It is time once again to look in on this crew of misfits. Enjoy!
Name: Reginald Robert Wickwire
Rank: Lieutenant - Navigator
Call Sign: Bumpy
History: Born on the earth colony of New New York, he was a precocious child that had a talent for getting into trouble. His parents forcibly enrolled him in the UP academy at the age of fourteen hoping to give the boy some discipline. It took four months for him to get disciplined, After his stint of three weeks in the Morgan Military Prison he came out a changed boy. He vowed he would never get caught again. His career took off and he was rapidly progressing up the ranks while committing his offenses on the sly. He married a delightful young girl and they were planning on starting a family but, Reginald broke his vow. He and his wife faced very severe criminal charges until Admiral Tigrat assigned them to go deep.
Description: He is a startlingly cute young man with a look of mischief in his eyes at all times. He is medium in height and build with blond hair and gray eyes.
Mate: Lena Linda Longhorn-Wickwire
Name: Lena Linda Longhorn-Wickwire
Rank: Ensign - Shuttle pilot
Call Sign: Wild Ride
History: Born on the earth colony of New New York, she was a good girl but had one major failing; she just couldn’t stand where she lived. She joined the UP forces to try and get away. Fresh out of the academy she met a boy five years older than she was, she was eighteen. They were married and he taught her how to get away with just about anything in the military, except how to steal the admiral’s personal journal and get away with it. She is now going deep with her husband.
Description: Red hair and startling green eyes, athletic build.
We were approaching a planet with a lush Earth-like biosphere. We had entered over a dozen stellar systems in the last few days. This was the first with a habitable planet. “Are we detecting any anomalies that point to higher life forms?”
“No, sir, there are no unusual electromagnetic radiations. Also there are no abnormal pollutants in the atmosphere. We are however detecting a single point radiation source in orbit at approximately thirty five thousand four hundred kilometers from the surface. The planet is earth size and mass, that puts the object in geosynchronous orbit.” Millishia said as she looked over her console.
“Does the database give any information on this planet from old astronomical observations?’
“There is none, Captain.”
“Let’s move in on the object in orbit, it may be a beacon from another race. Close to one thousand kilometers and hold position.”
A few minutes later our navigator, Lieutenant Wickwire, spoke, “Sir we have reached the designated distance. The object is on screen.”
“Thank you, Bumpy,” I said as I looked up at the screen. The object lazily turned in the sunlight from the star. It was definitely a ship of some kind. There was damage to large sections of the ship. One of its drive sections was barely attached. The area the cockpit should have been was missing completely. As it continued to rotate, markings came into view. Written in large letters on the aft section was, “ESA Saint Elmo”, then in smaller letters “ESA-00017”.
“Those letters are earth normal. Look up any information on that ship in the database, Marijuana.” I said, this was exciting, we might have found one of the missing deep vessels.
“Accessing the information now, sir.” Millishia said as she continued to look at her console. “Pig, that is an Earth vessel, it was launched three hundred and twenty-five years ago. It is an old Ice Box Colony ship.”
“Do you mean there might be some frozen people on board that thing, still?”
“It is very possible, Phillip, this ship was launched towards a suspected earth like planet, in the direction of the constellation of Orion. Earth lost contact with its computer system twenty five years after launch. It was presumably lost with all personnel and passengers.”
“We need to go on board and see if we can salvage the computer core. The information could be valuable. Bumpy, have your wife meet us in shuttle bay two. Marijuana, you and Mountain are with me; gather Melons, Demoness, and Buster and meet up in the shuttle bay.” I left the bridge without looking back.
As we boarded the shuttle I spoke to Ensign Lena, get as close as you can, I doubt the docking rings will match our standards. Everyone else suit up. The ship probably lost atmosphere when the hull was breached. Once on board Buster, Mountain, and Marijuana go to the core room and see if we can pull the computer core. Melons and I will go to the sleeper hold to see if there are any active pods.”
Millishia spoke as she headed for the suit locker. “Captain, there were over four thousand colonists on the passenger manifest, if any large portion of them are still alive back there we won’t be able to house or support them on the Ticonderoga.”
“Understood, if there are too many of them we will plant an Evac beacon and get the UP to send out a transport for them.” I watched breathlessly as we approached the derelict ship. It was massive, over five kilometers in length and a kilometer wide. “Light her up, Wild Ride,” I ordered.
Lena touched a couple of the control and the external floodlights burst to life. With the added light the amount of damage to the ship became clearer. It was cratered with micrometeorite impacts. The damaged drive section was hanging on by only a few wires and conduits. There was enough space dust gathered on the surface to make identifying any windows impossible.
The first docking ring we came to, was damaged beyond any hope of access. The next two looked better but still I was hoping for an intact one. Millishia called my attention to something as we passed one of the four sleeper modules. “Philip, The separation locks for the sleepers have been fired. The chambers have been launched and reconnected.”
“Why would they return from the surface if they launched? Only an emergency code from the ship could have brought them back.”
We came across another docking ring this one was intact enough to clamp on to. Wild Ride rolled us over and brought us into perfect alignment with the ring. I operated the clamp claws and extended our walkway. Two minutes later we were moving across the walkway through open space. “Remember your suit protocols, one foot in contact with a surface at all times. No one floats away on my watch.”
