Chapter 8 - FLR
“Clever bastard,” Heinbaum declared as he grudgingly complimented GooYee on the creation of a new transmitter/receiver based on the FLIT technology.
“Thanks, Heiny,” GooYee responded with a curl in his lips indicating he was pleased by the Human’s praise.
The Chrysallaman physicist had been intrigued by the K-wave transceiver invented by Heinbaum and had dedicated the better part of a week to studying the design. GooYee thought he could adapt the K-wave to the FLIT black hole generator and not be confined by the need for kinetic energy to power the transmission.
Working with a miniaturized version of the fullerene containment system, GooYee discovered a simple harmonic vibration of the electromagnets in the pyramidal base would create an oscillation in a fold link. Making a slight modification in the Heinbaum ring to modulate the signal required only 24 hours of his time. GooYee called his new spatial transceiver an FLR for Folded Link Radio. Even Heinbaum had to admit the design was elegant in its simplicity and effectiveness.
Heiny, as GooYee now referred to Heinbaum, had dispatched Alex Fields in a FLIT powered scout saucer to Jupiter and then on to Pluto to test the range of FLR transmissions. The results were nothing less than spectacular. Alex never lost radio contact with the two scientists. Even locked in an orbital position on the far side of Pluto, the FLR transceiver performed flawlessly.
The discovery of the FLR was fundamentally as important as the FLIT tech. Not only was Heinbaum supremely jealous but the damned Chrik was as annoying as Jerome McPherson. Heinbaum had slowly become used to the smell of McPherson’s gun oil permeating his laboratory, but the Chrysallaman’s dietary habits were unbearable. The smell of raw hamburger filled Heinbaum’s sinus cavities, and the sound of GooYee licking his fingers as he stuffed down pound after pound of the ground meat was revolting. Heinbaum felt as if he’d been consigned to the pits of Hell.
When General Blunt called to request he come to his office, Heinbaum ran out of the lab in his haste to get away from the lizard.
Miguel Roemer was loitering outside Blunt’s conference room when Heinbaum arrived.
Recognizing the quizzical look on Heinbaum’s face, he said, “General Blunt requested my presence as well. Looks like our upgraded mother ship may be going into combat sooner than expected.”
“What combat?” Heinbaum asked just as the conference room door opened, and Doug Jenson waved them inside.
The Staff Conference room was a large, rectangular space. Special LED lights recessed in the ceiling had been dimmed to illuminate the room just enough to permit comfortable viewing of the bank of computer monitors suspended above the conference table.
The room was fully occupied. Stoneman, Kurstow and Fields sat on the far side of the table. Doug Jenson, Becky Chang and Whatsit sat on the near side. Two chairs had been moved up to the table for Heinbaum and Roemer. An image of the FORCE logo revolved on the screens.
Indicating the scientists should sit, Tom said, “Sorry for such short notice but we have a situation. It looks like the Chrysallaman Emperor has just arrived to join his mighty fleet and celebrate the conquering of Earth.”
Neither Heinbaum nor Roemer seemed the least upset by the news. In fact, their demeanors showed eager anticipation for more information.
“Would you please update us on the refit and upgrades to the mother ship,” Tom requested.
Roemer was the scientific overseer on the work being done over the past five days to the mother ship and five scout saucers. Pulling a keyboard and mouse into position, he navigated to the correct folder in the server and clicked to open the 3D engineering file illustrating the changes made to the spacecraft. A fully rendered depiction of the mother ship appeared on all the overhead monitors. Selecting the appropriate icons, Miguel digitally removed the outer hull of the image and zoomed in on the Engineering Bay.
“Three of the four fusion reactors were dismantled and replaced by one FLIT Generator.”
Seeing curious looks, Miguel explained, “We decided to keep one of the fusion reactors as a backup power source. Since the FLIT Generators are so new, their long-term reliability is unknown.”
