Written by El Phil
"The King is dead! Long live the King!" - Anon
Whatever else was said about the Ocelonian constitution and a great deal was but mainly behind closed doors, it was at least clear. If the Presidente died during his term of office then the vice Presidente took over until new elections were held. Of course the one flaw was that the law was written before President Marks refused to hold elections and declared himself El Presidente for life, with 100% accuracy as it turned out.
The word on the street, well the very quiet word among trusted friends, was that it was between vice Presidente Rogers and Admiral Bosnitch for next leader of the Ocelonian Republic. Rogers had the parliament on his side thanks to years of being Marks' liason man, he also had the law on his side. However Bosnitch was a hero from the Breves rebellion and more importantly had the armed forces and all the guns on his side. Only a handful thought that Marks' son Phil had a chance, he had no obvious power base and no legal leg to stand on. All he had was his father's request he take over and a handful of loyal friends, not enough to take on the armed forces and parliament surely?
The official meeting room of Presidente was only recently re-decorated, to fit in with the new incumbent's tastes, and those tastes were whatever was needed for holding long, involved and technical discussions about important matters of state, which this next meeting promised to be.
"Gentleman the reports from the ship yards and research institutes are clear. The Ocelot Republic is ready to launch it's first long ranged, fully crewed space craft. The Navy has prepared to alternate designs, design Alpha fitted with long ranged tanks or design Beta fitted with a rotary nuclear missile launcher. So it is this council's job to decide which design we go with."
"I believe it is a clear decision Mr Presidente", Admiral Watson said "We must go with the armed design, to send our men out unable to defend themselves is unacceptable."
"Defend themselves against who? None of our radio telescopes have picked up any signals or found any evidence of alien life. No it's just a waste of valuable space." The position of Dr Felix and indeed most of the research ministry was well known.
"I agree with Dr Felix, but for different reasons. If there are aliens out there then sending out armed ships would send entirely the wrong message, far better to go out unarmed and in peace." The foreign ministry could be depended upon to take any line that would limit the military's power, so Taunolin was almost as predictable as Dr Felix.
"Unless whoever we do meet isn't friendly! What then?" Admiral Watson thundered.
The arguments raged back and forth with no-one changing anyone else's mind, although the only opinion that mattered was that of the Presidente, who was keeping quiet and watching the arguments. Finally he spoke.
"Your arguments are all convincing gentlemen, sadly they are also all contradictory. However I have decided that design Beta will enter production. Frankly I believe that at this stage exploration of local space is our priority and as such the extra supply tanks are more important. But I want the plans for the missile equipped version kept updated and ready for crash production if we do encounter anyone. Meeting dismissed."
As the council members filed out vice Presidente Sheldon stopped by the head of the table for a word with her boss, "I really thought you'd go with design Alpha, you really surprised me there."
El Presidente Marks leaned back in his chair and grinned. "In politics the day you stop surprising people is probably the day before someone surprise you out of a job."
"Every adventure requires a first step. Trite but true." - The Cheshire Cat
It was the grand launch of the ORS Pegasus, the first true spaceship launched from the Ocelot yards but certainly not the last. As the ship eased itself from its docking clamps and out of the bay into orbit the invited guest held there breath at this incredible first step, all except a small group in the yard managers office. This small group weren't breathless as they witnessed the Pegasus make their races first step into the stars, mainly because they'd watched the real first launch the previous week. The most basic rule of grand official launches: Make sure you've already tested it before the VIPs get anywhere near it. But for Presidente Marks, Admiral Watson and all the others who'd been in on the secret it was still both proud and reassuring to see the Pegasus making official, if not actual, history.
