Two days later…
Aridene found herself bound in an unfamiliar part of the ship. The chloral hydrate had made her somewhat light-headed and slightly groggy; she had great difficulty focussing. Aridene realised the air was stale; she must be somewhere the oxygen recyclers were hardly used. She suspected she must be in one of the Artemis' six cargo bays. Aridene heard footsteps emanating from somewhere behind her. Tentatively, she turned her heard towards the sound. The shoes seemed familiar; Aridene could hardly see who it was in the dim light. Fortunately she had not been gagged.
"Shaun?" she asked hopefully.
"What?" he asked irritably. His tone was much different to what Aridene was used to; much coarser and harsher.
"What is all this?"
"This." Aridene nodded in the direction of the ropes that were presently restraining her.
"We're taking you as far as Deneva VI, that's all you need to know."
"But I thought…" she began, but Shaun cut her off.
"You thought wrong, Aridene," Shaun yelled, "You lied to us. How could you lie to us, to me, for God's sake? We're your crew – your family!"
"I never lied to you, Shaun."
"You withheld the truth then, it's the same thing!"
Aridene fell silent. Shaun removed an access panel in the floor and began unscrewing the oxygen recycler hoses, one-by-one.
"What are you doing?"
"Acting Captain's orders."
"Acting Captain? What happened to Ivan…," Aridene corrected herself, "Captain Frederiksen."
"He's been removed from command."
"What? Why?" Aridene demanded.
Shaun gritted his teeth. "You want me to gag you again?" he yelled.
"No." she sighed.
"Then be quiet!"
There was silence. Shaun disconnected the last of the oxygen recycler hoses and began reattaching them to a portable oxygen recycling unit that he had modified to recirculate a chloral hydrate mix.
"The Doctor tells me that, 'continual exposure to chloral hydrate could cause severe brain damage', or some shit like that, unless you breathe normally. You think you can do that for the next couple of days?"
Aridene nodded weakly. "Shaun?" she whimpered.
"Yes." Shaun sighed.
"I'm so sorry." she whispered, beginning to sob.
"Don't you think it's a bit late for that now?" he asked.
As Shaun left the cargo bay, Aridene began to cry. He sealed the door and pounded his fist against the wall. He well and truly hated himself, more so than ever.
The Artemis' bridge itself was rarely used, as much of the freighter's systems were automated. Yavosa Lem removed several tarps and accessed the ship's navigation system, adjusting their course to bypass several systems and take them directly to Deneva VI in the shortest time possible. Once she was sure everything was set, Yavosa locked out the consoles so that only she could access the ship's systems. Satisfied with the job she had done, she left the bridge.
Andrew Hartman could not believe that Ivan Frederiksen could sleep with all that was happening aboard his ship. Andrew had nothing to occupy his time; at least when the Captain had been awake he had had someone to talk to, even if the conversations had not been terribly stimulating. He prodded Ivan with the barrel of his gun. Ivan shifted but remained asleep. Andrew shook his head and decided he could afford to take a break. The Captain would still be asleep when he returned. The Doctor holstered his gun and exited the Captain's cabin, ensuring that he sealed the door behind him.
Ivan Frederiksen sat up slowly. The Doctor was nowhere to be found. Relieved, the Captain sighed and swung his legs over the side of the bed. He had a particle-rifled hidden beneath the floor, as well as a portable ISCN transceiver. Ivan stood up and removed the mattress from his bed. He searched for the appropriate panel in the floor beneath his bed, and removed it. The ISCN transceiver had a limited range, but he should be able to reach the Devanagari – the dominant race on Devana VI. He hurriedly typed out a message on the machine.
ISCN TRANSMISSION; ENCODED.
ORIGIN: U.S.C.S. ARTEMIS, SPATIAL GRID 199.26 BETA
DESTINATION: PORT SECURITY, DENEVA VI SPACE PORT
FREIGHTER ARTEMIS, ON ROUTE TO DENEVA VI. CREW FOUR; THREE HUMAN, ONE NON. ONE PASSENGER – HRH ARIDENE OF CORINTHIA VI. CAPT. UNDER HOUSE ARREST. CREW NOT WHO THEY SEEM. ARE PIRATES – VESSEL IS SELENE. CREW WANTED FOR THEFT, PROP. DESTRUCT., TERRORISM, VANDALISM, AID. ABETT. DO NOT INTERCEPT; APPREHEND AT DENEVA VI. DO NOT ACKNOWLEDGE.
