Raymond and the Space Pirates by rickking ()
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0724.2112 TIME: 2220
FROM: SS SOVEREIGN OF THE SKY PASSENGER- RAYMOND RODRIGUEZ
TO: BENJIMIN AND RONALD KING –CLEVELAND OHIO
…Hi Ben and Ronald, bet you didn’t think you’d ever hear from me again. It’s your Cousin Ray here and I am transmitting this to you from somewhere in the middle of the asteroid belt. It has only been a little more than two and a half months since I last saw you guys, but finally they have allowed me to have the access code to the transmission app on my computer, so I can now send you updates on our move to Europa.
You guys should see this ship! It is really big! It is called the Sovereign of the Sky and it has just about everything you can imagine onboard. I love the I.A.V.R. (Immersive Augmented Virtual Reality) units here. Just yesterday I was playing the part of an old time pirate captain with my own ship and everything! Becky even got sea sick! It was very different from the pirates of today, who prey on the merchant ships and other private vessels out here in space, especially in the Jupiter system. My dad tells me that we are safe though, since this is a passenger spaceliner and it’s so large and there are so many people onboard. No pirate would ever dare attack us!
We left from Luna on June 12. It was pretty cool to leave Armstrong City and go to Shepard Station in orbit. Remember the last time you guys were here and we had thought about how cool it would be to go there? It was big and a little disorienting considering how most of the station did not use gravplates like more modern stations and spacecraft do now days. It was just like a giant wheel, spinning slowly in space. On the habitat levels, we walked on the inside of the outer wall, with our heads toward the center of the wheel. In the center was the docking structure.
It felt funny because the floor in the main passageways kept going up, but you never reached the end. On level A, there were skylights in the ceiling where you could see clear across to the other side of the station. It seemed as if the people on the opposite side of the station there were walking on the ceiling. If you looked out the side windows, you could see the surface of the moon. But it looked like it was slowly going around in circles while we, onboard the space station seemed to be standing still! On the opposite side of the station, you know the side facing towards the Earth; the same effect was experienced- only this time it was the Earth that was slowly spinning around in a wide circle.
All in all though, it was fun to see all of the people going to and fro from the colonies and stations around Mars, Jupiter and the Belt. There was even one ship that had come from Titian, you know, one of the moons of Saturn. Most of the travelers though, were headed to the Jupiter system, just like us.
Sovereign of the Sky was docked on the lower (moonside) platform of the station. As we approached the passenger’s docking port, I was a little scared at just how big she truly was. (For some reason ships, especially large ships are always called she. I don’t know why it couldn’t be called a he.) We could see her through the glass enclosed concourse. The robot carrier followed us right up to the boarding gate where there was a long line. Becky and I sat in an opened space among our luggage while mom and dad stood in the line. Needless to say it was really boring. That is, until a man walked up to us.
“Excuse me, Commander Rodriguez?” the man said. He wore the official uniform of the employees on the mighty spaceship.
“Yes” dad replied.
“I am your personal steward sir. My name is Craig Porter and I have been instructed to bring you and your family directly onboard the ship. Your suite is waiting for you.” Craig said as he held out his arm and indicated which way we were to go. All eyes were on us as we followed him through a side door marked “Do Not Enter- VIP‘s only”. My dad explained because of his new assignment as Clarke Station’s second in command, he was considered a VIP (Very Important Person). I guess it is good to have a father who is very important, since it saved all of us from standing in that long line.
Craig turned out to be a real cool guy. In his early 20’s and of African American decent, he told my dad that he was taking a year off from his studies at Lunar University- Armstrong on Luna to travel and see the solar system, or what he can see of it while working for the Sovereign Interplanetary Cruise Lines. His quarters were right next to ours and his job was to be our personal attendant for the entire voyage. My dad told me that he was primarily going to be looking out for Becky and me. In other words, he was to be our babysitter! Can you guys believe that? I am all of fourteen and Becky is going on eleven years old and we are stuck with a babysitter! To make things worse, Craig was also our tutor. Unlike you guys in Cleveland, we are stuck with school all year long with only three weeks between each semester to chill out. It’s not fair! We are space heroes, off to the Jupiter system in search of high adventure!
