The high command staff and the Outer World Alliance President and over a dozen military police officers were waiting in the sealed off hanger bay when the M50 scout came roaring into the hanger bay. Rumors were spreading around the station regarding the reason behind the sealing off of the flight deck and the arrival of the President Everett Cho. The President frowned and narrowed his eyes at the entry of the M50 into the hanger. That type of high speed approach by a scout was bound to instigate even more rumors.
President Cho was midway through his first term in office and indeed only the second President of the OWA. He was hoping to avoid bringing attention to the OWA until it was more firmly established with a much more powerful military that was capable of defending its interests. The formation of the Alliance came about as this relatively unknown branch of jump points was settled by those who fled the Empire for various reasons and had interest in establishing a free republic, realizing that only through unity they could prevent these systems from becoming lawless pirate infested space. Only one system under OWA control was known by the Empire and that was the Halcyon system, and since it was home to just some minor farming and mining colonies not directly capable of generating significant tax revenues and of little strategic value, they usually ignored it. There was much worry over the presence of a carrier in Halcyon system. He had been briefed on the developing events in Halcyon and the UEE’s destruction of one of the OWA’s civilian freighters and that some UEE personal had tried to prevent the attack. His staff was panicked that this was the beginning of an open war with the Empire that they were ill prepared to fight and would likely expose their hidden worlds to the Empire.
Cho had many questions for this pilot who was beginning to power down their scout fighter. It was highly unusual for them to break radio contact after declaring an emergency, and even more unusual for a request of a meeting like this to be granted. The commander of Derelict Station was a good friend of his and he trusted his judgment. Besides that, he knew that this scout was someone who was involved in the Halcyon activities and this was very likely to be significant. Something inside of him told him that this meeting that was about to occur would potentially change the course of the fledging republic and shape his presidency.
As his thoughts went on in his head, he noticed that conversation around him had stopped as the pilot approach with her mobiglas in hand and a deeply concerned look on her face, betraying much anxiety. Not wanting the pilot to be too uncomfortable he greeted her “Pilot, you have sure stirred up a hornets nest. The look on your face tells me that the news you bear is far more grave than even I was anticipating. Please, if you are ready, you may begin your debriefing”. Cho, thought that she looked almost relieved that there would not be much small talk and could get right down to business.
“Thank you mister President, sir.” Fisher took a deep breath before continuing. The news she was about to present was going to be received about as well as swift kick to the groin, so she decided to start with a show stopping one liner “Time is critical. You need to assemble a fleet to fly at max thrust to Earth.” She winced as the table erupted into surprised exclamations and loud retorts.
“Why should we consider risking everything for such a crazy scheme?” President Cho finally directly asked Fisher.
“Sir, because the Empire will soon see the crippled hulk of a Bengal carrier getting towed back from Halcyon. And, Captain Malachi captured the crew escaping from the Bengal and is racing to Earth. And there is more! Sir, the reason that Bengal was out here… Well, just look at this…” She exhaled forcefully to relieve some stress, as she started the 3d holographic projector on her mobiglas. She started playing back the data she received from Franklin’s transmitter and carefully watched the change in the faces of those who were able to watch the projection. Disgust and horror swept over them as the data presentation continued for several more minutes. After the presentation ended Fisher, briefly paused and then forcibly looked at those assembled and finished “The President asks why we should consider joining this race to Earth and stopping them before either party can reach it. The answer is simple: we must do it because we have no choice.”
A minute or two of uneasy silence fell upon the hanger deck. Finally President Cho spoke up, his voice now weary and weak sounding as he struggled with everything he had just seen and heard. “I must take leave and hold an emergency meeting with congress and get this officially approved. I will present the information to both houses. In the meantime, Admiral McKenzie, assemble the full fleet and all reserves. I want them heading to the Halcyon jump point within the hour. Any ships that can’t make the jump point within three hours, are to watch over the jump point.”
After Admiral McKenzie accepted his orders and gave orders to his subordinates who dashed off to set the plan in motion, he turned towards Fisher and spoke “I know what you have been doing in working with Franklin on getting us this information. I can’t promise you that we can save any of them, but what you have done for the OWA and even the Empire, even if they don’t know it yet, is exemplary work. I am activating a lot of personnel, but we are in short supply of qualified pilots with leadership qualities. I am giving you a rather large field promotion to the rank of Commander and transferring you to the OWAS Vanguard, she is an old retired Imperial cruiser that has a single fighter wing that we recently acquired from a corporation who had been using her as a ship transporter. You are her new wing commander. Your glas will have your orders soon. She is under my command and is the flagship of our fleet. She I docked to the station currently, your glas will give you directions to her. I will be holding an officers meeting as soon as we disembark. Dismissed”
Before Fisher could even respond the Admiral turned and rapidly walked to a staff member nearby and started a conversation as they both briskly walked to exit. Fisher decided she needed to clean up before heading to the Vanguard. She went through the security checkpoint and made her way to the small quarters she had been calling home between missions. As she entered the room the lights turned on casting a strong white beam of illuminations on her surroundings. On the bed was a folder with the full notes regarding Commander O’Brian and his family, or at least what remains of it. She was previously tasked with analyzing O’Brian and other members of the crew of the UEES Artemis to determine the likelihood of them defecting or at least assisting in getting information. She had grown to develop a certain fondness for O’Brian, perhaps even an infatuation. She looked at his picture in the profile, smiled, and then blushed. What was she thinking? There are much more serious matters at hand.
----Meanwhile in the Halcyon System onboard Helios 1----
It was such a wonderful and sweet dream. It was on Earth, a beautiful sunset with a warm summer breeze, Tom O’Brian embracing his lovely wife tightly before boarding the transport to the Artemis. She was wearing her favorite dress and it was flowing with the wind just like her dark brown hair. He told her that he had to go to space in his fighter to ensure that she was safe at home. The dream was in slow motion in O’Brians mind.
Suddenly, the dream turned to nightmare as the lovely image of his wife became a rotted corpse with long flowing hair soiled with dirt and grime and foul worms creeping out of her skull. He tried to pull away but the embrace was unbreakable. The corpse spoke in his wife’s voice “O’Brian, O’Brian, come back!” and then the corpse kissed him on the lips.
His face suddenly felt wet. But, this was a real wetness. He was awake. No corpse, no wife, just the cold metal ceiling of the medical bay on an Idris class corvette. His face was wet. He tasted the liquid sitting on his lips. Water. Another splash on his face with lots of water. He tried to jump up, but couldn’t move. He was tied down tightly to a medical bed. He shook his head furiously to shake the water off. He turned his head to the side and saw Franklin standing next to a man in a doctor’s uniform. She was dressed in an all-white pilot’s flight suit that carried a logo on the left breast that matched the logo on the ships. There were a few others in the room, but his vision was still a bit fuzzy and he could not see well. The doctor started to loosen the straps.
Franklin spoke softly “Welcome back O’Brian. Listen quickly, there isn’t much time. “ A smile came from her lips “By the way, you look terrible” she laughed as she helped him sit up.