I moved across to the docking ring and brushed the dust off of the control panel, there were no lights. “She has no power, Buster, help me with the manual crank.” We struggled with the crank for several minutes before Mountain reached in and spun the crank like it was a top. “We must have loosened it for him,” I told Buster.
Once inside Mountain shut the outer door and opened the inner one. The hallway in front of us was as dark as a well digger’s ass. It was as I suspected there was no air inside. I thumbed my suit lights on and looked down the hallway. As the others popped their lights on I heard Demoness give a small gasping sound. She pointed ahead of us there was a set of small human footprints in the dust. They came up to the door and stretched up on tiptoes. Then they went back down the hallway with a larger gap between them as if the print maker had been running. They were also the impressions of bare feet.
Have you ever heard that little voice in your head that says stuff like, “Get the fuck out of here!”, “Danger Will Robertson!”, and “Oh fuck I’m going to die!”? I ignored it. Damn I wish we had brought a couple of people in red shirts.
“Change in plans, you three still go after the core, weapons at ready. Demoness and I are going to look for the creator of those footprints.“ We split up at a branch in the hallway; the footprints went aft towards the sleeper pods.
The footprints came to a doorway, there was no evidence that it had been opened recently but the footprints just ended there. I popped the manual panel and started to crank the door. Thank the stars this one didn’t need a mountain to make it move. The door slid back smoothly and I shined my light down the new passage. Then I screamed like a little girl, a figure had loomed out of the dark as my light slid across it. It was the inert body of one of the robot flight crew. Why had they chosen to make the damn things look like skeletal people?
I could hear Demoness trying to stifle her laughter, as I explained that I had just been startled to the rest of the boarding party. Somehow I knew Tigrat had set this up. He must have gone back in time just to make them redesign those damn things.
We looked for the footprints in the dust, there were none. But scrawled in the dust on the wall was the words “Nya, nya.”
We continued aft ward to locate the sleeper pods. Three hundred feet later we found the footprints again. This time they were in a random pattern as if the person had stopped to dance for a while. “This is very strange sir, it is like a child playing games,” Demoness observed.
Before I could reply Mountain came on the com, “Sir we have reached the core room, it looks like it will take about an hour to disconnect the computer.”
“Very good. Wild Ride, retract the walkway and secure your outer door, there is something very odd going on here.”
“I already did that when I heard you scream, sir.”
“Planning on abandoning us?”
“Nope, not until someone else screamed. I know you startle easily.”
We encountered the footprint several times during our journey to the sleeper pods. I was beginning to get the heebie jeebies. It was like we were being toyed with by a ghost, on a ghost ship. The more I thought about it the creepier it was.
We finally found the control console for the sleepers and I checked it. The emergency power was still on here. I checked the controls and found one couch out of four thousand that was occupied. What had happen to all of the others? “We have one survivor, we are moving to check out the condition of the sleeper couch.”
“Very good, sir, we will join you in a few minutes we have the core.” Millishia replied.
“Negative, take it back to the shuttle and wait there. Something stinks in here and I have not gone to the bathroom in my suit.” We worked the access hatch and entered the sleeper pod. Couch one hundred and seven was fogged over. “There is our survivor, lets see if we can transport the couch to the shuttle.”
“I don’t think that will be a problem sir, the shuttle could just fly in the hole in the pod and pick us up.” Demoness said quietly.
I looked up to see the entire outward wall of the pod missing. She was right, the shuttle would fit easily. I checked over the couch. It was fully functional but the backup battery pack used to power the couch during transport was damaged. “Check and see if a backup can be taken from one of the other couches.” I told Demoness as I started preparing the couch to be disconnected. “Wild Ride, bring the shuttle around to pod three. I will leave a light on for you.”
It took the better part of an hour to get the couch rigged for transport. As I was disconnecting it a small object hit my helmet. I looked over to see a plastic ball rolling across the floor. It was a child’s plaything. I shook my head and went back to work. This ship had me in a full blown case of the creeps. I bent down to loosen the final connector and the ball hit me again. “Demoness, quit fucking around.”
“Sir, I am on the shuttle getting the connections ready.”
My spine started trying to crawl up into my helmet, “You left me out here alone?”
“Yes sir, you are in hard vacuum, nothing can get to you.”
“Tell that to the plastic ball that has been thrown at me twice! Get someone out here to watch my back or I am going to demote the whole fucking crew to Seaman Recruits!” I was close enough to panic out here without being alone.
Five minutes later Mountain was standing next to me, “Sorry, sir.”
I had to giggle to myself when the plastic ball hit him in the head a minute later. The thought came to me that with the power on in this section we still had artificial gravity. “Buster, get out here with a couple of antigrav pallets. I don’t want to carry this damn thing.
As we loaded the couch into the cargo hold on the shuttle I noticed a duffle bag on the floor near the shuttle. I opened it to look, it was full of toys. There were dolls, balls, blocks, and a jump rope. I set the bag aside and helped to secure the couch in the bay. We were underway ten minutes later.
The return to the Ticonderoga was uneventful. Once we secured the shuttle I was helping to unload the couch. “Get this thing in isolation and let’s get the core hooked up so we can check the auto logs. Do not defrost or open that couch until after we know what is going on.”
When we floated the couch off I noticed the duffle bag sitting in a corner of the hold. “Who loaded the duffle bag?” No one would admit to loading it so I took it off the shuttle and locked it in a storage locker. Then I set a priority lock on it so only I could get it open.
