Prologue: Irelan’s Adventure
Six-year-old Irelan sat in the seat she mother hurredly strapped her in as the ejected lifeboat module’s orbit decayed in a parabolic arch towards the planet below.
In seconds, it had traveled from one battle zone to the next, crossing the terminator into the night-side where the green flags of the Enlightened flew on the tops of poles. The man who drove the boat told Irelan they were flying at twenty-times the speed of sound, whatever that was.
She watched when he pulled a big lever and released the parachute at the last second, it slowed the lifeboat enough to land safely in a muck-filled bog of a forest glen, barely under control of the, just moments before helmsman of the Galaxy Hitchhiker.
Opening the hatch, the navigator, called Mr. Ensign by her mother, got out and walked around the roof of the lifeboat. Mom started to yell at the lifeboat pilot to not jump and to stay on the hull. The young man yelled back that she was not in charge and stepped off onto a grassy flat spot next to the lifeboat’s hull.
It was nearly the last thing he did in his life as he immediately he sank to his waist and Larsya Espiosa, Irelan’s mom, and the three other men,pulled on the young man as hard as they could, two on each arm.
Calling him names that Irelan never heard her mom say before, the quartet of people lost their grip on him and he sank up to his chest.
The only saving advice they could give the man is to lay back and take deep breaths, and do not struggle and let his buoyancy pull him out.
The struggle to save the officer focused everyone, even Irelan looked out the door while the passengers and crew struggled with the overconfident, now panicked, officer.
She saw a huge light in the starry sky come towards them over the trees and smaller lights detached from the big one, sliding down slowly on ropes. They looked like monsters, pale gray with blotches of black spots that moved around at random, big bulbous eyes and bald heads.
Irelan, only six, was afraid and hid as far back in the pod as she could get, crying. She heard her mom’s voice yelling for help. Her mom never asked for help from anyone. Mom was someone who helped everyone. Sounds and a sky creature that looked like a big red fish came down low and dangled tentacles to the man in the muck.
This terrified the little girl, the heavy sounds as if something were hitting the lifeboat from outside. It was a sound was different from the atmosphere sounds when they came down so fast, they made sparkles fly past the windows.
Whatever that meant.
Mom leaned in and told her to put her jacket on and reached in to her.
“Mom! What’s happenin’?” Irelan whispered.
A giant in blothchy grey coveralls and a full face mask reached down and took her mom by the arm and pulled them both up.
“Put this on.” The electronic amplified voice said through the mask.
Irelan began to cry at the hands that held out to her.
“Aw hun.” The electronic voice said. “DOn’t cry.”
The masked and uniformed creature pulled the goggles back and lifted the helmet back.
It was a lady inside the mask!
“Your name is Ireland?” The woman asked the little girl.
“Irelan, no ‘d’.” Mom said. “Irelan, go with the lady!”
“Hang on ma’am.” The masked soldier who had his arms around her mom from behind gave her.
“Wear the chin strap kind of tight, this thing is almost as big as you are.” The sergeant put her helmet on child’s head. “Irelan, my name is Riley. Riley Kennedy. We are going to go up into the rescue ship on this rope. Then they are going to lift your lifeboat until it’s tucked into the hold and you can go back and get your stuff out of it. Okay hun?”
Irelan nodded while the lady braided a seat out of a flat strap and clipped it to rings in her chest. Irelan faced the lady and was able to put her tiny arms around the ladies neck.
“You ready for an adventure.”? Irelan shook her head.
“Well, we are going to go see your mom. She is safe on board the Sky Guppy.” The blonde lady smiled. “Okay hun?”
Irelan nodded and Riley tapped her ear. She held tightly to the little girl while she hung on to the lady’s neck.
They went straight up. The helmet she had on seemed to pull at her head.
It was FUN! Irelan drew a breath to laugh and scream, when it was over.
“Do it again!” Irelan laughed in Riley’s face.
The lady soldier laughed.
“Not tonight, hun. We have to get your lifeboat up in the hold.”
“Sergeant Kennedy.” A deep voice from behind her interrupted their talk. “How was the rescue? Are you on your coffee break now?”
“Then get to your station. We don’t have time to waste” The shaved headed voice strode away.
“Don’t mind him, hun. The lieutenant wears his shoes too tight, it makes him mad.”
“Why doesn’t he take his shoes off.”
Riley laughed and hugged the little girl.
“You’re smart! I don’t know why he doesn’t take his shoes off. He would be nicer.”
“Okay.” She smiled at the lady with the eyes like the daytime blue sky and soft voice.
“Mommy!” Ireland ran to her mom, who stood and caught her daughter in a big hug. “I flew on a rope!”
“Me too, they lifted me up and I was flying like a bird!” Mom stood up and spoke to the sergeant, “I want to speak to your commanding officer at the earliest convenience.”
“Yes ma’am. That would be the Colonel. Her name is Granuaile.” She pronounced it as Gran-u-wail. “For now, we need to get you secured. We will lift the lifeboat into the cargo hold and you can gather up your belongings when we land.”
Ensign Firston interrupted while he fiddled with a clip on his rescue webbing.
“We have only what we wore on our backs. When we hit by an energy beam and were shot down, there was no warning.”
“Shot down?” Riley gaped. “What?”
The lifeboat officer tried to himself from the lift, struggling with a spring-loaded clamp. Riley reached over and released it with a skilled twist.
“Yes. I was at the helm when the navigator said there was an energy surge from the surface. We were hit immediately after that. We lost all systems, life support, propulsion. We were on approach to Fienow Fields in the northern hemisphere on Keppler-B, but we got caught in Keppler-A’s gravity well. The captain only called for use to abandon ship.
“If you’ve been shot at, you need to talk to the colonel right away.”
Riley tapped her wrist, typing in a coded number and spoke into the microphone at her throat.
“Sir? Sergeant Riley. We have a problem and someone needs to see you right away. Yes, sir. On our way.
“Ensign, come with me please.” She motioned with her hand. “YOu get to sit closest to the door and you will be the first on off.”
She sent a message to the Lieutenant that he needed to come back to meet with their passengers.
His shoes are going to get a lot tighter, she sighed. I should’ve taken this week off.