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Space Tails: Chapters 4-6

#1
Let me start off by apologizing to anyone who has been waiting on this. I've had a personal tragedy recently that demanded my full attention. Pain demands to be felt. As such I haven't had much time for writing or even internet surfing. This week things will slowly be getting back to normal schedulewise. I hope to have the next few chapters written within this week so I can get back to my regular postings. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this next chapter as Marcus falls further down the rabbit hole.

4.

It was with less grace than the extent his abilities could achieve that the cyrostatsis pod was ripped from the escape launcher and dragged with little care to the medical bay. To say Marcus was upset was to say a star was slightly warm. His simmering emotions carried over to his care of the tools he was collecting as he slammed them down on a prep table. He retrieved several vials and an injector from a locked cabinet and being ready to begin the process of reviving the subject, he slammed his hands on the metallic table and hung his head attempting to regain his composure.

What the hell was happening? He had no clue as to why things were cascading out of control. He liked to be in control. He liked structure and routine. It was one of the reasons military life suited him and why, after his tour of duty expired and he could not rejoin, he went the solo life, away from the chaos others tend to bring in a personal life. He didn’t involve himself in affairs of politics and local policy. He didn’t involve himself in causes and crusades. He stayed to himself, alone, running routines he had set in place and planning details as best as possible. And yet somehow, everything had exploded into total confusion. He was suddenly involved in something which he knew nothing about, and the only thing worse that being involved in a chaotic situation was to be in that situation with a total lack of intel.

He turned around and picked up the cryostatsis module and plugged it into the unit. The display came up. T-0:24:43/5:00:00. He needed answers and this guy was bound to have something but it also provided a few problems. He had no good place to confine someone who was a threat. He had no real way of discerning truth from lies. In fact, waking this guy up could cause more problems than he was prepared to deal with. He absently watched the counter clock down as he tried to come up with a solution.

Finally he gave the cryostasis pod a good whack and turn around with a grunt. As he exited the medical bay he called Leslie.
“Leslie, start an inaudiable countdown for the next nineteen minutes and thrity seconds on my mark. Mark.”
“Done, Sir.”

He rounded a corner and made his way back to the cockpit. The hiss of the doors welcomed him as he stepped through and unceremoniously threw himself into his seat.
“Leslie, you got a minute?”
“Yes, Sir.”
“Any chance you know what the hell is going on and you aren’t telling me?”
“No, Sir.”

Marcus fumed. He absently began bouncing his right knee up and down as he intertwined his fingers and placed his elbows on the armrests before biting a knuckle. “Leslie?” he asked.
”Yes, Sir?” she responded.
”What do we know?”
There was a moment of silence before she replied. “Nothing of any value, Sir. Everything is pure conjecture except for one fact. We were engaged in diplomacy with one Alliance military vessel over the release of a prisoner, then that ship was destroyed and we were fired upon by another military vessel which we couldn’t detect. This lends itself to only one of two possibilities. There was a stolen Alliance military vessel, or there is a schism in the Alliance military.”
“He is not really a prisoner. Not yet anyway,” Marcus mused.
“I understand, Sir. However for the sake of security while in Alliance space, should we be bordered and questioned, your personal log does make reference to a Coalition ‘prisoner’.”
“Damnit, Leslie!” but the exclamation had no bite. She was right. Though she had overstepped her ill defined bounds as she was often want to do, she was right. It was a precaution he should have thought of himself. “Tactical analysis. Should we wake the ‘prisoner’ or not?”
“I have serious concerns on your ability to adequately confine a prisoner, Sir. However, due to the nature of our current predicament, I would advise both caution and a swift interrogation upon the immediate waking of our… guest.”
Marcus sat in the quiet then listening to the nothingness for several minutes. Dead space. Finally he slowly rose to his feet. “What’s the timer?”
“T minus thirty seconds.”
Marcus just nodded and left the cockpit to the tune of a hissing doorway.

The old man’s eyes slowly opened and a groan rose unbidden to his lips. He turned his head slightly to the left and blinked several times and attempted to get his bearings. Cryrostasis had left him weak and he could still feel the drugs in his system. It was with a great deal of effort he raised his head weakly from the bed and found himself under the point of a beamer held by a stranger. With an expulsion of breath he dropped his head.

