Saturday, July 11, 2015

Trader Dranke - Mission Impossible 37



The familiar darkmatter starcraft responded eagerly when Kell handed the controls over to Sette. The Raven was ready to take on her new assignment. Dranke mock-saluted his two second-in-commands, and they grinned back at him as the ship jumped. Again, and again the Raven jumped, heading into the dark inky night. The route they had chose avoided most galactic clusters, reflecting the feeling of blackness pervading the ship. Dranke strolled up and down the bridge pensively. Had he made the right decision? He remembered that the General has insisted that he not remove his subroutine; and while he realized the wisdom in that, it filled him with a sense of unease. He resisted switching on the Jen subroutine; he would use it only in emergencies.


Kell on the other hand had no such issues. She was perpetually connected to spacecommand and the Hnnet. This would be an interesting dynamic once they had to decide whether the subroutine was to be ditched. Dranke decided not to influence things at this stage. One small step at a time. He smiled at the irony of his own thought. Here they were eating up lightyears with the jumps the darkmatter starcraft was undertaking. In some senses, they were time travelers. No in all senses. He knew that every time they went on these trips, there was that much more time which elapsed on Earth. They had stopped counting. And they were frankly in the business of moving forward. In time. He mulled at this as they saw the outline of Jexx on the hologram.... just an instant before the whole planet rendered in 3D glory. Dranke looked at Sette "Open comms with the Jexx; I want to explain our new status to them." Sette complied. The Jexx commander who responded was not someone they had seen before. He looked openly hostile "You are being surrounded as we speak humans. This time we will not let you escape." Dranke motioned to Kell to engage the shields, and replied calmly "We are no longer part of the military. We come in peace." The commander looked taken aback "So you are rogue?" Dranke watched the commander 'swimming' in the fluid as he spoke "No we do not have that concept in humans. We have come to trade with you." The hologram went blank.


In a few minutes, the hologram showed three Jexx. It was the traditional triad one had come to expect. Dranke suppressed a smile "Welcome back. I was hoping to have an audience with you." The Jexx looked curious "We want to board your ship. You have not allowed us on board. Not like true partners." The translation was getting laborious. Dranke nodded imperceptibly to Sette "We will get to that as well. Are you going to host us, or should we leave?" The commander seemed to get the wind knocked out of him "Yes, please dock. We do want to trade. The Hnnet makes it impossible for us to trust anyone." Dranke smiled gently and signed off, with a vague feeling that all was not well. The docking station in their space station started to bleep blue and red as they indicated the docking area. Kell and Sette got to work docking the old style. They did not want to reveal the Hnnet modification just yet. The Jexx docking tube docked in the traditional style with the docking aperture in the Raven's lock. Dranke waited as the the Jexx commander entered with his two attendants, his name was Nexe. He spoke "So what do you want human? Are you representing the Hnnet again?" Dranke kept his anger in control "No, we are not. I wanted to know if we can trade. Especially, we are keen to know about your microtechnology which allows you to build such small ships." The Jexx made a noise sounding like something between a cough and a grunt "Of course. We want to know about your shielding technology. It is very good." Dranke nodded. He was prepared for this. They had old shielding designs which were used by spacecommand from before they had met with the Hnnet "We are happy to share those with you." They began to talk in earnest.


After a while, Dranke noticed that the hostility had vanished. The Nexe was beginning to show off about their advances, revealing much more than was necessary. He filed that away for future use. The Jexx commander was saying "For the first time, you have come as partners. We are happy to trade. But only with you. No more humans will be tolerated by us. They are liars and cheats." Dranke decided not to come to humanity's defense. "So why have you been fighting with the Hnnet?" "They do not respect us. They treat us like outsiders. They think they are better than us." Dranke understood, it was but natural. He was learning so much. "And why do you travel in threes?" "We are mates. And three of us are a unit. A family. We preserve our identity and sanity in this fashion." Dranke nodded. He absorbed ever little scrap of information like a sponge. It was intelligence and it was priceless.


At the end of negotiations, Kell sent over the schematics of the old Earth technology shields and got the schematics of the Jexx microtechnology in return. It was a successful trip. The Jexx also gave them some wood analogue as a gift. This would be priceless on Earth. The crew was going to enjoy the bonus. They parted friends. Dranke smiled as the ship undocked from the Jexx station. Sette looked at Dranke inquiringly. He grinned at her "Set course to the Hnnet homeworld. Time to pay them a visit."


The Raven accelerated rapidly away, searching for enough distance away from Jexx to make it's first jump.




Pic Courtesy: www.godsandidols.com via Flikr - https://www.flickr.com/photos/futurilla/5877538850.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Departure - Mission Impossible 36



Piteer and Kell were both excited with the idea of joining Dranke on his lone explorations as a trader. Kell was already looking at how she could move away from spacecommand, and this was an opportunity she did not want to miss. Piteer on the other hand, was not comfortable leaving the safe and familiar spacecommand structure. Dranke understood his reluctance. He felt the same way sometimes. But he also knew that it was time to move on. He was happy that Kell was willing to leave spacecommand. Her being on the ship would be a huge help. He could actually leave most of the running of the darkmatter starcraft to her. She grinned at him "Sette wants to join too. At least that was the feeling I got. But she needs to be convinced."

Dranke had called Sette to his cabin. The warm glow of the artificial 'sunset' suffused the room. There was no real Sun visible, but then it did not really matter. Sette walked in, looking much older than he had remembered. It had been some time. She sat down opposite him "I was wondering if you had a plan Admiral. How will we ensure we make enough for fuel and supplies?" Dranke smiled at the direct questions. Sette was nothing if not direct. "Firstly, I have resigned my commission this morning. You can call me Dranke. Secondly running the darkmatter starcraft will be the least of our worries. Spacecommand is willing to pay for information which we uncover. The trading is purely a cover. Anything we make from trading will be icing on the cake." Sette seemed to relax visibly "Thank you Sir. I mean Captain. I mean Dranke, Sir." This was getting to be awkward. Dranke grinned "Don't worry about it, I need you and Kell to make this venture work. With you two around, running the trading business is going to be a cinch." Sette smiled "I am happy to join you on this trading business Sir. I would love to learn about the tech and improve upon it. This gives me the opportunity to do just that." She came around the desk and kissed him unexpectedly on the cheek. She left hurriedly. It left Dranke a little uncertain himself. It had seemed more than a friendly peck. And a little out of context. He shrugged. Maybe he was imagining things.

Dranke found that his reputation preceded him and finding cadets was quite easy. In fact Kell and Sette had to screen them. Every young cadet wanted to work for Dranke - they felt it was an opportunity they could not pass up. He felt he did not deserve the reputation he was being accorded, but he took it with as much grace as possible. Ultimately Anoz, Monc and Chung were selected as the second chain of command after Kell and Sette. He left the job of hiring the balance cadets to Kell and Sette.

