Monday, August 29, 2011

Land Leave 17


Looking up at the Baja California mega-structure from the third pillar.  An Eve-sized ship is docking about 100 stories up for scale.

“Holy shi—” Dr. Kelvin tried to hold onto the railing and missed.

“Status! I need us pulling in tight on the AmU capital station now!” The captain barked.

“Sir, we have multiple distress signals at 14 major mega-structures,” the comm officer stated harshly, “something big is going on.”

“Get me on comm with any authority!”

“I've got too much chatter. All major enforcement channels are nearly white noise. Sir, I think we have some sort of coordinated attack.”

“Y'think?” The captain recovered, “sorry. Figure out what's going on and initiate docking procedures with AmCap.”

“They are putting us in a holding pattern. I think we've been quarantined,” the comm officer looked at the captain helplessly.

The captain wasn't in the mood, “I don't want to hear another word out of you unless you are putting me through to a higher officer,” he said tersely. The comm officer turned back and tried to patch something through. The captain winced at his poor response and turned to Dr. Kelvin and Sorensen, “anything?”

“No. Tactically speaking we are blind. No idea about the fleet and our plan to patch through to someone of significance could be pre-empted by the Continental's actions.” Sorensen wanted to throw up his hands.

“The cube did its job, I don't have anything beyond that. Hopefully it's safe and the Hestia has rendezvoused with the cube.” Kelvin threw up her hands, they were lost and cut-off in the middle of a war they had no idea about.

“Sir?”

“What!” The captain nearly yelled.

“I have the Admiral of the AmCap on the line,” the comm officer barely spoke.

The captain relaxed his shoulders, “put him through.” The admiral appeared on a screen.

“What the hell is going on?” The admiral was not pleased.

“I was going to ask you the same thing,” the captain answered.

“I have reports that you perpetrated an attack against a Jovian solar array, led a mutinous fleet into an unordered retreat out of our Mars facilities, and entered unauthorized LEO.”

“Sir, I can assure you that I have the AmU's best interests in mind and I can explain it all, but I'm concerned about the distress signals on 14 AmU mega-structures and the seeming coordinated attack against the AmU Navy by Jovian forces,” the captain couldn't keep his heart in his chest.

“We're practically blind up here. We lost contact with Earth four minutes ago and have been receiving spotty reports of explosions on the pillars of these structures. I haven't gotten hold of Secret Service or command,” the admiral looked lost, “Pat, I think we are in the middle of an insurrection.”

The captain looked out at the bridge, “Jean, I'm lost. What's our stated mission? I'm on defense and trying to keep what's left of the AmU fleet from collapsing.”

“I have 4 ships in Low-Earth Orbit. I'm afraid to drop them to aid in evac because I wouldn't have any orbital defenses or contact once they drop LEO. I've contacted the EU, Asian Pacific, and South African fleets for help but they are doing clean-up at Mars and Jupiter. What can you do?”

“My fleet is scattered in four locations. The Valley Forge should be in Geo-stationary orbit—I'm surprised it hasn't contacted you. I can dispatch it to retrieve all ships,” the captain suddenly became aware of the Valley Forge's absence. It should have commed immediately. He turned to his comm officer, “get them on the line!”

“Sir, I am reading a heat signature at 42,000 kilometers. I have photon compression signatures!”

“Brace for impact!” The captain gritted his teeth as a laser struck the shields. There would be minimal hull damage but the Eve had been knocked off it's course. “I want that on-screen and targeted!”

“It's the AmU Earth fleet.” Sorensen cursed audibly.

The captain looked at the admiral on screen, “you don't have any defense forces admiral. I recommend evac, otherwise you'll all be hostages.”

“Noted, get back-up,” and the admiral was gone. Another hit of a laser charge grazed the side of the shield. The shield hadn't fully recharged and part of the Eve's hull melted.

The captain was in a bind, the Valley Forge could be assumed to have been destroyed. There was a severe attack on AmU soil and there was no back-up. He looked at Sorensen, “order all non-essential personnel to evacuate. Order all able pilots to dispatch to all 14 zones and help however they can,” the captain took a deep breath in, “set course for the cube.”

Bill and James were sitting in their fighters waiting for orders. There was a hold on all full disembarks until they were in the clear. The emergency lights flashed red as they looked at each other nervously, “what do you think is going to happen?” Bill said as he ran a routine check on his systems.

“Dunno. We've been dark down here for fifteen minutes. A lot can happen in that time,” James was surprisingly zen given his earlier frantic outbursts at the solar array. “I think that the captain got the admiral of the Earth fleet to call off the attack and we are about to launch a major counter-offensive against the Jovians.”

“Maybe. Or maybe we have become such hated fugitives that the full force of all the interplanetary fleets is after us. We knocked something out of balance with this cube.” Bill hoped his words were hollow. The system check finished and an urgent notice appeared on-screen. It gave coordinates and an aid mission order.

Sorensen's voice came over the comm, “all able-bodied pilots mobilize according to your flight plans, the Eve will be leaving LEO and you will be in charge of disaster relief at 14 mega-structures. If there was any doubt that a war has started, let there be none now. We are in the midst of the largest coordinated attack on the AmU since the Mons Pavonis Conspiracy. Your job is strictly rescue and relief; there are millions of AmU citizens in danger.”

James looked at Bill and waved. James put on his helmet and fired up the engine. Over the comm he heard Bill mumble, “it just makes me uneasy...”

James looked at the coordinates and then it dawned on him, “dad,” he said painfully. His and Bill's destination was the Baja California mega-structure, “Bill, do you see these coordinates.”

“Don't think about it, everything will be fine,” Bill tried to convince the both of them. Bill shot down the launch tube and initiated his re-entry sequence; James followed closely behind. As they rounded the Earth's curvature, they saw the smoke billowing into the atmosphere. In low-earth orbit weather patterns appeared like a fog hovering lightly over the earth, the texture of the earth was distinct, and burning mega-structures were a disconcerting sight.

“Thats not good. My dad--” James said. Bill heard the heart-wrenching helplessness in James' voice. Bill knew that James had a tough relationship with his father. At the end of the day James still sought his father's approval. “We gotta--”

“I know,” Bill said it with determination, “we're going into black-out, I have two minutes till comm signal. Mark.” With that the two ships entered the Earth's atmosphere. The ceramic plating of the ships heated up. The immense heat blocked out radio communications briefly. Then they were through, decelerating to sub-sonic speeds.

Fighters were much more primitive than the large battleships, they had a weak velocity-stabilizing field for high speed fights in space, but those were ineffective in a large enough gravitational field such as the Earth's. The braking system on re-entry was rough to say the least, and Bill knew his neck would feel it the next day. If he made it to the next day.

“Fix it. Fix it. Fix it,” James repeated to himself. He knew that he had to perform perfectly. He had to be there. He had to just, “fix it. Fix it. Fix it.”

The mega-structure stood like a mountain over the bay. It lay at the edge of the Gulf of California and was the seat of the AmU state of Baja California. It appeared that where the A-frame converged, some sort of major explosion had occurred. Bill knew that the shield would protect the building from most blasts. The smoke was a sign of an internal explosion—a terrorist attack.

As they approached the chatter on their comms turned to white noise. Bill went white with terror. James could only feel his heart get heavy and a deep rage build inside him, “what do we do now?”