At the turn of the decade in 2080 humanity broke the light-
The Thomas mini anti-
The nuclear reactors had the advantage of being a little more stable but lacked the power output of an anti-
As history books go Captain William Jefferson Taylor, Bill to his friends, was hardly a footnote in the history books unlike the captains of the Galactic Enterprise before him. If anything at all could be said about him it would be: “He kept an even keel.” The only thing Captain Taylor would be noted for was his choice of men to replace him as captain of the Galactic Enterprise in 2084.
Jack Stryker would not have been the Company’s first choice. But, as they often rubbed the government the wrong way, having an ex-
Jack would not have been the government’s recommendation for captain either as it turned out. Android rights were a big issue on Earth at the time and the Galactic Enterprise had always stood apart and often in opposition to many of the issues that boiled on the planet below. Jack was married to an android something that was frowned on and in point of fact illegal in many countries around the world. It was well known that most of the androids onboard the Galactic Enterprise would have been considered defective on Earth and the big ship had become a haven of sorts to androids like Candy Apple, Jack’s wife, who was embroiled in controversy all her own having been the first android to have killed their owner.
No, Jack Stryker was not the ideal candidate for captain of the Galactic Enterprise but the tradition of the outgoing captain to name his successor was something all sides were willing to bow to for one reason or another.
The last thing Captain Taylor did was have a private conversation with Jack on the bridge of the big ship late at night. “You know everybody else wanted me to pick somebody else for captain,” he said.
“So why did you pick me Bill?” Jack asked.
“Because this ship is steeped in tradition that sets us apart from the world below,” Bill replied. “Those traditions are part of the blood that flows through your veins. There is no one else that would protect the values that all the captains before me have established. Even the Company has become tainted by the world below. We are the only hope to keep Decker’s dream alive and undefiled by the motives of corrupt men and governments. I have always known that you were the only man up to the task of protecting that vision.”
“I don’t know what to say,” Jack replied. “I only hope that I can live up to something like that.”
“All I ask is that you try Jack.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“I know you will,” Bill said. “Now I have one last thing to show you.” Bill undid a hidden catch on the armrest of the command chair. The armrest folded open to reveal a single red button.
Jack was fascinated that someone would go to such lengths to hide a single button. “What is it? The self-
“Nope, it’s just the best kept secret on this ship,” Bill replied. “Jack, Remember the Starfire?”
“How could anyone not remember the Starfire?”
“Everyone thought the Starfire was destroyed, but really, it just vanished through a little slight of hand,” Bill said. “It was an experiment John setup and it worked beautifully. It scared the shit out of everybody, but it worked.”
“What are you talking about? Are you telling me the Starfire wasn’t destroyed?” Jack asked not really believing what he was hearing. He had seen the pictures the same as the rest of the world.
“I couldn’t tell you what has happened to the Starfire because I don’t know, but it wasn’t destroyed in orbit,” Bill replied. “Decker couldn’t very well steal the ship in broad daylight without everyone knowing so John built a cloaking device that would hide the ship so Decker could take it without anyone suspecting.”
“Ok, what does that have to do with the button?” Jack asked not sure what he was going to do with the information he was just given.
“Jack this button will activate the cloaking device installed for the Galactic Enterprise,” Bill said. “This button, if used, will render this ship invisible and enable you to move the ship a short distance without being seen.”
“Are you’re kidding?” Jack asked in disbelief.
“Nope, only you, me, and John know about it,” Bill replied. “You might say it is our one military secret.”
“How does it work?”
“The technical data are in the captain’s private files that are also passed only from captain to captain. Once I leave the ship you will have access to those files.”
“Any other secrets I should know about?” Jack asked.
“Not really, but the files do contain data that is not common knowledge onboard the ship. I think you will find it interesting reading,” Bill replied cryptically.
Jack spent days reading the private files for the captain’s eyes only. He came away with a new found respect for the ship and the men that designed and built her. Yes, he could see why Captain Taylor would think he was the only one who could be trusted with such a valuable treasure as the Galactic Enterprise. It was a vision he shared with all the men who came before him.
The debate began in 2096 over the cost of maintaining the aging spacecraft. The Galactic Enterprise was 65 years old and was the oldest manned spacecraft of any kind still in use. Despite there being newer and faster ships the Galactic Enterprise could not be matched in the amount of payload it could carry. It had proved instrumental in ferrying men and equipment during the establishment of cities on the Moon. But, the politicians argued that the cost of maintaining the big ship outweighed its usefulness.
They said Galactic Enterprise sucked up millions of dollars each year just to stay in orbit. The truth was it was the Starfighters who sucked most of the budget they attributed to the big ship. When Captain Stryker tried to point this out, the politicians responded by including the Starfighters to be mothballed as well as an archaic military unit who had outlived its usefulness if indeed it had ever really been useful in the first place.
