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 Outside - Massive Surprises

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TerishD


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PostSubject: Outside - Massive Surprises   March 21st 2010, 9:00 am

Outside - Story Seven
Massive Surprises

Part 1

I am rich, I am rich, I am RICH! Yes, Clover gets his usual slice of the pie, but that does not matter because I am rich. I can now sip mint juleps with him in some swanky resort. Life is sweet.

By the way, my name is Ezra Benjamin Guiosky. It is not a common enough of a name, but for some reason nobody would let me have Ezra as my log name. Everyone in the military pilot program tried suggestions to find a tag that would stick to me. Something about my manner of handling myself just did not alarm the guards, so I could sneak out of the barracks and gain certain items of contraband. I thus gained the name Felix, as in 'the cat,' and it has stuck. The Menlo Park is not the first ship that I have served on that does not have another Ezra or Ben in the crew, but I still get called Felix.

Yes, I served six years in the military. Not the only veteran in the crew, although both of the others are ladies. The S's, Sharon and Sandra, are veterans. I get along with each of them, and I enjoy it when there is a threesome.

I want it stated for the record that I have no complaint with Clover. The guy is good. He does work with the best of equipment, but he does not put his trust in the computers. He is constantly reprogramming his systems to do things a little quicker and check data a little more carefully. He is the only person I know that will sit down with pen and paper and redo the math. I should have gained the credit that Clover gets for this discovery, as I was at point the shift before his, but he studied the stars a little better than I did so made the call that I did not.

Clover is my example. He discovered Neosalem by double-checking the data of Avondale. They rushed out early in the days of the Kert Field drives, and secured mining rights to a number of systems. They were not looking for, or interested in, certain details however, so it was not surprising that some data was overlooked. It is hard to understand how a lad not even a teenager could manage to get into space alone to make such a major discovery as Neosalem, but his steps were not secretive and what he did is now taught to all children. I followed them in making my own claim, and it is now going to make me wealthy even as it makes Clover even richer.

As this story started however, I was not happy with the young man. "Clover, get your butt out here!"

I had done my second twelve hours on point, and was looking forward to my thirty-six free. Getting held up by some newly married man thinking about banging his wife one more time was not what I wanted. We had been well over a month in space since the wedding, and I was getting tired of looking at it. However well Clover and Naomi were getting along, he had other parts of his life that were still new. It was with one of those that he presently desired to spend his time.

"This is my first real test of my new boards, Felix. I am thus going to make certain that everything tests out properly."

"You have twelve hours at point, Clover."

"Harley, is Felix still on the clock?"

The lady was quick to reply, "Yes, he is on the clock."

The voice of Thor now sounded, "Harley, is Clover on the clock?"

"Yes, he is on the clock. System verification is allowed."

"Well, he has taken long enough. Stop his clock."

Clover piped up to ask, "Harley, is Felix still on the clock?"

She responded, "Yes, he is still on the clock."

"Shut your trap, Felix. Im coming."

I was ready to get off duty. "Damn, it is just a faster board, Clover. What in the hell is your problem?"

"I didn't just plop in a faster CPU, Felix. These are entirely new boards, and there were some changes that I needed to make in the code. It looks all good, but I want to make certain."

"Malcolm, do you see any problem with Clover's boat?"

The helmsman returned, "His board is looking like it should."

"Get your butt up here, Clover."

"All right, all tests are over." With those words Clover had his boat accelerate, do a couple of spinning flips as it slowed, then expertly settle just a few hundred feet from my boat. "All of that, my monitors held steady, and the sensors kept their readings. Right on the last statement, Malcolm?"

"If I wasn't watching on the screen, I would have never known you wasted the fuel, Clover."

"Start my clock, Harley. Felix is relieved."

Was I ever relieved. I moved back to my berth as fast as possible. I waved to Harley as I passed her station, but that was as nice as I felt like being.

I went to my room and collapsed on my couch. I don't have a bed. That room is filled with exercise machines and special tools for doing detail work with metal. The ship has an exercise room, and a machine shop, but often I don't feel like bothering others. Sandra will sometimes use my tools for specialty work on certain parts around the ship. I charge her, but she keeps coming back. Anyway, I was in no mood to waste any more personal time.

