Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Notebook: Frontiers

This is the beginning of a new series on my blog. Notebook will be a collection of short stories, or in some cases, excerpts from longer works, written by yours truly. I apologize in advance if there are errors in some of these works as they are mostly rough drafts. Final drafts can be found posted on Scribophile. I appreciate any critiquing, as long as they are constructive, that you may choose to offer.

By Blake Gabriel

::Incoming transmission::

::Connecting to receiving module::
::Transmission received::

[I know this goes against every protocol in the Navy, but I had no other choice]
[This is the only way I can be sure our story can be told without Confederate interference or corporate censorship]
[This is the only way we can be heard]

[I am Acting Captain William S. Booker of the Confederate expeditionary frigate, Columbus. We were deployed on an exploratory mission in the Strahl Nebula in an effort to establish contact with alien species suspected to be inhabiting the systems within the nebula]

[Nobody expected to find what we did]

 [We were told by High Command that the aliens we would be encountering were a primitive society. According to sensor readings from the satellite probes we've sent into the Strahl, these aliens had just discovered nuclear power]

[It turns out, space dust can really fuck with our sensor probes]

[Upon entering the nebula, Captain Robert Strauss ordered the Columbus on a course to the nearest inhabited planet, designated XJ-0117. After twelve hours in subspace, we arrived and entered the planet's orbit]

[Shortly after entering orbit, we were contacted via comm systems on an unsecured channel]

[This surprised all of the bridge officers, even our xeno-scientist, Dr. Kathy Royce. These aliens shouldn't have been able to contact us on such an advanced level. We expected primitive radio broadcasts, or paper plane notes or something]

[Captain Strauss opened the channel and we were met by a sight that can only be described as - ]

[The being on our view-screen was human]

[She had blue eyes and platinum-blonde hair. There was nothing alien about her at all, except for the color of her hair. Natural blondes had disappeared altogether back in 2020. Other than that, she looked as human as me]

[Greetings, travelers, she said. Allow me to welcome you to our planet]

[Welcome to Earth]

[Such a simple statement, yet for the chaos it caused, you would have thought she had just announced she was going to attack us]

[After getting the bridge staff back under control, Captain Strauss civilly informed our ambassador that she was mistaken. We knew where Earth was and we knew we weren't there]

["This is Planet XJ-0117," he told her. "We are in the Strahl Nebula, light years away from the Sol System and Earth"]

[Travelers, I'm afraid you have been misinformed. This is the Sol System. This is Earth]

[I don't know what it was that she said, but it had a profound effect on every member of the bridge crew, even Captain Strauss. Perhaps it was the way she said it. She seemed absolutely certain and the way she looked at us – it was like how an instructor looks at under-educated children]

[With pity]

[Captain Strauss apologized to our ambassador before terminating the comm-link. There was a silence on the bridge as we tried to wrap our heads around what we had just encountered. The captain asked the science officer, Lieutenant Shouta Tanaka, to check the readings we were receiving from the system's star and to see if it matched with Sol's readings. He then announced that he would be checking our navigation system himself]

[Captain Strauss left the bridge to me]

[During the hours that passed, I conferred with Dr. Royce. She said it was possible that the aliens we were encountering possessed technology that could read our memories and replicate them through illusions. Our own minds could be playing tricks on us]

[I admit, this could be possible. We had spent over 168 hours in subspace traveling from Vanguard Station in Alpha Centauri to the Strahl Nebula. I had read medical reports citing negative side-effects caused by prolonged subspace travel. Psychologically, we were operating at our limits. A mind-affecting weapon, like what Dr. Royce was describing, could be the cause]

[Except for one thing]

[Dr. Royce assured me that, based on the readings we were receiving, the civilization inhabiting XJ-0117 did not possess this weapon. Such a weapon required energy output that these – people – could not produce]

[It was at this point that Lieutenant Tanaka confirmed his readings. Everything, from radiation, elemental make-up, even the size of XJ-0117's star – all of it matched Sol. Additionally, the XJ system contained three other terrestial planets and four gas giants]

[I couldn't believe it. I left the bridge to Lieutenant Tanaka and went in search of Captain Strauss in Engineering]

[Chief Engineer Alexander Szabados informed me the captain had reviewed the nav-system's data, then retired to his quarters. This was strange behavior on the captain's part. Why didn't he return to bridge and assume command after reviewing the navigation data?]

