Trucking Interstellar – Season One
Unemployment never had such far-reaching consquences! 5 laid off oil-patch scientists start a trucking company to make ends meet, then get back to science in their spare time. But when one of their experiments goes rather wrong, it attracts interstellar attention!
This is a story that’s been stuck in my head for a bit and I recently realized that in order to get on with the other book that I’ve been trying to write, I was going to have to get this story out of the way first.
I will be releasing the raw (unedited and unrevised) episodes here on my blog on a weekly basis until the season is done. Readers are welcome to comment and make suggestions, etc. When the season ends, all but the first few episodes will be removed from the website and the whole season will be published in a novella.
Hint: The absolute best way to see if there is a new episode available, is to subscribe to my newsletter! Enjoy!
Episode 1: Boom! (Discovery)
Its weird what you remember. For me it’s always been the sonic boom. One of the inhibitors had sparked. I guess that was the sign that it was failing. The next second we are all being flung back from the sheer force of the sonic boom. I have this single picture in my head, like a freeze-frame from the movies. A long thin flash of light is skewering the garage, Vlad, and as we soon found out, everything. The rest of us and most of the equipment, were hanging in mid air.
Funny, but I don’t remember the sound of the boom, just the force.
The day had started normally enough for us. Since the recession had sidelined most everyone in the oil business in Calgary, that meant morning coffee at Weeds Cafe. We’d been meeting there for the past year and a half, at first to commiserate on our unemployment, then later, as those coffee shop discussions turned to more practical matters, to start Cavanaugh Trucking.
It always seemed ironic to me that five unemployed oil patch scientists were now running a trucking company whose primary clients were other unemployed oil workers having to move back home, but that’s what we came up with. It seemed to work. We were making less that 1/4 of what we did before, but somehow it seemed we might have been happier overall.
Anyway, after coffee that morning, we’d headed over to Joel’s garage like always. Since his wife had left him he tended to need company a bit more often, so we usually ended up getting together at his place. It was a winters day about six months ago, right after loading the last of his ex’s stuff into our truck. We were sitting around sipping beers in the mostly empty garage when Vlad asked him what was in the boxes that were left in the garage. So I guess we could blame Vlad for what happened.
Come to think of it, it was a month or so later on, after we’d unboxed and set up Joel’s old lab equipment in his garage, that Lily had the brilliant idea to try and build a miniature linear accelerator. So it was probably Lily’s fault. But then Bruce had said it was impossible, so he’s really the one that threw down the gauntlet.
Oh well, I guess it doesn’t matter. Seems we’re all equally to blame. But you have to understand, for 5 underused science geeks the thought of building a linear accelerator was simply intoxicating. That may have been the best trip to Princess Auto in the history of the known Universe!
But I digress, and if I was to really be honest, it was probably my fault more than anyone else.
As a Geologist, I was the one who decided to use the accelerator to target a variety of rare and exotic materials, including the one that sparked the trouble we were in right at this moment. I’m not going to say which one it is that caused the problem, as we don’t want this kind of power to fall into the hands of… well anyone really.
I sometimes wonder if we could go back and change things… but as you know, that’s really not an option anymore.
Anyway that’s a whole lot of backstory to deliver in a single moment of being frozen in time. Suffice to say that a split second after my ‘frozen moment’, we each continued our individual trajectories and impacted the remains of the garage walls. My aim was obviously better than the others as I passed cleanly between two studs, through the remains of the outer wall, (which was in the process of fragmenting outward anyway), and landed with a heap of flying debris in the yard.
I was stunned for a second but brushed it off and rolled over, intending to get back inside and check on everyone.
The fireball rising from one of the downtown office towers distracted me. I looked toward downtown and as I realized what I was seeing, felt the color drain from my face.
From where I lay on the ground I could see through the remains of the garage, through the hole in Vlad, through the neighbors house, actually through several houses. The hole went straight on, directly right through every downtown office tower in it’s path.
What ever we’d done had repercussions far beyond a sonic boom in the garage.
Vlad collapsing obscured my view through, er, everything, so I scrambled to my feet and dashed back into the remains of the garage. Everyone was awake, if a bit groggy, and except for Vlad, nobody seemed badly injured. Scratch that, Lily screamed when she put her weight on her arm trying to get up.
As I helped Lily stand, I tried to find words to explain what I’d just seen, but before I could say anything the entire city was rocked by a second, much louder sonic boom echoing across the sky.
