The Cassiopeia Conspiracy

by Dark One [Reviews - 0]

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  • All Ages
  • General
  • Action/Adventure, General

Dave sat alone in the conference room. He stared intently at the metal walls surrounding him wondering how he had gotten himself stuck on a freighter to Cassiopeia. "The excitement," he huffed to himself sarcastically thumping his elbows down onto the table in front of him and rested his head in his hands. He was very sure that had he gone straight off to a university he could have been into politics by now. Instead he had decided that he wanted to see the universe before running off to the halls of higher education. Unfortunately, he was not at all a victim of monetary wealth and thusly had to settle on his current position rather than anything like a luxury liner like he had hoped.

Just then the door on the other side of the room swung open revealing the one consolation Dave could see for being stuck in such an idiotic job, Miss Maria Stanforth. As she walked into the room she took on the air of a teenage empress and her appearance wasn't far cry from the image either. Her long, golden brown hair flowed loosely from her head and draped its self lightly over her shoulders ending in a curl on the top of her navy blue uniform. It also had a tendency at times to fall over her eyes causing the young lady to let out a loud gasp and sweep it away revealing the most dazzling and, at the same time, the most fearful set of blue eyes in the universe. Eyes that danced with the wonderment of life itself and blazed with the fires of determination.

"What are you doing," she demanded as soon as she saw her co - worker loafing at the desk.

"As little as possible," Dave replied his head still stuck on his hands.

"You should be cleaning out the waste receptacles," she commanded as she glided across the room.

The boy leaned back in his chair and folded his arms behind his head. "I'll do it when we reach Cassiopeia," he assured her from behind a wry smile.

The young lady menacingly at glared at her co-worker. Never before had she come across anyone else like him. He was irresponsible, lazy, and anything but punctual. Even so, there was something about him that she liked. She just couldn't put her finger on it. All the same there was a job to do and she did not want to have to do it all herself. "You are, without a doubt, the laziest, sloppiest, worker I have ever seen," she yelled in distain.

"I try," he replied sarcastically.

Maria's mouth dropped to the floor. "NO YOU DON'T," she screeched, "You don't even wear your uniform."
Dave's smile suddenly expanded to twice the size of a moment before. "If I wore my uniform," he joked, "it would get dirty."

"Well since you are in here," answered the other, "you could at least clean the room."

The young man gazed down at the table next to him. He could still see the tiny streaks that were left from the last time he had scrubbed it. "I suppose I could," he answered unexcitedly.

"Then do it," ordered the young lady. With that the empress like janitor turned on her heel and walked majestically through the door. Unfortunately, this exit was far less graceful than she had originally hoped for as she turned back into the hall she found herself walking right into ship's First Officer, Commander Barrows.

Nervously, she looked upward at the officer hoping that it wouldn't be him. At the same time Dave hurriedly produced a rag from his pocket and began to vigorously wipe down the table. Up till now neither of them had been anywhere near any one on the ship with such power.

He was a tall man by any standards with short black hair that was combed neatly to one side. For some reason this alone made him look menacing to a great many people causing them to avoid him completely. When the need did arise that they needed to talk to him it was always sort and to the point so that they could leave as quickly as possible. This created the added problem of stereotyping him as one those people who is cold and never speaks unless something important has to be said.

Then, if that did not make elusive enough, a large black mustache hung underneath his nose giving him an air about him that made one think of him as if he were the evil land lord in a silent film. And just make sure that everyone noticed this he would frequently twist it around his finger from time to time.

"Pardon me," he said in a very authoritative voice, "but I'm afraid that we are going to need this room. You may return later and complete your duties."

"Ye - yes sir," Maria replied still taking a step backward," We - we'll just go check on the cargo."

Barrows raised an eyebrow, "Neither of you are to go near the cargo hold," he ordered.

"But sir," Dave answered relishing a chance to challenge authority, "we were told that checking the cargo was part of our job."

"Don't worry about it," remarked the officer coldly, "I'll take care of that duty for the remainder of this voyage."

Maria, who was still stunned, gazed up at the commander with curiosity. This was a very unusual command. Still, she had known stranger things to have happened. More over, the tone of voice coming from the man suggested a subject that was of more importance than her station allowed her to know. "Come on Dave," she finally ordered, "let's go clean out those waste receptacles."

The boy nodded his head sheepishly keeping his eyes focused on the ground. "Yes ma'am," he answered.

The two youngsters breathed a sigh of relief as they stepped into the corridor. Maria's face had turned ghostly white and Dave's red. Both were too emotional for any significant conversation. The only sound they made as they walked down the hall toward the waste receptacles was the clanging of their boots against the steel floor. "You were going to ask him weren't you," Maria finally asked breaking the silence.

