Stardust Stories, Chapter 5

 

Chapter 5

Fantasia

“I took a walk in spaceBoy, I really felt blue
Well, I peeked through the crack
And I looked way back
The stardust trail
Leading back to you
What did I do
What could I do
What did I do…”
I took a trip on a Gemini spacecraft – David Bowie

Hamilton reclined slightly in his chair. The risk was worth it, though if he fell over it would cause quite a ruckus. The massive screens at BSA Mission Control dominated the East wall. Below them was what Hamilton called “the bee hive” because of how the specialists assigned to each desk flitted around at various tasks.

In the middle of the room was the table that held most of the interesting models of items that were currently streaming live on the screens. As tempting as it was to play with the models, he was satisfied to sit above it all, in his office, looking down at it all in his chair.

 

The Mars Explorer Craft, now renamed Icarus, after the first attempt of man to reach the stars, had arrived just about an hour and a half ago. They were only now receiving the first images of the alien craft, directed back by the robots aboard Icarus. Being very advanced in the autonomy programming, they were already maneuvering their way past some of Saturn’s 40 moons. Though most were too small to really be considered much more than humungous rocks, they were hazardous, none the less. The ultimate goal of the robots programming was to attach the Icarus to the alien craft and use the incredibly powerful solid fuel rockets to yank it out of its icy tomb and bring it into a path back to Earth.

Another craft was nearly completed, which would capture both ships and bring them into a parking orbit around the moon. The BSA rightfully concluded that there was already far too much junk and debris in Earth’s orbit. Not knowing the condition of the alien craft, they were unsure if it might come apart and destroy the fragile satellite rings of Earth’s last few nations. Also, the BSA had only recently fully staffed Luna 1.

Originally the BSA wanted a manned station on the surface of the moon, but that was impractical and would be cost ineffective. Instead they disguised the creation of Luna 1, a permanent orbital station orbiting the moon, as a series of harmless space probes. Even the Chinese were fooled into believing the British were wasting money looking at nothing.

Over two years the BSA steadily launched the pieces, one after the other, then made noise about fake, computer generated images, pretending they were fascinated with a series of craters. Instead the station components were assembled by autonomous robots, bolting and sealing the pieces, like a giant Lego creation. In the end, it took sixty three missions to fully build and staff the orbital station, which now fed parts and personnel to a makeshift ground base.

The ground base, named Luna 2, was responsible for the production of the BSA’s space craft. Moving things was far easier in the relatively weak gravity, and the amount of Helium3 they sent back made it economical. Since 2033, Britain had been energy independent.

The Icarus 2 was easy to build since it was never intended to hold a human crew, now was it ever to be used again, so there was no need to try to make it useful for any other missions.

Senior Colonel Chen was aware of the BSA plans. He had been reading over the few intercepted messages from Luna 1 to BSA Command. His own staff was quite excited for the Brits, and they all wished them success. After all, they couldn’t attempt to steal the alien craft, if it wasn’t brought back to Earth.

As Hamilton watched imagery on the screen, he was delighted at the efficiency of the automatons. They quickly scanned the alien craft. It was almost precisely the size Cassini estimated it to be. That was as encouraging as the fact that the makeshift FTL engine actually worked. That in itself was a scientific breakthrough. Still, the exact process was only fully made possible by the discovery of a smaller alien craft a decade ago. That one, however, was so rotted and useless, it only was useful for giving them ideas about how to make the FTL engine actually stay attached to the rest of the ship, and not go flying off… to wherever it was the first few trial drives flew off to.

He chewed on a thumb nail, accidentally ripping it a bit down to the quick. Damn it, that will hurt. The automatons were working now to attach the tug lines of Icarus’ massive solid fuel thrusters. Each of them were capable of upwards of 3.6 millions pounds of thrust, and the Icarus was attaching ten. Not all would fire, a few were for course correction and to induce even more thrust as the ships would slingshot around Jupiter, speeding up delivery. If all went well, Icarus and the alien craft would arrive in just under two years. Normally a trip that far could take between three to seven, but the use of the massive solid thrusters would strip a huge amount of time away, giving the two craft one hell of a boost. Later, when they completed a couple orbits around Saturn, they would be traveling at a little over 11 kilometers per second. But after a quick slingshot they would be at at amazing 56 kilometers per second.

