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2022.01.22 17:03 Zephylandantus TEV Tricard - Dinner is ready
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Hansen watched as the Peak Performance entered an orbital path around the Horsecrab station at a distance that placed both the station and the ship out of range for either superstructure’s potential weaponry.
“Disengage the weapon systems that face the station and have the fighter patrols limit their flightpath to the outer orbit side.” Hansen instructed his bridge officers.
“Incoming communique from the fleet, Commodore.” The Comms operator reported in.
“My station.” Hansen replied as he took the seat behind the command console.
“Welcome back, Commodore.” The senior captain of Alpha Fleet greeted him from the display.
“Thank you, Franklin.” Hansen returned the salute. “Did we miss anything interesting?” he deliberately struck up a casual tone for the report.
“A couple of Squid ships have tried to enter the system. All of them were either incapacitated or convinced that pursuing the station was counterproductive.” Captain Franklin summarised as the reports trickled in on Hansen’s terminal. “No casualties on the Alliance’s side.”
“Hm.” Hansen nodded as he glanced over the munitions expenditure sections of the reports. “Dallas?” He raised his head to catch the eyes of his XO as she faced him from her position at the navigation terminal. “Have our stores of S.H.I.T Heads distributed to the fleet to make up for expenditures. I want all ships at eighty percent stores.”
“Immediately, Commodore. I’ll have the fabrication bays refresh our stores asap.” Dallas gave a quick nod in confirmation and headed to the logistic stations.
“That is appreciated, Commodore, I really wasn’t looking forward to ordering a catering enforced resupply.” Franklin didn’t hide his gratitude. “Morale tends to take a dive when the ‘Seafood saturday’ protocol is enacted.”
“I get that, Captain,” Hansen sighed, “I really do.” He added, mostly to himself before continuing: “Maintain the safety perimeter and have the scouts relay observations from the other side of the star. We don’t want to be surprised again.”
Franklin nodded on his screen. “Yes, Commodore.” He said just before the feed ended.
Hansen sighed audibly and shot a glance at the door. As if on cue: Derrish entered, his slightly confused gaze did a sweep of the bridge area before the Admiral began walking in small circles.
Hansen had counted eight full circles when Derrish finally laid himself down and curled himself up in as small a pile of uniformed fleet commander as possible.
A small movement on the screen that showed the station caused three people on the bridge to speak simultaneously.
“Sir?” The sensor chief called for Dallas’ attention
“Commodore,” Dallas addressed Hansen.
“Admiral!” Hansen pointed at the display on his terminal that showed the small blip exit the station and enter a parabolic course that would have it interject with the Peak Performance’s orbit.
Derrish immediately sprung to his feet, at full attention, and did two consecutively smaller bounses on the balls of his feet to bleed off the momentum of the first bounce.
The Admiral looked, first at the operator who was shifting her gaze between Dallas and Hansen, then at Dallas who was trying to focus on either of her superiors and finally at Hansen, who had his eyes fixed on the Admiral and a finger pointing at a display on the command console.
Derrish walked over to his second-in.command and gently cupped Hansen’s cheek with one hand, then he ran it down the Commodore’s neck and shoulder, transitioned to only touching the man with his fingertip, followed the fine creases of the uniform sleeve down to hansen’s exposed hand and traced his index finger until the Admiral was touching the fingertip of Hansen’s index finger.
Hansen tried to focus on the Admiral’s face but the combination of the gentle touch and the low hum Derrish emitted during the motion forced his attention to the Admiral’s hand.
Derrish reciprocated by sticking his other index finger in his mouth, wetting it thoroughly and interjecting it in Hansen’s ear, followed immediately by a small wiggle as Derrish whispered. “Voicebox.” and then abruptly released Hansen, turned around, and left the bridge.
Hansen watched Derrish leave the bridge in silence and not until the door had closed behind the Admiral’s two-man security team did he return his focus to the screen.