I swear that my eyes had barely closed when I heard Malcolm say, "Felix, Clover is calling you to the bridge."

"He is what?"

"Get up here. We are no longer at tachy and broadcasting radio."

I should have realized that the fact we were communicating with slow, light speed is slow for us, private signals meant that something important was occurring, but I wanted some sleep. "Come on, Clover. Damn. Can't you let a guy rest?"

The voice that returned was my captain, "Get up here, Felix. This is your baby."

Thor was not someone that I argued with. I was basically hired because of my connection to Sandra. I originally felt that if I raised a scene, it could make the lady look bad. She was a good mechanic, something that Thor knew, but they don't say anything about how they learned about each other. The tension was present between Sandra and Rachel in the early days, and I did not want to ignite any flame. Thor was a good man, and I learned to appreciate his leadership. I now don't argue with Thor because I respect him.

My relationship with Clover was not the same as Thor, so I could allow myself to curse his name as I moved through the kitchen to the bridge. It was not the scene that I expected. The main screen was showing the view in front of the ship along with a view of the front of Clover's boat. I hushed as I saw all of the non-duty pilots present. Whatever was happening was more than an odd experiment by Clover. I thus felt a need to speak more politely to the young man.

"I am here, Clover. What do you need to show me?"

The voice of the young pilot came over the speaker, "You are responsible for our first destination, Felix. You claimed a gravity anomaly that could indicate another planet. I had to vote for it, considering that is the same thing that I did to discover Neosalem. Butler, who owns the coming system, was very definite about being aware of the gravity oddity although was also confident that there was no unknown planet."

I looked over Malcolm's board before stating what I already knew, "We are still a few days from the system, Clover. Don't tell me that my planet is way out here."

"The planet isn't, but your gravity anomaly is. Watch this."

Yeah, I saw the laser beam bend, but it did not hit me at first what I was seeing. I mean, I was expecting something. I don't know, maybe a dense asteroid. Okay, I was stupid.

"Clover, there is nothing there."

"Felix, this is what my father was always looking for. You know how many theories there are on what would happen should a gravity plate get near the event horizon?"

Event horizon? Damn. Brain cells finally started firing.

"You mean that we have found a black hole?"

"Yeah, right here within a number of light years of Earth. It is not that big, but it is real. You will have another Hiesenberg's Point forming right here."

Okay, all of my brain cells were not yet on duty. "What does this have to do with me?"

Thor slapped my back as he said, "Its yours. You were the one that put your money on the fact that the anomaly was something substantial. It might not be a planet, but do you know how many prizes are out there for the first discovery of a black hole? You are member of my ship, so I get a hefty percentage. Clover gets his share for making the discovery; you were not expecting this and cannot claim that he was following your protocol. The bulk of this finding however is still yours."

Malcolm pointed at a monitor where Sharon was working. I looked over to see a very large figure on the screen. It was a big font showing a number of digits.

I probably had the dumbest look on my face as I turned back to the screen and said, "Clover, fire your laser again." I watched the bending ray of light, then said, "Clover, this is not what I was expecting at all. We need to secure this claim."

"That is what we needed you for, Felix. Get your original papers. We need to study your wording, gather the data on what is here, then prepare your case. I gained Neosalem on a claim jump, so I have been through the process. Thor has tried a couple of times, so he is familiar with the steps. The computers can provide us with the updated legalities. Take a lesson from me however; take your time and constantly check your work."

Thor added his own advice, "Stay sober while doing the paperwork. You will have plenty of time to celebrate after the check cashes."

I had to ask, "I am rich?"

"Yeah, nice feeling, isn't it?"

Yes, it is.

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Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market. "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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PostSubject: Part 2   March 26th 2010, 8:06 am

Outside - Story Seven
Massive Surprises

Part 2

For something as simple as a black hole, there was a lot of work to ascertain my claim. Since a black hole is a star, the easy stunt would be to boldly claim it as a separate system. It would also open up my claim to counter-claims. I thus spent a lot of time with Clover going over the vector data of my black hole and substantiating that it was responsible for the odd gravity readings in Butler's system. Only after all data was verified could a decision be made on how to properly write up my claim.

