September 27, 2010

Assignment to Earth Chapter Twenty-six

Deep in conversation with Ensign Hekekia, Skylar was surprised the summons to see the Commander had come so promptly. Extracting a favor from Hekekia to look after Glen for him, he collected Jenna from the other end of the room and they headed for the Commander's office. The planning session was short and intensive. The tactics were quickly laid in place for the total destruction of the Klodfon base below them on Earth. The Cavaliers involved in the assault were gathered and briefed. Skylar was placed in command of the expedition only because the message from Terradia had ordered it. He guessed from the increased animosity in Tyson's manner, the assignment was not his choice. Skylar wondered what offenses he’d committed to gain this much ill will when he didn’t remember ever meeting this commander. He promised himself he’d pursue the matter when he returned from this assignment, though, and let the feeling go for now. He made sure to observe all the niceties, including the final salute before leaving the commander’s presence. He didn’t want anyone pointing fingers at him again regarding a lack of proper protocol.
* * * * *
Freshly showered and in a clean, borrowed uniform, Skylar stood near the shuttle, mini-computer in hand. Several hangar crew members bustled around, fueling and inspecting the shuttle to make sure it was ready to go. Nearly everything was set. As he glanced around the hangar area, he noticed Glen striding across the deck, solemn purpose displayed in every step. Ensign Hekekia trailed in his wake, protesting, "You can't bother him now, he's busy!" Skylar knew Glen intended to insist on going, probably using the same argument he’d used on Earth…that it was his planet and therefore his responsibility to help defend it against all alien intruders. He bit his inner cheek to keep from smiling. He’d have done much the same were the tables reversed. He couldn’t let Glen go back into the Klodfon base, even had he wanted to. It was not only for his own safety, although that was a large share of it, but because his orders expressly forbid it—which might just give him some leverage for the coming argument. A hangar crewman came up to the shuttle, pushing a cart with several boxes on it. "Where do you want this avridime, Captain?" "Just put it in the shuttle, the teams will divide it later. We'll be carrying it in our packs." The crewman unloaded the boxes from his cart and took them into the shuttle as Glen and Hekekia arrived. "Skylar, I tried to keep him in the Rec Hall, but he insisted on finding you and I couldn't stop him,” Hekekia explained, breathless. “It’s all right, he can be pretty stubborn when the mood takes him,” Skylar answered. "What's avridime?" Glen asked. "A high-powered explosive." Skylar kept his answer short and focused most of his attention on the computer he held, checking the avridime off his list. “We’re getting ready for a mission, and I don’t have time right now to argue with you. I’ll join you when I return.” "You're going down to wipe out that base, aren't you?" His voice was accusing. "Yes.” Skylar looked up, meeting Glen’s gaze. “And no, you're not coming. Commander Tyson’s orders are for you to wait on the Charys until we get back. You used to be in the military, so I’m sure you understand the importance of obeying orders. Hekekia will look after you while we're gone." There was a finality in his voice and look that could not be mistaken nor argued with. A long moment passed, then Glen snorted in disgust. “I don't need a baby sitter!" Skylar took a deep breath. "He’s not so much a baby sitter as a tour guide, Glen. He knows his way around. He'll answer any questions you have and keep you from being picked up by security. Think about it; when will you get another opportunity to be on a Dragonstar? Check it out. Don't give Hekekia any trouble. Please.” Glen quietly, answered, “I'd like to be with you on this one. I was in on the beginning and I want to see it through. And it is, after all, my home…my planet." Skylar shook his head. "I know. It just isn't possible, Glen. I'm sorry." He paused, then continued. “I don’t have any latitude in the orders I was given for this mission.” Glen nodded, his lips in a tight line. "All right." Skylar placed his hand on Glen's shoulder, a smile of thanks curving his lips. "We won't be long." Glen looked at Ensign Hekekia with mock severity. "Where do you hide your food, man? I'm starving." "Right this way." Hekekia grinned and was quick to remove Glen from the hangar deck. Skylar watched them go with relief and ducked inside the shuttle to make sure each team would have the avridime they needed. Within a short time, the teams had assembled, and they were ready to launch.