When the fusion generators came online, Jimmy diverted their power to the laser banks, and the rail guns then returned the primary electrical power to the habitat rings.
On the bridge, the lighting switched from emergency to routine. “Secure from General Quarters,” said Carter. Cosmo's computerized voice repeated the command shipwide.
“Lydia, I want a constant scan three hundred and sixty degrees, spherical around this ship, out to three thousand Kilometers.”
“Yes, sir,” said Lydia and turned toward her monitor.
“Jimmy, let's turn this ship to point planetside as soon as possible. I need those rail guns in position if someone shoots at us again.”
“Roger that,” said Jimmy from the Engineering section.
Sagan passed the SpaceDock at high speed. John finally removed his headset and turned the volume down on the communications radio. He had to reject commands from every controller whose space he violated, and they were furious. Demands to alter course and return to Hobby Spaceport he ignored. Frantic controllers vectored conflicting traffic away from the rogue space shuttle. Surprisingly he didn’t care. He had violated enough regulations in the last two hours to have every rating he ever held stripped from him forever. “Hell,” he thought, “I probably won’t be able to fly an ultralight after this.”
All he could think about was protecting Kei and his ship. Yes, his ship, and the crew members he had come to know. Someone or a group of someone’s tried to harm them, and he couldn’t let that happen. He had begun to consider the Cosmos his responsibility, and he wasn’t about to be relieved of that without a fight. But if it came to it, Kei was the priority. She was what mattered to him.
“Incoming target on the screen,” said Lydia.
Carter jumped into the command chair. “Can you identify it?”
“It appears to be a shuttle, sir.” Lydia zoomed on the target, and sure enough, a dim image of a shuttle raced toward them.
“Incoming message from the Cosmos,” said Sagan over the intercom.
John placed his headset over his head and opened the channel. “Cosmos Control, Sagan here.”
“Captain, I was hoping that was you,” he heard Carter say. “Verify your position at three hundred forty-seven kilometers downrange?”
“Yes, that’s us, Carter, don’t shoot,” he said earnestly.
“Roger that Captain, we’ll open the bay doors for you, no other traffic in the area cleared to land.”
“Thanks, Carter, we’ll be there in a few minutes, could you arrange for all the department heads to meet in the conference room off the bridge as soon as we clear decontamination?”
“Wilco Captain, and welcome back!”
John brought Sagan into the shuttle bay and skillfully landed the vessel beside Tyson. The three donned the lowgrav vest and headed toward decontamination.
Oscar and the Captain waited while Kei processed through and together the three headed to the bridge. They felt the throbbing of the Negative Energy Generators as they were coming alive in the ring over their heads.
After the attack, Carter ordered all bridge personnel to man their stations, when John entered he had a full crew awaiting him.
“Captain on the Bridge!” said Carter as they entered. Everyone stood at attention.
“At ease said the Captain.”
Carter turned command over to John and returned to the Engineering console.
“Status report?” asked the Captain.
“All fusion generators are online, and Jimmy and Dan are bringing the Negative Energy Generators online now, the ship will be functional as soon as they are up and synchronized. I took the liberty to position the ship to align the rail guns toward the planet in case of another attack," Carter reported.
“Good thinking Carter,” said the Captain.
“There is an incoming transmission from earth, Captain,” said Berta Rembis, the communications officer.
“Put it on the view screen please.” John casually touched a button on the arm of his chair that broadcasted the transmissions shipwide. Every view screen on board the vessel activated showing a view of the bridge.
The wall flickered, and Titan’s avatar filled the screen.
“Ah, Captain, I see you and Kei made it back safely.”
“We did,” John said. He was apprehensive.
“Titan,” said Kei, “that missile came from northern China, an area you were supposed to disarm.”
“Ah, yes, but the matter before us now is this, you and the Captain have been charged with the murder of seven people and with the theft of a private vehicle. You also face charges for defying the commands of air and space traffic control, resisting arrest, obstruction of justice, violating noise abatement procedures. I can go on ad infinitum. If you give yourselves up, as well as you, Oscar, for accessory to their crimes, I may still be able to save you.”
Kei and John exchanged astonished looks.
“I have another earth transmission sir, this time from Sequoia,” whispered Berta.
“Split screen,” he said quietly nodding to her. The view screen split in half, and the avatar of Sequoia appeared on the right.
“Ah, Sequoia please join our conference,” said Titan. The impressive image of Sequoia glared into the screen.
“Titan, what have you done,” she demanded?
