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Everyone at SHADO drinks

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Best Friends Chapter One
May 29th, 2010 at 9:01pm
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Best Friends
  A UFO Story
Written by Matthew R. White
© May 11, 2010
Based on the Characters and series created by Gerry Anderson

Chapter 1:
April 1982:
“This isn’t good Alec,” said Ed Straker to his best friend.

Straker was looking at the Moonbase efficiency reports. For months the reports had shown inconsistent levels of performance. The overall figures were acceptable but Straker expected better than just acceptable, and inconsistency to him indicated a problem.

“I know; I wish I had a better answer, Ed.”

“The overall responsibility for this falls on the base commander. What did Lt. Ellis offer as an excuse?”

“None and she accepted complete responsibly for the problem.”

Straker sighed, even though he was upset about the results of the report, he had to admire her professionalism. He reached over to the intercom. “Lt. Ford, find Colonel Lake and have her come in please.”

“Yes sir.”

“The last time this happened I sent Foster up there for a couple of months. He brought the numbers back up but didn’t get to the root of the problem. He missed something,” said Ed.

“Maybe, so what do you intend to do?”

“I’m going to kill two birds with one stone Alec. With you going to Dreamland next year to supervise the aeroceptor projects, I’m going to need a new executive officer. As I see it I have two choices, Craig Collins, or Virginia Lake.”

“What about Foster?” asked Alec.

“Foster needs to pull his head out of his ass. He’s not even close to being ready yet.”

“He’s still young Ed. He’ll eventually settle down.”

“When I was his age I was married, with a child on the way and working sixteen hours a day getting this place up and running. Foster has ambitions of commanding this organization one day and he’s not going to get there unless he grows up.”

“I suppose. Do you think Ginny is ready for command?”

Ed leaned back in his chair and smiled. “Not quite yet, but not because she is incapable, she just needs more of the right experience. By the end of the year she will be ready, and quite frankly I’m favoring her over Collins. She has been the Director of advanced research for two years now and that department is one of the most efficiently run operations we have. The position carried a lot of responsibility and she took it in stride.”
Ed Straker was a difficult man to please because he held everyone to the same standard of performance he put himself to, but he took good care of those who rose to the challenge.

The office doors parted and Virginia Lake walked in. “Sorry I took so long, we had a problem down in the main computer room,” she said.

“That’s alright Colonel, please have a seat.” Ed said.

Straker handed her the Moonbase reports, “Take a look at these reports, and tell me what you think.”

Virginia quickly looked through the reports. “There’s too much inconsistency in the figures, I think we have a morale problem up there.”

Ed Straker smiled; he had reached the same conclusion. “I agree. So the question becomes; what do we do about it?”

“First of all the officer in charge is a lieutenant, and the interceptor leader is often a captain. That fact in itself can cause friction. The billet of Commander Moonbase was supposed to be a Lt. Colonel.”

“I know. I intend to fix that as soon as the budget allows, but first I need to know who to promote. Secondly I also need to find out if there are any other underlying issues that we have missed.”

Virginia considered before she answered. “Someone from the command staff is going to have to go up there and evaluate the situation first hand.”

“We tried that last year with Foster,” said Alec.

“It’s going to take longer than a month or two to sort this out and nothing against Paul, but he might be too close to the problem.”

“How do you mean?” asked Ed.

“He is on very friendly terms with everyone on the base; that may be compromising his objectivity.”

“I agree,” said Ed. “That’s why I’m sending you Colonel Lake.”


“You haven’t formed any ties with anyone at Moonbase so you should be able to form an objective opinion. This is going to be a long term assignment, except for furloughs; you’re going to be up there for a year. You are going to be in overall command of the base. I need you to familiarize yourself with the entire lunar operation.”

Virginia smiled, she had wondered what it would be like to work on the moon and this assignment sounded challenging.

“When do I start?”

“A week from today, that should give you time to put your earth side affairs in order. Take whatever time off you need between now and then and I’ll give you the names of firms SHADO uses for taking care of your apartment while you are away.”

“I can be ready in a week.”

“In case you haven’t noticed Colonel, I have you on a fast track for command. You’re performance as Director of Advanced research was exemplary.” Straker paused for a moment considering, “I wasn’t going to tell you this yet but I think you’ve earned the right to know. Alec is going to Dreamland next year to supervise the aeroceptor project. Because it will be a full time position I’m going to have to select a new executive officer. You are one of two people that I have in mind for the position.”

Virginia was somewhat surprised. “Are you certain that I’m the right person to even be considered for that position?”

“That’s what I intend to find out. By this time next year you will know everything there is to know about Moonbase operations. Colonel your dedication to duty is above reproach and I have every confidence that you will excel in this posting as well.”

