Amended again. I reviewed what I posted and found a few typos and one exceedingly embarrassing lapse of perspective. I made a few word changes here and there. I seem to do that every time I go back and reread one of my stories. I think I’ve got everything fixed now.
I was just thinking one day about temporal distortions, anomalies of time and space, just the general stuff we all daydream about. Actually, I think I’ve seen too much Star Trek. People my age were raised on it. I was a kid, determined to be an astronaut when it was a weekly tv show. By the time I was in high school and college, you could usually find it as an afternoon filler between game shows and the news. I’m one of those people who can identify the entire story within seconds of the opening scene. Yeah, I’m a nerd.
But I’ll also admit that many of the Star Trek episodes were dreadful on science and heavy on fiction. I liked the more intelligent ones. That’s what I’ve tried to write. And no, Captain Mundy is NOT James Kirk. My knowledge of physics is spotty, but I do know a little bit. I was watching an old SF movie last night from 1965 and its howlers were awful. The writers were seemingly unsure of the difference between a galaxy and a planet. And the meteors in space were flaming. And when they walked (gravity?) into an open airlock on an alien ship, there was an alien making vocal noises (vacuum and absolute cold of space). When he attacked they shot him with a pistol. I’m pretty sure a pistol won’t work in a vacuum. Nor be heard. And they found a wandering moon (with an atmosphere, plants, oceans and sunshine?) “near the Triangulum galaxy”. Say what? It actually got worse as it went on. I hate crap like that. There’s a difference between camp and speculative fiction. I’ve tried to keep everything in this story within the realm of what could happen. It’s one of my longer stories, 23 pages. Anyway, I enjoyed writing it. Hope you enjoy reading it.
The Fourth Reich
gravitational pulse, Captain!”
Almost as soon as Science
Officer Karen Jordan got these words out, the ship jolted with a mighty
sir. It was traveling near light speed. The signal reached us only seconds
before the surge.”
the red beacon on the wall began flashing and a loud klaxon signaled the ship’s
computer had initiated a red alert.
What’s going on?” Captain Mundy shouted to be heard over the alarm.
pulse indicates a black hole in the local star system. Its attraction may overcome
ship’s thrust. Event horizon imminent,” said the dispassionate voice.
our engines are struggling to get free of the pulse,” Helmsman Anderson
more power to engine.”
giving her all I’ve got, sir.”
Mundy hit the comm button on the arm of his captain’s chair.
I need more power. Divert it from everything but life support if you need to.”
Jones called back. “I’m sending you all I’ve got. I’ve cut off everything but
the kitchen sink.”
cut that off too if you need to. I need all the power we’ve got sent to my
sluggish, Captain,” Anderson said.
course along the line of the gravitational pull and see if you can peel away.
And Karen, see if you can turn off that damn bell,” the captain ordered. The
shrill alarm ceased.
we stumble in this hole anyway?” the captain groused.
not on our charts, sir. Remember we are charting new territory. We’re farther
out in the Sagittarian Arm than any ship has been. Our sensors had swept this
area. The computer should have notified us that space was warped in this area.”
log it and report it back to Earth Command. And find out what’s wrong with that
computer. I don’t want any more surprises.”
don’t seem to be able to pull away, sir,” Anderson told him, his voice a mix of
frustration and growing alarm.
giving it everything? Hyperdrive and impulse?”
polarize the tractor beam and push away from the center of mass?” the captain
just the problem, sir,” Jordan said. “It’s really like a hole. It feeds on
anything we send its way. There’s nothing to push against.”
there’s a small planetoid ahead. It’s in a higher orbital plane. Our thrust
plus the tractor beam may enable us to pull ourselves out.”
Mundy said, wiping his brow and pushing his blond hair back up on his head.
Longer than regulation but in space, who cares?
watched while Anderson flipped switches and dials expertly at his consol. He’s
just a kid, Mundy thought. At 21 David Anderson had zoomed through the Academy
and now was on his first space mission.
on visual, Karen.”
large view screen they could see an irregularly shaped rock, a couple of miles
long and maybe a third as wide. It was slowly pinwheeling like a thrown bowling
pin. A fat bowling pin. They could hear the hum as the tractor beam locked onto
its target and began pulling. The rock appeared to grow in size, indicating
they were getting closer. Anderson’s plan was working.
our engines can’t sustain this much strain. If we don’t cut back soon they may
blow. Then we won’t have any power.” Jones was shouting on his comm over the
alarm that had begun clanging in the engine room.
we don’t keep it up, we’ll be having our dinner at the center of a black hole.
Keep it coming, Jonesie.” Mundy could visualize Jonesie in the engine room –
overalls, stained tee shirt, graying hair sticking up in all directions. In his
estimation the best damn engineer in the fleet.
electrical crackle, a spark flew out of one of the dials on Anderson’s consol. He
jumped back to avoid being shocked.
we just lost engine two. We’re starting to lose altitude.”
we can lock onto the rock with our talons. That should give us some room to
catch our breath.” Anderson folded his six foot two frame back into the
As they were
near enough to the asteroid the ship shot out several grappling hooks. They
reeled the ship in and drove pitons into the rock to secure the ship. The
asteroid continued pinwheeling on with the ship along for the ride.
How long until the engine is back online?”
dunno, Captain. Maybe never.”
acceptable. Get my engine running. That’s an order.”
do, Captain.” If anyone could fix a broken engine in space, it was Jonesie, he
gentlemen?” Captain Mundy said, looking around the bridge.
once we get engine two back online we can wait until the planetoid is between
us and the black hole. We could polarize the tractor beam as you suggested and
push ourselves toward a higher orbital plane. Once there we could look for other
masses to pull or push against. We might be able to crawl out by stages that
Anderson, remind me to give you a raise,” the captain smiled. He clicked his
comm button again. “Jones, I need that engine.”
on it, Captain.”
United Earth Ship
Star Date 3428.7
Earth Date April
Our exploratory and
mapping mission into the Sagittarian Arm of the galaxy has been interrupted by
discovery of a black hole. We were pulled into its gravity well and are working
on plans to get out. Engine two is temporarily out. No casualties or injuries
in the 20 ship personnel. Captain out.
get this and my last five log entries encrypted and sent to Earth Command.”
It may take some time. I can’t send it via any media except subspace. Nothing
else can overcome the gravity well.”
does subspace do it? Maybe we can use that technology to our advantage.”
unless we can make ourselves microscopic. Subspace uses quantum entanglement to
overcome the issues with gravity, speed of light and distance. That only works
on the subatomic level. However, if we don’t get out of this black hole’s
grasp, we will soon be the size of those subatomic particles.”
the captain asked. His forte was military, not science and he had no problem
deferring to Karen Jordan’s obviously immense intelligence and vast store of
sir. As we get closer to the center of mass our bodies will be subjected to
greater and greater gravitational pressure. The ship’s force field will protect
us for a while. That won’t last long as the force increases. It will give away
and we will be crushed. Then the ship will collapse like an old-style aluminum
can. Our mass will remain the same but our volume will continue decreasing as
we fall into the hole. But the radiation may kill us first.”
happens when we hit bottom?”
knows. There may be hundreds of star systems already in the hole. The pressure
will be so great that eventually the atoms will collapse. When the electrons
connect with their nuclei there will likely be a tremendous release of energy
but our equations fail us. Einstein theorized an Einstein-Rosen Bridge, what
some people call a wormhole.”
Karen? Surely you don’t believe in that.”
Einstein believed it, it’s good enough for me. He said it would open a portal
to another place and time, possibly another universe. Unfortunately, we won’t
be alive to see it.”
complement of scientists is having a field day with this. No one has ever been
able to study a black hole this closely before.”
wonder why,” Mundy said sourly.
understand that we are in trouble, but you know how scientists are. They are
feeding the computers data as fast as they can to be encrypted for shipping
back to colleagues on Earth. Gloria was just telling me about the anomalies she
has spotted just outside the event horizon.”
kind of anomalies?”
don’t know. Wrinkles or tears in the space/time continuum.”
continuum? I think you just exceeded my pay grade, Lieutenant. Carry on.” He watched
as she headed back to the labs to ride herd on his “resident eggheads” as he
called the ten scientists on the mission. As her superior officer he maintained
a friendly distance. As a man he admired how her rear filled her uniform and
undulated, creating the infinity sign as she walked, her short blond cut
bouncing gaily. She’s twenty-five and I’m twenty-nine, he thought. She’s
beautiful and I’m somewhat handsome (he knew some of the female scientists had
their eye on him. One of the male ones also according to his First Officer).
