This scene begins the final and third act of this military SciFi.
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Here’s a quick background: Earth is losing the war against the Telrachnids, and our young Captain Toby Nathanael Louis is assigned to deliver a new weapon to a secret starbase. But what our hero thought would be an easy first mission turns out to be a test of his ability to lead a crew and ship much older than he against an enemy that is using his own fiancée to destroy him, his ship and his mission.
This scene shows us what it’s like for spaceship to travel just a tiny distance (millimeters) into a hidden dimension of space. There’s also something up with one of the crew of the USS Princeton.
Scene 31 v1- Silent Running
It’s been four straight days and that Telrachnid gunship has kept its distance from the Princeton. Like an old war submarine surfacing its periscope to check out the battle scene, it just keeps popping in and out from its hidden dimension in space, a watchful eye on the Princeton ready to track it back to Starbase 24.
But that’s not going to happen thinks Toby as he enters the rocket room that’s packed tight with long narrow shiny black missiles stacked up vertical like telephone poles. These tall standing warheads make this place look like the insides of an oversized machine gun magazine.
Along the far side of the room is the missile breech area. There, several automatic loaders each with a missile already in their clutch stand ready to insert the long black projectiles into launching tubes that pierce through the wall of the ship. Each loader has an ordinance calibrator arm that’s attached to the missile in their clutch. The ordinance calibrator inserts the right amount of fissionable material to either dial up or down the nuclear explosive yield of that missile upon impact or reaching a set distance from the target.
Toby weaves his way around one of the monster claws to an open area where Chief Stockton stands hunched over three holographic computer consoles.
A concerned look grows on the chief’s face as he turns to greet Toby. “Captain, you alright?”
Instinctively, Toby tries to give a distracting wave from his left arm. But pain from that end reminds him that there’s no arm there. “I’m OK,” winces Toby not sure if the chief was referring to Smriti’s claim about Susan, or his arm.
“Captain?” asks the chief with some hesitation. “I saw Smriti in sickbay.”
“The methadone treatments seem to be working.”
“Dr. Conners seems to think otherwise,” says Toby.
“Well, I mean, she doesn’t seem as agitated as usual.”
“Yes, Lieutenant Joubert’s security team gave me that same assessment,” nods Toby.
“The security team also completed their interviews with Smriti about what she knows about the Telrachnids. Said she told them some things that’s consistent with our classified information about them.”
“Yes, they told me that too,” says Toby.
“She hasn’t made any more accusations about Dr. Connors.”
“Well, Smriti did ask for another doctor to monitor her progress and meds. Apparently, Dr. Connors quickly agreed. She seems keen to help you on those quantum gravimetrics issues instead,” says Toby.
“So, they are avoiding each other. I wonder why,” asks the chief with a smirk.
“Jealous rage?” asks Toby with a slivered smile across his lips.
“Humph, young captains and their envious girlfriends, a bad combination,” pouts the chief.
“Just trying to maintain the aura that comes with the chair.”
“Yea, well, you know what they say about jealous rage,” counters the chief with a broad smile.”
“Yea, I agree, but Smriti was helpful in getting us off that gunship.”
The chief’s lips tighten to squeeze away the smile for a more serious look. “Almost didn’t make it back.”
“And Dr. Connors blames the Telrachnids for compromising Officer Villani. So, she’s right to be cautious,” says Toby.
“Well, despite Dr. Connors view, I think in her current condition Smriti may prove useful when we meet that gunship in that new dimension.”
“How so?” asks Toby.
The chief continues to tinker with the holographic console settings but quickly responds, “Since she is plugged into their thinking, she should be able to provide some additional insight on that Telrachnid gunship crew to help us to stay one step ahead of them.”
“That’s something Commander Emerson would frown upon,” counters Toby.
“Knowing what we know, I don’t think so. Especially since he came around to your thinking,” says the chief.
“Pointing that laser rifle at Smriti back on the gunship causes me to think otherwise,” responds Toby.
The chief’s eyes lift up from his work to settle on Toby. “Well as he said, to protect the captain.” Then he adds, “I know the Commander much longer than you and it was clear to me that he finally agreed on your assessment of her. It’s just that he wasn’t taking any chances.”
