Authors: Rob Buckman
HE WHO DARES
Book Three Ver 1.1
This book is a work of fiction. Names, character, places, and incidences are the product of the author’s imagination or are used functionally, and any resemblance to an actual person, living or dead, business establishment, event, or locales is entirely coincidental. My object in writing this, and other novels, is to tell you the reader, an interesting tale for your enjoyment, and not to win any English composition prize or a spelling bee. That said, this version, 1.0 is the result of readers proofreading the story for me, and removing the as many of the errors as they could find. That means there are a few spelling and grammar errors that got by me, and their poor tired eyes, so please overlook any that we failed to catch. For those that take note of such thing, this story is 96,000 words, or about 175 pages long. Happy reading.
Thanks to all the readers who have sent me corrections, as noted in version 1.1 much appreciated.
RB ([email protected])
completed warp transfer, entered Sol space and began her long inward cruise towards Jupiter and the fleet. She passed the lonely beacon, broadcasting its endless warning into the blackness of eternal night that the Pluto warp point was off limits to all ships. Mike Gray sat in his command chair watching the view screen as the forlorn sentinel drifted by, pondering its implications. Even since Captain Enright’s fateful, inter-dimensional transfer almost three hundred years ago, this beacon had warned ships away. Every intersystem
Notice to Mariners
since that date contained a warning of the dangers of trying to negotiate the Pluto warp point. Only one other ship, some one hundred and fifty years after that first fateful jump ever attempted it. The ship was never seen or heard from again. Now Mike knew why. Unlike Enright, that captain hadn’t been so lucky, and was lost forever when he jumped into the gravitational embrace of the black hole or the class II giant star. Now, no one questioned it, no one thought about it. It was a fact of life, like the sun coming up in the morning, until now.
As their scout torp proved, the alien ship on the other side was telling the truth. You could now use it safely, within reason. You still had to know what to do once you exited, what with a class II giant star and a black hole warring with each other on either side of your exit point. Too high an exit speed, and you’d end up within the reach of one or the other, not to mention the gravity flux and the intense radiation. It would take a captain with guts and a helmsman with steady nerves to make that jump without any prior knowledge of what was there. With any luck, that bit of information would remain a secret for a long time. The Pluto warp point was the only one the Admiralty knew for certain the Sirriens weren’t watching. Why should they?
In his mind's eye, Mike plotted the course he would take if, and when, he had to go back through. His first problem was getting enough H
to the alien ship for her to survive and therein lay the rub. If he reported to the admiral, per his orders, he’d have to tell him about the alien ship. Then ask for permission to take a tanker, or several tankers back through the Pluto warp point to refuel her. Being human, the admiral would immediately see the possibility of obtaining a treasure trove of advanced weaponry, and god knows what else from her. He would then have to request help from Earth and would get scientists, technicians, and a whole gaggle of looky-loos who just wanted to go and see an actual 80,000-year-old alien battleship. Once that happened the secret, of not only the alien ship, but also the fact the Pluto warp point was now open, would no longer be a secret. With so many leaks in the government, and the Navy, it was anyone’s guess how soon after that, the Sirriens would know. Probably immediately if Mike was a betting man. Once that happened, it was almost a copper bottom bet the war would be on. There was no way the Sirriens could let Earth get their hands on advanced alien tech, and sooner, rather than later, the Sirriens would come knocking on Earth’s front door with a full battle fleet.
Later, while compiling his official report to the admiral, Mike debated entering that piece of information, and then decided not to. As far as anyone knew, he’d been on a long range survey mission to look for Sirrien spy ships in the Oort cloud. That’s how his report would read, nothing more, nothing less. He said nothing about the letter from the president of Avalon to the King. Nor that they were in the process of building the first one hundred
ships as they’d come to be called. With any luck, they would be ready within a year, but then what? Who would go and pick them up or crew them? That was something for Admiral Rawlings to work out. He’d done his part in taking the King’s letter to Avalon, and finding a way to use the Pluto warp point. Mission accomplished; now for some well-deserved shore leave. That brought up the question of his own crew. Even if he swore them to secrecy, one drink too many, an incautious word to impress a girl and the cat would be out of the bag. It was a situation that almost begged him to take the
somewhere else instead of Earth. Or risk getting members of his crew kidnapped right off the streets by Sirrien agents. Without the truth drug, TD-Penta, the Sirrien method of extracting information would be brutal, and lethal in the extreme. They dared not let whomever they kidnapped live after that.
“Damn it to hell!” Mike swore softly. Fate had conspired again to put him in a position where he had to decide the destiny of people he knew. His crew and some whom he might say he loved. A quick look at the ship’s clock on the bulkhead showed it was well after midnight ship’s time, and he was nowhere near finishing his report. He wasn’t even sure what he should put in it.
“More tea, or coffee, Skipper?” Jenks stuck his head in and asked. Mike shook his head.
“Thanks, Jenks, but no. Don’t think I should have any more.”
“Then you should at least try to get some sleep.” Jenks eyed the clock as he said it, and gave Mike a disapproving frown. “Even for an Avalon superman, you need your sleep, Sarge... Skipper.” Any other Captain would have taken that remark as disrespect, but not Mike. He and Jenks had bled too much together to let that happen.
“I’ll take your suggestion under advisement, Corporal Silverman.” He said, cocking an eye at Jenks, seeing him smile. “Think I’ll take a walk first… and by the way. Why are you still up?”
