|Eric Olafson, Fleet Cadet|
|Previous||Chapter 19: Security Clearance|
|Next||CHAPTER 21 : Demons|
CHAPTER 20: Nothing specialEdit
The Commodore was not alone in her office. There was another woman present and I knew her. It was Commander Gwenn Hollow and she smiled. "Did I not tell you we will meet again?"
The Commodore said." Your mission is to take Commander Hollow to her home planet."
I looked at them both and I was sure my face displayed the big question mark I was feeling and I burst out before I could stop myself." This is it?" I realized I spoke out of order, both of them were high ranking Officers and I added." I am sorry, Ma'am. I gladly take you to your home planet, but I don't understand the secrecy and all the clandestine preparations. I think you knew about all this when I left you at Lorman's Starbase."
Commander Hollow laughed." No one expected you to end on Wichita, solving the Big Bone Mystery. Not even my security clearance is high enough to really know what else you discovered there. All we wanted is to reward you with the transfer of the Sturgeon."
I grinned sheepishly as all made sense and that there wasn't a real mystery after all." Sorry about that."
The Commander waved her hand "No worries Midshipman, if you ever make it to become a commanding officer, you would have to come here anyway for your Psionic Conditioning and Security briefing. Maybe it is a good omen."
The Commodore added." After you have taken the Commander home, bring the Sturgeon back here, as this is its new station and then we get you to Arsenal II so you can continue your Academy training."
And the Commander said." Please meet me in six hours at the ship, so I can catch up a little with my sister. Pauli Station has a great shopping concourse."
I used the time to call Factnav and met him in a bar on the concourse. He told me that Pure had changed his mind and had switched to the Marine Corps and Fectiv was back at Arsenal for his second year. He was specializing in a JAG career! Another one of my friends making a choice I would have never guessed. Factnav grinned at that and agreed that this was a surprising choice, but he told me that Fectiv planned for an eight year stint in the Navy and then become a lawyer and that a stint in the JAG department would help him.
Factnav never asked me what I was doing here and stopped me as I wanted too." This is Pauli Station, we never ask questions here. You never get an answer and if you do its most likely a lie, but intelligence and counter intelligence is as important as Battle ships and canons."
He swiped his PDD against mine and said." Now you got Fectiv's Call Code. I am sure he will be glad to hear from you. Of course he is back at the Academy and his access to PDD's and GalNet is limited, but you can leave him a message and get Pure's code as well."
I left him a message right away and send him a Visual of me sitting next to his brother.
Factnav then wished me all the best and went back on duty and I found my way to the ship, but not before finding a Union Post office. There I packed a few keep sakes for Exa I had purchased on the Concourse and the nice souvenir axe in a big box and had it send home addressed to Elena, so she could safe keep the things for me. Traveling with a big axe was not very convenient or practical, but I sort of liked it and didn't want to lose it or throw it away.
She appeared on time and said standing before the airlock." Requesting permission to come aboard."
She came in put a suit case down." Now that we have the formalities behind us, you can call me Gwenn again; unless you insist then I will have to call you Captain."
"Well you are a Commander but if you are okay with first names, then that is fine by me."
"Alright Captain, get your ship into space and then I give you your destination coordinates."
I checked the systems and noticed the Station systems had refueled and serviced the engines and moments later we left Pauli Station behind us. She handed me a chip and I put it in the Nav Controls. I double checked the coordinates. Planet Endora was at the very fringes of Union Space, not far from the Igras Nebulae, the densest matter nebula known. Since sensors did not work well in the nebulae it was a welcome pirate hide out.
According to the catalog, Endora was only colonized 50 years ago and claimed by a Group called Frontier Gems Inc. It was in a region of space sparsely populated and there was only rudimentary survey data available.
She leaned over and sighed." I know what you are thinking: What a dump."
I shrugged." One cannot choose his or her home planet."
"Space bus makes it to Endora only once every month, and then usually with an escort from the Ranger station on Mabaa, 45 Light years away." She said with a smile as if to explain why I was taking her there. It made sense to me, the Sturgeon was fast and small and it has teeth. Seeing the number of pirate incident reports of that area I was hoping that was enough.
