The Pirate Kingdom Facet 11. Escape

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Facet 11. Escape

The Doctor demanded to know what was happening as he and several nurses joined the rush as they all ran down the hall with half the black clad group in front and the balance covering their escape when the Doctor finally got his question answered.

“Star Empire has attacked the station. There were news releases that the vaccine is a genocide poison against their people.” The redheaded leader of the group answered. “We arrived here to meet with the science and medical teams to show the vaccine was not toxic and meet with investigators of the merchantman attack. Those people who arrived are soldiers, not doctors or scientists. Three Buccaneer ships intercepted the attacking ships, but the Empire ships outnumbered them and they have fallen back to the far side of the planet. The soldiers have made it into the station and have taken control of elevator command center.”

“They caught my fleet in the ambush when the hidden ships set off anti-matter charges.” He shook his head. “I have word that Captain P’ak Sitron was fast enough to change the vector and headed out into deep space to stop the fleet safely. But that will make it two or three hours before they can regroup and return, ready for battle. By then, the Empire will be in place, barricaded and in control.”

Blasters came out as they made a corner. One of the black group pulled out a baseball sized object and rolled it down the hallway.

“Close your eyes.” The warrior said to her rolling a glittering, round crystal around the corner into the corridor, then called “Fire in the hole!”

Phoenix closed her eyes just as a silent flash in rapid sequence illuminated so brightly that her eyes were able to see shadow through her eyelids and she would later swear that she could see the bones in her hands that covered her eyes.

A strong hand grabbed her shoulder and propelled her past the point where several people were laying on the ground vomiting and holding their eyes.

“What kind of bomb was that?” She asked no one in particular as they ran down the hallway, explosions followed by a gust of wind in their faces.

“Breach! Hull breach!” Called an obvious human. Of African descent like the doctor, this warrior was shorter than Phoenix but powerfully built, he grabbed the others and dragged them through a doorway and slammed his hand down on an emergency close button and the shrieking wind stopped with everyone’s ears popping.

Through the clear door, Phoenix could see several people sucked around the corner of the last intersection hallway and out of sight.

“That will work against the strike force, they brought that issue on themselves, the Empire has violated every treaty possible just now.” Said the red-headed leader.

“Sir! We can’t get to the transport. We have to find another way off the port.” Phoenix saw on the chest of the man who had pulled her through the hatch wore a name tag “Garr-id”.

“Escape through the utility access. Rhea! Take the civilians to the ship.”

Rhea, a slightly wolfish looking woman with pointed ears interrupted him.

“I can’t leave you, Sir!” She argued.

“You have your orders, now go, these people are non-combatants and do not need to suffer through this. We will meet you at the ship and give you cover, when you are in we will join you.”

A growl like that which Phoenix had never heard from someone before nearly made her laugh, it might have been even comical in another time and circumstance, but now all she did was stare.

Through a small hatch that was quickly sealed behind them and by the sound of debris piled over the access port, hidden.

Rhea and the half-dozen doctors, nurses and former patients ran, crawled, climbed and balanced carefully on pipes as they made their way down the access tunnel towards a destination that Phoenix did not know.

Through the conduits and ventilation systems, sounds of gunfire and high-pitched whine of energy weapons and people screaming dug into Phoenix’s brain.

Rhea held a finger up to her lips as she stopped the group, a low hum from the pipes made their skin tingle. She pressed her ear up against a hatch that looked much like any other, then nodded. Pulling a small flat rectangle out of her belt she pulled a cord from the small palmtop electronic equipment and plugged it into a port next to the hatch.

Phoenix and the others watched as Rhea tapped the screen a few times then a holographic projection appeared over the top of the device showing a hangar door and the hallway was clear. A few more touches and she explained about recording the empty hallway for a few seconds worth.

Rhea smiled and put her hand against the lever of the service hatch and pushed it open and pointed the device at the video sensor.

“Out! OUT! Everyone.” She said in a loud whisper. “Through that door and step to the left and wait for me.”

