A short chapter today, before the fun starts.
[Pink Floyd \\ One Slip]
That’s the Way the Heroes Go
USNSF Patton 10 September 2115
Captain Judith Caruthers stared at the central display in Patton’s CIC, the ship’s Combat Information Center, her eyes locked onto the rightmost section of the huge rectangular panel. Beta Capella 4 was displayed as an orange circular object, the planet’s two moons in yellow, and there were now five distinct objects in orbit around BC4. Patton’s radar had just been cycled to standby mode, and now all eyes were glued on a live image of the five orbiting objects – as received by a 30-inch Schmidt camera poking up through Patton’s Field.
“Any reaction to our scan?” Caruthers asked, her voice almost a coarse, husky whisper.
“No change in EM radiating from any of them, Captain.”
She was looking at five horseshoe shaped objects that appeared to be of a similar shape and type to the ship that had crashed near the citadel on the planet’s surface, and she slowly nodded her head as the words registered. Half the planet was covered by a vast network of low pressure systems, and she’d never seen anything like the lightning display currently over the planet’s dark side.
Then the central display flickered and an automatic warning flag appeared.
“Captain! Looks like we got a ship coming up from the surface,” Patton’s ECM operator said. “I’m picking up a spike in the hydrogen beta line. Yup, line firming up now. Definitely a fusion reactor, and Captain, it looks like a Fusion Dynamics RD-1.”
“Look at that spike! Definitely an RD-1, Captain,” the Electronic Counter Measures officer repeated.
The Schmidt camera began to pick up a pronounced light bloom inside one of the smaller storms, and almost immediately what appeared to be a Company ship emerged from the cloud deck – and almost at once the Company reacted to the fleet of unfamiliar ships overhead, and the much smaller ship powered down and fell back into the clouds.
“Smooth move, Dick-wad,” Caruthers sighed. “We have any estimate on how big those ships are?”
“Between 12 and 1500 feet in length, Captain.”
“Shit…big mothers, aren’t they? Still no power signatures?”
“Nothing, Captain. And they’re not even radiating heat.”
The COMMs officer walked into the room and looked at the display, then he turned to Caruthers. “You want to call this in?” he asked.
Caruthers shook her head. “No way, not until we have a better idea of their capabilities.” She couldn’t help herself now, either. Here it was, finally. Definitive proof of another spacefaring civilization, and all of Patton’s sensor arrays and cameras were recording every second of this first encounter – and it was her discovery! “You got a read on what the Company ship is up to now?” she asked the ECM officer.
“They’re down on the deck and headed for those storms on the dark side,” ECM replied.
“Movement, Captain!” the astrophotographer manning the camera cried. “Looks like one of those ships is powering up, moving away from the others.”
From this distance any such movement was almost impossible to discern, then she saw one of the ships rotating until the open end of the horseshoe was pointing away from the planet…
…and in the next moment this ship flared brightly – then just disappeared.
“Goddammit to hell!” Caruthers shouted. “That was an FTL drive! Anyone pick up anything? Any reactor spikes? Anything at all?”
No one had detected even the slightest change, and that just didn’t make sense – to Caruthers or to any of the sensor operators in Patton’s CIC.
“Two more ships moving now, Captain!” the astrophotographer said. “Looks like their whole fleet is moving out!”
Caruthers studied the display – and yes, four ships left orbit…yet one remained.
“Curious,” Caruthers whispered as all eyes in CIC studied the image. “Astro, replay the company ship emerging from the cloud deck, and let’s see it at max magnification.” She watched the clouds flare, saw the much smaller ship emerge from the clouds, and then… “What’s that?” she said as she moved closer to the screen. “Did she fire something at one of the alien ships?”
“Let me run the raw feed through AI,” the astrophotographer murmured, turning to his displays and getting to work. A moment later his efforts produced results and they popped up on the central display.
The Company ship had fired a small missile at one of the ships, but it didn’t explode on impact; rather, the missile seemed to penetrate the outer hull of the ship then simply disappear inside. “Is that ship the same one still in orbit?” Caruthers asked, and the segment was played and rewound several times before the answer to that question firmed up.
“Even from this distance, Captain, I’m pretty sure that’s the same ship.”
“Yup,” Caruthers whispered. “COMMs? Raise the high power mast. Let’s get a dispatch off to Fleet…at high power.”
All eyes turned to the main display again – as the Company ship rose from the clouds once again, only this time it made orbit.
“Belay that order, COMMs. Set Condition 1 throughout the ship and full radio silence – now, and confirm all EM systems are set to standby. Let’s make like a hole, people!”
It took the Company ship two orbits to establish a departure course, and all the while her personnel studiously ignored the dead horseshoe shaped ship they’d just attacked. Late in her second orbit the small ship’s plasma drive flared and Caruthers watched as the ship left orbit, heading away from Capella – and well away from the departure angle the four alien ships had taken.
“So,” she murmured to herself, “I reckon you’re going after Covenant now, hmm?” She waited a half hour then all Patton’s masts raised outside of the ship’s protective Langston Field. Messages burst forth, headed back towards Capella – and the Hyperion Fleet – and then, while watching both ships, she waited for Ripley’s reply…
…while inside the stricken alien ship the final pitched battle for control entered a new, very dangerous phase.
© 2022 adrian leverkühn | abw | adrianleverkuhnwrites.com | all rights reserved. This is a work of fiction, all characters and events are fictitious in nature though key story elements and character references/circumstances derive from the work of others. First among these is Sir Ridley Scott’s film Alien (1979); his Prometheus and Covenant films serve as prequels to this short story. All references to an Alderson (zero time) Drive, as well as the Langston Field needed to utilize the drive, derive from The Mote in God’s Eye (1974) and The Gripping Hand (1993), by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle.