First Immortals Ch. 06bybb1212©
First up I would strongly suggest that if you haven't read the earlier chapters please do so before reading this one, it will explain a lot of things...
No sex in this one, but it will return, I promise.
Apart from that, enjoy. BB1212
If I was to say that our reception when we arrived back on Earth was incredibly underwhelming then I would probably be understating the truth. A lot. We put the Mayflower into orbit around Earth and requested permission to bring her in. It was immediately denied and we were told to wait. Three and a half hours later some bureaucrat ordered us to a remote airfield in Alaska, but we weren't to bring the Mayflower, we were to have just the ten most senior officers in the shuttle. I tied to argue, but they were having none of it.
We arrived at the airfield as directed and finally we saw a guard of honour formed up to greet us. After we exited the shuttle they surrounded us and an officer of some sort told us we were under arrest. We were marched off to a small cell block and we were all locked up in individual cells.
To say I was stunned is just too mild. We had successfully completed a voyage that was epically historical. We had travelled much further than any other humans had before. We had made the first ever human contact with an alien life form. We had endured hardship and death at their, er, tendrils. We had fought a battle and won our freedom from them and we had made the perilous journey back without mishap. We should have been treated as heroes, not criminals. I was furious.
Finally a small bald man with an olive green moustache in a strange blue-grey uniform arrived at my cell with some burly guards.
"Josh Scabbard?" he barked in reedy voice.
"I am Commander Scabbard," I said, "who are you?"
"You will come with us," he said, and walked away. Given little choice I followed him to an office.
"Mister Scabbard..." he said, as he sat behind a desk leaving me standing.
"Commander Scabbard," I growled, angry at his lack of acknowledgement.
"There are no commanders anymore," he said, "the armed services were finally disbanded three years after you left." I sighed, I had sort of wondered why the elite were sent away on what was apparently a suicide mission.
"No Airforce?" I asked, "what about the Stellers?"
"De-commissioned," he said with far too much satisfaction for my liking.
"What about the Inter Galactic Navy?" I asked.
"No such thing," he said smugly.
"Well, your no such thing is orbiting Earth right now," I pointed out.
"Yes," he agreed, "and that leads us to the problem at hand. We simply do not want you back. You were not supposed to return."
"It would be inconvenient, we don't want people getting all military again, it just leads to wars."
I shook my head in wonder, but I was thinking fast.
"When was the last war?" I asked, knowing that it had been decades unless there had been one in our absence.
"That doesn't matter," he said. I lifted my hand to scratch my head and on the way down my finger hit my communicator.
"No acknowledgement, remain silent," I said and the small man looked at me suspiciously.
"What was that?" he asked.
"We have completed this historic mission and you do not want to acknowledge it," I explained, "you just want us to remain silent." What I had really done was to command the crew left on the Mayflower to listen but not say anything.
"Oh," he still looked suspicious.
"So what do we do now?" I asked.
"We don't really care Mister Scabbard, but you and your gang of pirates cannot return to Earth." I started toward him, fully intending to remove his head from his neck. I was restrained by the guards.
"Earth has changed," he said cheerfully, "we do not want your type around anymore."
"Who is we?" I asked wondering how far the rot had spread.
"You will take your friends and return to the ship, after that you will leave our galaxy forever."
"And if we don't?" I asked.
"We will make you," he replied.
"How, seeing as there is no military anymore? There are no aircraft to engage us, and no guns to shoot us down."
"True," he replied thoughtfully," but the people up there don't know that, and you will be instructed not to tell them." I really hated this smug little bastard.
"So how do plan to make me go along with this?"
"You will, because you have been taught to obey orders."
"You know," I said conversationally, "if I was to talk to the Duty Commander of the Mayflower right now what I would tell them to do?"
"I don't really care," he said dismissively.
"I would tell that person to bring the Mayflower into the atmosphere and to orbit the globe flying as low as possible over the major cities so as many people as possible would know we were back," I continued.
"You can stop now," he said waving his hand in the air as if to brush me away.
"Then I would tell them to land in the Hvaast Square in front of World Council of Nations building and to stay there for twelve hours without acknowledging any messages."
"And if the ten people that you have imprisoned here weren't freely walking to the Mayflower by then," I interrupted, shouting, "I would tell them to destroy the building."
"That is enough," the man shouted.
"That is an order, acknowledge," I said, and Fliss' voice came from my communicator.
"Acknowledged." The little man stared at me in shock.
"What have you just done?" he asked.
"I have commanded the Mayflower to show itself, land and if necessary destroy the World Council of Nations building," I said cheerfully. "We are home now and we are not going to just go away again because you say so."
"But I ordered you..."
"No you didn't," I said, "you never gave me an official order. And even if you had done so it would not be an order because you have not identified yourself. As such, you are in no position to order me to do anything."
"I am the Deputy Vice Minister for Compliance's Chief Arranger," he said desperately, "and I order you to repeal your order."
"My god," I said, "they sent a flunky. You don't have the authority to order a child to go home after school. The order stands and there will be no further discussion." With that I tore the Commander in Chief rank badge off my uniform, dropped it to the ground, and stamped on it.
"But how will you tell them...?" he gasped.
"Without my communicator I can't," I said, trying not to laugh because he had fallen for such an obvious trick.
"Quick, get another one of the prisoners," the man said to a guard, "I need their communicator."
"I'm the only in our group one who had one of those," I said happily, and it was true. I was the only one with the CiC badge.
"You," the flunky said desperately to one guard, "go and see if any of the others have one of them. You" he said to the other, "stay here and don't let him get away, I have to ring the boss." With that he hurried away and there was silence for about ten seconds, and then the remaining guard snorted loudly behind me. I turned to him and he had tears rolling down his face.
"Commander Scabbard," he said, laughing, "that was the funniest thing I have ever seen. You fixed that arrogant little prick right up. Put your rank badge back on Sir, and let me be the first to congratulate you on the successful completion of your mission."
"Terek Van Der Schon Sir. Oh, and I won't say anything to Oscar, you have my word."
"Thanks Terek," I said, shaking his hand as he kept convulsing with laughter. I grinned, at least it seemed like there were some real people left.
When the Mayflower landed in the Hvaast Square we were there with the shuttle to meet it, and there was quite a crowd clustered around the perimeter of the square as well.
I was very well aware by then that all we had achieved by delaying our flight and sending our message four weeks ago was to let the people who didn't want us back prepare their plans to make sure that we didn't inconveniently reappear. I had prepared a short statement while I was locked in the shuttle waiting for the Mayflower to arrive at Hvaast Square. I was sure that there were a lot of more senior and more intelligent people than Oscar Flunky who were right now going into damage control and trying to work out how to get out of this mess without looking bad. That meant they would be blaming us and trying to discredit us as much as possible.
I walked from the shuttle, with the other senior officers behind me and we met the stream of people pouring off the Mayflower and into the square. I hurried to find Fliss.
"Quickly," I said, "give me back command." Fliss looked around nervously, and I could understand that. By obeying my order she had put herself in a very difficult position. But Fliss was also smart.
"Command returned to Commander Scabbard," she said, and the voice control tone acknowledged. I looked around and saw that a couple of official looking fusion cars were heading towards us at speed.
"On my mark take my communicator signal and amplify for the people around the perimeter of the square." The tone acknowledged. "Also broadcast as emergency on all news frequencies."
"Confirm emergency override of frequencies," An electronic voice replied.
"Emergency override confirmed," I said, and then I took a deep breath, "Mark," I said, and the signal acknowledged.
"Ladies and Gentlemen," I said, and my voice echoed across the square, "I am Commander Josh Scabbard, and I am pleased to announce that after eleven and a half years The Mayflower has returned." A cheer rose from the crowd.
The cars were getting closer.
"It is with mixed feelings that I report to you the success of our mission. We found and made contact with an alien species. Unfortunately they were not friendly and eighty six brave men laid down their lives so that the rest of us could escape."
