Sunday Serialisation – Back Paige. Chapter twelve, part one.

“What do you mean, Ishmael?” Andrea asked, “Are you suggesting that I can’t offer these aliens the same courtesy they offered us? What does that say about us as a species?”

“No, Admiral. That isn’t what I said. What I said is that the MTS pods, as configured, can only call back those they transited down. You are aware we use the undo function to bring you back up?”

“Yes, of course.”

“All I’m saying, Admiral, is they can’t undo what they didn’t do in the first place.”

“Can’t they be reconfigured to be able to do that?”

“I can’t see how, but I’ll put it on the list to discuss next time Kala Kodash is here.”

“Do that. Meantime, I want to give Fronglad and Granhalf a tour of C-pill. Find me a landing site; I’ll take shuttle one.”

“Of course, Admiral. Meantime, a message came in from Packway during your absence.”

“Any idea what it’s about?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“Okay. I’ll take it in my office. You stay here, I’ll call if I need you.”

Andrea left the bridge and made her way to her office. Although she was disappointed that she wouldn’t be able to bring the Xhwntradin up by MTS, she was secretly excited at the prospect of taking another trip at the controls of her SOPT; something she hadn’t done since coming aboard C-pill. That was less than a decade ago, but it seemed like an eternity, so much had happened since then.

Once in her office, she instructed the ship’s AI to play the message on her wall-mounted monitor. Meredith’s face appeared. Andrea immediately thought her boss looked older than when she last saw her, barely half a year previously, as though the heavy weight of high command was beginning to take its toll.

Meredith started her message. “A lot has happened since you took your ship and crew out of the solar system. The combination of threats from rogue asteroids and from dissident groups mining in the asteroid belt and prospecting on the outer planets’ moons prompted the International Space Council to mandate the formation by the Regiment of what it called a Space Defence Command. That has been done and I have put Rear Admiral Weinberg in charge of it. Near Space has been farmed out to the private sector. The science and technology cadres have done a first-rate job and major developments in spaceship, weapons, AI and cybernetics have come out of it. Things are quiet here now and are predicted to remain so, thanks in large part to the presence in the system of an SDC policing and enforcement wing of seventy MX-class attack fighters equipped with CAG, SEP and MTS, as well as some weaponry you’d need to see to believe.

“Some of the advances we’ve made also have potential to benefit your operation. I have in mind to upgrade your ship’s AI to QBE – quantum based engine [pronounced cube]. It can be given a group of quantum processors, which will offer numerous benefits, not least of which will be the ability, through what they call entanglement – although don’t ask me what the hell that means – to communicate instantaneously with other QBEs with which it will have a special connection. These will be, initially, here in Packway and in Joan’s flagship and its entourage. There are also, linked to that, major advances in scanning technology, which I know you’ll find useful.

“I’ll leave Joan to fill you in on the other advances this alert has prompted when she arrives with you, which is projected to be tomorrow, at around eighteen hours your time. Enjoy, and I hope to see you soon. Transmission ends.”

Andrea sat for a while and tried to assimilate all that Meredith had said to her. Conflict risks in Earth space? That had all been resolved and put to bed almost a century ago, surely? But some of the advances she mentioned were exciting. She determined to find out more about quantum theory and especially entanglement, but…

“Commodore Al-Kawazi to the Admiral’s office,” she announced over the ship-wide comm. Moments later, Ishmael walked through her door.

“You rang, Milady?” he asked nasally.

“When did this message come in?”

“Yesterday afternoon, Ma’am.”

“Why didn’t you tell me it had arrived?”

“Your orders were that you were to be treated as incommunicado except in an emergency.”

“And you didn’t think a message from the Admiral’s office qualified as that?”

“Only if it’s marked urgent. This may have been on a personal matter, Ma’am.”

“Which you would have known it wasn’t, had you opened it.”

“And you wouldn’t have thanked me for opening it if it had been, though, would you?”

“Okay. I suppose not. What’s the time now?”

“Just after seventeen hours.”

“It’s just become urgent.”

“Ma’am?”

