Log Mundy 9416-2237

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    Adele Mundy

    Personal Log, Lt. Adele Mundy, TSN Eagle, 4LD

    I can’t think of any more excuses to delay this. The formal reports are done, data logged in, life pods checked (twice), enquiries about survivors sent to MedBay; and I even went to Benjamin’s first. Which, on reflection, might not have been such a good idea. No, Computer, I am not drunk. One glass of Barolo and one glass of brandy do not make one drunk. I think it was one glass of brandy… But the conversation went on later than I had expected – of course it did, we had to talk, though I’m not sure we came to any conclusion. There’ll be an enquiry, I expect. Dammit.

    Everything was a little off kilter from the beginning, with officers away on special assignment, and crews short of regulars, and personnel reassigned to unfamiliar ships – myself included, as I was sent to Raven, and had to remember that beam frequencies were relevant again. The exercises were, in Capt. Xavier’s words, “pretty rough”. Afterwards, in one of the off-duty moments in the galley, I remember people were joking, “Allard doesn’t scratch the paintwork, he scatters hull plating about a sector of space”. And I was inwardly cringing, thinking about my wavering course during the first sim. There’s no point wallowing in how bad the sims were, however, because what real life threw at us afterwards was much worse.

    First came a dash to defend Outpost 16, which resulted in the loss of one station, though Outpost 16 itself remains.

    Then came the supposedly routine escort mission. Our orders were: to deploy from Promethean Command and rendez-vous with an Experimental Weapon ship; to escort the Experimental Weapon ship to a test site in Cronus IX and deploy the test weapon; then to return to Promethean Command; ominously, there was an additional order: ensure that no enemy witnesses survive.

    There was a moment of deafening silence on board Raven as Capt. Xavier asked for a pilot. Lt. Aramond ended up on Helm, and I knew I had to perform my SciComms duties to a high standard, because SciComms is usually Aramond’s station on Raven. (The fact that Matsiyan’s shuttle was able to dock with Lancer and he made it on board in time for the mission helped clear my mind. Or it may have been the coffee he was drinking. Can I blame my current less than coherent state on the fact that Matsiyan is still in the bar, and on his third glass of brandy?)
    Lt Cmdr. Gebbens took the Weapons console, and the newly-promoted Ens. Garion settled in Engineering. Xavier, of course, in command.

    Fleet Capt. Xavier broadcast the orders to the fleet, and emphasized that since the experimental weapon was top secret, the fleet had to ensure it wouldn’t fall into enemy hands, hinting at dire consequences if it did. Things turned pretty dire anyway, but I’m coming to that. Immediately, simultaneous comms came in from Eagle and Phoenix, as both Capt. Evans and Lt.Cmdr. Van Leigh asked whether, in the event of the fleet being unable to defend the Weapon, we were authorised to destroy it rather than have it fall into enemy hands. The Fleet Captain set the idea aside with a “let’s cross that bridge when we come to it” remark.

    The fleet was attacked by a small group of Kralien ships just before reaching Cronus gate. We dealt with them easily, and I remember negotiating the surrender of two of them. Then we were reminded that we could not allow information about the convoy escorting the Weapon to make its way to the enemy, and that the ships would have to be destroyed. I am relieved, in retrospect, that the Kraliens agreed to abandon ship, so that we picked up their lifepods before we fired on the ships. And Raven also picked up one of the black boxes, downloaded its data, and sent it on to Command.

    Then we reached the gate, and went through to Cronus system.

    A few pirates tried to attack us and failed, though they managed to cause damage and casualties on Lancer – I was aware, through Matsiyan, of the damage schematics appearing. Lancer’s shields just won’t take more than a couple of hits, she’s not supposed to stand still long enough to be hit.

    We reached sector IX, the escort ships formed up on Raven, raised shields as a precaution, and the Experimental Weapon was deployed. The probe launched quietly out into the black, its trail faded, and we waited. In the tense silence, Aramond joked that the next thing would be Caltrons appearing. I think he regrets the joke now. We all joke about the worst things that can happen, it’s a way to defuse tension; but when they do happen, and the worst is as bad as this, we retrospectively see the jokes as prophecies, and ourselves as Cassandra, even when we know our words don’t have magical power.

    The Weapon deployed, and immediately radiation levels started to rise. The way the science sensors were struggling to scan the radiation reminds me of the way the Cosmic Icosahedron behaved; but I have no evidence on which to base my suspicion that R&D, instead of simply researching, may have jumped straight into developing what they found out from the C.I. into a weapon. And if they did, they’ll never admit to it. Though we did hear a transmission from the ship, a dismayed, “It wasn’t supposed to do that…”

    Then a singularity formed, and Caltrons came flying out of it, much to Aramond’s initial, and short-lived, amusement: a few Primaries and a Tertiary. As the Fleet Captain coordinated the ships to defend against the Caltrons, some kind of space-time instability that read as a cluster of mines on my sensors also appeared, forming in the centre of the singularity and spreading outwards.

