Asteroid Patrol: The Replacement

byStorm62©

"But they're getting away!"

"Doesn't matter. We stopped them stealing anything. Now get the others here, all of them. When Nobby and Elsie get here you can take the other two down the hole and see where it goes." He was talking through clenched teeth. I looked at his wound. It didn't look good.

"Hell that looks bad! What should I do to help?"

"Turn the lights on for a start." Suddenly Elsie was with us. She tore open the leg of his trousers and looked around for something to bandage it with. I took off my uniform blouse and handed it to her. I had my lightweight body armour on beneath it.

"That looks amazingly sexy." Dave smiled, and then passed out.

When I came around I was back at the station, a med-machine strapped to my damaged leg.

"Nobby!" I called out. He scurried in.

"You're awake then?"

"Apparently. Fill me in."

"Well, you'll need to stay off that leg for at least two weeks while the machine...."

"I didn't mean that and you know it. What have they found at the bank?"

Nobby sighed.

"They aren't back yet. Emmy called to say the tunnel came out in Alpha section."

"The mainly empty area belt-side of town?"

"Yeah. They were going to have a bit of a poke around. She said they'd be back in about half an hour."

I lay back down and looked at the ceiling.

"I think I messed up Nobby. I was trying to show off in front of Officer Watson, being cool and calm, but I blew it and got blasted. What sort of idiot am I?"

"The normal sort I reckon Big Dave." Nobby grinned. "You ain't the only one you know. Half the town is trying to impress her."

"The male half?" I couldn't help but smile.

"Bingo!"

"Well I saw her first." I said, sticking my tongue out. I was trying to make a joke out of it, but in a way I was serious. It was obvious that I was deeply taken by this youthful, exuberant but professional girl. "Is Elsie about? I want her to transcribe my report so we can send them all off together, assuming the other three have already done theirs."

"They went straight down the hole after I arrived, so I doubt it."

"Well, I'll do mine anyway. They can do them when they get back. Call me when they are."

"Sure. And Boss?"

"Yes Nobby?"

"Lay off the self recrimination will you? At least until your leg is healed."

"I'll try Nobby, I'll try."

The search had been a complete waste of time. Brown, Rodriguez and I had found nothing but an empty tunnel except for the abandoned mark five drill. There was a hint of a smell of scorched flesh, so it seemed that Dave had managed to hit one of them. I put it all in my report when I got back to the station, including the fact that it may have been me that made the noise that alerted the robbers. Apparently Dave had done the same thing. He seemed really down when I went to talk to him, but somehow I managed to cheer him up. I had to; it was very unsettling to see him so full of doubt. I told myself that the station needed him as the strong, resourceful leader, but the truth was that I couldn't bear the thought that his injury may be my fault, that I had caused him pain.

The next couple of weeks were difficult for all of us as we had to reorganise everything so that the three fit officers and Elsie could continue our patrols. Headquarters sent two other Officers; Wright, a recent probationer and Grainger, a total newbie, so we had to change everything again and also include a patrol with Juliet to the front of the asteroid belt. Dave sent me and Wright on that, mainly because my time at the 'Boonies' was nearly up and I was to report to Headquarters after the patrol. I managed to keep my feelings to myself as I said goodbye to Dave, but he looked down again. It was a four day trip along the belt, and then another two days back to HQ. All the time I was worrying about what I was going to say to the Captain when we got there. I knew Dave had put in a good report about me, and when I took the 'Boonies' assignment the Captain had said I was practically guaranteed a better posting. The problem was, I didn't want a different posting. I liked the rough and ready town and its citizens and I liked working with Dave, but how was I going to tell the Captain that the supposed 'Poster Girl' didn't want the fast track to the top.

I was still worrying when we docked. Juliet was taken to be given her once over, Officer Wright went to grab some more of his gear and I slowly made my way to the Captains office.

He opened the door for me and bade me sit.

"You want to stay at the 'Boonies' don't you?" He said.

"How can you tell sir?"

"I've got pretty good at reading faces in the last thirty years."

"I don't want to disappoint you sir, but I feel that the 'Boonies' is where I belong. And I have a case to solve."

The captain smiled.

"You remind me of someone else you know? Ten years ago another bright spark went to the 'Boonies' and never wanted to leave."

"Dave?" I asked.

"Dave." He nodded. "And twelve years before that, the man who married your mother, your father."