She got up and said." I think I check out what the Galley has to offer. Since we are still three days out, we should have time for a nice little dinner."
It didn't take her long and she came back." The galley is small but well stocked. I prepared us dinner. Would you care to join me?"
I checked the scanners once more; there was nothing artificial in sensor range. The Computronic would alert me if there was anything and so I joined her, I was surprised to find her wearing a red dress and her silvery hair put up in an intricate hairdo. She had a soft smile on her lips and said." I am technically off duty and going home, so I thought I get out of uniform. I think you could as well if you like."
"As much as I would like that but I am not off duty."
"This is Union space; the chances we run into trouble even at Endora are very slim. Space is awful big, and no one expects you to be on duty for the entire 72 hours."
She gestured to the galley table." Besides Uniforms and ranks get in the way when you like the company you have dinner with."
"I am not sure, besides I have not packed any formal civilian clothing." She looked lovely and had a strange sparkle in her eyes that hinted she had more on her mind than just dinner.
So I gave in and changed into civilian clothing and joined her in the small galley. She had set the table, there was music and she said with an apologetic in her voice as we sat down." I know all this looks a bit obvious, but I hope to set you at ease so you can tell me a bit more about you and perhaps a bit about your other self, the female part I mean." She lowered her eyes and almost whispered the last words.
As always when it came to this subject I felt awkward and ashamed and tried to find a reason to post pone the conversation." It is a point of great confusion to me and I don't really understand it or what it means for me. It seems such a simple thing. Gender should not be something you need to think about, something you want to change or alter. Yet I do."
She uncovered her dish and so did I. It was some sort of meat with whitish mass and dark brown gravy, a helping of little green things on the side.
She changed the subject and said." That is Terran pork roast with mashed potatoes and peas. I love Terran food and I hope I made the right choice for you as well."
She laughed." No, stink bugs aren't exactly my favorite either ! I read what you did there and it was quite impressive. I heard the Yakuta have named the boulevard leading to their new space port after you."
I blushed." I hope you are joking."
"No I am afraid not, it is the Eric NeoViking Boulevard."
I almost choked on a fork full of the green things and decided I didn't like the taste of peas." At least they didn't use my last name."
She pushed a few peas around her plate and said." Do you feel and think different when you assume your female persona?"
The way she put her question made me feel even more awkward." I don't know if I really think different, it just somehow makes me feel right. It is not so easy to describe in words, especially to a stranger. Heck it is difficult to describe to anyone. Aren't you Saresii? Would you not know more about this subject?"
Her smile changed to a more serious expression." I wasn't entirely honest to you. I am not really Saresii. I just look that way as it suits my personality." She looked at me directly and said." I am of the Coven."
I tried to remember, but even the cerebral uploaded Xeno knowledge did not yield any results." I never heard of that Civilization."
"Very few have, we guard our secrets and our society very closely."
"I guess that is why your kind chooses to live on a planet in the fringes?"
She didn't answer but pushed her plate away." I find it very intriguing and I can only imagine how it had to be like growing up on a harsh world with this, unable to talk to anyone about it."
It was my turn to sigh," I wish I knew what it means for me. I still consider some form of treatment, even though I heard only bad things about it, but I got a sister now I can talk about it."
I suddenly felt quite tired and said." I better check the sensors and perhaps take a short nap before we reach the fringes. I need to be on top of things then."
She nodded." Yes I think I will do the same."
Somewhere on the edge of my mind I found it strange that I was so tired, but a few hours of sleep would fix me right up and the Computronic would wake me if there was any trouble.
The scanners showed nothing artificial within scanner range and as Captain K'Tngnk said, chances to run into another ship in deep space were slim. I leaned back in the command chair and told the Computronic to wake me in three hours or if there was any contact on the scanners.
Interlude : GwennEdit
Gwenn came on the bridge and found Eric sleeping. She was surprised how long it took for the sleep drug to take effect. The young man had incredible will power and a strong sense of duty, just as his personal assessment file said he had. She looked at his young face. He was quite handsome and she realized she was quite attracted to him. Could he be the one that had to face the Dark Ones? She somehow doubted it, but then he was Terran, even though he was born on a different world. The Neo Vikings of Nilfeheim were undiluted Terran, no other species had mingled with them ever since they left Earth. Unapologetic, raw Terran energy showed in all he did. There weren't many species the Coven truly respected; the Terrans were one of them.
