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Eric Olafson, Fleet Cadet
0013-mord
Chapter number 13
Previous CHAPTER 12: Nilfeheim
Current Mördaren
Next Chapter 14: Lorman's Starbase

CHAPTER 13: MördarenEdit

I did not feel like celebrating but I sat down with the others at the big table and was asked to tell them about my time at the academy. I gave them a very rough and condensed version and I did not even finish part of it as there was too much to explain and I could tell I had lost them as I told about the formal dinner, so I recalled the events around the duel and that was well received. I also told father that I would not be here for long and that a ship was on its way to pick me up.

Elena was quite disappointed I could tell but she told me that father was about to be engaged again with Siegfrieda! I liked Siegfrieda and I knew he could not beat her to death. Thinking about mother's fate by the hand of my father once again brought up the image of my mother's bleeding body and the countless times he had beaten and tortured me.

My hand cramped around the grip of Mördaren and the thought of splitting my father from head to toe in half was very attractive.

I was almost there when a voice thundered in my head." Eric, I must see you!"

It was Tyr!

All thoughts of killing my father left me and the dark images of my memories were washed away with the joy I felt hearing his mental voice. I got up and told them I needed to retire and rushed before anyone could say much out of the Great Hall.

Something grabbed me, it was not like the instantaneous teleportation I experienced with Narth but I passed through walls and flew with open eyes and faster than any flyer across the ice without feeling the wind or the cold.

In mere moments I crossed almost halfway around the planet and found myself solid and on my feet in the underwater cave, deep below the Pillar burg only a few hard beats later. There in the natural stone basin, floated the largest white Tyranno Fin of Nilfeheim. This enormous predator, this being of such tremendous power was Tyr and he was a mentor but also a great friend.

When I first saw him in this cave I was afraid, this time I simply felt joy to see him awake so I could talk to him before I had to leave again."Tyr!" I jelled both with my voice and in my mind and reached out to touch his enormous snout."I am so glad you are awake!"

"Not for long little fish! I must return to the sleep soon, but I had to see you before you return to the stars."

"I expected you to be asleep otherwise I would have been seeking you first!"

"I know that little fish and your uncompromised dedication and fondness to an old big fish makes me feel quite warm. Now I must talk of urgent matters to you. I have had a very special visitor. That visitor is the reason I am awake. The Narth has been seeking me out and it pleases me beyond my ability to express that you found friendship there. "

"I guess I should have kept silent about you but I shared my Inner something with my best friend and there was nothing I could or wanted to hide from him."

"All is good Eric. I have done the same with the Narth Supreme and I must say I am richer for it, but you must leave your sword with me!"

"Of course! I got it right here!"

There was suddenly a strong sense of resistance. Why would the fish want my sword? What possible use could Tyr have for a simple steel weapon? It was given to me by my grandfather! The thought to raise the weapon against Tyr suddenly occurred to me!

I marveled about my own thoughts, Tyr did not need to explain to me why he wanted anything. He was my friend and that was reason enough to give him whatever he desired!"

I unhooked the belt.

"Eric, this sword is not what it seems and it has disguised itself to look like a Viking broadsword and it is waiting for you for a very long time. It is yours and no force in the Universe can separate you from it for long, but you are not ready yet. You must master it, right now it is trying to master you and that must be avoided at all cost."

I tossed the sword from me." I knew it! I felt it! I know I am a savage more than I like to admit, but what I did in the Halls was not me."

"You are strong. You are able to separate yourself! I am relieved it was not too late!"

"But Tyr, it is only an object, just a sword. How can it have a will and try to make me do things?"

The sword on the ground changed its shape and form right there! It grew longer and turned into a strangely shaped two hander. It was still a sword, but it had an odd almost talon shaped cross guard; not unlike the Great War swords I had seen in the weapon chamber of our burg, it had no false edge, but a long grip. There was a skull like symbol on the blade just above the hilt and a similar shaped skull shaped the pommel. The entire sword was made of a very dark metal.

