Thinking he was alone, Kyle dressed up in his sister’s clothes. Looking in the mirror, he wondered if he was really a girl. Just then Hannah unexpectedly walked through the doorway.
“What are you doing in my room freak?” she asked. In a panic he ran to his own bedroom. A short time later Hannah knocked on his door. “Can I have my dress back? That one doesn’t fit you anyway. Here are some of my older ones that would be more your size. Just don’t go in my room again.”
No one had expected Amelia to survive her death, but here she was standing by the grave she had just dug up from. It had been difficult at first, but her will to endure overcame any problems digging through the earth had posed. She was alive. She was tenacious. She was immortal now.
Amelia walked out of the graveyard. Having overcome death, it was now time to feed, and she was so very hungry.
Steff gazed at The Oracle slowly getting larger as they approached. She was on board a shuttle ready to take command of the ship. It was two months since her meeting with Admiral Owens, and now finally the ship was almost ready to leave on its mission. During this time Steff had finalised the crew for the ship and looked through extensive star maps of the known wormholes to plot the best and safest ways to get to Gamma Sector. Alternative routes were also memorised.
The Oracle was cylindrical with thrusters at the sides in the aft and two “wings” on either side in the fore section, just below the ships bridge. These wings housed most of the ships weapons, aside for the missile tubes, which were in the underside of the ship under the prow. Also on the underside was the docking bay that smoothly jutted out in the mid-section. The Oracle’s skin was polished chrome, though in reality it was thick armour designed to withstand laser blasts and missiles from potential enemies. At just over 200 metres long, Steff felt she was definitely looking at a frigate, not a scout as the Admiral claimed it was. It was as though there was something Space Command was concerned about, but wouldn’t tell her. But whatever it was classed as, it was under her command now.
The shuttle landed in the docking bay. As soon as Steff disembarked, she found a small company of crew standing there saluting her. In front of them was Security Officer Frank Edwards, also saluting her. He was average height though thick set. His brown hair was cropped short, though he also had a mustache, which was fairly uncommon these days.
“Welcome aboard Captain!” he said. Steff saluted back, and then picked up her bags.
“Thank you. At ease everyone.” Steff replied.
“This way Captain.” Edwards said. Steff walked alongside him as they walked to the lifts.
“Can you give me a report?” Steff asked.
“Most of the crew are here now. The ship is fully stocked with consumables and ordinance. We are ready to leave when you command.” Edwards replied.
“Most of the crew?”
“Yes. Several officers are still yet to arrive.”
“Who are we waiting on?” Steff queried. Everyone should have been here by now.
“The Medical Officer, Communications Officer, and the Gunnery Officer.”
“All of them important. Get in touch with them all and tell them to get here immediately.” Staff commanded.
“Yes Sir!” Edwards replied. As soon as the lift doors opened he made for the bridge, while Steff headed for her quarters.
She dropped her bags on the floor of her quarters. The rooms were a good size and there was a comfortable bed in the side of the far wall of the main room. There was also a desk, as well as a computer console. The smaller room had a table, and she guessed it would be useful for dining with the other officers. She also had her own bathroom.
“Welcome aboard Captain Stephanie Clarke. I’m SARA, the ships computer.” Said a soft feminine voice.
“Hello SARA.” Steff replied.
“I thought you would like my voice at this pitch, though I can modulate it, if you so wish.”
“No it’s fine.”
“Current mission and route selected to Gamma Sector has been uploaded. All personnel records have been uploaded. The Oracle is ready to leave and is at 100 percent capability. Currently the Communications Officer, Gunnery Officer, and Chief Medical Officer are not on board.”
“Thank you. The Security Officer has already informed me of the missing officers.”
“If you have any need or question just let me know.”
“I will. Thank you SARA.”
Steff looked through the windows at New Earth, named after humanity’s original home. It was roughly the same size as the original Earth, and also had large blue oceans like Earth used to. Steff then left her quarters and headed for the bridge. As soon as she stepped foot on the bridge, the First Mate stood up and saluted.
“Captain on the bridge!” He said. Everyone stood up and saluted. Steff saluted back.
“At ease everyone.” She said. They all sat down again and resumed their duties. Steff walked up to the First Mate. “Lieutenant Blake, how is everything looking?”