Dranke had been summoned to the offices of Nina Decee. He remembered she was the lieutenant who reported to General Selin. He knocked on her door wondering what this was all about. Nina called him in. She was decked in official finery, and seemed to be inspecting him like an interesting specimen under a microscope. He shifted uneasily. "So you have decided to become a trader, Admiral?" She arched her eyebrows. Dranke nodded "Yes, I have decided to strike out on my own." "You know you are giving up a great deal. You will have no power from your new position." She looked disappointed. He shrugged "Maybe that is not what I am looking for." She looked at him contemplatively "Guess that is your decision." She got up abruptly and strode off rapidly, leaving Dranke wondering. He realized that not everyone would be understanding of his seemingly foolish decision to give up his command. On the other hand, he had not expected to be judged only by his title.

A few days of maintenance and closing the hiring process and they were ready to go. The General himself came to see them off. He waited until all the crew had entered the darkmatter starcraft and put him hand on Dranke's shoulder "Take care my friend. I will always be here for you." He looked at Dranke and smiled fondly. Dranke was a little taken aback by the affection, and he saluted smartly "Sir, it has been an honor to serve under you. I am in your debt." He turned and walked off rapidly before he said something silly. The General waited until the airlock closed and whispered "I will miss you son." The young Captain did not realize how much the General had depended on him. He watched the darkmatter starcraft accelerate away and take it's first jump as a trading vessel. In a flash, it was gone.

On the Raven's bridge, Dranke got into the Captain's chair. He felt comfortable here. This is where he belonged. The Admiral's job had not really suited him. He knew this was a new beginning for him. He would have to make it work. For himself and for his crew. He owed them for standing beside him. But strangely, it did not feel onerous. All he felt was freedom; he looked forward to the challenges they would be up against. He looked jauntily at Kell "Plot a course to Jexx." He was going to enjoy this.




Pic courtesy: "Galaxy history revealed by the Hubble Space Telescope (GOODS-ERS2)" by NASA, ESA, R. Windhorst, S. Cohen, M. Mechtley, and M. Rutkowski (Arizona State University, Tempe), R. O'Connell (University of Virginia), P. McCarthy (Carnegie Observatories), N. Hathi (University of California, Riverside), R. Ryan (University of California, Davis), H. Yan (Ohio State University), and A. Koekemoer (Space Telescope Science Institute)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Discharged - Mission Impossible 35



This time was different for Dranke. He was still a relatively young man, but he knew something in him had changed. He was beginning to question everything. What if the Leader was wrong? What if the whole spacecommand was in the wrong? He checked to see if his Jen subroutine was listening in. It was switched off. He still felt uneasy. How was he to reconcile the fact that the Jexx commander Yod had seemed to be prisoner to his own triad of Jexx attendants. And the Hnnet seemed to good to be true. What about the strange creatures he had seen on other worlds? The electricity consuming tiny alien and the strange flowing aliens on the water planet who had seemed to want to communicate?

Was there something more than met the eye? Dranke was no longer sure. His perspective had been shattered. Was it because the Hnnet had used the Vaxe clone to convey their orders? Or was it because they were willing to find loopholes to conveniently bypass the rules of their own Hnnesset? He had to talk to the General. And sure enough, the General was walking up to him at the mess as promised, dressed in his casual attire, sidling into the long bench as he beckoned for Dranke to take a seat. Dranke sat with some amount of trepidation, sweat beading his brow, even though it was quite cold inside the mess.

He did not realize for some time, but General Selin was speaking "It was to be expected that at some time you would question the very idea of spacecommand. But this is something which even we did not expect. I guess the fact that we were able to construct a darkmatter starcraft was the first step in finding out that we were not alone." Dranke bit into the soft bread and butter omelet sandwich. It was not really the real thing, but it was supposed to taste close enough. He nodded dumbly. He looked at the General and realized he was waiting for Dranke to speak. He swallowed hastily "I'm sorry. I actually feel guilty thinking like this. I feel like a traitor." The bread was beginning to lose all taste. He wanted to throw up.

The General smiled. It was a smile of genuine fondness and concern "I know what you are going through. We all question the wisdom of the people up the chain of command. There is no right answer. But at some point, you will decide to give your trust to someone." Dranke stared at the General "What do you mean? Am I right?" The General looked at him calmly "You may be. But then again you may not. We live in a state of not-knowing. And we hope to make the right choices from what information we have. As things become clearer, these could change. What is important is that we should always seek better answers."

The General's answer frustrated Dranke. He realized that the General was telling him something, but the answers eluded him. "I am not sure I got that General. But I don't want to carry on this way." He was starting to feel panicked. This was not going the way he had envisioned. The General, however took it all in his stride. "Of course. We have to find a way to demote you to trader. You need to be in the front lines. Doing new things and working on the cutting edge. This job is more suited to Niket and the other Captains. You have to go out and make your own way." It sounded scary. But one part of Dranke was excited. It was going to be something new. No spacecommand? A trader? That would be a life full of danger. But it would be exciting! Earth would need trading routes to all the alien species over time. He would be a pioneer. He held back, not trusting himself to speak.

The General was speaking again "Of course, we can give you your old darkmatter starcraft and people who want to join you. But you need to cobble together your own band of merry men and women who will follow you." His eyes glinted with amusement. Dranke realized he had been played by the wily old General. He had known all along what he would offer the newly-promoted Admiral. He turned to the General and saluted "I call you Sir with honor General Selin." He strode off before emotion overtook him. If he had looked back, he would have seen a sad smile on the General's face. It was the passing of the guard, and the General realized he had no way to stop it happening.

Breaking the news to Fenie and Niket was the hardest thing Dranke had had to do. They both were dear friends, and they hugged him tightly. They had been through so much together. But they all had to move on, and there were no tears, but Fenie's eyes seemed unnaturally bright. Dranke hid his emotions, lest they overwhelm him "You guys were the best ever. Really. I'm thinking of poaching Kell and Piteer. I will need a real team on my ship. And the General will never let me poach Niket. He grinned ruefully "I will miss you two."

After a long night spent with Fenie and Niket, he went to bed, realizing he had to put together a team if the General was to give him a ship. It would require him to sell the idea to his potential crew. He started to make plans in his head. He would want to have the darkmatter starcraft overhauled. And a technical crew as well. He would require real weaponry. And a quartermaster. It was a long list. He kept on making it. He would also be discharged from spacecommand. He had never really been a civilian. It was going to be a new experience. He didn't realize when exactly sleep overtook him. It was full of dreams.





Pic courtesy: Pixabay - http://pixabay.com/p-624054/?no_redirect

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Destiny - Mission Impossible 34


The Raven was docking at the spacecommand new docking center. Things had changed since Dranke had been away. The whole complex had taken on a new look and everywhere they looked, Hnnet devices were being used to create new structures. The old construction printers used by the docks were replaced by Hnnet arms which moved fluidly around the dock space, transforming at will. It did not even require a docking station with the double airlock anymore. The Hnnet devices created a tube which seamlessly linked with the darkmatter starcraft and an opening was created, as if by magic.

