Excerpt from A Guardian From Earth

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This will all make more sense if you stay in a light link for translation, ScAnara sent, you may sit at the auxiliary station over there. A display activated, kind of like those banks of security monitors you see in the movies sometimes, but each one had a different view. One display was the exterior, which looked like one of the canyons around the edges of the mountains above San Bernardino, possibly on the north or eastern sides of the plateau where it drops into the desert. A second view was a hologram of the ship, which didn't look anything like any spaceship I was familiar with. The closest I could come was an elongated egg with the fat end as the front, the small end as the back, and the bottom flattened, with a pair of stubby triangular wings on either side of the rear two-thirds, starting at the widest point of the main body and widening only slightly before coming to an abrupt end slightly before the actual tail of the ship. A third view might be a three dimensional radar or sonar image, currently showing the topography of the land around us while above us floated various gnat-like sparks. My guess was that they were Earth aircraft. Other displays were gauges and status displays that I had no clue how to read. I noticed not only were there no windows, viewports, or anything of a kind used for looking out directly, there wasn't a main viewscreen, either. I supposed if you wanted or needed to see out, you brought it up at your own work station, like ScAnara had done for me.

This is an Explorer Cruiser, ScAnara explained, based on a Patrol Cruiser, largest of our military small cruisers. Patrol Cruisers and their smaller kin are designed for extended missions, generally used for military patrols between stars. For scale, we're just over 100 meters, Earth measure, on the major axis. Crew is usually 110 to 116, but we're a little under complement because we were in a hurry. Our family only has eight of these, and this was the most quickly available. Explorer versions sacrifice a little weaponry for better sensor and survey gear and an emergency backup siphon and converter.

Survey, prepare beacon drop as previously detailed. Navigation, plot a minimum trajectory spaceborne recovery, then beacon drop and homeward transition. Engineering, confirm Status Red. To me she sent Status Red is normal spaceborne operations. We've been maintaining it because we don't know what else might be in the area. We're about four grads from the nearest Imperial Survey Beacon. Close enough for it to be routine, if we are careful. If not, the universe is a big place. What she meant was that it wouldn't be difficult to get lost. According to survey, we're the first known Imperial vessel in this Instance. That doesn't necessarily mean we're safe. It means we don't know. There might be ston vessels lurking about, or possibly aliens of comparable capability. Nothing in-system, ScAnara explained, but with Vector Drive and Interstitial, they could have a corps waiting to pounce and we wouldn't have any warning until discharge. While linking with me, she had received several other communications. I couldn't keep track of it all. Not yet, but you will. Here we go.

The ship lifted off, smoothly accelerating straight off the ground upwards, then rotating so we were facing in our direction of travel, and no, I didn't feel a anything. You know how you expect to feel force when your car is accelerating, cornering or braking? We had to be maneuvering more violently than any earth car, plane or rocket, and I didn't feel a twitch. It was like Earth's gravity, or our own motion, didn't translate to any kind of force. We got to a point where we were maybe a few thousand feet up, and...

Blink! The exterior view changed. We were now in space. Earth was nowhere I could see. After some searching, I found a much shrunken sun in the distance, and a few small widely spaced irregular rocks around us. Your astronomers call these the Trailing Trojans, one sixth of the orbit behind the planet you call Jupiter. We're going to launch a beacon and recover our auxiliaries here. A roughly five foot radius sphere dropped from our ship, while suddenly four firefly sparks appeared around us in the radar display, arrowing in towards us. They had merged with the dot in the middle of the radar screen representing us before I saw any of them in the visual display. Their function was obvious as soon as I saw them - high performance fighter craft, and they were gorgeous. Not in painting or decoration, but in the manner of well-designed machines. They reminded me of diving falcons. Wide aerodynamic wings mid-body that were proportionally shorter than earth aircraft, small nacelles both over and under the ends of each wing. If you've ever idly wondered what it was like to fly one of the US's military fighters, you'll understand why I immediately had a serious lust to fly one. Think F-22 or F-35, and then consider what if they had way more thrust and weren't bound by atmosphere? One man Starbirds, military mark fiftysix. There are civilian versions, too, and you should be able to learn to pilot them. Oh, sweet Jesus, yes! The Starbirds swiftly attached themselves, one each above and below each of the "wings" of our cruiser I had noted earlier.

Interstitial in five seconds. I should probably mention that it was about this point I realized that ScAnara was piloting as well as commanding and talking with me. I later learned they did have the capability of separating the functions in particularly demanding circumstances, but generally the Empire expected the ship's commander to also be its pilot, and even when the functions were separated the pilot was less independent than any of the other subordinates. It was a long five seconds. It's one thing to know that imperial seconds were longer, but that didn't tell the little timer in your head to stop counting just as fast as it always had.

Copyright 2013 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on December 4, 2023 7:00 AM.

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