WARS AND RUMORS OF WAR... PT 4
Astronomy compels the soul to look upward, and leads us from this world to another.
Vice-Commander Jansen DeWilder lay on the operating table, staring into the bright lights above his head. Dr. Haley Daniels worked feverishly over his shoulder. Muttering something about foolish actions and long recoveries. How had the day gone so wrong? he asked himself. Daniels noticed him stirring and reached up for the sedative. Slowly Jansen slipped into a restless, dreamless sleep as Daniels finished her work.
Hines stood outside the cell, dark steel walls with a soft, fluorescent light gave the entire bay a gloomy disposition. He stood looking in at the pilot. What was her name? Why was she here? Those were a few of the myriad of questions going through his head. He had been born in the fringe systems, and after showing military aptitude, he had been shuttled into the interior to a military academy. Hines graduated in the pack which meant he would wind up in one of the many units guarding the Empire/Federation border states. Then he was offered the ability to go to FSFT (Federation Space Force Training) miraculously he passed. Thinking back, Hines really enjoyed and missed those days. Now I am here, guarding a pilot, on a ship. Seriously, why was she here?
Amar had just finished in the shower, he quickly changed into a black standard Federation uniform. He sat on his berth and looked about his cabin. A small shelf had a few physical books, something most people had never seen before, and pictures from his time in the FASF (Federation Armed Surface Forces) & FSFT. Mementos from conflicts and planets he had been. In the wall, a small closet opened up to reveal his clothes. A small desk with a chair, bolted to the floor, sat opposite the closet right beside the door to the outside. He enjoyed the small cabin as opposed to the larger one that was officially designated as the commander's cabin. He sat contemplating his next course of action.
His discussion with the admiral had been brief. Harcourt was an older military official, who did not stand for failure, and ran the fleet as he did when flying in the Federal Navy, with a grip of iron. Amar had relayed the details and then informed the Admiral of his current plan of action. The admiral had sat in silence listening, then after simply said, "Get to the bottom of this. I will not stress the importance of the mission in light of recent events. Launch and then Report." He ended with the fleets motto: Mors Victoria! or Through Death, Victiory. It was those words Amar now pondered. When he left the Federation to make his way in the galaxy, before joining the fleet, he had been inspired by the galaxy. So inviting, but after the conflicts he had witnessed, the magic of staring at stars had left him. Balls of gas, that's all they were. The helmsman would exclaim about the beauty of the last system. Amar would just nod.
Shrugging off the questions and feelings, he stood and opened the door, stepping into the hall, he turned toward the Bridge. Walking down the hall he passed some of the newest crew members, they stood before Yves who was instructing them on the finer points of safety when in Frame Shift or Witch Space. Stopping to listen in he smiled remembering the days he had to sit and listen. So many young, beaming faces. Eyes filled with wonder. Yves spotted him and dismissed the impromptu class. Walking towards him, Amar asked for the ship's status. Yves responded in his thick accent, "Commandre, ze ship iz prêt pour launch." After dismissing the deck officer, Amar continued to the bridge, Helmsman Ithora stood by waiting for his arrival.
'Commander On Deck!" Shouted the Helmsman, the other crewmen all snapped to attention and faced the stage. The bridge of the Anaconda Class ship was large and spacious, but unlike other Anacondas, the FSS Eagle's Flame had been heavily modified. There were the standard tri-pilot chairs on the control panel, behind that up the stairs there was the deck Amar currently stood on. In the center of the deck, there was another chair, with a secondary console. It was made so that Amar could stand or sit and the console would adjust to his position. On the right wall, the communications officer had his panel and systems. The left wall housed the Vice-Commander's station. In addition to these changes, the ship also housed two on board AI, Patton and Julles. Standing there, he faced those on the bridge, "As you were." Each member went back to their assigned tasks as Amar made his way to the center console.
"Good evening commander," Julles chimed in, her melodious voice echoing about the bridge.
