“And that is how I saved George Washington’s life.”
Miles held up his hand. “Right hand up to God, upon my dear mother’s soul it happened just they way I have told you.”
Some of the people in the kneeling in the corridor rolled their eyes while one or two nodded in agreement.
One who rolled his eyes and now waved his hand dismissively. “If you did something as significant as saving George Washington’s life then you would not have been snatched.”
Miles had heard this before and came back with a well thought out answer. “But you see I did that before I was snatched away so therefore the rest of my life was not going to amount to anything in the Outfitter’s eyes. Besides the Outfitters knew I would be much better use out here. ”
Again the eyes rolled. “Yeah right fuel man.”
Miles looked back at him with a smug look then spoke. “Yeah I am just a fuel man, making my deliveries in and out of ships, blending in, talking to all sorts of people on all kinds of different ships.” The Marine was about to say something but Miles stopped him with a raised hand. “Never mind about that last part I am just a fuel man. ”
The Marine waived his hand dismissively.
Miles was about to say something when the door to the hangar bay opened and a medical team came rushing past with a patient on a stretcher. Some of the people in the corridor simply watched, others made the sign of the cross and others made other motions with their hands. The talkative Marine was one of them that made the sign of the cross.
“He will make it through, I read his aura it is very strong.” Miles stated.
Another Marine who had not spoken yet but had rolled his eyes spoke now with some anger. “Shut up you big fat liar.”
“No really I can read auras my mother was a gypsy and she had the gift.” Miles was about to start telling another story when the Marine’s Lt. yelled. “On your feet Marines we are heading directly to the transport and getting off this ship.”
Miles stood with the Marines, mostly to just get closer to the wall so he would be out of the way.
“Move out.” The order was shouted and Miles pressed himself flatter against the wall and watched the Marines jog past him, but not so fast that he did not see the look of contempt coming from the two Marines they brushed past.
Miles smiled no need for him to run, he was just going to get on his ship then back to the Star Digger, no need to hurry. He strolled in the direction of his ship looking around at the current chaos that was the landing bay, he counted two wrecked ships, Sharks he thought. A Traffic Control Officer stopped him and told him to move his ship the sooner the better. Miles nodded and continued towards his ship and pressed the ramp activation and as he looked around he noted the clean up crew scrubbing down the deck nearby with a laser brush. He walked over and looked over what they were doing.
“You missed a spot.” Miles stated.
Ten minutes later the same Traffic Controller’s Office stomped over.
Miles held up one fingers motioning for him to give him a minutes and Miles continued to talk. “And after I sold him the brushes I said, ‘Hey Michelangelo everyone paints on walls why don’t you paint somewhere original’ and I pointed up to the ceiling.”
There were a few nods around the assembled group.
“Refueling Tech if I have to tell you again I will write you up, now get your ship out.” The Ensign said more forcefully now.
“Okay Ensign I am going,” Miles turned back to his audience and in a wise and serious tone stated. “Just remember always think outside the box.”
Miles walked away with the Traffic Control Officer glaring at him. He saw that the ramp had gone up again, he was about to push the button when the familiar whine began and the lamp lowered.
“Lucy I am home.” Miles said going up the ramp.
“Your presence is requested on the bridge Miles.” The general labor droid said as Miles closed the ramp.
“Jeeves you are a good man.”
The general purpose droid stared at him unblinking. “Sir I must remind you that I am not a man and my name is Carson.”
Miles reached out and patted the mechanical man on his shoulder. “Whatever you say Jeeves.”
Miles stopped by the gallery on his way to the bridge and grabbed a sandwich along with a bottle of ice tea.
He arrived on the bridge and slid into the copilots seat placing his sandwich on the console.
“Do not place that sandwich on the console.” The words came out as a hiss.
“Hey no mayo on this one, just some mustard.” Miles said defensively.
“Strap in we got the greenlight to leave twenty minutes ago.”
Miles took another bite of his sandwich and began to strap in. He had barely strapped in when they began to move and even though he could not hear the chatter from Traffic Control because he did not have his headphones on yet he could Fahad was getting an earful.
“Yes Traffic Control we have everything locked down and will be out of your airspace in a few short minutes. ”
Miles could not help him space. “Its not technically ‘airspace’ it is the vacuum of space.” He shut up when Fahad gave him a sour look. Miles looked around at the panels and noted everything was set correctly and there were no current problems so he finished his sandwich and then sipped slowly on the bottle of iced tea as he watched Fahad drive the ship off the Aid Ship the Charles Drew. He put on his headphones but did not bother turning on the piloting channel instead he pulled up the internal viewing monitors and flipped through the channels. He found the Ensign laying face down in the Engineering section in a hastily hung hammock with an empty bottle on the floor underneath her. “How do you fall asleep face down in a hammock?” Miles asked out loud.
