Jovian Shadows : Episode 11

It seems like I’m doing one of these a day now, so maybe I’ll draw back and post them a little less frequently.  We’ll see.

Executive Officer’s log: 2109-02-24

Castaneda has assumed command of the James K Polk after CPT Broadsky was killed and CDR Strathmore was critically injured.  She assumed the rank of Captain and promoted me from LTCDR to CDR and appointed me first officer.  I split my time between the bridge and sick-bay.

There are a few marines trained as medics that can handle anything minor that might occur.  But right now I have a critical patient and time spent away from him always makes me nervous.  He’s stable, but he’s brimming with synth-blood.  It’s game over if he gets an infection in that fake goop.

I’m not sure what to make of Castaneda.  She was injured by a mazer blast to the face, but it was only a graze and she’s resumed command after a brief recovery.  She bounced back fast, I’ll give her credit for that.  Still, when it hits the fan, and it’s going to, I wonder how she’ll hold up.

She better be solid, for all our sakes.

The marines are obeying her to the letter.  Partially because we’re getting down to the wire and they need that confident authority to function, partially because Harmon was promoted to full LT and made second officer, and keeps a tight leash on the Wolves.

We’ve been in decel for a few hours now.  Long range shows the rebels have scrambled at least a dozen small attack vessels.  It’s likely they were made aware of their spy’s situation, and that their plan to take over the ship was off the table.  Now they have to fight the JKP head on.

Even in her crippled state, they’re no match for us.  I expect the rebels won’t get a good shot in before they’re wiped out.  They have to get close to launch missiles that will get though our scramblers, and our missiles have twice the range and accuracy.  Our rail-guns will mop up anything left.

That’s not what I’m worried about.

Our shadow is back.  It’s been getting closer, and fast.  By now, even the rebels should be able to see it.  We still don’t know what the hell it is.  Our sensors slip off it like water off a duck.  It’s no asteroid, or any natural phenomenon we know of.  Cepheid thinks it’s a ship, and I’m forced to agree.

Who the hell has that kind of tech?  Sivacore was working on advanced propulsion systems that would leave the JKP in the dust, but our own new ships would be just as fast.  Aterimazu was working on stealth, but that was for their satellites, and never worked.

There is no way under heaven that the rebels have such tech.

I had a private talk with Cepheid and the captain.  There is a chance there’s another explanation.

Something else.

I don’t want to say ‘alien.’  That just conjures up the movies.  Cepheid insists that any advanced intelligence would simply send machines such as himself out, and not bother with biological organisms.  That makes sense to me.  A ghost ship with only a computer at the helm.  Long range probe.

That at least gives us a chance to communicate with it.  Another AI could probably recalibrate itself to communicate with Cepheid much more easily than some little green men could.

One problem with that hypothesis is that this ship is much bigger than it needs to be just to house an AI.  We can only guess at the mass, but we think it’s nearly as big as the JKP.

Cepheid suggests that maybe it needs all that mass for the computer, but even he sounded dubious, which is no mean feat for an AI.

That leaves us with a dilemma.  We have rebels going to be in missile range in 10 hours, and a possibly intelligent out-system probe watching in the wings.

Whatever happens, that probe has a front row seat to the fireworks.

Do we launch missiles while it’s watching?  Cepheid suggests a slim possibility that the ship may have a similar mission to his own- to protect itself and any possible passengers.  If it takes our actions as a threat… If it gets involved…

God have mercy on our souls.

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