She was on her seventeenth career among them and still they had the potential to amaze her, maybe she would choose to pose as a Terran the next time around. She hoped the Coven would be members by then and she would not have to hide her origin anymore.
Of course the coven sisters could choose to revert to their true forms as all Life forms were openly welcome, but she was certain she would never revert to her true form again. She liked being human and most of all she truly liked being a woman.
While all of the Coven were female by identity there was difference. The incredible complex hormone soup that bubbled inside these seemingly fragile bodies had changed her perspective on virtually everything.
She used her special data chip to change the Computronics programming and doing so she also changed course. While the navigational sensors would still show the old course, the ship would take a different route, past the fringes of Union space and into the Igras Expanse. Deep inside this hazardous nebula was a sun with a single planet, which did not show on any navigational map. While the coven was far advanced and controlled incredible power, they could not remove an entire star system simply out of the Universe as the Narth did. So hiding inside the Expanse was the next best thing.
But that would not last forever. While the Coven had no problem discouraging pirates and free lancers from venturing to close, stopping the Union was quite another story.
She knew that the Science Council was considering to survey the Expanse, simply because it was unique it was there and it posed a scientific and technological challenge. Enough reasons, especially for the eternally nosy and inquisitive Terrans to check it out eventually.
She didn't feel entirely comfortable to change the course and deceive the young man. This was a dangerous area even before the nebula. While she was quite powerful and her age was counted in centuries not years, she was neither immortal nor invulnerable.
The edges and fringe areas of the nebula crawled with pirates and freelancers of the worst kind. The rich matter soup contained virtually every element and mineral known, it was already in its molecular form and easy to be scooped. Gold, platinum, polonium and everything in between was still valuable.
There were those who scooped, and those who rather took what others scooped. The Scoopers were as rough and mean as any pirate and they fired first and never asked many questions. There was a constant little war going on, the Scoopers against the pirates and the Scooper Syndicates and Families against each other for the best fringe scoop areas.
The expanse was huge and neither Pirates nor scoopers ventured far inside, as it was virtually impossible to gain Trans light speed. Normal shields could not displace that much matter that fast and collapsed. Trying to reach Trans light shield without shields was suicide even in a battle ship with Ultronit Armor plating. She knew the secret pathway to Coven and the little ship had excellent Trans Dim Shields, it would still be a challenge, to reach the pathway.
She could not help herself so she leaned forward and kissed the sleeping Human.
CHAPTER 20: CONTINUEDEdit
The Computronic woke me with a loud alert sound and then the ships system said." Potential hostile contacts in scanner range!"
I bolted up, but sank right back into the command seat. Switched Inter ship:" Commander please find a seat and secure for Combat."
The scanner showed three signals pulsing red. To my surprise according to the Nav system we were on course, but the Igras expanse was already in visual range. Something was not right; the expanse was fairly close to Endora but still far beyond unaided visual range. Why we were here was a mystery that had to wait. The three dots were identified as Katarian Vascar Runners, three times the size of the Sturgeon and while not Union made, the energy read out and weapon scan made them more than serious adversaries. Three ships did not necessary mean trouble; the fact that they were under full shields and had their weapons charged however was a strong indicator. That they had changed course and came straight towards us was another one.
Not only had we been off course the sturgeon had dropped out of Quasi Space even before the system had alerted me.
While we were still half a light year away from the expanse, the particle count per cubic kilometer was already two hundred times more than it was even inside a solar system.
The tactical scan of the Vascars revealed they had unusually strong shielding. I wasn't too worried; I had one ace that trumped all their advances, Dual Translocators! Standard shielding no matter how strong meant little to a weapon that bypassed them altogether.
I turned on weapon systems and as my eyes flew over the readouts, I started to worry, the bomb magazines were empty! My ace turned out to be a dud!
"Computronic why are the no bombs?"
