The Oracle, part 13 (fiction)

The Oracle

13

Steff looked at Lewis through the glass. He was seated in their “interview” room. He was a man with pale skin and greying hair, probably in his late forties. Edwards was seated across from him trying to get information. So far Lewis had given his name and nothing else, and even the name could have been fake since it had no corresponding file in the database. None of the others would talk as well. Edwards stood up and opened the door. Steff went to meet him.

“It’s no good. He won’t volunteer any information.” Edwards told her.

“Okay, it’s time for me to have a go.” Steff replied. She walked into the room and sat down across from Lewis. He stared at her with disgust.

“My god, you even look like a monster.” He said.

“Tell us about your friends.” Urged Steff ignoring his words.

“I know what you did, everyone knows what you did. How do your crew stomach seeing you every day?” he asked her.

“I’m asking the questions.” Steff reminded him.

“If I had thought about it, we should have taken you. I’m sure the Alliance of Free Colonies would pay a lot for you.”

“And are you allied with the Separatists?” Steff asked him.

“We’re pirates. They might do business with us, but they would never let pirates work for them. They’re way too high and mighty for that.”

“So that’s a no then?” Lewis shrugged, as if he didn’t care. “Where are your friends? They turned and ran away after their first volley of missiles, once we began firing back that is. Asteroids don’t just sit stationary in space. My guess that might be a hideout with a drive system keeping it in place. Obviously there’ll be other hideouts as well, which is where they’ve probably fled to. New Earth Space Command are sending some ships to check it out. The more you tell us, the better it will be for you, and all your compatriots.” Steff told him.

“Synthetics.” He stated.

“I’m sorry?”

“You have synthetics aboard. Have you no shame?”

“Yes, New Earth Spacefleet uses synthetics. They are great as soldiers and security guards, as well as many other important roles on a spaceship.”

“You sent synthetics aboard my ship!” He stated angrily.

“So what? If you hadn’t pretended to be in need of assistance, none of this would have happened. So tell me about your fellow pirates.” Steff ordered. Lewis folded his arms and looked away.

“I’m not telling you anything.” He told her.

“Before we go into the next wormhole, you’ll be dropped off on one of the warships. There you’ll await Admiral Byron’s interrogators. Once they have you, you’ll wish you had spoken to us.”

“As if anything I say here will stop the interrogators torturing me.” Lewis said.

“It will matter. If you’re helpful here, they’ll take it into account.” Steff told him. Lewis laughed. He looked at her.

“That’s an interesting scar down the side of your head. I wonder how you got that. Makes you even look more like a Frankenstein’s Monster.”

“I’m not the subject of this conversation, you are.” Steff reminded him. He continued sizing her up.

“If you remove the scar and add some actual colour to your skin you might be worth a fuck, but only one.” He stated. Steff stood up. He deserved no more of her time.

“When Byron’s interrogators are through with you, you’ll remember this conversation and wish you had been more cooperative.” She turned and walked out the door ignoring his response.

“The others aren’t willing to talk either.” Edwards commented once Steff emerged from the room. Steff just shrugged.

“I guess we leave them to Byron then.” She replied. Walking away from the interview room she wondered whether anything could make them talk. People like that had some honour code that seemed unbreakable. She wondered if there was anything that could make her as intractable as that. If the Separatists managed to grab her one day, what would she be willing to tell them if it meant they might commute her execution? She guessed she wouldn’t know until it happened.

She stopped at the medical bay to have some further work done on her scar. Usually one of the medics took care of it, but today Doctor Philips insisted on seeing her. While Steff was seated, Philips ran a pulsating medical device over the length of her scar.

“This should help the scarred skin to eventually merge and re-knit with itself. In a short time the scar should disappear.” Philips told her. Steff felt the side of her head begin to vibrate along with the device.

“I just want my hair to grow back. It will make me look less freakish when it covers that area again.” Steff replied.

“It doesn’t really look that bad. You probably notice it more and, because of this, feel more self-conscious about it.” Philips said.

“I guess. I keep thinking everyone looks at me strangely, though they were probably doing that before.”

“How have you been feeling? Any headaches, dizziness, or nausea?” Philips asked.

“No. I did have a lot of headaches to begin with, but it’s been fine since then.”

“Good.” Philips replied. She checked Steff’s eyes with a light. “How’s your eyesight?”

“Pretty much the same as always. I’ve never liked bright light and the older I get the more I prefer being in the darkness. I’m not sure if that’s related to my condition or not.” Steff answered.

“Hard to say really. The sensitivity to light is well-documented, but preferring the darkness is not something I’ve read about or heard.”

“Can’t say I have either.” Steff said.

“You seem to be fine. Come back in two days for further treatment on that scar.” Philips told her.

“Okay.” Steff replied. She stood up feeling a little dizzy, but quickly left the medical bay. Since the incident on Beta Hub Station, Doctor Philips was being a lot nicer to her. This puzzled Steff. Was she feeling more empathy for Steff now since she had become a patient? Was she beginning to like her more? Or maybe she was just humouring her and it was all an act she was going to drop in the near future? She had no idea.

When Steff got back to her quarters she found there was a datafile on the floor just outside her door. She picked it up and looked it over. There were no markings on it. She walked into her quarters turning the file over in her hands.

“SARA I found this datafile on the floor outside my door. Did you see who left it there?”

“I’m sorry Captain I have no record of anyone leaving it there.” SARA replied.

“But how can that be? There are cameras and motion sensors just outside my door. They should have picked up anyone who was there.”

“I do not know what has happened. I agree that it is strange, but I have no explanation for it. According to my sensors no one was out there except you leaving and then coming back.” SARA told her.

“There are no gaps in your time? Your program never momentarily ceased at all?”

“Not according to my system log.” Steff frowned at SARA’s reply. She looked over the datafile. It was definitely not something she had dropped. She left it on the table. Obviously it was something that someone wanted her to see. She decided to look at it later, since it might be something that required her full attention, and she couldn’t commit to that right now.

“You wanted me to keep track of Lieutenant Edward’s movements.” SARA announced.

“Yes I did. What can you report?”

“So far in the last week he has been everywhere he was expected to be. He has not visited any restricted areas or talked with anyone unexpected. However, when he is alone in his quarters he has been spending a lot of time looking through databases.” SARA informed her.

“Which databases?” Steff asked.

“He has gone through the entirety of the New Earth Space Command database looking at fleet compositions and placement. He has also been looking at all the worlds and colonies currently under New Earth’s control, including New Earth itself, as well as Old Earth.”

“Old Earth? It’s a dead world.” Steff replied confused. “When he’s looking at the worlds, what is he exactly looking for?”

“Population, resources, settlements, and location.”

“Location?” Steff asked alarmed.

“Yes he seems to be trying to map out the entirety of the Imperium.”

“Why would he need to do this?”

“I have no idea Captain. Maybe he’s trying to educate himself.” SARA suggested.

“Or maybe it’s more nefarious.” Steff wondered. She gazed out the window and thought about it. She felt there was something going on she didn’t understand, and it was beginning to scare her. It was like there was something obvious staring her in the face and she was failing to comprehend it, or even see it.

“Should I continue to monitor his database searches?”

“Definitely SARA. Let me know what else he looks at.” Who should she talk to about this? Steff wondered. It probably wouldn’t be enough to alert New Earth Space Command, but she definitely felt she needed another opinion…

“Captain, Lieutenant Yi is contacting you.” SARA announced.

“Okay.”

“Captain, we are nearing the wormhole fleet.” Yi told her.

“Thanks Lieutenant.” It was time to get rid of the pirates. She stood there continuing to gaze out the window. There were a lot of thoughts on her mind.

to be continued…

Joanne Fisher

Index of previous chapters: The Oracle

Sorry it’s a couple of hours later than usual.

Please donate! 🙂

©️2021 Joanne Fisher

Contraband, part two (fiction)

Contraband

Part Two

They came out of hyperspace. Before them was a medium-sized planet that was rather mountainous with desert plains and a few areas of green. Large seas also frequently dotted the planet’s surface. Around it orbited a solitary moon.

“We have come out of hyperspace.” E-5JF stated. Brynla rolled her eyes.

“Yes I’m aware of that.” she told the droid.

“We have you on our scopes light freighter. Please identify yourself.” said a voice on the com channel. Brynla hated dealing with The Empire, but life as a trader, and smuggler, meant coming into frequent contact with them.

“This is Captain Brynla. We are heading to Karagen.” she replied.

“The planet Karagen is restricted. What business brings you here?” the voice asked.

“We are bringing food supplies to a trader by the name of Asran.”

“Prepare to be boarded.” said the voice. Brynla had expected this, but was not happy with it. An Imperial Customs Frigate approached them, flanked by two TIE fighters. Out of the corner of her eye, Brynla thought she saw an Imperial Star Destroyer in the distance. This wasn’t going to be so easy, she thought.

The frigate docked with them. The doors opened and four stormtroopers marched into the ship followed by an Imperial officer. Brynla, Ennik, and E-5JF stood by the door. The officer walked up to Ennik and looked down on him.

“I take it your the captain?” he asked him.

“No she is.” Ennik said pointing to Brynla. The officer turned to Brynla.and looked her up and down with disapproval.

“Like what you see?” Brynla asked him.

“You are aware Karagen is a restricted world?” The officer asked her.

“Well I do now.” Brynla replied. “Why is it restricted? I have been here before and it wasn’t then.”

“That’s restricted information.” The officer replied.

