2. The Escape
I. Lancer Cruise Ship Docking Berth
11/23/2052 At the Hilton Orbital Resort
Alarm bells were ringing throughout the Hilton Resort. Apparently there had been a shooting. A U.S. Senator was in custody but security believed there was an unknown accomplice on the loose.
The scene was one of quiet pandemonium. People in ones, twos, some with kids in tow, lugging suitcases and carry-bags to the boarding ramp of the Lancer Cruise Ship. All of them seemed subdued and yet excited, even agitated. They knew they were embarking on a one way voyage to an unknown future. All of them were leaving behind something — jobs, loved ones, a lifetime’s worth of accumulated possessions. Even security and certainty — as much as a UNWG controlled government allowed — was behind them.
It is perhaps testimony to the — try as the United Nations World Government might attempt to quell it — indomitable spirit of adventure and courage of mankind that so many ordinary folks could pack a bag on a moments notice and abandon their way of life to start a new one, on another world, where hardship would be the norm.
Two armed StelCo agents checked off the arrivals and ushered them into the main cabin of the Lancer. Both had themselves been screened, had consented to the trip, and most importantly had been approved by Robert James Hamilton himself to aid the exodus from Earth and to accompany — to become — colonists themselves. Steven Fallon was six-foot in height, only 30-years-old, and with wavy blonde hair. He looked at the line of travelers waiting to board and said to his partner, Glenda Cumberland, “This boat can’t hold all of these people. The Lancer is designed for 60 people and I’ve already counted twice that many.”
“It will have to do, Steven,” she replied, sweat showing on her chocolate colored brow. Like many women these days, she shaved her head and was actually the same height as Fallon. “Mr. Hamilton’s orders were specific — take everyone we can to The Mayflower.”
The next man in line was tall and looked too old to survive even the journey to Titan Docks. Glenda said, “What is your name, Sir?”
“Er, Brice Halsworthy. I’m a retired teacher,” the gentleman replied.
“yes, here you are,” Glenda said, reading down the passenger list, “hurry on board.” she watched him shuffle up the ramp as a couple moved forward to take his place at the head of the line. She said, “Steven, you ever actually meet Mr. Hamilton?”
“No, no. Can’t say I have. Just seen him on the vid-screen.”
At that moment, a breathless UNWG agent rushed up to the StelCo guards shouting, “This ship is not to take off until we search it.”
“We’re due to leave in 10 minutes,” Steven Fallon said scornfully to the agent, “How long will that take?”
“I’ll be back with others in a while. You wait until then,” the UNWG agent commanded. With that, he turned and ran off down the corridor.
Glenda looked at Steven for a moment and then turned to the people in line and said, “Everyone on board NOW! Just get on board, stow your carry-on bags and take a seat. There are more of you than seats so some must sit in the dining area, the bar, wherever you can find a spot. There are 30 cabins. Double up in them as well. We take off now.”
“Let’s go, people, hurry!” Steven bellowed in support. Into his wrist-pad he called to the pilot, “we have to go now, Larry. Start the engines and on my signal, get us out of here!”
It was a near stampede up the ramp but within a few minutes everyone had parked themselves somewhere and the Lancer gave a shudder as the nose of it edged out of the docking berth. Glenda had positioned herself in the main gallery of the ship and wondered how — at last count — 175 people would get along for the several days voyage out to the Titan Docks. Into her wrist-pad she said, “Steve, did everyone’s gear get stowed on board?”
“I think so,” he replied, “but it’s too late now if it didn’t.”
The Lancer began picking up speed. Indeed, it was new, one of the fasted tour ships ever built, with four DEE-HEE Engines providing speeds near 1/3 liears a possibility in open space. That was faster than most UNWG patrol ships could muster even on a good day. Looking out one of the triple-paned zirconium windows, Glenda could see that the pilot, Larry Monroe, was accelerating the ship for all she was worth.
As the ship pulled away, it also began slowly rotating to provide a modicum of centrifugal gravity so people could walk around. Everywhere there was the animated chatter of people introducing themselves, inspecting their surroundings, looking through the windows at the shrinking Hilton Orbital Resort.
“Yes, Steven,” she replied into her wrist-pad.
“Put the wall-vid on, to the news; it’s bad.”
