August 20, 2019

Free Fiction Friday: Solar Winds-The Cloaked Promise Part 4

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Things are heating up in the Saturn system this week, as Andrea discovers that the captured Radium Core is a terrible prize that will bring them more than they bargained for. Be sure to check out this week’s installment, or if your new to the series start back with Chapter 1 of the first story Scorpius Cell or Chapter 1 of The Cloaked Promise or hey, you can read em both in their entirety.

 

Solar Winds-The Cloaked Promise

by

David Dickinson

Chapter 4

Sleep did not come easy to her that night.

Curled in her suspensor cocoon, Andrea writhed like a caterpillar unable to transform.  Dreams came in fits and starts, disjointed and tangled. Sleep inducers and dream programmers were prevalent among her college friends, but Andrea categorically rejected them.  Some saw random dreaming as dangerous, but lately, Andrea had come to see reality as the real hazard.

Her current dream sent her back to Mars. She was alone, hiking the Southern Pole Cap. She felt it odd that she was moving freely, with no excursion suit. She felt the driving urge to reach the top of the ancient glacier. Your myths betray you…she felt her long dead sister’s presence beside her. “Tell me how to get to the top!” She shouted. No answer. She felt her hands slide under the carbon dioxide ice.  She desperately looked for direction. Feeling naked and alone, she doggedly pursued an unknown goal. You want him… again her sister’s voice.

Now she suddenly stood atop the ice dome, high above the plains. A shadow of a man loomed before her.  With an inner shriek she realized it was Marc. She desperately wanted to tear herself away. She didn’t want to see what they had done to him, didn’t want to stare at his tortured flesh.

The voice seemed to call from beyond her dream.

Go to the bay, my Blossom, I’ve a…proposal for you.

Andrea jumped awake, her heart thudding against her chest.  A soft blue light from her computer console bathed the chamber.  Reality still seemed merged with the dream. Andrea lost her grip when she saw the words floating above the screen:

WELL? I’M WAITING, MY BLOSSOM.

Only Marc had ever called her that. Marc and…

Alright, this rock has finally gotten to me, Andrea thought as she peeled back the cocoon and pulled on her black jump suit. She immediately decided if this is a delusion, she would play it out to its logical end. Hopefully none of Scorpius Cell would spot her losing it.

She took the tube down to the docking bay. She gasped at what now lay before her. There, in the middle of the bay, between the Armageddon and the captured Daedalus was a new ship.  It was small, sleek, and piranha shaped, obviously meant for atmospheric work as well as deep space. It squatted on tricycle landing gear, and was painted a brilliant orange from stem to stern.  Andrea had not seen or heard of such a craft. Approaching it, she felt like a kid on Christmas Day.  The manifold felt virtually frictionless to her touch.  The single seat cockpit was open.  It begged to be flown. Someone’s toying with us, Andrea thought, slipping over the canopy.  It disturbed her that someone could have passed through their defenses so easily. I’ll deprogram V.I.C.A.R. if he picked now to power down…

Suddenly, the controls before her lit up. The canopy slid shut and latched in place. The ship pressurized as she felt the dull throbbing of the engine at her backside.  Before she could catch her breath, the craft had cleared the dock. She was in space.

“By Jove…” She yelped as she flipped what she hoped was the communications switch.

Already, the asteroid receded behind her, diminishing to a bright dot.

Dumb move girl, she thought. You didn’t even grab a weapon.

“Andrea to Kumari Control. Come in, V.I.C.A.R…”

An image crackled in the air in from of her.  She recognized it instantly “Ah, greetings, m’lass,”

D. R. Holderson!  This has to be a recording…

“I’ve become quite a fan of you and your merry band’s exploits in the past few weeks, my dear.” The trillionaire continued. The image rippled like a stone skipped on water. “Consider this craft and the several more I’ve sent you as a… gift.”

What’s his angle? She pondered.

“I think you’ll see your ‘Zodiac Cartel’ has generated quite a stir in the civilized systems… I’ve a proposal to offer.  Last we time met, you rushed off in such a hurry. I like to conduct my business in person.”

Andrea saw by the state of the art craft she was in that he indeed meant business. A few fast movers like these, and the Zodiac Cartel could do some real damage!

“You’ll find the autopilot set for Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. A landing at my private terminal in Cronos City in a couple days will assure your passage is… unhindered.  I look forward to seeing you again.”

The image winked out. Andrea exhaled heavily and lay back.  Might as well get comfortable, she thought as the on board hibernators drifted her back off to sleep.

 

The craft clicked off of auto-pilot after a slingshot maneuver to bleed off speed took her almost out to Hyperion, Saturn’s outermost moon. Andrea, now awake, found she now had the skills necessary to pilot the small ship manually. Hypnotic memory implant? She had certainly heard of such technology before. It seemed as if anything might be possible when it came to  Holderson Technologies.  A good ally to have.

Andrea looked at the thin golden sliver of Saturn high above the canopy.  It was in crescent phase, a view never afforded to telescopes back on Earth or Mars. Its rings were tilted open and looked like they were made of fine gossamer. Andrea had only glimpsed Saturn once as a girl. The ringed world offered only a jittering view to her through a friend’s telescope as seen from the surface of Mars. She had never seen anything so majestic in her life as Saturn up close. She thought she could just spy Titan as a bright star coming out from behind the limb. Even this far out, she could trace thin spokes and grooves in the ivory pale rings. Titan was a dusky pink dot by comparison.

It was now her destination once again.  Strange, that she took such a roundabout path to get here. She had a knack for taking the haphazard path to a solution, even as a kid back on Mars. Cronos City was her original destination as an art school student, but jumping ship and meeting Karl and the Professor on Ganymede had changed everything.  And if their promises had proven hollow, she had resolved to fill them through action.  She would single-handedly breathe life into the Zodiac Cartel.

Andrea opened up a secure frequency.  She first broadcast via coded pulse laser back to Kumari to give them her status and appoint the Professor as her interim deputy. No one except someone in exact line of sight could intercept the message.  The base location would remain a secret.  Except, of course, to the presenter of this ship, she shuddered.  She then followed transponder protocol and flipped over to radio wavelength and began broadcasting to Titan.

“Cronos Control, this is mission 23-1 headed for auxiliary port 42, copy?” Andrea waited a few minutes for the reply to transit.

“This is Cronos, 23-1. You’re in the pipe for vector 09-05.” Andrea plugged the coordinates into the navigator and kicked her heels back on the console. Now she could enjoy the view.

To be continued…

Read The Cloaked Promise and other original tales of science fiction by David Dickinson in their entirety.

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