“This is how it is going to work,” Marcus said in his most threatening tone. “You are restrained to the bed. I’m going to ask you questions. You will answer the questions. If you fail to answer the questions, I will shoot you. Do you understand?”
His bald head nodded in understanding.
“Who are you?” Marcus asked.
“My name is James Pact.”
“What is your rank and ID?”
“I’m not military. I don’t have a rank or ID. My personal ID was lost with the ship.”
“Well then, Mr Pact, what were you doing on a military vessel?”
The old man closed his eyes and moistened his mouth. The feeling of dehydration after cryrostatsis was common though it was a faux. “I was traveling along the demilitarized zone on my way to Zetty when my transport ship the Icon was attacked by a Coalition military ship. I was the only one to make it to a shuttle because I was taking a midnight walk near the bay when the fight broke out. The Icon was destroyed but they got a few lucky shots in at the military vessel and its life support systems and communications went out. I’ve a background in ship repairs. I was able to restore life support once I boarded but the pilot was dead. I couldn’t get communication back up. I limped my way back here but when I came across a patrol, I couldn’t signal them and they attacked. I defended myself as best I could, but got to the escape pods before they destroyed the ship completely.”
“Tell me,” Marcus continued dropping his beamer slightly, “how is it you came to be in a Coalition military outfit?”
“My clothes were wrecked from the repairs. I found these on the ship and changed into them.”

Marcus looked at the man for several moments before he stood and holstered his beamer. He then walked around the side of the table releasing the locks that held the man’s hands down. Mr. Pact rubbed his wrists and rotated his shoulders several times though it was obvious the cryosickness still made him groggy and slow. He released the leg constraints and then stood back while the old man sat up and slowly swung his feet over the side of the bed.

“Well Mr. Pact, I’m guess this has been some kind of massive misunderstanding then. My name is Marcus and I’ll be more than happy to take you where you wish to go.”
“Thank you, Sir. I just want to get home and forget this whole thing. If we are still near the site you found me, my planet of Sigma 7 – Utho is only a short jump away. If you would, please take me there. I’m a man of moderate means, but I’m sure I can pay you something for your hospitality and help.”
Marcus smiled. “I know the system. I’ll have you there shortly. My ship isn’t large, but let me show you to some quarters. I’ll have to ask that you stay there though. My own ship is a hair’s breath from falling apart and I can’t very well have you wandering about. I hope you understand.”
James nodded and motioned for Marcus to lead the way.

Marcus had already prepared the room for his guest and led him to it. The door opened and James was greeted with a room devoid of anything but a padded bunk. He motioned James inside and then frowned. “I’m sorry I can’t offer you more comfort. Nothing in here works except the bed and the lights I’m afraid.”
James just smiled at him and offered his hand as thanks. Marcus looked at it for a moment. “I’m sorry, I have this… thing about touching people. You’ll have to forgive me again.”
James barked a laugh. “Nothing to it my friend,” he said. “Thank you again for saving me from floating in the space forever. And I’m sorry for inconveniencing you. But if I might, could I trouble you to send a message to my brother on Utho? His name is Colin Pact. Just inform him I’m alright and when we will be arriving.”
“I’ll make sure to do that and it’s no trouble really. I’ll be back shortly with some food. Now, if you’ll excuse me I have to get back. I hit some micro asteroids earlier and they got through my shields somehow.” Marcus rolled his eyes and laughed. “If it’s not one thing it’s another.”
James furrowed his brow. “I can help you with that. I’m quite good with shield repair.”
“That’s ok,” Marcus said waving him off with a hand. “I got the shield problem fixed just want to double check the damage and make sure it isn’t anything bad. I’ll be back in an hour or so with that food.”
James just nodded and smiling, Marcus left the room.

The moment he stepped out the door the smile fell from his face. “Leslie lock down quarter Alpha 5. No one goes in or out without my say so.”
”Yes, Sir.”

He marched to the cockpit walked over to the displays by his chair. He punched in a few commands in and then walked over to a cabinet and unlocked it. “Leslie, seal the cockpit with command code Marcus-Seven.” He pulled another beamer out of a case and then closed and relocked the cabinet. Returning to his chair he sat down and put the second beamer in the side pocket of his seat even as he felt the one at his waist press into his side. It was an all too familiar feeling.

He scanned the readout on his right manipulating the data by touch. “Who is Colin Pact, Sir?” Leslie asked.
“I have no idea,” Marcus admitted, “He supposedly lives on Utho and is supposedly the brother of our guest.”
“Supposedly, Sir?”
“Yes. Supposedly.”
“And you have cause for skepticism, Sir?”
“Indeed I do,” Marcus nodded as he pulled up more bio information on a Colin Pact who in no way resembled his guest. His eyes were focused on the screen quickly absorbing the information off the readout while scrolling through it quickly. “Turns out the bastard is one hell of a liar. I’m just trying to figure out if he knows I know he’s lying.”
An eye for an eye and the world goes blind, but in the land of the blind the one eyed man is KING!
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Re: Space Tails: Chapters 4-6

#3
Thank you very much for your thoughts. Also, this is nothing more than a really really rough draft of a novella that will probobly never get around to the point that it is trying to make. The reason being this could be called the roughest of rough drafts :-)

Anyway, IT'S SATURDAY! I have a few grammar and spelling corrections to make in my old documents and then the next chapter will be up here hopefully within an hour or so. Best of luck and I hope all who are reading are enjoying the train wreck :-)
An eye for an eye and the world goes blind, but in the land of the blind the one eyed man is KING!
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Re: Space Tails: Chapters 4-6

#4
Chapter 5

Marcus leaned back in his chair and rubbed his eyes. He’d been reading the display for almost an hour now and eye strain accompanied by a headache were beginning to set in. He had gone through Colin Pact’s bio. He indeed had a brother named James though there was no picture or bio available through any link. Likewise Colin and James’s parents’ bios seemed vague and generic. Nothing about this was right.

“Do you need any help, Sir?” Leslie’s voice chimed in.
“Yea,” Marcus replied. “I have to go feed our guest. Keep doing a search on our guest and his family and known friends. See if you can find something of a military background anywhere.” The screen began to flash up different documents and sites as Leslie began her search.
“Is this one of the things you think he lied about?”
Marcus just laughed. “The first rule when dealing with a liar is to assume everything they say is a lie, and everything they say is the truth.”
“I’ve never understood this penchant for lying among you humans. How did you even recognize a lie when you know nothing about him?”
Marcus rolled his neck to stretch his muscles and stood up, reflexively straightening his black shirt in the process. “It was the contradictions he made, Leslie.”

Marcus walked around the cockpit, glancing several times at the beamer in the pocket of his chair to make sure it was still there. “First he said he limped here in a damaged ship from the border. He knew he was in an enemy vessel with no communications so he should have sat down on first habitable planet or base nearby of which there were plenty. Assuming he panicked and just wanted to get home, the extended ride and repairs to the shields should have cleared his mind. Had they not, only military personal really know how to repair military shields which he supposedly did do. He offered to help me repair my own shields which should be civilian.” Marcus’s voice began to rise and his fists clenched and unclenched as he spoke as he became more and more irritated. “Add to that,” he continued, “the fact most civilians wouldn’t know where to look for spare clothing in a military vessel and couple that with the fact that it should take a civilian at least an hour to understand the layout of the controls for flight in that Alliance ship when everything is working properly, it all adds up to the fact he either has military training, or a friend or family that had Alliance military piloting lessens.”

Marcus stopped his pacing as he finished his rant realizing he was becoming frustrated. “Finally,” he said, “the fact that there was a lot of debris around the pod tells me he either had a lot of help, or his weapons were working fine and he knew how to use them. No matter what the answer to that question is, I don’t like it.”

“I’ll continue to look for anything that might verify your suspicions, Sir.”
“Thank you, Leslie.”
Marcus stood looking down at the deck plates under his booted feet. They were still and unmoving. Dead space. He turned toward the door when Leslie chimed in again.
“Sir,” she said. “You might want to bring some of these suspensions up to him.”
“Why would I do that?” Marcus asked.
“Because, Sir, his story does not hold much merit as you say. It is fairly easy to work out the holes in his story. So he is thinking you now either an accommodating enemy or the most foolish captain to ever fly a ship.”
Marcus just nodded and left the cockpit as Leslie’s search continued to play out across the display.

He never could stop his feet from stepping in time. All those years of drilling; how to walk, how to eat, how to sleep, and a hundred other lessons, were forever burned into his memory and showed in his every action. You could almost set a watch to the measured beat of his footfalls. He was a man that was devoid of individuality, yet exuded freedom from his every action. He rounded a corner and entered a supply room remodeled into a kitchen of sorts. In a few minutes he had a couple of hot meals prepared and walked plates and utensils in hand, toward the door of his guest.