"Ask who, what," he responded pretending he didn't know.

"What do you mean ask who what," she repeated in annoyance, "You were going to ask the commander why we couldn't check the cargo."

"Yes, I was," admitted the boy through a smattering of snickers.

Maria rolled her eyes along with a heavy sigh of irritation, "I'm glad I got you out there when I did."

"Well, I guess I had better get back to our quarters I -," Dave smiled hoping to get out of any laborious tasks that his superior might have in mind. It wasn't that he disliked the work so much as the fact that there was a great deal of other things that he would rather have been doing instead. More over, anytime the choice of work was left up to her she inevitably picked the most disgusting and backbreaking task that she could think of.

"You're coming with me," interrupted the girl grabbing her companion's arm tightly as if she had been able to read his mind, "We are going to clean out the waste receptacles."

In the next moment she was dragging him down the corridor like a big dog on a short lease causing him to trip over himself to keep up. If anyone had been watching the spectacle the boy would have most certainly been embarrassed beyond belief and most likely would have caused a very uncouth scene. As fortune would have it, however, there was no one else present giving the young man permission to enjoy the whole experience.

Back in the conference room First Officer Barrows sat arrogantly at the table punching numbers into a pad in front of him in hopes of correcting several embarrassing mistakes that had come up on the last report that he had given to the captain. Directly across from him two considerably younger men engaged themselves in a rather loud conversation completely oblivious to the fact that they were in the presence of a ranking officer, an action that was not repeated when the doors to the conference room opened abruptly revealing the ship's captain, Ronald Henderson. Immediately, the two lesser officers sprang to their feet and began falling all over themselves in a pitiful attempt to show more respect than the other with the hope that they would be next in line for a promotion.

"Good morning Captain Henderson," one of them said through an enormous smile and a salute as the man passed in front of him.

"Good morning Sir," repeated the other in a more militaristic tone.

The captain ignored them both. After several years of service as both a crewmember and as a captain he had become accustomed to such false reverences and was able to recognize them light years away. Consequently, he walked straight past them without even an acknowledgment and took his place at the table next to his first officer while at the same time the two brown nosers gathered themselves together and took their places as well.

To make matters worse on the two young men their superior was in a more than fowl mood. There was a great deal of things that he had planned to get done within the course of the day and this meeting was preventing him from doing any of them. Given the chance he would have cancelled the whole thing except that the new labor union that had formed required that the ranking officers hold regular meetings with the crew to "keep an open line of communication between the two groups" which, to the officers meant that they had to run the ship as a democracy.

"Good morning every one," announced the captain in a drab and unexcited voice, "This is our first Co - Union Command meeting. I am Captain Ronald Henderson. I see that you have already met my first officer, Commander Barrows."

"Not formerly," corrected the first mate still looking at the pad of numbers in front of him.

"I see," Henderson continued disappointed that they were wasting precious seconds, "Commander, this is Lieutenant Adams and Lieutenant Conyers. They will be representing the crew."

All parties exchanged short greetings as well as a little more kissing up from Conyers and Adams. "Now then," Captain Henderson began again, "let's get down to business shall we?"

Conyers quickly reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of paper and unfolded it. "Before we start, sir, I need to make you aware of this inconsistency."

Captain Henderson raised an eyebrow, "What sort of inconsistency, Conyers?"

The lieutenant slid the paper across the table to his superior. "Sir, this is a manifest of the cargo hold."

The captain nodded. "Last time we checked the hold there were a number of crates which did not appear on this list and nobody can seem to explain where they came from, where they are going, what is in them, or how they got on board."

Barrows leaned his elbow onto the table and stroked his beard. "Who checked the hold last?"

"It was Stanforth I think," Adams spoke up still trying to impress the captain, "and that new kid."

"Well, that explains it," Barrows announced nonchalantly, "The new guy member probably missed a few."

Captain Henderson shook his head. "No, no. The cargo would still be on the manifest," he observed tapping the paper on the table in front of him.

The commander looked over his superior's shoulder at the manifest. "I'll check it out personally after the meeting," he announced.

"You do that Barrows," the officer concurred, "In fact, I think I will join you."

"Captain, I'm sure that will not be necessary," Barrows assured leaning back in his chair.

The skipper turned to face his second in command, "Perhaps not," he retorted, "but I think that this is important enough for me to investigate as well."

Nearly an hour later after a great deal of arguing and a threat of incarceration, the two men entered the cargo bay and began to search through the piles of crates and boxes. They were strewn all over the place as if they had simply been tossed into the room at random and stacked carelessly on top of each other allowing hope to be the only factor that made them continue to stand on top of each other.