"Josh," a voice called from one of the cars as it arrived. I knew who it was and I continued.
"But the danger is not over and we need to prepare for an attack..." I said and as I paused I heard the voice of Urnst Thonlinson behind me.
"Commander Scabbard is relieved of command, cancel broadcast," and the tone acknowledged the change.
"Why Sir?" I asked.
"You are in a lot of trouble Scabbard," he said, his fury dripping from every pore.
"No more Sir, than being sent to a lonely death for succeeding in carrying out a dangerous mission." He had the decency to look down and shut up for a moment.
"Take them all away for de-briefing," he eventually said to an aide, "no media contact and for god's sake make sure they don't have any weapons. Then he turned and left.
The stunned crowd watched as six armoured busses drove up and we were ushered on board. For the second time that day I was taken to a cell, and I suspected that this time it was not going to be anywhere near as easy to regain my freedom.
Sadly I was right. I spent the next three days in isolation with food delivered through an ancient hatch system. The cell was standard for the time, small and poorly equipped. The ancient and outdated television and radio were not working so I was unable to find out what had happened to any of the others from The Mayflower. After the third day I finally was taken from the cell to an interview room where I was put into restraints. My requests for explanations were totally ignored, and by the time Urnst Thonlinson came in the only thing keeping me from losing my temper and going off at him was the fact that I guessed this was what they were trying to trigger. Instead I just waited and watched him without saying anything.
Brigadier Thonlinson was the most senior Australian Air Force officer when we left for YW 4597. I didn't like the man but I had a grudging respect for his achievements. He was nobody's fool, but he was also quite ruthless in his quest to achieve greater success. He obviously had done so in our absence as he now wore a Darnier suit, something that immediately marked him as a senior government official. He was small in stature with one of those little moustaches that looked like someone had put a tiny broom up his nose. He had kept both the moustache and his now thinning hair in the Air Force blue colour that I remembered.
I watched him, knowing that I had much more patience than he did.
"We don't know what to do with you," he finally said, breaking the silence as I had known he would.
"Nothing unwarranted Sir," I replied as neutrally as I could, "maybe a parade, a few virgins and a small tropical island would be appropriate." He spluttered.
"This is not a joking matter," he managed to say.
"I'm not joking," I said seriously. 'Ha,' I thought, 'come back from that one.'
"You should be executed for treason," he said.
"Why Sir," I asked, with exaggerated reasonableness, "when I have not committed treason?"
"What do you call that stunt with Oscar Yillidie?" he asked angrily, his bright red face mapped by veins swollen with fury.
"I call it staying alive Sir," I responded. "I call it seeking justice."
"Well I don't," he said, "and now you have to answer to me."
"OK," I said, knowing that aggravating him might feel like a win now but would be a severe loss later, "so what answers do you want?"
He wanted the details of the voyage, start to finish, and with a few exceptions that were purely to protect the other crew members I gave them to him. Urnst Thonlinson was more or less a good listener, if a rather doubtful one, and after a few instances where I had to ask him if he wanted to hear the story or not he settled down and let me speak. Where he had questions he would ask them, and quite often his body language made it clear that he thought my account was exaggerated or even false. But he had asked for the story so I told him.
When I finally got to the end of story, some two hours after we started talking, I made sure to emphasise the fact that Oscar had not only failed to identify himself at our first contact, but he had also refused to identify himself when asked. Of course I did not mention the discussion that I had with Terek Van Der Schon either. There was no need to get him in any trouble.
"Do you really expect me to believe that?" Thonlinson finally asked, and I considered the question.
"Not really," I replied casually, "if I was told that story and I hadn't seen it myself I think I would take a lot of convincing." Thonlinson nodded.
"But?" he demanded.
"But," I said casually, "there are hundreds of people and the ships log to corroborate the facts. Have you checked them?"
"I will," he said, "but the self-healing thing..."
"It's fully logged," I said in exasperation, "why would we try to fake that and how could we?"
"That," he said, standing up, "is what I intend to find out," and with that Thonlinson left the room.
