“I’m sorry, sir,” said a voice from the communications array, “I’m not allowed to grant you clearance for take-off without a properly filed pilot’s license.”
“But I have a pilot’s license!” Jack growled trying to keep his cool and knowing that, if he didn’t, the operator at the other end of the conversation could, conceivably, have his license suspended permanently. No more chance for adventure. The Wavemistress would have to be sold and he’d have to go crawling back to Dane for a job again. “It’s supposed to have been filed by the school last month.”
“I’m sorry, sir,” the stranger replied in that irritatingly calm voice, “If I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.”
“Excuse me,” Cim interjected, suddenly appearing in the console room next to Jack, “May I request your name and operator number, please?”
“It’s Rylan Beck,” the stranger replied sounding confused, “operator number 1-2-5-0 golf delta 4-9 echo.”
A screen lit up before Jack’s eyes and the information Cim had just procured appeared on it along with a picture and a service record. Rylan Beck, operator number 1250GD49E, had just started the job two weeks ago, was a graduate of Watersmith Space Academy, and already had a warning on his record for delaying flights unnecessarily. Cim’s smile of triumph was almost as big as Jack’s own. Jack even remembered him. Rylan Beck was one of those rich boys who had bragged that he could get his pilot’s license without studying or practicing. Apparently the academy and the licensing bureau hadn’t agreed with him.
“Mr. Beck,” Cim replied in a firm tone, “I suggest you check your screen again. My records clearly state that Jack Leight’s pilot’s license was duely filed last month following his graduation and that his credentials have been properly reviewed and checked. He should be cleared to fly. If I inform your superior about this hold-up…” Cim’s smile became broader and her eyes narrowed to slits as she spoke, “you’ll be out of a job.”
“Who is this?” Beck replied, sounding more than a little angry.
“Never mind that,” Jack commanded, stepping in. “Just recheck your screen and clear us for take-off. We have a cargo that we’re anxious to deliver.”
There was about a minute’s silence as Beck appeared to be digesting this.
“Captain Leight,” Beck’s voice declared, sounding firm, if a bit sullen, “your information checks out. You are clear for take-off. I am transferring you to the tower. Indicate to them when you have completed your pre-flight checklist.” The communication was then cut off. Cim smiled as Jack laughed in relief.
“I should have known it’d be that guy,” Jack chuckled, leaning back in his chair. “Just after New Years, I heard his mother tell him he wouldn’t get a cent from her if he didn’t get his grades up. There was a lot of scrambling around after that. What made you decide to be so short with him?”
“It’s my first take-off,” Cim frowned, hugging herself. “I guess I’m nervous. Also, I think something in the hold must not be fastened down properly because it itches back there.”
Jack smiled in understanding. “Why don’t you run the pre-flight checklist while I go aft and recheck the cargo.”
“Thank you,” Cim replied. “It would be exceedingly strange if, after all this, I’ve contracted mice or something similar in my cargo-bay. Would you take the IR scanner and check that, too?” A panel slid back to reveal a number of tools, neatly arranged and labeled. Jack took the hand-held infrared scanner and walked down the hall past his quarters to the door that led to the spacious hold.
The cargo-bay was the biggest room the Wavemistress had. It could easily have held all the rest of the rooms in the ship and still had room for more. Currently packed inside it and strapped down with flight webbing, were a number of crates bound for the crew and their families at Luna Base on the moon. It was mostly parts and food, but there were a few items included in the manifest that could be considered distinctly frivolous. Jack did his best not to judge, but who needed a black negligee on a moon base? Cim had suggested that the person who ordered the piece was probably married and Jack hadn’t wanted to burst her innocent bubble. After all, technically, she was Ben’s daughter and, chronologically, still very young. Jack walked along the stacks of plastic crates, tugging on the flight webbing and looking for anything loose, but everything seemed to be in place. As he was turning back, however, there was a soft noise, barely audible. Jack brought up the IR scanner and scanned the room. To his amazement, there was something hiding in the cargo-bay, but it was considerably larger than a mouse. Jack reached carefully for his stunner, quietly popping the snap that held it in its holster on his belt.
“I know you’re there,” he told the room. “Come out where I can see you.”
There was another soft noise and a small, skinny boy, somewhere between six and ten crept out from a spot inside the flight webbing. His hair was like a shock of hay on top of his head and his clothing were large and baggy on his skinny body. He blinked.
“What are you doing in there?” Jack asked, astonished.
“Please, don’t make me leave,” the boy replied, his face filled with a kind of desperate hope.
“Just answer the question,” Jack demanded softly.
“I’m trying to get to my daddy at Luna Base,” the boy replied, sounding impatient as he looked up at Jack through twin fans of dark lashes. “My mommy is dying and I need him to come home and help her.”
“Why not send him a vid message?” Jack suggested.
“Vids cost money,” the boy wailed. “I don’t have any! Please, help me! I have to get to Luna Base and get my daddy.”
Jack considered briefly. “Do you have a name?” he asked, finally.
“Timothy,” the boy replied, his big eyes still gazing up at him in hope.
Jack walked over to the boy and squatted down to look in his eyes. “Tim, it takes three days to reach the moon from Earth. Are you sure your mom won’t already be dead by the time your dad gets home?”
“She’s not dying that quickly, mister,” the boy replied, looking down in frustration. “She has cankers.”
“Cankers?” Jack replied, confused.
“Yeah,” Timothy nodded. “Mommy said it eats you up from inside.”
“Oh, cancer!” Jack declared in sudden understanding. “She should go to a clinic, then, and get treatment.”
“Treatment costs money, mister!” the boy insisted, stamping his foot in impotent rage. “I told you, we don’t have any! I need to get my daddy. He has money. He could help her. Please?”
Jack tried to tell the boy he couldn’t help. He tried to say he wasn’t a taxi service or a charity. However, with those big, green eyes staring at him, he just couldn’t bring himself to say any of that.
“My name’s Jack,” he said instead, “Welcome aboard.”
The boy smiled in relief. “Thank you, Captain Jack,” he grinned.
“Get your stuff, okay?” Jack laughed. “It’s against regulations for passengers to sleep in the cargo-bay.” Timothy giggled, then bent down, reached into the flight webbing, and pulled out a small, threadbare knapsack that had probably been some shade of green when it was new.
Jack stood. “I think I found your mouse, Cim,” he said aloud.
“So I hear,” she responded. “I’d like to meet him.”
“Who’s that?” Timothy asked, hopelessly curious.
“Come and see,” Jack replied, extending a hand.
I hope you enjoyed the second installment of the many adventures of Captain Jack Leight and his faithful ship, the Wavemistress. Today you get to meet Captain Jack’s first companion, Timothy.
Today’s story is inspired for the most part by my mother, who suggested as follows.
10 June 2014 at 9:34 am, Mom says:
This is great! He has to try everything out? Has to take a trip somewhere, the moon, maybe or Mars? Perhaps trouble with whoever schedules take offs? Will Uncle Ben go along?
I’ve done my best to oblige. I hope you liked it, Mom.
Now it’s your turn. Captain Jack’s ready to take off. He’s headed to the Moon with a cargo and a very anxious little boy who absolutely needs to see his daddy as soon as possible. What should happen next? You decide. I’ll use as many of your suggestions as I can get. Leave them in the comments section below. I promise to give you credit for anything I use.
Help me, Reader! You’re Captain Jack’s only hope!