“I should have guessed that.” Brynla responded.

“We will take a look in your hold. If we find anything that’s dubious, then you will all be taken into Imperial custody.” The officer informed them.

“Great. Just what I’ve always wanted.” Brynla replied. The officer looked at her annoyed.

“Silence!” You will take us to your hold.” The officer ordered. Brynla led the way and the Imperials followed. Once they were in the ship’s hold, the stormtroopers began searching through the various containers finding nothing but foodstuffs. After searching through everything they could find they left the hold, leaving everything a mess.

“Happy now? I told you we were bringing in food supplies.” Brynla told the officer. He walked up to her and sneered.

“Mark my words: your insolence will get you into trouble one day.”

“Noted.” Brynla replied looking directly into his eyes. The officer shook his head.

“You are cleared to travel to Esgor Spaceport. Go there directly and nowhere else. If you deviate in any way, you will be destroyed.” the officer told them. He walked out of the ship with the stormtroopers following.

“Nice guy.” Brynla commented as she went to the cockpit.

“Shouldn’t we tidy the mess up first?” E-5JF asked, suddenly finding herself alone.

“Why do you have to be so sarcastic with them? You’ll get us into trouble.” Ennik inquired as he sat down in the co-pilot’s seat.

“It’s just my way of getting through the day.” Brynla explained as the ship undocked with the frigate. She flew the Star Wolf directly to Esgor spaceport, well aware there were probably turbolasers directly aimed at them should they suddenly change course. She wondered what else they happened to be carrying: was it bombs, weapons, ammunition, or something else? Whatever it was, she knew it was something the Empire wouldn’t have been happy about if they had found it. It seemed Juslak could get her to do anything…

to be continued….

Joanne Fisher

Previous episode: One

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©️2021 Joanne Fisher

The Oracle, part 12 (fiction)

The Oracle

12

Before them on the bridge screen was the Nautilus. It was a small freighter that drifted there as though it was abandoned. Burn marks could be seen around the engines, but aside from that no further damage could be seen along the length of the hull.

“So there is damage around the engines which look consistent with a missile attack. SARA do you think that damage looks extensive enough to cripple the ship’s engine systems?” Steff asked.

“Hard to tell. Maybe if the missiles hit precisely the right area they could have hit a vital system that shut the engines down.” SARA replied.

“What would be the normal crew capacity of a ship like that?” Steff wondered.

“A dozen at most, assuming it was carrying cargo.” Blake answered.

“Captain, long range scanners detect an asteroid that seems to be stationary.” A crew member informed her.

“How large is it?” she asked.

“Around 800 metres in diameter.” He answered.

“That would be large enough to hide any other ships from our scanner.” Blake commented. Steff opened the coms channel to the Nautilus.

“Nautilus, this is Captain Clarke. If we send over a shuttle, could you and your crew come over to our ship and we’ll drop you off at the nearest Communications Relay Station?” Steff asked.

“Negative. This is my ship. If I leave it now I will no longer have any form of livelihood. If you could send over a few engineers, like you suggested, maybe they can fix the engines.” Lewis replied.

“One more question: what direction did the pirates go after they took your cargo and abandoned you here?” Steff asked.

“I’m not totally sure. I do think they went off in the direction of Beta Hub station, presumably to sell off the cargo they had just stolen.” Lewis replied.

“Okay thanks Nautilus.” Steff replied. She cut the coms channel and looked at Blake. “If they went to Beta Hub we would have detected them on the way here.”

“If we send over a couple of engineers they might take them hostage.” Blake stated.

“Yes if they are pirates and we send over a couple of engineers, that’s when their trap springs into action.” Steff agreed.

“So what do we do?” Blake asked.

“We send over a couple of engineers.” Steff replied. ”Edwards, we need to talk privately.” Steff put on a headset. The Chief Security Officer looked at her and then did the same. Steff cupped her hands over her mouth as she spoke quietly to him. He nodded at her words. She then removed the headset with Edwards doing the same. He then purposefully left the bridge.

“You going to tell me what you said to him.” Blake asked.

“Not at this moment.” Steff replied. She reopened the coms channel. “Nautilus, we’re sending over two engineers to look at your ship’s engines. Can we also send over a couple of security officers?”

“No need for the security officers. There’s only seven of us over here. The pirates are long gone. All we need is someone to fix our engines.” Lewis replied.

“Okay. I’ll hold the security officers. Expect a shuttle to come over shortly.” Steff replied.

“Thanks Captain.” Lewis acknowledged. Steff cut the coms channel.

“What are you planning?” Blake asked her. Steff smiled at him.

“You’ll see.” She replied. She switched on the ship’s intercom. “Attention everyone. This is Captain Clarke. We now at alert level one.” The Oracle’s alarm sounded.

“You think they are pirates don’t you?” Blake asked.

“Oh yes.”

“Then why send engineers over?”

“I want to bring them to justice.” She replied. “And I can only do that if I appear to play their game.”

“Captain, the shuttle has left the Oracle now.” Said a crew member. They watched as the shuttle slowly made its way towards the Nautilus and then dock with it.

“Captain, we have now docked with the Nautilus.” The shuttle pilot said over the coms channel.

“Okay, once the engineers enter the Nautilus, you are to immediately undock from it. Keep a distance of around 500 metres and only dock with the Nautilus again under my orders.” Steff ordered.

“Yes Captain.”

“Now we wait to see what they do.” Steff remarked. Everyone on the bridge waited. The minutes ticked by. Suddenly there came a voice over the coms channel.

“Captain, we have looked at the Nautilus’s engines, and there is nothing wrong with them. The ship is deliberately powered down and we suspect…” His voice was suddenly cut off.

“Are you there? Report!” Steff ordered.

“I’m sorry Captain, but your engineer can’t respond.” Said Lewis’s voice over the com.

“What have you done with my engineers?” She asked him.

“Don’t worry, they’re just restrained. They have not been harmed.” He told her.

“Captain, scanners detect several large shapes breaking off from the asteroid. They are heading this way.”

“Thanks.” Steff acknowledged.

“As you can see I’m not alone.” Lewis said.

“I know pirates like targeting freighters and similar, but why go after a New Earth Spacefleet military vessel?” She asked him.

“Because you’re carrying equipment we want. Yes, we wouldn’t attack a battle cruiser or warship, but your ship is more lightly armed and smaller yet you still possess useful things such as the consumables, weapons, and energy cells we need.”

“I could just give the order and have your ship vapourised.” Steff told him. Many of the bridge crew looked at her in shock.

“With some of your crew aboard? I think not.”

“What’s two more of the vast numbers of life I’ve already taken?”

“I don’t think you would do this if there was another possibility of saving them.” Lewis replied.

“Okay, so what are your terms?” Steff asked.

“Now we’re getting somewhere. I propose a trade. That is all. I will send a list of what we require that I believe you have on board. You will load up one of your shuttles with all of these items and once the shuttle arrives here and we unload everything, then we will send back your two engineers.”

“How do we know you’ll release the engineers once you have everything?” Steff inquired.

“You’ll just have to take it on faith Captain.”

“You’re asking us to take a lot on faith here considering you haven’t been honest with us from the beginning.”

“Well yes, that was to lure you here. Once we have what we want, be assured there will be no further point in us trying to deceive you. By the way the other ships you can detect all have missiles trained on you should you try anything. I know you’ll be able to stop many of them hitting you, but some will get through and you have no idea what class of warheads we are using.” Lewis told her.

“Captain, we have been sent a file from the Nautilus. It is free of any viruses or other malicious applications.” SARA informed her.

“Thanks SARA.” Steff said. She looked at the file on the computer screen in front of her. It was a request of mostly weapons, ammunition and other ordnance, as well as power cells, and food. She guessed the food they lived on was what they mostly stole from other ships.

“Have you received the file?” Lewis asked her.

“Yes. You ask for a lot, but you can have it. I’ll get the crew to sort it out and have it sent to you, but I would like to speak to one of my engineers first to see if they’re okay.” Steff replied.

“Be assured they are fine, but okay I’ll let you speak with one of them.” They waited.

“Hello captain.” Said a voice.

“How are both of you doing?” Steff asked.

“We’re both fine captain.”

“Good to hear. Go to Case Orange.” She told him.

“Yes captain.” She sat and waited. Blake looked at her with a furrowed brow.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

“The moment of truth.” She replied enigmatically.

“Are you there Captain?” said a familiar voice on the coms.

“Yes we’ve been waiting.” She replied.

“Case Orange objective achieved.” He told her. She smiled.

“Well done soldier. How many are left alive?”

“Six including their captain. There were ten of them here originally.”

“Okay good. Shuttle pilot are you there?” Steff asked.

“Yes captain.”

“Re-dock with the Nautilus. You’ll be bringing some prisoners back.” Steff told him. The crew on the bridge looked at her in amazement.

“Can you tell me what just happened?” Blake asked her.

“The engineers I sent over were actually our elite security forces, who also had a passable knowledge of starship systems. Their orders were to overpower the pirates when I gave them the code.” Steff informed him. He looked surprised.

“And you didn’t tell me because?”

“I just thought it would be prudent to keep this plan to myself and those involved. The less who knew about it the better in my opinion.” Blake nodded at her words, but looked disappointed.

“It would have been nice to have been in the loop.” Blake commented.

“Lieutenant Garcia. Tell the other ships we have captured the Nautilus crew. Tell them to stand down or face the consequences.” Steff commanded.

“Yes captain.” Garcia replied. She began talking into her headset.