When the last of the medical team was through the door, Rhea took a bound step and was through the hangar door.

“That last was the most hazardous.” Rhea explained to the group. “They could have seen us, but I blinded the camera for a moment. Okay, to the ship. Quietly, single file behind me.”

The ship was slightly silver-blue in color, Phoenix touched the hull as she walked and it felt like nothing she had ever touched, almost plastic or an oily covering, her fingers came back clean, but they tingled slightly as if from an electric current.

Rhea motioned the people inside and got them seated as she communicated quietly on her headset.

“We are in. Hallway was clear, video camera disabled.” She reported.

“We are already here.” Said the Redhead as the second group appeared from around the corner and through the door. “You are getting slow in your old age.”

The other men half-dragged both the leader and two others who had injuries. It was obvious they had a rough go of it. The smaller ship rocked on the deck as the space port experienced to another impact of heavy weapons fire, only this time red lights lit up and began to flash rapidly.

“Someone finally got the defense systems working.” Thought Phoenix.

In the back of the small ship, Garr-id started pulling at the RedHead’s cloak and armor. “Get this off you, Sir, I have to view your wounds.”

“I’m okay.” RedHead groaned, “It’s a bruise, nothing got through. Next time
someone make sure I’m standing next to a softer wall? Take care of Lieutenant Muir, we have to get this crate launched and out of here to safety, that’s the priority now. We don’t get out of here, your skills with inflicting pain while fixing us will be moot.”

Standing up, the chest had a darkening bruise over the right shoulder. On his back, a large tattoo that was partly hidden by the undershirt, but what Phoenix could see was similar to the markings on all the armor, a bruise growing over his right shoulder-blade. Whatever had knocked this leader down had taken a toll through the armor.

“Sir,” Doctor Concord stood up, “I have had combat medical experience. I am a trauma surgeon, I can help.”

Garr-id looked at the doctor with a quick eye and smiled, “Thanks Doc, I can use you, come here and….” the voices trailed off to the back of the ship as they assessed the other team members condition.

“Rhea, pre-flight emergency launch checks. Let’s get the hell out of here asap. But do it quietly with minimal use of power until the last moment. We don’t want to alert them that we are here. Change the ship markings to that of something more general, a merchant or something.”

Phoenix raised her hand and spoke up.

“Excuse me, but the port defense systems are up— the red emergency lights are up and flashing.”

RedHead looked out the window.

“Good! Thanks! The strike team would not want those systems up, that means one of the control rooms are still in control of the facility. They are fighting back.”

Pressing a few illuminated panels and tapping in a sequence on the panel and a video display came up.

“Foenicks! Good to see you are in control of things.” RedHead laughed into the display. “I’ll keep this short- you look like you are a bit busy.”

“Your gift for understatement would be funny at another time. But we have them contained for the moment. The captain of the transport had called ahead and alerted us that something was up, we just did not know where. We assumed they headed towards the planet.” Fenicks, a tiger-striped face that was bleeding out his nose and one eye was swollen but not shut. “Boru- they are demanding where you are from those that they grab. We have video of them abandoning hallways to follow your direction of travel until they lost you. You are their target Your Majesty.”

“All the more reason to get out of here. Can you give a hand on that?” Boru asked quietly.

“We have decompression problems all over the station, we might have a control problem on hangar door number-5. Yes, yes, I think the controls are overloading and we might have an explosive decompression. Anything in there will be sucked out into space towards the planet.”

“Copy that, Commander Foenicks. We will watch for signs of decompression in about a minute.”

Phoenix looked around and out the ports, no single digit numbers were on any of the doors. There were 21 through 26.

Rhea spoke up. “Pre-flight checks done. We are ready to launch. All power is routed through shielded circuitry.”

“Okay everyone, get your restraints clipped and hold on, we are doing an explosive launch through door two-six.” Boru said. “Rhea, when we move use thrusters only, just keep us from hitting the edges. Let’er drift for a bit once we clear the cloud. No power to the engines, life support or any lights until the last minute.” Turning around and looking at the ex-patients and medical providers, “Folks, it’s going to get bumpy and cold! You civilians will find blankets over your head.  If you get cold? Don’t hesitate to use them, but wait until after we finish bouncing around if possible.”

