Dusk of Defiance (The Era of Ensemble Book 1)

Dusk of Defiance

J.P.Woosey

Copyright

Publ
ished by J.P.Woosey.

This novel is a work of fiction all copyright is held by the author.

Front cover imagery designed and produced by Tom Woosey.

Prologue

One man stood while everyone else was seated. He was surrounded by machinery and people. The bridge of the Defiance was awaiting the man's next move. His head was shaven, his outfit in line with regulation and his posture straight. An ideal image of a captain. He tapped at his wrist device and a large holographic planet appeared in the centre of the room. He walked around the glowing world, contemplating his next move.

The captain finally stopped pacing around the information desk with the hologram above it and sat down in his chair. It was luxurious and soft.
A little too soft.
“Flores, redirect our course to this planet, Ex047.” his order was clear and succinct.


Sir, is that wise?” A young lieutenant spoke out. Her glossy brown hair tied behind her head in a ponytail and tucked down the back of her dark grey shirt. Her rank pinned proudly to her chest.


Are you questioning my orders?” The captain snapped back. The tone of his voice shifted mid-sentence.


Sir, we're on a trial voyage. We should continue onwards with our route and alert the UCSC when we dock back at Earth.” Lieutenant Flores was barely out of the Officer Academy. She had qualified with flying colours and was a contender to be captain aboard the UCSC Defiance. Her inexperience cost her and she was appointed lieutenant.


Lieutenant Flores.” The captain responded in a flat tone.


Yes, Captain?”

“So, you do remember who the c
aptain aboard this ship is.” He gazed down at the young officer. The silence between their eye contact spoke their unyielding conflict.
Could she challenge me? Would she challenge me?
He dwarfed her in size as well as age. His authority and experience added layers to his dominating tone. “Another outburst like that and I'll have you taken down to the holding cells for disobeying a direct command.” Only a gulp could be heard in the otherwise silent room. Her upward glance had returned to the control panel below her. “Now redirect us to this planet, Lieutenant.”
She won't question me again.


Aye, Sir.” Flores reluctantly did as she was ordered.

The silence continued on the bridge. The
air was thick with tension and unease, but no one dared speak out of turn. The holographic planet flashed and disappeared in the middle of the room and was replaced by a small blue pulsing orb.


Estimated arrival time to the new destination is three days. Probes will be sent to the planet's surface as we approach its atmosphere.” The disembodied voice paused briefly. “I suggest communication with the rest of the ship, Captain. They need to know of the change in mission parameters.” The blue orb vanished just as quickly as it had appeared.


Thank you, Novalee.” The Captain rose from his seat. “I'll be in my quarters. Ping me if anything changes.” He walked through and around desks of people. He glanced down at his crew as he walked past. Not one looked back up at him.
They're frightened of me.
He stepped into an elevator at the back of the bridge. The doors slid closed and he was alone.

A sigh of relief escaped his lips’ as he reached his quarters. It wasn't much, but it was all he needed. His terminal and his bed. A place to work and sleep. He sat down beside his desk and his monitor flicked to life. The pulsing blue orb appeared on his screen.

“It had to be done, Captain Jones.” The artificial intelligence voiced through his wrist device's speakers. Her voice was soft and even, but it was the same tone every time she spoke.


I'm not so sure, Novalee.”


You agreed to perform this task. Don't forget who you're working for.”


I haven't.” It was hard to take threats from a computer program, but he had to put up with them. After all he did sign the contract. Enough money to retire and live the rest of his days happily on a secluded island with his family. Doubt kept creeping back into his mind though. Unexpected additions and twists to the mission. “There's no turning back now. Don't worry, Novalee. I've done everything asked of me.”


Why are you not sure about your orders?”


Will it be worth it? I wasn't told what I would find on this planet. I was ordered to bring you to it. I have no idea what's waiting for us on the surface. We could all be dead in a matter of days.” Jones felt nervous. He felt regret building inside of him. “Why did I agree to do this?” He asked himself out loud.


I presume for the credits you're being promised by Ensemble.” Novalee pointed out the obvious.


Will it be worth it?”


Without a doubt, Captain.”