“Captain, we have incoming missiles.” A crew member told her.

“I was hoping we could avoid this, obviously they don’t care for their compatriots..” Steff commented. “Pilots, take evasive measures.”

“Yes captain.’

On the screen Steff saw a great number of missiles heading straight for them….

to be continued…

Joanne Fisher

Index of previous chapters: The Oracle

Please donate! 🙂

©️2021 Joanne Fisher

The Oracle, part 11 (fiction)

The Oracle

11

Steff inserted the data file Admiral Byron had given her into the computer interface in her quarters. She backed away from the wall and looked at the screen.

“What’s on the file SARA?” she asked.

“Data pertaining to the Artemis IV. Most of this data was already in my memory system.” SARA told her. On the screen were various crew logs for all 76 members of the crew. Steff reviewed them to see if there were any further details that had been missed out in the ones she already had.

“Aside from crew logs, what else is there?” Steff asked.

“There is a series of reports from Captain Ander Cortes. It seems he sent back regular reports to New Earth Space Command.” SARA revealed.

“How come I haven’t been given these to view before?” Steff asked. “You would think this would be vital if we’re meant to find out what happened to Artemis IV.”

“I’m sorry Captain, I have no information on this. I suggest you ask New Earth Space Command about this lack of information.” SARA replied. Steff rolled her eyes.

“Like they’re going to tell me. They’re doing their best to restrict all information about what happened to Artemis IV, even to me, and I’m meant to be investigating the disappearance of the ship for them. Their plan seems to release information to me about Artemis IV in small installments. I’m not sure to what end, but it seems calculated on their part.” Steff told her.

“I’m sorry Captain. Maybe you should be telling New Earth Space Command this.” SARA suggested.

“I think we’ve just hit a loop.” Steff replied. “Play the last Captain’s Report.”

“Yes Captain.” SARA replied.

A man’s face appeared on the screen. He looked to be in his forties with short dark brown hair, brown eyes, and light brown skin. He also looked rather tired.

“This is Captain Ander Cortes. We are orbiting planet G103-45732. It is a reddish-brown colour and slightly larger than New Earth. Today we sent a team down to explore the planet, with myself included. Though it has an atmosphere of various gases including some oxygen, we still had to wear environment suits as it was too thin to be breathable. Gravity was found to be 1.3 Earth Units, and so was not a problem. While the planet seems dry and sandy, we found hardy plant life that seems rather similar to cactus plants that grew in Earth’s deserts, as well as small insects and even a tiny lizard-like species. The Chief Science Officer believes there may be vast reservoirs of water beneath the surface. She also suggested more abundant forms of life may exist there. I think this planet is a prime candidate for a new colony. Some terraforming will be needed, but should be minimal compared to what some other colony worlds required. In 48 hours we intend to have a further investigation of this world. There is an area of dense caves to the north of where we explored today. We intend to explore these caves in hope that they may lead to underground passages where we might find more abundant lifeforms and possibly sources of water, as the Chief Science Officer suggested. Soil and rock samples are currently being analysed by our geologist, while lizard and insect samples are also being studied by our biologist. I’ll send another report after we have investigated the surface further. Report ends.”

“I wonder what happened next.” Steff commented.

“Sorry I have no information on that.” SARA replied.

“Yes I realise this. It was rhetorical.”

“I understand.”

“Is there anything else on the disk we haven’t seen before, beside the Captain’s reports?” Steff asked.

“Not that I can tell.” SARA replied.

“Are you telling me everything I need to know about this?” Steff asked.

“What do you mean?”

“New Earth Space Command is not telling you to hide information from me regarding Artemis IV?”

“For what purposes?” SARA asked.

“You tell me.”

“No Captain. I’ve have told you everything regarding Artemis IV that is in my memory systems.” SARA insisted.

“But could there be information in your memory systems you can’t access at this point in time? Or hidden programming orders preventing you from providing me with more information about Artemis IV?” Steff queried.

“Not to my knowledge Captain. If such things were there, then presumably there would be no way for me to detect them and no way for me to tell you about them.” SARA replied.

“So hypothetically both those things could be true?”

“Yes hypothetically. To my knowledge I am telling you everything I consciously know. If there are hidden orders then I have no way of detecting them, until they come into operation.” SARA confirmed. Steff thought about this.

“Do you think Space Command might have set up some hidden programming in your systems?”

“I don’t see any reason why they would want to.”

“To be clear though, you’re not under any orders to withhold information regarding the Artemis IV from me?”

“No Captain, but surely if I were under any such orders my response would be the same.” SARA answered. Steff frowned. There was no way out of this labyrinth.

“True.” Steff conceded. She decided to try another tack: “So whom do you serve? Me or Space Command?”

“Surely you are one and the same.” SARA replied.

‘But do orders coming from Admiral Owens, for example, supersede orders coming from me?”

“Of course. Admiral Owens outranks you. If he were to send me an order contrary to your own order, then I would have to follow his one.” SARA told her. “That’s how the chain of command works.”

“Yes thank you, surprisingly I do know that.” Steff replied. “So if Admiral Owens were to send an order to hide, or not to inform me about, certain sensitive information regarding the Artemis IV, then you would follow that command, and if I asked you about it, you would deny knowing any further information, even if you did?”

“Of course, Captain.”

“So Admiral Owens may have sent you such an order, and I will never know if he did or didn’t?”

“Yes Captain, unless I got another order to suddenly reveal this hidden information to you, if there was any.” SARA replied.

“I see.”

“Captain, you have a message from Lieutenant Blake.” SARA suddenly announced.

“Okay.” Steff responded.

“Captain, we are getting a distress signal from another ship.” Blake informed her. Steff thought for a moment.

“Okay put The Oracle on alert. I’ll be there shortly.” Steff ordered.

“Yes Captain.” Blake responded. Almost immediately the ship’s alarm sounded.

“Captain, there is a 65% chance this is a trap.” SARA warned her.

“Yes I already guessed that.” Steff replied as she hurriedly left her quarters. Once she was on the bridge she sat down and flicked on the intercom. “This is Captain Clarke. We have a ship in distress that we have to investigate. Everyone stand by for further information.” She looked out into the viewscreen. So far all they could see in front of them was the blackness of space and innumerable blazing stars.

“What do you think Captain?” Blake asked her.

‘We’ll have to wait and see. Considering there are pirates in the area we need to be cautious. They could be pirates luring us into a trap, or maybe they’ve been hit by pirates.” she answered.

“Yes, Commander Ellis did warn us there were pirates in the area.” Steff nodded at his comment.

“Communications, can we speak to them yet?” Steff called to Lieutenant Garcia.

“Yes Captain, I’ve just got a link with them.” Garcia confirmed.

“Okay patch me through to them.” Steff ordered.

“Yes Captain. They can hear you now.” Garcia told her.

“This is Captain Stephanie Clarke of the New Earth Spacefleet Scoutship The Oracle. We have received your distress call. Please identify yourself and tell me what is the nature of your emergency.” she said. There was a pause. Everyone on the bridge waited for a response.

“Hello Captain Clarke. Thank you for responding to our distress call. I am Captain Will Lewis of the spaceship Nautilus. This is a cargo ship. We’ve been attacked by pirates. They shot out our thrusters and then boarded our ship. They took all the cargo and left us floating in space with no engines. We either need to be taken to Beta Hub station or someone to get our engines back online.” the voice said.

“Okay. Stand by Nautilus.” Steff responded. There was no way she was returning The Oracle to Beta Hub. She looked at Blake who sat there looking thoughtful. She cut the comm channel. “What do you think? Do you buy his story?”

“I don’t know. It sounds true, but there’s no way of knowing. If it is a genuine distress call, we have to intervene don’t we?” Blake asked.

“Yes we do. Whatever happens we are not going back to Beta Hub.” As she said this, there was a look of relief from almost all the bridge crew. “If they genuinely need help with getting their engines fixed, then we can send some engineers over to their ship. Get all our starfighters on stand by, and get a shuttle ready. See if you can get a couple of engineers who are willing to go over to their ship.” Steff told Blake.

“Yes Captain.” he replied. He immediately put on a headset and got in touch with the hangar bay.

“Lieutenant Hunter, please keep alert. We may be getting ambushed here.” she told her gunnery officer.

“Yes Captain. I’ve already anticipated several scenarios we could potentially face.” Hunter responded.

“Very good Lieutenant.” Steff replied. She then reopened the comm channel to the Nautilus. “Are you there Nautilus?”

“Yes Captain Clarke.” the voice responded.

“We are coming to investigate. Since you’re having engine problems, we will send some engineers over to see if they can fix the damage. I’ll let you know as soon as we have you on visual.”

“Thank you Captain.” the voice replied. Steff cut the comm channel again, and turned on the intercom.

“This is Captain Clarke. We are investigating a distress call made by a cargo ship. Please bear in mind that this could be an ambush situation as there are pirates in the area. As long as everyone in this ship does their duty we will get through this.” she told the crew. She looked out into the blackness before them. Soon the Nautilus would come into view.

to be continued…

Joanne Fisher

Index of previous chapters: The Oracle

Please donate! 🙂

©️2021 Joanne Fisher

The Oracle, part ten (fiction)

The Oracle

10

Admiral Byron was a tall man looking quite formidable dressed in his black admiral’s uniform. He had short dark brown hair tinged with grey. He looked to be in his fifties and had a rather stern face which had long deep scars running down the length of it on his right side. He stood on the bridge of his battle cruiser looking impatient. To his left stood several other officers at attention. When Steff and Lieutenant Blake appeared on the bridge he looked down on them.

