room was forming around her; her work area in the research complex: but
it couldn’t be, it had to be another dream. Moments before she had
been talking to Santouri and now she was back where… the scream of
the air raid siren filled the air as it had when she had… died. Rhea
stumbled as the blue circle under her feet evaporated.
was going insane; this was then; but then was days ago. What had Santouri
said: ‘not time travel, more a pause as time passes on’.
Time; she had none left if she didn’t want to die a second time
lab coat fluttering behind like a superheroes cape she rushed up emergency
stairwells and along corridors before emerging onto the roof. Even amongst
the array of antenna and masts the cannon emplacement was easy to see, and
like everywhere else it was abandoned, all about her was quiet.
the distance she could see tracer fire, and looking hard a group of dots
moved quickly through it. She squinted her eyes against the bright light
and saw one was larger than the others: it would be the cruiser. The cannon
still did not move.
a hundred heartbeats it would be upon her, and the building beneath her
feet: along with the entire academic and security staff hiding deep underground,
would evaporate in an inferno. The thought froze her for precious moments
before she ran to the emplacement. There was no security lock, she was thankful
that no one had ever conceived an enemy using it against the facility.
the bunker she saw the bodies; two militiamen. They had never suspected
death would come from behind. She needed to be shocked at the sight later;
she had no time for emotion now as she looked at the mass of equipment;
and for a moment was overwhelmed by it all.
disembodied voice took her by surprise and she anxiously looked for where
it had come from.
professor… Integrated Systems and Logistics Assistant?”
may I remind you that this area is restricted to military personnel.”
voice seemed to sigh, “Then professor?”
cannon has been shut down.”
professor, in the circumstances a strange request but performed with the
a cruiser coming?”
information is that the facility is not the focus of the attack.”
information is wrong. I want you to prepare to begin firing.” Rhea almost demanded.
it is the duty of members of the military to operate this weapon, not academic
know.” She snapped
impatiently. “But they happen to be dead.”
professor; I have reported their demise.”
felt a scream of frustration would not be out of place. “I can’t
believe this is happening?”
the circumstances are unprecedented.”
don’t have the time or patience to debate with you Isla; activate
the weapon.” The words were only half screamed but it did feel better.
I have to remind you again that not only do academic staff not have the
authority to request this cannons activation, this area is restricted from
I’m asking in my capacity as a D.S.D agent.”
that case if you have the activation code?”
don’t have it.”
then I am unable to comply with your request.”
was silent for a moment, and then she remembered and dug her hand into the
coat flap and bringing out a small box. She placed it against the control
is… that?” Isla's
voice was drawn
the cannons controls began to light up.
are over-riding my… My?”
Isla’s voice had a helpless tone
flicked open the manual firing control and gripped the joystick. A three-dimensional
image of the cruiser appeared on the targeting screen. It glowed in false
colour, showing the force field lines as they fanned out and around the
spaceship. It seemed complete, not a fraction of the smooth hull showed
the mark she had been told to look for. She hit the cannons scanner.
composure seemed to have returned. “Locking on with a target beam
is inviting retaliation?”
what I want?”
going to target the sensors?”
ask me why Isla; I’m working from instructions.”
are aware the cruisers shield modulates the sensors so that they are constantly
moving with the field?”
that it is impossible to determine where, when and by what dimension the
gap in the shield will be when it releases its missiles?”
you are not helping.”
Rhea pressed another control on the box and the false colour image began
to strobe. With each flicker a tiny black cross, moved across the surface
of the field.
that?” said Isla. “It
is chaotic randomness. The volume of calculations required to see the pattern
in real time is enormous.”
in answer to Isla’s words a small white cross hair appeared. In the
subsequent frame the sensor took its place.
amazement was clear in Isla’s voice. “Professor what technology
“Alien,” said Rhea without any hesitation.
have nothing remotely capable… In coming... they know the cannon
“In…” Rhea had been so focused on the cruiser
she had forgotten the missile. For an instant she froze.
“Nine to impact.“
chill ran through Rhea as she remembered she still had the button. She felt
was it? Her mind was blank. Quickly she pressed her hands over each flap.
wasn’t there; it had been in her top left. She almost beat her chest
grasping and feeling for the small button.
still wasn’t there. Her eyes slowly rose and looked at the dot. It
wasn’t a dot anymore; she could see it clearly, a missile heading
straight for her.
mouth opened; this was it, this time there wouldn’t be anything left
to repair, only a shadow.
missile roared overhead
heavily Cassana stumbled into the entrance of the field shelter. The pale
circle on the floor was impossible to avoid; but he tried. What it was,
or what it represented was a mystery, but there in the middle was the button.
Realization took only a moment before Cassana half turned to look over his
shoulder. There was barely time for a single word, “No…”
saw the initial explosion with her own eyes. It was deep a red that disappeared
into a growing, billowing white cloud. It rolled across the ground towards
her at breakneck speed. Then the door to the cannon slammed shut and the
sight was gone. She turned to the screens as they clouded over.
she was about to ask Isla what had happened, but then a wall of flame filled
her view and the temperature rose sharply.
had warned her that even outside the detonation area there would be an effect.
She expected the heat but it kept rising. The moist air was turning to steam
and the material of the lab coat stiffened and crisped. There was a sharp
crackling as the chemical exposure tag failed. Her skin began to tighten
and her breath became impossible to breath. Then almost as quickly as it
had arrived, it was gone and the mist faded.
was revealed was just a surprising. Again she was about to blurt out that
something was wrong before she realized the force field pattern was still
there. It just occupied the entire screen.
mind was behind her hand movement as she grabbed the joystick, and it only
caught up by the time the aimer had swung up to the left side of the screen
following a line of disappearing crosshairs. Almost on instinct she fired
at the moment the cruiser disappeared from view. There was no time for disappointment.
The grinding crash that shook the building evaporated that feeling.
time she spoke. “What’s happ…”
ship brushed the emplacement. It is destroyed?”
said Isla in triumph.
some time the building had completely retracted into the ground and as Rhea
stepped out at ground level she could see the grounded: smoking, cruiser
was still mostly intact. She stood looking about: everywhere there was desolation.