More over, there was no set pattern to the areas in which they were stacked. To find any one certain container it was necessary to navigate around as if one were in a maze.

After nearly an hour of checking the numbers on each box each against the manifest number the captain at last located the mysterious piece of cargo that they had been searching for, a large crate. It was nearly as tall as the captain himself standing upright and lengthwise, it extended at least four feet before it disappeared behind two piles of other smaller boxes.

Even more mysterious than its presence, however, was the low hum that emanated from within. It was barely even audible to any human ear and Captain Henderson wouldn't even have heard it himself had he not dropped his pen. As he bent down to retrieve the elusive object his ear scrapped the side of the container. Immediately he picked up a faint noise from with in.

"That's strange," he said to himself standing back up. Gently, he put his hand on the wood. Sure enough there was small, faint, vibration.

"Barrows," called the captain, "what do you make of this?"

"Have you found something," the commander answered navigating the maze of boxes and crates.

"I have indeed," replied the officer as his second in command swooped around the corner. "There seems to be some sort of strange humming coming from this crate."

"I heard nothing," replied the Commander after a moment with his ear on the crate.

"Are you feeling alright Barrows," The captain asked looking puzzled, "it's as plain as day."

"I am sure that I am perfectly alright, sir," answered the other slightly insulted.

"I suppose I could be hearing things," Henderson admitted picking up a crow bar, "I'm not as young as I once was you know. Just the same I want to see what is in here."

Suddenly, a scowl formed over Commander Barrows' face. "I'm afraid I can't let you do that," he said as he whipped the crowbar out of his superior's hands.

"Have you gone mad Barrows," exclaimed the officer.

"I'm sorry sir," responded the first mate, "I don't know what came over me." Respectfully he handed the crowbar back to the Captain who immediately set to work trying to pry open the container.

At that very moment Maria and Dave were walking exhaustedly back to their quarters after finishing with the waste receptacles. As was usual after cleaning out the waste receptacles there wasn't a clean spot on either of them. Their hair alone was now a rich mixture of sweat, grim, dust, and garbage all rolled into one small package.

"I'm never going to do that again," Dave wheezed through the dust particles in his thought.

Maria smiled faintly. "Yes you will," she responded, "next week." It was the usual rhetoric. Ever since the first time the task had been assigned Dave complained about it and always swore that he would never again enter a place so dirty and ever week he did.

"I think I'll be dead by next week." Replied the other as he pulled a piece of trash out of his hair and threw it to the floor
"You shouldn't throw trash on the deck," Maria barked as if she were an officer, "That's what receptacles are for."

The boy stopped in his tracks. His companion's sudden yet not unusual authoritarian tone sent a wave of anger through him. He detested it when she spoke to him in such a way. It was almost as if she thought herself better than him and, on occasion, felt it necessary to prove it. "If I hear those words once more time today," he groused trying to relieve the tension, "I declare I will throw myself out of the airlock."

"You don't rank high enough to even get near the airlock," chuckled the young lady.

Dave smiled as if a widely at the young lady before him. Suddenly being stuck on a freighter didn't seem so bad. Then, amidst a small chuckle he began to trot down the corridor.

"Where are you going," Maria called after him this time in a slightly less commanding voice.

"I'm going to the cargo hold," answered the other still chuckling to himself.

"We aren't allowed in the cargo hold anymore," Maria yelled as she started in after him.

"That's the idea," Dave called back, "If I get thrown into the brig I won't have to swab anything for quite a while."

Before they reached the last corridor, however, Maria pushed herself into a full sprint. When she finally caught up with him she grabbed him by the arm and pulled him backward as hard as she could bringing him to a sudden and nearly painful stop. The boy's eyes danced as his looked into his companions. "You must not hate me too badly," he said, "if you don't want me to get into trouble."

"It's not you," Maria chortled back, "I just don't want to clean the whole ship by myself."

Dave chuckled softly to himself and open his mouth to make yet another witty response but before he could a horrible cry echoed loudly throughout the ship. Immediately any sign of pleasantness dropped from the youngster's faces as they both shot off down the corridor toward the sound. They were nearly stride for stride as they rounded the last corner and approached a large set of double doors of the cargo bay. Presently they opened and Commander Barrows stumbled out.

As soon as they saw him both Dave and Maria stopped suddenly in their tracks with a flurry of questions.

"What happened?"

"Are you alright?"

"Is there anything we can do?"

Barrows shook his head and stumbled a few feet forward. Losing his balance he fell against the wall and slid down to the floor where he attempted to catch his breath. "The - captain," he panted, "is dead."