I was never told what system it was. "Spooks"
ran the bridge whenever the ship jumped, and armed guards in battledress
kept everyone else from there. Whenever I accessed the ship's computer
in the course of my duties, it was always with a spook looking over my
shoulder the whole time. I know we didn't take a direct route there,
because I would guess we jumped enough to cover at least 40 parsecs, but
I could tell that some of the brighter stars from Darrian and Five Sisters
were not that far away -- and from their positions I guessed we were somewhere
I was told that we were on a routine survey of the inner worlds, and to report on anything unusual. We did the survey and found nothing unusual.
The three inner planets were very hot, since the system had a bright white or blue-white main sequence star. There were at least three very hot planets in inner orbits, because that's how many we surveyed -- there could have been more.
We were supposedly just making a routine stop to pick up some specialized equipment from a supply cache in the asteroid belt when all heck broke loose. The cache itself was inside the largest meteor-screen container I'd ever seen, and the spooks wouldn't let anyone even think about what was inside.
I'd been there three days when it happened. One of the spooks ordered me and two others (including my friend Sir Geoffrey Pears, the youngest son of the Duke of Adabicci) to help them in testing some classified equipment. We were put in vaccsuits with the faceplates blacked out, and they took us over to the cache. We must have passed through several airlocks, and while still in zero-g were told to take off our suits
We found ourselves in what looked like the bridge of a small starship -- except that there was some very strange equipment here. It was badly damaged -- the hull was torn through from one side to the other as if a large rock had ripped through paper-thin metal. The spook said something about some special skills the three of us had that they needed. They ordered Ensign Waters (the other guy with myself and Geoff) to sit in the pilot seat while they hooked up a headset to him. We'd have been happier if he hadn't been wearing a red shirt that day...
One of the spooks explained that the two of us were to take notes if Waters noticed anything during the live test, and this was just a dry run before they turned the power on. He also said “…that this new safety harness (yeah, sure!) was totally classified, and if you ever breathed a word of it we will be listening and will hunt you down and kill you -- but then we know you are loyal so you needn't worry, right?”
I don't know what started it, but they hadn't even begun the dry run when I saw Waters' head explode. I'll never forget that sound, and the way he seemed to scream inside my skull. The next thing I knew I felt like I was crazy, like I could hear everyone raving incoherently in my head all at once, and suddenly everyone was shooting at everyone else. Eventually I somehow managed to smash the headset, and also to save Geoff. I don’t remember exactly all that happened, but we survived. The med kit stopped my bleeding.
It felt like several days before a relief team came to pick us up. Lucky there really were some supplies in the cache, and Geoff and I just waited, not having the codes to operate the exit from the cache. We tried.
The team that picked us up told us that our shipmates all went insane and died. They sedated us, and the next thing I knew I was reviving from cold sleep on Rhylanor. There we faced endless debriefings by the spooks -- and over and over again they explained that "... you were the only survivors of a mutiny, and you'd managed to save the ship and hold it until help arrived. Unfortunately the mutineers all died when the ship was recaptured by the Navy. And as mutinies are bad press, of course you shouldn't mention this to anyone, even within the Navy.” They were very convincing, and Geoff apparently believed them, but I remember it differently.
I was discharged from the service with an SEH and a hero's fanfare. Of course they were honored to be able to enroll me into Plankwell University immediately...
The sequence of events was: