Part 2: Unwanted Visitors
Sun-Drinker’s Proxy ran through the superconducting mining facility toward the Darklight Projection tower. The lights in the building dimmed as the external armor was activated and blocked the ambient light from outside. Fiberoptic cable woven into the structure still streamed concentrated sunlight from outside allowing the station lighting independent of power.
“I know a short cut to the tower. Follow me.” Despite his simian appearance, Proxy moved quickly and I had trouble keeping up. He changed surfaces as it suited his movement, bouncing from the floor to the ceiling depending on which way he needed to go. I activated my null gravity belt and followed as best I could through the twisting pipe ways.
“What about point defense systems? Doesn’t this station have some sort of defense mechanism in case of incoming matter?” Being pelted by multi-megaton wreckage from an alien space craft still hadn’t reached the acceptance phase of cognition for me.
“There is one. And I am certain Sun-Drinker calculated the use of the system in its speculations about our overall survival. Hence the reason we are going to activate the Darklight Projector and save these possibly unfriendly visitors, rather than letting them crash into the station.”
“Even with the active point defense, would we take damage?”
“Absolutely, their ship is very large, unlike the much smaller craft which brought you to us. We will barely be able to cover it effectively before large chucks of their ship begin to ablate away. We will use the point defenses to destroy as much of the remnants as possible. It is simply a matter of mass. The point defense system here is not native and does not pack the power of a Precursor weapon. We added it when we arrived here as a secondary level defense. If our visitors had arrived outside of the fragment’s gravity well, or on the far side of our two closest stellar partners, we wouldn’t even consider rescuing them a possibility, let alone a necessity. They would have died and drifted into one of the two binary partner’s gravity wells first.”
I thought about what Proxy was saying. This fragment was surrounded by at least ten stars at varying distances. The two closest orbited within ninety million miles. Despite what it appeared, the fragment was the big gravity in this star system. If you approached the system at just the right angle, you couldn’t help but fall right toward it. “What will you need me to do?”
“I need you to control and calibrate the point defense system. We will analyze their hull and determine how much hull they are going to lose. Then you will need to make sure you can target the fragments to get the largest first. You will probably not be able to get them all. If you were, Sun-Drinker would have said you could, so go from largest to smallest and do the best you can.”
Sun-Drinkers automated voice rang out in the Precursor control space, dotted with a wide array of alien technologies, each adding some feature deemed necessary by it’s guests. “I have completed my scan of the vessel. It is using a technology from one of the Old Galactic species, the Remur. The ship’s hull is a form of duranium-wafer overlay. Strong and tough, it’s the only reason they are still there at all. The ship is much larger than we will be able to cover at this distance. I have sent you the configuration of their hull.”
The ship was torus shaped to facilitate the Remur predisposition for multiple drive systems. They were considered idiosyncratic among the Old Galactics. The Remur were a silicon species with a terrible fear of space travel. They were one of the exceptions among the Old Galactics, they did not develop aircraft before they discovered space travel.
Once they acquired the ability to travel to other worlds in their star system, their scientists discovered as many ways of returning planetside as possible. They mastered C-space travel and had ships capable of reaching ninety percent the speed of light. They traded and learned T-space where faster than light travel was possible by tachyon conversion. But tachyon conversion made them terribly ill so they are most well known for the singular development which earned them their fame; the J-space drive. With it, they could jump from one sector of space to another. There were plenty of limitations but few other races discovered J-space without consulting and licensing their technology. Their ships were rarely sold to other species, in addition to being fearful of space travel, they were a bit xenophobic as well, though the ones who did travel in space tended toward the other extreme and ended up loving alien diversity.
The alien ship was capable of C-space, T-space, and J-Space transportation. Unfortunately, all three require the ship to be able to target and calibrate its sensors. In this area, they can’t. Looking at the ship, I realized what needed to be done. “We can only save one drive system, the others will be lost. I recommend the central part of the hub because the T-space drive will be there. It will be the only piece of the ship that will still be flight capable once we trim away the other parts.
“Sun-Drinker can you establish communication with them and tell them to grab only what they need and get to the center region of their ship?”
“Of course. My telepathic abilities are less affected by the stellar winds, radiation or dust in this region. I will inform them of our plan.”
* * *
“The shields are failing, Lan-Cer, I am rerouting power from all systems except life support. At this rate, we will bake inside the ship. Internal hull temperature rising.” The gelatinous blob in the engineering section of the ship could not physically appear to be panicked, unless you knew what to look for. If you did, then you knew it was well past freaked out and well on its way to psychotic breakdown.
The entity in the command module of the ship would resemble to anyone human, a cockroach that walked like a man. A rather heroic member of the Remur species, it resembled a cockroach made of carbon and silicon molecules, complete with antennae, six legs with large and rather unpleasant mandibles. It had a mild twitch all the time, always in motion even when sitting still. At the moment, it was preening its antennas while trying to appear nonchalant. The fact its antenna were begin passed through its mandibular area in a ritual of nervous cleansing always caused everyone in the room to turn away as if they weren’t looking…but they were. Most sentients found the Remur’s licking of their antenna disturbing to say the least.
Where it diverged from the cockroach metaphor was its crystalline appearance and ability to reflect light across its shimmering exoskeleton. It had two sets of eyes, a compound set and a more forward facing set of four. Those four targeted the navigator, a young Corvan who had currently turned an unpalatable shade of brown, pretty much defining the situation without speaking a word. “Why haven’t we jumped, HeDa? Or is boiling in your water containment field an acceptable life choice for you at the moment?”