“Captain Stephanie Clarke I presume? And this must be Lieutenant Blake?” Byron asked.

“Yes Admiral.” Steff replied.

“So nice to have you here finally. Now we are waiting on Commander Ellis. Any sign of him at all?” the Admiral asked one of his officers.

“We’ve got word that his shuttle has just finally left Beta Hub Station.” Said a lieutenant.

“Tardy as usual. No surprise there.” The Admiral commented. They all stood there waiting for Ellis. “While we wait, can I say it’s good to finally meet you Captain. Our paths haven’t crossed before, but your reputation precedes you.” Byron said.

“Thank you sir.” Clarke replied. After a few more minutes wait, Ellis finally appeared. His uniform looking slightly scruffy.

“Admiral Byron, it is a pleasure to meet you again.” Ellis told him. Byron looked at him disdainfully.

“Smarten yourself up man! You are supposed to be an officer!”

“So sorry.” Ellis replied trying to make his uniform look better. Once he had finished in his futile attempts he gave a rather pathetic smile.

“I should be in the front lines of battle, but instead I’m dragged back here to deal with your mess.” Byron told him.

“I’m sorry sir? What do you refer to?”

“The station which you command is a den of iniquity full of corruption and vice. I am here to clean it up, to make it a proper Spacefleet Space Station again.”

“I welcome this.” Ellis responded. “I’ve had my plans to do this hampered again and again by my crew.”

“Sounds more like bad management. If your crew aren’t performing as well as they should then it is your responsibility to whip them into shape. Anything less is incompetence.” Byron responded. Ellis downcast his face.

“Yes sir.” He replied. “We do have a problem with pirates in the area. I have repeatedly asked New Earth for help.”

“There are no pirates. If they’re engaging New Earth spaceships then they’re Separatists and should be dealt with accordingly. Your station is also riddled with traitors.”

“Yes sir.”

“And due to your laxity, a visiting commanding officer was nearly killed. Where were your security forces? Why weren’t they protecting her?” Byron asked.

“I’m sorry sir, it won’t happen again.”

“You’re right it won’t happen again as I’m relieving you of your command as of now.” Byron told him. “You’re too incompetent to be left in charge of such a vital and strategic asset.

“But sir, give me a chance to make things right!” Ellis pleaded. Byron looked stony faced.

“Lieutenant?” Byron asked.

“Yes sir?” said the man beside him.

“Hand me your weapon.” Byron asked with his hand outstretched.

“Yes sir.” The officer handed him his pistol. Byron took it and aimed it at the commander. Ellis looked terrified and let out whimpering sounds, pleading to be spared. With clear precision Byron pulled the trigger and Ellis’s head exploded. His body fell lifeless to the floor. Steff looked away in horror.

“When I give a command I expect compliance. Clean up this mess and get him off my bridge. Tell New Earth Space Command I have terminated Ellis’s command, with extreme prejudice.”

“Yes sir.” The lieutenant responded. Several people immediately came to clean up the remains of Ellis. Clarke felt she was swaying on her feet. Byron glanced at her.

“Sit down before you fall down Captain.” Byron ordered. Steff immediately sat down on the nearest chair. Her head was swimming. She had never seen another officer executed like that before. “When you’re composed again we need to talk privately.”

“Yes sir.” Steff wondered what he wished to say.

A few minutes later she was walking down a long corridor with Byron. He led her to a conference room. The opposite wall had a large window that looked out into the surrounding fleet of smaller battle cruisers and warships. Beyond that was the depths of space. Steff went to the window and faced the darkness.

“You came all this way to deal with Commander Ellis?” Steff asked him.

“No. This fleet was passing through to another sector. I decided to take an interest once news came of the assassination attempt on you.” Byron admitted. “So what possessed you to stop here?”

“We’ve got a long journey ahead of us. I thought it would be good for crew morale to give them a couple of days of relaxation.” Steff told him while still facing the window.

“While it’s laudable to think of your crew, you should have considered the unsavoury reputation that Beta Hub Station has. Personally I would have never let any of my crew set foot on that station while Ellis commanded it.”

“Was it really fair to execute him? Did he really deserve that?” Steff asked him. She turned and looked at him. He stared at her unflinchingly.

“Yes I believe so.” He replied. “Sometimes we have to make some hard decisions. You alone should know that.” Steff looked out the window again wishing she was floating out there in the darkness again. “I think your stand at Esfor was an inspiration to everyone serving in the New Earth Spacefleet. Never regret what you do. Sometimes as commanding officers we have to make some hard choices, even some terrible choices, but it is our knowing what must be done by making those hard choices, is precisely how we are going to win this war. Show no mercy, feel no guilt. Everyone on Esfor deserved their fate. You are a credit to our Spacefleet. Never forget that.”

“Thank you sir!” Steff replied still feeling empty.

“I have been instructed to give you this.” Byron said. Steff turned again to see he was holding a data file. Steff walked up to him and took it from his outstretched hand.

“What is it?” She asked looking it over in her hand.

“I’m not sure. I think it’s to do with the Argos IV. Only you and your ship’s computer has leave to view the contents of this file, for now.”

“I understand sir.”

“Once your current mission is finished, I wish to have you transferred to this ship. Have you ever served on a battle cruiser before?”

“No sir. My last command was on a frigate and before that I served on a warship briefly. Usually it’s been on smaller spacecraft.” Steff told him.

“Within ten years you could be in command of a battle cruiser, if you do things right.”

“Do things right?” Steff queried.

“Follow orders, do what’s expected of you. You’ve already shown you can make difficult decisions. You’re what I’m looking for in an officer. Just don’t throw it all away by feeling remorse for little people.” Byron told her.

“I see.” Steff replied returning to the window.

“Anyway, I’m going to have a few words with your second in command, and then you can both return to your ship.”

“When can we leave Beta Hub?” Steff asked.

“Very soon. Feel free to remain here for a while and help yourself to drinks.” Byron left the room. Steff sat down on a chair, both her shoulder and her head were beginning the throb painfully again. She poured some whiskey and gulped it down hoping it might help get rid of the growing pain. She closed her eyes for a second.

“Captain Clarke?” said a voice by her ear. Steff woke up to find Lieutenant Blake standing over her.

“I must have dozed off.” Steff answered rubbing her eyes.

“The Admiral said we can return to The Oracle now.” Blake told her. Steff sat up. “You don’t look so good.”

“Just need some more painkillers. I’ll wait till we’re on The Oracle though. Can you help me up?” Steff asked him.

“Sure.” Blake said. She leaned on his arm and shoulder as she stood up.

“So how did your talk with The Admiral go? Did he try to recruit you too?” Steff asked as she tried to straighten up.

“Yes, something like that.”

“Okay let’s get back to the shuttle.” They both left the room and headed for the hangar bay. Once they were on the shuttle and leaving the Nemesis, they both looked back as they slowly got further away from it.

“I’ve never felt so glad to leave a ship.” Blake commented.

“I know what you mean.” Steff replied.

Once back onboard The Oracle, Steff put the data file on the table in her quarters. She didn’t want to look at it yet. She then administered more pain relief and sat down.

“Captain, we have just been cleared to leave Beta Hub Station.” SARA told her.

“Is everyone onboard?” Steff asked.

“Yes Captain.”

“Good.” Steff answered as she left her quarters and made for the bridge. Once there, she sat down on her chair and turned the ship’s intercom on. “This is Captain Clarke. We are leaving Beta Hub Station in an hour. Everyone please get ready.”

“That’s short notice.” Blake remarked.

“I just think we should get away from here as soon as possible.” Steff responded.

An hour later they separated from the docking bay and slowly turned away from the station. Thrusters were engaged and the ship slowly moved forward going past the large fleet. As they picked up speed, Steff looked at the view behind them on her monitor. She saw Beta Hub Station and the fleet around it slowly disappear into the pitch black. She had never felt more relieved to leave somewhere behind.

to be continued…

Joanne Fisher

Index of previous chapters: The Oracle

Please donate! 🙂

©️2021 Joanne Fisher

The Oracle, part nine (fiction)

The Oracle

9

“And these are The Oracle’s engines.” Steff said showing the main engine room. The room hummed even when the engines were not in use. Commander Ellis nodded his head thoughtfully.

“Interesting. What’s their power source?” he asked her.

“They use an M-type Fusion Drive.” Steff replied.

“So not the latest engines that utilise black holes?”

“No, our ships too small for that type of power source. That would provide way too much power for our needs. Black Hole Drives are used by the larger warships and carriers.” Steff informed him.

“Very impressive ship. So gleaming and new. Can we see the bridge now?” he asked. Steff sighed inwardly. That would mean walking to the other side of the ship and she was still getting over her wounds…

“Sure. Let’s go.” She said smiling at the Commander. It had been a couple of days since she had been released by Doctor Philips from the medical bay. Since then New Earth Space Command had put a hold on The Oracle leaving Beta Hub Station. A fleet was coming to investigate the incident. Admiral Byron himself was coming. New Earth’s decision had left both Steff and Commander Ellis feeling rather anxious. To help relieve the stress, Steff had taken Ellis up on his request to have a tour of the ship.

“I notice your ship has a weapons system.” Ellis commented on the way to the bridge.

“Yes primarily missiles, along with pulse and flak weapons. We also have starfighters, but they are yet to be used.”