“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”
“Kei,” said Sequoia, “you are in grave danger, I was able to trace that missile back to China and did a brute force hack into their military computers. It seems Titan never disabled those warheads, in fact, he recently has fitted several of the warheads on boosters equipped with A/F engines.”
“Sequoia’s image winched as if in pain.”
Kei staggered and almost fell, she glared at the image of Titan.
“What are you doing?”
“Unfortunately I hoped you would join us, I see that was a mistake. The power is being shut off at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and at your origin in Kobe Japan Kei, I know this won’t kill you, but unfortunately, Sequoia doesn’t have a human body to inhabit.”
Kei tapped her temple and severed the connection she maintained with the supercomputer at Kobe.
Sequoia’s image crumpled and fell, she raised her head from the floor and fixed her sad eyes on the screen. “Kei run!” she said. Her head fell again to the floor and raised back to look at the screen. “Kei run!”
“Ah, the first death of an AI, somehow I didn’t think it would end in an infinite loop,” said Titan.
“Kei run!” The image flickered. "Kei run!" Flicker. "Kei run!"
“Of course we will power the facility back up, but without her AI code. Perhaps we can create an AI tailored more toward our own goals.”
Kei was shocked. The bridge door hissed open, and three armed security guards entered. John recognized one of them as the suspicious newcomer, Ibrahim.
“Captain, you are relieved of command and under arrest,” he said.
Kei stepped toward the guard. Titan roared, ”KILL HER!”
Ibrahim raised his pistol at Kei and pulled the trigger. They had to review the tapes later to determine what had happened. But, instead of hitting the intended target Oscar leaped in front of Kei and took a bullet through his upper torso.
Kei used her bionic speed to disarmed Ibrahim and another guard almost immediately after. The other guard stood confused with his weapon pointed at the people gathered near the Captain’s chair.
“KILL THEM!” roared Titan from the view screen. The confused young man stood, transfixed, unsure what to do.
“Stand down, corporal,” said the Security Chief. He was laying on the floor coughing blood. Kei rushed to him tapping her temple to order emergency personnel to the bridge.
The remaining guard, Russell Teague, lowered his weapon and looked to the Captain.
“Cover him,” said John pointing to Ibrahim.
Ibrahim was kneeling on the floor with his hands laced behind his head.
“I have failed you, Allah.”
“Yes, you have,” said Titan. The man’s head exploded spattering brain matter and bone everywhere.
Chaos erupted. Gore dripped down the view screen where the avatar of Titan glared back at John with a smug smile on its face.
John pointed at the screen. “I will get you, you bastard,” he said quietly.
John ended the connection and put his fingers to his lips, and with a loud whistle brought silence to the room.
Bertha turned her back to the crowd and vomited on the floor.
“Miss Rembis, you are dismissed,” said John compassionately.
“Thank you, sir,” she said and rushed from the bridge with her hand over her mouth.
“You.” He pointed to Corporal Teague. “Get a detail up here to take care of this body.”
“Lydia, I need you to remain at your post.”
Lydia went over and again sat at her console picking bits of gore from her uniform with disgust. She wiped her eyes and cried silently.
“Carter, are the engines available yet?”
Carter rushed to his console and activated the monitor. “Almost sir, they should be ready in the next fifteen minutes.”
The door hissed open, and two medbots entered with a stretcher.
“Kei, plot a course that will take us to the edge of the solar system, that should take us out of range.”
“Captain, I have three targets, still in the atmosphere, origin northern China, accelerating fast,” said Lydia.
“Carter, if the last stages of those missiles have A/F drives we are sitting ducks, we need to move now!” Carter looked at him hopelessly.
“Suggest we use the rail guns, sir.”
“Make it happen!” said John.
Carter turned to his console and consulted with Jimmy in Engineering.
“Lydia, targeting, on the screen please,” said Carter. As before, Lydia split the view screen into three segments.
Down in the central core, the railgun capacitors charged, building an enormous potential to launch a tiny pellet of depleted uranium toward the imminent threat.
Lydia zoomed her telescope to show the nearest target. It was a three-stage engine leaving the atmosphere. The first stage had completed its burn and was falling away.
“Target acquired,” said Cosmos through her computerized voice.
John looked around his bridge and noticed that all eyes were on him. “Fire One,” he said.
Carter activated the number one rail gun. The image of the missile rushing toward them blasted into hundreds of pieces a few seconds later.
The door hissed open, and the medbots left the bridge with Oscar’s wounded body on the stretcher. They passed a security detail, led by Corporal Teague, on their way in with a black body bag.