The black hole had the mass of about fourteen Jupiters. It did orbit Butler's star, so I was correct that the gravity anomaly was an unrecognized part of their system. It was thus legally mine assuming I could properly handle the paperwork.

I named the object Zulunut, after the coconuts that were once thrown in the Zulu parade in New Orleans. It was still a party town, and while there I once caught a conversation about old traditions that were banned as some people thought legislation could protect idiots from hurting themselves. I felt that the coconuts were a unique item, and their presence in the parade needed to be kept simply for the originality that it provided. My black hole was something unique for our local group of stars, so I named it after those ancient parade throws. After I stated my assurance of what I wanted to name my black hole, a toast was made, then we got back to work.

Once all of the data was verified, we had a computer write up the legal documents. Those were then checked. Clover stressed again to me that I could not put my faith in computers. There were a few minor matters of wording that were felt needed changing.

Bleary eyed, I felt glad to finally say, "Helm, who is on duty?"

"Darlene here, Felix."

"Good. Clover and Thor agree that we can now broadcast position and activity."

That lady loves to chat, so quickly activated certain circuits and began to speak. "Hello, hello, hello, everybody. Would you believe that Felix spilt coffee that seeped into a crack where it shorted an exposed wire? Took us a while to find the problem, but we are back to talking again."

Yes, everyone knew Darlene was lying, but it was a formality. Inside wanted to be aware of all movement and discoveries as they happened. The problem was that Inside could not protect the data, so we never disclosed it until we were ready. Outside Control knew who paid for most of their operation, so always played along.

It was the voice of Lichen that replied, "Glad to know the problem was so minor, Menlo Park. Did not happen to have any other excitement while you were quiet?"

"Strangely enough, we did. You know that gravity anomaly that Felix was bothering Butler about, well? It happened to be a black hole."

Luckily, it was Darlene at helm. That lady could handle a multitude of conversations without being stressed. As tired as I was, I was entertained by hearing the lady speak with everyone who could not believe what we had discovered. Clover and I had to make statements. After that, he put me in contact with his lawyers and transferred the paperwork to them with directions to oversee any particulars. Clover did not trust the lawyers either, but he then had me transmit the paperwork to the proper agencies. Only after he was certain that all matters were personally handled did he tell me to get some sleep.

I could sense that something was wrong as I entered the kitchen, but I was still feeling the affects of my rest. Clover had obviously gotten some sleep as well, as he was holding a coffee mug close to his mouth attempting to breathe in the caffeine as he read his mail. Naomi was fixing some sausage and pancakes for her husband, and when I looked at it she asked if I wanted some as well. I thanked her, and received the impression that whatever the bad feelings it would not be affected by my accepting the gratitude. As I sat down with some coffee, I attempted to focus on what I felt may have raised the tension aboard the vessel.

"Any news from our aliens?"

Clover kept his eyes focused on his computer as he answered, "They did stop at Hiesenberg to refuel. They did not stop at Stanley's, as they did not want to pay his price. The problem is that they did not have any friends, and only spoke through their little computer-animated people, so got charged our twenty-percent anyway. They then shot back out along the route we were taking, completely forgetting that Stanley's was a detour. Thor sent them a communication asking what your solar system was looking like, only to hear them curse again."

"Those guys must be idiots."

Clover grinned as his eyes lifted to look at me as he said, "Worse than idiots. Thor contacted the government about them not Inside, but U.I.W. officials and got an authorized clearance from being responsible for them."

"There are enough eyes watching us that I doubt we could be held responsible anyway."

"True, but now we cannot be held accountable. We might have to give testimony, but that is all the law can demand from us." Clover went ahead and supplied another detail, "Thor really did not start talking to Inside on that topic. He simply was pushing some buttons to learn whose money they used to pay for their fuel. Whoever is funding those in the saucer have important connections to the government. Thor could not learn who was funding the idiots, but did at least gain clearance from having to help them himself."

