Thursday, August 11, 2011

Land Leave 5

A Tesla, all electric vehicle, spotted in Issaquah where Ciera's Village Theater interview was.

Land Leave continues:

“Can you believe that? Cubes, pre-solar Communists! It's like JFK's bust,” James gestured wildly.

“I thought you said the JFK thing was true,” Bill replied.

“Yeah, but this one can't be, no way!” James was almost skipping, he did that when he was excited.

“Let's just focus on not getting killed, then we will be the first ones to see it,” Bill suppressed his curiosity; better to focus on what he was authorized to do.

In the sim, they ran the scenario three times and found it extremely difficult. Getting to within 13 clicks was almost impossible. They crashed two times and on the third Bill's ret beam was damaged in the journey. Dr. Kelvin came on the com system, “alright boys, take a break. I know this is tough. We just entered Io's orbit and will be docking at New Alexandria in about five minutes, meet me in the bottom shuttle bay.

The ship's bottom shuttle bay was dedicated to all non-military vehicles. All retrieval, medical, diplomatic and repair ships resided within the bottom bay. Because of the constant need for any of those ships at any given time, they were constantly kept at a state of readiness. Pre-flight checks took less than 12 seconds with an experienced pilot. James and Bill were frustrated after their unsuccessful sims and took 19 and 21 seconds respectively to launch their ret ships.

Once out they headed straight to the solar array. The mission was easy: go out, reposition the array, check for any major damage, and call in the repair crews. The solar arrays were large sheets of reflective material that obtained power by trapping solar radiation and sunlight and converting it to energy. The energy was then beamed down to the moons of Jupiter, in this case Io, to run essential life support functions for the citizenry. It was a system without many redundancies. Two broken solar arrays could drop oxygen synthesis to dangerous levels on Io. But that was the excitement of living on the edge. The Jovian system, aside from the Ares colonies, was the furthest that human civilization had gone. Everything else was still frontier exploring. The Hestia was way outside the bounds of any intra-system protection. Beyond Jupiter only science vessels and the military really roamed. And roam they did, there had been many skirmishes beyond the rings of Saturn but no government would admit to engaging lest war be declared.

Bill and James didn't think much of this as they approached the array. They were aware of the unrest in the system but not of the possibility of war. Bill saw it first. The solar array was out of position because an explosion had shifted it. There were burn marks on the edge of the upper panel. It was mostly cosmetic, a realignment and some repair crews on the gyroscopes easily have fixed it. As they made their approach though, Bill noticed a protrusion on the lower panel. James was approaching it from the opposite side and would not have seen it.

“James, stop! Something's wro--” Bill couldn't finish, the protrusion exploded and swung the array hitting Bill's ret ship and spinning him out of control. He heard James over the com, “you ok? I have a pinhole in my hull, losing pressure rapidly.”

Bill answered, trying to orient himself, “stick some putty from under your seat there. It should plug it up.” In the background, Jupiter, enormous and red, spun wildly. Then, over the com, the captain's voice.

“We have hostiles coming in hot and undetermined damage to the aft of the ship, all fighters and repair crew are ordered to scramble. This is not a drill, repeat, this is not a drill.” The captain was succinct and calm. “Ensigns Rojas and Tan, you are ordered to return to the Eve ASAP, a fighter complement will escort you back.”

Bill had finally managed to orient himself, “you hear that James? We gotta head back. Pull into formation. Are you ok?”

James had just managed to find the putty and shove it into the pinhole. “Yeah, I'm shaken but I'm alright. I think I had an epiphany, I'm kind of a jerk. I promise to be better if we get out of this. I really do like you Bill, and I don't want you to die.”

“Yeah...Sounds great, let's talk about this when we get back. Pull into formation, we got incoming.” Bill noticed three ships on his radar. They were of differing sizes. He guessed they were probably modified short range transport vessels. Their weapons were basically tacked on but no less deadly. James pulled up to him and they headed in a beeline to their docking bay. The three incoming ships were gaining too fast. They wouldn't be in the Eve's turret defenses in time and the fighter scrambled to accompany them had evidently failed to appear.

“I don't think--” James was sounding frantic.

Bill felt a strange sense of calm, it was like he was in the eye of a storm. “James, get ahead of me, cut your engines and throw your ret beam on my count.” Bill was sweating, adrenaline flowed in his veins, “ok, three, two. Now!” The force of the two beams out of alignment sent their ships whipping around each other in a circle; around them an electro-magnetic pulse fired, disabling the ships heading toward Bill and James. Bill's heart rate slowed and he realigned himself to head to the Eve.

“That was awesome! You just got so many points in my book Bill,” James' scream was just noise in the com, “how the hell did you remember the LaForge maneuver from basic?!”

Bill and James pulled into their docking bays almost at full speed. This attack was somewhere between full-scale rebellion and a terrorist attack. Either way didn't matter, the Eve was in the Jovian system without support. It would have to defend any incoming fire. James, upon exiting his ret ship, seemed to immediately grasp the gravity of the situation, “Bill we gotta get to the bridge, if anyone is hurt up there they may need us to take over.”

Bill saw the look of panic on James' face. Neither of them had been prepared to fight during peacetime. “You are bleeding everywhere, get to sick bay, I'll report to the bridge.”

“I'm fine, it's just a scratch. Wow, that is a lot of blood, where's it coming from? Oh, here. Don't tell me where to go, we're going to the bridge.” The two rushed to the bridge where they were greeted with two visions: an orchestra and a battlefield. The battlefield was in three officers who had been downed by explosions from the ducting system. The orchestra was in the calm way that the captain was managing the skirmish.

“Tan, take over engineering relays. Rojas, grab an easy stretcher and rush these three to medical!” The captain seemed almost comfortable in this situation; the bodies were just another part of the orchestra. The two rushed to their assignments.

“We've got more ships incoming. Sir, there's no discernible formation, orders?” The nav-sat officer asked.

“Target the lead vessel, send three vessels to head off any retreating ships and see if we can get one for questioning. Report from the engine room?”

Bill looked at the screen, “systems still at half, new damage report, one fusion engine shut down from containment loss.”

“Has Io responded to our distress call yet, any moons?”

The com officer looked at the captain, “still waiting. Expected reply in forty seconds.”

“We're sitting ducks out here. I want us moving out of dock with New Alexandria now. Ditch the sequence and shoot us to the opposite side of the Jovian system. I want it done now. All systems officers report to strategy now.” The captain exited the bridge in a huff.

Sorensen took over and thirty seconds later they were heading at .58c to the other side of Jupiter. Tan rushed to medical and found the Engineering Officer to be alright, “you are needed in strategy immediately sir.” He then looked around for James. He saw him on a bed in the far corner.

“James? You ok? Speak to me man.”

“He's fine, he had low blood sugar and passed out when I cut open the wound of Officer Green over there. I applied some clot promoter to his wound and he is fine to go.” The medical officer left to attend to another patient.

“Fainted huh?”

“You don't know what I saw.” James seemed embarrassed, “Listen, about what I said on our way back to the Eve.”

“Didn't hear a thing, you cut out. One of the ships must have had some sort of jamming signal.”

James smiled, felt his split lip again, and winced, “thanks.”