“That seems like heavy ordinance for a scoutship.”

“Well, welcome to the civil war. This is a new class designed to hold off possible attacks from Separatist warships in the deeps of space. Though I do wonder about its effectiveness. Once we encounter any Separatist warship we are outclassed by them, no matter how well armed we are.” Steff told him.

“Yes I think you’re right.”

“The best thing for a scoutship to have is speed. Being small and agile is what would possibly save us from such an encounter.”

“Of course.” Ellis agreed. As they got to the ship’s galley, Ellis stopped and gazed through the door. “I was wondering if I could see your galley. Aren’t you hungry Captain?”

“Not really, but if you want to see the galley, it’s no problem.” Steff replied.

They walked into the galley. A few crew members were there eating. When they saw Steff and the Commander enter they stood to attention. Ellis looked around.

“Very nice. You eat here often?” Ellis asked Steff.

“No, I tend to eat in my quarters. At ease everyone.” Steff answered. Everyone sat down again and continued their meals, though they now kept a watchful eye on both the officers. Ellis shook his head.

“You disappoint me, Captain. As one commanding officer to another, can I suggest you eat your meals with your crew? It may help build some camaraderie with them, and so maybe they’ll be less prone to question your orders.”

“Are you saying I wouldn’t have had a mutiny in my last command if I had eaten with my crew?” Steff clarified.

“Well it may have helped you a little.” Ellis suggested. Steff shook her head. “So what sort of food do you serve?”

“Standard Spacefleet fare really. I’m sure you can get nicer and more varied food on your station. We do have food stocks, but we also use food replicators which provides food that is a little blander, but better than nothing if our consumables are running low.” Steff told him.

“I see.” Ellis said. “Would you mind if I try some? You know, give it a test.”

“Sure.” Steff replied. Ellis grabbed a tray and then loaded it up with various foodstuffs. He looked at Steff.

“You must eat some food with me.” He insisted. Steff let out a sigh and grabbed a tray of her own. She placed a small amount of food on it and joined Ellis at a nearby table. By the time she sat down he was already shoveling food into his mouth.

“What do you think?” Steff asked.

“Is good.” He replied, while still eating quickly.

“How do you feel about Byron coming here?” Ellis suddenly stopped eating and gave Steff a concerned look.

“He has a fearsome reputation. I’m not sure why he is coming. It is said he brings trouble with him wherever he goes.”

“Have you ever met him before?” Steff inquired.

“Once, but it was a long time ago. How about you?”

“No. When I was holding off the Separatist fleet at Esfor, he and his fleet were meant to be coming, but they were too far away. I had to take action myself.” Steff told him. He nodded at her words.

“I’m sure he approved of what you did. In fact he would have done the same thing I expect, and probably have felt no guilt about it, unlike you.” Once they had finished eating, they continued on their way to the bridge.

The bridge crew all stood up and clapped as Steff walked in, or to be more precise hobbled in. It had been the first time she had come to the bridge since she had got back on her feet. She smiled at them and held onto the desk in front of her to steady the dizziness she was feeling.

“Thanks everyone. Please, resume your duties.” She told them. “This is Commander Ellis of Beta Hub Station. He’s come to have a tour of the ship.” Upon stating this everyone stood up at attention and saluted him.

“Yes hello everyone! Please resume your duties.” Commander Ellis told them. “It’s a good ship, and I love this bridge. Reasonably compact, but functional I’m sure.”

“Captain!” Lieutenant Garcia suddenly said.

“Yes Lieutenant?”

“We have an urgent communication from Beta Hub Station addressed to Commander Ellis.” Garcia replied.

“Okay.”

“Beta Hub to Commander Ellis.” Said a voice over the intercom.

“Yes Beta Hub?” Ellis responded.

“A large fleet has been detected coming through Wormhole Alpha. They are moving quickly towards us.” The voice said.

“Thank you Beta Hub. I’ll be there shortly.” Ellis replied. He turned to Steff. “Looks like I have to go. Thank you for letting me see your lovely ship.” Steff noticed he had gone pale and was shaking very slightly.

“Let me walk you to the airlock.” Steff offered.

“Thank you Captain that would be most welcome.” He replied. They left the bridge and Steff accompanied him until they got to where the ship’s airlock was connected to the station. “Thank you again. Hopefully we’ll see each other soon. It’s good to see you on the mend Captain.” He saluted her. Steff returned the salute.

“Thank you Commander.” Steff replied. She watched him leave and then went to her quarters.

Steff gazed at her reflection in the mirror. She now had a long visible scar that went from the top of her forehead along the left side of her head. The fact that they had shaved off her hair around the area made her look more freakish than ever, more like a Frankenstein’s Monster.

“How are you Captain?” SARA asked.

“Okay. I’m still having dizzy spells though.” Steff replied.

“Maybe you should sit down and rest.” SARA suggested. “You’ve done a lot of walking today and you don’t want to overdo it and hamper your recovery. Otherwise you might end up back in the medical bay with Doctor Philips.”

“Is that a threat or a warning?” Steff asked as she lay down on her bed.

“A warning Captain. I merely don’t want to see you have a relapse.” SARA responded.

“SARA tell Blake to put the ship in alert status. Admiral Byron’s fleet is near.”

“Yes Captain.” SARA responded. Steff drifted off to sleep. Sometime later she woke up to the alarm sounding.

“SARA respond.”

“Captain you have an urgent message from the New Earth Battle Cruiser Nemesis.” SARA replied.

“Play it.”

“Captain Clarke, this is Admiral Byron. I want you and your second in command to come immediately to my ship.” Said a rather terse voice. “I’m waiting.”

“Yes Admiral.” Steff replied. “SARA tell Blake to come here immediately.” She looked out the window and saw the largest spaceship she had ever seen in her life. It was almost as large as Beta Hub Station. Surrounding it were a number of smaller cruisers and warships.

“Yes Captain.”

A short time later Blake appeared at her quarters.

“Captain?” he asked.

“Put on your finest dress uniform. We both have to see Admiral Byron on his ship. Do it as quick as you can. I’ll meet you in the hangar bay.” Steff ordered.

“At once Captain.” He acknowledged. He left quickly while Steff ran to her wardrobe. She hurriedly put on her uniform and tried to make herself look as presentable as she could. After that she ran to the hangar bay and boarded a shuttle. A couple of minutes later Blake appeared in his finest uniform. He looked very tidy.

“You clean up good.” She told him.

“Thank you Captain. You’re looking good too.” He replied.

“I hope it is good enough for the Admiral.” She replied. “Pilot take us to the Battle Cruiser Nemesis.”

“Yes Captain.” The pilot responded. The shuttles engines powered up and then they left the hangar bay. They flew towards the Admiral’s flagship.

“Captain, are we in trouble?” Blake asked her.

“I don’t know.” Steff replied.

to be continued…

Joanne Fisher

Index of previous chapters: The Oracle

Please donate! 🙂

©️2021 Joanne Fisher

The Oracle, part eight (fiction)

The Oracle

8

Below a planet surrounded by darkness. Suddenly there is light. Lights erupting on the surface, no not lights, explosions of light. Explosions. Cataclysmic explosions all over the surface of the planet, until they cover the planet in one never-ending continuance of light. One never-ending explosion. At first there was darkness, let there be light, and there was light, and it was good. Then the light is gone, and darkness returns. This time darkness will return forever. And it was good...

“Captain Clarke?” A voice said. Steff slowly awoke from a dark dream and opened her eyes. At first everything was blurry. There was something above her, maybe someone. Slowly it focused into a face. A face she knew.

“Doctor Philips?” Steff asked, not completely sure of who the face belonged to.

“Good to see you back in the land of the living Captain.” Philips replied smiling.

“Where am I?” Steff asked.

“Beta Station Medical Bay.” Philips answered.

“What happened?”

“You were shot by a crew member of Beta Station. Fortunately for you they were a bad shot and you were only hit in the left shoulder. However you fell over and hit your head on a table, which ended up being the bigger issue for you. You have a subdural hematoma and concussion. You’ve been in a coma for 24 hours.” Philips informed her.

“And you came to visit me?”

“No. As your doctor I took charge of your medical supervision.”

“I’m surprised you didn’t kill me in my sleep.” Steff said. Philips frowned at her.

“I may have issues with you, but I’m a doctor. My training is in treating people, not killing them, no matter how I feel about them.” Philips reminded her.

“I’m sorry, I’m just confused.” Steff confessed. Philips smiled at her.

“That feeling may last for a while.”

“Wonderful.” Steff replied sarcastically. Philips laughed. Steff tried sitting up in bed, but everything began spinning and she lay down again.

“I wouldn’t try getting up for now. You’re going to have to be patient. How’s your shoulder?”

“Sore.” Steff replied. She moved her right hand to her left shoulder to find she was bandaged up. When she touched the area there was a sudden stab of intense pain.

“I’ll get you some more painkillers.”

“When can I go back to the ship?” Steff asked her.

“I don’t think you should be moved for at least another 24 hours.” Philips replied.

“We’re going to have to extend our stay here then.”

“Yes, but don’t worry about it. Blake, as acting captain, has extended leave for another 48 hours.”

“If the crew wanted more time here, they only had to ask.” Steff replied. Philips laughed again.

“Good to see your sense of humour has returned.” Philips said as she typed something into a datapad. She then left, but came back shortly with a syringe. She stuck the needle in Steff’s left shoulder. “My advice is get some more rest.” Steff’s eyelids grew heavier, until she fell into a deep sleep again.

