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3500AD - Part 8
Saturday, 01 November 2014
Part 8

"Dr. Sar, the Walcott has fled the system…"

"I see… It looks like they had no choice. They've lost shields and taken serious hull damage… What's the status of the rescue effort?"

"Nearly 25%..."

"What about the new artillery vessels? Are they pursuing the Walcott...?"

"Looks like they're holding position..."

"Holding position? That's not good. How fast can we get an extra shield array up and running?"

"That would take at least six hours!"

"Crap! There must be another option! I bet they're going to fire on us next!"

Dr. Robert Sar pondered for a moment.

"Ensign, can we pinpoint the exact location of the enemy artillery?"

"Yes, sir! They are close enough that their jamming won't stop our sensors."

"Can we target them?"

"Yes, but they are way out of firing range. We may hit them anyway, but it might not be very effective..."

"Crap... wait! Can we target the slugs before they hit us? Destroy them?"

"Yes... sir, that just might work! It will be very difficult for the targeting computer, as they travel near the speed of light, but it's doable. There will be a very high margin for error..."

"It's still our best chance! Program the targeting computer, ensign. I'll assist you with some algorithms that will reduce that error margin a bit."

"Wait... why didn't Steve have trouble targeting the alien ships when he was protecting us before, back at the engineering facility, they were traveling at similar speeds..." Dr. Sar wondered out loud.

The ensign heard and responded. "Uhhh, Dr. Waxer used the latest military targeting systems in his ship. What we have doesn't really compare..."

"Oh. Figures... it was kind of his thing, the advanced military tech and all..."

Dr. Sar had forgotten. Before they left Earth, they had all discussed their ship specs in detail. He was particularly proud of keeping things as simple as possible on his ship. But that all seemed so long ago...

The ensign noticed Dr. Sar's disappointment. "Sir... we had no way of knowing we'd be in the middle of an invasion. It was supposed to be just a routine deep space experiment. There was no need for any advanced military equipment..."

"Yes, I know. Thank you, ensign. I, um, appreciate the reassurance."

"Please know that we are behind you one hundred percent, Dr. Sar."

He looked around the bridge. Everyone nodded towards him in assent.

He paused, then nodded in return.

"Thank you, everyone." said Dr. Sar.

They completed programming the targeting system.

"Looks like that's it! We're done!"

The science officer interrupted. "And just in time, too! There's an energy surge in the artillery vessels. They're about to fire!"

"Shields up! Activate targeting program!" cried Dr. Sar.

"Yes sir! Shields up, at 100%! Targeting program enabled!"

The main cannon lit up, but not as brightly as usual. Instead, four lower powered beams erupted to meet the incoming projectiles.

Two slugs were hit directly and obliterated. One was grazed and deflected off course.

One was missed entirely.

Crash!!!

Everyone aboard the Sar was shaken.

"Shields at 10%..."

"Crap! That's the best we can do?"

The science officer interjected. "Dr. Sar, adding additional CPU cores to the ship's main computer system may increase the targeting accuracy. We have some spare cores in storage."

"Sounds good! Make it so!"

"It's not that simple – we'll need to take the system offline for the upgrade – our ship runs on the Panes operating architecture. User friendly, well suited for civilian vessels, but not as versatile or configurable on the fly."

Dr. Sar's eyes widened. "Drat! That was my mistake. While Steve and Adrian chose BSD/NIX operating systems commonly used in military and scientific vessels, I had to go with Panes. Yes, my ship was ready before theirs was – but for what purpose? Useless bragging rights..." he thought.

"Alright, how long to upgrade the CPU cores including system downtime?" asked Dr. Sar.

"At least 5 minutes."

"Not good. We've observed that the artillery vessels seem to fire at four minute intervals. Any way to speed that up?"

"Not to my knowledge. But I'll take a look at the code."

"You do that. While you're at it, send two teams of techs to stand by for the upgrade. You've got to find something..."

"Yes sir. I'll do my best."

A minute went by...

"They're firing again sir!" cried the science officer.

"Engage shields! Brace for impact!"

The main cannon fired in response to the projectiles.

Again three were stopped, but one slipped through...

Crash!!!

"Shields at 11%..."

The science officer spoke up. "I've found an undocumented feature while examining the system software. It allows for a quick reboot – if we take the system offline after initiating the quick reboot, we can install the spare cores and be back up in under 4 minutes."

"Thank you. Hmmmm... How's the rescue operation going?"

