I know there are hundreds of you out there waiting impatiently for Chapter 5 of this blockbuster….well maybe 2 or 3 of you but hey these things take time.
So I’m sure you are all up to speed with the story – if not, then get yourselves into the archives and catch up quick ‘cos things are starting to hot up for Captain Don Dorke and the crew of the Excelsior IV.
So if you’re sitting comfortably then we’ll begin………
Standing in a line before Captain Dorke, Andrews, Stevenson, Lewis, Robertson and Hartley were giving their report.
“So, the bottom line is,” the Captain concluded, “that something or someone is in the hold, ripping open cargo crates and nicking my ore – right?”
“Well yes,” Andrews replied, “and no.”
The Captain covered his face with his hands.
“Thank you Andrews,” he said, “that makes everything crystal clear. What do you mean yes and no?”
The men shuffled uncomfortably.
“What Andrews means, Sir,” Lewis continued, “is that yes, something is in the hold, but they’re ripping their way out of the crates – not into them.”
“That’s impossible,” Dorke exploded, glaring at the men, “those crates are filled with mineral ore. What we’re dealing with, gentlemen, is good, old fashioned piracy!” He crossed his arms and grinned smugly at his crew. “And it seems that, as usual, it’s up to me to deal with it.” He turned his chair to the communications console, “L.D.” he barked to his No. 2, “seal the hold.”
“Aye Captain,” L.D. replied, flicking a switch on the console next to him, “hold sealed.”
“Right,” Dorke continued, “pump the air out.”
L.D. pressed another switch on the console before him..
“Air being removed, Captain,” he replied.
“There, that wasn’t so difficult, was it,” said Dorke sarcastically, “Now, whatever’s in my hold is going to find it very difficult to get its hands on any more of my cargo! Now,” he said turning back to his crew, “go and get on with some work.”
He turned his chair dismissively as the men turned and filed out of the room. As the doors glided shut, L.D. turned and looked at the Captain.
“Now then,” he said, “care to tell me what you really think?”
The Captain continued to stare at the data screens before him.
“I don’t know what you mean,” he said innocently.
“Oh come on,” L.D. said in exasperation, “you don’t think we have pirates any more than I do.”
The Captain turned to face his friend. Pushing his glasses to the bridge of his nose, he stroked his short beard.
“No, I don’t,” he sighed, “whatever we’ve got in the hold is going to have to stay there until we find out exactly where we are and how exactly we get home.”
Dane was lying on his bunk staring blankly at the ceiling. Similarly, McCarthy and Rippon were both lying in their cabins, blank looks on their faces – as though waiting for a signal.
The lightening flashed overhead as the two figures stood on the plateau, both staring into the star filled sky.
“They are here, Deon,” the first said to the tall, muscular man standing to his right.
Deon closed his eyes and stood silently for a few minutes before turning to his companion.
“They must be brought here, Varril,” Deon said commandingly.
Varril nodded in agreement.
“It will be done,” he replied.
The two men turned and walked into the caves behind them.
Captain Dorke was striding along corridor four with L.D. flying close behind.
“I still can’t get over these new wings,” the duck said admiringly.
“What’s that?” Dorke shouted behind him.
“These wings,” L.D. replied, “they’re the new Hover 60 series. They look like the real thing but they literally fly themselves.”
“Yeah,” the Captain replied vaguely, his mind on other things, “I must get a set – ah!” he exclaimed, “Here we are.”
The Captain had stopped before a door marked ‘AUTHORISED PERSONNEL ONLY’.
“Come on L.D.” he said putting his hand to the palm ident-screen.
The door glided open and the Captain entered with L.D. following close behind. The room into which they had entered was totally white, the walls covered with circular indentations – like blocked up portholes. In the middle of the room stood a six sided control console with numerous screens and switches covering it. The room had a low, vibrant hum as if the room itself was alive.
“Wow,” L.D. gasped, “this is amazing. How come I’ve never been in here before?”
“Because things have never been this bad before,” Dorke replied, a serious look on his face.
L.D. continued to stare around him.
“But this room,” he said in amazement, “this console – it’s so way out.”
“Yes,” the Captain replied twiddling a large knob, “it is a bit neat. I got the idea from a Doctor I used to know, a splendid chap – all of them!”
L.D. threw Captain Dorke a confused look.
“Anyway,” he said, hastily glossing over the Captain’s last comment, “why are we here?”
“Well L.D. my little feathered chum,” said the Captain with a cheeky grin, “this is the Tactical And Retrievable Data Inventory Section – I haven’t bothered to shorten the name because someone’s done that line before.”
L.D. shook his head, thinking that the Captain had finally gone mad.
“So what can we do here?” L.D. enquired.
“I’m glad you asked that,” Dorke replied, never missing the opportunity to baffle someone with an explanation. Pressing a button on the console, a screen appeared in the wall facing them.
“What we can do here,” he continued, tapping a string of commands into the terminal, “is call up our last flight details and then retrace our steps.”
Inputting the last of the instructions, he and L.D stared at the screen before them, waiting for something to happen. After what seemed like an eternity, two words appeared.
The Captain looked down at the control panel, jabbing furiously at the buttons before him.
“I don’t bloody believe it,” he screamed hysterically.
L.D. stood looking at Dorke.
“What’s happened?” he asked.
“It’s been wiped,” the Captain replied shaking his head, “there’s nothing – everything’s gone.”
Suddenly, L.D. pointed up excitedly at the screen.
“Hang on Captain,” he shouted, “what’s that?”
They both stared at the screen in amazement as a list of co-ordinates appeared across the screen.
“Someone’s logging in a flight plan,” Dorke gasped in amazement.
L.D. was dumb struck.
“Who could do that?” he asked, turning back to look at the Captain.
“No-one,” Dorke replied, “only I have the clearance codes, no-one else could input a flight plan without my authorisation.”
The Captain’s hands worked feverishly over the control console, an increasing look of consternation growing on his face.
“They won’t respond,” he shouted in panic, “all of my orders are immediately countermanded.” He stood staring at the screen, now entirely filled with data, “L.D.,” he said in astonishment.
“What?” L.D. asked, not wanting to hear the answer.
Dorke turned and looked at his companion.
“Something’s taking over the ship…..”