“Shit,” she thought to herself, “What now?” She weaved her way through the crowd and activated the large wall-vid just as the newscaster was saying:
“Again, an anonymous source within the UNWG has confirmed that Robert James Hamilton, one of the solar system’s wealthiest financiers and industrialists has been killed by UNWG forces as he was lifting off in his personal cruiser from his home in Renton, Washington. His cruiser was about 4000 feet in the air when destroyed by several neutrino-laser blasts fired from a UNWG planet security hopper. The source tells us that Hamilton was suspected of financing an expedition to another star; a clear violation of UNWG regulations that all interstellar travel be approved and supervised by the World Government. In point of fact, no such permission has ever been given for such journeys. No such journey has ever been attempted. There’s no telling what impact this will have on StelCo stock, or even on future operations of the company. UNWG leaders have been trying for sometime to “nationalize” the company to insure a steady, inexpensive supply of Helium-3 fuel. We’re awaiting comment from company officials at their headquarters in Saturn orbit.”
There was a hush from the crowd of future colonists and Glenda herself became queasy at the thought that the mission to Alchibah might be over even before it started. Then everyone started talking at once as everyone thought about the impact the news might have. Would they have to return to Earth? Would they be arrested?
Glenda’s fears were put on hold when a woman approached her and said, “Miss?”
“Yes? Please call me Glenda.”
“Thank you. My name’s Marty. Does this–,” she turned for a moment toward the vid-screen, “–mean the voyage is off?”
Glenda paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and tried to think how to reply. Just then, in what could only be described as an act of providence, the pilot’s voice came over the loudspeakers.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, and off-spring, future colonists, this is your tour-ship captain, Larry Monroe. I am aware that news of the death of our benefactor, Robert James Hamilton, has reached all of you by now. You’re probably wondering what this means to the voyage to Alchibah. I, as well as your temporary stewards, Glenda and Steve, were all heading out to the new world, the new beginning, with you. We still are!”
A cheer went up from the crowd. Captain Monroe continued:
“R.J. Hamilton made it very clear that come-what-may, with or without him, The Mayflower sails as soon as we board her. This act of aggression, his murder by the UNWG is just another example of why we MUST succeed. They will try to stop us. The Lancer will be up to top speed in a little less than two hours and then we have the ability to outrun any of their patrol ships. If they’re looking for a fight, we’ll give them one. Pardon my french but Fuck the World Government, we’re out-a-here!”
Another cheer from the crowd, with much hugging and fists held defiantly in the air. Glenda turned back to the woman, Marty, and said, “There you go! I think everyone could do with a little champagne about now, maybe even the children if their parents allow it. Would you help me serve it?”
II. Thirty Minutes Later,
In the Lancer’s Pilot’s Control Room
Captain Monroe, like most pilots who had cut their teeth in the early days of space travel when living quarters were tiny compared to on ships today, was shorter than most men, only 5′7″, but 48-years-old he still had the build of many of them who worked-out in the gym to excess to compensate for the long periods of reduced or no gravity. He still had all of his jet-black hair and also affected a handle-bar mustache, something of an anachronism in this day and age. He had been flying space cruisers and tour ships for 15 years, ever since he was dishonerably discharged from the UNWG Planet Patrol for refusing to arrest asteroid home-stake-claims miners who refused to comply with World Government regulations on “diversity quotas” in hirings in all industries. He believed that you should be judged by your ability and actions, not any other factor. He found a sympathetic employer in StelCo Industries and has been loyal to a man he’s never actually met, R.J. Hamilton, ever since.
His co-pilot and engineer, Arte Clark, was much the contrast. A farm boy from Nebraska who worked his way through Astro-College, and immediately upon graduation three years ago had been recruited by StelCo. He was 6 1/2 feet tall, had skin as fair as pink rose, and shaved his head and face clean.
Arte caught Monroe’s attention with, “Looks like you’re going to get that fight, Captain. WG ship coming at us from the port side, and in a hurry. They’re hailing us.”
“Attention, Tour Ship Lancer, Attention. You are ordered to power-down your engines and allow a boarding party to search your ship. Repeat, power-down your engines, we are coming on board to search for an accomplice in a murder that occurred at the Hilton. ”
“Arte, turn off the radio for a moment, I’m going on ship’s intercom.”
Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow colonists, please take your seats and secure yourselves. It appears we’re about to rumble.”
Oddly enough, this seemed to please the crowd which sent up another round of cheering as they buckled themselves and their children in. It would seem that everyone knew they were in this together and, because most of them had been chosen for their shared libertarian-dissident spirit, felt that it was better to die on their feet than to serve on their knees as the saying went.
“Okay, Arte, we’ll keep accelerating and don’t bother replying to the Goonies.”
“Hey, I like that, Captain. Goonies. That’s a keeper.” Arte pondered for a moment and added, “They will fire upon us, you know.”
“Attention, Tour Ship Lancer, Attention. We are the United Nations World Government and we order you NOW to power-down and allow us to board. Failure to comply will leave us no choice but to fire our neutron-lasers at you. This is your last warning.”
