Pilgrim's Trail Part III Click to Preview
Pilgrim’s Trail Part 3
(If you haven’t noticed already, I am throwing these up unedited to see if the story has any merit or interest. I think I have done a fine job of creating a Cowboys in Space setting that I hope people will enjoy. Please provide feedback; weaknesses, strengths, directions you would like to see the story go or questions about characters that may dictate the way the story goes! Current observation of Tau Ceti and Vega have been taken into account in creating each Solar System)
Henry was born during the crossing from Sol to Tau Ceti, his mother was not allowed to go into suspension sleep until he had been born. His mother was trying to catch up with his father who had taken an earlier ship. Poor people departed Kuiper on ships in a space available status, you simply went when you could or lost your place in line and the money you had paid for the crossing.
Kuiper was an enormous space station that stayed in a fixed orbit between Sol and Tau Ceti. It was relatively simple for poor people to get to Kuiper as labor but it was a whole other matter to make enough money to make passage to Vega. No one really wanted to go to Tau Ceti as the real opportunity was on the planets around Vega.
The infant Hank had shared his mother’s suspension chamber until they reached Tau Ceti a voyage that had taken 16 years in real time. Upon arrival at Tau Ceti Prime, they found that Hank’s father was dead, the innocent victim of a shootout in a tavern. He had left the key to a safe deposit box with a local attorney, which contained a legal claim to 1000 square kilometers of land! Unfortunately the land was on Tau Ceti Epsilon and it had taken Hank’s mother several years working as a maid to have the money for transport to the planet. Hank had grown up in the streets of Capital City as his mother had often worked double shifts trying to make the money to get them and the provisions they would need to their land.
Hank had however been a good student in school, not wanting to live the life of his father and mother. By the time his mother had saved enough money to make transit to their land he had completed his first year of University as all college educations were now called. Because of the oddities of space travel; relativity and suspension sleep, the education system had evolved so an individual could progress as quickly as their mind and desire would allow them.
Hank finished his second year while in transit to Tau Ceti Epsilon, it was not a long trip by interstellar standards but the ship was slow only making quarter light speed.
Both Hank and his mother knew that life was going to be better on Epsilon. His father had left a list of what they would need to start a cattle ranch and a basic business plan to make it profitable and grow.
It was hard work but they began to make a profit after 6 months of work. The days on Epi, as the locals referred to Epsilon, were 22 hours long with no seasonal changes as the planet did not wobble.
Hank had completed a four-year degree by the time he was just 15 years old although he had been alive for 32 years in real time.
Hank had plans of joining the Royal Naval Fleet in the hopes of gaining a commission and eventually becoming a ship’s Captain. He wanted to have his own ship some day in order to fly the Pilgrim’s Trail where he had been born.
Hank’s life and that of his mother had become pretty good. The cattle ranch had grown his mother had found wealth that she had never known before.
All that changed one night when a ship of slavers made planet fall on Epi. Young Hank did not understand why they had come to the station house at their ranch. They had only captured about 25 individuals with the ranch hands and help that they had taken.
Hank would not see his mother again for 10 years.
He looked away from Lilith’s face as he remembered his time in bondage. He had been lucky the ranch had made his body tough and he looked older than he was so he would not have been preferred by those trading in sex slaves.
Although he had been sleeping in the main house when the attack had come he had been herded away with the ranch hands.
No one on the ranch had any kind of weapon no one felt that they were needed.
As Hank walked to the slaver ship he made a promise to himself that when he escaped he would never be without a gun ever again, at that time he didn’t even know how to use one.
Hank knew he would escape his positive mental attitude had carried him and many others through their time in captivity.
At first they had just been labor for a warlord on Tau Ceti Zeta that called himself Omega Primo. They had worked as labor gangs for years moving earth to make fields and defensive earth works. Hank’s body had become muscled and lean as a result of lots of work and little to eat.
Zeta was unique in that it spiraled through space rotating north to south the poles being east and west. The weather extremes on the planet were just inside human tolerances and the slaves suffered from exposure and malnutrition.
When Omega Primo got into a power struggle for water on Zeta with another warlord the slaves had been put in armed units in order to fight. A clever electronic disconnect in each weapon prevented them form being turned on the slavers.
Hank had used the time to develop his marksmanship skills as well as other martial talents. In battle he had become a charismatic leader among the men, his knowledge of historic battles helped him understand what was occurring and how best to survive.
Hank and his team had been in low orbit preparing for a raid that on paper appeared just short of being suicidal when they received word that Omega Primo was dead, the victim of a raid himself.
The mercenaries that piloted the ship offered to return them to the surface but Hank convinced them to return everyone to Epsilon.
Hank had been a slave for just over four years real time and resigned himself to freeing slaves whenever he could.
The other container had a girl in it as well, slightly smaller, named Sarah. Facial structure lead Hank to assume that the two girls were sisters. He couldn’t fit the two suspension chambers into his ship and he was not going to take the four months to pilot the Margaret back to the planets in the Tau Ceti orbit, he was going to have to wake them up.
Hank had not brought anyone out of suspension sleep in quite a while and took the time to read how to do it while he grabbed a bite to eat.