Virginia smiled, the commander had just offered her a challenge, and she rarely ever turned down a challenge.
Straker handed her the list as well as copies of the efficiency reports.

“Good luck, Commander,” he said to her as she left.

“Thank you, sir.”

When they were alone again Ed turned to his friend to see his reaction, “Do you still think she’s not ready?”

“She seems pretty confident to me.”

“Alec, in this organization I have two people I can hand a project to and be absolutely sure it will be carried out without having to check on them. Virginia is one, and I’m sure I don’t have to tell you who the other is.”

“Why do you favor her over Craig Collins?” asked Alec, changing the subject.

“Alec, you know Craig is a close friend of mine, but for the past four years he’s been doing nothing but driving cargo ships. And to be perfectly honest, he doesn’t want the job. He’ll only take it if I ask him to.”

“But why Colonel Lake, isn’t she more valuable in the research section?”

“First of all Lake is next in line after Collins and secondly I don’t like to hold someone back just because they excel in a posting.”

“Who is going to replace Virginia in research?”

“I don’t know yet, let’s see who rises to the top. I’ll leave that in your court Alec.”

“Gee thanks, but seriously Ed what else are you seeing that I missed?”

“Virginia Lake impressed me the day I met her, not only is she brilliant, she can delegate responsibility, she thinks on her feet, and she knows how to get things done. And one more thing, she has the uncanny ability to see through any attempt at deception.”

A little over a week later the lunar module carrying Colonel Lake touched down at Moonbase. This was the first time Ginny had been off planet and she was savoring the experience. Although she was wondering how she was going to get down from her seat. Traveling with her on this trip was Astronaut Jim Regan.

“Colonel Lake, if you press the recessed button on your left armrest your seat will rotate forward. Then you can easily get to the ladder.”

Virginia pressed the button and her seat rotated forward bringing the ladder into sight. Because of the low gravity she was easily able to pull herself over to it. Jim Regan, knowing it was her first trip, was watching from below making sure she was okay. Virginia climbed down without any trouble.

“Piece of cake,” she said pleasantly.

They walked through the airlock to another ladder leading down into the base. Once down she walked into the reception dome. Lieutenant Ellis was waiting for her.

“Welcome to Moonbase Colonel Lake, I relinquish command to you at this time.”

“Thank you Lieutenant, I accept command.”

Virginia shook hands with Ellis watching her carefully, not noticing any resentment, but sadness in her demeanor.

“Would you like a tour of the base ma’am?”

“Yes please,” said Ginny.

Ellis turned to Jim Regan, “Jim would you see to it that the Colonel’s bags are brought to her quarters?”

“Certainly Gay.”

Ginny noticed the informal exchange but said nothing about it. She wanted to get a good handle on the personal dynamics before she made any changes and then only if they were needed.

“Colonel, if you will follow me, please.”

Ellis took Lake on an extensive tour of the facility, describing the base in extreme detail. Virginia was very impressed with her knowledge of all the systems and procedures of SHADO’s lunar base. She found it difficult to believe that she had been asked to relive this person. She was planning on being detached and watch from a distance but now seeing the situation first hand Virginia quickly decided to rethink her strategy.

The tour ended in the commander’s quarters.

“Well Colonel, I’m sure your tired from the trip, I should let you get some rest.”

“Before you go Lieutenant, I would like to talk to you off the record and setting aside rank.”

Gay Ellis seemed apprehensive; she doesn’t know me, thought Ginny. They sat down across from each other.

“Colonel I…”

“When we are in private, please call me Ginny.”

“Alright, I’m Gay.”

“Gay you have a very impressive knowledge of this base, its systems and procedures. I understand you took complete responsibility for the drop in efficiency. Commander Straker was impressed with that and quite frankly so am I, but I need to know what the problems are up here.”

“The problem is me, Ginny. Ever since Ken Matthews was killed I’ve found that I second guess every single decision I make.”

Virginia did not expect her to be so forthright.

“That was almost two years ago, Gay. The investigation cleared you of any wrong doing, had you followed standard procedure we would have lost all three interceptors.”

“I know, but the computer was right, I vectored Mark out of danger before Ken because I loved him. I still do you know. That’s why he transferred to Skydiver duty.”

“Do you get to see him often?” asked Ginny.

“Not nearly as often as I like, our furloughs don’t always line up. I miss him terribly. I was going to tell the commander the same thing I just told you.”

Virginia had to admire Gay’s honesty, but telling this to the commander would probably get her grounded. In her opinion that would be a waste of material. Ellis was a very bright and capable officer she just needed something to boost her confidence.

“Well, why don’t we hold off on that for now? I don’t want to hand him a problem until you and I find a solution. We’ll talk tomorrow. In the mean time I’m going to need the latest readiness reports and procedure manuals. I have a lot of studying to do and I will be relying on you quite heavily for a while.”