Andrea played the message. The last part caused the colour to drain from Ishmael’s face. He put his wrist comm to his mouth and started barking out orders. At the end of it, he turned to Andrea and said, “We’ll be ready, Ma’am. However Admiral Weinberg chooses to come aboard, we’ll give her an appropriate reception.”

Sunday Serialisation – Back Paige. Chapter eleven, part one.

Arriving in her office, Andrea found a priority message from Packway awaiting her. In it, Meredith explained that she was concerned that Patsy could possibly have played a significant role in Henri’s demise. Equally worrying was that as soon as her security officers had tried to apprehend Patsy to bring her in for questioning, she had used her EPHS ability to send them into a trance. At that stage, Miss Pratt was, to all intents and purposes, a fugitive, a potential killer and a most dangerous woman. A general alert was issued, calling on all RSR and civilian staff to be on the lookout for her and to report any sightings. She was not, the bulletin said, to be challenged or even approached.

Of course, Patsy saw the bulletin. She immediately made her way the Meredith’s office, dealing with anyone who tried to stand in her way with a brief, but no less effective for it, flurry of fingers. A total of twenty-four temporarily inert bodies littered the path she took from her quarters to the admiral’s command office. All would recover fully within fifty minutes and be blissfully unaware even of the passage of time during their absence.

Nigel Swann showed her into Meredith’s office. Perhaps showed her in gives him a bigger part than he actually had in her entry to the inner sanctum. He didn’t move as she stormed through the anteroom that was his domain. Once she was in with Meredith, Nigel briefly left his office to don dry underpants and trousers.

“Hello, Patsy,” Meredith said sweetly, “how kind of you to drop in.”

“Do you believe this nonsense?” Patsy asked.

“What nonsense would that be?”

“That I somehow killed DuBois whilst I was back here, two and a half thousand light years away from him.”

“Do I believe you had motive? Yes, I do. You made no secret of your feelings towards him…”

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean I…”

“Don’t interrupt me, Commander,” Meredith bellowed. “So, motive… check. Do I believe you have the means? I do. Your prowess with Enhanced Post-Hypnotic Suggestion is practically common knowledge. We all know how voodoo works; the human mind is weak and can be pre-programmed to do all sorts of things. Witch doctors and shamans have for centuries protected property simply by making it known that anyone who violates it would die within a certain number of days. Those who believe it and transgress will die in that time period. Yes, I believe you do have the ability to kill from this great distance. So that’s motive and means. Only opportunity is left. You spent time alone with Henri. That is established fact. You argued with him. Also established fact. And we all know how quickly you can plant suggestions. Taken together, that sounds like opportunity and makes you a prime suspect. If no other cause of death is established, it could be difficult to defend your position. And, before you say or try anything, using EPHS to disable security personnel does nothing to help your case, so put those hands down. I’m going to confine you to quarters until this matter is brought to a conclusion, one way or the other. Anything to say?”

“Just one thing, Ma’am. I didn’t do it. I didn’t use EPHS to kill DuBois. Yes, I did consider it briefly, I’ll admit to that, but I decided he wasn’t worth the effort. Look. If I were to do anything to him with EPHS it would have been to suppress his arrogance and his bigotry. Believe me, Admiral, it is so much more satisfying to change someone’s outlook, their viewpoint, than it is to get rid of them. Look what we did with that Four No More group.”

“I see what you mean, Patsy. I still have to confine you to quarters, though. I’ll get Joan to recommend someone to defend you, should it come to that, but I’ll be looking for alternative causes first.”

Patsy allowed a pair of security officers to escort her to her quarters and secure her inside.

Kreative Kue 393

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The Watch by John W. Howell © 2022

“I say, Reggie. Any sightings?”

“Fraid not Oliver. Nothing all day.”

“A shame, mate.”

“Well, there is a positive side.”

“Yeah, and what’s that?”

“The hawk we don’t see today is the surprise for tomorrow.”

“You make that up?”

“Sorta.”

“Well, it’s crap.”

“Oh my. Why’s that?”

“In my mind, the hawk we don’t see today is one less hawk. Period.”

“You know, that’s a very pessimistic way to look at it.”

“I prefer the word realistic.”

“Hold on.”

“What?”