Episode 2 – Dispatched
The viewscreens of the Aurelana each showed different angles of the command center. They echoed the screens around the giant control center that flickered from Galaxy to Galaxy as data was analyzed, compared and logged.
Jordrye paced slowly across the bridge as he lectured his young students, “Like all other Axis stations, the control center here at Axis 7 monitors events throughout the Universe. When an unregistered event is encountered, the closest Axis station to the event is put on alert and a treaty ship dispatched.”
He stopped and looked thoughtfully at the bridge crew. Almost graduated, this was to be their first joint training exercise. They had all been placed according to their skill levels, but today’s test would likely prompt a few adjustments.
Before he could offer preemptive wisdom on the likely changes, alarm klaxons sounded in the audio stream from the command center, then were echoed seconds later on their own bridge.
“Aurelana, this is Axis 7 command,” the transmission filled the bridge.
Jordrye looked at Zaughn, the trainee captain of the ship and nodded.
“Axis 7 this is Aurelana,” Zaughn responded.
“We have an unregistered event on an oxygen planet in sector C17, Galaxy P3542. Aurelana is listed as an Oxygen breathing crew and is next in the queue. Confirm status.”
“Affirmative command, Aurelana is oxygen based and mission ready.” Zaughn responded. He had used the proper phrase, so the docking clamps disengaged immediately and the ship floated free of the dock.
“Coordinates are being uploaded. Pre-encounter scans are underway. Standard protocol.”
“Affirmative command, Aurelana engaged.” Zaughn looked round at his crew. “Com, alert the treaty team and stand by to receive preliminary civ data, Nav, bring us into course alignment.”
He looked to Jordrye, head tilted for approval.
“Just fine, Captain,” Jordye nodded his approval. “Although the correct response to command should have been ‘Training ship ready’. ’Mission ready’ is the correct response for a fully commissioned crew.”
“Shall I…?” Zaughn was anxious to get it perfect.
“Leave it,” Jordrye winked at Zaughn. “We are right on schedule and they didn’t catch the error.”
Zaughn nodded and signaled ship-wide broadcast.
“Crew of the Aurelana, we are departing on a standard protocol treaty mission to an un-logged planet. I want all departments to code ready in…” he looked at the Navigator.
“Seven ticks sir,” the Nav looked up from his screen.
“Five ticks,” Zaughn said into the com.
“Shai’Hara-Lee,” the ships computer singled her out from rest of the treaty team. “You will have the honor of contact.”
She bowed her head and tried to keep her wings from unfurling or jittering in excitement. “Affirmative. Preliminary scan data is coming in from command now.”
She took a deep breath then started doing her job as team leader.
“I want the rest of you on data analysis,” she said. “We transit in five clicks and I want to poll all the environs and civ data so that we can do the best job possible.”
“Environs are coming in oxygen-rich atmosphere confirmed,” Chairel, one of the other trainees seemed to be all over it. “There are some odd particulate readings…”
He changed his tone and spoke directly to the ship’s computer, using her informal name. “‘Lana, can you assist?”
“I’m sorry Chairel,” the computer answered, “On a training mission, all data analysis except linguistics must be conducted by trainees.”
“Thanks for nothing, ‘Lana.” Zon muttered snarkily. “I can’t find anything resembling planetary archives, but there is a planet wide data stream I’m trying to view.”
“The civ data is the same,” T’lu added. “I can’t find a central repository, just distributed data streams. I’ll need linguistics to interpret this into civilization data.”
“Linguistics is processing, Stand by. Two ticks until transit alignment,” ‘Lana warned them.
Zon quietly waved Shai’Hara Lee over to his terminal, a serious look on his face. When she arrived, he leaned close and whispered. “I’ve got something for you, but you’re not going to like it.”
He showed her something on his monitor. As she read it, her fur flouresced into a bright yellow. Her wings furled higher around her as she spun around and headed back to her station, tight lipped.
T’lu looked at Zon, His single eyebrow raised questioningly. Zon smiled back mischievously, then glared at T’lu to keep quiet.
‘Lana interrupted her smoky mood. “Stand by for transit.” She said.
Shai’Hara-Lee was getting her color under control and fading back to her normal canary-yellow hue, when Lana announced. “Treaty team to the bridge. Transit in one tick.”
As they popped into the bridge, Shai’Hara-Lee queried the computer. “‘Lana, do we know where we are going?”
