Authors: Doug Farren
By: Doug Farren
For Cheryl (my wife), my friends, and my coworkers. An author is nothing unless his writings are read. The goal isn't to become rich – but to enrich the lives of others through imagination.
Doug Farren was born in Franklin Pennsylvania but was raised in Minnesota. He likes to call Forest Lake his home town. He joined the U. S. Navy in 1976 where he served as a nuclear electronics technician (reactor operator). He was honorably discharged in 1989 and now works as a senior nuclear instrumentation and control technician at the Perry nuclear power plant in Northern Ohio. He has also done computer programming as a contractor. He has two daughters and is married to a very supportive wife, Cheryl. Doug can be reached through his email account [email protected]
The Galactic Alliance Series
Book 1– Translight!
Book 2– Chroniech!
Book 3– Honor Thy Enemy
(Due to be finished by end of 2009)
1 - Rescue Mission
This is how life was meant to be enjoyed,
thought Ken as he stretched out on the deck of his twelve meter sailboat. The pleasure craft was drifting aimlessly, the only sound being the gentle slap of the waves as they caressed the side of the ship. Ken was watching a spectacular sunset and enjoying every minute of it. The sun hung suspended in the evening sky looking like a gigantic reddish-orange ball sitting on top of the water's surface. As he watched, it slowly sank below the horizon.
The stars began to peek through the darkening sky. As Ken tried to make out the constellations an insect buzzed near his right ear. He ignored it, hoping it would go away. Instead, it got closer and the buzzing louder. As he reached up to brush the offending insect away, the dream faded into oblivion. The buzz of the ship's com system continued, announcing the fact that someone was determined to interrupt the captain's sleep.
Captain Ken Stricklen shook his head to clear away the last vestiges of the dream before hitting the acknowledge button. "Stricklen," he said not bothering to hide his annoyance. "What is it?"
"Sorry to disturb you sir," replied a voice Ken identified as belonging to his executive officer. "We have picked up an unusual gravitational anomaly. I believe it might warrant a closer look."
"Gravitational anomaly? What is so unusual about this anomaly that warrants my personal attention at this time of the morning?" Ken was obviously upset. Being the captain of an Alliance heavy cruiser, he was used to being awakened in the middle of the night, but this sounded like a problem his XO could handle.
"Well sir — it's difficult to describe. It's some type of focused pulsating gravitational field of very high strength. We are unable to identify a source. You might want to authorize a course correction to investigate."
Ken's brain was still working to come fully awake and the ramifications of what his executive officer had just told him did not fully register. "So catalog it and let someone else worry about it."
Stricklen was all set to go back to sleep when the XO argued, "Sir, this is not a natural phenomenon. We are also picking up some faint energy readings. I really think you should see this. A course correction to investigate might be in order and, since you are the captain, you are the only one authorized to do so."
Ken sat up in the dark and swung his legs over the side of the bunk. Now fully awake, he started to analyze the situation more clearly. He knew his executive officer quite well and when his XO suggested a course correction he knew it must be something more than just the standard uncataloged gravitational anomaly. "All right — give me a few minutes," his voice clearly implying that this anomaly had better be worth it. "What the hell time is it anyway?"
"Zero four fifteen sir." The circuit went dead with a barely audible click.
Ken ordered the room lights to half intensity. He passed his hand over the stubble on his chin then began the morning ritual of getting into his uniform. Fifteen minutes later he stood in front of a full length mirror.
Captain Ken Stricklen, commanding officer of the Alliance heavy-cruiser
, checked over his 165 centimeter, 63.5 kilogram reflection. The space-black uniform fit snugly on his trim figure. At thirty-nine, he still looked and felt as if he was in his late twenties. The only adornment on the uniform was a small starburst on his upper right chest signifying his rank of captain. He had combed his jet-black hair but left the stubble on his face. He rubbed it again and thought,
Perhaps I'll grow a beard,
knowing in his heart that it would never happen. Casting his brown eyes one last time over his reflection, Ken headed for the bridge.
"Captain on the bridge!" Doug Scarboro announced as Ken passed through the door. The marine posted inside snapped him a quick salute then turned to the task of dogging the armored, air-tight hatch. The XO turned toward his captain and, in an overly polite tone of voice, said, "Good morning sir."
Ken suppressed a non-professional reply, instead opting for a simple nod. A cup of steaming coffee was waiting for him in the holder near the captain's chair. Reaching for it he said, "Show me what you have Doug."
executive officer was a vastly different individual than his CO. His 82 kilograms of mass towered 196 centimeters above the deck. The top of his head was covered by a wild tangle of deep red hair. His blue eyes seemed to peer directly into a person's soul but his jovial attitude kept people at ease. Doug had served as Ken's XO for the last three years and they had become good friends.
The captain settled into his chair as Doug keyed a request into the ship's computer system. A display screen came to life and a pattern of lines appeared. "This is the gravitational anomaly I mentioned," Doug said. "It is very regular and repeats every 2.16 minutes. We have a fix on its location to within 500 thousand klics."
Doug touched a key and the primary navigational display, a large globe nearly three meters in diameter located near the center of the semi-circular bridge, displayed a three-dimensional map of the surrounding space. A thin green line indicated the
course. Off to one side a red dot slowly pulsed. "Whatever is generating it is located here at a distance of 0.43 lights. Preliminary analysis puts its mass equivalence at about 30 billion metric tons."
