“That’s the last of the shuttles away,” Rrr said from Ops. “And Lt Carmargo’s probes as well.”
“Excellent. Mr Orson, full impulse towards Stormlea would you please?” The captain said before turning to face him once more. “You were saying Mac?”
“Port Arthur Manufacturing reports they’ve got two of these so-called umbrella towers ready to beam aboard Atlantis and be transported to Highcroft. Sites are being prepared. They’re essentially kitset so Maxwell and crew shouldn’t have much difficulty working with the locals to set them up.” He’d already taken over the majority of communications with Governor Makarov’s office and was looking forward to getting planetside to help coordinate the work needed to get everything set.
“How we looking for time?” Tikva asked.
“If we put Atlantis in the unenviable position of carrier and freighter, we should be able to support a full evac and get all the towers to Highcroft that they’ll need to weather the storm. First few will be the worst, but once a few crews are trained, they can train others, then it’s a production bottleneck.” He shrugged but smiled. “It’ll be a fine race, but doable. Rrr, what’s the weather report looking like?” he asked to the front of the bridge where Rrr was sat at Ops.
“Leading edge of the ion storm will hit the system in about twelve hours at which time we’ll lose the warp drive. Another twelve after that and we lose long-range subspace comms. Three days till the storm properly breaks over the system.”
He nodded in understanding, then offered a reassuring grin to Tikva. “Plenty of time. Besides, Port Arthur is one of those laid back good-vibes systems. We’ll have all the help we need and get everything sorted with a day to spare.”
“Let’s hope so Mac. I was reading a report that the storm that hit Cornel brought with it a particle wave from the nebula and it’s messing with the colony’s atmosphere. News is a bit sketchy but it doesn’t sound good.”
“Trust me, we got this,” he said. “I’ll go get Ra and his team so we’re good to beam down when we hit orbit. Best not delay Atlantis longer than we need to.”
Not five minutes later he and his team of engineers materialised in the quad of the Governor’s Residence in the city of Sydney. A warm breeze was blowing, just enough to move trees gently, bringing with it a hint of sea-salt. The whole place had a very well-established look, the likes of staff working to make the place look clean and tidy as well as always having been here, not something that was only completed a decade ago as per what he’d read of the place.
“Welcome, welcome!” was shouted across the quad as a gentleman in a light grey suit came in their direction. “Commander MacIntrye, Lieutenant Velan, so glad you could join us,” the man said quieter now that he’d closed the distance. “Brian Toombs, Governor Makarov’s chief aide. You need anything, just let me know and I’ll either sort it out, or find someone who can.” He offered his hand for handshakes all round, making note to catch all the engineers names. “Welcome to the Port Arthur system and specifically to Stormlea. Shall we head inside? Governor Makarov and Dr Birmingham are eagerly awaiting you.”
“Certainly, please lead the way Mr Toombs,” Charles said. He waited a few moments for the man to start walking, then whispered to Velan quietly enough hopefully not be heard. “Awfully bubbly fellow.”
“Oh, the worst. We only want to work with dour, depressive sorts,” Velan retorted with a smile. “Didn’t you say this is one of those happy go-lucky colonies the other day?”
They didn’t get much time as Toombs slowed down and started talking loudly, giving them an impromptu tour through the heart of government for the entire system. Labyrinthine corridors gave way to a flight of stairs, more corridors, though thankfully less winding and more with windows of the quad or out into the city. Alcoves or paintings with little trinkets of public service history, each with a little anecdote.
If they’d been in a hurry to see the mayor Charles was certain this man wouldn’t have been leading them around like this. This was performative theatre and he and his people simply had to suffer through it to keep appearances.
“And here we have the governor’s office,” Toombs said as they brushed past a secretary and through a set of large, if plain, hinged double doors into an office with a magnificent view of the natural harbour which Sydney was based around.
Two women were present, both in well-tailored suits, and turned to face the new arrivals. Charles recognised the mayor straight away, having spoken with her a few times over the last few days. A woman in her sixties, blonde-grey hair, a little gaunt in the face, but with a zeal in her eyes.
The other woman however took him a moment to recognise and she must have noticed as his expression likely faltered. She went from curiosity to shock herself to smiling as she recnogised him as well.
Doctor Lisa Birmingham, or as he last knew her, Lisa Cooper – the one that got away. Soon enough even his own shock faded, a smile coming to his face. It was then he realised that someone was talking. “…and this is Doctor Birmingham,” Toombs said by way of introduction. “Commander MacIntrye, Lieutenant Velan, Ensigns Grant and Belleci, Petty Officers Wayne, T’rin, Gomu and Chunesku.”
“Commander, Lieutenant, please sit,” the governor said, indicating the two empty seats opposite her desk, where a third was already occupied by the fair doctor. He was considering which seat to take himself when Velan elbowed him as he pushed past and took the furthest, leaving him to sit next to Lisa. The only thought he had was a need to talk to Velan about how a senior officer gets to choose first dammit.
“Thank you, madam governor,” he stared, hearing the others behind him shuffling, likely to sit on the sofas in the office for large groups at the direction of Toombs, who he could make out whispering. “I trust by now that Atlantis has uplifted the first umbrella towers for Highcroft and departed. Mr Toombs was quiet through in his rather excellent tour.”
“That they have. We received notification they departed only a few minutes ago,” the older woman said as she leaned back in her seat, a palpable air of someone used to being in authority about her. “This is Doctor Birmingham, of the University of Port Arthur. She’s our lead solar weather expert and principal overseer of the Umbrella Project. Hopefully you’ll have no issues working with her and her people to help speed up production, resolve any unforeseen technical difficulties and assist in setting up the towers for the protection of our colony?”
He blinked at that a moment. He wasn’t expecting to just five right into things like that. He’d mentally prepared for some initial small talk. This was more his speed. “It’s why we’re hear ma’am. Doctor Birmingham and I have worked together in the past, I assure you, we’ll see this project through.”
“Chuck, Commander MacIntrye sorry,” Lisa spoke up, “and I can manage the project from the university with the PAMC engineers. We’ll do everything we can to get this all sorted out and deployed with time to spare.”
“Excellent. Normally I’d waste time with small talk and maybe a snack or two, but time I understand is of the essence,” Makarov replied.
“In that case should we adjourn to your offices?” he asked, turning the question to Lisa who was still smiling at him.
“Well?” Gavin asked as he sat in his seat of the truck, on the wrong side to be doing much observing of the construction site a few kilometers outside of Brunswick. One of their number, Samson, had seen the site crop up the other day and Gavin had decided someone should drive down a hill road overlooking it every few hours to stop and obverse what was going on.
“No change hoss,” the young man in the passenger seat, Tommy, said. “Some foundational work, a security fence more to keep animals out, two guards on site. Don’t look that fancy to me.”
“Yah, that’s what they want us to think,” he chimed in, reaching forward to start the motor of the truck back up. “We’ll head into town, get some more supplies. Maybe ask a few folks.”
“Yah figure that’s where they be putting that watchtower? Figure they’ll give them fleeter types a tour?”
“Makarov loves to show off and Drummond is a collaborator. If she tells him to give them fleet boys a tour, he’ll do. Just need to know when so we can try and get to them.” That said he reached forward, turned the music back on, his choice, not Tommy’s awful racket, and started the truck down the road once more.