Chapter Twenty-One – Manouf Remembered
Hidden behind the tale section of the frozen research ship, Apis detonated a Semac charge attached to the hatch. When the shower of ice shards from the explosion ceased, the men entered the now exposed corridor, lined with stasis pods, leading forward to the ship’s interior. The stale air, mixed with the unmistakeable smell from hundreds of partially desiccated samples of marine life in its laboratories, taken by Drana scientists in the course of their exploration two thousand years previously, made the whole experience unpleasant to say the least. Despite the length of time the ship had lain in its frozen state the power system was still operational.
Misakk, assisted by Shansur, brought the ship back from its enforced hibernation, and soon its life support systems were reinstated bringing warmth, light, and above all, fresh air. The Drana expedition leader’s report detailed the last days of their lives on Kallorn. The effects of salt released from the samples at first had gone unnoticed. However, when members of his team began developing the first visible symptoms of necrosis, the inevitable end was in sight. He described the agonizing death of himself and his fellow scientists in detail. His last conscious act was to send the grim report to back to Dranaa. Due to the frightening findings of the report, no rescue mission was sent. The members of the scientific exploration team were remembered for their heroic deaths and invaluable information while carrying out their duty to the empire.
Misakk and Shansur spent days repairing the old photon engines and prefabricating a hatch, replacing the one destroyed in their explosive entry. Apis, Nusaan, and Jamal set about the task of cleaning the ship, removing everything of no value. By the end of the second week, the ship’s engines were ready to be tested. While the Bentu was moved to a safe distance, Misakk and Shansur prepared for the test flight. The team watched anxiously as the ship tried to shake itself free from the solid ice surrounding its buried landing gear. As Misakk increased power to the thrusters, the ice melted beneath the ship until a series of lakes were formed around each of its eight huge landing pads, merging into one. With one final shudder, the ancient ship was in the air once more, two thousand years after it had originally landed.
With only one pilot, the task of getting both ships back presented a problem. While Akhen had flown fighters, he had never flown anything as large as the research ship. So Misakk and Shansur flew her back while Akhen piloted the Bentu. When they returned to New Cydon, their fleet had once more increased.
Manouf was laid to rest in the time honoured way befitting a Drana warrior. As the flames of his funeral pyre consumed him, the community stood in silence remembering him, each in their own way. Khan stood at the head of the pyre honouring his old friend, his chest bloodied as the Kaadan ritual decreed by long deep cuts made by the blade of his ceremonial scimitar. In a thousand years from now, Manouf would still be remembered…
Next time – Chapter Twenty-Two