Ken's coffee cup stopped halfway to his lips. "Thirty BILLION? Nobody can generate a gravity field like that! Even if you could, why would you want to? Why is it pulsating?"
Another graph appeared on the display at Doug's request. Pointing to one of the lines, he said, "This is a faint energy pulse we have also detected from the same point in space. It occurs in synch with the gravity field. The energy spectrum is unlike anything we have ever seen before. Whatever it is, it's not natural — the computer confirms it. I would like to investigate."
The captain took a long drink from his coffee as he considered this request. The
was en route to a remote mining station to investigate why all contact with it had suddenly been lost. Three times in the recent past, remote outposts near this area of space had been attacked by an unknown assailant. No survivors had ever been found. In each instance the outpost had been totally destroyed.
For now, the identity of the attackers or their motive for the attacks were unknown. The
mission was to determine what had happened to this outpost and, if possible, to extract any survivors if an attack had occurred provided any could be found. The captain decided that he could let nothing interfere with that mission.
"I will not deviate from our primary mission," he replied. "Deploy a probe to investigate. By the way — what is our ETA to Mintaka?"
The XO did not even bother to look up the answer. Instead, he simply glanced at his wrist-com and replied, "We should be there in about eighteen hours. Still no contact."
"Very well. I'm going to get some breakfast. Go ahead and deploy the probe. I'll relieve you when I get back." Without waiting for a reply, Stricklen walked off the bridge. A few minutes later he felt the ship drop out of stardrive followed by a soft thump through the deck plating as the probe was ejected from its launch bay. Moments later his senses told him they were back under stardrive.
The smell of cooking bacon and frying ham greeted Ken as he entered the ship's common mess hall. Except for the cooks busy at work in the back the room was deserted. Reveille would not sound for another hour. Ken said good morning to the cooks then helped himself to a slab of ham and a large scoop of scrambled eggs.
Sitting down at a table he dowsed his eggs with a generous dose of hot sauce and started eating. As he was finishing, the call to reveille sounded. Soon the ship would be awake and the quiet he was savoring would be broken. Before the crowd arrived, the captain returned to the bridge.
After receiving an update from Doug, Ken relieved him and took his customary seat in the captain's chair. The XO stated that he was going to get some breakfast and then retire for a few hours. Ken was soon immersed in the daily routine of commanding a starship. The probe, even though it was traveling at more than 200 times the speed of light, would require over seventeen hours to reach the area of the anomaly.
was traveling at over 2,300c toward an encounter with the unknown. By the time the probe reached its target it would be so far behind the
that communications would have a time lag of about one hour even at the phenomenal FTL communication speed of 38,600c. The probe quickly made its way into an unimportant corner of Ken's mind.
* * * * *
The buzz of the intercom interrupted Stricklen's concentration. Setting down the report he had been preparing for sector command he acknowledged the call. "We'll be dropping to sublight in about ten minutes sir. You asked to be informed." The voice was that of Commander Stiles, the weapons officer who was standing his normal bridge watch.
"Very well — I'll be right there," Ken replied.
A moment later he strode onto the bridge. "Captain on the bridge!" Stiles announced.
Stricklen surveyed the bridge seeing at a glance that all was well, "What is our status Mr. Stiles?" he asked, indicating he was ready to relieve the watch.
"We are approaching Mintaka at 56c and decelerating due to gravitational interference. Fusion reactor three is being restarted following a routine maintenance shutdown. All other systems are green."
Stricklen listened to the ship's status while his seasoned eyes scanned the bridge taking in additional data. When Stiles had finished, Ken looked at him and said, "Very well — I relieve you."
With the formalities of turnover completed, Ken took his position in the command chair and punched up several displays. The
was being forced to slow down as it entered the gravity-well of the Mintaka system's sun.
Faster than light drive fields worked directly upon the fabric of space itself. Any distortion of that fabric, such as a gravitational field, affected the drive's ability to maintain the ship's super-luminal velocity. The intricately interlaced fields of force had to be precisely matched to the ever-changing structure of space. Too great a mismatch and the complex structure of the drive fields would collapse and the ship would return to normal space.
As the gravitational warping of space grew worse, more and more power had to be poured into the drive fields to keep them properly synchronized. Eventually, the stardrive's power limit was reached and the ship had no choice but to slow down. Slower FTL speeds required a less complex and less power-hungry field structure. Ken kept a watchful eye on the display showing the critical engine parameters for the ship's Kauffman stardrive.
Suddenly, without any warning to the bridge crew, Ken's hand reached out and touched the battle stations alarm button. The crew, knowing their captain as they did, had probably been expecting the alarm but, never-the-less, Ken wanted to surprise them as much as possible. The alarm klaxon sounded throughout the ship.
As the crew raced to their assigned stations, the
master computer exerted its will on the various parts of the ship which it controlled. Environmental systems split into many separate isolated sections; weapon systems powered themselves up; standby systems switched from inactive to active; the power grid re-aligned itself into a more reliable configuration; unnecessary systems were shutdown; the various reactor safety setpoints were reset.
Stricklen watched as the indicators around the bridge shifted. To him, the
was a living, breathing entity. It only truly came fully alive when it was it preparing itself for battle. During normal operation, the ship glided through space like a predator prowling for prey — powerful and graceful with a hidden reserve of strength. When prepared for battle its demeanor changed. It felt vibrant, ready to attack or defend itself in an instant.