black hole grew before them. It was an awesome sight, even though they were
common: too common for some. The majesty, the power, the beauty they held
would never diminish for him. They were already in its gravitational grip,
the Warriors engines on idle, as they were ever faster sucked inwards.
had noticed that the craft had started buffeting; nothing serious, just
a kind of vibration running up through her body; but enough to unnerve her.
As if he knew her mind Alexi half turned
in the command chair, speaking over his shoulder. “It may be more
comfortable if you fastened your gravity straps professor.”
Quickly, almost too quickly she reached above
her shoulder and pulled the clasp out and around her body. It was the one
single belt, but it seemed to envelop her. “Don’t destroyers
previous test showed that what we are about to experience is far greater
than normal systems usually cope with.”
words were far from comforting. She had been apprehensive about the whole
tunneling process from the start. Okay if she… they were going to
die, so be it; but that didn't mean she wanted the process prolonged. Her
mind was diverted by Claries voice.
said Rhea anxiously.
we pass light speed... Is there any…. sensation?”
mean do we feel it?”
to disappoint you, but no, well other than a Doppler effect.”
She spoke hesitantly, slightly embarrassed.
“I thought with the shock wave?”
She was a scientist and it felt slightly
humiliating asking a soldier to explain scientific fact. “My science
is planet bound.”
accumulation of hydrogen, moments before light speed kept us prisoner until
we developed tunneling. At the moment of terelectron shock wave, the radiation
will be extreme, but we will pass through too quickly for harm to be done.
you’re feeling is the black hole. I thought you knew...?”
She tried to smile. “A briefing
is not the same as the experience.”
“Eighty percent,” interrupted
“Shut down non-life support systems, divert
power to hull integrity.”
Then back to Rhea. “Professor stop me if I go over what you know,
but when you hear of talk about the Warrior; or any other craft traveling
at light speed, it actually means just that. I remember a lecturer I once
had describing it to me. Light speed is like a dyke on a plain. You have
two steep embankments with a channel between. If you take a long enough
run, and if you have enough strength, you can get up the outside of the
embankment. Then you run down with ease into the channel. Now you can run
up along the channel as far as you want. But say you wanted to get to the
other side. By standing on top of the first embankment you could run down
and across the channel as many times as you like, but without the run up
you would probably never make it to the top. That’s why the early
experiments never got past light speed, and traveled at it, well as good
scenario is purely an analogy. In the return case think more of an electron
field loosing energy and dropping out of orbit. Returning doesn't present
us with too many problems, though again apparently it did to the pioneers.”
how do we get to Tachyon space, according to your lecturer?”
if you can't climb over a wall, you dig through both embankments, and come
out the other side. Hence, we tunnel.”
teacher seems to have been a very down to Earth person.”
Alexi turned in his chair and looked at her.
“Is that a pun?”
He said sitting back. “He wasn’t, but he got the point through.”
our digging tool is the Black hole?”
“Correct me if I’m wrong…” she knew she wasn’t. “…But
doesn’t time slow the closer we come to light speed; to the point
where time as good as ceases to exist?”
“Yes, and the time warping becomes the key
to leaving this reality, it’s all in the….”
he hesitated searching for a suitable word, but couldn’t find one.
“That sounds almost like cheating,” she said slightly disappointed. “I
was under the impression the Warrior had some amazing ability to zip between
time epochs at the flick of a switch.”
Alexi’s voice was defensive. “I’m
simply pointing out the physics as we know them.” He wondered
if her apparent lack of knowledge was real: did she say something only to
make him underestimate her. Intelligent women sometimes did that to make
a man feel smarter, but why would she? “Tunneling is still not
well known and until we have more experience we stick to the basics. What
we do know is that approaching the event horizon in different ways produces
an opposite effect on the departure. Our engines are at zero thrust while
we are approaching the event horizon. At a precise moment we commit everything
the ship has in one burst, so instead of time slowing until it appears to
stop, we achieve light speed almost instantly at the boundary of the virtual
particle emission jet. A little bit of fancy flying and were ejected
out, the other side of light speed; mirror image into Tachyon space.”
easy as that?”
easy as that.”
makes me think your glossing over the negative's?”
actually entering the event horizon. Approaching at the wrong angle or velocity,
and being torn into atoms. Appearing in a parallel bubble. Shall I go on?”
didn't think you wanted to know about things like that?”
don’t. So please don’t point out anything that I have missed.”
swirling ring was almost filling their view. Rhea tried to see where it
began; but the color change from black to deep, deep red was so subtle that
she couldn’t. It seemed that the blackness of space was itself a colour
that just merged into the outer reaches of the dust ring. The same could
not be said for the ultimate lip of the void itself. Here the particles
had been so super-heated by friction that they glowed the most brilliant
white, until suddenly they dropped out of existence. There at that point,
the line between black and white was so sharp and abrupt, that it hurt her
eyes to concentrate on it.
remarkable as the sight was, it was the emission that her eyes sought. Their
lifeline, the road they would ride out and follow to the unknown. It was
there, faint, but becoming clearer with every passing moment.
too seemed to appear out of nowhere. A fountain of particles reaching up
and out into space, away from the axis of the hole like a giant spray of
Somewhere between the two visual displays
lay their future, and ultimately that of mankind's. She was acutely aware
that she was prepared to trust this man with her life, but not with the
secret she carried. “Would you tell me when we reach light speed?”
won't have to. Listen to number one; she'll talk us all the way through.”
As if she had heard Claries spoke. “Approaching
committal point commander.”
His voice lost all of the apparent friendliness
of an instant ago. A bold, confident tone now carried the clear and sharp
words. “Affirmative. Take us in.”
may all die in a few moments from now’. Rhea thought, but Ellis was
right, she would have gone with the best. Her reassured thoughts evaporated
at the sudden screaming of an alarm. Rhea's heart sprang up into her throat.
The light’s failed and the room fell into darkness. It was only with
the most extreme will that she did not cry out. She felt her lips dry, her
skin began to crawl. Her breath came in short gasps. But she was the only
one. No one else muttered a word as the cabin slowly became bathed in a
“Battle station ready,” said Claries calm efficient voice.
forced herself to breathe slowly. Her heart felt as if it was about to tear
out of her breast. Slowly she realized they were on the ultimate level of
alert. For a moment her fear had almost betrayed her again.
swirling disk filled their forward view. It was as if nothing else existed
in the universe except the brilliant whirlpool that was about to consume
them. The slow, almost sedate rotation of moments ago was rapidly changing
to a vision of confused violence, as the outermost fringes passed away.
Below after millennia adrift, the grains of dust, boulders, and mountain-sized
chunks jostled and crashed together, in their last throes of existence;
seemingly meters below.
command room was silent as everyone concentrated on their tasks. Rhea wished
there was a noise. The tick tock, of her great grandmother's timepiece would
feel so welcome now. Would she ever go back to the isolated mountain again?
red glow below had disappeared. Now they passed over the yellowing zone.
Almost gone was the chaos. The unfortunate rocks had been whipped and pulverized
into submission as they sped along in orderly overlapping lines. They were
“Approaching zero thrust capture point,” said Claries casually.
remembered a lecture she had attended. It was lamely announced as ‘Psychological
effects relating to the human physiology in extreme gravity conditions’.
The lecture had been as dry as the title, but one thing jumped back into
her mind. At zero thrust the hole had complete power over them.
As if she understood Rheas thoughts Claries
spoke. “Zero thrust imminent.”
knew that at this moment; at this time, the gravity drawing them to oblivion
was stronger than the power they had available to get out. If they didn’t
get through to the ejection field she was already as good as dead.
as the woman said it, Rhea could feel that they were slowing down. She felt
the Warrior was dropping, her stomach lifted. Of course it was an illusion,
and one that still seemed incomprehensible. The faster you went the slower
you traveled. Is it any wonder she had chosen metallurgy. Metal was metal.
Rock was rock. It was something you could always rely on to be the same.
tried to focus her academic mind on the scene below. It seemed almost stationary
now, but she knew they were traveling incredibly fast. Deep in her memory
she remembered the face of a teacher, somewhere, sometime, telling her there
was a paradox. …Simpkins paradox. Actions were relevant only to the
time frame of observation. If she looked away; inside the warrior, everything
was normal. Outside was anything but. Mass increased, stretched, slowed;
everything that common sense told her it couldn’t, it did. Was there
any wonder that observing a second frame from the first caused a paradox
that the mind could only dealt with in terms of the first frame? Everything
was an optical, a neuroptical illusion.
more slowly creeping over into the brilliant white of oblivion. The mountains
were no more. The boulders had crumbled to powder. Her friends the rocks
had no benefit of hull integrity. Outside dust was the order of the day.
warnings were coming almost constantly now, or was it her imagination.
The vibration had given way to a definite,
nerve wracking bucking, when at last Alexi spoke. “Maximum internal
felt herself glued to her chair.
“This is the commander speaking.” The voice carried throughout the craft.
“We are about to achieve light speed. For those of you never having
experienced it before. There may be slight psychological discomfort. It
anxiously wondered what he meant by psychological discomfort. He hadn’t
mentioned anything before?
“Point nine, nine.” Droned Claries
pass. I’ll talk to you on the other side.”
noted how confident he seemed, that was not how he had come across before,
had he tried to unsettle her? Was it some power trip he enjoyed holding
over non-flyers: or women?
nine, nine five.”
stared at the solar shield. Now there was only blackness below it gave her
a sick hollow feeling, the same one she had in the mountains when standing
too close to the edge, and knowing just emptiness lay below her. She lifted
her eyes from the complete abyss toward the fountain of streaming yellow
particles dancing tantalizingly before them.
“Point nine, nine seven,” Claries was almost speaking continually
now. “... Nine eight.”
realized she wasn’t breathing. She couldn't.
wanted to close her eyes but couldn't.
Even Claries voice had taken on an urgent
emotion. “Super heating… Light speed ignition.”
At last Alexi spoke. “Maximum power
seemed to happen. Rhea gripped the armrests with white knuckles. Her mind
told her that they still hurtled forward, and downward. Had the engines
misfired? The terrifying thought screamed in her brain. She couldn't see
Alexi’s expression. A feeling of nausea swept over her.
“Maximum pitch; bring her up,” his voice seemed so welcome, so comforting.
nothing happened; time did stand still. A season, two, three… they
seemed to peel away from her life as she looked into absolute nothingness.
Then at long last: almost imperceptibly, they were lifting. Gradually the
Warrior was tearing itself away from the void.
“Time we were out of here,” said Alexi to no one in particular as he
coaxed the Warrior's nose reluctantly away from the blackness.
so very slowly the emission stream began to ease across their forward view.
Even slower it moved down past them. Then almost as if by magic they had
it beneath, and the welcome speckled blackness of space emerged above. Their
relative speed was building and they began to move over the emission stream.
Glancing urgently up she could see nothing in the rear view screen, but
she knew there behind was the singularity; hidden; still drawing, still
waiting for them; still ready and unwilling to give up its meal without
they were running under every gram of power the Warrior could produce. Skimming
along the emission fountains edge until at last it sped under them as they
picked up its ejection energy; and were spat out of the holes gravity sump
like a baby's pacifier from the mouth of oblivion. Now everything seemed
to happen in an instant, as they rocketed forward at an unbelievable speed.
The shrinking hole dwindling to a total nothingness behind, as around them
the stars changed, red to blue, blue to red.
there was the alarm again, but this time not as shrill, not as long, and
accompanied by the faint flickering between the red glow and bright normal
“Cut internal gravity, re-establish normal
working modes,” said
Alexi, as he released his own harness and stood. “Professor?”
“We are… and traveling back in time?” He nodded. “I can't be precise
but I'd guess you were born in the region of thirty instants ago.”
her eyebrows lowered in part confusion.
estimate we are traveling back in the region of six seasons per instant…
“Something like that; at this velocity its
hard to pin any actual figure down, but don’t hold me to it, in around
eight sleeps from now; as my children would say, and we'll be seeing the
truths or myths about...”
Whatever Alexi was about to say was interrupted by Philip, the navigation
officer. He was a little older than Alexi; in fact he was the oldest crewman
on the Warrior.
looked away from Rhea. It puzzled him why Philip had called to him so abruptly.
He was supremely conscientious. In fact too much so, and Alexi had, had
to take him aside to try and get him to ‘lighten up’ on more
than one occasion. It was to no avail, Philip seemed to be out to prove
himself; rumour had it that he felt he was too old for combat, and was constantly
on the lookout to show he was up to it.
have a reading that does not compute commander.”
can’t explain its reason.”
we came out of tunneling, the hole was resealing itself. Then it seemed
“It did fluctuate.” He said more sharply.
you be more specific?”
was half closed. It opened, and then closed again.”
Alexi looked at him puzzled. “Your
Philip looked offended. “I can run
more analyses, but I thought you should know?”
Could such a thing be expected?”
no; without power anything would be drawn back into the hole… But
without data from a number of tunnels we can’t know for certain what
is normal or what’s not.”
explanations spring to mind?”
one that I can think of right now. That we drew something out of the accretion
disc and took it with us.”
There was doubt in Alexi’s voice.
“Is that possible?”
not, but everything is new from now on.”
direct consequences to the ship?”
don’t see any, but I’ll get the analytical systems to run all
“Alright. Keep me informed.” Alexi moved away after Rhea, but his mind
was on Philip. It was strange for the man to bring what appeared such a
minor thing to his attention, still tunneling was new, and Philip was just
following day was spent in relaxed anticipation, and while there was a colossal
amount of data to record, and observations to be made; and had been made
since before the moment they committed to the tunneling, most was done automatically.