Tyr said. "This is Dark Blade, a token of power and a piece of a cosmic puzzle if you will."

I still stared at the transformed weapon and there was an urge in me to go and hold it, just once! It knew me, and I knew it!

I stepped back. I trusted Tyr more than this strange temptation and said." I have seen this winged and fanged symbol once before. It was a symbol on the robe of a man worshipping the Dark ones."

"When the puzzle is completed Eric, a battle will be fought. A decision must be made and this decision will affect if the Rule remains intact or will be broken forever."

"All this is beyond me, Tyr! I am only a Neo Viking with a strange desire and the knack to get into trouble and I like to see the future as not yet established and not predestined."

"Eric you are far from a simple Neo Viking. Yes the future is shaped by the decisions we all make, but there are certain forks in the road, mile markers if you will, that must happen. I was destined to meet you Eric, the reason I became sentient was because it was destined you will be born on this world. You wanting to leave Nilfeheim and roam the stars are not entirely your own ideas but this desire comes from something within you. For now I have the power to make you forget and forget you must, so you can make your own decisions and grow and become ready, for it is you who will make that enormous decision I have spoken about."

"Tyr, don't make me forget about you again!"

"It must be so. No one, not even Egill will remember I exist, and you will carry a replica of Mördaren back to the Burg. I guard now two of pieces of the puzzle, and these pieces are too dangerous to fall in the wrong hands and no hands are more wrong and dangerous than yours until you are ready, the Master must not return before that. Do not despair, it is just temporary and we will meet and know each other again."

I woke early and found myself in Elena's bed chamber. I must have had more to drink than I realized. I never was much of a drinker and never drank to get drunk, but I remembered lifting more tankards than one and there was plenty of Aquavit between the beer and the ale. At least I didn't feel groggy or sick.

I was certain Elena brought me here and I blushed deeply finding myself wearing a silky nightgown of hers. My Uniform and my Viking garments were both laid out on a divan across the room.

My own room was as far as I knew still all the way up in the main tower and dragging me up there would have been a chore, but this was no small burg and we had guest quarters.

Elena knew of my deepest secret of course, but finding myself undressed and wearing a feminine gown was not exactly how I wanted to wake up.

Elena being the daughter of my father's bastard brother, evil Harkun was not my sister by blood but my Cousin; she became my sister as Father officially adopted her.

A message had been sent do me on my PDD while I was asleep, it blinked red and I could see the fleet logo. I took the PDD of the nightstand. It was a recorded message by Captain K'Tngnk, a Klack insectoids. He informed me that he would be here tomorrow at 0400 hours and expected me to be ready.

Someone knocked at the chamber door and hastily pulled the cover up to my chin and said."Who is it?"

The door flung open as an answer and it was Elena. She had an impish smile on her face and it made her eyes sparkle with mischief." By Odin you became quite the Norse while you were away. What do they teach you besides flying star ships? Is there a class for drinking?"

"No not really, but I guess I did drink a tad too much. I can't even remember how I got here and how I got in this night gown. Even though I have a strong suspicion."

"You're my brother, you saved my life. Changed my life and avenged my mother. Never mind the technicalities how I came to be your sister. We share our secrets and that is why I thought you might enjoy that gown. You still have those feelings, right?"

I could not help but blush again." Well I did not have any opportunity to indulge myself, but yes I still do. Waking up like that reminded me that I was far from cured."

She sat on the bed and folded her hands." I am glad it is so. Even when you are away I always know I have someone I can talk to about everything. Isegrim lets me make much of the business decisions and while he doesn't really push it or say much. I think he wants me to get married. I do have my eyes on Rodney the firstborn of the Stavanger clan and I know he likes me but I am not really in a hurry."

"I saw his brother on the space port. He is an officer with the Port Authority. I think I remember him too, but I would lie if I say I knew anything about him."

"He looks very much like his brother. He is the older brother, but not by much and I told him I make my decision after you had a chance to see and talk to him."

"Elena, that decision should be yours alone. If you feel he is the one then my opinion should not matter."