"How did you find that out?" I gasped. "I never told anyone Bob was my father."

"I'm a policeman, I find things out. Just because you use your mothers name instead of your fathers."

"I did that so dad wouldn't find out I wanted to be a cop too. Especially after mom died so young and he asked her parents to bring me up."

"You nearly walked into him when he retired you know?"

"Yes, I waited until he said goodbye to you before I came up."

"I won't stand in your way if you want to stay at the 'Boonies'." He sighed. "It's more in your blood than anyone else's; it's where you were born."

"I sort of knew that." I held out my hand. "Thank you captain, for understanding." He shook my outstretched hand. "Can I ask you not to spread around the fact that Bob was my dad?"

"Not a problem, any reason?"

"I just want a little time being myself before I become 'Bob's Daughter'. One other thing. Don't let Dave know I'm staying on. I want to surprise him. He's the other reason I want to stay at the 'Boonies'."

"Okay, all right. Now go away before you start running the entire department." He laughed. I grinned too and then went to start moving all of my stuff onto Juliet for the trip back to the 'Boonies'.

I was on my first patrol since the med-machine came off my leg. I was with Officer Grainger. She seemed to be a capable enough girl, but a little timid. I asked her what her first name was.

"Stacey, but most people I know call me 'Stace'."

"That's a nice name Stace. What are your ambitions in the force?"

"Well, I don't think I'm cut out to be a street patrolman, but I'd quite like to be a pilot."

I smiled.

"We'll see what you're like with Juliet sometime. If you can handle her, I'll recommend you become her pilot if you want to stay at the 'Boonies."

"Thank you sir. That would be lovely." Her eyes shone.

"It's all right." I smiled at her enthusiasm. "And you don't have to call me sir."

"I'll try not to sir." She giggled. "Sorry, it may be harder than I thought."

"As long as you're trying." I laughed.

Nobby called me up.

"Big Dave, Juliet is on approach. Thought you might like to know."

"Thanks, we'll be back in about half an hour."

Nobby met me with a bigger smirk than usual on his face.

"Well, who have they sent?" I asked.

"Under orders mate. You gotta find out for yourself." His grin grew wider. Mildly annoyed, I started towards the landing bay. I saw Nobby whispering to Stacey.

"Really?" She exclaimed.

I shook my head and strode off towards where Juliet was docked.

There was a pile of four or five cases stood next to the ship.

"Bloody hell Wrighty, I thought you said only one case?"

"I did only pick one up Big Dave." He said, coming up behind me. "Those are all hers."

"Hers?" I was surprised they'd sent another female newbie.

"Hey! Can someone out there give me a hand with this?" A voice called from within Juliet, a voice I knew. I ran onto the ship.

"Emmy! What the hell?"

"Hi Dave." She sounded cheerful. I looked at her, puzzlement spreading across my face. Surely she could have got a better posting than the 'Boonies'? She saw my look.

"They told me I could have any posting I wanted, and I fancied this one."

"But why Emmy? You were supposed to be the next big thing. Why chuck that away to come back here?"

"Apparently I'm not the first highly regarded student to fall under the spell of the 'Boonies'." She said with a twinkle in her eye. I went red. "Anyway, I have other reasons besides liking it here. I was born here, so it's where I belong."

"All right, okay." I sighed. "It's your career."

"Good. That's all sorted then. So when are we going to make a proper search for Lafarge?"

It took another couple of days before everything was sorted to Dave's satisfaction. One of the first things he did was take Officer Grainger for a short patrol in Juliet. On their return he pronounced her a natural pilot and put in a request for another street officer. At the same time he asked for the special squad to be put on standby for the next two days, while we made our search for Lafarge. He split us up into two teams of three. I was with Brown and Rodriguez again, while Dave had Wright and Elsie with him. Nobby and Grainger were on the monitors back at the station. My team were going to check a number of warehouses and old docking bays now abandoned because they were at risk from 'asteroid rub' when smaller parts of the belt crashed into the rock that the 'Boonies' was carved out of. Dave took his pair to check out the area Brown, Rodriguez and I had searched that first time. When I asked why, he said that different eyes see different things and maybe there was something we had missed. I was a bit put out by this, feeling that maybe Dave didn't trust us fully. Nobby told me it was all in my head.

The three of us had checked several of the old warehouses and one docking bay and found nothing. No prints in the dust, no oddly locked doors, no carelessly dropped clue, nothing.

