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Matt
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Location: Coventry, RI
Best Friends Chapter Two
May 29th, 2010 at 9:03pm
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Chapter 2:
A few weeks later, Commander Straker sat at his desk looking over the latest Moonbase efficiency reports, he smiled as they were the highest he had ever seen them. Damn she’s good, he thought to himself. The doors parted and Alec walked in with Colonel John Grey.

“Well,” said Alec, knowing what Ed had been reading.

“Ninety eight point three percent; it beats the old record by almost two full points.”

Straker stood up and shook Colonel Grey’s hand. He had just transferred from the IAC as Director of Personal to SHADO in the same capacity. Henderson had finally realized that SHADO needed its own person in that role. 

“Welcome to SHADO, John.”

“Thanks Ed, so is that the Moonbase efficiency report you’re talking about?”

Ed handed him the report. Grey quickly scanned through it.

“Ginny Lake is up there?”

“That’s right, it was either her or Alec, and she needed the experience if I plan on making her executive officer next year, while Alec is at Dreamland.”

“You’re going to have an uphill battle with Henderson on that one Ed.”

“Yes, I know. But I’m convinced that she is the right person for the job. I’m going to be sure I do everything I can to make it impossible for him to say no.”

“With results like this, it’s would be hard for him to refuse,” added Alec.

The direct line to the upper office rang, “Yes Miss Ealand?”

“Sorry to disturb you sir but I have a Code Foxtrot for Colonel Lake.”

Straker lowered his voice, “Give me the details.”

“Colonel Lake’s mother called with a message, sir. Gretchen Reinhardt, a very close friend of the Colonel, has been taken to the hospital this morning. She was diagnosed with terminal cancer six months ago, and is not expected to survive the night.”

“Very well, send the contact information to my terminal please; I’ll take care of it.”

“Yes sir.”

Straker hung up the phone, a Code Foxtrot was a key phrase for a critical family matter. Straker had implemented its use after the death of his son. Not only did it get messages to the affected party quickly it also allowed for SHADO personal to receive emergency leave to handle a family crisis, subject only to the commander’s override.

“Gentlemen, I have a private call to make, Alec have Seagull X-ray standing by for departure to the States, Code Foxtrot.”

“Right away Ed,” Alec said as they left.

When they had left Straker locked the doors and keyed the intercom. “Lt. Ford, get me Moonbase.”

“Yes sir.”

  A few moments later, Nina Barry appeared on the screen.

“Yes Commander?”

“Nina, I need to speak to Colonel Lake.”

“She’s on sleep period, shall I wake her?”

“Yes, it’s important.”

A few minutes later Virginia Lake came on the screen.

“Commander?”

Ed hated this aspect of his position, but being a creature of duty he never shied away from it. “Colonel, I’m sorry to have woken you but I have some unpleasant news. Gretchen Reinhardt was taken to the hospital this morning. She is in critical condition and not expected to live. I understand that she is a very close friend.”

“Yes sir, she is,” said Virginia obviously distressed.

“Colonel, I’m authorizing personal leave for you effective immediately. There is a lunar flight scheduled to leave in four hours, I’ve ordered them to be ready in two. When you arrive at the airport, there will be a car waiting to take you to Heathrow. Seagull X-ray will be standing by to take off for the States as soon as you are aboard.”

Even though she was upset, Ed noticed her smile as she said, “Thank you, sir.”

Softly Ed said, “If I can do anything else for you Colonel…”

“No sir, I appreciate it, more than I can say. Thank you.”
Straker closed the connection.

 
Virginia knew that her friend had been diagnosed with cancer and had prepared herself for this day, but as the reality hit her she could not stop herself from crying. Gretchen Reinhardt and her husband were like adopted parents to Ginny. To her, this was just like she was losing her mother.


Gay Ellis walked into the control sphere on her way to her quarters. She was battling with another bout of insomnia and she found it helped take a walk through the base rather than lying awake in her bed. As she walked in Nina said to her, “I was just about to call you, Colonel Lake needs to see you right away.”