I thanked Naomi for the breakfast before I said, "You mean whoever put those guys into space will protect their own identity, but not force us to protect them? I almost feel sorry for those idiots."

Clover agreed as he had his wife sit next to him. I still felt the tension in the air. There did not seem to be anything antagonistic between Clover and Naomi, but there was something in her look. I thus sought for more clues about what might be going on.

"What is everyone doing right now?"

"We are waiting for final approval of all forms. Some prospective buyers of your property have told us to hold our position as they decide what tests they might want done. At the moment, we are calibrating how the black hole might be affecting our signals. If you want to call home, now is a good time."

"You believe the wait to be a ploy to give our alien friends time to catch back up?"

"Harley, are Felix and I on the clock?"

The lady's voice came from a speaker, "I am not at my station. Still, no, you guys are not on the clock."

"This time I agree with you, Felix. Let's get on with things."

I activated a console on the table, and set it to connect to my private system. "Might as well check my mail. Since I am rich, I might have some ladies wanting to marry me. Harley, how busy are you? I might want to make some calls."

"Watson just finished using a private line."

Naomi's voice was soft as it said, "Clover, I would like to call home."

"Go ahead."

"They won't talk to me."

Clover seemed exasperated about something, and his eyes moved to stare at the ceiling as he asked, "They would talk to me, wouldn't they?"

"Yes."

"Are they mad at me?"

"No."

"Why would they be mad at my wife?" Naomi stared at her husband, and when his eyes turned to her he knew to say more. "Naomi Williams might be exiled from Neosalem, but I bet those of Neosalem would be eager to speak to Mrs. Ronald Stirgam."

Tears were starting to form in the lady's eyes as she tried to say, "Harley."

Malcolm was listening from the bridge, and he said, "Come here, Naomi. I can get the job done for you. That way if you need Clover, he is right there for you." As she moved to the helm, Malcolm went ahead and set things in motion. "Neosalem station, the Menlo Park has a private call for Joshua and Ruth Williams from a Naomi Stirgam." He turned to the lady to say, "Let us see what response we get from that. If they refuse that then I will use the Mrs. Ronald Stirgam."

She was starting to softly cry, but did manage to say, "We will have to wait, because Officer Ammons will need to go get them and probably get approval from the elders."

Clover moved up to sit next to his wife, then said, "We will wait together."

No sooner had the two put their arms around each other than a young female voice came over the speaker, "Naomi? Father is out working the fields. Mother went to get him."

The lady started to cry as she said, "Elizabeth?"

"Hello, Naomi. We watched the wedding. We all cried, but it looked real exciting."

A masculine voice was heard to tell the girl to move aside, then it spoke over the connection, "Menlo Park, there is a request for video. Are you able to comply?"

Malcolm seemed to have problems due to the nearby black hole, but worked to broaden the connection. As such was being done, Clover worked to help Naomi hide the fact that she was crying. Tears continued to come from her eyes, so not much was done before the front screen activated.

The view was of a small communications office. There were traffic monitors set among numerous electronic instruments. Neosalem shared a system with a major mining operation, so ships flying near their planet were not uncommon. Should a situation occur, it might be necessary to alert those of Neosalem. Officer Ammons was only recognized by his uniform, as his full beard showed that he tried to assimilate with those he lived with. Elders of both sexes were working to clear the room of youngsters. Their work was not helped when the children screamed with delight as a monitor obviously showed a view of the bridge.

One of the elder men was familiar enough with the equipment to simply hold his position as he looked to the camera and said, "Naomi, your father will need to go through decontamination. He and your mother are coming. Ronald, we are proud of you, son."

Clover responded, "Thank you, Elder Matthew. My wife was so scared that you would still not want to speak to her."

"Naomi, we are not so cruel. If something had not worked out, you would have been accepted by a group of us still on Earth. We are glad that you were accepted by Ronald however, because he is more likely to visit."

