GCS Tesla“Ma’am,” the Ensign says. It’s a habit he picked up from GAIA. The Skipper hasn’t called him on it yet but he hasn’t called her that on the bridge until now. But the Skipper is all business and she gives a shrug of those perfect shoulders. She lets it go for now and is all ears. Ears and perfect shoulders.
“Liberty Base’s signal. We’re losing it. I doubt we can get a signal through to them at this point,” the Ensign adds.
“Disrupt communications. First step of a Videni attack,” the Skipper says. A slight frown crosses her brow. “How long till break out?”
“Break out in twenty minutes if all goes well,” the Ensign says with certainty. The communications disruption was unexpected and he had not encountered it in his short career. He liked being sure of things. A little of his customary confidence returns.
“How are the fuel reserves?” the Skipper asks. She knows the answer of course. It’s a stall to think of options.
“Ten percent. Shall I increase speed?” Helm answers.
“... No. We need to get there with our reactor intact I think. Anyway, The Concordia has arrived by now. There’s enough firepower between the base and the constellation to hold off a whole fleet. We’re already arriving at the party late. We don’t want to arrive broke too.”
GCS Concordance“We’ve lost Tesla's signal Captain Maddock,” Lawrence the Technical Officer looks worried.
“That’s bad,” the Captain mutters. “Begin a close patrol of the starbase. Order the destroyers to maximum dispersal. Inform the Commodore.”
“Aye sir,” Technical looks a little puzzled at the instructions for a moment then there’s a flash of understanding in his eyes as he complies.
Starbase LibertyTivk observes the scenes on the monitor. His expression is not unreadable. It’s just blank. Not a trace of feeling. No effort made to conceal emoting because there is no emoting to conceal. His left ear though gives a twitch. His thoughts are his own though another psionic could read him like a monitor.
“All the recent abductees were moved to a secured lounge area.Containment fields are being set up. If they bear explosive devices as Mr. Velazques did they will block any signal to detonate them,” he says with sureness.
The Commodore is looking at another monitor showing an immobile Saltornus, every bit as enigmatic as Tivk. She scowls at the traitor. No not traitor, saboteur. Spy. Would be assassin. His partner in crime is in another holding area at the far end of the station.
“Did Tesla tell us anything more about the abductees?” she asks.
“Tesla’s signal cut out after the Commander warned of a danger arising from them. They may be hypnotically conditioned or clones or Videni altered to resemble humans using a device similar to Tesla’s AXA. Professor Mukh is trying to piece together the last message,” Tivk says.
“Get the hell down to the brig and make that sonuvabitch talk. Use whatever means you must. Am I making myself clear, Mr. Tivk?” she says softly.
“I will do my best Commodore,” Tivk says with a short salute. He doesn’t tell her his best can be very bad indeed. Most humans equate ruthlessness with brutality and rage. Tivk’s people learned a long time ago to truly be ruthless you had to put all your emotions aside. They were very good at that when it became necessary. He leaves without a further word.
IZS Vehemence“Ulle-admiral. Ulle-admiral!” Klendath exclaims entering the elder Korsa’s quarters. The small tripedal assistant hesitates seeing a line of dropped articles of clothing going towards the sleeping area.
“... sir? My … lord?,” Klendath stammers.
Ulle-Korsa exits the bath swathed in a robe and redolent in scented oils and bath salts. He shakes a fist at the little assistant. “You … have abominable timing! You … would sell your shares in a sunglass company the day before a supernova!” the old warrior growls.
“ … a nova would doubtless wipe out the planets close enough to need sunglasses my lord. If you recall you nearly took a bath on that but then I pointed out the light would take a few years to reach …”
“Shaddup! What do you have for me, bug?” Korsa bellows. Klendath quails in the proper manner.
“Liberty Base has stopped her signaling. Tesla seems to be trying to send a message to Liberty but it is doubtful it be received given the strength of the jamming,” Klendath says holding a sheaf or hard sheets for perusal. Korsa is a leader, not a reader. He waves it off and strides to a communications panel.
“Communications! Run on stealth mode. Is that clear? Good. Klendath! Anything from the Dreadnought or destroyers?”
“Crazz! All right Klendath, you did well. Call me when we reach the outer rim of the Liberty system.”
“Aye aye sir!” Klendath watches his lord and master go into the sleeping chamber and retreats heaving a heavy sigh of relief. He’d get to live and serve another day.
There were time Klendath hated himself.
“Saltornus. We need some answers. You will give them to me with or without interrogation. The choice is yours,” Tivk says. Behind him one of the security guards readies an autoinjector. For their race psionic invasion is as bad as things get. Physical pain can be shut off by the disciplined mind but when you invade that mind directly what can the victim do? Tivk waits a moment in the awkward silence. Then nods to the guards who step forward.
“You know … the surest way to make a Terran keep you alive, keep you around is by convincing them you desire death,” Saltornus says. Tivk halts the guards with a sharp gesture.
“Go on Saltornus,” Tivk says unblinking.
“Where’s your friend the phrog?” asks the saboteur.
“What do you want with him?” Tivk asks.
“No reason. Idle curiosity.”
“You are stalling …”
Won Ton Courtesan
“Coming out of hyperdrive … now!” Nok says.
“Engage cloak,” Korsa says happy to see his ship working correctly again. He doesn’t let it show. Well maybe a little. Talnerassa complies and affirms the cloak is on.
“Still interference from Liberty.” Talnerassa says.
“Crazz. How am I supposed to make a deal with them with no comm signal?” Korsa mutters. He looks over the schematic of the system and sketches a course on the touchscreen in his armrest. “The sub dwarf planet near Liberty, take us in. Maintain cloak. Minimal thrusters. We need to know what is going on here before we announce ourselves.” The vole brings the ship into a new slightly different heading. “Let me know immediately if Tesla’s signal fails and track the destroyer constellation and monitor signals.”
“Aye salle-Captain,” Tal says. She gets to work on the tasks he set before her.
“Could be a major battle ahead,” Nok the vole says. Reading scroll reflected in his dark eye filters.
“Yes. We will try not to interfere until it is clear what side is winning,” Korsa says.
“Then join it?” Tal asks glancing up from her screen.
“Where is the fun in that?” Korsa says baring his teeth.
The Trrran Security Chief fidgets a little watching the lunge through a monitor.It’s the main waiting area for new and shady arrivals to Liberty. It’s a sort of cross between a chain restaurant, pub and decontamination station. Muhk is in a world of his own listening to squawks and the screech of static, a few human words thrown in.
“We should be in there getting answers from those … whatever,” the human grumbles watching the people recently liberated or snatched out from under slavers.
“Shush. I think I can almost make out what the Tesla tried to signal us about. You don’t want to start slapping a possible spy around and then discover they got a suicide capsule surgically implanted. Let’s find out where to go with this first,” Mukh says looping the recording to play again.
“Something is happening. The suspects …, “ the Chief says. On the monitor the detained people are getting up and filing to one corner of the large room. Mukh’s face is unreadable. Let it be said he has to work on making it readable to humans. His species usually emotes using pheromones and color changes, though you need vision in the near ultraviolet to see those.
“I’m calling in a team with stunners. We’re pacifying them right now and putting them in stasis …”
“Riiiiiiiiii! Too slow! Gas the room! Gas the room!” Mukh hollers. If you saw in ultraviolet he’d be deathly pale right now.
“Explosive devices … implanted … probably wired to their nervous systems!” Mukh is reaching for the control to do just that because the damned human is moving too slow processing this.
GCS Concordance“Captain Maddock, we have some troubling news …” Technical says looking at a sensor display the Captain is calling up.
“Does is look anything like this?” the marge man rumbles. His sausage fingers swipe the screen with a grace of long practice. Tech sees Liberty Base, the dreadnought, the attending Destroyers and their courses as well as a huge red cloud. The zone of interference is now mapped by the ship’s movements and the quality of signals they are receiving.
It’s a very large zone. It’s very close to Liberty Base.
Tech goes a little pale.
“Order the destroyers back into close formation,” Maddock says.
Starbase LibertySaltornus makes no move as the guard prepares to administer the shot that will turn his brain into limp noodles. That worries Tivk. Obviously what Tivk is doing makes no difference and the beanpole doesn’t like that notion. Few of his race do.
//You will give up your secrets now, Saltornus. Perhaps we can even learn ...//
//What did you d … //
The distant explosion will be muffled by many bulkheads and decks. The force of it still knocks Tivk and the security a good part of a meter into the air. The sound reaches them a fraction of a second after that force traveling much faster through metal and plastic and continuing to play out in a symphony of destruction and chaos. Structural member bend and break. The secondary force fields set up around the lounge are useless against a psionic trigger word sent out to receptive minds. They buckle and send feedback through the station’s power grid. Lighting and gravity go out in sections. The great sphere of the base shudders and begins venting atmosphere as first responder, many of them injured themselves try to restore some function.
“Breakout in three, two, one,” Helm counts off. She holds her breath as space and every molecule in the Tesla shudders and twitches and moves a bit to the right of the three conventional axes. Helm's shiny blue skin takes on a slightly gray cast though she shakes it off.
“I did it better,” The Lieutenant thinks. He’s grown a bit and wisely keep it to himself. The transition makes him wince a little. “Coming up on Lib …” He starts to say. His vision blurs a moment and clears. He looks at the main screen and shuts his eyes a second and looks again.
There’s a shimmer that hurts the eyes as the Videni fleet uncloaks and once again reacts to photons in the accustomed way as the cloaking devices shut down. The Videni fleet lies between them and the Starbase.
“Sound battle stations! Evasive action. Arm torpedoes!” the exec says a little too calmly. She’s going to die. They all are. The question is how many invaders will precede them.
Down in the medical section Doc hands Riasi a helmet and breathing mask. Before he slips his own on he gives her a quick hug. “Love ya Kitten,” he says awkwardly.
Riasi shakes her head and mutters, “Took you long enough. Love you too.” She nips his neck.
The Tesla barrels at the enemy fleet at maximum acceleration.