'How can you not know it? You were on the ship!'
Baron stood in Sykes' cabin, questioning him, his voice full of shock, unbelievable and a bit of anger.
'I was in engine room.' Sykes replied. 'To clear up your mess, remember? I didn't see what happened at dock.'
He pushed Baron aside, continued the search of his closet. He took out a set of training suit, pondering what boots matched it better.
Baron won't let it go.
'I wasn't on the ship for two weeks! You are not aware of it?'
Sykes escaped his eyes. 'I thought you were put in a brig.'
'You are really a terrible friend, Jimmy.' Baron made a quick decision. 'You sign this report, I'll forgive you.' he handed up the pad him holding all the time.
Sykes didn't took it.
'Why don't you ask Doctor?'
Baron didn't answer.
A thought came into Sykes, he burst into laugh. 'He refused? Isn't it? Hahaha… Forget it! Baron, nobody on this ship will vouch for your report.' He decided to choose the silver boots, that looked better. He went back to the bedroom, started to change. 'Why do you bring it up now? It's been a year.'
'One year! One year!' Baron shouted in a sudden indignant. 'You know how many times I woke up at night from that nightmare, wandering in a barren planet, no food, no water, no companion, walking exhaustedly and desperately day and night? I called for help, but nobody answered? You know how many times I thought I was going to die there?'
But Sykes didn't move a little. He asked another question.
'Who told you can file a report on this?'
Sykes stared at him deadly..
'It's Bellarino. Remember her? We met her in Big Challenge.'
Sykes zipped up the suit. 'I'll delete her from my contact list. Why did she told you this?'
'Oh, no, she likes you!' Baron said. 'It's last night, you didn't respond her, so she called me, then we started talking, you know, this and that, somehow we talked about the most horrible planets we have been, and Thales is passing over Yawa now…'
Sykes stood up in shock. 'You told her our destination?'
'Of course not!' Baron denied firmly. 'I just told her I once been on a planet with very high gravity, nothing else.'
Sykes looked at him for a while, sit back pull up the boots, then he walked to the mirror, checking his look.
Baron followed up from behind.
'I assure you HQ would dispense Anderson the minute when they learned what she did, and we don't need to suffer under her tyranny. Jimmy, sign this, I'll take care of the rest!' he put the pad into Sykes' hand, stared at him eagerly.
Sykes pushed the pad back. 'It's only a draft, and I think Commander's doing quite well her job. Have you notice the everything is more organized since she came here? I can't do this, Baron, and honestly I doubt you can find anyone on this ship will vouch for you.'
Sykes was very satisfied on his disappointed face. He chuckling walked towards the door. Baron tailed him tightly.
'You are my best friend, Jimmy! Shouldn't you be a little more supportive?'
'If I make a false testimony, I'll be discharged and maybe sentenced to prison. As a friend, do you want watching me ended up like that?'
He motioned Baron out of his room.
Baron wouldn't listen. He insisted pushing out the pad. 'I promise I'll tell only the truth! You wont find even a little exaggeration in this report!'
'I didn't see. That's the point.'
'They wouldn't know it.'
'I know it!'
The pad was pushed away, and so did the annoying disturber. The door closed behind them.
'Please, Jimmy.' Baron entreated piteously. 'You have no idea what I experienced there. Crashing on the land almost broke my legs, like every breath seemed like exploding my chest, my heart could bounce out any minute, and there's nothing to eat and drink…'
Sykes didn't move a little. Instead of showing proper sympathy, he burst into laugh like he was in tremendous joy.
'Jimmy! That's not funny!' Baron stamped his feet with anger. 'That's a planet with 3 times standard gravity. You don't know my feel! That woman, Anderson, she wanted to kill me!'
Sykes flicked his nose with a finger, corrected him. 'First, it's 2.6 G. Second, you are alive, very well.' He looked up and down him all over, poked his chubby face. 'And trust me, I know the feel. Now get out of my way, I'm late for the date.'
'Why everybody is so cold heart? I'm so miserable!' Baron yelled.
'You miserable? You miserable?' Sykes pulled up his face abruptly, and asked with most sever voice Baron had ever seen. 'Do you know what you brought to us that time?'
Baron fell back before his sudden fury. It sounded like he will sprang up and devour him next minute.
Sykes seemed got pissed by his ignorance. 'You... wait! You don't know?'
Sykes was just about to speak, but something came up to him, he pondered for a while, at last he just said. 'You should be lucky you were not on the ship!'
