If you missed the start of Alien Secrets, Flight of the Kestrel book 2, here is the link. To help your imagination, my idea of John Blackwell is the actor Brian Cox.
'We need to discuss two things,' Darrow said to his senior officers. 'Battle damage and this man Tanu. Commander Blackwell, your report please.'
Blackwell raised an eyebrow at the unexpected mention of Tanu. 'Aye sir. Kestrel sustained some serious, but not critical damage,' Blackwell said. 'Most of the damage has been quantified and repairs have begun internally on non-critical systems. Without landing somewhere we will have to suit up and go outside to repair the thrusters and the sensor array, but the rest we can fix from Engineering. The hull plating will have to wait. I've got Stubbs checking the inventory for spares, but I think we have everything we need. Engine output is reduced to half power, but we need to shut down all engines at some point.'
'Any idea when we'll have full warp drive?'
'We're carrying out a full survey of the engines now. I'll have the results for you in an hour.'
'Can we fix it ourselves?' Darrow asked Blackwell. 'Or do we need to find a friendly planet again?'
'We should be able to fix most of it ourselves,' said Blackwell. 'Even if we have to jury-rig some of it. The engines seem to be fine on checks we've done so far, and there's no damage to environmental systems or the inertial dampers, so nothing critical.'
'That's a relief. At least it postpones the need to call in anywhere until we can reach a more welcoming maintenance yard.'
Darrow opened the comm to the bridge. 'What's our location? Is there anywhere nearby we can land for repairs?'
'Still in the Casparan solar system, sir,' Reuel replied, 'but no longer near Caspar itself. There is a gas giant with a large moon that might serve our purposes. No atmosphere, but a rotation good enough to give 0.75G. It's in the planet shadow now, but by the time we arrive we should have daylight for sixteen hours.'
'Helm, set course, contact Engineering for advice on speed.'
'Sir, landing might be tricky with the damage to our thrusters.' Parks said. 'The VTOL engines are still operational, but manoeuvring is going to be difficult.'
'Lieutenant Chambers, is that going to be a problem?'
Chambers said. 'Nothing I can't handle, sir.'
Darrow turned to Parks. 'Commander, we'll make the trip to this moon overnight, minimal crew on duty, everyone else to get some sleep. We'll need all hands on deck tomorrow.'
'Aye sir.' Parks made some notes on his data pad.
Darrow paused and looked round at the four faces, wondering what their reactions would be.
'Now, the man Tanu: Dr Nefar has discovered the lump on his forehead is not a wound, it's a natural structure for him, and his race. Nefar believes Tanu is a Cerebran and has telekinetic capability and possibly other mental powers.'
Hoy whistled. 'So we found the Bokan secret weapon after all! No wonder everyone wanted to keep him.' He turned to Parks. 'And we thought our mission failed.'
Parks rounded on Hoy. 'Tanu is not just a piece of merchandise. Now we know what he is, do you want to hand him over to the Alliance? Do you think he’ll be any less tortured into submission by them than the Bokans and the Casparans?'
Hoy reacted. 'Now wait a minute! I didn’t mean…'
'That’s what it sounded like.'
'All right, Commander,’ Darrow said. ‘The question remains - what are we going to do with him? If his powers are what they seem, we could be completely at his mercy. I've told Doctor Nefar to keep him sedated, but we can’t keep him like that forever.' Darrow sighed, the dilemma weighing on his mind.
Blackwell leaned forward, frowning. 'Are you saying this man Tanu destroyed those ships with his mind?' he asked. 'That's incredible telekinesis.'
'Do we know what his powers are?' Parks asked. 'We didn't see any evidence of them when we rescued him.'
‘We know he can destroy up to three ships with a single thought, isn’t that enough?’ Blackwell said, waving three fingers. ‘Do any of us stand a chance against that?’
'The problem is,' said Nefar, 'Cerebrans are legends, there is little hard evidence about them. The legend talks about telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation and such.'
Hoy sat up. 'If he controlled our minds, would we even know? He could be controlling us now and we only think we're having a meeting.'
'He has not been able to use his powers because of his mental and physical state of health,' said Nefar, 'but now he is much recovered, and his mental powers are obviously available to him.'
'That's why we need to talk to him, to see what his attitude is,' said Darrow, 'but we can't risk him using his powers.'
Nefar leaned forward. 'I’ve looked at Tanu’s physiology, his body chemistry. I believe I have developed an alternative to sedation, Captain, and I want your permission to try it out. It would also enable us to talk to him and see what he has to say. Tanu was not able to use his powers when he was in pain…'
'What are you proposing to do to him?' interrupted Parks, leaning across the desk. 'You’re not going to torture him?'
Nefar looked down his nose at him. 'I would ask you to remember, Commander Parks, that I am a doctor. I do not torture people, I relieve their pain. If you will let me finish, I will explain. I have worked out which part of his brain was affected and developed a suppressant. The dosage may take a little adjusting to reach optimal, but I believe he will be able to function normally, but without his mental powers.'
'Are you sure about this, Doctor?' asked Darrow. 'If it doesn’t work, I don't want to think about the consequences.'
'I think you are over-reacting, Captain. He has never been at all aggressive towards me, or any of us.'
'He was friendly because we were rescuing him,' said Hoy. 'Who knows what powers he can exercise? He might be able to read all our minds!'
‘May I remind you there was one ship in that skirmish he left unscathed?’ Parks said.
They were all leaning forward now.
'Calm down, gentlemen,' Darrow said. 'Doctor, you may proceed - with caution. When you wake him, have him restrained, just in case.'
Parks was looking worried. 'Just a minute, aren't we forgetting something? This is a first contact situation now. I don't remember any protocols that recommend suppressants and restraints.'
Everyone spoke at once, protesting, explaining. Darrow called for order.
'Commander Parks is right, but we have to protect ourselves. It may be first contact, but it might be hostile contact, and different rules apply. We will treat Tanu well, once we confirm he is safe. If he is dangerous, we will take whatever measures we need to take.' He looked at each of them. 'For the time being, this information must go no further. Dismissed.'
When they left, Darrow leaned back in his chair and put his hands behind his head. He thought back on all the meetings this room had seen. This could be the most serious one yet.
* * *
Nefar arrived back at sick bay to find a strange symbol painted on the door; a mis-shaped skull with a horn, and a line across it. Alarmed, he rushed into sick bay to check on Tanu, who was unharmed and unaware. There was no sign of anything being touched in the room. Nefar got on the comm.
'Captain, there is a marking on the sick bay door. Someone else knows about Tanu. It cannot be any of the senior officers, we were meeting with you.'
'Is Tanu all right?'
'Check out the symbol against the database, and let me know.'
Nefar closed the comm and went back to take a picture of the symbol on the door, feeding it into the database. Then he cleaned it off. Hours later he could still find no match in the database to tell him what the symbol meant.
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of four medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz