I. UN Heavy Cruiser Orion
Alchibah system asteroid belt
Alchibah Day 980
“But how do you know they are even out there? St James thinks they will be dug in on the planet”
Richard Redmond was beginning to lose his patience, something he had little of to begin with “Dickenson, I’ve told you already, Captain St. James doesn’t know these people like we do.” He went on “These aren’t your typical tax dodging asteroid miners, these criminals twice attacked UN warships while escaping from the solar system. I guarantee they will come out to meet us. What you need to do…” he was interrupted as the door to Orion’s briefing room opened, and Hunter St. James made his entrance.
“I apologize for being late” he said “but we have some very tricky work, synchronizing the task forces comm systems and I’m pretty busy”
An outside observer would notice that despite the forced politeness none of the inhabitants of the compartment much liked each other. Each man felt himself to be the rightful commander of the task force, Trent Dickenson the designated “Ambassador” to the colonists from Earth, Captain Hunter St. James UNWG “Commodore” of Task Force Alchibah” and Richard Redmond 1st Undersecretary to the Secretary General for military affairs. In reality each of them was equally wrong.
Redmond was quick to reply “I understand your devotion to naval procedures and routine, but let me remind you that our mission is to bring the lost colony back into the fold of human civilization”
St. James voice had a trace of irritation in it “keeping these ships functional is more important than another meeting…and I don’t know why you keep referring to them as lost colonists; they’re not our colony at all, and they got lost quite on purpose.”
Dickenson, always the diplomat, stepped between the two flaring tempers “Gentlemen certainly we can agree that we would like to reach a peaceful reconciliation with our fellow humans, let’s focus our energies on that”
Redmond continued to glower; St. James visibly relaxed and then walked across the compartment to the liquor cabinet. Dickenson continued “I’ve changed my mind; I believe we should broadcast an invitation to begin dialogue with Hamilton and his people. The profiles I’ve studied all indicate these are intelligent people who should be able to see reason”
Redmond was still fixated on St. James “you shouldn’t drink on duty” he said “‘it’s bad for morale”
St. James tossed the tumbler of scotch back and slammed it down on the counter, ” Well it’s good for my morale, so you two can make all the broadcasts you want, but I have work to do” and so saying, he strode out of the room.
“Typical Neanderthal mentality” said Redmond “We don’t need his help anyway, lets finish the plan to contact the rebels”
II. On the Bridge
Hunter St. James settled into the command chair on Orion’s bridge, outwardly calm inside his thoughts were dismal “four years on board the ship with that man” he thought “if it wasn’t for the fact that Redmond had spent most of the trip in cold sleep I would probably have walked out the airlock”
Hunter was not the kind of officer who would spend time in hibernation where he could not protect his ship. He had remained awake the entire trip many times spending weeks as the only conscious human in the fleet.
“What am I hearing?” he thought suddenly. “Oh” he chuckled softly to himself, the communications tech was quietly humming the banned song onward goonie soldiers…”Redmond would have a cow!”
He looked at his 3-d radar plot, “oh just great”
“Blake open a channel to Trident, if you please”
“Aye aye skipper” the young tech replied “Trident on secure 1″
“Captain Heinrich, I hate to mention this, but you are about 15 kilometers off station”
Trident didn’t acknowledge but immediately began to slide back into position; Hunter couldn’t help but wince when Trident almost passed directly through UNLC Falmouth’s exhaust plume. Even the new shields wouldn’t protect her from that. Hunter lets his breath out slowly “perfect move Karl” he thought “do it just like that”
Orion’s executive officer Lieutenant Guy Anselmo had observed the close call from the other side of the bridge. “Capitan, this is maybe forth time trident is off station; maybe we should have Trident run the navigation diagnostics… yes?”
“No I don’t think that’s necessary” Anselmo’s face showed doubt “Relax number one…at the academy you must have missed the lecture about the old randomly drift out of formation maneuver” Anselmo was now clearly lost
Anselmo’s eyes suddenly got wide “Oh Capitan! a joke! Of course ha! ha!”
Hunters thoughts returned to the problem at hand “A heavy cruiser should have a full commander as XO” he thought. But Orion wasn’t really a heavy cruiser. No Orion was really an old bulk freighter converted to naval service, she had the drive and shield upgrades and all the new sensors, but not much in the weapons department.
Now Trident, Falmouth and Canberra, those were real warships, the best in the UN fleet, Hunter had commanded powerful ships just like them for years before being promoted to command of this rusting heap of junk on this God forsaken mission.
The intercom screen lit up with the Image of Trent Dickenson. “Commodore may I have word with you?”
Hunter switch the device to privacy mode “Of course sir, but I must ask, are you feeling Ok?” indeed Dickenson was pale and shaken, looking quite ill.
“I’m all right Hunter, really I am… it’s just that… Redmond took me in to see HIM”
Hunter shook his head “What a bastard! I’m sorry; he just does that to upset you”
On the screen Dickenson seemed to pull himself together “Look, Commodo…Hunter, I know you don’t think the rebels are out here in the asteroids, but this is their best chance, I can’t bear to think what will happen if they try to fight, I’ve seen enough… too much” the man was choking up ” Too much death, please can’t you try to help?”
“This is not going well” thought Hunter “Mr. Ambassador… Trent, you misunderstand, I do believe they are out here…that’s the problem. I wanted to come in high over the belt and approach the planet from open space. With all this ionized dust, our sensors are degraded so bad we can barely see our own tailfins.” He went on “All we know is that Hamilton has a ship that looks just like an asteroid and a couple of captured UN cruisers, but he had 20 years to plan this thing, he might have anything and this soup we’re in is just the place for him to try something crazy. Believe me I want a peaceful resolution as much as you do”
“Oh I hope so. I’ve done some raw thing in my time at The UN… but I thought I was working for the good of man… I thought I was a good man…” the ambassador was sweating now, his hand clasped in front of his chest clutching something within, he continued “And then THEY came, and I learned what I really was, Oh God! Nothing changed except that there was nothing holding us back. THEY let us become what we really were all along… and I’ve had enough… please Captain, don’t let them make me do this!” and the screen went blank
“Yeah that was bad” Hunter wished he could get a drink now, just before the image faded he saw what was in Dickenson’s hands, a six pointed star, something not seen on Earth for years. He keyed the switch for the surgeon “Doc, do me a favor please, go to Dickenson’s cabin and give him a trank”
Dickenson was right, we all became what we really were all along, it just rides some of us harder.
Anselmo came over “pardon me Capitan, but we have lost the laser link to Canberra and if you look at the plot…”
“I see it. Thank you number one… Well at least Falmouth can stay on course for more then 10 minutes at a time.”
“Blake, Signal the fleet… My regards and please execute formation Tango on the next time hack.”