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The Wishbone Express - Chapter 18 (conclusion)

 
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Bud Brewster
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 03, 2015 4:46 pm    Post subject: The Wishbone Express - Chapter 18 (conclusion) Reply with quote




Chapter 18


The fighter went up and up until the jet engine no longer had enough air to keep running. It was contributing so little to the thrust by this time that the aircraft’s velocity didn’t drop a bit when the engine finally shut down automatically. The fact that the aircraft’s wings and rear stabilizers were also no longer effective in the thin air meant the network of attitude thrusters Josh Clanton had attached to its fuselage took over and allowed Bill to steer his dislocated jet fighter in the vacuum above the planet’s atmosphere.

Bill and his modified aircraft rode the two blazing retro rockets right up out of Philcani tu’s atmosphere and into the cold, ragged edge of space. The sky’s color continued to deepen until the stars blazed as brightly as a handful of diamonds spread across a black velvet cloth under a jeweler’s spotlight.



The fighter leveled off as it cleared the atmosphere and started circumnavigating Philcani-tu on it’s way to the Candlelight.

Bill noticed the exterior pressure reading that was superimposed on the faceplate of his helmet. The fighter’s cockpit was in a vacuum because Joshua Clanton had not finished repairing the canopy seal. No matter. That was one of the reasons why Bill had worn his spacesuit.

A flashing message on the fighter’s display screen caught Bill’s eye.

WARNING: INCOMING FIRE. MISSILES IN PURSUIT.




A flood of data on the fighter’s combat display gave him the velocity of the missiles. There were six of them, and the fighter’s computer estimated nine minutes until Bill Jenkins would be reduced to a short footnote in the great book of galactic history. He knew that it would take at least fifteen minutes to reach the Candlelight — unless he increased his velocity significantly.

So he did.

He pressed the firing switch that activated retro set B, the two innermost boosters on the fighter’s wings. Bill felt as if the big invisible hand of a sadistic giant had suddenly mashed him backward, and the fighter began to vibrate. He wondered if the retro rockets would rip the fighter’s wings off. But if he didn’t stay ahead of those missiles until he got close enough for the Candlelight to destroy them, he and his highly unorthodox aircraft would end up raining down on Philcani-tu in bite-sized pieces.

Lemme see, now. Die this way . . . or die the other way. Damn, tough choice.

The G-force of the acceleration was so strong that Bill felt like he was lying on his back with the weight of three fat men pressing down on him. The fighter was vibrating so violently that Bill wondered if he would be beaten to death inside his own spacesuit. Red lights began to appear on the control panel as the fighter’s computer detected structural damage. It occurred to Bill that Josh Clanton might have been interrupted before he could tell Bill that the two thruster pairs should never, ever, under any circumstances, be fired simultaneously.

This was definitely not a happy thought.

Bill tried to read the aircraft’s ground-speed on the control panel, but his vision was so blurred by the vibration that he couldn’t make out the numbers. It looked like it might be 40,288 kph . . . or 40,200 kph . . . or 48,200 kph . . .

Aw, to hell with it.

On the display screen, the computer was trying to give him a revised estimate of when the pursuing missiles would reach him, but he couldn’t read that either. The red warning message was flashing, so it seemed reasonable to assume that he was still in a hell of a lot of trouble.

“GSC Candlelight, calling Wishbone, come in Wishbone, over,” said the fast-talking voice from Bill’s headset. When Bill answered, the vibration made his voice sound like somebody was playing a drum roll on his stomach.

“C-C-Candlelight, t-t-this is W-W-Wish-b-bone, g-g-go ahead-d-d.”

Wishbone, you’re coming over the planet’s horizon relative to us now, and our scanners detect six bogeys on your tail. Our gunners are ready to assist, but you’re currently in our line of fire. Turn six degrees to port — repeat, six degrees to port — and stand by.”

“Negative, negative, C-C-Candlelight! I wish I c-c-could, b-b-but my aircraft is on full automatic and I c-c-cannot affect any change in my flight p-p-path at this time.”

There was a long pause. “Say again, Wishbone.”

Bill tried, but the vibrating aircraft made his answer almost unintelligible. “I c-c-can’t c-change c-course. It’s k-kind of a t-technical g-glitch, ok-kay?”

Another long pause. Bill figured somebody was discussing the situation with somebody else, and neither of them knew what to say. But finally somebody figured out something. The voice in Bill’s headset spoke. “Roger, Wishbone, we copy. In that case, stand by while we divert to one side so that our gunners — ”

“No! I mean, n-n-negative! C-c-crap, wait a second-d-d . . . uh,” Bill said desperately, wondering how to explain his objection. Thankfully the vibration had smoothed out a bit, so he was able to speak clearly. “I set my autopilot to match your present orbit. If you alter course, I’ll miss you. Sorry, but . . . well, it’s a very old autopilot.”

“Roger, Wishbone,” the voice said, sounding a bit bewildered. “In that case, Candlelight will decrease velocity so that you can rendezvous with us sooner.”

“Hey, yeah, that sounds good!” Bill said jubilantly. But then his voice changed. “No, wait! That sounds bad!” Bill was beginning to feel paranoid. “I don’t know if my aircraft can detect your force shields. If you slow down, I’ll get there sooner than expected and I might collide with your outer shield. Tell me, do your scanners indicate whether or not I’ll get to you before the missiles get to me?”

“Affirmative, Wishbone. You’ll reach our shield five a little before they do. But it’ll be close.”

“Okay, great. Here’s the deal. When I do catch up with the Candlelight, I’m going to need a little help decelerating. If you reduce velocity too far below my own, I could end up as a thin film on your force shields. So please . . . just hold your course, okay?”

There was an irritating pause, then the voice from the Candlelight gave an audible sigh before it said, “Roger, Wishbone. It’s your show.”

“Yeah, thanks,” said Bill. “But I’ll be glad when the show is over. Hey, by the way . . . you said I’d beat the missiles to your shields, but that it would be real close. Just how close?”

“Currently the missiles are forty-two seconds behind you, but they’re steadily closing that gap. We’ll pass you through shield five just seven seconds before the missiles reach you. If we deactivate shield five just long enough for you to get through and then reactivate it behind you, the missiles will explode on impact and you’ll be safe on the inside. Copy?”

“Loud and clear,” said Bill, grinning like a sailor on shore leave on the seedy side of San Diego. “That’s exactly what I was going to suggest.” Bill knew that the Candlelight’s shields were much more powerful than the Wishbone’s. The missiles wouldn’t just be slowed or deflected, like Wishbone’s shields had done. When those missiles hit the Candlelight’s shields, they’d splatter like a juicy June bug on the windshield of a speeding 1960 Corvette.

Suddenly the left outer booster shut down when it’s fuel ran out. The fighter began to the pitch to the left because both boosters on the right were still firing. Bill punched the button that shut down retro set A so the outer right booster would also shut down. The fighter’s autopilot fired the maneuvering thrusters along the left side, bringing the fighter back on course. Even though he only had one booster firing on each wing now, the vibration was getting worse. The fighter was developing structural faults from all the mistreatment. If Bill had been able to shut down the remaining two boosters and let the fighter drift in its orbit, the poor, tortured aircraft would probably survive until it reached the Candlelight. But Bill knew his aircraft had to keep running away from the missiles behind it, and any second now the fighter was going to rip itself apart.

Wishbone, this is Candlelight. You’re wandering off course and you’ve reduced your acceleration. Are you repositioning so we can fire on those missiles?”

“No, no, just keep your shirt on, Candlelight. Everything is under control.”

That statement made the Candlelight’s communication’s officer doubt Bill’s sanity. After a long pause, he said, “We copy, Wishbone. Those six missiles are gaining on you more quickly now. Your lead on them is down to less than thirty seconds.” The voice paused, then said, “Wishbone, are you sure you’ve got things under control?”

Damn! Bill swore to himself. Thirty seconds. That’s cutting it pretty close. Then he said, “Listen carefully, Candlelight. My life is going to depend on how good you guys are at opening and closing your shields. You’re not only going to have to slam the door on those missiles before they get me, you’re also going to have to peel my aircraft off my backside. If all goes according to my brilliant plan, I might have to abandoning this aircraft shortly after passing shield five. Copy?”

There was a conspicuous silence for a few seconds, then the voice spoke in an awed tone. “That’s your brilliant plan?”

“I’m afraid so. I’ll explain it all later, God willing, and we can have a big laugh over it. But for right now, just be ready for some impressive fireworks. In just a few minutes, my trusty aircraft is going to start breaking up into little pieces. When it does, I’m going to eject. Keep your scanners on me, and be ready to let me slip through those shields.” Bill was getting nervous about what was about to happen. He drew a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to relax. Then he said, “Copy?”

“We copy,” said the voice. “Listen, uh . . . just in case things don’t go too well . . . is there anybody we should contact for you?”

Bill chuckled and then said, “As a matter of fact, there is. Find the biggest fool on your ship and tell him that he should be ashamed of the way he treated his best friend. You’ll save time if you start looking in sickbay. Draw a one meter circle on the floor around Nurse Janet Whitmore and he’ll be standing inside it.”

After a short, puzzled pause, the communications office said one word. “What?”

“Trust me. Just ask around.”

A sudden increase in the fighter’s vibration warned Bill that time had run out. The right-side booster was beginning to warp the fighter’s wing. The booster twisted five degrees clockwise, causing the aircraft to pitch to the left, although not as drastically as before. Although Bill could hear no actual noise in the vacuum, the creak and groan of tearing metal was something he could feel right through his spacesuit.

If the aircraft tore itself apart now before he was inside the Candlelight’s number five shield, Bill Jenkins was a dead man.

Ahead of him, the Candlelight was drawing rapidly closer as he overtook it. It was a bright dot, just above the horizon of Philcani-tu. Behind him the six missiles came charging in like hungry sharks, bearing down on the disabled fighter at a furious rate now that the fighter had lost the thrust of two boosters.



Bill checked the shoulder bag containing his and Randy’s personal items. The shoulder strap was around his body, holding the bag firmly to his chest so he wouldn’t lose it when he ejected from the fighter. Knowing that the Candlelight was now close enough to pick up his spacesuit’s communicator without the signal being boosted, Bill disconnected the link to the fighter’s com system. Then Bill carefully wrapped his fists around the pull-handles that activated the fighter’s ejection seat.

Being careful wasn’t easy, because the aircraft was shaking violently. Just holding the pull-handles was akin to pulling them. He kept his arms loose so that he wouldn’t yank the handles prematurely while his body was bouncing all over the cockpit. The control panel was ablaze with red warning lights. Bill wondered how the electrical system could still be working. This thought made him wonder if, in fact, the ejection seat would function properly. Or maybe the seat would eject, but the canopy wouldn’t blow, which would smash his helmet open and break his neck.

With all these gruesome mental images parading through his head, Bill was becoming more and more convinced that compulsory employment on Philcani-tu was really just a marvelous career opportunity with guaranteed job security and —

I wonder if they’d be willing to forgive and forget, Bill said to himself.

Naaaw . . .

C-C-Candlelight,” he said, trying to enunciate clearly while the shaking aircraft beat his body back and forth. “H-h-how f-f-far am I from your o-o-outer sh-sh-shield?”

The answer came back instantly, and it shocked Bill. “Contact in thirty seconds. And those missiles are right on your tail!”

Only thirty seconds — but the battered old fighter just couldn’t make it. The right wing was suddenly torn off by the misaligned booster attached to it. The booster and the broken wing, with the other dead booster still attached, veered drunkenly to the right for an instant and then turned back toward the distant Candlelight, flying blindly. It shot ahead of the fighter as the damaged aircraft went into a wild spin, propelled by the other booster on the still-intact left wing. The stars whirled around Bill for a moment until he closed his eyes and yanked on the ejection seat handles. The canopy blew off and the ejection seat blasted out of the cockpit.

As soon as Bill was clear of the fighter, he unbuckled the safety harness that held him into the seat. Desperately he kicked the weightless seat down and away. He was rotating slowly, a leftover rotation from the spinning fighter. Bill stabbed a finger at the buttons on the forearm console of his suit. The gyros built into his backpack unit ran themselves up to speed and cancelled his rotation. When he powered up the suit thrusters, he felt the four nozzle arms swing out diagonally just behind his shoulders and hips. He reached down to take hold of the control handles that now protruded from the lower corners of his backpack on each side of his hips.

Bill twisted the throttle all the way open. The spacesuit’s neck brace automatically stiffened, and the protruding nozzle arms blasted out four fuzzy plumes of flame behind him. Their combined thrust delivered a mule kick to Bill Jenkins’s body that sent it racing forward.



Wishbone, Wishbone, do you copy! Come in, Wishbone!” said the urgent voice from the Candlelight. They could see that the fighter was flying apart.

Bill had a little trouble answering because he was hyperventilating from nervous tension. “I’m still here, boys,” he gasped out. “My aircraft has torn itself to pieces, and I’ve ejected. If I can get past your outer shield before those missiles hit, I should be okay.”

“Part of your aircraft seems to be out ahead of you, thrusting in our direction.”