Being so uncomfortable near
ly crippled him. So many people. The fate of all of those people lay in his hands. He was the Captain of the Defiance. They were his crew, his workforce...
My people.
He absorbed the relayed images produced by Novalee's holographic screens. He could see all the many faces blindly following and absorbing his instructions. He gave a little involuntary shudder. They were looking up to him. He had the answers and the reasons for the current change in directions, but he didn't share those reasons. He had a speech prepared for him by Ensemble. An inspiring speech of exploration. To go down in human history.
Can they see through me? Where am I leading them? What have I done?

Jones then remembered the others. The faces with their eyes closed. The ones held in a silent prayer. He was only informing the woken. There would be thousands of people held within stasis, continuing their cryo-sleep.
“Novalee, play my instructions to the frozen when they wake.”


Acknowledged.”

Novalee's voice punctuated his thoughts.
To advise and assist me. That's what I was told.
He thought about his secret meetings, in strange locations with people from the Ensemble of Man Corporation. What to say, what to do and when to do it. The last minute addition of a private artificial intelligence included for the bridge staff.
Is she here to assist me? Or is she here to watch over my every move? To threaten me when I doubt what I've agreed to?
The UCSC had no idea of the inclusion of Novalee. She had only revealed herself to the bridge staff when they were out of communication range of Earth.
Ensemble told me she won't matter when we return. That they guarantee my safety.


Captain, I have organised reconnaissance and recovery teams to be on standby for our arrival. I have also alerted the medical bay to start making preparations.” Novalee interrupted the Captain's thoughts.


Preparations for what?” Jones questioned cautiously.
Should I know?


For the return of the recovery teams.”


Why would the recovery teams need medical aid?”


Although they may need medical aid, Captain, that is not what the preparations are for.”


Then what are the preparations for?”

There was a pause before Novalee eventually answered.
“For study.”

***

The Defiance reached its new destination without any trouble. Jones had feared many different scenarios, but most were unfruitful.
Something could still go wrong. Novalee still isn't telling me everything.
The reconnaissance teams had landed on the planet and had been relaying information. New anomalies had been found and recovery teams had been sent to investigate.

Jones sat on the edge of his bed staring up at the terminal on top of his desk. He had not been to the bridge as much as he should have. He knew a nervous tension had been building through his crew.
I need to address this uncertainty, but how can I when I am uncertain as well?
Jones was afraid to speak out loud.
That damned A.I. always listening, monitoring and recording me.

There were faint movements below Jones' feet. Low rumbles, and then a shift forwards. The
Defiance was moving. He bolted up from his bed and headed for the elevator. The doors closed behind him. A strange sensation went through his stomach. The movement from the elevator taking him one way and the Defiance moving another. The elevator stopped and Jones exited through onto the bridge. His crew were engaged in communication and tactics. Most hadn't realised he had entered the room.


Why are we moving?” Jones shouted as he reached the centre of the room. For a moment everything went silent. Jones watched as several of his crew gave each other confused looks and glances.


What do you mean, Captain?” Lieutenant Flores spoke when no one else dared to. “You ordered us to return back to Earth. A discovery of great significance was found...” She looked up at her Captain and found a bewildered gaze upon his face. “Sir, are you alright?”


I...” He stuttered in his speech.
I didn't order for us to move... And what great discovery.
Before Jones could get a grasp on the situation he was interrupted.


Captain, I advise you get some rest. Your readings aren't normal. Return to your quarters and I'll send for a doctor.” Novalee's computerised female voice sounded through the bridge. Everyone sat still and quiet.


Yes...” Jones retreated back to the elevator. “I just need some rest.” He heard the bridge erupt into conversation as the elevator doors closed behind him. He wasn't worried about his crew though. It was Novalee who had put him on edge. The A.I. with her computerised melodic tone. Her voice varied with artificial inflected intonation. Her sympathetic words often sounded forced and were spoken with no true feeling or heart. She was programmed to perfection, with her randomised sentences chosen from her memory bank selections to best fit the emotional situation.
Novalee? Has she been scheming? A plan to replace me perhaps?
His mind raced. He made it to his quarters and fell down onto his bed.


We have what we came for, Captain.” The artificial intelligence waited for a response, but Jones didn't reply. “Our mission parameters have been executed flawlessly. I will make a note of that in our mission report.”


What exactly did we come here for?” Jones sat up on the edge of his bed.


I've scheduled a meeting with the head of science for tomorrow. He'll also be keeping you up-to-date with the project through reports. You'll receive these reports on a weekly basis.”


Anything else I should know?” Jones questioned.
She wouldn't tell me everything anyway.


Not at the minute, Captain.”

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