Rule of Twelve, Double Take - Ch7 (Passage 2/5)
A little after four thirty p.m. local time, the Dinatha was on its final approach into Utopiam.
Dukk was re-orienting himself after a well needed rest.
Once they were airborne out of Kuedia, a chin wag took place in the cockpit. Dukk shared the story, in all it’s crazy details.
Bazzer and Annee had been rightly concerned. However, Dukk had given them the option of jumping ship when they reached Utopiam. Both had confidently stood by Dukk and committed to helping see out the contract.
After that, Annee and Bazzer had insisted Dukk lie down and get some well-needed rest. There was little to do once at cruising altitude.
Now at his seat in the cockpit, his mind was starting to wake up. At this point he remembered he had put his comms on proximity mode. Effectively blocking all external communications.
He switched to normal mode.
Instantly he was alerted to several missed calls from Thumpol. There were some messages too. Mostly short and very colourful.
Dukk grinned as he made sure his online status was limited to close contacts only.
“He can keep trying, but I have no intention of entertaining that thug, ever again,” thought Dukk.
Then a connection request came from Rachelle.
Dukk accepted it.
“Hello Rachelle, how is retirement suiting you?” Dukk said.
“Where the F! is the Dinatha? Or more importantly, where are you, Dukk?” demanded Rachelle.
“What do you mean? We are on the way to pick up our next contract. Why?” Dukk responded.
“You are in the air!” Rachelle screamed.
“Yep,” replied Dukk nervously.
“Oh my God! What have I done?” Rachelle exclaimed, “Don’t under any circumstances try a citadel approach!”
“Are you mad? How else will we pick-up our load? What in the world is going on?” Dukk demanded.
Rachelle started to speak softly, “I made a mistake. And I am truly sorry, Dukk. But Thumpol gave me no choice. He even threatened to kill me. Now, I’ve killed you all.”
“What have you done, Rachelle,” Dukk asked sternly.
“The heat shield locks weren’t fixed by any old maintenance crew. Thumpol insisted I use his people. It looks like they may have been at more than just the locks. This evening, I came down to the port to see the rig for one last time. Instead, I found his goons looking dumbfounded. Beside them are what turns out to be the stabilisers from the Dinatha. They told me Thumpol had had them removed to force your hand should you refuse his offer.”
“But we checked all the systems before we departed Kuedia,” Dukk uttered in disbelief.
“The goons are here boasting that they had looped the safety cable so that the system wouldn’t notice the stabilisers were missing. You must have known that Thumpol always adds insurance and looks for retribution if he doesn’t get his own way. Dukk, if you allow the autopilot to start your deceleration into a citadel, without those stabilisers, the rig will bounce around like nobody’s business. The citadel will see you as a threat and their automated defences will take you out!”
“Shit!” Dukk whispered in shock.
“I am sorry, so sorry, Dukk, good luck.” replied Rachelle and hung up.
Dukk was stunned. He stared out into the distance as the top of the citadel appeared over the horizon.
“Utopiam air control just confirmed we are in range and locked in. Let’s take her down!” Annee piped, too preoccupied with the pre-landing checklist to notice Dukk’s state.
“Feck, Feck, Feck, Feck, Feck!” Dukk shouted.
Bazzer and Annee looked up. Shocked at the uncustomary outburst.
Dukk hit the pause on the autopilot.
“What are you doing?” screamed Annee, “if we don’t decelerate right now, they’ll take us out!”
“That is what concerns me!” Dukk shouted back.
“Bazzer, get down to the wings, check the stabilisers. Do it NOW!” Dukk continued.
Bazzer launched out of his seat and bolted for the hatch. He had the sense to know something wasn’t right.
“Annee, I am transferring the overground velocity controls to your console. I want you to refamiliarize yourself with them right now. You need to align the overground speed with the approach guidance system parameters. Bring both up, now.”
“What is going on, Dukk?” Annee uttered nervously as she complied with his request.
“More action, less talk,” Dukk answered coldly.
Annee complied reluctantly.
Dukk loaded up the directional and altitude guidance systems onto his console.
He overlaid them so that he could see the Dinatha’s direction and altitude against the citadel’s instructions. It wasn’t perfect but was their best shot.
“No stabilisers, Captain! The safety has been looped,” Bazzer announced into the rig comms.
“Ok, here is the deal! Thumpol had them taken out. Nothing we can do about that now. It is too late to alter course. We are going to do this manually, like we’ve practiced many times. We have one chance, let’s make it count!” Dukk said more calmly having taken ten slow breaths and named his emotions.
“Bazzer, strap in down there. Bring the reactors to full speed. I am transferring the threat scanners to your console. If you see the slightest twitch from the citadel, hit the hard burn. The rig will automatically pull up. It might save us from a direct hit,” Dukk commanded.
“We don’t have enough fuel to hold a hard burn for very long,” Bazzer stated.
“It will be enough to get us clear of the defences. We’ll worry about what happens next, later.”
“Helmets on and let’s connect the g-juice just in-case,” he added.
“Hello, if you haven’t already, I suggest you get seated and make sure your belt is FIRMLY tightened,” Dukk announced into the passenger cabin comms link. He had no time to check on the observer but was keen not to have the observer smashed against the bulkhead if things got rough.
(to be continued...)
[Rule of Twelve, Double Take, Chapter 7 - Instability (Passage 2 of 5)]
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