IVAN FREDERIKSEN, CAPT. U.S.C.S. ARTEMIS
AUTHORISATION CODE: 16955381
Satisfied, Ivan Frederiksen returned the ISCN transceiver to its hidey-hole and replaced the floor panel. He hurriedly replaced the mattress as well and pretended to be asleep. Andrew re-entered the Captain's cabin a few seconds afterwards. He un-holstered his gun and prodded Ivan with it. There was no response. Andrew checked the Captain's pulse and was relieved to find it was steady. Yavosa Lem entered the Captain's cabin.
"Has the Captain been any trouble?" she asked.
Andrew shook his head. "No, he's been sleeping."
"Are you absolutely sure?" Yavosa asked apprehensively.
"Yes. Why, what is it?"
"I detected a faint ISCN transmission earlier. I thought it may have been sent by the Captain or you."
"Impossible," Andrew lied, "I've been with him the entire time. It may have been a glitch."
"Perhaps." Yavosa admitted.
He pattered her on the shoulder. "I'll keep an eye on him."
She nodded. "If you should need me…"
"You'll be on the bridge, I know." Andrew smiled.
Yavosa returned the smile and tilted his head down towards hers. They kissed.
"How long has it been since you were with a woman?" she asked.
"Too long." Andrew admitted.
There was a knock at the door and the two separated themselves from each other. Shaun unlocked the door to the Captain's cabin.
"The Devanagari have made contact." he reported.
"What, already?" Yavosa asked in disbelief.
Shaun nodded, "They request we transmit our licensing and registration code ASAP."
Yavosa excused herself. Andrew and Shaun stood in silence for several minutes.
"You two weren't…" Shaun grinned.
"No, we were not." Andrew muttered.
Shaun's grin widened. He slapped Andrew on the arm, "You sly old dog, you!"
Two days later…
The Devanagari port authorities cleared the Artemis for docking at the Devana VI space port. The mile-and-a-half long freighter fired its docking thrusters at its onboard computers automatically guided it in. The ship shuddered from bow to stern as the docking clamps locked on to the Artemis' hull. Yavosa Lem had begun delegating tasks.
"Shaun, I want you to ensure that Aridene is securely bound and gagged. The Doctor and I shall board the space port and wait contact from the Devanagari security forces. You are to escort Aridene to the rendezvous point, whatever that may be. We will not know for sure until the security forces contact us. Understood?"
Shaun nodded, "Understood."
"What about the Captain?" Andrew asked."
"For the time being, he is to remain in his cabin." she replied.
Andrew holstered his gun and slung a particle-rifled over his shoulder. "Well, let's get this thing over and done with then, shall we?" he sighed.
Ivan Frederiksen wiped the sweat from his forehead. He had not anticipated that Yavosa would have altered course to minimise to save time, and was therefore running out of it. Ivan unscrewed the last bolt that secured the access panel to the wall. He peered through the opening; the cold, dark confines of the Artemis' emergency tubes were claustrophobic at best. The emergency tubes were designed to be used for evacuation purposes if the primary route was cut-off somehow. Ivan switched on a flashlight and held it in his mouth. He slung his particle-rifled over his shoulder and carefully climbed into the tube. Ivan slowly began moving aft, towards the cargo bays were Aridene was probably being kept. He had overhead Shaun, who had mentioned cargo bay five earlier. The rough, metal walls of the tube scratched Ivan's skin as he crawled forwards on all fours, towards the Artemis' stern and hopefully, Aridene.
Shaun had reconnected the oxygen recycler hoses several hours earlier, and had detached the portable unit and the chloral hydrate. Aridene was obviously awake, and had cut herself while unsuccessfully trying to escape. Shaun removed handkerchief he had used to gag her and retied it as best he could. He then ensured that the nylon rope he had used to bind her wrists behind her back was secure as well. Shaun dragged Aridene to her feet.
"You in the mood for a moonlight stroll?" he asked, grinning, "I hear Devana VI has five moons. Pity you never get the chance to see them."
Shaun heard an odd sound emanating from somewhere above him; a metallic sound. Suddenly, a recessed access panel was kicked outwards and a figure leapt from the emergency tubes, hitting Shaun as he fell and knocking the young engineer to the ground. Ivan Frederiksen stood and tossed a handgun to Aridene, who caught it.
"You know how to use one of them?" Ivan asked.
Aridene shrugged. "Sort of."
"That's good enough," he said, grabbing her wrist, "Let's go."
Andrew Hartman and Yavosa Lem stood outside the Artemis' portside airlock, not far from a bank of public interphones. The main concourse, usually bustling with activity, was utterly deserted; there were no visible signs of life. A pale, orange tinge had descended over the entire space port: the light reflected off of the arid surface of Devana VI. One of the interphones rang and Yavosa tentatively answered it.
