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Chapter Twenty One – “Ding-Dong! Avon Calling!”

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“Chief Engineer Pence, we’ve got a call coming in from The Spock. Shall I put her on the big screen?”


“That’s right, you know how they rotate positions every two weeks.”

“Of course. Put her on. Perhaps they’ve contacted the Vulcans” he says with a sly smile. A quiet snickering from the staff echos through the command module.

A slight, dark-haired woman sitting in the Trek Deck command chair comes into view. “Chief Engineer, I call bringing news.”

“Oh? You’ve generated that warp signature?

“You get that black mold cleaned out of your air ducts?”

Pence shifts impatiently in his seat. Tersely, “What do you want, Spock?”

“You’re not going to believe this.” Serious face, she leans forward. “We’re being hailed by someone in orbit. A ship from Earth.”

Eyebrows up. “No shit?”

“No shit.”

“Well, I’ll be dipped and rolled in cracker crumbs!” He smacks his armrest. “What are you waiting for, put them on!” The Spock gives a nod to someone off-screen. Her video image minimizes to the right bottom corner and a man with a dimpled chin, blue eyes and a serious crew-cut fills the screen.

He looks over his shoulder. “Hey, is this thing on? Oh. Okay, right.” He looks forward again. “People of Mars, your attention please!” From behind him can be heard, “Hey, I was going to say that.” An annoyed look from the crew cut and he begins again. “Bradbury Base, this is Mars Expeditionary Force 2, commanded by Lt. John Grader of the Space Marines. Request permission to land.”

Pence is all confused smiles. “Wow, are we glad to see you. Chief Engineer Pence here. I assume you’ve already met The Spock. Do you have any idea how long we’ve been out of touch with Earth?”

“Yes, yes I do. We’re aware that things have been… complicated at the colony. We’ve been sent on a specific mission which I’d like to speak with you personally about. You’ve got pad space available for a standard three-person lander?”

“Hasn’t been used much lately, but yes.”

“The Spock here. Uhura, send him the coordinates.”

There’s some mumbled off-screen communication between people in orbit. “Very good, we estimate two hours until set-down at your location. We’ll see you shortly. Over and out.”

With that Lt. Grader curtly cuts the transmission leaving The Spock on the screen. She breaks character for a moment. “Cheezus, where’d they find someone who looks so much like Buzz Lightyear?

Pence leans back and fidgets a bit. “Well, Spock. What do you make of that?”

She leans forward, strokes her chin. “Curious, indeed. I find myself surprised that conversation was so short.”

“Certainly makes one wonder what he’s not telling us. ‘Space Marines’? What’s up with that? We’ve got two hours to prepare, do you think you can roll over here in time?”

“The weather looks clear, I’m on my way. My scientific curiosity is piqued. Should we alert the other factions?”

Pence takes a slow look around the command module. He sees a lot of slow “no” head shakes from the crew. “I think not yet. If they’re paying attention they’ll know. If they’re not paying attention then that leaves us in the catbird seat. That’s a seat I like.”

“Very good, see you shortly. Spock out.”

Pence pounds the armrests again. “So, we’ll see. Someone scare up a mission photographer! One way or another, we’re about to make history, again!”

Onward to Chapter Twenty Two