Chapter 7 - Alarm
Staff Sergeant Joe Beale felt uneasy, and he couldn’t quite put his finger on the reason. Standing at the control pulpit in the Communications Suite of the Nevada FORCE headquarters staring at the blank view screen, Beale tried to analyze his heebie-jeebies.
Beale was a 20 year veteran of the US Marine Corps, and the man in charge of FORCE communications. Following several weeks of overwhelming emotional stress as they fielded reports about the destruction to vast areas of Earth and the death of millions of its inhabitants by the Chrysallaman attack force, most of his team had requested and been granted leave. Based on the fact the Chrysallamans had been defeated by the Human counterattacks, there was no immediate reason to maintain the intense level of worldwide communications. His soldiers needed a sanity break.
Maybe his unease was based on his combat experience. When things were too quiet, you needed to increase your vigilance. The tight feeling in his gut didn’t match the calm of his surroundings. The old cliché of the calm before the storm kept recurring to him.
The sudden jarring sound of an alarm klaxon caused Beale to involuntarily duck. Pulsating red warning lights switched on at the same time as the large view screen on the end wall. Swiveling around, Beale saw a sight that made his blood run cold. The blurry image on the monitor was being transmitted from Voyagers 1 and 2, the remaining satellites of an early warning system located one astronomical unit outside the orbit of Pluto. While size was impossible to judge at the moment, the shape was unmistakable. It was a Chrysallaman mother ship.
Stabbing the intercom button on the pulpit, Beale raised his voice and said, “General Blunt to Communications! General Blunt to Communications! This is not a drill! Repeat! This is not a drill!”
Watching various pixels in the image shift and clarify as more data flowed into the base computers from the satellites, an instinctive shiver bolted down Beale’s spine. There was no doubt about it, the Chrysallamans had returned.
“Hey, you can’t do that!” Tom said as his team members were mowed down by machine gun fire.
Tom sat in a cushioned, high-backed leather swiveling chair in Whatsit’s quarters in the Nevada facility pressing buttons and arrow keys on his X-Box controller as he frantically tried to save his video warriors from the withering attack by Whatsit and his team. Whatsit sat next to him in an identical chair intently focused on winning the skirmish.
“It’s very sad your combat experience relies so heavily on weapons of mass destruction,” Whatsit replied as he blasted away two more of Tom’s soldiers.
Wincing as the screen declared victory for Whatsit’s Raiders and logged the 4th major defeat of Blunt’s Brigade; Tom glared at the big green lizard and said, “It’s obvious you have too much time on your hands. The only way you could be this proficient at Ghost Warriors is if you spent 6 hours a day practicing.”
Looking at the only other occupant in Whatsit’s quarters, Tom complained, “Did you see what he did, MerrCrr? He killed me and all my men!”
Shaking his head in wide-eyed amazement at the spectacle of a Chrysallaman and a Human doing their best to kill each other in a video game, MerrCrr replied, “You’re both certifiably insane, and I’m sure I’ve actually died and been sent to Hell.”
Whatsit quirked up the corner of his mouth in his way of smiling and responded, “Oh, you haven’t seen anything yet. Wait ’til I show you the Star Wars Trilogy,” and in a deeply resonant mental voice he intoned, “Luke, I am your Father!”
To which Tom replied with a laugh, “No, no. The Cantina scene! He’ll think Humans are out of their minds when he sees all the aliens in the bar!”
Just then the base-wide intercom clicked and the excited voice of Sergeant Beale said, “General Blunt to Communications! General Blunt to Communications! This is not a drill! Repeat! This is not a drill!”
Tossing his controller, Tom ran for the door, “Come with me Whatsit, and bring MerrCrr with you!”
Nodding, Whatsit jumped to his feet, grabbed JnnWall by the arm and trotted after Tom.