“The ship seems to be running perfectly Captain. We’re all just waiting to leave.” He replied. Blake was of medium build. He had short black hair and slightly darker skin, though everyone had darker skin than Steff…
“We’re waiting on some officers. Are there any further shuttles approaching?” She asked.
“Yes one shuttle had just left New Earth, so it should be here soon.” Blake informed her.
Steff sat on her chair and gazed through the large windows of the bridge into the blackness of space. It was good to feel surrounded by stars and the dark again. Maybe she was still out there somewhere, Steff wondered…
“This is the Captain speaking. Once the remaining crew are finally on board, we shall be setting off. The first wormhole is around two days travel away. We will be traveling through a network of wormholes to the Gamma Sector. It will take several months to arrive. Our mission is to find new planets suitable for colonies, resources, or possible terraforming. I’m not expecting any trouble, and so long everyone carries out their assigned duties we should have no problems.” Steff told the crew over the intercom.
A couple of hours later the final shuttle docked with the Oracle. The last three officers disembarked. Steff watched them from a monitor as they walked towards the lifts.
“SARA, tell the officers who have just arrived that once they put their belongings in their quarters, they must come to the bridge immediately.” Steff commanded.
“Yes Captain.” SARA replied. Steff knew she would have to make an example of them. She didn’t particularly want to, but she had to show the crew she would not tolerate any disobedience. A short time later the bridge doors opened. Steff swiveled her chair around so she could face them. The three of them stood there: Dr Teresa Philips, a woman in her late thirties who was rather tall and thin with long blonde hair, Lieutenant Sofia Garcia, the Communications Officer, who was in her twenties and had brown wavy hair and darker skin, and lastly Lieutenant Peter Hunter, the Gunnery Officer, who was a rather serious looking tall man with short dark hair. They stood at attention and saluted her.
“So nice for you three to finally turn up. I hope we’re not getting in the way of your obviously busy schedules.” Steff said sarcastically.
“I’m sorry but we all had a delay in getting to the spaceport.” Dr Philips replied. The other nodded in agreement with her. The rest of the bridge crew turned around to watch.
“You were meant to be here by the time I boarded the ship. All three of you have important responsibilities on this ship. How can I trust any of you if you don’t seem to take your positions here seriously?”
“I’m sorry it won’t happen again.” Dr Philips replied. She looked at Steff with distaste and disgust, even thinly disguised hatred. Steff knew that look, she had seen it often before. She knew Dr Philips had been reluctant to join the crew and had been surprised when she finally relented.
“Good, because I will not tolerate tardiness, or any other disobedience to my command. Do I make myself clear?” Steff asked.
“Yes Captain.” They replied.
“I’m watching all three of you closely from now on. Go to your posts.” They nodded. Dr Philips and Lieutenant Hunter left the bridge while Lieutenant Garcia took her post on the bridge. Steff swiveled the chair around again and faced the bridge. “And now it’s time to leave.” She announced. “Engage engines.”
The thrusters were engaged and the starship sprang to life. Slowly the speed built up. Steff could feel the ship vibrating, like a cat ready to pounce. In a short time they were surrounded by blackness and New Earth was just a faint glimmer behind them. A few hours later Steff left Lieutenant Blake in charge while she went to her quarters.
“You have been informed about our secondary mission?”
“Yes, to find the missing scout ship Argos IV.”
“What do you think happened to it?”
“I don’t have all the information. It could have had a mechanical failure or been hit by asteroids.”
“Admiral Owens suggested that Separatists could have destroyed or captured it.”
“Unlikely.” SARA stated. “It is almost on the opposite side of the galaxy from the Alliance of Free Colonies. There is certainly no record of them ever having any presence near there. Also it wouldn’t make sense for New Earth Space Command to send you to a place in danger of encountering them.”
“What do you mean?” Steff asked.
“Well if I was an Admiral of Space Command and sending you back into space, I would send you in the exact opposite direction of the Alliance of Free Colonies, which is what they appear to be doing. I’m aware of how the Alliance of Free Colonies regard you.”
“Do you wish to discuss this further?”
“No.” Steff stood up from her desk and looked out at the distant stars. She wondered if there was something bigger going on that she was unaware of.
2021 seems to be continuing where 2020 left off… I truly hope things will get better, though it may happen slower than expected. We all have our opinions and ways we see the world, but we should never bring harm on people we disagree with. We should be better than that.