In reality Tachyon space was little different in real terms to normal space,
but then it was the same space, just another version of it. After the first
burst of eagerness in rechecking checked equipment, both scientists and
crew settled down to the semi tedium of deep space flights. But several
days later the morning was different.
smelt the fresh scent of Caalaan, his mind swam with pleasure as he ran
through the undergrowth, chased by his laughing children; he deliberately
stumbled to the ground as they caught up with him, and piled on top of his
weakly protesting body. A smile covered his face as his eyes opened. Out
of the corner of his eye he looked at the stark command quarters, and before
him the back of a still sleeping Kale. He sighed deeply, making a mental
note to reprogram his rouser; it depressed him now, rather than putting
him in a good mood for the day.
He came onto the bridge still fastening his
uniform. Claries and Philip were talking. “Good morning commander.
Sorry to break into your slumber,” she said as he came through
“Is it; are you?”
He mumbled, forcing a smile.
I think so. A while ago we picked up an anomaly on the photon receptor?”
Alexi crossed the room to their side and
stared at the display. Quickly he looked back up at their expectant: almost
grinning, faces. Again he checked to receptor. Now they really were grinning
as he looked up again. “I see,” he said, feeling a smile
breaking onto his own face. “How long?”
you informed Professor Thain?”
commander we thought you would want to inform her. Stone has gone to wake
had to banish the grim as a few moments later the door opened and Rhea walked
in. She looked disheveled and still half-asleep. Alexi didn't know how much
rest she had, had, but it obviously wasn’t enough.
“I'm sorry we had to wake you professor,” he said in a serious way. “But
we have something that I would like your opinion on?”
pointed to the display. It showed a bright point of light against a velvet
background of sharp but smaller specks.
looked at the dot for long enough that Alexi was unable to hold the stern
face and he began to smile.
Slowly she turned. “Earth …
“No professor, something far more interesting.” He waited a moment as if to tease her.
“In a short time we will be the first people in our un-recorded, history,
to look upon… The Arc's.”
it was because she had just woken, but for some reason Alexi didn’t
feel comfortable in his now beaming smile. It wasn’t totally the reaction
that he had expected
news spread quickly, and soon every person on the Warrior was wide-awake,
irrespective of his or her time of withdrawing. Excitement buzzed from one
end of the ship to the other. Alexi called an immediate meeting of the crew
you realize this is an historic moment for humankind. In one stroke myths
have been proved, and evidence shown. We as an individual race can now trace
our lineage back across the galaxy.”
it was Abbot again. “What about the diverging?”
it occurred? Are we still one people, or have the Carroll Corporation, or
what will become them split away?”
is impossible to know, at least for now.”
how many arcs are there?”
this distance our detector does not have the resolution. It could be arcs
are close together. We don’t know for sure, but we estimate some fifty
individual reflective sources “
legends say there was sixty seven.”
sixty seven it could be. We will know if there are more as we get closer.”
“So we are one people.” Abbot said in satisfaction.
“If the legends as we know them are true then
yes, it does look like we have arrived before the diverging occurred.” Several voices echoed the same question,
but Alexi answered Abbot.
“Commander, we will be
able to see the fleet closer up?”
It was something he had already been considering.
“It will require a change in our direction, I have not been authorized
to make any changes to the orders.”
was an audible gasp of communal disappointment.
This is a moment unparalleled in our history; it would be a greater breach
of duty to ignore the opportunity than obey.”
mood of disappointment evaporated into clapping, laughing and cheers.
“How close will we be?” someone called out.
“That is the second part of why I have called
you all together.”
Alexi looked around the cabin, wondering how they would take his decision.
“The sealed orders from Terran state that primarily the Warrior
is to provide all assistance and help in conducting the scientific interests
of the expedition to Earth, and secondly to provide whatever security is
needed to make that happen. There is no mention of the arcs so I have made
a decision that fulfills both those requirements, and covers this unforeseen
event. I intend to slow as we pass the arcs and undertake a full scan for
us to present to the directorate.”
For a moment there was a stunned silence,
then a rousing murmur of agreement, but not from all. Chief of the dissenters,
and first to speak was Ferguson. “Commander isn’t that unwise?”
what way Mr. Ferguson?”
“We will get too close and be discovered,”
the scientist snorted.
Alexi shook his head. “I assure
everyone here that the Warrior’s cloaking technology is second to
may be confident in that thought, but you don’t know what level of
sophistication the equipment on board those arcs is at. Can you really be
so certain that we will not be seen?”
grant you that I don’t know what they are capable of, and we will
continue to determine that as we get closer.”
what if their equipment is not switched on. They have no fear out here,
why would they be on alert?”
are other ways we can estimate just where their technology is in relation
to our own, but I believe they will have everything working. This is unknown
space to them, dark matter, asteroids; any manner of thing could be in their
path. But if I suspect there is even the faintest possibility that they
may detect us, I guarantee you we will make a very wide detour to avoid
Ferguson stared at him. “I’m
not sure your guarantee is good enough, if your reputation is as I have
Alexi stiffened at the insinuation. “My
making your own rules. As you are at this moment “
you have heard wrong. I follow the instructions I am issued; otherwise I
would have lost command of the Warrior long ago.”
Ferguson looked around the room. “It
seems you have the support of the majority. So you will do as you intend,
but I speak to everyone here when I say that one mistake; one error in judgment
that reveals us to the people on board those arcs may change our past, present,
and our future beyond anything that we can comprehend.”
cabin fell silent as the enormity of what the man said sunk in.
“Mr. Ferguson no doubt some here will agree.” Alexi quickly countered him. “…And
others may not, but none can argue that we shoulder a great responsibility
to remain in the future of the people aboard those arcs. I assure you and
every person on this craft, that I will not give them any reason to suspect
went into cloaking mode, and for some time began slowing, weaving and performing
other unusual and provocative maneuvers before the arc’s. There was
no response, electronic or visual. Nothing gave them any cause to think
that they were seen or sensed. Confident of their invisibility Alexi positioned
the Warrior directly in the fleet's path. Though in front was more of somewhere
between, for the procession was spread out wide and long over an area of
some hundreds of klick’s.
soon became clear that although they were loosely in two rows, there seemed
to be no pattern as to position; some grouped close, others way apart, both
in width between and distance back. The Warrior just hung in what could
be considered empty space, between them. The spaceship was dead and almost
powerless, everything but life support and observational equipment was shut
down in the scant possibility that some sensor on an arc may detect something.
deep space light is at a premium, especially so inside the spacecraft where
all lights had been extinguished, even the red battle lights: yet a face
looked out of every window, watching as the leading arcs approached.
the Warrior it was total darkness, but the polychromatic viewing panels
enhanced what was available outside, so in effect each arc illuminated itself.