After a brief stop at customs, we were escorted onto the gangway that led to the main receiving area of the ship. Our luggage was taken directly to our suite and then unpacked for us as we enjoyed a delicious lunch at one of the ships many restaurants. By the time we got to our rooms, the only thing left untouched was our suitcases which were marked personal. All of the rest of our belongings had been shipped weeks ago on a freighter bound for our new home on Europa.
In all, we have a total of five rooms in our suite, including the bathroom. As one walked into our quarters, immediately in front of you is a large pane of glass which allowed us to see what was happening outside the ship. To the left is the door leading to the master bedroom. On the right is a small kitchenette with a small walkway leading to two smaller bedrooms, obviously one is mine and the other is Becky’s. Each of the bedrooms has a window.
The main room is by far the largest and has the largest window. It has a large old -fashioned computer screen complete with a keyboard pad recessed into the coffee table in front of the couch. There also is a more modern holo-monitor that featured a conventional verbal interface. The A.I. is named Bob and its voice has a distinct electronic tone, a feature the designer implemented to keep the computer from sounding too human I guess. We also have our own wrist computers of course, which connects to Bob. In fact, I am using mine right now to speak to you.
It barley registered with me that we had left the station two hours later. I felt no engine vibrations or inertia effects as the spaceship accelerated on its course to Jupiter. My father pointed Jupiter out to me through the large window in our quarters. It seemed that we were headed away from it at an angle, but he said that it only looks like that. In reality we are traveling towards Jupiter following a course that will allow us to reach the Jovian System in only nine E-weeks (that’s Earth weeks).
There is something like one thousand passengers onboard the Sovereign of the Sky. Nearly half of them will be living or visiting Clarke Station. The rest will be going on to one of the other domes on Europa or to one of the other dozens of worlds that orbit Jupiter.
As of this moment, we are navigating through the asteroid belt. It’s kinda cool to look out the windows in our suite and actually have something to see. Most of the time there is nothing but the darkness of space. As we were crossing the orbit of Mars a couple of weeks ago, I thought for a moment that we would get to see the planet, but as my mother informed me, it was on the other side of the solar system at the moment. Oh well…
We settled down to a pretty standard routine. In the mornings, Becky and I have our studies with Craig. He is not a bad teacher as teachers go. He seems to really know his subject material and has a talent for making us understand the various concepts, especially in math. He doesn’t let us slack off either. But there is a part of him that is also mysterious. I don’t know what it is, but I have a bad feeling about him.
In the afternoon, we have some free time. There are many different amusement centers onboard. Some of them show holofilms, while others are set up for virtual tag games or role playing like the one about pirates. There are even museums and libraries and my favorite, art galleries. Just about anything you could possibly want to do can be found here. Mom says that some people take these trips just for fun- like a vacation. But of course those people are pretty wealthy. Most of the passengers are like us- just traveling to get somewhere.
Mom and dad have meetings that they attend during the day mostly with other Space Force officers onboard. My father, being the incoming First Officer on Clarke Station was kept quite busy. Normally, we would have traveled on a military transport ship, but none would be available for a few months and Space Force HQ wanted him on Europa ASAP. I guess that they also felt my father and his family deserved a vacation, which is fine by me.
The food of course is great! Though we have a basic kitchenette in our suite, Becky and I prefer to eat at one of the many restaurants or fast food spots onboard. We have a McD’s, Ken’s and Burger King on the strip. Mostly we ate at McD’s every day for lunch. Mom and dad of course like the other more fancy restaurants where they served steaks and lobster and such. Dinner was always served at 1800 hours every night in our suite. My mother insisted that we would share this one meal together. Most evening’s Craig will eat with us. But sometimes he would eat by himself.
