Jason scowled at the console showing the slow loss of atmospheric integrity in one of the docking sections of the Amaryllis Space Station. From the observation window in front of the control room he could see down into the main dock. Repair crews rushed from one point to another trying to find the problem. Judging from the tense expressions they weren't having much luck.
Several ships docked to the problem area battered Communications with demands for updates. Flight controllers quickly rerouted new arrivals to other areas of the space station. Including the ship he'd been ordered to oversee and accompany.
Jason brought up his wrist, "Phoenix, no resolution to the problem yet."
"Stay safe. We're powering up," Mark answered back.
Another alarm sounded. The technicians in the control room rushed from one console to another. Radio messages overlapped each other as voices shouted and demanded answers. Several ships detached from the docking tethers and moved to a safe distance to wait out the emergency.
"We have a malfunction in a transfer container," someone to Jason's left shouted.
Jason quickly moved to the console, demanding, "Which container?"
A young woman glanced back at him, "Yours, Sir. Specifically the one carrying medical supplies. The container internal atmospheric stabilizers are overheating."
Jason stood behind her and studied the numbers and alarms on her screen. The temperatures inside the container rose steadily. It wouldn't be long before it reached critical temperatures.
His eyes went to the area of the deck where a large white space-container sat, the vivid red emblem of the Interplanetary Red Cross stenciled on the side. All efforts to shut down the unit with remote commands failed.
The woman shook her head, "If it doesn't shut down soon we'll be forced to jettison. We can't afford a fire on the dock."
"No, I will take care of it," Jason said, stalking towards the door.
"Sir, the entire dock is in an evacuation mode!" the control center manager shouted at him.
"Then I suggest you find the problem and fix it!" Jason said as the door shut behind him. On the way down he called Mark back, explaining the new problem.
Mark sounded just as unhappy, "Out of all the supply containers it had to be that one? It took the President of the Federation to pull this load of medicine together. If we lose it we might not be able to replace it."
Jason noted he didn't mention the people of New Fiji who would die in droves thanks to the plague sweeping the planet. He didn't have to.
"I'm almost to the pod. At the very least I can manually disable the environmental controls," Jason said as he entered the main deck of the affected dock.
He entered the dock to a deck hand yelling at the people to evacuate. He turned to yell at Jason, but stopped, his eyes wide. Jason ignored the man, continuing his way to the lines of shipping containers destined for New Fiji, waiting to be loaded onto the many ships of the relief effort.
The medical supply container sat at the end, a robotic loader stopped in the process of moving it to the airlock to load it on the transfer ship. A transfer ship that was no longer docked, but waiting a short distance from the space station until the emergency ended.
His eyes quickly noted no blinking red alarm lights anywhere on the outside of the container. The outside control panel showed no internal problems. He used a pass-code to open one of the two rear freight doors. From how quickly it opened he surmised that all the power units were working well.
The lights turning on inside reinforced idea. He stepped inside, noting the air ws slightly cooler than the dock. As it should be.
The door closed behind him. Neat rows of anchored crates lined the walls with one wide aisle down the middle. He walked down one of the aisles towards the front of the container to the main environmental control console.
Everything looked as it should be. No unusual smells, no spotty temperature spikes, the humidity felt fine.
The main environmental control panel didn't give any other clues. He checked the computer and then opened up two of the service panels to confirm the findings.
He shook his head. He raised his communicator, "The pod is cleared. I've looked at everything I can think of, and I can't find a single problem."
"Amaryllis Control reports the temperatures inside the unit have reached critical levels. They're preparing for evac," Princess answered.
"Tell them to cancel the order. I have my hand inside the equipment compartment and there isn't a thing in here overheating. It must be a sensor fault," Jason said.
"Good. Then maybe we can leave this station sometime this week," Princess said with a smile in her voice.
Jason wasn't in a mood to smile. He didn't like false readings. They made him nervous that he was missing something vital and obvious. He looked through the equipment one more time before replacing the covers. He turned his attention to the control panel. Perhaps it might be a programming glitch?
The pod moved violently under his feet, slamming him into the control panel. He caught himself before he fell to the floor.
"Phoenix, what was that?" Jason demanded.
Princess responded immediately, her voice tense, "Jason, get out of there! Control tried to cancel the order for evac, but the system isn't accepting the order."
And from bad to worse.
Jason whirled around and sprinted down the aisle. The pod shifted again, knocking him against a crate. He held onto one of the straps as the pod accelerated, the g-forces wanting to push him against the back end of the pod.
Gravity disappeared and his feet left the floor.
With a promise to personally destroy whatever component had caused the malfunction, Jason shouted, "Phoenix, I've been evaced!"
"Hold on, we're on our way," Mark said calmly.
