A distant threat
The usually calm Lieutenant Pretorius couldn’t contain his excitement as he waited impatiently for the General to arrive, pacing the floor of the little briefing room aboard space dock 15. His men were already aboard the Raptor, commencing final checks in preparation for her maiden flight.
After what felt like an eternity, he finally heard familiar footsteps approaching. He quickly composed himself in preparation for the news, seating himself down at the desk in anticipation.
The glass door hummed open and the General entered, prompting Lieutenant Pretorius to rise to attention and salute.
“At ease, Lieutenant.” said General Sam Oliver, saluting back.
“Permission to command the Raptor, granted!”
Lieutenant Pretorius saluted stiffly, keeping his face as expressionless as General Sam Oliver’s.
“Thank you, sir!” replied Lieutenant Pretorius. “I won’t let you down, sir!”
He had just been granted permission to captain the most advanced star ship ever built by the United Earth Government. A star ship he had helped design.
The Raptor was a small ship compared to the Equinox, measuring a mere one hundred and ninety five metres long and sixty metres wide, but she boasted advanced weaponry, state of the art navigation, hybrid engine technology and a faster than light drive capable of propelling the little ship forward at two times the speed of light.
“I know you won’t, Lieutenant,” replied the General with a hint of a smile. “Dismissed!”
Lieutenant Pretorius hurriedly left the briefing room, heading for the Raptor.
“Captain on deck!”
The bridge crew stood to attention as Lieutenant Pretorius walked in.
“At ease, gentlemen,” he said after glancing around the flight deck.
He walked over to the captain’s chair and seated himself.
Second Lieutenants Storm and Paterson occupied the two chairs which flanked the captain’s chair with Storm on the right and Paterson on the left.
Storm was in charge of the navigation and propulsion systems as well as the long range scanners. The scanners were designed to work even at faster than light speeds, and specifically configured to locate the Equinox or her remains.
Paterson was the ship’s gunner and his station gave him full control of the ship’s weapons.
There was no longer a control panel in front of either chair as was the standard in all previous star ships designs. Instead, the controls were now holographic and simple hand gestures were required to access any of the required functions.
At the rear of the bridge was the engineer’s station fitted with instruments, screens and switches where Brent Lawson, the civilian flight engineer felt right at home.
On board was a full crew compliment of fifty eight men, including the bridge crew and a team of six who would pilot the Equinox back to earth after her successful capture.
“Begin the countdown!” ordered Lieutenant Pretorius.
“Yes sir!” replied the three men in unison.
“Thirty minutes to launch,” said Lawson. “The clock is ticking.”
“Patch me through to the rest of the ship,” ordered Pretorius.
“Gentlemen, this is your captain speaking,” he began. His powerful voice reverberated throughout the ship. “You have already been briefed on the mission objectives and I trust that every man here will do his duty. Failure is not an option. All hands, twenty nine minutes to launch and counting.”
“Now commencing pre-flight checks,” announced Lawson.
The advanced system performed the checks by itself, with Lawson simply monitoring the process carefully.
“Course laid in for the Alpha Centauri system,” announced Storm.
“All weapons and targeting systems are functional,” reported Paterson.
“Now retracting the docking clamps,” continued Lawson.
“Firing manoeuvring thrusters,” said Storm as soon as the Raptor was free of the docking tube.
“Ready to fire the main thrusters in five, four, three, two, one.”
The Raptor shuddered as the main rocket engines came to life and the men were pressed into their seats as the ship began to accelerate forward, away from earth orbit.
“Incoming transmission from General Oliver on the main view screen,” announced Lawson.
The General’s stern face appeared on the main view screen. “Good luck and god speed,” he said, saluting. “Do us proud, gentlemen.”
“Yes sir!” responded Pretorius, saluting.
“General Oliver, out!”
The viewer displayed a view of space again.
“We’re in position,” said Storm.
“Main shield engaged.” replied Lawson. “Ready to engage the star drive on your order.”
“Do it!” commanded Pretorius.
Brent Lawson reached for the switch, flipped over the red protective covering and pushed the switch forward, engaging the star drive.
A loud hum could be heard and felt throughout the ship, and a second later they were travelling at twice the speed of light.
The entire world watched this historic event unfold on their television sets, monitors, and mobile devices, with every news channel covering the launch of the first official faster than light vessel, which was set to revolutionise space travel forever.