“Oh, yeah,” Bill said. “I forgot to mention that. Can you blast it for me after it gets past the shield up ahead of me?”

“We’ll have to see what the captain says about that idea.”

Bill looked down past his feet and saw the ruined fighter, spinning madly as the booster on the left wing continued to fire. It was rotating so fast that centrifugal force would soon begin to tear it apart.

Reaching up with his right hand, Bill turned the camera around on top of his helmet so that it faced backward. He pressed a button on the thruster controls that locked them in place, then he raised his arms to punch at the buttons on his left forearm console, causing the inner surface of his helmet’s visor to become a display screen for the inverted camera. Using this electronic rearview mirror, he saw the six pursuing missiles in the last two seconds of their approach. They were headed straight for the whirling wreck of the fighter. The explosion would shotgun Bill’s body with metal fragments. Bill gritted his teeth and waited to be torn apart.

If he had been watching the real thing instead of the display, the multiple explosions would have blinded him. An instant before the missiles reached the fighter, both it and Bill passed through the momentarily deactivated outer shield of the Candlelight. The shield slammed closed behind them both, and the missiles exploded against the invisible barrier. A ring of fire and debris expanded along the outside of the Candlelight’s outer shield, dropping behind as Bill raced away. It dimmed and dissipated while Bill and the spinning fighter sped on ahead toward the next shield.

The Candlelight’s outer shield was 25 km (about 15 miles) from the stellacruiser. Shields four, three, two, and one were located at distances of 20 km, 10 km, 2.5 km, and 0.5 km (500 metes) respectively. So, Bill was in the home stretch. He just needed to cross these last 25 kilometers and he’d be home free.

Suddenly an urgent voice in Bill’s headset said, “Watch out, Jenkins! You’re catching up with the other booster still attached to the wing!”

Bill was thoroughly confused. “What other booster?” Then he understood. He deactivated the visor display and found himself staring at the booster that still clung to the ragged wing. The booster was hanging on to the wing by the last twisted thread of its brace. The dead weight of the other booster that had run out of fuel made the whole contorted mass turn in slow circles as it continued to move toward the Candlelight. But since its thrust was so drastically misaligned by the rotation of the mangled remnants of the fighter’s wing, Bill was overtaking it.

Bill grabbed the suit thruster’s control handles and tried to maneuver himself around the rotating boosters and the twisted wing. But this was no easy task, because the revolving structure was spewing out a white-hot flame as it turned around and around. The fiery tongue of flame rotated slowly counter-clockwise in front of Bill. If Bill tried to pass it at the wrong moment, the rotating booster exhaust would incinerate him like bug caught in a blowtorch.

The spectacular contraption reminded Bill of the fireworks he had set off on national holidays when he was a kid, the kind of fireworks that bounced and spun on the street, making ear-piercing shrieks, erupting with a riot of blinding colors while they pitched their fiery tantrums.

As Bill got closer and closer, he realized that his attempt to pass the spinning booster was going to get him killed. Ironically, however, it was the booster — not Bill — which finally prevented his flaming demise. Another shift in the twisted configuration reversed the direction of the booster just as Bill reached it, and he sailed past the hot lance of fire.



The blasting booster with its dead brother and the attached fragment of the wing did some wild weaving behind Bill, and then it contorted itself into a new configuration. The metal menagerie ended up pointed straight at the Candlelight, and it started overtaking the lonely guy in the puny spacesuit, proving conclusively that life was definitely not fair. The rocket-propelled wing fragment was almost even with Bill, but one hundred fifty meters to his right.

By this time Bill had managed to get several hundred meters ahead of the rapidly spinning fighter. Without even realizing it, Bill zipped right past the point where the Candlelight’s number four shield had been, just an instant ago. The shield was reactivated the moment he went through. The rapidly rotating fighter’s mangled fuselage hit the Candlelight’s fourth shield and exploded into a cloud of fragments that fanned out against the invisible vertical wall of the shield like tiny ball bearings poured onto a glass table.

But the last booster on the severed wing fragment had been dead even with Bill, and it went through the brief lapse in the Candlelight’s shield four at the same moment he did. It’s shifting, cock-eyed position on the twisted wing caused it to fly in different directions from one second to the next. It was snaking around like a loose fire hose, weaving and wobbling, as impossible to predict as a bumblebee in a phone booth. And yet, in spite of its distorted flight path, it was moving closer to Bill again.

“You’re coming up on shield number three,” said the voice from the Candlelight. “You’ve got a slight lead on that last booster.”

Bill had his hands full just avoiding the booster, so he didn’t waste time chatting with the Candlelight. He just concentrated on where the booster seemed to be heading and where he wanted to be when it got there. It was a full-time job, because the booster kept fighting the cumbersome masses of the wing fragment and the dead booster as it thrusted against a metallic conglomeration that had no consistent center of gravity.

“You’re passing through shield three right . . . now,” said the voice in Bill’s headset. Then it spoke sharply. “Watch it! Watch it! It’s coming right at you!”

Bill didn’t need the warning. He could see it coming from behind in the helmet display of his reversed camera. He was already in the middle of a wild maneuver — a clockwise twist, and a lateral thrust that was intended to push him out of the way of the oncoming booster. One tiny corner of Bill’s mind marveled at the strange thing that bore down on him: a clotted mass of tangled metal, like some suicidal machine designed to fight its own efforts to go anywhere. The two boosters — one still working and the other one dead — had twisted themselves around on the wing fragment until they formed a rough cross that intersected a quarter of the way back from the nosecones. The still-active booster was pushing its dead brother along almost sideways, causing the whole mass of metal to circle slowly while it moved closer to Bill until it went by him diagonally from left to right so closely he had to draw his feet up to prevent the dead booster from hitting them

Bill got himself back on course, heading toward the Candlelight, which was now plainly visible, less than three kilometers away. The booster-and-wing arrangement somehow managed to stay close to Bill’s left, though it was still making slow circles as it moved forward.

“You’ll reach shield two in about thirty seconds,” said the voice from the Candlelight. Then the man said, “Listen, Jenkins. I hate to say this, but . . . if you and those boosters both make it past shield two, we might have to fire on the boosters while you’re still near them. The explosion will — ”

“I know,” said Bill. “I’ve been trying to get ahead of it, but — uh-oh! Here it comes again!”

The booster wasn’t headed straight at Bill, but he was again in danger of being incinerated by its rotating rocket exhaust. The working booster was still circling slowly at the rate of one turn every five seconds. In its present configuration, it reminded Bill of a lawn sprinkler in slow motion — except that instead of spraying water, it was gushing fire. The long plume was reaching out almost thirty meters. Bill worked frantically at the suit thruster’s control handles while he studied the bright bar of fire as it turned around and around. He felt like a fly who was trying to pass through the blades of a turning fan. Timing, as they say, was everything.

