Tanks Alot - Part 7
The effects of the near miss on Earth were relatively small, since most of the destruction happened over water. There were some tidal effects that cause damage, but no loss of life with the exception of a small village on an island in the Pacific where a small chunk landed and destroyed a chicken coop. When the village dug up the rock, they found it to be platinum.
Theana was lost in her thoughts, when Shila's tug appeared in front of the gaping hole that had once been the bridge. Theana smiled as her sister’s face could be seen from in the tug, and she was tapping her ear, signaling turn on comms. She reached up and activated her comms, and heard so many voices all still talking over each other. There were cheers and shouts of jubilation. Shila waved to get her attention and held up four fingers, and pointed to her ears again, meaning she was to switch to channel 4. Theana made the switch and heard Cap's voice, "Theana can you hear me, come in"? She took a deep breath and answered, "Yes I can hear you". She was not looking forward to this next conversation but steeled herself for whatever came next. Cap's voice registered relief not anger, "Oh thank God". This surprised Theana, she had usurped control of the ship and endangered everyone on it.
The next few hours had the fleet making repairs for makeshift safety so they could limp to Luna Base and the repair docks. The extensive floating ship yard hovered over the moon and had room for all the ships. The Juarez was the last to reach Luna Base, it had taken a few extra hours to shore up the hole in the front of the ship. On arrival the Juarez went to the unloading station first, where all the pans would be detached and the contents assayed. Of the original 62 pans of platinum, four had been lost pushing Anvil Prime and 4 had been deformed pushing it to save Ares, the deformed ones still had most of their contents.
Even with the losses this was the most lucrative delivery in the Juarez's history. It was also the highest worth from the Ares sector ever. The worth was a bit higher because they delivered directly to Luna Base and skipped the Ares base handling fee. Every crew member knew the costs of repair and restocking would come off the top before any profits would be split. No one knew if they would make money or be in the hole, even with the biggest haul in ship’s history.
The Juarez looked so strange as the repair crews maneuvered it into the repair bay. Without it's pans it looked emaciated. The hydroponics bay was detached and moved to the large hydroponics farm that supplied fleet vessels. Repairs would take weeks, so everyone had to move all of their personal stuff out temporarily. The crew with all there stuff boarded the shuttle that would take them to Luna Base, they were overall proud of what they had helped accomplished but knew there would be costs that had to be paid. Cap expected to lose command for his inability to control his own ship, but he knew he could retire and live near his daughter. Gary was unsure how this would affect him, he didn't know if the stink of Caps failure would follow him. Hillary knew she would be fine but expected some horrible backlash for the tank born, knowing how corporate bureaucracy worked. Hiroko was happy her brother was saved and now just hoped her part in this would be hidden, but was confident they would never be discovered. The tank born especially Theana fully expected severe backlash for damages.
Lunar Base was a vast complex of structures, that had been built in hollowed out caverns within the moon itself or pyramidal structure made from pans containing the excavated material. In the underground facilities huge rotating structures simulated gravity for the thousands of people and corporate property that lived and worked there.
The crew of the Juarez had been assigned quarters not far from the administration zone. Theana thought this was weird that they would be given quarters this nice. She was sure it would be temporary and was most likely a function of management not wanting to go very far. They only had enough time to drop off there stuff and get cleaned up before they needed to be in a meeting at 0100 hours.
Theana walked into a large meeting area with perhaps 100 seats in it, the fact that there were guards in the hall didn't give her warm and fuzzy feelings. There were already about 30 other people siting around, she assumed they were the crews of the Tampa, and Baton Rouge. Cap seemed to know some of them and addressed some women and a guy, perhaps they were the other captains.
