Astraeus Event

FLIPSPACE Missions 1-3

by John Steiner

Flipspace 1

Training for the ISS Mockingbird, Colonel Sumitra Ramachandra and Major Lamarr Fitch find that they're being deployed before certification. The ISS Astraeus, an International Space Organization vessel fails to transmit its latest exploration report in the Gliese 667 System twenty-two light-years away. Colonel Ramachandra learns that the Mockingbird she commands was built for more than intra-solar operation. Three people with complicated and enigmatic backgrounds are added to her crew roster just before launch.

Flipspace 2

The ISS Mockingbird is ordered to Kepler 22 to check up on a re-search outpost set up by the Astraeus. Colonel Ramachandra and her crew discover on the planet, Kepler 22B a form of life that doesn't need ships to travel through space. Also present is a base established by Remote Space Conglomerated Industries. Their operations put profit before the concerns of the indigenous life. An unauthorized distress call originates from the RSCI base. Colonel Rama must risk breaching their air defenses to comply with international conventions and save lives.

Flipspace 3

On completion of two missions, the crew of the Mockingbird returns to Earth for Grav Leave. Not everyone welcomes them back as intrepid explorers and peacekeepers. Colonel Ramachandra becomes the target of a kidnapping plot, and the abductors' motives aren't clear. Major Lamarr Fitch struggles with the responsibilities of filling in. He must organize the ship's crew to get Colonel Rama back. Captain Malcolm O'Connell confronts his past and the legacy of being a reincarnated Xerces Protocol patient.



Chapter 1: Always the Last Minute

 A car with the black and silver colors of Aerospace Defense Response rolled along a vast parkway near the airstrip. Instead of wheels, it glided on four Mat Treads. The smart material enveloped, shifted, softened, and hardened according to terrain and driver intent. The machine came to a smooth halt in front of Wing Command Headquarters.

A gull wing door opened to allow two black uniformed people to step out. The first was a tall lean woman of dark complexion, hair cropped short on the back and sides, with an enrapturing face and silver irises. On the right side of her collar shone an eagle and the left carried an equally glistening pin depicting three upward shooting stars. The man walking in step to her left had brown hair, brown eyes. His light toned face looked as if it might have taken a few punches, but otherwise everything remained in place. The gold leaf cluster on his right collar distinguished him as a major to the woman’s colonel rank. He opened one of the front doors for his superior officer to enter and followed her.

Inside, a ceiling mounted display fixture stood in place of a front desk. It lit up with an image of a man appearing to be mid-twenties in age and matching ADR uniform. The two dimensional projection looked the same when viewed from any direction. The man wasn’t human, but an approximation of Self-Ware inhabiting the building’s quantum computer. The AI exhibited good-natured amicability.

“Good morning, Colonel Sumitra Ramachandra and Major Lamarr Fitch.” Its excessive warmth came with an over-appeasing grin. “Brigadier General Chaffee is in a net meeting at the moment. However, you’re more than welcome to wait outside his office, ma’am and sir.”

“Good. Thank you, Yani,” Sumitra acknowledged with more subdued cordiality.

“With all the training we’re doing, you wouldn’t think he’d have us wait,” Lamarr muttered.

Studying the door, as if she might see through it, Sumitra speculated on the reason for the summons. “We’re most likely being activated early for a rescue op. The Pan-American Combine has been nagging NATO to help with Golden Fist of Pacifica for years. The GFP taking hostages in international jurisdiction would serve as a trigger for NATO involvement.”

Lamarr looked to say something disparaging about the government presiding over American nations, one of which he hailed from, when the door opened on its own, and cut his retort short.

“Yes, come in Rama and Fitch,” the general instructed without military formality.

In a moment of weakness, Sumitra caught herself eyeing the generous interior. Her office and personal quarters on the ISV-71 Raven she’d soon command for real would fit in here twice over. However, General Chaffee’s laid-back approach to command vanished before either of them entered the room, causing her to snap to attention. Lamarr matched her disciplined stance.

Chaffee’s deep brown-toned skin varied a little. His hair would’ve curled tight if it hadn’t been buzzed. In this era, being seventy years old didn’t mean gray hair or many wrinkles thanks to better medical understanding of DNA repair and the gene therapy that resulted.

“I realize you have been working your crew double-duty to get up to speed, but we’ll have to scrub the last two weeks,” General Chaffee announced. Rama felt as if he was warning her for the pending sucker punch.

She knew it. Always pull the plug at the last goddamn minute.

“We’ve got a serious situation with the FTLV Astraeus,” the general continued.

“I wasn’t aware they’d returned to the solar system,” Sumitra said, in double disbelief.

“They haven’t. You’re going to them.”

The two officers exchanged incredulous faces before Lamarr almost coughed out a protest.

However, Sumitra quickly stayed him with her own more carefully worded complaint. “Sir, we’ve spent just over the last year training on the ISV-71 Raven. A sudden reassignment to an entirely different ship is ill-advised. Besides, of the FTLV’s planned, or in production, none are meant for military command.”

“Actually, several are,” General Chaffee corrected her. “You’re not being reassigned. You weren’t even going to be notified about the Raven upgrades until after certification, but you will in fact be FTL capable. I’ve also updated your crew roster. You can look over their files on the way.”

“On the way to where?” Lamarr asked.

“The ISS Mockingbird, of course,” Chaffee revealed at last, standing up to escort them out of his office. “I’ve scrambled your crews already. They should be assembling by the time you arrive.”

Chaffee led the other two at a brisk pace to another car pulling up with a single star on rectangular red banners above the front Mat Treads. The general’s car sped off under computer control at over forty kilometers an hour above the recommended speeds on or near airstrips. A larger military personnel bus on six treads pulled in as well. Colonel Ramachandra busied herself with the new crewmember files displaying inside of her own eyes.

"FLIPSPACE: Astraeus Event" by John Steiner


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