“How you do it is up to you, but I want that satellite up and running in the shortest possible time-frame!” Straker said firmly.
Paul Foster nodded, “Yes, Commander. We’ve already requisitioned the components we’ll need and they’re being loaded onto the Lunar Module as we speak. Takeoff is scheduled for 14:00 hours.”
“You know what’s at stake here, Foster. Every second that SID is out of action means there will be no advance warning of a You-Foe attack. Earth is wide open until we get that fault repaired.”
“I know, Sir. I’ll leave with Masters right away.”
Straker pressed the button that opened the doors of his office and Foster left at the double. He rested his elbows on his desk and clasped his hands thoughtfully. With luck the repairs would be completed within a few hours. How likely was an alien attack in that time? The odds were incalculable. Even now an enemy craft could be hurtling towards the Earth at many times the speed of light, with absolutely no way to detect it.
Straker leaned forward and pressed the intercom switch, “Have all Skydiver captains report to me immediately using conference circuit alpha.”
The Lunar Module slid gracefully out of the Carrier Craft’s docking latches and with a roar of rocket engines began to climb to orbit.
Inside, Foster and Masters sat at the controls watching their instrumentation with keen, well-trained eyes.
Masters set the course as he spoke, “We should rendezvous with SID in just under 20 minutes.”
“Good,” Foster replied as he turned a control dial a few notches counter-clockwise, “that puts us slightly ahead of schedule. Let’s hope we can shave a bit more time off those repair estimates along the way.”
As the minutes passed the two men saw a distant shape orbiting ahead of them. As they drew nearer, they could make out SID’s insect-like features and transmission antennas.
Foster made a slight directional adjustment, “Matching orbital velocity and approach angle for EVA.”
Masters slipped out of his chair and floated through to the airlock, where he attached his space helmet and secured his lifeline to the sturdy anchor point near the main hatch.
Setting the controls to automatic, Foster joined him and donned his helmet after securing his own lifeline to a second anchor point.
The airlock depressurized in moments and the hatch opened smoothly. The two astronauts floated out into the void as if they were puppets on the end of invisible wires. Between them was slung a harness containing a suitcase-sized component and a small box of tools.
A short space-walk later and they reached the entry hatch and triggered the entry sequence.
Although SID was never manned in routine operations, the internal spaces could be pressurised whenever essential maintenance work was necessary.
Foster triggered the pressurisation sequence and soon SID’s cramped electronics bay was filled with a breathable atmosphere. The pair removed their helmets and started to get to work.
Back at SHADO HQ, Straker strolled out into the main control room and asked Lieutenant Ford for an update.
“Still nothing, Sir. Last estimate projected another hour, perhaps two.” Ford replied, just as anxious for better news.
“Let me know the moment SID’s operational again.” Straker said briskly, before turning and heading back to his office.
Aboard SID, Foster and Masters made good progress. Masters pressed a component into position and motioned to Foster, “Once this panel is secured we should be in business, Colonel.”
“Great! Here, let me give you a hand.”
He positioned the electronic screwdriver and spun home the last few screws.
“That’ll about do it!” Masters said with a smile, “I’ll activate the restart sequence.”
He floated over to the main terminal unit and twisted a control level through 90 degrees, then threw it back into position and pressed a large green button.
SIDs artificial voice modulator sounded throughout the small space as if the room itself was alive and speaking to them, “This is Space Intruder Detector. Restart sequence successful. Utronics system fully operational. Scanning for UFOs. No UFOs on course for Earth at this time. Maintaining scans.
Foster clapped Masters on the back, “Great work! Now let’s get out of here and back to base. I’m sure Commander Straker will be relieved.”
Although he wouldn’t have shown just how much, Commander Straker was indeed relieved to hear the news. The relief was short lived, however. For Straker knew that at any moment SID might detect a UFO closing in on Earth and SHADO would once again be called upon to leap into action.
ANSWERS TO LAST WEEK’S CRYPTIC COMPUTER PROBLEM:
The clue to cracking the code was a “MYSTERON Cipher”, meaning that you should add the word ‘Mysteron’ at the beginning of the alphabet, leading to the following plaintext and cipher text alphabets:
ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ – Plain Text Alphabet
MYSTERONABCDFGHIJKLPQUVWXZ – Cipher Text Alphabet
So when decoded, the scrambled messages have the following answers:
- Smipmag Lsmkdep al Agtelpkqspayde, xhq mke ghp. Th ghp pkx ph afapmpe naf.
Captain Scarlet is Indestructible, you are not. Do not try to imitate him.
- Lqliespet Fxlpekhg Moegp lihppet ag Gev Xhkc.
Suspected Mysteron Agent spotted in New York.
- Daeqpegmgp Okeeg mlcl mdd moegpl ph lphi idmxago “A nmue lhfepnago ph lnhqp myhqp” hg pne ymle mfidaraekl.
Lieutenant Green asks all agents to stop playing “I have something to shout about” on the base amplifiers.
- Ceddhool Lqomk Lfmscl mke ghv mumadmyde ag pne Sdhqtymle smrepekam.
Kellogs Sugar Smacks are now available in the Cloudbase cafeteria.
- M gev umsmgsx rhk Smipmag Sxmg nml ghv hieget.
A new vacancy for Captain Cyan has now opened.
- Ieklhgged mke momag kefagtet pnmp pne rqed lphke al m gh-lfhcago mkem.
Personnel are again reminded that the fuel store is a no-smoking area.
- Moegpl mke kefagtet pnmp ikmgc smddl ph Fmkageuadde vadd gh dhgoek ye phdekmpet.
Agents are reminded that prank calls to Marineville will no longer be tolerated.
- Pnal al mg hiekmpahgmd ymle, ghp m kelp segpke.
This is an operational base, not a rest centre.
- Smipmag Fmoegpm kejqelpl pnmp ar mgxhge ragtl pne cexl ph pne Liespkqf Nedashipek pnex kepqkg pnef ph pne dhlp ikhiekpx teimkpfegp.
Captain Magenta requests that if anyone finds the keys to the Spectrum Helicopter they return them to the lost property department.
- Tk Rmvg vhqdt dace ph kefagt mdd ieklhgged ph vemk gmlmd lpkail ag pne khhf hr ldeei.
Dr Fawn would like to remind all personnel to wear nasal strips in the room of sleep.