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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
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The sentient beings of another solar system send their first exploration ship to another system. The voyage is wracked with divisions,sabotage, economic and religious rivalries.
A female Earth cosmonaut is left alone on a space research station after the death of her husband. She is faced with coping with First Contact.

Submitted: November 21, 2007

A A A | A A A

Submitted: November 21, 2007




by James Gagiikwe 2002


From the original Garhyarii:

Chabridutt-Shappairotan Viz-Grayat ^ "Chi'Mat A'nurq vahtipulai shappit naytat Shappairotan"


A'nurq vo mihnsarrat "Shu'Ynat Behtarg Grae".

A'nurq Chi'Mat Nivat muhlumsu shun ir'shunarru A'nurq chabridahg par'Oktillu ynat Shappairotan dannugrayat. "

Shu'Ynat Behtarg Grae"

"Pennat Del" daryat daz yarrin ladahr. Kos' chrodym bis Del Yar' ynat Kros chrodhu.

"Penilar Pentar" min' prendu mindullar kontequimar. Kontequimat Pentar, kontesquet ynat Oktillu.

"Schravni Gir", Kav' ynat ginnissarrar. Gavi Gir kavirnu' ynat b'oktilu.

"Whavet Uuma" xahli' ynat kavarnar. Xahlint d'ynat oktipulat kavarshant heshaygro h'oktilu.


Chabru millenquait vaht - da'dyhnyatu A'nurq bynatu Chabridutt-Shappairotan Viz-Grayat synatu Garhyar Do'chiteron Chi' Teravtillu.Ni'chabrin vo Si' Janil A'nurq byn da'viz da'dahynyat sho Chi'Mat A'nurq. M'Grae-Hysaronat Bahdchabridutt, par'Oktillu ynat Shappairotan dannugrayat, ynat Thayne Si'Chabrigat appodish baxahlu Chi'Mat. Vo Ni'chabrin Si' Janil A'nurq da'hynat sho Chi'Mat A'nurq chynatu byn da'viz Voss, Grae, Edanno, Evosso. Bahdchabridam Gi' Haihn A'nurq chynatu byn da'viz Dann, Natt, Enatt, Egrae.


The Fourth-Segment of the Cycle-Chronicle ^ "May the A'nurq Consort live a second Cycle" ^ Beloved of A'nurq was the Chant of the Four Houses. The Consort of A'nurq sang the anthem as praise to Nivat in memorial to Anurq in the 9th Cycle after Confederation.

Chant of the Four Houses

"Del of the blue face", the voyager girt by seas. Del, the navigator of embassies, merchant of unity.

"Pentar of the pale countenance", forested land washed in winter rains. Pentar the timbered, pivot-beam of the Confederation.

Gir the grey-skinned, builders of cities. Gir the architect of coalition. The tawny Uuma, shapers of metals. T

he Uuma, warriors of forethought, forging the fourfold alliance.


Let the reader acknowledge that this is the Fourth-Segment of the Cycle-Chronicle of A'nurq, Do'chiteron to the High Council of Garhyar. Si' Janil A'nurq was scribe for this segment from the mouth of A'nurq's Consort. Transcribed on Hysaronat-4, in the 9th Cycle after Confederation, and placed by the Consort's hand in the Great Library of Thayne. From the mouth of the Consort was Si' Janil A'nurq scribe also for segments 3, 4, 5 and 7. Gi' Haihn A'nurq served as scribe for segments 1, 2, 6 and 8.

Chapter 1: Chapelle

“Chapelle.” David’s voice was gentle. It nudged its way softly through the fog of her sleep. “Chapelle, darling, its time to wake up… Chapelle.” This was repeated several times before it penetrated her consciousness. She smiled and stretched as the recorded message repeated itself for the fifth and final time. “Chapelle, darling, its time to wake up. Chapelle.” She never tired of hearing her late husband’s voice. She had substituted that intimate awakening notice for the standard androgenous computer generated “sleep period is now terminated” message. Unhitching the restraints, Chapelle swung her legs off the bunk, dug at her eyes with her fists, and sat upright. She glanced at the empty bunk opposite and stretched herself, yawning, over to her cabin desk, and typed in a command. The computer would send out yesterday’s data, and notification of her “awake and on duty” status. Changing from her sleep outfit into a work smock and magnetic shoes she walked down the hallway to the exercise room. While she was doing her daily 10k treadmill run, and half an hour of isometrics, she recited the verses she’d set herself to memorise that week…

“For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints………..which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”

She’d set herself the goal of memorising the letters to the Ephesian and Philippian churches before the end of the month. Each SPEWOP was manned by a husband and wife team, with an eight-year tour of duty. Half way through their tour, her husband David had died of a cerebral haemorrhage. She estimated that a relief ship would now be some ninety-seven weeks away. She should have memorised all of the New Testament by then, she hoped.