    After the first wave of Caltrons, a second appeared out of the singularity. This time it included a Senary, and we had more difficulty dealing with it. As usual, Caltrons did not respond to attempts to communicate. Meanwhile, more “mines” were forming. And a third wave of Caltrons emerged, I think it included a Duodenary. Phoenix was taking heavy damage, Lancer was out of energy and unable to respond to requests for assistance. Heavy ordnance was fired on the Caltron Duodenary, and both Phoenix and Raven were too close. Raven took damage. Phoenix was destroyed.

    As even more “mine” clusters formed, spreading further out towards the sector boundary, the Fleet Captain ordered the retreat. I remember Lancer swooping down on the line of white blips on screen that marked Phoenix’s life pods, picking them up with barely a pause. It reminded me of something I saw when I was little: an old woman beading, picking up tiny beads on her needle with one smooth, flowing movement. That was lovely flying by Aposine.

    Raven limped towards the sector boundary while the medical crew fought to recover the DamCon team members who were too badly injured to work on repairs any further. Even after the sector transition, as the fleet was able to pick up some speed, the Caltrons were still pursuing. And then those “mine” icons appeared on screen again, all along the sector boundary. What that meant for the sector we had just vacated, I dread to think. I suppose Command will send some unmanned probes to find out – if the Gate is still operational, and if they can get past the space-time instability instances, and if they can last through the radiation.
    As we made best speed towards Promethean Gate, Fleet Capt. Xavier gave instructions for the fleet to return to Command, with the intent that, once we reported what had happened, Command should then destroy all the research for the weapon. I don’t know what prompted him to change his mind: just a short while after his first order, he announced that we would destroy the R&D ship carrying the weapon, and which presumably had all the relevant data on board. I wasn’t aware of an order to that effect from Command, and I wondered if it had come in on a secure channel, but we didn’t have much time for any kind of wondering.

    Aramond, to his credit, did ask the Captain permission to give the ship a warning to evacuate. The Captain ordered Raven into position and sent Eagle and Lancer on to Command – so they’re not implicated in what happened next: he announced that he was going to violate TSN regulations and destroy the ship, citing as his reason that the weapon was too dangerous not only if it were to fall into enemy hands, but for the TSN itself.

    And he gave the order to open fire.

    As soon as the ship was destroyed, he handed over command to Capt. Evans, and everything went by the book after that: Raven was ordered to Command, Capt. Xavier surrendered to security as soon as we docked, and we were all left stunned, waiting for the legalities of the situation to develop.

    Emotions among the officers are raw: Aramond is drinking himself into a stupor, but he’s ready to lash out; Wade is dismayed at what he’s returned to, after his special training assignment; van Leigh is mourning the loss of Phoenix as his personal responsibility; Blaze is processing the lifepod experience, but his trust in superior officers seemed to be wavering; Matsiyan insists if Xavier fired on the ship before the lifepods deployed, then he is a murderer and a traitor. I hate that word. People see themselves as acting from the highest, most idealistic principles, and people on the other side call them traitors. Did Xavier wait long enough before opening fire?

    I didn’t see life pods. Dammit. I didn’t see life pods. I tell myself that transponders can be switched off, and that if the R&D crew were afraid Raven was going to go after them, they might well have done so. I tell myself there were four Destroyers in that sector, who could have picked up the life pods. At the same time, I tell myself that no R&D department would have all its data in one place only, that there must be backups of the design of that damn Weapon stored in some research facility, and that this whole tragic mess might be for nothing – a delay, and the Weapon could be built again. That thing could destroy whole sectors. If word of this gets out to the Unuks, we’re either going to be under full attack, or we’ll have spies crawling all over R&D trying to get at the blueprints. Or both. And if any of the alien races hear about this, what’s going to stop open war? I don’t much fancy the chances of those Kralien prisoners we took ever seeing their home again.

    “It wasn’t supposed to do that…” Then what was it supposed to do? Would it have been any less dangerous? Any more controllable? Dammit, now I almost wish I’d stayed in the bar.

    A headache tomorrow won’t help. Though it might give me an excuse to stop by MedBay, and see if I can find out in person whether any life pods were picked up, and check up on casualties from Raven and Phoenix, since nobody is answering my enquiries.

    Dammit, Phyllis Lambourne was on the R&D ship. A brilliant mind, Chair of CyberMechanics at Paragon University, back in the day, funded by Countess Crey, with all that that entails. Well into her seventies by now, I should think. It can’t be easy scrambling for a life pod at her age. Dammit, what was she doing working for the military? She should have settled down in a small university town somewhere safe, and been for ever grateful she got out of Paragon in time…

    Sleep. That’s why I came back here from the bar. Knitting up the ravelled sleeve of care. How many of Dr. Chen’s tablets do I have left?

    [end log]

    Blaze Strife

    //Your writing is improving, I think. 🙂
    //It seems you want to give the reader glances into what happens later in the text, written like Mundy’s mind running to the later events. This can be very interesting, if used correctly.
    //”I didn’t see life pods. Dammit. I didn’t see life pods.” This was very effective.
    //”Blaze is processing the lifepod experience, but his trust in superior officers seemed to be wavering” It’s interesting to see how others one’s view in-character talk.

    Adele Mundy

    Thanks for the constructive criticism!

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