Then he strode away.
Baron was a tough boy. A little frustration wouldn't stop him. He decided to finish the report anyway, even without no one supported him.
Once he's back sickbay and sat down at his position, the memory flushing back instantly.
Baron had no knowledge of that Yawa planet before, but he could sense something's deferent there even when he was half way the landing.
The accelerating was horrible. The falling speed grew too fast. He had to turn on the reversal to the max. But it didn't help too much, He had no choice but opened the parachute immediately and adjusted it to the wind to slow down. The air roaring bypass, sounded like it would tear off the parachute any minute.
Thankfully the parachute held up to the end.
The crashing onto the land made him blank for quite a while. When he got back to himself, the first thing he did was to curse Anderson, and made up mind he would make her pay for everything!
Then he stood up, and found in miracle he didn't get hurt a little.
Then he started exploring around. It's not totally bare here. The ground was mild, within the view there's no grand mountains, only some uplands and hills. Certain short plants dotted here and there.
Baron cheered out of happiness. Where there's plants, there's water! And there may be animals here, which were excellent course for food. He could survive here!
But the moment he set up and started to run, he found something changed inside. His body became heavy, his head fell dizzy. Baron realized now what's different here now. This planet was with abnormal high gravity, higher than any planet he had ever been before, and he's suffering from it.
He slowed down the pace, but it didn't help much. His heart beat hardly, his body temperature went up quickly. Soon sweat poring out from every skin pore. When he used all his strength and finally got to those plants, the feeling of thirsty was so overwhelming he couldn't think properly.
The plant was too dry to satisfy him, and to rough to swallow. He spit out the leaves, dug down to the roots. The roots tasted better, but there's not much water either.
Those plants were given up quickly. Baron looked up around, decided go to the lower place. There's more chance to find water there, and food, if possible.
Soon he admitted he underestimated the effect of gravity. His heart almost bounced out of his chest, his limbs numbed. His head blank. The only thought left was walk. Walk, walk, he mustn't stop! If he stopped, he could die here!
He staggered on and on and on until he couldn't support himself anymore. He fell to the ground.
He couldn't stop! Baron cried in mind. He had to back to Thales, and revenge!
The anger drew some strength back to him. Baron pulled up, started to crawl.
He had never been so embarrassing and hopeless. Tears started in his eyes…
'You still writing it?' Sulik's sudden voice startled him.
'Doctor? When did you come back?'
'For a while.' Sulik walked over him. 'Jimmy told me he refused to testify for you.'
There's never been secrets on this ship. Baron made a face secretly.
'And he told me…' Sulik went on. 'I should monitor your contact with outside from now.'
Baron jumped up. 'What?! Why?'
'to prevent you from sharing our confidential information all around.'
For a moment Baron had a intention to explain, but instantly he realized it's not about what he said to others, it's more of the punishment for his report, especially when he saw Sulik's serious look.
'I cant believe it!' he sat back despondently. 'Where's your consciousness and dignity? I was the brutally treated, nobody cares, and now you want deprive my only fun!'
Sulik didn't give much sympathy to his dismay. ' I told you, Baron, whatever you experienced on Yawa, you deserved it. I suggest you start to study right now, remember Captain will give you a test this afternoon, before we arrived Ocamo.' Then he went back to his work.
Baron pounded gloomily. But since Sulik's back, maybe it's good time to ask out the question bothering him the whole morning.
'Doctor, can I ask a question?'
'What?' Sulik answered mindlessly.
'How did you deliver the supplies to Ocamo last year...without the anti gravity array?'
Sulik was a little surprised by his question. 'You mean after you destroy the amplifier, the key part of the array?'
'So, something happened. What?''
'I thought you already knew. You've searched the ship all over.'
'I read the ship log. It said you carried out the mission, nothing else. I thought you repair the array.'
'Nobody can repair a anti gravity array without the amplifier, especially in that short time.'
'But you did land on Ocamo, that planet with 60 times standard gravity. How did you make it?'
Sulik stopped working, thinking of something. 'Well, not exactly landed.'
Something did happened, Baron realized, terrible things. And that explained everyone's attitude on him.
Sulik pondered for a while. He looked at baron for a long time, and made a determination at last. He motioned Baron sit near to him.
'I think it's the right time to tell you the whole thing. You've grown up a lot, you are now able to understand the severity of the trouble you triggered, then I hope you should learn to appreciate the kindness Captain and Commander let you keep stay here, and how childish and unreasonable you file the report .'