The crew looked mentally and physically exhausted. They needed some time off from the continious duty on the ship. Dranke made a note to himself. General Selin came upto him looking solemn "I head about your exploits. The Jen subroutine is working fine now, without any hacking." Dranke just nodded. his head was whirling with thoughts.Kisen, one of the new Captains of the darkmatter starcraft came up to Dranke and said something. Dranke did not really listen. he smiled politely and excused himself from the welcoming committee. He did not know what was bothering him, but he knew it was not something minor. He switched on the Jen subroutine and listened in to the chatter of his team. He switched off the subroutine. It did not help one little bit.

Dranke was now the ranking Admiral on spacecommand. Other than the General and his one-downs, there was no one who he could speak to openly. He searched for Fenie and Niket. They were in the mess standing close together, watching the new dock in action. He left them to it and spied Piteer in the mess. Picking up a coffee, he headed down and sat down with him "I was hoping to see one of my old crew Piteer." Piteer grinned and mock-saluted "Always at your command Admiral." Dranke relaxed "Come with me to the holodeck, I wanted to have a serious conversation." Piteer lost all his joviality as he followed his old Captain. He looked curious and very serious suddenly.

The spacecommand holodeck was something of a marvel. It used a combination of optics, electromagnetism and some of the most detailed understanding of the known universe to construct space which could be zoomed into. A lot of the work was still experimental. Some of the stars shown on the main cluster in the farthermost areas were already red dwarfs or had gone supernova. Some of them had been identified by darkmatter starcraft which had visited that area of the universe. But their light still shone if you looked at the night sky from Earth. It was one of the strange issues starcraft captains had to contend with regularly. Dranke ignore the whirling stars and stood just in front of a spinning Jupiter, his hand resting on a guardrail "Piteer, I am wondering if the Jexx are actually our enemy. Or are they the enemy of our friends? Are the Hnnet as straightforward as they seem?" He seemed troubled. Piteer nodded "It is a question of perspective. Our Leader seems to have chosen sides." "But what if he's wrong? What if all of us are wrong? There are so many species in this Universe. We have met so few of them. Or will be blindly follow the Hnnet to their destiny instead of making out own? Who has the answers?" Piteer fell silent. He moodily looked at Saturn spinning just behind Jupiter. He had no clue of how to answer the Admiral. He was out of his depth.

Dranke realized he has led Piteer down a path which he was not prepared to explore, and he changed the tone of the conversation. "I guess I am in a questioning mood, lets get a drink and play on the simulators instead." Piteer agreed almost with relief. They spent a whole lot of Earthhours on the simulators...

The next morning, Dranke awoke and knocked tentatively on the Generals door. The muffled strong voice asked him to enter. He walked in and spoke to General Selin. The General listened politely and respectfully. He then suddenly smiled at the end of the speech. Dranke was a little taken aback and he said so. "The Leader and I were wondering when you were going to become your own man. Decide to strike out on your own. I think you have realized the time has come."

Dranke's thoughts were all over the place. He was unable to speak. The General kindly put him arm on his shoulder "Of course, you have the right to think this way young man. We should all question our actions and decisions. There is no other way to be a better person."

The General led him to his personal quarters "But first let's have breakfast."






Pic Courtesy: Sombero Galaxy, courtesy Spitzer space telescope & Hubble space telescope via Wikimedia commons. http://goo.gl/JJmBT3

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Strange Red Rock - Mission Impossible 33


The coordinates given by the Vaxe copy took them a ways off from their original destination - the Hnnesset. But the darkmatter starcraft took the lightyears in it's stride and they were soon done with the jumps and gliding towards a lone solar system, which had an unremarkable star in the center of the system. There were three planets which dotted the star, one of which was a red rock. That was their destination. Dranke looked at the image in the center of the bridge as Sette pulled up the sensor data, which scrolled over the three dimensional image. Vaxe exclaimed "I see the electromagnetic signature - this is clearly the jamming device." 

Kell and Dranke watched as Dex scanned closer. The Raven was now in the outer atmosphere of the red rock, which now looked more like a planet.. Closer to the tiny planet, the surface looked brown rather than red. Clearly the 'atmosphere' had been largely dust and refraction from the star. The unbroken landscape was brown and dusty, with very few mountains and no sign of life. Dranke checked his readings; the electromagnetic signature had disappeared altogether. They would have to land and check this out. Dranke again had a feeling of unease, but he brushed it aside "Prepare to land where we had identified the electromagnetic signature." Dex nodded "We are already preparing the suits. The atmosphere is non-existent. There is just some heavier gases on the surface, the rest seems to have leached into space." Kell watched the hologram lazily revolve in the center of the bridge as the surface features became clearer. It was a forbidding landscape. Sette was getting the gear ready for exploration, when Dex grunted "This is the place. I am certain." The darkmatter starcraft landed with a soft hiss and they headed to suit up. 


Dranke, Kell and the Vaxe copy stepped out of the ship, after going through the airlock procedure, and saw nothing which could give them any clue. The same unbroken brown greeted them. Due to the scant atmosphere, there was no sound, even though the dust storm continued unabated. 

They looked around. Hand sensors tapped the ground, searching for any clue to where the Jexx hacking device was hidden. A voice made them freeze. It spoke gibberish. The Vaxe copy was changing back to the Hnnet shape and the voice was being translated though the Hnnet now "What brings you here? I noticed you trying to sense me." Dranke spoke to the Hnnet "We are looking for a device which has been used to jam our signals." The voice spoke again "There is no device. I am reading the Jen subroutine." A figure came up to them. It was barely up to their knees. And it was moving on something which resembled a small pair of treads. There were a bunch of appendages which were extended from a main trunk, and some ended in what looked liked lenses. The lenses turned towards them. The Hnnet kept translating "So what do you want?" Dranke gulped "We would like you to stop hacking the Jen subroutine." He waited for the reply.

Two large lightning arcs crashed into the little figure which stood before them. But the arc did not dissipate. It danced as the figure seemed to be harvesting its power, drawing from it. "I do not agree to what you like." It seemed to decide that the meeting was over, and it trundled away, without any sense of urgency. Dranke said "It interferes with our communications." The figure stopped and seemed to contemplate this "I will ensure it doesn't." It disappeared into a crevice. What could one make of this?

The Hnnet resolved back into Vaxe "The Hnnesset want you to meet them Captain. We must leave immediately." Dranke nodded. He was mystified by this strange species, and wanted to know more, but the alien was completely uninterested in the visitors from another galaxy. It seemed so strange.

The trip to the Hnnesset was uneventful. The Vaxe copy seemed extremely subdued and stayed in her quarters. Just as they were nearing Hexe, the gateway to the Hnnesset, she resolved back into the Hnnet shape. It was just as well. It would not do to have two Vaxes running around. 

After teleporting to the Hnnesset from Hexe, the crew took some time off. Dranke and Kell were greeted by the real Vaxe who hugged them both. She grinned "That must have been some experience. Meeting another me." Dranke grinned back wryly "You bet. We were not sure what to make of it." She laughed, just as Ed came and joined them, shaking hands formally "We were told of your escapades. It seems that we were wrong about the Jexx being behind the hacking device." Dranke nodded. Ed smiled, much more genuinely than they had seen him smile before. The emulator was getting better. He said "The Jen subroutine should be good. We have contacted the Tewwn you met on the red planet. He is a gatekeeper to his galaxy. He has agreed not to listen in. It seems he actually uses all EM transmissions to feed himself." He turned on his heel and walked away. The Hnnet were not very forthcoming with the behind-the-scene machinations they carried out. 

Vaxe was overcome with emotion of meeting with Dranke and she held his hand all the time they were at the Hnnesset. Soon it would be time to return back to space command. Kell looked at him meaningfully as they spent the false 'dusk' watching the two artificial stars slide down below the horizon. 





Pic courtesy: NASA, ESA and G. Bacon via Wikimedia commons under the commons license (Hubble website).

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Subterfuge - Mission Impossible 32



The lightyears passed without incident or import as Dranke's darkmatter starcraft jumped time and again into the dark void. This was an endless mission as far as he was concerned. Without the Jen subroutine, he felt naked, disconnected and discombobulated. His crew was new, and he only had one ship to command, the Raven.

He watched Dex and Sette who were now in command, as they spelled him out. Kell was also on the ship, but more on his request, rather than assigned to the ship. She kept herself busy training the new crew and being close to him. The Jen subroutine was something she missed as well. It felt very alone. They had not realized how dependent they had become on the Hnnet tech.

He watched the hologram resolving in the center of the viewing deck, the colors morphing into one another and realized it was a Hnnet. It was communicating using their holographic tech! This was unheard of. They probably had control over the ship's communications. The Hnnet was round, and looked like what Ed had looked like the first time he had seen him. Since it was only a hologram, he stared at it in fascination. The hologram switched off. The image he had seen continued to persist. Sette was speaking to him as he watched "Admiral, the hologram has resolved into a solid Sphere. Or so it seems to our sensors." He nodded. The sphere solidified and dropped on the floor with a dull thump. It quickly transformed into Vaxe. Down to the most minute detail. Vaxe came upto him "Good to see you Captain" as she hugged him. Her skin seemed human. Dranke cleared his throat "Dear Hnnet, I would like to have met Vaxe herself." The Vaxe clone smiled "But sir, I am her. Down to the molecular level. In every way. I have her thoughts, her personality, and her memories. So there is no difference in Vaxe the original and me."

Dranke blanched at the thought, but decided the logic was solid. He still maintained his distance."So what do the Hnnet want?" Vaxe the copy said "We chased you down Captain. We need the Jen subroutine as much as you do. We would like you to disable the Jexx hacking device. Unfortunately, it is not something we are allowed to do due to being part of the Hnnesset. But since you are still not a full member, humans can carry out unilateral actions which may not be sanctioned."

Dranke realized they were using a loophole. It was an old human political trick. Except that he was no politician. He told the Vaxe copy that he was not sure it was a good idea, and he felt he should check with spacecommand. The Vaxe copy nodded sagely "Of course the Hnnet. They have already sent a message to the Leader and he has given the green signal." Dranke felt trapped. He wanted to go and seek out Kell and ask her if this whole thing made sense, but the Vaxe copy was quite insistent. He had a bad feeling about this.

He pinged Kell in any case, he was not going to be bullied into doing something without understanding the ramifications. The Vaxe copy was perfectly in synch with the Vaxe he knew and she greeted Dex and Sette and looked at all the enhancements on the darkmatter starcraft and let Dex show her around. It was surreal. He knew this was a Hnnet. How could he trust them? Attacking the Jexx hacking device could just escalate the aggression from the aliens. He wished he had the Jen subroutine. Kell came through the door in engineering coveralls and he almost laughed at the incongruity of the situation. She hugged Vaxe, but her eyes were looking at Dranke, asking questions without saying a word.

When she finally came upto Dranke, he caught her up on what had happened. Her eyes widened slightly, and then she had an expressionless mask on. She was good. Dranke remembered that Kell had been in the political wing of spacecommand. She was probably better equipped to handle such situations. He nodded imperceptibly giving her the go ahead to handle the Vaxe copy. She went to work.

Kell motioned for Dranke to follow her into her quarters. Once inside, she looked worried "We may not have an option here. Looks like Vaxe, or her copy is right. We need to get rid of the hacking device. And it seems they have the sanction of the Leader. One can never be sure, but this rings true." Dranke looked at her, while he turned the decision upside down "It looks like a sucker punch to me." Vaxe smiled sympathetically "In this case Admiral, we may have to take it on the jaw."

Dranke sighed. He plotted a course to the target as provided by the Vaxe copy. He was going to regret this, of that he was sure.




Pic courtesy : Flikr http://goo.gl/eG1Ppq / ESO - www.eso.org/public/images/eso1238a/

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Defense of Earth ( Mission Impossible 31)


Dranke watched the proceedings with nervousness. It always felt like this when dealing with new personnel. He rested his clammy hands on the guardrail on the bridge as he watched the formation change. The Jexx had their own tricks up their sleeves. Using the apex of their formation, they had formed a battering ram. They wanted to get to Earth!

The commands were relayed instantly. Without an apparent word, each darkmatter starcraft was involved in a dance. They formed a triple wave - one over the other formed like layers with each one turned in the opposite orientation to the one below to cover any possibility of missing a single enemy ship. Dranke told them to hold their fire. He wanted the Jexx to come into range. Without warning five darkmatter starcraft moving at incredible velocities overtook the triple crescent and headed straight for the tip of the 'battering ram.' Dranke was astounded. Fenie got onto his Jen subroutine. "You can thank me later, these are remote controlled ships. We are going to have some fun." Dranke watched in amusement and then in horror as they ships moved ever faster to their target. They were actually a reverse battering ram, except that they were expendable.

The Jexx ships scattered under the furious onslaught as the five ships started to fire. Dranke controlled his fleet as they caught stragglers from the battering ram which started to waver. The five ships had gone straight through the Jexx fleet. Their shielding was incredibly resilient. Dranke spoke to Niket - the battle was joined. In a few minutes, the formation had lost all semblance of a military attack. Dogfights broke out and all one could see was the flash of a laser and the firing of engines.... blue flashes lit the space around them. Yanni was in hot pursuit of a bunch of Jexx spacecraft. She had to be called back. Her inexperience was showing, but she had incredible skills with handling the enhanced darkmatter starcraft. Tenne on the other hand was a pro at dogfights. She was a vet, and it showed. She picked off the enemy with consummate ease. Kisen's ship seemed almost to be in a daze. It was firing randomly. Dranke was watching everything very carefully. He needed to know when to step in.  He thanked Kell and Piteer for taking leadership of mini-squadrons, which allowed for greater flexibility in just these kind of situations. Piteer and Kell were corralling darkmatter starcraft which strayed too far in pursuit of the Jexx ships.

