Persephone's Flight

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


This is the first chapter of a short story I hope to finish in the next few months. I am looking for any comments on what I've done. Thanks for reading!

Submitted: March 15, 2018

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Submitted: March 15, 2018

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***

The breath went out of him.

Alexander Gideon looked at the flashing command prompt on the console. The decision that would change everything. To press the button or not. To be a slave or to be free. It would be such a simple thing. Finger-button-push and he would never even have to see the people who died.  He might as well had been moving mountains. He lifted the glass that sat on his desk and stared at the amber liquid in it before he drained the last of the whiskey. He smiled as it burned his throat. Alexander James Gideon took one last look at the ship on his display and then back to the button and made his decision.  

***

Frost

The alarm woke him. Frost sat up lazily. Through bleary eyes he slapped at the panel to silence the alarm only to hear it sound once again.  His sleep addled brain misunderstood which tone it was. Frost finally recognized the klaxon and jerked. The cockpit was awash in the red warning lights from the proximity sensor. A quick glance at his console told him that he wasn’t too late just yet. Just a touch over a million klicks away from a rogue asteroid. A few clicks on his display and the offending noise finally went quiet and the cockpit returned to its usually relaxing soft shade of blue. Frost glanced towards the clock on the side of his display. Only twenty minutes left in his sleep cycle. He turned towards the co-pilot chair and saw it was empty.

“Damnit, Sarah. Where the shit did you go” he half yawned and spoke at the same time as he sat up his chair. It sighed on its gimbals as it swiveled into position.

“Well damn, so much for a nap. Why the hell did didn’t you do that yourself” He mumbled as he kicked the console from his chair. It would be one thing if the computer would have actually let him collide with something. It would have made its own corrections soon enough with or without his input. Frost muttered his protestations mulled over going back to sleep or starting his duty list. He let out a sigh as he gave up on the prospect of sleep and he went about his begin shift duties.

“Forty-seven crew and a half-billion dollar computer that can’t do shit for itself. A glorified babysitter. That’s all the hell I am.”

It had been one hell of a long haul. Almost four months in and almost halfway to New Terra III. They were still under thrust but in a few days the ship would begin its deceleration phase. It would spend the next three months and a half months bleeding off the velocity it had built up during the long acceleration phase. Over half a year to deliver component materials and some scientific equipment to one of the planets on the outer rim. It would take another eight months for the return trip. The Adiona was a good ship with plenty of cargo room but she wasn’t fast. Like other ships built in zero gravity she was wide and blocky and would never survive in an atmosphere. She was an old girl now with over eighty years of history underneath her hull. She had started life off as a colony ship to bring people to the new worlds. Now after untold refits and updates she hardly resembled the ship she had been but still did her job, moving things from point A to point B, well.

The ship moaned gently as the course correction thrusters fired off to avoid any potential debris from the asteroid. Frost finished checking on the ships status. All systems nominal except for the proximity sensor which we now back in the yellow moving towards green. As the ship made its’ corrections Frost pulled out his Queue. The little device chirped and lit up as it recognized his face.

Frost absently swiped through the updates and the newsfeeds that the Queues’ algorithms deemed worthy of his time. Nothing caught his eye as he deleted the most recent entries from the small devices alerts. As he was putting the Queue away the cockpit door started cycling through its opening motions. The many gears and hydraulic cylinders that created an air tight seal sighed as they moved to unlock the hatch. He spun his chair around towards the door and prepared to guilt trip Sarah for causing him to lose the last bit of his sleep cycle when the door finally gave way Alexei stepped through. She easily cleared the hatch and plopped into the co-pilots chair. The door hissed as it closed behind her making an airtight seal that would separate the cockpit from the rest of the ship in case of atmosphere loss.

Alexei sat in the chair with one leg propped on the arm of the chair and the other folded neatly underneath her. She was tall and pretty. The officers’ jumpsuit she wore fit her well and was neat and crisp from being freshly processed in the ships automated laundry system. The neatness of her suit was a sharp contrast to the casual way she sat in the co-pilots seat. She glanced over the readouts of the console and fiddled absentmindedly with the disabled controls on the chair. Frost’s chair spun and hissed quietly as he turned to face her.

“How can I help you XO?” Frost said with a hint of sarcasm in his voice.

”Oh, I am just making sure you’re not about to crash our multi-billion dollar ship into the only thing within a weeks’ flight. Where’s Sarah?”  She smiled as she said it, and stretched out to fill the chair. Even through the baggy jumpsuit Frost could make out her lean runners build.  

“How the hell should I know where she is? I just woke up. My sleep cycle is not even over for another ten minutes.”

“And the alarm?”

“Proximity sensor. As if the computer would actually let us hit anything. I’ve been flying bricks like this for twenty years and now all I do is babysit the autopilot. Making sure it doesn’t shit its’ shiny pants.”

She chuckled and sank back deeper into the seat. She looked towards the ceiling of the cockpit and sat there for a moment and tapped at one of the chairs arms. Frost scratched absently at his beard while he waiting for her answer and glanced at the little mirror sitting on the side of his console.  His hair had gone salt and pepper early but now it was leaning more towards salt than pepper. The scar on his cheek started to itch and his hand automatically moved to touch it. A remnant of a bar fight from what seemed like a lifetime ago. He looked away even more annoyed than before and gazed towards Alexei. His eyes hovering over her hips for a moment before moving to her face.

“How can you sit there and look so damn comfortable, Allie?”

“It’s my job to be cool under pressure, and that’s not my name and you know it.” she quipped.