Any other place and time, he mused. If only we could drop into that wormhole. He
smiled ruefully as Major Donovan approached.
“Smiling at your science
officer’s ass, Captain? Hardly regulation, but I have to agree with you.” Ben Donovan
was a rugged man of thirty-five, decorated and proven on many occasions. He had
earned distinction but then was reassigned to a desk. War horses aren’t needed
in peace time. He had requested to come along on this mission as security. He
said his other option was to put a laser pistol to his head.
“What’s up, Major Donovan?” Mundy
asked. As a military man himself, he trusted Donovan as much as anyone on his
“A minute of your time, if I
may.” Although Donovan technically outranked Mundy, as he was Marine to Mundy’s
Navy, he always deferred to Mundy as the commanding officer of the ship.
“I want to know if our situation
is as dire as it sounds. Some of the eggheads are getting a bit skittish. I
need to know if me and Jorgenson are going to have a riot on our hands.”
Donovan and Lieutenant Kevin
Jorgenson, the other marine, had been attached as their “security team”,
although he wasn’t sure how much security a couple of jarheads could provide.
But who knows what they were likely to encounter, and a few hired guns might
come in handy.
“We have a plan, such as it is.
If it doesn’t work, well, yeah, we’re in dire shape. Jordan doesn’t think our
scientist friends will cause much trouble. They’re having fun with their toys
and the black hole right now. If worst comes to worst, we can lock’em down.”
“I wanted to make sure I have
authorization to keep order.”
“Just use non-lethal force, and
only as necessary. I’d hate to get out of this at the last second and have to
explain dead scientists to Earth Command. My ship, my responsibility.”
“Captain, I’ve got engine two
running again. It’s jury rigged but it should hold. Unlessen you try to get it
to do more than a ship this size is supposed to do. These are small engines,
Captain. Not what you’re used to in the Navy. Fortunately, the failsafe knocked
if offline before it had a chance to go kapow.” Jones’ voice sounded weary.
Anderson. Do we have a target?” the captain asked.
sir. We do. Another large asteroid. Fortunately, we are passing directly under
it while our little rock is between us and the center of mass of the black hole.
On your mark, Captain.”
Jordan, let me know when we are in optimum position,” he ordered, using
official Navy terminology for the lieutenant.
Captain. Position coming up. In three, two, one. Now.”
the captain ordered. Since the ship’s artificial gravity remained constant and
overrode all external stimuli, the only indication that they were moving was a
faint rumbling from within the ship.
at maximum, Captain. Tractor polarized repulsion also at maximum. We seem to be
gaining ground,” reported Anderson.
Davie,” Mundy had come to stand by Anderson’s chair, bent over, his head close
to the second lieutenant. “At the halfway point we flip the tractor and switch
polarization at the same time, locking onto the new asteroid. No second
chances.” Everyone sat quietly as the seconds elapsed.
Davie!” Mundy was amazed at how quickly the young man’s hands flew over his console.
acquired, and … traction.”
I’m warning you. The engines ain’t liking this one bit,” Jones called almost
asking them to like it. Just do their jobs. Give me fifteen more seconds.”
maybe 20. No more.”
on, Davie. Pull!”
hooks away,” Anderson said. “And contact. Cut engines.”
in and lock it down. Well, done, Mr. Anderson.” He patted the young man’s
shoulder. Anderson sat back, somewhat pleased with himself.
bridge door opened and First Officer Commander
Jennifer Newly strode in. Her black hair was pulled into a tight bun and
everything about her looking fresh and pressed. She had served nearly five
years with Mundy. She repeatedly made sure to be assigned as his second. She
knew he had the makings of a great captain and wanted to learn from him. And
she had decided he wasn’t that hard to look at, either. She felt that,
together, they made a formidable team. Mundy was inclined to agree.
for shift, Captain. You may be relieved if you wish.”
see you, Jen. Take the con. Mister Anderson, brief the commander. Lieutenant
Jordan, with me. We have a scientist to go see.” He and Jordan left the bridge,
with Jordan wondering what this was about.
Despite its name, UES Superior
was not a large ship. An inelegantly shaped floating box, it was fifty meters
long, ten wide and twenty deep. It resembled two old style mobile home units,
one stacked atop the other. It was divided into a small bridge, science labs,
five closet sized cubicles for the scientists who had to double up, and six for
the crew. Only Mundy had a private room. Or private closet as he called it.
There was also a small workout area crew were required and scientists were
“recommended” to use to maintain their muscle mass while in space. Finally, a
dining area/meeting room that would accommodate all twenty of them, with a
little crowding. The scientists worked in shifts, five sleeping while five had
the labs. Similarly, Captain Mundy and Commander Newly traded off, as did
engineer Commander Casey Jones and his assistant Lieutenant Digger Emory. The
other four crew, Jordan, Anderson, Cain and Dr. N’dutu also rotated as needed.
nearly two days to find another large body to use. At least they assumed it was
two days. None of the chronometers worked in the event horizon vortex. They
could determine very little except that there was a violent maelstrom of matter
and energy surrounding the ship.
attempted the maneuver just as before. However, shortly after starting, Karen
shouted “Gravitational wave!” Everyone grabbed onto whatever they could as the
wave slammed into the ship. It sent them tumbling along the orbital path.
Fortunately, the shielding was strong enough to keep them from being crushed as
they bounced around the orbital zone like the ball in an ancient pinball
machine. By the time they had established a modicum of control over their ship
Anderson shouted, “Holy moley, we’re headed straight into the hole!”
out, pull out!” Captain Mundy ordered, keeping the panic he felt from his voice.
Because of Anderson’s quick thinking and sharp reflexes, they managed to pull
the ship up and it shot across the surface of the waves of hot gases like a
stone skimming across a lake. They had lost a significant amount of altitude,
although they had no way of measuring how much. They could hear the groans and
growling of the ship hull as the force field tried to shield them from the
crushing gravity this deep in the black hole. They had swung around the hole
like a rock in a sling around a hunter’s raised hand.
I can’t get an accurate gauge,” said Anderson. “But it would appear we’ve been
slung into a superfast eddy. We’re spinning around the hole like crazy. Maybe
as much as 0.9 light speed. This ship isn’t built for such speed. If it weren’t
for the force field and gravitational pressure we’d have already spun apart.”
we hit light speed we’ll start going back in time and can avoid this mess?”
Captain Mundy joked.
Even our school kids don’t believe that anymore,” Commander Newly said. Considering the predicament they were in, she
had taken to remaining on the bridge during her down time. “There’s no going
back in time.”
maybe through a black hole,” said Lieutenant Jordan winsomely.
pretty much that, then,” said Mundy. “We’ve got no more aces up our sleeves.
Karen, can we get a last dispatch off to Earth Command?”
Captain. We’re so deep in the hole even the quantum realm is affected.”
few days they successfully attached themselves to several larger bodies caught
in the same super-eddy and gained a little more distance from the black hole,
but were unable to move further. Their velocity made it impossible to grab
large bodies outside the eddy. Lieutenant Jordan said it was just as well. The
sudden jolt of the reduction in speed would probably tear the ship apart.
spent a week maneuvering the ship to the upper edges of the eddy only to have
the gravity drag them back down. It required constant monitoring to keep them
out of the black hole’s hungry maw.
we can do this much longer,” Mundy said, speaking to the entire crew and
scientists. “The toll on the superstructure of the ship is too much. It will
eventually give. I suppose we have a few more days, less than a week before the
hull is breached. I imagine it will be a quick, but quite painful death. I will
authorize desensitizing pills for all military personnel who want them, but I
expect everyone to be at their stations from now on. We will meet this like a
disciplined team. N’dutu, as medical officer, could you take over distributing
suicide pills to the scientists who may want a quick exit?”
thing, Captain.” She left the bridge to carry out her assignment.
“I guess this is where I’m supposed
to say it’s been an honor to serve with you. It sounds so trite, but actually
it sums up how I feel. It has been an honor. Thank you, sir,” Karen said. Mundy
could hear the held back tears in her voice.
here, Karen. Chin up. Best damn science officer ever. I’ll put that in your
permanent file,” he said with a grin. She gave him a tremulous smile.
Karen left the bridge to confer with the scientists Jennifer Newly came up to
wanted to echo what Karen said. It truly has been an honor to serve with you.
Five years now. We know each other so well. I can almost anticipate your orders
before you give them. It’s just awful that it has to end this way. If there’s
anything like an afterlife I guess I’ll see you on the other side, Rob.”
feels like we’re an old married couple. See you too, Jen. If we both go the
same way,” he said with a smile.
rest of the day they all sat at their stations, pretending it was like any
other day. Most of them had no family back home. That was why they had chosen a
multi-year mission into space. Anderson kept Mundy apprised of what the psi on
the outer hull was, and how much it could withstand. He also reported that
radiation inside the ship was reaching critical levels.
were near to breaking and another gravitational surge like the last two would
flatten the ship. Their hearts barely had time to leap into their throats when
Karen yelled, “Gravitational surge, but it’s coming from …”. That was all she
managed to get out before the wave struck the fragile little craft.
WAF ship Konigsberg
The crew has become
restless as we have been weeks without a prize. My research into ancient
records indicate a ship was lost in this area over 900 years ago, back during
the United Earth years. There is no record of another ship salvaging it so it
should be somewhere in this star system. I’ll check the black hole first. A
smart captain would have devised a way to park himself at the event horizon if
he were captured by it. Perhaps that ship is circling there still, with near
thousand-year-old corpses guarding their treasures. Admiral out
scuttlebutt is that we are looking for a ghost ship lost a thousand years ago,
thought Bunde Christophe Verhoven. If I’m in a boarding party and come up
against a skeleton, I hope I hold my shite together better than poor Bujonjoe
did. I had befriended him, although I’ve had to act in the past few weeks as if
I never did. I feel like I deserted him. I’m most ashamed of that. Such a
sensitive soul as him should never have been in the military. He was not cut
out for it. But his family forced the issue. His old man was a hard-core
Nationalist. He swore his son would serve and advance or die honorably. Well,
Buj did neither. He stuck his laser pistol in his mouth on wide dispersal and
vaporized his head. When we found that freighter a couple months ago Buj had
been on the boarding party. He stumbled and fell into a partially decomposed
body. He screamed and scrambled back, spewing vomit all over himself. Even
worse, he pissed himself. The men laughed at him. But they felt he had cracked
under pressure. He could not be trusted. He was no longer part of the team. He
started getting hazed pretty hard. I saw the bruises from the beatings he was
getting. The dark circles under his eyes told me he wasn’t sleeping, or wasn’t
being allowed to sleep. He avoided messhall and hardly ate a thing. He confided
in me the last time I saw him alive that the three guys who everyone knew were
the worst of the sadistic bundesleiters had gang raped him. He was frantic and
didn’t know where to turn. It was even worse luck that he was serving with an
old pirate like Als. And I don’t use the word pirate lightly. Als, with his one
eye and broad girth is much like the lawless brigands that sailed the oceans of
old Earth some two thousand years ago. But the Supreme Leader and the Empire
turn a blind eye to his activities as long as he gets results. Als pays as little
attention to his men as to the law so the worst of the bullies run the
barracks. They had identified Bujonjoe as a weak link and he was being removed.
As far as he was concerned, he took the only path he could see. I just feel
sorry for him.
me, Reichsmagister, what do you see?” Admiral Als asked his science advisor.
might be something there, might not. If it’s beyond the event horizon we won’t
be able to see it.”
aware of that. But our quantum entanglement device can detect telltale signs at
the quantum level if there is something in there worth pursuing.”
but at the cost of a huge expenditure of energy which we are already running
what we might find? The records say a science ship was lost in this area. It
may have had those sun charged batteries we lost the technology for. Just think
if we found those. An endless supply of energy for me. And for the Empire at
the right price of course. And a science ship. No telling what surprising
technologies it may hold. So much was lost in the Glorious Revolution.”
is your command, mein Herr.”
wish. Heil!” he gave his admiral the straight arm salute.
Buj. Being raped was the ultimate dishonor. Man on man sex was nothing new. On
spacing ships with a hundred men and no women it was common. Some barracks had
men who liked it and provided for their platoon. In others, the weaker men were
just taken and forced. Even that had a modicum of honor since they were
providing for the esprit de corps. But to be raped for no other reason than to
show that you could be signifies the victim is no man. He is no more a man than
is a slave. He is as low as a woman and used as one. I am not sure if that
message is what sent Buj over the edge or if it was just a cumulative effect.
I’m not sure I could handle it as long as poor Buj did. God, I hope I hold my
shite together if I’m on that boarding party.
mien Admiral,” said the Reichsmagister as he entered the bridge. He stopped and
sketched a short bow before continuing. “It appears from the QED signature that
a ship is hiding in the jersa surrounding the hole.”
hiding, Reichsmagister. Just the victim of a power beyond its ability to
control. Just as we would be if we ventured too close.” Then, as if just making
sure, he turned to the helmsman. “Helmsleiter, be sure to keep a respectable
distance from the event horizon or you will feel the sting of my laser baton on
mein Admiral.” Helmsleiter Kell’s eyes grew wide and round at the thought of
the Admiral’s laser baton.
sounds like good news, Reichsmagister. Can we get a fix on it?” asked the
It moves around the black hole at nearly the speed of light. May as well try to
capture an electron as it speeds around its nucleus.”
not acceptable Reichsmagister. A thing that can be measured can be captured. I
will not come this far and be denied my prize. It is your duty to determine how
we will acquire it. I will give you until this time tomorrow to work it out.
said the Reichsmagister with his straight arm salute.
like I may be off the hook, after all. Even if there is a derelict to be
salvaged we apparently can’t get to it. The admiral gave the Reichsmagister
until today to figure it out. The guys say he’s got nothing. The admiral
doesn’t like hearing no. The Reichsmagister will at least wind up in the brig
and we may be rounded up to see a public torture. It’s been a while since
anybody pissed off the old man that much. Word gets around. They say the Reichsmagister
was on the bridge till late last shift. He supposedly had some animated
conversations with Commandant Michaelik Smits. I don’t know what that was
about, but I bet he was trying to work out how not to end up in the torture
booth. I don’t particularly like the Reichsmagister but no one deserves the
torture booth. And I don’t like being forced to watch the agony of a man as he
is tortured. An object lesson, Als calls it. Als is a savage bully who likes
hurting people. Unfortunately, he is just the kind of man the Empire breeds and
promotes. I hate this whole stinking culture. I hate what they did to Bujonjoe.
And I hate what they are trying to make me become.
mein Admiral. I believe I have devised a method of extracting the derelict ship
from the cloud of jersa.” The Reichsmagister looked haggard from his sleepless
Smits. If you would be so kind. Please bring up the black hole with the
suspected orbit of the ship as predicted by the QED.” A black sun appeared on
the screen, blacker than the black background. It was most visible as a black
circle in the group of background stars. A red dot circled the black sun so rapidly
it seemed to be a solid line. It was at a forty degree angle to the WAF Konigsberg,
only partially visible from their angle.
Herr Kell,” he spoke to the helmsman. “Please realign the ship’s orbit by fifty
degrees longitudinally.” The helmsman looked to the Commandant.
he said. Once they had established a new orbit the Reichsmagister said, “You
see now that our orbit is perpendicular to the salvage. Bring us to this point
in our orbit, Herr Kell,” he said, pointing to a spot on the small map in front
of Kell. “Now show us a ship’s view of the orbit of the salvage.” The diagram
on the large screen showed the same black spot. But now the red dot was
circling the back spot in a wide flat circle, always in sight.
capture what we can measure, you said, mein Admiral. But to measure it we must
see it. From this vantage we can figuratively see it or at least detect it continuously.
That will allow us to capture it. I propose to polarize our tractor beam to a
circular pattern, set it to detect only metal, turn it toward the orbit of the
salvage and see what fish we catch.”
and logical. Just as I expected of you, mein Reichsmagister,” said Als with
sincerity in his voice. “Helmsleiter,
make the changes the Reichsmagister has recommended.”
mein Admiral.” The young helmsman’s fingers flew over his control panel. He
knew Admiral Als had little patience and was not to be kept waiting.
The crew of the UES Superior were
near to breaking and another gravitational surge like the last two would
flatten the ship. Their hearts barely had time to leap into their throats when
Karen yelled, “Gravitational surge, but it’s coming from …” That was all she
managed to get out before the wave struck the fragile little craft. “Above,”
she barely managed to yell. The hissing, pinging and bonging from the craft
moving around the slurry of the black hole increased.
“It looks as if we’re moving
against the momentum of the debris, not toward the black hole,” said Anderson
peering through a porthole. “That’s not possible.”
“Maybe another black hole has
moved into the neighborhood,” offered Jimmy Cain, a helmsman who wasn’t on duty
but had decided to meet the end among his friends. He was so young, just out of
the Academy, he made Mundy feel like an old man. He was an odd match as
Anderson’s counterpart at the helm. At five feet six he was the shortest height
a cadet could be.
we’d have noticed it before now,” said Jordan.
we’re definitely moving. And up, away from the black hole. I don’t know how
it’s happening, but it’s happening.” Anderson was delighted.
don’t like my staff standing around with their collective thumbs up their
asses. Something’s going on and I want answers. Pronto!” Everyone scrambled to
their stations and managed to look industrious although no one knew exactly
what to do.
find a way to slow down the craft. Once it leaves the soupy jersa surrounding
the black hole it might fly apart slinging around at nearly the speed of light.
Helmsleiter, can you use the tractor beam to retard their speed?”
The ship is definitely caught in a gravity wave from above. But the wave is
coherent, not natural. It’s as if we’re caught in a tractor beam.” Karen Jordan
came up with a theory that seemed hardly plausible.
movin’ at near the speed of light. Ain’t no tractor beam can catch you when
you’re doin’ that,” Casey Jones gave his opinion. As the expert on what was
physically possible with machinery, what he said carried weight.
slowing down,” Anderson called from his console. “It’s like our engines are
engines, Davie. Let’s save them for when we need them. Somebody or something
has us in a trap. I want to know who or what and why. Give it to me,
I know,” said Anderson softly, yet everyone turned. “Look at this.” The screen
showed an exterior view from the ship. It was obvious they were rising through
waves of gases and energy, star dust and micrometeoroids. And right in the
center, possibly light minutes distant was a glowing dot. A dot that the
console indicated was a spaceship. A spaceship that was not registered on
shit,” thought Mundy. “First contact.”
“Captain. I really must demand
that you let me speak with the aliens. As the only one aboard with diplomatic
experience it is only reasonable,” scientist Harry Albright said. “No offense,
but with your military background and military thinking you are liable to
cowboy us into an interspecies war.”
taken,” Mundy said gritting his teeth. He really hated dealing with these
people. That’s what he had Karen for.
know NASA and World Council protocol is very clear on this. The commander of
the ship that makes first contact is to represent Earth unless an actual
credentialed diplomat is on board,” Jordan chided him.
ridiculous. This is too important a moment to be left to amateurs.”
haven’t even determined if they are friendly or hostile. Before I let you
invite them in for tea and crumpets I want to know a little bit more about
attitudes like that which get us into wars. I wish to file a complaint.”
up with Earth Command.”
you are going to continue to refuse to see reason on this, at least agree that Dr.
Righter and myself will sit on the committee that receives them. There’s no
telling what kind of faux pas you may commit.”
Albright. Let me put this as diplomatically as I can. No fucking way!” He knew
Earth Command would be all over him about this, but the momentary satisfaction
was worth it. He strode out.
is it possible for them to hold us in a tractor beam at this distance?” Mundy
think possible is the question. They undoubtedly do have us in a beam.”
they saved our asses. We need to thank them. Establish communication. And give
us a little push with impulse, Anderson. I want to at least give the impression
that we are coming to them of our own will.”
I’ve done some scans on them. They don’t have any kind of shield up to prevent scans.”
Commander Newly said.
either their shields are down to show friendly intent or they don’t fear us
enough to put up shields or they just don’t have shields. Keep our shields up,
Jennifer, until we know more about them. What did your scans find?”
bag. Their engines seem more primitive than ours, but they do have hyperdrive,
obviously. They are also heavily armed. I doubt our shields would last more
than a couple of salvos. Heat signature would indicate there are warm-blooded
really didn’t want to meet up with any lizard people. I hate lizards,” said the
captain, only half joking.
people. The movies about bug people give me nightmares,” admitted Anderson.
Let’s keep our wits about us. Anything yet, Karen?”
everything we know so far to Earth Command. Do it subspace. If they detect the
message they may mistake it for hostile intent, or they may trace it to Earth.
No need in announcing where we’re from until we know more.”
Commander Newly called. “I’ve got something on my system. It looks like a
message. It’s an old style system of amplitude frequency modulation, we haven’t
used it in decades or even hundreds of years.”
Feed it into the computer to start working on a translation. Is it directed at
sir. It was sent in the other direction. I guess back to its base or fleet.”
shit,” Jimmy whispered it so only Anderson heard it. “Captain, Captain, you
gotta hear this.”
Jimmy?” asked Mundy.
you know I’m a technogeek, right? I mean I have a kind of skill with computer
systems. I can hack into just about anywhere. I think I just hacked into the
intership system of the aliens. They’re
Smits,” called Helmsleiter Kell. “The salvage appears to be assisting our
you mean ‘assisting’?” asked the Commandant. Admiral Als walked over to stand
near the helmsman.
salvage seems to be pulling away from the black hole, as if trying to come
ship has been stuck over 900 years and has accreted a ton of sludge and
spacemud. It was probably just stuck and then broke loose. No chance of us
losing it?” the Commandant asked, seeking assurance. Losing Admiral Als’
salvage ship would send them all to a prison planet.
We have a good grip and our beam is strong. And as I said, it’s not fighting
us. It’s trying to come toward us.”
said the Reichsmagister from a nearby console. “I’ve noticed the ship’s energy
signature. Its systems seem to be still running. Imagine that. After 900 years.
They sure don’t make them like they used to.”
worthy prize,” gloated the Admiral from his perch above all the others on the
I am getting a communication from the salvage ship,” the communications officer
said. “It is a regular signal, I don’t recognize the frequency. I can’t tell if
there is any message imbedded, just a regular pinging.”
It’s probably an automated distress signal. It’s probably motion sensitive, set
to start if the ship is disturbed. You are all as nervous as my maiden aunt.
Herr Kell. How long until we get the ship into our cargo bay?”
hours, mein Herr.”
What the hell? Are you sure about that, Jimmy?”
The captain was out of his chair and standing beside Lieutenant Cain,
looking at his console.
system is primitive. My little sister could hack into this. But look at these
interoffice messages. English. Some of the wording is a bit off, but that’s
what it is.”
Keep looking. Karen, Jennifer. Thoughts?”
clue,” Jennifer said.
stumped, too,” Karen said, shaking her head so that a lock of blonde escaped
her band and fell in her eye. She absentmindedly brushed it away.
Jimmy called again. “I can get into the log of where the ship’s been, cargo,
armament, registry, personnel. Everything but the captain’s log. The encryption
there is more sophisticated. It may take me a while to break it, but I’m sure I
can,” he said with a sniff of pride.
have you found out.”
that makes sense. It says it left Earth a couple of years ago. They have 90
personnel, mostly soldiers. Heavily armed. Under an Admiral Zariah Als. A lot
of the titles involve ‘reich’. And the system of dates is weird. Apparently,
it’s the year 578 AI. And, uh, well there was something about being involved in
the Martian uprising. The ship was instrumental in causing the collapse of the
dome over the Martian capital, causing everyone inside to die. That was like a
million people. My gramma lives there,” there was a note of worry in his voice.
