Episode 16: Cult of the Obsidian Mask, Part I: Change of Plans
“I really don’t know what to tell you,” Doctor Hartnell said. He was surprised to see Sundance, Astralyn, and Timmy standing in his messy office in the Destin Museum once again. “I didn’t even really know what it did.” He looked desperately at his desk in hopes of finding something else to look at. After listening to what they said happened to them, he felt incredibly guilty. “I was just told to order it and contact you, Ms. Winner.”
Sundance’s right eyebrow raised. “Who told you to order it?”
“I don’t know,” the doctor said. He wrung his hands nervously. “I didn’t ask his name.”
“Could you describe him?” Timmy asked.
“I never saw him.” Doctor Hartnell fished around his desk drawers for a piece of paper. He pulled a few out and inspected them. When he determined that they were not the papers he sought, he shoved them back into the drawer. “There was an invoice…” He continued to fish around, embarrassed that other people were witnessing his filth. He pulled out a yellow piece of paper and held it up. “Here it is. This is the purchase order that was sent to me.” He handed it to Astralyn, who in turn handed it to Sundance.
“The Commander?” Sundance asked. “Who is that?”
“I didn’t ask questions,” Doctor Hartnell replied.
“I’m starting to get that impression,” Sundance added.
“Look, I’m dreadfully sorry for what happened to you, and Daniel and Petrina, but there’s only so much you can blame on me.” The doctor stood up and clenched his hands nervously. He needed to get away. He was on the verge of saying too much if this line of questioning continued. He attempted to avoid their gaze as he began to sweat. “Daniel and Petrina weren’t supposed to touch the box… I’m glad to see she’s okay. I was only following orders.”
“From the Commander,” Sundance reiterated. Doctor Hartnell nodded. Sundance could tell by the way the doctor was eyeing the exit that they weren’t going to get any more information from him. “That will be all for now, Doctor. Don’t leave the galaxy.”
Sundance led Astralyn and Timmy out of the office. He could hear the good doctor breathe a sigh of relief as he collapsed back into his chair.
“Well, was that as awkward for you as it was for me?” Astralyn asked.
“A tad bit,” answered Timmy. He did not like the idea of being near that man, or even being in the museum. “Did you see the way he was sweating?”
Sundance still held the invoice and looked at the signature of ‘The Commander’. What did that mean? He hoped that Admiral Graves could make some sense of it.
The StarTango took off from the surface of Destin and flew out of the atmosphere. Sundance punched in the coordinates for New Earth and let the ship do the flying. He couldn’t get the words ‘The Commander’ out of his mind. He had a nagging sense that it was important, but for the life of him, he couldn’t remember why.
“The first thing I’m going to do is take a nice long shower,” Astralyn said, running her fingers through her blonde hair. “Running from a giant minotaur will do that to you.”
“I suppose a shower wouldn’t be too bad,” Timmy agreed. “Captain, what about you?”
Sundance shook his head. He didn’t want a shower; he just wanted to go to bed. While he enjoyed piloting the StarTango, it was an old clunker by today’s standards. Most of the newer model ships were miniature battleships, complete with Captain’s Quarters and rooms for guests. The StarTango only had the cockpit and a couple of passenger seats. Sundance really could have used the Captain’s Quarters now.
“Captain.” Timmy tapped Sundance on the shoulder. He was unresponsive, so Timmy tried again. “Captain.”
“What is it, Timmy?” Sundance suddenly snapped back into the present.
“The autopilot is acting strange, sir.” Timmy looked down at the controls and tried to make sense of the direction they were heading. “Did you mean to program the ship to head into the Venga Star System?”
“No, I didn’t.” Sundance looked down at the controls and saw that they were veering off course. “Or at least I don’t remember setting that course.” He punched in the code to abort the autopilot, but the code didn’t take. Sundance cocked his head to the right and tried again. He even pressed each of the keys pointedly and slowly to make sure he was hitting the correct keys. The code was denied.
Astralyn picked up on the captain’s perplexed look and leaned over Sundance’s shoulder. “Is there a problem?”
“No, there’s no problem,” Sundance lied.
Timmy gave Sundance a disapproving look and turned to Astralyn. “We are currently experiencing technical difficulties with the autopilot. It’s not going where it’s supposed to be going.”
“I hate it when that happens,” Astralyn said. “Is there anything I can do?”
“No, you just sit back, Princess,” Sundance joked. “We’ll have this sorted out in a minute.” Sundance continued to enter his code into the computer and the computer continued to deny his request. He turned to Timmy and nodded.
Timmy quickly began punching in his code. The computer dismissed his code outright. “It’s got us completely locked out, Captain.” He slid out of his seat and ducked under the main console. There were many multicoloured wires and plugs, all flashing at him. He shook his head and sighed. “It’s a hot mess down here, Captain. I think someone messed with the control panel while we were in the Minos Cube.”
“The ship is being piloted by someone else.” Sundance watched his computer display as more coordinates for a far off location were entered in by what seemed to be an invisible hand.
Timmy sat back in his seat. “I can probably fix it, but it’s going to take me awhile.” He looked out the window and saw that they were quickly approaching a dark green planet. “Oh, that’s not good news.”
Sundance shook his head and sighed. “Everyone grab something and brace for impact!”
To be continued…
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