Author's note. These stories were written before I had got a serious grasp of the complexities of the character of Ed Straker. Please forgive me. Archived here after reconsideration. All stories/art work etc available on my website: Lightcudder's World
My Dearest Rachel,
By the time you receive this letter, I will be far from home. It is not how I hoped our engagement would be, but duty calls and I have no other option but to do as I have been commanded.
I already miss you, my dearest, but I hope that upon my return we shall be married. Although I do not know, as yet, when that will be. I do know however, that you will be in my thoughts constantly.
Yours, ever, Edward
The flight was delayed. Typical. Waiting on board an aircraft, even a SHADO supersonic jet, while air-traffic control quibbled over departure times, was not Ed Straker's favourite past-times. Especially when he had been planning on a quiet couple of days catching up with paperwork and getting in some much needed rest.
He had been rushed off his feet for the past few days, dividing his working hours between the SHADO HQ, Harlington Straker Studios and the annual financial battle with the IAC. It had got to the stage where something had to give, and it turned out to be his temper. The final straw had been when he had been called out of a meeting in the studio boardroom by an emergency call from SHADO HQ, only to discover that the suspicious radar signal had emanated from a weather balloon.
'Damn it, man. Can't you get anything right?' he stormed at the unfortunate operative, who almost cowered beneath Straker's withering glare. Alec Freeman interrupted before Straker could continue.
'Commander, could I speak to you in your office for a moment? I need to discuss next month's roster for Moonbase.'
Straker stared at his second-in-command before heading into his office. Freeman followed him, closing the door and standing there, his powerful presence almost creating a physical barrier between the SHADO Commander and the outside world.
'Well?' Straker stood, waiting.
'Well, what?' Alec Freeman folded his arms.
'The roster. What about it?'
'Oh that. I just wanted you out of the Control room. You looked as if you were going to drag poor Grant from his seat and throw him out. It's not his fault the radar signal wasn't clear. You know those weather balloons can give off the same images as a UFO in certain conditions. Even Keith Ford would have called you down just now. So what the hell is going on with you?'
Straker grimaced and sat down behind the perspex desk, rubbing his face tiredly with one hand. 'Sorry Alec, it's been a long day, in fact it's been several long days, and when Grant called me down….' he paused, and leaning on the desk, rested his head in his hands. 'I was in a meeting with Henderson…'
'Henderson? In the studio?' Alec Freeman queried.
'Yes, Henderson. Sometimes the good General actually acknowledges that there is another side to SHADO. He came to see what the Studio's financial situation was like. I think he was hoping to defer some of our budget increase in the grounds that the studios can cover any shortfall in our finances. The IAC are meeting tomorrow in Washington to discuss next year's appropriation and Henderson wants to prove to them that SHADO doesn't need the all money we have requested. He feels that my request for the funds to build four new Moonbase Tracker stations is, in his own words, proof of my self-aggrandizement. He considers that I am merely building my own power base, and refuses to listen to any arguments. He says that if I want the tracker stations, then the Studios can fund them.' Straker looked up at his friend with weary bloodshot eyes. 'General James Henderson. A man with no imagination and even less common sense.'
'I couldn't agree more, but what are you going to do about it, Ed?' his friend said, pouring a coffee and adding sugar and milk before putting it down on the desk in front of his friend.
'Do? There's very little I can do, Alec.' Straker drank his coffee gratefully, then sighed, 'The only option I have left to me is to fly out to Washington with Henderson and talk to the IAC myself. Explain to them exactly what these four tracking stations would do, how they would benefit SHADO, and how they would enable us to increase our interceptions by almost thirty percent. Thirty percent, Alec. That's a hell of an increase. We need that thirty percent. We need those tracker stations.' He looked up at Freeman, a rueful smile on his face.
'So you're going to Washington? Tomorrow?' Freeman was somewhat taken aback. 'Does Rachel know?'
'Not yet. And no, not tomorrow, Alec. The flight leaves in two hours. Just enough time to get home, and pack. I won't even be able to tell Rachel in person as she won't be back until later tonight. Damn. I'd better get going. You can look after things here for a couple of days can't you? I have no idea how long it's going to take. I don't think there's anything you need to do upstairs for a while, now that the latest film is nearing completion.' Straker stood up, and stretched. 'With any luck I can catch up on some sleep on the flight. I'll send Rachel a message if there's time when I get to the airport, but if you see her first, tell her I'm sorry won't you?' he smiled regretfully at his friend and then headed out, pausing as he passed by the radar operative to place one hand in a gesture of apology on Grant's shoulder.
And now, three hours later, here he was, still waiting, still stuck on the ground with James Henderson bending his ear about budgets and costs and expenses. There were times when Ed Straker really wished he had never heard of aliens and UFOs and this was most certainly one of those times. Ignoring the strident voice next to him, he pulled out his phone and emailed his fiancée.
From; Cmdr. SHADO.
To ; Col. R. Philips. SHADO Chief Sec.
Private communication. Not to be archived/recorded/
Rachel. Tried to get hold of you before leaving; regret sudden departure. Henderson insists I attend IAC meeting tomorrow – Washington. Miss you. Ed
Sent by secure SHADO phonelink