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"I'll get the medics," volunteered Scott as he turned and raced back down the path to find the door with its phone.
Janna rushed to her father's side. Sandy still did not move. It was taking some time for the realization that she had witnessed a shooting to sink in. Things like that just didn't happen to her. It was like something she read on a news disc or in a book, but to actually see it happen… right before her eyes… in reality… that was grotesquely different somehow.
"Is he alright?" Janna asked, tears forming in her eyes.
"I think he's just been stunned. He’s still breathing," said Dick, looking down at his father's pale face. "A strong stun blast would leave him like that." He shook his head in anger, "I'd like to pulverize whoever did it!"
Returning from calling the medics, Scott put his arm around Sandy's shoulders. "It'll be alright,” he said comfortingly.
"He just shot him," said Sandy quietly.
"You saw him? Who was it?"
"The man with the mustache… he had a gun… and just shot him."
Two security men came running up to where Mr. Lewis lay in the fake grass. One of them knelt by his side and began feeling for a pulse. The other one asked Janna and Dick what had happened.
"Somebody shot my dad! What do you think happened?" shouted Dick, the fear and tension playing on his nerves.
"You don't have to worry about your father,” said the first security man straightening up. "He's been stunned, but he'll be alright… probably wake up in half an hour or so.”
The medics arrived and he began to explain the situation to them as they conducted their own examination of Mr. Lewis.
The second security man continued his questioning, "Do you know who did this?"
"I didn't see it," said Janna, "but Sandy did."
"I am,” said Sandy as she and Scott came walking up to the little group.
"And what are your full names?"
Janna and Dick were watching the medics lift their father onto a stretcher. As the medics picked Mr. Lewis up a small brown envelope dropped out of his limp hand. No one had noticed it before. Both Dick and the security man reached for it at the same time. The man's bigger hand covered Dick's hand, which had reached the envelope first.
"I'll take that."
"But it's Dad's."
"Then he'll get it back."
Reluctantly Dick handed it over. The security man's eyebrows arched in surprise as he read the small print on the left corner of the envelope.
"If you've got their names, let's get going," he said to his partner.
The other security man shot a questioning glance at him, after all, they hadn't even heard what Sandy had to say yet. The first security man was impatiently tapping the envelope against the palm of his left hand.
Turning back to the young people the security man, who had been questioning them, said, "It might be a good idea if you went home. Do you need someone to take you home?”
Scott shook his head, “No, we’ll be alright.”
“Ok then. Head straight home. Someone will be in contact with you later to get the rest of the information." With that both security men turned and left.
When the medics were gone with Mr. Lewis on the floating stretcher, the young people decided to follow his advice. Dick didn't want to. He wanted to take Sandy and start walking all over the Gallant looking for the cowardly shooter. He was overruled by the others who told him the man could be anywhere on the gigantic starship by now. They went back to their homes. As soon as Mrs. Lewis heard what had happened she headed to the Medical Centre.
Sgt. Walters was two hours late coming to the Langlish apartment for their orientation talk. He apologized for being late. When the whole family was seated in the living room he began.
“Basically, I'm here to answer any questions you might have about living on the U.A.F. Gallant. I know most of it was covered in the manual you received, but we also like the personal touch.
"My job is to maintain security on this level. I have two men under me, your neighbour, Clp. Lewis, is one of them. Everything that happens here, concerning security, is reported back to the Security Centre on Level 5. Anything serious is, of course, brought to Captain Danson's personal attention."
"Just how big is the Gallant?" asked Scott.
"Pretty big,” smiled Sgt Walters. “In the U.A.F. starship line there are currently 20 ships. We have the largest starships known to exist. There are about 50 square miles of space spread over 150 levels here. So you can see we are the size of a small city and farming community. We grow most of our own food and are completely self-sufficient during these ‘normal’ times. When we are at maximum capacity, either because of a massive disaster relief effort or war, we have to import some supplies. Naturally, retailers bring in local products from the places we visit to increase the variety of things they have to sell.“
“Wow," said Sandy.
