[Episode 18 of a spin-off from my novels The Hitch-hiker and
Mission of the Unwilling.]
We’d entered the system of seven planets, the third planet from the sun being the Pilgrim.
‘We want you to at least have a talk to him, Hols,’ Jo Smith said. ‘He’s gone crazy and I’m losing my patience with him.’
‘You want me to talk to the Captain?’
‘We have to do something, or we can forget about the mission.’
‘It seems to me like you already have.’ I was amazed at how naïve these Aussies could be. I had, only five minutes before, left an extremely, most harrowing shift with Fahrer.
‘How so?’ Dr Smith asked.
‘I don’t know, Doctor, but the fact we have strayed from our destination, might be a clue,’ I replied. ‘Does it not concern you Boris might strike Earth sooner rather than later?’
Smith scratched his forehead. ‘I don’t like what’s happening to Fahrer. And I don’t want to go forward in the mission with him the way he is.’
‘What does that mean?’
‘Do what you can—work your counselling magic—and if it doesn’t pan out…’
‘Leave him there?’
‘Hmm. We might have to.’ Smith combed the knots on the top of his head. ‘He’s a loose cannon in his present state, and he’s likely to put us all at risk.’
I took a deep breath. ‘I will see what I can do.’
My task was to plot a course for the planet. It was like an obstacle race with all the asteroid belts, other planets, solar clouds, satellites, and the odd menacing comet floating around.
We approached Pilgrim taking care to avoid the rogue satellites set free as a result of the nuclear blast several years ago courtesy of Boris. Boris just hated the fact the ISF had rescued the Wends—his slave collection—and resettled them on the Pilgrim Planet. He just had to bomb the settlement to teach the ISF a lesson.
Fahrer insisted that his skill of navigation was superior, then promptly handed me the task of navigation while he operated the controls. He was not much help at all!
I weaved my way through the cosmic clutter taking the scenic route to the planet.
Fahrer growled. ‘At this rate we will take months to reach our destination!’
‘Well, then, Herr Expert, find us the safe short-cut!’ I stormed out of the bridge, and into the quiet of the galley and Mutant whisky.
The galley did not stay quiet for long.
Liesel entered. ‘How’s it going with Fahrer?’
‘Not so good.’
‘Have you tried—?’
‘Not you too?’ Whisky glass in hand, I darted to the Mess area. ‘Everybody is giving me suggestions. Just leave me alone.’
‘I’m sorry.’ Liesel followed and then draped an arm around me. ‘That bad, eh? Just is, I thought you have experience with—er—um grief.’
‘Fahrer gives me grief.’ I quipped not quite sure how I managed such a clever answer.
‘And the doctor wants me to counsel him on that planet. Is he joking?’
‘Look,’ Smith said as he bowled into the Mess. He sat on the seat opposite. ‘We have tried. All of us at one time or another, have tried to speak to Fahrer—you know—help him out to get over his—um—to get over Minna. But he refuses to listen.’
Fritz came in and joined the discussion. ‘And now it’s affecting his work. As you have experienced, Holly.’
‘So you noticed. It’s not just me and it’s not just Fahrer’s personality,’ I said dryly. I swilled the last drops of whisky, surprised again how the words in English flowed. This dry humor was not me at all.
‘He’s really a good bloke, once you get to know him—when he’s not depressed.’ Smith went on. ‘He’s like my mother with a migraine.’
I hadn’t met Joseph’s mother, but I imagined such a situation wouldn’t be pleasant. Although, I was slightly jealous that he had a mother, even if she was of the helicopter variety.
‘And because you’re impartial, you’re easy to talk to and have been through a similar sort of thing, he might listen to you, you know,’ Fritz said. ‘You don’t know how much effort it took to make the leadership agree to you working with the Captain.’
‘As if he, who thinks I’m an idiot, is going to listen to a word I say,’ I replied. ‘What would I say? Get over it?’
‘Come on, Holly, it’s your job. Why do you think you are here?’ Liesel spoke up. ‘Do you really think your piloting skills are superior?’
Trust Liesel to put me in my place and remind me of my job description. ‘I know, I know. But you have to understand, he is not willing to listen or change.’
‘I really think he will listen to you, Holly,’ Smith said. ‘Give it time.’
‘And I really don’t think he believes you’re an idiot. I think he would respect your opinion,’ Fritz said.
‘Apart from the fact he’s called me a fool on more than one occasion,’ I said.
‘All that time you spend working together, surely there’d be a time when you can have a word to him,’ Liesel said. ‘Go on, you might surprise yourself.’
The door snapped open, and Fahrer entered. The room went silent and I slid my whisky glass under a napkin. The rule was: No drinking and navigating.
The Captain glared at me. ‘We have reached the planet.’
I rose. ‘Wow, what a short-cut!’
‘What do you mean by that?’ Liesel was curious.
‘I mean, I told Herr—er—Whatever, Fahrer here, to find us a short-cut as he did not like my scenic route. I was so looking forward to sailing past the rings of the fifth planet and taking some photos.’
‘Oh, Gunter, how could you not like Holly’s scenic route!’ Smith reclined and rested his boots on the table.
Liesel and Fritz laughed at some hidden implication.
The Captain curled his lip at Smith. I stared at the sniggering Aussie trio. Then he jerked his head in the direction of the door, indicating for me to return to the Bridge. He then walked out of the Mess.
The penny dropped for me. ‘Oh, I am insulted! That was not very nice of you! And you still want me to talk to him?’
Smith, Fritz, and Liesel laughed.
‘Cool it, Hol!’ Fritz said.
‘Take a chill pill.’ Just the sort of comment I expected from Dr. Smith.
‘Aw, Hols, you’re starting to sound like Herr Captain Fahrer.’ Liesel plucked out an ice-block from my glass and tossed it at me.
I ducked the missile. ‘Stop it! I’m not impressed.’
Then I turned, my back facing them.
Liesel stopped giggling. ‘Are there really rings around the fifth planet, Holly?’
I shrugged. ‘I guess now, we will never know.’
‘I didn’t know you had a camera, Holly,’ Fritz said.
‘It’s a hobby.’ I had no desire to oblige to their request and speak to Fahrer now. Naughty Australians!
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2018
Feature Photo: Pancakes at Elephant Pass, Tasmania © L.M. Kling 2009