The Jason and the Argo by Dorothy Olson by Dorothy Olson - Read Online

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The Jason and the Argo - Dorothy Olson

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19

BOOK I

Dramatic Personae

Argo’s Crew

Amy Steel-Ship’s Captain and whose primary function is Diplomat

Reginald Rory Wilcox-Science Officer

Gregory Mac McQueen-Chief Engineer

Ike Hotsie-Navigator and Weapons Specialist

Ian McIntosh-Chief of Animal Husbandry

Anne Fontainbleau-Chef and overseer of the ship’s food supply

Father O’Leary-Chaplain

Belinda Holguin-Librarian

Argo’s Passengers

Tex Armstrong-Consortium Head also Sam Armstrong’s father

Sam and Macy Armstrong-Young newly married couple.

Mark Guillaume-Consortium Botanist

Ralphie Hotsie-Ike Hotsie’s son

Sven Jorgenson-Boatwright

Constance Candy Rutherford-Little girl with a headache

Elaine Robertson-Vice President

Scot Gerhard-Textiles

Sam Brody-Construction

Trailians

Gulfth-short alien

Ur -Gulfth’s son

Theos-Amorphous Trailian Leader

Ganos-Science Officer

Pliny-Historian

Theor-Navigation Officer one who fires torpedoes

Harmonios-Composer

Dorje-Guru

Emmerinians

Whisper-Young Emmerinian allowed to talk to Humans and Trailians

Sprout and Twiglet-Whisper’s offspring

Prologue

Silent and majestic was the ship that cruised along that deep dark night. The ship was one of the largest of her kind and luxuriously appointed. Ships of her class no longer had mere names. She bore an alpha-numeric designation that meant something to her developers and builders but since XPLHMS 175590215-7 did not exactly trip delicately off the tongue, she was simply referred to by those aboard as Argo. In Greek mythology another ship called Argo had carried the ancient hero Jason and his 50 men on a quest for the Golden Fleece. This Argo wasn’t looking for a golden fleece. She had one. Actually, she had many.

Although primarily a luxury cruise ship, among her 3000 or so well-to-do passengers aboard was a consortium of Ranchers looking for a place to expand its interests. Their botanist, one Mark Guillaume, had been brought along to oversee the farming of special plants he had developed which could extract specific metals from the soil. The consortium’s latest enterprise was centered on a newly developed breed of sheep. These sheep took metals (yes, including gold) from Mark’s special plants. The so-called Goldened sheep were then able to incorporate the metals from those plants directly into their wool. Their wool not only concentrated those metals, it made mining unnecessary. The wool was still removable by shearing, the sheep remained alive to produce many more batches and the land remained untouched and pristine. The wool fibers were easily reducible to the metal by use of bacteria, mild acids or even burning. This was a great improvement over gouging ore out of unsightly strip mines and refining it in nasty toxic waste-producing factories.

The stars seen from the deck of the ship were absolutely magnificent that night. This deck, however, wasn’t open to the starry sky, and the sky was always starry, and it was always night. It was the sky of space.

This was a star ship. This cruise was scheduled to last three years and the destination was Jupiter’s newly terra-formed moon Europa. Like the Ranchers, some of the other passengers were also looking forward to new and exciting business opportunities on Europa. By and large, however, most of the passengers on board just wanted to travel to a new and underdeveloped place for the excitement of it, much as people in the twentieth century traveled to see Antarctica or the Galapagos Islands.

Argo was captained by Amy Steel, a young newly-minted diplomacy graduate. The job of Starship Captain on a luxury liner of this class was just about as exacting as captaining a ride at an amusement park. The course of the vessel was controlled by computers on earth which sent messages to the computers on Argo by means of communication relays stationed along the route. Navigator Ike Hotsie was also young but had several years of experience under his belt. It was his job to make sure that the ship’s computers were maintained and still processing the information which kept them on track. Captain Amy’s primary function, therefore, was to wander around looking nice, (which she did very well), assuring that the passengers were comfortable and enjoying themselves.

The developers of Europa were intent on avoiding the environmental catastrophes of another Earth. Their plan was for the moon to be kept clean and pristine by severely limiting the types of concerns being allowed to operate there. In hopes, then, that they would be welcome, the Ranchers had brought along plenty of frozen sheep embryos as well as the seeds for Mark’s special grass. However, just in case their cause needed further promoting, the Ranchers had also brought along a few grown, Goldened sheep as bribes. (This is where the golden fleece part comes in).

Bringing sheep aboard a luxury ship was not that hard. On a three-year journey, people accustomed to fine dining were not going to be happy on frozen peas squeezed out of a tube. Part of the ship was given over to the maintenance of a small herd of livestock to supply fresh meat and hydroponic gardens for fresh fruit and vegetables. These enterprises were supervised by the onboard Chief of Animal Husbandry, Ian McIntosh, and Chief Overseer of Food Supply, Anne Fontainbleau, who was also the chef. The people were still eating well.

A young, newly married couple was out enjoying their honeymoon under the stars on the glassteel¹ enclosed upper deck of this ship. The ship was currently on the far side of the solar system from earth lining up for the slingshot effect which would send her hurtling toward Jupiter. Space is supposed to be silent. It is also supposed to be dark. Therefore, the young couple on the deck was surprised to see a sudden pyrotechnical display appearing in the sky above the deck, accompanied by roaring static and loud booms. The sounds were actually issuing from the electrical system on board the ship and from sympathetic vibrations in the structure of the ship which was being shaken by energy coming from a sudden solar storm, but it was hard not to associate them with the lights. The couple’s conversation went something like this:

Macy, my sweet, is this view alone worth the price or what!

Your father’s money was well spent, but honestly, I could enjoy the view more if you could move over some.

Oh, right! Is that better?

Oh the view outside is lovely. Amazing! Your kissing is so great now I’m seeing fireworks.

The glory of the view only pales beside your beauty my…Wow! Your kissing is so good my ears are ringing. Actually, I really am hearing something, and it is getting louder. Now it sounds like static.

I’m hearing it too, and I really am seeing lights. Check them out Sam.

He looked around and saw that the outside of the ship was surrounded by colorful flashing lights.

Oh listen! Now you can even hear the ‘booms’. Did you talk your dad into setting off fireworks outside the ship? Sam how is it that we are hearing these noises? I thought you couldn’t hear sound in space.

Definitely, no, you can’t hear sound in space. For that you need air. Sound can’t be transmitted without air and there is no air in space.

Then what are we hearing?

They sat and watched the flashes grow in intensity and frequency. The shouldn’t be static and booming grew louder in tandem with the flashes. Alarmed, Sam and Macy dressed almost as fast as they had undressed and rushed back into the inside of the ship where they met complete pandemonium. The last transmission they heard by Navigator and Weapons Specialist Ike Hotsie was, Ladies and gentlemen, we are encountering a bit of turbulence. Please return to your cabins and remain calm. I am sure it will subside momentari…..

¹ Glassteel-really hard substance designed to allow the fancy passengers to see out.

PART I

THE JOURNEY

Chapter 1

On board the helm of Argo:

What just happened out there Wilcox?

Captain Steele, Ma’am, Sir, we were overtaken by a severe, violent, sudden and completely unexpected solar event emitting on our side of the sun subsequently disrupting our electrical, navigation and communication systems. The expulsion of solar energy in the coronal mass ejection was of such unprecedented intensity that the protracted electromagnetic radiation thrown out by said event rendered inoperable anything that was exposed to the outside catastrophic, extraordinarily violent, excessive and caustic conditions.

The moment Science Officer Reginald Wilcox (referred to as Rory by his shipmates) paused to take in a breath Captain Amy Steel quickly took advantage and snapped out an exasperated, In English Rory!

Science Officer Rory closed his eyes, sucked in a deep breath and rephrased, Anything on the outside of the ship was knocked out by a bad solar storm, Captain.

Aren’t we protected against radiation and solar flares and…‘stuff’ from space? Rory was only too familiar with the blank looks that usually accompanied nearly everything he ever said. Running his hand exasperatedly through his longish, unruly dark hair, he took a few moments to focus his thoughts into a more simplified format. Then, taking a deep breath, he resolutely tried to explain a decidedly complicated situation in terms the Captain and her assembled crew could understand. Yes Ma’am Sir. Absolutely! We have an outer hull expressly designed to protect the contents, that is the passengers and cargo of this ship, but the communications antennae and…(pause, pause) well…the intense energy that the ship was hit by, um…zapped anything poking out of the hull. Seeing the eyes of the Captain and Crew widen alarmingly he quickly rephrased, Everyone inside is okay.

Trying to express a situation like this in simplified terms was taking a lot out of the Science Officer. Likewise, the extended pauses he was taking to reorganize his thoughts were noticeably affecting his audience adversely. They, thinking he was unable to express the situation because it was so bad, (which was not so far from the truth), became even further rattled by his pausing. The officers and crew on board Argo were no more scientifically or militarily trained than their titular captain. They served on board a luxury liner. They weren’t expected to have to handle disasters. They were supposed to be within hailing distance of help—either from Earth or from other ships in the area. They were understandably upset.

Science Officer Wilcox had signed on merely to obtain passage to Europa in hopes of furthering his scientific endeavors. He really wasn’t prepared for anything like this either. So now, after once more pausing to compose his thoughts, he continued, We have lost communication with earth. We can’t receive or transmit information so we can’t call for help. Right now we can’t locate any other vessels to hail even if we could. Mac, I mean Chief Engineer Gregory McQueen, has restored life support to the inside of the ship. It was temporarily knocked out by the overload of energy—er…sort of like ‘blowing a fuse’.

He looked around the helm. They were all nodding and still seemed to be following so he continued. We have replaced the transformers and have lights, air, and…climate control for now using the back-up power sources. At some point someone will have to go outside and try to replace the solar panels because we don’t have an endless supply of deuterium chrysta…um fuel. That is pretty much the extent of the damage Captain.

Well how could a solar flare have done all that? I mean they happen all the time and I don’t hear about this happening.

This was no simple solar flare Captain Ma’am, Sir. It was a storm, the likes of which has been unparalleled in recorded human history; at least as far as I know. Lesser events have been recorded such as the one in 1840 that took out the new telegraph system and the one that hit Canada in 1989 that took out their electrical power. That one produced electrical ground currents beneath most of North America. Even so, the earth was a lot farther away from the sun than we were at the time and so did not get hit as hard as we just did. Theoretically, I suppose, something similar might have occurred in the far distant past, precipitating massive electromagnetic fluctuations that could have incurred the mass extinctions on earth.

What?

Maybe something like this has happened before and was what did in the dinosaurs.

Oh!

Father O’Leary, the ship’s Chaplain, was suddenly having trouble breathing. Um…eh eh eh excuse me…

Yes Father. Did you have something to say? asked the Captain.

Wha…wh…what does this mean ab…about Earth? I mean…What happened to the life on Earth now? What about all the people? Are they like the dinosaurs….? Are they…gone?

Here Navigator Ike Hotsie took over. The data I was receiving just before the final burst that took us out indicated this was a local event that was only occurring on this side of the sun. As a matter of fact it seems to have been directed almost straight at us and we seem to have taken the brunt of it.

Ike Hotsie liked to play up the fact that he stemmed from the New Mexico Navaho Reservation, dressing in the stereotypical checkered shirt, blue jeans and boots in his off time. His barrel chest complimented the effect. He had been planning on using his three years that he was off Earth to even grow his hair long, but none of that drew attention away from the fact that he was one savvy computer specialist. If he had been using his on time to do a little extra research on the solar phenomenon, certainly no one was about to argue.

Mac, the Captain turned hesitantly toward the Chief Engineer and said, is it possible for you to get a crew out to replace the panels, that is, if it’s safe, and concentrate on restoring the communication systems?

Chief Engineer McQueen confidently nodded in the affirmative and said, Certainly, not a problem. The storm seems to have passed and my crew and I have been trained to do outer hull repairs.

He left to take care of the matter leaving a relieved-looking Captain. She’d really had no idea if cruise ship personnel received any such training but she had every confidence that if anything needed fixing, Mac could do it. Amy then turned back to Ike and asked, Ike, do you have anything else to add?

Navigator Hotsie had the only good news of the day. Yes, the ship’s mechanical navigation system has been unaffected and is totally operational. Once communication is restored, we can receive a flight plan and either continue on or return to earth.

An even more dumbed-down version of the meeting was sent to the passengers via their personal communications devices which were still functioning. They were assured that communications would soon be up and they could tell their friends and loved ones back at home about their little adventure. Things settled down—for a time, anyway.

Chapter 2

Captain, Ma’am, Sir?

Yes Rory.

Shouldn’t we be using the more formal addressing of fellow officers using our official military designations given our current situation?

What official military designations?

The ship’s handbook states that in emergency situations we are henceforth to resort to military albeit non-confrontational rule pertaining to our duties as prescribed by our traditional capacities.

You actually read that thing?

Why yes, of course I did.

"Of course you did. So, what are my, um ‘prescribed traditional