“It matches nothing in our computer’s data base.”
that makes a bit of sense.” Mundy was perplexed as anyone.
registry is WAF Reichsboot Konigsberg”
says World Aryan Federation.”
god. Neo-Nazis? That explains all the pseudo-German crap. I didn’t think there
were enough of them to make a difference,” Newly said. “Have they taken over
while we were gone?”
We’ve been in contact with Earth the whole time, except when we were in the
event horizon. Wait a minute. I noticed something earlier but didn’t follow up.
The stars are wrong,” Jordan said.
Analyze star field and match with current star charts,” she ordered.
said a disembodied voice.
on star position what is the date?”
date approximately 5739.”
not possible,” said Mundy. “Computer. Recalculate.”
Star date 5739, unable to calculate decimal based available data. Earth date 3220,
unable to calculate month and day based on available data.”
said what everyone was thinking. “But that’s like 900 years difference, in the
computer must be malfunctioning, taking in some erroneous information,” Newly
said. “Or affected by the black hole’s radiation. Either that or we have to
believe that we have time traveled into the future. Which isn’t possible.”
wonder,” said Jordan. “I have a theory. Let me get to my console.” Once sitting
at her station, she began typing and bringing up various charts and queries. “Damn.
It works out. I never would have believed it.”
what’s going on? What have you figured out?” Mundy asked.
rational answer. It involves relativity. Science has found that Einstein was
correct in most of what he theorized. One of the effects of relativity is that
the faster a ship moves, the slower time passes within the ship. A ship going from
Earth to Alpha Centauri at half the speed of light could get there in 8.5 years
to outside observers, but the crew will have only experienced it as a year or
so. Experiments have proven this is correct. Well, we were in that black hole
for what, a week, maybe two? Davie said we were accelerated to .9 the speed of
light in the super-eddy. According to my calculations and Einstein’s
calculations back it up, what we experienced as ten days, at .85 light speed
the rest of the universe would experience as 900 years.”
That can’t be right,” Mundy stated.
math is correct, Rob,” she almost never called him by his first name while on
got into their history files. It says the World Aryan Federation defeated
United Earth 578 years ago, 2642 CE – old style, hence the date of 578 Anno
Imperium – ‘in the year of the Empire’. Shit. Pardon, Captain. It really
happened. They’re not aliens. They’re us. We’re in the future. And from what
I’ve seen in their files, we’re fucked.”
Come quickly.” Kell motioned to Smits. “Look,” he said once Smits was at his
station. “Heat signatures from within the vessel. There are warm blooded
to tell. I’d say maybe 15, certainly no more than 25.”
it’s not just mold growing on the decomposed bodies?”
Commandant. It has to be actual warm-blooded creatures.”
Someone may have salvaged it before we got here? How unfortunate. For them,”
said the Admiral. “We will have to relieve them of their burden. Anyway, they
were stuck in the event horizon. I’m sure they will be very grateful for our
officer. Can we contact them?”
believe so, mein Admiral. At least I can send a message to them. Whether they
answer is the question.”
it,” barked Als. “Send them this. Attention to anyone who may be on the vessel
we have in tow. I, Admiral Zariah Als, have claimed this vessel under Space
Salvage Laws of the World Aryan Federation, Third edition. Under Chapter 2, section
7 of said regulations I claim possession of the vessel and all contents. The
vessel will be brought into our cargo bay. Resistance will be met with
overwhelming force and perpetrators will be dealt with harshly. You will be
apprised of your disposition at a later date.”
doesn’t sound very friendly,” commented Mundy upon hearing the message from
Als. I would like to be ‘apprised of my disposition’ before I deliver myself
into his hands.”
found their Space Salvage rules while digging through their library,” Jimmy
said. “It says that any abandoned or stranded space vessel may be taken for
salvage only by a military commander. All cargo and contents become the
property of the salvager. Section 7 states that any ship that is not registered
with the Federation is contraband and any personnel taken are considered
criminals and may be sold as slaves.”
Jordan exclaimed. “No civilized people allow slavery.”
not in our world. But it looks like we’re not in our world anymore,” Jimmy
said. “And it’s worse than just that. Women have no rights. They are the
property of their father or husband. They aren’t allowed any kind of public
life. Most never leave the house.”
‘em barefoot and pregnant. Isn’t that what they used to say,” said Newly. It
wasn’t really a question. Her tone of voice showed it was a condemnation of the
not going to just give up to them are we, Captain,” asked a wide-eyed Anderson.
no,” growled an angry Jonesie. “Gimme a blaster and I’ll take out a dozen or more
before I go down. And I can set off a couple of neutron grenades for good
measure. Jonesie ain’t nobody’s slave!”
this is a science ship. We have no weaponry,” worried Dr. Harry Albright. He
and Dr. Gloria Righter were called in to represent the ten scientists on board.
“Surely they can be reasoned with.”
Albright, I’m a reasonable man and I’m all for reasoning with our new friends,
but I’m beginning to think that ship has sailed. I’ll make nice for now, but
I’m not opposed to letting loose a little of our force against them. Jimmy, how
many are on that ship?”
imaging indicates 90.”
10 warriors here. Each of us have to take out nine bad guys. I like our odds” Major
Donovan said with a grim grin.
you’re going to get us all killed, or worse,” complained Albright.
Dr. Albright. But I don’t fancy being a slave to some latter-day Nazi. You and
the scientists can hang back if you want, but I’m going in with a plan.”
the plan, Cap,” asked Jonesie.
think we need to tread softly for now. Much as I’d like to, we don’t need to go
in with guns blazing. We’ve determined that their technology is way behind
ours. I guess they must have lost a lot of it in some war. They don’t need to
know that. Jimmy said even his sister could hack their system. He and Anderson
and Jorgenson are tech whizzes. If we can get them into the bad guys’ ship system
we could throw a few curves. I imagine they’ll want to keep us together at
first. Albright, Righter, you keep your scientists together as much as
possible. If we’re going to make a break it needs to be early on. I don’t want
to leave anyone behind but if it’s between that and getting everyone else out,
I will leave your ass. If I say move, your people need to move.”
“We’ll be ready, Captain,” said
Righter, while silencing the blustering Albright.
“Good,” Mundy continued. “Dr.
Righter, tell your people to encrypt access to everything they have. If this
goes sideways, I don’t want to give them anything easily. My team. Make nice.
Get them comfortable. Encourage them to brag about their system. The more we
know, the better. Jimmy, encrypt all ship’s documents.”
meantime, Mundy sent Admiral Als a neutrally worded response saying that his
crew were a science team and posed no threat to him or the Empire. He said they
were stuck in the black hole, but not derelict. He indicated that they were
duly registered with United Earth which he assumed was no longer dominant. He
asked for asylum for the eminent scientists on board who could undoubtedly
provide new and valuable technologies to the Empire. He got no reply.
Konigsberg quickly became visible out the portholes. It bristled with antennae
and what were undoubtedly guns. It was obviously a warship. And it was huge.
They later discovered the majority of its size was made up of the large cargo
bay. It yawned before them like the maw of some ravenous beast of prey. Soon
they were completely engulfed. Their ship settled in the artificial gravity of
the bay and their gauges showed the air pressure was quickly approaching Earth
like it’s showtime, people. Look lively. We want to make a good impression,” Mundy
smiled, hoping to cheer up the somber group.
officers all had on their dress uniforms and the scientists, well, they were
still a motley looking crew. Through the porthole he could see the main gate
into the bay open. A detachment of about twenty soldiers trotted in and fanned
out to keep the ship under armed guard.
man and a slimmer one came in last and looked expectantly at the ship. Mundy
unlocked the hatch and a short ramp opened. He led his group out, the crew
marching orderly, the scientists crowded together and frightened looking. They
stopped short in front of Admiral Als. The man was Mundy’s height, broad and
dressed in a uniform with many medals and stripes. His greasy gray hair was
pulled back in a queue. A black patch over one eye gave him the look of a
pirate. Mundy suspected it was more than just a look. He had a short, grizzled
beard and appeared to be a hard worn fifty. The man beside him was shorter, younger
and dressed in a black uniform. The insignia on his uniform denoted Commander
rank. Looking at Als, Mundy brought up his right hand offering a military
salute. Als just looked at him and sneered.
is Captain Robert Mundy, commanding the United Earth ship Superior.”
Als gave him a backhanded slap. There was the sharp
intake of breath among Mundy’s officers but no one moved.
have no name unless I say so. You are a slave and are only to speak when spoken
to. You all live and die at my pleasure. Do you understand?”
Admiral,” Mundy replied tightly. No man had ever hit him and walked away
unscathed. Als would not be the first, he vowed.
of the cargo of the salvaged vessel you are my property. Please me and you will
be kept in my service. Displease me and there are unpleasant alternatives.
Eighteen of you. Is that your full complement?”
“Yes, Admiral.” Als motioned to
his soldiers and four trotted up the ramp to search the ship. A moment later
they came out and the leader nodded to Als.
“Where is the ship you came on?
Did you jettison it into the hole?”
“The Superior is our ship.”
Als grabbed Mundy by the throat
and lifted him to his toes.
“You lie! You have slipped onto
the ship I have claimed like vermin. My Reichsmagister has ways of extracting
information. You will tell me what you know, in time.” He lowered Mundy who had
begun to turn blue. As the captain massaged his throat, Als strode over to look
at the scientists who cowered before him.
you creatures have brains for your bodies are no good for work or sex. I
probably couldn’t get fifty credits for the lot of you. The crew is more
promising, especially the females. And a negress. There aren’t many out here
this far from Earth. I feel certain I can earn a healthy sum selling you.” Dr.
N’dutu looked at the captain nervously.
Albright shakily stepped forward.
I represent the scientists of Earth. At least the old Earth.” That was all he
got out before Als grabbed him by his mouth.
representative are you? That makes you a leader. Leaders don’t make good
slaves. Always troublemakers. Smits,” he said. The man in black drew his pistol-like
weapon from his waist and handed it to Als. He turned it and fired a short
blast of energy at Albright’s midsection. He immediately crumpled to the floor.
Several of the scientists cried out. Mundy made a move to approach him but was stopped
by Als’ hand on his chest.
usually don’t waste my resources but I believe this one has more value as a
lesson than on the market. You need to reconcile yourselves to your new status.
Speak out of turn to a free man and you will get a severe and painful
reprimand. Cross me and you will get the same fate as this slave. Take him to
the disposal,” he said to Smits.
crouched over the man. “He lives still,” he said.
better. To the disposal.” Smits signaled to two soldiers to come and help. They
lifted Albright with one under each arm. Though grievously wounded Albright
managed to raise his head and mutter unintelligibly. They drug him to a chute
marked ‘Disposal’. The soldiers hefted him up and tossed him in head first.
They closed the chute. There was a suctioning sound. Several of the scientists
slave is now free. Free to roam the void as he floats about in space. Anyone
care to join him? No? Good.” Turning back to his companion he said, “Smits, see
to the disposition of my new slaves.” With that he walked out.
holding cell it was pandemonium. Most of the scientists were wailing. Others
were throwing recriminations at Mundy for bringing them into such a dangerous
situation. One seemed catatonic.
up, damn you!” he cried. “You know the situation we’re in. You can work with it
or die. I’d suggest you grow a little steel in your spines and show these
savages what you can do. If you don’t, they are liable to throw you out the
disposal like Albright.” There was silence as they all stared at him as if he
were the enemy. He had only told them the truth. He sat down on the floor
might as well work on the assumption they are listening in,” he whispered in
she said quietly without moving her lips. “Then again, their technology is
Karen get around to everyone, including the scientists, without making it
obvious. Maybe get Anderson to help. Remind them that they are to cooperate for
the time being and keep their eyes and ears open. We need to gather as much
intel as possible.”
had no sense of time. They were in a windowless room with constant lighting. Jimmy
had already whispered to him that with a pick Digger had secreted in his shoe either
of them could easily disengage the ancient lock on the door. Good to know.
what seemed like hours the man in black came in followed by an assistant and
four armed soldiers. He carried what looked like an old-fashioned riding crop. Mundy
rose and stood in front of his people indicating he was the one to speak to. He
didn’t try to speak first. He had learned that lesson.
sneered the man. “You wait for your master to speak. That is the first and
often the most difficult lesson for former free men to grasp. I am Commandant
Smits. It is my unenviable task to advise you in the ways of slavery, to ease
you into your new situation, as it were. This is Bundesleiter von Hoek. You will
address us as master at all times.
may have surmised, while you are the property of Admiral Als, you are to submit
to questions and directions of all officers on the Konigsberg. Officers only. You
will be advised if you are to entertain the troops.” He leered evilly at this
remark. He stepped forward, moving Mundy out of the way with a wave of his hand
and looked over the scientists.
Admiral wishes to know if his property has any scientific value. You,” he said,
pointing the crop at Vince Rhodes. “Yes, you will do to start. Guards, take
this one for testing.” Two of the armed soldiers grabbed Vince by either arm
and marched him out of the cell. He looked back over his shoulder, terrified.
strolled back toward Mundy and his officers. He stopped and used his crop to
lift Mundy’s chin. “If you were five years younger I might use you. You’re
definitely attractive enough. But a little older than what I like. Now you, on
the other hand,” he said looking at Karen and running the crop down her arm.
“You are also just what I like. Guards, take her to my quarters.” He turned and
left with von Hoek in his wake as the other two guards grabbed Karen. Mundy and
Anderson tried to intervene but were clubbed into submission by the soldiers.
was returned what seemed like many hours later.
terribly frightened but they just wanted to test my level of knowledge. I
quickly outstripped anything they knew. They are terribly backward. I’m amazed that
at their level of physics that they are actually spacefaring. They are much
like us back at the beginning of the twenty-first century.”
pulled Maynard Johnson next.
last Karen was returned. She was being dragged by two soldiers. They opened the
door and unceremoniously threw her in. Mundy and N’dutu rushed to her side. She
was badly beaten and still bleeding from a number of wounds, some serious
looking. Her uniform was in shreds. They applied what first aid they could.
When she was able to talk she said her right arm might also be fractured. They
formed a sling with Mundy’s overshirt.
slaves are also used for sexual pleasure. That is what Smits wanted. I went
along for a while, trying to be nice, but put him off. He got a little too
personal so I let him have it, and I don’t mean my body.” Mundy smiled grimly
considering this. Karen was the best hand at martial arts on his ship. She
regularly handed Mundy his ass at sparing. “Yeah, I kicked his ugly ass good
until the guards got into it. It took three of them to take me down but I got some
good licks in. Two of the guards are in sick bay because of me. And that slimy
bastard in black will be walking funny for a few days. Donovan said we each
needed to take out nine. Only six to go for me, Cap,” she grinned weakly
through swollen, bloody lips at Mundy. “You guys need to catch up.”
of an plan took root in Mundy’s brain. When they brought Maynard back several
soldiers arrived with food. It wasn’t anything fancy, just bread, thin soup and
water, but they were all famished. Mundy had noticed that when Smits had
dismissed him as too old for his sexual tastes, von Hoek’s eyebrows raised. He
also noticed after that how von Hoek took a long last look at him. Von Hoek was
supervising the soldiers setting out the food. Mundy stood close to him and
made eye contact. He smiled in a seductive manner and licked his upper lip with
the tip of his tongue. With a smirk he strolled away, rolling his hips. Newly
once told him when drunk that he had the “best damn ass in the navy”. Message delivered, he thought.
the meal the soldiers took Larry Bostwick for testing. When he returned several
hours later the lights dimmed. There were eighteen blankets piled by the door.
They huddled on the floor, seeking comfort in each other. They had only been
down a short while when the door opened and von Hoek and four soldiers entered.
“You,” von Hoek pointed at Mundy. “And…that one,” pointing at Jimmy. They were
both quickly grabbed and hustled out of the room. They were taken down a
corridor but then separated.
“Where are you taking him?”
“Silence, slave. You do not
speak unless your master addresses you. Aren’t you concerned for yourself
rather than this other slave?” von Hoek asked.
“Jimmy is my responsibility.
You’re in a command position. You should understand,” he reasoned.
“Oh, tut. We’re past all that.
You have no responsibilities other than pleasing your master. And right now,
that’s me. Smits may have thought you were too old, but he likes little boys
anyway. I understand the bitch he pulled kicked his ass. She’ll be severely
disciplined for that. The admiral ought to have her whipped or throw her to the
troops for sport, but with her looks, she’s worth too much. She’ll bring him a fortune
on the open market. You probably will, too. But for now, you’re just my type.
And don’t worry about your little friend. A couple of the guards I owe a favor
to saw him and thought he was cute. They asked for some play time with him.
He’ll be fine. They know not to permanently damage the property of the
Admiral.” Mundy felt sick at the fate of poor Jimmy.
The guards deposited Mundy in
what he supposed was van Hoek’s quarters. Deposited was the best term seeing as
they walked him in, dropped him on the single bed and walked out.
“Now, slave. Let’s review. The
guards are just outside. One word from me and they will beat you senseless. I can
also have you gelded, take the fight right out of you. Make me happy and I’ll
see about cutting short your little friend’s time with the guards. I’ve seen
the looks you gave me. Let’s not pretend. You can begin by taking off your
shirt.” The thought of even touching van Hoek made Mundy’s skin crawl. The man
was skinny, had bulging eyes and receded hair. The officer’s uniform did little
to improve the image. Still, Mundy had a plan and enough experience to know how
to remove his undershirt seductively.
“Nice,” purred von Hoek. “I like
a man with a little hair on his chest.” He came close and slid his hand along
Mundy’s chest, allowing hairs to slip between his fingers. Stepping back a pace
he quickly removed the tunic of his uniform. Mundy was repulsed at the sallow,
sunken chest that was revealed. Then von Hoek was back on him, kissing his neck
and mouthing the area around his ears and where his neck joined his shoulders.
Mundy slid his hands up von Hoek’s chest, slowing to caress his nipples. Von
Hoek hissed an intake of breath and then groaned his pleasure. He grabbed
Mundy’s head and kissed him on the mouth, his tongue seeking entrance. Mundy
slid his hands up to cup von Hoek’s head also. Then with a violent wrench he
twisted it until von Hoek could see his backside. But by then von Hoek could
see nothing. He was dead.
Mundy allowed himself a momentary
shudder to rid himself of the essence of von Hoek. Then tapping his earlobe he
whispered, “Donovan. You there?”
“Been waiting on you, Cap.
What’s the situation?”
“Where are you and Jorgenson?”
They had stayed behind in a hidden compartment when the crew went out to meet
“Still in the Superior. We went
out and got the guards. There were four of them and three techs. Those disposal
chutes are really neat. Anyway, we have new uniforms and weapons. And sorry
about Dr. A. We were watching from inside the ship.”
“Good, just outside the cargo
bay is a map of the ship. I’m in a private quarter on deck B, number 25. Think
you two can get here on the double?”
“Sure thing. See you in five.”
“I think there are two guards on
While he waited, Mundy put von
Hoek’s body in his closet. If anyone were to casually glance in the room they
wouldn’t notice anything amiss. A few moments later there was a sizzling sound
of an energy blast, as if from a laser weapon outside and then a quiet tap at the
door. It opened to reveal Donovan and Jorgenson in WAF uniforms with a dazed
soldier held up between them and two more lying apparently dead in the hallway.
Mundy raised his eyebrows at Donovan.
“Mr,” he glanced down at the
soldier’s name tag, “Zmeckis here got a little too interested in our presence.
We cocked him and the next soldiers we met we just told we were taking him to
sick bay.” Jorgenson had already dragged the two dead soldiers into the room as
Donovan talked. He ripped the cover off the bed and tore strips from it. They
securely gagged Mr. Zmeckis, tied his arms and legs and loaded him in the
closet with von Hoek. It was a tight fit. They loaded the other two into the
“Von Hoek is, or rather was
officer level so he must have some kind of security clearance. See if you can
get onto the ship’s systems from his connection, Jorgenson,” Mundy said.
“Security on this system is for
shit,” Jorgenson said disdainfully. “It’s an open book to me.” He went over the
ship systems and conferred with Donovan. After a short time Donovan sat on the
bed with Mundy.
“Ok, Cap. Here’s the plan.
Jorgenson is going to divert all bridge control to engineering. He’ll have to
do if from engineering, though, so you and Jorgenson head on down to engineering.
Here’s a view of it.” Jorgenson showed him a screen that was apparently a live
feed from engineering. They could see three guards and two engineers. “You two
will need to neutralize those guys. Jorgenson then can lock all control systems
into engineering. Bridge will notice it immediately, but I will create a
diversion so don’t worry about them.”
“Still, it won’t take the eighty
or so soldiers left long to get there and break in.”
“No, it won’t. That’s why
Jorgenson is going to do his stuff in two minutes, tops. Then you two are outta
there. He’s going to release the clamps on the ship and disable the tractor
beam and weaponry. Then scuttle the whole system.”
“We can’t get the ship out
without the bay door open and if the door is open we can’t get to the ship.”
“I got it covered. Jorgenson
said there is a fifteen second delay function on the air lock. Once y’all are
in, I press the button and run like hell for the ship.”
“What are our chances of pulling
this off?” Mundy asked.
“Seriously? I’d say slim to
none. You got any better ideas?” Mundy had to shake his head that he didn’t.
“Let me bring Jennifer up to
date.” He tapped his lobe again and talked softly to his second in command. She
reported that everyone else was in the cell except Jimmy.
“Keep trying to open his
frequency. We’ll do what we can to find him.”
“Jimmy Cain is missing. Some
guards grabbed him the same time they got me. He could be anywhere. Jennifer’s
trying to raise him.”
“I don’t like to leave anyone
behind but if it’s between getting 18 people off this ship and zero, I know
where I stand. You’re the Cap, though. I’ll leave it up to you.” Donovan handed
him the laser pistol he’d pulled off a guard.
“Jorgenson, ping me when you’re
They only encountered two
soldiers on the way to engineering. They shot them both and gained two more
hand weapons. Mundy hated killing indiscriminately, but this was a battle
situation. Jorgenson tugged his earlobe when they were in place. He palmed open
the door and they went in all four guns blazing. They quickly had engineering
under control and Jorgenson got to work on the controls. Mundy pinged Jennifer
and told her to get their people moving. He told her Digger could open the door
and she and Anderson could neutralize the guards. The scientists would have to
help Jordan. He specifically reminded her that lethal force was acceptable.
By the time he finished giving
orders Jorgenson was grabbing him and heading for the door. By this time the
red alert lights and horn were blaring.
As they were exiting the control room Jorganson lobbed a couple of neutron
grenades behind him at the engine core. The entire ship lurched when they went
off, detonating one engine with as well.
They fought their way to the
cargo bay. Resistance was light seeing as the ship was caught off guard and
chaos reigned. Donovan had apparently disrupted their chain of command by
destroying the bridge. As they were getting near their destination they ran up
with Donovan. His eyes were bright. It was clear he was in his element. Mundy’s
ear pinged and he heard Jennifer saying they had heard from Jimmy. He said he
was in pretty bad shape and disoriented. He doubted he could make it to the
cargo bay on his own. She gave them his coordinates.
“I’ll get the boy. You two get
to the ship,” Donovan said. Mundy wanted to disagree, say Jimmy was his
responsibility but the reality was that Donovan had the better chance of getting
himself and Jimmy to the ship alive. As they approached the bay they heard
laser pistol fire and a familiar roar.
“Take that, you filthy Nazi
scum!” Jonesie was giving the Nazis what for. With Mundy and Jorgenson coming
up on their rear they were quickly dispatched. No time for prisoners.