“Isn’t she on sleep period?”

“She was, but she received a call from HQ about five minutes ago.” Nina paused, and then added, “Gay, she sounded upset when I talked to her.”

“Alright, I’ll go see her, thanks.”

Gay walked out of the control sphere and headed to the base commander’s quarters. In the few short weeks that Ginny had been on Moonbase, she had made such a difference in Gay’s outlook on life. Gay could see why Ginny had impressed the Commander, she was a born leader. In three weeks they had brought the Moonbase efficiency levels to the highest point that they had ever been, and Ginny had made it clear to everyone that it was a team effort. Gay was proud to have been a part of it.

Ginny’s style of command was so much different than Straker’s, but just as effective. And she could be just as fierce as Straker if the situation warranted. Last week Captain Martin, one of the interceptor pilots, had decided that he knew better than the trackers, by virtue of his rank, and he refused to follow Joan’s instructions. They almost lost two of the three interceptors because of it.
Gay had never seen Ginny angry before, and she decided that she would rather have to face the Commander than her. When Captain Martin landed, Ginny ordered everyone else out of the leisure sphere. While no one knew what was said behind closed doors, it was rumored that her voice could be heard in the upper level of the leisure sphere, as well as the adjoining corridor. He was transferred back to earth the same day; the look on his face was telling.

Gay rang the buzzer for Ginny’s quarters and the door opened. As she walked in she could tell that she had been crying.

“Ginny, are you alright?”

“Yes, just give me a minute…” she started to say and tears began to flow again.

Gay didn’t even hesitate as she walked over to Ginny and hugged her. It didn’t matter that this woman was her commanding officer; right now she was fellow human being who was hurting and needed comfort. After a few minutes Ginny regained her composure and they sat across from each other.

“Gay,” she said drying her eyes, “I have to go back to Earth for a few days; I need you to take over while I’m gone.”

“I understand; can I do anything for you?”

Ginny recognized the underlying question. As she considered the woman sitting across from her, she realized that Gay was a person of both compassion and integrity, someone she could confide in.

“A close friend of mine was diagnosed with terminal cancer a few months back. They admitted her to the hospital this morning and she isn’t expected to live. I thought I was ready for this but…”

She couldn’t finish the sentence, as she began to silently cry again. Gay reached out and took her hand as she said, “I’m sorry, Ginny. We’re never ready to lose someone we love, no matter how much time we’re given.”

When she could speak again she said, “Thanks, Gay. You are a true friend.”

Gay’s heart was warmed by this and it brought a smile to her face. Ginny was easy going, but also very selective of those she chose to call a friend. In that regard she was much like Commander Straker.

“Thanks.”


The lunar module had been prepped for launch and was just waiting for its passengers to get aboard. In the reception sphere below, Ginny was going over last minute instructions with Gay.

“I’d like you to switch shift assignments for Lt. Miller and Lt. Anders. That should round out the overall experience level and pick up another couple tenths of a point.”

Gay wondered for a moment if it was worth it and then remembered who they were working for.

“Right, I’ll take care of it. Have a safe flight home, Ginny,” she said quietly.

“I’ll see you in a few days.”

Gay watched as her new friend climbed up the ladder to the airlock, thanks to Ginny she had a renewed sense of purpose.


“So tell me Ed, where did you find that beautiful woman, who is running Moonbase?” asked Colonel Craig Collins.

“You’ve never met Colonel Lake, Craig?”

“No, with me driving supply ships all the time, I don’t get to see all the little lovelies that you do, unless they are on Moonbase or the supply depot.”

“You’re more of a chauvinist than Alec, and that takes some doing.”

“All part of the service Ed, seriously where has she been hiding?”

“Colonel Lake was the Director of SHADO’s Advanced Research Division.”

“Which part, FTL, weapons, communications?” asked Craig.

“She was responsible for the entire division.”

Collins was impressed, “Isn’t that too much for any one person to handle?”

“Virginia Lake is an exceptionally gifted individual. Under her guidance the research division is the most well run operation SHADO has. Even in her absence, the division has been running itself. That is a testament to her leadership ability. I’m still looking for someone to fill that billet, interested?”