SPEWOP-3 [‘System Periphery Early-Warning Orbital Platform’-3; known as “Spew-ups” to their crews, due to the occasional nausea experienced in the lower gravity environment] was one of four such stations patrolling the edge of the Solar system. The Canmexus Union had adapted and armed the standard planetary research orbital platforms to give early warning should there be an “incursion” into the solar system. ‘Incursion’ being their euphemism for the nagging human fear that “something” was out there, and ready to invade. The platforms followed a standard design: an outer ring, four equidistant tubes branching inwards provided systems conduits and passage between the outer ring and the large inner cylinder. Externally, an array of dishes, disks, panels and antennae supported remote sensing, information gathering and broadcasting functions. Docked at one end of the central module was a wedge-shaped ‘K’-class short-range reconnaissance craft, a SHRC, which some antiquarian film buff had christened SHReC. Each SPEWOP also had an MEPARS, [manned extra-platform articulated repair sled] stored in the equipment bay. It looked like an inelegant blend of snowmobile, cherrypicker and octopus.

For a crew of one, the platform’s routine duties were incessant, but manageable. Optical and radiometric telescopes swept SPEWOP-3’s assigned piece of the heavens. Data had to be read, interpreted, measurements confirmed. The platform itself had diagnostic and maintenance routines. The nuclear generator required regular monitoring. Health and sanity required that she address sleep, exercise and food appropriately. Non-routine events, though few, had now to be addressed by one individual, and called for additional forethought. The failure of a servo arm last week had itself required a four-hour EVA in the MEPARS to fix. That had taken half a day of preparation, and several hours of recuperation afterwards. She hadn’t anticipated how stressful it was to work without a partner. She was always aware that she was alone. Only occasionally would she admit to being lonely.

Chapelle Delacroix [nee Devereux] was 37, and held doctorates in electrical and nuclear engineering. She and David had been married just 5 years when they had been picked for this assignment. He had previously commanded a research platform orbiting Saturn. They had planned to have a child after the completion of this assignment. Chapelle left the small exercise cubical and walked down the curving hallway to her cabin. In the very minimalist bathroom she took a sponge bath in the “shower” recess, and stood under the heat lamps until she felt warmed through. All clothing was ‘dry-clean only’, so the sweaty smock went into that pile as she changed into a jumpsuit for the day’s routines. The small amount of water she used was sucked into the recycling system overhead as she dried.


Walk to the small food-prep cubicle: 2 microwaves, a refrigeration unit, a counter top and cupboard. Breakfast – a fruit and cereal bar [low GI, no ‘use-by’ date on the box], warm water [to expand the fruit bar in her stomach], and a vitamin supplement pill [she did urine and blood tests every 4 weeks as part of her health check]. Routines. Walk to the far side of the outer ring to the telemetry analysis consoles. Review the night’s data. ‘Its always ‘night’ outside’, she thought. She ran her personal "clock" by Montreal's time zone. Check, and double-check the alignment of the various telescopes. Routines. Walk back to the platform core, enter the communications centre and call up any overnight transmissions arriving from SSDA [Solar System Development Authority]. Reading - Item 1, her once-a-week [but weeks delayed] video-gram from her mother and father, part of the SSDA cosmonaut support program; especially important now, in her widowhood.

They were fine, no changes at the University of Manitoba where they were both tenured full professors [Mom in Mathematics, Dad in Art History]. Her ‘baby’ [21] brother Andrhad been accepted into the SSDA academy, as expected. Sister Louise [31], Bob and the twins, ok. All sent their love. Routine, but appreciated. Item 2, a two-week special tasking request from SSDA for telescopes 3 and 4. Item 3: a request for a complete inventory of food, water, O2, etc., for forwarding to the relief ship carrying the replacement couple. Routines. She spent the next quarter hour programming the changes for the special astronomy tasking into the computer. That had been her husband’s area of expertise, and she was still on a learning curve. She would do the inventory manually, then double check it against a computer inventory as a mental challenge.