Now they could do nothing but wait, as the point of light broke apart into
many, and these resolved slowly into recognizable shapes.
a way it was disappointing. The arcs were quite unremarkable, excepting
for their immense size, some five klick’s in diameter, thirty or more
in length. Bracing and machinery, hung untidily on the outside of the cylinders.
Along some they saw wide clear sections, running almost the entire length,
and occupying maybe ten percent of the surface. These gave a glimpse of
what was inside. And what was inside astounded them.
the first that passed it was obvious that each contained an entire city.
Streets, buildings, open grassed and forested areas, even large bodies of
water were laid out. As the first slipped by, then another and another,
it became obvious that this was not the rushed and panic driven evacuation
of a desperate race that the myths suggested. Without speaking everyone
knew this could never have been organized as an emergency escape from a
dying planet. It was clear these were not space ships; these were space
colonies, and building craft on this scale would have taken a considerable
length of time. The vista continued to roll by with no change to the outsides,
while each successive internal view provided a different scene.
had expected this. Cramped and converted freighters definitely. Maybe a
towed orbital space station or few, but not such a deliberate and structured
exodus. Even the space between them was abuzz with a constant and regular
traffic of ferries and transports.
the fleet drew away, there seemed so many more questions than there had
ever been before; it left the mood on the Warrior somber. Of course it wasn’t,
they had experienced something more moving than any of them had dared to
hope for in several lifetimes. The myths had confirmed their origin as a
race, yet in the same instant the myths had been found false. Each coped
with the experience in a different way; some needed to talk, and others
solitude. Alexi was one of the latter. He was sat in the command chair staring
out of the solar shield contemplating how he would react at their next momentous
meeting, with Earth. His thoughts were broken as Philip came to his side.
He said almost startled.
“The processor came up with something I thought
you should see.” He waited as Alexi got up and followed him to the
navigation workstation, then brushed a symbol on the display. Several rows
of text and a graph appeared in front of them. Alexi leaned forward, his
attention glued. He looked at Philip. “Are you sure?”
he said more in disbelief than doubt.
The words had been uttered in surprise but
the man seemed slightly hurt. “I’m certain. I've re-checked,
and run through the back up data.”
looked at the screen again.
“There can be more?” Alexi said with more than a tinge of apprehension
in his voice.
“The anomaly I reported to you after the tunneling.
I couldn't get it out of my mind when I saw this, so I put it onto priority
analysis.” He reached
in front of Alexi and brushed another symbol.
read the data displayed; his face bore a look of total alarm as he slowly
lifted his eyes to meet Philips.
and Ferguson were the last to arrive, and they had to push through those
standing by the doorway. The man was not pleased and soon made it known
to all in the canteen.
I object to being ordered around as if I am one of your crew. None of us
are members of the armed services, and I for one have very important work
of my own without wasting time on these continuous …Community meetings.”
Alexi calmly let him finish before speaking,
not to him personally, but to the room and beyond. “Thank you all
for coming. I know you have important work of your own,” he paused.
“Since we last spoke I too have had work to do, the results of
which, have increased in significance to a point where it has greater importance
were mutterings of rebuttal, which he ignored.
this moment on you will be required to submit a brief synopsis of your work
to me… for approval to continue. If I do not give that approval you
will put whatever you are doing on hold.”
“You can't be serious.” Rhea had been the first to speak out, but
was almost immediately drowned out by the rest of her group as each added
their protest. “Commander,” she demanded over the rest.
“You can't do this. You were ordered to take this expedition to
Earth, and by definition that places the scientific team’s interests
above your own.”
if I may remind you, my crew and I volunteer...”
“You're splitting hairs commander.” Interjected Ferguson.
Alexi raised his firm voice, and spoke over
them. “...And at that time I was led to believe that our role in
this expedition was no more than that of transport facilitation.”
He looked at Rhea. “It would certainly have made our job easier,
and the security of this venture more secure, if I had been fully informed
as to what to expect.”
“What are you talking about?” demanded Rhea angrily.
referring to the fact that the Carroll Corporation has more than a passing
interest in Earth.”
“It has long been believed that we have a
common ancestor commander. I would have thought that was quite obvious without
it being mentioned.”
She shot back at him.
realize that, but I wasn’t informed that they knew of our plans.”
“They don’t?” her voice sounded less confident, as she
tried to guess what Alexi meant.
“Then apparently things have changed professor,” he said curtly. “A short while
ago my attention was drawn to the results of some sampling done as the fleet
bypassed us. One result showed traces of benxzium thirteen.” He
saw recognition in some, in others confusion. “For the benefit
of those of you who may not have a chemical background, benxzium is a synthetic
product used specifically as a propellant additive. Neither it nor
its other forms are naturally occurring. It is an extremely complex mix
of artificial compounds, and is unlikely to have come from the arcs.”
It was Ferguson again.
am well aware of the product and….”
Alexi looked back at the assembly and continued
speaking over the scientist. “This substance raises a direct effect
Ferguson now interrupted him. “If
you are about to claim some malfunction that will change the …Instructions
you have commander, then I insist we all have access to that data.”
you are welcome to check the data Mr. Ferguson, but the emission is not
from the Warrior.”
Ferguson looked about him. “Then
I am sure we are all relieved the craft is functioning as normal, but that
leaves your previous assumption at fault. You are making the presumption
that the occupants of the arcs are technologically inferior.”
He looked smug. “May I point out that from your own observations that
could be a gross miscalculation.”
be quite honest I don’t know if they are inferior, or far in advance
of what we ourselves know. In fact judging by what we have seen I intend
to give them the benefit of that doubt.”
why are we here; why are you making such a fuss about one single chemical
trace that they themselves could possibly have emitted?”
it is exactly that: one single chemical trace. We sampled through the entire
encounter, and only once did Bz13 show up in any strength. That trace was
traveling between arcs.”
as one would expect.”
I just said Mr. Ferguson, that there was the one and only trace.”
am reassured to know that you understand the purpose of each arc commander,
because to me they are all a mystery.”
said another scientist, Abbot.
Alexi hadn’t expected the question
and didn’t know the answer. “Exactly where it started and
where it finished is at this moment not relevant.”
Ferguson smiled. “Which in my experience
generally means that you don’t know.”
Alexi knew he was only digging a deeper hole
to explain his way out of. “Actually Mr. Ferguson, you are correct,
I don’t have that information.”
you arbitrarily order us about on some vague assumption; that by your own
admission you cannot be sure of details, …and expect us to just accept
and that is not my intention. This is a serious development that likely
will affect us all; consequently I have called us together as I may need
to divert some of the scientific team to the investigation.”
you are unable to identify this ‘trace’ then surely first of
all you should establish the where’s and why’s before you demand
we halt our own work?”