Bill’s gripping hands strained desperately at the suit thruster’s controls on the lower corners of his life support pack. When the clumped arrangement of boosters-and-wing-fragment moved past him again — this time from left to right — every muscle in his body was as rigid as iron, just waiting for the white-hot dragon’s breath to flow across him and leave him looking like a slice of overcooked bacon. Bill saw that he was inching ahead of the pin-wheeling booster, gaining on it gradually.

“You made it!” said the jubilant voice from the Candlelight. “Hang on to the lead, Jenkins! You’ll reach our innermost shield in fifteen seconds!”



Bill was almost ten meters out in front of the horn-locked boosters. Quickly he slapped the button on his forearm console, activating the faceplate display inside his helmet so he could see the boosters behind him through his reversed helmet camera.

“Twelve seconds. Come on, man!” the voice pleaded. Bill was sincerely doing his best to oblige.

“Ten seconds . . . nine . . . eight . . . seven . . .”

Behind him, the booster finally broke loose from the twisted wing fragment. It was behind Bill and off to his right, but it was headed in Bill’s general direction, although he could see that it would pass behind him by several meters. Bill knew he would die when he and the booster slammed into the Candlelight’s shield one, or when the booster hit it first and its remaining fuel exploded.

He didn’t have long to wait. Surprisingly, it exploded less than three meters directly behind him instead of in front, and Bill squeezed his eyes closed when the visor screen turned a blinding white. Bill let out one long scream — so long that he wondered why he was still able to make such loud and girlish noises. He opened his eyes and discovered that the visor screen showed an expanding circle of orange flames, along with the shattered remnants of the two boosters and the wing fragment.

Those scant three meters between Bill and the booster had been enough to get him past the last shield before it was reactivated.



“You made it, Jenkins!” said the voice from the Candlelight. “Hey, wake up, man! Turn yourself around and decelerate before you smack into our ship!”

“What?” Bill was still looking at the rear view provided by his visor and the reversed camera. It confused him for an instant.

“You’re about to collide with the stern of the Candlelight at a hundred and twenty kilometers and hour! We can’t speed up because you’re in line with a thruster nozzle! Slow down, Jenkins!”

“Yikes!”

Bill twisted the thrust control handles and spun himself around so his back was to the Candlelight, then he ran the thrusters back up to full throttle. The camera in his helmet was still facing backward, and Bill’s eyes grew large as he stared at the rearview image on his visor screen, watching the huge mass of the stellacruiser rush at him from behind. He quickly realized that his suit thrusters wouldn’t be able to decelerate him fast enough. He was going to hit the Candlelight — hard.

The men on the GSC Candlelight knew that Bill Jenkins was in serious trouble, but there was very little they could do to help. Bill was headed straight for the base of the twenty-two-story tower that rode atop the stellacruiser’s slender, wing-shaped lateral projections. Moving a massive spacecraft the size of the Candlelight out of Bill’s way in time would be like trying to turn the Titanic to prevent a dolphin from hitting the bow.

Inside the ship, a large, middle-aged man sprinted down a long corridor and skidded to a halt at the door to an airlock. It was an oversized freight airlock with two three-meter-wide doors, one at the corridor and one on the ship’s hull. Both the inner and outer doors were transparent. The man was Chief Noncommissioned Officer Alex Sandusky, the gray-haired old salty dog Bill met after the Wishbone crashed.

Sandusky spoke a few quick words into the headset he wore, then he listened to a reply from someone on the Candlelight’s bridge who informed Sandusky that this was indeed the nearest airlock to the point where Bill Jenkins was about to collided with the outer hull. Sandusky was also told that several crewmen in spacesuits were on their way to the airlock so they could go out and get Bill after he smashed into the ship. A medical team was en route. Bill was going to need them.

But Chief Alex Sandusky wasn’t content to just stand there and watch Bill Jenkins collide with the Candlelight. He knew that Bill’s fragile bones needed to hit something much softer than a crystalsteel hull — something as soft as air.

Sandusky started stabbing his thick fingers at the buttons on the airlock’s control panel. Inside the airlock, the air pressure began to rise rapidly. Sandusky disengaged the automatic safeties, and he shut off the artificial gravity inside the airlock.

Two men wearing spacesuits arrived at the airlock, their helmets tucked under their arms. They started taking turns checking out each other’s gear, preparing themselves for the EVA rescue.

Through the transparent doors, Sandusky saw the approaching dot of light from Bill’s suit thrusters, currently bearing down on the Candlelight at a ninety kilometers per hour. Speaking rapidly into the mike of his headset, Sandusky called the Candlelight’s helmsman.

“Gumjaw? I can see him. He’s a little bit to port.”

“Is he lined up laterally?” the helmsman said.

“Yep. You did a good job, but we need to shift a little to port.”

“How far?”

“About, ummm . . . three meters. No, wait! Make it one meter.”

Up on the bridge, Chief Helmsman Samuel Kellogg pressed the starboard thruster control’s toggle switch for half a second. On the starboard side of the Candlelight’s hull, the maneuvering thrusters fired one quick burst.

“Almost there!” Sandusky coached the helmsman. “No, wait! Too far! Come back a little.”

Kellogg tapped a toggle switch. The portside thrusters fired for an instant.

“Easy . . . easy . . . just a bit more.”

Kellogg held his breath, licked his left index finger for luck, and gave the toggle switch a gentle flick. The starboard-side thrusters strobed once, like flash bulbs.

Bill’s velocity, relative to the Candlelight, had been reduced to fifty kilometers per hour. He came barreling along, flying backwards, suit thrusters blazing, on a collision course with the transparent airlock door.



Sandusky had his eyes fixed firmly on Bill and his hand hovering over the airlock controls. The pressure inside the airlock was already five times greater than normal, and it was still rising. Bill closed the gap to thirty meters . . . twenty meters . . . ten meters . . . five meters . . .

Sandusky slammed his big fist against the button that opened the outer door. Ignoring the internal air pressure, the outer door slid open quickly and released a blast of air at Bill’s back just as he sailed through the opening. With the artificial gravity shut off, Bill flew down the length of the big airlock. As he did, the hot exhaust from his suit thrusters filled the airlock with white-hot plasma exhaust while it splashed against the inner door. Sandusky and the men on the other side of the transparent door leaped back reflexively. As Bill flew toward the inner door, his velocity fought against the howling two hundred mile per hour wind created by the escaping air.

But even with this help, Bill still had enough speed left over to slam against the inner door with bone-jarring force. He was knocked partially unconscious, and his limp hands slipped from the control handles of his suit thrusters. The thrusters shut off automatically, and the last of the escaping air flushed out the hot exhaust while it sent Bill drifting toward the open outer door.

Sandusky closed the outer door and shouted into his headset mike. “Okay! We got him!” The pumps were working hard to bringing the airlock pressure back up to normal. He knew Bill was hurt, perhaps badly, and so he wasted no time waiting for the pressure in the airlock to equalize with the pressure in the corridor. He gave the button a quick punch and clapped his hands over his ears. The two men in spacesuits dropped their helmets onto the deck and imitated Sandusky’s gesture. The inner door slid open, and the airlock took a healthy gulp of air from the corridor, blowing Bill’s limp and weightless body all the way to the now-closed outer door.

Waving back the two men in spacesuits when they stepped forward to help, Sandusky dove into the airlock and floated over to Bill. He tried to see Bill’s face through the visor, but its outside surface was a mirror because the inside surface was still activated as a display for the helmet camera. Gently Sandusky lifted Bill’s left arm so he could press the buttons on the spacesuit’s forearm consol. The visor turned transparent. Sandusky saw that Bill’s eyes were open, but they didn’t seem to be focused. Sandusky spoke into his headset.

“Gumjaw, tell Tony Thorn to key me into this guy’s communicator.”

“You got it, Chief,” said the helmsman on the bridge. “Go ahead.”

“Don’t try to move,” Sandusky said into his headset mike, hoping Bill could hear him. “The medics are on the way. You might have a broken back or fractured bones, so don’t move. Just float.”

Bill was regaining consciousness, and he was dimly aware of Sandusky’s words. Don’t move. Good advice. He would just float here for a few days and try not to think about how much precious, irreplaceable luck he had used up in one day. It was disgraceful. He wouldn’t be able to win a hand of poker for at least three years, assuming of course that he lived long enough to be dealt three years’ worth of losing hands. Absolutely disgraceful.

While Bill was occupied with weightlessness and guilty recriminations, the medics arrived to see what was left of him. Bill wasn’t really in pain, but he did feel groggy and lightheaded. A sense of alarm tried to make itself felt when Bill realized the medics were slicing his spacesuit up to get him out of it, but he wasn’t absolutely sure that all his bones were in the right places, so he didn’t object as they carefully peeled the butchered suit away.

After all, they can’t X-ray me through the spacesuit because of the suit’s radiation shielding, right? Bill speculated idly, his thoughts drifting dreamlike, the same way his body was. Right, of course they can’t. Oh well, easy come, easy go. The best way to start out a new life is to be stark naked, as a kind of symbolic rebirth. Very appropriate. Yes, indeed. Like that old saying . . . ‘Off with the old, and . . . on with the show.’ Wait, that doesn’t sound right.

Bill suddenly realized that the medics had tapped into his air supply and were giving him some kind of gas to relax him. He found the idea alarming. He didn’t want to be doped up, because he still had to talk the captain of the Candlelight into letting him remain aboard instead of shipping him back to Philcani-tu.

Bill yanked his arms away from the medics’ gentle grasps and started wrestling with his helmet, trying to get it off. The medics tried to restrain him, but they were as weightless as he was and had no leverage to use in the struggle. Bill twisted the helmet off and took several deep breaths until his head began to clear.

“Hey, calm down, buddy!” one of the medics urged him. “You might be all busted up inside.” Both the medics and Sandusky had taken a firm hold on his arms and legs, but Bill had ceased struggling as soon as he’d tossed the weightless helmet out of reach.

“It’s okay,” he said after a moment. “I’m all right. Really. Nothing is broken.”

All that thrashing around had served to convince Bill that his precious skeleton had not been seriously rearranged. He remained motionless while the medics finished peeling off the remains of his tattered suit. Then the medics used a hand-held X-ray unit to check for broken bones. Bill floated in a horizontal position while the medics moved all around him, making him feel like a prize hog being judged at a state fair. After several minutes the medics seemed satisfied with his condition.

“I don’t know how you managed it,” one of them said to Bill as he packed his equipment away, “but I can’t find anything on the scope except the beginnings of a colossal bruise along the entire back of your body. By this time tomorrow, you’re going to look like a half-moon — dark on one side, light on the other.” He chuckled, but Bill didn’t share the joke, so the medic said, “Guess we better take you to sickbay so we can check your head for a concussion. A deep concussion takes a while to show up. We can use a sonic treatment to keep the hemorrhaging to a minimum.”

“Sounds delightful,” said Bill as he gingerly fingered the back of his head.

“How does it feel?”

“It hurts.”

There was no discernible lump because the padding inside his form-fitting helmet had distributed the impact evenly across the backside of his skull. Still, the blow had been hard enough to knock him out for a moment and leave him with a king-sized headache for a souvenir.

“Let’s go check it out,” said the medic.

“Lead on, Great Healer,” Bill said, attempting a smile. He couldn’t wait to see Randy’s face when he got to sickbay. Randy would think he was still down on Philcani-tu, in a closet somewhere hiding from the goons who were trying to serve him with legal papers.

Chief Sandusky was standing in the corridor when Bill followed the weightless medics to the airlock door. A thought occurred to Bill when he remembered the way Chief Sandusky had acted just before he’d first come aboard the Wishbone several weeks earlier. Bill paused before leaving the airlock, maneuvering himself into an upright position so that his feet floated six inches above the floor while he “stood” at attention. Then he cleared his throat and spoke to Sandusky in a formal tone of voice.

“Permission to come aboard, sir?”

With mild impatience, Sandusky motioned Bill into the corridor. “You don’t have to do all that stuff, son — ”

“You showed respect for my ship, Chief,” Bill said quietly. “I wouldn’t want to do any less for yours.” He held the older man’s eyes for a moment and saw a hint of respect creep into them, along with a look of sympathy and bemusement.

“Mister, you sure know how to make an entrance,” the chief said, shaking his gray head. “Permission granted, and welcome aboard — though Lord knows what’ll come of it.” He held his hand out to pull Bill from the weightlessness of the air lock.

Bill stepped into the corridor and felt the artificial gravity reach up and squeeze all his sore places. His headache grew worse. Two more medics had arrived with a zero-gravity stretcher to carry Bill up to the sickbay, but Bill refused to get on it, and he argued with them for a moment until Chief Sandusky settled the debate by pointing out that if the medics had to physically force Bill onto the stretcher, they would be doing more harm than if they let him walk to sickbay. The medics agreed to let Bill walk, but they insisted on loading up the stretcher with his shoulder bag and the remains of his spacesuit. The pile of spacesuit parts on the stretcher made it look like the medics had a patient in very serious condition. If Randy saw it and thought it was Bill’s remains, he’d faint dead away. The thought amused Bill.

