The Space Force Chronicles: Trial By Fire by rickking ()
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The Space Force Chronicles
Trial By Fire
[Fifteen years ago]
Captain Tobias Jones stood upon the bridge of his ship and watched the Majestic Star, the ship that he and his men had just plundered, burn in space. He watched as the fires that raged throughout the ship made their way to the power plant near the stern of the mighty interplanetary passenger liner. Captain Sterns would have been of proud him this day. For on this day he has had his revenge.
With an ever widening grin, he watched the various life pods eject from the hull carrying its desperate cargo of innocent human lives. In one of them he knew-Thomas would be. A particular one caught his eye as he over saw the vast scene of twisted metal and floating bodies. His mind drifted back to the days of his merchant marine training. He remembered the endless days of catering to the every whim of the upper classmen, many of who took delight in bullying the freshmen newbs. One particular senior that enjoyed making Tobias’s life miserable specifically was Thomas Law.
“Zoom in on sector 2B.” he ordered. Obediently one of his bridge crew complied with the command. “A little bit more… focus on the view port.”
“Aye Captain.” The viewport came into sharp focus. There before him he could see the object of all of his pent-up rage and hatred. For twenty four years, Tobias had dreamed of this moment. Carefully, he had followed his nemesis’s career from the shadows. He was even present when he married his longtime girlfriend Melody Green.
Once, he had thought he had his revenge, but as it turned out, it was Melody that was killed instead. She was in his class at the Academy and he had fallen in love with her. He thought that she had loved him too, judging from the passion they shared when they made love. But in the end, she had chosen Thomas. Again he had beaten him. Time after time, it seemed Law was a pain in his side. A wound that would not heal. Thomas was the jock, the smart one, the handsome one -always it was him!
Tobias left the academy during his junior year. He decided that maybe a career at one of the big colonies at Jupiter would be the best place for him. With no family left, he could start off fresh. As fate would have it, the transport he was on was overtaken by a pirate gang. Through circumstances, he joined them and after more than a decade, he was their leader. Captain Sterns had been a good mentor; right up until Tobias killed him.
With just a gesture of his hand, his weapons officer pressed a button, launching a missile toward the helpless pod. Thomas Law glanced up and saw the coming death from the small viewport and stared at it as his escape pod exploded into a million pieces of metal and flesh. Tobias had enjoyed killing. He took pleasure in the fact that his longtime foe was dead.
Skipper, his dog, made his way across the bridge and licked his master’s hand. Tobias bent down and picked up the small lap dog that he had cared for since it was a puppy, the only creature in the solar system that really loved him and stroked her soft fur. The animal licked his face. “Yes my dear,’ Tobias said to the dog. “ I will feed you now.” And then he turned and left the bridge.
[Present day exactly fifteen E- years later]
“Captain,” Commander Toliver said, ”We have just had a report come in from Pasiphae Station that a ship bound for Mars from Io has been attacked. By the description of the attack, it might just be Tobias.” Commander Brian Toliver entered the room, interrupting his senior officer as she was looking over some daily reports. He was an ideal model of what an officer should be. Tall with broad shoulders, he was a middle aged man of mixed heritage and a lifelong Space Force officer.
Captain Marsha Law was a stark contrast to Brian. Though she did not get to where she was by being a slacker, she projected a relaxed personality both in front of the crew and in private. However, no one could mistake who was in command. She had a quite strength- unusual for a woman of her petite body type. Her one real indulgence to here femininity was the fact that she loved to change her hair color. Nothing too elaborate though, for that would be against regs. Today she was a dark red head.
Although it has only been two weeks since the ship and crew of the USSA Invincible had been place under her command, they had become like one large, well-oiled machine, whose primary mission was to seek out and capture all pirates in the Jovian System and bring them to justice. Space Force was the United Solar System Alliance’s military/ law enforcement arm; in short- they were pirate hunters.
“Set our course for Pasiphae Station commander. Best possible speed.” She replied. “ "When was the attack?”
“Possibly four and a half hours ago. The ship that was attacked, the Sovereign of the Sky, was carrying over six hundred passengers and approximately one hundred and fifty crew members on its way to Bradbury City on Mars. ”
“ETA to the scene?”
“Approximately six hours.”
“Very good commander.. If there are any more details you will let me know, won’t you?”
“Of course ma’am” He replied as he turned and left the room.
She twirled the light pen she had been holding in her hands and then set it down on the pad on her desk. Due to modern technology, one could not tell that there were over three hundred pages of reports, all of which required her signature on her desk.
She sighed and stood up and walked over to the porthole and stared at the Great Storm of Jupiter in the distance. “Tobias Jones!” she thought to herself as she had so many times in the past. “You have affected my life in so many ways. When I catch up with you I hope you put up a fight. One day I promise you- you will pay in blood!. I swear!” She hated to feel this way. But every year on this day her thoughts become dark. Fifteen years ago today she lost her father onboard the Majestic Star.