“Open docking bay Wilco-7 and prepare an atmospheric sampling kit. Make sure to light up the entry.” He said as he got up from his console. “Get a squad of marines to meet me at the entrance. Dallas, you have the bridge.”
“Aye, commodore.” Dallas walked up behind the console as Hansen departed for the bay.
Hansen watched through a plasteel window as the marines entered the bay after the alien shuttle had landed, the squad fanned out and the majority took cover behind various crates and machinery as the leading marine walked towards the shuttle, dressed in regular fatigues, armed only with a mason jar.
Once the solo marine was within eyesight of the occupants of the shuttle he stopped, opened the jar, turned it upside-down, shook it to prove it was empty, then turned it righ-side up again and screwed the lid on. Then he slowly walked up to the airlock and rapped on the hatch.
A few moments passed in silence before the external hatch of the airlock opened and the marine placed the jar inside the airlock. Then he slowly backed away three steps, turned around and walked back to stand at the halfway point between the shuttle and the door next to Hansen. Once there, the marine turned around to face the shuttle and stood at ease.
The hatch on the shuttle closed again and several minutes passed in silence.
When Hansen noticed movement of the hatch on the alien vessel he entered the bay and walked up to the lead marine at the halfway point. "Thank you, Sergeant, fall back and stand ready." He said with a calm tone.
The Sergeant nodded and walked to the entrance door, where he turned around to observe the activity in the bay.
Hansen watched as the hatch opened and a ramp extended down to the bay decking. Three Horsecrabs left the airlock and lined up opposite Hansen, leaving a decent ten meters between themselves and the sole human.
Hansen observed the three creatures. The one at the far left was huge. The six legged equestrian lower body stood an easy six feet plus change tall over the back and the torso added another five to the height, the pincers at the end of the arms were the size of basketballs and the six eyes were barely visible through the graying fur.
A careful estimate would place the creature at a full metric ton.
The middle one was less than half the size and had a bronze like shine to its coat.
The one to the right barely reached four feet at the head and gently shifted its feet in a manner that resembled youthful impatience.
Hansen spotted a crate that stood off to one side, roughly at the halfway point between himself and the Horsecrabs. He took a breath and walked over to the crate, drew his combat knife and placed it on top of the crate before walking back to his previous position.
The three aliens watched him in silence. Then the middle one slowly drew a knife like object, presented it horizontally to hansen and placed it on the ground in front of it.
"And now he is unarmed." Hansen turned his head just enough to spot the marine who had thought out loud.
His attention was forced back to the visitors when the middle alien began clicking and humming something. It held both pincers to its chest, paused the stream of noises and then made a noise that to Hansen sounded like "Telei."
It followed the sound by indicating the giant one and repeating with added urgency "Telei!" and then it gestured to the smallest one and lowered its volume to barely a whisper "Telei."
"It must be their species designation." Hansen said out loud. The Terran Alliance had a theoretical protocol in place for first contact with an alien species. One of the procedures was audio-visual recordings of the encounter, if possible.
Every single sensor, camera and microphone in the bay was recording.
"Sergeant," Hansen spoke loud enough to startle the small Telei, "have your men stand down and move into the open."
"Squad at ease, front and center." The sergeant reacted promptly and the marines followed suit.
Hansen gestured at himself with one hand splayed in front of his chest. "Human." He said. Then he gestured to the marines. "Human." He repeated.
The middle Telei cocked one of the top ears to the side and scraped a front foot against the decking twice. Then it gestured to itself. "Telei." And then to Hansen. "Xissit."
Hansen indicated himself once again and repeated "Human."
"Sir?" The marine sergeant called for his attention. "Mr. Penelope requests entry."
Hansen turned around and spotted the old Seperatist engineer through the window into the corridor. Penelope waved vigorously and pointed at a box that was sitting on a wheeled table next to him.
Hansen nodded at the Sergeant who opened the door.
Mr. Penelope pushed the serving-cart sized table in front of him and made a straight line up to Hansen. "I've been working on this for the last fifteen years, a bit of a side project, I'll admit to that much, but number— erhm… the Admiral thought you could use it now." Penelope patted the black box which had one very large green button on the top. "Right," He added, "off I pop then." And turned to walk away.
