58. TROUBLE AT IKUTIKI*

When Tony’s dad visits the Federation, he sees more of Tony’s work than he expects.

Tony’s parents agreed that Tony could become a Federation agent – if his dad was allowed to see where he worked. The Federation commander agrees, but insists that Tony’s dad must be with Tony at all times during the visit. Then, soon after Tony’s dad arrives, Tony is given an urgent mission. His dad must go with him, although Tony says it will be boring
He is wrong….

1

“THERE’S WELLINGTON!”

 

I said, “Dad, this is Martin, my boss. Martin, this is my dad.” I watched them anxiously. Dad is the adult I like best at home on Earth. Martin is the adult I like best in my job as Troubleshooter for the Galactic Federation. I was sure they would like each other, but….

They smiled and shook hands. Martin said, “Pleased to meet you, Mr Trent.”

“Alec,” said Dad. “Pleased to meet you too.”

Martin asked, “What do you think of Yband 4?”

“I’m impressed. This might almost be a busy railway station on Earth, if it wasn’t for the people.” We were in a quiet corner of the waiting room of the planet Yband 4, with travellers of all shapes, sizes and colours hurrying past.

Martin said, “I hope you think it’s a suitable place for Tony to work.”

“I hadn’t imagined it so busy.”

“This is the local headquarters,” said Martin. “We support over eight thousand planets.”

“In all that, I’m surprised you’re so keen for Tony to work here. I mean – he’s just an ordinary thirteen-year-old.”

I grinned at him. “What do you mean – ordinary?”

He grinned back, as Martin said, “Young people from Earth are not ordinary. They can sense the feelings of other races. That makes them valuable agents.”

“That’s what Tony told his mother and me when he was trying to persuade us to let him work for you.”

“Did he tell you he’s the best mind-senser we have? We’d be sorry to lose him.”

“There’s no danger of that,” said Dad. “Margaret and I have always trusted Tony to make his own decisions. He has no doubt of his future career: he is keen to work here. But, as his father, I didn’t like being refused permission to see the place.”

“I’m sorry,” said Martin. “It’s a Federation rule.”

Dad laughed. “I know. Tony’s told me a hundred times: people from non-Federation planets, like Earth, are not allowed to visit the Federation.”

I said, “I had to get special permission for you, from Obsidian, the Commander of the whole sector.”

“I understand why you have the rule,” said Dad, “but that doesn’t make me like it.”

Martin asked, “Now you’re here, what do you want to see?”

“Tony says I’m not allowed to go off on my own. He’s to be with me all the time.”

“That was Obsidian’s orders,” I said. “He wouldn’t let you come here unless we agreed.”

“Does he think I might go home with a spaceship in my pocket?”

“No, Dad, but….”

“Don’t worry, Tony. I don’t mind. You can show me round. I want to see your cabin, and the fancy dining room. I also wondered – could I have a trip in a spaceship?”

We looked at Martin, who frowned. “Perhaps. It’s not very exciting.”

Dad said, “It’s what I’d most like to do.”

I said, “Jade might give us a trip to Yband 5.” I explained to Dad, “Jade did her training at the same time as me. She now pilots a Federation ship, based in the spaceport here.”

“Y…yes,” said Martin. His face showed he wasn’t keen. “We might ask…. Oh! There’s Wellington!” He backed into a corner.

Dad looked around. “Wellington?”

“Shh!” I told him. “That tall guy in the entrance. He’s Commander of the Investigators, and he thinks that makes him Commander of the Troubleshooters too. In one of our early missions, he and I… disagreed. I was right, and he was wrong. He hasn’t liked me since.”

“No!” said Martin. “He’s spotted me. He’s heading this way.”

I said, “Dad, listen to Wellington. He must know my name, and he could read it on the chestband of my uniform, but he always calls me, ‘this agent’.”

Wellington marched up. “Martin, I was looking for you.”

“Yes?” said Martin.

“I’ve had a message from Ikutiki 4. A ship has crashed on one of the other planets of their system. The pilot is not in danger, but a rescue ship must go out, as soon as possible. Federation rules say that an agent must go with the pilot. All my Investigators have more important work to do, so I want you to send someone.” He waved in my direction. “This agent will do.”

“Tony is…,” began Martin.

“He can stop what he’s doing,” said Wellington. He glared down at me. “Report to the Commander in the base on Ikutiki 4 immediately. Do you understand?”

“Yes.”

“I shall check your report.” He barged off, into the crowd.

I said, “That’ll be a first.” I grinned up at Martin. “Well?”

He looked worried. “Wellington ordered you on that mission. You’ll have to go.”

I grinned again. “And Obsidian ordered that Dad must stay with me while he’s in the Federation. Well, Dad, it looks like you’re going to get your spaceship trip.”