"Next one guys." I said. Brown and Rodriguez made for the door. I was about to follow them when something, a tiny anomaly, caught my eye. I crouched down to get a better look. "Carry on, I'll catch up." I called as they turned around when they realised that I wasn't following them. They nodded and exited. What had hooked my attention was a series of dust ridges near the far wall that seemed to have formed for no apparent reason. I looked up and there seemed to be an anomalous machine of some sort. I turned around and saw that there was a disguised entrance into the warehouse. This must be the place Lafarge was using as a hideout!

Suddenly, before I could call up reinforcements, I was grabbed from behind and my radio torn from me. The machine above me was an anti-grav lift. It was what had caused the ridges in the dust. Now someone had used it to get behind me. I was cuffed with my own handcuffs and pushed towards the centre of the warehouse where I was surrounded by three men.

"Good work Porter." The obvious leader said to the man behind me. It was Lafarge!

"The others will come back for me." I said defiantly. "Give up now Lafarge."

"Feisty, aren't you?" He sneered before slapping me across the face hard. "We'll have to be quick then."

"What... what are you going to do to me?" I asked, slightly more quaveringly than I liked.

"I'm not going to rape you, if that's what's worrying you, but I am going to hurt you. One of you coppers burnt me and you're going to pay for that." He slapped me three more times. I staggered and had to be held upright. He aimed a punch at my stomach. I was winded slightly but Lafarge hurt his knuckles on my body armour. Annoyed, he tore open my uniform shirt and attempted to pull the armour away. When it wouldn't give Lafarge nodded at his other henchman who produced a wicked looking blade and began to try to cut the straps holding it. He was having trouble so Lafarge grabbed the blade from him and deftly slashed the holding straps on one side and then jerked the armour away, revealing the basque I wore to protect myself from the armour rubbing me. His eyes glinted evilly, as if he was changing his mind about what he was going to do.

"Boss, they're coming back." The guy behind me suddenly said urgently.

"Pity." He muttered and then slashed at my stomach with the knife, slicing through the thin material and cutting me. I screamed in pain and was then clubbed into unconsciousness from behind.

Rodriguez called me up, saying that Emmy had been attacked. I began to run towards the location he gave, ordering Nobby to get the little wagon to her at once.

"And bring my Colt." I said coldly. This time I wanted to be sure I was going to get Lafarge, because I knew this was his doing. Wright, Elsie and I arrived at about the same time as Nobby and the rescue wagon. My heart sank when I saw the blood on the floor of the warehouse. There was so much. I saw the bruises on her pretty face too and my anger rose. "Nobby get her back to the station at once. You have my gun?"

He passed it over, unsure that he should.

"Are you certain that you should take it Dave?"

"Look at her Nobby. Do you think I care about rules concerning someone who would do that?"

"No, I don't suppose you do. I just wish I could help you."

"Just take care of her." I looked at the others. They all looked worried, especially as they hadn't seen me lose my temper like this before. Only Bob had, and that was only once. "You three, find out where they went. Now!" They scattered and began to look around.

"Dave, over here." Brown called out quickly. "There's some sort of door here."

"Okay, we're coming. Nobby, get going." With a nod he was gone, taking the injured Emmy with him.

The door led out onto a street, a street with footprints. We followed the prints towards a house.

"Wright, take Brown and Rodriguez around the back and cut off the escape route. I'll take Elsie with me."

"What are you going to do Dave?" He asked, eyeing the Colt in my hand.

"Flush them out of course. Now go." They jogged off around the rear of the building.

"Elsie, go to full record mode."

"Acknowledged." The drone said.

I walked up to the door of the house and inched it open. Carefully I entered. Three men, one of them Lafarge, scattered when they saw me. The two accomplices ran toward the back door, Lafarge went upstairs.

"Wright, two coming your way. I'm going after Lafarge." I moved towards the foot of the stairway but was halted by a blaster beam hitting the floor at my feet. "Lafarge? Surrender now, you can't get away." The only answer I got was another blaster beam. I moved to one side, trying to get him in my sights. He moved to take another shot at me and I fired the Colt twice, hitting him in the shoulder. He fell to the floor groaning.

"What sort of weapon is that?" He called down. "A blaster would have taken my arm off."

"I know, that's why I'm using it. I want you alive to take your punishment. Give up now."

"Never!"