He crept silently upon the door and listened intently for the slightest sound. He heard nothing. He sighed and pulled on a smile as he stepped to the door hitting the release button with his elbow. The door hissed opened and he saw James lounging on the bed, eyes bright at the sight of a man with food.

“Ah, my dear captain; savior to the hungry masses!”
Marcus couldn’t help but grin. “I see no masses unless it is the lone mass of 75 kilos propped up on the bed.”
James chuckled and then put on a mock frown. “I’m afraid, my dear, dear, captain, that the lack of food has dropped me to a mere 74 kilos. It is a tragic loss that I hope you have come to rectify.”
“Indeed I have,” Marcus confirmed with another smile. And with that, Marcus crossed the room and carefully laid one of the plates on the bed, careful to keep as much distance as possible between James and himself.

James tore into his food like a man who had not eaten in weeks. Marcus placed himself by the door eating his meal standing upright. While they ate, James praised the food and made small talk to which Marcus carefully replied to. Once James offered him a spot on the bed, but Marcus politely refused. When they had finished eating, James placed his plate at the foot of the bed and Marcus sat his in the corner.

James lay back with a heavy sigh of contentment and closed his eyes. Marcus watched him for a couple of moments and then moved a meter to his right and propped his back against the wall. He then slid down into a squatting stance and tried to broach the subject.

“A couple of things have been bothering me, James. Would you mind clearing them up for me?”
“I’d be happy to, Captain,” James said.
“You said you were attacked near the border, so why didn’t you just go to the nearest planet instead of setting off out here? I mean, it’s a long way and you knew your communications didn’t work in your commandeered enemy ship.”
James just nodded for a moment. “I guess I was really just freaked out. It’s not every day you get shot at from out of no where. I didn’t know anyone nearby, except of course an acquaintance of mine on Zetty who had agreed to help me find a good place to stay while I was there.”
“Oh. That makes sense I guess,” Marcus said. He forced a small laugh and added, “I guess I’d be freaked too if I was fired on.” James just nodded with a smile.

Marcus suddenly had a flash back of his pet snake as a child. His mother had hated it but his father had let him keep it as long as Marcus had cared for it. He used to sit for hours just watching it lie about basking in the heat of habitat he had built for it just to see it move a few inches. Chemically balanced and nutritionally created foods were its diet, but one day Marcus had caught a small injured mouse in the field and couldn’t resist the temptation of watching his pet eat the little thing.

He put the mouse in his coat pocket and smuggled it into the house. He had kept the little rodent alive for a whole week in a plastic box waiting for his parents to leave him for a long enough time to watch his pet in action. When that day finally came, it was with great anticipation that the young boy dropped the mouse into the habitat and sat back to watch.

It was a perverse type of infatuation really. Every detail stood out in stark relief when the snake began to move. The mouse fled into a corner trying desperately to dig its way out of the corner of the steel glass enclosure. Marcus could see the quick breaths of the small brown rodent as its sides bulged then collapsed in rapid succession. He could almost hear the frantic beating of the mouse’s heart, could almost taste the scent of the mouse in the air as his snake flicked its forked tongue out as it approached.

It was neither a long nor slow process that saw an end to the mouse. His pet methodically wrapped its coils around the small thing on the second try and crushed the life out of it before swallowing it whole. It was a cruel thing, yet a marvelous thing. And that hunt weighed on his mind now.

Marcus was under the distinct impression this was a snake and mouse game. What gave him pause, though, was he wasn’t so sure he was the snake. It was like a warning siren in his head screaming at him to pay attention to something he was missing. He took a couple of moments to try to find the cause for the alarm but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Once again, something wasn’t making sense.

Still he had pressed this far. It did no good to shy away now. “I’ve heard that military ships have their own codes and quirks,” Marcus said. “How long did it take you to figure out the controls?”
James gave a quick laugh and spread his hands. “Luck mostly,” he said. “After all, I wasn’t trying to take the thing into combat. I just needed to point it in the right direction and hope I got home.”
Marcus put on his best smile and stifled a faux yawn. “Makes sense to me.” He rubbed his eyes and gave a heavy sigh. “Well everything is in order here. We’ll be making the jump soon. Better to climb on in the bunk. I’ll bring you some things to occupy your time after I see to the jump. I can imagine how boring it is here.”