There were fires burning not far from where the spacecraft had crashed,
she didn’t know if they were from it or the missile. Everywhere else
everything was quiet: everything was still: it seemed impossible that such
a short time ago chaos reigned. Then it began again…
all-clear sirens began to wail and in several locations massive slabs of
reinforced metal slit into sections and opened like flowers in a mad giants
vehicles pouring up out of the ground shattered the illusion. There were
militia transports and every type of mobile weapon: everyone but three circled
the still quiet spacecraft, they headed straight for her. Rhea was glad
that it had not been destroyed. She hoped that there were few casualties,
but hope was replaced by uncertainty as she saw the three vehicles stop
short of the emplacements perimeter.
poured out, each brandishing a weapon, and they were all pointed in her
direction. She nervously put her hands in the air as a small group of officers
ran towards her.
Rhea Victoria Thain?”
One said harshly as he got close.
That’s me,” she
voice was demanding and unfriendly. “Take off your coat: one arm
at a time, leaving the other in the air.”
anxiety increased but with difficulty she did as she was ordered
did and became aware that they were staring intently at her body. She knew
they were scanning for any bulge that would betray a weapon, but that wouldn’t
be everything they were examining. The thought embarrassed her, and she
turned back to them feeling flushed.
sorry professor,” said
a woman striding up from behind: who appeared to be the senior officer.
“But you are not in an area where you are authorized to be…
Would you explain why you were not in the bunker?”
I was finishing some very important work… There wasn’t…
is a serious contravention of military rule not to go directly to the bunkers
when the siren sounds; you know that?”
“Yes…” she said meekly trying to put on her most
innocent smile and wishing it had been a male officer: she had a much better
rapport with men. “It was very important work… To the Alliance…”
She added hoping it made the point.
you are in a cannon emplacement?”
I…” She couldn’t explain why.
officer looked over to the cruiser. “How you accessed the cannon
is for some other to determine, but it seems whatever you did, you did with
wanted to smile and say ‘I shot it down’ but she knew it
wasn’t really her.
records don’t indicate you have ever been instructed in such a weapons
use; can you tell me how you did that?”
“I…” she couldn’t, well not in a way that
didn’t tell them everything. “I just grabbed the aimer thing
and pressed the red button?”
it?” The woman muttered
obviously not convinced.
happened so fast I don’t remember…”
professor, you ignored a compulsory evacuation signal to come up here, to
a restricted area, entered an even more forbidden cannon emplacement, activated
a weapon that your records show you having no operational knowledge of,
and brought down an enemy warship in a way that…” The woman glanced back over her shoulder
towards the wreck. “Probably caused the minimum of casualties,”
she looked at Rhea suspiciously. “You did all that but don’t
tried to smile again. “ Not really,” quickly followed
by, “Other than it is a citizens duty to do whatever they can to
defeat the enemy?”
woman would have probably laughed had she been the kind of a woman who laughed.
The Company Wars
or End of History
By Alan P. Ellis
lifetime is not enough
2013. Copyright in all media and in all forms remains the property of Caelin
Day pty ltd (aus). Any reproduction in whole or part is conditional on the
written permission of caelin day.
probe was beyond tired. So far beyond that if a machine could conceive an
end to existence, then it was at the moment of death. It’s once bright
surfaces were now pitted and punctured through countless impacts with meteoric
grains of dust; and blackened through eons of exposure to cosmic particles.
What was left of its once precisely directed antenna, now turned aimlessly
in a slow pirouette that had lasted beyond any collective memory. No one
knew. No one cared. It was a forlorn speck, invisible and lost in the immensity
of space, along with any recollection of the ancient civilization that had
sent it on its journey.
their time, both machine and people had flourished. Both had risen in their
ways to reach out in a flowering of space exploration. First around their
own planet: then others in their system. The tiny probe had been the culmination
of the brightest brains the planet could bring together. This little spacecraft
had been their signal; their declaration that they were reaching at last
for the stars, and now; not that the builders would know, the little craft
had finally made it to the edge of the galaxy itself.
launched it began” and continued far beyond expectation, to send back
information about their closest neighbors that filled its makes with awe.
Both scientists and the planets inhabitants rejoiced at what it discovered,
but as is always the case with a new toy, eventually it becomes familiar,
and in time forgotten. So as it reached out into the void between the stars,
its work no longer exited or inspired, and its makers moved on to another,
brighter child. No matter how well it had lived up to what was asked of
it, the probe had done its job, and memory of it passed into history.
probe didn't notice: how could a machine care as it continued the task that
had been asked of it, so each time it passed a rock in the depths of space;
or a fluctuation, or an anomaly: or in time each star, then once more it
would announce the discovery; sending back its findings to distant, unhearing,
ears. As long as energy fed though its fine wires, it sought and proclaimed,
and would it over and over until its power source drained the last dreg
of radioactive emission. That time had arrived and now it was almost dead.
Now nothing but weak, random particles of decay came from its tiny generator.
But that was enough; just, for the ultra-sensitive detectors on the Ikaban
III, to signal an alarm.
the central security building was one of the grandest structures in the
dome, Alexi’s mind was far too occupied to even give it a glance as
he strode across the open courtyard towards the imposing portico. All that
was on his mind was that it was early; too early to be anywhere but in his
quarters, and that wasn’t even considering that it was his first morning
back on Terran after two consecutive tours of duty on the frontier. He muttered
to himself that he; no…they; the crew deserved better than this after
what they had been through.
click of his heels on the tiled walkway seemed to drill sharply into his
brain, reminding him that last night was supposed to have been a quick gathering.
It was always the same at the end of a tour; everybody patted each other
on the back, said what a great job they had done, and then quickly went
their separate ways. As commander it was expected that he shout the first
round before melting away as serious celebrations began. But it hadn't turned
out that way, instead of leaving once he had seen them relax, he had felt
the need to stay, and stay; and stay. Now he was paying for it. His head
felt thick, his body felt tired. He desperately needed a Krill tablet; not
being woken with a summons to come immediately to Ellis’s offices.
That was the last thing he needed.
do they keep the place so cool’, he muttered, his finger adjusting
the thermal valve secreted under the uniform lapel. Immediately he felt
more comfortable, though he often wondered how much of that was in his mind.
the weather shield he could see the snow; deep and endless up into the foothills,
and on over the peaks of Telic Naile. Bad mood or not, he begrudgingly admitted,
it did look remarkably beautiful. Especially with the green high forest
trusting out of the blanket of white. At times such as this it puzzled him
why the ancestors had chosen Terran to colonize, when they had all the other
warmer planets to choose from. Still another half a revolution and they
would have left the white dwarf that was the binary partner of Sol, and
be back in the warmth. Then there would be an explosion of growth. Rainforest
vegetation in the coastal regions and baking deserts up on the tablelands.
Once more the heat would take over, banishing the cold to the other end
of the season. Thinking about it, actually he could see why they had chosen
Terran; he smiled to himself.