Fahad huffed. “You do it after drinking a quart of rot gut whiskey.”
“Is she alive?” Miles said looking for some sign of movement from their Commanding Officer.
Fahad punched a button and a heart beat monitor was superimposed on the screen, the woman’s heart rate showed a steady seventy beats per minute.
“When did you rig that up?” Miles asked.
“When you were off gallivanting around.”
“Gallivanting around, I will have you know I was doing important work, gathering information and gauging the mood of the troops, establishing a baseline of morale for my report.”
Fahad rolled his eyes.
Miles watched the Ensign sleeping for a few more minutes and then turned off the screen. “Do you need any help plotting a course to the Star Digger?”
Fahad shook his head. “You know I never leave the deck unless I have a route already plotted along with two alternate routes, so no I do not need any help plotting the course.”
“Well in that case I have to go to the head.” Miles said as he started to undo his restraint straps.
“No Miles I do mind, I have been sitting in this seat for the last two hours supervising the offloading and then waiting for you to return, I need to get up for a little bit, so you can just sit here and monitor the cockpit while I go back and get something to eat and use the head.” Fahad said getting up from his the pilots seat.
“Okay, okay I am sorry you go do what you need to do and I will take control of the ship.”
“Don’t touch anything, just call me if something changes.” Fahad said leaving the bridge.
“You know I am fully qualified to fly this ship.” Miles said calling at the back of Fahad. Miles sat alone on the bridge for a few minutes before he put his headphones on the ship board operations channel. “Candy my dear are your there?”
The first sound from the positornic brain was not a sigh but Miles could have sworn the whole sentence came out in a sigh. “Technician Two Miles Gray this is the thirty-third time I have told you my name is Candace, not Candy and as always I am always monitoring this channel what do you need assistance with at this time?”
“I just wanted to check to make sure Fahad plotted in the best course back to the Star Digger.”
“Technician One Fahad has plotted the most efficient course back to the Star Digger that is both direct and efficient, I am guessing that is what you mean by the best.” Candace replied.
Miles bobbled his head as he spoke. “Yeah I guess but do we go by anything interesting on our way back?”
Candace responded. “What do you mean by interesting, we pass by three navigational beacons and one moon on the legs of two of our hyperspace jumps. ”
“Candy baby I want to see some action or at least some shooting, is there any routes that take us by any live fire exercises, does the moon we pass have a bombing range on it?”
Candace replied more quickly than a human could. “The moon has targets for both suborbital and orbital bombardments. ”
“Good, good, how long till we reach this moon?”
“Thirty two hours, but no bombardment practice is scheduled until ten hours after we make our pass.”
“That is no good.” Miles said taking off his boots and putting his stocking feet up on the console. “Can you slow down the first leg of our route so we arrive just as the bombing run is starting.”
“That would mean changing Technician Fahad’s carefully laid route.”
Miles shrugged. “Candy who is of a higher rank Technician Fahad or myself.”
The pause before the answer, it was very noticeable this time. “You are Technician Gray.”
“Very good, make the changes.” Miles said then turned off the Operations channel and started watching a series of Three Stooges shorts on the screens of the bridge. ”
Fahad came back twenty minutes later. Miles was concentrating on the Curly who was having some difficulties with a pipe so he did not pay much attention to the returning pilot. “What did you do?” Fahad asked as he sat down in the pilot’s seat.
“Nothing.” Miles said.
“You changed the course I laid out.” Fahad said.
“Just a little bit, if we slowed down we could watch a run on that bombing range on this moon.” Miles said reaching towards the navigation screen and pointing out the moon.
“We do not have time to slow down, we have got to get back to the Star Digger and get another load.”
Miles snorted. “That is all we ever do.”
“That is our job you donkey brained idiot.” Fahad said increasing his volume a bit.
“It only adds about twelve hours to our course.” Miles said defensively.
“Twelve hours, twelve hours.” Fahad repeated his face turning red.
“Allah why am I being punished?” Fahad said looking upwards.
“Punished?” Miles said. “All I am trying to do is add a little excitement to our life.”
Fahad slapped his hands to his head and rubbed his buzz cut hair several times. “Did you not see those two sharks that crashed back on the Charles Drew, in case you have not noticed the war is picking up, attacks are more frequent and we are a large slow moving target that any Alarian would love to shoot up.”
