43. TROUBLE ON YIFFLY 1*

Tony and Bea answer an emergency alarm from Yiffly 1.
Fighting flu, Bea faces ruthless invaders.

The Yiffly 1 leader uses his emergency alarm, but doesn’t have time to explain why.  Bea and Tony make the two-day trip by ship to investigate. Tony is taken ill before they leave the ship, so Bea goes out alone.  She discovers that the Yiffly 1 leader had a good reason for using the emergency alarm.

Length : 10 100 words.

1

“EXPECTING TROUBLE ON YIFFLY 1?”

 

Tony and I hurried across the Enox 8 spaceport to the ship. The pilot was lounging in the doorway. “Hi, kids. Where d’you think you’re going?”

“Yiffly 1,” said Tony. “Ready?”

“What d’you mean? I been ordered to take two agents….” At last, he read our names on the chest bands of our uniforms. “Hey! It’s you two! I expected two old stodgers. This is gonna be a slick trip.”

I doubted that. He was human-like, but his skin had a blue tinge, showing he wasn’t from Earth. He looked about 15, only two or three years older than us. His uniform, like a grey tracksuit, had pale blue bands round the chest and cuffs, showing he was a pilot. His name, on the chest band, was Slaz. Since he didn’t speak English, we were using wrist units.

Young Earth people can sense the feelings of other races. I sensed his feelings strongly – and I didn’t like his careless attitude.

We went through the ship’s entrance hall, into the control room, where he flopped into the command chair, facing the terminal of Victor, the Federation computer. “Right, Victor boy. Let’s go.” I felt the twist in my tummy, showing we’d jumped into the fourth dimension for the trip.

Slaz leaned back in the chair, and grinned at us. “We’re on our way. Say, why the dark green bands on your uniforms? What kind of agents are you two?”

Tony told him, “We’re Troubleshooters. A new team.”

“Troubleshooters? Expecting trouble on Yiffly 1?”

“We don’t know. What have they told you about this trip?”

“Nothing. Gwin…. D’you know Gwin? She’s commander of the base on Enox 8. Ordered me to report to the ship immediately. Said it was urgent.” He laughed. “I might’ve guessed that. She wouldn’t send me if she could get any other pilot.”

Tony said, “We’ll tell you what we know.” He turned to me. “Bean, do you want to do it?”

“No,” I said. “You go on.”

“Right.” Tony sat on the settee to the left of the command chair. “Yiffly 1 joined the Federation, but asked for no visitors from other planets.”

“Yeah. I’ve heard of planets like that. Don’t know why they bother joining.”

“They can call for help in an emergency. Their leader presses a button which transmits an alarm signal to the nearest base. A short time ago, Gwin got the emergency signal from Yiffly 1, and sent us to investigate.”

“Yeah. She had to send somebody, but she didn’t care who.”

“Thanks!”

“You know what I mean. I reckon she thinks this trip is a waste of time. The guy on Yiffly 1 is probably panicking because his wife shouted at him.”

Tony frowned, but he spoke calmly. “Our job is to find out what’s wrong on Yiffly 1. We’ll help them if we can. If not, we’ll go back to Enox 8, and tell Gwin. She’ll arrange something.”

“What’s the planet like?”

“We didn’t have time to find out before we left. Victor, are the conditions at the landing site on…. A-Choo!” He sneezed. “…on Yiffly 1 suitable for a native of Sol 3?”

“The gravity and atmosphere will cause no discomfort to a native of Sol 3. The climate is warm.”

“Let’s see…. A-Choo! Let’s see the natives of Yiffly 1.”

I asked, “Tony, are you all right?”

“Yeah. It’s just a sniffle.”

“Are you sure? Folia flu is going around.”

“Quit worrying, Bean. I’m OK.” He sniffed. “That native looks like an ancient Roman.” He was wearing a sleeveless, buff-coloured tunic, tied at the waist with a dark brown cord. Below it, we could just see sandals on his feet.

I asked, “Victor, has the Yiffly 1 leader used the alarm button before?”

“No.”

“Is the place likely to be hit by natural disasters? Things like earthquakes, floods and plagues.”

“I cannot predict the future, but the civilisation on Yiffly 1 is ancient, and it has never been troubled by such events.”

“See what I mean?” said Slaz. “This trip is a waste of time.”

I said, “We must be prepared. Where are we landing?”

“What d’you mean, Bean?”

I squashed my annoyance. “I mean – where are we landing?”

“At the landing site on Yiffly 1, of course. Where else? I already gave Victor the orders.”

“No,” I said. “We ought to go into orbit above the landing site, so that we can check it before we land.”

“Go easy, Bean! That means a manual landing.” If Victor knows the position of a landing place, like the one near the leader’s house on Yiffly 1, he can land there without help. If Victor doesn’t know the place, the pilot has to guide him, and that needs a bit of work.

“That’s why you’re here,” I said. “And my name is not Bean.” I pointed to the ‘Bea’ on my chestband.

He grinned. “Tony calls you Bean.”

“Friends call me Bean – with my permission.”

His grin grew wider. “I’m not a friend, so I don’t have permission. All right – Bea. But I’m not doing a manual landing. That would mean a lot of extra work. And it would waste time.”

“It should only take about 4%.” (That’s about an hour.)

“Why bother? Tony, you tell her! We don’t need to land in orbit.”

Tony said, “The Bean – I mean Bea – is in command. If she says we land in orbit first, that’s what we do. Come on, Slaz. She’s young, but she knows what she’s doing. Trust her.”

Victor gives ranks to agents – numbers, based on mission reports. Tony’s rank (614) and mine (625) are high for our ages, because we’ve been lucky enough to succeed in our missions. Slaz’s rank was 118 – lower than most agents when they finish their training. Ranks are shown under our names on the chestbands of our uniforms – and Federation rules say that the agent with the highest rank is in command of the mission.

Slaz said, “Huh!” He turned to me. “Well, commander, are you ordering me to land in orbit?”

“Can you do it?”

He grinned again. “Doubting me? Course I can do it.”

“Then that’s what we’ll do – go into orbit above the landing site.”

Still grinning, he bowed. “Your wish is my command.”

I asked, “When will we arrive?”

“The flight’ll take a couple of days.”

“I want it more accurate than that. I’ll ask Victor myself. Victor, if we have a brief stop in orbit first, what time of day will we reach Yiffly 1?”

“We should arrive there in the early evening.”

“Evening? Will it be daylight?”

“I would expect about 13% of daylight to remain.”

“Good. That should give us time to meet the natives, and find out what’s wrong.” I said to the others, “If it’s a two-day flight, I suggest we have half a day now, then a full night’s sleep, then a complete day, then a short sleep before we reach Yiffly 1. That should make us fresh for the outing.”

Tony said, “Fine, Bean.” He sneezed again.

Slaz grinned. “Whatever.” He wasn’t sulking although he didn’t like me: he thought I was bossy and fussy. We were in for a tricky trip.