Collins had the look of a rough and ready grunt, but in reality he possessed a very keen mind. No one in SHADO knew as much about the inner workings of SID than Craig Collins.

“I’d be board in a month Ed, no I’m an astronaut, and my place is among the stars.”

“That’s alright; I’m probably going to have to divide it up anyway. I don’t have anyone who can just step in and take it over as is.”

“So is she available?”

Straker looked up at him, “I think that is something you will have to ask her,” he said quietly.

“You sound like you’re interested in her, Ed.”

“No Craig, I already have a mistress, her name is SHADO,” he said wistfully.

  “In that case maybe I’ll ask, see you later.”

“Take care, Craig.”

After Collins had left, Ed considered his reaction. It was true, Virginia Lake was a stunningly gorgeous woman, and she had the most beautiful set of blue-grey eyes Ed had ever seen, but that shouldn’t have mattered. He had learned to be impassive to feminine beauty, almost as a matter of necessity. Posing as a film studio executive he was surrounded by beautiful women, but most of them had no depth beyond their physical attributes. That helped him keep his diffidence.

Virginia was different. It was true that she was very intelligent, but there was something else, and Ed couldn’t quite put it into words.

Ed forced his mind to other thoughts. Craig would ask her out, she would probably say yes, and that would be that, assuming of course that she didn’t cut him to pieces.


Virginia stood next to Professor Manfred Reinhardt at his wife’s grave. The funeral had been that morning and the Professor wanted to visit after the burial had been completed. He had been one of her instructors at Stanford during her final year. She had remained in contact with him and his wife after she had graduated.

Ginny had caught her husband in an affair less than a year after they were married, and the Reinhardt’s had helped her through a difficult time.

“Virginia, I want to thank you for coming all the way from England to be here, somehow thank you doesn’t seem to say enough. Surely this has wrecked havoc with your employer.”

“I wouldn’t have missed it Professor, and I have the best boss on the planet. He made it possible for me to be here before Gretchen passed, I was able to say goodbye,” she said getting misty.

“When do you have to leave?”

“Tomorrow morning, I was told I could have a few more days, but too many people are depending on me. I don’t want to take advantage of the situation.”

The Professor smiled, he had always admired her sense of duty. As they started walking back to the car, Virginia watched him closely. The Professor and his wife were people of faith and he had told Ginny earlier that he was sure his wife was in a better place. She was raised in a believing household but had become disillusioned after her divorce. And since having learned of the existence of aliens ten years ago, she didn’t know what to believe anymore.

Professor Reinhardt opened the door for Virginia and walked around the car to get in the driver’s side.


Captain Martin stood in front of Straker’s desk, at attention. He had been suspended for a week for his insubordination and failure to follow standard procedure. Before he would be allowed to return to duty Straker had to know if he could be trusted to follow the chain of command. He also had to decide if the man was still worthy of the position he was going to be promoted to.

“Captain Martin, you realize of course why you are here, do you not?”

“Yes sir.”

“I want to know why you felt the need to ignore the instructions from the trackers, and violate standard procedure.”

“No excuse sir.”

John Martin was career military, he made a grave error in judgment and would make no excuse for it, not that there was one. Ed regarded him while he stood at attention, finally he said, “At ease Captain.”

Straker continued, “John up to this point you have had a spotless career with SHADO. Had your actions only endangered yourself I might have been able to keep this off your record. But you endangered the lives of your fellow interceptor pilots, as well as everyone on Moonbase. That can’t go unanswered. The write up on the incident will go into your file for a year, and you will be on probation for that amount of time. Any infraction during that year and both will become part of your permanent record.”

“I understand, sir.”

“Furthermore,” Straker continued, “The test pilot position you were accepted for has been withdrawn, for now. If you keep your nose clean for a year, we can discuss it then.”

“Yes sir.”

“One more thing, Captain, it will be up to Colonel Lake as to whether or not you are assigned back to Moonbase. You’re dismissed for now.”

Martin snapped to attention, “Yes sir”

He executed a right face and left the office. A few minutes later Colonel Lake came in.

“Colonel Lake, please have a seat,” he said gesturing to the corner seat near the desk.

“I just wanted to say I’m very sorry for your loss. Are you sure you are ready to come back?”

“Thank you sir and I can’t say how much I appreciate you getting me out there so quickly. I made it to the hospital in time to be able to say goodbye. It meant more than I can put into words, and yes, I’ve done all I can do for the Professor. I still have much work to complete on Moonbase.”

“You’ve done an exceptional job up there in a very short period of time.”

“Thank you sir,” she smiled this time.

Ed forced himself to look away from her hoping she wouldn’t see right through him.

“Colonel, you need to decide if you want Captain Martin back up there. Right now he is on probation and he has been removed from consideration for the aeroceptor test pilot program. That means I have another opening for a test pilot. Do you have anyone you would like to recommend?”

Ginny saw her chance and went for it, “I do, Lt. Ellis.”

Straker was surprised at that, “Why her?”

“Take a look at her record Commander; she flew the Lightning while she was in the RAF. From what I’ve read it took a very good pilot to stay ahead of the aircraft.”

Ed was impressed, Virginia had done her homework, but then again, he expected that.

“Very well, put her in the running. The simulators will be delivered to Moonbase next week. Captain Carlin will be up there as well to evaluate the test results and maybe do a little head to head with the pilots.”

“I think that will work out well. As far as Martin is concerned, I’ll take him back but the first time he steps out of line, he’s done.”

“I agree, Colonel. Have a safe flight,” he said as he took her hand in both of his.

Ed watched her walk out of the office feeling a twinge of regret in his heart.


The next day, Colonel Lake was on duty at the command console when Colonel Craig Collins walked into the control sphere. “Hello all you lovely ladies,” he said as he walked in. “Your monthly supply driver is here again.”

“Colonel Collins, do you always come in and disrupt the place like this?”

“Well that depends on who is here. By the way I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced. I’m Craig Collins,” he said has he extended his hand.

“Virginia Lake,” she said as she shook his hand.

Alec had warned her, when she first came to SHADO, that Collins was a chauvinist. But Ginny had to admit, he was funny.

Collins was saying, “Do you prefer Virginia or Ginny?”

“I think for now, Colonel will be fine,” said Ginny, not wanting to encourage him too much.

“Anything you like,” said Collins, his smile never fading.

Collins looked down to his manifest and became all business.

“Colonel, in addition to your normal monthly supplies I have the two simulators for the new Sky aeroceptors. Peter Carlin will be flying up tomorrow to set them up.”

“Good, we are going to set them up down in the lab. I’ve already made room for them. Did supply get my request to change the brand of coffee they send up here?”

“I’m afraid not Colonel. They bought two years worth of the stuff when purchasing got a deal last year.”

Virginia grimaced. Another whole year of bad coffee?

“However Colonel, I usually bring the base commander a little gift every month,” he said as he handed her a large thermos.

“Is this what I think it is?” asked Ginny.

“Fresh ground coffee, brewed just before I left, and it should still be hot. These bottles will keep it warm for three days.”

Virginia rewarded him with a grateful smile as she said, “Thank you, Colonel. I really do appreciate it.”

As Craig and Ginny were talking, Gay Ellis walked into the control sphere. “Hi Craig,” she said.

Collins turned to her, “Oh, hello Gay,” he said as he reached into his pocket. “This is from Mark,” he said as he handed her the letter.

Gay’s eyes light up, “Oh, thank you, I have one for him as well.”

“I’ll make sure I see you before I leave. Well if you ladies will excuse me, I have a ship to get unloaded.”

“See you later, Craig,” said Gay.

Virginia watched him walk out, seeing that there was much more to him than meets the eye.

“Did he bring you your gift?” asked Gay.

“Yes he did. You and I are going to share it later.”

“Thanks, Ginny."
« Last Edit: Sep 22nd, 2010 at 2:07am by Matt »  

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