Niket had held the line. Jexx ships broke over the dogfight, looking to pick up holes in the defense, but Niket's fleet was positioned for just this maneuver. It was not a contest. The Jexx gave up and turned tail. Dranke gave the order to hold and not follow in their wake. It was most likely a trap. They needed to regroup. A quick check showed damage to two of the darkmatter starcraft. But it was nothing which could not be fixed in the repair bays. Jexx ships littered space all around. They had been willing to sacrifice lives. Dranke wondered. He felt a strange sense of loss. So much death, and so senseless - Why did the Jexx think it was worth sacrificing lives over? The other Captains echoed his feeling. He was shocked to realize he had telegraphed his feeling over the Jen subroutine.The battle was over. They headed back to spacecommand. Debriefing would be a lengthy business.

Fenie was there to greet them as they entered spacecommand. She looked solemn. She wordlessly hugged both Dranke and Niket and led them out. Taking lives was part of their job, though it had not been asked of them before. And it was never easy. The cadets were celebrating, beer being passed around as they congratulated each other. Fenie's eyes said everything. She kissed Niket tenderly. Dranke felt uncomfortable. He was clearly trespassing in their relationship. He turned away. "You don't have to be embarrassed Admiral. We are too close for that." Dranke turned and forced a grin "I know. And you know I know." The cadets continued celebrating, studiously avoiding the fact that lives had been lost.

General Selin walked in and shook their hands. He looked grim. "The Leader wants to see you three." He did not say why. They left the scene of revelry and back-slapping as they hurried behind the General. He led them into a relatively small room where the Leader was standing with his back to them. If you could call it standing. He was almost fully enhanced, and there was very little of him which was human anymore. Even his face seemed to battle itself into a smile. Dranke realized he was speaking "We believe that the Jexx have been able to subvert the Jen subroutine. Hnnet technicians are working overtime to overcome this security flaw, but we will have to do without the subroutine until they come up with a fix." He looked tired. Dranke realized the ramifications. The Jexx would be able to know almost everything about their plans. Hell, he was afraid they could read his mind. He shut off his subroutine and noticed that both Niket and Fenie were doing the same.

The Leader looked at them "The downside of shutting off the subroutine is we lose contact with Vaxe and the Hnnet. We are trying to manage FTL communications, but this is the only way we know of communicating across galaxies. This will set us back years" His shoulders slumped as he walked out of the door. No one dared move. General Selin cleared his throat "You know what is to be done. Dranke please prepare to leave for the Hnnesset. We must keep our channels to the Hnnet open." He stared at the hologram showing the spacecommand complex. The discussion was over. Niket, Dranke and Fenie snapped to attention and left to prepare for what was to come.





Pic Courtesy: Wikimedia commons : NASA/JPL-Caltech/2MASS/SSI/University of Wisconsin - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Polycyclic_Aromatic_Hydrocarbons_In_Space.jpg

Saturday, February 14, 2015

War Games (Mission Impossible -30)


Unlike what one would have expected, the simulations were much more realistic than the mock-battles they had practiced on the ships. The simulators allowed for huge numbers of Jexx ships to be built into the simulation. . They practiced and repeated their maneuvers until they were perfect. Formations were much quicker, and Dranke could see that the pilots had now figured out where they needed to be at each part in their defensive measures. Gone were the jostling-for-position movements which had horrified the top brass just some time back. There was now a much lighter touch - each ship moved in concert with the others in a synchronized dance. Dranke felt better seeing that, he was proud of the effort his teams had put in.

Since all Dranke's Captains were now linked via the Jen subroutine, they continually chatted about where they were and how things were going. It now seemed impossible to work without the subroutine. It was also very cumbersome in hindsight. Dranke watched Niket's ships which were much slower, and knew that the subroutine had a lot of do with it. Her captains were not on the subroutine. Niket did not trust the Jen subroutine, even after she herself had got the enhancement. He empathized with her. He did not trust it fully too, but it was a crime not to use something which gave such a huge advantage. Niket was standing next to him watching the crews of her fleet work in tandem with Dranke's fleet "I know what you're thinking. You want me to enforce the subroutine on my captains." Dranke smiled "It's your choice. You know it helps us work almost like a single unit." Niket nodded grimly. It could be the difference between life and death. She knew what she had to do.

The 'night' was almost upon them as the ships lights dimmed in the corridors. Fenie kissed Niket hello and nodded to Dranke "Admirals, we have some interesting news. The Hnnet ships have a small upgrade this night in the docks. We are adding the Hnnet controllers for remote control operations. By tomorrow, we will be able to fly the ships right from these simulation consoles." She was sitting on a simulation console, using it almost like a game. It was a stand-alone console, so she could pull apart all the controllers and use them in ways not built into the consoles.  She practiced an impossible maneuver.... the ship flipping over itself as it dove straight for 'Earth' and then moving away at an acute angle. It was unreal. Dranke watched in interest. Niket was transfixed, watching Fenie as she used the gravitational well of the 'Moon' to slingshot away and then reversing the engines to spin around and arrive at a wide angle back to the Moon. She 'jumped' away suddenly as she approached the Moon. It was too close for comfort. Only the Hnnet technology allowed them to do such things. How much could they push this technology? It would be frightening to do this with real ships. Dranke couldn't help but ask "Fenie, what is the performance we can get with these ships?" Fenie grinned "We don't know yet. But with the remotes, we can try things which we couldn't with manned darkmatter starcraft. They decided to join in her game - this was serious buiness.

Later in mess, General Selin walked into the the crammed mess, dressed in a casual grey singlesuit. All the fresh recruits stood to attention as they saw him, drawing grins and amused shouts of derision from the older vets. The fresh-faced youngsters were not aware of shipside protocol. General Selin sat with Niket and Dranke and spoke to them "The games are going well, and the Hnnet have agreed to help us understand the darkmatter ship enhancements through the Jen subroutine. We need to know every single thing they can do." Niket nodded "We were just talking about the same thing with Fenie, and were putting the ships through their paces." General Selin told them of the plan.

Without warning, the klaxons started to blare. When they stopped the silence was deafening. It was only punctuated by the sound of feet running as the crews ran towards their ships. Dranke and Niket watched the swarms of Jexx ships rising from the false horizon created by the Earth. They were moving before the General whispered "Good luck." There was not a wasted moment. Darkmatter starcraft were leaving their docks like winged insects leaving their nest, detaching and speeding towards the Jexx fleet. Dranke watched from the bridge of the Raven, Sette and Dex taking over the piloting of the ship as they joined the formation with their fleet. Dranke knew they had been preparing for this, but it seemed to be too soon. He watched as Niket's ships joined formation.

There was no more time to wonder. The Jexx ships broke formation, they were in the thousands and they bore down on the human fleet.





