“Farewell and adieu to ye fair Spanish ladies…” (Old sea chantey.)
The UES Artemis, (BB 1,) was indeed a futuristic looking vessel in many regards, and yet would have looked familiar to anyone who was familiar with the basic battleship design. It indeed had the shape of a sea going vessel, with a low profile on the water, and the shaping to not allow a radar signal to go directly back to its source. In fact, it was lower in profile than what had ever seen in the past, due to their being certain things that were no longer needed. There were no stacks on the deck, nor was there a tall radio tower. In space, such a tower would not be needed, yet it could rise up in an array planet side with a crow’s nest if need be. In fact, the conning platform and the signal bridges were one tier higher than the top 16 inch batteries fore and aft. There was a platform on the back for hover vehicles and V-STOL capable flying crafts. In conning platform sat the command chair, and everything that one would expect on the command bridge, including the helm. However, on the aft section, the ship was not propelled in the water by screws, but by an impulse engine that gave it thrust which sat above the waterline. Yet, it could also function underwater in its submerged function. To either side of the aft rested the two warp engines designed for interstellar travel. The smaller vessels built before were used to test those engines, and, after a couple of near disasters, they had perfected the design to near perfect efficiency. The ship was the latest of the first battle flotilla of the Terra Commonwealth, which went with a fighter carrier, six missile cruisers, 12 destroyers, six CT, (cloaked torpedo,) cruisers, and a fighter and bomber wing on the carrier. Each terraformed planet that formed oceans, (Venus, Mars, and some of the moons of Jupiter and Saturn,) were at that point working on similar flotillas which would make up an entire fleet for the United Sol Federation. This flotilla, however, would be the first to penetrate the solar system and take a shakedown cruise around Proxima Centurai and back. Once done, they would then go to towards the closest yellow dwarf that their scientists said gave indications that there were planets around it. Even though it seemed like a normal ship’s commissioning, the trip of the Earth Flotilla actually carried a significance equal to man’s first steps on the moon between the Old Moon Kingdom and the establishment of the new kingdom.
The crew stood resplendent in their dress uniforms as they stood ready for the ship to sail off into the Pacific. Since it was still March, they were wearing their winter blues. The enlisted personnel wore their Cracker Jacks with the Dixie Cup hats, the back flaps, hats, and neckerchiefs were all colored in the branch they served. For example, if one was in direct ship service, (helm, navigation, mess, supply, quartermaster, etc.) it was marmalade, matching the color scheme of Princess Venus. If you were in engineering, medical, science, and such like, it was light blue. The ladies wore skirts. The marines were wearing the same thing as Marine Ceres, (except that he now wore a white X belt on his uniform, and a Napoleon style hat, marking him as an officer.) The naval officers wore navy blue dress shirts and pants or skirts depending, with branch colored stripes on the pants and around the hat that they wore. This was the site that covered the deck as she prepared to pull out. The only ones not out on the deck was the bridge crew, and they prepared the ship for its first space run. The only uniform that was unique was Princess Sailor Venus, wearing the same costume that she was given when Tom Reichmann first joined the team. She then said to her helmsman, “Mr. Bjorn, take us to port, one eighth impulse power.”
“Aye, aye, your highness,” he said, and the impulse engines gimbaled to the left, and then thrust as she lurched forward and then to the port. As the ship went, many of the crew started to break out in song, singing, “I’ll sing you a song; a good song of the sea—away Rio! I’ll sing you a song if you’ll sing it with me, and we’re bound for the Rio Grande.”
The king and queen stood on the platform from which they had given their speech and watched her pull away. Serenity wrapped her arms around Endymion’s and she began to snuggle up to him as she watched. “I so love when they pull out like that,” she said, “I love their singing so much.”
“That has been a time honored tradition for centuries,” said Endymion, “They were actually trying to set at ease those that were left behind that they would come back.”
Serenity’s face then went long a touch, and he was forced to ask, “What’s wrong, Dumpling Head?”
“They’re going to do something no one in the solar system has ever done,” she said, “That makes me nervous.”
“Come now,” he consoled, “You know that Venus can take care of herself. Remember: she was the first of us to awaken, so she can take care of herself.”
“It’s not just her, I mean, you know Usagi is up there too, and she’s going with them.”
“So is the rest of the flotilla—they all share the risks. You know the quartet is with them, as is Mars and Mercury. She is on the hospital ship, and they could not have better care in this galaxy…at least that we know of!”
“I wonder if this is what our parents felt when they landed on the moon for the first time.”
“Well, I guess it equates, what they are about to do could make that seem like a small thing. It’s okay.”
They then turned to go to the hover carriage that was to take them back to the Crystal Palace, they could hear them singing yet, though it was fading as they went: “And it’s away Rio—away Rio! It’s fare ye well my pretty young girls, and we’re bound for the Rio Grande.”
Serenity then thought about the first moon landing, and she then remembered what they had to do to preserve it when the terraforming of the moon actually turned the Sea of Tranquility into just that! It now sits under a crystal dome at the bottom along with the undersea research center, set in such a fashion that water could not even moisten the moon sand, and it was so with every spot where they figured that there was going to be water. She was so glad they were able to preserve the sites, but she also hoped that they could commemorate this event just as well. She looked at the ship pulling away, and then she looked up and said, “Take good care of Usagi, everyone, and come back safe.
Once out to sea, the navigator, Kim-Soo-Lee, said, “What is the course, your highness?”
“Set a course for the north mid-Pacific and then prepare for the launch,” was her reply, “We’ll be in orbit in no time.”
Some of the bridge crew looked nervous, and she said, “If they could get that carrier up there in orbit, we can do this. Just keep it sharp on helm, Mr. Bjorn—one wrong slip, we go into gimble lock, and we plunge into the Pacific.”
Everyone became even more nervous, and Artemis, who was sitting on her lap in the conn chair, whispered to her, “I don’t think that was all that encouraging.”
Once in position, the vessel was brought about 180 degrees and she said, “Okay, now bring us up to one half impulse power, and then gradually bring it to full impulse. At that point, slowly gimble the impulse thruster up as high as it can go, then set it on auto gimble, and keep her steady.”
This was done, and everyone on the ship felt the thrust. She then said, “Mr. Mambazo, (communications officer,) open up ship’s intercom.”
“Aye, ma’am,” he said, and he hit the switch. Her voice could be heard to echo throughout the vessel, and she said, “This is Admiral Venus. All hands prepare for launch.”
Everyone then went to either their bunks or to special seats to strap down and prepare for launch, save for the few that had to work certain stations in engineering in order to get the vessel space born.
As the ship picked up speed, the ship began to rise up on specially designed hydroplanes that would allow her to skim along at full speed, and also to remain stable as the ship launched. By the time they reached ¾ impulse power, there was a phenomenal wake being kicked up in back, but now the planes were now barely skim the water. This was unexpected, considering that it took full power to the UES Luna off the surface, and that she had two impulse thrusters aft to aid in this. The measurements showed that only one was needed for the Artemis, but they also figured that they would need full power to launch. Mr. Bjorn then said, “Your highness, we may have to try to launch now or we may lose her!”
She nodded to give the go-ahead, and he then gimbaled the thruster as hard as he could, and then just as quickly put it on auto. The nose of the ship began to arc upwards as the planes caught the air and then aided in the lift and stabilization of the craft. Despite this, the vessel was bobbing around gently as if they were still on the waves. The vessel quickly surpassed the sound barrier and it smoothed out some more as a result, but everyone was still on edge. They were able to achieve great speed at this point with only the now thinning atmosphere putting any resistance on the ship. At this point, the blue was thinning out and melting away as she gained great altitude swiftly. Then, just as fast, the inky black of space was all that could be seen, due to their location versus the location of the sun, which was overpowering all the other objects in the sky. They were now in space. The ride suddenly smoothed out completely and the command was then given to turn on the artificial gravity. Once at orbital level, Lieutenant Lee then set the course to catch up with and then rendezvous with the rest of the flotilla. The front plastic steel which made up the conn bridge’s outer view to things was then polarized to block out some of the sun, and it was then that everyone was first able to appreciate the beauty of the Earth that had been reborn out of such a great disaster.
Mr. Mambazo then picked up a transmission, and it was Captain Francois Cousteau, (commander of the UES Luna when the queen was not on board,) saying, “Artemis, we have you in our sights, and we welcome you to the edge of the undiscovered country!”
“It was a bit of a bumpy ride, but here we are,” said Venus, “Are we ready to test the warping engines?”
“The coordinates are set for Proxima Centuri, you your highness,” said Cousteau, and then another voice cut in, saying, “Are you sure that bulky thing can keep up with us?”