Bill limped along behind the medics for several minutes while they made their way through the huge ship. The trip to sickbay was considerably longer than Bill had anticipated, and he started wishing he’d lost the argument over whether or not he should be on the stretcher. He had forgotten how big a stellacruiser was. The whole backside of his body was beginning to feel like it had been tenderized with a baseball bat. By the time he hobbled into sickbay he knew just what he was going to ask for — a heat pad the size of a mattress and a pain pill the size of an apple.

Sickbay was mostly one big ward, lined on both sides with beds, all but a few of which were empty. Bill spotted Randy at the far end, and he started making his way toward the empty bed next to his friend. Misery loves company. Why else would sickbay be a ward?




One of the medics said a few words to a gorgeous blonde nurse — so gorgeous in fact that Bill actually forgot his aches and pains for five fascinating seconds. She hurried over to Bill and started trying to help him toward the nearest bed, which wasn’t the one he wanted, but the feel of her warm, abundant hip against his was such a welcome experience that he was careful to phrase his objection politely, lest the fair lady think him ungrateful.

“Excuse me, but could I have that bed down there next to the sickly looking fellow at the far end? I could maybe cheer him up, share his misery, that kind of thing.”

“Way down there? Well, sure, if that’s where you want to — ” She stopped and looked at Bill carefully. “Wait a second, you wouldn’t happen to be Bill Jenkins, would you?”

“I was when I got up this morning, but I’m going to have to be somebody else now. Too many people are looking for a piece of Bill Jenkins’s hide. If you see that guy Jenkins, tell him to get outta town fast.”

She gave Bill a musical laugh and a playful bump with her hip which jarred his bruised body and produced a carefully concealed wince. They started walking again, but after a few steps, it was Bill’s turn to stop and study her face carefully.

“Hey now . . . I know who you are.” He paused for a second to remember the name Randy had said during their phone conversation. “Janet Whitmore?”



Janet gave Bill a smile so blinding that he worried about permanent retinal damage. “One in the same, and proud of it.”

“No wonder that moron has been playing sick for two weeks.”

“Who, Randy?” she said with great, phony sincerity, her eyes big and innocent and absolutely adorable. “Oh, he’s not faking. He’s real sick. He told me so.”

“Aha. Well, that settles it then.”

They reached the end of the ward and hobbled up next to the bed beside Randy Henson. Randy hadn’t even noticed them because he was lying on his left side against the elevated upper part of the bed, his back to them while he gave his undivided attention to a flat, rectangular screen mounted on a swivel arm positioned to the left of his bed. His broken left arm was encased in the controlled environment cast. He was wearing headphones, but he had the volume turned up so loud that Bill could hear the buzzing sound of car engines and squealing tires. Apparently the program was an automobile race with old-fashioned internal combustion engines. But Randy’s reaction to it seemed inappropriate. He was chuckling frequently. Bill found both Randy’s laughter and his failure to notice Bill’s presence to be highly irritating.

Dammit, wasn’t a man entitled to a little sympathy, in addition to a big welcome, not to mention a certain amount of outright admiration for the daring and brilliant act that had gotten him here alive and mostly in one piece?

Bill kicked off his shoes, and the gorgeous nurse helped him onto the bed, which would have been a highly erotic act under other circumstances. Bill thanked her quietly and sent her off to get him some lunch. She understood that Bill was waiting for his friend to notice him and make a huge fuse over his sudden and miraculous appearance. But Randy was still watching the noisy demolition of the antique cars, and Bill began to think he was going to have to hit Randy with a bedpan to get his attention. Bill noticed the volume control for the headphones, located on a control panel between the beds. He reached over and gave the volume a healthy boost.

“Yeow!” screeched Randy as he flipped the blaring headphones off his head with his right hand. They sailed over his prone body and landed like a well-aimed horseshoe around Randy’s right foot. Bill turned the volume back down, then he met Randy’s amazed look with a bland and unapologetic smile.

“Hi. What’s new?”

Randy stared at his friend for a long four count with his mouth open wide and his eyes doing likewise. Finally he bellowed indignantly, “Where have you been? I have been worried sick!”

“Yeah. Right. I could tell by all those worried chuckles.”

“What? Oh, that. I was just trying to keep my mind occupied so I wouldn’t keep wondering if you were dead or something worse.” Randy stopped abruptly and furrowed his brow while he pondered the ramifications of Bill’s unexpected arrival, then he said, “Hey, how did you get here? Aganto called me a little while ago and said the police had you surrounded in the hangar where the Wishbone is stored.”

“Yeah, well . . . I was in there for a while.” Bill casually laid back on the bed and closed his eyes. “But, uh . . . I got out.” Clearly he was enjoying the moment.

“You got out?” Randy said, bewildered.

“Yep.” His expression changed to mild curiosity. “By the way, what was that you were watching just now? It looked good.”

“Just an old movie called It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”

Bill smiled at the obvious irony. “Oh, brother — ain’t that the truth?”

Randy was clearly annoyed. “Never mind the movie! I want to know why you didn’t call and tell me what was going on. You leave me stuck up here with nothing to do, and then you don’t even call!”

Bill laid back on the bed and propped his hands behind his head. He could smell lunch coming, and it smelled good, along with the aroma of the lady who was bringing it. “Aw, poor baby. Have you been bored?”

“Not just bored. I told you. I was worried.”

“Yeah, well, I got a little worried too a couple of times.” He was eager for the gorgeous nurse to bring his lunch so he could eat and then go to sleep. In fact, he’d settle for an ugly nurse and a light snack. Bill closed his eyes wearily and tried to relax.

Randy read the tone of Bill’s remark and the look of exhaustion on his face. He changed to a more sympathetic attitude and said, “Was it pretty rough?”

Bill let out a weary sigh. “You have no idea.” He mentally reviewed the events of the last few hours and decided that the ordeal would probably have killed ten ordinary men. Maybe even twelve. “I might be some kind of cult hero on Philcani-tu when the story gets around. Maybe I should get a ghostwriter to do my autobiography. Might be money in it.” He gave another weary sigh. “The Legend of Bill Jenkins.”

“Hey, no kidding?” said Randy, looking keenly interested. Suddenly he was grinning like the best man at the groom’s wild bachelor party. “You pulled a fast one, huh? Come on, tell me about it!”