Admiral Hanson the Commander in Chief of the entire Adidas fleet entered the room, everyone got up and stood at attention. He saluted in a casual and even sloppy manor and told everyone to be seated. Everyone sat quietly waiting for him to speak, The Admiral looked up and began, "The events of the last two weeks have been unprecedented. First we find a stable asteroid that had suddenly left its predicted orbit and heading to Ares Base". "No one believes this was an accident and a full investigation is under way". Hiroko felt a chill in the pit of her stomach but sat quietly. Admiral Hanson continued, "Second through extraordinary efforts by the Juarez, Ares Base was saved, but that put earth at risk". He looked at Cap, "Captain Esposito some would argue that if you had let it hit Ares then Earth would never have been put at risk". Cap met his gaze and didn't flinch or say anything. Admiral Hanson went on, "However Ares was saved and once the threat was realized the Juarez took immediate action to save Earth as well". He paused and surveyed the crowd, "Over the next 12 days the Juarez and eventually joined by the Tampa, and Baton Rouge, worked hard to deflect the rouge asteroid". "Through great effort and damaging risk to the ships and crews, the earth was saved from destruction". He looked up and made eye contact with each of the captains, "The reason I am telling you what you already know is to inform you that will not be the official report". He then smiled, "Well especially not the part about you should have let it hit Ares".
He went on, "Officially, it was a rogue asteroid and you all saved the world".
The mood in the room lightened immediately. There was audible sighs of relief and some muttering with others smiling and looking at one another. Admiral Hanson added, "You should know, that while the world for the most part did not know it was in danger for fear of mass panic, it knows now, and you all and your efforts are on everyone's thoughts and social media". He went on in a jovial manor, "In fact everything you have done before, during and after the miss has been commented on, been dissected, and evaluated by every opinion on the world". "The overwhelming opinion is that everyone on Earth owes their lives to your ships and crews". He then asked, "Which one of you is Theana Or Luna"? Theana nervously raised her hand. He looked right at her, "You have been the highlight of the world, the willingness to sacrifice yourself with the tug, then driving the Juarez and pushing Anvil Prime has captured the world's adoration". He shook his head with a surprisingly perplexed look on his face, as if trying to understand what a new world we live in now, "The world's attitude change toward the tank born has been enormous, there are countless efforts to cover all the tank born construction costs so they are no longer in debt".
He went on "Nissan corporation has pledged to cover all the repair costs to all the ships involved". "Bharat Petroleum has pledged to match the profit of the pans that were delivered to the moon". He smiled and said, "For the Juarez that will be huge". He rolled his eyes and said "AMMWEC has said they will pay off the debt of all the tank born on the three ships, but that is not very much, they just want to look magnanimous". Once again shaking his head in disbelief, "You all have preformed magnificently and have been the brightest star for the Adidas Corporation in a long time". He became a bit more serious, "Over the next few weeks there will be debriefings and follow ups of course". "But Hot Damn, You guys are famous"!
Admiral Hanson left the auditorium after addressing the crews, quickly flanked by security and made his way to the other side of the Administration zone. He entered Security Ops without fanfare and went directly to the conference room. Darius Long was seated at the conference table along with some women who seemed to be nervously going through some files. Admiral Hanson sat down and Darius took that as permission to begin. Darius pointed to the women sitting at the end of the table, "Admiral, this is Rhonda Davis, she and her team were the ones who found out why Anvil became a problem". Admiral Hanson nodded and gave Rhonda his undivided attention. Rhonda was nervous but began, "Sir my team was assigned, to look into the Juarez, its crew and systems". "We found nothing at first, but much of out inquiry was on the four tank born, and I figured, they seemed to be clean, let's check the rest of the crew, you know, to be sure, and then they didn't seem any issue either, until one of my annalists found some odd code in Hiroko's messages to her brother, he doesn't work for Adidas but lives in and works for Nissan, and we thought why would they have odd code". Darius cleared his throat, and she knew she was getting of topic. She took a deep breath, "Anyway, we were able to break the cipher, it was an old style cipher, where you need a corresponding book or printed material to use as a key". Darius once again cleared his throat a bit louder. Rhonda focused and continued, "We were able to decipher this" She put the messages up on the screen. “All the messages implicating Hiroko, Kenji, and Hanso Kitaro”.
It clearly showed the plan to destroy Ares base and that Kenji was working for a rival corporation. The other communications between a tank born tech who was on Ares and later had an accident on Luna Base gave credence to the evidence. Rhonda went on, "A more thorough investigation into the accident that took the life of the tank born tech, was found to be suspicious and Hans Kelty was on Luna Base at the time of the accident, he is a known agent frequently employed by Hanso Kitaro, the Deputy Director of Security for AMMWEC." Rhonda looked down the end of the table, "We presume that is the Uncle Hanso referenced in the message".