A lady entered wiping tears from her eyes, but her efforts were wasted when she saw the monitor. She was obviously not familiar with the equipment, but moved to touch the screen. The camera being used was not part of the monitor, so where she went was not where we were. Naomi also started crying, and she stood to also move and touch the screen.

Clover caught his wife, then had her look to a part of Malcolm's console where there was an image of what was being transmitted. Officer Ammons worked to do the same with Naomi's mother, and seeing themselves both ladies tried to fix their appearances. Naomi however started crying again as a man entered the room wearing a bulky plastic covering over his thick clothes of natural materials. He moved beside the lady, and he appeared to be holding back tears as he spoke.

"Naomi, it is good to have you back in the family."

I turned to see Thor and Rachel enter the kitchen. They moved to each side of the doorway to watch the scene on the bridge. There was too much crying and such for me however, so I cleaned the table and the stove, then left for my room. I was glad to know that things were better between Naomi and her parents, but I had already let her know that I was glad she was a member of the Menlo Park family.

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Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market. "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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PostSubject: Part 3   March 31st 2010, 8:31 am

Outside - Story Seven
Massive Surprises

Part 3

I have to admit that Naomi can cook. Clover is eating a lot better than he used to. He was never one to fix his own meals. Thor now went around making the joke that somebody better start eating the MRE's before that was all we had for the return voyage. The words were funny because MRE's were supposed to be what we ate on the return voyage, but on the previous mission those were what was disappearing first.

Naomi learned to cook for a family, so there was often extra for whoever felt hungry. I am somebody who has to watch his weight, but I often could not refuse fixing myself a helping. The nice thing was she enjoyed having others at the table to talk with. There was no doubt that she had enough time to speak with Clover on any private topic, but she was used to having others to speak with so enjoyed spending time with the other members of the crew as well. The mood of the Menlo Park was definitely improved with Naomi aboard.

I walked into the kitchen to see Sandra working with Naomi to make some soup. Our tight little mechanic had been one of the few that actually liked to cook, and she was glad to have someone else to compare recipes with. Sandra did stay busy making certain that the various machines aboard the Menlo Park kept working at ideal efficiency, but obviously felt that she presently was able to let the engines manage without being babied.

Darlene was on duty in the bridge. Thor and Rachel were at the table with Clover who was working on some computer code. I sat down next to Thor.

"Are we still waiting for my money?"

"Yes, it seems that Butler doesn't want to allow your finding to override what profit they were expecting from the system." He looked at me suspiciously, then said, "I thought you were speaking to them."

I smiled, then spoke to another, "Harley, I am in the kitchen should anyone call for me."

Darlene said from the bridge, "She left to get some sleep. It is second shift anyway, and I am used to handling communications."

"What is the topic with everyone?"

"As if you don't know. Suddenly everyone is studying gravity abnormalities. It is an old subject with most, considering that most present systems were already studied after Clover found Neosalem, but that only means that people will talk. If people thought another orbiting black hole actually might be out there, they would be secretly funding their own research mission."

If I was not at a table with two people who had done what I did, I would not have said, "Well, I can understand that. There is a lot of money for those that succeed."

Clover returned, "Yes, if you can find something others want, the bidding can make you more than wealthy."

I knew that Rachel played up a bidding war between some companies, but Clover had a different story. "Why did you sell to the Amish?"

"No one else wanted to terraform it. They might have acted to that end, but their use for the planet was not primarily habitation. I found myself thinking of Rachel's world. The chemical industry that bought it could care less about any potential it might have had as a home for people. It is simply being processed for its minerals. The Amish truly wanted to make my world survivable in the long term."

Darlene chimed in from the bridge, "No call, Felix. Just a private transmission. Routed to your system."

I told the lady thanks, then accessed the message. It was a simple statement in the middle of which was a large number. I closed the file, then leaned back in my seat smiling.

Thor looked at me, then said, "I assume that we can leave now."

I replied, "Oh, yes, and if you want to contact me, speak to my butler."

