7-12-2013 Snippet

Comes from the second chapter of the third Talia Novel. It’s from my rough draft, so what’s on the paper will not be the final product. However, it’s enough to whet the appetite. I have not spelled checked or done any editing to it. This is as raw as raw can be. My writing process is that I work to get the creative phase done first, then go back and edit and chop and then fix. Which is why my final copy is generally nothing like the first one.

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“Battlestations! Commander to the bridge!”

Talia snapped her eyes open, sleep instantly gone, and then leapt to her feet. What the hell? The Dragus’ current position was still a three day journey from their current location, so what was going on?

Organized chaos greeted her as she approached the command chair. The tactical and gunnery officers exchanged information in a constant flow as the XO exited the chair, allowing her to sit down.

“XO! Report!”

“We’re receiving a distress call from the Dockno colony. They’re under Dragus attack.”

“Do we have communications?”

“Yes,”

She looked over at the com officer. “Patch me through to the planetary Governor.”

The image of the stars was replaced by an older man whose hair was more gray then its original black. His green eyes looked haunted and his lips drooped into a frown. Wrinkles creased the man’s forehead as he looked at something off screen and then turned back to face the screen.

She approached the viewscreen. “This is Talia De’Zahna and we’ve received your distress call. I need a status report.”

“There are sixty ships in all. A third seem to be troop carriers while the rest are a mix of battleships, cruisers and destroyers.”

Hmm. Sixty ships outnumbered her Task Group by two to one, but that didn’t concern her. How that many Dragus vessels managed to penetrate this far into Republic space undetected was the question of the day. Furthermore, this was clear on the opposite side of Gahl territory from the man battle lines.

Just what are they up to?

Talia motioned to the tactical officer to display the feed on the main viewscreen. “XO, what’s our ETA to Doknor?”

“Two hours at flank speed and then another forty-five minutes to reach the planet,”

“Damn. Alright. Order all ships to set course for Dockno.”

She turned her attention back to the Governor as the screen switched back to normal. “Governor, did you hear that?”

He sighed again. “We’ll try to hold them off until you get here. Since we were so far from the front lines, Central Command never gave us a full amount of marines.”

The decision had been made by her but she wasn’t going to tell him that. “You have two battalions. Where are they stationed?”

“One on each continent,”

“Keep them there. The Dragus aren’t going to want to destroy the cities until they’ve filled up on people to convert. That should keep your from being nuked until I get there.”

“I hope you’re right, De’Zahna,”

So am I.  “I’ve been fighting these guys for eleven thousand years, Governor. Trust me on this.”

The sound of an explosion in the distance caused the Governor wince. “Please hurry! They’re bombarding us!”

Damn, that’s fast.

“I’m coming as hard as I can,”

“Thank you,”

Talia opened her eyes and forced herself to think about the present. The attack on Dockno happened one hundred thousand years ago and there wasn’t a thing she could do to change the events. But she could change what happened with the Hellios Device and the deadly threat it posed to the humans.

Soft murmurs tickled her enhanced hearing as the bridge crew went about preparing to break orbit. Thank Cheikra for Dannae’s active camouflage! Three times the International Space Station had passed by, each time close enough to have seen them with the unaided eye, and no one saw them. Otherwise, things would’ve been a lot more difficult than they’d already turned out to be.

A pang of loss made her wince. Look at it. The Earth was so beautiful and yet the humans continually try to destroy it. Why? Didn’t they know how important having a home world is? Perhaps, and this was the saddest part, they wouldn’t learn that until it was gone.

Gahlza had been beautiful at one time. In her opinion it put the Earth to shame, but that was before the Dragus arrived to finish the extermination of her people. Now it was nothing but a dust covered ball of radioactive soil that would never hold life again.

“Talia, we’re ready to break orbit,”

She shook herself out of her brooding thoughts and turned the command chair around to face Steven Robertson, her XO. A middle aged earth man, his brown hair was just starting to show signs of turning gray. His small nose complimented his thin face as she looked into his green eyes.