On board even Captain Micheal Delap had to time to enjoy the moment, the crew had been in almost continuous training for the last month and were the pick of the recruits. Last weeks launch and shakedown had been a great nerve calmer as the Pegasus had passed with flying colours, apart from a series of minor and easily fixed problems. But now shakedown was over and the time had come to head for the nearest warp point. Even as he thought his stomach suddenly turned a loop, it was all well and good the scientists saying it was safe, that the ship and crew would survive perfectly well, the fact remained he was expected to throw his ship into a large spacial anomaly. Still he could hardly claim it was a surprise, he'd always known he'd have to do it if he joined the navy, but…. Well to be honest he'd always thought a different officer would get the first command and so he wouldn't be the first. He grinned to himself, thinking he was probably the only person to graduate top of a class wishing they hadn't worked as hard. OK they'd cleared the yard, time to go.
"Helm set a course for the warp point, Engineering full cruise when you're ready."
"Course laid in Captain, and the Chief reports full power on your command."
Ahh Lieutenant Commander Vickers, he'd been lucky to get her as first officer. She had looked certain to get a command, instead here she was on the Pegasus.
"Excellent Commander, let's go make some real history."
As the Pegasus cruised across the ship streamed back data, this when combined with the information from the shakedown was enough for the Ministry of Research and the Rolls-Royce engineers to produce the MkII Ion Engine, which was incorporated into the design of the Pegasus Batch 2. The updated design was passed to the shipyards currently laying down the next ship in the class.
Finally the Pegasus was on the brink of the warp point. Captain Delap had ordered all bar a skeleton crew to take a break in the preceding hours, he wanted everyone bright eyed and bushy tailed for this.
"All stations confirm readiness before we go in."
"Reports in all systems 100%, we're in as good a state as possible." Said Lieutenant Commander Vickers.
"Very well, Helm take us in." He breathed in and blinked before entering….
"Captain we have entered the Cignus system, no damage reports but sensor systems still distorted and all ship velocity has been lost." Vickers reported
'That was it?' thought Delap to himself, 'Unbelievably easy.' Out loud "Helm, take us in full power. Vickers get those sensors up pronto, I want to know what's out there. Comms see if that bock of tricks from the R&D boys works and get onto Naval Command."
For Presidente Marks and the council the news from Cignus was good and not so good. The good news was obvious; the Pegasus had made it and warp point travel was possible and had no obvious side effects on people or ships. While if you'd asked the council they would all have professed complete confidence that the Pegasus would be fine, there wasn't a single member who hadn't had at least one sleepless night worrying about them. The less good news was that the Cignus system like their home system contained no planets with breathable atmospheres. It did contain several colonisable planets, but they would have to be domed. So the Pegasus had been ordered to push on to the next warp point while the shipyards worked on the next in class, the Pioneer.
"The whole art of war consists of guessing at what is on the other side of the hill." - Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington
The launch of the ORS Pioneer was always going to struggle to match the huge celebration that accompanied the launch of her sister ship, but everyone involved gave it their best shot. So as the ship slipped out of the dockyard to start her shakedown cruise the bands played and the crowds cheered and onboard Captain Julia Locke and the crew sat back briefly to enjoy the experience. "Helm lets put the ship through her paces, the faster we get this finished the sooner we can start the real mission."
For the navy the launch was joy tempered with apprehension, the Pioneer was still an unarmed ship. There'd been no sign of any alien life in Cignus or on any of the long range radio telescopes, but that didn't calm all the nerves. With both ships on route to their warp points to continue the exploration there was little to be done at the Admiralty, bar approving the plans for Ocelot's first colony ship being built in the hope that a planet with an oxygen atmosphere would be found, if not then a domed colony it would have to be.
"Doctor that is excellent news, when can we expect any tangible results though?" Asked Presidente Marks.
"It could be many months and much of the work will be theoretical but with so many minds at so many institutions all across Ocelot breakthroughs are inevitable."
"Thank you Doctor, please keep me informed of any further breakthroughs."
As the Presidente leaned back he reflected on the last few days, the shipyards had expected that the recent material sciences development could be adapted for larger ship hulls within a month and the vice chancellors association had agreed to co-ordinate university research with the Ministry of Research. Despite all that he could barely wait for the next warp points to be explored, ahh the excitement of discovery, even by proxy, was intoxicating.