Sgt. Walters continued, "Since we have so many people onboard we also have the problems of a city. Most of the people are military personnel, of course, but there are a fair number, like your father, who own private businesses and agree to live under military law.
"You can be proud to live on the Gallant. It's a great starship and we won a fair amount of fame during the Tricot Wars 25 years ago. In fact, the Gallant helped to bring the war to a successful end."
"What does the Gallant do now that the war is over?" asked Scott.
"Only Captain William Danson and his senior officers know the details of specific missions. Generally speaking though, we patrol and protect the frontier and service the outlaying planets. We can also bring quick medical aid, famine relief, evacuation and things like that to places in trouble."
Mrs. Langlish served her special blend of ice tain with little circles of green delberries floating in it. Even Scott and Sandy were treated with some.
Sandy rubbed a small patch on her upper arm, “I am not quite sure what the POI does.”
Sgt. Walters replied, “We do love our acronyms. POI means Patch Of Identification. Basically it allows a POI Reader, installed at various places - usually doorways - around the ship to identify people by their DNA Signature. To enter a restricted area a person’s DNA Signature has to be preprogrammed into the Reader or else the doors will not open. For entering private areas, like going from a public restaurant back to your home - which is considered private but not restricted - it would simply log your presence. If our Cita computer couldn’t figure out why someone was in a private area, it would send a low-level alert to Security to check out what was happening.”
“Can it be fooled?” asked Scott.
“Extremely difficult to fake your DNA,” smiled Sgt. Walters with a wink.
The next hour was spent in pleasant conversation. Sgt. Walters proved to be an interesting and friendly man.
Finally Sgt. Walters set his empty glass down on a nearby table and rose to leave. As he did, he looked at Sandy.
"Miss Langlish, I understand you witnessed a crime today."
Sandy nodded, "I was just standing in the trees and..."
Raising his hand Sgt. Walters said, "Perhaps you would be kind enough to come to my office tomorrow. Then you can tell me exactly what happened."
The Langlish family followed him to the door.
"Thank you for dropping by," said Mr. Langlish, "It was nice of you to make us feel welcome here."
"My pleasure. If you need anything don't hesitate to call."
As the door was sliding shut behind Sgt. Walters, Mrs. Langlish turned to Scott and Sandy, "With the exciting day you two have had, I think it would be best if you went to bed now."
"But mom..." objected Scott.
"Listen to your mother," said Mr. Langlish.
Silently they went to their rooms. Sandy’s room was a light pink. She had her books, movies, and music discs neatly on a bookshelf. In one corner was her computer on a desk. Most books were read on computer as well as newspapers and magazines. Many had holographic images that seemed to leap from the computer screen. Still Sandy kept some old favourite books in printed copies. On the centre of the far wall was a “window.” It projected a 3D image on the wall of anything Sandy wanted. It had been a forest scene, but tonight Sandy changed it to overlook a desert.
Scott’s room was the same size, but it was light blue on the top half and light green on the bottom. Between the two colours ran a border picturing wild horses. To Mrs. Langlish’s continual despair, Scott’s room was nowhere as neat as Sandy’s room.
After saying their prayers, Scott and Sandy each crawled into their beds in their separate rooms. Although neither of them would have admitted it, they were tired. A few minutes later Mr. and Mrs. Langlish came in to say goodnight, as they did every night. They stopped first at Sandy's room, giving her an extra hug for what she had been through, and then went to Scott's room. Mrs. Langlish bit her tongue to keep from saying what she thought of the messy room. It was her rule not to say anything negative when putting her children to bed; however, she made a mental note of what to say in the morning!
It seemed to Scott and Sandy that they had hardly closed their eyes before it was time to get up. Right after breakfast, Scott was sent to clean his room. Mrs. Langlish was continually at war with messy rooms. For Sandy the rest of the morning seemed to drag on. Mrs. Langlish was understanding when she saw how little school work Sandy had done.
"Cheer up," said Scott observing Sandy's long face across the table as she worked out a hard math problem, "Tomorrow we'll have our school program hooked back up on our computers. They're always more fun than working in these books."