James just nodded and smiled. Marcus took the plates and headed out of the room. He stopped just outside to make sure the door was locked before heading back to the makeshift kitchen. He cleaned the plates under the sonic sink and sterilized them under the blue-black zapper light before returning them to their place. Then he quickly went back to the cockpit to see if Leslie had found anything.

On his walk he found himself going back over his dinner conversation. It was true just pointing the ship and moving in the right direction wouldn’t have taken long to figure out, but it was likewise true that unless he was some kind of savant, he shouldn’t have been able to bring the shields back up if they were damaged. Unless, of course, the shields were never damaged to begin with. That thought brought him to a sudden halt. Everything is a lie, everything is truth. Damn it all! He hated mystery and intrigue. He was a soldier. He toyed with several ideas before deciding there was nothing he could do about the situation and resumed his trek to the cockpit.

The hiss of the door welcomed him to the bridge as did Leslie immediately following. “Sir, I’ve launched several search algorithms and came up with nothing.”
Marcus just grunted and nodded.
“With such an odd result, I improved upon those algorithms and came up with something interesting.”
Marcus had just sat down, but immediately stood back up in surprise. “What did you find?” he asked.
“Nothing, Sir. That is what is interesting. I should have come up with something but I didn’t. It seems very… well… convenient doesn’t it? His father and brother are the only family members alive. His genealogy suggest this has been the case down through his history”
Marcus interlaced his fingers and chewed on one of his knuckles.
“He appears to have no famous ancestors. He has no history of family military service. His family has never been cited for any infringement of laws. No political service. No family member has held a high ranking private sector job to be noticeable. It is… disconcerting, Sir.”

Marcus sat nodding his head and thinking. The drugs he had slipped James in his meal had surely rendered his passenger unconscious by now so he would not notice the lack of jumping to light speed. He hoped that James would remain asleep until he crossed the border into Federation space.

Finally deciding there was nothing more he could puzzle out on his own, he pulled the display to him and read up on the lineage of one James Pact. It was a couple hours before he finished catching up on the bio information and he then checked the flight time. It would take another eight hours before he crossed into Federation territory and another two hours to get to the Edward-Howell Station.

He was agitated and stressed out by all the unknowns. Still there was nothing he could do, so he leaned back in his chair with a sigh. He checked the beamer in the side pocket and his hand brushed against the glass eye. He pulled it out by its neural band and placed it on his head.

Soft music filled the cockpit as he worked the flat display on his right setting a few alarms. When finished, he yawned and told Leslie to wake him should something unusual happen. After a brief clarification on what constituted “unusual”, he sat back and was asleep in moments.
An eye for an eye and the world goes blind, but in the land of the blind the one eyed man is KING!
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Re: Space Tails: Chapters 4-6

#5
This week's chapter delay is brought to you by the letter "F" and "H" and the number "1". Remember kids, Failed Harddrives suck when you only have "1" copy of something, thus necessitating new HD's and recovery efforts.
An eye for an eye and the world goes blind, but in the land of the blind the one eyed man is KING!
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Re: Space Tails: Chapters 4-6

#6
More! Give us moaar!

I hope the tragedy is lessened over time for you personally.

Story-Wise I would have thought that a good idea would be to broadcast all the info Marcus has to some good location. 'Buero of international affairs' or something.
Also the dialogue was not that convincing - everything else is very nice!
Please keep it up!
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Re: Space Tails: Chapters 4-6

#7
Its gone. My outlines, my character sketches, all the work I've done... gone. Since the loss, I've slowly began reworking everything and have enough to start the actual writing again. In fact, I have most of the next chapter finished. But between work, working on my other book, and now moving, my time is very limited. However, since you guys have been patient with me, I hope to have the next chapter up sometime mid week. Fate, it seems, likes to conspire against this "once a week on Saturday" deal anyway.

I hope to see you guys back here and thanks for being patient. Best wishes, and, as they say in my hometown, don't forget to be awesome.
An eye for an eye and the world goes blind, but in the land of the blind the one eyed man is KING!
Post

Re: Space Tails: Chapters 4-6

#9
And here, only 3 months late......

6.

