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3500AD - Part 2
Thursday, 07 February 2008
Part 2
 

“LEVEL 3 ALERT! LEVEL 3 ALERT! INCOMING UNIDENTIFIED VESSELS!” Dr. Steve Waxer was suddenly shocked out of a deep slumber by his ship’s alert system. A very LOUD alert system.

“What the hell…” Steve muttered, as he fumbled in the low light for his glasses.

Steve needed the alert system to be very loud in his quarters, for he was a very deep sleeper.

“Uggggghhhh…. I don’t remember scheduling any alert system drills. We must be less than one day away from Earth, how could there be any unidentified craft out here?!?”

Steve dressed quickly, and made his way over to the communications console to contact Dr. Adrian Walcott and Dr. Robert Sar at their respective ships. The level 3 alert represents the lowest possible threat level to a starship. Usually meteor showers, small asteroid clusters, and strange unknown phenomena would set off this alert. However, something didn’t seem right. Unidentified spacecraft this close to the Sol star system was virtually unheard of!  Any unknown alien race would usually make contact via Earth’s most outlying colonies, if for no other reason than sheer convenience! If this was merely a system malfunction, a quick call to the other two ships would be the most efficient way of determining so. After all, if the other ships had no alerts, his alert system would obviously be at fault!

“Computer, open a comm link with the IPV Sar. I need to speak to Robert!” said Steve to the ship’s computer.

“Establishing comm link… Comm link opened… Apparently, Robert Sar is not available at the moment.” replied the computer.

“What the -! Crap, he must be having a late night snack! He doesn’t like to be disturbed when he’s eating… Okay computer, open a comm link with the IPV Walcott, so I can speak to Adrian!” said Steve.

“Establishing comm link…”

Dr. Adrian Walcott was already awake on his ship’s bridge, and had been for several hours now. Every now and then, he had bouts of insomnia, and tonight was just one of those nights. The alert was quite a surprise though.

“We have five unidentified vessels traveling in our direction, sir. About 3 lears away.”

“Thank you, ensign.” replied Adrian.

“Lear” is a common shorthand term for 1 light year, or the distance it takes light to travel in one year. Of course, today’s starships can travel many times the speed of light!

“Ensign, is there any data regarding why these five unidentified vessels were not detected earlier by our long range sensors?” asked Adrian.

“Checking now sir… Ah! There appears to be some kind of interference in the area which is disrupting our long range sensors.” replied the ensign.

“Interference? What is the source of the interference?”

“Unknown, sir.”

“Hmmmm….” Adrian pondered.

“What’s more sir, it appears that the interference spans several lears, and was not present in this area when we first traveled through here, according to our scanner logs.” added the ensign.

“Hmmmm… the only thing that has apparently changed in this area since we last traveled through here is the presence of those five ships…” thought Adrian.

“Incoming comm from the Waxer sir!” cried another ensign.

“That must be Steve… Send it to my ready room!” said Adrian.

“Aye sir.” replied the ensign.

Adrian walked over to the entrance to his ready room. The doors automatically opened for him as he entered and closed behind him. He proceeded to seat himself at his desk and reached over to adjust the screen of the comms console.

“Computer, open comm link.” said Adrian.

Steve appeared onscreen.

“Sleeping beauty, awake at last,” Adrian joked.

Steve looked nonplussed. Then he smirked. “You still remember my old sleeping habits eh Adrian? Heh heh.”

When they were children, Steve would visit Adrian and his family, and stay with them sometimes. Steve would often sleep for very long periods, usually more than ten hours at a time. Adrian and his family started joking about that and called Steve “Sleeping Beauty” after the ancient fairy tale.

“Who could forget? I’ve never known anyone besides my brother Bryan who slept that much. And you usually slept longer than him!” replied Adrian.

“Yes, yes. But enough of the past for the moment. You seem to be wide awake. I assume your ship is on level 3 alert? Or is it just your insomnia again?” asked Steve.

“Correct, on both counts. There appears to be five unidentified craft, about 3 lears off, heading in our direction. Possibly an intercept course.” replied Adrian.

“Possibly? What do you mean?” asked Steve

“Well, that’s just it – we’re not completely sure. There appears to be some kind of interference screwing around with our sensors.”

“Ah. That would also explain why we didn’t detect these vessels on our long range sensors much sooner. Crap! Have you pinpointed the source of the interference?”

“No. But there is a high possibility that those unidentified craft are the source of the interference. Nothing else in this area appears to have changed besides their presence…”

“Interference from the unidentified ships? Wait a minute -“

“Incoming comm link from IPV Sar.” interrupted the ship’s computer. Adrian touched the appropriate spot on the screen to accept the link. Robert appeared on the screen next to Steve.

“Robert must be finished stuffing his face in his ship’s galley.” said Steve.

“I heard that Steve! I was not stuffing my face, I was having a late snack!” exclaimed Robert.

“I know, Rob. I’m just being funny. Heh heh!” laughed Steve.

“Very funny. But seriously guys, my ship is at level 3 alert because of some unidentified ships. You guys also?”

“Yes”.

“Correct.”

“I thought so. I attempted to contact headquarters on Earth to ask about the strange vessels, but I can’t get through to them.” said Robert.

“What!” exclaimed Adrian and Steve in unison.

“It is as I feared,” said Steve. “Those unidentified vessels are purposely jamming all long range sensors and communications in the area. I highly doubt that those are friendly ships. What if they are planning to attack Earth? What if -”

“Let’s not get too hasty there, Steve.” interrupted Adrian. “For all we know, that interference might just be a side effect of their technology. Let’s not jump to any premature conclusions.”

“I agree with Adrian. The vessels are almost 1 lear away now. I say we attempt to make contact with them.” said Robert.

“Okay. I’ll hail them as soon as I get back to the bridge. I’ll transfer our comm link to the bridge as well, I suggest you two do the same.”

“Yeah, hold on.” said Steve.

“Be right there.” said Robert.

The three scientists went to each of their ships’ bridges, respectively. They resumed their conversation via 3 way comm link.

“Okay guys. I’ll hail them now. Computer, open all external comm channels to hail the unidentified vessels.” said Adrian.

“External channels open.” responded the computer.

“This is Dr. Adrian Walcott of the Earth vessel IPV Walcott. We request that you identify yourselves.”

There was no answer.

“I repeat, this is Dr. Adrian Walcott of the Earth vessel IPV Walcott. We request that you identify y-”

“ALERT! ENGINE POWER HAS BEEN DISRUPTED! WE ARE DROPPING OUT OF LIGHTSPEED!” alerted the ship’s computer.

All three ships – the Waxer, Walcott, and Sar, dropped out of lightspeed. They had all experienced an unexplained engine power failure.

“Oh, what now? I’m sure we thoroughly tested all of our ion drive systems before we decided to return…” said an annoyed Steve.

“We did. I seriously doubt that was any kind of inherent system failure, especially since all of our ships were affected simultaneously!” said Adrian.

“It was the unidentified vessels! The lead one, specifically! According to my sensor logs, the lead vessel emitted some kind of dampening field that caused a power disruption that forced us out of lightspeed! They’re trying to keep us here!” shouted Robert.

“Level 2 alert, everyone. Shields up, and all hands to battle stations!” shouted Steve.

The level 2 alert represents a medium level threat to a starship, such as navigating a dangerous asteroid field, impacts by large meteors, and any other situation requiring extreme caution. In contrast, a level 1 alert is the highest possible threat level, suitable for events like being caught in a neutron star’s gravity well, a nearby imminent supernova, or being attacked.

“Full tactical scan on all enemy vessels!”  exclaimed Adrian.

“LEVEL 1 ALERT! LEVEL 1 ALERT! INCOMING ENEMY FIRE! INCOMING ENEMY FIRE!” alerted the computer.

The five unidentified ships opened fire on the Waxer, Walcott, and Sar!

Crash!! Crash!! Crash!! Crash!! Crash!!

The Waxer, Walcott, and Sar each took five direct hits!

“Status report, everyone!” shouted Adrian.

“Less than one percent damage, Adrian! I told you that these shields were great! They can’t touch us!” replied Steve.

“Same here, Adrian. Less than one percent damage! And these enemy ships are no pushovers either! Their weapons could easily take down conventional shields! If we didn’t have these new shields, we’d be space dust! Just look at the sensor reports! Man!!” said a very excited Robert.

“Tactical scan results?” asked Adrian.

“We can’t get a decent reading! It must be because of their jamming system!” cried Robert.

“Forget the tactical report! Just prepare to return fire!” shouted Steve.

“Hold it Steve!” said Adrian. The lead ship has a way of disrupting our ion drives. We should do everything in our power to capture it for research purposes. Don’t just blast it to bits!”

“Great idea Adrian! We can dissect the ship and its technology to research and develop an effective countermeasure! Now aim to disable all enemy vessels and fire!” shouted Steve.