"Good evening Julles," he responded.
"Oh, so she gets a response, but you ignore me when I greeted you earlier," Patton interdicted.
"Sorry about that Patton, I had to get to the com room."
"Sheesh, always something with you."
"Boys, boys, I believe we should move on," Julles concluded.
"Very well. Commander, ships combat capability is projected at 86%. All defensive subsystems, at maximum capacity. Shields Online and at 100%."
Julles, as if on queue chimed in, "Life support systems fully functional, main fuel tanks at maximum capacity, crew on board and ready to disembark, cargo stowed, Food and Water stores at 100%."
"I knew I forgot something... Payload and weapon's supplies at maximum."
"Thank you both, go about your duties."
The AI portion of the console dimmed, Amar stood and looked about at the other panels, interesting. Projected combat output was only at 86%. What was Gunny Pruit tinkering with this time? He would have to ask him about it later, in the meantime, he took his place and sat down. "Julles, ship wide broadcast, please." He waited a short while for the console to reveal the broadcast message.
"Attention crew of the Eagle's Flame, as you are well aware, at 2200 hours, we were tasked to assist with a rescue operation of the crew on board the Herald's Ascendancy. Fleet command has now tasked us with finding the Herald's Ascendancy. You also need to know exactly what happened at 0900 earlier today. Vice-Commander DeWilder and I were ambushed on the station. Fleet command has determined that these two events are directly related, and has asked us to take precautions when conducting our investigation. We will be departing in 5 minutes, all crew prepare for launch. We are en-route to TAU-1 ERIDANI. Man your posts."
Ending the transmission he turned towards his communication's officer. "Lobel, request clearance for departure."
"Understood Commander. Connecting to Tower. Tower this is the FSS Eagle's Flame requesting immediate departure and launch clearance." Lobel continued the back and forth banter with the tower as Amar turned towards his station.
"Julles, have Yves lock down all hatches and airlocks. Ithora, prep the power plant for departure."
Lobel turned back from his station, "Commander, we are now cleared for launch, we may proceed at any moment."
"Thank you. Ithora, take us out."
"Understood. Power plant nominal, engines nominal, ascending to departure altitude. Alignment nominal."
"Sir, the freighter Core Heme, is requesting to depart before us." Lobel said.
"They have permission, let them pass. Ithora, exit after them, keep fifty meters seperation."
"Roger sir." Both souted in unison.
Amar watched the Type-7 lumber in front of the ship and then proceed to exit the station. The Flame followed closely, clearing the "mail slot" and turning 45 degrees to the right. The ship cleared the mass lock in 30 seconds.
"Navigator Gladstone, Plot a route to the TAU-1 ERIDANI system. Patton, give the High-Wake alert and make sure everyone is strapped in."
"I guess I can do that," Patton retorted.
"Plotting course commander," responded the new navigator.
The ship pulled away from the station and exited the no fire zone. Ithora angled the Flame towards Eridani. The ship slowed down as the countdown commenced. Patton's voice boomed over the coms, "20, 19, 18, 17, 16..." The FSD could be heard humming as the drive began to charge. "11, Prepare for jump. 10, 9, 8, 7..." The blue and white wormhole began to open between the ship and their destination. The entrance to witchspace loomed before the Flame, dead center, the light of Eridani's star at the end of the forming tunnel. The FDL drive reached full charge and everyone felt the shift in mass as the count down continued, "4, 3, 2, 1, Telemetry established, thrusters to maximum, entering witchspace."
What could only be described as or compared to a supersonic boom was heard from the one end of the ship to the other as the ship went into the wormhole. Stars seemed to be rushing around the ship at an awe striking pace. Looming ahead, the star in the Eridani system grew larger with each passing minute. Patton's voice boomed back into the speakers, "Entering target system in 1 minute." Amar nodded, and for the first time in years, he looked at the stars and was truly filled with a sense of wonder.