Cavanaugh Interstellar, Episode 5: Too Soon

 

“What do you mean ‘if this were a REAL First Contact situation’?…”

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

 

The door slid open and Shai’Hara-Lee led us onto the bridge of the Aurelana. At least she tried to. I was blocking the door, looking down through where one might hope a floor would be as smoke billowed from the broken office tower below. She cocked her head and then realization dawned. “It can be made to seem transparent,” she said, comfortably standing there on nothing at all. “Much more efficient than picking out details from a viewscreen.”

We cautiously stepped forward into the flurry of activity that engulfed the bridge. Various creatures were in animated discussions while others were delving deeply into their screens, all seemed to be frantically searching for something. With all the commotion going on, nobody noticed us until Aurelana announced us.

“Captain, you have visitors on the bridge.”

The silence that fell was epic. Like when the gunslinger walks into the saloon and the whole place goes silent…

“Gordon?” Shai’Hara-Lee looked him with puzzled eyes. “What is a ‘gunslinger’?”

Damn. I must have said that out loud. “Uh, nothing. Really!”

The steely-eyed adolescent in the center seat addressed him. “I am Zaughn, Captain of the Aurelana.”

“Hi.  I’m Gordon of Cavanaugh Tru…, er, Interstellar.”

“Welcome Gordon. Perhaps you can clear up something for us?” Zaughn asked, a little too politely.

“Like why you used the K’ltchy field to strike at these towers?” T’lu’s accusation was plain.

“We didn’t.” Joel answered.

“Actually, we did.” Bruce corrected him, and everyone else on the bridge drew their breath.

“Yes, but that was an accident.” I added. “We had a containment failure.”

Zaughn regarded us carefully. “So you had no reason to strike at these buildings or those in them?”

“Uh, these are the towers of oil companies that laid us off, said there was no work, then outsourced all of our jobs.” I said. “ We have plenty of reason to strike at them. But we didn’t.”

Zaughn turned and addressed the shadows behind him. “How can we believe this?” The robed figure stirred, but remained silent.

Vaughn spun as the door slid open again and Vlad and Lily cautiously tested the floor, then moved to join us. Light glinted through the hole that remained in Vlad’s side. I pointed the hole out to Zaughn. “Because we wouldn’t punch a hole through anyone, especially one of our own.”

“There was no sign of directed energy.” Shai’Hara-Lee added. “Even their facility was destroyed by the failure.”

“That’s another thing.” Zon joined in, changing the subject. “Where is your planetary research center, the space docks, the central gov.? It’s all missing.”

“There is a reason for that.” Aurelana interjected.

“Go on,” Vaughn directed Aurelana.

“Based on analysis of cultural and science data, Earth’s civilization should not achieve Zero Point energy for at least another 1000 years. I have downloaded their ‘Google’ from the ‘cloud’ as they call it, and analyzed it. Unless it is full of lies and omissions, they have not yet had first crisis, or even attempted a planetary government. There are no unified facilities. They should never have been able to achieve Zero Point energy.”

T’lu’s expression changed as he looked at them in awe. “Wow, they’re like, prehistorical!”

“Zaughn.” Shai’Hara-Lee said quietly.

“Forgive T’lu,” Zaughn said to us, ignoring her. “He is ship’s archeologist.”

“ZAUGHN.” She said firmly.

“Yes, Shai’Hara-Lee?”

“We have already signed a treaty.”

“Well that’s not possible.” The robed figure finally spoke as he moved forward. In the light he seemed somehow older than anyone else they’d seen. “With whom? There is no central gov. There is no authority here capable of signing.”

“Instructor Jordrye,” Shai-Hara-Lee acquiesced. “That’s why we signed the treaty with Cavanaugh Interstellar, these ones who created the field.”

“This is a serious breach of protocol Shai’Hara-Lee.” Jordrye informed her. “If this were a real first contact situation, the planetary government would simply have to be the signatory. There is no precedent for an independent group achieving the field.”

“But they -are- the ones that created it.” She argued. “Who better to educate the rest of their society to Universal standards.”

“Wait, What?” I asked, finally catching up. “What do you mean ‘if this were a REAL First Contact situation’?”

Zaughn waved at the damaged city below them. “This is only a drill,” He explained. “A training exercise for our new crew.”

“A very good drill.” Jordrye added. “The falling buildings, the destruction, a pre-K’itchy society. No central gov. This is a wonderful trial. Training section has outdone itself this time.”

The rest of the bridge crew looked smug. Zaughn seemed almost happy. Shai’Hara-Lee was un-convinced.

It was time to clear things up.

“Look,” I said firmly.” I don’t know what you guys think is going on here, but this is no drill. That is my planet out there, and those really are buildings with holes in them.”

Behind me, Vlad loudly cleared his throat. “Yeah, and him too!”  I added.

“He is correct, Instructor Jordrye,” Aurelana confirmed. “When Captain Zaughn responded with ‘Mission Ready’ protocol instead of the training response, the Aurelana was moved to Ready status and Axis dispatched us here for a mission.” she paused. “I assumed you would know this.”

“So, when I told Zaughn not to correct the response…” Jordrye’s voice trailed off as he thought about it. He stared hard at Gordon. “You really discovered this by yourselves? Just you five?”

I nodded.

He looked down through the transparent floor. “And the ship is really keeping this building… from collapsing?”

“Yes.” Aurelana confirmed.

“I see.” Jordrye wobbled.

Then the building wobbled, lurching the ship with it. The sudden motion must have knocked something loose from the top of the building. All at once proximity alarms went off and Aurelana announced, “Shields!” A jagged piece of metal punched through the ceiling of the bridge, then was stopped, mid-perforation, by the glowing force of the shield that the ship had activated.