I thumbed the com panel on the wall near the lockers. “Bumpy back us away from that ship. Give us about fifty thousand kilometers.”
“Will do, captain,” Bumpy replied.
I moved to the bridge as the techs rolled the couch to containment. It was time for the second shift to take over and I needed to do my pass down report. I was looking forward to some downtime with my wife. That ship had really given me the creeps with a capital K.
Twenty minutes later found me walking into our quarters. Millishia was setting plates and glasses on the table. I walked up behind her and put my arms around her waist. I buried my nose in her freshly showered hair, making her giggle. “You need a shower love, you smell like the inside of a space suit.”
“You know how to flatter a guy, babe.”
She turned around and gave me a deep passionate kiss. “Why don’t you take a shower while I get dinner ready? Then maybe I will think of something special for dessert.” She smiled a devilish smile as she pinched my ass.
“Keep doing that and I will forgo the shower and just throw you up on the table right here.”
“Now that, sounds like a vicious punishment, captain.”
I moved to our delta shower striping of my uniform on the way. I stepped in and touched the controls starting the cycle. The sonic waves brushed across my body loosening all of the dirt and grime from my skin. Then a warm mist of water was sprayed out flowed by a stiff airflow. Finally a mist of skin care and moisturizers was sprayed across me. It was not as fun as a good old fashioned shower, but it got you squeaky clean.
I stepped into the clothier and dialed over to my casual selections. I chose the silk lounging outfit and touched the controls. The energy solidifier activated and I was clothed in a set of lounging pajamas. Then I stepped out and threw my days uniform in the energy recycler.
I moved out to the combination living/dining/bedroom area to find Millishia placing the food on the table. Energy solidified beef stroganoff, with energy solidified baked apples; boy did that sound good, Yeah right. I would give anything for an actual apple, this stuff may be good for you but it tasted artificial.
We ate in silence for a while, until I got the nerve up to ask, “What’s wrong? You are very quiet tonight and that usually means you are mad at me.”
“It’s not you this time. There were just some weird things that happen on that ship. They have me a little spooked.”
“What kind of things?”
“When we were trying to disconnect the core, I could have sworn I felt someone playing with my hair. I was in a space suit for the stars sake. Nothing could touch my hair, not even me. Then a little later, Buster’s suit settings got changed giving him too much oxygen. If I had not seen it with my own eyes I would have thought someone was crazy. The knobs on his chest pack just turned, all by themselves. Mountain wouldn’t say anything but, he kept getting jumpier and jumpier the whole time.”
I could tell she was really bothered by this. She had tears forming on the edges of her eyes. “Babe it was an old derelict ship. It was open to space and it was a bit creepy. I am sure all of that combined to just give us all the creep out syndrome.”
“Phil, if it had just been those things, I would think you were right, but the doll, even an over active imagination could not make that happen.”
“What doll?”, I asked thinking about the dolls in the bag of toys.
“It was a very old doll, like the ones made out of rags that were so popular. You know the ones, the collector’s item dolls. Anyway it was lying in the corner of the core room when we entered. Then when I turned to get Buster’s tool bag, the doll was on the table next to it, I even looked in the corner, the doll there was gone. When we finished, I was helping Buster put his tools back and the doll was in his bag. We tossed it out and headed back to the shuttle. When we were moving the shuttle to come get you, Buster was checking his tool bag. The doll was back in it again. We both made sure it got flushed out of the airlock when mountain came out to cover your back.”
I did not want to tell her I had seen a doll just like the one she described in the bag of toys. I knew her talking this out would make her feel better, but it was scaring the crap out of me. “I don’t know what to say babe, maybe Mountain was playing a trick on you two. He does have a wicked sense of humor.”
“Phil, Mountain couldn’t laugh at a joke if it would save his life. He was also scared shitless of that doll, he wouldn’t even get into the airlock with it. We had to flush it first. When can we get out of here? That ship gives me the creeps.”
I moved over to my wife and held her in my arms. “Whatever is over there is safely on that ship, and we are a long ways away from it.” She clung to me. She was terrified of whatever was over there. I wouldn’t say I was terrified, but it definitely had me on edge.
Once she calmed down she looked up at me with tears still drying on her cheeks. “Look at me, I am a fool, big bad space officer scared of a few oddball occurrences. At least we know there are no cockbiter rats over there.”
Now I shuddered, “Don’t even mention them, I can’t believe twenty rats damn near killed us all.”
She looked up into my eyes. “Thank you.”
“For what, babe?”
“Just for being here.” As she spoke she reached up and kissed me deeply. In the whole time we had been married, she had never kissed me the way she did now. My initial shock wore off quickly and I warmed to the woman in my arms. “Take me to bed, my husband.”
I picked her up in my arms and touched the floor stud that caused the table to go into hiding. When it was gone, I touched another stud to make the bed appear. You think the captain's cabin would have at least a separate bedroom. At least we had a private bathroom instead of the community one the enlisted couple’s quarters enjoyed.
I placed my wife into the bed and kissed her neck on that sensitive spot just behind the ear. Tonight I would make love to my wife for the first time. We had had sex before but we had never made love.