"Mr. Penelope!" Hansen's voice had an edge of urgent insistence which caused the engineer to turn around again. "What is it?" Hansen gestured to the black box with the big, friendly, green button.
"Oh! My, I did forget to say that, didn't I?" Penelope smiled at the commodore. "It is a translator, it only works between alliance standard and squid-alien, I'm afraid. But it should be better than beating your chests in turn screaming single words at each other, no?"
Hansen nodded slowly. "It should, thank you."
He waited until Penelope had left the hangar bay before pushing the trolley to the halfway point between his spot and the row of aliens. Then he pressed the green button, gestured to himself and said "Human" before releasing the button and taking two steps back.
Upon his release the box emitted a screeching sound that caused the small Telei to skidder in behind the middle one.
The largest of the three slowly walked over to the box and gently pressed the button before it said "Telei." And gestured to itself.
When it released the button, Hansen's heart dropped into his stomach as the box spat a single word at him: "Food"
The large Telei moved back to stand in front of the other two, covering them.
That particular motion caused the marines behind Hansen to fan out into cover and cover their commodore.
A rope end dropped into Hansen's view and stopped its descent a foot and a half from the floor. As Hansen looked up to find the reason the rope had been dropped, Derrish was descending the rope in a manner that made the Admiral look like a pole dancer who had just realised their mistake in choice of equipment and was desperately trying to erect a, even by rope standards, remarkably flaccid rope.
The display ended with the Admiral making a full frontal, splayed out as a starfish, impact on the decking and the rope coming to a gentle halt as all attempts of manipulation had seized.
The bay was completely silent as Derrish gathered what little of his senses that remained and walked over to the trolley.
He then straightened his uniform, brushed an invisible speck from his shoulder, extracted a crumbled up piece of paper from his jacket pocket, unfurled said paper and pressed the button.
"The one who is speaking now," Derrish began, "is not one hundred percent functional in his mind. So little, in fact, that he is reading words from a piece of paper that has been written by someone entirely different.
By a complete stroke of luck the both author of this and the narrator are equal amounts of norm-deviational and as such: prime subjects for heavy medication-based incarceration.
Unfortunately for all other parties involved, the scientists that were tasked with developing the drugs needed for successful pacification have collectively thrown their hands in the air and exclaimed: 'I'd rather wrangle alligators' before vacating the premises.
That is all. Derrish out. Mic-drop!"
Hansen watched as the Admiral shoved the paper sheet in his mouth, grabbed the rope and climbed up to the overhead walkway, where Derrish immediately set into a sprint with his arms flailing over his head as he giggled his way out of the hangar bay.
The second Derrish released the button the box began hissing and clicking at the Telei.
Once the box finished the translation the occupants in the bay stood in all-encompassing silence for a heartbeat.
Suddenly the large Telei began stomping its feet in turn, while blinking the six eyes at random, the two smaller ones peeked out from behind it and clicked at the giant. It clicked back in apparent reply and the medium one trotted over to the box while blinking randomly and pressed the button.
“You demonstrate your tools with mirth, this is good. Our former Eaters did not bring mirth.” The box translated.
Hansen pressed the button and said “Xissit.”
“Eater.” The box translated.
He then held out his sleeve tablet and brought up an image of the squid-aliens, activated the holoprojection and pressed the button. “These eat your kind?”
“They eat us. They are Eaters and we are Food. Your clan defeated their clan and now we are your Food and you are our Eaters.” The large Telei had stopped stomping and gently trotted over to Hansen and the middle one, who in turn pressed the button again.
“This is the aged Food. It willingly joins your fires in return for safe passage for the young and the fertile to the nursery. Once the next generation has been reared, the aged will stay behind to feed your clan with their bodies.”
Hansen shifted his gaze between the two aliens as the reality of the situation dawned on him.