"It's not that," muttered Sandy softly.
After eating her lunch Sandy's heart began to beat a little faster. It was nearing the time when she was going to talk with Sgt. Walters about what she had witnessed the day before.
"Would you like me to come with you?" asked Mrs. Langlish.
"That's ok, mom. Scott is going to take me, but thanks anyway."
"Do you know the way?"
"I printed out the map for reference," answered Scott, "We go past 6 halls, then turn left, go for another 5, and then we should be at his office.”
“Sounds about right. You can always get directions from KIP if you need to.”
KIP stood for Knowledge Imparting Program. It was the part of the Gallant’s computer system which could be accessed by anyone. You could talk to KIP through any phone speaker and KIP would give directions. If you were really stuck, KIP would light up a strip of the wall from where you were to where you wanted to go.
Sandy was deep in thought as they walked along. When they rounded the corner she asked, "What do you think was in the envelope?"
"I don't know, but it must have been important. Did you see that man's face when he read it? I thought he was going to explode.”
“What I don’t understand is why they have taken so long to talk to you. I mean, you are the only eye witness. You would have thought they would, at least, have wanted a description right away so they could start looking for the man. If the Gallant orbits a planet anywhere before they find him, he could leave the ship and be lost forever. They just don’t seem to have a sense of urgency. Gallant security is either a lot different than our police back on Maxon or there is something else going on that we don’t know about.”
Sandy shrugged her shoulders, “No idea, but you are right. It’s almost as if Mr. Mustache is not the most important person in the case.”
Scott and Sandy had no trouble finding the security station without KIP’s help and entered the reception room. Sandy was nervous… and glad when she saw it was empty. Glancing around the room, they saw the walls were plain white with pictures of Captain Danson and security officers hanging on them. On the opposite side was a door leading to Sgt. Walters' office. In the centre of the medium-sized room was a cluttered desk. On the front of the desk, written in gold on a black background was the Security motto: Protect the Innocent, Capture the Guilty. Behind the reception desk was a smaller one with a computer console on it. There were four chairs along one wall and two in front of the desk. A computer screen mounted on the wall across from the four chairs had the latest news scrolling across it for the information of anyone who had to sit and wait.
As Scott glanced at the news screen an item came up that grabbed his attention. It said:
U.R. TRIAL ON REWER
Empire to Produce Secret Witness
Many fear witness will not live to see trial.
Then it was on the the next headline.
Scott’s mind whirled. The United Raiders were a terrible criminal organization. They were the pirates of the galaxy who looted and disappeared quickly. Very seldom was anyone in their grasp shown any mercy. They seemed very organized and were difficult to capture. Every law enforcement agency from planetary police, to Interstellar Patrol, to the Knights, to even the military always kept a sharp eye out for them. Scott was glad to see that one of their leaders had been caught.
The next thing that caught his eye was an intercom, half hidden by some other papers on the desk.
"Nobody's here," said Sandy quickly. "We'll have to come back later."
"Don't be silly. He's probably in his office..."
"...and doesn't want to be disturbed."
"Calm down, Sandy. It's not like having your teeth pulled. All you have to do is tell him what you saw."
"I know. It just feels like… like I've done something wrong."
"Well you haven't."
"But I can't help how I feel."
"It would be wrong if you didn't say anything. Look, I'll press the intercom and tell him we're here."
The instant Scott pressed the button he heard a voice talking. It wasn't Sgt. Walters.
"...is a traitor."
Scott and Sandy froze.
"I find that hard to believe,” came Sgt. Walters' voice. "Mr. Lewis is a good man."
"You never know what goes on in someone else's mind. The papers that dropped out of his hand were copies of top secret documents. How he got them I haven't the faintest idea, but he must have been selling them."
"There could be something we don't know yet. After all, he didn't sell them."
"Only because he was double-crossed. They probably would have murdered him after they got the papers if that Langlish girl hadn't screamed."
Read Chapter Three now.