The voice surprised. No not surprised, startled him back to reality.
Morning Isla,” he replied
to the electronically induced sound from his ear implant.
Ellis has been informed of your arrival.”
mood is he in?”
I your confidence commander?”
wondered for a moment who such an attractive; and he had to admit appealing
tone of speech, had once belonged to. He put out of his mind that apparently
each individual heard what appealed particularly to him: or her. “Of
he is rather grumpy.”
“Oh.” That he didn't want to hear. “Any
that I can divulge commander.”
see… you don’t know.”
I do commander,” the
voice sounded faintly offended.
you're going to keep it a secret?”
have to commander. You know very well to not do as I am bid would go against
the rule of my existence.”
I know, but even to me?”
He tried to sound hurt.
put me in a position where my friendship goes against my duty commander.”
see. And which shall win?”
there any doubt?”
sighed deeply, in mock rejection. “I suppose I will have to live
with being no more than a cast away, and ignored ex-friend.”
I doubt you would ever consider yourself as such.”
Isla,” he grinned,
feeling his mood rising as he looked towards at the first rays of sunlight,
glinting off the mountaintops. “And neither do I imagine you would
do anything wrong, even for a moment.”
giggled, “Ah commander, you never know what surprises the day holds?”
tell me, you're waiting for the right processor to…” Alexi stopped and shook his head; what a
start to the morning, he was flirting with a series of induced vibrations
in his inner ear.
If I look over my parameters. Director Ellis did not specify that I was
not to reveal he is not alone.”
is he with?”
No… means nothing to me.”
anthropologist, at the astro-history faculty of the college of SeeSay, on
he said with mock enthusiasm.
“That sounds very exciting.”
“Commander…” The voice was slightly scolding. “In
our culture not everyone requires the life of a soldier to fulfill their
I’m sorry, you are quite correct; somebody has to do all the boring
was no reply. ‘Damned processors’, he muttered silently. Sometimes
they were like being joined; you had to be careful with every word or you
were always upsetting the other half. His mind suddenly wandered to her.
had been this time during last freezing, when they had agreed to separate.
It still hurt a little. He had really thought they would be partners for
life, but relationships had never been his strong point, and it didn't look
as if that was going to change. Thankfully it had been reasonably amicable.
What he hadn't expected though was that she would leave after the agreement
had been voided, and go back to live on Reigan, taking their three beautiful
children with her. He hadn’t, and still didn't want them to go. Yes,
practicality it was the best thing for them, but that didn't mean he had
to like it. His mind drifted to their faces. It had been a long time since
he had felt their embraces. ‘Yes’, he decided, ‘When I've
finished with Ellis, I’ll comlink Reigan and ask if I can visit, of
course assuming Zaara will give her permission’.
was in front of the building now. It was set at eight levels above ground,
being as there was little chance at this time of the turn that of one of
the violent tropical hurricanes would sweep in from the ocean. Though if
one did it wasn’t really a problem; it was common knowledge that within
twenty parts the whole structure could descend below the surface against
nature, or even quicker if under threat of attack by a Carroll warship.
door was opening. Isla may not be communicating but was still doing what
walked onto the inner sixth level. Immediately the noise of birdcall came
to his ears. Long slender trunks of Polly wattle vine reached up to the
roof of the atrium. There and lower down swarmed flocks of brightly colored
parrots. A primate sat on a branch at his level watching him suspiciously.
the balustrade to his right, six floors down was an indoor lake. He could
just make out the reds, and pinks of flap fish swimming close to the surface.
It was all very soothing and peaceful, but Ellis was waiting, and the vator
door was opening for him. He stepped inside. “I’m sorry,”
I don’t know what you're referring to commander?” The reply was half curious.
has their place. Everybody has their duty, and just because I find it of
little interest, I should not belittle them.”
you shouldn't commander.”
The voice bore a slight chastising tone. “None are greater, or
less useful than another in our society. That is what makes us different
from the Carro...”
professor...” He interrupted.
“Thain,” he repeated to himself, “Yes...
What has astrohistory got to do with a destroyer’s officer?”
are all a product of our roots commander.”
too early to be cryptic Isla.”
wasn’t. I was merely pointing out that we are the sum of our communal
realize that. But there's nothing from the past where I live. I cruise a
warship. Fighting on the frontier, protecting the colonies, the future is
all that I'm interested in.”
have said and thought the same throughout the history of humankind, and
found that the highway to one's destiny is learned on the by-roads of the
not going to tell me anything else before I face Ellis, are you?”
vator stopped and the door slid open. He stepped into the outer office.
It was empty, except for Alana sat before her screen, entering something
into her workstation. She looked up from behind the desk; lifting her hand
as she did; deliberately pushing with her index finger at the bridge of
a pair of antique spectacles that were the current fashion. The lenses seemed
to hang magically against her forehead. “Commander,”
she beamed with obvious pleasure. “How nice it is to see you again.”
for me to see you Alana.”
do things look on the frontier?”
as nice as they look from where I stand right now.”
she blushed. “You
know I'm almost a partner.”
the more reason to tell you, before it’s too late and Andor claims
a booming voice assaulted his ears. “Is that you Commander?”
hadn't noticed the door was partly open. “Yes director,”
he answered formally.
come through, and stop harassing my secretary. She has enough to do without
you interrupting her.”
Ellis is waiting to see you commander Davanoff,”
said the silently laughing girl.
shook his head as he walked towards the heavy door. He pushed it fully open.
was standing alongside a large ornate chair. Another was across to his left,
and between them was a high backed couch, all upholstered in the same brocade
material. They formed a semi-circle before a timber fueled fire, burning
in the large open grate set into the wall opposite.
Alexi’s left was the panorama of the snow-covered mountains. The window
was floor to ceiling, and wall-to-wall. As a first impression it appeared
the building had no external wall, and many visitors stayed well clear,
for in the unaccustomed it caused a distinct feeling of vertigo. Here they
were far above the weather shield, and even Alexi had a momentarily feeling
of warmth on his right and cold on his left. He quickly turned the thermal
valve off. “Director?”
in commander,” the
voice was barely warmer than the snow. “And shut the door.”
back stepped; closed the door and then strode silently across the carpeted
floor. He had forgotten the third person in the room. Indeed he still couldn't
see anyone hidden behind the high back of the couch. It wasn’t until
he came alongside it, that he saw her. It hadn't crossed his mind it could
be a woman. Now he wondered why.
was striking. Long black hair, a perfectly formed face. She was dressed
in the latest Terran suit. Alexi knew that from a magazine he had seen lying
on some wardroom table recently. She was standing now and offering her arm.
fingers clasped about each other’s wrists, she felt cool. “Professor
Thain,” Alexi said half as a greeting, half with incredibility.
“Isla,” muttered Ellis to his side disapprovingly.
He stared vaguely into the air. “Shut down surveillance on my area.”
Then he looked back at Alexi. “You can let go of the professor’s
hand now commander,” he grumbled.
realized it was only he who continued the grip. He dropped his arm to his
see you already know all about the professor.”
Well...” Alexi looked
at her. “Only that you are an anthropologist from the astrohistory
faculty, at SeeSay.”
right commander,” she
looked at Ellis slightly confused. Isla was rarely wrong.
man grunted and spoke. “I take the wise precaution of not disclosing
everything I do, even to Isla. But Professor Thain...”
She interrupted him. “If
we are to work together it would be much easier if I dropped my formal title.”
you wish,” Ellis said
as he sat down in a single chair.
name is Rhea.” She
looked at Alexi.
I do know,” she smiled
and his heart missed a beat. She sat down again. “As you surmised,
I am from SeeSay, and from the college of astrohistory. But I am afraid
from there on all else becomes a little blurred. I have an office and a
workroom in the anthropology faculty, but I am not an anthropologist.”
She looked at Ellis, as if seeking his approval.
nodded at her, and then looked at Alexi. “Sit commander.”
walked to the other chair under Ellis’s stern glare and sat as Ellis
spoke again. “I should not have to remind you commander but you
are bound by the secrecy act.”
saw no reason to respond, but by the way Ellis looked at him he knew he
was expected to. “Yes director.”
are Carroll spies everywhere; even amoung our friends; the smallest piece
of information can become the part that solves a puzzle.”
suspect that the Corporation have information of what we plan. It is imperative
that they do not find out anything that will aid them?”
understand that director; if they do it will not come from me or my crew.”
looked back at Rhea. “Carry on professor.”
looked directly at Alexi. “My position at SeeSay is actually a
cover. I work for the D.S.D.”
a moment Alexi was dumbfounded, and equally impressed. The Department of
Scientific Defense was one of the most secretive organizations within the
Alliance. There was only one acknowledged office; that was here on Terran,
and it employed no more than a dozen people. Of course it was common knowledge,
or rather common gossip, that their research facilities were spread throughout
the planets, but this was the first time, even with the rank he held, that
he had ever had official confirmation the organization existed outside the
department’s headquarters, never mind met one of its operatives. Alexi
realized he had frozen half seated. He quickly sat and sank into the soft
seemed amused. “I take it you know of us?”
Yes. Well kind of.”
means you have listened to rumors?”
yes, but when secrecy is necessary rumours fill the void.”
all our advantages. Rumours keep everybody guessing, including and especially
the Carroll corporation.”
nodded. “I include myself in that group; truth known I haven't
a clue what you do, other than I probably owe my life to suggestions; ideas,
and weapons that you have come up with.”
not give me credit personally Alexi. I’m no more than a contributor,”
She winked at him. He hadn't
the foggiest idea what it implied. “My personal expertise is in
it came to him. “Your that Thain!!!” he said out loud
interrupting her mid-sentence.
stopped and looked at him in surprise. It had been at the back of his mind
since he had heard Isla say the name. But the stern and very dowdily dressed
woman the newscasts had shown receiving the Alliance
Star of Bravery bore little resemblance to the one before him now. “Rhea
Thain… your… that Rhea Thain?
tried to hide it but knew she was blushing. “It wasn’t quite
like all the propaganda would have you believe.”
I certainly hope it was exactly as has been portrayed.” Ellis's gruff voice interrupted. “Now
can we get on with the business we are here for?”
fell silent as he took the conversation over.
the professor was about to tell you commander: before you interrupted, is
that composite metals and their derivatives are her area of specialization.
And the reason she is here is that there are none better.”
looked at Alexi. “Flattering, but not entirely true director. There
are many people who…”
brushed of her diffidence. “Professor, modesty is all well and
good, but by my information you come recommended as the best, and that’s
who I want.”
was about to say my equal director. I did not intend to imply any were better.”
please carry on.”
suddenly seemed less comfortable. “Commander, future composites
are where I am, but we can still learn a lot from analysis of the older
and past metals.”
smiled and thought to himself. 'I've already been here'.
was looking at him puzzled, “Commander?”
Please go on.”
I was saying. I find it personally interesting. I suppose some would class
it as a hobby, researching old, rare and disused metals and ores.”
an ideal cover at SeeSay University.”
fits in quite nicely.”
where do I fit into all this?”
don’t yet,” said
Ellis abruptly. “Please continue professor.”
my capacity I have direct access to all Alliance research projects. Recently
one of our deep space mining vessels located a probe.”
stared at her curiously. “Probe... What? A drone?”
it what you like, but yes. It was way out in the void area. Heading for
Beta Prima, in another hundred thousand turns. Anyway, they were testing
deep rock spectrum equipment and had the full range turned on, and there
you are, they picked up radioactive decay in the middle of nowhere. They
surmised it was an exotic asteroid at first, but the emission was too pure,
so they were instructed to send out a scout. And there it was; a probe.”
looked at a loss towards Ellis hoping for some clarification, but the man
was of tremendous, but limited scientific interest,” continued Rhea. “And in due course
it found its way to SeeSay, where I requested permission to undertake an
analysis of the metals….” She hesitated seeing his expression.
“There is something you find curious commander?”
tried to look serious. “You said there was an emission: it was
from the probe?”
The research was all done in the emissions laboratory. Its power core was
Ranium, does that stir any memory?”
I've never come across it, but I seem to remember from college that it’s
very dangerous and volatile: isn’t it?”
the wrong way, most certainly.”
I recall correctly, it's said it would be the first generated clean power
that an emerging civilization would come across.”
suppose that depends on the interpretation of clean your using. Anyway the
metal parts themselves were corroded almost beyond belief. Wherever it had
come from, it had been alone in space for many thousands of turns. Its composition
was intriguing; basic and impure, yet a fresh perspective as if someone
had been working from an entirely new set of rules.”
it wasn’t Alliance?”
looked at him puzzled. “Alliance?”
was making the assumption that it was something from our ancestral Alliance?”
it was most certainly not one of ours; ancient or not.”
realized he was mistaken. “Then it was a Carroll probe?”
was almost a smile on her face.
looked at Ellis confused.
spoke again. “No, it wasn’t anything from our own past?”
