The Dreamer by David George Richards by David George Richards - Read Online

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Summary

Angela is on a mission. To prove that the winning stick body formula can triumph over all. Even over Lucy Crow-Bennett’s Barbie like curves and long limbs.

Fat chance. Have you seen Lucy Crow-Bennett? Ayi-yi-yi...

Oh yeah? Well I've got brains, knowhow and I’m every bit a woman as she is!

You are? So prove it.

G’ner! You’ll see!

The Intrepid and her crew are on a mission. To boldly go and investigate a drifting hulk that has come from outside of the solar system and is passing right on through and out again. The Intrepid’s crew are all experts in their field, but their current field is small, cramped, zero-g and a million miles from home. Angela and Lucy are the only two female members of the crew. That means they get to share one of the even more cramped living quarters in the shuttle. Their differences soon begin to affect Angela’s mind, as does Scott Martin, the Intrepid’s ever so handsome captain. But being all cramped together in a steel tube floating in space is the perfect time to learn who and what you are, and when Angela gets on the derelict, who, what, when, where, and above all, how, are questions she’s soon dying to answer.

For Nac Tikmak, the derelict is home. And for over a thousand years he has waited for another visitor, like a spider in the centre of his web. And the derelict is no ordinary web.

But are the Intrepid and her crew ordinary flies?

And if Nac Tikmak is the spider and the Intrepid and her crew are the flies, then who the hell is Humbolt?

Published: David George Richards on
ISBN: 9781466049864
List price: $2.99
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The Dreamer - David George Richards

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Chapter One

The Beginning –Sort of…

A freighter spotted it coming back from the new colony on Titan. Their course and fuel restrictions meant that they couldn’t divert or loiter long enough to investigate. From the pictures they took, it’s definitely artificial, and it’s definitely old.

In the confined space of the common room, Scott’s deadpan description of the most momentous discovery ever made by mankind seemed a letdown to Angela. The pictures on the monitor were also an anti-climax. They had all seen them before of course. All six crew members aboard the shuttle Intrepid had scrutinized every detail, studied every description, and poured over the masses of pictures taken by the Hubble. But at the end of it all, it was just a dot, a hulk of irregular metal travelling across the Solar System.

That was what made it so special to Angela.

Angela Wilson was brown-eyed with brown hair cut boyishly short. While her features were far from plain, her figure could only be described as diminutive. She had spent years studying human and animal behaviour. She had travelled the world over studying and learning from the vastly different societies that made up the human race. She was an accomplished Psychologist, but she had started out as an Anthropologist way back when she was a student. Gradually, through hard work and gruelling field trips, she had worked her way into being the foremost expert in her field. She was well respected by her peers, and every one acknowledged that there would be no one better than her in a first contact situation.

But was this a first contact situation?

The crew of the Intrepid had been picked for every eventuality. Scott Martin was the Captain, he was an ex-pilot in the USAF, whose father and grandfather had also been pilots. His father was now at the Pentagon, and Scott was loyal to the military first and his country second. Not so much a ‘by the book’ man, as a ‘by the tradition’ man. He had a tendency to be officious and he was sometimes downright arrogant. But he knew he was in charge and he liked to let everyone know that.

Angela got on reasonably well with Scott, mainly because he couldn’t really understand why she was an expert or what she was actually an expert in. He knew what she did and why she was aboard, but he couldn’t put any other name to it other than ‘first contact situation specialist’. His problem was that he couldn’t judge her performance until it mattered. Everybody else could practise, she couldn’t. It meant that he was never quite convinced of her expertise. He could have resented her inclusion, but his lack of understanding meant that he was unsure of writing her off so easily. Angela could read him like a book. He was keeping on the right side of her just in case he actually came across a situation when he needed her. Angela liked that. It showed that he didn’t let his own pettiness or lack of understanding get in the way, that he was open-minded enough to know that just because he couldn’t understand what she did, didn’t mean that it might not be important. After all, if she wasn’t important, why would they have sent her along? Yes, Angela liked Scott. And the fact that he was tall, fit, quite handsome, with fair hair and cool blue eyes had nothing at all to do with it. Nothing at all. Honest.

Lucy Crow-Bennett was a Metallurgist and Physics major. What she didn’t know about alloys, stresses and complex molecules could be written on a Quark. She was also tall, blonde, blue-eyed, extremely well endowed in the physical department and equally easy to get to know. She also got on very well with Scott. Maybe that was why Angela didn’t like her? No, that was exactly why Angela didn’t like her. If Lucy had been short, dark haired with a stick as a body –and what was wrong with having a stick as a body?– then Angela would have been happy to stand, or float, beside her. But the reality was that as soon as Lucy floated into the room, all eyes, including those of Scott, instantly latched on to her. Angela could do a weightless rumba in the nude and no one would notice. That was the real problem of having a stick as a body. In all other capacities a stick body was a winner; everything neat and tidy, firm and fixed, clothes never a problem. But as a sexual lure, it came off second best to someone like Lucy, even in a weightless naked rumba. No, no one would notice her. Unless she accidentally poked one of them in the ribs in the process, which is probably what she would do anyway.

Luigi Milano was a Linguist. He could pick up languages like a cat could pick up fleas. He was the polyglot de tutti polyglots. He could also translate any scribble or scratches into a beautiful speech. He was tall and wiry, with dark hair and equally dark and piercing eyes. A couple of hundred years ago he would have been considered to be demonic. Angela still considered the stake as a solution to his attentions. Luigi was full of himself and always annoying her and Lucy. With Lucy, it was obviously physical. He never let a moment pass without referring to some part of her anatomy. He was often downright rude. Lucy had been de-stabilised by his remarks at first, but she quickly got used to it and had developed a standard reply for all occasions. To the contrary with Angela, Luigi was never offensive, attacking her instead on a more cerebral level. Every doodle she made on her notepad Luigi would attempt to translate, and he never gave up the chance to bait her on some topic or other. Angela was sure that he enjoyed annoying her even more than he did Lucy. It was more of a challenge; he could see that it didn’t bother her, until he became wise to Angela’s attraction to Scott. From then on Luigi never ceased to poke fun at Scott when he was alone with her, or in challenging his authority when they were all together. Actually, he spent a lot of time with Angela, talking about semantics and behaviour, or about the reasons why one person was attracted to another. Thinking about it now, did that mean he– No! Oh God, no; don’t even go there…

Carl Price was Scott’s second in command. Young and agile, with short-cropped black hair and sharp features. Everything he did was rushed but expertly executed. He was also USAF, a Lieutenant with more experience in computing and engineering than anyone else in the military. He also happened to be an expert in weaponry. Of course he was only along to study the possible remains of the alien ship’s engines and power systems, and didn’t they all believe that.

Jonathan Parks was a Pathologist. Although he had studied Biology and Medicine he was actually with the New York Police Department when NASA acquired him for this mission. He was the only one among them whose inclusion they could all agree that they didn’t understand. Even Jonathan himself felt that way. He was a quiet and almost shy man. He spoke little and didn’t mix well. He was probably the oldest among them, he had fared the worst in training for the trip and he had only just managed to qualify. He was still a little overweight; although he had lost quite a few pounds during the time Angela had known him. His brown hair was thin and he had a round face with sad eyes. Angela got on with him all right. He smiled at her and he was always polite. But she couldn’t help resenting him. Luigi resented him, too. It wasn’t Jonathan’s fault; it was just that he represented both their worst fears.

The alien ship travelled on a set course, photographed over and over again by the Hubble and tracked by every optical and radio telescope that could find it. It was simple, as simple as a straight line. It never varied, never wavered. The ship’s course had been tracked back, plotted and computed. The answer was unshakable. It had obviously come from outside the Solar System. It was travelling right across it, and in a few months time it would pass beyond reach and eventually beyond sight, finally disappearing back into the depths of space from where it had emerged. That meant only one thing.

The ship was old, very old. It was probably a derelict, and the likelihood of this being a first contact situation was extremely small. What Angela and Luigi Milano both feared was that Jonathan would find more work to do than them. Somehow, Jonathan didn’t seem to like that idea either.

Luigi spoke up as Scott was about to continue his lecture.

Is this necessary, Capitan? We have all read the notes, studied the tapes, and seen all the figures. Why not look out the window?

Scott turned to him with a tired but knowing look. You may think going over all this again is tiresome, but I want to make sure that we all get this right. He began to tap on the table to stress his points. We get one chance to do this. One chance to get on board, one chance to gather the information we need, one chance to see and understand, one chance and one chance only. There’ll be no going back for a second look and no time for dithering. With the speed its going and our fuel and oxygen reserves we get two hours, no more. If any of you are still on that ship after that, you’re on it for life. And that probably won’t be for very long. Understand?

Always the melodramatic, Luigi replied.

Oh, shut up, Luigi! Lucy suddenly remarked in irritation. This isn’t a trip to Florida, you know! It’s dangerous! Scott’s just being careful!

Luigi leered at her. Maybe he fears he may lose his heavenly body, no?

Get stuffed!

Scott tapped on the table again. Alright, enough! Yes, we’ve gone over this many times before. You all know what you have to do. Each of us has a role to play. And when we get on board I want everything to run smoothly. I don’t want any petty squabbles or any one getting in anyone else’s way. You each do your job quickly and efficiently.

Lucy instantly added, And that means no staring at my ass when I’m bending over, Luigi!

Luigi put on a look of offended amazement. You think I will be distracted by a woman’s body when I have an alien library at my finger-tips? Never! When such a time comes, on that day, my coffin will be ready!

Carl suddenly laughed. Let’s hope that there isn’t an alien librarian on guard, or that day might come sooner than you think!

Angela quickly turned to him. Oh, I do hope so!

Luigi wasn’t worried. They would have answered our call. We’ve been broadcasting for days.

Angela was suddenly enthusiastic. They might not be able to. They might have degenerated into a more primitive society, trapped aboard their ship for thousands of years. Just think of it–

Scott tapped the table again. Can we get back to this? he said dryly. Carl! What’s your first objective?

Penetration and structural integrity, was the quick reply.

Then what?

Power systems. I tap into the wiring, see if there’s any juice left. Follow the conduits back to the source. If I can work it out, I try to get the power back on. See if the engines work. If not, I see if there’s anything I can unbolt and take out.

Good! If you can get that ship back under its own power, I can fly it.

Luigi chuckled. Only if I tell you where the start button is.

Fine, Luigi! You're next. First objective?

Luigi sighed and glanced briefly at Angela before he answered. I follow you to the flight deck. I decipher any symbols on the controls we find.

What next?

After I help you, I go to help Carl. Then I search for any books or written material that will help identify the nature of the crew and the world from which they came. I bring back anything I can find on history, geography, diaries, literature, prose and science. I quickly find I have far too few arms for the task. I decide I need a large chest to carry it all–

Lucy suddenly said, Get stuffed!

Scott pointed at her.

Since you volunteered?

Lucy folded her arms. I cut open the door with Carl. Then its structural integrity. After that I get as many samples as I can for the spectral analyser. Like Carl, anything I can unbolt I take back.

Luigi raised his eyebrows. The words have such meaning.

Get stuffed.

Scott ignored them. Angela?

If everybody else is doing what they say they’re doing, then I won’t be doing anything.

Scott looked annoyed. Forget them! What’s your first objective?

Angela answered without conviction. Attempt to begin a dialog with any of the surviving crew.

Then?

Try and get their cooperation and support. Try and get their trust. Try and understand them, try and explain how important it is to us that we have met them. Try and learn as much about them and their society as I can in the short time I’ll have–

Scott smacked the table. You’ve forgotten something!

Angela looked miserable. Try and explain who we are and what we’re doing here.

Luigi chuckled again. We come in peace. Excuse me while I unbolt your engine.

Scott turned to him and his voice rose in irritation. This is important, Luigi! One slip is all it takes to cock everything up! Yes, we all know that the likelihood of finding any aliens in occupation is all but nil! But if we should come face to face with an alien the last thing we want to do is scream and run in the opposite direction! We have to act instantly! Angela has to act instantly! Every movement, every gesture and sign has to be read and understood!

Luigi answered conceitedly. There is nothing Angela can do that I cannot! I am an expert linguist! There is not a language I cannot master! A text I cannot read!

You might become the absolute expert in their language in time, Luigi. But by then they’ll be gone! We’ve got two hours! And Angela is the only one among this crew who can get us through those two hours if aliens are on board! You might be a great linguist, but can you get cannibals to carry your tent and your backpack when they’ve never seen a white man let alone a white woman before? When you don’t have any idea what they’re saying, or whether they’re angry or happy?

Luigi didn’t get a chance to reply as Scott rushed on.

"No, I didn’t think so! You have no experience of first contact situations whatsoever! The first words you