“Linguistics are still compiling, but it seems the locals call it ‘Earth’.”
Episode 3 – Visited
Dust and debris rained down as the second sonic boom shook the remains of the garage. Joel emerged from under a table, his ear cocked to the sky.
“That one sounded much bigger.” He said. “But not as close.”
“And hopefully not as destructive,” I said. “Are you hurt?”
“I’ll have a few bruises. You?”
“I’ll be fine.” I smiled encouragingly at Lily as I moved towards the back of the garage where Vlad lay. “Joel, can you help Lily? Watch out for her arm, I think its broken. Where’s Bruce?”
A muffled noise came from under Vlad. That seemed to jolt the Russian awake. He rolled off of Bruce and into a sitting position. As Bruce struggled to his feet, Vlad was staring down at his chest.
“I’m having a large hole.” He announced. “But I’m feeling not too bad.”
“Seriously?” I said.
Bruce bent down behind Vlad and peered at me through the hole in Vlad. “Whatever did this seems to have cauterized the wound. He’s not bleeding.”
“What the hell happened?” Lily asked.
“Containment failure.” Bruce said matter-of-factly.
“Ya think?” I asked sarcastically.
“I think,” Bruce answered without taking his eyes off me, “that I’d like to know what it is, that we failed to contain.”
Vlad stumbled then and Bruce caught his weight.
“Maybe not so good,” Vlad looked pale, he asked Joel. “You are having Vodka here?”
“We need to get you to a Doctor.” Joel said. “You too Lily.”
“I’ll call 911,” I said. “But guys, I have to tell you. We have a bigger problem than you think. Whatever we did here tore loose and went through Vlad, and then it, um, tore right though downtown.”
“What do you mean?” Lily asked.
“I mean, whatever went through him, went though everything downtown.” I grimaced. “We might have broken downtown a bit.”
“A bit?” Bruce asked.
“A lot actually.” I admitted. “C’mon, lets get out of here and you can see for yourselves.”
I was dialing 911 as I emerged from the garage. I don’t remember if they answered or not, or what was said. I think I actually dropped the phone.
Pretty soon Joel was standing beside me with Lily and Bruce made it out with Vlad. Eventually we were all standing there, mouths agape. The destruction we’d wrought upon the downtown core was obvious, but other than a casual glance, nobody was looking at it. The thin, kilometer-long ship hanging silently in midair above the city was just too much of a distraction.
The Aurelana completed its transit and appeared over the city near the source of the event, as programmed. Alarms went off immediately as Lana flashed pictures of the broken towers on the screens while she analyzed details of the scene below them.
“Captain,” Lana said. “The pressure wave from our arrival has exasperated previous structural damage. That large tower will collapse shortly and there are multiple life signs still in there.”
Captain Zaughn looked at Jordrye, The instructor just shrugged, remaining unwilling to interfere in the process. Zaughn ordered the ship forward to laterally support the building so that it would remain upright and it could be cleared. As the ship moved into position, he turned to Shai’Hara-Lee.
“You need to take a launch and get this treaty signed. You know the protocol. We can neither communicate our intentions or help directly without a treaty in place. For now we’ll try and hold this building up and hope that they understand that we’re trying to help.”
“Yessir,” Shai’Hara-Lee said and headed to the launch bay. Jordrye nodded his approval at the Captains actions.
“‘Lana, Run a search for networks and get a linguistic analysis,” ordered the Captain. “She’s going to need it.”
“I already have it, Captain.” Lana said.
“Send it to the launch.”
The creaking noise of steel grinding on steel tore through the air as the largest tower wobbled a bit. The big ship silently angled about then somewhat ungraciously bumped up against the building, almost as if to keep it from falling.
“We had something to do with that?” Lily said slowly, pointing at the ship.
“No,” I pointed at the creaking steel tower. “But look at the holes through the buildings. They all line up with… here. Whatever we did went through everything!”
“And that?” Joel pointed at the ship.
“I dunno where that… Pencil ship came from. It’s definitely not from around here.”
As we watched, a chamber that looked suspiciously like the chamber of a six shooter pivoted down from the ship about halfway along its length. One of the ‘bullets’ slid out of it’s chamber, then changed direction so it was angled directly toward them.
“Guys,” I nervously stated the obvious. “I think we’re in trouble.”