I don’t wish to question what you have just said, but it has to be
from our or the Carroll’s past?” he said in an uncertain way,
unable to imagine an alternative.
is a fair assumption.”
Rhea said as if to accommodate his opinion. “But it was neither.
I just said that whoever had created it was going down another technological
path. It was all extremely interesting…” Her tone of voice
changed. “…But my excitement over its manufacture was nothing
compared to what was attached to the side.” She paused a moment,
but Alexi showed no anticipation. “There was a small golden plaque.
The surface was almost degraded clean, but in our laboratories we were able
to reconstruct what patterns or symbols had once been engraved there by
examining the stress marks on the sub layers, and we found that the makers
had identified themselves.” She looked at Ellis, again seeking
his approval, then back to Alexi, and straight into his eyes. “Have
you heard of the planet Earth?”
both looked at him, and he at them. Nothing was said. At last he shook his
head and started to laugh. “Yes I know about Earth.” And
he did. It was required reading in grade school, under legend’s and
fantasies. When a little older he had sat through an elective class on the
myth, bored out of his mind. So he did know about Earth, but if it hadn't
have been for his awakening interest in the opposite sex; particularly for
a girl named Juliana he wouldn't have had a clue.
the home planet of the ancestors! They had destroyed it with wars, and contamination
before they were driven off as its temperature climbed past human tolerance.
The stories said they had lived for a few generations in massive orbiting
satellite cities called arcs, before they gave the planet up as lost and
set sail in a convoy to colonize another star system. Then at some time
there had been the diverging, and the arcs - there were supposed to have
been sixty of them, split into two factions. One founded Terran and became
the Alliance; and the others colonized Plar as the Corporation’s headquarters.
They had been at war ever since. “Earth...”
both stared at him without speaking.
you serious?” He said
reply was far less humorous as he realized. “You are serious?”
Ellis at last spoke, sitting
forward in his chair. “When you come through that door everything;
every... thing… that is discussed; is serious.”
And if you think this is some kind of entertainment venue, you can walk
right back out of here.”
His voice firmed. “Right; now.”
am sorry Director…”
Alexi turned to the woman. “Professor. I meant no disrespect.”
is debatable commander.” Snorted
Ellis. “You are well known for your attitude, sometimes it borders
on near arrogance. I tell you this; that there are those in the inner sanctum
who argued against you being chosen, to the point of implying that you are
dangerous to your own side.”
“Director...” Alexi blurted out defensively.
loyalty is not under question at this time commander. I accept that. It
is how you have occasion to use it.”
Ellis grunted as he relaxed back into the cushions.
“Alexi,” said Rhea softly into the tense atmosphere.
“I know the existence of Earth is relegated to mystics and fringe
cultures, and I will readily admit that I too, until recently didn't give
the stories too much credit. Each culture needs its legends, we have ours,
and strangely or not, it is the same as the Corporations. But we could quite
possibly have had a mutual origin with or without it being on a planet on
the other side of the galaxy... and before you say it, yes it was very convenient
that the arc carrying humankind's entire history was lost. Neither do I
know where the remaining arcs; or any trace of them are, or proof that anything
in the legends ever existed. It is up to one to believe, and I did not;
not until I opened that crushed little spacecraft. Now I know Alexi, Earth
does… or did exist.”
words were so passionate, so spoken from the heart that Alexi was unable
to reply. At last he mumbled a few words. “Professor… Rhea...
I‘m sorry. I do not doubt your sincerity. I plead that you are right,
and our culture can have had such an origin, rather than being the planet
hoppers we know ourselves as. Yes I want to believe, but I can’t.
I am a soldier. I must believe what I see for myself.”
enough,” snapped Ellis.
“I’ve heard what I want to hear from both of you.” He
stood up and walked to the hearth, reached onto the mantelpiece and took
a smoking pipe from the shelf. Only the crackle of the fire echoed around
the room as he stuffed a small wad of brown shredded leaf into the pipe's
bowl. He bent down and lit a taper from the flames and drew deeply. “Well
a second Alexi thought he was about to be dismissed.
you prepared to do what you claim?”
Director I don’t know what is being asked of me. As I have said I
am a soldier. With all due respect, history is, well at least this kind
of history, is of no use to me on the bridge of the Warrior.”
that’s where you are so very wrong commander. More wrong than you
realize. Our future lies forty thousand turns in the past, and the ship
you command is one of the very few that can ensure us any future at all.”
still don’t understand.” But
Alexi lied. He knew what was about to be said, but his heart refused to
accept it until he heard the words.
it commander are you thick? I want you to return to the beginning of our
do it.” Came the immediate
and abrupt reply.
Yes…. Well good. Then it is settled.”
He looked at Rhea. “Two parts did you say professor?”
there is only one more thing. Commander this mission could be far more dangerous
than it sounds. I want every single member of your crew to volunteer.”
will be no problem director. There’s not one of them that haven’t
already put their life on the line. When I tell them they will fight for
the point, they are not to know.”
to know…. Not to know what director?”
commander. Nothing at all. I want every one of your crew to volunteer to
blindly follow you.”
regulations require my 2.I.C has to be informed?”
even your second in command will be told.”
was a military man he understood security, but their lives depended on logistics.
“I understand director, but the Warrior needs appropriate data
and adequate fuel, and the crew need suitable provisions.”
your navigator, not your engineer, not even whoever it is who runs your
canteen. Nobody commander.”
was a direct order and he tried to hide his displeasure. Even under the
condition he had no doubt they all would leap at the opportunity, but his
command ran a little differently to that. Yes he was ultimately in control;
that was beyond question, but his door was always open. It was what made
him... him. What had he been called during his last appraisal? ‘Erratic’.
Yes he was, if a good idea came up in a briefing and it wasn’t his,
or what he would normally do, he still used it, and on occasion with spectacular
results. The Corporation could vouch for that. But this was different; they
had a right to know.
will put it to my crew as you order director.”
looked at him coldly as if weighing the answer as defiance. “Do
what you want. Tell them what you like, but nothing that will indicate why,
what or where they will be going. Understand?”
looked at Rhea. “You can give it to him.”
opened an attaché case laid beside her chair, and took out a green
other?” said Ellis.
inside,” she handed
it to Alexi.
unclasped the catch. Green was for scientific projects. Inside he saw a
data tablet and a smaller red pouch. He looked up at Ellis.
Green folder contains all the loading and departure information for an exploratory
trip to PengisIII,”
said Ellis. “Ruins were found there recently, and being as it is
in the forbidden zone a warship will seem appropriate for carrying civilians.