"I know and more so I know you think that way, besides I already made up my mind, but you are not only my brother but you and Siegfrieda are my best friends and I told him much about you."

"I sure hope you left out the part how we met."

She giggled."Of course!" She then got up and made a gesture around the room." I hope you don't mind that I have put you up here. It would be inappropriate for the heir to sleep in the guest chambers and I have the tower renovated. Besides that cold and drafty room up there is not exactly hospitable. "

"Well I do like my room up there. If it could be heated a little it will be perfect. Not that I have plans to move in anytime soon"

"I will have it done, just in case you do change your mind. You might have noticed the scaffolding. We are putting a GalCom relay module up there. SII Com pays us a handsome monthly rent fee with a hundred years contract. Ever since you left the demand on Gal Com units has increased around Nilfeheim and now they are going to settle Ygral the fourth planet."

"It seems things do change around here, perhaps not as openly and readily noticeable."

"Not very much and I think that is good that way. I don't want Nilfeheim to change to fast and too much."

I agreed with her and said." I need to leave tomorrow morning, but I am back if not this year then by next year during my leave then."

Her face fell." I hoped we could go to the Space Port mall for old times' sake."

"I don't think I still make a very convincing girl. My voice has changed and so has my body."

"I noticed, but I still think you would look good, you aren't more muscular or tall as Siegfrieda and she turns every man's head."

"She is really going to marry Isegrim?"

"Yes. I think she will be able to tame him and in a more natural way than your evil stepmother did. She has wrapped him around her finger by natural means and he is still Isegrim."

"I know her fighting skills. She was one of my teachers after all."

She pulled the cover back with a giggle and said."Time to get up, Midril wants to see you and has breakfast ready in the kitchen!"

"Elena!" I protested." I am your brother not your husband."

She went to the door." Tonight we go out! I have kept your stepmother's auto dresser you know."

"I wanted to go to Hasvik and put a torch up for Astrid."

"Yes let us go there after breakfast and after you met Rodney."

Interlude: An Enemy returnsEdit

The communications officer of the Devastator reported to Stahl. "Sir we have no contact to Fornax Hub. The last message we received was a distress call and now it is silent on all channels."

The old Admiral wished the huge ship could go any faster and glanced over to captain Harris, knowing full well that the ship was already pushing its engines close to the red line. He did not want to push them any further. The mighty Devastator would be of no help if she arrived at a crisis with damaged engines. Thankfully the Attikan Commonwealth was not only part of the Union now, but they had sent a full battle group to Fornax and all ships with the fast Attikan engines, but it would take them month to get there.

Attikan and Union engineers already worked on Attikan type engines big enough to fit the Devi but they would not be ready until next year.

The Devi still had the old Celtest Engines as well, but they had not been used in over 1500years, he had used them to fly the Devastator home, when he found that ship, but they had not been used since. As good and far advanced the Celtest technology was, age and wear affected it too.

He sighed and Harris reacted knowing his old friend to well and pushed the direct link to engineering. The Chief Engineer of the ship was one of the handpicked talents and he too already knew what his Captain wanted of him." I ran some pretests. I think we can risk it."

"Alright, Commander Dohan. Fire the old Celtest Engines up and give us what they got."

Stahl walked up to the command balcony and sat in his chair on the left side behind the Captain. He trusted Harris, who commanded the Devi now almost twenty years and was her nineteenth captain since Stahl had brought the ship as he returned from his exile, and he was perhaps the finest Captain she had. Harris was more than that; he was one of the few real friends he had. He was afraid of making too many friends, because as an Immortal he had seen too many of them die.

In times like this he cursed the fact that he was an Admiral. He would much rather sit in the Command chair, heck he would not even mind manning Tactical. He was reduced to a passenger and he carefully avoided ever interfering with the Captain.