A shockwave slightly rocked the small ship as door “two-six” blew off it’s track and the atmosphere blew it out. Debris, another small ship slid towards the breach, airtight doors closed around the hangar.

Rhea gently tapped the thruster controls and just gave enough spin to the ship so it rotated out the door directly at the planet appearing to have no control.

The smaller unmanned ship hit the side of the hangar door and split off the starboard engine. Spilling fuel and atmosphere it gained speed and rotation, angling towards the escapees’ ship.

“EVADE!” called Boru as he jumped into the pilot seat next to Rhea. “Z-minus one-hundred. Let’s see if we can keep our cover that was not much of a move.”

Using thrusters only, the ship just sidestepped the spinning debris.

“Passive sensor’s have picked up– SIRE! We’ve been painted with target beacons. We have multiple bogies at multiple vectors coming in from all upper altitudes.” The one with the name badge Timate called out.

Phoenix heard the term, it piqued her curiosity.

“Thems not bogies— thems bandits! Okay, cover’s blown! Cloak the ship, let them lose us in the debris.”

Negative G-forces pulled upward on Phoenix, the only thing holding her down was the multi-point restraints that automatically tightened slightly holding her in place as the ship dropped sharply into the cloud of blown out debris. The ship shook with a concussion.

“They have us! Four Titan A6-T’s” A blond warrior with a at a weapons console that Phoenix did not get the name of.

“Emergency dive! Into the atmosphere. Target the lead ship with pulse cannon.” Boru ordered.

The ship rattled with cannon’s rapid fire. Bolts of particle energy struck the first attacker who dissolved into photons and sparks.

“Three more, we are in the atmosphere boundary, we will be visible!” Garr-id yelled.

“Keep going, we’re outgunned up by the spaceport.” Boru looked up and then at the his displays, “Prepare to abandon ship!”

The outside the ship began to heat by the entry into the surrounding atmosphere of Aquila Nova as they sailed at hypersonic speeds into the atmosphere below.

“Drop the cloak, SIre?” Called Rhea

“No no, we need to fake them out a bit longer. Prepare to jettison empty escape pods two through six in half second intervals. Then the rest of you take the last of the pods and abandon ship. I’ll take the ship back up into space while still cloaked. They will think we broke up on reĂ«ntry for a moment or two, long enough for you folks to get away.” Rhea started to protest but Boru held up a finger, “You are the Captain, but I outrank you, the civilians will need you to fend for them, until I am able to draw the Empire ships off.”

Rhea grumbled acceptance and went back to the controls and primed the empty pods for jettison without shielding as the ship rocked with more hits.

“We are visible!” Garr-id called. “Shields are holding, cloak is disabled.”

Phoenix terrified at the thought that she was about to die.

“Jettison pods two through six!” Boru yelled from his pilot seat. “Everyone in escape pods seven through twelve and deploy on my mark.”

Rhea directed the Doctor back to the seat next to Phoenix, a sudden jerk and the seats backed up an arm’s length and a door slid over the void left by their movement.

“Oh damn, I had forgotten how much I hate this.” Doctor Concord growled. “If I live through this, remind me to schedule that pirate to get his colon scoped with a reamer.”

“Pirate?” She asked.

“Yes, don’t you know? That’s why they are after him– he is Boru U’Maille, the Pirate King. He and his father drove them back in the last wars and forced the peace treaty” Dr. Concord tried to force a smile. “He is a thorn in their side. A big one.”

“THAT is the Pirate King? It must be a mistaaaaaaAAAA…..” Phoenix’s scream mixed with Dr. Concord’s as the ship made a violent roll and ejected the escape pod out at an angle, they did an arc instead of straight line and the motion was enough for Phoenix’s stomach to rise in her throat. She thought she was about to dump her churning stomach on the Doctor.

