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

The Oracle, part four (fiction)

The Oracle

4

“Doctor Philips doesn’t like me and is making that abundantly clear.” Steff said as she moved her bishop diagonally to the left. Her opponent, Lieutenant Hunter, pursed his lips as he looked at the board.

“My advice is be careful with her. As she is the ship’s doctor, we do have need of her. Unfortunately she’s not the only one on board who feels that way towards you.” He replied as he moved his knight. They were playing on the table in Steff’s quarters. She knew Lieutenant Hunter had a keen mind and was intrigued in his thoughts about the situation.

“And what about you? Do you share that opinion?” she asked him. Hunter laughed.

“No. Certainly not Captain. I’ve read the report of your last mission. You were set up by the New Earth Space Command, in my opinion.”

“Set up?”

“At the very least you were in a no-win situation. Had you retreated, you would have never commanded a spaceship again and Epsilon Sector would be in the hands of the Separatists. A lesser commander wouldn’t have had the stomach to do what you did. In my opinion, and in many others, you’re a hero.” Hunter told her.

“Yes I’m a hero to the New Earth Space Command and a war criminal to the Separatists.” Steff stated. Hunter looked at her thoughtfully.

“I guess that happens in war. If there is any blame to be had, it would have to be with New Earth Space Command for placing you in that position, and the Separatists themselves for forcing the situation.”

“The Separatists hold me up as the Poster Child for everything that’s wrong with the New Earth Government.”

“If it wasn’t you, it would be someone else.” Hunter replied pragmatically.

“The sad thing about it all is that I don’t have that much of a problem with the Separatists. I can sympathise with their desire for self-governance.” Steff stated. Lieutenant Hunter raised his eyebrows at her words.

“I wouldn’t say that too often. The Hero of Esfor having sympathies with the Separatists? That would surprise many, and might be regarded as sedition.” Hunter replied.

“I don’t meant to sound seditious, but it’s basically a fact that New Earth can’t win this fight. Eventually the Alliance of Free Colonies will have to be recognised by New Earth. There’s nothing we can do about it. Our control and influence can only extend so far.” She moved a pawn forwards.

“You’re probably right, but as long as our politicians, generals and admirals insist we can still bring the Separatists to heel, we will have to continue fighting them, basic realities or not. Your actions are held up as an example of how we can keep control of the entire New Earth imperium.”

“Or as a symbol of our brutality by the Separatists.” Steff countered. “If that’s what we have to do to win against the Separatists every time, what would our victory be worth?”

“I know you probably feel a lot of guilt, but in my opinion you have nothing to feel guilty about. It wasn’t your fault things transpired as they did. I would have done the same thing.” He moved his rook. “Check mate!” Steff let out a half-smile.

“Well done.” She said as she toppled over her king.

‘Is there any further news about Frank Edwards?” Hunter asked.

“Well there are no viral or bacterial pathogens in his system and all other tests have come up negative as well, so Doctor Philips is at a loss.” Steff informed him.

“Hmm, I guess we may never know what caused it then.”

“The trouble is if we don’t know what caused it, it could always happen again and at a more inopportune time.” Steff replied.

“Maybe keep an eye on him?” Hunter suggested.

“Yes we are going to have to consider the implications of it all.” Steff admitted. Lieutenant Hunter stood up.

“Well thanks for the game. If you ever want another one, please let me know. Being the Gunnery Officer on what is supposed to be a peaceful mission does leave me with a lot of time on my hands.”

“So what do you do to fill the time?”

“I’m reading a lot of military history at the moment.” Hunter admitted. “But don’t worry if the ship’s weapons systems are ever needed, they will work when you need them to, you have my assurances on that.”

“Good to know.” Steff stood up and led him to the door. “As you have some free time would you consider helping me keep an eye on Edwards?” Hunter studied her face intently.

“What would that involve?” he asked.

“Just seeing what he does, who he talks to, where he goes.” Steff replied.

“And then report it all back to you?”

“Yes of course.”

“I’ll consider it. If he realises I’m watching him, he will do his best to hide his true intentions, if he has any to hide.” Hunter pointed out.

“I know, which is why I’m considering asking a few people to do it.”

“Make sure they’re loyal. If Edwards gets word you are asking people to watch him there’s no knowing what he might do.”

“Which is why I wouldn’t ask any of the other security personnel. Most of them seem loyal to him and would probably have no qualms about telling him what I’m asking them to do. There are several people I trust and I’m seeing if they’re willing to help me with this. I’m trying to frame it as concern for his well-being to some of them.”

“Probably a good move.” Hunter remarked.

“Have a think about and get back to me. I do need help as I have a bad feeling about it all. Hopefully it’s nothing, but what if it isn’t? Thankfully I have some time to organise it all since he’s still in a coma.”

“Okay. I’ll let you know about my decision on the matter. Until next time, Captain.” Hunter saluted her and she returned the salute. The door slid shut after he left.

