Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Lost Calling - Chapter 4

Chapter 4

Gavriel System Gate - NX-G5411698
Gavriel System, Inner Bellus Arm

"There it is," Arabel pointed at one of her displays. Touching a thin point of light on the screen the pixel expanded into a detailed schematic of the Nexus Gate. The diagram spun into two seperate two-dimensional images showing the ring-like object from different angles while listing out current information about its relative systems.
"How much further?" Calrose asked, her mind was back on track, plotting out her objectives for the next stage of her plan, ignoring those parts that had already gone awry. She fell back on her military training. After the initial shock of what she had done, she had to press on. Complete her mission and worry about the ramifications later. What's done is done, as her mother used to always say.
"Another two megameters to the gate. If you keep this heading we should see the entry vector beacons soon."
A moment's pause and the captain pointed out of her viewport window. "There. I see it."
"And it looks like we're not alone," the purple numan said, pulling up even more scan data onto her screens. "I am picking up at least three more of those nasty ships orbiting the gate."
"Dammit," Calrose muttered solemnly.
"Well I suppose it couldn't have been that easy," Arabel said and then immediately regretted it. "Sorry, Cap."
The captain ignored the comment and the apology. She was determined to stay on point.

 "They haven't spotted us yet, but there is no way they are letting us get near that gate," Jett looked through the screens on his side of the cockpit, as if the solution would be hidden in some data readout.
Calrose powered down the engines and let the craft position itself in a solitary point in space. They sat less than a million meters away from the floating ring in space, a line of bright beacons pointing their way to the hidden gate.
Calrose rotated her chair and turned from her controls. Arching her back and trying to shake the stiffness from her joints. She stood slowly, looking over at Arabel and then to Jett.
"Well, any other bright ideas?" the captain said, her voice betrayed her thoughts as it was apparent she still couldn't fully shake the guilt of what just happened.
Arabel looked up.
"I think I might have one," she grinned. "If you can get us within five-hundred meters of that gate, I think I can get through to the coord-dialer." She paused a moment, her fingers twitched in the air as her eyes turned up toward the ceiling. The other two were used to watching Arabel think through an idea in her head, gesturing the commands on imaginary screens. She turned back to them, a disheartened look washed over her lilac features. "Of course, at that distance they will just blow us into space dust. And at that speed, even if we could make it through, we'd barely have time to get the gate open, let alone dialed."
The teenager's shoulders drooped as she slumped in her chair. Thin purple lips tried their best to pout as Arabel sat, disappointed in herself.
Calrose turned to see Jett hopping onto the ladder leading to the lower deck.
"Jett?" she inquired.
He turned on the ladder, "I think I've got something." His head disappeared down the opening in the floor. His voice soon returned over the comm system. "Bel, if we can get close enough, can you get us through the gate, even without dialing?"
Arabel looked at her CDT where Jett's voice was emanating from the small speaker. She looked shocked that anyone would even suggest such a thing.
"You want to do a cold jump?! But we could..."
"Can you do it," Jett interrupted her.
"Yeah." Arabel responded, a touch of uncertainty in her voice.
"And, boss, can you fly this thing straight at the gate full tilt, hitting the event horizon right after Bel connects?"
A dour look crossed the captain's face. "This is a really stupid idea, Jett. I can gun it right at the gate, but the instant they see us we are done for."
"Not if we plan on a cold jump," Jett responded. The two women in the cockpit looked at each other, hearing the enormous smile on Jett's face.

- - -

Jett fumbled through the organized disaster that was his engineering bay. He liked to keep things tidy, but even on a good that wasn't always possible. Keeping this old hunk of scrap running took a lot of ingenuity and creativity. He collected parts from other ships, never sure what might do in a pinch. This just happened to be a real pinch.
"Where the hell is that thing," he mumbled to himself, spilling out the contents of a container onto one of the workspaces. Finding a few more elusive parts he began cobbling something together. The developing product of his labor was hardly pretty. In fact, it didn't look much different than the pile of parts heaped onto the work surface.
"How are your preparations going up there?" Jett called out over the comms.
"Bel has everything rigged up like you want," the captain responded. "You sure you want to try this? Flying at the gate full throttle, then shut off every system in the ship? Running cold is dangerous enough, with enemy fighters around, but you are asking me to thread a two kilometer needle from over a thousand kilometers away."
Jett shrugged though no one else could see him. "I have seen you fly this thing for years. And I don't want every system off. Bel still needs access to the coord-dialer, but she can handle most of those controls through her jack. See if we run cold as we approach..."
Arabel, grinning with excitement as she caught on. "Then we can mask our signature and they won't see us coming! That's brilliant! I can open the gate at the last minute, and we'll jump through before they even know what hit them."
Calrose's sigh was audible over the comm.
"Well, what do you think, boss?" Jett held up his construct though no one in the cockpit could see what he was doing. It was heavy and awkward, but it would do the job.
"That is going to take some guts, and a lot of hope that my aim isn't off. Once we go silent, I will have no control of the ship." There was a pregnant silence over the comms. "It's still a stupid idea. But it's just stupid enough to work. You both accept the ramifications if this works right? Cold dialing isn't just advised against because it could kill us."
"I think we can handle it, Captain," Jett replied. He didn't hear Arabel's response, it was unnecessary for her to reply to the captain over the comms when she was in the same room.
"Then I guess my last question is, how do we keep them from just seeing us outside their window as we drift past?"
"That is precisely why I am down here, boss. If this thing works, that is."
"What thing?" Arabel inquired curiously.
Jett patted the piecemeal contraption on the table. "I have been working on an idea for quite some time that I have finally found a real use for. If I rig a device to deliver a payload of micro repair-synths into space, and if I can get them to release a strong enough signal, at just the right time."
"There is a lot of 'ifs' in that, Jett," the captain warned.
"Trust me, Captain, if this works, I think I can distract them long enough to let us slip past."