I caressed her stomach and legs as I started to bite the buttons off of her lounging blouse. Her light giggles were music to my ears. Our marriage had been loveless, now I could feel the change in her. I had loved her from the moment I saw her, but our marriage had been one of convenience, she wanted to go deep, and I had too.
When I spit the last button away, I moved my face downward and licked my way from her stomach just above her pants to the smooth valley between her breasts. Her light sigh was music to my ears. I did not remember ever hearing anything so beautiful. Then the smell of her arousal hit my nose. That smell took me from erect to rock hard before it even fully registered. I slid my hand down the front, inside of her lounge pants. I found the moisture there more desirable than any woman I had ever been with. She moaned as my finger found her clit. I teased and played with her as I closed my mouth around the nipple in front of me.
She ran her fingers through my hair and moaned out my name. The sound of her almost made me explode early. That tone of voice was so full of desire and love. I kissed my way down her body as I climbed onto the bed. Once I was to the barrier of cloth over her lovely legs, I ripped them away with both hands. Within a second she was bare before me. I had to taste her. The aroma of her was making me crazy. I ran my tongue along her pussy taking in the moisture that had collected on her lips. The flavor was like the sweetest honey to me.
I pushed my tongue into her tight cunt. The moans and sighs from her played a chorus on my soul. I felt her hands entwine in my hair, trying to push me deeper into her. I obliged her efforts by burying my face as deep as I could into her cunt. With every touch of my tongue her legs would twitch and shake. I move my face downward and pushed my tongue in to her tight ass. Her legs instantly clamped onto my head, as she screamed out my name and quivered in her ecstasy. When I felt her legs start to relax I moved my head upward and nipped at her clit. Her legs closed on my head like a bear trap. She again screamed out her orgasm. She nearly convulsed when my fingers slid into her ass and cunt at the same time. Her back arched upward and she began to beg me to stop.
I let her relax as I moved up her incredible body. She smiled at me when she felt my cock bump against he molten hot pussy. Her legs wrapped around my hips and she pulled me into her. The passion of her embrace had me ready to explode. I began to thrust my hips with abandon as I locked my lips to hers. Our passion rose on wings of love as we both rocketed towards our orgasms. I felt her pussy tighten around my cock. The sensation pushed me over the edge and we moaned out our orgasms together.
The only thing I could say as I rolled off of her to lay next to her in the bed was, “Wow!” She moved up to my side and placed her head on my chest. My arm found its way around her and I kissed the top of her head. Then I felt her lips twist into a smile.
With a smooth sensual move, she slid her head down my body to take my cock into her mouth. I nearly jumped out of my skin as the sensitive head slid into her throat. Her talented tongue quickly reversed the direction my erection was headed. In less than a minute she had me at full hardness again.
My moan of disappointment, when she pulled her mouth off of me, made her giggle. “Another time, my love, I want this in me again.” She straddled me and I felt her hand guide me to her cunt once again. She began to pound her body onto me with an abandon that surprised me. She was like an animal made of passion as she rode my cock.
I felt her start to lose her rhythm as she moved towards another orgasm. She suddenly howled out and collapsed quivering onto my chest. As she relaxed I moved her off of me. Then I stood up and pulled her to the edge of the bed, on her stomach. She looked back over her shoulder and smiled. I watched as she spread her legs until she was doing the splits on the edge of the bed. Her beautiful round ass was a perfect display as I stepped up. With one hard thrust I began to pound into her cunt with all of my passion and fire. In seconds she was moaning her way up to another orgasm. I wet my finger and pushed it into her ass. I felt her tense and shake. I ground my cock into her tight cunt as she Moaned and begged for more. I lost count of the orgasms she had before I was near my release. With one final hard thrust I slammed my seed into her.
All of the video monitors in the room came on showing an animated show of teenage kids being chased by ghosts down a hallway. “Scooby-Dooby-Doo, Where are you? We got some work to do now.”, it was screaming at full volume.
Do you know what it is like to get startled out of your wits, mid orgasm? I jumped to my feet roughly pulling from my wife as I was still spraying. She jumped up at the same time and flew across the bed, screaming at the top of her lungs. It took several minutes for my heart to beat again. Then when it did it went off like a sledgehammer. The pounding in my chest was only magnified by the throbbing of the arteries in my head. Then I was hit by a human body running at full speed. My wife was in my arms and crying before I could even register a coherent thought.
I reached over to the nearest com panel, “Bridge, What the fuck is going on up there? Shut that fucking thing off now!”
A voice came back that I could not recognize over the din of the cartoon show. “Sir, we are trying. Every monitor on the ship is playing it. Most of the consoles won’t let us access them.”
“Pull the fucking plug on the entertainment database!”
Thirty seconds later the only sound that could be heard in our room was the beating of my wife’s heart. It was louder than mine. When my hearing returned, and our heartbeats slowed down, I guided my wife to the bathroom. There we stepped into the energy solidifier booth and I dialed it for our uniforms.
We left our room and headed for the bridge. That was where I was run over by a Mountain. That black skinned behemoth came out of his and Everest’s room at full tilt, running backwards. I managed to push my wife out of the way just before I was body slammed into the wall by a huge black butt.
I squeezed out of my predicament to see Mountain pointing into his room. There at the foot of his bed was a very old Raggedy Anne doll. Its evil smile was one of the scariest things I had ever seen. My wife apparently agreed because she screamed at the top of her lungs as well. “It’s that damn doll, it followed us!”
