The Voyage of the Lizbet

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2

Chapter 2

The Lizbet was not moved too soon. Within an hour the damaged ship was seen coming into the system. It barely had control and careened past a few asteroids. Finally she managed to brake before shooting past the space dock. She came to a stop and some space tugs were sent out they took control and towed her into the rest of the way in. As she passed Gen. Arden could see the damage to her control surfaces. “Looks like she was in some sort of meteor storm or worse,” he said to Yeoman Johnson

As the ship was taken into the space dock more damage was visible on its stern, around the engines. “Damn,” the General said, “that could have been life threatening.”

“They report 3 dead and 7 wound-ed,” Yeoman Johnson reported.

More personal arrived on the next shuttle including Lt Gen. Marcus McCoy, the General’s executive officer, and Col. Clariss, the Laokan who was in charge of their pilots. Both of them arrived with their dependents.

“Sorry to be so late,” Lt Gen. McCoy reported into the General, whom he’d worked with before. “We were held up by a transport strike on earth. By the way that is what is holding up the delivery of the rest of the supplies too.”

“Well I’m glad to finally know,” the General said, even though the Lt. Gen. was technically not late until tomorrow. A ship arrived requiring normal maintenance. It barely missed the Lizbet

“Who the hell is driving that thing?” the General wanted to know.

“Some young, still wet behind the ears, captain,” Bink told him.

“Well pin those ears back for me, Bink,” Ev said.

“Will do,” Bink said. “Good luck to you.”

“And to you, I.S.S.S. Lizbet out.” General Evander Arden officially signed off.The Lizbet began to move out of space dock.She was more careful then the incoming ship had been

since her commander knew that things were seldom the way that they were supposed to be around a space dock. People could well be anywhere and doing anything.

General Arden stepped from his office onto the bridge of the Lizbet . He looked around at the different stations.The navigator, a Laokan called Maj. Sissass, was entering the coordinates of the stars that they were most interested in visiting.The projection of the 3-D star chart was visible just over his head.Each star appeared as a point of light as he finished entering its coordinates.The stars could be seen in relation to each other.It was tedious work, and his relief would be doing it too, for several days to come and for days when their mission actually started. Maybe that was why they all enjoyed in indulging in so much physical activity when they were off duty.

Once they were out of the spaceport, at the proper distance the alarm for shift to subspace sounded. “All hands prepare for shift to subspace in 1 minute,” the P. A. announced. Everyone in their quarters secured things as best they could.The shift to subspace also meant a shift to light speeds.This was more possible in subspace and ships could reach higher speeds because of the lack of particles. Supraspace, on the other hand, had a density of particles.

This had been discovered by human and Laokan scientists about the time that Evander Arden had been born. They had met and were working together to create an orbiting Uni-versity. Having done so in space between the Terran and Laokan systems, the scientists there natural-ly began experimenting with space and space flight. They discovered subspace and sent an experiment through it.It consisted of a frame with a tiny bit of particle sensitive foil sent from one place to another with an engine capable of function-ing in subspace.It was sent a fixed distance and the foil showed only one hit of a particle in that dist-ance.Then they decided that if there was a subspace there must be a Supraspace.They designed and built an engine and ran the experiment again.Their small ship did not make the distance and the foil was comp-letely shredded by the particle den-sity. So now all ships traveling at light speed and beyond went through subspace. Communications to and from the ships went the same way.In fact there were subspace communications buoys that did just that.

The Lizbet would continue at subspace speeds until she cleared the space ways. “That gives you the perfect opportunity to fix the dinner that you have wanted to have since we came aboard,” the general told his daughter in the quarters they shared.

“I’ll put in a call and remind Alex,” she responded.

When she did so, he responded with, “I’ll be there. Will 1900 be all right?”

“That depends,” Jamie said.

“On what?” Alex asked.

“On when is 1900?”

“Imagine a 24 hour clock,” he explained. “You say hundred when you mean on the hour.0001 is one minute after midnight.Then 0100 is 1 a. m. You get to 1200, then for every number greater then 1200 you subtract 1200 from the number given and it will give you the num-ber in civilian time.Knowing that, what time did I say I would be there?”This was a problem for the teacher.

Jamie thought for several minutes and did the math in her head, “7 p m,” she responded with finally.

“Right,” Alexander said.

“Okay,” she said. “See you then.We’ll have steak.”

“Great,” he said. That would be one of the last times.Meat was another thing that they could not replicate and would not be able to get out there.Making it required a concen-tration of amino acids that they just did not have available.So some time in the next couple of weeks they would run out of the meat that they had.After that they would all be vegetarians for the remainder of the cruise. This did not bother the Laokans since they were vegetarians naturally.

Lt. Arden considered the dinner that he was about to have with his father and sister. For some reason he decided to wear his dress uniform. He always thought that these dinners were something of an inspection, so he decided to dress accordingly.At 1900 he showed up in front of the door to the General’s quarters impeccably dressed in it with a bouquet of flowers for his sister.Unlike the meat, the hydro-ponic gardens would be able to replace those easily. He buzzed and she opened the door.He came to attention anyhow.He always felt as though he had to pass inspection when it came to the general.

“You’d better get used to having these on your table,” he said when she opened the door.

“Thank you,” she said. “I’ll try.”

“Come on in son,” the General said. Alexander entered and came to attention immediately.“Relax,” the General said.“This is not an inspec-tion.This is a family occasion.”To prove it he was casually dressed, not in uniform.