Baron listened quietly.
'No doubt you already know our mission this time, as the same last year, to deliver regular supplies to the research institute on Ocamo. Ocamo is very unique planet, it has aggressively high gravity—60 times standard. Even with anti-gravity array, it's still very difficult to land on it, without the array, we couldn't even dare to get close. After you destroyed the amplifier…'
'It's an accident.' Baron interrupted.
'It doesn't help.' Sulik replied severely. 'First, So hard landing is out of consideration, Sullivan has no confidence he can pilot the ship safely down, we might crash. Not to mention the 60 G would definitely kill all of livings inside.' He stopped, took a deep sigh. 'At first we thought clear off the ship, then tried reverse landing, to use the push power to offset the gravity, but it's abandoned too. After calculating, turned out the hull of ship is too old to stand the high density air in atmosphere, it would crack the ship, besides there's a problem to return, our engine is not strong enough to escape the gravity. So we must bring out other measures, and quickly. After a good time of discuss and dispute, finally we have a solution, even though it would cost us a lot, but it sounded feasible.'
Suik fell into a sudden silence.
'What is it?' Baron asked curiously.
'You don't know?' Sulik asked back teasingly. 'You always say you're the smartest on this ship, you should figure it out now.'
An idea popped out. But it's so whimsical Baron couldn't believe they really carried it out.
'Noway…' he muttered hesitantly. ' You made this ship a satellite?' Sulik nodded. 'Yes, to use centrifuge forcer to offset the gravity. We rotate around Ocamo from distance, then gradually cut into the lower orbit.'
'It should work, but you still need suffer high gravity in the accelerating..'
'We endured 8 hours 4G.'
Baron gasped, the horrible memory poring back.
Baron made a face.
'But I didn't see you any difference when I came back.'
'The suits has protections, but it only worked on main cardio system. 1/3 crews suffer from Gravitropism. You should see the sickbay that time. Nearly all of us experienced deferent levels angiotelectasis and brain damage.'
Regret and guilt almost buried Baron. But question rose up quickly.
'Why so rush? You can go back to repair station replace a new amplifier.'
'Because Ocamo's energy system corrupted down just at the moment, they need the fuel cores in the supply to relit their energy.'
McCain interrupted abruptly. Sulik and Baron were both startled.
McCain strode in. 'Without energy, the institute can't resist the gravity, people inside may die in minutes. That's why we cant wait. Besides, Thales has a reputation, we never failed a mission before, we would never will. ' She turned to Sulik suddenly. 'Doctor, I remember Captain forbid anyone talking about that accident.'
Well you talked a lot your self. Baron said in mind. But he daren't refute her.
Sulik replied calmly. 'Captain's order is keep it within this ship. We won't let anyone else outside know it, right? Baron?'
Baron nodded heavily. McCain rolled up her eyes up into sky.
'May I ask for what reason you gave your presence to my humble sickbay?' Sulik asked in a exaggeratedly polite way.
McCain remembered why she came here. 'Oh, yes, Jimmy broke his leg in defense training. I don't know why, he refused me carrying him here. You better go quickly, his scream almost deafened me.'
Without a word, Sulik grabbed up his medical case, run out quickly.
McCain didn't follow him back, but turned to Baron, and gave him a big, creepy smile.
A bad feeling came to Baron, he made up mind not react to her no matter what happened.
McCain walked to him slowly, sit at Sulik's chair.
'I heard you want report Anderson.'
Jimmy big mouth! Baron scolded in mind.
McCain chuckled at his embarrassing look, then snatched the pad abruptly. 'Is it? Let me see it.'
McCain took a quick glance. 'Wow, you are serious.' She shook head and said, 'Sadly Doctor and Jimmy wouldn't vouch for you.' Then threw it back. 'Finish it! I will be your witness.'
Baron was surprised. 'Really? why?...wait! you want me to challenge Anderson, so you can rip profit from our conflict.'
'It's called mutual help.' McCain crossed arms.
'When did you ever help me?' Baron muttered scornfully.
'I'm helping you now.' McCain pointed to the pad. 'I dare say you don't even know to which department you should send this report.'
McCain rolled her eyes again. 'Military court deal with those violation of disciplines. Anderson did nothing wrong in that situation, she eliminated potential unstable elements and found a way to complete the mission. The Child Secure Committee is the right place your should go. You're a minor, but Anderson left you in danger environment, which is definitely negligence of your security and violating your right, could cause mental trauma.'