Ferguson you are quite right. I should find out, and I intend to, but the
following arc's had stirred the trail up, and weakened it. Nonetheless there
were traces around arc are seventeen to twenty-three.”
“Seventeen to twenty-three. That’s seven
arcs; eleven if you allow an error factor, and at that you’re not
certain?” Added Rhea.
said almost certain.”
She spoke again. “I for one still
don’t know what you're suggesting. Even if you have a trace and knew
where it was from, just what has that got to do with us?”
“Benxzium thirteen, as its name implies is
the result of numerous redefining of the original chemical compound. I won't
go into details.” He
stared at Ferguson. “Please ask your associate; but suffice at
this time to say that thirteen can only be produced from twelve and that
from eleven, and so on down. Now most of the other forms are extremely useful
in their own right, so the old hasn’t been discarded for the new in
every advance. Instead each refining allows an additional use. So it would
be more than expected; in fact it would be highly unlikely to find the end
product of a line of useful additives on its own, without at least indications
of another of the twelve.”
And this is?”
professor. One trace, of the most complex variety.”
how do you suppose it got there?”
he sighed. “If we disregard the arcs, then as far as I am aware.”
He glanced at Rhea to see her reaction. “Other than another Alliance
craft. The Corporation is the only user of benxzium thirteen in their propulsion
systems that I know of.”
Rhea was dumfounded. “Are you telling
me… Us, that there is a Corporation warship, here in amongst the
is exactly what I'm saying.”
“That’s impossible,” she snapped.
course it is… You have to have made a mistake.”
are you prepared to vouch for every one of your team. Everyone on Terran.
Every person aboard the Ikaban III. Do you truly believe that not a single
person, who has knowledge of this flight, could have sympathy that lies
outside of the Alliance?”
I'm not saying that. It’s… it’s just impossible that
they could have found out...”
Ferguson interrupted her. “It also
could also be one of your own people commander.”
Of that there is no doubt. I did not think I would actually be thankful
for it, but apparently my crew was not deemed secure enough to be informed
until just before we made the tunneling.”
they could have then?”
I don’t believe that’s possible. We were in communication lock
down, and we went straight from Pengis to the Hole. Even if someone could
have, it’s impossible that the Corporation; no matter how efficient
they may be, would have had time to put a cloaked destroyer at the tunneling
Rhea spoke in shocked surprise. “There
was a Corporation destroyer waiting for us?”
“I don’t know what type of ship it is.” He conceded. “But it’s my
belief that a craft of some sort was waiting, and as civilian craft are
not designed to tunnel; then most likely it is something equivalent to the
“This is taking too much to believe.” Said Ferguson. “Your telling us
that as we went through, a cloaked Corporation space ship was waiting and
followed us into Tachyon time?”
precisely what I’m saying, though followed is not what they did. Under
power the craft would have revealed itself, so it’s likely that we
picked it up before the black hole, and took it through.” He looked
at their unbelieving faces. “We had massive gravitational forces acting
all over the Warrior, a single lock from a tractor beam, would not have
can you be sure this… this destroyer came through with us at that
point, and not at a later time?”
would probably have never known, other than our navigation officer tried
to get all the passive observations he could on the tunnel, and by astute
observation saw what we must now assume was a warship behind us. Once through
we made no secret of where we were going. The commander could easily compute
our course, then skirt around us and already be traveling towards us with
the fleet as we sat waiting.”
“Skirt around,” snapped
Ferguson. “Flying rings around would be more apt and still it wasn’t
Mr. Ferguson I have been lax, but I will not be again. The Warrior is in
full scan mode from now on.”
Rhea spoke again. “Hypothetically,”
she said to get his attention. “If someone had leaked information
then the Carroll warship would have thought we were going to Earth, not
looking for the fleet?”
we didn’t come looking for the fleet; in fact up until a short time
ago, I personally was not convinced there was one, and as the arcs could
have come through any winding route it didn’t seem worthwhile to even
look for them. All I can assume is that the Corporations commander also
saw this as a stroke of luck too good to pass by.”
“Maybe it was just a drone commander.” Ventured Abbot nervously.
if anything, under tractor the maneuver past the event horizon is even more
complex. It requires intuitive decisions, and I don’t like to think
the Carroll robotic craft are that smart.”
Rhea spoke more confidently. “Commander
you’re words; they don’t reflect your actions. It seems to me
that you’re making a case for a deliberate and organized attempt to
reach the fleet before us, not a stroke of luck on their part?”
“I am not a great believer in luck professor.
Neither do I think it was just to reach the arcs: in fact I consider it
a calculated plan to establish contact with the arcs before us.” His words brought an immediate reaction,
even members of his own crew felt unable to contain themselves.
“They can't do that. That will alter time
Abbot above the others, though his words echoed everyone’s feelings.
“On the face of it, that’s right.” Said Alexi. “But we don’t
know if time hadn't already taken such a meeting into account?”
was Rhea who at last brought them back to what faced them.
Assuming you are right; and I’m not agreeing you are, but if there
is a Corporation presence between, or even on board one of the arcs. We
still must wait until we receive orders from Terran before we make any decisions.”
haven't informed Terran.”
“You must.” She
said urgently. “This is something they have to know about.”
can't inform them. We’re in Tachyon space. Communication with our
own time is impossible. We don’t exist to them or them to us.”
“Then we must return to our own time,” added Abbot.
I intend to do, but firstly we must establish that a Corporation vessel
does exist. I’m confident one does, but to abort and return from this
mission with assumptions and not proof will not be well received. Secondly
we must discover the Corporations purpose here, whether to gain support,
inflict sabotage, or other options that we cannot pre guess. Once we have
confirmed beyond doubt, that we have had a breach of security, what damage
has been done, and what if anything can be done to correct it, we will return
meeting broke up, but only into smaller groups, and talk went on. There
was no other subject to talk about.
caught back up with the fleet in the middle of the rest period, though that
didn't matter, no one slept; no one felt tired.
problem of where they were to find the enemy craft; if there really was
one, seemed an impossible task, but they had one advantage. Before they
had been dead in space, so it was unlikely that their own emissions would
have been detected. At least they were the hunters.
they gave the others a cursory inspection the real search started at arc
twenty-five. It was a daunting task. Something as big as a needle in the
proverbial haystack would have seemed too easy, but one by one they eliminated
the arcs. Minutely examining the space around each for any traces of the
benxzium, or any disturbances in the fabric of the space-time, that could
betray a cloaking devise. There were none, nor should there have been, at
least with the cloaking. It was an art form that they themselves excelled
in. The whole idea was not to be seen, but they had the slim advantage,
that their quarry didn't know it was being hunted. All they needed was just
that one slip. At arc seventeen it happened. They ran across a clear fresh
trail of benxzium; trouble was that it ran back the way they had come.
