Oh Dark and Ugly: Day 85, Stuart Compound, Alchibah
I woke up with my wristcomp, the house alarm and my comp unit all making enough noise to rouse the dead. Pulling my arm from under Mariana’s head I was ready to kill somebody till my brain caught up with my body. The only person alive who could trigger all those systems was Ash and he knew better.
“OK Ash, This had better be good,” I growled.
“Get your pants on Cuz, Joe and J.J. Found them!”
Beside me Mariana jumped up from under the covers exposing the best reasons to tell Ash where to go and screaming at the top of her lungs. “Where Ash, is anybody hurt; do they need Medical?”
Ash laughed, “Not according to J.J.! At least until I get there. Jai has night shift at the field and She is warming up the Cargo Bus, so get it in gear Cuz!”
I not exactly sure how I got into gear that fast but I was screaming out the door in 30 seconds and went straight to speed to the airfield. When I got there the engines on the Cargo Bus were warming and Jai was strapped into the locally installed jump seat. I slid into the Co-Pilots seat and locked up J. J.’s beacon just as Ash slid into the Pilots seat.
Ash reefed her up with everything she had. Designed to carry cargo loads, empty she could pull some serious G’s. Enough in fact that we had installed the jump seat to use her as a trainer craft.
I picked up Jai’s reflection in the glass of the guage panel to watch her reaction, anybody who could look happy and overjoyed under 7 G’s had been born to be a Fighter Jock and Ash was pushing this baby hard.
The location was closer than anyone had expected. Bart and crew had damn near made it back all by themselves.
Ash sat us down gently in the clearing where Joe and J. J. were talking animatedly with Bart, Janie, Mike and Laura.
“OK, Bart now we have enough lift to get everyone back in one flight. You defiantly want to be able to see the Dora from the air. There are still some people that can’t believe you landed that thing.”
Bart stared dumbfounded, “You found her, how?”
“Short version, Mariana figured out how Jack sabotaged you thanks to some Sneaky Pete cameras Ash had planted on the field.
“Ash and Monroe figured out the damage what Jack used could cause. Then Ash, Monroe and Travis figured out where you could have possibly landed.
“Then Andy and Ash broke their butts keeping those shuttles up 20 hours a day looking for you. Just a little simple Manhattan Project; no big deal.”
Bart’s face went dark, “I need to get in a small room with Jack!”
At that I had to laugh, “You will have to cross Charybdis for that. When confronted with the videos he tried to shoot his way out of the mess and drew on Mariana.”
“Is she OK,” Bart asked with a concerned look?
“Bart that was the cleanest case of Suicide By Commando I have ever seen. Jack barely cleared leather enough to make it legitimate self-defense and his back shooter Buddy got plugged by Sally Kellerman.
“The Female side of the house pretty well took out the garbage.”
Bart started laughing, “My Father told me ‘Never piss off Women with tempers, they never forget.’”
By this time Jai, Laura and Janie were deep in catch up mode as Andy caught Bart’s eye with a nod towards Mike Reye and a short quick wobble of an extended thumb from side to up and back.
Bart replied with a big grin and two thumbs straight up accompanied by an emphatic nod.
Just then Ash walked up and asked in that drawl, “You OK, Hoss? That ship was kinda beat up, we thought for a while someone was hurt bad.”
Bart shook his head, “According to Janie I was for a while but I am over that now.”
“Your sure?” Ash asked. Bart just nodded in reply.
Ash said, “Good!”
Where that right uppercut came from I will never know, I sure as hell didn’t see it and neither did anyone else (with the possible exception of Andy.)
It lifted Bart right off his feet and deposited him square on his butt and I saw Jai restraining Janie with the comment, “I have seen this before, it’s just a guy thing…watch.”
Ash took one step forward and growled in a low voice only the three of us could hear, “Now we are even Turkey.” Then with a grin and back to normal tones he reached to his hip pocket with his right hand drawing out a flask; reaching out with his left to Bart saying “Now get on up here and have a drink Hoss. And Quigley, don’t you ever scare me like this again!”
Bart sat upright and grinned, “I didn’t know you cared Fighter Jock!”
Ash grinned in reply, “Yeah, well don’t tell anyone OK.”
“You will pay for this, “Bart laughed as he reached for the flask.
“I wait with due trepidation, Drink up if you dare!” Ash laughed as he released the flask.
I walked over to Mike Reye while watching the Ash and Bart comedy show. Travis had made a comment about them once before and ‘Peas in a Pod’ was never more apparent. Reaching Mike I decided to go for the downs.
“Well Lieutenant, you don’t look worse for the wear.” Watching his head snap around while still trying to protect Laura was worth a laugh.
“I am not the bad guy Mike, looks like ya’ll done good!”
Mike Reye stumbled over his reply, “I think we did, I am not sure!”
“Are you alive Son and all who came with you?” I asked.
“Yes Sir,” he replied; “despite everything this planet tried!”
“That and William Bartlett’s two thumbs up plus a grin is why you get these.” Without further word, I grabbed his collars and pinned on the 1LT tabs.
He looked up and asked, “Are you sure Boss, I didn’t do that well.”
It was my turn to grin, “You fooled the hell out of Bart!
“Load Laura and Emcee on our ship and let Bart know we will bring Emcee home. I have a promise to keep to a proud Lady!”
The uploading took about 10 minutes and the flight 15 more. We sat down in the front yard of the Reye compound. Stepping out I looked at a wretched worried face.
“Judith, I made you a promise. Here he is alive and well; slightly the Young Man your Boy became. I think you might want to meet the Young Lady as well.”
Down the gangway came Mike and Laura; “Mom, meet Laura. I suggest you get used to Her!”
I was walking back up the ramp as Ash quipped, “I don’t know if Lester knows whether to shit or go blind. Laura ain’t gonna let go of that Boy.”
I stared at Ash, “Right, like when did the guys get a choice in the decision? I just hope Mike can survive Laura pulling in the reigns.”
We were both still laughing when we sat down at Liberty Main.