“No, Captain, nothing of the sort. I have been trying to gather navigational data but the dust and tightly bound stars are blocking my ability to lock onto any galactic navigational aids. The only aid I can lock on to is a tiny station on the massive gravitational stellar fragment, dead ahead. This is also where the trail of the superconducting support craft was heading before it disappeared.”
The last member of the crew stood impassively connected to the panel in front of it. A number of thin-crys cables snaked away from the panel into several plates on the its chest. A bipedal humanoid, it stood over seven feet tall and was covered with a rock-like skin.
The Omuri was another silicoid life form, but unlike the Remur, it seemed more simian-based. The Omuri were once a more organic species, with softer more human features. A spate of genetic engineering somewhere in their planet’s history caused the species to become a dimorphic race. One set of the Omuri are still as their ancestors made them, but the second population appear to be more rock than humanoid. The stone Omuri spend most of their time in space working with manufactured intelligences as a living computer interface. Their stone skin was designed to act as a computing surface and with the right design specifications, could work faster than any normal crew member dealing with shipboard operations outside of piloting and hands-on engineering.
“Zero-Zero-One, status report,” the Captain turned toward his second in command and noted his focused attention on the ship’s systems. Zero-Zero-One’s relationship with their ship was a precarious one since they deactivated the manufactured intelligence. The moral imperatives of the MI meant their career as pirate mercenaries was against its programming. Zero-Zero-One’s internal computer now provided control for all of the ship’s vital functions.
“Zero-Zero-One reporting: Ship shield integrity at thirty two percent and dropping rapidly. Ship’s hull integrity at eighty three percent and holding. Activating regenerative hull armor, for an additional fifteen minutes of hull integrity. We are moving in C-space at .78 C. We are within the immense gravity field of a stellar fragment. If we are planning to try to escape, we must do so in the next eight minutes before shearing pressures from the star fragment make it impossible. Even so, we will have to release at least fifteen percent of our cargo to compensate for shearing stress. The navigation array is still unable to establish a lock to any viable jump beacons or location beacons.”
Fifteen percent! That would make their most recent outings barely worth the time it took to rob their ships. This was supposed to be the score of a lifetime. We were supposed to be hitting a cargo ship filled with superconductive material mined from the heart of a core fragment. Needed on nearly every planet with advanced Manufactured Intelligences, high quality superconductors was one of the few things unable to easily be made by Hegemony science. Even the Old Galactics preferred to mine it than make it artificially. Now this mission is coming apart. We missed the cargo ship, we’re flying blind and surrounded by blinding white gas in every direction, and the ship is being torn apart by this region of space. A bit of good news would go a long way to improving my mood.
“Attention, Remur space craft, you have entered restricted Hegemony Space. We are the source of the T-space command beacon you should be detecting. You will need to use that beacon to jump to the following coordinates. We are aware of your condition and recommend you have your crew enter the T-space section of your craft. The other drive mechanisms we have detected are in the outer ring of your ship and will be destroyed once we lock onto your craft.” Sun-Drinker’s telepathic voice held no tone of malice or rancor.
The Captain sat and thought for a moment before Sun Drinker continued. “You are not obligated to acknowledge this telepathic message. But be aware, I have calculated your chances of survival at less than 8% unless you follow my course of action. Even if you do, your chances will only increase to sixty percent, due to an inability to determine what will happen to your ship once it is converted to non-baryonic matter. We can increase your odds of survival if we reduce the amount of mass your ship has. Your survival increases if I remove the J-Drive and the C-Drive which are found on the outer ring of your ship.”
The cargo areas are also found on the outer ring of the ship as well; our entire haul for the last year. If we come back with nothing, Nimile will kill us for sure, slowly and painfully.
Zero-Zero-One’ broke the Captain’s distasteful reverie of their mercenary employer. “Shield failure is imminent. Hull armor is being activated. We have breaches on decks eleven and fifteen. Structural reinforcement is holding.”
“Navigation, prepare to jump to these coordinates. We will need everyone else to move our most precious cargo to the center of the ship. Only the good stuff. Everything else, leave it. We have less than eight minutes.”
As Lan-Cer and his crew ran through his ship moving their most valuable cargo to the transport sleds, he entered the telepathic field and responded, “We will accept your offer of hospitality.” Broke or dead. Both of these choices equaled dead. The crew also considered their employer and realized the precarious nature of the current predicament. Ever hopeful, each pondered that there might be some way to turn their fortunes around. Not trusting to luck, each carried everything they thought they could move in the time allotted.
Sun-Drinker’s voice came back to Lan-Cer. “Get your crew back to the core segment of your ship and jump. You will be taking fire upon arrival.”
“Excuse me?” thought the Captain?
“To save your lives and protect our station, we will have to fire upon your ship as soon as you drop out of J-space. Deactivate your C-drive and your T-Drive and prepare to be fired upon.”
“You heard the nice alien, move it, grab your gear and prepare to be fired upon!” As the crew ran back to the central module, the Captain had a sudden thought: What in the seven hells was non-baryonic matter?
End of Part 2.
Star Light, Star Bright © Thaddeus Howze 2013, All Rights Reserved