The autopilot of the pod took over and they rapidly slowed down, banked into a steep angle. Several lights lit up on panels.

An artificial male voice announced: “Vector stabilized, pod is cloaked, programmed destination arrival ETA is four-minutes.”

“Four minutes to arrive where?” Phoenix asked.

“Don’t bother asking, the computer is not interactive, it is just telling us where we are going.” Dr. Concord said. “They will have all the escape pods land close to each other.”

The Doctor did not lie, the pods had landed and the cloaking shimmered and faded as the escapee’s exited and took account of each other.

Rhea looked around as others came out of the trees where a couple of the pods missed the landing area by a few dozen yards.

“King U’Maille is not here.”

Timate, Phoenix could see him well now, an older warrior with stripes on his shoulders as he walked towards Rhea. “He will be here when he can. The bandits were still trying to stalk the pods. I don’t think they were fully convinced that the ship broke up on reentry.””We are near enough to go to the meeting place, besides, I am hungry.”

“I want to sit someplace that doesn’t move,” One of the wounded warriors limped up on his feet. “Or have someone shooting at me.”

The group agreed and walked into the village.

 

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MELANCHOLY: TUNNEL OF DARKNESS Section 1. The Seraph

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Section 1. Darkness.

 

 

Blackness.

Darkness. 

A weed of melancholy that destroyed everything.

It invaded him, all around. One could say he had a cold soul, but he was numb beyond his ability to describe the feeling of sadness.

Outwardly he feared nothing, riding in the mobile emergency room towards, arguably, the capital of violence in the industrialized planet systems. This planet orbited a dwarf red star only a few dozen light-years from the home planet from where the first humans moved out into space.

His name, you might wonder?  Colonel Safsy Gliese.

His father named him after the great explorer Safsy Riggs from earth that used the, then new, type-d Alcubierre drive. His father used a common last name when they left the planet for another brown proto-star for a mining colony.

Since then, Safsy had moved to the copper world of the orange-dwarf star called the planet Sapphire, in the constellation Sappho as seen from the planet in the stellar nursery fifty-light years distant.

A planet composed of high concentrations of copper, so much so that some mountain ranges had outcroppings of the metallic element. Beryllium rich outer planets in the system made for a natural industry and trade hub for the farmers of the other planets in the region.

Then the discovery of energy to mass conversion on the Gliese systems all but collapsed the economy of the Sapphire.

Right in the back yard of the Colonel’s work as Search and Rescue.

He looked out the window of the ship Seraph, captained by his friend and companion through frequent adventures over the years. Wings on the nose of the ship were against the protocols of the company, but the regional directors looked the other way as it was a gift of peace between two warring parties.

On the hull of the ship, solid gold wings, welded in place and then sparkled without diminishing over time was no easy feat, as the hull of the Seraph was of metastable metallic hydrogen. Tough and superconducting, the simple element as a gas in space, came from the ship yards ready for any kind of action. Ship rescues near stars, high energy waves just slid over the hull, protecting everything within its walls. But such energies were wearing on even a noble metal as gold.

Today, they were putting down on Sapphire. Riots had broken out over austerity programs imposed by the government to survive had forced miners out of work as the new technology had turned to converting hydrogen — the most common element in the known universe — into copper.

The once prestigious university of New Antarctica at the pole of the planet now sat in decay. Only the sciences seemed to stick it out for the duration, trying to create some alloy that would be a Sapphire Only creation.

Traversing the side of the green soiled hill, the team used a high-speed land-crawler to travel into the downtown area of Solstice, a large metropolitan area on the polar sea. A body of water ten-percent larger than the Terran Pacific Ocean and growing with the planetary tectonics.

“Medic-One, your victims are at school street and Twelfth Boulevard. Reporting two people stabbed. We have other units en route, law enforcement is also dispatched but have an ETA of half-hour. You will be first on scene, unknown location of suspects involved. Stage before arriving on scene at least five-hundred meters.”