Anyway here’s a song I recently found by Dion, who is someone I don’t really know much about, with Paul Simon (whose music I have listened to since I was a kid). This song is about Dion being on tour with Sam Cooke in 1962, two years before he was murdered. A lot of the music I listen to tends to be roots music such as folk, blues, and country…
All things going well, he would be the World Champion by the end of today. Even in the last few weeks his skills had been better tempered in the crucible of battle.
Before him was the arena. He was now ready. Cameras from the world’s press ringed the room waiting to see every move made in this match. As he strode in, camera lights flashed all around him and people cheered and clapped making it seem like the whole world was there.
He stared down his opponent. Now it would finally begin. With everyone watching, he moved his pawn forward.
The airlock was open and Juanita was slowly falling into space. She held on to Juanita trying to stop her from being lost to the void.
“Hold on! Just let me pull you back into the ship.” She told her. To her surprise though, Juanita was trying to let go of the grip on her.
“Let me go!” Juanita implored her.
“No I need you!” she replied. Juanita struggled out of her grasp.
“Come with me.” Juanita urged her.
“You know I can’t. Stay here with me.” Juanita shook her head and then she was gone. She could see Juanita drifting further and further away from the ship, until she was gone. “Juanita, I need you!” she called out to the blackness. Then the alarm sounded.
Steff woke up. It was six am. She turned off the alarm and sat up in bed. She buried her face in her hands. Why was it always the same dream? In two hours the shuttle would be here to take her to Space Command. Her leave had obviously come to an end. The Admiral himself had requested a meeting with her this morning.
She got out of bed, showered, ate breakfast, and then put on her grey dress uniform. While she waited, she looked at the latest headlines on her viewpad. There was nothing surprising: more unrest on some of the colonies, planets suitable for colonising found, food shortages on some worlds, protests, sports results, the government wanting to further increase the robotic workforce, new recipes, etc.… the usual.
She heard the unmistakable sound of shuttle engines approaching. She grabbed her bag and stuffed her viewpad into it and then went outside. The shuttle landed by the house. The roar of its engines shook the ground around her. The gangway dropped open and two troopers came out. They were dressed in black armour and were equipped with short rifles. They stopped before her.
“Captain Clarke.” One of them stated as they saluted.
“Yes.” Steff confirmed as she saluted back.
“Please follow us Captain.” She nodded and followed them into the ship. Once she was strapped down in a seat, the shuttle engines came back to life and they roared upwards. The quick vertical take-off always unsettled her, which she considered strange as she was a starship captain.
Within a couple of hours they had arrived at New Atlanta. From the shuttle’s viewports she could see the large towers that dominated the city’s skyline. Beyond them was the Space Command Headquarters, and beyond that was the New Atlanta Military Spaceport. Once they had landed, she walked to Space Command and was ushered into a lift that took her directly to the Admiral’s office.
“Admiral Sir!” Steff said while saluting once she walked into the Admiral’s room.
“Please sit down Captain!” Admiral Owens said as he rose from his chair. He was a tall man that wore a white uniform. He had dark grey hair that was cropped short, and grey eyes that never seemed to miss any detail. His office was rather bare, just a desk, some chairs, and a few computer screens. He was a known minimalist and hated clutter of any sort. Steff sat down opposite him. “It’s good to see you again Captain Clarke. I hear you’ve been living in the country for the last few months. How have you been finding that?”
“Quiet. Peaceful.” Steff replied.
“It would be good to have you back. We have need of you.” He confessed.
“You want me back?”
“All the inquiries and commissions have cleared you of any wrong doing. I thought it would be good for you to have some time out, but what do you think? Would you like to be back in the thick of it?” the Admiral asked.
“It would be nice to be in charge of a ship again. I have found I’m missing it.” Steff admitted. The Admiral smiled.
“That’s good to hear. I have a commission for you.” He flicked a switch on his desk and an image of a spaceship appeared on the wall beside them. Steff studied the image.
“Is that a new type of frigate?”
“No. It’s the new class of scoutship we’ve been building. The first one is ready.” The Admiral replied.
“Scoutship? That looks too large and heavily armoured for a scout.” Steff commented. The Admiral shrugged his shoulders.