“Don’t let him get away Nav…” Urged Alexi.
good clear trail. Appears to lead up round the back of the arc.”
“They've made a sudden correction to the course.” Called Philip
have changed their minds, or have detected our own emissions?”
far are we away?”
and thirty-forty klick’s, judging by the dispersal pattern.”
“Close on them. I want the Warrior right up
glanced around the control cabin. Other than command crew, only Rhea was
there. He looked at her, then at Kat. “One clear shot.”
the curt reply, as the girl readied her weapons systems.
A look of horror spread over Rheas face.
She came quickly to his side. “What are you doing?”
“You realize where we are?” she said pointlessly.
you a better suggestion? If you have I'm ready to hear it.”
haven't, but here? You may as well de-cloak, and have a good old-fashioned
am very aware it will ring alarm bells all over the fleet, but when nothing
else happens, they will settle back down.”
“Got you…” Snapped
Kat. Her displays suddenly came alight with activity as the plasma cannons
loaded. Thin columns of colored lights raced from zero to charged, holding
with a dulling pulse.
the track to it.”
don’t need to commander. I've got him right in my sights.”
were facing directly at the end of arc seventeen.
said Rhea anxiously.
can’t. How can you hit something you can't see?”
can't, but weapons can.”
“There's an arc right behind them.” She protested.
“I know that professor.” He said, annoyed that there was.
“You can't fire now. What if you're wrong?
What if you miss, you could hit the arc?”
He saw Kat’s back stiffen slightly
at the less than veiled accusation. “We won't miss.”
He said confidently.
right alongside the arc. The explosion may damage it. You could destroy
the arc. It will be bound to cause panic onboard.”
Alexi sighed and pursed his lips. “Hold
your fire,” he said reluctantly.
girl turned to him.
until you have it in the open.”
stopped at that moment as they waited, and waited.
“Do you think he knows we’re here?” said Alexi to Kat.
doesn't seem to be any strange behavior. He's close, but not actually docked
at a port.”
what’s his power status?”
It looks as if he is about to transfer or pick up.”
“I'm not sure I want to hear that.”
“Maybe… Maybe we should declare ourselves.” Rhea said uncertainly.
Her words struck Alexi like a fist. “What
we de-cloak and shout, hi after all we have discussed?”
she snapped back. “Ask the warship what their intentions are.”
felt bewildered. “A few instants ago you were afraid we would declare
our presence. Now you want us to announce ourselves and tell them we know
they are there. If we do that they are just as likely to turn their weapons
are humans like us commander, this seems an admirable time to remember that
it could be beneficial to us both.”
“Does the D.S…”He stopped as her eyes glared at him.
“Does the… directorate know of your humanitarian feelings professor,
after all we are at war.”
Her voice was controlled but firm. “Not
here commander. Here we are one peo… “
“I can't understand what he's up to,” interrupted Claries diplomatically. “It
seems strange that he would be here this long. He must know that there will
be some traffic control on the arc. They could pick up the engine vibration
pattern, or their proximity sensors may have activated. After this long
they must be aware that someone's ther...”
Kat called out triumphantly.
Warrior rotated slightly, apparently keeping the invisible target in the
middle of the solar shield. Slowly the background became the starbed
said Kat as a thin sparkling beam of electric blue light streaked into space.
“Damn,” she said almost immediately. “They have
gone to light.”
an instant the fleet shrank behind them.
Moments later the young girl called out again.
“Got him,” she said determinedly, hitting the fire icon
as she spoke. A second strip of blue light raced forward, ending in a brilliant
eruption. For several instants the flames fed off the oxygen and fuel from
the doomed spacecraft, then almost as quickly as it had started, the inferno
extinguished. “Target destroyed.”
Rhea looked at the fading fireball. “It
seems you were right commander. I suppose that pleases you?”
gives me no satisfaction.”
“It doesn’t? Your military, killing
the enemy, isn’t that all that matters.” She
turned to the doorway.
my primary duty to protect the Alliance. Destroying its enemies is my last
“Even though they are people like yourself.” She walked through the doorway.
was angry at the accusation; he followed her into the corridor. “I
don’t have the luxury to consider them that way...”
if you did, would it make the decision harder to take personal responsibility?”
you want to think of it that way.”
that the citizens of the Carroll Corporation are our brothers and sisters
is out there commander.”
yes. Ideologically no. I believe in freedom professor. I don’t consider
my fellow as only tools or income.”
is a relative point of view. Some would consider having work, having food
or having access to education as freedom.”
sure they would, but the opportunity to provide on one's own behalf, is
as equally valuable.”
too, if necessary. Freedom to me is choice.”
may agree with you, but a starving man may not.”
this is a pointless discussion. There are merits to being a Corporation
employee. I can see that, but I will never accept decisions being made for
“I’ll remember to tell Ellis that,” she smiled sweetly. “Although he
already knows doesn't he,” she went to walk away.
“As long as it’s only Ellis you tell.” The words were spoken in irritation and
Rhea stopped, and spun to face him. “Excuse
me?” she said angrily.
Alexi had no choice but to say what he felt.
“You have not told me the truth since you came aboard the Warrior.”
don’t have to tell you anything that’s not your concern.”
is of my concern here; and especially now.”
obviously would. Your agenda is different to mine.”
what do you mean by that?”
knew there was a leak.”
are at war commander. Espionage and misplaced sympathies are always possible
as you yourself pointed out.”
He stared at her unmoved, his suspicions
confirmed, and his voice became assured. “But you knew there was
a leak.” He said confidently.
she said defiantly, “Director Ellis did say there was a possibility.”
neither of you saw fit to tell me.”
“It was only a possibility, and there are
hundreds of possibilities. I doubt it was ever imagined they would mount
an attempt to reach the arcs.” She
wondered if she was right.
any longer, so I think it’s time you told me the truth.”
what are we up against?”
I will tell you...”
But nothing more was said as Ferguson burst
into the corridor. “Am I hearing correctly? Have you just discharged
“Yes. I have.”
Alexi said in resignation.
“Are you totally crazy?” The scientist shouted.
Rhea turned and walked away. Alexi watched
her go before turning to the man. “I had little option.”
“You promised to return to Terran first,” he said accusingly. “You’re…
military... minds. You... just can't see anything else can you. No other
solution than... than, just blow it out of existence. You realize that this
has alerted the fleet. It has destroyed everything we came to do. The maker
only knows what the consequences will have on time itself?”
Alexi had no argument to offer. What was
said could well be right. But he had done what was necessary, and he was
prepared to take the consequences, including listening to the civilian berate
him. He stood silently as Kale came up to him slipping a writing tablet
into his hand. Alexi lifted it and read while Ferguson continued to rant.
“There is something you should be aware of.” Alexi interrupted
him when he paused for breath.