“Copy, thank you for the information.” The Colonel specialized in off-ship rescues. The land crawler was capable of handling up to a dozen patients and have a surgical suite in the core with a team operating on victims.

“Medic-One, fire departments on scene report a riot on scene, stage at the one kilometer mark until law enforcement arrive.”

“Are they able to handle a riot?” Kimberly Suthlinder asked. “Maybe they should send out the peace force to stop this?”

Kimberly was a great surgeon, but this was her first tour and was fresh out of the University of the Sciences on Threshold, so named as it the planet that bordered deep space settlements.

“No, likely it is those peacekeepers that are fighting. They haven’t been paid for months.”

“Oh, no.”

“Oh yes. It’s all about food now. These people would hunt the indigenous life, except the only life native here,  is lichen. The economy fell to the technology replacing their primary export. The two planets have teamed up, one processes beryllium, Sapphire process produces an uncommonly pure copper with a minimum of energy input. There’s abundant hydrogen, but they don’t have the process technology to do anything with it. Not difficult to obtain, this system is in the middle of a dark-matter cloud of nearly pure hydrogen, it has agglomerated into non-reactive particles, but is easy to collect. The government here just has no way to process it.”

“Oh, crap on a cracker. This will leave the area as a ghost town.”

“It will, for all intents and definitions, be a ghost town. We are witnessing the death of a society if they cannot beg, borrow or steal tech to improve their position.”

“What about the University here?”

“They are working around the clock to come up with something. But so far, the Gleise consortiums are keeping tight wraps on technology, they can produce copper that is five-nines pure with less energy that they use here— and they produced copper here cheaply, but not cheap enough.”

“Arrival.” The pilot’s voice came over the speakers in their chairs.”

“Arrival?” The Colonel blinked. “Colonel to bridge, we were to post away from the event.”

“Negative, my display shows green for entry.”

Taptaptap echoed in the hull of the crawler, punctuating the pilots comments — someone had taken shots at the moving emergency department.

“Pilot, move us out of here.”

Silence for a heartbeat.

“I’m hit! Help me, ohmygod!”

Tapping on his smooth panel control module, the Colonel alerted the surgical and rescue teams.

“Trauma teams to the bridge, pilot has been hit. Trauma teams to the bridge.”

The Colonel wished they had shot him, six surgeons on board, with two gas-passers and trauma medics that can operate in the field to bring the victims in. But they only had two pilots, now one. If the second pilot was hit, Safsy had only a passing knowledge of this transporter, he could drive them back to the Seraphim, but not as smoothly as with a trained pilot of this tank-treaded/hovercraft hybrid craft.

He did not want any harm to come to his team and would challenge anyone to shoot him if it drew the danger away from anyone or anything.

Nodding to himself, the Colonel was looking for a chance to commit suicide by proxy. He did not always recognize it, but he knew he was coming to the end of his career.

Anyone that was looking to die in the line of duty did not belong on duty. He knew it was only time before he would stumble and begin to have serious, self-destructive personal and professional effects.

He did not know if it would be ethanol or perhaps beating someone who would then need treatment  in the Seraph.

Such was the melancholy soul that deeply worried about his position in the grand scheme of things. 

Tunnel of Darkness Section 3. Challenged

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Section 3. Challenged

 

Data incoming, the Seraph was on a defensive footing, reporting that the perimeter was under assault and the hospital ship was using all non-lethal means to keep the killing and marauders  at bay. Each group claiming a holy right to kill anyone they deem unworthy of life.

Those wounded that approached with hands up and asking for help, they treated without hesitation, but the armed militias required the Seraph to raise shields.

Those wounded that did not move inside the perimeter before the hospital ship powered up, became stranded. The mob murdered dozens full view of those that swore to treat life as precious. To help and aid, to use wisdom for the healing of those that needed and asked, however they could only watch.

One technician thought to send a message to the rescue teams. The was closed. 

Safsy read the data as it came over the terminal and shook his head.

“James, we have a problem. Exit is cut off.”