“Agreed with my assessment, eh? Funny way to show it,” chuckles Toby.
“Well, he and I are old school. But you wouldn’t know about that,” says the chief with a smile.
“Like two old farts with the same scent?”
“Yea, age does that. Someday, the same will happen to you,” chuckles the chief. Then he adds, “Besides, she might even be able to help us jump back to normal space incase things go hairy with the changes I made to our systems.”
“A backup plan, eh?”
“OK, when it’s time, bring her to the bridge. But let’s make sure there’s plenty of methadone in her system to counteract the Telrachnid’s telepathic influence.”
“I’ll quietly talk to the other doctors in sickbay to make sure that happens.”
“Yea, tell’em those are my orders and bring some with you along with extra security. I don’t want her freaking out on the bridge during battle.”
“Your backup plan?”
“What about ahhh what she said about . . .” The chief pauses. Then as if to change the subject he points to three dissected missiles laying on their side. “I’ve modified those three so we can remotely control them after we have D-Jumped.”
“Great, you figured it out!”
“Not so fast! The Telrachnid technical data that Commander Emerson sent me is incomplete. So, I had to make some ahhhh, assumptions to jerry-rig The Crowbar to our antimatter power grid.”
The chief points to the power system schematic holograph rotating above the missile room floor. “The assumptions I made are not trivial,” he pauses then says again for emphasis, “a LOT of assumptions here.”
The chief then switches the image to show The Crowbar, entangled in a mess of wires and small boxes lit up like a Christmas tree, “sure you want to do this?”
Toby swallows quietly. Messing with antimatter power control systems is a bit more complex than 19th century cannon metallurgy. Instead of exploding naval cannons, we might get a nova detonation.
Toby swallows again. “Well do the best you can, Chief.”
“We should do a test run with The Crowbar before tangling with that gunship,” says the chief.
“Makes sense, and we’ll have a better idea of what to expect in that parallel dimension,” says Toby. Then he adds, “when will you be ready to test this thing?”
“Right now,” responds the chief, his voice a bit unsteady as he turns to watch the auto loader arm swing around and pickup the three now sealed up remote controlled missiles and place them into launcher tubes labeled 21, 22 and 23.
On the bridge, holographic light reflects off Toby’s eyes as the ship wide 1MC system announces, “silent running, secure all movable objects, prepare for rapid maneuvers!”
“Make sure our running lights are off,” says Toby who then notions to the helmswoman, “don’t want to be spotted.”
Then the chief cuts in with a hint of caution in his voice. “I’ve activated The Crowbar. Systems nominal and set to D-Jump us just a millimeter in a direction we never traveled before. Don’t want to go too far into that dimension.”
“Yea, and make sure we can get back in one piece,” jokes Toby.
“That’s the plan,” comes back the chief. Then he adds, “Captain, we’ll need to run the antimatter reactor at 100 percent with full thrust to achieve the required acceleration rate to trigger The Crowbar.”
“Roger, Mr. Stockton,” says Toby as he catches the green ‘ship all-ready’ signal glowing before him. After securing his shoulder harness tight, he flips a switch on his captain’s armchair console. Then he says to the helmswoman, “full military plus thrust, giddy-up!”
“Aye aye Captain,” comes back her response.
“Red Alert! All hands brace for military acceleration and maneuvers,” responds the ship’s 1MC communication system.
There is no countdown as the ship’s crew has been trained to know what this second and last warning means–ten seconds to get your ass secured to the nearest acceleration seat.
Suddenly the room turns bloody red as a tremendous force pushes Toby deep into his captain’s chair and that phantom pain returns to his left side. A deep roar vibrates his chair from behind as the matter-antimatter engines come alive. Full military plus thrust is not the usual acceleration shove felt during battle. It’s more like an instant smack down onto a concrete floor.
Toby’s eyes close to escape the dark rouge colors that replaced the lighter Red Alert hues that surrounded the bridge–the effect of rapid acceleration on the optic nerves. It’s something that was never encountered before ships could achieve this level of acceleration. The human body can withstand it for just a few minutes before passing out, then eventual death as the internal organs are squeezed to the point of rupture.