At least twice a week we would all get together after dinner for a family activity, like we did tonight. We watched a Cleveland Indians baseball game broadcast almost live from Earth! Though it was delayed by a few hours we still had a great time at the holo center. At least a couple hundred folks were there. The way the theater is set up, it feels like we are actually there at the ballpark, sitting in our own section! Ron you would love it! We won 6 to 3 against the Detroit Tigers. The Indians are my favorite team; that is, after the Luna Legends. Of course they are in a different league since the gravity on the moon is somewhat less than on the Earth, even with gravplates.
Well, I hope you guys are doing well. Mom just popped her head in and told me I needed to get some sleep so I guess I will sign off now. I will squirt another transmission to you in a few days. Till then from the far side of the asteroid belt, so long…
Hey guys. This might not be a very long transmission. At 0530 I was awaken out of a sound sleep by a noise. Not just a noise, but a very LOUD noise. I went out into the main room of our quarters to investigate. But nothing looked to be out of place. Becky, who also heard the noise, joined me a moment later. We knocked on our parents closed door, and received no answer.
“Maybe they are still sleep.” Becky said.
“Are you kidding?” I replied. “We’re talking about dad here. He wakes up if a pin falls to the floor.” It’s true; our father is a very light sleeper. I think it’s from being in the military. Mom on the other hand could sleep through a thermal nuclear explosion.
We opened the door and discovered that the room was empty. In fact, the bed didn’t look like it had even been slept in.
“Bob?” I said to the computer, “Where are our parents?”
The computer instantly lit up its interface. “Good morning Master Raymond. To answer your question, I do not know.”
“Where is Craig?” Becky asked.
“I am afraid I do not have an answer for you either, Ms. Rebecca.” The computer said.
“What time did they go to sleep last night?”
“I am afraid I do not know, Raymond. Would you like for me to start your morning shower now?” The computer said in its non-emotional tone of voice.
Suddenly a cold chill ran down my spine and Becky’s hand griped my arm.
“No thank you Bob. Can you at least tell us what that noise was that we heard?”
“There is a pair of maintenance workers working on a conduit not far from these quarters on the next deck. Perhaps you heard a noise that was transmitted through the conduit?” the computer replied.
Becky and I looked at each other. Not sure of what it was, we both felt that something was amiss. For one thing our folks wouldn’t just up and leave without telling us. And second, that would not explain Craig’s disappearance. No- something was up and we needed to find out what.
“Becky, go and get changed.” I said as I started for my room. I changed into the clothes that I wore last night at the ball game, and then came out into the front room again. A few minutes later Becky came out from her room. After a brief stop to use the bathroom for each of us, we went out into the corridor and checked Craig’s room.
As we expected, we found no response to our knocks at his door. In fact, for the next half an hour we did not see anyone at all. It was very eerie. I even tried to call the bridge and the other stewards and staff. No one responded to our calls. Becky thought of the idea to check the strip. McD’s and all of the other stores were empty also.
Eventually we ran into Sammy, Amie, Joseph, and Tammy and a good two dozen other kids who like us, had been wandering about the ship, at least the parts that was accessible to us. We were all teenagers between 10 and 15 years old and there were no adults in sight. We all gathered at McD’s to compare our stories.
“Did you guys see any adults?” Amie asked.
No one had seen anyone.
“What could have happened to them?” Joseph asked. “It is not like everyone could have just jumped overboard or something… I mean we are in space traveling at a gazillion kilometer’s a second! They have got to be on the ship somewhere.”
“Or at least their bodies!” Sammy chimed in.
At that, Tammy and Becky started to cry.
Amie comforted the girls even while scolding Sammy. “Shame on you Sammy! There is no need to start talking like that!” Amie was among the oldest at 15.
