Dale Dair, Chapter 1

DALE DAIR, Fight for Family

 

Chapter 1
A missile struck our side. It pierced the hull leaving a six-foot gash. The blast penetrated one of our cabins. Captain DeWayne Alvarado, of the Assault Ship Archer, died instantly. Perhaps it was for the best. He would have stood trial for cowardice and abandoning his crew in the heat of battle.
What should have been a routine, two-week, shakedown cruise, turned into a three-month long military operation. The shipyard owner, couldn’t understand how we did so much damage.
Lola needed repair. She needed a new paint job to cover marks from another missile and from the strafing by two Organization fighter spacecraft. Our new shields protected us, but there were still burns. Chris and I determined Lola needed more tweaking to make her the ship we wanted.
Lola had a Combat Information Center better known as the CIC. Designed to be a temporary set up, it would reconfigure into a common area for the crew. Our recent trip
showed the need for a dedicated space for the CIC. That was one of the first tweaks.
We realized Lola needed three extra bridge consoles. Lola had a Captain’s position, a Navigator’s position, and a First Officer’s position. When operations were peaceful, the three consoles were adequate. The captain piloted the ship. The navigator charted our course and watched our sensors. The First Officer monitored the ships systems and operated Lola’s weapons. In a battle, those three people were overwhelmed. We needed three more positions on the bridge. Lola was no longer a simple freighter.
We added a pilot’s console. Positioned in front of the captain, and closer to the windows, he would free up the Captain to oversee the entire ship’s operation.
A Sensor Officer’s position was to the left and forward of the Navigator’s position. On the Captain’s right side was the First Officer’s Position. To his right and forward was the Weapons Officer’s console. All three new positions were one tier lower than the other three positions.
In the case of battle damage or equipment failure, another seat could take over
the duties of any other position. This type of redundancy could be the reason we survive one day.
There is another level behind the Captain’s tier. There are four chairs mounted there. They have no consoles and are for observers. All the bridge positions had state of the art battle seats. Safety restraints held you secure during violent maneuvering. There was storage for your power suit helmet under the seat. Most important for me and my crew was the inclusion of cup holders for our custom designed coffee cups.
Lola’s crew liked their coffee. The idea of not having a cup while manning your post on a quiet night was unbearable. Nicky Cesarea had designed the cups. They allowed comfortable drinking, insulated your drink, and prevented accidental spills.
On our so-called shakedown cruise, we took two prisoners and needed holding cells. Cells have their own special requirements. Repurposing a closet or storeroom didn’t do the job. We carved a cargo bay to accommodate 4 small cells for future use. If we never use them, we have secure locked storage.
I was trying to clean up the desk in my office, back at Genus. Genus is the company started by Christopher Williams and Nick Cesarea. They brought Julie Horan and me in as Vice Presidents after our run in with the mining conglomeration, Hardcore. Chris and Nick were former military, recruited by General Mauer to set up a security business. On occasion, they acted as the General’s eyes and ears.
Several bandit leaders had joined together to become the Organization. These bandits were stealing and corrupting everything they could. They were turning the fringe into a lawless and dangerous territory. The military didn’t have the resources to pursue.
I needed to get out of the office and get to the shipyard. I had an afternoon meeting at the shipyard with Joel Mot, the owner. After we calmed him down and showed him how great Lola performed thanks to his work he was happy. Once he saw we had plans for further improvements he was thrilled. The General was covering the tab and it was substantial. We were Joel’s best customer and my ship Lola, was his poster child. Joel and his shipwrights were true craftsmen in the old sense of the word. Every little detail was looked after. Every little problem was solved. The
meticulous care they took with Lola was evident wherever you turned. The furniture was beautifully designed and crafted. The machining and engineering were the best you would find anywhere in the galaxy.
Joel was a pleasure to work with. He became as much a member of the Genus family as anyone. In fact, Joel and his wife were meeting Julie and me for dinner later tonight. This reminiscing isn’t getting me there. I called my secretary into the office, “Mary Anne, can you get in here please?”
“I’ll be right there,” was the response shouted from my outer office. She was on the phone with someone. As soon as she hung up she popped in the door. “What’s up boss?”
“I need to get to the shipyard. I have a meeting with Joel and I have all this junk on my desk. Can you help?”
“Sure, anything special here, or just the usual paper shuffle?”
“Usual admin stuff. Can you sort it so I can go through it fast in the morning?”
“No sweat. It will only take me a minute.”
“Hey, how about you and Bill meet us for dinner at Renee’s tonight. It’s going to be Chris, Annette, Julie and me. Oh, and Joel from the shipyard with his wife, Mickey.”