It was Princess Mars on board the CT cruiser UES Hirawaka, on which the majority of the Space SEALs were stationed. She knew her ship was designed for speed, and she wanted to just give a little bit of a good natured ribbing to her old friend, but Venus had her own response, as she said, “Honey, this thing was rigged for speed!”
“Really?” said Mars, “Want to put a wager on it?”
“How about the winner gets a week of liberty call for the winning crew?” responded Venus.
“You’re on!” Mars quickly answered. The announcement was then made to both crews, and there was a cheer on both vessels, each crew wanting this win. However Venus, to sweeten the pot, said, “The loser has to pull dock guard with the Shore Police for that week when we get back.”
“I can’t wait to see you out all night with the greenbacks,” answered Mars, (referring to the green color of the Cracker Jack flap that marked them attached with Princess Jupiter. They were attached with the Marines to provide shore and ship security, and aid the Marines in that task.)
Another voice chimed in and said, “Then I will act as official witness to this, and I cannot wait to see the result.”
It was Princess Mercury, in command of the hospital ship UES Nightingale, and she dearly wanted to be along for the trip, considering it was mainly her designs for the impulse and warping engines, as well as the subspace radio communication system. She wanted to be sure that the vessels could take the stress. The windows on the bridge were made of a substance that Mercury called plasteel, designed to be incredibly strong against weaponry and the pressure from inside the ship that would threaten to pop it like a balloon from the vacuum of space. They had tested the impulse engines by taking the vessels that had already been built and they had taken a trip out to the orbit of Pluto and back. In space, the impulse engines had no gravity or air to fight, so at full power, the vessels could make the round trip in two days. However, when one considered the location of the star they were heading for, all they had to do is set a course that took them below the Earth and out of the solar system. They would be the first humans ever to visit a star outside of the Sun. The ships all aimed and kicked in full impulse power, preparing for warp speed.
Lieutenant Lee set the course and Mr. Bjorn stated, “Ready to go on your command, your highness.”
Venus had Mr. Mambazo open up to all the ships, and she asked, “Are all vessels ready?”
They all acknowledged her and said yes, and she then said, “Mr. Bjorn, take us to warp one.”
He then hit the switch and then pushed a handle up to its first notch. The engines set on the aft port and starboards of all the vessels flashed, and with a blur, they were gone. The ships were now jumping the gap created by the warping effect, and the sound of the engines could be heard throughout the ship, becoming louder or softer depending on where in the ship one was, and then Venus said, “Take us to warp two, and gradually take us up to warp seven as we safely achieve each mark.”
She knew that the bet was there, but safety was of the greatest concern. Any small miscalculation in the system, they could end up linking the warp, and creating a wormhole. God knows where they could have ended up at that point. It was smooth, but there was still that nagging feeling when one does something for the first time, especially something like that. However, they picked a target that was only four light-years away, so they should be back by the next day. (Warp speed is measured as follows: the warp number cubed is then multiplied against the speed of light. Therefore, warp two is eight times the speed of light; warp three is 27 times, and so forth. Thus, warp seven would put them 343 times the speed of light!) At that speed, they were expected to make it there in four and a half days or so. She asked, “Is everything as it should be?”
“Everything’s reading as normal, and we are safely cruising,” said Mr. MacFarlane, her first office, “It looks like a smooth trip.”
“Let’s hope so,” she responded, “I am going to retire to my quarters. Mr. MacFarlane, you have the conn.”
She got up and headed for her quarters, hoping all would be well. However, their actions were not unseen.
About three days into their trip, a vessel of another system passed by an area where the flotilla had passed, and their sensors went off like crazy. After a moment of analysis, they realized that it matched a warp signature, and they were about to pay it no mind. However, when they traced it back, they realized that it went back to a yellow dwarf star in an area of unexplored space. They had never thought to examine that area of the galaxy, because it was not all that interesting. However, when they put that star into their sensors, there was the signature of a planetary system in that area, and they were not sure what to think. At first they thought about just going there. Yet, they began to wonder if that was walking into trouble, considering that they did not know what they faced. Considering the size of the signature, it was either a massive vessel, or a whole fleet. Since they were only one ship, they did not want to get chewed up by whatever they were. Instead, they set course for their home world, looking to report this to the emperor. He would then decide what to do. It could be that they just got their legs underneath them as far as interstellar travel went, and if they were, they may not be able to match their empire. If that turned out to be the case, then the area was ripe for invasion.