“She is right.” I said. “They must still be onboard. Did anyone try the crew decks?” If I hadn’t said this before, I will tell you now. There are certain decks of this nearly kilometer long ship that passengers are not allowed. Those are the crew decks. They contained things like the engine room, cargo and storage rooms and the bridge. The crew quarters were of course located on the crew decks as well.
Jacob, a boy who was twelve years old said that he tried to get to one of the other decks but found the hatch was locked. A couple of other nodded in agreement; they too had found the doors locked. Normally those doors were never locked; in fact- some did not even have locks on them.
Kids kept finding their way to the Strip. By this time there were somewhere around 200, all of us sitting on the artificial grass that ran the length of the Strip. Above our heads was a glass roof though which we can see the stars and anything else outside the ship.
Sara, a small girl of about ten raised her hand.
“Yes,” I said to her.
In a barely audible voice the shy little girl said “I lost Mommy and Daddy and my little sisters, Kelly and Dawn.” I could tell that she had been crying. One of the other older girls put her arm around her as the tear factory began to warm up again.
“You mean that it’s not just the grownups that are missing?” I asked the crowd.
A few heads nodded.
“Yeah,” some kid said from in back. “It seems that only the kids who are under nine or ten are missing along with the adults!”
Because Becky was almost eleven and was obviously not taken, I hadn’t noticed. This was certainly another layer to the mystery. I can’t think of reason why only the young teenagers would be left by themselves. All of us were scared and hungry.
“Hey guys,” I said looking at the clock suspended from the glass ceiling. It said 0920. “Why don’t we all go over to Ken’s Cafeteria? I think it would be able to seat all of us and better still, there is a cereal bar there so we can have breakfast and think about what we are gonna do.”
After we all ate some cereal, we talked more about the situation.
“I recommend that we just sit here and wait for them to come back!” Tommy said.
“And if they don’t?” Sonja shot back.
“Well what are we supposed to do? We’re just kids!”
“Well I’m not just gonna sit here and wait! I am gonna go and find my momma! She is all that I have and I am not gonna lose her!” Sonja’s angry voice boomed throughout the room as she stood up.
“Wait a minute!” I said trying to keep the peace.” We don’t know what is happening and we are not going to jump to conclusions!”
Sara, who had been sitting near me and Becky while we ate, tugged at my sleeve.
“I think they are on another deck.” She whispered into my ear.
“And why is that?”
“Because I saw a bunch of people going down the stairs near my quarter’s last night.” the little girl said.
‘Why didn’t you say something before?” I asked her.
She whispered to me, “I sleepwalk. Last night I was just waking up and I was in the corridor outside and looked and saw them, marching to a stairwell! Honest! But I thought it might have been a dream so I went back inside and got back in to bed.”
“Did anyone else see anything strange last night?”
David put his hand up, “I thought I heard someone talking about shooting someone if they resisted as they went past my door. I thought they were talking about a I.A.V.R. game. I didn’t think anything of it at the time.”
“Well we ain’t gonna find out anything sitting here. Let’s go and break down the doors to the crew decks, maybe we can even find the bridge. I am sure we will get some answers there.” Bill said.
“HOLD IT!” Both Amie and I said together, our voices almost lost in the choruses of “Yeah!” and “Let’s Do It!”.
“We aren’t all gonna go barging down to the crew decks like a pack of wild animals! It makes better sense for us to send a small team to do this-maybe two teams.” I said.
I guess Amie was on the same wave length as I was because she said, “I think that we should divide up into two groups of four. One tries to get to the bridge in the bow of the ship, the other head towards engineering near the stern. And we should keep in contact.”
“How are we gonna keep in contact? Does anyone have a pair of walkie-talkies?” someone asked.
“We have our wrist computers.” I said.
So we broke up into two groups. I led the first group headed for the bridge and Amie headed the other. At the moment we are searching for an axe or a hammer or something to help us get through the steel doors that bar our way.