“I see a red tail banking over the lagoon.”

“What a sight that must be.”

“You can say that again.”

“What a sight—”

“Very funny. He’s headed right at me.”

“Does he see you?”

“It almost looks like he does. He has something in his beak.”

“Something like what?”

“Rolled up paper. Whoa, he just swooped over and dropped the paper.”

“Go get it.”

“On my way.”

“You back yet? Hello, Reggie. You back? Reggie?”

“Yeah I’m back. Give me a second to unroll the paper. Okay, it’s a message.”

“What does it say?”

Attention hawk watchers. We are no longer going to be the subject of observation. We are tired of the prying eyes constantly intruding on our daily lives. The hawks of the world are united, and nothing you can offer will bring us out of seclusion.”

“Boy, that is pretty harsh. You think they mean it?”

“Sounds like they do.”

“Can you communicate with them?”

“I have in the past. One on one only, though.”

“Well try again. Tell them we are prepared to offer substantial sums for visual sightings.”

“They probibly will reject money.”

“Offer corn or dead mice. I don’t care. We need to see them again.”

“Hold on. I have the hawk leader on the other line.”

“Okay I’ll stand bye.”

“Hey Oliver.”

“Yes Reggie.”

“The hawk leader says he’ll take a year’s supply of corn and mice.”

“Where we going to get a year’s supply?”

“Maybe he’ll accept installments.”

“You know how we are going to catch the mice?”

“Yeah. The cats will help.”

“Thought they were on strike for a vegan diet demand.”

“Oh dear. Maybe some traps.”

“Remember the cows are on a sabbatical so no cheese.”

“Is it my imagination or have we lost control?”

“Never should have let ’em all enroll in college.”

“We can say that now, but it might be too late.”

“Do we really have to sight hawks?”

“I was thinking the same thing.”

“Tell him to shove it.”

“Good choice of words, sir.”


My effort was:

The Camp

Okay, Jay, once you’re across the water, I need you to land to the left of the building on the right of what we called the left breast, near the cleavage.

No; to the right of the building, just on the cleavage itself – okay, the valley, if you insist. I just thought the codenames we gave made it a bit more interesting.

I understand that making a single-handed incursion into what may turn out to be hostile territory can, in and of itself, provide as much interest and even excitement as you are likely to want.

And danger, too, if they’re highly territorial.

I’m calling them they because I don’t have a better word for them until we know what we’re dealing with.

Yes, I’m assuming some kind of presence on the left boob.

Not necessarily intelligence, but probably. That’d be my guess.

Based on what? Based on the heat signatures coming from the clearing about a third of the way up.

You can’t see it, Jay, because you aren’t carrying heat imaging kit and if you were, your visibility of the area would be compromised.

By the bloody trees, you moron!

Okay. I’m sorry. That was un-called-for and unnecessarily harsh. Just make your way to the coordinates I’m beaming to you now, will you? And let me know when you arrive.

***

Yes, Jay; still here.

How many of them?

Wow. And they’re camping, you say? You mean they’re behaving in a flamboyant, extravagant and foppish manner?

No? Just sitting around a campfire singing songs. Any songs in particular.

Well, that must be a coded message of some kind. Wait small, I’ll ruin it through the translation software.

Computer says no. Translation failed. No match with any a known language. You sure they’re human?

I appreciate that they look human, but little green men are hardly likely to appear little or green. Haven’t you seen any of the Men in Black movies?

Okay, withdraw to a safe distance and I’ll escalate the problem.

***

HQ from outpost 8, are you receiving me? Over.

Yes, HQ. Agent Jay had encountered a group that appear human but I have my doubts. They are chanting some kind of anthem or incantation. If I send you the words, can you have the boffins see what they make of it? I’m worried that this may be an advance party of some kind.

Okay, here goes: there are a couple of rounds of::
Ging gang gooley, gooley, gooley, gooley, watcha;
Ging gang goo, ging gang goo
then
Hey la, hey la chey la, hey la chey la hey la lo, and
Shally wally, shally wally, shally wally, shally wally followed by
Umpah, umpah, umpah, umpah and finally a repeat of the first part.

What’s a jamboree?


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