“Aware of, I think everybody is already aware
that this mission is a disaster,”
have in my hand a report on the debris field.”
everything we would expect after a direct hit on a Company warship... with
the exception of two things. Firstly. Human remains.”
said Ferguson in surprise.
“The ship was empty. It was sent to draw us
off. Somewhere back there amongst the arcs is the other missing item.” He paused to try emphasize the gravity of
what he was about to say. “Their escape pod. The question is, are
they still hiding on it, or have they already boarded one of the arcs.”
had no reply.
stood in front of the solar shield. Whether he had done it deliberately,
no one watching him could know, but the effect was that a major part of
arc seventeen filled the view behind him. His words were still ringing through
their ears. As had been the pattern in their previous meetings it was Ferguson
who challenged him first.
“You don’t have the authority to declare
martial law.” The scientist
the articles of war, a commander on front line duty has the power to declare
such a status, if and when he sees fit.”
“Well then commander.” Ferguson’s words were said sarcastically.
“...There you have me, because I don’t know the articles
of war to refute and throw it back in your face. But I would with no doubt
say that they referred to a hostile battle situation.”
“Or its equivalent.” Said Alexi.
consider the elimination of a single rogue warship, a war?”
its context, and in what I believe their intent; I have no other option
but to consider the situation we find ourselves in to be exactly the same.”
hardly think so.”
I shall explain it in simple terms Mr. Ferguson. We are in as isolated position
as I can imagine. We are alone and facing a known and dangerous enemy with
no intelligence as to what to expect from them, or for that matter from
the supposedly peaceful arcs around us. Declaring martial law is almost
a requirement in such a situation.”
“You have found and eliminated one single
enemy spacecraft. I see no further danger unless you intend to claim there
are others.” He stared
around the room seeing the faces, as he challenged Alexi. “Would
you like to tell us now that there are others?”
are none that I am aware of.”
“Then to me...”
Ferguson looked self-satisfied. “...And I am sure to others here;
your words ring more of paranoia than reason.”
do not require your support for my decisions Mr. Ferguson, only your obedience.”
But the scientist was not finished. “Then
excuse me if I am a little naive commander, but can you explain at least
to me what do you expect to gain by this ridiculous action.”
as such. My own crew are quite ready for any occurrence. My worry is your
party Mr. Ferguson.”
“Oh I see,”
he sneered cryptically. “You’re expecting all five of us
to start an armed rebellion.” He gestured to Claries, stood where
she was by the doorway. Her open hand held loosely at her waist over the
recently issued pistol.
Alexi refused to be drawn. “I have
made no secret that members of the crew have been armed. In the declared
situation it is regulatory.”
Which particular one, out there, or in here.”
seems little point in continuing this Mr. Ferguson. I had hoped I would
have your.... everybody’s support and cooperation.”
you have made a big miscalculation, and I intend to make sure everybody
knows of it when: if, we return to Terran.”
intend to do everything I can to make sure you have the opportunity to file
whatever reports you want to on our return to Terran, and to that end I
have made my decision. Everybody on this vessel is now subject to article
nine of the Alliance War Code. It will be easier on us all if you just accept
the fact that section ten of that code makes me the sole, unquestioned authority
on this warship. I am now telling you all; you will obey any direction my
officers or I give.”
“Enjoy your moment commander,” replied Ferguson. “I can assure
you that when we get back to Terran you will be lucky to command local public
Alexi knew the man was not just threatening.
“Long before that will come to pass; we have to find a solution
to our present problems.”
Rhea spoke, “Commander the problem
is not yours. If you would just go back to Terran. It’s the inner
are here and the crisis is unfolding in front of us. It is up to us to do
what we can to halt or limit what the Corporation has in mind.”
Ferguson had not finished. “You
don’t know that the Corporation has anything on its mind?”
mere presence here is a direct threat to the Alliance.”
“But there is nothing you can do,” insisted Rhea. “By your own words
you have no intelligence as to what they intend, and that’s assuming
that they in fact did survive your attack.”
Alexi was being forced deeper and deeper
in the defense of something had never wanted to do in the first place. Already
there was the trace of self-doubt creeping into his mind. He could not afford
too close an examination of what he had decided; he needed to keep some
facts to himself. “This briefing is finished.” He said
suddenly. “You all have work. I suggest you get back to whatever
it is you have to do.... Except you professor.” His voice softened
a touch. “I’d like to see you in my quarters, as soon as
you can find time.”
There was a soft knock on the door. “Enter,”
said Alexi curtly.
stepped into his room. She had a face that reminded him of his girls when
they had not got their own way. It amused him that Rhea would actually sulk.
you for coming professor.”
I had an option?”
wouldn't give you the satisfaction of having me dragged here in restraints.”
would never happen.”
it. During this last few parts a lot of things have happened that I thought
would never have happened.”
can’t argue that.”
“This was supposed to have been a scientific
expedition. Instead, it’s turning into a nightmare.” She said in frustration.
can’t argue that either.”
for the maker’s sake why are you doing this?”
He tried to sound conciliatory. “I have no option.”
“That’s a load of Auraulian passings.”
see were down to basics now.”
be so smug.”
we need to get past this. Our mission scientific or not, depends on us working
together. Instead we are tearing apart.”
Oh I'm sorry; I assumed that it was just you.”
He would not take her provocation. “No.
We are pulling it apart. I... The Warrior and its crew have been used. I
know that now. I was an innocent; I believed what I was told. But this was
never going to be a quick in and out scientific expedition. Not from the
very start, was it?”
Well I’ll throw my tokens into the center first. Besides Philip and
one other, everybody; especially your group thinks I'm being a megalomaniac.”
“That’s a fair enough observation.” She smirked. “Though I would have
said it’s unanimous.”
what everybody else doesn't know is that we can’t return to Terran.”
Rhea looked at him puzzled. “Is
this some new maneuver you’re pulling?”
“Have I your word that what I am about to
say will go no further?”
mean keep it secret from my associates?”
won’t give you that guarantee without knowing what it is?”
believe once you have heard me out you’ll see the reason I ask “
it’s a risk you will have to take.”
I'm prepared to do that. What I'm telling you is that we can’t tunnel
She looked at him suspiciously. “I...
don’t understand what you’re getting at?”
can’t make it much clearer. We are stuck here. For the rest of our
lives we are destined to follow the arcs.”
Her voice was more puzzled than shocked;
suspecting he had some ulterior motive, though she had no idea of what it
may be, or its reason. “Are you serious?”
“What reason have you to say that?” she snorted.
destroying the enemy spacecraft, and a short time ago. A person on this
vessel accessed the communications workstation, and erased the return coordinates.”
ridiculous; why would any of us do that?”
would have thought the answer was obvious: to prevent us going back.”