Basically it says you’re to go in for a quick investigation of the
the red?” Asked Alexi
you get to the point designated as limit of last survey, you will contact
SeeSay and inform them that you are about to enter uncharted Pengis space.
They will tell you to commence the survey. At that point you will open those
sealed orders and change your heading to that described in those documents.
From that moment you will personally ensure that no further communications
leave your vessel. Once done, and not a moment before, you can inform your
crew you are about to enter Tachyon space.”
travel?” Alexi gasped
before he had chance to think.
grunted. “And how else were you expecting to get there commander?”
felt compelled to point out the obvious. “Director as a commander
it is not for me to question a mission, but…. time options are against
the articles of warfare.”
it is not for you to question orders commander, but as long as you follow
a strict secrecy regime, the Corporation will never know; anyway by your
reputation, I doubt another transgression would seem to bother you too much.”
Rhea came in as peacemaker. “Alexi. Earth is a long way away, even
using the closest folds in space-time. Even at light speed it could take
many turns to get there. The director tells me that your spacecraft has
been into Tachyon time and your back here now.”
We have bored past the barrier, but purely as a test.” He glanced cautiously at Ellis before continuing.
“I assume that it has been revealed to you that the Warrior is
one of the few craft that has the hull integrity to attempt such a feat.
But it wasn’t outlawed for no reason. There is a distinct chance of
disintegration, and for the odds of ending up in another universe?”
Alexi opened his arms wide.
looked at him. “I know the risks. I am prepared to take them.”
words surprised him. “You?”
coming with you. Didn't you understand that?”
no. I expected a few science officers but?”
course. I'm sorry. There is so much to consider.”
party will be small; myself and four others.”
plus the Warriors crew. You know the accommodation arrangements?”
it is not designed for that many people? I have been told.”
didn’t look forward to sharing the Warrior with civilians, especially
being as at least one of them would be D.S.D, but he tried to sound cooperative.
“I'm sure we can manage, though all of our accommodation will be
than you think commander,”
said Ellis, “You will also be taking a considerable amount of specialized
see… That’s why the two parts?”
for your ship to be stripped of everything, but essentials.”
is a warship director. I believe everything already has been taken to that
level,” he smiled weakly.
we will see.” Muttered
Ellis. “Very well commander. Go, do what is necessary.”
stood. “There was one thing?”
time. I am greatly concerned that my crew will not have the opportunity
to consider its consequences before…volunteering.”
are at war commander. Each time you lift off could be the last. You know
that, and they know that. It is something you have already accepted. It
is up to you to carry the gravity of the situation to them however you like.
But I will warn you that the Warrior will go with your crew, or replacements.
With you as commander: or with another. Is that clear?”
looked threateningly at him. “…And any person who happens
to find out the destination before you depart will be shipped off to do
duty in the furthest mining colony I can find, until you return. Is that
looked at the timepiece on the wall. “I will allow you until after
the mid meal to make arrangements and inform you’re crew to be back
on the seventeenth. Any that are not back will report to fleet administration
for reassignment… including yourself.”
will have arranged shuttles to their home planets; that is not much time
for them to change their plans.”
go commander. More time passes even as we talk.”
walked back to the door. Part of him was bursting with excitement at what
lay ahead. He was ready to go now, and he was certain the others would be
with him, if only he could tell them. He had never lied to them before;
yes he had bent the truth, but not the outright lie he felt he was now faced
with. It sat heavily on him. They all could die and not even in a blaze
of glory. They would just pop out of existence, and no one would ever know.
What the hell if the Corporation found out. They didn't want a burnt cinder
any more than the Alliance did. He passed his hand over the door activator
and pulled it open; then stopped and turned. Ellis was leaning down towards
Rhea. Alexi spoke hesitantly. “The inner sanctum?”
looked up. “What about it?”
commander was considered?”
are commander of the vessel. Protocol determines that you be considered
first.” He went to
speak to the professor again but Alexi persisted.
was spoken against?”
me wrong commander.”
Ellis said dismissively as he bent back towards the woman, turning his back
on Alexi as if to end the conversation.
closed the door behind him.
through the blast doors and onto the gantry rail Alexi leaned forward to
gaze down at the Warrior. A feeling of pride swept through him. It was always
the same. She was his. His alone, how could Ellis have threatened to put
someone else in the command seat?
flowing shape of the sleek saucer showed it was built for both atmosphere
and deep space, but those seductive lines were the only thing that pleased
him. Around and about it the scene was chaotic. Crates and packages were
strewn across the service bay as if a cyclone had been through. Technicians
and mechanics jostled for entry: or exit, from the hull; even including
the emergency pod. Alexi doubted she: he thought of the Warrior as female,
had ever had as many souls on board since she came out of assembly: though
that wasn’t that long ago. He ran his hand loosely over the rail and
started down the gantry steps.
voices didn't get louder as he descended, they just became clearer from
the clatter and hum of machinery; above them all was the voice of Claries
as she demanded and cajoled workers and machinery to their tasks. He had
no need to ask, the Warrior was in capable hands, and tonight the adventure
was no sensation of movement, other than through the solar shield they could
see that the Warrior was slowly lifting off the service floor. Above them
the heavy landing bay doors were almost retracted into the ground.
was it’ thought Alexi, ‘up and off into the wild blackness,
to... Well who knew where?’ It did trouble him slightly. Of course
on a tour of duty he never knew where they would actually end up. Even pre-academy
he had piloted with his father, underage, unqualified, and illegally on
a couple of explorations to the forbidden areas. But this time it was different.
They really were going out into the unknown. He wondered how she felt; he
turned in his chair, nodded to Claries, and looked back towards Rhea. “Professor
would you like to give the command?”
Oh... What do I say?”
smiled to himself. “What comes to your mind?”
Let's go,” she smiled
stumbling over the few words, unsure of what was needed.
do.” Already they were
moving forwards, and upwards towards the gaping hole in the roof. As the
spaceship emerged he looked out beyond the mountains towards the final rays
of the setting sol. His eyes lifted slightly to the wide view of their rear
presented on a screen above the solar screen. “Number one?”
barely looked up from her workstation. “All systems going mainstream
commander. Engines seventeen percent standard drive. Climb rate eighty-five
looked around at the darkening landscape. Terran, when would they see it
again. “What did you say before professor?”
