A captain and his crew must save themselves and others from being sent to the black hole.
| Chapter One
Blake Harris sat attentively as Scott Dufrey uploaded the six dossiers of Blake’s crew members. Scott had asked Blake to take on a new mission this morning and he was now learning who he would be in command of.
The first dossier appeared above the holoviewer.
In the upper-left corner, there shown a photo of a young man with short blond hair and blue eyes. His dossier read:
It went on below this with a brief personal history of the fellow.
“You will be taking the Odyssey ship and Mr. Carver will be your pilot.” Scott explained.
“Excuse me Mr. Dufrey,” Blake cut in, “but you told me this morning that Frank Roberts would be my pilot.”
Scott hesitated with a solemn expression on his face. “He would have been, but I found out thirty minutes ago that Mr. Roberts was sent on a Filter Mission.”
This information angered Blake. “Frank was a terrific pilot! Why would he be sent on an FM?”
“The FM was not for Frank, nor was it for the captain of the ship or the mechanic. The three of them were Holders. The Filters were the remaining crew members.” Scott explained.
The Filter Missions had begun three months ago as a way of “filtering out” those who were unfit for space missions and, in some cases, those who were unfit for society. Blake had opposed these missions from day one.
The crews that were sent on Filter Missions never returned. Once the bad seeds were assigned to Filter Missions, it was a known fact that they would never be coming back; else those unfit people who were being filtered would only return, thus defeating the purpose of filtering them in the first place. Filter Mission crews and their ships were always sent to the black hole.
As if the unceremonious way of disposing of the “unfit” people was not bad enough, other innocent people were killed in FMs too. These people were the Holders. Named so because they were—more or less—placeholders.
Holders were always prestigious, experienced, responsible people and they were placed on the FMs to quell any suspicions about their mission being a filtered one. Oftentimes, a member of an FM crew would figure out that they and the others were on a Filter Mission. But at this point, it was already too late and FM ships that attempted to return were destroyed; so that the crew was filtered anyhow.
Scott returned to the dossier. “As I said, Mr. Carver will be your pilot.”
“How long has he been flying?” Blake asked.
“What an evasive answer.”
“Mr. Carver is nothing to worry about.” Scott told him. “But this young man is.”
Scott tapped the viewer and the second dossier appeared. This photo showed a younger fellow, with shoulder-length black hair and a wild look in his dark green eyes.
Arrested three different times for
craft theft and twice for armed robbery.
Court issued a mission in place of
Blake glanced over at Scott. “He’s part of my crew?”
Blake knew that teenagers caught up in a life of crime had the option of being sent on standard missions, in lieu of juvenile hall or prison. He was always glad though that his crews, up until now that is, never included a juvenile delinquent.
“Just give Kenneth, or Kenny as he’s called, a post that won’t give him an opportunity to get into any trouble.” Scott said.
He tapped the viewer once more and the next dossier relaxed Blake. Beside the photo of a black man, who was older than the last two fellows, was the following:
Glen was just a year younger than Blake himself. They had known each other for six years and Glen was one of Blake’s closest friends. Blake was always glad when Glen was assigned to one of his missions.
“You know Mr. Anderson, correct?” Scott asked.
Scott nodded and tapped the viewer.
Beside this caption was a woman with shoulder-length dark hair.
“Do you know Ms. Torres?” Scott asked.
“Not personally.” Blake answered. “Though I’ve heard good things about her.”
“Audrey Torres is indeed the best in her field.” Scott put in. “She has a keen eye for obstacles and probable danger that can show up in the cameras’ screens.”
Scott tapped the viewer and the dossier of a man with short brown-red hair appeared.
“Mr. McLeary is a superb mechanic. He’ll keep the Odyssey in excellent condition.” Scott said. “And last but not least…”
He tapped the viewer one more time and the dossier appeared of an Asian woman whom Blake had seen in passing, but had never met.
“Ms. Takoshi is one of our top technicians. Just as Mr. McLeary will keep your ship in
great mechanical shape, Ms. Takoshi will keep all technical aspects in great working order.” Scott informed him. “If you have any problem with your IPS, your cameras, radars or anything else, Ms. Takoshi can repair it.”
Scott switched off the viewer, slipped the tiny holochip containing the dossiers they had just viewed, into a small pouch and handed it to Blake.
“Any questions?” Scott asked.
“No. I don’t believe so.” Blake responded as he stood up.
Scott stood as well and handed Blake a small, plastic card. “Here are the coordinates for your destination; it’s a delivery to Neptune. The parcel is already loaded in the cargo hold. The Odyssey is parked on the launch strip and your crew is assembled and waiting for you.”
Scott held out his hand saying, “Have a safe mission, Mr. Harris.”
“Thank you.” Blake said, shaking Scott’s hand.
He left Scott’s office and headed straight for the launch strip. There sat the Odyssey; large, silver and durable. Beside it, six people in mission uniform who saluted Blake as he approached.
Blake returned the salute and said, “Our mission is a delivery to Neptune.” He turned to Simon
Carver and asked him, “Have you ever flown that far?”
“Not to Neptune, Captain. The farthest I’ve ever flown is to Uranus’ moon, Desdemona.” Simon answered. “Neptune won’t be a problem; it isn’t too far from Uranus after all.”
Blake nodded and with a smile he said, “The ship is in your hands, Mr. Carver.”
“If you don’t mind sir, call me Simon, please.”
“Simon it is.”
Blake approached Glen who grinned and put out his hand. “I just can’t seem to get away from you.”
Smiling in return, Blake shook Glen’s hand and said, “It’s good to see you again as well.” He handed over the coordinate card and added, “You’ll need this when we get closer to
Blake opened the door to the Odyssey and stood aside as his crew filed in. Simon sat
down at the controls, Audrey at the monitors behind the cockpit and Glen took up his post at the Intergalactic Positioning System that was across from and slightly behind Audrey’s monitors.
“The tech station is on the top deck and the mechanics for the Odyssey are on the bottom deck.” Blake said to Lisa and Edward. “And welcome aboard.”
They took off for their respective posts and all that was left was Kenny.
“We need someone to control the cameras that are connected to Audrey’s monitors and also to survey the radars. Both of which are located on the third deck.” Blake told him.
Kenny did not move.
“Is there a problem?” Blake asked.
“Is that all that I’m going to do?” Kenny inquired. “I want something else. Something interesting.”
“It’s the only post left and the only one that doesn’t require any prior experience.” Blake said resolutely. He could tell that he would have to be firm with Kenny. He could not let his authority waver even slightly with this kid. “And you’re taking it. Third deck.”
Kenny hesitated a second longer and then headed up to his post.
“He might be trouble.” Glen said quietly to Blake. “There’s something about him that I don’t trust.”
“He does have a criminal record.” Blake replied. “This mission is in place of juvenile hall.”
“I thought it might be something like that.” Glen muttered.
Blake took his seat in the captain’s chair and from the right armrest, switched on the comm system.
“Lisa, is the tech station ready for departure?” Blake asked.
Lisa’s voice came over the comm. “Ready, Captain.”
“Kenny, are the cameras focused and the radars set?”
“Edward, everything below deck is in working order?”
“Glen?” Blake asked, turning to him.
“IPS is ready and working, Captain.” Glen replied.
“Monitors are clear and focused, sir.”
“Simon, all clear and ready for takeoff?”
Blake nodded and said, “Then take us to Neptune.”