Plot a course for Earth
The atmosphere on board the Equinox B was jovial and celebratory as the massive ship gently settled down onto her platform on the red sands of the great desert. Her maiden flight had been a complete success with no faults whatsoever.
“Congratulations, Jason. An impressive test flight indeed,” said Vince, walking over to his friend and giving him a firm handshake.
“Thanks, Vince, but I can’t take all the credit,” replied Jason. “We have an exceptional young engineer in our midst who helped,” he continued, pointing towards Thomas Wayne who was now walking towards them.
“Congratulations, Mr. Wayne!” said Jason, shaking the young man’s hand and giving him a pat on the back. “I am truly impressed!”
“Jason!′ Eve called out to him as she rose from her seat, smiling and waving.
She rushed over to the little group, all smiles and bubbling with excitement, planted a kiss on Jason’s lips, much to his surprise and hugged him tightly.
“Congratulations, Jason!” she exclaimed, still embracing him, “I am so proud of you!”
Jason allowed himself a moment to linger within Eve’s warm embrace before breaking away and looking sombre.
“Vince, Eve, I plan on returning to Earth quite soon, with the intention of punishing those responsible for Jasmine’s death.”
A look of sadness crossed Jason’s face at the memory of his wife’s final moments.
Both Vince and Eve simply nodded and didn’t appear surprised by Jason’s words.
“You are both welcome to accompany me on this journey, though I would understand and respect your decisions if you choose not to.”
“Forgive me, my friend,” began Vince with a pained expression. He paused as if thinking about what he was going to say before he continued.
“While I can understand your reasons, and I do sympathise with you, I’m going to excuse myself from this trip.”
“Say no more, old friend,” Jason cut in, “I understand. You will be welcome to return to Earth after my business there has been concluded, at any time in the future, should you so choose.”
“I’m in, Jason,” said Eve enthusiastically. “It’s time to teach the arrogant United Earth Government a lesson!”
“Thank you, Eve,” he smiled back. “Now, if we hurry, we should be just in time for the crowning ceremony.”
Both Vince and Eve looked at him quizzically.
Jason grinned at them before satisfying their curiosity.
“Since I have no idea how long the mission to Earth will last, or whether I will even return, I’ve decided to crown Sir Lambert acting King of all Carac.”
“He is the obvious choice, given his loyalty to the kingdom and popularity among the people,” replied Vince, nodding in approval.
“Yes,” agreed Eve.
A quick shuttle flight later and the three found themselves inside the monumental ten thousand seater King Wilbur Royal Auditorium at the University of Octavia which was packed to capacity.
Jason wasted no at all time in getting through the formalities, crowning Sir Lambert acting King, to much applause and fanfare, before addressing the crowd.
He tapped the microphone at the podium to check that it was switched on, cleared his throat for effect, and addressed the large crowd.
“Friends,” he began and took a deep breath before speaking further, collecting his thoughts.
“Four long years have passed since the untimely death of our beloved Princess, Princess Jasmine. She perished protecting her Kingdom. She was brave and noble to the very end, putting the safety of the people above her own.”
He paused again as a pained expression took hold and his eyes grew moist. He looked around the auditorium which was as quiet as a mausoleum now. Jason took another deep breath and went on.
“Today, we are ready to avenge our beloved Princess. We will seek out and punish those who were responsible. We may be gone for a long time and some of us may never return from this mission, but I leave, knowing that the Kingdom is in capable hands. Thank you, Sir Lambert, for rising up to the challenge!”
Jason bowed, and walked off to thunderous applause. He was glad that his people supported his decision to avenge the Princess. Their support added legitimacy to the impending attack against the Earth, an attack which he had planned a long, long time ago, long before he had married the Princess.
“Come, it’s time to leave,” he said to Eve, and before long, they were back on board the Equinox B.
“Mr. Wayne, please inform the rest of the fleet that we will be leaving for Earth as soon as the full crew compliment is on board,” requested Jason as he stepped into the bridge with Eve.
Thomas Wayne nodded in acknowledgment and proceeded to carry out the instruction given to him while Jason made his way to the captain’s station where he made himself comfortable.
“The fleet is ready to leave at your command,” reported Wayne some moments later.
“Excellent!” exclaimed Jason.
Jason turned his attention to Eve who was now seated at the navigator’s station getting her instruments online in preparation for the flight.
“First officer Eve Lomax, please occupy the station to my right,” instructed Jason with a straight face.
“Yes sir!” responded Eve unable to hide her excitement. “I accept the new appointment!”
She saluted and quickly sat herself down at the first officer’s station which was only a few hours ago, occupied by Vince.
“You’ve earned it, Eve,” smiled Jason.
“Captain, the full crew compliment is now on board and we are ready for takeoff on your command,” Thomas informed them, interrupting Jason and Eve’s small talk.
“Right!” said Jason. “Inform the fleet, and prepare for immediate lift off!”
The powerful dual engines once again shuddered into life while the myriad of display screens indicated their status messages and flashing lights.
“Equinox computer!” spoke Jason. This was the trigger phrase to enable the voice command system.
“Yes Captain?” responded the mechanical female voice.
“Fly us to rendezvous point alpha and hold position once there,” instructed Jason.
“Instruction accepted and course laid in,” came the instant reply. “Prepare for lift off.”
The great ship gently lifted off the surface under computer control and quickly changed course to the pre-determined rendezvous point near the outer limits of the Alpha Centauri binary sun system.
“Standby for faster than light travel in five, four, three, two, one,” chimed the female voice after executing a flawless series of manoeuvres which guided the Equinox B out of the planet’s gravity field. Jason noted how the computer had activated the main shield as soon as they were at a safe altitude.
The main viewer showed a rainbow of colours and patterns as they accelerated to twice the speed of light, an effect caused by the cameras, which relied on light to relay information to the large screen, not being able to function correctly at faster than light speed.
Before long the ship’s computer voice chimed in again.
“Standby to exit faster than light travel in five, four, three, two, one..”
The light show on the main viewer gave way to a breathtaking view of a billion stars which punctuated the darkness of outer space, like tiny little diamonds.
Within a few seconds, the first of the twenty ships from the fleet dropped out of light speed and became visible on the short range scanner. Like clockwork, a ship emerged every ten seconds, until all twenty ships had taken up their positions alongside the Equinox B.
“All the ships have arrived safely, with no problems reported,” indicated Thomas Wayne from his station.
“Very good!” replied Jason. “Plot a course for Earth. Maximum speed! Go!”