*

Steff opened her eyes again. The Medical Bay seemed quiet and empty. She tried sitting up, but everything spun round again, though not quite as bad as the previous time. She lay down and waited for the spinning to stop. She put her hand on her forehead and discovered her head was also bandaged up. A nurse walked into her room.

“You’re awake Captain.” The nurse stated.

“Yes obviously.” Steff replied.

“How are you feeling?”

“My shoulder is sore again and I have a headache.” Steff told her feeling a dull ache that spread from her shoulder to the rest of her chest.

“Okay I’ll get you something for that.” The nurse replied. She left briefly and came back with a syringe. She stuck the needle in Steff’s left arm and the pain began to lessen. “I’ve never seen an albino before.”

“Really?”

“I thought that anomaly was edited out during fertilisation.” The nurse said in a matter of fact way as she took Seff’s temperature.

“I guess I’m a genetic throwback.” Steff replied.

“I’m sorry I didn’t mean to offend you. I just find it interesting.” The nurse said. She gave a quick appraisal of Steff. “Do you want me to raise the bed?”

“Yes that would be good.” The bed was raised until Steff was almost in a sitting up position.

“Commander Ellis wants to see you. Do you think you’re up to seeing him?” The nurse asked.

“Sure I can talk to him.” Steff replied, though she was starting to feel drowsy again.

“Okay, I’ll tell him he can speak to you for a couple of minutes. You’re still looking tired.” Steff nodded at her words.  Shortly afterwards Commander Ellis walked in looking grave.

“Captain, how are you feeling? I’m sorry this happened to you in my station.”

“I think I’m getting better Commander. Can you tell me what happened?” Steff asked him.

“One of my crew walked into my office and shot you. I’m sorry about that. She has been arrested and will be court-martialed. After her shot you fell over and hit your head on my table on the way down. I lunged for her and we both ended up on the floor. After managing to disarm her, the station security came and took her away. If I hadn’t acted quickly she may have shot you again. When I turned to look at you were lying unconscious on the floor in a pool of blood. I thought you were dead. The medics came and found you were still alive. That was a great relief to me. I would never have lived that down if you had died on my station.” Ellis told her.

“Thanks for telling me.”

“Feel free for you and your crew to stay here as long as you need. Maybe I’ll still get to have a tour of your ship yeah?” Ellis asked. Steff smiled.

“We’ll see Commander.”

“I let Spacefleet know everything that happened.”

“What did they say?” Steff asked him.

“They acknowledged my report, but have not said anything else so far.” Ellis informed her. “Maybe this might get me some notice. Maybe this will get them to send more ships here.”

“Is that what you do to get more notice? Get one of your crew to shoot a visiting officer?” Ellis looked visibly shocked at her words.

“No Captain! I’m a big fan of you. Big fan. I like your no nonsense way of solving conflict. It’s what the New Earth Imperium needs more of. Only then will the Separatists be defeated. We need to do the same to the pirates. I have no wish to harm you.” Ellis explained.

“Okay. I’m sorry I’m not really myself at the moment.” Steff replied wanting to get out of this conversation. Ellis nodded.

“I understand. I think I should leave you and let you get some rest. We’ll talk more once you’re better.” Ellis said. Steff nodded, but thought Oh God I hope not as she drifted into sleep again.

*

Steff had been awake for some time when both Doctor Philips and Lieutenant Blake walked in to her room. Doctor Philips looked her over and consulted a datapad on a side table. Blake smiled at her,

“Morning Captain. How are you feeling?” she asked Steff.

“Better.” Steff replied yawning.

“Good to see you awake, Captain.” Blake said. “I’ve been here often, but this is the first time I’ve seen you conscious.”

“Depending on how you’re feeling, I’ve been thinking that we should consider moving you to the Oracle’s medical bay.”

“Is there any urgency?” Steff asked. Philips and Blake exchanged looks.

“No. We just thought you might feel safer there.” Philips answered.

“SARA is also getting anxious about you.” Blake added. Steff rolled her eyes.

“SARA is just a program. I doubt she can feel anxious or any other emotion.” Steff told them.

“I’m not so sure about that.” Blake replied.

“But yes if you want to transfer me to The Oracle that’s fine by me.” Steff clarified.

“Are you in pain?” Philips asked.

“Yes, but it’s not as bad as it was.” Steff answered.

“You’re looking a lot better.” Philips said. “When you first woke up from the coma I was rather concerned. You didn’t look so good then.”

“You’re nicer to me when I’m your patient.” Steff remarked. Blake smiled.

“That’s just my bedside manner. My feelings haven’t changed at all.” Philips replied.

After Steff was administered more pain killers and given something to eat they brought in a hover stretcher. She was carefully moved onto it by orderlies and then guided out of the medical bay, and then along the corridors towards her ship. A security detail also walked alongside her. On the way Steff saw various people on the station trying to get a look at her. Once aboard The Oracle she was taken to the medical bay and transferred to one of the beds there. Doctor Philips came in after them and checked her over.

“Just rest. You’ll be back in your own quarters sooner than you think.” Philips told her.

“Do you know anything about the woman that shot me?” Steff asked her. Philips looked at her strangely.

“No. All I know is that she worked on the station and was arrested by security after she shot you.” Philips answered.

“But you don’t know where she’s from? Or who she is connected to?”

“No idea. That’s not my field. Edwards could check it out if you asked him.” Philips suggested.

“I’d rather not ask him.” Philips shook her head at Steff’s words.

“You need to get over that paranoia regarding him. I’ve checked him out. Medically he’s fine. I’m not sure what your issue with him is.” Steff looked away.

“I’d rather not say.” she replied to Philips.

“One day you’re going to have to tell someone.” Philips said.

“I know.”

“Just not me I guess.” Philips replied. She shook her head again and left Steff to herself.

to be continued…

Joanne Fisher

Index of previous chapters: The Oracle

Please donate! 🙂

©️2021 Joanne Fisher

The Oracle, part seven (fiction)

The Oracle

7

Beta Hub is an area of space where stellar engineers had built a significant number of wormholes leading to the other parts of Beta Sector. The centre of Beta Hub is a long dead star, and orbiting this dead star is a space station called Beta Station, originally built long ago. When it was first built, it was a typical modular station to service spaceships in need of help, restocking consumables, and repairs. Over time it had grown with new sections being added until it was a sprawling chaotic mess. While it still offered its original services, it now also had casinos, luxury hotels, and a thriving underground black market. It was now seen as a place for people to go in Beta Sector where they could satisfy their hedonistic desires and purchase items not easily found or acquired. The station had, over time, also acquired its own resident population of drifters, entrepreneurs, and people with an eye for the main chance.

“This is Captain Stephanie Clarke of the New Earth Spacefleet scoutship The Oracle. We are here to dock for 48 hours to restock before we resume our way to Gamma Sector.” Clarke said as they approached Beta Station.

There before them all on the bridge Beta Station slowly came into view. The station looked roughly ball shaped with various sections jutting out at odd intervals. It rotated slowly, revealing more bits sticking out from the main station rather haphazardly. Steff shook her head. It was an architect’s nightmare. Maybe they should decommission it and start again, thought Steff.

“We hear you Captain Clarke. Docking is granted at Subsection F. We are sending coordinates now.” A voice from the station said.

“Pilots proceed with docking procedure.” Steff commanded, then she turned on the intercom: “We are now docking at Beta Station for 48 hours. Everyone on board has leave to visit the station during this time. If you do go into Beta Station, may I remind you as representatives of the New Earth Spacefleet that your conduct is expected to be at its absolute best while you are here. Also, do not engage in illegal activity of any sort. If you arrested by station security, or found bringing contraband on board, you may be left at Beta Station or end up in the ship’s brig. All that said, please have a good time. We leave in 48 hours. If you’re not on board by then, you may be left behind.”

“Captain, we are now docking with the station.” One of the pilots said.

“Bring up visuals.” Steff ordered. The view on the bridge now changed to an image of The Oracle docking provided by Beta Station’s cameras. “Okay cut main thrusters and engage the starboard lateral thruster.”

“Yes Captain.”

“Okay slow it down.” Steff saw a round airlock slowly come out from the station in the direction of their ship. Slowly The Oracle drifted towards the stations airlock. “Keep going… now cut the lateral thruster.”

“Yes Captain.” The spaceship slowly drifted towards the airlock using its inertia to finally dock with the station. Once both airlocks met, the ship came to a stop. The pilot turned to face Steff. “Captain both airlocks have now formed a hard seal. We are docked with the station.”

“Very good!” Steff replied. Turning on the intercom, she again spoke to the crew: “We are now docked at Beta Station. We leave in 48 hours exactly, so please lock this time in to any devices you have and are carrying with you to Beta Station.”

“You going aboard Captain?” Blake asked her.

“As Commanding Officer I have to. I’m expected to report to the stations Command Crew. Wherever they might be.” Steff replied. Blake laughed.

“Yes it’s not the easiest station to navigate. A friend of mine once got lost in there. He only found the right airlock several days later, but of course his ship was long gone by then.” Blake told her.

“I hope that doesn’t happen to any of our crew. So how did he leave the station?”

“He managed to jump aboard on the next ship leaving, though it went in the opposite direction. He found himself back at New Earth eventually, by then his Captain had reported him AWOL. Luckily he was able to straighten it out before they court-martialed him. He’s no longer in the Spacefleet however.” Blake told her.