Laughter sounded, then Darlene called Indigo and Diamond to move to point. Note that it was not because it was night shift that those two pilots were called. They were simply on the next shift. Everything was money to us. Clover and Castle were on the shift that discovered my black hole, so they were given their full shift then put on exploratory time. Yes, time was money, but the fact that jumping claims was profitable simply proved to Thor that it was financially risky to leave things behind unchecked. One seldom gained sleep by stopping the ship however, because those who called a stop often worked more than twelve hours in verifying the reason for the stop. Anyway, Diamond and Indigo would work their full twelve, so now the flight shifts did not change along with helm. The only one that it really messed up was Harley, but that lady kept her own clock.

I stayed at the table while the soup was cooking. Truthfully, I was talking with Sandra, but neither of us ignored the others present. She is cute with a wonderfully toned body. She was a few years older than me, but age did not show on her as I felt it showing on me.

I had no more taken my first spoonful of soup than Darlene made an exclamation followed by Thor rushing into the bridge telling the lady not to halt. As I heard her try to tell Thor what she had seen, Clover and Rachel were activating a console to call up views from cameras. We were all relieved to hear those at point confirm that they were unharmed. While most of us were wondering what had happened, Thor stated his assumption.

"Rachel, tell me you have a good picture of the blasts and the aliens."

The lady and Clover argued over which camera would have the better view even as they called up both to compare their recordings. They then checked tachyon vectors to determine where the saucers had come from. I could tell from their discussion that they were preparing a case to file grievances against the other ship. It truthfully did not mean much, because there were no officials Outside, but it helped having certain facts on record should Inside start asking questions upon your return.

It was not uncommon for Rachel and Clover to argue with each other. The last mission proved that the two had a strong friendship, but their relationship had developed as they debated topics on public forums. Most felt that Rachel would not argue with Thor, so released her tension upon the young pilot. Clover was however one who constantly checked his data, so spoke with a conviction of being correct. Neither was one to drop a topic until all matters were settled. We thus all braced for some yelling as Clover voiced a conclusion.

"We can retaliate! Tactical coming to front screen."

What most tend to forget is that we cannot turn in space. We can change vectors, we can maneuver, but altering headings is impossible. Stars cannot be moved, and somewhere in the vast unknown is a star that is stationary to us. We changed stars after leaving Stanley's while those in the saucer stupidly, because our flight path was registered, kept going along our original vector. To get back on our tail, those in the saucer had to catch another star. As luck would have it, time and position coincided with us. They might have simply fired the blast as a warning shot that they were back, but that was like throwing a punch at the other guy who was dating your girlfriend. We however could not simply turn and fire back, because the saucer kept moving along with their star.

If we were somehow involved with a dispute with another Outsider, we might have trouble. What Clover had his computer quickly determine was what known tachyon vectors could have the aliens again coming upon our position. If our opponents were Outsiders, they might know some vectors that we did not. If these Insiders were using unpublished vectors however, we would track down their source and mark the traitor. Being blackballed in space was potentially deadly, but being outmaneuvered by Insiders was eternally damning.

Rachel moved to the bridge to look on the main screen at the tactical schematic that Clover had sent. We expected her to challenge the data, but she did not. What she did say however was unexpected.

"Who wants the duty?"

I was quick to declare, "Second shift, I have dibs."

The rationale for giving us pilots an off shift was to allow us time to keep our boats operational. It was a good safety regulation. After two twelve hour shifts there was generally something that we felt needed to be checked, but almost never was it a problem that demanded more than a couple of hours of work. Thus, since it was my period of time to be awake and active, I was considered the most mentally qualified to take on extra flight time. I might now be rich, but that did not mean that I was now lazy.

Rachel was quick to return, "I want a missile clogging up their intakes. Is that a problem?"

"No. Clover, feed me your data. My boat can handle it from there."

His fingers were moving on his board even as he said, "We are dealing with Insiders, so I am assuming they are going to run this by the computer. They might deviate, or not even think of this route, but we would be in the wrong not to be ready. I am just giving you the quick data however, as once your boat gets active I am certain you can have it figure all the possible futures as things develop."

I made certain that other things would start out properly, "Harley!"

The lady's voice did not come back strong, but I was still glad to hear it. "Darlene called up my board, and has your boat heating up, Felix. I will be at my desk by the time you get there."