Episode 4 – First Contact
There was no warning. The smaller ship left the main craft, angled itself towards them, glowed for an microsecond, then it was above them and hovering. Instantly.
“What the?” I started to say, then stopped as a door slid open in the bottom of the ship.
I had not completed closing my mouth when she appeared in front of us.
I learned something in that moment. When you first meet a being from another world, your brain simply makes all the assumptions that it usually makes about anyone that you might bump into on the street. Perhaps it does this to make things feel normal, or perhaps there is some universal body language that transcends all of space and time. Who knows and frankly, who cares? Suffice to say I knew instantly that this gal was both nervous and uncomfortable. She had a right to be. She wore no clothes at all, and the short yellow fur that covered most of her, shielded none of the fact that she was most definitely female.
She adjusted her wings in what seemed like a formal gesture, then touched the ornament around her neck and spoke softly. “I am Shai’Hara-Lee. We seek treaty with those who created the K’ltchy field.” She straightened herself out and looked expectantly at us all, me somewhat more than the others. I hoped it was because I was in front and not because I was staring at her.
Lily cleared her throat, which was enough to get me started.
“I’m Gordon, and if you mean the thing that caused this,” I waved to the destruction around us and towards the city, “Then you probably want to talk to us.”
She visibly relaxed. “I am glad to meet you Gordon. When a civilization discovers the K’ltchy field,” She noticed his puzzled look, then tried another way, “The Zero Point energy field?”
She paused, as I continued to look puzzled.
”Then a ship is dispatched to form a treaty to protect your civilization and ours from misuse of the field.”
She paused again, then continued, as if from a script.”
“Do you speak for all?”
“I can speak for all of us here,” I didn’t look at the others. “We are…”
I trailed off as Vlad limped over and handed me what was left of a lab coat. He looked at her and pointed at the coat.
“Would you like a jacket or something?” I asked, as I offered it to her., my face flushing red. “You seem like you might be, um, cold.”
She looked up at me then, a different look in her eye. Vlad must have seen it already. She was young, just a kid. She bowed her head slightly to us and stepped back a bit. Her wings unfurled, wrapped around her, then withdrew, leaving behind a shimmery cover-up that made everyone a bit more comfortable.
“I hope I have not offered you,” She said. “I was informed that clothing was not appropriate on Earth.”
“Who told you that?” Lily asked, her hackles up.
“One of my shipmates.” Shai’Hara-Lee said with ice in her eyes. “I will inform him of his error.” She turned to Vlad. “Thank you for your… kindness.”
Vlad smiled, his eyes rolled back in his head and he collapsed. Bruce missed catching him and Lily automatically reached out… and screamed. She’d used the wrong arm.
“You are injured!” Shai’Hara-Lee said, noticing the remains of the garage behind us.
“Our ‘Zero Point energy’ test did not go as smoothly as we had hoped.” Joel spoke up. “There was an accident.”
“Several actually.” I nodded towards downtown.
Shai’Hara-Lee looked troubled. “We are forbidden to interfere or assist without a treaty in place.”
“But you can help?” I asked.
“Then we will sign your treaty.” I said.
“Gordon!” Bruce warned.
“We need their help.” I replied. “Look around. Shai’Hara-Lee, what is this treaty?”
“I will tell you. But come stand by me here. We will go to the Aurelana for your injured. I will explain.”
We were inside the Aurelana in under a minute. Ten seconds to get to the launch and get settled, ten seconds to the Aurelana, the entire rest of the minute to offload Lily and Vlad. They were taken away to what was hopefully a sick bay while the rest of us stayed with Shai’Hara-Lee in a small room off the launch bay.
She explained that the treaty was critical to help us both understand and properly use the energy we had created. So that we could join in the collective society that spanned the Universe.
“The treaty is very beneficial.” She said. “Carelessly used this energy can be dangerous.”
“We know.” Joel said wryly.
“Perhaps not,” She warned. “Without proper instruction, you can accidentally create a Zero Point warping event. I think you would call it a black hole? It could erase large portions of your Galaxy and the many civilizations within.”
Silence overflowed the small room for a moment.
“Gordon?” Bruce said slowly.
“Yeah?” I answered, expecting the usual cautions.
“Sign the treaty.” Bruce said.
“You will sign for your world?” Shai’Hara-Lee asked, as if that was the sort of question people really asked other people.
“Well… no. I can’t!” I answered honestly.
“What?” She asked.