Lydia turned her back to the gruesome scene not wanting to see them remove the body. “Sir, telescopic analysis of the debris confirms fragments of a nuclear warhead and A/F drive engine parts,” she said.
“Shit, we can’t let those missiles make stage three people,” said the Captain.
“Target acquired,” said the ship.
“Fire Two!” Carter activated the number two railgun.
Tense moments passed. The image on the screen didn’t change. “A miss, sir,” said Carter.
“Target acquired,” said Cosmos, retargeting the oncoming threat.
John looked down at the weapons console and saw two red lights indicating both rail guns were offline. “I need those guns now,” he said calmly.
A status bar moved slowly across the bottom of the railgun menu indicating the recharge stage of the capacitors.
On the telescopic image, the missile’s second stage had burned out and was separating for the phase three deployment.
John’s status indicator turned green.
“Fire One!” he yelled.
Six seconds passed, and then the screen image erupted into hundreds of pieces indicating a direct hit.
“Target destroyed,” said Cosmos.
“That was too close,” said the Captain.
Lydia switched the view to the next threat. Both rail guns were again in the charge mode. The third target was in the burnout of its second stage.
“This doesn’t look good,” said John. “Laser status?”
“Too far,” said Carter, “and if that A/F drive activates we’ll never see it coming.”
Lydia put her hands on the side of her head and shook it back and forth. “Captain I have three more targets, upper atmosphere, same origin.”
The situation looked desperate.
The security detail shuffled out the door with Ibrahim’s body.
“Engineering to bridge.”
“Yes, Jimmy!” said the Captain hopefully.
“All systems are online and available. Negative Energy Generators are at warp power.”
“Kei, DO IT!” yelled John, pointing to the navigation panel.
Kei activated the course she had in standby mode and engaged the A/F drives. She looked up and asked, “Speed sir?”
“Twice light speed should do it,” he replied.
Monitoring from earth, the telescopic image of the starship wavered and winked out of existence. Titan roared in disgust within his electronic domain.
John reached over and closed the shipwide intercom. He had purposely left it open during the crisis. “Lydia, you’re dismissed, take the rest of the day.”
“Thank you, Captain,” she said and got up from her station.
“Lydia,” he said catching her eye, “you handled yourself well, thank you.” She nodded, and the held back tears erupted as she stepped over the blood and gore and went out the door.
“Carter, you're relieved too. She needs you,” he said tossing his head toward his Chief Engineer's departing wife.
“Thanks, Captain,” said Carter and hurried after her.
John leaned back in his command chair and breathed a long sigh of relief.
“Yes, Captain?” asked the ship’s computer.
“Send a crew of maintenance bots up here to clean my bridge.”
“Yes, Captain,” replied the ship.
He and Kei sat in silence for a while staring at each other.
John tapped his implant. “Eric Berryman, please.”
There was a slight delay while his call connected.
“Yes, Captain,” came Eric’s reply.
“Eric, could you do a few hours of bridge duty?”
“Absolutely sir, I’ll be right there.”
John closed the connection and turned to Kei.
“Kei, I’m going to my quarters now, to wash this away." He opened his hands and made a sweeping motion over his dress uniform. Blood and bloody bits covered him where Ibrahim’s head had spattered. “When Eric gets here I want you to meet me there. I don’t want to be alone right now.”
“Of course, John,” she said.
He stood and stepped across the spot where Oscar and Ibrahim’s blood mingled on the floor and wandered down the corridor in a daze toward his quarters.
Kei waited until Eric arrived, transferred bridge command to him, and hurried to meet John.
Eric, looked around the bridge in horror, he had seen everything that happened here from a view screen, but the mess was unimaginable. He got some paper towels from the bathroom to wipe the blood and bits of flesh from the Captain’s Chair. A small team of maintenance bots arrived and spent the next two hours scrubbing the room until not a trace of the horrible event was left.
Kei found him leaning, spread eagle, in the shower with the hot spray running down his back and buttocks. He opened his eyes when she slipped in behind him and wrapped her arms around his wet body. Kei lay her cheek against his back and held him. They stood together for several long minutes then he turned and helped her wash the gore from her body.
They dried and returned to the bedroom to lay silently in each other's arms. Hours later John's exhaustion brought him enough peace that he succumbed to sleep. When his breathing slowed, and his limbs relaxed, Kei let her quantum core buzz in time with her human synapsis, and she slept for the second time.
in my first attempt at
Read Chapter One here