“It is just a doll. Someone got it out of the locker and is playing as joke on us.” I told them. I was not sure if I was trying to convince them, or myself. I walked into the room and picked up the doll. It took all of my willpower to put my hand around its scrawny little body. Then I deliberately stalked out of the room and towards the bridge.
The three of us arrived at the bridge a few minutes later. “What the hell is going on here? Whose idea was it to put cartoons across the ship network at full volume?”
The watch commander stood up out of the command chair. “Sir, no one here did it. The communications watch was not even in the room when it happened. They had left to use the bathroom and suddenly every monitor on the ship started showing that damn show and singing that song. The video even locked us out of most of the consoles by covering up the interface icons.”
“Start an investigation; I want to know by morning which console on this ship was used and who did it.”
“Sir, may I ask why you are carrying a doll?”
“It keeps big black butts out of my face.” I turned and left the bridge, I was headed for the lockers in bay two. I needed to see who could, and did, override my security code on the locker. “Mountain, Marijuana, you two go get some sleep.”
“Not a chance, sir,” Mountain rumbled in his deep voice, “I am staying where I can see that death totem in your hand.” Millishia just nodded in agreement.
“It is just a doll, don’t try and make it into something ominous.” We arrived at the locker and I accessed the log data. This confused me, the locker had been open an hour and a half ago by me. Then I had sealed it with my personal code. Twenty five minutes later it had been opened again. There had been no bio signature, no code entered, and the most puzzling thing; there had been no scan data of a person in the area. The shuttle bay had been empty at the time.
I opened the locker to find the duffle bag missing. I quietly placed the doll in the locker and shut the door. I set an alarm code on the locker. If anyone opened it, including myself, it would give me an alert, anywhere on the ship.
The three of us left the shuttle bay and headed down the hall. When we reached the lift, the com panel next to it sounded the captain’s attention tone. I touched the panel and the computer spoke. “Locker two zero five has been opened, captain.”
I turned and sprinted back to the shuttle bay. The locker was closed and locked as before. We had passed no one and there was no one in the bay. I opened the locker trying to not let my hand tremble. The locker was as empty as a lawyer’s soul.
Oh well, there went any chance of me getting sleep tonight. I was seriously creeped out now. I walked over to the com panel, “Jazz Hands! Have you made any progress getting that computer core hooked up to a console yet?”
“Actually, yes I have. I couldn’t sleep so I came down to engineering.”
“Why couldn’t you sleep?” I asked, not fully wanting an answer.
“The wife and I kept hearing a little girl playing in the hall outside our door. For some reason it was making Leafa jumpy. Though I have to admit, it got to me a little too.”
We will be down in about five minutes. Have that damn thing ready for me to look through the logs.” We left the shuttle bay. All of us kept looking over our shoulder. When we arrived in engineering, Jazz Hands was sitting at a console. It was standard procedure to hook any retrieved core to an autonomous console. If it had gone buggy, you didn’t want it to talk to your core.
I pushed Jazz Hands aside and sat at the console. It took me a few moments to access the logs but they were intact.
The ship had left Earth orbit on May 5th of 2065. Its target had been a planet around the star Betelgeuse. It was confirmed habitable and had an Earth-like length to its year. The voyage was expected to take one hundred and twenty-five years. The ships travel speed had been twice the speed of light. Due to the length of the voyage the ship was automated and all passengers and crew had been asleep in hibernation couches.
Twenty five years after launch the flight control deck had a meteor rip through it. The backup system taken over but the navigation track had been lost. The ship had been thrown off course and flew a straight line until it reached this system.
Once here the systems detected the earth like planet and assumed this must have been its destination. It then launched the sleeper pods.
Seven days later the ship received an emergency evacuation request from the planet below. It recalled the pods and when they attached the ship found the only passenger on board was one Millany Denise Roberts, a seven year old passenger. She had been allowed to apply because of her extreme intelligence and the fact that she was an orphan. She was still asleep and her couch showed no signs that it had ever been opened. The ship tried to set a course to return to earth but as it started the main drives one of the chemical igniters, did. The resulting explosion ripped the starboard engine off of the ship and rendered its generators dead. The only power, the ship had, was to the sleep pods.
An automated ship, without power, is called space junk.
Well that answered some questions, not any that I was asking however. I wanted to know what had been on that ship. What was now on my ship?
I looked up the little popsicle in the passenger manifest. She was a young girl of African American decent. She had graduated Harvard College at the age of five with four PhDs. At the age of six she had invented the, chemically ignited matter decay engine. “Oh my god,” I said under my breath.
“What?”, everyone around me asked, at the same time.
“That little girl frozen in our lab is none other than MD Roberts. That is the girl that invented the first faster than light drive.”
“You mean the little engine that blew the doors off of every ship they built it into?” Jazz Hands asked.
“Yes, she invented the ‘FTL Bomb’. We have found an honest to goodness celebrity out here.”
I moved away from the console. “We need to go down to the planet and see if we can locate any sign of what happen to the colonists. Jazz Hands, see if you can get us any drop coordinates from that thing. It’s a big planet when you are looking for an individual.”
As we left the engineering section the com unit on the wall gave the Captain’s notification beep. I thumbed it on, “Captain Graves.”
