Saturday, August 13, 2011

Land Leave 7

Some moons of the solar system.

Land Leave 7:

The chancellor's message ended. “What do you think that means?” James was gaining his confidence back by the moment, “I don't buy a word coming out of that puppet's mouth.”

Bill had been replaying the details of the engagement through in his head. Sorensen hadn't asked about the explosion at the solar array. He couldn't make sense of it. Even the most sadistic government wouldn't destroy its own life support systems—especially because there was no sign of it in the chancellor's message. It started to become clear to Bill, “no one knows about the explosion at the array, at least not yet.”

“What?”

“No one knows about the bombs placed at the array yet, not even the Jovian government. Think, Sorensen didn't ask about it at all. It was either an unimportant detail or it isn't known. Same goes for the chancellor, not in his sympathy message. He doesn't know.”

“So, it's an overlooked detail in a coordinated attack against the Eve. What does it matter?” James was too blunt for the subtleties.

“Hopefully it tells us who perpetrated the attack. We still don't know if it was state sponsored; we have no idea which of the myriad terrorist groups could have the resources to do this, we aren't sure if it's even a conspiracy from within our own government!” Bill's blood pressure was rising, this was actually exciting. Normally he waited for the world to wash over him, but this meant something, this could change so much; he could feel it. “We gotta tell the captain. C'mon.”

The two rushed down the corridors. When they reached the bridge they found Sorensen looking at an outlay of the region. “Sir, we have important information to relay about the attack; where's the captain?”

“The captain is busy assessing diplomatic and military options, you can relay any information directly to me.” Sorensen was tired of these two ensigns. They had been roaming the ship because of their 'promotion' with the science officers and had botched the one part of the mission that could have salvaged relations with the Jovians.

“I'm not sure I feel comfortable, can we try to see the captain?” Bill had no diplomacy.

“Request denied. You will relay what you believe to be important information to me.”

James stepped between them, “We refuse to say anything unless it is with the captain.”

Sorensen's temper rose, “You will tell me or you will both be put in the brig for insubordination and I will have you both court-martialed. Clear?”

James leaned forward “That's not how it works, the captain needs to know pertinent details and if you need to know he will tell you. You throw us in the brig, you risk--”

“Stand down! All three of you. What's this about?” The captain had appeared from strategy and was looking at all three of them like they were petulant children. “Get in here, all of you.” The captain watched as all three stormed into strategy. Bill quickly took a seat, James and Sorensen stared each other down as they took opposing seats. “I will not have bickering or insubordination on my bridge or this ship. I also need information fast. Everybody gets one time that they can breach code to supply what they believe to be important. You have both used up your one. Sorensen, thank you for enforcing the chain of command, but I believe you have things to attend to. You are dismissed.” Sorensen looked hurt, but he straightened up, saluted the captain, and exited. The captain looked back at the two of them. “He's always been a bit tight in the pants, but you two can't do that. He is a good officer and far more experienced than the two of you combined.”

“I'm sorry sir, it's just that we might have something pertinent to our security on this ship. I didn't want to risk anything.” With that Bill proceeded to explain the explosion at the array. As he did so he noticed another detail. “Sir, I don't think the attack contingent knew we were at the array. The speed of the incoming ships gave them an intercept at the Eve. They had to brake hard to engage us. I'm not sure that the explosion was part of the plan.”

The captain leaned back in his chair, “interesting. The plot thickens doesn't it.” The captain took a deep breath, “I just got a message from fleet command on Mars, they are communicating a possible line of action. We have been ordered to continue on our mission to the Oort cloud. Command believes that this has something to do with that mission. I appreciate the snooping you have done, but I need you two to continue your training in the sims. If we don't recover that, we don't get to find out what's going on. Keep this information to yourselves and be alert once we pass Neptune's orbit. This could get ugly.”

Kelvin and Bacchi were waiting for the two at the sims. They exchanged information, had a quick conversation about the mission and set to a grueling nine hour training. Things went more smoothly after the tenth try. When the group finally exited the sims, they were weary and hungry. Bacchi suggested that they make their way to the mess hall.

“Don't get yourselves down. Your flying is great, but that is a dense field and your ships are bricks.” Bacchi saw the defeat in James' eyes.

Kelvin was more rationed with her praise, “you have gotten much better. And no one knows how you will do during the real mission. Try to focus in on the mission; it's difficult but possible.”

“Yeah, yeah, self-esteem and all that bull. How many more times can we run the sim before we have to run the mission?” James shoved a mouthful of chicken into his mouth. It wasn't very good; dry, probably reconstituted, but it was abundant. Bacchi held back a look of disgust; Kelvin held back a laugh. When they had recovered, and James had swallowed, Bill reiterated the question.

“How much time do we have?”

The two scientists looked at each other. “That's kind of a problem. We are in the Oort cloud and we'll be doing pre-flight checks in 3 hours. We want you guys to get a little rest before the mission. The next time will be the real time,” Kelvin exhaled.

James drew in his breath sharply, “so that's it? We just go and hope for the best? We've only run it successfully once.”

“I'm sorry, after the attack at New Alexandria, command wants us to do this mission ASAP. I asked for more time but he seems to think that haste is our edge at the moment.” Kelvin was obviously peeved at the decision, “he even went so far as to open a wormhole to get us out here faster. Most of our time traveling has been because we overshot our destination by about 3 light hours. We'll meet up with the Hestia and then proceed with the mission.”

Bill looked at James, “alright then. I guess I'm going to grab some shut-eye.”

“You do that, I'm going to walk around a bit.” James was obviously nervous, something uncharacteristic for him. He left the three to the rest of their meal and let the reconstituted mess settle in his stomach. It churned. He went to the hydroponics deck. It was a large round room that roughly simulated a garden except for the pipes running throughout the room. There was no dirt, it was a sterile garden. There was fake sunlight that ran in large strips above the plants. The strips were separated by actual windows that looked out onto the abyss. James could see that they were so far out that the sun was the same as any other star. They were in the void completely. He laughed to himself at the intellectual thought that passed through his brain, “curious that the artificial sun gives more life to these plants than the actual sun out the window.”

James felt his heartbeat quicken a little. In less than three hours they would be in the void for real. Aside from stray rocks and ice, the Oort cloud was basically empty. This 'cloud' of particles was an anomaly in itself, the existence of a large cube was even more mysterious. He sat back and watched the tomatoes grow, they were in all stages of ripeness; rotated so the crew could have fresh tomatoes all the time. He asked the computer to turn off the lights for a moment. He felt the gentle rumble of the two fusion engines below him, he heard people passing in the decks below, and he could almost imagine himself at the edge of the mega-structure again, looking out on the vastness and wanting to go there.