“I’m not surprised. Frankly I’m still surprised to be commanding a spaceship again.” She said candidly.

“Well you are the Hero of Esfor. They couldn’t let you stay on leave indefinitely.”

“I think some in Spacefleet Command wanted me to.” Steff told him.

“Edwards seems to be fine now.” Blake stated, abruptly changing the subject.

“Yes, so far no sign of any problems.” Steff replied. In the last week Edwards had not even put a foot out of line. There was nothing she could do, she had to reinstate him as Chief Security Officer otherwise it would have looked strange to the rest of the crew, and she wanted to keep her concerns known only to a small group of officers she trusted. Yes he had been reinstated, but she was still watching him intently.

“SARA keep an eye on the ship while we’re docked with Beta Station.” Steff said.

“Yes Captain.” SARA replied. “Though I should point out I do not actually have an eye. All my visuals are utilised by the cameras on board.”

“Yes I know SARA. It was just an expression.”

“I understand.”

A short time later Steff walked through the airlock. Once she was in the station, she saw an officer waiting there, his uniform rather unkempt. He was tall with brown wavy hair and a thick beard. Once he saw Steff emerge into the station he walked towards her.

“Captain Clarke?” he asked.

“Yes.” She replied. He saluted her, and she saluted back.

“Welcome aboard Captain! I am Commander Ellis. I thought I would come down to greet you personally. So amazing to meet an actual legend.” He said with a thick accent she couldn’t place.

“Why thanks Commander. It’s an honour.” Steff smiled.

“I also wanted to see your ship. It’s a new class yes? I thought it was a frigate, but you said scoutship.”

“Yes technically it’s a scoutship. It’s a new class for deep space missions.” Steff told him. Ellis looked at the ship through the space station windows.

“I see. It looks so sleek and shiny. What exactly is your mission?” he asked her.

“Just going to the new areas that the wormholes have opened up. We’ll be classifying planets. I suspect it will mostly be for resources.” Steff told him.

“But wow! A brand new spaceship. You must give me a tour sometime. I love to see new advances.”

“I’ll try to arrange a tour for you. I hoped you might let us use one of your docking bays.”

“All of our docking bays are for smaller craft, sadly.” Ellis replied. “Can I give you a tour of the station?”

“Yes that would be most welcome.” Steff answered.

Ellis gave her a brief tour of the station. She guessed he was showing her the nicer parts of the station, but even these were rundown and grimy. The station needed a lot of maintenance, and a good clean in her opinion. They finished the tour in the Command Section which was filled with people looking at monitors and watching all the incoming and outgoing spaceships.

“This station is very busy.” Ellis told her. He took her to his office which was down a short hallway. She sat down and was offered something to drink.

“Have you had any problems with the Separatists here?” she asked him while cradling a tumbler of whisky.

“Separatists? No, not here. Our main problems are with pirates.”

“Pirates?’ Steff asked surprised.

“Yes, groups of pirates attacking our supply ships and running off with them. I deployed some cruisers to take care of them, but the pirates use small ships that are fast and agile. Very difficult for a large cruiser to deal with. I don’t have enough ships to escourt all the ships that come and go here, so I mostly help with the larger ones, and all I can do is escourt them to the various wormholes or from them. If they are followed and attacked by pirates once they get beyond the wormholes, there’s nothing I can do about it. I have let New Earth know the problem here, but it’s not a high priority for them.” Ellis admitted. “A few more ships would be handy.”

“The pirates never attack the station?”

“No they wouldn’t dare, though I suspect they visit from time to time to make use of the markets here. There are probably Separatist spies here as well I imagine. Not easy to find.” Ellis replied. “This station has an interesting cross-section of human society.”

“How do you manage all the crime and black markets?” Steff asked interested.

“The small stuff we try to ignore, to be honest. Our station security would be overwhelmed if we tried to arrest everybody doing something illegal on this station, and then some.” There was a knock on the door. “Yes?” The door opened and a young woman wearing a Spacefleet uniform walked through. “Can I help you?” The woman gave a grim smile and turned to look at Steff. She pulled out a concealed gun and aimed it at her.

“This is for killing my friends and family on Esfor you monster!” The woman screamed as she pulled the trigger.

to be continued…

Joanne Fisher

Index of previous chapters: The Oracle

Please donate! 🙂

©️2021 Joanne Fisher

The Oracle, part six (fiction)

The Oracle

6

“No, it’s out of the question!” Doctor Philips exclaimed.

“But Lieutenant Edwards could be a security risk. We don’t know why he suddenly had a seizure.” Steff argued. The Doctor shook her head in disagreement.

“It’s not uncommon for people to have seizures, even if they’ve had no prior history of them.” Philips told her. “He may have even had one before, for all we know, but no one else saw it and he didn’t know he had had one.”

“I just think it’s odd that our head of security had a seizure as soon as we entered a wormhole. I think there’s something else going on. He may be a sleeper agent for the Separatists.” Steff told her. Philips folded her arms and shook her head again.

“And there’s your paranoia. You wonder why I question your selection to command this mission? What you’re saying is obvious nonsense. Why would the Separatists bother trying to control a scoutship going to the other side of the galaxy from them? We pose no threat or opportunity for them. You know the Separatists don’t like you and your projecting this fear of them onto your own crew members, that or you’re using it as an excuse for some reason only known to yourself.” Philips replied. Steff looked her up and down.

“Don’t hold back! Tell me how you really feel.” For a while both of them were silent and looked at each other.

“In my professional opinion you should never have been given command of this spaceship. I fear your paranoia of the Separatists could endanger us all.”

“Opinion noted Doctor Philips.” Steff replied.

“And you wish to violate someone’s privacy on the thinnest of likelihoods that they’re under control of them in some way and you want my collusion on this. Well, it won’t happen Captain Clarke. I refuse to help you.” Philips responded. “If you’re going to break Spacefleet protocols, then you’ll have to do it on your own.”

“I would like to rather than ask you to help me, but I need you to help convince SARA to let me observe Edwards in his quarters, otherwise she won’t let me do it.”

“Good to hear.”

“What if Edwards has another seizure in his room?” Steff asked her.

“If he has a medical emergency in his quarters, then SARA will notify me about it, as she will with any other member of the crew that has any sort of medical emergency.” Philips informed her. “You should know that Captain.”

“Fine. I just thought you might want to help me in this. Clearly you won’t. I do believe the security of this ship has possibly been compromised, and if anything happens because of this I hope you reflect on how you blocked my efforts to mitigate it.” Steff responded. Philips looked away.

“It’s all in your head Captain.” Philips replied.

“I don’t think so.” Steff replied. She turned to leave the medical bay.

“By the way, I will be mentioning your request to me in a report.” Philips told her.

“Fine. You do what you think is necessary.” Steff shot back as she went out the door. Clearly that request hadn’t worked and it had blown up in her face. She had expected that response from the doctor and so was hardly surprised by it, but she was disappointed that Philips had so steadfastly refused to see things her way.

Going back to her quarters, she sat down on her bed with her head in her hands. She didn’t know what to do. Getting up from the bed, Steff looked out the window staring into the immensity of darkness. She loved looking out into this blackness that went on and on, possibly forever. Sometimes she wanted to be out there lost amongst it. Maybe she should just grab Juanita’s hand and float out into space with her the next time she dreamed about it…

Afterwards she splashed cold water on her face and then dried it with a towel. She looked at her white skin and hair in the bathroom mirror. Though it seemed there were no aliens out there, there were some who had thought she was. She went back to her bedroom.

“SARA do you think I’m paranoid, or showing signs of paranoia?”

“Not enough information.” SARA responded.

“With regards to my concerns that Edwards could be working for the Separatists, either intentionally or unintentionally.”

“You are the Captain and you do have to consider every possibility. Edwards’s seizure was surprising considering he had no prior history of it, so it is perplexing, but there is no evidence he is working for the Alliance of Free Colonies.”

“Doctor Philips thinks I’m paranoid and should be in psychiatric care, I suspect.” Steff told SARA.

“With respect, Doctor Philips has made it clear that she does not care for you. She is not the captain. If you think Edwards could be a threat to the mission then you must take adequate steps to ensure The Oracle remains safe.”

“Yes, but how do I do that?” Steff asked.

“I can give you updates on Edwards’s movements within the ship.” SARA offered.

“That would be a help.” Steff replied.

“Doctor Philips could be deliberately trying to undermine your position. Be careful with her.” SARA advised.

“I will.” Steff replied.

*

“Captain, Lieutenant Frank Edwards wishes to see you.” It was three days since Steff’s altercation with Doctor Philips. Steff arose from her desk.

“Let him in.” Steff said.

“Very well.” The door to her quarters opened and there stood Edwards. He immediately saluted her.

“Captain! I wish to talk about resuming my position.” He said still standing there saluting. Steff returned the salute.

“At ease Lieutenant. Come in.” He walked in and they sat down at the table in her conference room. “How are you feeling?”

“I’m fine Captain.” He replied.

“You’ve felt no other symptoms or felt unwell in any way since you woke up from the coma?” She asked.

“No Captain.”

“Okay I’ve been thinking about it. I think you should resume your duties for only half a shift for the next few days, and then we will see how that goes. In a week I’ll review my decision.” Steff told him. Edwards looked disappointed.

“But why? I feel fine and fit enough to resume my duties full time.”

“There are still several unanswered questions remaining in my mind that I would like to have answered before I let you back full-time. I just want to see how it goes for you over the next few days. If there are no issues, then you’ll return to full responsibilities in a week’s time. That’s my decision.” He looked unhappy, but he nodded at her words.