Even the Company was not interested in assuming full ownership of the big ship; a ship they helped finance in the first place. Jack was convinced the Company no longer cared about their commitment to humanity as they once did when improving the human condition was their only goal.
It was a political debate Jack and others trying to save the Galactic Enterprise would lose in the end. Orders finally came that would disband the Starfighters and send the ship out to the Moon one last time where it would be disassembled, melted down, and used by the growing cities on the lunar surface. The orders were to take effect after the new centennial when we finally stepped beyond the twenty first century.
“What are we going to do Jack?” Candy asked. “You know I can’t set foot on Earth and the Moon is not much better. Cybertron still has that damn bounty on my head.”
Cybertron Robotics still unofficially had a contract out on Candy for six million if her head was intact. Even if you put a bullet through her android brain she would still be worth a lot of money to the one who pulled the trigger; five million dollars to be exact. On the Galactic Enterprise she was safe, but on the Moon she would be within reach of Cybertron’s hired assassins and freelancers trying to collect an easy paycheck.
Jack knew his wife was right. There was no place they could go where she would be safe. As it was, having an android for a wife was a problem all by itself. It was an arrangement frowned on in society in general to the point of being illegal in many countries on Earth. “I don’t know Candy,” Jack replied. “Lately, I’ve been toying with the idea of starting a new city on the Moon. I know a number of people onboard the ship that would be up for the idea. Certainly all the androids would be willing, and they would give us the manpower needed to make something like that work.”
“Where would we get the raw material to build a city?” Candy asked. It was an idea that might just work if Jack had it all figured out.
“We fold up a couple of the solar power plants and store them in the landing bays along with anything else we might need to get started,” he replied. “We disconnect the Command Section and land it on the Moon and use it as our base. After that I’m betting that the kind freedom we offer that has set us apart from the rest of the planet for so long will be the attraction that will enable us to grow into a full fledge city.”
“The guys that own this rust bucket are willing go along with that?”
“The Company will, they see an advantage to keeping at least one foot in space for the moment. A new city on the Moon gives them a space based research center without having to deal with the bureaucracy of an already established lunar base.”
“Sounds too good, what’s the catch?” Candy asked.
“As Pax would say, “Ownership is nine tenths of the law,” Jack replied. “More than a dozen countries have a vested interest in the ship along with the Company. Who owns what or how much is the question. Even though we have been ordered out to a lunar orbit Pax assures me that the legal battle over the question of ownership could keep us in space for a few more years before they can actually start chopping us up into little pieces.”
“So by letting us build our own city they can avoid the years Pax would keep them in court.”
“That’s the sales pitch so far. Pax has already filed 2 law suits to halt salvage operation on behalf of the Galactic Enterprise’s permanent residents, android and human.”
“That why I love you,” Candy said as she wrapped her arms around her husband. “You think of everything.”
Jack would have loved to follow where his wife’s smile would have led him but the chime in his ear brought him back to reality. He reached up and pushed the button on the cell phone Bluetooth set clipped to his ear. “This had better be real important,” he growled.
“Captain we have a number of unidentified ships that just appeared on radar out past the Moon,” the voice in his ear said. “Looks like they just came out of hyperspace. The Moon is blocking our radar so we can’t be sure of the exact number but we’ve seen 6 ships so far.”
“Inform Starfighter Command, I’ll be up in a minute,” he replied. Jack disentangled himself from his wife’s arms. “Hold that thought, I’ll be back,” he said as he kissed her.
The bridge of the big ship was buzzing with activity as Jack stepped out of the elevator. “Four ships have come out from behind the Moon Captain and they appear to be attempting to try and open communications with us,” someone said. “At this point Communications has no idea what they are saying.”
Jack sat down in the command chair in the center of the room and got comfortable before responding. “Feed it to the computer and see what it can do with it,” he said.
“I’m already working on it Captain,” the computer replied from the speaker built into the chair.
“Pandora what is your best guess?” Jack asked the computer.
“At this point I don’t have enough data to make a guess, but that they are letting themselves be seen is encouraging at this point,” Pandora replied. “If they have encountered other alien races other than our own, through experience, it maybe that they will learn our language before we learn theirs.”
“Ok, keep working on it,” Jack said.
“Starfighter Command has informed us that their fighters are ready to launch if needed,” Jack heard someone said.
“Tell Starfighter Command to stay ready but not to launch unless it becomes clear our visitors are hostile,” Jack said. Over the years Starfighter Command had distanced itself from the Galactic Enterprise command group until they rarely communicated with each other directly as they did once.
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