"About 35% complete..."

"I don't know how long we can keep this up... if more than one slug gets through, we're toast. Burnt toast, heh." he said to himself.

"Okay! If we survive the next barrage, we're doing this! After the next impact, we will initiate the quick reboot, and take the ship's computer systems offline! Technical crews, as soon as the computer's down, perform the upgrade!"

"Yes, sir, Dr. Sar! We are ready and standing by."

"Thank you."

"Enemy vessels are preparing to fire..."

"Alright! Engage shields and brace for impact!"

The main cannon fired in response to the projectiles.

All four slugs were hit this time, but one was only just barely grazed – it still made contact...

Crash!!!

Everyone aboard the Sar was shaken.

"Shields at 20%..."

"Initiate quick reboot and systems shutdown!"

"Quick reboot initiated, sir..."

The computer spoke in a calm female voice. The ship's computer also displayed it's status on an inset on the main viewscreen. Dr. Sar watched the same screen on a console near his captain's chair. He and many of the bridge crew watched and listened intently.

"System is down, preparing to restart."

"System override enabled, emergency system shutdown requested."

"Panes Operating Environment is shutting down."

"Please wait while your computer shuts down."

"It is now safe to turn off your computer."

"Huh?" Dr. Sar raised an eyebrow at those last two messages.

"Main computer power down."

The techs got to work. In less than a minute, they installed four additional CPU cores.

The lead tech popped up on the comms console. "Dr. Sar, the cores are installed. You are good to go sir!"

"Okay! Get us back online, and quickly!"

The computer's voice was different - this time it was a somewhat deep male voice.

"Main computer starting up..."

"Additional CPU cores detected, initiating..."

"Initiating core 4..."

...

"Initiating core 5..."

...

"Initiating core 6..."

...

"Dammit, this is slow..." said Robert.

"Initiating core 7..."

...

"4 additional CPU cores have been added to your system..."

"You currently have a total 8 CPU cores, numbering 0-7."

"Now you're playing with power."

Robert slapped his forehead in frustration. Some of the bridge crew stifled their laughter, but some chuckles escaped. He'd had no idea that the system programmers had such an odd sense of humor...

Robert sighed. "What's our status?"

"The system is still starting up, it should be ready any moment –"

"Ta-da! Welcome to the Panes Operating Environment." The computer had reverted to its female voice.

"Oh, give me a break..." Robert muttered to himself.

"We're back up, sir! Fully operational! With a full minute to spare!"

Dr. Sar finally smiled, then laughed. "Well, it's official. The developers are total dorks."

That got some more laughter out of the bridge crew.

"Targeting system is ready, sir!"

"Good! Let's hope it makes a difference..."

"It should make a world of difference, sir!" said the science officer.

"It better, or we're in really bad shape..."

"Enemy vessels are firing!"

The main cannon fired in response to the projectiles.

Dr. Sar held his breath.

"All antimatter slugs are down, sir!!! exclaimed the tactical officer."

Dr. Sar's bridge crew cheered, and he sighed in relief.

"While I would love to press the attack, we have survivors to worry about. Status of the rescue operation?"

"Almost done, sir! 98% of the survivors have boarded. Should only be one more shuttle trip to go..."

"That's a relief. I didn't think the rescue would succeed while we were under attack...

"Let's see if we can rendezvous with the Walcott and then find a safe spot to drop off the survivors. Can we locate them on long range sensor scans?"

"It will take a minute..."

Dr. Sar started gently tapping his fingers as his patience dwindled.

"Okay, we found them!"

"Good, lay in a course and get us out of here as soon as the last group of survivors is on board."

"Yes sir!"

"Dr. Sar continued his finger tapping."

"Rescue operation complete! Everyone is aboard!"

"Engage!"

The Sar's engines lit up. Then the ship vanished in a flash as it jumped to lightspeed.

~~~~

Meanwhile, at the asteroid base – formerly known as the engineering facility...

Lieutenant Alexander Allbrad was working on constructing a top secret prototype for Dr. Waxer in an empty cargo bay. He had a small hand-picked team assisting him. They were well ahead of schedule. They worked around the clock in shifts so that there was always someone or two working on the project.

Alexander was a tall, fit, young black man. Many of the female crew members took note of him – including First Officer Rei Kagami. Dr. Waxer had sometimes noticed this and felt a twinge of jealousy. But this was before he was seeing Rei, and as such, he put it out of his mind. He never thought he had a chance with Rei anyhow, seeing as he was quite a bit older than her...

Alexander reminded Dr. Waxer of a close friend from his youth, who coincidentally was quite the ladies' man. Well, perhaps "player" might be a better term. Steve had also felt jealous of his old friend's prowess with females, but he was not a person to let jealousy come between friendship. They had grown apart over the years, but still kept in touch from time to time.

What Dr. Waxer took note of was Alexander's intelligence, ingenuity, and work ethic. He was the best man for this job.

The prototype was huge – almost half the size of the IPV Walcott or Sar. In truth, it had to be; it was thoroughly engineered with safety features and was mounted on a remote controlled self-propelled sled for testing in deep space – far away from the asteroid base. An experimental weapons platform as it were. If anything went wrong during the test, the fallout would be devastating.

"Progress report, please." requested the Lieutenant.

"We are ahead of schedule by approximately three days. We should be ready for the first test run tomorrow." replied one team member.

"Very good! I'm looking forward to seeing what this prototype is capable of – and a bit frightened as well."

"Frightened, Lieutenant?" another team member asked.

"Yes. This prototype is a huge step beyond Dr. Waxer's Main Cannon. It's capable of a magnitude more, and that fact alone is scary. The Main Cannon's capabilities are frightening already."

"Ahhh, I understand, sir."

"Any word on the improvements we suggested?" the first team member asked.

"Dr. Waxer has approved them all. He was quite impressed. They will be added to prototype after a successful test run."

"If it's successful..."

Lieutenant Allbrad laughed. "Dr. Waxer said the same thing. But I have faith in his design. I've examined it thoroughly. It will be successful."

"It has to..." he thought.

~~~~

Elsewhere on the asteroid base...

The rebuilt IPV Waxer was nearly complete. No longer just a science and exploration vessel, but a full-fledged warship. Heavily armed, armored, and shielded, it was nearly twice its former size, and over four times more powerful.

Dr. Steve Waxer and First Officer Rei Kagami were working on some final touches on the IPV Waxer's computer systems, near the hangar.

It was late; about 3AM or so, Earth time. No one was awake save the sparse overnight crew and they were mostly all in the command center, monitoring systems and watching for alien incursions.

Almost everyone was working double shifts to get the new vessel completed as soon as possible. By choice, mind you. Everyone wanted to help save Earth, so they worked as much as they could towards that goal. So in the off shift, just about everyone was exhausted.

"It's nearly complete. We should be ready for launch in another day or so."

"So far everything's checking out okay."

"There are a few empty CPU slots, do we have extras?"

"We have some. I'll have the next shift team install them."

"Cool! Better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them."

Rei smiled as she held back a laugh. "Silly."

"Hey, I'm serious!" he laughed. "I know of plenty of people who got into a jam because they weren't prepared! I'd rather not be in that situation if possible."

"Preparation is good. It's also good to adapt to any situation we find ourselves in. We can't prepare for everything, there are too many unknowns."

"You're right. I concur."

Rei walked over to a large viewport to observe the new IPV Waxer.

Dr. Waxer turned to watch her walk away.

"Mmm. Beautiful – from head to toe," he thought as he watched her.

"It's become quite a magnificent vessel. A far cry from the prototype it once was," said Rei.

"Hmmm," replied Steve. He was still eyeing Rei.

He walked over to Rei, stood closely behind her, and embraced her gently – one arm around her waist, the other about her shoulder.

Rei's hands reached up to meet his, caressing his arms along the way.

They held each other like this for a while. Steve inhaled deeply, taking in the scent of her hair, and the faint smell of her perfume.

It felt so good to hold her like this, he thought. And her touch, returning his embrace, excited him.

It excited him a lot.

So much so that Rei noticed his... excitement.

"It's been a long day. I thought you would be tired, Steve..." Rei smiled.

"Ah, well. I seem to have gotten my second wind!"

Rei reached down, hiked up her tight fitting medium length skirt so that it was around her waist. Then she pulled down her thong panty until it fell and lay at her feet.

Then she reached for the waistband of Steve's loose fitting pajama pants and jerked them downwards, freeing him. His pants fell to his ankles.

Kissing, touching, and rubbing ensued.

Then they made love.

Afterwards, they walked to the quarters they shared to finally get some sleep after a long shift.

They fell asleep in each other's' arms. And they dreamed.

To be continued...
 
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