As Pioneer entered the Styris system the scans revealed what everyone was hoping for, two rock worlds with oxygen atmospheres. Captain Locke smiled to herself, her crew had found one of the things that El Presidente had sent the navy out to find, other worlds to colonise. The supply situation was better than expected, the MkII Ion Engines were more efficient than the old MkIs, so after scanning the system and sending a message back to Ocelot the Pioneer set course for the next warp point.
As the Pioneer was travelling across the Styris system the Pegasus completed its jump into the Balosnee system.
"Captain sensors coming back momentarily… we're reading unknown contacts and an inhabited planet!"
Delap's first reaction was it must be a sensor error. "Confirm that isn't just a sensor error"
"Confirmed sir, all diagnostics check out 100%. Additional information coming in the planet's population has to be in the billions and is heavily industrialised. There's also some kind of orbiting space station." Lieutenant Commander Vickers reported
"That simplifies thing, if a first contact can be simple. Well people you know the drill lets go through it, nice and slow with no mistakes. Comms get a message back to the Admiralty they will want to know about this you can be sure."
It took several days, but eventually the language problems were overcome and communications became possible. Captain Delap discovered that the planet was inhabited by a race called the Jraenar Imperium who bore an alarming resemblance to short dinosaurs. He just hoped they weren't as aggressive, but he knew that he was just projecting his stereotypes on to them, hopefully…
After much discussion and every department that could have a say chipping in, as well as many ministers with nothing useful to say but a desperate need to contribute, it was decided. The Pegasus would try and arrange a non-aggression treaty with the Jraenar and that the Pegasus should stay at least a couple of sectors away from the planet, partly to avoid angering them but mainly so she had a head start if she had to run.
The council meeting was particularly stormy as the matter of the next ship design had to be decided; with the Corvette sized hull perfected there was an additional 30kT of space to fill. The doves, lead by Taunolin wanted supplies or indeed anything non-military so supported the proposed Starchaser design, while the rest of the council wanted to at least be prepared for the worst and backed the Javelin design with its twin rotary launched nuclear missile launchers and reinforced bulkheads to increase survivability. The matter was decided when the Presidente backed the Javelin and the first in class would be the next ship to be built after the colony ship was completed.
"We do not entirely trust you. Your treaty can wait for now" - Transmission from the Jraenar Imperium planet
It was not a good way to start the month all agreed. On the other hand it wasn't the worst news, at least they weren't at war. The Pegasus was reporting that the Jraenar had launched a colony ship and a 150kT vessel, designated the Azul class. With a communication relay buoy deployed the Admiralty decided to pull the Pegasus back for refit and re-supply. Captain Delap wasn't sad to be going, sitting that close to an unknown alien race in an unarmed ship was not good for the nerves.
Back on Ocelot the first coloniser vessel was launched and set course for the Styris system to colonise one of the breathable worlds there. Filled to the gills with brave souls looking to start a new life on a new world she expected to make planet fall within six weeks, her progress would be watched by the whole planet, there was a big respect given to pioneers and you didn't get more pioneering than starting life on a new planet
The month ended with the Pioneer entering the Cerebus system, however it was nothing but a massive asteroid belt. Of great interest to scientist and astrophysicist, but not exactly what Captain Locke had been hoping for, still she reasoned, if you always succeed and found what you were looking for you wouldn't appreciate it. With that though she order the Pioneer to carry on to the next warp point.
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" - A Tale of Two Cities
The month started with the Pegasus returning home to a hero's welcome, half the planet turned out for the ceremony when she docked at the yard, or so it seemed to Captain Delap. As the dock crews started the refit Delap was down on the planet at the Admiralty meeting Admiral Watson and going through his debrief.
"First off Delap I want you to know that no-one blames you for the Jraenar rejecting the treaty, you followed procedures perfectly and did sterling work on getting their language translated."
"Thank you Admiral." Delap was totally sincere, he had been worried about that ever since the message from the Jraenar had been relayed to his ship. It was a massive weight off his mind and he couldn't wait to tell the rest of the crew.
