Thursday, August 11, 2011

Land Leave 6

The 4 largest moons of Jupiter--not actual distances, but I believe it is to scale.

Land Leave 6:

The captain was furious. The Eve was now in a war zone, about 2 hours from any response from Earth. The nearest allied vessels were at the Mars orbital docks and their support would be minimal at best. He paced around the strategy room. “What's the damage report?”

“No casualties but 14 confirmed injuries that prevent adequate execution of duties. Fusion 3 has lost containment and had to be shut down. We have a hull breach somewhere in the aft and repair ships are still assessing what has been lost. There is a sway in our motion which indicates there is something disrupting our near light-speed field and we have to check it. We have 14 fighters that made hard landings, one which is damaged beyond repair,” the weapons major said tensely.

“Ok, what happened out there? I need numbers and cause,” the captain looked at Sorensen.

“The Eve sent out two ret ships to fix the solar array. Around that time, radio contact with the orbital station New Alexandria was lost. In an attempt to re-establish contact, the organic computers automatically restarted several subsystems. It was at this time that an explosion was registered at the aft of the ship. Short range sensors picked up at least 6 ships of different sizes converging on the Eve rapidly. The sensors indicated small weapons fire and immediately activated the main defenses. At this time, you gave the order to scramble fighters to engage the ships. You also ordered the ret ships back. Short range sensors began picking up multiple new contacts from all positions. A distress signal was sent out on all diplomatic channels to the five permanent colonies and 3 orbital stations in the system. At the docking of the ret ships, all fighters were ordered to land and the Eve made a hard lift from New Alexandria. In this docking process we were able to capture one vessel, but the pilots had killed themselves by the time they were pulled into dock. Our new trajectory is to hide in the shadow of Amalthea until we are given further orders,” Sorensen suddenly felt a wave of exhaustion pass through him.

“Thank you Sorensen, I want everyone on high alert, and I want optimal shielding and stealth while we make repairs and figure out what to do next. If we are attacked again, I want us to move to Mars immediately. I understand that we probably have our attackers out-gunned but I am uncertain as to why we are defending ourselves in the first place. I refuse to have this ship or its crew be used for any political purpose. Dismissed.” The captain stood at attention while his officers left the room. Once the door closed he collapsed in his seat. What the hell was going on? The attack seemed like terrorism. But it also was too well organized. There was conveniently a drop in signal at New Alexandria and no Jovian law vessels around when the attack occurred. The captain guessed that it was the work of the East Io Company but knew that there would be little substantial evidence to discern it from a radical terrorist attack. He stared out at the stormy atmosphere of Jupiter, something was brewing; he could feel it. Feel it, the thought made him feel old.

His thoughts were interrupted, “sir we have an initial report from the blast in the aft.”

“Excellent, go on.”

“You aren't going to believe this, but the blast was internal. It looks like it was ruptured from the inside.”

“Are you sure?” The captain's hands were trembling.

“I'm sorry sir, but yes—absolutely.” And the voice hung up.

“Shit!” The captain took a minute and composed himself. He called up the computer and asked for all vid feed footage near the time and place of the blast. What he saw horrified him. Someone dressed in an officer's uniform set explosives at the site. The individual then stood guard at the site until detonating the bomb, at which time the body was sucked into the void. The intercom came back on.

“Sir, we've found the source of the fluctuation in our near light-speed field.”

“It's an officer, isn't it.”

“How did you know?”

“Check the body for any tracking devices and search for a form of ID. I want whoever this is identified and I want to know how they got on board. I want a thorough roll call, and I want to know if there is anyone on this ship who shouldn't be. And I want it done 5 minutes ago. Anything else?”

“We have an incoming message from the Jovian government.”

“Put it through.” The captain pulled up the message and heard the voice of the supreme chancellor of the federated moons of Jupiter. In reality he was on the payroll of the East Io Company and hadn't won a legitimate election since he was pastoral mayor of the Ganymede mines. It was the expected answer: deep sympathy that an attack had occurred, disbelief, horror, outrage, and promises of a strengthened union between the AmU and the Jovian system. It revealed nothing; just that the attack was not an open declaration of war. “Run the message through the system's entire com. Order everyone that we remain at a state of readiness.”

The ship would remain at Amalthea until they gathered orders from Earth and the Mars fleet. If needed, they could return to Earth faster than almost any ship in the solar system or organize a strategic strike in the Jovian system in under 15 minutes at full speed. His biggest concern wasn't the vast distances that the Eve would have to travel or the time delay in full communication, it was right on the ship. The possibility of treachery could be fatal, and the unidentified 'officer' had shown complete disregard for his life; other spies could be assumed to act in a similar manner.

The captain leaned back in his chair, Amalthea's red surface gave the Eve cover for at least 11 more hours. As luck would have it, the Galilean moons had recently aligned on the light side of Jupiter. Hopefully the Eve would be ready by then.