Pic courtesy: Via Wikipedia NASA/Ames - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_in_science#mediaviewer/File:Kepler186f-ArtistConcept-20140417.jpg

Friday, February 6, 2015

Formation (Mission Impossible -29)


Dranke watched as his darkmatter starcraft wove their way into the desired formation. He preferred to have a quarter-moon formation since it allowed for a strong defensive position, but he worried about the edges. They were too vulnerable to attack from the sides, with too much time required to readjust. He spoke to Piteer on the subroutine "What do we do to ensure that we have flexibility and maneuverability in the event of an attack from the sides?" Piteer was connected instantly, and he roped in all the other captains as well "Yani and Kell have worked on similar simulations, I found that having a spherical system in three dimensions will work well, but it takes too many resources, and there is a lot of waste." Yani sounded apprehensive "Admiral, we could possibly have a layered approach, which allows for much better coverage." Kell was silent.

Dranke thought about it. "Can we try all the simulations please? Lets ask Niket to use her fleet as attackers, it will give us a better idea, even though we expect the Jexx to use thousands of attack vessels instead of the eleven we each have." Tenne piped up "Admiral, we can use something like a 3-3-5 formation. Similar to how sports used to have in the distant past." Dranke smiled. He understood the reference. Tenne with her vast experience in slower ships would have invaluable insights on positional strategies. He acknowledged her input, signaled assent and signed off.

Niket was involved in her own training and the communication from Dex came just as she had called off the exercises. She was happy to participate. "I would love to get into a training session with your fleet." Dex could hear Fenie just behind her, and felt a sense of loss. They scheduled the training and moved on to different scenarios. It was all about the strategic positioning at this stage. Simulations would handle the armed conflict later. Sette was hard at work on the training schedule. Each person needed to have a role, and she painstakingly constructed scenarios which would require each and every crew member of the fleet to participate. Dranke had a new science officer, an overeager cadet called Leste. She went by the book and was agonizingly correct about everything. She was speaking "Completed the systems check and the engine test, Admiral. I mean Captain. We are now ready to move." Dranke sighed and said not unkindly "Yes Leste; you don't need to tell me that, only if there is a breach of protocol." She almost cried. He had to restrain himself from comforting her. She was very new, but spacecommand had to pull from its pool of raw cadets. Part of it was youth helped in growing the cadre of the space corps and part of it was related to the kind of life one had to live - solitary, on edge and dedicated to one single focus. He would have to talk to Fenie about getting her quickly up the curve.

Dranke got onto the Jen subroutine and all the ship Captains were online at once. It was amazing. He outlined the new formation which Tenne had outlined and asked her to take over. He watched in growing admiration as the pieces began to fall in place. Ships moving in concert, with the ability to move quickly without hindrance. Niket's ships wouldn't stand a chance. He smiled to himself.

The exercises were curiously  manic. Dranke had put Tenne in charge and watched as she got the fleet into formation. In three dimensions, each of the 'waves' of ships were stacked up in different levels and the last wave was stacked upto into two mini waves. Each of the waves were alternately 'up' and 'down.' It made for an interesting design. Niket's ships were very disciplined. They came from all directions, not really following a traditional attack formation. Tenne's defensive position held up well, but it could not be used for a counter-attack. Dranke mulled over the schematics.

Piteer asked Dranke if the first wave could break up and counter-attack, but Niket had clearly planned for such scenarios. Her ships had been held back to lure any such outcome. Dranke asked them to hold their position. Since all the ammunition was actually nothing more than a simulation, the computers were keeping score. None of the fleets had been 'damaged.' It was a stalemate.

Niket got onto the comms and spoke to Dranke "We need to regroup and think of how to take this forward. I'm sure the Jexx will be much more aggressive." Dranke agreed "True. Maybe it's time to take this to the simulations. At least we can work in tandem to defend against real Jexx maneuvers.

This was working out to be more difficult than he had thought. At mealtime, in the spacecommand cadet mess, he met up with his old crew. Fenie grinned at him "Niket gave you a run for your money." He glared at her in mock anger "I knew you were behind that. She seemed to have planned for my every move!" It was good to be back together just to spend some time. They were family.




Pic courtesy: LoganArt on Pixabay - http://goo.gl/051tFL ( http://pixabay.com/en/space-nebula-futuristic-planet-580084/ )

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Pandemonium (Mission Impossible - 28)


The satellite docking stations of spacecommand were prepared for the arrival of the Hnnet-enhanced darkmatter starcraft. The viewing gallery was full with cadets who would crew the two new fleets. Dranke and Niket watched in amusement as young science officers and new captains stared at the appearance of the twenty one ships which slid silently into the waiting docking apertures. Much like the Hnnet ships, they did not have an obvious docking arm. Instead, as they approached the docking station, they extruded an appendage which engaged seamlessly; the procedures more like a graceful dance than a mechanical maneuver.

Niket looked resplendent in her Admiral's uniform, and Dranke realized that he must be looking very much the same, and grinned self-consciously. Fenie was in a simple cadet's uniform, but the science director's star shone brightly on her shoulders. She was in her element, her hair thrown back severely as she looked carefully at the ships. Her cadre of science officers would take apart the Hnnet tech and put it together again. It would be back-breaking work, but once they were done, they would be able to repair their ships in their sleep. Spacecommand wanted some fail-safe devices in case the Hnnet tech failed, and Fenie would supervise the installation.

The new captains were the first on board the ships; Dranke knew exactly how each and every Captain must be feeling as they took over command for the very first time. Piteer and Kell were now Captains and they had their own crew to worry about. They led their teams aboard their spanking new darkmatter starcraft.

Dranke sighed and asked Sette and Dex to get their crew together as he walked towards the Raven. It was time for induction. Dex was now a seasoned crewmember, and he did not need direction. He grinned at the fresh new faces about him "Welcome aboard the Raven, It is the oldest ship we have in our fleet now, and the only one which has seen action. Sette is the new science officer and she will show you around the engine room and enhancements later. For now, come with me." He took them to the bridge as Dranke tuned out. He wanted to meet the new crew, but not while they took in the sights of the Raven. He knew each inch like the back of his hand. He decided to give the whole induction tour a miss.

Dranke looked up the captain's list on a hologram. Three new captains Yani, Tenne and Kisen caught his eye. They were all from spacecommand's hierarchy. Yani had simulated over 200 operations, but had never actually piloted a ship. She was one to watch. Tenne had been on an earlier version of spacecraft, which did not have a jump drive. She was a seasoned veteran, but her skills were probably outdated. Kisen was a fresh graduate from the academy. The information on him was sketchy. Why was he considered for the captain's position? It seemed strange. Dranke made a mental note. He would have to put the whole fleet through their paces. There was work to be done. The first thing on his agenda was the Hnnet Jen subroutine enhancement. He told them as much. The captains were too excited to even think about what the enhancement would entail. They all agreed eagerly. It would be some time before the enormity of being continually connected to their Admiral would become apparent to them. Dranke decided he would counsel them when the time came.

