Cavanaugh Interstellar, Episode 2: Dispatched

“…it seems the locals call it ‘Earth’.”

Read the whole story so far here… http://neilenock.com/books/cavanaugh-interstellar/

 

The viewscreens on the bridge of the Aurelana echoed the screens ringing the giant Command center of the moon-sized complex that the ship was tethered to. Instructor Jordrye paced slowly across the bridge as Galaxy after Galaxy flickered across the screens behind him.

“Like all other Axis stations, the control center here at Axis 7 monitors events throughout the Universe. When an unregistered event is encountered, the closest Axis station to the event is put on alert and a treaty ship dispatched.”

He paused and looked thoughtfully at the bridge crew.  Almost graduated, this was to be their first joint training exercise.  They had all been placed according to their skill levels, but today’s test would surely prompt a few adjustments.

Before he could offer further wisdom on the possible nature of their journey, alarm klaxons sounded in the audio stream from the command center, echoed seconds later by the klaxons on their bridge.

“Aurelana, this is Axis 7 command,” the transmission filled the bridge.

Jordrye looked at Zaughn, the trainee captain of the ship and nodded his approval.

“Axis 7 this is the Aurelana,” Zaughn responded.

“We have an unregistered event on an oxygen planet in sector C17, Galaxy P3542. Aurelana is listed as oxygen breathing and is next in the queue.  Confirm status.”

“Affirmative command, Aurelana is oxygen based and mission ready.” Zaughn responded. He had used the proper phrase, so the docking clamps disengaged automatically and the ship floated free of the dock.

“Coordinates are being uploaded. Pre-encounter scans are underway. Standard protocol.”

“Affirmative command, Aurelana engaged.” Zaughn looked around at his crew. “Alert the treaty team and stand by to receive preliminary civ data, Nav, bring us into course alignment.”

As the viewscreens flickered to external views, he looked to Jordrye, for assurance.

“Just fine, Captain,” Jordye nodded. “Although the correct response to command should have been ‘Training ship ready’. ’Mission ready’ is the correct response for a fully commissioned crew.”

“Shall I…?” Zaughn was anxious to get it perfect.

“Leave it,” Jordrye winked at Zaughn. “They didn’t catch the error.”

Zaughn nodded and signaled for a ship-wide broadcast.

“Crew of the Aurelana, we have a standard protocol treaty mission to an un-logged planet. I  want all departments to code ready in…” he looked at the Navigator.

“Seven ticks sir,” the Nav said without looking up from his screen.

“Five ticks,” Zaughn said into the com.

“Shai’Hara-Lee,” the ships computer addressed her while informing the contact lab. “You are in rotation and will have the honor of contact.”

Shai’Hara-Lee tried to keep her wings from unfurling or jittering in excitement. She bowed her head to the computer, which was a completely unnecessary acknowledgment, then took a deep breath, scanned her console and dove into her job as team leader.

“Affirmative Aurelana. Preliminary scan data is coming in from command now,” she paused. ”The rest of you continue on data analysis. We transit in five clicks. Poll the environs and civ data so that we can do the best job possible.”

“Environs are coming in. Oxygen atmosphere confirmed,” Chairel, one of the other trainees seemed to be all over it. “There are some odd particulate readings…”

He changed his tone and spoke directly to the ship’s computer. “‘Aurelana, can you assist?”

“I’m sorry Chairel,” the computer answered, “On a training mission, all data analysis except linguistics must be conducted by trainees.”

“Thanks for nothing, ‘Lana.” He quietly muttered the ship’s informal name, then continued to the rest of the team, “I can’t find anything resembling planetary archives, but there is a planet wide data web we’re able to view.”

“The civ data is the same,” T’lu added. “I can’t find a central repository, just random data streams. I’ll need linguistics to interpret this into civilization data.”

“Linguistics is processing, Stand by. Two ticks until transit alignment,” Aurelana warned them.

Zon quietly beckoned Shai’Hara-Lee over to his terminal, a worried look on his face.  When she arrived he kept his voice low. “I’ve got something for you, but you’re not going to like it.”

He un-blanked his screen. As she read it, her fur flouresced a bright yellow. Her wings furled tighter around her as she spun around and headed back to her station, tight lipped.

T’lu looked at Zon, His single eyebrow raised questioningly.  Zon smiled back mischievously, then quickly glared at T’lu to keep quiet.

Aurelana interrupted her mood, “Stand by for transit.”

Shai’Hara-Lee was fighting to get her color under control and fading back to her normal canary-yellow hue, when Aurelana continued. “Treaty team to the bridge. Transit in one tick.”

As they popped into the bridge, Shai’Hara-Lee queried the computer. “Aurelana, do we know where we are going?”

A blue-green, planet flashed onto the centre screen as the transit data appeared on the side screens and the hum of the emitters rose. “Linguistics are still compiling, but it seems the locals call it ‘Earth’.”