Springingtiger's Blog


Chapter 24: Seacole
November 25, 2016, 01:15
Filed under: Health, Politics, Religion, Technology, Travel, Writing | Tags: ,

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From the Captain’s Log, Scourge of Space.

‘Lieutenant Cray’s party returned in Launch One after making a search of the Bug piloted by Cain. No trace was found of Jog although women’s clothes were found in the cabin. As per instruction Cray had not mentioned Jog and so did not confirm the clothes were hers.

He has reported a small case of platinum ingots on Cain’s possession worth about 20,000,000 Imperial credits, perhaps more.

Cray reported that his party had successfully placed a tracker on board the bug. Unfortunately when we activated the tracker it registered in our own crew’s quarters and was discovered in a canister of tea in the possession of Private Usha Bahadur. Cain had given her the tea.

Cray was at a loss to explain how Cain had removed the tracker as he had been with Cain the whole time and there was no one else on board.’

“I wonder if they’ve found their tracker yet.” I said scratching Little Fluffy’s head.

“It’s just as well you had the cats watching them.” Said Anya.

“It’s just as well humans don’t think of us as people!” Growled Muffet

“We do!” Objected Anya.

The cats had followed the soldiers as they searched and as the squad drank tea Fluffy had demanded to be fussed and dropped the tracker into my hand. When I discovered that one of the soldiers came from Jeelong an opportunity for disposing of the tracker occurred to me. Perhaps it might have been more sensible just to leave it in space, but nowhere as amusing.

Seacole was one of the largest hospital’s in Imperial space sitting at the junction of what was indisputably Imperial controlled space and the Outer Planets where the Imperial writ held less sway. Seacole was – by treaty – a neutral facility open to all, However in practice not everyone could avail themselves of the facility particularly if like Alabama they were effectively blockaded. In Alabama’s case the Imperial blockade was supported by many of the Independents which made it harder for the besieged planet to get support from the other militia planets. The Empire had expected the blockade of Alabama to bring about its surrender decades ago. but they reckoned without the stubbornness of inhabitants.

The people of Alabama tended to be dismissed as rednecks throughout the Empire. The truth is, they like their ancestors from old Alabama,Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia were bred to hardship and had learned over the millennia to survive hardships that would break ordinary people. It was said of them that the people of Alabama could get a crop off a cliff face. Despite the embargo the colony managed to feed itself on what it could grow and what it could smuggle. Unfortunately the people had more or less killed off the smuggling business because of their deep suspicion of outsiders, A lot of smugglers had never made it back from Alabama and that tended to disincline others from going,

If the Empire had expected the annual Swamp Fever to break the people of Alabama they had been disappointed. Every rainy season the Fever killed thousands, but every time the Empire had tried to invade on the back of the plague they had been frustrated by the guerilla fighting of a population where everyone learned to shoot as soon as they could hold a gun. The blockade never stopped the spread of guns, in the absence of imports the people made their own..

What with the swamps and the mountains Alabama wasn’t an easy planet to travel across. The locals either travelled by mule and horse or by Skimmers. These were effectively a cross between a hovercraft and a jet plane capable of hugging the ground at high speed or climbing to altitudes of thousands of feet. They were also highly manoeuvrable as they needed to be to navigate the New Appalachian mountains.

After a few attempts the Empire had given up trying to subdue the planet. They continued to try and starve Alabama into submission, but no one really expected it to ever happen.

One of the good things about Seacole is that while our presence would inevitably be reported to every government with a spy on the station, no one would interfere with us while we were there; not officially at least.

“So how many of DST went missing on Alabama?” I asked Anya as we waited in our room on Seacole for our tests to come back. Every arrival went through a mandatory health screening and we were no exception.

“Just six of our best,” she replied. “they were supposed to land undetected, analyse the general situation and get out. They never made their rendezvous.”

“I’m not sure what the problem is, surely even DST accepts it will incur some losses.

“The DST doesn’t leave people behind if there’s a chance they might be alive. However the big problem is that they were using one of our new stealth ships. It has the nearest we’ve ever got to a true cloaking technology. We know the rednecks are using it, because they’ve been showing up on other militia planets, we need to ensure they can’t share it.”

“Sounds to me as if their necks aren’t as red as people like to think!”

“Either way, it’s my job either to get the ship back or destroy it.” Declared Anya.

“Of course, you couldn’t have told me. This is what I hate about authority always lying, never straight. Worse still I keep falling for it! What if I refuse to help?”

“It’s my mission I can do it alone. The General expects me to do it alone.” Said Anya.

“Damn it,” I groaned, “I’ve come this far, I might as well see the damn thing through!”

She smiled and climbed into bed, I joined her.

The next morning after breakfast had been brought to our room a doctor and a nurse came to visit with our results. Anya was, they said, one of the healthiest specimens they had seen, but they would like to examine me further.

“Why?” I asked.

“We have discovered something in your blood we have never seen before and we’d like to study it.” I must have shown interest because the doctor continued, “You appear to have microscopic worms in your blood. However one moment they are there and the next moment, not. It is as if they flick between existing and not existing.” Answered the doctor.

“And you’ve never seen anything like it before?”

The doctor looked uncomfortable, paused, and then she replied, “We once found something not entirely dissimilar in a Shoggoth we dissected”.

“Perhaps I’m a Shoggoth!” I lifted my hands in front of my head and waggled my fingers, the doctor did not look amused, the nurse looked uncomfortable, but Anya looked ill.

“Don’t!” She snapped. “I’ve seen them up close…” she brought up her breakfast.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t think…”

“No. You didn’t! I had them crawling all over that pod. Looking at me. Some of those tentacles have eyes, some are mouths. They were trying to get the pod open…” Anya began to cry. I didn’t know what to do, so I sat and held her, waving the doctor and nurse away.

After some time she calmed down.

“I’m sorry.” She whispered.

“No, I’m sorry. I was stupid.” I insisted,

“What do you mean, ‘was’?” She asked with a smile. I relaxed

“Lock the door!” She commanded.

A couple of hours later we showered and went to meet Sikorsky’s contact. To my surprise it was the doctor who had visited us earlier. She had, she told us, got the supplies ready for loading, Rather than waste time we had them loaded there and then.

“Right,” I said when the transfer was complete, “we’d better get clearance and get off.”

“I would like to study you further.” Said the doctor.

“I’m sure you would.” I replied.

“May I?”

“We’ll see.”

I could see the disappointment in her face as she watched us leave. We both knew I was never going to let her run further tests.

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