24. TROUBLE ON UNIN 1*

Who wrecked the robots that tend the crops on Unin 1?
Tony and Bea are sent to find out.

Mr MacEllery owns a huge farm on Unin 1, where robots grow food for the Galactic Federation.  When an eco-terrorist sabotages two of these robots, Mr MacEllery calls in Tony and Bea.  He ‘persuades’ them to let his son, Xerxes, help them on the job.  Through the combined efforts of Xerxes and one of the eco-terrorists, they are stranded on Unin 1.  To reach safety, they must trek across the planet, facing the dinosaurs that live in its jungle, and the robots that guard the crops.

Length : 41 100 words.
PROLOGUE

“XERXES,”  I SAID.

“Father,”  I said.  “I’m going to be an agent of the Galactic Federation.”

“You are not,”  he said.  “You are going to work for the MacEllery Development Corporation.”

“I’m not going to work for the MacEllery Development Corporation.  I’m going to be a Federation agent.”

“Solomon,”  he said.  “I have decided.  When you are old enough, you will become my assistant.  I will teach you about the MacElDeCo.  Then, when I retire, you will run it.  That’s an excellent career for you.”

“No, it’s not,”  I said.  “I’m going to be a Federation agent.  Federation agents go to lots of planets, and boss the people.  That’s what I want to do.”

“Solomon.”  He put on his stern voice.  “You will do as I say.”

“Yes, Father.”  I don’t argue with that voice.  “When do you want me to start working for you?”

“When you are old enough – about seventeen.”

“Seventeen,”  I said.  “That’s not for more than four years.  I could be a Federation agent until then.”

“No, Solomon.  Don’t waste your time in useless dreams.  Concentrate on the work your tutor gives you.”

“I can’t concentrate on that.  It’s dull.  If I went to the Federation College to train as an agent, I would learn useful stuff.  If I was an agent for four years, I would see lots of planets.  That would be much more useful when I work for you.”

He shook his head, but looked thoughtful.  I began to hope I’d persuaded him to quit hassling me, at least until I’m seventeen.  At last, he nodded. “You may be right, Solomon.  Perhaps a Federation training would be more successful than your tutor.  It can hardly be less so.  I shall speak to Wellington.”

Father knows Wellington, who is Commander of the Investigators at the Federation headquarters on Yband 4.  Wellington arranged for me to start training.

Most of it was boring, listening to an old agent called Blackett yacking on about the Federation.  I did like the work experience – visiting other planets.  I acted like a proper agent: I told the people what to do.  They weren’t as grateful as they should have been.

When I finished my training, Father told Wellington,  “Solomon wishes to become an agent of the Federation.”

“That is not possible,”  said Wellington.  “Blackett reports that Solomon is not… not suitable.”

“Blackett doesn’t like me,”  I said.  “He’s always nagging me.”

“Wellington,”  said Father.  “Solomon is eager to assist the Federation by becoming an agent.  I know you do not wish to disappoint him.”

Wellington frowned.  “Naturally not.  But the decision is not mine. Blackett’s report says that Solomon does not have the skills to become an Investigator.”

“I don’t want to be an Investigator,”  I said.  “Investigators are boring.  I want to be a Troubleshooter.”

Wellington opened his eyes in surprise, then began to smile.  “A Troubleshooter?”

“Yes,”  I said.  “Blackett told us about them.  They’re a new team of agents, sent on special missions.  That sounds exciting.  I want to be one of them.”

“That may be arranged,”  said Wellington.  “I also command the Troubleshooters.  Mr MacEllery, I believe that your son has shown the talents necessary for a Troubleshooter.  I shall be delighted to arrange for Solomon to become a trainee agent with the Troubleshooters.”

“No,”  I said.  “I’ve done my training.  I’m not going to wear a plain trainee agent’s uniform.”

Father said,  “Wellington, if the child is being asked to do the work of a Troubleshooter, surely he should wear the uniform.”

Wellington sighed, but said,  “Very well.  I cannot overrule Blackett’s decision, but I do have powers to appoint agents for temporary duties. Solomon, are you certain you wish to become an agent of the Federation?”

“Yes,”  I said.  “And I know what name I’m going to choose.  It’s….”

“Later,”  Wellington interrupted me.  “You must first take the agent’s vow. Stand.”

He brought up the agents’ promises on the screen, and I read them out. Then I said,  “Now can I choose my name?  I want to be called Xerxes.”

“Xerxes!”  said Father.  “Your name is Solomon.”

“Solomon’s a dull name.  The tutor said that Xerxes was an important and powerful king.  It would be a good name for me, because I’m going to be important and powerful too.  I don’t expect to be a king but, if any planets ask me to rule them, I might agree.”

Wellington said,  “You will be expected to obey orders from agents with higher ranks.”

“Yes, Solomon,”  said Father.  “You must….”

“Not Solomon,”  I said.  “Xerxes.  When do I get my Troubleshooters uniform?”

“I shall arrange it now,”  said Wellington.

“Wellington,”  began Father.  “Do I understand that these… Troubleshooters are assigned to problems on planets of the Federation?”

“Yes,”  answered Wellington.

“Then I have a problem which may be suitable for Solomon’s first job.”

“Xerxes,”  I said.

Father went on,  “Sabotage.  At the MacEllery Development Corporation’s operations on a planet called Unin 1.”  He yacked on about the problem, but I wasn’t listening: I was imagining myself in my smart new Troubleshooters uniform.

A trainee agent’s uniform is like a plain grey tracksuit, but a proper agent’s uniform has coloured bands round the chest and cuffs to show the agent’s job.  Ordinary Investigators have light green bands, but Troubleshooters have dark green ones.

Wellington called the leader of the Troubleshooters.  “Martin, send two Troubleshooters to my office immediately.”

Martin said,  “No Troubleshooters are free at present.”

“Where are they?”

“They’re all busy.”

“On missions?”

“Bea and Tony have just completed a tiring mission.  They are on their way home for a break.”

“Recall them immediately.  I have a job for them.”

“Is it…?”  began Martin, but went on,  “Yes, Wellington.  I’ll order them to report to you.”

“Without delay,”  ordered Wellington.

While we waited for the other two Troubleshooters, Father and I went to the store, for my uniform.  The dark green band on the chest had my name, Xerxes, and my rank, 1, at the right, and some squiggles at the left.  It was really smart.

I collected more stuff too, including a stun-gun.  Father said,  “Are you sure you need that, Solomon?”

“Xerxes,”  I said.  “Of course I need it.  I know how to use it.  I practised during my training.”

As we went to Wellington’s office to meet the other Troubleshooters, I was a real Federation agent, ready for action.