Jovian Shadows : Episode 15

A short 500 word segment that I had let slide last week.

“Captain,” Al-Aziz said, trepidation in his voice, “We’re getting a broadcast from the rebel leader.”

“Patch it though.”

The audio crackled and popped with the magnetic interference.  A voice broke through the noise.  “Earth ship James K Polk, you will stand down!”

Castaneda said, “This is Captain Heather Castaneda speaking on behalf of Westhem Home Office.  You are out-gunned.  That was only a warning shot.  You will surrender and return to station Europa 2 and await further instructions.”

“We have a new weapon, Captain,” the voice said.  It was angry, and the fuzz of the interference only made it sound angrier.  “Your missiles have no effect on us, as you saw.”

Castaneda flicked her fingers across her throat.

Al-Aziz said, “Signal muted.”

“Cepheid, analysis.”

Cepheid said, “Captain, it is unlikely the rebels have convinced the third party to become involved on their behalf, given the timing of their interference.”

Castaneda said, “I agree.  Have you been able to analyze the intruder’s weapons and armor yet?”

“No, captain, but it is safe to assume that their capabilities are far beyond our own.”

“Captain!”  Corporal Thorson shouted, “Unknown target is moving!”

“Velocity?”

“Headed toward Europa, gaining speed.”

Castaneda nodded at Al-Aziz, and he re-opened the channel.

“Rebel commander,” Castaneda said, “We have been in contact with the alien vessel and have convinced them of our cause.  They will not interfere again.”  She turned to the tactical station.  “Load up, five each.  Beams hot.  Get them out of my sky.”

Harmon repeated the order.  “Load one through eight continuous, impact zero, mark 5.  Heat ’em up.”

Al-Aziz said, “Mark 5 nukes authorized and loading, mazer banks ready in two minutes.”

Thorson said, “The rebels have cut the signal.”

Harmon said, “You think they bought it?”

Castaneda said, “Doesn’t matter.  They know we’re serious.”

Cepheid interrupted.  “Captain, there is a problem with tube 4.  High levels of radiation are coming from one of the missiles.  I fear a fuel breach may be imminent.  I recommend evacuation of the missile bay and halting all missile attacks until all the tubes can be inspected.”

“What?”  Castaneda shouted, “You told me it was clear!”

Cepheid said, “It seems the sabotage was more clever than we thought.  It eluded both my own scans and the manual inspection.”

“Harmon!  Get down there and see what’s going on!”

“Aye, captain!”  Harmon jumped out of his seat like he was a hound let loose to attack a fox.

Thorson said, “Rebels are changing course.”

The tactical screen showed the red circles moving, pulling away from their previous intercept course.  They began to close in on the alien ship.

Castaneda said, “Cepheid, what have we got?”

“The alien ship is using an anti-matter engine for thrust.”

“That’s a lot of power for short range,” Castaneda said, “but not near enough for interstellar travel.”

“Correct,” Cepheid said.  “The ship is headed toward Europa.  The rebels are in persuit, but they lack the maneuverability and speed of our shadowy friend.”

“Time?”

“If they hold at their current speed, they will be at E2 station in one hour, twenty one minutes,” said Cepheid.

Castaneda leaned back in her chair.  “E2 isn’t where they’re going.  There’s no reason for them to dock at a space station.  They’re headed straight for Europa.  Whatever the rebels found, they want it as much as we do.”

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