“Thank you, Steven,” She turned the chair back around to face the viewscreen. “Helm, set course for the outer solar system.”

Max Jones, the youngest kid to graduate the Alliance’s pilot program, entered the course into the navicomp. His mop of blonde hair reminded Talia more of a surfer than a military pilot, but she knew not to take him at face value. The kid was one hell of a pilot, possessing instincts that none of the personnel she’d served with during the Great War did.

The winged cruiser accelerated away from the Earth and passed by the moon without incident. Talia leaned back in the chair and then sighed. What was the point of being able to time travel when you couldn’t change the death of your own people? No matter how many times her father explained that it was a “fixed” point in time that must happen, it didn’t make the pain of what happened go away.

However, if I was able to go back there, I’d cross my own time stream and cause a massive paradox. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

“Tactical, how long before we can make our time jump?”

“We’ll be clear of detection in thirty minutes,”

“Thank you Terri,” She washed her face with both hands. I could use a nap.

Robertson walked over to stand beside the command chair. “How are we going to destroy the device?”

She smirked. “I plan on firing it into a Black Hole when we get home. That should prevent anyone finding it.”

“I would say so,”

“I don’t know about you, but once this is all done, I’m up for a vacation.”

“Do we get to come along too?”

Talia looked over her shoulder and shot Methos a mischievous look. “Only if you’re good to me,”

“Pfft. We are daily, so better come up with some new lines. You’re cracks don’t work on me.”

“Ok…mushroom,”

Methos made a face. “Hey…! You’re not funny and you’ve got no boobs.”

“Yeah I am fun-wait what’s wrong with my breasts?”

“Careful, Talia, you’ll be mistaken for a baseboard,”

“And this is coming from the one who dresses like they want to get laid every day?”

“Hmmph. You know what word the guys scream when they’re getting their world rocked?”

“Talia. They always say Talia,”

“What…? I see what you did there! Taking my thunder! You should be ashamed of yourself Talia Genia De’Zahna!”

Talia raised her eyebrows several times and then stuck her tongue out.

Robertson shook his head. “You know…no matter how many times I see you guys at it, I still end up shaking my head.”

Methos chuckled. “What’s wrong, Steven? Jealous you can’t get any good lines in?”

“Well, now that you mention it…”

Methos punched his shoulder. “You big oaf, you get plenty of cracks in so don’t hand me that!” She looked at Talia. “So where do you plant on going? I hear the Swiss Alps are in perfect condition for skiing.”

Talia shuddered. “No thank you. I had my fill of snow worlds three months ago. How about Galveston? We can lay out by the ocean and just suntan.”

“Sounds good to me,” Methos smiled lasciviously. “Besides there’ll be plenty of hot men and women who I need to introduce myself to.”

“Oh brother…”

“Although I’m not sure Dannae would like being in a bikini. That fair skin of hers would burn easily.”

“Pfft. You know better than think that’ll happen.”

“Why is it that every time I turn around you two are talking about me behind my back?”

Talia blushed. “Methos started it,”

“Did not!”

Dannae looked at the two of them. “I believe you, Talia.”

“Hey, wait, that’s not fair! I’m not lying!”

“Methos, you’re so guilty it’s written all over your face. Besides, the little grin of yours gives you away.”

Methos frowned. “Curses, foiled again,”

“Me get sunburned?” Dannae sniffed. “Not in this lifetime. Just don’t be coming crying to me, short stuff, when you’re turned into a crisp.”

“Yes, mother!”

Dannae smacked her. “So, Talia, we’re heading to Galveston, eh? I’d love to lie back on the beach and watch the guys in speedos walk past.”

Talia placed her head in her hands. “Oh dear, Cheikra, those poor unsuspecting men.”

“We’ve cleared Jupiter orbit,”

“Prepare for time transit,”

“Yes, Ma’am,”

She watched Jones work the controls and smiled. How could someone without a concept of time travel pick it up so easily? From day one he’d navigated it with the same skill that he used with n-space piloting. What she wouldn’t have given to have had him at Dockno!