Fenie was nosing about the engine room and she smiled "You're lucky to still have Sette and Dex, Captain. I mean, Admiral." She grinned "I have to get used to calling you that, Admiral." It sounded strange to her. Dranke waved her on "It sounds strange to me as well." He joked "So I assume that you call Niket Admiral too?" Fenie was about to respond, when she saw the twinkle in Dranke's eye, and she blushed furiously. "I guess I will have to get used to that, Sir." She ducked her head as she exited the ship, moving to the next. Of all the personnel, she would be the only one who would have to manage every ship in both fleets. 

Without much ado, Dranke commanded Dex to ask his fleet to undock and start maneuvers. There was no time for ceremony. Training would begin right away. Dex grinned "Aye Admiral, initiating undocking." Dranke sighed. It was going to be a long time before he felt comfortable in the new position. He looked on as ten other ships peeled off from the satellite docks and assumed formation. They were a ragtag group without much organization. He instructed Dex and Sette to pass orders onto the new captains so that their ships started to assemble in something resembling a military formation. They responded with alacrity. But it was taking them time to get their orders out to their crews. Dranke watched the chaos in consternation.

Unbeknownst to him, General Selin was watching the fleet performing in a hologram in his quarters. His mouth curled into a smile as he watched the pandemonium. He had expected no less.




Pic courtesy: http://goo.gl/3m3fBb

Friday, January 23, 2015

Moving On... (Mission Impossible - 27)


Dranke piloted the darkmatter starcraft himself as he docked with spacecommand satellite docking station. It was now a very familiar procedure. He was surprised to see that there was no welcoming committee when the airlock opened. He had assumed that Lieutenant Nina Decee would have been there to receive them. Or at least a junior attendant. Instead Jen spoke in his head "Captain, the Leader has asked you to meet your old command, General Selin. Kell will debrief you." Kell was walking alongside Dranke and she nodded silently. It was surreal. They were connected by Hnnet tech to each other, albeit indirectly. And the communication was instantaneous and incredibly efficient. He grinned despite himself. Kell spoke to him in low tones, explaining the agenda as they strode through the cramped walkways.

Fenie and Niket walked behind them hand in hand, and the rest of the crew followed. The winding corridors were no longer a maze with Jen providing visual maps to their destination. General Selin was staring at a large map which rotated endlessly in the middle of the room. It was a hologram. Dranke walked straight through the map and shook hands with his commander "It's a pleasure to meet you again Sir." The General smiled "You are now a seasoned veteran young man. I last saw you as a kid playing at space games." His eyes twinkled in delight. Dex and Sette were craning their necks above the others. They were the only ones who had not seen the General before.

The General was introduced to each to them, and he took the time to talk to each of the crew before he asked them about their last encounter with the Jexx. He took it all in. Niket and her crew seemed to be his focus. Dranke was curious as to where this was all leading. He knew the General was spearheading Earth's defense against the Jexx, but he knew little else.

General Selin cleared his throat "We are now ready to create a full fleet of darkmatter starcraft. As the senior captains and crew, you are the vets and the core who will now be promoted to Admirals." Niket and Dranke looked at each other in surprise. This was not something they had expected. The General was still speaking "In order to defend Earth from future attacks, the Hennet will supply the ships which will be fitted in their yards in Hexe. As you now know, their tech is light years ahead of ours, and it will give us a huge advantage over the Jexx. As part of our upgrade, you will have ten ships each, and a science officer who will have to be trained in the Hnnet tech for running repairs, if so needed. Fenie as science officer will be promoted to science director and will report into spacecommand directly. Any questions?" There were many questions and the General answered them patiently. Twenty new captains would be blooded into the fleet, and they all needed to know what was expected of them.

Dranke felt a little sad. Most of his crew would be captains of their own ships. And while he would now be an Admiral, he realized that he would have to now work with a brand-new crew. Fenie and Piteer would get their own ships for sure. Only Dex and Sette would remain from his old crew. He would miss them all.

The General realized what he was going through and after the rest of the people had been dismissed, he took Dranke aside and spoke with him. "It's always like this Admiral. People move on. Your crew were a tightly-knit unit, but your skills are now needed to create a tightly-knit fleet. We have full confidence that you will make that jump successfully. Not to mention the worry that Jexx will attack spacecommand or Earth, and we need to be prepared with enough firepower to repel them. Their advantage is numbers, so we need to be able to ramp up very quickly." Dranke agreed "Of course Sir. I understand the logic perfectly." The General gave him a smile and said a few words of goodbye, not unkindly, and left quickly. It had been some time since someone had treated Dranke as a youngster, and he realized he missed it. Just a little. He turned abruptly and walked back to the anteroom where his crew were getting ready to head to their quarters.

The new ships were due to reach spacecommand in a couple of days and everyone was excited among the crew. There was a new technical detail which would be a core of science officers, who were even more excited, if that was possible. The quarters given to the two 'fleets' were humming with speculation and yells of cadets and vets alike rung though the night. Dranke was getting used to the idea that he would be separated from his crew shortly. He went up to Kell and asked her of her experiences of being detached from her old battalion. It was instructional to say the least. In the meantime Jen was constantly in his head. She was fast becoming a part of him. A constant companion.

Dranke looked forward to the new day which promised so much. He sat at his bed at looked out the viewing porthole. The dark sky beckoned. It called to him. He needed to be among the stars...





Pic courtesy: From Wikimedia commons - link http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/53/Eve_Online_-_Empyrean_Age_screenshot.jpg

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Surprise attack ( Mission Impossible - 26)


Dranke had no idea they would actually reach Jexx before time; and it seemed that Piteer was taken by surprise as well. He thanked the stars that the shipboard computer gave them enough warning much before the last three jumps were being executed. Dranke needed to slow down the mad rush to the Jexx planet and he asked Fenie to stop jumping while they formulated a plan. They needed to approach the planet with some caution, especially since they suspected that the Jexx had taken Niket and her crew in custody.

Fenie and Piteer decided on a spiral approach from the far side where they would be shielded by the star around which the Jexx planet orbited. Dranke agreed, it would have been his choice as well. Except he asked them to jump to a space much closer to the star than the Jexx would expect. It would give them an element of surprise, especially that now Piteer had tested the ability of the darkmatter starcraft to jump really close to a gravity well. The Jexx would not expect a sudden appearance of the Raven so close to their sun.

It was a tense time as Piteer's navigational skills would be tested to the hilt, and Fenie circumvented a arc which would carry them as close to the Jexx planet as possible without detection. They would be in the shadow of a large moon orbiting another planet, but it would be sufficient for their purposes. It would have to be enough, though the plan was far from foolproof. Dranke signed off on the plan and they began the jump. Sette sent off a ping to spacecommand giving them a quick update, she missed Vaxe's calm assurance and experience. Dex realized what she was going through and nodded solemnly. He felt much like she did. But there was no time to linger and daydream. They were entering a hot zone!

The Jexx star filled the sky, and the filters were engaged automatically, cutting off all radiation. The ship catapulted using the star's immense gravity well and slung out streaking towards the safety of the moon which they had identified. Sweat beaded Piteer's forehead as he worked feverishly to ensure that their time exposed would be minimal. It was a short trip and they needed to lose all the kinetic energy as the engines reversed and matched the movement of the moon. It had been a perfect maneuver! Piteer grinned at Dranke and gave him the thumbs up. Dranke nodded, he had expected no less.