“Nobody can sign for our whole world. We don’t have that kind of government.” She still looked confused. “Our planet has many different regional governments.”
“Well, which government created the K’ltchy field? Which one are you of?”
“We’re Cavanaugh Trucking.” Joel piped up helpfully. “We are the only ones on Earth who have this power or the ability to recreate it.”
“This is so?” She looked at me.
“Yes, I believe so,” I nodded. “We’ve never heard of or seen anything like it before.”
“This is most unusual,” She seemed to be mulling it over, then quickly decided. “Very well.”
“Lana?” She spoke to nobody that they could see.
“Yes, Shai’Hara-Lee?” the disembodied voice of the ship’s computer echoed in the small room.
“Register a treaty for Cavanaugh… Trucking?” She looked at me to be sure.
“Actually, let’s make it ‘Cavanaugh Interstellar’,” I was so clever.
“For Cavanaugh Interstellar of Earth,” Shai’Hara-Lee repeated. “Effective immediately. You have the conversations on file?”
“I do and the treaty is registered and transmitted,” Lana replied. “Which means you are all needed on the bridge.”
On their way to the bridge, Shai’Hara-Lee offered another gem. “I am looking forward to working with you.”
“What do you mean?” I asked politely.
“Until your own ships are operational and up to fleet standards, we will supply you with transport as required and we will instruct you in the technologies needed to enter the Universal culture.”
I looked at her, still not comprehending.
“So, as part of the standard treaty, the Aurelana and all her crew are at your disposal.” She added.
“We get a space ship?” Joel’s eyes were wide.
Episode 5 – Too Soon!
The bridge was a flurry of activity when they arrived. Animated discussions interspersed those delving deeply into their screens, all searching for something. If that wasn’t enough, the bridge floor had been rendered completely transparent! They were standing on nothing and only occasionally looking down at the broken towers beneath them. With all that going on, nobody noticed them until ‘Lana interrupted.
“Captain, you have guests on the bridge.”
The silence that fell was epic. Like when the gunslinger walks into the saloon and the whole place goes silent, waiting for the inevitable shootout. If only there was a clock ticking loudly to complete the scene…
“Gordon?” Shai’Hara-Lee looked him with puzzled eyes. “What is a ‘gunslinger’?”
Damn. I must have said that out loud. “Uh, nothing. Really!”
“Welcome Gordon,” The young fellow in the center seat addressed him. “I am Zaughn, Captain of the Aurelana.”
“Hi. I’m Gordon of Cavanaugh Tru…, er, Interstellar.”
“Perhaps you can clear up something for us?” Zaughn asked politely.
“Like why you used the K’ltchy field to strike at these towers?” T’lu’s accusation was plain.
“We didn’t.” Joel answered.
“Actually, we did.” Bruce corrected him, and everyone else on the bridge drew their breath.
“Yes, but it was an accident.” I added. “We had a containment failure.”
Zaughn regarded us carefully. “So you had no reason to strike at these buildings or those in them?”
“Uh, These are the towers of oil companies that laid us off, said there was no work, then outsourced all of our jobs.” I said. “ We have plenty of reason to strike at them, but we didn’t.”
“How can we believe this?” Zaughn asked Jordrye, who remained silent.
The door slid open and Vlad and Lily came onto the bridge, light glinted through the hole that remained in Vlad’s side. I pointed at him. “Because we wouldn’t punch a hole through anyone, especially one of our own.”
“There was no sign of intention.” Shai’Hara-Lee added. “And their facility was destroyed by the failure.”
“That’s another thing.” Zon joined the conversation, changing the subject. “Where is the planetary research center, the space docks, the central gov.? It’s all missing.”
“There is a reason for that.” ‘Lana interjected.
“Go on,” Vaughn said to ‘Lana.
“Based on cultural and science data, Earth’s civilization should not achieve Zero Point energy for at least another 1000 years. I have downloaded their ‘Google’ from the ‘cloud’ as they call it, and analyzed it. Unless it is full of lies and omissions, they have not yet had first crisis, or even attempted a planetary government. There are no unified facilities. In short, they should never have been able to achieve Zero Point energy.”
T’lu expression shifted until he was looking at them in awe. “It’s like prehistorical!”
“Zaughn.” Shai’Hara-Lee tried to interrupt.
“Forgive T’lu,” Zaughn said to us, ignoring her. “He is ship’s archeologist.”
“ZAUGHN.” She said firmly.