General Scrawl sat quietly in the captain’s chair onboard the Thomas Hackett and observed his men in their operation of his ship. The elite battle cruiser for all its sophistication required human attention in many of the day to day details as well as the mind of man to guide her. Though it was equipped with a dutiful AI, the Alliance was ever fearful of giving too much control to, what the good General would call, a cold and calculating machine of logic.

He was pristinely and properly pressed and dressed. He exuded the essence of military, perfectly symmetrical in dress and person save for a scar that ran from just below his left eye down to his cheekbone and from there to the point of his chin. He sat stroking his full yet well trimmed gray beard, a body adornment to which he prescribed to cover the scar he received from shrapnel in some forgotten battle in the long Trilateral War as he watched the view screen and read the analytical data as it scrolled along the side.

He had been in many battles through his military career and had developed nerves of steel from them. However, the sudden appearance of Rema on the bridge always startled him though he never betrayed it by an exterior show.
“Command has an Alpha-4 message for you, Sir,” the hologram reported.
The General just nodded and rose in a fluid motion making his way to the War Room. He wasn’t through the door before Yettric, another officer had taken the captain’s seat and input his command codes and Rema had disappeared.

Once inside, the general locked the door and sat at one of the seats around the table in the darkened room. A few quick taps of controls later followed by a verbal authorization code and a face appeared in the table glass. Another couple of gestures had the face hovering above the table before he even started speaking.

“Hello, Jim. How’s life in nowhere?”
The general smiled. It was Lacer Becks, an old friend. They had served together right out of boot aboard a broken down vessel and had become fast friends. Both had quickly moved up the ranks but just as quickly been separated. Neither ever suspected the war would end in their lifetimes nor did they believe they’d live this long. They kept in contact as best they could while wagering which would outrank the other at a given moment with the winner buying the drinks when next they met. It had only been a few months ago that Lacer had been opted by the fleet and given the position of Admiral technically outranking the general. “It’s not so bad,” the general replied. “Plenty of time to eat, get fat, and not get shot at.”
“Somehow I suspect you aren’t getting as thick around the waist as the rest of us,” Lacer said patting his stomach off screen.
The general laughed. “While I appreciate you worrying about my physical health while on patrol in the middle of nowhere, I’m assuming you wouldn’t have bothered with a ‘Captain’s Eyes Only’ priority message if you just wanted to say ‘hi’ and remind me I have to buy the drinks next time.”
The admiral nodded curtly. “You’re right. Command has a mission for you and it doesn’t feel right. They aren’t even telling me the specifics of it and that scares me. To tell you the truth, Jim, I don’t like the smell of this at all, so I wanted to be the one to tell you.”
The general just nodded, the smile gone from his face replaced by the stoic military mask.

“There is a Federation vessel in our territory. It is to be considered hostile and is to be eliminated immediately on site. As I said, I don’t know the specifics but the word espionage is being hinted at strongly. You are to eliminate ship and crew and take no prisoners. I’m uploading all the info we have on the ship now.”

The general quickly downloaded the information to a data NODE and hid the information behind command codes and encryption. Then he looked over the information. He couldn’t believe it. He read it again. And then he read it a third time.

“Becks? This… well. What the hell? A single Korrim class Y?”
The admiral nodded. “I know. Like I said, I don’t know what is going on either, but I don’t like it.”
The general stood up and paced behind the chair looking at the information again. After a few moments he shook his head. “Something is definitely not right, Becks. At maximum output with the most skilled pilot in the galaxy, a couple or three fighters could do the job. Sending in a battle cruiser is not only overkill, but we could capture the spy and hold him for questioning that I can only assume would be profitable. What the hell is going on?”
The admiral just shook his head and shrugged. “I have no idea old friend. I’m just following orders. Now you have yours. I wanted to give them to you to warn you to be careful.”

The general looked down at the data NODE again. “Close by,” he muttered. “I’ll get started at once Admiral,” he said and gave a salute. The admiral returned the salute and was gone replaced by the words “Transmission Complete”.

General Scrawl shut down the link and returned to the bridge. Yetrric logged out of his console and resumed his position as second in command. The general did not take his seat but addressed the bridge. “New orders folks. Helm, take us to the Jasmine sector coordinates 459 by 328 mark 7. Ops, I want a log of every ship nearby and let me know immediately if anything other than an alliance vessel shows up. Yettric, I want to see you in the war room.” The general turned on his heel and marched back into the war room with Yettric at his side. Another officer quickly took the captain’s chair.