"Next captain you may have noticed the other ship in the dockyard." Indeed Delap had, it was hard to miss. The Javelin was hard to miss, the first true warship in the fleet and she looked it. Sleek lines only disrupted by the twin missile tubes and the exhausts of the engines she looked dangerous even at rest. "Well we want you to have her, you're the only captain with any experience of the Jraenar an as the Javelin is heading back that way we want you onboard."
"I'd be honoured sir. Is the rest of my crew being re-assigned as well?"
"Some of the Delap, but we're keeping back Lieutenant Commander Vickers and a few others."
Delap's mind raced, why was Vickers being kept back? He hadn't given Vickers a bad performance review, he hoped she wasn't taking the fall for the Jraenar mission. It would kill her not to be out in space. And who were these 'few others'? Admiral Watson watched the reaction on Delap's face and smiled, it was good to see that sort of concern in a captain for his crew, time to put him out of his misery.
"Don't worry Delap, I suppose I'd better tell you what's happening just to calm you down. Vickers is being promoted to full Commander and we're giving her the Pegasus. If anything she gets the best part of the deal, the yard superintendent estimates 6 weeks before the refit is finished, so Vickers is going to get at least a clear month of leave. You however will be lucky to get a weekend as Javelin is all but complete." Delap visibly cheered up as the Admiral spoke and by the end both men were smiling, the conversation then turned to a detailed debrief of Delap's impressions of the Jraenar.
Newly promoted Commander Susan Vickers looked at her new command and marvelled at the massed crews crawling all over her. Pegasus was going through the full upgrade to Batch 3 standard so her engines were being replaced with the more efficient MkIIs, the long range tanks ripped out and replaced with a rotary launcher and reinforced bulkheads fitted throughout the ship. There was no question that if Vickers had to go back to Balosnee she was going to feel a hell of a lot happier in an armed ship than the first time she was there.
It was later estimated that the arrival of the colony ship at Styris V was watched live by almost half the planet. The ceremony, as the flag was planted and the planet claimed for the Ocelot Republic in the name of El Presidente Marks was repeated endlessly on every news broadcast for days afterwards. There would be other colonised worlds everyone was certain, but one would always have a special place; Hope.
Captain Delap didn't even get his single weekend of leave, the entire navy was called back from leave and the yard was ordered to rush the Javelin to completion. A transmission had been received from the Jraenar and while no one claimed to fully understand it, it clearly wasn't friendly: "Your cities shall burn with our vengeful fire" was not what you sent to anyone you liked.
"So Taunolin does anyone have any idea what the message is actually referring to? Could it just be a miss-translation or is this for real?" The Presidente asked his foreign minister at the emergency council session.
"We have no idea Mr Presidente, but we don't think it was a miss-translation. The Jraenar detonated our relay buoy immediately after the message was sent. I think we have to assume that they knew exactly what they were sending."
Marks cursed to himself, the last thing Ocelot wanted or was prepared for was any kind of conflict. What had they done to offend the Jraenar? It could be anything he'd have to get Taunolin to pour over every transmission looking for something, but deep down he doubted that they'd ever find out.
"Understood. Admiral how bad is this?"
"Our main problem is lack of information on the enemy, is the planet in Balosnee their homeworld or a colony. While we have only encountered two enemy vessels it would be foolish to assume that they don't have any more. The Admiralty therefore recommends that the Javelin be sent to the Balosnee system to conduct some reconnaissance and try to intercept any attack before it reaches the home system. We would also like the Research Ministry to prioritise weapons research in light of the obvious threat."
"Very well Admiral get the Javelin deployed, Dr Felix have your staff liase with the Admiralty over R&D. In addition I want Hope to start work on a shipyard ahead of any other priority, we may need more ships and I don't want to be reliant on just one yard. Unless there are any other points, this meeting is adjured.
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Written by El Phil
Copyright © by the author, posted with permission.
Published on: 2005-04-19 (7997 reads)[ Go Back ] - [ Fan Fiction ] - [ Content Home ]