The Sirens of General Quarters sounded. The bridge was never brightly illuminated, but now the lights dimmed away and replaced by dim red light of battle stations. The Devi was 34 kilometers from bow to stern and almost as wide and over 9000 meters thick. It was an enormous machine and it carried the very elite of Union fleet talent. It took only three minutes and all stations reported ready. Captain Harris addressed the crew via Inter ship." We are about to activate the Celtest Engines, damage control teams stand by."

The Devastators normal Isah engines pushed the big ship to 99565 times the speed of light while traveling in Quasi Space, making her also the fastest long distance ship of the Union. At this speed the Devi could traverse the entire Milky Way galaxy in little over twelve month. It would still take her 20Years to reach the Andromeda Galaxy on her own. Normal Union Battle ships had a range of 5000 light years. After that they needed to refuel and the engines serviced. The Devi had a range of 15,000 light years. Still far short of the almost 460,000 light years to the Fornax Dwarf, or even to the Large Magellan Cloud where the Attikan Commonwealth was.

Yes there was a chain of stations every 5000 light years between the Milky way Galaxy and the Magellan Cloud, just like the Bridge to Andromeda and there was Space Train Connection to Attika. With the Space Train you could make the trip from Blue Moon Central Station to Attika Terminal in less than three days, but nothing bigger than ten meters across would fit in the space-short-cut made by the black light tunnel of the Space train technology.

There was no such train connection to Fornax. It would still take the Devastator over four years to reach the Fornax Cluster this way. While the Attikan had faster ships, their range was not better. The new ship yard in the Attika System had only begun producing new Uni Design battle ships, only 25 were ready and while a fleet was on its way, it would take too long to be of immediate help. The Devi could make it in less than a week with the Celtest Engines, but if it was a full scale Y'All attack even the Devastator was not enough. On one hand he was glad there was a Union presence in the Fornax Cluster as it looked like the Y'All might come from there and having a few outposts there gave the Union a warning, on the other hand it was too far to mount an effective defense for the colonies there. Maybe all they could do was evacuate as many as would fit in his big ship and make the stand in the Magellan Cloud.

The Devastator accelerated to speeds unimaginable by Union Engineers.

Alyica appeared silently next to him and put her hand on his shoulder, but said nothing.

It was the first time he went into battle with someone he really cared about by his side. He could not decide if he liked it or not.

The Helms man whistled."We just went past 100,000 and we are still gaining speed. At this rate we will reach Fornax in 12 days."

Stahl said nothing but he hoped the millennia old engines would hold and not have them be stranded in the middle of nowhere unable to help.


CHAPTER 13 Continued:Edit

I kept my own promise and went to Hasvik and lit a torch for Astrid, Elena did the same and we didn't talk much on our flight back. I didn't know Astrid as well as she did, but she was a friend and she saved our lives, paying with hers.

I still feel stuffed from breakfast even though it was close to five as we returned to the Burg. Midril had prepared what must have been the most calories laden and without question the biggest breakfast of Nilfeheim history. Rodney turned out to be the very definition of a Neo Viking. Tall, strong handsome and perhaps a little more open to things from the outside than others. He barely took his eyes of Elena and he tried his best to impress me and I was as social and friendly as I could.

As we landed little Exa and Uncle Hogun were there waiting for us. She had grown quite a bit and was no longer as thin, and I knew it would not be long when she was going to turn heads.

She ran over with flying braids and gave me a long hug." Thank you, Eric. Meeting you was the luckiest day in my life. I am even getting used to the cold and Papa Hogun says I am becoming a real Nilfeheim girl!"

"How they are treating you in school?"

"Oh at first it was a little odd, me being from Off World and all that, but I told them I am an Olafson and if they want trouble I get my dad." She grinned widely." No one wants to mess with Papa Hogun, no one! Now I don't think they really remember I am from off world and I got good friends too!"

Hogun's eyes were full of love and pride as he said."She's also quite a good student and hasn't stolen a thing in over six month!"

She giggled."I gave up on that, besides if Papa Hogun isn't getting it for me all I have to do is ask Uncle Isegrim."

Hogun threw his big hands in the air."That is the greatest miracle of all; my evil brother adores that little girl and spoils her rotten, every time she is out here."

