping!” He snorted. “That’s the trouble with artificial aids.”
Laura cocked her head towards the door. “Yeah, I think I can hear it!”
“Well, let’s smarten up then. Don’t put your helmet back on, but stand up.” He grinned. “He’s the boss after all!”
Laura giggled. “Yep!” she said as she smartened up. “And here he comes!” The door slid open.
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