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   Chapter 3 No.3

The Galaxii Series Omnibus 1 By Christina Engela Characters: 5637

Updated: 2018-06-29 12:01


Falcone's replacement – whoever that was – was due to arrive within the week, to participate in the final phases of the refit and take command thereafter at a nice little ceremony in front of the gathered ship's company… until Fleet Command saw fit to interrupt completion of the refit, and to abruptly extend Falcone's active service by handing him this last assignment. There was some urgency involved, with all the frantic rushing it took to get Antares out of dry dock at such short notice! There had to be, for an incomplete ship to be kicked out of dry dock before Final Checks could be performed! The lead refit Foreman had refused to sign off on the ship's space worthiness certificate, and Falcone had just ordered him off the Antares. In the tense atmosphere in the elevator car, she stifled an inappropriate little giggle as she recalled his parting words to the man: "The transmatter or the airlock – pick one!"

What their mission was, Ripley Jones was oblivious of – but she knew they were on one! In the state Antares was in, Ripley could only imagine the nature of the emergency at hand! It must have been vitally important – whatever it was. She cleared her throat as quietly as she could.

"Commander Nore said he should have the stardrive back on line within four hours, Captain." She might've said the wrong thing – Falcone glared at his executive officer.

"Four more hours?" He railed. "What about the shields? Have they been repaired properly this time?"

"The – uh – generator crystals have been re-cut and recalibrated. They should be running final tests right now."

"Good. We may need 'em." He nodded, "I don't want them fading out on us again."

The next few minutes were filled with silence as the elevator carried them towards the bridge. Ripley idly rubbed her cheek for lack of anything else to say. Falcone's hair shone even whiter under the lights in the ceiling of the elevator car, and his usually warm brown eyes seemed a cold faded gray today, skulking in the map of his tough, wrinkled old face. His features seemed drawn, the wrinkles deeper somehow. Ripley sensed his tension in the air. He grunted suddenly.

"Sir?"

"Looks like my retirement holiday on Tarsus is going to have to wait, Ripley."

Curiosity got the better of her. It'd been thirty hours and still he hadn't said a word to her about their mission.

"What's this all about, sir?"

Falcone became visibly uncomfortable. He hesitated, then said:

"We've lost contact with a Starbase 91."

"Starbase 91?" Ripley repeated. "That's in the Omegan Quadrant, isn't it?"

"Yes." The Captain replied slowly. "Command wants to know why – and we're the lucky sods to draw the short straw!"

"Doesn't Core Command know what shape we're in, sir? In the middle of a refit? Why us?"

The old man

grinned, unwittingly making himself look evil in the lighting inside the car.

"They do, but we're the only available cruiser close enough to respond – why's this damn thing taking so long?"

The elevator did seem to be taking longer than usual. Another malfunction, probably. Ripley wasn't a newcomer to deep space travel, or even to space combat. Even at her 25 years, she'd seen her share of trials in space. Antares – the ship she'd been with since she left the Academy as a Lieutenant six short years before, had seen her meteoric rise to the rank of Commander and to the position of Exo. Along with the ship, Commander Ripley Jones had participated in the fight against the dreaded Corsair menace. But she also knew that there were more than just Corsairs in deep space – and more other deadly threats to mention as well.

"Perhaps their transmitters are down, Captain." She suggested.

"Hmm? Oh – I don't know, Ripley. Could be anything. Better leave it for the briefing this afternoon – I'm a little tired to go into it too in-depth right now. Doesn't matter anyway…" His features softened into a grin, and for a moment she recognized the wise, genial old man who had mentored her growth into an outstanding officer. "They've just found a way to liven up my last few days in the service." He grunted. "This is my last show. Ha! My retirement party!" Then he resumed staring at the gray elevator doors. Grunting, he made eye contact with her again.

"Did you tell Nore to check up on those power fluctuations in the weapons circuits?"

"Yes sir. He said he couldn't find the problem – said it was fine when he looked at it. He said the ship's probably just being temperamental."

"Not good enough. Tell him to check again. We may need our weapons where we're going!"

"Yes sir." Ripley nodded, knowing full well how hard it was to tell Commander Nore anything. The man was about a hundred years her senior for a start. Okay, well, not really a hundred – it just seemed like it sometimes. Commander Adam Nore had been until recently, a Lieutenant-Commander, finally promoted after thirteen years in the post of Chief Entech aboard the Antares. Nore was due to be transferred off the crew at Spacedock 7 – at his own request, to be posted somewhere quiet where he could tinker with a desk for his last year of service before retirement. Antares had also been waiting for a replacement Chief Entech there, one that conformed to the normal requirements – like saying 'yes sir' to her orders, not 'piss-off' or 'get out of my engine room'. If his replacement had arrived before they'd been given this assignment, things might have been easier. Then again, Ripley realized, it might not – Nore at least was experienced and efficient – and who knew what sort of mook they might have been stuck with?

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