He fired again, just missing me. I took careful aim and fired again. The bullets hit him in the head.

"Damn! I wanted him alive."

"You gave him ample time to desist. I have it all recorded."

"Thank you Elsie, we'll have to see what the captain says."

Wright called me.

"Big Dave. We have the other two. What's happening in there?"

"Lafarge is dead. One of you come and stand by the body. Take the other two back to the station. Elsie will wait here as well. I'm going back to the station." I turned and nodded to Elsie and then began to jog back to base.

On my way back Stacey called up sounding worried.

"Sir, there are a lot of people on the streets looking angry. I've called in the special squad. Is that right?"

"We probably didn't need them. I'll sort it out in a minute."

At the station entrance I met Arnie the mayor.

"What's up Big Dave?" He asked.

"We've had an incident in Alpha section. Lafarge attacked Emmy. She's hurt, he's dead. Can you get everyone to calm down? The special squad is on its way and we don't want them blundering around making a bad situation worse." I took him to one side. "Arnie, I killed him with a weapon I shouldn't have. Things may go badly for me, but I don't want you lot taking the law into your own hands. What will happen will happen please?" He nodded and went to talk to the township.

Nobby had bandaged Emmy up and was bathing her face when I found them.

"Is she going to be all right?" I asked, unable to control the tremor in my voice.

"She'll make it boss. She's a toughie."

"Good." I relaxed. "Take the wagon and get Wright and the body. Brown and Rodriguez should be here soon with their prisoners. I want everyone to make their reports as soon as possible; we need to screw this down quickly." He nodded and left. I sat with Emmy, holding her hand, brushing the hair from her eyes.

Stacey came in.

"How is Officer Watson?"

"She'll make it."

"I'm sorry, I panicked before. I wasn't sure what the people on the streets were up to."

"You did everything correctly Stace. Just make your report please." She looked worried. "Rumours spread throughout this town really quickly, they must have heard about Emmy and wanted to help, but you weren't to know that, you haven't been here long enough to understand." I explained.

"They wanted to help Emmy?"

I nodded.

"She's become quite popular. Now go and do as I ask." She turned and left, leaving me alone with Emmy again.

I came around slowly. My body was aching, but I felt someone holding my hand. I carefully opened my eyes and saw Dave. He smiled as he saw I was awake.

"How do you feel Officer Watson?" He asked quietly.

"Like I've been beaten up. What happened?"

"You were jumped. Brown and Rodriguez saved you from anything worse."

"And after?"

"I got him Emmy. Lafarge is gone. I shot him."

"You didn't want too though?"

"No, I wanted him alive. He gave me no choice. I shot him with the Colt."

"But that means you're in trouble, right?"

"I knew the consequences, now I'll have to face up to them."

"What will happen?"

"I don't know, and I don't really care as long as you're alive. The captain and the special squad will be here shortly, I'll find out then."

"But they can't arrest you can they?"

"I broke the law." He shrugged. "Of course they can."

"I won't let them." I tried to sit up, but he pushed me back down.

"No. All you have to do is get better. Rest, let the med-machine work on your wound. This town may need you." He stood. "I'd better go and meet the captain and turn myself in." He turned and called. "Stacey, Elsie, make sure she stays here. And thank you for your support."

"Dave, don't leave me. I love you. You were the reason I came back."

"I love you too Emmy, and I was more glad than I let on when you came back, but I broke the law and I won't run away from that."

I started to cry as he left.

"Dave, don't...." But he was gone.

I left Emmy in the med bay. I heard her start to cry but couldn't bring myself to turn back. I picked up all the reports and the Colt and strode into the landing bay to wait for the captain. Wright, Brown and Rodriguez were back out on the streets, keeping things calm, with help from Arnie. They were all good lads and I hoped I'd get the chance to tell them that. The special squad ship docked and they disembarked.

"A wasted journey guys, I'm afraid." I said, telling them that things were under control now. I went over to the captain and handed him the reports. He looked at me bemused as I placed the Colt and my badge on top of them. "I place myself in your custody sir. I will take whatever punishment you see fit."

"For a riot that didn't happen? What are you talking about?"

"I think you better read the reports first sir." I led him to our office and sat with him as he read about what had gone on. He called for Elsie and I left the room as he reviewed her recordings of the events. I looked out of the front of the station and saw that there were a number of people just standing around and waiting. They looked unhappy.

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