Steff sat down on a chair and relaxed. She had hoped this would be an easy mission, but it was becoming apparent that maybe she wouldn’t be so lucky. What if the crew on Argos IV had had the same issues? There was no record on what happened aboard that ship and that troubled her. She desperately wanted to talk to another human about Argos IV, but her orders prevented it until they found the ship. She found talking to computers a bit soulless, no matter how well they had been programmed to mimic human behaviour, she always found there was something missing with them…

“Captain, you have a message from Lieutenant Blake.” SARA suddenly informed her breaking Steff’s reverie.

“Okay.” She replied.

“Captain, we are coming out of New Earth Wormhole.” Blake informed her.

“Thanks Lieutenant. I’ll be on the bridge shortly.” She replied. With a sigh she stood up and left her quarters. Once she was on the bridge she sat down on her chair and watched the ship weaving its way through the wormhole. Just beyond it she could make out a dark spot that was steadily approaching them.

“This is Captain Clarke. We are coming out of the New Earth Wormhole, so prepare for a bit of chop.” She informed the crew through the ship’s intercom.

Not long after she said that the ship began to vibrate slightly, and then the turbulence hit. The ship began rocking noticeably and people that were standing had to use a wall to support themselves. Then the writhing blue and white light came to an end and the ship was engulfed in total blackness. Steff had to hang on to the sides of her chair as the turbulence got worse and then they were through, everything was calm again and they were back in real space.

“All systems are nominal.” Blake informed her.

“Thanks Lieutenant.” Steff replied. “This is Captain Clarke, again. We are now in the Eridani system. It will take a few days to get to the next wormhole which leads to the Beta Hub. When we get to Beta Hub station there will be 48 hours of R&R for all crew.” She noted everyone in the bridge looked pleased with this announcement.

“Captain, you have a message from Doctor Philips.” SARA told her.

“Thanks SARA.”

“Captain, Lieutenant Edwards has regained consciousness.” Philips said.

“When did this happen?” Steff asked her.

“Just after we came out of the wormhole.”

“Okay, I’ll be right down.” Steff stood up. “Lieutenant Blake take the bridge.”

“Yes Captain.” Blake acknowledged.

Steff walked to the bridge doors. Was it really coincidence he regained consciousness just after leaving the wormhole? She wondered. Was there something in the wormhole affecting him? She hoped Doctor Philips might have an answer for this, but she suspected she wouldn’t. After all, that would be too easy.

to be continued…

Joanne Fisher

Index of previous episodes: The Oracle

Please donate! 🙂

©️2021 Joanne Fisher

The Oracle, part three (fiction)

The Oracle

3

“Don’t go!”

“I have to. Come with me!”  Juanita urged.

“I can’t!” Juanita gave a regretful look and then let go. She floated out the airlock and then was lost among the stars.

Steff woke up. She rose up and sat on the side of the bed covering her face in her hands. Slowly the cabin lights blinked on.

Are you alright Captain? Your sleep cycle wasn’t finished.

“I’m alright SARA. I just had a nightmare.” Steff replied.

About Esfor Colony?

“No. You would think I would have nightmares about that, but I haven’t had one about Esfor for a long time now. I was dreaming about the First Mate on my last command. I dreamt she floated out of the airlock and was lost. It’s a recurring dream.”

According to my records Lieutenant Gonzales did not die that way. All the information I have states she is still alive.” SARA informed her.

“I’m aware of that. It was just a dream.” Steff replied.

You had strong feelings for her didn’t you? That is indicated on your file.

“Yes you could say that.” Steff answered.

Was your connection with her sexual?” SARA unexpectedly asked.

“I was a captain and she was a lieutenant. That would have been a breach of protocol.” Steff explained.

Humans do have a habit of ignoring rules, especially if it is for personal advantage or driven by strong emotions.

“What are you driving at?”

There is speculation that you and Lieutenant Gonzales had a sexual relationship. Everything you say to me is confidential.” SARA told her.

“Are you also my therapist?” Steff asked.

I can serve that function if you want. I need to understand why you are dreaming of her and how I can assist. I know talking about it may help you, as it does with humans.

“Yes it was sexual, but we tried to be discreet about it. It wasn’t just sexual though. We were both in love with one another.” Steff confessed.

It must have hurt when she left.

“Yes it did. We were…” Steff was suddenly cut off by SARA.

Captain, Lieutenant Blake has just messaged you.

“Okay.”

“Captain, we have just arrived at the New Earth Wormhole.” Blake told her.

“Thanks Lieutenant. I’ll be right there.” Steff told him. She stood up and quickly got dressed. “We’ll follow up this talk sometime later SARA.”

Understood Captain.” SARA answered.

Steff left her quarters and headed for the bridge. Once there she sat down on her chair and watched the wormhole slowly getting larger as they approached it. It was a bright churning mass of light that just hung there in the blackness of space like an aberration. Inside the wormhole Steff could just make out a tunnel that seemed to twist and turn into infinity. Just outside of it was a stationary fleet of battleships that guarded the entry (and exit) point.

“Captain we’re being asked to identify ourselves.” Lieutenant Garcia announced.

“Send this back to them: This is Captain Stephanie Clarke of the New Earth Spacefleet scout ship The Oracle. We request passage through the New Earth Wormhole.” Steff told her. They all waited a moment.

“Okay proceed.” Garcia reported back. The Oracle flew past the fleet bristling with weapons. Steff knew this was the last line of defence of the New Earth system should the Separatists ever make it this far.

“Pilots, guide us in.” Steff commanded.

The Oracle entered the wormhole. For a brief second everyone felt everything suddenly stretch forwards, and then suddenly they were engulfed in light. Once that cleared their vision, they found the ship was traveling through a long tunnel of writhing blue and white light. Chief Security Officer Edwards approached Steff.

“Captain, I think…” He suddenly turned pale and started shaking, and then collapsed onto the floor convulsing. Steff ran to his side.

“Get a medic up here now!” Steff ordered. The horrified bridge crew looked on as Edwards convulsed. Within a couple of minutes two medics turned up with a hover stretcher. One of them took readings of Edwards as he shook violently. Slowly the convulsing lessened until Edwards’s body was finally still. The two medics loaded his unconscious body onto the stretcher and then guided it with them as they walked back to the lifts.

“I never knew Edwards had epilepsy.” Lieutenant Blake commented.

“I didn’t either.” Steff replied. What she wondered was what Edwards was intending to tell her just before he collapsed. After a few hours she left the bridge in control of Second Mate Ying Li and went back to her quarters.  She stood in her room for a while and gazing out the window at the cascading blue light as it went by.

You alright Captain?” asked SARA.

“SARA was there anything on Frank Edwards’s medical records suggesting he has epilepsy or any other similar condition?”

No Captain. His records show he is in perfect physical health with no underlying conditions. There is also no medical history showing epilepsy or anything similar.

“Do you know why he then suddenly had an epileptic fit on the bridge?” Steff asked.

I’m sorry Captain, but there is not enough information.

“Were there any transmissions of any kind to the ship or inside the ship before or after we entered the wormhole?”

I’m sorry Captain, but there is no record of any transmissions of any kind to the ship or within the ship during that period.” SARA replied.

“Were there any anomalies of any kind recorded during this period?”

No Captain.

Steff left her quarters and headed to the medical bay. When she walked through the door she saw Edwards was still unconscious lying on a bed with a team of medics surrounding him. Near the door, Doctor Philips was looking at a monitor. She glanced at Steff as she walked in, and then looked at the monitor again.

“Captain.” She acknowledged.

“How is Frank Edwards?” Steff asked her.

“Still unconscious. We’re running all sorts of tests on him, but so far we’ve found no reason why he suddenly collapsed with a seizure.” Philips replied while still looking at the screen.

“Do you think we should turn back?” Steff asked her. Doctor Philips looked at her with surprise.

“I think we need to work out what’s wrong with him first. I don’t think at this stage it warrants heading back to New Earth.” Philips replied as she looked back at the screen.

“There’s no medical reason you know of why he suddenly had a seizure?” Philips shrugged her shoulders at Steff’s question.

“Well his medical records show no underlying conditions or history of epilepsy, but for all we know there might have been some undetected condition we weren’t aware of. We’ll know more once we’ve done more tests.” Philips told her.

“I never did thank you for joining the crew. I know you had some reservations about coming on this mission, but I’m glad you’re here.” Steff told her. Philips looked at her briefly.

“I’m here for the crew, not for you. After all, they need someone looking out for them.” Philips replied acidly, before turning to the screen again. Steff decided to let that comment go, and left the medical bay. There was something wrong, she could feel it.

to be continued….

Joanne Fisher

Index of previous episodes: The Oracle

Please donate! 🙂

©️2021 Joanne Fisher

The Oracle, part two (fiction)

The Oracle

2

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.

“SARA?”

“Yes Captain?”

“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.”

“I see.”

“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.

Joanne Fisher

Please donate! 🙂

©️2021 Joanne Fisher

The Oracle, part one (fiction)

The Oracle

One

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 see.”

“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.

“Excellent!”

“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.

“Secondary mission?”

“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.

Joanne Fisher

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©️2021 Joanne Fisher

The Oracle, prologue (fiction)

The Oracle

Prologue

And so humanity spread out among the stars.

At first colony ships were sent out to planets deemed to be habitable by our orbiting long-range telescopes, but then stellar engineers began to build wormholes, and eventually more stable ones that allowed our starships to pass quickly between star systems, and this opened up the entire galaxy to our civilisation.

So far a quarter of the galaxy had now been colonised and while we had found life in varying forms, we never found any other intelligent life or signs of it. As far as we were concerned the galaxy was ours, maybe even the Universe too. It was our destiny, our prize, our salvation.

What could go wrong?

Joanne Fisher

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©️2021 Joanne Fisher