Still lying with his eyes closed, Bill squeezed his face into expressions of reluctance and evasion while he squirmed into a more comfortable position. “Aaaah . . . not now. It’s a long story.” He reached up and pulled the bed’s remote control from its wall slot, then he started fiddling with the controls that adjusted the angle of the bed.

“A long story?” Randy said excitedly, his eyes gleaming. “Really?”

“Yep, pretty long.” Still squirming, Bill discovered that there was no such thing as a comfortable position for the battered back half of his body. His head still hurt, but at least he found a switch on the remote control that activated a heating pad in the mattress.

“A long and action-packed story?” Randy said hopefully.

“Action?” Bill said quietly. “Holy Moses and all his little Hebrews,” Bill whispered, awed by the memory of what he had just done. “Randy, you wouldn’t believe the action this story is packed with — ”

“Hot damn!” Randy shouted, startling Bill. “Now you’re talkin’! I’ve been going crazy up here with nothing to do but stare at my own toes and the unattainable backside of Nurse Janet Whitmore!”

Bill was wallowing in all this noisy attention, but he wasn’t about to let on how much he needed it. Squeezing his eyes closed and settling deep into the comfortable mattress, he pulled the sheet up over his body and clutched it against his chin like a little boy refusing to get out of bed and go to school.

“Just leave me alone, Randy. I don’t really feel like talking about it right now. I just want to get some rest.”

Randy spoke in a rapid whisper, full of bogus sympathy. “Right. Good idea. You just rest a few minutes while I get things ready.” He grabbed his remote control and keyed the built-in mike. “Nurse? Can you get me some peanuts or popcorn or some kind of snack? And something to wash it down with, please? Anything will do. And hurry.” Then he said, “I mean, please hurry.”

He tossed the remote onto the bedside table and then settled himself into a comfortable position, his eyes big and round and fixed firmly on Bill.

Bill opened his eyes a tiny fraction and squinted over at Randy. “Hey, whoa. Just hold on a cotton-pickin’ second,” he said indignantly. “I didn’t risk my invaluable life getting up here just to provide you with a lively bedtime story!”

“No, no, of course not,” Randy said soothingly. “It’s just that . . . well, you’re a hero. And your exploits should be told to someone who appreciates the magnitude of your bravery, your daring, your fearlessness — ”

“Dammit, Randy,” Bill said in amazement, his eyes suddenly open and rolling toward heaven above. “Doesn’t it matter to you that I’m hungry, tired, and hurtin’ practically all over?

“You’re hungry and in pain?” Randy snatched up the remote control again and barked a quick order. “Nurse! Double that snack order. And add a pitcher of rum punch. We’ve got a hurt man here!” The remote control clattered onto the table again and Randy leaned forward, all eyes and ears and great expectations.

Bill wore a tortured look as he closed his eyes and pleaded with his friend. “For God’s sake, Randy, just lemme rest awhile. I’ll tell you all about it tomorrow.”

Before Randy could object, Janet Whitmore arrived with a rolling tray heavily loaded with sandwiches, snacks, and a large pitcher filled with a pink liquid that looked suspiciously like rum punch. There was far too much food and drink on the tray for Randy and Bill to consume all alone. But she was followed by a dozen sickbay personnel who were eager to hear the story of how Bill Jenkins had started out in the middle of a courtroom on the planet below and — against all odds — made his way all the way up to the orbiting Candlelight while being pursued by the legal system, the police, and the military.

As the news spread throughout the ship, more Candlelight crewmen where hurrying into sickbay, hoping to arrive in time to hear the whole astounding story.

Nurse Whitmore grabbed Bill’s empty rolling tray and wheeled it over his lap, then she raised the head of his bed so he could sit up. While she did so, Janet leaned close to Bill and gave him a mesmerizing smile as she spoke in a breathy voice capable of quickly turning a snowman into a puddle of warm water.

“Well, well. I had no idea you were such a celebrity, Bill.” Her green eyes sparkled with electric delight and hidden promises that could drive grown men to rob banks just to get her attention. She turned to Randy. “Did this guy tell you what he did to get to the Candlelight?”

Randy looked like an excited kid headed for summer camp. “He was just about to!”

“Why, the whole ship is talking about it!” Janet said, gushing and blushing gorgeously. “I can hardly believe the stuff they’re saying.” Janet’s emerald eyes were filled with an adoring look, and Bill felt all his wounds begin to heal magically. She leaned close and whispered into his ear. “Billy, did you actually rig an old jet fighter so it would carry you all the way into orbit?”

Bill was suddenly a tongue-tied school kid. He valiantly attempted to give an intelligent answer, but all that came out was, “Well, yeah. It did carry me most of the way.”

“Incredible!” the lovely young woman said in awe. “And I even heard that you outran six missiles, then ejected from the damaged fighter and used your spacesuit thrusters to get to the Candlelight! Surely that was an exaggeration.”

“Believe it or not — no exaggeration.” Bill was chuckling smugly while he casually nibbled at small bits of his lunch.

“That is fantastic!” said Janet. The surrounding crowd was grinning and whispering to each other as they listened to Janet’s amazing recap of Bill’s wild journey.

Randy clapped his hands together with glee and rubbed them briskly until his palms began to warm up, the expression on his face crackling with anticipation. “Wow, tell us all about it, Bill!” He was priming the pump outrageously.

Faced with an eager and attentive audience that was still growing as more people hurried into sickbay, Bill decided to give in to public pressure. Why fight it? It was the price of fame.

Janet Whitmore moved around to Randy’s bed and propped her lovely round hip on the edge of his mattress so that Bill could face his two most argent fan at the same time. Bill leaned back against the inclined mattress and gazed up at the ceiling for a moment, squinty-eyed with concentration, his jaw set firmly, his arms folded across his chest. The surrounding crowd edged in closer, eager to hear every word Bill uttered.

Then, like an old Injun fighter telling hair-raising yarns around the campfire, Bill riveted his audience with a steely gaze and launched himself into an impassioned narrative.

“Well,” he began slowly, “There I was . . . smack dab in the middle of a packed courtroom, completely surrounded by vicious, blood-thirsty lawyers!” He shook his head slowly and gave the crowd the haunted look of a man who had stared death in the face. He paused and then said, “I thought I was a goner.”

Three days later the galactic stellacruiser Candlelight left orbit and headed for deep space with its two newest recruits on board. Randy Henson and Bill Jenkins had made arrangements for a reasonable portion of their Alliance Armed Forces salaries to be deducted for the repayment of the money they owed to various groups on Philcani-tu. Mr. Alphonse Aganto and his esteemed colleague — Refnonali, wajinda at law — used their considerable skills to make a fair dent in the amount that Bill and Randy had originally been expected to pay. But even so, it was going to take a few years to pay it off.