About twenty minutes later I was taken back to my cell and locked up again. I never did find out from Thonlinson exactly what he discovered because it was over six months before I saw him again, he was the very next person I saw and when I did see him there were much more pressing issues to deal with.
Back then there was no real need for prisons. Like I said earlier we had pretty much removed people's ability to commit serious crime, and that meant that almost all the prisons had been shut down. So the place they had found for me was not new by any stretch of the imagination. And it also wasn't crowded. If the rest of the Mayflower crew were being held at the same place it was well out of my hearing range. I was totally isolated from the rest of the world, and I never even saw the people who fed me. I read up on it later, and I was subjected to what had been called solitary confinement. I found out that solitary confinement is designed to be stressful on a prisoner, and it can have a severe psychological effect. In normal practice it was used for a couple of days up to a maximum of a couple of weeks to punish those who were misbehaving. In total I was there for just over seven months.
Seven months is a long time to have only yourself for company, I can tell you that. I didn't know anything about what was going on outside. Was the rest of the crew being held in prison, or even something worse? Had enough people got the message that we were back or had there been a massive cover up? What did they plan to do with me? The questions were endless. I tried shouting questions when my food was delivered, but there was no acknowledgement, I tried breaking things, but they got replaced when I was asleep and then I would wake with a dozy drugged out feeling. Eventually I gave up trying to get answers, they just weren't forthcoming.
I had no operating interface, computer, TV or radio, I had no books to read, I didn't even have a pen and paper. The room was bare except for my basic plastic bed, a plastic chair, the toilet, a wash basin, the hatch for food and a small sturdy shelf with the dead electronic equipment on it. I don't know how I remained sane over that period, but eventually I resigned myself to my fate and I filled the days with exercise and silent contemplation. I wrote a full report on the Mayflower's voyage in my head, and to this day I can still recall every word of it. Eventually I gave up and waited, and the worst thing was I had no idea what I was waiting for.
When something finally did happen it was a development that I had never expected. I was doing sit-ups one day when I felt a breeze on my neck. I turned in surprise, assuming that at last someone had opened the cell door, but there was just this darkness where the wall had been. Curious I got up and walked to it. The weirdest thing was there was nothing there. It wasn't a colour, it wasn't a space, it was just the total absence of anything. I was already in a really fragile state of mind, and I took this as proof that I finally had gone insane. So I reached out my hand and...
Suddenly I was in this massive yellow warehouse, and Thonlinson was right there in front of me. I wanted to say something smart but I just couldn't, I was frozen into position. Then realization hit me. The YW's had managed to rebuild their fleet and now they had come for their revenge.
All I could see was Thonlinson facing me and the floor and ceiling meeting a yellow wall a long way behind him. I desperately wanted to turn around and see what was behind me, but the force holding me was strong.
I was scared, I don't mind admitting it. If I had one of those YW's trying to have sex with me I was dead. I had been in solitary confinement for six months, and I hadn't had any sort of sex in that entire time. Trying to outlast a YW just wasn't an option, I was so full of sexual energy by that time that a pretty girl smiling might just have triggered an eruption. Basically I realised that before I was screwed I was already screwed.
But it wasn't the YW's that appeared, it was the Eriguons. Now these days everyone knows what the Eriguons are, but this was the first ever contact between us, and all I saw were these half sized things that looked sort of halfway between humans and ostriches. They were bright green and white back then, and they still had the weird scaly feather things and the seemingly useless grippers at the end of their tiny upper limbs. Their huge heads with the three miniature eyes were more amusing to me than frightening. I mean, how was I to know that these creatures were the highly efficient and feared police of the universe?
Other people started materialising around me, and with great relief I recognised some of the senior crew members from the Mayflower in amongst a lot of politicians wearing the obligatory Darnier suits. At first I wanted to move a bit, like I had managed to do with the YW's, but then I realised this would just give away what might be my only trick. After some time the Eriguons gathered together and started looking at us intently. They did not seem to be angry at first, but they did get agitated after a while.