Meanwhile in Oceanview
It was a pleasantly warm and balmy summer’s day. A slight breeze was blowing carrying with it the sweet scents of all the flowers that punctuated the green fields and rolling hills with colour. Mother Nature was certainly showing off today and the chirping birds and buzzing bees couldn’t agree more as they went about their business.
Jason’s hometown, Oceanview, was a beautiful place especially in the summer. It was a laid back and quaint little seaside town that hadn’t kept pace with the rest of the world.
On a worldwide scale Oceanview had remained off the radar as nothing much happened here worth the attention of the major news channels. Very few outsiders knew of its small town charm and idyllic beaches which mostly attracted the local fishermen and families looking for something to do on the weekends. The small town folk went about their monotonous daily lives living in their little bubble of traditions, set in their conservative ways, none the wiser about what lay beneath the surface.
This little known town on the east coast of the African continent with its conservative population, tucked away from the rest of the world was the ideal location for the United Earth Government’s top secret research centre, buried deep underground, beneath the rolling green hills which flanked the town on the western side.
The United Earth Government had done a brilliant job at keeping this facility a secret, the very same facility which once played host to the boy genius Jason Ronald King and Doctor Vince Singer. They had both spent many long days and nights here hidden away in their secret laboratory trying to unravel the secrets of faster than light travel before they were arrested for treason.
Access to the facility was quite well camouflaged and secured. The only visible evidence of technology was a communications tower atop one of the hills supposedly used by the television network to relay their signals. At least this is what the unsuspecting residents of Oceanview were led to believe.
The scene unfolding six hundred metres below the surface was in stark contrast to the summery atmosphere above. Three expressionless uniform clad men sat around a semi circular dark wood table facing the front of the room which boasted a large central display screen that was almost the height of the wall, flanked by four smaller screens, two on each side of the main display.
The smooth, polished table which seemed to be in competition with the men’s military issue dark brown boots, was large enough to seat sixteen people comfortably, but not today.
The podium which was constructed out of the same dark wood as the table and bearing the insignia of the United Earth Government stood to the far left of the displays. No one stood behind it for the moment.
The mood in the military operations room was sombre and serious. No one spoke a word. The men seemed to stiffen up even more as the sound of footsteps on the polished tiled floor just outside the room broke the silence.
They looked up as the steel framed glass door hummed and slid open. A large man walked through, entering the room. The three men who were seated at the table rose quickly from their leather chairs standing to attention and saluted.
General Sam Oliver was a rather tall and imposing figure. His large bald head and thick black moustache gave him a fearsome look and he instilled a feeling of awe in those who met him, especially for the first time.
“At ease, gentlemen,” he said in his deep and authoritative voice. He walked towards the podium, the light glinting off the medals and decorations which hung from the left breast pocket of his military jacket.
The men seemed to relax, ever so slightly, and took their seats again.
The general cleared his throat for effect before addressing them.
“Does anyone have anything new to tell me this time around?” he asked, a look of mild annoyance showing on his otherwise stern face.
“I’m still waiting for someone to tell me how a massive prison ship could disappear from Earth orbit, without a trace, and more importantly, how we plan to recapture that ship and all the prisoners aboard.”
General Oliver didn’t require a microphone as was clearly evident when he spoke. His powerful booming voice reverberated through the room. He would have made an excellent preacher getting his message out to his attentive congregation had he opted to serve a higher power.
The men hated these sessions with the General. The previous two teams before them had been severely reprimanded and dismissed for failing to deliver. The General hated failure in any form. The pressure to deliver was even greater on this team as they had been handpicked by the General himself for their sterling military record.
Lieutenant Pretorius stood up to speak, taking the General by surprise.
“Permission to speak candidly, sir!”
“Go ahead, son,” responded the General.
“Research on faster than light travel is progressing extremely well. We are just weeks away from testing our first prototype,” he continued cautiously, watching the General’s face for any expressions.
“Hmm!” responded General Oliver as expressionless as ever. “Go on.”
“Once the prototype has been tested, we plan to pursue the Equinox and bring her back.”
Lieutenant Pretorius removed a little tablet computer from the lower pocket of his coat and proceeded to run his fingers over the touch screen of the device while his colleagues looked on, causing the large display screen at the front of the room to come alive.
“Observe the trajectory of the Equinox,” continued the Lieutenant.
The men stared attentively at the large screen which now displayed video footage captured by Captain Morris’s transporter moments before the Equinox had disappeared from Earth orbit over six years ago. They had all seen this video before but none had been able to explain how the Equinox had been able to break the light barrier or what had become of the massive prison ship since.
“Their trajectory suggests that they aimed for the Alpha Centauri binary star system,” proceeded Lieutenant Pretorius while fiddling with his little computer again and generating on-screen telemetry.
The men continued to listen to the Lieutenant who continued to explain the telemetry data being shown on the screen.
“And this is our answer,” beamed Lieutenant Pretorius as an image of a sleek spacecraft in space dock replaced the previous image.
“I present to you, the United Earth Government’s very own faster than light capable warship, Raptor!”
“Excellent!” replied General Oliver clapping slowly. “Marvellous, son! This is simply marvellous!”
Lieutenant Pretorius was really taken aback by General Sam Oliver’s unexpected reaction. For the first time ever, he had seen the General smile. It was a ghost of a smile that quickly faded but not before it had been noticed by those present.
“Well done, son. You have a bright future in the military,” said the General, saluting. “Keep me informed.”
“Yes sir!” Lieutenant Pretorius saluted back.
The two men who were still seated stood up and saluted while the General stepped out of the room.
Lieutenant Pretorius and his men breathed a collective sigh of relief. They had survived yet another session without being dismissed like their predecessors. He and his men had taken over the mission two years ago and had managed to keep the General happy so far, but today, they had definitely impressed him.
Lieutenant Pretorius addressed his men as soon as the General had left.
“Well done men! Keep up the brilliant work you’re doing,” he said, giving them each a firm handshake. “When the prototype is ready, I plan to lead the mission into deep space. We will recapture the Equinox and restore our pride.” He paused for a moment. “Or destroy that ship and its occupants,” he added.
“Yes sir!” said both his subordinates in unison.
Both Storm and Paterson were second lieutenants and looked up to Pretorius as a mentor.
They walked back to the research lab, the lab once occupied by the famous child prodigy Jason King.
Jason had managed to destroy all of his research material at the first sign of trouble and left no clues behind in his lab. He realised that this new technology would make the United Earth Government even more powerful and arrogant than it already was so he made certain that not a trace of his research remained.
Pretorius on the other hand was a true loyalist of the United Earth Government having spent the last 22 years in the military. He was as ambitious as he was loyal and had climbed quickly through the ranks. He also had a passion for science and technology holding various qualifications in this field, making him the ideal candidate to lead the research team.
He had little time for traitors and took this particular matter personally because in his eyes Jason King was just a boy with no military rank. A mere civilian. He was a traitor who had dared to challenge and make a fool of the mighty United Earth Government.
“I will find you and crush you like the bug you are, Jason King,” he thought to himself.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in Oceanview and oblivious to the plans being hatched deep beneath the surface, someone was thinking fondly of Jason.
Melissa sat on her comfortable bed staring out the window of her apartment whilst remembering the times Jason walked her home from school. It had become an afternoon ritual for them. He always insisted on carrying her bag as well as his own even though it was a long walk to her apartment.
She could not believe that this gentle soul whom she held close to her heart would be capable of treason. Besides Jason’s parents, she was the only other person who didn’t believe all the propaganda which surfaced during Jason’s trial and conviction.
“Oh Jason,” she sighed. “I pray that you are alive and safe out there.”