“Once the Separatists began building warships, all our ships on the front-line had to be beefed up. We have to assume any of our ships may face potential combat with them. The new Hermes-class has thick armour, laser weapons, missiles, point defence, and a crew of around 250.”
“250? For a scout ship?” Steff asked surprised.
“Yes. It’s to cover all eventualities. It may be needed to use the ship as an ersatz warship if Separatists are encountered.”
“I want you to take command of this ship.” The Admiral offered.
“What’s my mission?” Steff asked.
“The wormholes in the Gamma sector have made it to a few new systems. I need you to go there and explore any planets for potential colonies or resources.”
“You’ll be given that ship,” he said as he pointed to the picture on the wall, “and a full complement of crew. The ship itself also has half a dozen shuttle craft and even a couple of starfighters, should they be needed. So what do you say?” he asked expectantly.
“Yes it will be good to have a new command again.” She replied. The Admiral smiled broadly.
“Is there anything else I should know?” Steff asked. For a moment the Admiral paused and looked hesitant.
“Yes. What I’ve just told you is the primary mission.” He replied. “There is also a secondary mission that will only be known to yourself and the ship’s computer.” Steff looked at him surprised.
“Yes. The truth is your ship won’t be the first scout we’ve sent out there. A scoutship was sent there six months ago and has disappeared. Your secondary mission is to locate this ship and find out what happened to it. Only reveal this secondary mission to your crew if the missing ship is found, of course.”
“What do you think happened to it?” Steff asked intrigued. The Admiral shrugged his shoulders again.
“Could have been an asteroid strike, or a problem with the ship itself, or it may have been Separatists.”
“Separatists? In Gamma sector? I’ve never heard of them striking that far out.” Steff replied. She couldn’t believe it herself.
“You’d be surprised how far they’ve got. They made a strike at the Vega station a couple of months ago. There was a battle there between our fleet and theirs.” The Admiral revealed.
“How come I haven’t heard about this before?”
“Because we decided to not let anyone know about it. The Separatists sent out broadcasts telling everyone that they had inflicted severe losses on us, but we claimed the broadcasts were fanciful propaganda. We also managed to block the broadcasts to this part of the galaxy.”
“And what actually happened?”
“We managed to repel their attack, but it did cost us.” The Admiral informed her. Steff looked perplexed. Admiral Owens stood up and went to a side table. He produced two tumblers and a bottle of whisky. “I remember you liking single malts. You want to try this one? It’s quite good.” He poured the whisky into two glasses.
“Yes thank you Sir.” She replied. “I guess the Separatists are a lot stronger than I realised.” Admiral Owens walked back over and placed a glass on the table beside her.
“Yes they are, but we would prefer to not let the public know about it at this stage. Not while something can still be done…” his voice trailed off. He lifted his glass up. “Anyway here’s to your new command.” Steff smiled and raised her glass as well.
“Thanks.” She replied. “Does this new ship have a name yet?”
“Yes. It’s called The Oracle.”
“Well here’s to The Oracle.” She said lifting her glass up again. She took a sip and found that he was right. It was a good single malt.
In the garden Katy saw the most beautiful butterfly fluttering by the roses. Out of nowhere a stone went flying past, only narrowly missing it. Katy turned to see her brother Scott was there about to throw another stone.
“Why are you throwing stones at the butterfly?” Katy demanded.
“That’s no butterfly!” Scott replied. Looking closer, Katy saw it was actually a fairy.
“It’s beautiful!” she said putting her hand out. The fairy landed, then unsheathed a sword and plunged it deep into her palm. “Ow! That fairy stabbed me!”
It was the third day of Jess and Cindy’s holiday and they wandered through the town to see the “sights”. As it was a small coastal town, there wasn’t much to see. A local pointed to the lighthouse that stood out from the rest of the town, like the proverbial sore thumb. The local told them it was the town’s most notable structure and any tourists that came to the town always visited it.
“Well that’s not surprising, since there’s nothing else to see here.” Jess answered. The local looked offended and wandered off.
“Play nice with the locals Jess.” Cindy reminded her. Jess grunted.
“Sorry, the hike yesterday left me feeling tired.” Jess explained. Both the women looked up at the lighthouse. Cindy giggled. “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing really. It just reminds of what we’ve got in our bedroom drawer at home.” Cindy replied. Jess started giggling with her.