“Sir this is Melons, I wanted to report about the freezer in the isolation chamber. It is fully functional and the passenger is fine, but I am getting some odd reading.”
“What kind of odd readings?”
“I am tracing Theta and gamma waves from the freezer. As if the occupant is dreaming and thinking.”
“She is frozen, Melons, she can’t be dreaming. It may be an effect of the old freezer systems. Double check the system diagnostics and let me know if anything else turns up.”
“One more thing, Melons, Why are you in the lab, this is your sleep cycle.”
“Buster and I couldn’t sleep. Our Music system kept turning itself on. It has us both a little spooked.”
“We have been having a few odd experiences since we came back.”
I don’t know if this counts as odd sir, but a duffle bag is laying next to the freezer in the containment area. It wasn’t there a few minutes ago.”
“That definitely counts as odd. I will be right there.”
I moved to the lift at a dead run, the missing bag had turned up in the one room it could not have turned up in. We were in the med lab two minutes later. I could plainly see the bag. It was sitting next to the sleeper couch. I moved to the lock panel. Only med personnel or myself could open the door once it was sealed.
The door control report indicated it had been opened, by no one. The door had just opened and closed with no command to do so. I stood up shaking my head. “Leave it in there. If it moves again let me know. Try and get some sleep, none of us are going to do any good if we are too tired to think.”
I took Millishia’s arm and started back towards our quarters, “We are off to get some sleep, I suggest you do the same, Mountain.”
It was deep in the night when I turned in my sleep, there was a warm little body snuggled up between my wife and I. My eyes instantly snapped open as I reached back to turn on the light. After a few blinks to adjust I looked between us and there was nothing there except for that damn doll. I swear, I tried to move it before my wife was awoken by my movement. Her eyes came open and focused on the doll between us.
Her scream would have made a vampire die of fright. “How the hell did that get in here?”
I got off the bed carrying the doll. Without bothering to change clothes I left the room headed for the med lab. When I arrived I checked the log tapes of the room. It happened about twenty five minutes before I woke up. The door opened, and the doll floated out of the room. I thumbed the com unit to life, “Jazz Hands, report.”
“Yes, Sir,” he answered just a few seconds later.
“Have you got a landing site yet?”
“Yes, Sir, they have already been fed to the guidance computer for shuttle two.”
“Good man. Demoness, Wild Ride, Mountain, and Everest, report to shuttle two in five minutes, we are going to the surface.”
I ran to my room to change into a uniform, pajamas just wouldn’t do. Millishia was sitting wide eyed in our room. “We are going to the surface to see what we can find there. I want to know what they sent back up to that ship.”
“Can I go with you, please, whatever is on this ship, is scaring the hell out of me.”
She was behind me as we headed for the shuttle bay. I looked down and realized I still had the doll in my hand. Whatever was going on here was tied to this damn doll. I was not going to let it out of my sight until I knew what it was.
The shuttle cleared the bay over the blue-green marble below us. I could see the reflection of that ghost ship in the distance. It had all started when we went on board that derelict. My answers had to be on the planet.
I watched the horizon as we drew into the atmosphere. We were almost half way around when the landing zone came into sight. We would have about an hour of daylight before we had to leave. I was not letting anyone stay downside here until I knew what the danger was.
We made a slow pass over the landing site. There were few signs of habitation. A couple of the prefab huts still stood. Then I saw what I was looking for, there was the downfall computer and communications pod. They had been standard equipment since the very first colonists had left Earth so long ago.
We landed and Millishia did a scan of the area. “There are a couple of large animals in the area, everyone better carry arms. I detect no signs of human life.”
We gathered our Inducer pistols and rifles. While I armed myself I laid the doll down, when I turned to pick it up it was gone. “Damn it,” I mumbled under my breath.
The others turned at the sound of my mumble, “Where is the death totem?” Everest asked and I could see the same question burning in everyone’s eyes.
“I set it down and it disappeared. It is just a damn doll.” I said as I headed for the hatch. “Stay in groups of two at least. One set of eyes always on the lookout. Report anything that isn’t normal.” When the hatch opened a small possum-like creature scurried away from us. Then it stopped and tucked its head in between its legs and rolled away at high speed.
Demoness looked at me and said quietly, “Sir, I would like to report a creature that stuck its head up its own ass and rolled away.”
“Thank you, Dumboness,” I said as I walked down the ramp. “Millishia, Everest you are with me. Demoness and Mountain sweep the area. Nobody gets bit by wild Raggedy Anne dolls.” I headed for the computer pod.
It seemed that every animal on this planet liked the idea of sticking its head up its ass. It seamed an efficient way to travel if you didn’t mind the smell.
We reached the pod and I activated the console. It took it a couple of minutes to wake up. Then I started checking the logs. The videos of the Captain started smoothly.
“Day one colonist report, Captain Jim Stacco Reporting. We made planet fall today. We had no malfunctioning bays. The systems all check out within operational parameters. The unloading of the quick huts went well. It was decided that the couch containing MD Roberts would not be triggered until after the initial set up is complete. She is still young enough to be a distraction to the colony as we work. It was found that the Rollerbies are not a viable food source, there blood contains a poison that is deadly to humans. A group will be sent out in the morning to establish animals that can be hunted for food.”
I manipulated the controls to display the next entry; so far this had not been promising.