Arte Clark looked apprehensively at Monroe, “Uh, Captain…”
Monroe smiled at Clark and said, “Arte, you’ve got to relax. This is your first trip in the Lancer. It’s time you found out how old R.J.’s mind worked. This is no ordinary Tour Tub. We have the same ASRS — All Spectrum Radiation Shields – the Goons have. They don’t know that, yet. We also have something they don’t have–”
A sudden jolt interrupted Monroe, travelled through the ship, knocking over passengers’ computers, plastic champagne glasses, children’s crayons. Everyone became silent. Another blast followed.
“Well, Arte,” Monroe said, “looks like they don’t plan on waiting any longer. Flip up the cover of that console between us and I’ll show you something you’ve never seen before.”
Clark removed the black plastic cover and noted an array of buttons, switches, a joystick, and four small vid screens showing outside the ship, all with glowing-red crosshairs. “What is this, Captain?”
Another blast from the Goon Ship rattled through the Lancer but her shields held. Besides, she was a big ship compared to the puny Goon patrol cruiser.
“Watch and learn, Arte. Sometimes a primitive offense can defeat a modern defense.
Two blasts in quick succession hit the Lancer. Clark looked at his radar screens and said, “Captain, there are two Goonies out there now and our shields are down to 67%. If you or R.J. have something up your sleeve, please show it–”
Glenda’s voice came over the com, “Captain, the colonists are getting nervous. The WG shots are getting stronger.”
Captain Monroe’s hands began working the new console, bringing the Goonie Ships into view on two of the small vid-screens, centered in the red crosshairs. He then punched two red buttons and within seconds one Goonie Ship exploded and the other was suddenly without it’s engine tail. He re-aimed the crosshair and fired again. The second ship blew into pieces in all directions.
He recovered the console and, speaking into the com said, “So Glenda, what’s for dinner?”
Even over the com he could hear the roar of approval from the colonists. Beside him, Clark said, “Wow! What just happened?”
Captain Monroe gave an even bigger smile and said, “You’re too young to remember how wars used to be waged, with real guns. In fact, you grew up in a time when ordinary citizens were no longer permited to own them. The various defense forces of the World Goon Government used large caliber — you might not ever have heard that word –”
“Captain, I know what guns are.”
“Sorry, that was a bit condescending. Anyway, for the last 30 years, all UNWG space ships — indeed even their ground forces — have only been equipped with lasers, tasers, zap-guns, and other variations that emit various forms of electromagnetic energy. Since personal craft that you or I would own as well as commercial vessels have never been equipped with any form of weapon, much less any defense, the Goonies have come to rely solely on their zap-arms and the ASRS shields. R.J. Hamilton was a genius and outfitted the Lancer with four gyro mounted 100mm guns and their incendiary, explosive ammunition that he, er, appropriated from a decommissioned early century naval ship.
“They never had a chance. The rounds we fired at them could care less, so-to-speak, about energy shields. As my Uncle once said, ‘Never bring a knife to a gun fight.’.”
III. In the Ship’s Lounge
The various colonists had broken into different groups. Some of them were gathered in the lounge, animatedly discussing the fight with UNWG forces they’d just been through. They were also sipping on drinks a little stronger than champagne. It was basically “serve yourself” since Glenda and Steven were otherwise occupied and the Lancer didn’t have a full crew on board. One colonist who introduced himself as Tim Watson was acting as bartender and turned to the elderly gentleman with scraggly hair, saying, “So, Pops, what’s your name? Care for another martini?”
Smiling, the old man said, “Well now, my, er, real name is Brice and I was a professor of history in a small mid-western college. I’m retired now of course. And yes, I think another martini would put me in the mood, as it were.”
Another of the crowd around the bar, a young man with piercing eyes, content to sip on club soda said, “A history teacher. You’re kind of old. What can you bring to the table where we’re going?”
A couple who had identified themselves as Mariana and Andrew Stuart both chuckled and she said, “Now Jack, be nice. There’s a place for everyone–”
“Actually,” the older man said, “I know a lot of things about a lot of things but besides, someone has to chronicle what we’re doing. Our children’s children’s children will want to know what brought us to the new planet, how we formed a government, what led up to their present situation. I rather fancy being the historian for the group.”
“Well then,” the young man Jack said, “I dub thee ‘The Historian’.”
A middle-aged fellow, Dave, turned to Tim Watson and said, “Another beer, my good man.”
There were several others there and they soon began introducing themselves to each other and discussing everything under the Sun, or rather, the stars. Unobtrusively, the one dubbed The Historian decided this would be a good time to turn on his wrist-pad microphone and perhaps record for time immemorial the early comments of some of the colonists.
–From The History of Colony: Alchibah
3rd Edition, 2088
Author: The Historian