You can’t be right.”
not something I would joke about.”
the contrary. It was too simple. We had far greater things to occupy us,
besides that we took no precautions to protect the data. It may seem lax
now, but there seemed absolutely no reason to have considered the records
at risk from someone on this craft.”
mean it’s impossible anyone would want to.”
a fact. It’s gone.”
still cannot accept why anyone would want to maroon us all.”
are two options; one that whoever it was wanted to delete something else
and did not intend to erase the co-ordinates. If we were to arrive at Terran
with no indication of what happened at the tunneling, or of shooting the
corporation craft; it would be hard to prove that either happened. As for
two, maybe someone has decided the best way was to make sure we had no opportunity
to even alert Terran that the Corporation beat us here.”
Rhea was shocked. “That would mean
we have a Corporation agent aboard?”
would be a logical conclusion.”
do you seriously think we would be discussing this right now if I had a
absolutely certain that it wasn’t deleted by accident or malfunction?”
it had there would be a residual that we could recover; what has happened
is a deliberate clean wipe.”
agree: unless you wanted everybody to think that the Warrior was destroyed
in the tunnel. The crew are dead. Earth was never found. Everything was
wasted effort. With all the evidence the Alliance would decide it’s
pointless trying again while the Carroll Corporation re-arranges history
to suit its purpose.”
She didn’t challenge him. “You
can’t calculate the data again?”
the initial data there are too many variables surrounding the return through
the tunnel for us to make any assumptions.”
mean we could arrive back at a different time?”
have been theoretical investigations into what is called an electronic wipe
scenario, where the tunnel erases all data. It wasn’t taken too seriously
because the same EWS would have crippled every other system aboard, so finding
your way back would be the least of problems faced. Before the whole thing
was abandoned it was determined that such a return is possible, but that
if the tunneling was early or late it would cause an exponential time difference.
Theoretically we could arrive back one, ten, a hundred, or more turns out
She gave a weak smile. “Maybe I
could live with that.”
when you met yourself, or your great, great grandmother, or great, great,
“I said I could live with it, not wanted it.
And if we did, couldn’t we make another smaller tunn… I mean
get back in increments…” Her
voice trailed off as she realized the impracticability of her suggestion.
For an instant Alexi felt like humiliating
her with the reasons why it wouldn’t work, but he was trying to get
her assistance so he let it go. “If it was that easy, we could
try, but we could also end up in one of the parallel universes you scientific
people keep proposing, and that’s ignoring the option of being torn
to a trillion pieces in the tunnel itself.”
she almost sneered. “But I won’t accept that anything is
don’t want to, but that’s how I view our position now, so I
would appreciate any scientific help you can offer; though as I have explained,
unless something unforeseen happens we are trapped on this side of the tunnel;
about sub space?”
anomaly assistance that could take up to eleven or thirteen turns. I gave
up calculating the exact figures.”
turns. That’s not too bad.”
It’s not too great a portion of our lives; if you don’t mind
being cooped up in a craft this size. But that isn’t the worst problem,
traveling at light speed could return us generations out from when we left.”
“So I get back to wearing a loin cloth,” she smiled weakly slumping down onto Alexi’s
if we get it wrong a note saying 'sorry everybody's gone'. Anyway it’s
all hypothetical, traveling anything over a turn wouldn't matter for our
fuel would have become exhausted before then, and as we’re carrying
almost twice the crew before that time, even with a hundred percent recycling,
nothing would be left for us to eat.”
else knows all this?”
than possibly whoever erased the data.”
can’t believe one of them would do such a thing.”
doesn't matter what you or I believe. That’s our situation. What we
need to do is find out what the Corporation has in mind.”
think the Corporation ship and the data loss are connected.”
for certain, but yes.”
you believe there is a link with the Corporation “
seems the most obvious thing. What really bothers me is that there seems
to be an increasing amount of things I’m finding out that I don’t
that is our situation, then what are our options?”
was hoping you could tell me.”
Tell me what's happening. The bits that I haven't been told about.”
looked towards the ground.
“There is more; isn't there?”
she said softly.
it time we all knew where we stand?”
“All right... I’ll tell you.” She stared right at him. “Yes...You
were right. The D.S.D suspected the arcs would be between Earth and us,
somewhere on the trajectory you were given to follow. If you hadn't have
stumbled onto them, I have overriding orders from Ellis for you to find
Earth wasn’t our destination?”
and yes... of course we’re interested. We wanted to locate and survey
the planet. It still is very important.”
not as important as the arcs?”
“We’ll what were we supposed to achieve?”
“Exactly what you have done. Locate them.
Scan and learn as much as possible... Then my orders depended on how things
turned out once we intercepted them.”
She hesitated. “Once that was done I was to return and report.”
Alexi felt a growing feeling of unease. “And?”
Warrior was to come back here and guide in the fleet.”
“The fleet?” He
said in apprehension.
“There is a full battle fleet on its way.” She looked straight at him. “It
left point one of a turn before we did.”
“Hang on...” Alexi
could hardly believe what he was hearing. “Let me get this straight.
After all this talk about altering time. About utterly changing our future.
You’re now telling me we have a full-scale military force on its way
towards us right now?”
don’t believe this.”
believe this. One part before the Alliance fleet put out. We had intelligence
reports that the Corporations number seven invasion group had disappeared
into the void area “
Alexi put his open palms to his forehead.
“Oh this gets better and better.” He stood and looked
at her accusingly.
sorry Alexi. You don’t know what it’s been like for me. Part
of me was desperate to tell you. To share the burden, but I was sworn to
He began pacing the few steps up and back
across his room. “How long do we have?”
fleets don’t know exactly where the arcs are, or how far they are
away any more than we did. All I know is they will be returning through
time at maximum gravity warping.”
Alexi was exasperated. “Rhea I don’t
want to spend every day expecting to see a sky full of Corporation spacecraft
filling the solar shield, you must have discussed time frames.”
Ellis told me was that the Alliance craft will be behind the Corporations
battle fleet, if we could have pinpointed the arcs, and relayed that information
back then maybe they could have made the difference up, or even got in front.
As it is a full Corporation invasion group is likely to arrive with no opposition.”
suppose you don’t know if the Corporations agents had access to the
full data, or if they have had to make calculated guesses?”
would be foolish to assume that they have any less than we had. They could
be guessing? They could be right on the mark? Depending on that one or both
fleets could be here in anything from several decca to a turn, or more.”
“Well I don’t know whether I’ll
be glad to see our own fleet in several decca's or not. And I know for a
fact that those people out there won’t be.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Well
whatever that outcome, none of it changes that our first priority is to
do as we were originally ordered, and part of that is to stay alive. I don’t
even know for sure that we can survive for several decca, definitely not
full turns. We have only one option left. We have to board the arcs and
hide until the Corporation fleet arrives.”
Friend or Foe