Still Progressing

I am still working on my sci-fi I first teased in my post In Progress. Here’s it so far.

Blinded in the Sunrise

Like missing the last step on the stairway, the blaring alarm disappears, and the bridge falls into a void of silence. All the lights fade to black—a complete power loss—and the ever present static of my earpiece fails. My mind replays and replays it, the last message that had come over the channel, making sure I remember the precise words.

“What was that,” a voice cuts through the darkness. The void provides no answer. “Somebody talk to me,” the captain commands.

I blurt, “There was a message, Captain, right before we were hit.” The weight of the crew seems to fall on me as I take a breath. In a more measured tone I continue, “It came over an old channel, like fifty years old. It said, ‘Look for me in the sunrise,’ sir.”

“Do we have eyes?” asks the captain.

“Negative, not without power,” someone answers, “beta-class ships are not equipped with any, well, portholes, Sir.”

Windows, I think, not a single window in the entire bloody ship.

“Get me engineering.”

“All communications are down, Sir”

A fifty year old signal from an undiscovered planet, I wonder as disembodied commands fly overhead. Suddenly the familiar static returns as a red glow illuminates my station. Reserve power, it’s something. There on my screen is the transcribed enigma. I request information from the computer regarding code b-74. My intercom buzzes to life:

The b-class code was first used in military vessels of the Carpiterm Coalition. Readily disguised in background static, the code served as a way to communicate with insurgent spies during the Carpiterm civil war. During peace talks, the rebels would pass information to high level infiltrators…

In a few keystrokes I interrupt the computer and ask for b-74 directly:

The b-74 subclass code was used during the end of the insurgency. It referenced a nursery rhyme from the old tongue and warned spies that their ships were targeted.

I ask the computer for the rhyme, and it starts the translation:

Mother is dead—

“Ensign! What do you have on that code,” the captain shouts.

“Carpiterm, civil war era. It signifies an imminent attack. Sir.”

“Do we have shields?”

“Negative, Sir.”

I return to the computer:

Mother is dead tonight young one
And I must go to see her
You won’t find us in darkness
Look for me in the sunrise

“Sir, we have visual.”

I turn to the main monitor. All is black. We’re cloaked in the planet’s umbra. But then the darkness is broken by an intense spot of light. For a moment its glistening rays stretch out and cover our entire screen in its brilliant web. I hear a little whirring sound as the monitor adjusts to the rising sun. The image comes into focus. The planet’s crescent edge is illuminated so that the whole display looks like a giant ring floating in space with a star for the diamond.

In the emergency power’s crimson glow I spare a glance at my hands, and the old wedding ring I wear. In the light its tarnished gold and my pink skin meld into a monotonous red, broken only by the glimmer of the old earth stone’s refracted beams.

“Look,” someone shouts.

I twist my head. The computer has interposed a flickering green circle over the sun. There was nothing any of our eyes could see inside it but a bright yellow. The area within the circumference blurs a moment as the green text of the zoom-rate climbs to 1,000X. In the epicenter the tiniest sliver of a dot could be seen, our visitor in the sunrise.

My intercom buzzes as it translates a new message. The foreign disjoint syllables play softly as the computer’s voice chimes over them. “I’d like to speak to Captain O’Aluran, if’n he’s a mind to talk.”

“Identify yourself, please.”

“I’msa th’one what put ye in this little pickle of yours, hiding in the rising sun.”

“Captain, it’s the vessel. He wants to talk, sir.”

“Put him on, Ensign.”

With a button push that harsh voice fills the bridge. “Is this Captain O’Aluran?”

“It is. Who is speaking?” The Captain demands.

“Who’s speaking? Why, young Timothy, have’n ye forgotten your old captain so quickly now? I’d’ave thought mutiny would’av weighed a might heavily on a man’s soul.”

I looked to the captain. He was leaning back in his chair biting on a thumb nail. The silence grew as one by one the different station managers all turned from their work, waiting for his command. With a deepening frown he drew a line across his neck, and I killed the signal.

“Are sensors online?” he whispers.

“Aye, sir.”

“Scan his ship for the radiation signature of late Carpiterm era vessels. Tell me if the radiation is rising.”

I hear the heavy typing of Ensign Marlow as he works the computer.

“Put him on.”

“Captain of the unidentified vessel,” he pauses, leaning forward in his chair. “I command you to identify yourself under the Varnelie treaty, and make clear your intentions.”

“You’ll know, as the sun rises, you’ll know,” and with that the transmission ended.

In the little green circle the black dot has grown. Features of the vessel can be seen. It looks like half of an old escape pod, the kind they let kids climb into at museums. The jagged burnt edges where the engine should be spread out like flower petals.

“What do you have for me, Ensign Marlow?”

“Nothing sir, sun’s interfering with our sensors sir.”

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