The Science Fiction Comedy Adventure Continues
In Space, no one can hear you chortle.
I hope you enjoy this snippet from Chapter 3 of The Surrana Identity.
Andel-Kreit Coalition Minesweeper The Giblet
The Asteroid Belt
Standing outside the bridge, Lieutenant Commander Dex punched the entry pad to open the door. A soft tone sounded, but the door remained stubbornly shut. Not again, Dex thought, reaching for the multi-tool in his pocket. But as he selected the screwdriver blade, the door juddered open with the whirring drone of reluctant motors, and Dex eyed it suspiciously before stepping through.
The cramped bridge was dimly lit, and the only other occupant, Captain Drumph, scarcely looked up as Dex made his way to his station.
“Get that coupling fixed?” Drumph demanded, scratching at his armpit as he pored over the displays on his semicircular console. “I damned well hope so. We’re behind on our schedule.”
“The coupling wasn’t the problem, sir,” Dex replied smartly. “The primary servos in the manipulator arm were out of sync. Both servos were badly damaged, so I replaced them.”
Drumph swiveled in his seat to stare at Dex. “I gave you no authorization to replace those parts, mister. And now I know why you took so damned long. I sent you down there to slap some grease on the coupling to get it running smoothly again, and that’s what I expected you to do.”
Dex almost laughed. “But, sir, that would only have deferred the problem. If I’d done that, sooner or later, the servos would seize up, and then the actuators would almost certainly snap. Then we’d be forced to strip the whole assembly down, and that’s a big job.”
“A job which you could’ve done when we dock on Drammadon Four tomorrow.”
“I suppose so, but with respect, Captain, I need to keep ahead on maintenance because when we reach the space station, I was going to take some leave. I made the request some time ago.”
“Request denied.” Drumph turned back to his console. “And you might want to think about that before you go around replacing perfectly serviceable parts.”
Dex clenched his jaw, his fists, and any other muscles he could think of. One day, he thought. One day I’ll finish this tour of duty, but Drumph will be on this ship until he retires. He ran his eyes over his workstation then opened a messaging window, selecting Zeb as the recipient.
Thanks for helping me replace those servos, Zeb. Bad news on the leave though. I have to stay on the ship, but you should go ahead. Take a tour of Drammadon Four. Visit the leisure decks. You deserve some downtime.
He hit send, and almost immediately a reply winked on his screen:
Thanks, Dex, but if you’re staying aboard, I’ll keep you company. We can overhaul the guidance system, and then we could scrub down the exhaust ducts. We’ve been intending to complete that task for months. Also, when our shifts are done, we could finish that game of skirmish chess.
Dex smiled as he replied with just one word: Thanks.
He sat back, letting his eyes wander across the wall-mounted status displays. We’ve almost filled the quota for this run, Dex thought. You’d think the old man would be happy. But he knew that in the Andel-Kreit Coalition’s small fleet of minesweepers, almost filling a quota wasn’t good enough. Each mission had its targets to meet, and with good reason. The wars between the Andelians, the Kreitians, and the Gloabons had left the galaxy littered with autonomous armaments. Some mines had been disarmed remotely, but most were still active, drifting through space, waiting for a target to happen by. Many of the mines had been unpowered to start with while others had been equipped with small engines to keep them in place or steer them toward their targets. But over time, even the powered weapons ran out of fuel or broke down, and then gravity gradually dragged them across the void. The solar system’s asteroid belt was riddled with the things, and the Andel-Kreit Coalition had set out to remove every single one. It’ll take decades, Dex decided. But hopefully, he wouldn’t have to stick it out to the bitter end. This posting was a punishment, but surely the High Command wouldn’t keep him on The Twang indefinitely, would they?
Dex closed his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, his talons rasping against his scaly skin. Who am I kidding? I wrecked the high-level talks between the top brass of three races, then I took a ship into an unauthorized battle against an ally, almost starting a war. For an encore, I triggered a biohazard alert that wrecked my own vessel, then I abandoned my ship. He shook his head. He was screwed. He’d be on this rusted tub forever, sweeping trash from the space lanes until he wound up as bitter as that old bastard Drumph.