We talked a little longer and then Uncle Hogun had to go as he didn't want to leave the Inn just tended by Jan and his helpers. In another hour the Inn would be filled with drinking and eating guests.

Elena gave me a little tour around the Burg to show me what had been done. The Tanneries far below were completely transformed and the revolting process was now done by machines and robots. The stinking vats and the slick gray Duro-crete were gone, replaced by stainless steel tanks, and tiles. Elena explained that the fine leather produced on Nilfeheim and especially by the Olafson clan was in high demand and fetched good prices. She told me that Isegrim hung by tradition on the Tyranno Fin hunting, but it was no longer the main source of income for the clan.

Elena smiled proudly and said." The Leather you wear I have selected of the finest grade."

I told her how much I like it and then added." It looks especially great on you, Sister!"

There was something about tight leather and female curves I found especially alluring.

After the little tour we ended back in her chambers. She served us Midril's famous crumble cake and coffee.

"So are we still on for tonight?" She asked me glancing over her cup.

"I would like to, but I made a promise to the Ancient not to do it here no more. Last time it caused a whole lot of trouble as you remember."

"Ah what could happen? Anyone wanting you ill is gone or dead."

"And yet I killed Sigvard last night in our own burg. When I come back we will have time to go off planet. Twilight is not far away and there is a big city and we can do whatever we want. Freya wants to get out so bad, but I made a promise. I hope you understand."

She sighed."You are right, I was there and no I don't want you to break the promise you made. You have grown in more ways than one."

"I still get in plenty of trouble and even if I am careful trying to avoid it, but yes I think the Academy has changed me somewhat."

I was contacted by the Comm Officer and the Madrid, a full size Battle ship came down homing on my signal.

The huge ship landed right next to the burg smashing the ice and sinking into the water below. The ocean was only 500 meters deep and that meant little to a 3500 meter battleship.

Everyone at the burg however had assembled to see the spectacle even though it was very early in the morning. The gleaming almost white giant dwarfed the burg and the island to insignificance. Father tried to hide his feelings but I knew he was in awe just like the rest.

I once more wore my uniform wished them all farewell and boarded the Landing tank that was sent to get me to the ship.

While I would have liked to stay a little longer, the ship next to the burg was like an omen, a sign to show me were my real home would be in the future. Nilfeheim was the place I had grown up, and as much as I was a Neo Viking I was no longer really home there. My home was now the Navy.

The Klack Captain greeted me himself as I debarked and I saluted as crisp as I could."Midshipman Olafson, Sir, requesting permission to come aboard, Sir!"

"Permission granted." The Klack was insectoid and about as alien to a human as can be. I never had any close contact with a member of that species, even though there were quite a few at the Academy with me.

I assumed he was a he as most Klack were male and only the queen and her princesses were female. He eyed me up and down with his almond shaped all black eyes." I always follow my orders and usually they make sense, but why the Madrid is playing taxi for a first year cadet, by direct orders of the Old man himself is a mystery to me."

I was still standing in attention and therefore was unable to respond. He glanced at my ribbon display and wiggled his antennae." Another mystery is why a First Year Cadet has a bigger collection of citations than some twenty year fleet officer. At ease Cadet, we will get you situated and we have you at Lorman's Starbase in four days."

"Thank you Sir."

I was not sure if he wanted an answer to his questions before as he turned and a human Commander who had been standing silently behind the Klack motioned me to follow him." I am Commander Vasco and I am going to show you to your quarters."

"Thank you Sir." I repeated and followed him.

"Is it classified or can you help us shed light on the mysteries the Captain spoke off?"

"I do not think it is classified. I was home on my first leave after first year Academy and was summoned to appear as witness in a court martial procedure that will take place at Lorman's Starbase, if I understood my orders correctly."

"That makes sense. Lorman's is the JAG Center for this sector and has several military courts, usually only really high profile cases are handled there. You must have witnessed something quite extraordinary."