The Exalted Emperor of the Chrysallaman Empire, Terr Horcunt, slowly blinked his eyes as he sensed the opening of the hinged lid on his stasis pod. Recognizing the face of his chief medical physician, Dr. Oberram Dunnsk, Emperor Horcunt sat up and accepted the doctor’s help climbing from the pod onto the deck of the Royal Suite onboard his flagship, Destinnee.
Looking around, he spotted the Captain of his personal guard, Yoogo Batress, standing at attention near the entryway. In no mood for wasting time, Horcunt demanded, “What is our current location and time for arrival at the HG-281 solar system?”
“Your Majesty. We’re one week from arrival on the outskirts of the solar system at lightspeed. Our engineers are assessing the extent of damage inflicted by the Asiddian attack. At this point, reports indicate the damage is confined to the outer bulkheads on the starboard side near the forward and aft stabilizers.”
Yoogo Batress was compact. Standing less than 6 feet tall, he behaved like a confident black belt karate master stepping into competition with a white belted novice. Nicely developed supple muscles covered his body, and he moved with the smooth and powerful grace of a leopard. If it wasn’t for the knife cut scar across the side of his throat, his green hide and facial profile would have been model perfect. His combat vest was of the latest design, and he carried two cutter ray pistols in double, western style holsters belted at his hips.
“Maintain course and speed,” Horcunt ordered as Dr. Dunnsk tried to take his blood pressure and temperature. “Begin automatic hailing on all radio frequencies. Instruct all mother ships under General Hisspat Zeck’s command to stop whatever they’re doing and rendezvous with us as quickly as possible.”
Batress nodded curtly and strode from the room. Horcunt dismissed his doctor, left his Royal Suite and walked down the passageway to his throne room. Ignoring the saluting guards, he sat down with a sigh in his diamond glass throne. He was at least 100 years old. His green skin was wrinkled and mottled with dark age spots. His coal black eyes showed the large, gray, cloudy swirls of cataracts. Deep worry lines creased his forehead as he recalled the horrible calamity that had driven him from Chrysalis.
Less than 5 weeks after the colonization fleet had departed for planet HG-281, a flotilla of warships on a direct course for Chrysalis had been detected. In all the centuries of exploration and conquest by the Empire, the lizards had never encountered a spacegoing race of sentient beings. Sensors indicated the flotilla was composed of 90 spaceships, each twice the size of a mother ship.
Unnerved by the vast armada, the Emperor’s High General had ordered three mother ships to engage the incoming craft in combat to test their weaponry and defensive capabilities. The plan was for two of the ships to engage the enemy, and the third to observe and record the encounter for later analysis.
Recalling the high definition video of the brief battle, Horcunt shivered. The two mother ships had pulled within range of the armada and engaged a single enemy ship with a coordinated mix of heat and cutter rays. The armor plate cloaking the enemy spacecraft was either very thick or made of a substance unknown to Chrysallaman science. Unaffected by the powerfully destructive energy weapons, the enemy craft fired a sharply focused beam of red light at each mother ship. Wherever the streak of red touched, a slice of structure fell away from the mother ship. It was like watching a sharp knife section a slab of meat. The mother ship making the recording barely escaped destruction by activating its lightspeed gravity-drive and fleeing toward Chrysalis just before a beam of red light sliced through it.
Chrysallamans had never been helpless in the face of any known race of beings yet nothing could stop the inexorable pace of the enemy’s approach. Mother ship after mother ship sent to defend the planet was destroyed. In the final hours before the enemy entered orbit, a powerful radio broadcast had overwhelmed worldwide communication bands.
The announcement and warning were simple and clear. ‘All Chrysallamans shall surrender themselves to the Asiddian Empire for indoctrination and re-assignment. Anyone attempting to escape the benevolent embrace of the Asiddian Empire shall have their life functions terminated.’
In abject terror, Horcunt fled. Racing toward what he thought was a fleet of warships and 20 million colonists on Planet HG-281, Horcunt believed he could live out his days as Emperor protected by his remaining military forces. The ceremony renaming the planet Chrysalis II was already organized, and a rehearsal was scheduled to take place as soon as he landed.