“What’s that?” The captain demanded, and for one horrible moment, Dex thought he’d voiced his thoughts.
“Captain, I, er…”
“Stop your blithering,” Drumph snapped. “Check the defense status. I’ve got a red light. Prepare to raise shields.”
Dex sat bolt upright. “Defense warning confirmed. Someone has a lock on us. Raising shields.” Dex ramped the shields up to maximum strength, but his eyes went wide. “Captain, it’s too late. We have an intruder alert. We’ve been boarded.”
Drumph’s reply was lost as the door flew open with a resounding crash.
Dex grabbed his bolt gun from its holster, aiming at the empty doorway. But when he saw the figure striding onto the bridge, he lowered his weapon, an amazed smile lighting his expression for the first time in a month. “Captain Stanch! Sir, what are you doing here?”
Stanch acknowledged him with a nod. “Lieutenant Commander. Good to see you.”
“What the hell is this?” Drumph staggered to his feet, his hand resting on his sidearm. “How dare you board my ship uninvited? I’ll have you court-martialed for this.”
“I think not,” Stanch replied smoothly. “Captain Drumph, if you check your comms, you’ll find that I have orders from Lord Pelligrew himself. I intend to carry them out fully, so I suggest that you do not stand in my way.”
“Nonsense. I’ve seen no orders.” Drumph threw an accusatory glance at his console. “I insist that you leave my bridge until such a time as I can verify your story. Dex, place the intruder under arrest.”
Dex jutted his chin. “Sir, I cannot do that. I’m sure Captain Stanch–”
“Silence!” Drumph roared. “Do as you’re told, Dex, or you’ll spend the rest of your days scrubbing space lice off the hull.”
“Well, this is nice,” someone said, and they all turned as Zeb sauntered onto the bridge. “Greetings, Captain Stanch. I came as soon as I saw the orders.”
“What orders?” Drumph spluttered. “The only orders on this ship are the ones given by me, do you understand?”
“Ah.” Zeb crossed to the captain’s console and pressed a key. “I think it’s about time you hit refresh, Captain.”
Drumph looked ready to explode, but he stared at his display, his eyebrows performing a dance of their own devising. “I don’t believe it. These orders can’t be genuine.” He looked up. “Why, in the name of all the gods, would Pelligrew send for this pair of idiots? They’re a disgrace to the fleet, and I won’t allow them to leave this ship until their tour of duty is done. They must be taught a lesson.”
Stanch studied the captain for a moment. “Sir, I advised you not to interfere in the carrying out of a legal order, but you give me no choice.” He turned to Zeb. “Lieutenant Commander, kindly discipline Captain Drumph under regulation six seven two nine four, sub-paragraph G.”
“Certainly, sir.” Zeb stepped closer to Drumph. “Captain, this gives me no pleasure. Well, not much anyway.” He hesitated. “Who am I kidding? I’m going to get a kick out of this.” Grinning, Zeb brought his fist up sharply, catching Drumph’s jaw with a blow that lifted him from his feet and left him sprawled on the deck.
“Did I say sub-paragraph G?” Stanch asked. “I meant J. But never mind, your way was so much better.” He rubbed his hands together. “Dex, Zeb, I have a job for you, so if you’d like to grab your things, we’ll zing out of here as soon as we can.”
Dex stood to attention. “Sir, I have everything I need right here. I’m ready when you are.”
“Same here,” Zeb said. “At your service, Captain.”
Stanch pulled a handset from his pocket. “Stanch here. Three to zing up.”
“Excuse me, sir,” Dex began, “but where are we going?”
Stanch winked. “Wait and see, Dex. Wait and see.”
I hope that snippet raised a smile. The Surrana Identity is available on Amazon.
NB This sci-fi book is free to read in Kindle Unlimited or you can borrow it for free via Amazon Prime
If you haven't dipped into this Sci-Fi comedy series yet, the place to start is Dial G for Gravity:
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