Monday, February 24, 2014

Scout's Duty - Chapter 61

< Chapter 60                                                                                                   Chapter 62 >
The spaceship Aashla’s Hope begins its first wormhole jump.

In the early days of space exploration, wormhole travel was deadly.  The invention of the inertial dampener fifteen hundred years ago changed all that.  It made wormhole travel deadly dull.  Martin and I kept the crew on their toes with simulations and exercises.  Rupor kept the marines -- half Tartegian and half Mordanian -- busy with shipboard drills.  Laura and the women with her kept an eye on the spaceship's system and tried to quell the excitement of seeing their husbands for the first time in a year.

Everyone had something to do -- except Callan and Megan.  They spent hours together.  Megan asked Callan her opinion on various songs she was working on, including what was shaping up to be an epic ballad about Callan and me.  The song did not exaggerate our adventures, but I got embarrassed listening to it all the same.  Callan liked it, though.  In fairness to Megan, the verse where Rob died always brought a lump to my throat and Callan openly cried.

Between wormhole jumps, Martin and I would plot a course past small asteroid fields.  The gunnery crews gained hours of invaluable live-fire experience during those passes.  Milo and I went out in the pinnace, as well, allowing the gunners to practice against an evasive target and giving Milo hours of piloting experience.  By the time the ship entered the wormhole to the pirate base, the crew's rate of fire and accuracy had tripled.

The final wormhole jump seemed interminable, as was the slow crawl from the wormhole exit to the asteroid field concealing the pirate base.  We were but five light seconds from the field before we received the recognition challenge.  Martin keyed the response code Rupor's interrogators had...coaxed...from the pirates and we waited.

"We're being hailed," called Heidi, the redhead who'd kissed me for killing Orrons.

Martin rose from the command chair.  "On screen."

A lean, hard face filled the view screen.  "You took your time returning, Cau-"

The pirate's eyes locked on Martin.  "Where is Captain Caudill?”

How will our heroes respond?  How will the pirates react?  Find out in Chapter 62, coming Wednesday!