Meredith Winstanley stood to her full height and addressed Lieutenent Weinberg.
“Lieutenant. Please contact Admiral Farquharson and explain to him why we acted as we did, precipitating your being sent to arrest us.”
“Why would I want to do that?” Lt Weinberg asked.
“Because you know as well as I do, Lieutenant, that he will rescind the arrest order once he is aware that we deliberately baited him, hoping and expecting that he would send a team to arrest us and transport us back to Earth.”
“And by doing that, he has saved himself from a potential charge of constructive murder. There was no plan to bring us back; we were to be left to die on the moon.”
“You can’t be sure of that.”
“No-one has denied it; especially not the Admiral.”
“Very well. I’ll call him from my office. You two prisoners remain here.”
Joan Weinberg left the bridge and marched to her office, where she immediately placed a call to Command.
“Whoever you are, please leave this frequency clear. This frequency is one of a range that belongs to the Royal Space Regiment, and we shall be jolly cross at anyone else who uses it. Now, whoever you are, get off this frequency and don’t make another sound. Please confirm you understand this instruction.”
“Acting Captain Weinberg of shuttle Sir Prijs here, Commander Pippington. Be a dear and put the Admiral on, will you?”
“You can speak to me, and I’ll pass your message on, Lieutenant,” Cdr Pippington replied, emphasising the last word.
“You don’t want to get in my way on this, Commander. There will be repercussions.”
“Okay, Lieutenant. Stand by.”
Joan Weinberg couldn’t believe it would be that easy, but was more than happy that it was.
“Lieutenant Weinberg,” the next voice said, “Admiral Farquharson here. What’s your beef?”
“Admiral. Our two prisoners—”
“Stuart-Lane and Winstanley?”
“You actually got them?”
“Yes Sir. They claim that their insubordination was designed to have you effect a rescue, Sir.”
“Rescue? Rescue? What kind of silly talk is that? They are being brought back to Earth—”
“Precisely, Sir. Had they not annoyed you, they would surely have perished on the Moon—”
“But… but… that was the plan.”
“Sir. They are threatening to make public that you, in their words, tried to murder them, Sir.”
“Can they do that?”
“According to our RSR constitutional expert, yes, Sir, they can.”
“Oh, bugger. Best release them and drop all charges then, Lieutenant.”
“Is that your order, Sir?”
“Yes, Lieutenant, it is. By the by. What happened to van Winpell?”
“Non duty-related accident, Sir.”
“No liability on the Regiment, then?”
“Good. And his CFP?”
“Fine, Lieutenant. Dismissed.” [click… silence]
Joan Weinberg remained seated at her desk for some moments, digesting what the Admiral had said to her. She then dictated the exchange into her log, even though she knew that there would be a permanent record of the conversation, both on board the Sir Prijs and at Command.
Returning to the bridge, she approached our two heroes.
“You guys have been incredibly fortunate. The Admiral has accepted your petition and has authorised your release from custody.”
After saying that, she instructed the computer to release the hypercuffs that were holding the pair.
“The arrest warrant is formally rescinded and you are therefore free.”
“Oh. Okay. Old Reggie really agreed to that? Great. Thank you, thank you. Hug time,” Tarquin said, and immediately moved to hug his erstwhile guard, only to be prevented by Patsy the pugilistic preparer of puff pastry, pies and pasties, who intervened with a cry of “I think not!”
Merry appeared somewhat less enthusiastic. “So, Lieutenant…” she drawled, “Commander Stuart-Lane and I are no longer under arrest?”
“And we are restored the full rights and privileges, duties and obligations of our substantive ranks.”
“I beg your pardon?”
“You will address me as Ma’am, Lieutenant. I think you will find that I am the ranking officer aboard this shuttle. As such, I assume the acting captaincy.”
“Can she do that, Patsy?” Joan asked her constitutional expert.
“The regulations provide that, in the event of death, loss or incapacity of the captain, the next most senior officer on board automatically takes on the captaincy on a caretaker basis, Lieutenant.”
“The senior officer on board? Not the most senior member of the crew?”
“Not according to the regulations, Lieutenant.”
“Very well, Patsy. Thank you,” she said. Turning to Merry, she saluted, and said, “In accordance with RSR regulation, I yield the bridge to you, effective immediate… Ma’am.”
“Thank you, Lieutenant. You may resume your normal duties,” Merry said, returning the junior officer’s salute.
“Gosh, Merry,” Tarquin said.
“That’s Captain to you, Commander,” she replied. Looking around, she asked, “Is my ready room fit for use?”
Patsy, who had taken charge of the cleaning team, said that it was.
“Okay,” Merry announced, “normal stations, everyone.” She turned to Patsy, winked, and said, “CFP Patsy; you’re with me.”