“Perhaps I should thank you.” Marsha said out loud to no one. Her hatred for the man who killed her father ran deep and spurred her on to achieve her goal of taking him down. Or maybe it was survivor’s guilt, because she was away at the academy on Luna when she received the news of her father’s death..
The clock on the bookcase read 3:45pm. All that John could think about was how tired he was. Over the past week, he had slept for maybe 6 or 8 hours total. He was exhausted.
That is the reason he found himself in Commander-Doctor Podijil’s office. Dr Podijil was one of Space Force’s best psychiatrists, recommended to him by the Clarke Station Commander himself. Ever since the “Ganymede Incident”, John has had trouble sleeping. He has tried everything he could think of, including almost dying from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills. That is what led him to the good doctor’s office. He had to convince him that it wasn’t a suicide attempt. After all, a Captain who was in charge of a zero-g fast assault team must have all his marbles straight.
In the plain, white room, occupied by only a bookcase, a desk and two chairs, he and the shrink looked at one another. The only sound was the soft hum of the electric clock and their own breaths. He knew that the doctor was waiting for him to answer the question he’d just asked, but he could not remember what it was. Just like the vivid dreams he had when sleep did claim him, he was unable to recall it once he was awake again. All that John knew was that he was afraid.
“Captain,” the Commander repeated, “what were your thoughts as the Ganymede station exploded?”
“I don’t recall.”
"Alright then, what were some of the details surrounding that moment?” the doctor continued. “I know that you and your men barely made it back to your shuttle.”
“We made it back, and brought along as many civilians as we could carry. I was the one that closed the hatch” John began. “The insurgents had held nearly four hundred people hostage on the Ganymede station. Of those, we only managed to get fifty of them to safety. Most of them were the children of the men and women that were stationed there permanently. The boat could only hold so many. It fell upon me to choose who lived and who died.”
“And how did that make you feel?”
From somewhere deep inside, Captain John Hastings felt his anger grow. An anger which up until now he didn’t know existed. He had taken part in similar operations like this before. Why was this one so different? Was it the children?
Again, he had been a part of other operations where children were involved. He voiced his concerns to the doctor.
“Did you know any of the children personally?” he asked.
John suddenly remembered. The twins! Though he didn’t know them very well, he remembered that the twins had been his cousin’s. They were fraternal and about ten years old. He hadn’t recognized them as relatives at first; it had been nearly six years since he had last laid eyes on them. He vaguely recalled that Monica had moved to Ganymede station with her husband some years ago. Since then he had failed to keep up with her. Most of his family were located on Europa with a few of the older ones still on Luna and Earth. Every so often, everyone would make the trip to Luna for family reunions. That was the last time he had seen the twins. That is up until two weeks ago.
As he explained all of this to the doctor, a part of his thoughts asked silently- “So?”
A picture of the boy flashed in his mind. He was holding his hand while struggling to close the hatch that separated the ship from the station. Beyond the hatch, he viewed a mob scene through the small viewport. Dozens of people were trying desperately to escape the certain death to come.
Somehow, he had the strength to close the hatch. He felt an instant of relief before the reality of the situation crashed down upon him again.
“Everyone’s aboard!” he shouted into his personal com. “Get us out of here!”
He made the huge mistake of looking back one last time through the glass of the airlock as his boat pulled away. He still recalled all of the faces smashed up against the pane, with the sister of the boy, whose hand he still held, among them. He recalled the look of shock on their faces when they knew that they were not going to be rescued. They were still there when twelve seconds later; the entire station erupted in a huge visual cacophony of light, fire and debris.
Though unheard, he witnessed the instant annihilation of what had once been the home to nearly nineteen thousand people. It wasn’t until they arrived at Europa six hours later, that he learned that Monica and Bill had been separated from their children and had escaped earlier. He also learned that the kids had been named Tonya and Thomas. It was Tonya’s face that haunted him.
Tears formed in his eyes as he remembered the sweet innocent face with the big brown eyes that pleaded with him from behind the viewport. The eyes that will never see another birthday, eyes that will never know the joy of watching a loved one take pleasure in her company-of a first kiss. . Tonya will never see her parents again, nor her brother.
The clock on the bookcase struck four pm.
Upon nearing Pasiphae Station, the debris from the Sovereign of the Sky necessitated that the light cruiser USSA Invincible slowed to maneuvering thrusters only. The wreckage covered a large area of space. There were a few life pods still drifting among the raged chunks of metal and flesh that floated in the void, but the small ships from the Pasiphae Station, which was several thousand Kilometers away, were rescuing them as fast as possible. The occupants of the pods should have enough time before oxygen becomes an issue.
Satisfied that rescue operations were going smoothly,
Captain Law ordered the crew to start intense holo-scans of the scene, while aiding the other vessels in locating survivors. The smaller vessels from the station relayed all relevant data to the Invincible.
After several hours, they had located another twenty-three people, bringing the total number of survivors to one hundred and thirty-six.
Three hours later, the bridge of the USSA Invincible was still a busy place.