“We have already signed the treaty.”
“Well that’s not possible.” Jordrye finally spoke up. “With who? There is no central gov. There is no authority here capable of signing.”
“That’s why we signed it with Cavanaugh Interstellar, these ones that created the field.”
“This is a serious breach of protocol Shai’Hara-Lee.” Jordrye scolded her. “If this were a real first contact situation, the planetary government would simply have to be the signatory. There is no precedent for a small group achieving the field within a society of billions.”
“But they are the ones that created it.” She argued. “Who better to educate the rest of their society to Universal standards.”
“Wait, What?” I asked. “What do you mean if this were a real situation?”
Zaughn explained. “This is only a drill, a training exercise for our new crew.”
“A very good drill.” Jordrye added. “The falling buildings, the destruction, a pre-ZPE society. No central gov. This is a wonderful trial. Training has outdone itself this time.”
The rest of the bridge crew looked smug. Zaughn seemed almost happy. Shai’Hara-Lee was not convinced. It was time to clear things up.
“Look,” I said firmly.” I don’t know what you guys think is going on here, but people, this is no drill. That is my planet out there, and those really are buildings with holes in them.”
Behind me, Vlad cleared his throat, pointedly. “Yeah, and him too!” I added.
“He is correct, Instructor Jordrye,” ‘Lana confirmed. “When Captain Zaughn responded with the ‘Mission Ready’ protocol instead of the training response, the Aurelana was moved to ready status and Axis dispatched us here for a mission.” ‘Lana paused. “I assumed you would know that.”
“So, when I told Zaughn not to correct the response…” Jordrye’s voice trailed off, he thought hard for a moment, then he started at Gordon with growing incredulity. “You really discovered this by yourselves? Just you five?”
He looked down through the transparent floor. “And we really are holding a building… from collapsing?”
“Yes.” ‘Lana confirmed.
“I see.” Jordrye wobbled.
Then the ship lurched as the building wobbled, pulling the ship with it. The motion must have knocked something loose from the top of the building. All at once proximity alarms went off and ‘Lana called out, “Sheild!” at the same time. A jagged piece of metal punched down through the ceiling of the bridge, stopped by the glowing force of the sheild.
Episode 6 – Hold Please
The view through the floor shimmered as the shield activated all around them, then became partially blocked by Jordrye’s limp form collapsing to the floor. I was worried he’d been hit by the stuff poking through the ceiling, but before I could voice my concern, ‘Lana allayed it.
“Jordyre has fainted.” She announced. “The shield will prevent further damage.”
The building lurched again and the ship with it.
“Can’t you guys extend your shield or whatever around the building and just hold it up?” Joel asked.
“’Lana?” Zaughn asked.
“That is feasible.” ‘Lana answered. “I can position a launch for that on auto-pilot.”
“Please do-“ Zaughn began but was cut off by ‘Lana.
“I’m sorry captain, but some of my systems have been damaged by the hull perforation.” Could a ship sound frustrated? “I am unable to remote control a launch at this time.“
The piercing train whistle sound of Joel’s cell phone ring echoed across the flight deck. The train sound had no business on a spaceship that had been damaged by part of a collapsing building. But… it rang again.
“My neighbor,” He told us as he answered. “Hello, Mrs Johnson.”
He paused for a bit.
“Yes, we had a bit of an accident this morn-“
He covered the phone and looked at me. “Cops are at the house. My neighbor saw the whole thing, including Shai’Hara-Lee.” He went back to the phone as the ship and the building lurched again.
“Officer Chen,” he interrupted whatever was being said. “I’ll be right with you. Hold please.”
“They’d like to know what happened.” Joel looked at Vaughn. “Can’t you get someone to manually pilot a launch and hold that building up?”
He turned back to the phone. “Yes sir, it’s quite a mess…”
“Zon!” Zaughn said. “You’re launch qualified, take one out and get this building stabilized.”
“Gord,” Joel tugged my arm. “They are transferring me to a desk sergeant.”
Zon looked startled. “I can fly it, but I don’t know how to extend the shields like that.”
I grabbed Joel’s phone from his hand. “Joel, you and Bruce go with Zon and see if you can figure in out. ‘Lana, you can still help right?”
“Yes, Gordon. I will guide them.”
“Go!” Zaughn said confirming the order.
“Joel?” The voice on the cell phone inquired.
“Joel is a little busy right now.” I answered. “Hold please.”