Finally, it was time to do her daily walk-through of the platform. Conduit-by-conduit, room-by-room, panel-by-panel, junction-box-by-junction-box, hallway-by-hallway, section-by-section, she visually inspected the interior of the ship. On her linkpad she noted any problems or repair needs for diagnosis by the computer. She gave her closest attention to the atomic generator and the life-support systems. As she walked she listened to the elctromechanical hum that suffused the platform. She had lived with it so long that it took little concentration to identify its variations from one section to another; more distinct in the centre module, less noticeable in the outer ring. It was the ‘heartbeat’ of the platform, her primary diagnostic tool.Her walkthrough complete, she returned to the central cylinder and moved to the docking bay. There, she put on a space suit and entered the K-class liaison craft through an airlock.

The liaison craft’s life-support was kept at minimum settings when not in use. Chapelle walked awkwardly to the pilots’ cabin and initiated craft re-activation. She then ran through the on-board diagnostic pre-flight checklist. When all the visual displays matched the checklist she switched off her suit system and removed her helmet. The craft smelled stuffy. Leaving her helmet on the opposite seat she began her visual inspection and inventory of the passenger compartment, and then the cargo hold. The liaison craft could handle 6 passengers plus two crew, and fuel and supplies for 3 months travel. Sufficient, theoretically, to scrutinize anything that happened to come poking into this section of the system. Sufficient, theoretically, to reach the nearest system life-station. Her inspection complete Chapelle sat in the pilot’s seat and relaxed. A few keystrokes on the console, and Baroque music softly filled the cabin. This was ‘her’ time; thinking, remembering, imagining David. Not morbidly, but with warmth and gratitude for the marriage they had shared. When the music, Georg Telemann’s Das Tod Jesu, David’s favourite piece, ended, Chapelle put on the helmet, went automatically through the shutdown procedures, and exited the liaison craft.


* * *

Chapter 2: On the Freighter Vorl -17

Two bare feet slapped sharply against the concave flooring. “Huhng!” Sweat flew as the careering orb thunk-thunked against two of the eight wall surfaces.

“Eeeyah!” A second pair of feet slapped. Thwack - the orb was arrested in its flight.

“Interception, loss of one point” intoned the electronically flat voice of the Vox. “Score now: Blue 31, Red 29. Red serves.”

“Eeyah!” came the aggressive expenditure of effort. Thunk, thunk, thunk, as the orb hit floor, wall, ceiling segments in rapid succession. Bahrin Del-Phar launched into the air. “Huhng! – Nooo!”

“Deflection” intoned the Vox. “Score now: Blue 31, Red 31. Red serves.”

Treen Del-Mahz crouched, stressing every muscle for the throw, thoughts focused: ‘Deception needed. What is Bahrin expecting?’ Absolute effort, “H’eeyah!”

The orb hit a floor segment and spun sharply away, rising. Hitting one of the octagonal wall segments it continued its rise, just touching a ceiling panel. Energy spent it dropped to the floor untouched. Bahrin was only half way to it as the orb dribbled to a halt. He muttered under his panting breath.

“Score now Blue 31, Red 34. Red holds serve,” chanted the Vox.

Silent and focused, Treen pirouetted and fired the orb at a far wall segment. Bahrin had expected this and moved quickly towards the orb’s anticipated trajectory. Thunk, thunk, thwack. He was too slow by a shade.

“Deflection. Final score Blue 31, Red 35. Red wins round nine,” intoned the Vox.

Treen grinned at her twin brother in triumph. He held his face in a huff for a few seconds and then added his own grin. He’d won seven out of the nine Octorb games they’d played so far this trip. He could afford to be a good sport, even to his twin sister. “End game, exit players, engage recycling”, commanded Bahrin.

“Executing” responded the Vox flatly. A wall segment retracted and opened onto a short hallway. The twins exited and went to their respective rooms to shower and change. Behind them the panel slid back into place, and the sweat-laden air was pumped out for recycling. In their rooms each twin peeled off their sweat soaked cellulose sports smocks and tossed them into a recycling container. Activating their showers produced a very fine brief spray of water, followed by a spray of cleanser. They lathered for 1 minute, and then the spray started again, working quickly from the head down. A vacuum drain sucked up water and foam while heat lamps dried them. While they dressed in regular jumpsuits the shower-unit automatically recycled the moist air from the stall through the craft’s environmental support system.

Bahrin spoke into the intercom, “I’m heading up to Navigation, you coming?”

“Yes”, came the reply.

They met in the hallway, dressed in identical grey outfits, and began the climb up to Navigation. Being the only passengers on this run had its compensations; just as being the offspring of the Vorl Syndicate’s Commissioner on the Vorl planetoid had its perks. On the ‘VS-17’ modular freighter they were well looked after.