Admiral Hanson sat quietly a moment and then nodded to himself as he made his decision, "Who else knows about this"? Darius answered eight people now including the three of us, and Rhonda's team of five, all have been ordered to keep this completely secret, even the digital records have been move to one sealed drive.
Admiral Hanson said, "Well I guess the eight of us are going to Earth, we need to brief the CEO". The Admiral and the others were on a shuttle to earth within the hour. The next day the group was in an emergency briefing with the CEO Leo Tamarind and his chief of security.
Exactly a week after the Earth had been saved, Leo Tamerand once again found himself addressing CEO's on a view screen. The face of Kingston Langford of AMMWEC occupied one half of his screen and Riko Taikyu of Nissan occupied the other.
Leo had presented the evidence and both leaders denied any knowledge of these events. Leo offered, "Rikosan I actually do not believe that Kenji Matsuo was acting on behalf of Nissan, but just an opportunistic individual". He went on, "Langford, perhaps you did not know either, Hanso Kitaro might have been over stepping his authority". He paused, "Regardless, it is better that the world thinks it was an act of God and we all escaped doom, it has brought about wholesale attitude changes in people, especially towards the tank born". "I don't want to change that, so I propose we all continue as if that is the true narrative". Leo looked stern, "Know this though, I know where we keep other rocks".
One year after the near disaster the world had changed. Tank born were much more widely accepted, most still stayed in space but many have moved to Earth and lived among humans with mostly positive interactions.
Cap did decide to retire and bought a sprawling ranch on the Gulf of Mexico where he lives with his daughters family. He had them move in and they raise many animals. He has grown very fond of steak and chicken.
Gary did get his promotion, and got command of his own ship, the Phoenix. His ship was given the job of doing a more advanced scan of the Kyper belt bodies, this is the vast expanse of asteroids and comets out past Pluto. His ship would be gone for two years at a time. Gary's attitude towards tank born had done a complete change, the efforts and sacrifices they had undergone in saving the world, especially Theana, shook the foundations of his beliefs. For his crew he asked only for volunteers and if possible as many tank born who wanted to share the adventure. The Phoenix departed with a crew of 48, and 75% were female all tank born.
Hillary retired as well and purchased beach side property just down the road from Cap. She loved sitting on the sand reading and having any of the crew come and visit. She had dinner with Cap at least once a week and also started seeing the veterinarian who often visited Cap's ranch.
Dris and Ty went back to Ceres and bought that bar Dris always dreamed of, in homage to the adventure that got them notoriety they called it "The Near Miss".
Hiroko was visiting her brother and unfortunately there was a fire in the apartment building Kenji lived in. The building was saved but the side Kenji and Hiroko were in had to much smoke and the pair succumbed to the tragic blaze. The rest of the occupants managed to make it out.
The others stayed on the Juarez with their new Captain Theana Or Luna. Shila comforted Donny when he heard the news about Hiroko, and over time they became very close. Spence also stayed on with his expanded hydroponics area, he had two full pans to work with.
The Juarez not only got repaired, but significantly upgraded. The rack system for the pans was changed to allow some double stacking for increased protection and capacity. She was now an 84 pan ship with expanded living quarters, better food storage, better food growth, 8 tugs, and a crew of 20.
The crew of the Juarez never paid for a room, or, a meal, or a drink anytime they were on Ares Base. Even the new crew members received that perk.
The Juarez was at an asteroid in the Ares Sector working on a body that had significant iron and some chromium, not as pure as Anvil was but an OK find. Theana still operated a tug sometimes to keep her skills alive and to let Shila her Exec sit on the bridge and do nothing. She moved a waste pan into position stabilizing its orbit to keep it floating nicely with the others and elected the frozen contents. She could see it was some barrels within the matrix of the block, probably toxic waste. She efficiently moved the empty pan back to the drilling area to be loaded, never knowing that in those barrels were the bodies, of Hiroko and Kenji Matsuo, Hanso Kitaro, and Hans Kelty.