When the door closed, the general gave a vocal lock command then stared down his second in command. Yettric was a fine officer if somewhat young. He was stick thin and gangly with a stoop to his shoulders. A mop of short black curly hair covered his head that was as unruly as Yettric was disciplined. Sad brown eyes stood astride a long thin nose that itself sat atop a thin lipped mouth. Nothing about the man spoke to the steel and rigidity that resided in his soul. If anything, the young officer had an air of brokenness about him. That air was immediately dissolved when he gave an order. The man had a voice that cracked like a whip and he booked no nonsense from those under his command. Yes, underneath that veneer of a sniveling little rat lay a tiger, and many a man, both friend and foe, had run afoul of that hidden tiger and it was always to their detriment.

The general gauged this officer not through his appearance, but through his actions and because of his loyalty and exemplary performance, he decided he should share some information with him. “We are looking for a Federation ship,” he began. “It was last seen in the sector we are headed to now. We have standing orders to destroy it on site.”
“What is the armament?” Yettric asked.
“Unknown. But…” the general trailed off. When he saw his second officer looking at him puzzled he continued. “But we do know what it is. It’s a Korrim ship.”
“Is it an HF, LF, or battleship?”
The general looked down the man again thinking how this was going to sound to him. He watched his eyes as he spoke. “It’s none. Not a heavy or light fighter, nor is it a battleship. It’s just an old Y class.”
There it was. Just a hint of shock, a slight widening of the eyes, a slight slackening in the jaws, but the recovery was near instant. “A bit of light duty then.” Yettric said with a smile. “Anything else I should know, Sir.”
“No, Yettric. That is all. Just wanted to keep you informed. I’m going to my quarters. The bridge is yours. Call me before we reach the coordinates.”
Yettric gave a salute and together they walked out of the room.

In his room the general was ill at ease. He was military and though trained for them, no military man liked surprises. He lay on his bed hoping to get some sleep before he had to go on the hunt but his mind raced. He closed his eyes and ran over several scenarios in his mind wishing to be prepared for anything. He crossed the barrier into sleep without so much as a skip in his scenarios.

The alarm woke him from a full on assault with the Federation frigate that had morphed into a battle cruiser with complete compliment of fighters. It took him a moment to realize the ridiculousness of that scenario and to finally attribute it to a dream. The alarm sounded again and he activated the comm by his bedside. “What is it?” he asked.
Yettric’s voice came back. “We are about to arrive at our destination, Sir. I thought you might want to be on the bridge.”
“On my way.”

He rolled out of bed and put his jacket on. Even in his sleep, he refused to ruffle his clothing and so looked as well dressed as ever. A brief moment with a comb put his hair in order and he left his quarters to return to the bridge.

His officers were all at quite work. Yettric rose when he entered logging out of the console at the captain’s chair. The general resumed his seat and called for a report as he logged in.
“We will arrive at the coordinates supplied in two minutes fifteen seconds,” said his helmsman.
“All ship’s functions are operating within parameters, Sir,” said Private Olson, an officer at the Ops station. “Also Lieutenant Bradshaw wishes to have a word with you soon on her pet modified tractor beam. I’m sure she wishes you to perform the wedding ceremony, Sir.” There was a chuckle from several on the bridge and even the general himself gave a smile.
“The Lieutenant has been spending a great deal of time on her project, Private. I’m sure she sees it more as her baby than as a romantic partner. You would do well to remember that in case I suggest to her you would make a good choice as baby sitter which would, of course, relieve you of bridge duty.”
The entire bridge gave a quick laugh and the officer at Ops smiled and blushed at the kind retort. “Duly noted, Sir. I’ll reserve my comments on her work to my logs.”
“I think that would be best, Private. Unless of course you would like to be known as ‘Uncle Olly’”
Another laugh went through the bridge crew before Private Nelson spoke up from Astrometrics. “Sir, the coordinates are near a rogue asteroid field. I suggest dropping into normal space a little early to avoid any ambush that might be lying in wait.”
Scrawl looked over at his weapons officer, Corporal Tenner. “I agree. If they have found a way to hide in the field, the best hope to overpower a cruiser would be via ambush,” Tenner said.
“Very well. Let’s go in safe and slow,” the General agreed. “Nelson, give the coordinates to the helm.”

The helmsman entered the new data and the automated countdown on the view screen changed. The bridge went back to silent duty as the general watched the timer clock down. The general steeled himself for the punch back through to normal space as the clock ticked down the last few seconds. The timer reached zero and flashing black and white took his vision followed by the sensation of his stomach going out of his body then into his throat then falling to the floor. The ships thrusters fired full reverse to slow them quickly from near light speed to a stop and he felt only the slightest slowing as the inertia was simulated in minuet scale. The residual cold was almost gone from his body before the experience was over but it was enough to give brief flare to the arthritic weakness in his hands.

It took a few moments, but the computer quickly began plotting wire frame designs on the viewscreen that represented the objects nearby lit by a non-existent light source. As more details became available, the wire frames had skins applied and more data about what was being constructed scrolled down the left side of the screen. In just over a minute, a real time computer model completely lit and able to be manipulated was available of their immediate surroundings.

The lighthearted nature had been sucked out of the crew as the tactical display came up. It was time to work. The general stood up and placed his hands behind his back. “Ok private, take us in. Slow and steady.” The helmsman quickly hit a few keys on the helm and the ship began to move toward the field.

”Nelson, do you have anything?” he asked. Private Nelson looked over at Private Olly who nodded and sent a data pack to the Astrometics' terminal. “Looks like we have hydrogen ions, Sir. Also some of the debris appears to be the remains of ships. I’m detecting unusually high concentrations of Aurgustun” Private Nelson paused in his interpretation of the data he was receiving. “Sir, if I’m reading this correctly, the artificial remnants left over here would be enough for five or six ships about the size of fighters. There is no doubt, this place was hot.” The private’s analysis ended and he continued to stare at the screens in front of him trying to make more sense of the information he was being fed.

The general looked calmly out at the field of dust, rock, and debris in front of him. “Keep us ten kilometers out Tiff,” he said to the helmsman. She acknowledged the report and a few moments later the images on the screen ceased increasing in size. Time wore on and he received reports of different artifacts and odd things in the field but nothing that drew his attention. After two hours it seemed that if there had been a Korrim ship here, it was part of the debris.

Two hours turned to three, and then to four. He was a thorough man, but it would appear nothing had left this lonely field alive. “Alright,” he finally said resuming his seat, “Let’s get ready to get out of here. Looks like there is nothing else for us here.”

“Excuse me, Sir,” a voice came from behind him. He leaned his head back to see Private Olson at Ops. “Yes, private?” Olson stepped out from behind his station. “We might be better able to tell what exactly happened here if we have the remains, Sir. Should we attempt to reclaim some of the pieces? And there is still that high concentrate of Aurgustun.”

Scrawl mulled it over in his mind and couldn’t find any reason why not to accept the idea. He nodded. “Good idea lad, we’ll make a corporal out of you yet.” Olson smiled as the general turned to Yettric. “Get a quick salvage team together. The roids are too close for us to take the Thomas Hackett in. Three ships should be plenty to pull in enough remains to find out what happened.” Yettric saluted smartly and pointed to a couple of bodies on the bridge to follow him. “Oh yea,” the general added before his second left the bridge, “Make sure to get that Aurgustun or Olson might have a heart attack.” The bridge laughed and to his credit Private Olson only rolled his eyes. He knew it wasn’t the last he would hear of it.

Olson preoccupation with the Aurgustun did remind him of something though. Corporal Tenner, you have the bridge. I believe I have an appointment with Lieutenant Bradshaw and her newborn. A few light laughs rippled through the bridge as the Corporal took the Captain’s chair and input his own codes. He almost stopped to ask if “Uncle Olly” wanted to join him but thought the young man had had enough ribbing for the day.

He exited the bridge by way of the lift and soon was in the science and research section of the ship. He had just arrived at science lab zero-six when his communication badge came online. “Sir, this is Corporal Tenner. TTVs 001, 002, and 003 have been launched and proceeding with salvage operations under command of Colonel Yettric.” The general activated his badge with a thought. “Acknowledge that. Inform me when they have returned if I’m not on the bridge Corporal.” The corporal’s voice responded with a simple “Acknowledge that,” as General Scrawl walked into the lab.
An eye for an eye and the world goes blind, but in the land of the blind the one eyed man is KING!

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