Muttering under his breath, Jason pulled himself along the crates to the rear door. A soft whirr told him the environmental equipment was working just fine. At least breathing and temperature wouldn't be a problem for a little while.
Gravity returned with no warning. Jason lay on the floor a few seconds, stunned.
Finally, he lifted his wrist, "Phoenix, you why didn't you warn me?"
"Warned you of what?" Mark asked, his voice echoing a hint of confusion. A hint Jason didn't like.
"A return to gravity. How did you get me into the Phoenix cargo bay so fast?"
"What are you talking about?" Mark asked in a way that Jason didn't like. Jason eyed the ceiling. If he wasn't in the Phoenix, then were was he?
"Jason, we're picking up a ship leaving the space station vicinity," Princess said suddenly. "I'm picking up your signal inside it!"
"You mean someone else picked up the container? This was a setup?" Jason demanded.
A shiver ran through the container, echoed by a shiver in the air and in his very bones. A shiver Jason was entirely too familiar with. The ship the container now resided inside had jumped into hyperspace.
He knew no answer would come from the Phoenix now. The jump would make communications between them impossible.
Jason rose, taking the last few steps to the rear door. Time to find out who the mysterious ship belonged to and make them sorry they ever saw the medical container.
The console next to the door indicated atmosphere on both sides. He shut down the internal lights before activating the door mechanism. The door slowly opened, allowing Jason time to look outside for signs of life.
Only a few lights over doors and hatches lit the space beyond the container. No symbols anywhere and no people to help him identify the culprits. All he could make out was a large cargo hold with the container full of medicine taking up nearly all of one side.
He left the pod, closing the door behind him. He studied the door mechanism of the nearest hatch. Standard freighter technology made from off-the-shelf parts. He was through it in a matter of seconds.
No identifying marks on the other side, either. Jason frowned as he looked down the corridor. He didn't like not knowing what he was dealing with.
The corridor branched off in two directions. One led to several rooms as well as a steep metal stair leading to an upper level. Straight in front of him he saw a light filtering out of a room.
He approached the door, looking through a small window in the door into the room. Worktops scattered with the tubes, bottles and other equipment identified it as a laboratory of some sort. Two men in white coats worked at different worktops.
But in a freighter? It felt out of place.
His eyes landed on a glass container at the end of one of the elaborate setups. A dark blue liquid slowly dripped into it. Other sealed bottles sat on another bench where a device dried it into light blue crystals. It told him exactly what he was dealing with.
Lapis Beauty drug smugglers.
Stealing the medical container suddenly made sense. They would be able to make a huge amount of Lapis Beauty with the quantity of prescription drugs stored in the container.
But, how did they orchestrated all the alarms, the evac of the pod and the system errors?
They might not be Spectra, but he detested them just as much. The Lapis Beauty trade had grown in the last few years to dangerous levels. Considering what the drug did to the chemistry of the brain, he viewed them on the same level as Spectra. And Spectra viewed them with the same hatred they held for the G-Force team after addicting Spectran soldiers.
Fast steps coming down the metal stairs alerted him to a new arrival. He turned swiftly, but there was simply no place to hide.
Jason's hand went to the door control to the lab. He stepped inside and then to the side of the door. The two men looked up. A flash of shock went over their faces right before they reached for their belts. Jason's hands blurred. Two feathers found their marks and two weapons clattered to the floor.
The door beside him opened and a voice asked, "Are we ready to unload?"
The man spotted Jason and reached for his gun, but Jason was already moving. The man collapsed after squeezing off a round. The shot went harmlessly into a cabinet.
Jason ran out the door and down the hall. Feet appeared at the top of the stair. He launched himself upwards. The man tumbled down the stair, unconscious and likely dead, with a feather sticking out of his neck.
He rebounded off a wall at the top of the stairs and landed in the corridor on the next level. He ran towards what he hoped would be the front of the freighter looking for anything that appeared to be a cockpit.
"Kill him!" Someone shouted behind him.
Someone else yelled, "We have a G-Forcer on board! How did he get here?"
Jason let his fists, legs, and feathers do the talking for him as someone over the intercom system ordered them to push him out an airlock. And they would do it. He had no illusions about the people on the ship. Past reports and experience proved the drug dealers were as deadly as Spectra.
This was a fight to the death.
He cart-wheeled past a corridor juncture. Automatic weapon fire riddled the walls with holes. The narrow corridor didn't give much room, but with his wings Jason had access to an added dimension of movement the others didn't have. He took full advantage of it, bouncing off the ceiling and passing over the head of the crew.
The locked door of the cockpit stopped him. It also trapped him, with two more people in oily coveralls appearing at the far end of the corridor. Likely engine thugs who had answered the intruder call.
Unfortunately for them, his cable gun could easily reach. A smattering of bullets hit the ceiling and upper wall just above him as he ducked down and took two shots.