“‘Lana?” I asked. “Do they have to worry about any effects from the shield?”
“No. Low power should stabilize the building without causing any boundary effects.”
“Great, Thanks.” I turned back to the phone. “Hello? Who’s this?”
“Staff Sergeant Paterson. What-“
“Paterson.” I interrupted him. “We are on board the ship above the city that’s holding up the Bow tower. In a few-“
“What the-“ The gruff voice didn’t sound like someone who took orders well.
“Look there’s no time.” I said. “In moment a small ship will move over the Bow and extend a shield over it to hold it together while you evacuate…” I paused while he pontificated. “Do shut up and listen sir! You need to evacuate-“
“Launch away!” ‘Lana announced.
“Hold please.” I said into the phone. I doubted he was even listening.
We watched the screen while the ship maneuvered into position over the Bow. With ‘Lana’s help, a shimmery shield was soon flickering around the Bow. As the Aurelana backed away from the Bow, the steam whistle sounded again.
“Sergeant Paterson-“ I began.
“Chief of Police, Marjorie Cedars.” The no-nonsense authoritative voice responded. “You’re on the ship above the city?”
“Yes Ma’am, Gordon Cavanaugh speaking. You need to evacuate the Bow as soon as possible.”
“Our people are saying it’s not safe.” She replied.
“Hold Please. ‘Lana, what’s the situation with the building?”
“The shield has stabilized the lateral forces. Evacuation can commence.”
“Who is that?” The Chief asked. “Who’s advising you?”
I sighed. “If I told you it was the computer on board the ship, would you believe me?”
Another voice joined the call. “If you are worried about another 911 event, Ms. Cedars,” ‘Lana interjected. “I am fleet ship Aurelana and I can assure you I will not let that happen. Your people will be safe.”
“Commence the evacuation. Search every floor.” He heard the Chief ordering someone who must have been standing beside her. She came back on. “Can you stay on the line?”
“Sure.” I said.
“We can do more than that.” ‘Lana said. “As Cavanaugh Interstellar is now a treaty holder, we can assist fully. There are only 217 remaining in the building, but several of them have life threatening injuries that we can treat on board and ‘stabilize’ as you say.”
“Yes please!” I said.
“Is that safe?” The Chief asked.
“I’d stake my life on it.” I said, glancing over at Vlad.
“Then we will need to coordinate-“ The Chief started to say.
“Hold please.” I interrupted. “‘Lana, Can’t we just transport the rest out as well?”
“We can,” She said. “but someone must go with them, as Shai’Hara-Lee did when you all came aboard.”
I looked at Shai’Hara-Lee. “Shall we?” She nodded and smiled. I was beginning to really like this girl.
“Chief, on second thought, call your people off.” I said. “Cavanaugh Interstellar has got this.”
Before she could protest, I hung up. Vlad joined us. “I will help also.” He announced.
“Vlad,” I asked him, looking at the hole in his side, It seemed to be sealed somehow, but light was still shining through from him behind. “I thought you got patched up? Why do you still have a hole in you?”
“They said fix hole or leave hole, I say hole is okay.”
“Why would you say that?” Bruce asked.
Vlad smiled a big grin.
“Now I am… Vlad the Impaled.”
Episode 7 – The Rescuers
The floor we were standing on shimmered and vanished, leaving nothing between the small ship and the Bow tower below it. Vlad and I lunged for the wall of the arrivals bay.
Shai’Hara-Lee chuckled at our reaction.
It was the same transparent floor we’d seen on the bridge. Completely solid yet completely invisible.
“So how exactly are we going to do this?” I asked Shai’Hara-Lee as we reorganized ourselves.
She pulled what looked like a cell phone from a slot in the wall and handed it to me. Seconds after touching it, I could clearly hear ‘Lana’s voice echoing in my head.
“That’s incredible.” I said, staring at the device.
Vlad was handed a similar device as ‘Lana explained. “Thank you Gordon, Vlad. Your world has similar technology to this in development now.” She said. “The device you are holding is a what you might call a nanobot transport and communications device. The nanobots will assist in verbal and data communication and will relay my instructions to you.”
“Very good.” I said. I slid my iphone out from my Wrist Rack and slid the nanobot controller in.
Vlad nodded, adding. “You speak excellent Russian.”
“You hear her in Russian?” I asked him, but a second later we were standing on the roof of the Bow tower, Shai-Hara-Lee urged to move us aside.