The sky was dark, but Piteer was scanning it for anything out of place. Within moments he sounded the alarm "They were waiting for us Captain, what are your orders? We have just a few minutes to react." Dranke seemed to take it in his stride. "We knew this might happen. Wait. And open channels to communicate. Sette send out a hail." They waited. Tiny pinpricks resolved into heavily armed Jexx craft. They were small and nimble and there were more than twenty which had been patrolling the moon. Dranke groaned inwardly. He asked for the comms and spoke to the Jexx commander directly "We are here to inquire into the missing darkmatter starcraft which is captained by Captain Niket commander. Can you tell us what has happened to it?" The Jexx commander seemed excited "You are not invited to Jexx. We are commencing fire, as we would to an intruder. Goodbye." All the Jexx ships opened fire on the Raven. It was too late to jump.

Fenie gasped as she watched the flashes of weaponry being discharged. But they waited for an inordinately long time. Nothing happened. Fenie stared at Dranke "Captain it's the Hnnet tech. It's actually warping the spacetime around the ship. It makes no sense from any science I've studied. But that's what has happened." Dranke nodded. Jen had already been whispering urgently in his head, updating him quickly with all the capabilities of the Hnnet tech. Apparently they could not be attacked with this warp shield. It was incredible! The Jexx hailed them "We apologize. We would like to board and study the tech which you have brought with you." Dranke replied "Of course, as soon as we see Niket and her crew commander." It was a stalemate, but Dranke knew that the Jexx would gamble everything for the kind of tech they had just seen. The commander said "They are safe. We are not monsters." Dranke was not fooled for a moment "Once they are on my ship, I will allow three of your people safe passage on my ship. But not before." The commander went offline.

In a few moments, a beacon went off - it was the crew of the other darkmatter starcraft! They were still on their ship, which seemed to be disabled. Piteer docked gently with the ship, which bore the marks of attack. Niket strode through "What took you guys so long?" Her smile did not conceal the worry and sleeplessness she had had to endure. The rest of the crew traipsed into the Raven after her. "They were holding us hostage. I think it had something to do with commander Yod, but they are more likely to shoot first and ask questions later." Dranke nodded "We had made a deal with them to board. But I'm wondering if I should uphold my end of the deal." The commander of the Jexx ships was also thinking that the humans might renege and his comms were getting shriller "We are now boarding you captain." Dranke answered calmly "Three of your delegates may visit us. Without any weapons or any other demands." The Jexx broke communications. Within seconds they were under attack again. The Jexx had expected to take them by force.

Since the decision had been made for them, Dranke shrugged and gave orders to return to spacecommand headquarters. The Jexx were helpless to stop the Raven from jumping away. None of their arsenal seemed to work on the enhanced darkmatter starcraft. They had lost Niket's darkmatter starcraft, but the tech it carried was something the Jexx would have had in any case. Niket's ship had not been enhanced by Hnnet tech. When they were jumping away from the Jexx homeworld, Dranke saw Niket and Fenie hugging tightly. He had suspected as much, and he was glad they were able to rescue Niket and her crew. It had been a fruitful trip, but it was time to go home.





Pic courtesy: http://silnae.deviantart.com/art/Area-space-359963719 -  http://goo.gl/eUn6dy (Area space by SilNae)

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Heading Home (Mission Impossible -25 )


The Darkmatter starcraft was on its way back to Earth, winding it way through jumps as it avoided large gravity wells. They all missed Vaxe, who had decided to stay back and join the Hnnesset. But at least she was happy and keen to take up the challenge. Nevertheless, it felt strange. The Raven had been changed, and they all felt it. All the controls felt the same, but the ship seemed to 'know' commands even before they did. It was unnerving.

Dex and Sette spent all their time in the engine room. The new additions to the engine were strange and alien. Clearly the work of the Hnnet. In addition, parts often transformed into some other working part when needed. Simple buttons had the propensity to change into a touchpad. No one quite knew what to make of it. They went to see the captain. Dranke was still mulling over leaving Vaxe behind. He had the sneaking feeling that Kell was behind her whole sudden reveal, but he couldn't pin down where the thought had originated from. Dex cleared his throat "Captain, the engine has components which transform on their own. We are unable to get a fix on how to stop that, or even why it happens." Dranke looked at him in surprise "We must find out. Have you tried everything?" Jen interjected in his head "Ask Dex to look for the programming. Its a learning smart program. The transformation is just the outcome, not the effect." Dranke told Dex and Sette what Jen had told him. They nodded and marched off to the bridge. All the computing was done there.

The ship also jumped faster. Dranke could not explain it. He asked Jen. She told him to check their fuel. There was almost no utilization. Dranke did a double take. Jen giggled in his head "It's using any subatomic particles which get trapped by the engine during jumps and enhancing the energy patterns. Don't try to understand the physics. Your people will know about it soon enough." Dranke was flabbergasted. The Hnnet had tech which humans would have given an arm and a leg for. And now it was on his ship as well.

Piteer came down from the navigational deck and got himself a coffee analogue. "You know captain, there is another thing. We are now able to jump very near gravity wells. So maybe you don't need a navigator anymore." He gave a twisted smile at Dranke. Dranke raised his cup in response "We should all get to be superfluous. Though we still need you Piteer, so stop daydreaming of walking off my ship."

In all the banter they almost missed the message which had been received from spacecommand. Since Sette was sitting at Vaxe's desk, she noticed it first. It was for captain's eyes only. She pushed it to Dranke who looked at her with glazed eyes as the message played "Captain this is a matter of grave urgency. We suspect that Captain Niket and her crew has been taken by the Jexx. We have lost contact with the darkmatter starcraft some days back, and even the auto-ping has not confirmed its existence. We need you to investigate at the soonest and attempt a rescue if so required. As of now, we are not sure if the Jexx are involved, but all indications are that they had a hand to play in this new development. Since the time for you to revert to us will be a few weeks, we are only waiting for a ping. By order of the Leader." It was ominous.Dranke relayed orders quietly to Fenie who came to his side unbidden. She always knew when she would be needed. He looked at her searchingly "I know you and Niket are close, so please let me know if you have any problem.I need the crew to be on the ball." Fenie nodded "I'm okay. I'm keen to find out what happened to her." She rushed off without any further explanation.

The Raven had already changed its course and started jumping towards the Jexx homeworld before she could even look at the starmaps. She stared at the course. It had cut down time to almost half from what she would have estimated. The ship was anticipating their moves and working around any possible permutations she could have looked at. She stared some more before telling the captain what had happened.

At this rate, they would be at Jexx in under a week. She just hoped it would be in time to save her partner. If not, everyone would know in any case.



Pic courtesy: NASA / Wikimedia commons - http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4e/Pleiades_large.jpg