Marooned on Planet X – Part 7

Marooned on Planet XIn our last episode, the crew of the Galactic Space Destroyer, the Pickett, tries to make due with being stranded on the mysterious Planet X. The destroyer’s systems are beginning to function, thanks to the solar power array being fully deployed. The crew finally hears from the GSF Beauregard. The crew feels that help is finally arrived.

“Hey, JR, my captain wants to speak to your captain,” Harvey Atwater of the Galactic Space Fleet Beauregard said. “I’ll put him on.”

JR looked to Captain Jake Evans who nodded and walked to the Comm Station.

“This is Captain Evans,” he said.

“Evans, this is Edgar Pridgen here. How is it going?” Pridgen asked. Evans rolled his eyes. He went to the Academy with Pridgen. He remembered Pridgen as a big bore who though mostly of advancing his career as opposed to running a ship. “That’s what XO’s are for” he remembered Pridgen saying often.

“Hi Edgar, we’re doing as best as can be expected. We have many of the ship’s systems working. We’ve had two casualties, but other than that we are in good shape.”

“Sorry to hear of the casualties. Might I have their names for the record?”

“Sure. One was Clair Deavers, Nurse First Class. The other was Alfred Mitchell, Ensign.”

“Commodore Mitchell’s great grandson? Damn! I’m certainly not going to report that one.”

“Commodore Mitchell knew the risks of sending his grandson to war, Edgar,” Evans said. He knew better than to call him “Ed.”

“Well, all I am saying is I’m not the one that’s going to tell him.”

“Why would you have to? Isn’t at HQ?”

Pridgen snorted. “I’m sorry Jake, but I know you couldn’t have heard.”

“Heard what, Edgar?”

“CentCom wasn’t impressed with the way DiPaullo turned tail and ran away from the fight. Mitchell is replacing him ASAP. HQ wants to fight the war and not run from it.”

“Didn’t the Corpellians have one of their starkillers there? They couldn’t have taken out the whole fleet with one shot. DiPaullo did the only smart thing.”

“You and I were there, Jake. WE know what happened. Those clowns at CentCom only look at the digi-boards and holographic maps. They have no clue about the reality of things.”

Jake’s face showed surprise. He never heard Pridgen talk this way. “You are Captain Edgar Pridgen, right.”

A nervous laugh sounded from the comm. “I guess I do sound a little different than the Academy days. Reality does that, I hear.”

Jake shrugged no knowing what to say. “So, Edgar, did we lose many ships?”

“We lost eight, Jake, yours included. We found four wreckage fields so far. If it weren’t for Ensign Atwater, we probably would have never found you.”

“I’m glad JR and he made plans. Any damage to the Corpellians?”

“Two cruisers were destroyed and a few destroyers. That’s part of the reason Mitchell wanted to find you.”

“What do you mean?”

“Apparently, the cruisers were destroyed by the Pickett. At least that’s what the Ordinance Identification Numbers said.”

“How could they get the OIN numbers, Edgar?”

“CentCom wanted to make sure DiPaullo accounted for every shot. All the OIN-marked weapons pinged back to him. They have the Pickett as the shooter. It seems you are a hero Jake. They need heroes right now.”

Evans heard the crew behind him cheering. He turned to keep them quiet.

“I guess we’re more interested in getting off this rock than being heroes right now, Edgar.”

“Copy that, Jake. But I get to be the one to announce we have found you. Maybe that makes me a hero’s hero.”

“That is does, Edgar,” Jake said sarcastically, realizing that Edgar Pridgen had not changed that much after all.

“Hey Jake, I’m told that there is a lot magnetic resonance coming from the planet. We are going to have to get out a little to get out of the interference. We will call the fleet and will get back in a few hours. You hang in there!”

“Thanks Edgar, we’ll wait to hear from you.” The comm went dead.

Evan turned to the crew gathered in the ship. He lifted up his arms. “Now you can celebrate!”

The crew was elated. The danced and hugged. Dr. Norwood brought out some champagne from the ship’s stores. It was chilled just right.

Jake climbed to the airlock and looked out. He was feeling a little tipsy from the champagne. He decided to stop and get fresh air in case the Admiral called.

He looked out to the planet. He would have liked to know more about this odd little world. He felt a presence next to him. It was Irene Smithson.

“What are you thinking?” Irene asked.

“I was just thinking I would like to know a little more about this weird world. But mostly I was thinking how great it would be to off it.”

Evans watched as Irene made a big show of looking around. Not seeing anyone, she put her arms around Evans and kissed him. A long, lingering kiss.

“I don’t feel as tired as last night,” he whispered.

“It doesn’t seem that I need to be up all night getting the reactor started either,” she whispered back.

They held each other and smiled. The spell was broken by heavy footsteps on the ladder. They moved away from each other. It was Arnold Putchin.

“Any orders for the crew, Captain?” he asked.

“I’m not sure how long the fleet will take, Arnie. I imagine that they will pick us up with skimmers and come to the beach. We should place some sort of lighting there if they come tonight.”

“Will do, sir. I think we have about five or six hours of daylight left. I’ll get a crew together.” Putchin clambered down the ladder.

A few minutes later a crew came up the ladder and headed, carrying lighting equipment, to the beach. Burroughs, Smithson’s assistant, followed with wires to hook the lights to the ship’s power.

Evans and Smithson watched as the semi-inebriated crew stumbled with the lights. They both smiled.

“I never thought to see you smiling at a drunken crew,” Smithson said.

“They earned it, Irene. Our tiny little ship destroyed two cruisers. That has to be the luckiest shot of the war.”

Smithson nodded. She smelled the ocean. “The air isn’t as salty as the oceans on Earth,” she said. Another breeze wafted by, she turned to Evans with a puzzled look.

“That’s odd,” she said. “Now the air smells just like Earth.”

Evans smelled and understood what she meant. “This really is a strange world. Someday someone will have to spend some time exploring it. Maybe if this war ever ends.”

JR raced up the ladder. He saw Evans and stopped. “They are asking for you, sir.”

Evans smiled at Smithson. “At least we’ll get a timetable.”

Evans climbed down the ladder and went to the comm station. “Evans here.”

“Jake,” Pridgen’s voice sounded tense. “We have real problems. The Corpellians know where you are. They are coming for you now. I have to get out of here before I am destroyed. Mitchell is going to get the fleet here pronto. There is going to be a hell of a battle there. Try to find some cover, we don’t want you to be another Hargrove.”

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