“We do not eat sentient beings.” He replied. “You can stay as long as you want or leave at your own discretion. All three of you.” He turned to face the marines. “I’ll need a diplomatic escort for the three, they have access to all civilian areas.”
The sergeant nodded in acknowledgement.
Hansen turned back to face the Telei. “You are safe here. No one in my fleet will hurt or eat you. It is against our laws.” He gestured to the two marines who had discarded their weapons and combat gear. “These two will show you what you are allowed to see and answer any questions you may have to the best of their abilities. If you have any of your food with you, please provide a sample to them, so we can see if we have something you can eat on board. Now, please excuse me.” He bowed as the box finished translating and rushed out of the bay.
Commodore Simon Hansen entered his quarters in silence and headed straight for his desk. “Dallas, get me the Endeavour.” The communicator pinged that the message had been received but he didn’t wait for the reply from his XO, he just sat and stared at the display until the call went through.
“Commodore?” captain Hansi Arrol of the former-exploration-vessel- now-long-range-scout-ship faded on to his screen.
“I’m transmitting the data from the first contact protocol to you now.” Hansen didn’t acknowledge the greeting. “Deliver this to the High-Commander in person. You have two days.”
“Sir,” the captain paused, “The haul to Euroasia is a six day transit.”
Hansen shot the captain a dagger stare. “I started my career as a Terran Exploration Vessel astronavigator, captain. Don’t tell me that you’ve never gone balls out on those engines.”
“Protocol—” the captain began.
“Get your astronav.” Hansen cut the man off.
Another face joined the call as Hansen’s screen split. “Why? What does the com…”
Hansen couldn’t stop smiling as he recognized one of his fellow recruits from the academy. “Percy.” His tone shifted to one that had just a hint of a grin in it.
“S-simon?” The astronavigator recognized Hansen immediately.
“Can you get the Endeavour to Euroasia in forty-eight hours?”
“No.” Percy smiled as he noticed his captain’s oddly pleased expression.
“That is too bad,” Hansen sighed, “I had hoped you could so that I could use the Tricard as a front line scout for the next squid attack, but thank you for your honesty. I’ll dispatch the Tricard and the Endeavour will play decoy.”
“What?” Both men shouted as the colour drained from both splits of Hansen’s screen.
“Yes,” Hansen sweetened his tone as much as he could, “I distinctly remember the TEV- class to have a protocol bypass for the ftl limitations, for emergency use and I was hoping the Endeavour would be willing to deliver the first contact data packs with the utmost urgency. But since that bypass needs to be verified unanimously by the captain and astronavigator, and you both said no, I’ll have to dispatch the Tricard instead.”
“Erhm..” Arrol murmured, “I am not familiar with that bypass protocol…”
Percy’s face visibly reddened on the screen before the man managed to get himself under control. “I can brief you on it in a couple of minutes, captain, if the commodore can wait?”
“I’ll wait.” Hansen parked the call and leaned back in his chair with a grin plastered across his face.
“What are you smiling at?” the voice belonged to Aimee Simms, the Naval Intelligence agent who had been assigned as an undercover operative on the Peak when Erland was detained by Hansen.
Aimee popped her head out of his bedroom to get his answer.
“Percy is a coward and captain Arrol thirsts for glory.” Hansen eyed Simms hungrily. “In a minute or so, I’ll be invited back to the call and they’ll offer to do the delivery in thirty six hours.”
“Ha!” Aimee snarked at him. “I’ll bet you they won’t, nobody is that easy to manipulate.”
“How much?” Hansen raised a suggestive eyebrow at her.
“How about you come in here and pick?” She twirled around, halfway hidden by the wall next to the door opening, just enough to show him that of the two of them, he was the one who was ridiculously overdressed.
“I’ll be there in a minute” He said, “I just have to answer this call.”
A/N: Things are happening, I finally got my writing mojo back, looks like all I needed was to get AVP out of my system. I'm expecting a paperback version to release within the next thirty days.
My books on kindle
AUGUST:VOID:PIRATE ebook at lulu.com
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