keeps this site and its author alive.
Stories from the Verse
Verse Three, Chapter One
Chapter 16: Kondor 6
Table of Contents
Previous chapter: Chapter 15, Slade 5
If medical was safer than security, it was also busier. Two members of the four-man medical team were always on duty, in overlapping twelve-hour shifts. Normally, Kondor relieved Di Pietro, and worked with Robbins until Dr. Evans arrived in the middle of his shift. Then Di Pietro relieved him, and he had twelve hours off. One person was always in the medical bay, while the other moved around between medical, the nearby kitchen and cafeteria, and any situations which required attention elsewhere on the ship. So there was less free time than Kondor had expected. On the other hand, if things were quiet in medical he was able to pull out his reading material and do a bit of studying. Besides, he was learning quite a bit about medicine and medical technology on the job.
Of course, quite apart from the schedule, no one was guaranteed time off if in an emergency. But there were no emergencies between Sardic and New Tempest.
New Tempest was a mining colony, and nothing he heard about it made Kondor want to so much as look through a porthole. It was just as well that he was on duty when they landed, and they left before the end of his shift. They would traverse a section of space known as Rough Passage, a vast interstellar debris field which had yet to be fully charted and so was filled with navigational hazards. The next port was New Haven, an agricultural planet which sounded like the place to get fresh air and sunshine, even if all he could do was stretch his legs on the gangplank.
But there was another hazard in Rough Passage this time. Pirates attempted to breach the cargo doors. Kondor was rousted from his bunk, and hearing that a boarding attempt was being made, he grabbed a medical kit and his M-16, half hoping for an opportunity to repay the profession for his lost eye. But skillful piloting and good weapons use forced the attackers to retreat into the debris, and the ship lost no time and took little damage.
But Kondor hadn't realized how angry he was about his injury. Although his sight was fully restored by the prosthetic, the reminder had brought out surprising feelings. He would have killed all of the pirates, given the chance. The chance had not come, but he wasn't certain whether that was a good thing or a bad thing.
A couple weeks later, he did step out onto the green grass of New Haven, and filled his lungs with the fresh country air. He also did a bit of shopping, replacing his long-spent rations with good nutritious lightweight preserved food, just in case he should find himself in a world where dinner was not so easy nor so obvious.
Leaving New Haven, they had to cross a substantial area of open space to reach Emerald. This was also a mining colony, but it was very different from others on the route. First, the planet was neither civilized nor settled, and a native creature with primitive intelligence and some simple tool and weapon use lived in tribal groups throughout. They were known to attack ships, and although their primitive spears could do little damage to ships built to withstand kinetic cannon fire, people had been killed trying to move cargo. Second, Emerald was the best place known to mine emerald, a radioactive crystal used on civilized planets as a clean energy source. It was the fact that emerald was so valuable everywhere else, but food and supplies were unavailable here, that made the trade route truly profitable.
It also made the route dangerous. Because of the threat from the creatures, security had to establish a perimeter around the cargo area before the doors would be opened, and maintain watch while the deck hands moved crates around. This time there was trouble. Small groups of the creatures had to be repelled from the area by the security team several times, and Davison took a nasty leg wound. Kondor had to reach his position during the fight to bandage his leg, and then get him inside to be properly treated in medical. But there were more wounded primitives, and quite a few dead, with only minor injuries otherwise among the crew.
A few nights later he happened to see Captain Johnson at dinner.
"Well, happy anniversary," the captain said.
"Pardon me?" answered Kondor.
"Well, we were somewhere not far from here when we first discovered you in the cargo hold. I still haven't figured out how you got there."
"I suppose that will always be a mystery," said Kondor. "But call it serendipity--I seem to have appeared in the right place."
"Well, we're glad to have you aboard."
They were entering the longest leg of their journey, the Greater Syndic. If they were very lucky, they were looking at just over two months of boredom. No one was ever that lucky.
The trip began fairly quietly. There was a bit of excitement in outrunning some grapples from a pirate ship. And there were a few injuries to mend following a fight in the mess hall. One day all of medical was put on alert when a distress call was received; but it was determined to be a trap well before it could be sprung, and everyone returned to normal duties as the ship steered to safety.
The boredom was abruptly broken some days later. Pirates in a small ship had been hidden behind a large asteroid, and having darted out had attached to the ship and breached the airlock. Security was preparing for combat in the halls. Robbins sent Kondor to awaken Dr. Evans and Di Pietro, and then to prepare to follow the security team to tend the wounded. There was a rush of activity in which Kondor was caught; yet it all had a strangely familiar feel.
And then he connected the dots. They were near the end of the crossing of the Greater Syndic, boarded by pirates from a small easily-hidden craft who breached the main airlock and fought through the halls. This had happened before, and right about here. The anger welled up within him: these were the same accursed pirates who took his eye.
He put the medical kit under his left arm, but as he joined the security team in the hall, it was his M-16 he held in his hands.
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with the first six chapters of the novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #22: Getting Into Characters. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter.
As to the old stories that have long been here: