The Second Age of Man
To Save a Planet
“He is a good soldier, Juno, a little mouthy, but any good captain would overlook that and see the prize a pilot of that caliber brings with him.”
“Do you think Marcus would take him? If’n we asteded him.”
“The question is would he come, Juno? On Herod’s ship wine flows a lot freer than it does on ours.”
“I think that is just camouflage, Jared. He feels safe inside that drunk, and no one expects too much from him.”
“No, Juno, we were with him in the academy he’s always been a rowdy, disobedient, loud mouth. Everyone is amazed at what you’ve done with him in the short time he’s been under your direct command.”
“Captain, Commander, bio and chem teams requesting permission to enter ship, Sirs.”
“We’ll finish this later, Jared, it seems God wants this for us; everything is going so much faster than expected. We have work to do, Commander li’l bro,” she winked before she responded to Jacob. “So soon, Jacob–”
“It could only mean one of two things, Cap’n. Either they’s fount good pickins er bad, Sir.”
“Yes’m, Sir!” Jared saluted and left the ready room laughing.
“Advise flight deck and send Commander Jezabel and her team leaders in here as soon as they get decontaminated and cleaned up.”
“Yes’m, Cap’n. Would you like the rest of the team leaders and commanders included, Cap’n?”
“Yes, Jacob, you as well.”
“Yes, Commander! If they’s fount good pickins … we’re landin’ this ship tonight! You need to be in this meeting. How long until the link to Fleet is repaired, Commander?”
“We hope to have it corrected no later than shift change, Captain.”
“Let me know and let those people come home, Jacob, they must be tired.”
“Aye, Captain, as you wish, Sir! Gliders One-ten and Two-ten, flight deck is ready for you; at your discretion, Commander Jezabel, Captain Juno would like a report as soon as you’re able, Commander. Welcome home, gliders.”
Jezabel went from the decontamination area to Juno’s ready room. Juno waved to a chair as she said, “Report, Commander Jezabel.”
“Captain, the water and atmosphere are acceptable. We’ve selected two possible landing zones, Sir–”
“On your screens, Captain, Commanders.” Jacob interrupted.
“Coordinates have been entered into the main computer and the holograms speak for themselves, Captain. As you can see, the first zone has water and food available, water samples and chemical reviews are more than satisfactory.”
“What do you think, Jacob?”
“Yes, Commander, we value your opinion–”
“Yes’m, thank you. Bott tha landin’ zones match the orbit survey, they’s centrally located and … beggin’ Commander Jezabel’s pard’n, tha sec’nd zone seems better equippt fer our needses, Cap’n.”
“Jacob, the first choice is near water and food. It has plenty of flat area for the ship to land and–”
“Yes, Commander, you are correct,” Jacob said, “but from a guard’s paint’o view, the sec'nd site is more p’tected and easier to defend.”
“We have seen no predators or people to be protected from, Jacob!”
“Yes, Commander, but that don’t mean they’s ain’t there. T’only means you dint see’em. From my paint’o view, we’d be safer at the second site, Cap’n. We’s got gliders to fetch food and water, heck, moss'o us, we ain’t gonna be there thet much, Commander. The ship, one guard and monitor crews’ll be all what stays at bivouac, one guard can p’tect site two better’n the open spaces of site one, Commander. Them’s m’thots... but I’ll put this ship ennywhar the cap’n tells me to put’er.”
“Jez, let’s take a look at site two….”
“S’on th’ screens now, Cap’n, Commanders, as yew kin see; the mouth o’th waterfell creates a raight nice cove to hunker th’ship inta, Cap’n. If’n we land inside thet cove and leave the flight deck facing the waterfell’s ketch pool, gliders kin come in’n out unobstructed b’glidin’ up river; thet purt-ty mech ‘liminated th’ thereat’o getting’ chased inta th’ship, Sirs. I ain’t seed lotta peoples who kin walk on water, Sirs; hope not to find none on this here planit. The rise of the mount’n will p’tect the whole flank’o th’ ship, Sirs... and t’other side’n back will be well hid by the forest nearby. Plenny room betwixt the ship’n th’forest ta put’ this li’l bitty ship in wiff a good area for several teams to set up temporary bivouac area and get some fresh air on they’s mandatory’s, Cap’n. Ship’s air do gits a li’l stale a’ter awhile, don’t’cha think, Sirs?
“Th’ketch pool’s close enough to keep us in water’n mebe even a fish’r two. Camp fahrs, if’n enyone wuz inclined ta build a fahr’n roast some mana bread, Sirs, would be far enuff from the forest and visible from only’s one direction. If’n I’s cap’n, thet’s whar I’d put’er down …, but I ain’t, so y’all deecide, I’ll put’er down whar y’ant me to.”
“He’s right, Captain, I was thinking about the view more than anything. He makes a lot of sense.”
“I agree, J.”
“Jared. What about you?
“That site was my first choice, Captain. I agree completely.”
“Ten-Q, Commanders, Cap’n. Commander Jezabel…, dint mean t’step on yer toeses, Sir.”
“That’s why we have these meetings, Jacob, no offense taken. You’re only thinking of our safety; that is imperative in these expeditions.”