“Well, someone’s got to take care of you, ’cuz you sure ain’t taking care of yourself, mate.” Jenks popped out the door before Mike could come back with an answer.
“Cheeky bugger!” He yelled, hearing Jenks’ laughter out in the passageway.
With his battered cap pushed to the back of his head, and his grandfather’s old leather pilot’s jacket on, Mike ambled his way around the ship, nodding to people on watch here and there, but not stopping long enough to disturb them. The dog watch on any ship has a rhythm of its own. The slight background hum from the electrical systems, the soft sound of the hull expanding and contracting, and all the other little sounds any working ship makes. The soft sigh of the air circulating system coming out of the overhead vents, to the sound the plumbing makes when someone flushes the head, someone laughing, or the tread of space boots on the carpeted steel deck. To the accountants in London, a warship was nothing more than a hole in space that you poured money into. To a civilian it was nothing but a cold steel coffin as lifeless as the metal she was made of, but not to a sailor. A ship, any ship was a living, breathing entity that they loved and cursed in the same breath. Each ship had its own personality. Some good, some not so good. At times, a sailor would say “she” was grumpy today, or that “she” felt more alive. Some ships sailors wouldn’t go near unless they were dead drunk or down on their luck. Others had a waiting list for crews as so many wanted to sail on her. Mike felt that way about his ship. The
had the personality of a wild horse, always chomping at the bit to get wherever they were going as fast as possible.
Inevitably, his footsteps took him to the star-port chamber at the foot of the upright sail, and opening the hatch, he stepped into the darkened room. Every ship had one, ostensibly for the navigator to take direct star sightings if the navigation computer ever went down. It happened rarely nowadays so mostly it was used by the crew who wanted a quiet moment alone. In some ways, it had become the default ship's chapel. Here you could be as close to the diamond bright stars, and the eternal blackness of interstellar space as it was possible to be without going outside in a hard suit. Some said that they felt closer to God here than in any church or magnificent cathedral on Earth. Here Mike felt at peace, as though he were looking at the face of God, the siren song of deep space eternally calling to him.
For a while, he sat and looked out into the star speckled darkness and let his mind wander down the meandering pathways of his life. Being the captain of a secret new ship was a long way from the flight deck of an old deep-space tug, thinking of the events that brought him to this point. Inevitably, those meanderings came to a stop at the point his grandfather died. Thankfully, the grief wasn’t so hard edged now. He smiled slightly remembered the joy they both felt after that wild fly-by of Christchurch. It was inevitable that his thoughts would drift to that fateful day. Even now, years later, he still couldn’t shake the feeling that it had been his fault. If he hadn’t been so reckless or had stopped for a moment to consider the ramifications… He sat there looking out at the uncaring stars unshed tears in his eyes as he remembered.
* * * * * *
plunged down, picking up speed as she headed in at a perfect 30
angle. Her sunburst navigational lights strobing ahead marking the path of her fly-by. Eight minutes later, she brushed the outer fringe of Christchurch’s atmosphere, speed against gravity as they roared around the planet, streaking across the night sky like some giant comet. By this time, everyone on the night side of Christchurch could see them. Like her namesake, she was the flaming arrow of God,
was living up to her name, stealing fire from the Gods themselves and bringing it to man. By now, Mike was in the engine room cranking up the cooling unit, but the temperature on the bridge still climbed. Their mad charge dug them deeper into the atmosphere, causing ionization of both the meteor and the rad screen that made them flare as they bled energy. This made them light up, surrounding the ship and container string in a sheath of burning air and displaced heat. The heat generated had to go somewhere, in as well as out. Andrew Tregallion shed his jacket then his sweater as he fought the yoke to hold her steady, grinning from ear to ear. Now it was just a question of physics, a fight between velocity and gravity, one cancelling the other. The container string bucked and swayed undulating back and forth like some giant snake, but the optical tractor bollards held. The containers on-board guidance systems helped keep them on track like a pack of obedient dogs. Mike laughed as he climbed the stairway to the bridge, bouncing from side to side between the bulkheads, wincing at each jolt. No matter what happened, this wild ride was worth it.
exited in a blaze of glory on the other side of Christchurch picking up enough speed to meet the freighter,
before she hit the hyper wall. Orbital Center was still screaming, but both Mike and Gramps tuned it out as they laughed and sang their victory song.
“Come cheer up my lads, it's to glory we steer,
to add something more to this wonderful year.
To honor we call you, as free men, not slaves,
for who are so free as the sons of the waves.
Hearts of oak are our ships,
Heart of oak are our men.
We are always ready,
steady, boys, steady,
we’ll fight and we'll conquer, again and again.
Our worthy forefathers, let's give them a cheer,
to climates unknown did courageously steer.
Through oceans to deserts, for freedom they came,
and dying, bequeathed us their freedom and fame.
Hearts of oak are our ships,
heart of oak are our men.
We are always ready,
steady, boys, steady,
we’ll fight and we'll conquer, again and again.
* * * * * *
, this is Sierra-Whisky-Gulf 893, do you copy?” Mike radioed.
, we copy you.” A laughing voice came back at them. “This is Captain McGinnis of the
“Good to hear your voice, Captain.”
“That was some show you put on back there,
“Well, you said you wanted this cargo, and we do aim to please.”
“We see you coming up astern, how long do you calculate for your zero/zero intercept?”