“I’ll have those reports sent into you right away. Thanks, Ginny.”

“My pleasure, Gay.”

Ginny looked at the uniform standards, she was relieved to see the purple wig was optional for the base commander, although she might wear it on a bad hair day. She was also glad to see that the base commander’s uniform was not quite as form fitting as the ones that the trackers wore. Ginny liked to dress on the conservative side.

Virginia pulled out Lt. Ellis’s service record and scanned through it. She had been an RAF pilot before coming to SHADO and though she had never seen combat, her flight school scores were extremely high. She had put in for duty on Skydiver but no openings were available.

She reached over to the intercom, “Lt. Miller?”

“Yes Colonel.”

“Call down to HQ and see if Colonel Freeman is still in. If so patch him through to my quarters please.”

“Yes ma’am.”

Ginny continued to read Gay’s record while she waited for her call. She saw that the Commander had put her in for a commendation for her work on Project Discovery. It was a shame that the project didn’t pan out as they had hoped.

“I have Colonel Freeman for you ma’am.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.”

“Ginny, where’s your purple wig?” asked Alec.

“Hanging in the closet and that’s where it’s staying.”

“How was your flight?”

“It was fun; I think I’m going to enjoy this assignment. Alec do you have the simulator software ready for the new Sky aeroceptors yet?”

“It should be ready in a few weeks. Why do you ask?”

“I may have another test pilot for you, but I won’t know for a while yet.”

“I’m not in a hurry to fill the slot, as you know the aircraft is still on the drawing board.”

“Alright, thanks Alec. I’ll let you know.”

“Take care Ginny.”

The next morning, Ginny walked into the leisure sphere for breakfast. She noticed that Nina, Joan, and Carol were at a table chatting amongst themselves. Gay sat at a table by herself, isolated from her peers.

“Good morning, Colonel,” said Nina.


Ginny got her coffee and breakfast, and walked over to where Gay was sitting.

“Do you mind if I join you?”

“Please,” she said.

Ginny sat down and took a sip of her coffee grimacing as she did.

“Is the coffee here always this bad?”

“No, most of the time it’s worse,” Gay said, smiling.

Virginia was a person who enjoyed a good cup of coffee; this was going to have to change.

“How did you sleep last night?” asked Gay.

“Quite well, I didn’t realize how tired I was until my head hit the pillow.”

“It was a week before I could sleep up here. It seemed like I was able to hear every little noise. It was eerie.”

“That’s how I felt when I was on Skydiver,” said Ginny. “I never sleep very well when I’m on board her.”

“I put in for duty on Skydiver, “Gay said wistfully. “All the billets were filled. Mark was lucky to get to alternate with Lew Waterman on Skydiver 2.”

“I know; it’s on your service record. Is that what you really want to do?”

Gay nodded, “When I was in the RAF, I flew the Lightning. It was a demanding aircraft to fly, but I loved it. I felt like I was being challenged all the time.”

Virginia realized as she looked at the woman sitting across from her that she was seeing a kindred spirit. Gay was about six years younger than Ginny. Coincidently, Gay was struggling with the same self doubt that she did, at that age.

At the other table the three women got up to leave. Ginny called to one of them.

“Lieutenant Barry?”

“Yes ma’am?”

“Would you take over in the control sphere until Lt. Ellis and I get there?”

“Certainly ma’am.”

When they were alone, Ginny continued.

“Gay, I might be able to help make that happen. But first of all we need to fix the problems here. I told you last night that I was going to rely on you quite heavily for a time, but I also need you to focus on the tasks ahead of us. I looked at your record last night; it not only told me that you were a pilot, but a damn good one.”

Gay smiled at the last comment, “I didn’t think anyone had noticed.”

“That was one of the reasons that you were given command of the base, your military record is exemplary. Ed Straker wouldn’t have put you here if he didn’t think you could do the job. We need to prove to him that you still can. Otherwise you may find yourself assigned to HQ working the communications console during the low watch.”

That brought a chuckle from her.

“Gay I want to setup a new shift rotation. I want to put the three most senior officers on different shifts and I will spend a week at a time on each shift. I don’t plan on taking my first furlough until we have the efficiency numbers up to where they should be.”

“That means breaking up teams that have worked together for a while, Ginny.”

“Exactly, sometimes people get too comfortable and they fall into a rut. By shuffling the deck, it forces everyone to stay sharp. And we have to do something about this coffee, it’s abysmal,” Ginny said as she sipped hers.

They both laughed at that.
« Last Edit: Sep 22nd, 2010 at 2:05am by Matt »  

What do you mean, we're out of coffee!
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