“All systems are green for time transit,”

“Let’s go home,”

The stars winked out for a moment before reappearing on the screen. Dannae let out a long sigh and Talia looked at her. Why would the combination warrior-healer-scientist be worried? After all she was the one who spent the most time learning about it from Father.

She crossed her legs and then looked at Dannae. “What are you so worried about,”

“I don’t know how you can be so glib about time travel. One mistake in plotting and we could end up fifteen thousand years in the past or future.”

“Which is easy to fix,”

“That’s not the point,”

“So? You want me to find something else to worry about? Don’t I have enough on my mind? Destroying the device is all I’m thinking about right now. Speaking of which, has Crios finished loading it into a torpedo?”

“She finished ten minutes ago and is guarding the launcher,”

“Good, we don’t need someone stealing it back.”

Jones looked over the navicomp data. “We’ve arrived outside the Cygnus region. Cygnus X-1 is off our bow to the Northeast.”

Talia motioned to Sherri Garrison, the gunnery officer. “Prepare to launch the torpedo.”

“Loaded and ready,”

“Fire,”

A bright blue ball streaked away from the ship and towards the distant black hole. She watched its engine run out of fuel and the weapon coasted towards the waiting hole in space. For thirty minutes it continued on its way before the first touch of gravity reached it. The device shuddered slightly and then started to tumble end over end as the black hole starting to pull at it.

Talia crossed her arms and clenched her teeth together as she watched it start to spiral towards the singularity. What was taking so long? Just hit the event horizon already!

The gravity continued to increase and the torpedo started to speed up. Its trajectory twisted to the right and the device entered a spiral around the hole. For a moment she could see it and then it was swallowed up by the stellar matter being pulled off the blue supergiant.

She let out a long sigh of relief. Good, the torpedo would’ve melted in the heat of the burning hydrogen. What was left would be eaten by the hungry black hole, which protected the present from being changed again.

She smiled. “You know what, everybody? We deserve a break. Set course for Galveston as best cruising speed.”

Dannae leaned over to whisper in Talia’s ear. “Don’t forget you’ve got Marcus.”

“What makes you think I’ll forget that? How silly can you be?”

“Just checking,”

“While you three will be acting like dogs in heat, I will be spending time with my significant other.”

“You can be so annoying at times,”

“And you still love me,”

“Got me there,”

“Course is set, Talia.” Jones said.

“You may indulge yourself,”

“Yes, Ma’am!”

 

#

 

General Mac Williams sighed and then leaned back in his chair before rubbing his temples. A dull pain started, signifying a migraine would be hitting him unless he cut if off at the pass. And given the events of last night he definitely didn’t need to be laid up.

He reached into a desk drawer and pulled out a bottle of medicine before shaking a couple caplets into his palm. The bottle of water left a ring on the desktop as he lifted it up, unscrewed the cap, and then used it to help swallow the pills. Good, that would take care of that problem.

The entire Pentagon was in an uproar this morning and reports were crossing his desk in rapid fire portion. Radar detecting a large object in orbit that looking somewhat like a ship but when the ISS passed by, they saw nothing. That alone troubled him but it wasn’t the only shoe to drop that night.

A smaller craft penetrated US airspace at twenty hundred hours last night and then disappeared from the radar. But before it did, they got a good reading of its speed and it was traveling at hypersonic speeds! Throw in the fact that someone stole a piece from the Smithsonian and then breached the White House security and he had a nightmarish morning to work through.

He screwed the cap back on and then set the bottle down. If it were up to him, he’d let the Secret Service worry about their breach, but Bubba wanted it looked into by the military.

Bubba could be so annoying at times! Yes he came from Arkansas and the people loved him, but come on! What did the Secret Service suffering a breach have to do with the military? They had enough to worry about between the possible ship and smaller craft.

Colonel Amy Allen entered the room and then set a folder down on his desk before coming to attention.