“Day two colonist report, Captain Jim Stacco Reporting. We had some strange occurrences during the night. Several of the colonists reported hearing a child playing in the camp. It is also believed there may be a native race in the vicinity. Several of the personal effects of MD Roberts were found scattered about the camp. Inventory of the items showed nothing missing. A new creature has been sighted in the area. Lieutenant Jaxum named it a ballcat. It appears to be a large predatory cat like creature. In its extended shape its camouflage is nearly impenetrable. While in its ball form it can move at over one hundred KPH. They appear to be large and dangerous. We will be setting the security screens in place this afternoon.“
“Supplemental report: Three colonists were attacked and killed today by the ballcats. We did not see them until they were in the camp. They move like a ghost through the tress. Our security fences are not going to be high enough to protect us, I am setting extra guards during the sleep shift. Casualty list: Marcus Randal James, David Lee Fairmount, and Robert Aaron Wade.”
I called out to the others walking around the camp. “Watch out for large predators, they may be well camouflaged. Demoness, get the portable motion scanner from the shuttle.” I proceeded to the next entry.
“Day three colonist report, Captain Jim Stacco Reporting. We set over a hundred guards during the night watch. This morning they are all missing and presumed dead. I have ordered the huts be fortified with extra armor. To accomplish this, the colonists will be doubling up. We will not set any guards tonight all colonists will lock themselves in their huts at nightfall. Casualty list: Stephen…”
The report listed all of the missing colonists. I was shocked by the number of dead on the second night. They should have pulled out then. At that kind of death rate they would not last forty days. After the list, the computer continued.
“Self initiated supplemental report number zero-zero-zero-four dash one. Alarm system triggered at space standard time zero-zero point two-five. Explanation: unknown. Triggering personnel: unknown. Status of colony: unknown.”
I turned to the rest of the crew, “Let’s tighten it up. These creatures are very, and I repeat very dangerous. Wild ride, get the shuttle ready for emergency lift off.” I continued with the log entries.
“Day four colonist report, Captain Jim Stacco Reporting. All hell broke out during the night, someone managed to trigger the alarm on the colony computer system. I am glad they did. We lost over four hundred people during the night. The ballcats attacked in force, at one point there were more than a hundred of them inside the compound. They seem to be immune to plasma rifle fire. I have issued projectile weapons to all colonists. They only seem to sting them but at least it drives them off. Casualty list…”
I fast forwarded through the list, which would take hours to go through. I could not figure out why they had not pulled out. The planet was obviously not hospitable. They needed better weapons from the ship.
“Self initiated supplemental report number zero-zero-zero-five dash one. Alarm system triggered at space standard time zero-zero point three-seven. Explanation: unknown. Triggering personnel: unknown. Status of colony: unknown.”
When the captain again appeared on the screen he was in rough shape. He had a bandage on his head and a sling over one arm. He had obviously been roughed up during the night.
“Day five colonist report, Captain Jim Stacco Reporting. We lost over a thousand people when the ballcats hit last night. We will be rearranging the huts tonight to build one long barracks, with heavily armored walls. I am the last of the military men sent as escorts. The colonists are refusing to leave, they believe we can tame this planet if we learn how to deal with the ballcats. I fear we may find out soon what hunts these creatures. I will not enter a casualty report at this time all hands are needed for the barracks construction.”
“Self initiated supplemental report number zero-zero-zero-six dash one. Alarm system triggered at space standard time zero-zero point two-nine. Explanation: unknown. Triggering personnel: unknown. Status of colony: unknown.”
“Self initiated supplemental report number zero-zero-zero-six dash two. Alarm system triggered at space standard time zero-one point three-one. Explanation: unknown. Triggering personnel: unknown. Status of colony: unknown.”
“Self initiated supplemental report number zero-zero-zero-six dash three. Alarm system triggered at space standard time zero-two point three-three. Explanation: unknown. Triggering personnel: unknown. Status of colony: unknown.”
There was no report on the sixth day. I was pretty sure that the colonists had not made it through the fifth night. On the seventh day there was one report.
“Self initiated supplemental report number zero-zero-zero-seven dash one. Emergency evacuation call triggered at space standard time one-one point five-one. Explanation: unknown. Triggering personnel: unknown. Status of colony: unknown. Pods lifted off at space standard time one-two point one-zero. System initiating self power conservation mode.”
Then there was the report for my activating the console. I filled in the missing data and then turned to Marijuana. “Let’s get this into the ship, we will download all the data and send it back with the reports.” As she was about to answer, there was a roar from the edge of the clearing. I turned in time to see mountain go down below a large armored cat looking creature. It looked like an armadillo crossed with a tiger, but no stripes.
I drew my inducer pistol and fired, my excellent marksmanship paid off. I managed to kill the shit out of the tree behind them.
Everest drew her force mace and slammed it into the creature's head. The cat rolled off of her husband as it recoiled to the side. Mountain rolled to his feet and drew his energy mace and inducer pistol. I could see the nasty cuts across his chest.
I leveled my inducer pistol to fire again but Demoness pushed my hand down. “You are a lousy shot captain and those two would never forgive you if you killed one of them.” As she spoke, she fired her inducer pistol at the ballcat. The reaction was instant. The great cat thing screamed and rolled itself into a ball. Then it rolled away at high speed.