I looked to a lady that was in the room with me, and ordered, "Get moving, Sandra. I am going to need a missile set on my boat."

We carry mines aboard our boats, but missiles are too bulky. We also don't have a regular use for missiles. Luckily, the things are self-propelled, so no special tubes are necessary to use missiles. All I will have to do is get it into a position where its simple computer can calculate how to get its job done.

As I rushed to my boat, Thor went with Sandra to ready a missile. In the military there were constant drills on how to quickly and efficiently load missiles, but that was because they had kids who still had trouble tying their shoes. The things were not that hard to install, although when you needed them you seldom had time to fumble with procedures. I had no doubt that the present performance would challenge the best time in the military, because in our business time was money.

Harley was not at her station when I passed it moving to my boat. I heard her voice as I performed certain system checks, but it was Darlene's that I was interested in, as the helm normally handled movement around the ship. Getting myself armed was the first order of business. I would deal with Harley once I was away from the Menlo Park.

Under normal conditions, all that I had to do was enjoy the ride as my craft moved from its berth to a repair bay. I had a job to do however, so I checked my navigation programs to see how they rated Clover's strategy. He had wisely only sent the basic data, because I would definitely have my own opinion on how to tweak the plots. It would have taken time for the repair bay to seal and air to be pumped in, so Thor and Sandra were wearing spacesuits as they waited for me to land. They could not set the missile with my Kert field active, so I had to come down within the confines of the ship's field. It was just a few seconds however before a couple of clangs indicated that everything was done. My boat again lifted at the command of the helm's computer, although I knew that once away from the Menlo Park I would be given control to perform my assignment as I saw fit.

I felt that I had a couple of advantages in performing my mission. The first advantage was that I had years of flight experience behind me. That might also be true of those in the point saucers, but the communications with those behind us did not indicate any type of maturity. The second advantage was that I was armed and not afraid of using my weapons. While those in the saucers were highly annoying, they did not speak aggressively. They had fired blasters towards us, but it was not followed up by a challenge. My belief thus was that the miss was intentional.

We did not cruise to our destinations, but flew as fast as possible. We also could not pick any direction, but had to adjust our flights according to the vectors of what distant stars we did know. This did not mean that it was difficult going places, but one did have to put some thought into directing the ship. The computers did help a lot, but the distances and speeds were so great that just a small decimal miscalculation could result in large detours.

Rachel had given me orders on where to deliver my package. The ideal strategy was to use the available vectors to set myself right behind the target, fire thrusters to give the missile an added boost when I released it, then vector back to my ship. Rachel did not give me the vectors, as she trusted me enough to allow me to do the job. She was a pilot herself, so could have saved herself some money and done the work instead of paying me. I might now be rich, but a little extra pocket change would help me later to buy a round for everyone. I thus quickly used the information provided and plotted my course to complete my mission.

I started firing my thrusters to give myself room from the Menlo Park and to assure that I already had momentum when I arrived at the saucer. I wasn't going to give our shadows any chance to retaliate. No hard feelings, but a quick, clean, efficient delivery of a major problem would assure that I earned my pay without any remorse.

The computer started changing my stars as soon as certain conditions were set. There is no feeling of being jerked around as one suddenly starts moving in a totally different direction because your inertia stays the same even though you are now stationary with a completely different object in space. The problem was that you were truly moving extremely fast relative to local objects, so without some clear understanding of your situation you could quickly get lost. That is where people had the advantage over computers, I had a sense of place that no one had yet been able to fully program into a machine. While the computer could do a wonderful job of setting up a flight plan that should put me where I wanted to be, it could not handle a circumstance where the results were not like they were supposed to be.

I came out of a series of movements to see the saucer above me. As I started firing thrusters to move me into position, I realized what I was not seeing. I set up camera views to support my claim, then initiated a private signal back to the Menlo Park.

"Felix to Black Dove. Captain Darling, I don't see any intakes on this vehicle."

The voice of Rachel came back, "You're kidding," but I could tell by her tone that she was looking at my pictures.