Before anyone else could come along Jason tore off the console to the door lock. Good, no surprises in the wiring.
"Prepare for de-pressurization," a calm computer voice said over the intercom system. Accompanying the voice came the sound of a short siren.
Jason scowled, but kept his hands steady. If they thought that would stop him, they were sadly mistaken.
The wires in his fingers zapped and sputtered as he wound them to each other. The last two he tapped together, turning his face away from the resulting shower of sparks. The cockpit door slid open.
Jason let go of the wires and launched himself inside. The loud report of weapons told him the people in the room had been waiting for him. The door closed behind him as the computer announced living quarters de-pressurization had commenced.
Two men jumped him from two sides, showing a finesse for hand-to-hand combat that Jason rarely encountered.
He felt a bullet rip past his leg and another across his chest as he turned to swipe at one with the heel of his boot. His boot missed, but his fist struck the upper shoulder of the other. A gun clattered to the ground. A second kick knocked the man completely in a circle before he fell hard to the ground.
Jason's foot slid the fallen gun into a corner while he turned to take the remaining one adversary. The man sidestepped and brought an elbow hard into Jason's stomach. He rolled with the strike, grabbing the man, rolling them both across a computer console.
Jason clutched the gun hand of the blond man, keeping it pointed away. With his other hand he kept up the blows. But so did the other man. Another console went up in sparks as the captive gun went off in the struggle.
Another shower of sparks went off in the main ship computer located at the back of the cockpit. Jason yanked the man even closer to him, pulling him off-balance. With a sweep of his legs he knocked him to the floor.
Jason let go of the gun arm. The man, still holding tight to it, suddenly had no support. He fell against the edge of a console, with Jason helping the fall with a hard strike with the heel of his hand to the upper chest.
A deep crack of bone along the man's neck preceded a sickening thud. Jason stepped over the man as his body convulsed in his death-throws. He checked the other body, finding no pulse.
With the cockpit secured he sat down in the pilot's chair, only to find most of the instrumentation dead including the main navigation computer. A backup had activated, showing the coordinates for the jump exit, but the damaged controls wouldn't allow him access to the programming. An inspection of the main computer didn't help.
He sat back in the chair. He would have to wait for the ship to exit the jump as programmed and hope he could get a signal to the team or to Zark
The life-support system showed fully intact along with some of the security cameras. The only place any life still existed was the engine room. Well, he couldn't do much with that, but with the rest of the ship depressurized, they wouldn't be coming forward anytime soon. He moved one of the bodies out of the way so he could get into the shot-up communications system.
A ring on the hand of the blonde man stopped him. A quick check of the body confirmed more than he wanted.
Setting his jaw, he worked on the communications system. By the time the computer beeped a warning in preperation of coming out of the jump, Jason felt reasonably certain he could get a message out.
He sat down and fastened the seatbelt. The ship shuddered as it flashed out of the jump. The engines immediately died.
Jason frowned at the console. The security camera showed the two mechanics doing nothing special. If anything, it looked like they were playing with the life-support systems.
Secondary computers still functional. Why did the engines shut down?
Cycling through the navigation computer, he found an autopilot command.
Someone had shut down the engines the moment the Jump ended. Someone from outside the ship.
He made sure no communications could be broadcast before turning his eyes to the scene outside. In the distance he could see the hazy smudge of rocks floating in space. From the breadth and width of it, it looked like a major asteroid belt. His mind began running through the jump speed of a ship this size and the duration of the jump to ascertain a possible location.
A small dark shape separated from the floating rocks. A second shape followed.
With no running lights it was hard to make out their shape. One he guessed to be another freighter. They grew closer, moving under his line of sight.
Docking claspers appeared in front of the viewscreen, grabbing hold of the hull from both sides. The remains of the navigation computer told him they were creeping towards the asteroid belt.
The communications computer tried to relay several messages, but all the screen showed was a garbled mess. The messages were coded, and the computer too shot up to decipher them, but it gave him something else valuable.
A point in the asteroid belt where the communications were coming from.
"Still alive?" Mark's voice asked over his wrist communicator.
Jason lifted his wrist. "Good to hear your voice."
"What's the situation?"
"Lapis Beauty drug runners. The freighter is getting towed to a base in the asteroid belt. Do us both a favor and target a missile at these coordinates."
"You can fire it yourself," Mark said before he could relay the coordinates. "We haven't been seen yet. Can you safely get out of that ship?"
Jason cycled through the security camera views. No shuttle, and the two escape pods towards the front of the ship showed malfunctions.
"Living quarters have been re-pressurized," the computer said.
His eyes flew to the security cameras. The two engineers were in the process of arming themselves. So, they planned to take back the ship?
They could have it.