"Command person rank insufficient to be authorized for Translocator munitions request or transport, no munitions have been acquired."
A direct confrontation was something I wanted to avoid in the first place and turned the ship and accelerated, I needed to go Trans light and then figure out why we turned up so far of course and how the ship managed to make the entire trip in the three hours I was sleeping.
The Commander came on the bridge and slipped in one of the free chairs. She said nothing while the system strapped her in.
The Comm. Board lit up indicating incoming communication. A croaking voice came on, the transmission was audio only." Little Union Fish slow down and prepare to be boarded. If you do that we will be gentle. If not we will destroy you."
I was not going to argue with him but pushed the accelerator past red line, just as we reached trash hold speed something hit the ship with enormous power! The lights flickered, the tactical system responded with an analysis." Gravo Mine active. Gravitational shear force at 12 percent beyond safety limits of hull integrity."
I wished for a crew now. Someone able to analyze the scanner results, while I dealt with the pursuing ship. "Commander can you handle the Scanners?"
"I am afraid not. I am a legal expert. I haven't had any scanner time since the academy."
"Try it anyhow!"
"Computronic, why was the Gravo Mine not detected?"
"Scanner analysis complete, weapon identified as Signature Camouflages Ult Gravo Mine. Threat level high. Attempting adjusted scan. Scan Complete. Two hundred UGM detected with in scanner range. Margin of error 45 percent. "
Trying to go Trans light in a mine field was suicide; especially if the Computronic only gave a 45 % chance to detect them all. Our pursuers obviously knew where these mines were and had no such restrictions. The only way out of here was on the path we came, knowing it was mine free. However three armed ships gained on us from that direction!
The Computronic mistook this for a direct question and responded." Preliminary tests showed that SII Havoc Ship to ship missiles outperform Loki Torpedoes in six out of seven criteria."
I targeted the first ship and armed them, this time the system showed all green. I fired!
The missile accelerated faster than anything I had ever seen and went Trans light, hit the first enemy ship and simply melted at impact, no explosion no energy cloud, nothing!"
I almost panicked." System diagnose Havoc System, it did not explode!"
"Havoc System loaded is exercise munitions for performance evaluation and not equipped with war heads."
My first ship turned out to be quite a nightmare. All I had left was single FTL Energy cannon, not enough to even dent the strong shields of my adversaries. In less than five seconds they would be in firing range of their FTL's.
It didn't look good. Here I was in the vastness of space with a fast maneuverable ship, trapped like a Silver flicker in fishers net. There had to be something I could do…
Interlude: Red DragonEdit
Swybar was the first out of the D 60 Long Distance shuttle; the two men that accompanied him followed down the ramp and looked around. One of them was a disguised Kermac, that much he knew but he had no idea who the other was, but he expected him to be an agent of the worm. All three of them were disguised as humanoids wearing heavy insulated and heated suits and cold masks. Patches on their suits identified them as civilian contractors. All his life Swybar thought it was impossible to forge a CIT implant and yet all three of them had passed the controls on Norman's Planet without any problems.
The dark red sun in the sky above them provided little light, and the temperatures on the surface of this world rarely rose above 223 degrees Kelvin.
The D 60 had landed on an immense Duro-Crete field built into a crater or valley surrounded by rough looking mountains. It was the only ship here. The entire place looked as deserted and empty as a place could look. Their helmet lights drew sharp circles onto the smooth surface.
The man he suspected to be an Agent of the Worm grunted." You promised us a surprise and a way to Koken, I see nothing!"
The Kermac slowly looked around. "What is this place anyway?"
"This planet is called Bone Yard 72 and you Kermac would kill millions for what is here!"
"We will complete the job of the hangman and kill just one if that does not come true!"
Swybar kept his thoughts to himself. He used to be an Admiral and now he was treated like that. Of course he knew about the famous arrogance of the Kermac, but to experience it every day close up cost him much self-control. He decided to play along, they had rescued him and had immense resources, but he was only moments away from being in charge again and neither of his companions suspected a thing.
Sergei put a hand on his shoulder and said to the Kermac." It is quite enough! I am sure the Admiral had a reason to come here and we are further into Union Space than any Kermac Agent ever managed to come. We are here because we have certain common goals. Now Admiral I suggest you show us why we are here."
Both the Kermac and the other man lost their entire swagger as four immense humanoid shaped robots rose from suddenly opening trap doors, each of them at least 20 meters tall.
The Kermac recognized them and none of his usual arrogance made it to the surface, it was fear that made his voice tremble." Rama, Type 7!"
Swybar stepped forward." Command Code: Terra Terra 4-4-6." While he did that he produced his hidden Code Key and held it up. One of the giant arms lowered and he pushed it into a slot that appeared on the robots thumb.
Sergei whispered." I never saw any Terran weapon system like that."
The Kermac answered with a hush voice." Because they are over 700 years old, designed by none other than Dr. Isah as a last answer to the Y'All invasion, before that cursed Stahl appeared to save the day. "
"As in Isah Drive?"
"Dr. Isah was one of the Immortals. Chosen by that mysterious Guardian the Earthers tell about. He was the single most intelligent being in the known Universe; even we Kermac have to admit that. He designed and invented more ground breaking technology than anyone."
Swybar turned." The Type 7 have accepted my command codes. We have full access to the Bone Yard now."
The Kermac could not shake his uneasiness quite as fast." Those are really Rama 7?"
"Three of three hundred thousand mothballed here. All fully operational, and as everything else here almost forgotten, but then I was in Charge of Logistics and these Bone Yard depots were under my jurisdiction."
"We must find a way to get them off this planet!" The Kermac literally salivated, seeing himself carried by one of these machines down the parade alley on Kermac prime.
Swybar grinned coldly." We are not here to take the Ramas, which would be no real problem as they are all fully Trans light flight capable."
Sergei spoke for the first time." Why have they been moth balled if they are so magnificent?"
"Because when Stahl came with the Translocator cannons the Rama project was put on the back burner. Then you Kermac assassinated Dr. Isah the lead designer and the project itself was even further pushed back. When the war ended, resources were needed to rebuild the fleet and the Rama project was officially of the grid. Most research and weapon manufacturing is now outsourced to private corporations. This was one of the last projects directly managed by the now defunct Fleet Technology Development Bureau."
"If we are not here for the Robots why are we here?" The Kermac wanted to know.
Swybar stepped onto the lowered hand of the robot." To make me once again independent and equal and not a slave! You saved my life I grant you that, but you treated me like a servant. This ends now! Arrogant Kermac, I am tempted to teach you a lesson in arrogance."
The Kermac extended his Psionic powers but his Telekinetics were stopped by an invisible barrier.
The other man said." It seems our trust in you was ill placed. Good thing I trust no one! You do carry an explosive device in your head and I control it!"
"You don't even begin to understand the capabilities of a Rama 7. Dr. Isah incorporated the finest Saresii Anti PSI tech and combined it with his very own devices. I am a safe as can be, besides without me the Ramas and everything else here will be quite hostile to you."
Sergei hushed the Kermac agent before he could respond." For the time being let us assume you are now in charge. What is it you want?"
"Actually I will do what I said I would. I will help you, but no longer as the helpless servant but as equal partner. After I helped you to get to Koken, as a repayment for my rescue, I will use what we take here today to start a new Career in the private sector. "
The Robot lowered its other hand.
Swybar said." Step on. It would be a long walk otherwise."
Both men hesitated but then climbed on the metallic hand.
The robot turned and walked with great speed towards the mountains.
It took the machine no time at all to reach them, the characteristic green shimmer of Terran Arti Grav built up underneath the robots feet and it lifted into the air and moments later they looked over a dusty flat plane, filled with thousands of space ships!
Swybar said with a triumphant tone in his voice." Here are 25,000 ships of all sizes ages and conditions. Some are very old, some are not space worthy anymore, but there are a few gems among the scrap. I decided a Privateer needs a proper ship and it is here the Red Dragon Prototype is stored. Much like the Rama Bots, a forgotten project, one of its kind and the pinnacle of Terran mil tech."
CHAPTER 20 Continued:Edit
I had one option only , I killed thrust, turned the ship as fast and tight as I could, hoping not to hit another Gravo mine and gunned the engines to max, aiming straight at the middle ship of the attackers.
All happened fast, the attackers were immediately in range their shots peppered our shields, at least the shields were the genuine kind. While the shields were strained, they held for the first five or six shots. I changed course virtually in the last micro second, I doubted there was more than twenty meters distance between our hulls, and several more shots wore the aft shields down to nothing. I was hoping to reach the expanse and hide in it and it looked good. The Sturgeon was faster than the Vascars and their FTL's were powerful but I was soon out of their range. The aft shields down to 10 percent and the rest not looking to fresh either, I hoped I could reach thresh hold speed before the matter density became too dense to try that without fully operational shields and a hull that was not stressed.
"Commander use the Comm. System and call for help. We should still be in range for GalCom."
The forward shields glowed white hot as they tried to displace molecular matter at these speeds. Less than sixty seconds to Trans light! The shields were down to 20 percent and the Computronic warned that the hull would not last if the shields failed.
Thirty seconds now. There was no more energy I could divert from anywhere to strengthen the forward shields, now down to 12 percent. If they failed we would be dead!
"Warning, Shield failure imminent!"
I ignored the warning and then as if an ice cold hand grabbed my heart, the acceleration display reversed and we slowed down!
The Computronic said." Emergency Shutdown procedure initiated."
I actually screamed at the system." I did not order any Safety Shut down!"
"Such order was not necessary, Command person lacks engineering overwrite authority."
"I can't keep us alive if this Loki cursed ship turns out to be my worst enemy! Computronic go into deep diagnostic cycle and turn all systems to manual!"
I had little hope to steer and fight the ship without the Computronic, the shields were nearly gone and the enemy vessels gained on us.
Without the system I could not go Trans light, but that was no longer possible. The particle count was getting denser by the moment. To all this the sensors already reduced in efficiency picked up three more ships of similar size and make, but instead of attacking us they screamed past us and attacked our pursuers.
The Commander said." I have Fleet Command on the line!"
"This is Midshipman Olafson of the USS Elena; we are near the Igras expanse due to yet unidentified Nav system error. We are under attack by unknown hostiles. Hull integrity damage, Computronic unreliable and shut down, no weapons, shields nearly gone. This is a distress call."
The response came immediately." There are no fleet units within 120 light years that can render assistance. Nearest units have been alerted and dispatched. Records indicate that your ship is equipped with a Translocator system!"
"Yes but I have not a single bomb!"
"Details are unimportant now. If there is a chance you will be boarded or captured you must execute Order Omega!"
"Every cadet knew about Order Omega of course. The Translocator Cannon was not to fall into enemy hands under no circumstance. The Union based much of its strength on the secret of this weapon and it meant that everything must be done to keep it out of the hands of others. Order Omega was simple: Self Destruction!
More ships appeared and we were hailed again." This is Valiant Scooper Crew, we going to blow that pirate scum into scoop matter for you but we like to receive payment. Your piece of scrap seems to have some things we might find useful!"
"I thank you for your timely assistance and Union ships are already on their way. I am sure we can show our gratitude with credits or some polonium."
"Don't play games with me soldier boy. Your rescue ships might be on the way, but they will have a hard time finding you in this soup. I clearly see some nice weaponry on your ship and frankly I want it."
His last words were underlined with an explosion, that killed the regular lights on the bridge and emergency lighting came on. I could hear the high pitched gnarling sound of metal tearing apart. The upper part of the Command seat came down and sealed the unit, the same happened to Gwenn's seat. Somewhere was a hull breach, and without the Computronic I did not know where. Not that I had the time or resources to affect repairs.
This is how my first command would end? I would lose my first ship?
Was there anything I overlooked anything I could do?
I didn't have much time.
It had to be done! I activated the Computronic again." Hostile takeover imminent, execute Omega Order, authorized Olafson, Eric. Neuro Scan verify, Destruct!"
"Omega order received, Command code verified with transmission of Fleet Command. Log Drone launched. Sixty seconds before AM containment fields are deactivated."
This was it, no command could stop it now…
Next Chapter: Demons