I was about to say why when the Commander said." I am not sure you should tell me about the details of the case. Such information is for the court and could very well be classified."

"Speak for yourself!" Snarled the Klack captain several steps ahead of us," I want to know. Have the Cadet attend Captain's table at 2000 hrs sharp."

"Aye Sir."

The Captain disappeared into an IST shaft and was gone. The Commander grinned at me." Our old Ant is a very good captain. It is usually completely impossible to predict what is on his mind, and not only because he is a Klack and he is a stickler for Fleet formalities. So it is Dress Uniform for dinner, Midshipman."

"Yes Sir."

He was a Commander but he did not seem to be stuck up or anything like that and he smiled." There is something on your mind, Midshipman. Go ahead and ask it."

"I was wondering why the Madrid landed on Nilfeheim instead of just sending a shuttle down."

He kept grinning." There is an ancient standing order for Nilfeheim, that whenever a Union Battleship has business near this planet we are supposed to land, just to remind you Neo Vikings the Union has not forgotten about the time you decided to be pirates."

"But that was so long ago and we are Union Members for a very long time."

"The Navy is just as old and the order is on the books and no one ever bothered to take it off I guess."

I grinned back at him." Maybe it is a good order after all. I know of Old clan lords who still dream occasionally about the old days, my father is no exception."

I had received spacious and quite luxurious quarters, most likely reserved for traveling dignitaries and not how a Midshipman would usually be situated. It had a Navy issue Auto dresser. Since it was still very early, I had an entire day ahead of me before it was time for dinner. This was not a civilian craft where I could simply go for a stroll. I was sure the Madrid had extensive recreational facilities but I was not part of the crew, besides I could easily end up in some restricted area and get into trouble.

So I opted to stay. I could feel the ships power and the faint vibrations and the quarters had a big transparent view port. By the time I was shown the quarters we had already lifted off and Nilfeheim became smaller by the moment. Then Solken our sun broke from behind the planet and it too became smaller. Then it turned into a streak and was gone, moments later the brilliance of deep space around us. The Madrid had gone Trans light and was now traveling in Quasi Space. What the view port presented now was a representation of real space below.

Staring into deep space was completely different from seeing something on a planet. Whatever photons reached your eye traveled uninterrupted for many light years and there simply was no horizon. It was this vastness that the mind simply could not really comprehend and neither planets or suns, or anything man made had the same effect on me.

"Is this your first time aboard a Battleship?" asked someone behind me. I turned, it was the human Commander.

"No Sir."

"What ship?"

"The USS Shetland, Sir."

He gestured towards the door." The Captain wants to see you on the bridge. I guess he can't wait till dinner."

"Yes Sir!" I closed my Uniform snaps and tugged on the white belt.

He nodded approvingly." You pass muster."

On our way to the bridge he said." Be quiet and wait until the Captain asks you anything. Do not wander around or touch anything. Our bridge is an experimental Dome bridge so it might be a little overwhelming, just so you are warned." Moments later we left the IST and stepped onto the bridge. He was not kidding, it was overwhelming. Instead of the traditional horse shoe station arrangement with consoles and battle seats, this bridge was under a clear dome

The duty stations were recesses in the floor right at the edge of the dome. If you sat in one of those duty station chairs it must feel as if you sat right in deep space. The data was projected onto the transparent material of the dome. The Captains Chair was in the center and raised field screens hovered to each side of it.

I simply stood there listening to the subdued whisper of computronics; some very nice but unfamiliar music was playing in the back ground. The Klack captain got out of his chair and came over." I am sure this is the first time you are on the bridge of a battle ship."

"I never was on a bubble bridge before, Sir. It is amazing!"

"Just on what battle ship have you been?"

"The Shetland, Sir. Captain McKenzie granted me a visit on her bridge, sir."

"So you been on the flagship no less and Cadet hating McKenzie let you on her bridge?"

"Yes Sir."

"I would dismiss that as a far out lie, if I didn't get my orders to pick you up from Mc Elligott's office."