Let's go. Was that…”
needed no answer, with barely a feeling of movement the landscape suddenly
dropped below the screen. Outside the dark mountains rapidly became the
pitch-blackness of outer space, peppered as it was with many billion specks
of light and the white planet shrunk away behind them.
stood. “You have the ship number one.” He looked down
at the seated woman. “Well professor we are on our way. There's
nothing for us to do now but wait until we are ready to commence the survey.
Can I get you some refreshment?”
thank you commander. I have much still to do, and right now I need to talk
with my associates.”
She stood and briskly left the cabin.
a few moments Alexi stood wondering if he should follow. A guest refusing
invitation from the commanding officer was not normal protocol on a warship,
but considering she was a civilian, and a scientist at that, maybe she didn’t
understand. He decided to take refreshments alone. It was not a wise decision;
without a distraction, his doubts began to trouble him. Maybe it was a response
he had evolved to counter the unpredictability of conflict; but he liked
to run the ship and his life in a regulated way, and events were not working
out as he had hoped. He found Rhea a very attractive woman: though of course
as commander he couldn't be overly obvious and show his feelings, but since
their first meeting he had thought a lot about her and was looking forward
to their being forced together on the Warrior. They were both in charge
of their respective commands, and maybe in a close working relationship
something more could develop? Maybe later back on Terran something even
more intimate? Right now that didn't look likely, in fact since she and
the other scientists had come aboard, she had almost gone to the point of
being dismissive of him. Yes she was engrossed in her work, and apparently
had been from the moment the first equipment had arrived on the Warrior,
continually attending to some problem or another.
she had come for advice, but each time she had seemed to get frostier. So
okay an affair was out of the question, but was friendship too much to ask?
He shrugged it out of his mind and walked along the narrow; now narrower
corridor to the canteen, and opened the door. Three crew members and two
scientists were sitting around the table set in the center of the room.
The crew huddled at one end and the scientists at the other. So it wasn’t
just him. There was a divide already established between the civilians and
his own. It was not good, no one knew what was going to happen and they
needed to act as a team, He was commander, he couldn't allow things not
to flow, even though at his own level he was having the same problems.
wasn’t his or their making; military and civilians never mixed. It
was one of those paradoxes peculiar to the human species. Nobody liked the
idea of war and killing, even he if the truth was known, but without an
armed defense Terran would have centuries ago become a subsidiary of the
Carroll Corporation. Maybe when they all knew what the mission was about
it would be different?
thought suddenly came to him, ‘did the scientists already know?’
It couldn't be just a general survey party, surely that would be wasteful
to send simple archeologists rather than planetary specialists. And if they
were specialists would their specialty be the same on PengisIII as on Earth?
For a moment Alexi was irrationally angry. Had they been picked for their
expertise, and knew what was expected of them, yet it was deemed that his
crew was less than trustable. Alexi pushed another doubt to the back of
his mind. He was falling into the same trap that all the others seemed to
he said loudly to the central crewmember. Kale was systems analyst. Usually
a position of some tedium, for the Warrior generally looked after itself:
but not always. Those times, especially in battle, Kales job became colossal.
A system off line rendered the Warrior weak, or at worst helpless. That
had never come to pass; to Alexi’s mind Kale was the best. “Our
guest's requirements are not causing you any problems?”
that are of any concern Alexi.”
He spoke casually, and without any regard that he was talking to his commanding
officer; there was no need. Here in the canteen, was the unofficially acknowledged,
non-rank area aboard the Warrior. In this small room the lowest to highest
ranks would speak their minds, or air their grievances. Alexi had made it
clear to every member of the crew that anything went in this room, but outside
he expected total commitment. And it had worked, as a team they flowed around
any problem like mercury... apparently until now.
young blond woman was moving her seat making room for Alexi. Kat was weapons
officer. She was short, by a head and more than Alexi. Petite; and without
being unkind, plainly attractive. Yet probably the most deadly female Alexi
had ever met.
image of a woman behind a gun often didn't sit right on the female gender.
It was assumed women’s nurturing, maternal, and preservation instincts
would always be stronger, and to a point that was true. Kat had a side so
soft and caring that she had gathered a reputation for being an easy meal,
or home to any stray creature in the system. But like their casual approach
to each other in this room, when she sat in gun bay command, she was a different
person; nothing came in the way of her destroying the enemy.
had been rumors of mistreatment by the Corporation on her birth planet before
her sister had smuggled her out. She never spoke of what had happened, or
of her family.
sat between her and Grunt. It was a nickname the second woman wore not with
pride, but as more of a statement. Her real name was Wendy. She was the
complete opposite to Kat. A tower of a woman, and as strong as any man aboard.
Wendy had done her training on fleet freighters, and had worked up to leading
engineer. A fellow crewman, drunk in a bar one night had provoked her, laughing
to his friends about the noises she made when wrenching open a reluctant
bolt or fitting. He lived to regret it, but only just; she lost her position,
and almost her freedom. As it was she was reduced in rank, and now was assistant
engineer. Since her problem Wendy demanded that all aboard call her Grunt
off duty. She claimed it was part of her punishment for not holding her
temper, and every moment she needed to be reminded of that. Alexi didn't
believe that was true, and he could see a good side to her demotion, it
was selfish, but now he had two first class engineers. Alexi thought again
how lucky he was to have these people as part of his crew.
three with two?” said
Kale getting up and stepping a couple of paces to the dispenser.
Five with three,” answered
trip didn’t go too well?”
said Kat sympathetically.
it was great,” he said
unconvincingly. “It…just didn't work out exactly as planned.”
knew enough to ask no more. “How are the girls?”
be growing up?”
a turn away from them, and they seem to have grown ten.” Alexi didn't really want to talk about them
so he looked across to the scientists. They were talking quietly between
themselves. “No problems with your team?” he enquired
of the men.
Ferguson Alexi vaguely remembered. He was the smaller of the two; though
that was marginal, his main difference was that he appeared more wiry than
the second, spoke. “Should there be?”
question had been more formality than concern and the reply took Alexi by
surprise. “If there is I need to know if it will affect the ship?”
is adequate commander. Obviously we would have preferred more room for more
equipment, but apparently we have already overused our allowance.”
are all making sacrifices.”
Alexi tried not to sound sarcastic.
so, still I suppose we shall have to wait until the main thrust arrives.”
thrust?” echoed Alexi,
his interest suddenly aroused.
we can organize a major expedition. The ruins will have to be properly excavated.” The man was suddenly standing. He pushed
at his companions shoulder. “If you will excuse us. We have work
to do.” They quickly left the room.
was all that about?”