“Well, this makes it a lot more difficult. Secondary zone, then. Tell them we’re heading that way now with an ETA of fifteen.” The pilot read his navigation display.  “We will need to take the long way on the water, might be choppy because of a breeze, but it will be safer.”

“Plotting now.” The Colonel looked over the live sat-nav display.  “James, we will head into a large group boats that are moving between us and the secondary, how if we do the tertiary?”

“Negative, that is an hour away as the crow flies and I cannot promise you a straight line.”

“Defense systems up then.” Safsy tapped the smooth panel, powering up the protective hardware.

“Do you have training on the defense systems?” James asked.  He was well versed in the protective hardware of the hover-hybrid, but his task now was to get them to the hospital ship. 

“Minimal, I know how to use the electric hull defense.”

“Excellent! That one’s difficult. We have also noxious gas. Just remember, there is a limited amount of that. The only resource we have in abundance is electricity.”

“Noxious…?”

“Specifically, it is a skunk oil. And not the nice kind, either. This is a mercaptan that they concentrated in the worst possible way and a permanent pink dye.” James laughed. “It can be detected by a human nose in one-part per quadrillion. If you get doused in this stuff, you will be easy to sniff out, and you will be a color that does not exist in nature and lonely.”

“Wow, pungent and pink.” The Colonel gave a grim laugh. “Should be easy to find, they would be alone.” 

“Yes, press the button on that, yell and I will be moving this crate. I want clear out of the area before the canisters discharge, that crap is hell to scrub off the paint and no one wants it in the hangar.”

“Then we are leaving. We have an hour of travel.” Safsy ordered.

“Yes, sir. And Colonel? There is a marsh nearby that leads out over the water, we can move over that and be clear of any crowds, I just cannot navigate this glorified shanty-town.”

“I’m ahead of you, working on an exit route now.” The Colonel spoke into the man-to-man mike. He spoke in relaxed tones with the pilot. “Direction and speed on your display now.” 

“I’m heading away from the groups, to some lower buildings. These skyscrapers around here are an advantage for anyone wanting to take a shot at us.” James said, dust of impacting projectiles were visible across the path they just covered.  But the shots were wide and hit ground in the distance.  They were just shooting wild in their  direction.

“Engage, put distance between us and the rioters.” Safsy had seen the puffs of dirt nearly a thousand paces behind them and did not wish to waste time.

The hovercraft was steady as it moved over the marsh. Surgery continued in the operating theater as the craft navigated the open area.

Saving the wounded pilot continued as the teams repaired the insult to the pilot’s body. The lead surgeon ordered that the moving emergency room be shown more care or cause the surgeon to become unhappy when James and the Colonel headed out over the water where the craft began to sway unacceptably.

“O.R. to the Colonel. We are working back here, please keep the rocking down to a gentle quake.” It was “Stormy” Knight, six-feet tall of surgeon that was frightening when she became angry. She had no tolerated no interference when it came to caring for her patients.

Sensors beeped and displayed information.

“Seraph is passing overhead. They’ll land on the other side and extract us there.”

“Outstanding.” James sounded pleased as they crossed from the open water back to the marsh area, the rocking motion of the hovercraft subsided. “Thank you for that info.”

In full hovercraft mode over mud and reeds , the surgical team in the operating room remained undisturbed as they repaired the shrapnel filled wounds of the pilot.

Approaching the Seraph, it was a bittersweet end to the mission. The Colonel achieved a successful mission resolution, inwardly pleased as they arrived at the hospital ship. Deploying the tank treads, James rolled them up the ramp into the hangar and powered down the engines once they were safely inside.

The melancholy set in as this would probably be the last time he would head out.

The wounding of the pilot created questions that they required to answer for. Safsy would be held responsible for injuries of the pilot, perhaps relieved of duty.  It was the way of the corporation. 

Downloading the logs into the larger ship’s memory, Safsy shut down the on board computers and stood up, stretching. He needed some fresh air, it would probably be the last time to do so while wearing a uniform.

Walking off the ramp of the Seraph, Colonel Safsy stood on the soil of Sapphire with his hands in his pockets and inhaled the breeze that blew gently into his face.

It was a nice planet, perhaps they could become a tourist destination. Safsy shrugged inwardly.

“COLONEL! Watch out!”  Shouted  a hanger technician.

Safsy looked around and saw a sentry drone with a projectile weapon locked on to him, this was not alarming, corporate drones operated with programing to follow commands of anyone wearing the ID badge with the chip in it.

“Drone! Disarm, power down.” Safsy ordered while approaching. For a moment, it seemed that the machine was turning away when it fired with a strange buzzing sound, blowing a hole in the Colonel’s chest.

The buzzing sound echoed in his dying brain.

Darkness was all around him, the insistent buzzing was annoying, the last sound he would hear in this life.

Yawning, the webs of the dream faded and the Colonel wondered why the buzzing reminded him of a gun.

“Incident assigned.” They received a dispatch to the planet Sapphire for victims of riots. The most violent planet in the outer systems.

Colonel Safsy Gliese sighed, he wished someone would shoot him. 

Tunnel of Darkness

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Darkness.

It invaded him, all around. Some would say he was a cold soul, hardened from so many times responding to emergencies, seeing things that would make a Marine cry,  but he was numb beyond his ability to describe the feeling of sadness. It had been this way for as  long as he worked the out lying societies of the colonies. 

Outwardly he feared nothing, riding in the mobile emergency room towards, arguably, the capital of violence in the industrialized planet systems. This planet orbited a dwarf red star only a few dozen light-years from the home planet from where the first humans moved out into space.

He was Colonel Safsy Gliese. His father named him after the great explorer Safsy Riggs from earth that used the, then new, Type-D Alcubierre drive. His father- widowed by the war of religion when the religion of feared death-dealing terrorists triggered a supervolcano in the middle of a continent. After leaving Earth, Dad used a common last name when they left the planet for another brown proto-star for a mining colony, where his father struggled to make an import business succeed. 

Instead, it succeeded into sending the best father that could have walked into an early grave, crushed by a product transporter with a lift that was long overdue for servicing, the old man pushed it past the limits and paid with his life.  He left an eighteen-year-old son who had neither the knowledge or the desire to try and run an import business.  Safsy desired to study medicine, even keeping grades up for scholarships.  

But alas, scholarships were not enough.  His grades did not earn him a full ride, without his father, he could only go part way before the money ran out.  Leaving him frustrated and depressed.  All he wanted to do was make his father proud.

And he failed on all counts, even losing the business that was his dad’s dream for success for the family of father and son.  

Since then, Safsy had moved to the copper world of the orange-dwarf star called the planet Sapphire, in the constellation Sappho as seen from the planet in the stellar nursery fifty-light years distant.

A planet composed of high concentrations of copper, so much so that some mountain ranges had outcroppings of the metallic element. Beryllium rich outer planets in the system made for a natural industry and trade hub for the farmers of the other planets in the region.

Then the discovery of energy to mass conversion on the Gliese systems all but collapsed the economy of the Sapphire.

Right in the back yard of the Colonel’s work as Search and Rescue.

He looked out the window of the ship Seraph, captained by his friend and companion through frequent adventures over the years. Wings on the bow of the ship were against the protocols of the company, but the regional directors looked the other way as it was a gift of peace between two warring parties.

The pure gold welded to the hull of the ship made the wings sparkle without diminishing over time was no easy feat, as the hull of the Seraph was of metastable metallic hydrogen. Tough and superconducting, the simple element as a gas in space, came from the ship yards ready for any kind of action. Ship rescues near stars, high energy waves just slid over the hull, protecting everything within its walls.

Today, they were putting down on Sapphire, riots had broken out over the austerity programs, miners were out of work as the new technology had turned to converting hydrogen — the most common element in the known universe — into copper.

The once prestigious university of New Antarctica at the pole of the planet now sat in decay. Only the sciences seemed to stick it out for the duration, trying to create some alloy that would be a Sapphire Only creation.

Traversing the side of the green soiled hill, the team used a high-speed land-crawler to travel into the downtown area of Solstice, a large metropolitan area on the polar sea. A body of water ten-percent larger than the Terran Pacific Ocean and growing with the planetary tectonics.

“Medic-One, your victims are at school street and Twelfth Boulevard. Reporting two people stabbed. We have other units en route, law enforcement is also dispatched but have an ETA of half-hour. You will be first on scene, unknown location of suspects involved. Stage before arriving on scene at least five-hundred meters.”

“Copy, thank you for the information.” The Colonel specialized in off-ship rescues. The land crawler was capable of handling up to a dozen patients and have a surgical suite in the core with a team operating on victims.

“Medic-One, fire departments on scene report a riot on scene, stage at the one kilometer mark until law enforcement arrive.”

“Are they able to handle a riot?” Kimberly Suthlinder asked. “Maybe they should send out the peace force to stop this?”

Kimberly was a great surgeon, but this was her first tour and was fresh out of the University of the Sciences on Threshold, so named as it the planet that bordered deep space settlements.

“No, likely it is those peacekeepers that are fighting. They haven’t been paid for months.” The frowning Colonel said.

“Oh, no.”

“Oh yes. It’s all about food now. These people would hunt the indigenous life, except the only life native here,  is lichen. The economy fell to the technology that replaced their primary export. The two planets have teamed up, one processes beryllium,” He pointed to a spot in the sky.  “Sapphire process produces an uncommonly pure copper with a minimum of energy input. There’s abundant hydrogen, but they don’t have the process technology to do anything with it. Not difficult to obtain, this system is in the middle of a dark-matter cloud that has pockets loaded with nearly pure hydrogen that has agglomerated into non-reactive particles, it is easy to collect. The government here just has no way to process it.”

“Oh, crap on a cracker. This will leave the area as a ghost town.”

“It will, for all intents and definitions, be a ghost town. We are witnessing the death of a society if they cannot beg, borrow or steal tech to improve their position.”

“What about the University here?”

“They are working around the clock to come up with something. But so far, the Gleise consortiums are keeping tight wraps on technology, they can produce copper that is five-nines pure with less energy that they use here— and they produced copper here cheaply, but not cheap enough.”

“Arrival.” The pilot’s voice came over the speakers in their chairs.”

“Arrival?” The Colonel blinked, tapping the touch-screen opening the intercom graphic on the control panel. “Colonel to bridge, we were to post away from the event.”

“Negative, my display shows green for entry.”

Taptaptap echoed in the hull of the crawler, punctuating the pilots comments — someone had taken shots at the moving emergency department.

“Pilot, move us out of here.”

Silence for a heartbeat.

“I’m hit! Help me, ohmygod!” The scream could be heard from the pilot’s position without the intercom.

Tapping on his smooth panel control module, the Colonel alerted the surgical and rescue teams.

“Trauma teams to the bridge, medical emergency, pilot has been hit. Trauma teams to the bridge.”

The Colonel wished they had shot him, six surgeons on board, with two gas-passers and trauma medics that can operate in the field to bring the victims in. But they only had two pilots, now one.

If the second pilot was hit, Safsy had only a passing knowledge of this transporter, he could drive them back to the Seraphim, but not as smoothly as with a trained pilot of this tank-treaded/hovercraft hybrid craft.

He did not want any harm to come to his team and would challenge anyone to shoot him if it drew the danger away from anyone or anything else.

Nodding to himself, the Colonel was looking for a chance to commit suicide by proxy. He did not always recognize it, but he knew he was coming to the end of his career.

Anyone that was looking to die in the line of duty did not belong on duty. He knew it was only time before he would stumble and begin to have serious, self-destructive personal and professional effects.

He did not know if it would be ethanol that might force him to resign or perhaps striking someone who would then need treatment  in the Seraph.

 Violence had no place in the medical ship, but the Colonel could feel it building by increments every day.