“I will punch a hole through the roof above the elevator shaft.” ‘Lana said in our ears.
“Then we can go floor by floor.” Shai’Hara-Lee added. “And bring people to the shaft. ‘Lana will lift them out.”
“You don’t have transporter?” Vlad asked.
“You are referring to the fictional device from your ’Star Trek’ television series?” ‘Lana considered. “Hmmm. Theoretically possible, but not really practical. We will go in through the shaft.”
A narrow field extended from the ship and neatly cut a circle out of the building’s roof, lifted it, then placed it aside.
“Please stand where the roof was and I will lower you down.” ‘Lana instructed.
Shai’Hara-Lee hopped onto the invisible surface where the roof had been and motioned us to join her.
“I don’t think this will go over so well.” I said, watching her standing there… on nothing.
“Maybe we use roof piece?” Vlad said.
I thought for a moment. “I have a better idea.”
A few minutes later the elevator doors opened and we helped the first load of people that we’d rescued from the top floor step out onto the ground level plaza in front of the building. A girl fainted in my arms when she realized where the elevator had deposited them. I glanced over to the line of waiting ambulances.
“You guys go back and get the next load.” I said to Vlad and Shai’Hara-Lee. “I’ll get these guys organized.”
They nodded and climbed back into the elevator. The doors slid shut and ‘Lana extended the field to pluck the elevator from the plaza, pull it up through the air and began lowering it back towards the hole in the roof. I looked away and began to carry the girl over to the line of first responders. Most of them were still trying to take it all in. I grinned.
“We’ll be bringing them down one load at a time.” I announced. “There’s just over 200 of them.” I paused. Nothing. “A little help?”
A wave of Police, Fire and Ambulance personnel surged forward.
By the third load, they were organized and I’d explained our plan. Half a dozen rescuers went back up with us on the next trip and we dropped them two to a floor. Their presence relaxed people as they prepped them for transport and made the whole process much faster. A bit later, two of the ambulance attendants insisted on going to the Aurelana’s sick bay with one badly bashed executive that a ceiling had dropped onto. They were deposited on the plaza about 15 minutes later, without the perceived safety of an elevator and with the executive standing shakily between them.
Their eyes were wide as they passed him over to their colleagues, then turned and waited for the next elevator ‘up’.
About an hour and half later, everyone was out of the building and we were just waiting on the last batch from ship’s sick bay, when a familiar purple-clad figure pushed through the crowd of cell phones and cameras that now ringed the plaza.
“Mayor Nenshi.” I greeted him. “Good to see you again.”
“You are?” He didn’t exactly recognize me.
“Gordon Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh Trucking?” I extended my hand.
“Yes, Ok. I remember you.” He shook my hand. “But this?” he pointed above.
“Well, this’ll be under the new company.” I smiled. “Cavanaugh Interstellar.”
He was cut short as the elevator reappeared beside us and Shai’Hara-Lee and Vlad helped the last first responders and the last two rescuees offload.
He was speechless as Shai’Hara-Lee joined us.
“We must go.” Vlad said.
“What about the building?” Shai’Hara-Lee asked.
“The building?” Nenshi echoed as a number of high-ranking uniforms closed in behind him.
“The building will not stand on its own much longer.” ‘Lana added in our ears.
“Mayor Nenshi. This is Shai’Hara-Lee. She is from the ship and has signed a treaty with us to manage the, uh, field we created that caused this problem.”
They shook hands and exchanged pleasantries.
“The building will not stand without support.” She informed the mayor. “What would you like to do with it?”
“Do with it?” I asked before he could.
“It will be bad if it falls.” Vlad added.
The murmurs behind him agreed.
“What can you do with it?” The Mayor asked.
“It can be moved.” I blurted out. “Right ‘Lana?’
“Yes, easily.” ‘Lana answered in his ear.
“Who’s Lana?” The mayor asked.
“Just let us know where you’d like it dropped.” I said.
Nenshi considered for a moment. “We’ll have to figure that out.” He said. “Can we get back to you?”
“Sure.” I said. The crowd was slowly circling in tighter. I dropped my voice to a whisper. “Just call Cavanaugh Trucking, when you figure it out.”
“Thanks,” He said.
We moved away from the crowd.
“Just one thing?” The Mayor asked as we pulled away.
“Yes?” I said warily.
“Could I get a selfie with you guys?”