"Only one way I know to do that, and that's the same way I got in," Jason said. "Don't shoot me down."
"Hurry, Jason. We're firing on the base now," Princess said.
With the pressurization complete, Jason ran for it. Past the bullet riddled walls and the shattered light fixtures. He had to pause to program a delayed drop in the cargo bay computer.
Now to hope the two men still alive on the ship didn't interfere. Jason entered the container and sealed the door behind him. He kneeled on the floor and grabbed cargo netting.
Gravity abruptly ended. He let himself float, but kept tight hold of the netting.
"Do you see me?" Jason asked, wishing he could see what was happening outside.
Mark answered, "We see you. Hold on. We're making a run on your position."
The wait felt like an eternity. He should be on the bridge of the Phoenix targeting the base and the drug smuggler ships. Instead, he had nothing to do but float around in a medical supply container while the Phoenix tried a fast retrieval run.
"We have you!" Tiny announced just before gravity returned.
The moment the door control showed atmosphere on both sides Jason was out. From the cargo bay of the Phoenix he quickly found his way to the cockpit.
Mark turned his head with a wry grin, "Nice to have you back on board."
"One ship destroyed," Tiny reported.
"Now for the base," Jason said as he sat down.
"Are you sure there is one here? The Galaxy Patrol squadron we called in hasn't been able to find one," Mark said.
"***Pit stop?***" Keyop suggested.
"It's here." Jason patched into Princess's communications equipment. At first he didn't see anything. Then came the blip. Right where he'd tracked it before, "Princess, get Galaxy Patrol out of the asteroid belt."
Jason armed the largest bird missile they had on board.
"The captain is ordering us to stand by," Princess said.
"We are not waiting," Jason growled, making a mental note of who had made the order.
In a flash of light the bird missile left the large missile launcher on top of the Phoenix. The light arced into the asteroid belt. The shapes of individual asteroids became visible with a bright explosion from the midst of it. The communications from within to the one remaining ship came to an abrupt stop.
Tiny swung the ship around, allowing them to take aim at the one remaining smuggler ship. It started turning to make its escape as two missiles homed in on the engines.
Mark came to stand next to his chair as the missiles found their target, looking down at Jason. "Want to share?"
Jason watched the blossoming ball of light of the explosion with less satisfaction than he should have felt. "They had help."
The Snack J had a smaller crowd than usual for a Friday night. It suited Jason's mood. Another boring mission gone wrong, resulting in over a day spent personally delivering the medical container. Another day back. Hours in debriefing. And still the bulk of the supplies for New Fiji had yet to be delivered.
Even more bad news…
He took another shot of the whisky, downing the remaining fiery liquid in one big gulp. He grimaced at the burn of it going down his throat.
"That's your third," Princess said, appearing in front of him on the other side of the bar counter.
"And I'll have a fourth," Jason growled, setting the empty glass in front of her.
Princess shook her head at him. "Why are you determined to get drunk tonight?"
He didn't say anything. He pushed the empty glass towards her with a gesture towards the liquor bottles displayed on the shelves behind her. She took the glass and put it down in a tub to be washed with no move towards pouring him another.
She leaned towards him, saying in a low voice, "The container was recovered and delivered, a major drug base destroyed, and you are acting as if you lost a best friend."
"I did. Samson Weber."
Princess frowned at him. "He died over a year ago. Why is it bothering you today?"
"Yes, on duty. The classic hero, the beloved Galaxy Patrol agent who sacrificed his life for the rest of us." Jason gave a humorless laugh. "Did he really? No one ever found his body."
"There wasn't much of Spectra's base, much less bodies, to recover after we were done with it. Samson Weber gave us the information we needed to take it out."
Jason's fist slammed down on the counter, causing customers at a table in the back to look up. He hissed at her, "He didn't die that day. Because he died two days ago."
Princess's eyes went wide. "What do you mean two days ago? That's impossible."
He stood up and grabbed his leather jacket, yanking it on. A hard rain started hitting the glass front door, bouncing off the pavement. Perfect. Weather that fit his mood.
"He was the one who caused the malfunction on the Amaryllis. He's the one who tampered with the space station security systems, including the forced ejection of one specific supply container. He's the one who has known all the right routes to keep out of sight of secret GP patrols. He's the one who kept the smuggler’s base from being detected by paying off the right Galaxy Patrol pilots to keep their mouths shut should they see anything."
He finished buttoning up the coat to look her directly in her eyes, "And the one I killed two days ago in the cockpit of a drug smuggler's ship. Oh yes, the classic hero."
This fanfic was inspired by the Botp Story Idea Generator:A portion of the story is set in a restaurant.
The story includes an interlude with a fight to the death.
The Story involves a bottle of alcohol.
Someone watches a malfunction.
The story may incorporate a/n unscrupulous outlaw.