“Yeah but that bombing range is way off the beaten path and it is New Fleet personnel doing the bombing so we should see misses and stuff.” Fahad stopped rubbing his head and stared at the more Senior Tech not saying a word. Miles shrugged. “What?” Fahad continued to stare and Miles started to get uncomfortable. “What?”
Fahad finally spoke. “I am seriously beginning to suspect there is something mentally wrong with you.”
Miles shook his head. “There is nothing wrong with me.” Fahad continued to stare at Miles. Miles waved a hand dismissively. “I am going back to get another sandwich.” He said unstrapping and leaving the bridge on his way out he heard Fahad talking to Candy changing their course again.
Miles grabbed a sandwich and then wandered back towards engineering where he found the Ensign in the same position he had seen her in earlier. He sniffed at the empty bottle underneath the hammock and shuddered at the terrible odor. “Hey Ensign are you okay?” Miles said rocking the hammock gently. Nothing, well actually she was snoring very softly. Miles shrugged.
“Miles get in the turret.”
“Huh?” Miles said waking up in his bunk. The ship shuddered and then the alarms started to go off signifying a ship wide pressure change. Miles made it up to topside ball turret while the alarms continued and the ship continued to shake. “What is going on?” Miles yelled strapping in.
“We are under attack you idiot start shooting.”
Luckily Fahad had already powered up the guns and Miles activated the targeting system. “Is the Ensign on the rear turret?” Miles said as he scanned the front area of the ship for targets.
“No. She is still passed out in the Engine room.”
“Oh crap.” Miles said. Miles scanned and then scanned again, he caught glimpse of an Alarian two person fighters occasionally on the peripheral areas of the scanner but they never got near enough so he could shoot. He was about to access the targeting scanners in the rear turrets when a new alarm started to sound. “Fahad what is going on?”
“We got trouble.” Fahad shouted. “Suit up.”
Miles looked around. Suit up, he had no idea where his space suit was. Lights began to flicker and his powered chair in the turret sputtered to a stop and the targeting scanner bipped off, unstrapping himself he climbed down and found and emergency locker where he pulled out an trauma suit which could double as a makeshift environmental suit in a pinch.
“Abandon ship, abandon ship.” The voice of Candace came over all the speakers on the ship. Miles was about to start running for the closet escape pod when the gravity plates went out and he was slammed into the ceiling and everything went black.
Fahad looked over Miles his vitals were good although from the readouts on the medical scanner the technician had a concussion. Served him right thought Fahad the guy was a terrible soldier with no sense of duty, the man was a horrible technician with no pride in any work that he did if he did any, and he was a worthless excuses for a human being who only thought of himself. Fahad shook his head. The ship had been falling apart, power was gone, back up power was blown out in fifty percent of the ship and the Alarians were still pounding the defenseless ship with occasional blasts. Fahad had found the Ensign first and stuffed him in an escape pod, he was still not sure if she had made it. Then he had gone back and found Miles, he was floating unconscious with the stupid makeshift environmental suit about to give out when he stuffed him into the remaining escape pod.
“Escape pod Charlie fiver, niner, two, two come in.”
Fahad let out a breath finally someone was calling. “This is escape pod to last calling station we have two on board.”
“Roger escape pod you have been marked and will be picked up by a Q Runner in less than twelve hours.”
“Roger pick up, has Escape Pod Fiver, Niner, two, one been located.”
“Affirmative, life signs of one, but no response to any hails.”
“Most likely the Ensign is injured.” Fahad said, not bringing up the injury was self inflicted by a bottle of one hundred proof. Fahad was relieved that the Ensign was alive but then a little upset, if she was alive that meant she could command another ship, or at least still be an officer and with the limited positions on the Star Digger Fahad could be working for her again. Fahad looked over at Miles, worse than that he could be working with both of these fools again, Fahad shook his head . Fahad had two hours of blissful silence before Miles woke up.
“Did anyone get the number of that truck that hit me?” Miles asked.
“Our ship was destroyed, you are in an escape pod, the Ensign is in another and she if alive, we have been marked for retrieval by a Q Runner, estimated time of retrieval within ten hours. ”
Miles nodded. “Very good concise report Technician Fahad remind me to put that on your personnel report next time.”
Fahad rolled his eyes.
“Did I ever tell you how I was adrift in the South Pacific in World War Two.” Mile said reaching for an emergency rations pack that was sitting in front of Fahad.
Fahad shook his head and asked out loud. “Why merciful Allah do you hate me?”
Two other short stories in the Outfitters Universe.