I tried to tell him a condensed version of the events on Archilerb, but he kept on asking details until I had told him the entire events in great detail.

He did not ask about the reason we were on our way to Lorman's Starbase and when I wanted to tell him he said." I changed my mind, Midshipman. I do not want to know about that one. The details of that are classified and that is what I wanted to tell you. Do not divulge any details to any third party until we are there. I am hoping there are no elements of the worm aboard my ship, but one does never know for certain."

"The Worm, Sir?"

"Never mind that, it is better you forget what I just said."

"Aye Sir." While I responded as I was supposed to, I still wondered what he meant. What was the Worm?

The Klack quizzed me about the academy in general. He in turn told me about his ship and the bubble bridge design. I learned that the bubble was well protected in the inside of the ship and all was projected, to make it look like it was sitting on top of the hull. Then I was allowed to sit next to the XO in the chair of the life- sciences officer, a position usually reserved for the CMO of the ship and rarely if ever used, just as the engineering station, the Chief engineers position was unoccupied for the most times as these department heads usually ran things from their departments directly. Captain K'Tngnk somehow ceased to be a Klack, his high voice box enhanced voice, had a steady quality. He did not have much to do, his crew knew what to do and we were deep in Union space, but he didn't take things for granted even here, as he wanted to be updated on scanner reports and contacts in the vicinity.

I was simply sitting there and taking it all in. There was no place in the Universe I rather would have been.

He suddenly addressed me." Midshipman, you are very quiet, you have not said a word or stirred in four hours."

"Sir I was instructed to remain quiet, but I am very grateful for this opportunity to sit here and watch."

"You are not bored or angry that they cut your vacation short?"

"Sir, how can I be bored? I am on the bridge of a Star Ship I would spend my entire vacation sitting here and be the happiest Viking in the Galaxy."

"I don't like idle people on my bridge. Go take the Helm station and let me see what you learned so far at the academy."

"Yes Sir!" I was unable to wipe that proud smile of my face. The Helm Officer got up and said." No worry, Midshipman, I am going to take the back up and assist you if something unusual comes up. The controls are basically the same as those of a D 100."

I thanked him sat down and the seat lowered itself into the half moon shaped cut out in the floor right before the transparent bubble. It really was as if sitting on top of the ship in deep space. The controls slid under my hands and the current course was displayed on the transparent surface, as if the numbers and the data were floating in space.

"Helm steady as she goes until we hit map marker waypoint ten, then drop out of trans light." The Captains voice sounded as he was standing right behind me. I resisted the impulse to turn around and kept my eyes on the projected way point markers. I ran a short diagnostic cycle on the Helm controls and logged the result in the tech log. One of the back-up direct input controls showed orange and a possible mal function.

The tech log would automatically generate a work order for the Engineering department and file a report with the XO.

The voice of the XO came on."Good call Mr. Olafson. You found the little glitch we simulated, very good!"

The captain had me drop out of Trans light come to a relative stop. There was nothing really out there, no planetary system close and from the flight path sensor screen projected to my right I did not see any contact or mass detection.

"I don't want you to tell your friend Captain McKenzie I haven't provided you with some entertainment, Mr. Olafson. "

Red lights flashed and between the wailing of a siren a voice said." Battle stations! All hands battle station! "

My seat reconfigured to full battle mode and strapped me in, a dome like helmet lowered around me, giving me a full 360 view of space and the controls would now react to my direct nerve impulses even before my intentions were relayed to my hands. "Helm we are pursued by overwhelming forces. Go to course 0,0,12 evasive action and get us out of here, Trans red line speed!"

This was a rush like no other! I could feel the immense energies of the engines, as if they were part of me. I programmed the course markers and slaved the controls to my eyes. The ship would now follow the directions my eyes looked at and currently I stared at the projected course markers. Trans red line meant all engines full ahead, past the manufacturers set limits called red lines. The Madrid jumped from a virtual dead stop to the Trans light threshold speed of 98 percent light accelerating at 800 kilometers per second to the square. The stars became beams of light and we slipped into quasi space.