But Baron just stared at the pad, seemed like confusing about something.
'I'm thinking…' He pondered to say. 'Doctor just told me the whole thing, I made a big trouble to all of you, maybe I shouldn't…
'Nonsense!' McCain berated him. 'You should be punished. But what Anderson had done is overreacted. That's why your report should focus on the inhumanity and brutality you experienced. Remember how she kicked you off the ship, treat you like a garbage, left you alone on a barren planet without back up, struggled to survive...'
'What would you do?' Baron asked suddenly.
'I'l leave some food to you.' McCain replied without hesitation.
Baron made a face.
'Remember, it's your right to protest any mistreat on you. landing from 20,000 kilometers high, you might smash into meat pie.'
'She gave me landing gear before kicking me out.'
'Leaving you nothing to live on?'
'I found a way to survive.'
'Left you hopelessly struggling alone? '
The horrible memory flushed back again. 'That's …but I'm sure Captain won't let me die there. Speaking of it, you are not so innocent, where're you when she did all these?'
'I spoke for you, she didn't listen.'
Baron was quite doubtful of her words.
'I did!' McCain explained. 'I said, 'At least drop him on a friendly planet.' but Anderson wouldn't bother to consider. 'There's no such planet nearby. We don't have time finding a pleasant home for him! Hope this little vocation can gave him a lesson.' Then I reminded her Yawa is a planet with 3 times standard gravity, it's hard to live on it. And you are only a child, put you in brig is enough. She still wouldn't listen. 'Relax,' she said, 'we will be back in two days, he will survive. Burgans are tough species.' And that's the last word she said to me.'
Baron didn't buy it.
'You just like provoking her, you are arguing everyday. If you really care about me, why didn't go take me back at once?'
'She's the Commander, whether I like her or not, she's my supervisor, I can't disobey her order. And at that moment Ocamo's emergent call for help came to us, Captain asked everyone back to position immediately.'
Baron was relieved a little.
'So how did you send those supplies to Ocamo without landing on it'
'Captain asked to deliver the supplies as soon as we got into low orbit. Obviously everyone think it's quite easy to throw off them from 300 km high, and not damage a little in a 60 G environment .'
'Can't Ocamo send out shuttles to you?'
'All their energy source had been moved to the central energy system, which was supporting their life system and anti-gravity array. They couldn't send out any shuttles or vehicles, or any person. They would die once they step our the institute.'
'Transfer those cores down?'
McCain explained. 'Transfer is abandoned for delicate devices. Because basically transfer is a recomposing process, which is not 100% accurate. It's easy be effected by magnetic field and gravity field. It could change the structure of the material, therefore inferior the function. It happened before.' she went on. 'Anyway we started working on it since we got our order. The point is to slow down the speed to zero when supplies just reached the land, and right onto the entrance of the institute. At first I tried using shuttle, set it on auto drive, reverse the push. But it's not fast enough to resist the gravity, and it's shell too fragile for thick air. Then we emptied some torpedoes, stuffed inside with the deliveries, dump it out, then change the reversed the direction half way, fire it towards the space. it worked.'
'You mean aim at this ship? Couldn't it blow off all of you if any mistake occurred?'
'Yes, but tell you the truth, none of us could think clearly. We were all in a little dizzy from cerebral anoxia. Luckily that didn't happen. We made five, four landed successfully.'
The sickbay fell into silence. After long Baron said.
'I'm sorry, Lietneant. And I'll do anything to amend what I did.'
McCain raised an eyebrow. 'If you say so, that's easy! File the report, I'll forgive tou.'
'But after your story, it makes me even more wrong to do this…'
McCain just ignored it. She stood up. 'Come to me after you complete it. And remember enlighten the part how her brutal punishment gave you severe mental trauma and left scars in your heart that will never heal.'
'Yes, you did!' McCain emphasized severely. 'Finish the report, or I will kick you to Yawa myself this time. We're just passing over it.'
Said that, McCain strode away like a queen.
Baron looked at the pad and took a deep sigh. He really had no idea now. Should he continue while being a ungrateful jerk, or keep silence and swallow all the grievance down?
He took another sigh when his stomach started rumbling. It's lunch time, the whole morning's work was of nothing. He threw the pad away, decided to feed himself first.
To be continued.