Part 5: The Vega Effect (1)

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Based on the following Suggestions:

Names: Scander, Latisha, Ashuria, Scarlet
Times: afternoon/early evening
Places: USO outpost on Vega 12, Unigivla
Objects: Numbers

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Cape Canaveral, FL, USA, Earth, 2173 AD

Colonel Scander Hawke of the United States Space Squadron reported to the loading dock of the Intergalactic Launch Hangar at 1100 hours. He stood ramrod straight and absolutely still as the biometric scanners registered his facial profile, scanned his retina, and verified all of this with the database records. Once inside the gate, Hawke immediately checked on the crew tasked with loading his weapons cache onto the shuttle that would carry him out to the Terraforming Base Station 12, established in the Taurean star system on the planet Vega. The Terraforming Command had not received an adequate progress report as normally required. Coupled with disturbing whispers between ships passing by that planet, the Command saw fit to send someone out to discover the truth of the matter. Of course, that someone would be Corporal Hawke. He was the most reliable soldier on the force by anyone's standard. If there was any trouble, Scander Hawke could take care of it. He stalked up to the bridge to greet the pilot. Seated at the cockpit was a lithe, petite young officer. Her fingers skated over the screen, setting up the flight plan logistics for the upcoming trip. Intergalactic travel required the use of quantum mathematics and physics to account for shifting planets and gravitational pull. There was also proper timing warranted for orbiting moons and comets. Though travel was faster than light, it was not hyper-speed, and this still presented damage risk if the flight path crossed the trajectory of an incoming comet.

The pilot did not take her eyes off her work.

Corporal Hawke planted his boot on the steel grating deliberately and cleared his throat with a loud, "Harumph!"

"Yes, Corporal, I can smell you," the pilot drawled wryly, finally closing the data windows and swiveling to face him. He frowned in confusion at the remark. She smirked at him archly. "The thing about you white-shirts is, you are so full of your own importance and the perfect creases on your dress slacks and the shiny buttons on your uniforms that you never realized the moment when we—the common folk, and the real fighting soldiers—started adding scent threads to those same uniforms. That way, we'd be able to tell from a mile off whether to salute or duck. And at those high-faultin' brass functions, whew!" she whistled, "Ten minutes and we'd all be smelling like the blooming Armada!" She laughed at her own joke.

Corporal Hawke scowled. "What's your name and rank, pilot?" he barked in an attempt to remind her of her place.

It didn't work. She flipped a lazy salute that was more a wave of annoyance than a respectful gesture. "Captain Ashuria of this fine Dragon, Corporal, and you best not be forgetting that! I own the very grate you're standing on right now, whatever the mucketymucks in Washington think they can say about it!"

"If I didn't know any better, Captain, I'd say you weren't being very patriotic just now."

"Patriotic, my spanner!" she snorted. "I built the darn thing from scrap, didn't I?"

Scander shook his head firmly. "I don't care if you welded the whole thing together with your own spit, you might command the ship, but you and every other person on this ship take orders from me, are we clear?"

Ashuria made the casual salute again. "Sure thing, Corporal Hawke. Though," she amended slowly and with a sly grin and a twinkle in her bright-blue eyes, "I'd be careful how I treat my pilot, Corporal, seeing as I am the only way you are getting off this self-important piece of rock!"

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