All three ships opened fire on the five enemy vessels with their standard armaments, which include fusion cannons and low yield antimatter missiles. They scored several direct hits on the unidentified craft!

“Report!” cried Adrian.

“No effect!!! Our weapons can’t even scratch them!” shouted Robert.

“What! No effect?!?” exclaimed Adrian.

“Well, time to bring out the big gun…” said Steve very calmly.

“Remember, we need that lead ship intact!” reminded Adrian.

“I heard you the first time, Adrian. You guys should have installed my Main Cannon prototypes on your ships. I hate to say I told you so, but…”

Crash!! Crash!! Crash!! Crash!! Crash!! The enemy vessels fired again at the three scientist’s ships, and again caused minimal damage.

“Shut up and fire, Steve!!!” screamed Robert.

“Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Ha ha ha ha! Now that’s what I want to hear! Main Cannon, charging to five percent!” Steve sounded almost maniacal. He loved the idea of battle testing his weapons in real combat.

“Targeting both vessels to left of the leader. Aiming to disable. Charge currently at three percent... four percent... five percent!! Fire!!!!!”

As before, a huge flash of light appeared in front of the IPV Waxer as it fired the Main Cannon. A bright beam of energy emerged from the flash of light and headed towards the two targeted enemy vessels.

The enemy ships were in a tight formation, and Steve sought to exploit that fact. As the beam shot between the two targeted enemy vessels, it grazed both of them – causing enormous damage, effectively disabling them. However, the beam was so powerful, that its force actually drew the now disabled vessels into itself, which led to their total and utter destruction. Debris from the resulting explosions showered the remaining three enemy spacecraft with intense velocity, causing severe damage to the lead ship and disabling the other two ships.

“That’s only five percent? You should have used something like one or two percent! Man Steve!” exclaimed Robert in awe.

“Oops,” said Steve mischievously. “I guess I overestimated them.”

“Sensors indicate that the mysterious interference has faded. Long range sensors and communications are now functional. Now we can… What the…! My God!!” said Robert.

“What is it Robert?!? What happened?!?” shouted Steve.

“Are you okay Robert?” asked Adrian.

“You guys won’t believe this – I just started receiving distress calls… hundreds of them!!! Wait a minute… All of the distress calls are from ships and outposts near Earth! And some are from Earth itself!!!”

Steve’s and Adrian’s jaws dropped. They were speechless.

Robert continued: “This is bad, really bad. 327 distress calls from disabled starships, 82 from outposts and space stations, and 41 directly from Earth…”

Steve and Adrian continued to be dumbfounded.

“Long range sensors are picking up what appears to be hundreds of unidentified craft similar to the ones in front of us… they’re attacking the Sol System! Earth’s starfleet is engaging them, but they are not faring well at all. They’re totally outmatched!”

“Hey!!” Steve interrupted. “There’s a huge power surge coming from one of the disabled vessels! I think they’re attempting to self destruct!!”

“Oh no! Quickly, get a tractor beam on the lead ship’s wreckage, and let’s get it out of here!” said Adrian.

“Tractor beam engaged. We have the wreckage!” said Robert.

“Excellent! Back to the Sol system, and to Earth! They need our help!” roared Steve.

“Maximum speed! We’ll have to plan our strategy of attack en route…” said Adrian.

The three starships engaged their ion engines, and with the enemy wreckage in tow, they headed again towards Earth at their top speed. Just as the two disabled enemy craft faded from view, a huge flash of light appeared from their direction. One of the enemy vessels had self destructed, and the terrible explosion erased all evidence of its existence, including that of anything else nearby. The powerful shockwave was felt by the Waxer, Walcott, and Sar even though they had already traversed a great distance at top speed.

“Wow! That self destruct system of theirs sure has some kick!” exclaimed Steve.

“I’ll perform a full analysis on the wreckage.” said Robert.

“Be very careful, Robert. You don’t want that blowing up in your face!” added Adrian.

“You don’t have to tell me twice! Let me know what your attack plans are once you guys finish planning. I’ll inform you if I find anything interesting.”

“I know of a seldom used engineering facility hidden in the outskirts of the Sol system. We can head there for further analysis of that wreckage, and to upgrade the weaponry of your vessels. We can also use that as our forward base in this military campaign.” said Steve.

“Sounds good to me. Send us the coordinates, and we’ll lay in a course!” said Adrian.



To be continued…
 
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