“These are the pictures you requested, sir,”

He picked them up and then opened the beige folder. The top image was of the person who pulled the caper off at the Smithsonian and he snorted before flipping to the next picture. So the thief was a young woman. That still didn’t raise things to the level that he needed to worry about.

The second image came from a secret NSA satellite that shadowed the ISS. Each time it passed the invisible object, it took infrared images, which were transmitted to headquarters, analyzed and then forwarded to his desk.

“What the hell?”

A winged craft filled the picture, its outline fuzzy due to its heat signature but still recognizable. What the hell were those things on the tips of the wings? Were those weapon emplacements?

Mac closed his eyes and then rubbed the bridge of his nose. The Russians were secretly developing, as was the United States, a craft to carry military personal to the moon. Could that be it? And if that was the case, how in the hell did they slip it past the CIA operatives in place?

Don’t tell me the Company fucked up again.

He opened his eyes and then flipped the page to look at the people who pierced the White House security. What the hell?? Was this some kind of joke? How could two young women, who couldn’t possibly be older than twenty three, create this entire ruckus?

The General sighed as he flipped the page and then looked at the image of the thief. What?? He picked up the image of the two motorcycle riders and then compared the pictures. So, the girl who hit the Smithsonian was the one who ripped through the White House grounds. Now things were starting to make sense.

“President Clinton is expecting a personal briefing at 1100 hours, Sir,”

Mac looked at the image of the girl for several more seconds. Just who the hell are you? You waltz right in here, the most secure city on earth, and make every bit of our technology moot and obsolete.

“Alright, Amy,” he closed the folder. “Let’s go. It’s not good to keep Bubba waiting.”

She held the door open for him as he exited his office into the a-ring corridor. While he had nothing against the man, having to visit Clinton always gave Mac a headache because it took him away from his comfort zone. West Point had taught him many things those long years ago, but how to deal with the world of politics wasn’t one of them.

The entered a waiting elevator and it whisked them down to the underground garage where an armored SUV waited. They climbed into the back seat of the Ford Explorer and made themselves comfortable as their guard shut the back door and then sat down in the front passenger seat.

He reached into his coat pocket and unwrapped a hard butterscotch candy. “This isn’t going to be fun,” he popped it into his mouth. “Too many ‘shouldn’t haves’ occurred last night.”

“Everyone’s talking about it,”

“That I don’t doubt,”

Mac settled back in the seat and looked out the window as the SUV entered the late morning traffic on I395. What would he tell the President about a situation that he didn’t even know all the answers to? Bubba would want some sort of reassurance that the Pentagon had their arms around the problem, which was the farthest thing from the truth.

It was days like these that made Mac wish he could go back his farm outside Charlottesville and forget about anything government related. And who could blame him? Thirty years in the army, the first 5 spent in the jungles of Vietnam, and the challenges of serving a public who didn’t always like, or respect him, wore a man down. Perhaps after the next Presidential election and another Chairman of the Joint Chiefs were selected, then he could retire.

The vehicle approached the north entrance to the White House and then came to a stop. Secret service agents, supported by marines in full combat gear, approached the SUV and checked everyone’s ID. Looks like someone finally got the head out of their rear and started to take security seriously for a change. Too bad they didn’t listen to me earlier and perhaps this wouldn’t have happened.

An agent motioned them on and a couple seconds later the SUV pulled to a stop outside the north entrance. A pair of marines approached the vehicle opened the door and then stood back. The saluted as he exited the car and Mac returned it without letting anyone seeing the discomfort he felt. Frankly, if it were up to him, no one would salute him.

Why should they? I’m just another person.

The marines took point and they led him through the entrance into the White House. Mac looked at the opulence and worked to keep his face a mask. More he went there, the more that it seemed the luxury grated on his nerves instead of pleasing him.

Bright red carpet went from wall to wall and down the entire fifty foot long corridor. Gold chandeliers hung from the ceiling, each one holding twelve light bulbs. The walls were painted white and paintings of each of the forty two presidents hung on the walls.