"Yes?" she asked.
A synthesised voice crackled through the receiver, "Third floor mezzanine. Blue corridor one-six-alpha. Ten minutes."
Yavosa replaced the receiver and nodded at Andrew. He re-entered the Artemis' outer airlock and keyed the code for cargo bay five into the ship's intercom.
"Shaun, its Andrew. We're all set up here. You have her secured?"
"She's not here!" Shaun replied in a flustered tone of voice.
"The Captain's taken her!"
"Less than five minutes ago. He was headed aft."
Andrew muted the intercom and turned to Yavosa. "Aft? Why would he be headed aft? There's nothing in the engineering section except…"
"The emergency evacuation chute." Yavosa suggested.
Andrew un-muted the intercom, "Shaun, I need you to head to the engineering section immediately. Ensure you're armed."
"The Captain's making a break for it."
Ivan Frederiksen led Aridene aft through the cargo bays to the engine room. He unscrewed the bolts that secured an access hatch to the wall and keyed something into a control panel adjacent to it.
"What are you doing?"
"Have you ever been to a water park?"
Aridene seemed confused and shook her head. "What?" she asked.
Ivan sighed, "Never mind. You want to end up in the hands of the Devanagari authorities?"
"Of course not!"
"Then you'll have to trust me."
Ivan Frederiksen punched one last command into the control panel. A metallic structure composed of extendable tubular sections unfolded itself from its 'docked' position alongside the Artemis and extended itself downwards. One end of the structure met with a sealed outer access hatch, located directly behind the inner hatch Ivan had opened aboard the freighter. The opposite end of the structure met with a similar hatch located aboard the space port. A water filtration system began piping fresh water through the tube that had been automatically sealed and pressurised by the ship's computer. Ivan Frederiksen opened the outer hatch aboard the Artemis.
"What is this?" Aridene asked.
"An emergency evacuation chute," Ivan explained, "Similar to the emergency slides used by commercial airliners on Earth in the twentieth century."
Ardiene nodded. "A waterslide?"
Ivan nodded and grinned, "Exactly."
"When are they used?"
"If a situation were to arise that required an emergency evacuation while we were docked, we could use these chutes to evacuate the crew."
"Are they safe?"
Shaun entered the engine room and cocked his particle-rifle. "Step away, Captain." he said firmly."
"You wouldn't shoot your own Captain, would you?" Ivan asked, calling his bluff, "Let us go."
"I have my orders." Shaun swallowed.
"You were too late. We had already entered the chute. There was nothing you could do."
Shaun lowered his particle-rifled and snapped on the safety. He saluted Ivan Frederiksen.
"God speed, Captain."
Ivan nodded and prepared to enter the chute. Aridene left his side and kissed Shaun on the cheek. "You're a good man, Shaun Roberts. Don't ever forget that."
Aridene rejoined the Captain at the inner hatch. He had already partially entered the tube.
"Should I follow you?" Aridene asked.
"No," Ivan replied hastily, "It'd be best if we went down together."
Aridene carefully entered the tube so that her head rested just below Ivan's chin. He skilfully slung an arm around her middle and held her firmly in place.
"Are you ready?" he asked.
Aridene smiled, "As ready as I'll ever be."
Ivan released his hold on the outer edge of the access hatch. The emergency evacuation chute had an overall length of approximately five hundred metres, but it seemed much shorter to Ivan and Aridene who passed through the entire length of the structure in less than two minutes. The hatch at the other end of chute opened automatically as they approached. Ivan and Aridene were launched out of the chute at high-speed as was much of the water that had been used to slow their descent. Ivan helped Aridene to her feet. Fortunately, neither Andrew nor Yavosa had seen the two emerge from the chute. Ivan took her by the wrist and led her to an exposed service elevator a few hundred metres from the end of the chute.
Ivan noticed that Shaun had rejoined his crewmates at the portside airlock, and that the three were now on the look out for Aridene and himself. Ivan realised he had very little time to get Aridene to safety; the crew had already thoroughly checked the emergency evacuation chute.
"Where are we going?" Aridene whispered.
"There's a transport ship, the John B., docked on the third floor mezzanine. It departs Devana VI in fifteen minutes. If we play our cards right I can have you aboard in ten."
A particle-rifle burst screamed past Ivan's head and disintegrated in a bright flash as it impacted a wall. He and Aridene ducked as a second burst struck the wall directly behind the spot where the two had been standing moments before.
Ivan peered through the metal grating that surrounded the service elevator. Beneath them, Andrew Hartman – brandishing a two-shot particle-rifle – waited impatiently as it recharged. Yavosa Lem had drawn her gun and was firing at the elevator car with a degree of accuracy that was beyond belief. The service elevator shuddered as it came to an abrupt stop between the second and third mezzanine levels. As Andrew, Shaun and Yavosa began their ascent in the second elevator car, Ivan was assisting Aridene out of the first.
"Where to now?" Aridene asked.
"Blue corridor one-six-alpha." Ivan replied.
Ivan indicated a vertical blue strip painted on a wall and the stencilled alphanumeric lettering that read '16A'. He led Aridene to the John B.'s outer airlock that was manned by a human crewman.
"Is this the civilian transport ship, John B.?" Ivan asked.
The crewman nodded, "It certainly is. Can I help you?" he asked.
"This young lady requires safe passage to the next star system. Would that be at all possible?"
"Not unless she has a valid passport. And she'd have to speak with the Captain first. The Port Authorities have been pressuring us small carriers a lot lately and…"
Ivan cut him off, "Would this cover it?" he asked, offering a 500 credit bill.
The crewman gingerly took the note and tucked it into his tunic. "Welcome aboard, miss." he smiled.
"Aren't you coming?" Aridene asked.
Ivan shook his head. "No. We part ways here."
"But you can't…I need you…"
Ivan chuckled. He pulled Aridene towards him and tenderly kissed her on the forehead.
"Look after yourself, kiddo." he said softly.
Aridene hugged the Captain tightly, softly sobbing into his chest. After a few moments, she released him and the crewman helped her through the outer airlock. The airlock door sealed itself as Aridene was led away.
Several minutes later, Andrew, Shaun and Yavosa caught up with Captain Frederiksen. Ivan was standing in front of the John B.'s airlock, blocking the door. He had a firm grip on his particle-rifle. Ivan knew that his three former crewmates had him outgunned but he stood his ground nonetheless.
"Stand aside, Captain." Yavosa demanded.
Andrew cocked his particle-rifle, "We mean it, Captain."
"I know," Ivan said flatly, "You know as well as I do that the only way you're getting past me is if I'm dead."
Shaun nodded, "Hopefully it won't come to the Captain."
The lights surrounding the John B.'s airlock flashed from white to blue and a chime sounded. A thick metallic bulkhead began descending at the transport prepared to undock.
"I will ask you once last time, Captain," Yavosa sighed irritably, "Stand aside."
Ivan stood his ground. The bulkhead had nearly descended completely. After a few tense moments, Andrew lost control.
"Move, Captain! Or else!"
"No, Andrew. I stand by my word."
"Then you shall die by it!" Andrew yelled.
Out of sheer panic and confusing rather than anything else, Andrew fired. The particle-rifle blast tore through the air, as if in slow motion, and struck Ivan in the chest. Ivan Frederiksen, aged forty-seven, wad dead before he hit the ground. The bulkhead sealed itself, and the transport ship John B. departed with Aridene aboard. Moments later, a contingent of Devanagari security emerged and apprehended Andrew, Shaun and Yavosa. Captain Frederiksen's message had been received as Ivan had intended it to be. Andrew stared at the Captain's limp body as he was handcuffed, and could have sworn that a grin had flashed across the dead Captain's face as the three of them were led away.
Ivan Frederiksen, aged forty-seven, was dead before he hit the ground. The bulkhead slid into place and the transport ship John B. departed on time with Aridene safely aboard Moments later, a contingent of Devanagari security officers emerged from their hiding places and apprehended Andrew, Shaun and Yavosa. Captain Frederiksen's ISCN transmission had obviously been received and acted upon as Ivan had intended it to be. Andrew stared blankly at Ivan Frederiksen's limp corpse as he was handcuffed by one of the officers. He could have sworn that a sly grin had manifested itself on the dead Captain's face as the three of them were led away by the security team. Of course, there had been no such grin.
Princess Aridene I of Corinthia VI settled into her seat aboard the transport ship John B. She wiped the tears from her eyes and stared out into the cold harshness of space, at the Deneva VI space port and her former home – the Artemis. She knew not what lay ahead of her; knew not of the hardships and struggles that may face her in the future. Aridene realised, for the first time in her life, that the destination is not important, but rather the journey itself. That a ship could truly be a home and that one's crew could be as real as any biological family. That the children had been led astray by the father, but that the father could reconcile himself by performing a selfish act. An act out of fatherly love for his daughter. For her.
Author's note: The transport ship mentioned in Chapter Four, the John B. is named after the single-masted sailing ship mentioned in the song, "Sloop John B." by the Beach Boys – the inspiration for this story.
"Sloop John. B." is copyright © 1966, Capitol Records Incorporated.