Tuesday, September 9, 2014
Mission impossible 3 - Contact
Fenie had pressed Vaxe into service to ensure as close to real-time communications with spacecommand as possible, but there was still quite a lag. Even with quasar-assisted communications, they had to wait for responses. Vaxe indicated that she had managed to establish a secure link with a hand signal.
After chasing an alien fleet across the galactic disk; no mean feat, even for a darkmatter spacecraft, they had realized the alien fleet was not aimed at Earth as they had first suspected. Instead the fleet had continued traversing the galactic disk and diverged from the path which led to Sol... and Earth.
General Selin from spacecommand was speaking 'We noticed the alien fleet around two days back and pressed one of the other darkmatter starcraft which is still following the fleet, albeit from a distance which is at least three jumps away. It's going to be hard to be unnoticed."
Dranke felt an anger coming over him, but he had to wait for the General to stop speaking "Sir, we have been tracking this fleet for some time now. Permission to track." He hated the idea of some other captain getting the chance to meet the first aliens encountered by humans.
Fenie looked at him - part in amusement and largely in agreement as she nodded. This was theirs. By any yardstick. He grinned to break the grim tone on the bridge, even though he was seething inside. General Selin replied after a few minutes "Niket's starcraft is already on the job. It is even more important that you continue on your original mission now. Except we need to trace back to where the alien fleet originated. We have to know."
Piteer walked across the bridge to where they were gathered and pulled up a starmap.. showing an estimation of the path taken by the alien fleet. But there were too many variables and red lines snaked across a number of galaxies. There was no way to be sure. They needed to know more. Dranke took it all in "Sir, based on a preliminary study, it looks impossible to be sure. It would be like searching for a needle..." The General cut him off, obviously transmitting simultaneously "We know that. I guess we are grasping at straws. I'm sorry. Your orders are to continue on your original mission." The transmission cut off with the standard signal for end of communication. Dranke looked annoyed "You heard the boffin. We go back from where we came and triangulate our best guesses for point of origin."
Life returned to normal pretty quickly and took on the usual boring space travel motif, Except for the spectacular views as they zoomed out of the galaxy with each successive jump. They went back to the usual shiptime cycle, mimicking the Earth's The card games which had taken a back-seat in the past few days broke out in full force again.
Dranke toyed with the idea of taking a wild guess at where the alien fleet came from. He stared at the maps again and again. Without any preamble the ship's red alert buzzer began ringing loudly. Fenie was running to her post, as was Piteer, followed by the navigation and piloting crew, who had abandoned whatever they were doing. They rapidly began to scan for the reason for the proximity alert.
They were being hailed. The alien fleet! It had doubled back and was now tracking them. Dranke felt a knot in the pit of his stomach as he realized what had happened. The alien fleet had seemed to evaded the other darkmatter starcraft and must have given Niket's crew the slip. He swore. He remembered that there had been a chapter on extraterrestrial intelligence in the cadet manual, but it assumed they would happen on some form of life on a planet.
Fenie looked at the hailing signal - it was gibberish - she could not discern any pattern . Not good. This would take the translators forever to crack. And that was with a lot of luck.
The alien fleet gleamed in front of them. The spacecraft seemed to be almost liquid. The shape blurred and flowed as if made from water. There was nothing to do but wait. They were outnumbered. Should they make a run for it? He was transfixed. Fenie yelled "They are accessing our systems. And the attack has shut down everything. Too late to run if that was in your mind."
Dranke had never felt so helpless. He was a man of action. Waiting was not his strong suit. He needn't have worried. The words on the screen which scrolled down were chilling, and seemed to echo in the ship, even though it was just in text "Who are you?"
Pic courtesy: http://www.eso.org/public/images/eso1118a/ under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license (Wikimedia commons)