"Only two seconds below the time I expect from my helmsman. Not bad for a Midshipman, but still two seconds, quite a few Nul Grav Bombs can hit you in two seconds." The Captain said." Stand down from the exercise and take us back on course, standard cruising speed." "I am sorry Sir about the two seconds!"

"No worries about that. You have a talent for helm. Is that what you want to be, a helms man?"

"Any duty station on the bridge would be fine with me Sir, as long as it is a ship."

"Good call. Now release controls, to Mr. Gar and get cleaned up for dinner. I expect you to be at my table at 2000 hours sharp."


Interlude: An Enemy returnsEdit

The Devastator had made it. No one aboard knew very much about the old Celtest engines, except Centron the Ships AI that was also not a product of Union Tech but the ships original AI, utmost loyal to Stahl. Centron warned that the old engines would need serious servicing before they could be used again at these speeds. That would mean the way home would take much longer, unless the Chief Engineer could figure out how to service the alien engines.

However this was a problem, they would face when it was time to return.

Fornax Hub was on the scanners. The base was a Kilomon Class space station, 20,000 meters sphere with Gravo anchor at the bottom and a wide equatorial hangar ring. His scanner operators confirmed there was still some energy but the station was dark and did not respond to hails at all.

"Sir, we are detecting the debris of a Union Starship, it conforms to the mass and materials specifications of the Barracuda Destroyer that was detached to the station. No intact hull compartment, no energy and no life signs."

Stahl remained silent. This was Harris show and he would not interfere, but that did not mean he was completely out of things to do." The Barracuda was armed with Translocators; can you confirm the destruction as well?"

If this was indeed a Y'All attack he did not want them to get a hold of Terra's most potent weapon. The only one that had any real effect on the Y'All invasion so long ago.

"Unable to confirm, Sir. I cannot detect the log drone anywhere and there is not enough left of the Barracuda to make sure otherwise."

The Devi was under full battle mode, with raised shields and extended cannons. The sensor operators scanned every centimeter of space for any energy signature or anything out of the ordinary.

Harris ordered the launch of two Bison and a wing of Wolfcrafts to retrieve what was left of the Barracuda.

Still the sensors showed nothing.

Of course there was cloaking technology, the Devi could fully cloak and appear invisible to any known sensors, but that was Celtest technology. Did the Y'All master this tech? Or were they up against a new unknown enemy with abilities far beyond the Y'All?"

Harris was well aware of his old friend's dilemma, being the Old Warrior and as Admiral beyond the command ship of his beloved Devi." Admiral, what would you recommend?" He was not too proud to ask this legend for advice.

"They are here someone is still here and watching us. I can feel it." Stahl stared at the main viewer and Harris nodded and symbolically stepped back. It was to signal the crew that Stahl was in Command now and to make sure his friend saw it. Harris main concern was the ship and he had no qualms to hand it temporarily over to a man with almost 3000 years of battle experience.

Alyica had her eyes closed and her mind scanned the space around the ship for any coherent thought, or nerve impulse. She was deeply in love with that old Admiral, a real Terran with no particular Psionic abilities, yet his ability to sense and feel trouble was something she admired greatly.

Just as she sensed it, he said." Tactical, lay a spread of ten Exo loads in a fan pattern spaced on that moon.

Fornax Hub Station was in a White Dwarf Star system with only one planet, that was tectonic so active that locating the star base in deep space was simply easier. The planet also had a moon, the moon would one day be mined but right now there was no cost effective way to ship ore and minerals to where it was needed.

The Devi shuttered ever so slightly as ten of the largest Anti Matter bombs left the dematerialization breeches. Ten loads would be enough to obliterate the entire moon, and just as the bombs exploded five strange potato shaped alien ships left its surface. Each about 5,000 meters in diameter. There had been two more but they had been destroyed before they could lift of and activate their shields.

Stahl knew the shape of the ship only too well. These were Y'All Armada ships!


Next Chapter: Lorman's Starbase

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