|Actor Edward Fox|
Within a few hours, everything changed, but not in quite the way Darrow had hoped. He was convinced that the Intruders were a real threat, and an expedition should be sent to gather information and locate them. What he had wanted was to provoke the investigation into action.
When Admiral Keever called him, action had indeed been provoked. Without any formalities, Keever got down to business as soon as Darrow switched on the screen.
‘Captain, thank you for your report.’ Darrow could see the family resemblance with Holland, despite the silver hair and the paunch. ‘I did some investigation myself, talked to my contacts on other planets, and I think you may have something.'
'Thank you, sir. Will you be sending an expedition?'
Keever raised an eyebrow. 'Let's think this through, shall we? Where do you propose we send them?'
Darrow frowned. Had he overlooked that? 'Well sir, initially to investigate the incidents more fully and to look for evidence of which direction they went.'
'Since they appear out of thin air in the planet's atmosphere, that's going to be difficult, don't you think?'
Darrow was thrown for a second, then his mind locked on to something the admiral said.
'Sir, did you say they appear in the planet's atmosphere? How do you know that?'
Keever smiled. 'There have been further developments. A military ship was scanning an area when one of your alien ships attempted a theft. I have obtained video records which I’m sending you. It appears they have a warp drive which can operate within a planet’s atmosphere, since the ship was not seen approaching or leaving - it just appeared above the planet’s surface.' He paused. 'They also leave a distinctive "wake."’
'So we now have the means to follow them.’ Darrow felt vindicated.
‘I agree,’ Keever continued, ‘an expedition needs to be sent. I have given orders to Commodore Michel to organise it.'
'Thank you sir.'
Darrow's spirits sank. Commodore Michel, who had rejected his claims, was now aware that Darrow had gone over his head, and Admiral Keever had dumped it back on him. Darrow didn't relish the next time he had to speak to his commanding officer, he hoped he'd have time to forget this incident.
Darrow's wish didn't come true, as Michel called him only an hour later.
'Captain, I believe Admiral Keever has spoken to you about these Intruders of yours.'
'Yes sir. He asked to see my report -'
'I'm not interested, Captain. The Admiral wants me to send an expedition. However, as you know the Bokan situation is a big drain on our resources at the moment and there are no ships available.' The Commodore smiled, but it didn't reach his eyes. 'I believe there is no one better qualified to lead that investigation than the one who did all the research. No one knows these Intruders, as you call them, like you do.’
‘You’re taking me away from the Kestrel to join an expedition, sir?’
‘No Captain, you and the Kestrel are the expedition.’
‘But we’re not equipped, we’re too small - ’
Michel raised his hand. ‘I know all your objections, Captain, and you’re absolutely right. But there is no one else. If this situation is as urgent as you indicate, you have to do this.’
Darrow was shocked. ‘Sir, as you know, first contact regulations state that -’
‘I am fully aware of what the regulations state,' Michael frowned, 'but in an emergency, regulations sometimes have to be set aside.’
Darrow set his jaw. 'This is not an emergency, sir, just urgent. We can't go.'
'That sounds like insubordination, Captain.'
‘We don't know what we're facing, sir. Our armaments -'
‘We’re not asking you to fight them,' Michel interrupted, 'just find out about them, if they exist. Figure out where they come from if possible. If you can safely talk with them, all well and good, otherwise run. Send back any information you gather - on a secure channel of course.'
Darrow’s mind was in a whirl. He grabbed at another objection. 'Sir, I don’t have a full crew.’
Michel wasn't phased. 'What crew do you need?’
Darrow struggled to concentrate. ‘First Officer, Medical Officer, and two other crew.’ A daring thought occurred to him. ‘Commodore, I know of a man who would be available as First Officer. Nathaniel Parks is working in PACT Security on Earth, so it won’t deprive another ship. He is an experienced First Officer, but has a weak shoulder. I worked with him before, which would be extremely useful, make the transition easier.’
‘I’ll put my aide on it, and let you know. Michel out.’
Darrow sat there stunned. This was not what he had in mind at all. He couldn't believe Commodore Michel would disregard so many regulations. It made him feel very uncomfortable. The Admiral had put the Commodore in a difficult position, and he was passing it on. The door chimed and Holland came in at his call.
'Captain, I was wondering if you've heard from my uncle Admiral Keever yet?'
'Unfortunately, yes,' Darrow said, waving him to a seat.
'Why "unfortunately"? Was he not convinced?'
'He was convinced all right, but he tossed it straight to Commodore Michel. So the Commodore knows I went over his head and is mad as hell.'
Holland winced. 'Ouch! The Commodore's been in touch then?'
'Just now, and guess who he's sending on an expedition to find these aliens?' Darrow paused for effect. 'The Kestrel!'
'He is mad, and I don't mean angry. We're neither equipped for exploration nor armed for infiltration. And with the MO and I off at T'Lon, you'll only have half a crew.' Holland said wryly. 'I know my uncle, he's playing politics.'
'They both are.' Darrow said. 'The Admiral is looking for glory for ordering the expedition, and putting one over on the Commodore. The Commodore is squeezed, so he takes it out on me.' Darrow folded his arms. 'Well, I have registered my objections, and if he does find some more crew, I'll be putting my objections in writing.'
'If he finds more crew. Personnel say there aren't any.'
'We'll just have to wait and see.'
[Next week: Darrow talk to Tabitha and she calls home]
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