19 February 2010

"Fight or Flight"

By Curtis C. Chen

"Does anything work on this damned ship?" yelled Admiral Lanec.

Another blast rocked the Claudius, and Lieutenant Halifax Ornan saw her shield power indicator drop to sixty-four percent. Hali willed her fists to unclench and guided her hands back to the controls.

"Particle beams still off-line," Hali said. "Auto-cannons are tracking, but—"

"Pea-shooters," said Lanec. "Where the hell is Augustus?"

"Checking now, captain," said Lieutenant Brotman, seated next to Hali at Navigation. Joseph Lanec was now in command of the Claudius, and by protocol, the crew had to address him as "captain."

Hali's gaze wandered over to the spot on the deck where Captain Adam Satut, her former commanding officer, had bled to death less than five minutes ago. His blood was losing its wet shine and drying to a dull, brick-like texture.

"Lieutenant Ornan!"

Hali's head snapped back up. "Yes, captain!"

"Repair status on particle beams!"

Hali's fingers thudded against her console. "Crews have replaced the energizer on Bank Two. Fifty seconds to full charge."

"Helm, maneuver us to the enemy's ventral approach," Lanec said.

Brotman hesitated. "Sir?"

"Get underneath them!" Lanec shouted. "Weapons, target their forward thruster array! Do you need me to explain that, too?"

"No, sir," Hali said.

From her seat at Communications, Ensign Terhun said, "Captain, I have the Augustus."

"On screen!"

A pale man with a thin mustache shimmered into view. "Admiral Lanec?"

"Long story, Captain Etter," Lanec said. "I need you to disengage Augustus' navigational safeties and alter course to this heading." He nodded at Brotman. Hali saw coordinates flash across the secure ship-to-ship channel.

Etter frowned. "That's a collision course, Admiral."

"That's why you need to disengage your safeties."

"We're barely a quarter the size of that ship," Etter said. "And with their shields up, we won't even scratch their hull."

"You're not trying to damage them," Lanec said. "Your shields are still at full power. Augustus will just bounce off."

"With all due respect, Admiral, you're going to make my whole crew spacesick just to create a diversion?"

Lanec threw up his hands. "Do they not teach basic kinematics at the Academy anymore? You're coming at us at, what, point-one-cee?" Even Hali knew those numbers: ten percent of lightspeed, nearly thirty million meters per second. "Superior momentum! Do the math!"

A smile crept onto Etter's face. "Our speed trumps their mass."

"After we disable their forward thrusters, your impact will send them into a flat spin toward the planet," Lanec said. "If we're lucky, they won't be able to regain control before hitting atmo."

"Yes, sir," Etter said. "Disengaging safeties and changing course."

"Give 'em hell," Lanec said. "Augustus out."

The viewscreen blinked back to a tactical display. Brotman turned in his chair and said, "Brilliant strategy, captain! Using our ships as projectiles—"

"Save it for the debrief," Lanec said. "Weapons, is it peanut butter jelly time?"

Hali looked over her shoulder. "Sir?"

Lanec rolled his eyes. "I'll teach you the song later. Do we have particle beams?"

"Ten seconds, captain."

Lanec nodded. "You may fire when ready."


Photo: Saturn V second stage (J-2 engines) on display at Kennedy Space Center, Florida, May, 2008.

16 February 2010

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