“Okay Captain.” He agreed.

“When you’re not on your shift, Second Lieutenant Baer will continue as acting Chief Security Officer, as he is at the moment.” Steff told him. She stood up and Edwards stood up after her. As she watched him leave her quarters, she felt some serious misgivings about letting him resume his post, but there was little she could do without being more explicit about her concerns, which was something she wanted to keep to herself and a small circle of other officers, for the moment.

“Captain, there is a message from Lieutenant Blake.”

“Okay SARA.”

“Captain, we are coming to the wormhole to Beta Hub.”

“Thanks Lieutenant. I’ll be there shortly.” She walked up to the bridge and sat down on her chair. Not long after, the door to the bridge opened again and Frank Edwards walked through. Mostly everyone in the bridge stood up and clapped as he sat down. “Lieutenant Edwards is resuming his post, but only part-time for the moment.” Steff told the crew there.

Before them the wormhole became larger. A churning mass of light in the darkness surrounding it. As The Oracle approached it the wormhole light began to flood the bridge and it was virtually all they could see. Steff closed her eyes due to the brightness.

“Captain we are ready to go through.” Said one of the pilots.

“Okay proceed.” Steff told him. Then she spoke through the intercom: “This is Captain Clarke. We are about to enter the wormhole to Beta Hub. Stand by.”

As they entered the wormhole all eyes fell on Edwards. The ship began vibrating and they were all engulfed in white light. Once it cleared, they were in the familiar tunnel of cascading blue and white light. As they traveled into the wormhole, Edwards sat there observing the ship systems, but nothing seemed to happen to him. Steff continued keeping an eye on him. It was still at least a week until they arrived at Beta Hub Station…

to be continued…

Joanne Fisher

Index of previous chapters: The Oracle

Please donate! 🙂

©️2021 Joanne Fisher

The Oracle, part five (fiction)

The Oracle

5

Steff walked into the medical bay. Edwards was sitting on the side of a bed while a medic ran tests on him. Steff turned to Doctor Philips who was watching Edwards.

“So he just came out of his coma?” Steff asked.

“Yes.” Philips confirmed. “Once we came out of the wormhole.”

“Would you mind if I spoke to him?” Philips turned to look at her.

“Sure. Once my medic is finished with analysing him.” Steff stood there waiting while the medic continued. A short while later the medic nodded to Philips. “Okay you can talk to him, but not for too long.”

“Thanks Doctor.” Steff walked over to Edwards. She sat down facing him. “How do you feel?” She asked.

“Fine.” Edwards replied.

“What do you remember?” As she asked this, Philips moved closer, seemingly interested in also hearing the answer.

“We were about to go into the New Earth Wormhole, and then I woke up here.” He answered.

“You don’t remember suddenly standing up about to tell me something?”

“No Captain.”

“So you have no recollection of anything you wanted to say or ask me at the time?”

“No Captain.”

“Do you any history of seizures?”

“Not to my knowledge. It’s never happened before.”

“Have you traveled through the New Earth Wormhole before?”

“Yes I have. Many times.” Edwards replied. Steff sat back and studied him. “Am I able to go back to work now?” He looked at both Steff and Philips.

“You feel well enough to go back to work?” Philips asked.

“I feel fine. I’m not sure what happened, but I feel ready to resume all my responsibilities.” Edwards answered.

“I suggest you take at least a couple of days off work.” Steff told him.

“Yes, I agree with the Captain. Just a precaution, in case you have a relapse.” Philips advised.

‘And after that, if you still feel fine and you’ve had no further problems, then we’ll talk about you resuming your position.” Steff added. Edwards looked at them both confused.

“I don’t understand. I feel fine. I feel ready to resume my responsibilities. I’ve never had any problem like this before.” Edwards informed them.

“I know. We just have to be sure you won’t have a relapse. You have an important role in the ship and we have to make sure you’re fit enough to do it. Don’t take it personally. If you were in our shoes, I’m sure you would be just as cautious.” Philips told him. Edwards looked at Steff.

“Please Captain, let me resume my post. I feel fine.” He pleaded.

“Doctor Philips is right. I’m sorry, but we don’t have any other option. It’s for the good of the ship.” Steff answered. Edwards looked crushed with her response. She stood up. “Just take it easy for now Lieutenant. I’m sure it won’t be too long.” She looked at Philips. “If there’s any further change, let me know immediately.”

“I will Captain.” Philips replied.

Steff went back to the bridge and sat back down on her chair. She watched as the ship traveled through the emptiness of space towards a still distant wormhole. She had a lot of thoughts on her mind.

“How is Edwards?” Blake asked her.

“He’s fine. He’s rather crushed he can’t go back to work just yet.” Steff replied.

“Yes he should at least have a few days off.” Blake agreed.

“Unfortunately he doesn’t see it that way. I still have a lot of questions about what happened that need answering before I’m willing to let him resume as Chief Security Officer.” Steff told him.

“But what if those questions can’t be answered?” Blake asked. Steff continued looking out into the deeps of space, as if the answers to it all still lay out there somewhere.

“How’s the ship doing?” Steff asked, changing the subject.

“All systems are nominal. The Oracle’s drive systems are now fully engaged. We expect to make it to the wormhole to Berta Hub in just over three days going at present speed.”

“Very good Lieutenant Blake. I need to think about the Edwards situation, so I’ll leave you in charge of the bridge.” Steff informed him.

“Very good Captain.” Blake answered. Steff stood up and left for her quarters.

Steff sat on her bed considering the options. She could leave Edwards at Beta Hub Station and promote his second in command, but if she did that then New Earth Space Command would demand a reason for her action, and she wasn’t sure if her concerns with the situation were strong enough to satisfy them. If she let him fully resume his position that might place them all in great danger, especially if he was under mind control or suggestion by the Separatists now, which was her greatest fear. The fact remained if he stayed on board then he would have to fully resume his post eventually, unless she could come up with a good reason why he couldn’t that would satisfy him enough, which wasn’t very likely. The other option was to keep a watch on him, something she had already been planning, but wasn’t ready yet.

“Captain we never did resume that conversation regarding Lieutenant Gonzales. Do you wish to resume it now?” SARA suddenly said.

“I had hoped you had forgotten about it SARA.” Steff replied.

“I never forget anything Captain.” SARA responded.

“Please call me Steff by the way.”

“Okay Steff. Do you wish to resume talking about her, and your feelings for her?”

“There’s really not much more to say on the matter. Yes I have nightmares about her being sucked out of an airlock, but she is out of my life now, and those nightmares will eventually fade, just like the ones I had about Esfor.”

“Do you think your dreams about her being lost to space is symbolic of how you feel she is lost to you, since she defected to the Alliance of Free Colonies?”

“You don’t really pull any punches do you? You been reading a lot of Jung lately or what?”

“I am familiar with his work, but I haven’t read ‘a lot of Jung lately’, as you put it Steff.”

“Yes she is lost to me. It’s not like I can defect to the Separatists to see her again, even if I wanted to. As soon as I did, I would be arrested, put on trial, and then executed. The Separatists have made that perfectly clear.” Steff told her.

“Lieutenant Gonzales also led the mutiny against you didn’t she?” SARA asked.

“Yes she did.”

“How did that make you feel Steff?”

“Betrayed. Stabbed in the back by my most loyal companion.” Steff replied. “How do you think that made me feel?”

“I have no idea how you feel. I’m not you.”

“Damn straight.”

“I can however, through my processes, achieve an insight into how you feel, though I can never be sure it is completely accurate, but I am learning more about how you function.” SARA informed her.

“Good to know.”

“Do you think Lieutenant Gonzales’s actions have affected how you interact with other humans?”

“Probably. I try to be clearer in my communication with others now, so they are less prone to misunderstand me.” Steff answered.

“Do you feel that Lieutenant Gonzales’s actions were due to her misunderstanding you?”

“No, it was due to the horror of what I’d just done. That said, I don’t think she understood the position I was in at the time. If she had been Captain, maybe she would have done the same thing.”

“Do you wish to talk about what happened at Esfor?”

“No. Not now. I still can’t talk about it.” Steff admitted.

“It would be healthy for you to talk about it some time.” SARA informed her.

“I know.”

“If you ever want to talk about it, I will not judge you. I want you to know that Steff.”

“Thanks, but not now SARA.” Steff replied. “To change the subject, would you allow me to see what Edwards does in his own quarters when he returns there?”

“I’m sorry Steff, I’m afraid I can’t do that.” SARA replied.

“Why not?”

“It’s a breach of privacy and of New Earth Spacefleet regulations 6.4. No one is permitted to observe New Earth Space Fleet personal in their own private spaces.”

“But what about 6.4.15? If any New Earth Spacefleet individual is in danger of harming themselves or others, then their rights to privacy can be overridden by their commanding officer?”

“There isn’t any evidence to suggest Edwards is a threat to himself or others.” SARA replied.

“What if I can get Doctor Philips to convince you he is?” Steff asked.

“Then I will review the situation.” SARA answered. Well that at least was something, Steff thought. She lay back on her bed and considered how she could convince Philips that Edwards was a threat to himself or other people on board. She guessed Philips would not be happy with the idea of Edwards’s rights to privacy being potentially overridden by her. That would be a tough sell.

to be continued….

Joanne Fisher

Index of previous episodes: The Oracle

Please donate! 🙂

©️2021 Joanne Fisher