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Purify - Chapter 4 - On board the SS Tony Robinson

On board the Tony Robinson, captain Danno was carrying out some routine checks. Though his mind was not on them but rather on the two women that he had let jaunt to the planet’s surface.

“Tony, how are the girls doing?”

“Over in trench four our diggers have uncovered some amazing finds, Captain,” replied the ship’s AI.

“Yes but are they still OK?”

“Of course, Captain, they have found the ground to be very forgiving and their trowels are hardly worn.”

“You mean that the terrain that they are exploring is safe and their equipment, including their chameleon suits, is holding up well?”

“Yes, Captain.”

“Sometimes I wish I was Captain of the String Slider ‘Enterprise’. Its AI is much less opaque.”

“Doc, how is the planet doing according to the observation drones?”

“Trouble is still brewing Captain. The two, more developed, continents are making overtures towards each other but this is only making the southern one feel more insecure. Is there any word from the girls?”

“Nothing new, as yet,” said the captain, “Their last report said that they had finished their reconnaissance of the southern continent and now they were heading north towards warmth and some civilisation.”

“Amongst the city folk they should be able to switch their cammies from invisibility to mingle and that should prolong their battery life.”

“Yes, they said it was too dangerous to try that on the southern land mass because in all of the villages they had explored it looked like everyone knew each other.”

“‘Were related’ was what the girls said, if I remember correctly, Captain.”

Captain Danno smiled at that, “Let’s hope they finish their look up north soon so we can get them back and figure out the best way to stop this war. There’s no chance that it’ll start sooner that Lisa calculated is there?”

“You tell me, Captain. We’re in uncharted waters here. Changing history is something that we’re not supposed to be able to do so, on the one hand there is no risk that the war will start earlier than expected but, on the other hand, that also means that we are wasting out time trying to stop it. Aaand, before you say it, yes, we had to try. It would have been immoral just to wait and watch.”

Just then the ship’s AI piped up, “Captain, I think you should see this. We appear to have a rival team of archaeologists in the next field and they look as though they want to interfere with our dig.”

“Put it on main viewer!” the captain commanded.

“We don’t have a main viewer, Captain,” protested Tony, “can’t you just go to the window and take a look?”

“Of course,” said the captain, “it’s just that I have always wanted to say that.”

“I know,” replied Tony, “you usually say it about thirteen times each mission.”

Outside, there appeared to be a dark spaceship of alien origin. The captain could tell that it was alien by virtue of the shape and the colour. Earth ships came in several colours but never purple. Earth ships came in a variety of shapes but never pentagonal bi-frustum.

“Is it from Earth?” asked Tibor, “do you think they came after getting our message?”

“It’s not from Earth,” replied Danno, “at least not from our time Earth.”

“Is it Gugerian then?”

“Nope, not Gugerian – they don’t even have planes why would they need spaceships?”

“Then who, what and especially why is it here?” asked an increasingly nervous sounding Tibor.

“Tony, is there any sign of them introducing themselves?” asked the captain.

“Not yet, Captain. So far they are just sitting there observing. I have detected life signs on board, about thirty, and I have broadcast to them but they are not being very talkative back for now.”

“Then we’ll just sit and wait too.”

By now Tibor had joined the captain and they both just sat there staring at the unfeasibly coloured and pointlessly shaped (literally) object in the window. Tibor was the first to break the silence. “Do you think that we should bring the girls back?” he whispered.

“Let’s leave them out of this for now,” said the captain, “and why are you whispering?”

“I don’t know, just shy, I guess,” replied Tibor embarrassedly.

The spaceship maintained its position alongside the Tony Robinson. Slowly it rotated, allowing the planet shine to glint of its purpled but otherwise featureless twelve surfaces. After a while the captain and Tibor got bored and started to finish what they were doing. They had tried to contact it and waited long enough. The captain was laid back enough not to worry unduly about these things. If it wants to talk it’ll talk in its own good time he mused, though he did wonder if it was after the same material that he had originally been sent to collect from the planet’s surface.

Tibor resumed his monitoring of the observation drones for signs of heightened political tensions but aliens made him nervous, especially mysterious ones, especially mysterious ones inside purple coloured spacecraft of an irregular polyhedral shape. According to the radio and TV broadcast signals that the observation drones were tuned to collect and relay, the primary continent’s decision to buy cheap goods from its own poor zone peoples has outraged the secondary continent’s political leaders. There is increased unrest amongst the unemployed of the second continent’s manufacturing district and there are accusations that this is being fuelled by spies from the southern continent fomenting yet more trouble. There was unrest too in the primary continent’s rich city areas as they slowly begin to realise that they too have a poor zone. It appears that many of their inhabitants were never even told that this was the case, believing instead that only the secondary continent had a poor region to manufacture its cheap goods. There were calls for action to help these poor (whist carefully avoiding any discussion over what it would cost to provide this help).

If there was a way to avoid this degenerating into an all out nuclear holocaust then he couldn’t see it and, in fact, he was beginning to lose any sympathy for them as well. The more he learned about their hypocritical ideologies, the less he liked the Gugerians.

Meanwhile the captain had been busy running diagnostics on the ships string slide fluxors. The tachyon capacitors had been leaking and, though there were still plenty stored, they would need to be replaced when they eventually got back to Earth. Danno wondered what sort of trail a leak of tachyons would leave behind in space. Maybe this was what has attracted the freaky purple blob to the Tony, he thought then, not wanting to think about it any more, he switched his attention to the string segmentor interface which was working perfectly as far as he could make out. He was just about to move onto the de-zip flanges when he noticed that he had a comm from the surface.

Two way communications with the girls weren’t possible while they had the chameleon suits on but they could send simple mission reports up to the Tony Robinson.

This one revealed that they had obtained passage to the secondary continent and would soon be able to switch from invisibility to mingle mode, just as Tibor had predicted. They had managed to locate the seat of power for this continent and were already heading that way. Once there, they planned to split up; with Lisa attempting to obtain passage to the primary continent and its power centre.

Danno contemplated letting the girls know about the company that they had acquired but decided not to worry them about it. His reply simply asked them to hurry because he wasn’t sure about the potential future timing of the war if they continued to disrupt the timeline with their presence.

The captain invited Tibor to join him for something to eat and, as they ate he told him of the message from the girls.

“Do you think that it is a good idea for them to split up?” Tibor asked.

“They can take care of themselves,” replied Danno, “I selected them for their expert survival skills, remember?”

“I was there. You’re right. Maybe I worry too much. I’m very fond of Carrie, you know.”

“Yes, you’re rubbish at keeping that a secret … except from Carrie herself, of course but she’s so much into her work that she probably wouldn’t notice if you proposed to her naked with a yellow carnation up your nose!”

“Why yellow?” asked Tibor.

“The colour isn’t important – the fact that it is stuffed up your nose is what matters.” Danno always used humour to take his mind off serious matters and the doc knew this.

“You are letting our purple clad friends get to you a little bit aren’t you?” he asked.

“You know me too well, Tibor,” the captain replied, “yes, I’ll admit that they have me spooked a little. It’s the way that it just sits there rotating AT us almost accusingly, as if it is saying ‘don’t touch’.”

“How can you possibly get all that from three purple revolutions a minute?”

“I don’t know. It just reminds me of something, something from back in String Slip training, something about violating time field causality balloons – they always used purple balloons to signify time bubbles.”

“So you think our friends know that the inter-galactic accepted colour for time related training materials is purple then do you?”

“You’re right – I’m just being silly,” confessed the captain but he still had a nagging doubt about the colour purple.”