It was an amazing feat, to be sure, and Hamilton had a ring side seat to the greatest show in the galaxy.

TWO YEARS LATER, Lunar orbit, Luna 1.

It was a brilliantly conceived plan. Russian Space Agency also bluffed that they were replacing sections of their space station. In secrecy, they were massing hundreds of Chinese soldiers. The reason Russia declined to use their own soldiers was the lethal radiation they were taking while crammed into the thinly shielded storage extensions. Normally robots would be stored, repairs, external inspection, docking assistance, whatever function needed.

Then when the alien ship was tethered to Luna 1, the Soviets launched them towards the station, figuring that out of the three hundred soldiers, at least fifty would survive the trip and successfully overpower the ten to twenty science team members on the small orbital.

The simplicity of it was brilliant. It was undetectable. The pods were unpowered so no heat signature was visible and because the Chinese had millions of troops, if it failed, they could try again and again as long as it took.

However, they had not counted on Luna 2, nor did they count on the alien shop giving up secrets so quickly.

The moon base had a staff of thirty, mostly science workers, but a few military intelligence soldiers were stationed on it to give the British MI-6 a really powerful means to monitor satellite communications. This led to flaw number two. The moon base was using a simple mass cannon to launch its Helium3 canisters to the orbital station for transport back to Earth. That cannon was easily used to target the capsules headed towards the alien ship. Crude, but effective, the majority never got anywhere near the ship and the few that did manage to make it were met with armed robots. The bloodbath was fairly grim, though the crew of Luna 1 did take enough casualties to make the attack costly. But in the end, British Space retained control of the alien craft and China was humiliated.

Senior Colonel Chen was given the option of execution or suicide. He chose execution. After a few hours of slow painful torture, suicide seemed preferable.

Brigadier General Hamilton was especially pleased with the results. He enjoyed knowing that the Chinese and Russians had taken such an interest. It was a point of British pride, to have actually accomplished something successfully for a change. As proudly English as he was, he was aware of the long and rather disheartening history of failures that the grand Kingdom could look back on. In this, however, English pride was both satisfied and not so much so. Yes they retained control of the alien ship, but they lost most of the staff of their stations as well as secrecy of Luna 2. Still, the public was completely unaware of the alien craft.

“Well, Major, what a lovely bit of kit this is.” the newly promoted Brigadier said to the also promoted Major Stanley. “Any ideas where we look for people crazy enough to try flying something full of whatever we find aboard that derelict? The PM demanded we build some kind of ship, else whatever did this to the alien ship might come back and do this to us. Now that we have one nearly completed, we will need volunteers willing to leave Earth for whatever’s out there…”

“Crazy, no sir, brave and desperate enough, yes sir… AND it would be easy to keep this secret from the rest of the Kingdom.” he said grinning.

“Ok, what do you have in mind?”

“The Alliance sir. They have plenty of DP’s and many of them are soldiers.” Major Stanley said referring to the camps of Displaced Persons. Basically refugee camps where those who escaped or survived the Patriot Games were camped, trying to scratch out a life while waiting for immigration Visas to any country willing to accept them.

“Excellent idea. I want the ship to be staffed by Gentlemen, the crew, they can come from the Alliance.” the Brigadier decided, using the euphemism Gentlemen to mean British Officers.

“I’m on it sir. I believe the BSA has been working on something for the last couple years, every since we laid claim to the ship. Those automatons were scouring the derelict, accessing everything they could. We broke the code on the data storage center already. Most of its translated and they are convinced that they can use some pieces of the aliens technology as well as possibly its FTL design. Apparently now that we understand the language, we found a vast supply of what they use for fuel at Lagrange points around Jupiter’s asteroid belt.”

“Good. For two years we have been building a large ship in the dark side of the moons orbit. Now its time we started building the crew. See to it personally.”

“Aye sir. Very good. Will be nice to offer something to those poor buggers after what they go through in that sick Patriot Games.”

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