From her Captain’s Chair located to the rear of the compartment, Marsha could survey everyone at their station and if she need to, call up any station’s display instantly on her own unit before her. Beyond the three rows of workstations, were the large windows overlooking the forward section of the outer hull. And beyond that, the emptiness of space. With her naked eye, the only objects that was visible to her besides Jupiter, was the moon Pasiphae and the Pasiphae Station in its orbit, where they would be docking within the hour.
The sweeping 180 degree view of the open space gave no hint of the massive destruction and the loss of life that occurred only twenty five hours earlier.
“…One hundred and thirty six out of six hundred and forty two people,” Commander Toliver informed his captain. “We have learned from the trajectory, velocities and forensic chemical analysis of the debris- that they used a torpedo that had traces of Heptanitrocubane, a very effective high grade explosive, in other words- it’s not your typical pirate torp. A piece of the torp’s electronics that one of the other ships discovered seems to indicate that it had a very sophisticated guidance system, similar to the kind our fleet employs in some of our torpedoes. Ma’am, I think we may have another government at work here or at least a new major power of some kind. Something on the same level as Space Force. “
“There are very few former nations that are not part of the Alliance commander.” Marsha said to Brian, her face displaying a grim expression. .”And those who are not- do not have the resources to back this level of weaponry.“
“I agree.” He replied as he combed his right hand through his greying hair. “But I am at a loss to explain it any other way.”
Marsha stood and gazed at Jupiter through the bridge windows. “Could the pirates have become that sophisticated? I wonder how they have obtained this technology. I haven’t had any reports of a Space Force facility being compromised.” She turned and looked at her first officer. Her real question was if this was the work of Tobias Jones. “Did the witnesses say anything yet?”
“I am afraid not ma’am. At least nothing relevant to our investigation. Most of the people rescued had been passengers, and they said that they did not see who attacked them. In fact I don’t think any of the officers survived. I am told that there are a few staff members -baggage handlers, bus boys and such, plus one musician/entertainer on the other rescue crafts .” Brian said.
Marsha sighed ”first the tragedy at Ganymede a few weeks ago then that near disaster at Clarke Station and now this. What in the world is going on Brian?” she said.
Captain John Hastings returned to his assignment determined to not let his demons defeat him. Yes- it was a tragedy, but he knew that there was nothing he could have done about it. He needed to get back to work and leave this in the past.
“Welcome back, Sir.” Lieutenant J.G. Kassidy Roberts said to John as he entered his office. She was his administrative assistant. The young, very attractive African-British woman knew of her boss’s recent ordeal and wanted to make things easier for him.
All of his administrative duties were in order, taken care of by the lieutenant personally. . “There are a few reports waiting for your signature Sir, on your desk.”
“Thank you Kassidy” John said as he poured himself a cup of coffee. “How is your kid doing?”
“Very well Sir. Thank you for asking.” She replied. “Saturday will be her third birthday.”
“Oh yeah? Remind me to get her a gift later” John said to her while he finished stirring the sugar into the cup. The aroma gave him great pleasure, even if he never really finishes drinking a full mug.
“I will Sir. Thank you.” She knew that he really meant it too. But she also knew that there was something more at work here. There was an undercurrent of guilt behind his words. As if he wanted to make up for the lives that were lost at Ganymede. Especially the children.
“Sir,” Kassidy began, “There wasn’t anything you could have done. You do know that, right?”
“Yes lieutenant. I do.” John placed the mug down on the counter he was leaning against. “You know, sometimes life just sucks.” He turned and walked into his office.
Lieutenant (J.G.) Roberts watched him as he closed the door. Her hand reached for the com unit on her desk. She punched in a few numbers and after a few moments a man voice answered.
“Hello daddy it’s me. I got a favor to ask of you.”
“They what?!” Tobias shouted at Edwards, his chief lieutenant.
“Someone destroyed the Sovereign of the Sky” he repeated. “Word at Space Force is that it was you.”
"You know Mr. Thorn,“ Tobias Jones began, “The problem with being really good at what you do is that someone always tries to copy your style. I really wish they, whoever they are, hadn’t done that. I was planning to take the Sovereign for a little vacation to Mars and perhaps Earth later this year.”
Tobias played with a little dial on his old fashioned telescope which he kept in his private quarters aboard his flagship the Queen Anne's Revenge, formally the U.S.S.A. Concorde.
The Concorde was a medium sized cruiser that he and his men captured five years ago when the ship was in dry-dock at Penske’s Station in orbit around Amalthea. It was there for repairs to the damage it suffered during a battle with a pirate fleet. While Tobias did not participate in the actual fight, he was the mastermind pulling the strings behind the scene. Physically he and his men were posing as workers at Penske’s Station. Well over half of the five hundred men who were working on the repair crew were his. So as the repairs were near completion, he and his men took the ship. Most of the other men were spared death; however twenty supervisors were not and were killed in front of the lucky crewmembers as a warning of what would happen if they didn’t cooperate.
Image Comments (3)
I'm glad I stumbled across this and read it. The story is nicely plotted, tight, and it has a crisp, no-nonsense quality to it that allows it to move along at a nice pace. I like the way action and emotion are mixed, and I definitely look forward to more.