President Clinton’s National Security Advisor stood at the end of the corridor waiting for Mac. Sandy Berger looked at his watch as Mac approached before smiling warmly and then extending a hand.

“Mac, nice to see you,” he said. “Hate to bring you over on such short notice.”

“Part of the job I’m afraid. Are we meeting in the situation room?”

Berger nodded. “Yes,”

The Advisor lead the two of them down the hallway to a waiting elevator. They both entered and the door shut before it whisked them downwards at a high rate of speed. A couple seconds later it came to a stop and the doors opened again.

Compared to the splendor above, the situation room bunker was pure function over form. The walls were painted armor gray and devoid of any decorations. Blast doors were arranged in a pattern where they could block up the elevator and stairwells, keeping any threat outside.

Down a short corridor two marines armed with automatic rifles stood guard. Four additional Secret Service agents backed them up. All wore ballistic armor and helmets and they watched warily as Berger approached.

Berger showed his ID card, which one of the guards scanned. They waited a second and then handed it back to him.

“Thank you, sir,”

Berger entered a code into a keypad and the door opened up. Mac then followed him through into the situation room.

The situation room was far more technologically advanced then even the conspiracy theorists thought. From here the Administration could monitor almost anyone happening in the world in real time. Projection screens lined the entire right wall and a massive one stood at the far end of the room. A large ovular shaped table took up the center of the room.

Mac walked across the room and then sat down at his prescribed chair. Normally the entire cabinet were at meetings like this, but only Berger, Defense Secretary William Cohen and Secretary of State Madeline Albright were in attendance. Throw in the CIA director and it made for a small meeting.

Short notice indeed.

The door opened again and President Clinton entered the room. His graying hair was coiffed perfectly and his suit was crisply pressed. Each step was full of confident and the sign of a man who was comfortable with himself and in full control of the situation.

Mac stood up, as did everyone else in the room, and waited for President Clinton to sit. The President settled into his chair and then motioned for everyone to be seated.

John Podestra, the White House Chief of Staff, walked over and sat down directly across from Mac and then looked at President Clinton.

“I’m sorry to call you over on such short notice, Mac,” Clinton said in his Arkansas drawl. “But you can imagine how things are.”

“Yes, Sir, I do.”

“Do you have anything for me?”

Mac stood up and then walked over and handed the folder to the President. “This is all I have, Mister President.”

Clinton took several minutes to look through the images. “Okay, let’s take this one step at a time. The NSA says there was some sort of ship in orbit?”

“Yes, Mr. President,”

“Could it be the one the Russians are building?”

George Tennant cleared his throat. “Our assets have informed us that the Russian craft hasn’t even hit the ground testing stage yet.”

“So,” Clinton said, “it’s not one of theirs.”

“The Russians claim it’s ours,” Albright said.

Clinton snorted. “Do they now?”

“Yes, Mister President,”

“Mac, what do you make of it?”

Mac twisted the top off a bottle of water on the desk and then took a sip. “I don’t think that craft is made by anyone on this planet.”

Clinton’s eyebrows went up. “Why do you say that?”

“The craft has some sort of optical camouflage, Mister President. Something so advanced that nothing short of infrared detects it.” He looked at Tennant. “Are you aware of any country’s capabilities to build something like this?”

Tennant looked thoughtful. “The Russians are working on their version of the F117 as are the Chinese. And Saddam…he claims to be but really isn’t. As far as I know, no one does right now.”

“Mister President, analysis shows that craft to be thirteen hundred feet long. That’s a massive space craft, which is far beyond our capabilities.”

Clinton rubbed his chin. “What do you propose?”

Mac frowned. “Please note the final picture, Mister President.”

Clinton looked at it and both eyebrows went up again. “Is this possible?”

“There’s no mistake, Mister President. The rider’s body temperature is one hundred seven degrees. And the driver’s? One hundred and thirty eight,”

“That means…”

“Yes, Mister President,” Mac looked at Clinton. “Neither or those two girls are from Earth.”

“What do you propose we do about it?”

“I think we should start…”

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