Frost gave her a long glance up and down mused whether or not to smile or grimace. He landed halfway between and managed to just look silly. It was a way that Alexie had with most everyone on the crew. It might have been the black hair, blue eyes and her athlete’s physique, but he didn’t think so. To him it was more of her attitude that made everyone like her. Everyone always wanted to be around people like Alexei but were almost always dumbstruck when they were. Well most people would be, but not Frost. There was a time when she would have flustered him but that seemed like the distant past now.

“So, how long were you going to let that alarm go off before you decided to do something about it?”

Frost grinned, “I dunno, Sarah should have been the one to handle it. Shit, I was having a pretty good dream about a blonde just needed another five minutes or so.”

“Ha.” Alexie snorted a bit as she laughed. “Five minutes? From what I’ve heard it would be more like five seconds.”

The smile left his face and he faked a hurt look. “Lady. You are looking at the stuff of legends right here. Whole systems knew about my prowess.” He said as he patted his gut.

“I think knew is the operative word there” She interrupted.

 “Girly, there was a time when…”

He was cut off by another alarm.

“Now what in the fuck could it be now”

Frost turned his chair back to face the console and reached for the alarm. It was another proximity sensor.

“This can’t be right” Frost said as he looked over the readouts. “Send someone to check on the sensor suite, XO.”

“What’s it saying, Frost?”

“That that asteroid just fired a torpedo at us.”

Her usually amused expression faded away and was replaced by the strictly business face she reserved for dealing with emergencies and bureaucrats.  

“You’re right, that doesn’t sound right. Hold on, I’ll get Jerry on the Queue and have him check out the sensor array.” She went to stand when the ship bucked out from underneath her.

Frost’s chair jerked around on its gimbals to face him forward towards the console as the emergency thrusters kicked on. A sickening crack rang out in the cabin. He strained against the thrust acceleration to try and help Alexie back to her chair but she was already out of his reach. She had rolled back and slammed against the closed cockpit door. He looked at her in the mirror and didn’t see any blood. He hoped that was a good sign.

The computers robotic voice came on for the first time since launch.

“WARNING. PREPARE FOR IMPACT. UNKNOWN PROJECTILE CLOSING DISTANCE. IMPACT IMMENANT. WARNING. PREPARE FOR IMPACT IN 10…”

“What the fuck is that?” Frost muttered. He looked at the screen and the dot that the computer was telling him was a class VI ARES ship to ship torpedo and it was quickly closing the distance between the asteroid and the Adiona.

“An Ares torpedo? That’s a military weapon. Son of a…” He cut off as the ship lurched to the side under evasive thrust.

“9”

He reached for the emergency release lever. The lever was the only chance of saving any of the ship. There was no way the Adiona would survive a hit from a weapon like that. It was right there in front of him and a million kilometers away at the same time.

“8”

Just a few more inches. His arm felt like it weighed a thousand kilos.

“7…6…5”

He reached it. He toggled the safety off the emergency release handle and gripped the lever. Pulling the lever would release the cockpit and vital command suites from the rest of the ship. He would have thrust and enough supplies to limp to the nearest colony. Pulling the lever would save the five of the crew on the command deck including himself and Alexei. Everyone else would die.

Another jerk of evasive thrust rattled the ship and slung him into the side of his chair.

“4…3”

Frost pulled the lever and the command ship lurched forward leaving behind the bulk of the cargo decks. The Adiona cut all thrust without the input of the command decks and went ballistic. The cockpit and the rest of the command deck underwent emergency thrust. It burned all the conventional fuel it could and still have enough to slow down for a rescue. All to make distance between them and the rest of the ship.

“CARGO, 2, DECKS RELEASED, 1.” The computer stated the countdown on top of the commands.

The monitors showing the rapidly retreating cargo decks flashed white. By the time the screen faded back to the usual background of stars Frost couldn’t tell if there was anything left of Adiona or if it was just too far away.

***

Gideon stood and watched the collection mechs scavenge over the remains of the Adiona though his wall sized display. Planet-side a display like this could have been mistaken for a window. The mechs grappled with the tungsten carbide lace shipping containers. They were the only intact remains from the ship. The explosion had slagged everything else.

The torpedo that had killed the ship had punched through the meter thick steel and ceramic thick plating like it was made of butter and detonated its payload just meters away from the ships fusion reactor. The power of a sun flashing out for just a second before collapsing in on itself the reactors containment fields vanished caused a spectacular explosion.

He hated killing civilians but sometimes hard things had to be done. That was his job. To make the hard choices. Now that IT was in his hands everything would change. The door behind him opened.

“We have located and confirmed the containers, Sir. Our information was correct.”

“Good, and the survivors?”

“They are currently flying ballistic, sir. They still have thrust capability but burned through most of their conventional fuel to escape the blast. Should we plot an intercept course?”

“No, let them go and tell their story. It will not be long now. Everyone will know who we are soon.”

“Yes Sir.” His aide saluted sharply.

“Thank you lieutenant. You are dismissed”

“Yes Sir.” The lieutenant turned on his heels and marched sharply out.

It would not be long now. Everything they… no, he had worked for would come to fruition soon. It was time to come out of the shadows. Time for worlds to tremble.

Alexander Gideon walked to his desks and picked up the scotch decanter there. He poured himself a finger of scotch and put his nose to the glass to smell before taking a long sip. The scotch burned pleasantly on its way to his stomach. The glass was almost empty before he turned back to the display to watch the mechs drag the container back towards his ship.

***


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