Rogue Command (The Kalahari Series)

Rogue Command (The Kalahari Series) by A J Marshall Read Free Book Online

Book: Rogue Command (The Kalahari Series) by A J Marshall Read Free Book Online
Authors: A J Marshall
he continued, feeling a more forcible explanation was necessary. “You order me closer than this and we could get caught by a plume and could burn up before they get back – and that’s the reality of it. Even at this orbital concentricity it’s going to be pretty hairy!”
    Commander Duval nodded. “Copied,” he said purposefully. “Rose, make a note in the log, please. Command approval given at 09:35, Universal Corrected Time.” He looked sternly at Matheson and Drake. “Okay – suit up and go to it! We launch in one hour. Any kind of problems and you abort immediately – got that? You throw it away and you get the hell back here! That’s an order!”
    Matheson nodded and smiled faintly. He gestured to Drake to follow him. As he passed Carol Boardman, Matheson touched her lightly on the shoulder and looked into her eyes. In his white, flame-proof undersuit that was proudly badged like a racing car driver’s coveralls, and with his close-cropped fair hair and piercing blue eyes, he appeared the classic all-American astronaut. The look that passed between them did not go unnoticed by the rest of the bridge.
    “Good luck,” Carol whispered.
    Matheson smiled for a brief moment and then both men left the bridge in silence.
    The International Spaceship Hera was a Class 2 mineral exploration craft built with specific modifications for the Phobos and Io missions. The Phobos excursion in 2052 had been a near disaster and a massive disappointment; however, analysis during the low orbital manoeuvres had confirmed that the mineral composition of the rocky deposits they had hoped to retrieve did not, in fact, match that of the Kalahari crystals, although chemically they had initially appeared identical. It had taken the International Space and Science Federation two years to restore its credibility and to raise the money from already hard-pressed governments to launch the Io mission, all the while rejecting advances of funding from the disgraced international conglomerates Spheron, Tongsei and Epsilon Rio. Indeed, there had even been threats of forced acquisition and reports of corrupt ISSF officials feeding vital information to the conglomerates in order to aid their takeover bid. But that was only rumour; as always, nothing was ever proved. In fact, it was near impossible to restrict the ruthless influence of the world’s three largest industrial multinationals, despite numerous restraining orders by host countries. In senior political circles – although few would openly admit it – substantive wealth, industrial power and political persuasion had already slipped through the fingers of many national governments. Regional governing bodies such as the European Democratic Republic and the Asian Union had little leverage over the faceless men who ran these three giant companies whose policies and aims remained shrouded in secrecy. Based on previous experience, however, subjugation, domination, and, inevitably, world control, seemed their ultimate goal; whilst corruption, extortion, bribery and death were simply tools to achieve it.
    Retrospectively, the Phobos mission had been wishful thinking on the part of the International Space and Science Federation – an opportunity to take the upper hand, to secure a resource that was owned by no one and shared by all. Phobos was much closer to the Earth for one thing and, with Osiris Base on Mars as a staging post, it was a much more convenient opportunity logistically than Io. What’s more, it was a dead place, inert, inhospitable to a point, but above all else one with almost zero gravity, making a landing easier. Io, on the other hand, was a very different prospect. On this small world, far from the sun and one that should have been coated with ice, every natural force was disproportionate. Every chemical was caustic. Every breath would be a challenge.
    “Commander, Matheson here. We are in the module and ready to go. Thing is, there’s a fuel discrepancy. The on-board

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