“Can you put the ship in there, Jacob? It looks awfully tight.”
“Yes’m, it’d be a breeze, Cap’n!”
“Well, whut’cha waitin fer, Jacob, land this baby!”
“Yes’m…, Aye, Sir.”
“Commanders, we will take last shift and one full day to set up the facilities and begin our exploration thirty-six hours after landing. Dismissed! Jacob, I was serious, get this ship on the ground; I’m tard o’stale air, Commander!”
“Yes’m, Cap’n, on m’way, Sir.” Crisp salute!
“Thank you, Jacob, and, how long till the link is repaired?”
“Purty soon, Cap’n, ’scuse me, Sir, gotta ship ta land.”
“Y’know, J, after a little while, I found myself able to understand Jacob and he was not as annoin’—annoying—that language is infectious, though, we have to make sure not to get caught up in it or in a month the whole crew’ll be talkin’ lak’im.”
“He had a lot of good ideas and I’d like to see him put this ship in that cove. It looks small to me, Captain.”
“Jezabel, do you think Herod would let him transfer ships?”
“Let him! Juno, Herod would be happy if all the wine drinkers would transfer. All you have to do is ask him. He will not even listen to your reasons. He’ll be cuttin’ orders ‘fore yer thru askin’. I see what you mean ‘bout infectious, Eve. It sorta lingers in your mind even after he’s gone, don’t it?”
“We must be careful not to make fun of him as I find m’seff doin' from time to time, he may git his feelers hurt, y’know!”
“He could be so much more, Captain….”
“I’ve got a feeling he is, Jared; he’s just hiding behind that drunk. Let’s give him a chance, mebe we can hep him in the time we have with him.”
“Captain, Commanders, secure all decks, initiating descent, Sirs.”
“Aye, Commander Jacob, thank you.”
“You heard him, secure all decks!”
“Cap’n, the link is ready, Sir, sorry bout da trouble, you may notify Fleet.”
“On my way, Commander, let’s get this ship on the ground and explore us a planet, see you on the ground, Commanders.”
“Base Seven; Seven One initiating descent onto 7-276H4.”
“Seven One; stay safe and notify us when you can re-establish the link.”
“Understood, Base Seven, link severed on your mark.”
“Seven One; three … two … MARK! Safe journey, our hopes are with you.”
“Thank you, Base Seven, Seven One out!”
“Take us down, Commander.”
“Yes’m, Cap’n.” Jacob said, smiling a smile only the captain understood.
He purposely circled the planet one time, as if to take aim on his landing zone and deftly maneuvered the ship out of orbit and began a concentric circle descent with his landing zone as the axis of his flight. The screens on the commander’s consoles glimmered with a planet engulfed in sunset and the commanders were awed. Jacob’s tactics were impeccable, but the commanders were more interested in the overall view; a golden sunset covered the planet and the landing zone, and, having been in deep space for four months they had forgotten the beauty of nature’s greatest gift.
As if to wake them from a mesmerized state he said, “Y’all best be payin’ ‘ttention ta th’landscape better’n thet sunset, ladies’n gentlemin’. This ain’t no pleasure cruise ‘round the moon back home, folks. Y’all s’pposed ta be lookin’ fer strange happenin’s so’s we don’t run inta trouble down yonder! I ain’t flyin’ round in circles fer m’health but yorn. Jest ‘cause it’s gettin’ dark don’t mean y’all cain’t be lookin' fer trouble! There’ll be plenny o’time fer pleasure cruises oncet we’s down, yer on m’time now, folks!”
The glazed-over look departed six faces on the helm as they returned to flight recon from their momentary dreams and, switching their screens to night vision, began making notes of ‘happenin’s’; Juno smiled at Jacob’s remark and her commander’s reactions.
“We should have enuff pitchers o’th’ ground, Cap’n, I’m puttin’er down’n getting’ yew some fresh air, Sir!”
“You’re the pilot, Jacob, at your discretion, Commander.”
“Yes’m, Cap’n! All hands, secure decks for landing!”
Jacob made the landing seem like child’s play. He gently tucked the ship into the cove as he’d promised in the meeting. The sunset reflected on the river and gave the mountain a golden tone, which blended with the waterfall beside the ship and forest behind it, made the ship appear to have been there for centuries. The flight deck faced the lagoon and the river was splayed in front of the flight deck as a runway, just as Jacob had promised.
“Congratulations, Commander, I couldn’t have done better myself.”
“Ten-Q, Cap’n,” he said, with the slightest hint of a smile. He stood, saluted Juno and barked, “Commanders, Captain, welcome to 7-276H4. Captain of the guard, prepare the captain’s glider and establish a perimeter for bivouac, live charges and stunners at the ready.”
“Aye, Sir,” the words repeated in the com-link as all stations reported in.
“Are we going somewhere, Jacob?” Juno asked.
“Yes’m, Cap’n, I thought you’d want to recon the area while the guard set up an encampment, Sir.”
She thought for a moment and stepping away from her console as Jacob led the way to the flight deck, she said, “It’s not a bad idea; I could use some fresh air, Commander Jared, you have the helm.”