“Move everyone to the long hut! We need to get out of the open as fast as possible!” I shouted while II turned to take stock of the others. Marijuana and wild ride had just finished loading the console onto the shuttle. I motioned for them to head to the long hut.
Demoness asked, “Why head for there, we need to get in the ship and lift off.”
“I still need answers, and I am not going to find them topside.”
“I advise against this, Captain, we are in a compromised security situation. We should leave and return with better armament and armor.”
“We will call from the hut for backup.” I said as we entered the hut. The hut was heavily armored and still sturdy after all this time. It should give us some protection while we investigated. “Demoness, contact the ship and get us some back up. Tell them to come in battle suits and with heavy inducer rifles.”
“I don’t have a hand com, sir.”
“Everest, contact the…”
“I didn’t grab one either, sir,” Everest said with a rueful look on her face.
“Did anyone grab a hand communicator?” I asked as I looked at the group. I got a bunch of heads shaking “no”, and a lot of “fuck me were going to die” looks. “Everest, Demoness, Mountain; find any holes in the armor of the building and plug them. Wild Ride, Marijuana; look for any weapons we can use.” It was too late to get mad about our own stupidity, now it was time to do something about it.
As I searched for weapons I flipped over a piece of fallen metal. Under the scrap lay an old Raggedy Andy doll. It had obviously been lying there a long time. When I reached for the doll it suddenly floated up into the air and started twirling about as if someone was dancing with it. Then I saw a child’s lip prints appear in the dust on its face. Then it all clicked, I knew the answer I was looking for. I knew who the ghost was and what needed to be done about it.
I stood and turned to see mountain staring at the doll with open fear in his eyes. “Don’t worry, Mountain, it is not a death totem, it is just a doll and a young girl is very happy to see it again. Get the others ready, we are going back to the ship.”
“How?”, he grumbled under his breath.
“The five of you are going to cover me while I run for the ship. I will then swing the shuttle over and park it right in front of the door. Once you are on board it will be a nice quiet ride back to the ship.” As I spoke I moved over to the door, I opened it just a crack to look out. There were about thirty or forty small mounds around the hut that had not been there when we came in.
I pulled my pistol and fired at one of the mounds. It did not even react as the web of energy played across it. Apparently there armor plating made them nearly immune to energy weapon fire. I was going to have to run the gauntlet hoping my crew could hit the creatures before the rose up to attack me.
As they positioned themselves the Raggedy Andy doll floated up in front of me. Then it seemed to try and thrust itself into my hand. I looked down about where the girl’s eyes should be. “Do you want me to take it with me for luck?”
The doll shook its head no.
“I need to run to the ship, and I have to have my hands clear.” I said softly.
The doll again shook its head no.
“I have to; we will all die if we stay here.”
One more time the doll shook its head no, then it dropped to the floor at my feet.
I turned to the others, “set your weapons to kill and wait till I get my nerve up.” I was waiting for them to ready themselves when I heard the shuttle engines fire up. I looked out the crack in the door just in time to see the shuttle start to lift off. The mounds lifted up revealing the cats under their armor.
The shuttle started to turn in the air and then the slug cannons underneath opened fire. The first few shots went wide and ripped into the building only about thirty feet away from us. Now I was scared, if the cats didn’t get us an inexperienced ghost girl would. Then the cannons opened up again and started ripping into the ground between us and the ship.
I watched as the cannons ripped holes in the ground causing the ballcats to scatter. Then as they ran the cannons started ripping into the creatures themselves. When the cannons stilled again I grabbed the doll at my feet and shouted. “Now! Make for the shuttle!”
We ran like our feet were on fire and our asses were catching it. Over our heads we heard the cannons open up again. With a cyclic rate of a thousand rounds per second those cannons almost seem to purr. As we ran under the shuttle headed for the rear ramp, the inducer cannons opened up. I could hear the ballcats screaming in pain as the inducers hit.
I reached the ramp and Demoness tossed me up to Mountain. One by one we boarded. When Demoness, the last on-board, jumped up, I closed the ramp. “Wild Ride, get up front and take over for Mighty Mouse.”
“Who the hell is Mighty Mouse?”
“None other than Miss MD Roberts herself,” I said as I motioned for her to take over the shuttle. Wild Ride ran to the front and a few moments later I held out the doll. It was lightly taken from my grasp. “Thank you, Mighty Mouse, you saved our butts back there. I need to ask you a few questions now and it can’t wait till we get back to the ship.”
The doll shrugged.
“First you have an option, we can put your freezer couch in a rescue shuttle and send you back to earth. It will take about two years to make the trip. Or you could stay with us and explore this side of the galaxy. Do you want to go back to Earth?”
The doll shook its head no.
“There are a few things about going deep you need to know before we wake you up. On the ship I am the first last and only voice of authority. Do you have any problem with following my orders?”
The doll again shook its head no.
“There are also some sexual freedom rules you will have to live with when you come of age at sixteen. Yes I know you are over three hundred, that doesn’t count.” I then explained the sexual rules of the ship. “Do you have any problem with living a free lifestyle? No one will force you; you just have to be open to the requests of the others.”
The doll seemed almost to think for a while, then it shook its head yes.
“Then my young friend, I will shake your hand and welcome you to the crew when you wake up. My first order to you is, no playing in the halls in ghost from while you are supposed to be sleeping.”