His idle thoughts were interrupted by one of his favorite concubines. Peering demurely at him from the doorway to his private office, she beckoned him to join her for a little post-stasis party. Grinning like a demented teenager, the old codger rose to his feet and headed toward her, all thoughts of danger from the Asiddians and contact with Zeck’s invasion fleet forgotten.
Tom, Whatsit and MerrCrr entered the Communications Suite and hustled to the conference table. The scene on the monitor was still blurry, but the computer enhancement had cleared up enough of the image for JnnWall to recognize the craft.
“That’s the Emperor’s personal flagship Destinnee!” he exclaimed.
“Is there only the one ship?” Tom asked as he looked toward Beale who was making adjustments to the controls in the pulpit.
“Nothing else has been detected.”
Just then, Colonel Jason Stoneman and Major Amanda Kurstow arrived and took their seats. Both of them were members of Tom’s staff and had distinguished themselves with their bravery and military shrewdness during the defeat of the Chriks.
Staring at the new Chrysallaman seated next to Whatsit, Jason raised his eyebrows and asked in his usual no-nonsense way, “So who’s this?”
Whatsit answered, “This is MerrCrr Z. JnnWall. He’s the acting liaison between Humans and the Chrysallaman scientists we just freed from stasis on the lead mega-liner. As an expert in telepathy, he trains Chriks in the best methods for mentally controlling conquered species.”
“Can he be trusted?” Amanda inquired with suspicion as she noted that JnnWall was ignoring everything going on around him as he focused on the image of the flagship.
“I believe so, but time will tell,” Whatsit replied in a worried tone as he watched JnnWall gaze at the screen.
“MerrCrr!” Tom said in a loud, telepathic voice.
Reluctantly pulling his attention away from the Emperor’s flagship, JnnWall replied, “Yes, sorry for the momentary lapse.”
“What can you tell us about the size, power and armament of that ship?”
“The flagship is roughly two times the size of a mother ship. It’s powered by 8 fusion reactors placed in different quadrants of the vessel to remove the chance a single shot to the Engineering Section would disable it. The cutter and heat rays are 10 times more powerful than those on a mother ship. The Armorium shell is two feet thick. The flagship is designed to protect the Emperor from any known threat including a military-led coup. As far as a Chrysallaman is concerned, the ship is impregnable.”
“Why is it here?” Jason demanded.
“I have no idea. This is most unusual. For the ship to arrive at this point in time, it would’ve had to leave Chrysalis about seven weeks after our colonization fleet departed. The ship goes nowhere without the Emperor.”
Pausing for a moment, the he added, “My only guess is the overpopulation of Chrysalis was far worse than anyone was led to believe. The Emperor must’ve decided he wanted a fresh start and left for the new World with a hand-picked entourage. If such is the case, he’ll be expecting General Hisspat Zeck’s invasion fleet to be waiting on him.”
“Yeah,” Amanda agreed. “Except only one mother ship still exists.”
Just then, Beale cleared his throat, “The Voyagers just picked up a Chrik radio transmission from the spaceship. The broadcast is telepathic, but my computer geeks have converted it to voice. I’ll pipe it through the speakers.”
“Attention. Attention. All warcraft and General Hisspat Zeck. By imperial order of The Most Glorious Emperor Terr Horcunt, you are commanded to rendezvous with the Flagship Destinnee and attend to his Majesty without delay. Meeting coordinates follow.” The message kept repeating.
“So how do you want to handle this situation, General?” Jason asked. “If we don’t meet him, he’ll know something is wrong and be on high alert. If we do meet him with only one mother ship, he’ll know something is wrong and be on high alert.”
Tom hesitated a few moments as he considered his options. “Since we only have the one mother ship, we’ll use it and the known vanity, pride and avarice of Hisspat Zeck to our advantage.”
Smiling, Tom said, “The Emperor is about to be introduced to the unruly animals who infest planet HG-281.”