Admiral Bunting and the Service Station
The LECo streaked out of the Catesby Quadrant and into more tranquil space. Captain Lou breathed an almost imperceptible sigh of relief. The display they’d witnessed from the exostar Guido had been quite something, but she knew she could have been coming back into this more familiar territory minus a crew member. And that would have been difficult to explain to the Galactic Council.
In any case, the LECo had sustained some minor damage from the asteroid shower which Guido had used to try and assimilate her Bombardier. She would have to get the ship to the nearest Starcruiser Maintenance Facility and get rid of all traces of spaceweed and asteroid blasts.
She set course for Terra Gaia; ‘Ok’, said Captain Lou. ‘Let’s go and see Admiral Bunting at the Service Station’.
Ricardo the Astral Bard looked up and grinned. There was mischief in his eye.
Sonic Engineer Parsons smiled; ‘As long as he stays away from my flangectors’, said Jeff. ‘The last time we were there he tried to attenuate them. It was a close call – if we’d have encountered the Silence we’d have been in deep do-do’.
‘Don’t worry’ said Captain Lou. Leave Admiral Bunting to me.
A septalog later and the Starcruiser was in position above the Gorge of St George, Terra Gaia. ‘We’ll beam down in the Lecopod’ said Captain Lou. Moments later all four Leconauts had donned the appropriate clothing so they would remain inconspicuous among the denizens of Terra Gaia. They entered the Lecopod and Bombardier Walker took the helm. Moments later they had arrived at the Service Station, to find that Admiral Bunting was expecting them.
‘Greetings, Leconauts’; the Admiral was a cheery sort, but his jovial demeanour could lull the unwary into a false sense of security. He didn’t suffer fools.
‘Let me guess, you’ve been fooling around in the Catesby Quadrant, partying with the Lords of the Hawk, and now you want me to patch up your ship and entertain you for a couple of quantasepts’.
‘Correct on all counts, Admiral’ said Captain Lou. ‘How long do you think it will take?’
‘Well now, that depends’ said the Admiral, a wily grin spreading over his face. ‘Depends on what?’ asked Bombardier Walker.
‘Depends on whether or not the Galactic Council needs to see my service records’ Admiral Bunting replied. ‘I imagine that a septalog of my time to de-spaceweed a Starcruiser full of asteroid blast craters would be something they would want to know more about.’ He turned to Captain Lou. ‘And the fact that your Bombardier has a distinct case of the spacestones’.
‘Ok’ said Captain Lou; ‘what did you have in mind?’
‘Well, I have a pocket of Silence tomorrow evening’ said the wily Admiral. ‘How do you feel about flangecting the hell out of it?’
Captain Lou smiled; ‘I think we could manage that’, she said.
Admiral Bunting was as good as his word. The LECo was fully restored to operational readiness within a septalog.
‘On your way, and if the Galactic Council asks any questions I haven’t seen you’ he said, as the Sablestar drive burst into life.
Sometime later Captain Lou awoke; ‘funny’, she thought. ‘I don’t remember going to sleep!’
She looked around; her crew all looked like they were having the same thought. She decided to say nothing.
‘Position, please, Sonic Engineer Parsons’; an awkward silence. Jeff scratched his head and then tapped the display screen in front of him.
‘Funny’ he said out loud. Captain Lou didn’t much like the fact that some seconds ago the same word had jumped into her own mind.
‘What’s funny?’ she asked.
‘Well, the curvature of spacetime seems to have……changed.’
‘How can that be?’ she asked, genuinely perplexed. ‘I’m not sure’ said the Sonic Engineer; Captain Lou could tell that he really didn’t like not being able to offer an explanation. ‘I’m also getting extremely high readings from the Aurumeter’.
‘Off the scale’
Something was very wrong, and Captain Lou had no idea what it was.
‘Visual’ she said, a note of tension in her voice. Ricardo the Astral Bard implemented the Vistascreen; it was immediately filled with a pulsing yellow light. ‘How strange’ all four crew members said simultaneously.
‘Scanner’ said Captain Lou, her voice now containing real anxiety.
Jeff flicked a switch and a low thrumming filled the bridge deck. Numbers began to spin on the screen in front of him.
‘Well?’ said Captain Lou, scarcely able to hide her perplexed impatience.
‘I don’t quite know how to say this’ said the Sonic Engineer, ‘but we appear to be travelling down a huge gold needle!’
Of course; hence the curvature of space being askew and the Aurumeter readings being so high. But why were they here? And who, or what, was responsible?
‘Thunder pulsation, forward at 120 bpm’ said Captain Lou. Bombardier Walker loosed off the pulsation from his Thunder Conjuring machine. The sonic wave was easily visible as it streaked away into the yellow vortex.
‘Ok, now we wait to see what comes back’ said Captain Lou.
How long they waited no-one could be sure. But eventually a tiny pinprick of light appeared, a vast distance away, and began to grow.
‘That thing is really travelling’ said Jeff. ‘Yes, I think we’d all divined that much’ said Captain Lou. The tension which they realised they all were feeling suddenly diffused. They continued to watch the Vistascreen. Suddenly Captain Lou realised.
‘What is that?’ asked Ricardo the Astral Bard.
Captain Lou answered.
‘It’s the Eye of the Snake’
To be continued…
By Loudhailer Electric Company’s Sonic Architect and keeper of the sacred flangector, Jeff Parsons
Photos from Loudhailer Electric Company at K94 by Sydpix and Mike O’Connor as captioned