Episode 6: Missions, Part 2
“It has been about an hour, how are you doing?”, James had lost his patience by now. Our little scout ship kept moving slowly on a path towards the outer edge of the mine field. The short burst thrusters were all we could utilize without activating the mines. Using this method though would take hours to reach the edge and even then we would need to be further off so as not to trigger any mines.
“I have an idea, but it’s going to be very risky.”, I told James which made him hopeful.
“I’ll take anything at this point, what are you thinking?”
“We could launch a small spy probe and use its signature to draw the mines away from us long enough to make our escape.”
“Engines would have to be at a full charge in order to make a quick burst out of this place. Alright, let’s do this.”
The probe was our best choice to leave that dangerous field. Once it was launched some of the mines began to light up and move slowly towards their target. When all systems on the probe were active it flew off and made a path that mines began to follow. As the probe gained speed so did the mines and their more advanced systems activated. That was our chance, engines began to power up. We had little time to activate any other systems, including shields. Our best bet now was that nothing obstructed the path made by the probe. A short moment after the engines had full power we saw an explosion. The probe stopped transmitting data.
“Blast away, now!”, the ship received a sudden impulse towards the probe’s path, behind us a small number of mines began to follow.
“Umm, do you see those?”
“Yes, hang on.”, I tried my best to maneuver avoiding the sensor range of mines that did not follow the probe. The mines behind us began closing in faster. “Shut down everything again.”
“The emergency inertial dampeners will stop the ship if I shut it down, we will be hit for sure.”
“Argh, you’re right, leave the laser active. I think I can take a few shots at the mines.”
I was able to turn the ship around and fire at the mines. There were four mines following us. Two were easy to break, the shots damaged their movement system. The other two were more difficult as they had a number of maneuvers for attack evasion.
“Shutting down!”, just as James said this I hit one of the two remaining mines which in turn spun out of control and blew up.
“Uh, it’s too late, I can’t get the last one!”, I closed my eyes tightly. I thought about Dana and mother. How our cause was to end so abruptly and how poor Crystal was about to lose her brother.
In a very unexpected twist all we heard was the loud ‘thunk’ of the mine hitting the hull, yet there was no explosion. By now the ship was completely stopped. I opened my eyes looked around and saw the mine spinning above the ship.
“What the hell just happened? I honestly thought our death was unavoidable.” James sighed.
“We were lucky, reactivate everything, I want the signature masking device at full power.”
“Wait, why didn’t we use this before?!”
“Because the time it takes to power up would have been sufficient for the mines to detect us. Besides, we have no proper protection against those things but we can fool starships, like that one.”, I pointed at the distance where a ship, a Starlance battle cruiser, was standing by.
With our ship fully operational once again we moved out and began a number of rounds through the sector. At the same time we placed a few probes to see if we could catch any communications. Large amounts of data began to pour in. To our surprise the entire mine field, including many experimental weapons had been shut down. A specific code which was further encrypted was the key to controlling the weaponry in the sector. I decided to stop the ship about a few miles apart from the large battle cruiser. Minutes later and we were surprised by what appeared next.
“Oh no, is it possible? It’s the ship that attacked the Proxima Eclipse.”, though there were similarities I was incorrect.
“Hate to say this but, that’s not it, it’s another one.”
Two vessels with the same destructive capability. At first, my impression was that the Starlance battle cruiser would get easily destroyed as it was the only ship in the area.
“Those others won’t risk it.”, said James.
“Risk what?”, I didn’t understand until I looked behind. The mine field and the experimental weapons were a deterrent, no one would dare fight a battle here or both sides would lose.
A transport ship moved from the unknown vessel to the Starlance battle cruiser. Two small star fighters escorted the transport. It all seemed like a formal meeting of sorts.
“Ah, damn, all I’m getting is static. There’s no getting through. Whatever they are talking about must be very important.”, as James managed the communications and probes, I began to fix the programming glitch that placed us in our initial precarious situation.
After an hour the ships parted ways and left the region, as they did the mine field was reactivated. That was our cue to leave the sector or else we would find more trouble with some of the other defense systems.
With the jump drive fixed and coordinates set we began our way back to the Proxima Eclipse.
Back at the vicinity of the carrier I told James to deactivate the masking device so that the Captain would know we had arrived, though the jump signature would give us off either way.
“Ensign Adrian reporting in, Proxima Eclipse do you read?”
“This is Captain Villanova, good work Ensign, I was beginning to worry.”
“We had some trouble, but nothing that couldn’t be fixed.”
“Make your way back, I want a full report on your findings.”
At the hangar bay Chief Mara and Major Caplan greeted us. By now I was beginning to feel exhaustion, I had essentially worked a double shift. I nearly fell while going down the ladder. Soon the Captain joined us along with her Lieutenant Commander. All of us, including the Major and the Chief, moved to the nearest briefing room.
“Report Adrian, what happened out there?”, the Captain noticed my exhaustion. “Make it quick, I’ll let you go once you’ve finished.”
I told of everything that had happened including the sabotage of the scout ship and the exchange that happened between the ships that met in Sector Epsilon. James added information about the data we acquired and about the code that can deactivate the hazards.
“Great work out there, you are all dismissed. I will call you again soon Ensign Adrian, for now get some rest, you earned it.”
Entering my quarters felt liberating, I could finally take off the uniform which seemed to weight an extra few pounds. The new developments showed that we were making progress towards finding out who attacked the Proxima Eclipse. It was terrifying to learn that there is another of those powerful warships in the system.
Before falling asleep a message arrived from Mara. She reminded me that I was to take a piloting test tomorrow. It seems she felt the need to sign me up for that.
Soldiers within Starlance can have a number of qualifications. I am a technician because of my knowledge. This also allows me access to most of the ship, though I asked to be assigned to a hangar bay in order to be close the fighters. Adding piloting to my qualifications would open up missions for me. I’m sure, of course, that the Captain also had something to do with this. It seems sad that we can’t fully trust her yet, I do not believe her to be a bad person.
My thoughts continued, fading slowly, giving way to sleep.