Intakes are one reason we can stay in space for years. Moving at tachyon speeds does force some aerodynamics in space. The plasma that surrounds our vessels is moved along over our hull by interactions with the materials that are present in the almost ideal vacuum of space. We thus set up the rear of our craft to act as collection spots for the gas that would otherwise be lost behind us.

I continued to maneuver my ship around the saucer. I felt that there had to be a front, thus a rear, to the ship. The plasma blasts had to be shot from somewhere, the point saucers had to be berthed somewhere, the bridge to control the ship had to be located somewhere, and other data had to correlate to the presence of a bow and stern.

Rachel's voice came over my speaker, "Abort the mission, Felix."

Another voice, computerized, then was heard, "And what was your mission, Felix?"

The communication with Rachel was supposed to be private. I however knew that Harley could find and descramble a number of messages. Discovering that those on our saucers could also eavesdrop on the signals of others would become a future concern, but I presently saw no reason not to answer the snoop.

"I was to carbon coat your intakes."

"Returning us to real space would again put us behind you, but it would again not stop us."

Rachel's voice replied, "What is going to stop you is your insatiable demand for fuel. The Menlo Park has already gained authorization not to aid you in case of trouble, but I am going to file further non-Samaritan paperwork. While cooperation in deep space is almost essential, it is not demanded in situations where there is risk to oneself. Keeping you boys flying will cause us undo stress."

"Fuel is not a major problem, but allowing you to meet intelligent life alone is. That occasion should be more than a capitalistic event."

"And what are you going to do to make it more momentous?"

"Just our presence will make the event much more meaningful to history."

"Felix, I am about to take you off the clock, because I am unwilling to spend any more money on these idiots. Come back."

I then heard a strange voice come over my speaker. It sounded like the computerized voices that those in the saucer used, but there was a fuller tone to the speech. What bothers me was that there was no record of the words. I know that I heard them, and those aboard the Menlo Park support me, but the sounds do not appear in the archived data. I have since changed all of my security codes, and I will swear before officials that this is what I heard.

"Felix, you no longer need the money. There are now decisions that you can make without fear of the consequences."

I don't know why I looked out my window. We really do not use them, but it is a requirement of the building codes that they are installed. The same set of codes however force redundant systems assuring that the pilot has a good view on his monitors, so he does not need to look out the windows. We are then taught to fly by our instruments, and not to use a view of the scenery to direct our travel. The usual assumption for the presence of windows is for the Inside inspectors to be able to see their home world as they check out your craft. Almost every pilot that I know forgets that he has windows to look through.

The sight of multiple glowing objects suddenly coming from the saucer and fly around it was strange. I accept that the images are not in the files created by my cameras, because I checked my monitors at that time. There were no glowing objects showing on my screens. I do not know why I imagined seeing them outside my windows. It could have been part of the same psychic impressions that had me hear the voice. I cannot explain the vision outside my window. It could certainly have been flashes of cosmic debris that encountered my Kert field. As long as I am going on record stating one undocumented memory, I might as well state the other.

I did relate what I heard and saw to those aboard the Menlo Park. They did not discount my words, but only had me repeat them when I returned. I believe that Thor and Rachel only had me state my memories in order to help substantiate that they were not responsible for those aboard the saucer.

Thor did question me concerning why an alien race that had supposedly been traveling through space for millennia, assuming certain ancient writings did speak of them, would be interested in our first encounter with another alien race, which they should be aware of as well. I was glad for the discussion, as it helped me sort out my own memories. Neither one of us mentioned any specific facts of our mission. We both were wanting to ignore the data. Hearing me say that I wanted to forget the incident put Thor's mind at ease. We both drank some beer while agreeing to speak no longer on the topic. My captain however had to say his own opinion of the situation.

"I don't know what it is about getting rich, but it breeds eccentrics."

I would rather be eccentric than poor, but I still claim that this record is the truth.

_________________
Fantasy puts more requirements on the writer than any other fiction, because the world must be made as real before anything else can be real.
Adult Christian fiction quite different than all the usual lame stuff in that market. "Dilemma of Dreams" now in hard back.
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