* * *

“Sir” the ‘D-Ana’ [data analyser] operator spoke over his shoulder from his tech-carrel, “I’m getting a proximity warning and an intermittent ID transmission, looks like an outbound freighter on the reciprocal of our track.”

“Interrogate,” commanded the officer.

“Interrogating,” responded the D-Ana operator The minutes passed as the signals went and returned through space. A light blinked. “Distance and identity?” asked the freighter’s senior officer.

“Indeterminate. ID unconfirmed as yet. Over 7 sectims and closing. We should get a clearer signal in a few minutes.”

“Very well. Let me know.” He wandered back along the corridor to speak with the Systems Engineer. Bahrin and Treen entered Navigation quietly, as they had been instructed at the beginning of the voyage, and took up their accustomed places. Bahrin kibitzed over the shoulder of the D-Ana operator, while Treen spoke softly to the environmental officer. A few minutes later the Navcom officer called the senior officer over, and Bahrin moved aside.

“Range now 300,000. Identifies as Tavno Syndicate-44. Reciprocal of our track, but only point-1 sectim off our quayside.”

“Tavno Syndicate-44? What she doing on this run? What does our SFIM [Syndicate Fleets Identity Manual] say?”

The D-Ana operator pulled a binder out of his tech-carrel library. Thumbing through it he came to the Tavno Syndicate’s fleet of inter-planetary freighters. “Tavno 44 is standard configuration, standard propulsion, crew 9, current senior officer is Raz-Mitran’Orr.”

“Orr? What would he be doing on a run like ours? Contact them, I wish to speak with Orr.”

“Yes sir.” The operator typed out the transmission. Presently a return message informed him that senior officer Raz-Mitran’Orr was indisposed, and Tu’ Rij was in Navigation.

“Switch to voice transmission.”

“Tu’ Pullum-Rij here” came a static-filled voice. “Can I be of service?”

“Raz Shaut’Nho here. I wanted to speak to my old friend Orr.”

“I am sorry that he is indisposed. I will give him your regards when he awakens.”

“Anything serious?” “Only a virus. He should recover completely.”

“My D-Ana says you are only pint-1 sectim out from us. A bit close, don’t you think? Why don’t we both standoff a further point-25?”

“If that makes you happy, but I have a deadline to meet.”

“Don’t we all. End transmission.” The chief officer stood scratching his chin for a moment, a puzzled look on his face. “Move us stormside laterally point-25 from course."

“Range now 100,000,” said the operator. “She seems to be manoeuvring away from us. A few minutes later he reported “Range now 75,000. They’re speeding up!… swinging back at us!… I don’t understand,” commented the Navcom.

“I do!” The senior officer struck the nearest intercom button, hard. “Alarm!! Pirates closing! Defence stations! Seal all sections!”

“Range now 67,000.” Anything on active array?” “Not yet.” “All sections sealed,” reported the environmental officer.

“D-Ana, get a message off to….”

“Active array shows 2 missiles have been fired! Impact in 9.”

“…to sector control. Give our transit location, situation and the false identity used by the pirates. Everyone into their suits! Activate decoys!”

A loaded freighter was not a highly manoeuvrable unit. Nor could they outrun a pirate craft. Pirates invariably damaged, boarded and simply looted freighters, leaving the crew alone if there was no armed resistance. Crews normally donned survival suits in case internal environmental integrity was compromised in a raid. As he struggled to get his survival suit on, the senior officer asked himself…”Why attack a freighter on this run?…no finished products, no rare metals…Why?.…The children of the Vorl Syndicate’s Commissioner!”

The senior officer barked at the Environmental Officer… “Get these passengers into an escape module, now!” Bahrin Del-Phar and Treen Del-Mahz were roughly pushed through a hatchway and into the crew’s quarters. The hatch covers into the escape modules were already opened.

“Impact in 3” came the tense voice of the Navcom. The decoy rockets sent out ion propulsion, magnetic and electronic signatures identical to the actual freighter. But they could not compensate for the homing devices secreted aboard during the last trip to the home world. The first missile was targeted to hit the external communications array. The second targeted to damage the ion engine venturi ports. That compromised the environmental integrity of the engine section. The ship would now coast along its course, unable to communicate, left with only steerage jets. It would be a slow trip, until they were overdue and search vessels found them.

“Jetison the module.”

The freighter sat between the pirate craft and the escape pod. The captain hoped that his ship’s bulk would block the scanner return. He wasn’t overly confident.

* * *

[end of November's episode]

© Copyright 2018 James Gagiikwe. All rights reserved.

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