Saturday, 18 July 2015

Intruders: Blog the Book 1

Over the last several weeks I have been introducing you to the crew of the Kestrel. Now I am beginning to blog the book itself, a new section every week. Hope you enjoy it!
Tabitha Enns (swimmer Ellie Simmonds) cropped
Intruders (Flight of the Kestrel book 1)

Chapter 1

When Tabitha Enns was called to the Principal’s office, her first thought was it was related to her being top of the class.  But then she had already had a presentation in front of the whole academy. Next year she would be going on to the Academy on Earth for final training, her first time off-planet. So she wondered if she had done something wrong. Maybe she wasn't going to Earth after all. But why? She was still frowning when she knocked on the door.


‘Come in, Enns sit down.’  Principal Hernandez was as stern as ever, her black hair captive in a tight bun and her green uniform not daring to crease.

She never asked students to sit down. This must be serious. Tabitha’s worry increased as she automatically thanked the Principle and sat, clasping her hands to keep them still. 

‘What do you know about the PACT Fast-Response Fleet?’

‘What?‘ Tabitha blinked, reddening at her uncontrolled reaction.  She caught herself and took a deep breath.  ‘I know the Planetary Alliance for Co-operation and Trade, of course, but I didn’t do much study on the Fast-Response Fleet.’

‘Well, you’re about to learn firsthand.’  The Principal smiled.  ‘One of their ships has offered you some work experience.’

‘What?’

‘Enns, there are better ways to request clarification. This is a wonderful opportunity for you.’ Tabitha’s heart leapt; then sank as she thought of her mother’s reaction.

‘But - my parents, they won’t let me.’

‘I have spoken to your father, and he has given his permission.’

‘What about my mother?’

The Principal offered a half-smile.  ‘She wasn’t there.  Your father’s permission is enough.’
Tabitha's heart pounded as the news started to sink in. One hand escaped the other and rose to her face.

‘You mean I’m actually going into space? What will I have to do?’

‘The Fast-Response Fleet is a diplomatic and emergency service.  They deal with incidents outside of local planetary space where jurisdiction may not be clear.  The Kestrel is a crewman short due to a medical emergency, and the Captain is offering a place until the crewman recovers.  You won’t be asked to do anything you’re not ready for, though you will have to share a cabin.’

‘So what do they deal with? Where do they go?’

‘I’m sure Captain Darrow will answer all your questions when he arrives in an hour.’

‘An hour? Is that all the time I have?’

Hernandez stood and leaned on her hands on the desk.  ‘Tabitha Enns, do you want to go or not?  If you don’t want this opportunity, I can talk to Paul Sung’s parents.’

‘No! I mean, yes, I do want to go.  Yes, please!’ Both hands took on a life of their own.

The Principal tapped the keypad before her and Tabitha’s pad chimed.  ‘Here are the dimensions of the standard crew container for your things.  Go and get ready, Captain Darrow will bring one with him.’

Tabitha’s head was spinning as she left the office.  She stepped across the corridor and leaned her forehead against the window.  The PACT Training Academy stood on a hill overlooking the city. She looked down on the familiar sight. As long as she could remember, she had wanted to get out and see other worlds, meet real-life aliens, find out what it was really like out there.  But as she looked out, the prospect of leaving was suddenly, unexpectedly hard.  Alpha was all she had ever known, and if her mother had her way, it was where she would stay.  Her father though, had seen her longing, had repeatedly fetched her from the spaceport fence so her mother wouldn’t find out, and supported her desire to join PACT.

‘Aliens mean trouble,’ her mother always said.  ‘That’s why the Alpha colony is for humans only.  We need to look after our own.’

It was lucky her mother hadn’t answered Principal Hernandez’s call.  Even now, she was still trying to persuade Tabitha to take an admin post on Alpha when she qualified.  The thought of the final training year on Earth filled her mother with dread, and she constantly reminded Tabitha to keep away from aliens while she was there.  Now she might be meeting aliens on a mission in the - what was the name of the ship? The Kestrel.  A thought struck her.  Were there aliens in the crew? After all, PACT was an alliance between the seven races with warp drive technology.  Did they mix the crew? She raced to her room to look it up as she got ready.

Tabitha looked like a typical Alphan girl of eighteen.  Stocky and short from evolution in high gravity, but with intelligent green eyes and shaggy brown hair that flopped in her eyes.  But physicality was where the similarity ended.  A typical Alphan girl wanted nothing to do with anything outside her own planet, but ever since Tabitha saw her first spaceship trail in the atmosphere, space was where she wanted to be.  Her friends thought she was weird and her parents tried to dissuade her, but she would not budge.  Now her chance had come.

[Next week: Captain Darrow arrives to collect Tabitha]

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