“Well, I always expect an inspec-tion,” Alexander said. Due to the discipline his voice only showed a little tension.This was not surprise-ing.The General had a habit of pul-ling surprise inspections, even on his children when they were little. Punishments would include having to clean up the kitchen by yourself with your father keeping a stern watch, having to clean the yard by yourself without the use of power tools under the same conditions, having to run 50 laps of the yard or 50 laps of the housing block with your father counting them, being denied privileges that you had earned, and not being allowed to attend events. You never knew when the inspections were to occur or what was to be inspected.Alexander did learn that personal inspection was likely to occur the moment his father stepped off the transport. His comment to their mother was always, “You are beautiful, my dear, as always.”His words to his children were usually “Ten-hup!”Then he would look them up and down. “Shine those shoes,” he might say, or “Sew on that button. Your trousers are dirty.”Anything that was wrong with the children was commented on.

You counted yourself lucky if he said, “Bunk Inspection in the morning,” At least he was giving you a warning. Bunk inspection could be limited to just the bunk or could include the room as well.If you did well with the inspections, you could earn an extra privilege or a gift that you didn’t expect.But, you could lose them again just as easily and some-times the gifts were not appropri-ate.But the really big problem was not that.It was the neglect.The having your father away for such long periods of time.The fact that your mother had to be both mother and father to you and the feeling that no matter how much she tried she would not understand what a young boy was feeling. Alexander sat down but did not relax.

“The steaks will be ready in a few minutes,” Jaime announced just then. The two men sat

there and looked at each other for a short time and she was as good as her word. “Soup’s on,” she called out when everything was ready.

Alexander and his father dutifully marched into the dining room and took their places. Jamie had pre-pared the traditional steak dinner with peas and carrots, potatoes, and a salad to start things off.These were followed by steaks, rare for Alex-ander and well done for the gen-eral.They had sour cream and butter on the side too.

“How was your day?” Jamie asked her brother.

“Fine,” he said. He was still feeling somewhat tense.

“How do you like your quarters?” she asked.

“They’re okay,” he said.

“How do you like your roommate?” she asked, “Where is he from?”

“Fine,” he answered, “The North American Union, just like we are.”

“Alright,” General Arden called out. He put both hands on the table hard enough to make all the dishes shake and stood.“I’ve had enough of this. I’m sorry.”Alexander Arden was sur-prised to the point of shock.His father had never apologized to any family member except their mother for as long as he could remem-ber.“I’m sorry that I wasn’t the kind of father that you wanted.I wasn’t the father that other kids had.I just did the best that I could with your mother and you guys.” He sat back down and they ate their meal in stunned silence.

After Jamie took the dishes into the kitchen, Alexander said quietly, to his father. “You did just fine.I never wanted the kind of father that other children had. I just wanted you to be proud of me.” “I am,” Evander Arden responded.

“Alright,” Jamie said when she came back into the dining room. “I have some communications from home for Alexander to look at.Why don’t we go into the living area to look at them.”

They did so and Jamie got out the viewing equipment. “Well here I am,” a voice said.It was their brother Philip, the oldest of the family.“This is actually a field dig that I am on with my students.Now we find out if they paid attention in my class instead of falling asleep.This is actually in South America in the area where the Amazon River used to flow. We are digging in an area that was supposedly settled by the Portuguese.”Then he started to interact with his students.There was also an older woman there whom Alexander soon recognized, “That’s Leila, isn’t it.”“Yes,” Jamie answer-ed.“And look who else is there.”He soon saw both of Philips daughters appear.“Hi, Uncle Alexander,” they both called out in high piping voices.“Gosh they’ve grown,” he said.“Hey Jamie, do you remember when we used to tease him that God created Philippics just for him.” “Yeah,” Jamie laughed.“He sure could speechify.”

“You think that is something, wait till you see the next one,” Evander Arden commented. Jamie obligingly put in the one from their other sib-ling, their sister Artemis.It showed a little man marching toward the camera.“That can’t be her George, can it?He’s only about a year old, isn’t he?”“Three the day this was taken,” Evander Arden volun-teered.“He is going to be just like Grandpa,” Alexander predicted.“I hope not,” Evander responded. “Hopefully his other grandfather can teach him a love of the earth and of animals. I’ve always secretly thought that artists must be about the happiest people in the world.” They watched more of the birthday party for George.They didn’t see much of Artemis and nothing of her husband.She was busy running the camera and he must have been at work.There was a bit that she did at the end though.“Now I have some-thing to say to you,” she said, stand-ing squarely in front of the recording device.“By the time you get this, dad, you’ll be a grandfather again. The exam shows that I am going to add another son to the family in about 8 months .I’ll send you the pictures when he’s born. John and I think we will name him for brother Alex.”They all laughed at that.

When it was over Alexander said, “Jaime, I’ll help you in the kitchen,” “Thanks Alex,” she said, taking her brother up on his offer.They scrap-ped the dishes into the organic recycler.The garbage would go to be fertilizer for the plants that they would grow for food for the rest of the voyage.“Can I tell you some thing?” Jaime asked him.“I really feel like I need someone to tell something to.”

“Sure,” Alex said. “What is it?”

“It is about when I was a little girl,” she said. “You remember when Dad put us through that survival training.He gave us his own version of it.”“Yes,” Alex said.He’d never quite forgotten it.That was one of the things that decided him that he wanted to join the space service. “Well most of it wasn’t that bad,” she said.“But there was the fighting dirty.I hated that.I hated it when he told us that we should kick him in the family jewels and then made us do it.It took me a long time to get over that, but I finally told him how I felt just before we left Earth to come here. I think that is what triggered what happened tonight.”

“So that explains it,” Alexander said. “Thanks little sister,” he said.He gave her a kiss.“You got him to see something that I probably never would have.”They finished cleaning up and he said good night to his father and sister.

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