Writing Prompt: 05/31/10

"Your phone rings. When you answer it, you make a startling discovery: the person on the other end is dead. What does he/she say and why are they calling you?"

Write for 15-30 minutes. My response will be posted 6/02/10.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Combat Ops - Chapter One

NOTE: This story is dedicated to Chris Bunch, author of the best military science fiction and fantasy I have ever read. The profane terms "drakh" and "clot" are used in homage to the mannerisms and speech he developed (along with Alan Cole) for the eight books in the Sten series, published 1982-1993.

Christopher R. Bunch
December 22, 1943 – July 4, 2005
Long live the Eternal Emperor!

N'gel S'nza P'ntal'ne's eyes seemed to glare at the screen. On it, his black-painted Corvus Vulturius was leaking smoke. The vacuum of space prevented open flames, but the impact damage from blaster cannon had warped and flashburned the heavy plasteel armor in several places. His hand flittered over the controls, smoothly expanding the screen to show the pirate Warthog MkIV tracking on his slim fighter from behind. The larger craft's gatling turret blazed fire at the smaller ship. N'gel's eyes narrowed until they glittered like the hatred of angels.

With a sudden sharp movement N'gel's nimble craft flipped sideways in a lateral Immelman turn made possible only by the lack of gravity in space. Caught flatfooted by the unexpected maneuver, the Warthog's pilot could only jam on his attitude brakes in a desperate attempt to avoid the stream of neutron fire that darted towards his ship. The flood crossed the Warthog's flight path; a flash of superheated gasses and the pirate was nothing more than an expanding cloud of frozen/toasted flesh.

N'gel's voice came over the ventrilo communications system. "Splash eight. Thirty-two percent hull. Miex, I'm jumping back to base for repairs."

The voice of his wingman, MiexonBionic, Commander of the Phoenix Alliance Guild, crackled back over the recording, "Roger. Quirc should be able to bring the load through now. Safe journey."

"Fly true." N'gel's slim-hulled fighter winged over and began boosting, heading away from the uncharted belt of asteroids that were all that was left of a shattered planet from a billion years before. Mankind's technology had progressed a thousandfold from the primitive stardrives that had first lifted him to the vacuum of space, but the three thousand meter jump distance was a requirement etched in vismetal. After the first hundred years of lost ships, navigation computers refused to even accept a jump order until the ship's radar judged the craft to be at least three kilometers from the nearest large obstruction, a limit that had killed thousands of pilots before it had been determined.

"There," N'gel's voice was low as his finger touched the pause controls. "That flicker." The flamelike acid scar on his right cheek pulled the corner of his mouth slightly upward in what those who didn't know him would assume to be a wry grin. "I noticed it just before the jump out, and you can see it clearly on the flight recorder."

Quirc Taranis, Lieutenant in command of Phoenix Alliance Logistics leaned forward. "Hmmm… most likely not an asteroid, not at that distance from the belt. 'Roids tend to collect in strips through a sector. Battle debris?"
"Not likely," N'gel replied. Most of the fighting was inside the 'roid belt. Miex got one of the rats about 1600 meters out, but that was on the other side."

On screen, the twinkle was frozen in the lower corner, a staggering distance from the hyperspace envelope beginning to form around the delta-winged fighter. Quirc's heavy eyebrows furrowed. "Computer, enhance C-16 though B-13." A flashing green square appeared around the anomaly before expanding to increase the relative size of the mysterious twinkle. "What the drakh is that?" He muttered, half to himself.

"Eo's guess," N'gel answered. "But look at this." He touched another control. Below the increased-resolution scan of the anomaly a number appeared. "This is the object's mass."

Using the archaic but still effective scientific notation, the relative metric tonnage of virtually any object could be displayed rather easily. Long ago Earth's mass, for example, could be scaled to 6.34x10 to the 23rd power. However the object on screen registered a mass that pegged the meter to "Error, out of range."

Quirc pursed his lips in a soundless whistle. "That can't be right."

"What if it is?" N'gel asked. Their eyes met. They both knew the answer.

"Then we've just discovered another wormhole."

Christopher Rivan

Virgins Slain, Dragons Rescued.
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