Alexi looked at his fellow crewmembers.
knows?” said Kale placing
a steaming mug in front of him. “They’re a weird lot these
so, but until we get back to Terran… were all going to have to live
was three hours later that Alexi had chance to talk to Rhea alone, or as
close to it as was possible. “I need to know something?”
ahead and ask.”
the main thrust?”
was watching her eyes as he spoke. It was imperceptible, but the twitch
told him all he needed to know.
it something to do with your engines?”
reply annoyed him. “Professor this ship and my crew are at your
disposal, but I won't accept putting either at risk.”
reply was sharp. “Isn’t that the point of a warship?”
the idea is to know what’s we’re up against so there is no risk”.
I’m no mystic so I can’t help you.”
don’t need help, just to know what’s going on.”
this got something to do with my work? Or is it some kind of machismo kick
you expect as commander of this vessel?”
all he knew he let his annoyance get the better of him. “Don’t
let's start playing games. Something is going on that I don’t know
about, isn’t it?”
is ‘going on’.”
She said firmly, as they stared hostilely at each other. “So is
there something else? Or can I get on with my work?” she almost
you going to tell me?”
of your scientists referred to the main thrust, I want to know what he meant?”
you should ask him: is that it; are we finished?”
were not professor, though it seems there is nothing further for us to discuss
strode away, leaving him as angry as he had been in ages.
a distance PengisIII was as uninspiring as Alexi had expected, consequently
he took little interest above a cursory inspection. “We are the
limit of the last survey.” He said to Rhea stood beside him.
seems it’s time to revisit our directions.”
looked at his second in command. “Inform SeeSay that we are about
to enter uncharted Pengis space, then lock the communications console and
join us in my cabin.”
looked at him in surprise. “Lock communications commander?”
it seems or mission is to change and we are now under a secrecy veil.”
curt nod of understanding, merged with a continued look of curiosity.
opened the small safe, put in his hand and withdrew the red satchel. He
turned to face Claries coming through the door. He waited until she
had shut the door. “Number one. There are some changes to our orders.”
looked between him and Rhea
down, this may take some explaining.”
sat alongside Rhea on Alexi’s bunk. Together they looked much the
same. Age, build, Claries hair was maybe a little redder. Both striking
women: both at the pinnacle, or close to it, in their respective careers,
and both very driven personalities.
second in command listened without the emotion, or the frivolity that Alexi
had displayed as he had been briefed on the probe and its implications.
She looked at the red pouch. “That’s where were going?”
“Yes.” He dropped it on the bench to his side.
“I wanted you to know before the rest of the crew. I'm afraid it’s
not much before, but I owe you priority.”
hope you do. These last two parts I have felt guilty of betraying yours
and the crews trust.”
was not of your making or choice commander. In any case we... and I speak
for everybody on the Warrior; will go wherever we are needed. You don’t
have to explain or remind us of our duty.”
know. I never doubted. I just wish I could have told you before.”
looked at the satchel. “Well commander, then let us delay no longer.”
command deck was packed. It was never designed for this many people at one
time. Alexi faced a stunned silence. He had tried to look at everyone's
reaction as he announced their destination but it had been impossible.
or almost everybody, other than the two scientists from the previous meeting:
who seemed a little bored; showed some kind of reaction. “Isn't
that very dangerous?” one asked meekly.
gave a glance to Claries. “Abbot,” she whispered.
Mr. Abbot. It can be, but the Warrior has tunneled on test before.”
what's the other side. I mean what's there?”
almost sighed. “I can't answer that.”
answer.” The scientist
said indignantly. “What, it’s some kind of military secret?”
I can’t answer because I don’t know.”
theory yes, but not by experience.”
you said this ship had been there?”
has. We all have, but it was a controlled exercise. We tunneled, entered
Tachyon space, and them immediately dropped back out.”
must have been made?”
and they were given to the directorate.”
you didn’t look at them?”
data collectors were sealed, but to all intents and purposes the other side
appeared to be the same as this side.”
you don’t know?”
is not a suicide mission. There are extreme dangers, so I won't deny or
hide them, but there theoretically is no reason why the Warrior will not
be able to tunnel safely.”
right now we don’t have a choice do we?”
this point no. This briefing is to inform you, not to get your approval.
You all have given that when you signed up. I realize that some of you are
not accustomed to deep space travel, but my crew are competent to undertake
tunneling, and cope with any contingency…” ‘Well almost any contingency’
he thought. “…That may occur. If any of you would like clarification
of anything related to this ship, I'm happy to talk to you individually.
If anyone has questions about the purpose of our mission I suggest you talk
to Professor Thain.” Out of the corner of his eye he saw her shoot
him a look of disapproval. It gave him a satisfied feeling. “Now
unless anyone has any more questions, the crew needs to begin preparations?”
Alexi turned to Claries
as the deck began to clear.
watched the last of the scientist leave as she spoke. “Commander,
I would like to ask you something about the mission: rank neutral?”
quickly looked around the room. “You can number two, but you already
know as much as I do?”
if I can ask for your opinion?”
don’t have an opinion; it’s a LOR mission?”
but we’ve never had a Locate, observe and report like this before?”
are unlikely to ever again.”
just it seems pointless: I don’t mean pointless, it will answer one
of the greatest questions our society has, but what will it achieve?”
smiled; the answer was self-evident. “It will answer one of our
most puzzling questions?”
if it exists, was victim to runaway greenhouse; pressure at its surface
would crush the Warrior. Lead would melt in its heat; there will be nothing
left to explore, do we really want to know that?”
answers we seek are not always the ones we want to hear?”
why the scientists; why all the equipment. The Warrior is already equipped
to observe and report?”
nodded; it was something he had wondered too. “Maybe they suspect
the myths are wrong?”
what if they are; what if our ancestors are still there. What do we do,
land and say hello?”
that what you are thinking, or are you speaking for the crew?”
am one of the crew.”
drew in a breath before he answered. “We are soldiers; we do not
have the luxury of knowing what the sanctum knows, or intends. We can only
add to what ever it is?”
if it is first contact?”
have seen the sealed orders; if Earth put up a sign saying welcome; we are
not authorized to make the first move. So you can put everyone’s mind
at risk: LOR; locate, observe and report is what our mission is and what
it will be; though.”
Alexi smiled. “Maybe if we prove both us and the Corporation are
one they will come to the negotiating table and end this war. If what we
are to do will achieve that then it will be the most successful mission
we have ever undertaken.”
nodded. “Thank you commander.”
are welcome number two.”
Alexi watched as Claries returned to the command chair: his mind in turmoil.