Excerpt from 'Empire And Earth'

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I had just passed abeam the last Imperial beacon on my way back to Earth when I got a hard contact in the instance I was using for a Vector run. I was getting my breakfast and Lady's at the time, piloting by remote, mostly holding station, not really paying attention. I brought the shields up to full as I ran into the control center, Lady following behind. I brought the main weapon online as the shields recorded a hit. The energy drain was nothing to be concerned about; barely perceptible in fact. Even if I lost shields entirely, it'd take the aggressor days to break through my hull charge with that much energy.

I hit the gas - immediate quick Vector to where I planned my next Interstitial. About four hundred years' distance, ran a quick confirmation of position, and applied the Interstitial. Wrench. It worked, but the ship wasn't happy about it, and the stress on the hull shot up to about twelve iprime torsion around one of my Interstitial field anchors. It was out of alignment - without hull charge the ship might have torn a hole in itself. I started re-aligning the anchor to align with the rest of the field, while trying to figure out what had gone wrong. My Interstitial velocity was about two thirds what it should have been, but it built back to nearly full as the torsion on the hull dropped and the system was restored to alignment. Lady whined; she could pick up there was something wrong, if not what.

It wasn't life threatening, or even trip threatening, but as soon as I stopped manual precession, the anchor started drifting out of alignment again. I was hungry, and I knew Lady was, too, but breakfast was just going to have to wait. I tried taking the anchor offline, out of the system completely, and Interstitial velocity dropped to about sixty-eight Imperial years per hour - it should have been about seventy-four - while the hull stress picked up slightly from zero, but the temporary configuration was stable now, and no threat to the ship in any way. It would add to the maintenance load of the rest of the system, and I'd want to have the entire system checked out when I got back to the Empire, but first I was continuing on to Earth. However, I wasn't leaving the control center until I was grounded, or at least inside the solar system. Lady could tell my stress level had dropped, and she perked her ears and made false starts in the direction of the living quarters, as if to ask about breakfast, but I explained to her we were going to have to wait, be patient, be a good girl, breakfast will come but not now. Telepathy really did help with dogs; she understood and settled right down in her bed next to the command console.

I'd have to look at the system when I grounded, to see if it was something I could fix. There was an Interstitial node right where the weapon had hit. My best guess was that the enemy weapon had done something weird to it. This was confirmed by careful review of the data from the attack. But there were other systems' components in that area of the hull, too. Net result: I was not leaving my command console until I could shut the ship down. Vector equalizers were fine, as were inertial integrators or there would have been a major irregularity in internal gravity, but what about the impellers themselves? There was an impeller not five feet from the failed Interstitial anchor. It was on minimal power right now as Interstitials were moving the ship, but what about when it was time for the impellers to take over? I was kind of regretting not giving that damnable pirate an in-kind response, but I knew I had made the right choice in ducking out. Technologically inferior or not, the other ship had been designed for battle, and probably had the crew to repair damage while the fighting was going on. My ship was designed for cargo, and I could hardly fight the ship effectively while unbolting hull plates to fix damage. I was a merchant, not a military vessel. For me, victory meant survival, and I had survived un-captured.

It turned out the impeller I was concerned about was fine. I grounded at the sanctuary outside Mentone without further incident, but then Adela met me and asked, "Tia Grace, aren't you going to turn on the camouflage?"

Oh, no. I had turned on the holographic camouflage before I entered atmosphere. The holographic system said it was working just fine. Unfortunately, that wasn't the case when you actually looked. The cruiser was a whale roughly twenty meters tall from belly to back and over eighty meters from front to back; it didn't shine like most Earth people expected metal to shine, but its dark grey towered over the citrus trees surrounding it, and anyone looking down the mountainside would see it plain as day. I could hear the dogs we kept for Earthside adoptions setting up a ruckus near the front of the property; stretching my perceptions I "saw" that a San Bernardino County Sheriff had turned up the drive, lights flashing. "Delay him thirty seconds if you can," I told her, "I'm getting out of Dodge. I'll call you later on the tachyonic communicator."

Copyright 2013 Dan Melson. All Rights Reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on December 12, 2023 7:00 AM.

Excerpt from A Guardian From Earth was the previous entry in this blog.

Excerpt from Working The Trenches is the next entry in this blog.

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