“Good work, Cap. Any more of
them filthy buggers?” Jonesie asked. He seemed eager for more action.
“I believe we’re in the clear
for the moment. You help get all the passengers in the ship. And I want my
engines ready to go, pronto.”
“On it, Cap.” He ran for the
Jennifer was warming the engines
when Jorgenson pushed Mundy toward the ship.
“You go. I need to be able to
give covering fire for Donovan if the baddies beat him here. Then I’ll open the
“No both of us can give more
cover. Then we can all get on the ship. The fifteen second delay…”
“There’s no delay. We just said
that to brook argument. Donovan’s plan all along was to get us all on the ship
and open the bay himself. He’s got enough neutron grenades in his bag to
destroy the entire ship and he plans to do it. So if he doesn’t make it, I need
to open the door. I’m not about heroics or any of that shit. I just have a job
to do and I do it. It’s the Marine way.”
Mundy remembered when the
mission began he had wondered if two Marines would be of any use if the
situation got hairy. Now these two Marines had together saved all their lives. And
willingly gave theirs in doing so. Mundy was not a man given to much emotion,
but damn, he thought, that was brave.
He got to the ship. Jennifer
already had the engines ready. All he needed was to engage and they’d be on their
way. He saw several laser shots hit the door above Jorgenson and he returned
fire. Then Jorgenson turned and looked at Mundy through the portal and hit the
‘emergency open door’ button. Inside the cargo bay you could hear the great
whoosh as all the air rushed out of the opening door. He saw Jorgenson crouch
on the other side of the door and return fire again. The bay door was about
halfway open when it stopped. Then slowly it began to close.
“Oh, shit. Als’ people found an
override,” Mundy said. He had to think quick. “Jennifer, shields on maximum. Davie,
on impulse power, back us up as far from the door as possible.”
“Captain, you’re not thinking…?”
“Damn straight. Full power
forward. Engage!” To tell the truth, he wasn’t sure if the ship would survive
breaking through the cargo bay door. But he didn’t see any reason to stay behind.
It was now or never. The Superior was a tough little ship and survived crashing
through the door, leaving twisted metal in its wake. They flew clear of the
larger ship. Anderson yelled “Yeehaaa!” as they burst free. Their spirits all
soared with the little ship.
Donovan had planned on lobbing
two neutron grenades into the bridge. If Als was there at the time, he was a
goner. Good, Mundy thought. With the havoc they created in the engine room, he
doubted they would ever leap to hyper drive again. Hell, impulse might even be
a challenge. Without controls the weapons were offline, as was the tractor
beam. Now for the really crazy part of my plan, he thought.
“Captain, we’re being followed,”
“Apparently it’s a shuttle
craft. It doesn’t have much range, but it’s fast and sensors show it’s armed.”
“Shields aft, full power!” Mundy
yelled, expecting a proton torpedo or laser cannon blast.
“Sir, we’re being hailed,” Karen
“Patch it through.”
The connection was tenuous and
the words were scratchy but the message came through loud and clear.
“Got room for four hitchhikers, Cap?” Donovan crowed.
“You old devil. I thought sure
they got you,” Mundy said, overjoyed.
“It’ll take more than a few
dickhead Nazis to take me out. I got a couple of presents for you. See you in
five. I just have a couple of torpedoes to get rid of.”
“Karen. Aft screen,” Mundy
commanded. Before them they saw the little shuttle craft and the huge
Konigsberg looming in the background. Two tiny missiles shot out of the back of
the speeding craft, headed for the mothership. Both were direct hits, setting
off a chain reaction of other explosions. Within moments the ship was shambles.
Ironically, there was little left to salvage.
Within five minutes the shuttle
had come up alongside the Superior. Anderson connected it with the grappling
hooks. Donovan said they had four space suits so they could tether and walk
over. The airlock was small so they had to come in one at a time. The first one
in and out of his suit was Jimmy Cain. No one was more glad to see him than
Anderson. He wrapped Jimmy up in his long arms.
“Bud. I so thought I’d lost
“I so thought you had, too,”
Jimmy deadpanned. His face was badly bruised but he seemed to be holding up
well, until suddenly he collapsed, weeping.
“I’ll take him to our quarters,”
Anderson said. He helped Jimmy out of the room. Dr. Vera Jong, who had an
extensive background in counseling followed them. Jimmy might need to talk with
her a few times.
Second through the door was
Jorgenson. Mundy hugged him and slapped him on the back.
“Our other present is coming
next,” Jorgenson said.
An unknown man took off his suit next. He was young,
pleasant looking and seemed very frightened.
said, “Meet Bunde Christophe Verhoven. He found Jimmy, shot three guards who
had Donovan pinned down and asked for asylum. I didn’t see how we could turn
him down. He said he couldn’t stand anymore of Als, the Nationalists or the
Empire. I think the guy finally found his moral center.
cheered when Donovan came through the door.
“Mundy,” he said. “Against all
odds, that crazy plan worked. I never thought it would.”
pretty much anything is possible with two leathernecks and an old squid. Hell,
I’ll even say Semper Fi.”
“Ok, the testosterone’s getting
a little thick in here,” said Jennifer.
appeared in the doorway with fire in his eyes.
filthy bastards!” he raged at Verhoven. “You freaking assholes! Your soldiers raped
Jimmy. I swear I’ll kill every one of you. He lunged at the soldier but was
intercepted by Donovan and Mundy.
cowboy,” Donovan crooned softly.
down, Anderson. That’s an order. This man saved Jimmy and Donovan’s lives and
has been offered asylum. We can’t blame him for what the others did.” Mundy
held on to Anderson as he cried in his arms.
sorry for what they did,” pleaded Verhoven. “The Empire breeds violence like
that. That’s what I want to get away from.”
we may be a lonely little outpost of civilization, but welcome aboard,
soldier,” said Mundy.
“I hate to break up the party, but we still
have a huge problem. We’re nine hundred years from our time in the middle of an
evil empire.” Jennifer looked at Mundy expectantly.
of improbable plans, I have an idea,” Mundy announced. “Before we got deep into
the black hole Karen and I had a talk with our physics expert Dr. Righter. Her
calculations show that the anomaly she found at the black hole was most likely
likely as in really might be or wishful thinking?” asked Jennifer.
in between,” admitted Karen. “Einstein theorized they would be in the center of
a black hole, but Gloria’s equations and data indicate this to be an
extra-solar temporal distortion, i.e. a wormhole not in the center of a black
even possible?” Jennifer wanted to know.
knows what’s possible? Gloria says she’s convinced her math is correct. If we
fly the Superior into it there’s a good chance the shield would keep it from
crushing us. It would probably be navigable and should deposit us somewhere and
sometime else, not sure where or when.”
chance, probably, might? Why don’t we just follow the yellow brick road while
we’re at it? Maybe we’ll end up in Kansas,” Jennifer was unconvinced.
point, if I found a yellow brick road, I’d follow it. We know what this time in
this universe holds for us. I don’t want to stick around. This wormhole is a
chance to escape. There’s no guarantees. But if we survive, it will put us
somewhere, sometime, in some universe. Odds are, whatever we find, it will be
better than what we’re leaving. It would be hard pressed to be worse.”
in,” said Donovan, with Jorgenson nodding.
“If our friends are going into
the black hole, I guess we should, too,” said Jorgenson.
we were in the engine room, I entered a new flight plan and gave the ship a
push. It’s set to drift right for the middle of the black hole. I decided that a
black hole was a nice resting place for their black hearts.” Donovan raised his
fist, grinning, and Jorgenson bumped it.
Righter spoke up. “The scientists have decided we want to go, also.”
we all want to go, Captain,” said Karen, and Jennifer nodded.
Everybody buckle in. It’s going to be a rough ride.”
Over the next few minutes
everything in the ship was battened or stowed. The scientists buckled in and
the crew took their places.
Righter gave me the coordinates for the anomaly. All laid in. Awaiting your
orders, Captain,” Anderson said. He decided it felt good to be able to say that