[I went to the captain's quarters. His doors were sealed, even the exterior bulkheads. Again, this was strange. However, I was able to lower the bulkheads with the override codes. His lights were off. Only the blue glow of his terminal cast any light, illuminating his body, slumped in his chair. His sidearm was on the floor, inches away from limp fingers. He had shot himself]

[I called for a medical officer, but I knew he was dead. My attention was drawn to the information displayed on the terminal view-screen. The nav data confirmed that we had made the subspace jump from Alpha Centauri and exited within the Strahl Nebula]

[How could we be both within the Strahl Nebula in what was, in every way, an exact replica of the Sol System?]

[I summoned the bridge officers and Engineer Szabados to Strauss' quarters after a medical team transferred his body. Following Navy protocol, as the Columbus' XO, I was promoted to Acting Captain]

[However, before we could decide our course of action, we were hailed once again by XJ-0117]

[We received the same ambassador in the captain's quarters. She appeared on the view-screen in her immaculate white uniform, wearing an apologetic expression]

[Honored travelers, I regret to be the bearer of such unfortunate news, she said, but the governments of Earth have reviewed your case and passed judgment. It is obvious that your entire crew is mentally disturbed

[We cannot allow you to maintain orbit above our planet in a vessel with such heavy armament as yours in your compromised state. Your entire crew must surrender the vessel and land on the surface for treatment. Your entire crew will be given sanctuary on Earth. I promise, you will be quite comfortable]

[“And what happens if we refuse?” I asked her]

[We will be forced to use lethal force to terminate you]

[As if to reinforce her point, the Columbus' sensor systems detected several ships exiting subspace only kilometers away from our position]

[Everything we thought we knew about the Strahl was wrong. I didn't know what was going on, but we were not going to go down without a fight]

[I terminated the comm-link to XJ-0117 and ordered Ensign Ulysses Stark to activate shields and charge weapons]

[The enemy ships were similar in design to Confederate ships-of-the-line, if a bit older. But we didn't have to defeat them. We just had to get away]

[The Columbus took their first bombardment well, our kinetic shields absorbing most of the impact of their guns. We responded with several shots with our main cannon. I ordered the helmsman to go to maximum speed. We needed to leave XJ-0117's gravity well immediately]

[That was when we were hit by several successive torpedo launches. The barrage penetrated our laser defense grid and damaged critical systems in Engineering]

[Down to only 50 percent power, I diverted power to our shields and engines from weapons. The lights in the bridge flickered as we switched to backup power and emergency lighting]

[The ship shuddered as we took more hits, but I focused on the view-screen. We only had a couple kilometers left before we were clear to engage subspace drives]

[Tense minutes passed, every member of the crew holding tight, praying fervently for survival]

[Then, we were clear]

[The subspace drives engaged and the stars stretched and swirled]

[The view-screen faded to black as the neosteel shutters closed. It's said looking into the depths of subspace drove people crazy]

[I asked Engineer Szabados for a damage report]

[“Life support is offline, Captain,” he said. “I've been trying to repair it, but without the right facilities - "]

[We did not have much time. We could try to exit subspace early and try to find a hospitable planet or moon to land on for repairs, but that was not likely. Without life support, our air recyclers would fail and we would suffocate]

[I wonder if it would have been better that we died in orbit over XJ-0117]

[I transmitted this message to High Command, but if Confederacy protocol is followed, then no word of this will ever reach the public eye. But people have to know]

[I don't know what all of this means. I'm a tactical officer, not an astrophysicist]

[The Strahl Nebula – It can't be explained. Szabados believes it has something to do with the unpredictability of subspace travel. He theorizes that while in subspace we may have entered a wormhole, transporting us to a mirror dimension]

[I don't know]

[I've issued Order 121. The crew has eaten their last meal with the cyanide pills dissolved in their water]

[I am the last one]

[The air is getting stale. I can't waste any more of my breath speaking. Please, if you have received this message, transmit it to the media stations. The people have to know what happened to us]

[This is Acting Captain William S. Booker of the Confederate frigate, Columbus. Signing off]

::Transmission end::
::Saving data to off-site database::

::Unidentified spacecraft detected::

::Unidentified spacecraft charging weapons::

[You have entered Confederate Navy space. You do not have the clearance to -]



  1. Amazing Blake, really enjoyable. Can't wait to read more! Also, XJ-0117, tribute to master chief, or mistake?

  2. haha nice eye, bear. it is a master chief tribute.