Based on nods of understanding, he continued, “Since the FLIT Generators are so small relative to fusion reactors, we decided to install several redundant generators in different areas of the ship.”
Entering more commands on his keyboard caused the display to highlight six locations with images of FLIT Generator installations.
“My engineers selected these spots as least likely to be damaged in the event of an enemy attack. All the FLIT Gen’s are interlinked. In other words, if one or more of the Gens are disabled or destroyed, the others will take up the slack. There is a FLIT Gen for propulsion, a Gen for weapons, a Gen for the defensive shield and three backups.”
As a murmur of approval swept around the table, Miguel added, “All fusion reactors have been removed from the scout saucers. Each saucer now has three FLIT Gens, for propulsion, weapons and the shield. There are no backups.”
Heinbaum broke into the presentation with an oily smile. “I am pleased to announce there has been a unique discovery brought about by the collaboration between the Chrysallaman physicist Dr. GooYee and myself. It has been included in the upgrades of all the ships.”
Puffing up like a banty rooster trying to impress a hen, he said, “We now have a black hole powered transceiver capable of providing instant, unjammable communications over intrastellar distances. Dr. GooYee made a few minor changes to my K-wave invention and created a spatial transceiver based on the FLIT Gen. I approved the name for the device; FLR for Folded Link Radio.”
Nodding toward Alex, he said, “Colonel Fields participated in testing the FLR and can vouch for its efficacy.”
“Roger that,” Alex agreed. “Communications between Pluto and Earth were clear as a bell regardless of orbital position of the planets. There was no delay in the conversations except for a momentary one second silence as the link was established.”
“That’s very good news,” Amanda replied. “Reliable communications capability is essential for coordination of military campaigns. The K-wave transceiver was a Godsend in our defeat of the Chriks.”
Recognizing the news about the FLR had buoyed the general mood of his audience, Miguel decided the time was ripe to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of the defensive shield.
Clicking on an icon near the edge of the screen, he zoomed out from the image and the outer hull of the mother ship reappeared to cover the wire frame representing the internal structure. Around the outer rim of the ship, a thin blue line appeared. Zooming the image for a close-up revealed a silvery porcelain border enclosing what looked like a luminous blue stone shot through with dark speckles and white flecks. The black speckles and white flecks in the blue stone seemed to be in constant swirling motion.
“As you already know, the Heinbaum/McPherson Personal Defensive Shield or PDS pendant is based on the F-35 Lightning fighter shield design. On the fighter aircraft, a thin, braided band of the composite porcelain material circled the aircraft from wingtip to nose to tail. The shield used an HKG to power itself. The HKG also absorbed the energy of any offensive weapon directed against it to strengthen the force field. The shield was so effective, the only way the Chriks could destroy an F-35 was by a kamikaze attack strategy.”
“The PDS provides the same degree of protective shielding for its wearer in the form of a pendant hung around the neck. We installed a modified Heinbaum/McPherson Defensive Shield around the perimeter of the mother ship as you can see on the monitors. Instead of using an HKG for power, the shield is energized by a FLIT Gen. We have tested the shield, and it provides a protective bubble impenetrable by cutter and heat rays as well as a MA beam.”
Looking around the table at the satisfied faces of the Staff, Miguel said, “The shield has a challenging problem.”
Plowing on with his explanation as frowns appeared, he said, “The shield works both ways. The enemy can’t use any known energy or projectile weapon against our ships, but our ships likewise can’t fire their own weapons through the shield at the enemy.”
Stoneman was not happy. “What good are our weapons if we can’t use them in battle?”
“Captain McPherson came up with a solution,” Heinbaum announced, but his look indicated he didn’t like having to admit the Scotsman contributed anything.