- - -

"Okay, we are all good to go up here," Arabel reported over the comms for Jett to hear.
"Yeah, all set here too," he replied, his tinny voice sounding squeaky coming out of the CDT. "I have rigged this carrier to move away from the ship then deploy the synths in all directions. A minute after they launch they will deliver a signal blast, allowing them to pop up on scans."
Arabel grinned. "It'll look like two dozen ships suddenly came out of no where."
"Let's hope that is enough to get their attention," said Calrose, dropping back into her seat and taking the controls. She fired up the engines and began positioning the ship along the vector becons. The glowing signals floating in space laid out a trajectory grid for ships entering and exiting the gate, warning any ships in the area of where sudden hypergate traffic might emerge. But with the local system's network of signals being jammed, they provided little other than a visual cue for where the gate was.
The ship roared as they gained velocity. Calrose's thin fingers made tiny adjustments to their path. She narrowed her eyes into a near scowl as she did her best to judge where the gate was going to be.
"Lining up with the gate," she reported. It was do or die now. "Approaching optimal speed."
"Launching synths," Jett called in. He triggered the jettison of his device out of a side ejection tube.
Arabel followed the pinpoint of light on her screen as it left the ship. As it distanced itself from the Gravy, her scans were no longer able to pick it up, overwhelmed by the jamming of the enemy ships. It was out of their hands now, hopefully whatever Jett programmed into that thing would work as planned or they were flying full speed into a death trap.
Beyond the view of the crew, the ball of scrap, less than a meter in diameter screamed through space. Its programming trigged a small explosion, cutting the device apart, sending dozens of tiny little machines into the nothingness. Each synthetic device, originally designed to repair and maintain the ship, began to pour all of its energy reserves into broadcasting a single signal.
The transponders from a dozen United Legion assault ships suddenly appeared on local scans of the enemy ships. Their engines lit and they began to move, responding to a sudden and unexpected threat.
"Still on target. Get ready to go silent," Calrose breathed, calming her nerves as she made her final adjustment. She could finally see the gate. It was a pinprick of light amongst a billion stars. But time was up. "Now!"
The Gravy went dead silent, as Arabel threw a switch. The engines went quiet, and nearly light and system in the ship turned off. It was eerie how quiet it was. The sudden realization of just how used to the little noises of the ship they had become.
"Drek," Arabel mumbled as she remembered she had forgotten to buckle her harness. Her stomach lurched as the gravity nets suddenly released them. She grabbed at her chair, holding herself down long enough to get the belts around her. After buckling in, she reached up and grabbed the meter long braid of her redhair that was floating around her. She pulled it behind her and sat on it.
Arabel and Calrose watching through the forward viewports as the tiny far off ring began to make itself more visible. They couldn't see any movement around the gate.
"Where are they?"Calrose asked, certain they wouldn't have fallen for the ruse.
"The synths must be broadcasting! Jett's plan is working! We are almost in range, attempting to cut through the jam and dial the gate."
Jett floated up through the floor.
"I don't believe it, you never cease to amaze me, Jett."
"Thanks, boss. To be honest, I'm rather shocked myself," the thin engineer pulled himself into the co-pilot seat. Strapping in, he adjusted his wavy black hair, that looked like it had never seen a moment of zero-G.
Calrose looked over at Arabel. The gate was getting closer and she was getting nervous. So far her trajectory seemed to be spot on. But it wouldn't matter if that gate didn't open. "How are we doing on that gate, Bel?"
The purple skinned teen looked up, smiling. "Have a look for yourself."
They all looked through the forward viewports. The gate was only a few hundred meters away. It's light metallic surface shined in the blackness of space. As they watched, large sections of the ring moved inward. Activity erupted across the ring as systems came alive. The elaborate and complex design of the xeno-built construct became more apparent as the gate activated. It was unlike anything humans ever could, or probably ever will create.
Shimmering strands of energy erupted from emitters along the rim of the great ring. The tendrils of light spread from one side of the two kilometer circle to the other. Overlapping like a spider's web. Soon the surface shimmered with energy, a thin membrane stretched like the head of a drum. Strange swirling lights twisted within its undulating surface, like circular pond reflecting an impossible universe. It was dizzying to look at and as they got closer, they had to look away. The membrane of energy dipped into the ring, twisting and pulling in on itself as it stretched  toward an infinitely small point in space.
This was the artificial wormhole. The Nexus Gate. Technology created millennia ago by the Khepriloi, now used by nearly every member of the Republic of Sentient Species. It allowed travel from one end of the galaxy to the other instantaneously by twisting space in on itself. Tunneling into a region of extra dimensional space known as the Nexus.
Dialing into the gate, the massive structure would burrow into subspace, connecting with another gate that was doing the same thing. When these two tunnels met, they created a way to move outside of normal space, allowing a ship to disappear from one end of the galaxy and appear in another. The Nexus won't allow matter to remain inside of it. So the travel seems instantaneous. It is this precise principle that makes cold dials so dangerous. Entering the gate without an established exit gate is like throwing at dart at map of universe.
"We're going to make it through!" Arabel said enthusiastically.
Calrose didn't look so overjoyed. She watched as they approached the event horizon. The point of no return. "We made it, but who knows where the hell we're going to end up."
The Gravy slipped silently into the gate. The moment it broke the surface of the event horizon the entire ship was instantaneously swallowed up. The trash hauler disappeared from the Gavriel system.

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