He removed his EVA suit after he was done and checked the search results of the slavers’ ship registration numbers. The search had found the ship a cavalier class stellar cruiser reportedly named Eros that was last reported fueling a month ago at Tau Ceti Alpha, which ironically was considered the last planet in the Tau Ceti planetary circle. The report stated that no cargo had been offloaded and the filed flight plan was for Vega, but Hank doubted that they were going to travel all the way to Vega with slaves when numerous warlords in this system would pay for them.
Hank thought that the cavalier class was a bit big for a slaver ship but the size was required to make cargo jumps to Vega he assumed.
Hank had an idea and checked the manifest of the ship’s crew and saw there was not a Jump Technician or Jump Navigator listed. Without these two individuals the ship was not making any Jumps out of the Tau Ceti System.
Hank assumed that the Eros was still in the Tau Ceti System and slowly making its way around the slave circuit.
Slavery was illegal of course but as long as individuals were willing to pay slavers for cheap labor, slaves would be taken, bought and sold.
Hank had started to plan his recovery of the slaves as he started the girls awakening process. He turned the gravity off in the ship again as it would help the girls recover from the suspension sleep. As he continued he noticed how ingenious whomever had hidden the girls had been, the chambers were completely self-contained running off of batteries as opposed to the ship’s power in order to avoid detection. He did notice that the batteries were almost out of power the girls would have only survived another month before the chamber would have shut down.
He plugged both chambers into the ship’s power, opened the lids of both and began the ‘warming’ process. Warming was not an accurate statement because suspension sleep did not cool your body as a method of preservation it was a complete transfusion of blood that was replaced with a hyper oxygenated synthetic blood that caused the body to slow breathing and heart rate because more than enough oxygen was in the system. As a result the body would cool. The body was suspended in a saline solution that had the consistency of gelatin that was maintained at eight degrees below the occupant’s mean body temperature. Placing the occupant in a mild state of hypothermia that preserved body tissue and slowed aging.
Hank floated both girls into the center of the room where he had set up recovery beds and then started the process of transfusing their blood back into their bodies. Scientists were still uncertain why individuals suffered from temporary memory loss when they came out of suspension but most thought that it was due to the brains near lack of synaptic function during the induced sleep.
Once the transfusion was complete, Hank increased the gravity to 33% in order to make it easier to move around.
A soft angelic moan pulled his attention to Sarah, so some reason unknown to science the younger the child was the quicker they recovered from suspension sleep.
Sarah’s eyes fluttered.
“Sarah, you are recovering from suspension sleep.” Hank stated in a calm voice.
Sarah looked at him for a moment with blurry eyes, smiled and fell into a natural sleep.
Lilith awoke a few moments later coughing, spit out some fluid and fell back asleep herself.
Hank busied himself for the next few hours transferring the girl’s clothes and effects to his ship.
He fixed some broth and some stew for the girls as he knew they would be hungry when they did wake up.
Sarah sat up first and looked around.
“Sarah, you just came out of suspension sleep.” Hank explained again. “You are in Tau Ceti, would you like something to eat?”
Sarah blinked twice at him and look for a moment as if she was thinking about something.
“Yes,” was all she said.
Hank handed her a cup of broth, which she drank down.
Sarah then saw the stew and motioned for it, thinking.
“P…p…please?” She stammered remembering the words as she reached for the bowl.
Hank handed it to her.
“You are feeling the affects of suspension sleep, your memory will return.” Hank offered in comfort. “You will remember your words.”
Sarah ate greedily. Lilith waking was not as eventful as she was much more lethargic coming through the process.
Soon Hank had the gravity up to 75% of Earth-Norm as artificial gravity was rated.
The girls however had gone from pleasant awakening to near hysterics when they figured out that their parents had been taken by slavers!
For a while Hank thought that he was going to have to sedate them and he was regretting waking them but he had no choice. He decided that keeping them busy was the best way to keep them calm and quiet. He had the girls help him with the launch and navigation procedures to get the Margaret into orbit around Tau Ceti Prime. He talked the girls through the math equations and navigation solutions. He showed them how to use the navigation computer to calculate the acceleration of the Margaret, the rotation of Prime and the deceleration of the Margaret to put her in a high orbit around the planet. He showed them how to send a radio signal to Prime informing them that the Margaret was going to arrive unmanned.
Hank then helped the girls put on and fit EVA Suits. It was common practice in space faring to wear suits when vehicles were maneuvering in close proximity to one another, especially when one was unmanned.
Hank started to fit holsters on the girls suits when Lilith began to object.
“Your parents may be slaves now but I promise with this,” he handed each of them a revolver. “You will never be a slaves.”
Lilith took the pistol as if she were touching a snake covered in feces.
Sarah took it as if she had been handling one here whole life, she checked to make sure it was loaded, looked through the optic sight, adjusted it to a sight reticle to one she preferred, holstered it and secured the strap over the grip like a zero-gravity gunfighter.
Hank smiled, Sarah understood what the pistol meant, Lilith would have to learn.
With everyone suited and armed the three made their way back into Hank’s ship Valkyrie.
It had been 12 standard hours since he had brought the girls out of suspension sleep and they had recovered most of their memories. He talked his way through the steps of disconnecting the airlocks and using maneuver thrusters to distance the Valkyrie from the Margaret before the latters ship’s ion drive engine fired.
Hank did not know the fate of these two girls but while under his charge he was going to teach them the useful lessons one needed to survive on the frontier of Space.