“Yes,” Miguel agreed. “The McPherson solution was to activate the shield in zones. A sensor array is now built into the outer hull of our ships. The sensors maintain an electronic envelope around our craft with a diameter of 2,000 feet. Any concentrated energy pulse or projectile touching the outside of the envelope activates the defensive shield to protect the threatened area of the ship. Our warship then returns fire from weapons ports on the outskirts of the zone shield. Only if our ship is receiving enemy fire simultaneously from 360 degrees would it be completely shielded and unable to return fire.”
“I suppose that’s better than nothing,” Jason grumbled.
Eyeing the scientists with a less than pleased expression, he asked, “Are you working on a solution? I want to be able to fire my weapons whether the shield is operating or not.”
Heinbaum’s response was irritated and indelicate, “Of course we are. Great scientific achievements don’t happen overnight. Most occur in stages based on prior discoveries. I can see your military training didn’t include patience.”
Tom recognized the meeting atmosphere was deteriorating. Fending off unproductive hostility between his military and scientific teams, he broke into the heated exchange with a question, “Is the VrrSilliac Xur ready to go as well as its full complement of scout saucers?”
“Yes, Sir.” both Heinbaum and Roemer answered in unison.
“Excellent! Colonel Jenson and Major Chang, I want you to awaken Hisspat Zeck from stasis. We need him to provide a realistic welcome for our honored Chrysallaman guest, Emperor Terr Horcunt.”
Whatsit, who’d remained silent, said, “I want to be by Zeck’s side at all times when he has any interaction with the Emperor or crew of the Destinnee. As a native Chrysallaman, I may be able to recognize deceit in his actions and responses. We must make sure the pompous General doesn’t ruin our welcoming party by warning the illustrious Emperor of any danger.”
“Very good idea,” Tom agreed.
“Colonel Fields, gather your team. I want everyone ready to go within 3 hours. Dr. Roemer, you’ll accompany the mission for the purpose of scientific observation. Perhaps seeing our modified craft in operation will provide meaningful insights into new modifications which may be necessary.”
Rising, Tom said, “Dismissed.”
“I’m trapped!” Hisspat Zeck thought as his stasis-muddled brain climbed back to consciousness. Claustrophobia dug its talons into his mind as he pushed against the lid of his stasis pod in a desperate attempt to escape. Under normal protocols, his pod opened automatically, but it was locked. Since he was the commander of the mother ship, he was always first to be awakened and released. Something was very wrong.
Forcing his thoughts back toward rationality, Zeck recalled he was a prisoner of the Humans. Blinking to wipe away a sleep induced film, he saw two of the animals looking down at him through the glass top of his stasis pod. The unemotional look in their eyes made Zeck’s gut clench. His heart almost skipped a beat when they opened the pod lid, grabbed his arms and pulled him to his feet.
“Well hello, Hissy,” the smaller Human animal said. “Hope you had a nice rest ’cause it’s time to go to work. Follow me.”
True to form, Zeck jerked his arms away from the offending Human and said, “Don’t you dare touch me. You have no authority over me.”
His whole body seized up tight as a drum. He couldn’t twitch one finger as the female animal reached up and flicked the side of his head with her finger.
“Be nice, Hissy,” she chastised. “I don’t want to have to drag you to the control room, but I will if you don’t cooperate.”
Realizing his telepathic powers were no match for the Human, Hisspat relaxed and felt himself free to move once again.
As he marched from the stasis chamber, Zeck stared at his reflection in a mirror hung next to the exit portal. He was still dressed in his golden robes with deep red epaulets and matching cuffs as he had been when his mother ship was captured. Even his diamond glass tiara was on his head, although it was perched slightly askew. Pausing for a moment, he reached up and straightened it to the proper angle.
Upon entering the master control room, Hisspat saw two Chrysallamans standing to the left of the main control board. Recognizing the traitorous collaborator named Whatsit who helped the Human animals, his blood ran cold, and he longed for a cutter ray pistol and the one second it would require to cut the lizard in half. He didn’t know the other Chrysallaman but there seemed to be an uncanny resemblance between Whatsit and him. Was it the similar shape of their lower jaws or the way the coloration of their throat scales appeared to match? His musings were interrupted.
“Did you know the Emperor was following you to Earth?” Doug asked as he pushed a glowing blue button on the control panel causing the view screen to light up with an image of the flagship Destinnee.
Hope flared in Hisspat’s breast as he recognized the Emperor’s flagship. “Rescue!”
Believing the Humans were scared of the new threat, Hisspat decided an aggressive, bombastic response was in order.
“Release me at once, and I’ll consider reducing your punishment to a lifetime of hard labor rather than a lingering, painful death.”
Surprised when his magnanimous offer was not hastily accepted, Zeck added, “You have ten seconds to respond.”
“You’re unbelievable,” Chang replied as she crossed her arms. “You want to tell him, Whatsit, or shall I?”
“General Zeck,” Whatsit said. “I trust you haven’t jumped to the conclusion the Emperor has come to rescue you. The flagship Destinnee suffers battle damage. There is no fleet of mother ships guarding it. The ship is broadcasting a repeating message ordering you and your fleet to rendezvous with it.”
Pausing a few seconds to let the significance of his words sink in, Whatsit added, “It appears the Emperor is in trouble.”
Zeck was so shocked by the news he suffered a dizzy spell and grabbed the back of a nearby flight couch to steady himself. His green hide lightened a couple of shades, and his eyes darted back and forth as he fought to stabilize his jittering thoughts.
MerrCrr JnnWall was torn. On the one hand, General Zeck was the supreme commander of the invasion fleet. Under normal circumstances, once the planet was controlled by Chrysallamans, the supreme commander became the planetary governor by direct appointment of the Emperor. Hisspat Zeck was unquestionably his sovereign ruler. Now the Emperor was coming, and he was the sovereign ruler of both Zeck and MerrCrr. The orders of the Emperor were to be obeyed without question.
On the other hand, the invasion fleet had been defeated by the Humans, and MerrCrr had solemnly pledged his allegiance to his Master, Rebecca Chang. The conflicting loyalties made his thoughts chaotic. His introspection was broken by Colonel Alex Fields walking into the control room.
Fields took the pilot’s couch and began activating ship systems. One of the indicator boards displayed icons representing the status of scout ships. If a scout ship was undamaged and fully docked in its berth on the mother ship, its icon was green. All five scout saucers were green.
Setting the GPC for Pluto, he looked back at Doug and said, “All systems are at full power. Defensive shield sensors activated. All scout ships are docked. GPC destination set.”
“What is the meaning of this?” Hisspat demanded. “If you idiotic animals think the weapons on this mother ship are capable of even scratching the surface of the Emperor’s flagship, you’re living in a fantasy world. The armament and weapons on that craft are impregnable.”
“Just like your mother ships were impregnable to the weapons of the Humans. Right, Hissy?” Doug asked as he drew his MA pistol and pointed it at the General.
A feeling of dread sucked at his chest as Zeck stared at the weapon.
“Just why am I here?”
“You’re the Emperor’s right hand, General Zeck. The one person he’s expecting to see when we meet him. You didn’t think we would fail to invite you to the party?”
With what dignity he had left, Hisspat straightened his back and said, “I won’t betray my Emperor. With my last ounce of strength and final breath I’ll do whatever I can to warn him of the treachery of Humans.”
“Even if we guarantee you won’t be killed and will live out the rest of your worthless life in luxury with as many Chrysallaman females as you desire?” Doug asked.
The last time Hisspat had felt this level of thrilling satisfaction was when the Emperor named him General of the invasion fleet. He had to admit the offer was tempting. Having witnessed the mental, physical and technological powers of the Humans, his gut told him the Emperor stood almost no chance of defeating them. The Humans had an eerie confidence in their demeanors. Perhaps he better take a queller in the hand than two in the hole.
“Just what do you want me to do?” he asked with narrowed eyes.