“That would be fun. Sure why not. I’ll let Bill know. How come Nicky isn’t meeting us?”
“He has a new girlfriend and he isn’t ready to introduce us yet, or so he said.”
Mary Anne pushed me out from my desk and said, “Go already. We’ll see you later. About 8 pm?”
“Yes, see you there.”
I grabbed my windbreaker. It had the Genus Logo on the left breast and Lola’s crest on the other. I hustled out the door and out to my vehicle. It’s a fifteen-minute ride to the shipyard in my new autonomous vehicle. I used the time to call Renee at the restaurant. I let him know we would have another two with us for dinner. He said it wouldn’t be a problem and hurried off the call. Renee was busy preparing for the evening’s dinner.
Renee is a classically trained French chef. He’d made his fortune as an executive chef for several famous restaurants and
companies. He saved his money and retired to this little planet called Oakdale. He opened a small restaurant. His hobby is now creating wonderful recipes for his patrons. The restaurant is packed every night and he loves every moment of it. I’m a frustrated chef myself, and Renee has taken me under his wing. One night as the dinner rush was winding down and we had a moment, I watched Renee wipe the sweat from his brow, he smiled at me and summed it up in a few words. “Everyone loved dinner tonight. That’s why I cook.”
Renee’s sister is Annette. She and Chris are crazy in love. At Renee’s restaurant, we’re all family.
I made it to the shipyard and found a parking spot near the office building. Joel wanted to go over some equipment specs with me before we went to the hanger. As I was walking through the office reception area, I heard a voice off in a side room. It was loud and brought back memories from a long time ago. I peeked into the room. The face matched the memories of the voice.
He spotted me peeking in. “Hey, Boss. How are you, Boss? Damn, how long has it been?”
John Sherwood. I hadn’t seen him in at least ten years. “John, it’s good to see you. I knew it had to be you. I was about to tell you to use your inside voice.”
John always got excited talking to people and got loud. He’d worked for me in my old career as a police officer. I was his supervisor for a couple years.
John had gotten fed up with the department and left the police force. I heard he was flying freighters for a company closer to Earth. “John, what brings you way out here?”
“Boss, I recently started hauling cargo for a small company here on Oakdale. I’m going to be hitting some of the smaller outposts and planets. I’m picking up a small cargo ship the company had painted and serviced. What are you doing out here?”
“I’m partner in a company based here on Oakdale. I’m here to check on my ship, Lola. You remember her don’t you?”
“Sure do Boss. That’s great you living here. That means I’ll get to see you once in a while. What are you up to now?”
“I have a meeting with Joel, the owner, to go over some changes I’m having done on
Lola. Here, take my card and give me a call next week. We can go for coffee.”
“That sounds great. I’ll call you. Boss, listen, thanks for sticking by me back then. You were one of the few who didn’t throw me to the wolves when the department went after me.”
“John you didn’t do anything wrong except not shut up. You always came through for me. I appreciated it. You got a raw deal from the department.”
“Well, whatever the reason, I appreciated you staying a friend.” John reached out to shake hands. I took his hand and a shake turned into a quick hug. “Okay, Boss, I’ll call you next week. Take care.”
“You too, John. See you later. Great seeing you.” I meant that. There was something I always liked about John. Maybe it was he his loyalty.
I saw the opportunity to leave and took it. John sat back down and continued talking to the man in the office.
I found Joel in his office. He was reviewing wiring diagrams on a 3D holo-view. I noticed it was for Lola, from the legend on the
lower right side. “Is that the new console wiring harnesses?”
“Oh, hi Jack. Yeah, it is. I was going over it and finalizing the layout. With this and the new coding we installed last week, you’ll have everything you ever wanted on that bridge. You’ll also be able to upgrade and add improvements at any time.”
Joel showed me the design and answered all my questions. We spent the next forty minutes going over the details. It looked great, but what I wanted, was to go out to Lola. I hadn’t been on her in a week and I missed my ship.

Joel saw my gaze wander to the window and the hangers in the distance. “Well, Jack, I see you are no longer here with me. Let’s go see Lola.” He grabbed his keys off his desk and led the way out of his office.
I trotted along with him. We went out the back door to his car. A shipyard is a huge area. Spaceships take lots of space to build and repair. Hangers are far apart. Oakdale was an uncongested planet so land was available. The hanger we had Lola in was four miles to the west. We hoped in his car. It was a sports car imported from Earth. It had a fusion power cell behind the seats which powered the
electric motors in each wheel and could get this two-seater up to 150 miles an hour on the taxiways. I was still buckling my restraints as he sped off. The acceleration pressed me back in my seat. It was an open top and so the wind whipped my face in spite of the windshield. It felt good.

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