Tami Veldura's Weekly Prompt this week is Space Themed, with a picture of a starry sky, the whole nine yards. 700 word allotment, though I cheated, coming in at 890.
I went with a Sci-Fi future piece (Tami, you might guess why sci-fi space is on my brain) New story, new characters.
Heads up on the term LINAR. It's a play on SONAR, which stands for SOund NAvagation and Ranging. In the vacuum of space however, light measurement would be more accurate and useful than sound. So. LIght NAvigation and Ranging. See me be clever?
The Art of War Among Diamonds
An alert at ET-Nav pinged. "Con-LINAR The destroyer's changing course, Skip," Decker announced.
Captain Avery turned. "New bearing?"
"Coming portside bearing two niner two."
"They still haven't spotted us then."
"Permission to speak, Cap?" Athens asked from her charts.
"What's up, XO."
"Shyjin class destroyers have detailed LINAR operations in this quandrant. There's no way she missed us."
The captain gave it quick consideration. "She's acting as bait then. Any other contacts, Decker?"
"Give me status update every two or every Ivan."
"They want to play, we'll play. Helmsman," the captain said, "bring us on course to two niner two. Make your speed 30."
Helmsman Boyar replied, twisting the nav-stick. "Aye Cap'n, turning two niner two. LeeHelm, increase speed by five"
The ship banked to the leeward. The coms-speaker answered, "Aye sir, increasing by five."
Helmsman Boyar twisted the navigation stick again. "Current course bearing two niner two."
"Hold her steady," replied the captain. "Keep us in her baffles."
"Aye Cap'n, holding steady at two niner two."
"Sound general quarters," the captain ordered as the ship righted. "Battlestations torpedo."
"Aye cap." Athens triggered the GQ whistle as she keyed her comslink. "This is your XO. Calling General Quarters GQ GQ GQ. All hands General Quarters. Battlestations Torpedo. Ready Weps."
Captain Avery nodded. "now for the infernal waiting."
Athens gave a thin smile. "There's a lot of that out here in the deep."
His laugh was void of humor. "We travel light years to what, spread our civilization? We're playing the same damned wargames."
"It's why they pay us the big money, Sir," she said. After a tense beat of relative silence, she asked, "Do you remember when the stars were diamonds?"
He snorted. "Never had the pleasure, XO. Didn't see many stars in Nuevo Angeles. I enlisted to see some up close. That was a lifetime and a half ago. I'm still looking to see stars up close. You're from the Old Place, though, aren't you."
"Yes, Sir," she said, with a small measure of pride. Half the crew were farmed from the settlements, the other half from the New Water, but she was an Earther, through and through. "I was born in a nowhere town in the middle of a nowhere desert. The Milky Way is still crystal clear and full of dreams back there."
The ET-Nav desk lit up in flashing red lights. "Con-LINAR new contact bearing one one three. Alit class battleship, locked and loaded, running hot."
The captain didn't flinch. "Stay on course. Sound battlestations."
"Aye." Triggering the gong, Athens keyed the comlink. "XO calling Battlestations. All hands Battlestations."
"Prepare starboard guns, forward guns. Prepare countermeasures."
Controlled action and voices flurried through the bridge, carrying out the captain's orders. Athens keyed the comslink to relay orders to the torpedo decks. Red lights arced at the ET-Nav again. Decker shouted his update, "Our destroyer is turning, 15 degrees, make that 20 degrees starboard."
"Well, shadows don't last long in vacuums." The captain locked in his chair, triggering everyone on deck to follow suit. "On my mark, release countermeasures. Roll and punch, Tokyo drift style, to starboard at 15 degree up-angle, in 5, 4, 3, 2, mark."
The helmsman and leehelm shouted responses and their spaceship rumbled with turbulence. The captain moved on to his next batch of orders in rapid succession. "Foreward guns, auto lock and fire. Starboard guns, track for movement. Prepare weps port and aft."
Athens repeated the orders to the torpedo rooms and listened for the relay back. "Fore Weps answer hot, straight, and narrow, Sir."
Decker shouted. "Receiving fire!"
The captain swore. "Sound collision. Flare deflectors. Emergency blow."
Athens was mid-sentence on the comlink when light flooded the room and the simulation came to a grinding halt. Shocked and disappointed swearing came from everywhere at once. The captain slammed his fist against the armrest of his chair. "What the Sam Hill was that about?"
Communications Officer Ramirez rose from the ET-Coms computer. "Sir, that was an external program termination initiated by Sec-Nav. They're sending us orders."
"And? Don't keep us in suspense, Ramirez."
There was a delay as Ramirez listened to his headset. "Sec-Nav says to report to the Alamo at zero-eight-hundred hours. Congratulations on your new command, Sir. We're going to war."
The captain nodded. His shoulders heaved with his silent sigh. "Well, we can't say we're surprised. You have a few hours of liberty, but keep it simple. Embrace those you love, prepare them for the worst Report to bravo dock fifteen at zero-eight. Time to earn our pay, ladies and gentlemen. You're all dismissed."
Grumbles of anxiety and fear echoed through the sim-deck. Athens felt her heart sink into her stomach. War was what they prepared for in peacetime. Hopefully, peace was what they were preparing for in wartime.
"Why the long face, XO?" the captain asked. "Those stars of yours looking less like diamonds?"
"Even nightmares are dreams, Captain. Just means some of the diamonds have flaws is all."
"A week ago you asked me why I insisted on you for XO?" The captain clapped her shoulder. "That's why. Your infernal optimism. If we're going to win this war, we're all going to need your contagious hope."
Athens breathed and saluted. "Thanks Cap. I'll see you at oh-seven hundred."
Okay, that's my piece. Now you say yours. Whatchya got for me?