Fortunately, Bill and Randy soon learned that life in the Stellafleet Division of the Alliance Armed Forces was not without its own brand of adventure and romance. In fact, less than two years after they enlisted, they became involved in an incident that carried them completely out of the Milky Way Galaxy, an incident that brought them face-to-face with a terrifying adversary, an incident that actually shaped galactic history and determined the fate of virtually every intelligent life form within the Alliance of Sentient Life.

But that . . .is another story entirely.


The End

__________________________________________________
__________________________________________________


Coming soon: the long-awaited sequel to —



__________________________________________________


Sail the Sea of Stars



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trekriffic
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 11:31 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

What a fun read! Lots of action and narrow escapes. Some wonderful similies as well, I think this one is my favorites: "The sky???s color continued to deepen until the stars blazed as brightly as a handful of diamonds spread across a black velvet cloth under a jeweler???s spotlight." Now you've got me all excited for the next installment of Bill and Randy's adventures!
Please... More! More!

P.S. I loved the look of the Wishbone and the Candlelight. It would be tempting to try and construct a model of one or both of them. Just need to figure out what parts from what model kits I'd need to bash them together.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 1:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, Steve! I'm really pleased that you enjoyed it.

Actually, the pictures I used for the Wishbone are of a model kit. The appearance doesn't really match what I have in mind for the Wishbone (it's actually a bit more streamlined and "futuristic"), but I needed something I could collect lots of pictures of so I could adapt them to the scenes I wanted to illustrate.

Here's a few pictures for the model I selected, although these first four shots were not actually used to created illustrations.









Pretty cool, huh? (* Actions figures of Randy and Bill sold separately. Very Happy)

This next picture was used to create the illustration below it. Someone pasted the model into a CGI background showing an aircraft carrier deck.





I just pasted the same image into the scene above the planet with the unmanned ship pursuing the Wishbone.





As for my beloved Galactic Stellacruiser Candlelight, the situation was a little different.

I have a clear mental image of the Candlelight, as described in the novel. Simply put, it's main body includes a tall "sail" like the horizontal structure on a submarine (what I used to think was called a "conning tower" but later discovered was incorrect), and a pair of long, slender "wings" that resemble what a glider has.

John Berkey has done paintings of starships that include bits and pieces of what I have in mind, but never anything really close to whole design of the Candlelight.






While looking at Berkey's work online I stumbled upon a graphic artist who had created images of "3D models" based on Berkey's ships. Lo and behold, one of them came close to the main body of the Candlelight





So, I went to work on this image and drew the wings onto it, using (believe it or not) Microsoft Paint. Here's the result.





I liked the dramatic perspective on this next image, but it didn't show the entire sail.





So, I added both the sail and the wings, and I tried different dimensions for the wings and the vertical stabilizers than the ones I used with the first version.





The first version became the one I used when Bill is approaching the Candlelight during his death-defying EVA --





-- and the second version became the "promo" I created for Sail the Sea of Stars at the end of The Wishhone Express





If you have any questions about other illustrations, just stick them in replies under the chapters in which the illustrations appear. Obviously I'm just itchin' to tell somebody how I did these, and your kind interest is greatly appreciated! Very Happy

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Robert (Butch) Day
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 7:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Absolutely FANTASTIC!!! It actually makes me feel like a kid again!

WAIT! I feel like a baby goat?

I think I meant it made feel YOUNG again. Yeah, that's it.
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PostPosted: Thu Mar 05, 2015 9:35 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Robert (Butch) Day wrote:
Absolutely FANTASTIC!!! It actually makes me feel like a kid again!

WAIT! I feel like a baby goat?

I think I meant it made feel YOUNG again. Yeah, that's it.


I'm glad it had that affect, Butch! I should read it again myself, maybe. I definitely feel like an old goat! Sad
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2015 12:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like the fact you did the research and made sure the maneuvers our pilots executed to save themselves and their passengers made sense using current astrophysical knowledge.

Having said that, the story still has a very retro feel to it in the dialogue and mannerisms of the characters- very 50's and 60's.

And yet, the female bodyguard was no helpless bimbo; she was an intelligent kick-ass assassin . . . and a seductress. Now that I think about it though, there was another such character back in the 60's ??? Emma Peel in the Avengers. So, there is still a retro aspect to Clawron's character after all...


60's queen Emma Peel in The Avengers by trekriffic, on Flickr
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2015 2:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good comparison! Mrs. Peel was certainly no shrinking violet. Clawron was kind of her "evil twin", I guess.

Thanks for the compliment concerning the research -- which I enjoyed doing, spent months working on, and made copious notes during the process.

I was trying to do what so many so-called science fiction stories don't do -- find ways to use the facts to generate the fiction!

I think I demonstrated that (a) space is anything but empty, (b) astronomical phenomenon can be used for fun and profit, and (c) Commander Taggert of the N.T.S.E Protector was dead right when he said "Never give up! Never surrender!"

I sure hope I can interest somebody in making this story into a movie some day. I think it would be colossal! Very Happy

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PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2015 3:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I never met Diana Rigg, but she must be short ??? like me!

The sword she is holding a foil and they are a maximum of 3 feet long.


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PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2015 4:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Robert (Butch) Day wrote:
I never met Diana Rigg, but she must be short ??? like me!


Short? Not exactly.
She is (or was as she's 76 now and may have shrunk a bit) 5'9" tall. Laughing
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2015 4:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Robert (Butch) Day wrote:
I never met Diana Rigg, but she must be short ??? like me!

The sword she is holding a foil and they are a maximum of 3 feet long.


If the point is resting on the floor, and the handle is above her crotch, a three-foot long foil would make her height about six feet.

So the foil must be a little less than three feet long, since the crotch is the halfway point on a normal human body.



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PostPosted: Fri Mar 06, 2015 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

OK. Definitely taller than me. (But I can still dream!) At that time I was 5 feet 6 inches. On June 11, 1969 I was in a plane accident that I still am having problems with. I now have lordosis ('sway-back' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lordosis) and kyphosis ('hunch back' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyphosis; though nowhere as severe as the first photo) and am only 5 feet 2.25 inches.
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 28, 2015 8:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

My son's exact words at finishing the book were, "That was better than The Hero Experience. And The Hero Experience set the bar pretty high." We loved it! We're hungry for the sequel, Bud!
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 28, 2015 9:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks. Tell that young fellow that The Hero Experience is better with the pictures, just like The Wishbone Express is, so I wish I'd created the illustrated version of that one before you two had a chance to read it.

Again, appreciate the kind words. Very Happy

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