Yet the USS Princeton continues to accelerate. And the more it accelerates the more Toby can feel himself literally being squeezed into a coffin.
Suddenly, the 1MC announces with its usual mundane voice, “Crowbar triggered.”
Overwhelmed with curiosity, Toby forces his eyes open just as the ship swerves dizzily to the right and bright fiery red and orange colors from the holographic viewer fill the room. The visual and vestibular thrashing brings on nausea. So, Toby closes his eyes again. But now his ears pickup a strange ripping change in pitch of the matter-anti-matter engine roar that floods panic throughout his body.
“Matter-antimatter reactor overloaded by 150%. Detonation imminent,” says the ship’s 1MC, its voice enriched with a certain sense of dread. Then comes another, albeit calmer update, “Emergency engine shut down.”
The metallic roar bellowing from behind softens and the heavy load on Toby’s chest lightens. It’s easier to breathe now.
Toby opens his eyes, glad to see that the lighting in the bridge has returned to its usual Red Alert red color and not the painful blood shot crimson from before. But the holographic view screen doesn’t seem to be working. The bright red and orange colors are gone. There’s only blackness now.
“What happened Chief?” asks Toby.
The chief doesn’t answer as he stares at the blackened screen showing what’s in this abnormal space. A place separated from normal space by just one millimeter but into some unknown dimension. It has an emptiness never seen before. Filled with a deep inkiness with a nearly imperceptible purplish hue, there are no guiding stars, planets, asteroids, or glowing clouds of gas and dust here. The so-called darkness of normal space now seems blindingly bright by comparison.
Lieutenant Commander Anderson breaks the silence on the bridge with the obvious question, “How do you navigate in this place?”
“I don’t know Mr. Anderson but make sure our navigation and anti-collision lights are off,” responds Toby.
“Ship’s lights are doused,” comes back the expected response.
Satisfied that the Princeton is well hidden in this darkness, Toby moves on to the next thing. “Looks like we made it here, congratulations Chief.”
“Thanks, but the compliment is a little premature. The Crowbar is offline and the matter-anti-matter power plant overloaded. It’s offline too.”
“Yea, the antimatter flow regulator failed. Fortunately, the shutdown safeties worked.”
“What happened to the regulator?” asked Toby.
“Don’t know, probably wear and tear from all these battles. But we are checking into that.”
Toby’s eyes narrow. It seems this old ship is showing its age again. “How long till repairs are done?”
“The power plant needs to cool down before we can switch it back on and ahhh . . .”
“Need to figure out how to fix The Crowbar to get us back to normal space.”
“How long?” sighs Toby.
“Don’t know,” comes back the chief’s response. “Will give you an estimate shortly,” he adds.
“And what about navigation,” asks Lieutenant Commander Anderson once again.
That question hangs like a dark cloud over the bridge as Toby’s eyes follow the chief then scans across the bright control screens and flashing holographic control panels. But despite all this fancy technology, including the mag-drive, matter-anti-matter reactors and rail guns, when it comes to navigation, spaceships have made little progress from the days when tall wooden ships sailed the ocean. They all use stars to guide their course. But here in this abnormal space, there are no stars.
Toby’s eyes shoot to the chief who says timidly, “The Crowbar does more than pry open a door to an alternate dimension. It’s also a navigation tool. Fixing one Crowbar problem should resolve the other.”
“Should . . .” repeats the Lieutenant Commander with a certain tone of doubt.
“Well, while the Chief does his magic, we need a silent and dark ship to keep from being discovered. Use only passive sensors to detect and report anything,” says Toby with an eye pointed at Lieutenant Commander Anderson.
“Aye-aye, Captain,” comes back the response.
Then the ship’s 1MC announces softly, “Silent Running, Silent Running! Switch off all non-essential electromagnetic, mechanical and external lighting systems. Silent Running!”
“Captain, I’m going to need Dr. Connor’s assistance with her quantum gravity and entanglement knowledge,” says the chief as he exits the bridge. “OK, whatever it takes,” says Toby hesitantly.
– End Scene –
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