“Ahoy crew members, IronAngel here,” the deep voice of the captain resonated over the carefully tuned speakers located throughout the MLS Shovel. Each of the view screens on the ship flickered, and an extra window with a view of the bridge popped up in the corner overlaying whatever had been displayed on each.
“I know the going has gotten a bit arduous as our adventure continues, but you can do it. We all face our trials in our own unique ways, but always remember your crew members are there to help, so if you need a hand with an obstacle in your work, ask. Try to help out others when and where you can as well. Remember, we are all in this together.” He continued on. “Now, I’ve heard reports some of you are concerned about your fellow cadets on the other ships. I fully understand this, RueTylar and Utoxin have been keeping me up to date with the missions of the other ships and the search for the MLS C. Baty.” IA straightened his tie and cleared his throat. “Unfortunately, it is my sad duty to inform you that the rumors are true, and we have lost a small number of cadets from the MLS Viking to a raptor attack.” He paused, bowing his head slightly. He continued, “But they are Vikings, and you and I both know they will not stop until those cadets are safely back among their crew, and the raptors will know the error of their ways.” A wicked smile crept across his face.
“That said, they knew signing up that this would be a challenging, and potentially dangerous mission, as is ours and the other ships of the Academy. I know times are difficult now, your work load seems to be ever greater as we progress on this journey. Some of you have told me you aren’t certain you can go on. But, we are Shovels. We embrace a challenge, we thrive on it! We know with a good mix of planning and off the cuff, out of the box thinking on the fly, we can do anything. I have great faith in you all! Each of you has…”
His voice is interrupted by a warning alarm in the background. On the screens a sudden red light washes over the Captain’s face.
“Well, that’s never a good sign, is it?” He arches an eyebrow at a screen off camera to his right. The image on all of the screens throughout the Shovel change, showing a menacing looking silver ship, dagger like and glittering wickedly against the sable wall of space behind it. Traces of red light play over its surface as the view zooms in closer. Utoxin’s voice cut in over the intercom.
“We have visitors, and this is a ship design I don’t have in my notes. RueTylar is attempting to establish communications with it.”
“Thank’s ‘Tox.” IronAngel replies, reappearing on the screen. “Well everyone, it seems we have a new, more pressing matter at hand. Utoxin has watched the stars longer than nearly anyone I know. If he has not seen it before, no one in the fleet has. I have faith between he and RueTylar, we will be able to establish communication with them. Hopefully, they are friendlier than the raptors. Now, if everyone could report to your stations and prepare for first contact? Thank you all.”
He gives a slight salute, and the image on the screen cuts out. The hustling of crew members moving to their duty stations overtake the hallways, intermixed with excited murmuring. This could be an exciting story for all to write home about, or a tragic end to their mission, and everyone knew it, even if they did not want to voice it aloud.
The crew determinedly sets to task, and as the chrome shard closes the gap in space the view of it becomes clearer on screens throughout the ship. Sleek and long, the ship had glowing red traces along its hull, with points of brighter light moving quickly along them. Someone commented that it looked like a Star Destroyer that had been built in the Tron universe to the agreement of those around them.
On the bridge, the tall man in the black suit hovered over the shoulders of his peers. They worked frantically, but with a comfortable grace and ease that comes from years of experience.
“Got it!” exclaimed Utoxin, “They are using a phase modulated carrier wave technology, very simple stuff.”
“Tox, you never cease to amaze me, heh.” Grinned the captain.
RueTylar glanced over, and at Utoxin’s nod, keyed her mic and began to speak.
“This is the MLS Shovel of the Space Scribblers Academy, hello alien ship, are you receiving our transmission?”
“Who are you calling an alien?” crackled back the reply, sounding slightly nasal and digital. Utoxin adjusted the settings on the translator, clearing the voice transmission.
“You are in the Vargas Expanse, are you guys lost or something?” Rue raised an eyebrow. IA leaned over to Utoxin and whispered “Why does the translator voice sound like Bruce Campbell with a surfer accent?” Utoxin shrugged, “Your guess is as good as mine?” Rue ignored them, and continued.
“We are on a mission to find the MLS C. Baty, likely piloted by a robot named Timmy.” IA could tell by the tone of her voice that her response was carefully measured, and guessed that what she said was not what she was actually thinking.
“Oh! You mean the little metal dude! Yeah, came through here about 5 kicks ago. Nearly broke our computer trying to figure out what he was saying. Didn’t wanna race either. Pity, that ship looked pretty fast. Something about, I dunno, ratchets? Rambles? Ranchers? I can’t remember, but it was an R word. Definitely an R word.”
“Raptors?”Rue asked, trying to be helpful.
Utoxin pulled up another screen on his terminal, data streaming across at dizzying speed. IA peered over his shoulder, unable to make heads or tails of what was on the screen.
“I’m getting data on their ship and communications systems to send back to the Academy.” Utoxin explained. Rue waived at them to get their attention and pointed to the large view screen showing the alien ship.
A sudden golden bolt lanced out from the ship, below them and to their left. A blaze of plasma outlined a black shaped in the void where the amber lance made contact.
“That’s the second one,” she informed them. “Nothing is showing up on our sensors, but they hit something out there.” She again keyed her mic.
“Alien ship, are your intentions hostile? What are you shooting at?”
“Like I said, who are you calling alien? We work here, don’t hassle us. And it’s the Vargas Expanse, don’t you guys know about Fipples?” IA shot a confused glance at RueTylar, but she was already a step ahead.
“We are not aware of ‘Fipples’, could you advise us on them?”
“Fips, you know, those invisible space bugs. Sure, not as bad as a pack of Greebles, but those things are little. You run into a Fip and it will knock half your ship off. Look, we’ve got to get back to scaring them off before the big race comes through here in a kick and a half. How about we transmit our log with the metal dude and get back to work before the boss finds out?”
Rue shook her head and turned to the others.
“I really think we either got the night shift on their ship, or they let one of the kids answer the phone when we called.” She again keyed her mic, going back to her serious, business tone. “That would be acceptable, and very helpful. Thank you.”
Another lance of light poked a Fipple above them and to their right, the golden halo of plasma outlined a massive buffalo like creature with flipper like appendages where legs would be found on a land dwelling creature. They watched rapidly swim off into space as the glow faded away around it.
“Incoming data in a burst transmission, captain.” She let her crew mates know.
“Hey, if you guys follow our path back, should be clear of Fips so you don’t run over one. That was the way the ship you were looking for was heading anyway. You might be able to catch up to him, if your ship is fast enough. Dunno though, that rust bucket doesn’t look like its got much under the shrouds. Haahaha!” rang out the voice on the speakers.
“It gets us where we are going.” Rue responded dryly. Turning off the mic, she turned to IA. “How about we kick in the enhanced EM drives and show them what fast is?” she grinned.
“The data transfer is complete, sounds fun to me!” Utoxin shot back.
“A bad plan today is better than the best plan tomorrow. Course is set?” the captain responded. Rue nodded.
With a slight whine echoing through the hull as the engines awoke, the MLS Shovel left the silvery needle far behind them, the ever expanding expanse rapidly opening up as the ship tore silently through the void.
“I’ve updated the sensor code to detect those ‘Fips’,” Utoxin announced.
“And I already have a message with our location, heading and information about the alien ship and this area back to HQ.” Rue added.
“We are making good time too, at this rate we should catch up to the Baty in short order and get to the bottom of this.” The captain seemed pleased.
“There’s just one slight problem,” Utoxin grumbled. The others looked at him quizzically. “All their data is encrypted, and it is going to take me a while to crack it.”