""The ultimate in disposing one's troops is to be without ascertainable shape. Then the most penetrating spies cannot pry in nor can the wise lay plans against you.":http://thinkexist.com/quotation/the_ultimate_in_disposing_one-s_troops_is_to_be/220493.html/" Sun Tzu/
The concert was asmash hit, and all morale of the crew was greatly increased. The ship then took off and orbited a few times to do some studies from orbit before they took off for the next star system. The official name of the world they were leaving was Lelande II, but because it had been the queen to first set foot on that world, it was affectionately called /Serenity/, without knowing if that would stick. It seemed a fitting name, even though there were still dangers there that come with exploring a wilderness, especially one that spread across the whole planet. As they pulled away, they set their sights on Epsilon Eriandi and the planets that had been known to circle that world for some time. It was a solo yellow dwarf, so they were looking forward to examining asystem that had much potential to be like their own. It was five light years closer to the Sun than where they had been, but they figured that, if they needed to get back or resupply after their next adventure in exploration, they would be close to home. There was no way of knowing what they would face, but they were certain that it would have just as much adventure as what they had already seen.
While all this was going on, there was another adventure gearing up. The outer scouts were preparing for a spying mission to gather information about this new alleged foe before something drastic could happen beyond what they had already seen. They believed alleged at this point because they were not sure if it was amisunderstanding or not. They had to find out if they were a foe because, if the Artemis ran into trouble, even though she could definitely hold her own in a fight; they didn't want to risk the loss of the queen. Endymion was feeling more and more of an urge to recall the ship until they knew what was going on, but Pluto assured him that, considering whom she was, and who she was with, there should be nothing to fear. They therefore turned their efforts to finding out from where that ship had come.
They all boarded the CT cruiser UES Catfish and went to where the battle had taken place. If they had warp technology as they did, they hoped that there would still be awarp signature that they could detect and follow. They reached the area of the fight, and it seemed that the ship had come in under impulse power, which made it easier to follow the trail. When they had reached the Kuiper Belt, it was where they detected the end of a warp signature, and they locked on to it with earnest. The ship cloaked and set the computer's controls to follow the course of that signature. As the vessel went along, they realized it was leading them to a star system that was close to Tau Ceti, which was a star that the Artemis was eventually going to visit. This concerned them greatly, and they hoped that it was not such that the trail was leading right to it. It was going to take some time, and they knew it would be about the same time that the Artemis would arrive at their next destination. Fortunately, it would be many light years away from where they were heading, and so, for now, everything was well.
While on the trip, they went over the battle scenes over and over again. Pluto was hoping that Saturn and Neptune would get some kind of reading off it. Neptune then said,"The only problem with what we can do is that it is not something we can control, or acts like an active sense. Mars is more the one skilled in that. Precognition just happens."
"What happens if nothing comes up?" asked Uranus.
Saturn thought about it, and then said, "That is the uncertain part. Just because something prophetic does not occur does not mean that there is not a danger. Like Neptune said: if Mars was here, she could tell us if there is danger coming."
That is when Pluto approached the ship's captain and asked, "Do you have any SEALs on board?"
"Of course, ma'am,"said the captain, "This type of vessel is commonly used by the SEALs, so we do have some on board as a matter of course."
"Excellent," said Pluto, "Have that person summoned to the briefing room. We have use of that one."
"Aye, ma'am, right away!" was his answer, and they went to the briefing room.
About five minutes later came a young woman dressed in the fuku that all female sailors wore, marked in the red of the SEALs, looking much like what Mars had first worn when she had awakened, but in the navy blue that Mars now wore. It, however, was also marked by the stripes that marked a petty officer first class on her shoulder boards, and marked with a name tag which read "Olympia." She remembered her military etiquette, and she stood at attention, saluting, saying, "Petty officer Olympia, reporting as ordered, ma'am."
Pluto smiled and said, "Just have a seat! It's okay. We have military rank, but that is just for the sake of keeping things orderly in paperwork. We are more like civilians who work for the government lending our skills. However, for what we need, you will answer to us, but you won't have to worry as much about all the heel clicking and such."
She relaxed, and she said, "Thank you: the admiral isn't so strict about things, but she always teaches us to be in practice of that in case we address someone outside the SEALs."
By the looks of her, she almost could have been Princess Mars' kid sister, but they let it go. Olympia then added, "So, how can I help you?"
Pluto then briefed her on the mission, and then she said, "So, we need your psychic abilities in order to detect if there is danger imminent, or if we are where we need to be."
"Oh, that's a piece of cake!" she said, "I thought it meant infiltrating the enemy or taking down abad guy."
"It just might,"said Uranus, "It all depends. Having you with us will be helpful. All you SEALs have top secret clearance at least, right?"
"That is correct, ma'am," she uttered, to which Uranus said, "That's not needed."
"Hey, it's a good habit in which to stay," reminded Olympia.
"Well, let's get to the bridge," said Neptune, and they all adjourned to the bridge.
Once there, they were still in the process of tracking the warp signature at the fastest speeds possible. They knew it may be a couple of days or longer, but not too long. It could not be much longer than that. Unless the strangers had a travel velocity beyond understanding, there was no way that they could have come all that far, especially if they were there to spy. There would be the need stay in contact with...well...someone. As they went, it was obvious they were heading in to uncharted waters, to turn a phrase. A couple of days did indeed pass, and finally, they found something. The navigator then said, "Approaching Tau Ceti, captain."
It was then they noticed that there were several new warp signatures, and it was then that Olympia said, "There's something out there!"
The order was given to drop out of warp speed but to stay cloaked. When they came out, they saw two vessels seeming to orbit about one another, and there were transmissions going back and forth. One was a large vessel-about heavy cruiser size-and the other looked more like a frigate. The larger had the same shape as the other that had been destroyed not days before, and the smaller was more wedge shaped. They tapped into the chatter and, of course, it was in unknown tongues to anyone on the vessel. However, they had a new device that they had yet to test, and now was the time to try it.
Because the whole Sol system used Esperanto now, all the computers had been geared in this way. Yet, they also knew that the language was developed in such a fashion as to use similar words and sounds that would be the most universal between peoples of the Earth. They experimented to see if it was possible for a computer to take that a step further and take any unknown tongue and play a computerized form of an audio cryptogram, learning to use common sounds and phonetics to decipher what could be common verbs like "to be," or "to have," or "to go," and so forth. From there, it could figure out commonly used phonetics to decipher equivalents to commonly used phonetics in their tongue to gauge some kind of alphabet, and so on. They had tried it on Earth languages, and then on languages that had died and fallen out of use, and the computer was able to do its job. Now was the real test. What they heard back and forth were what sounded like clicking and squealing sounds, and no one had any idea where to start. However, the computer began to lock on to Earth languages that used much in the way of phonemes, and it began to run it against similarities of the Chinese language, and the language of the !Kung bushmen of Zimbabwe. Once the computer had the framework, it first came up with a language that was a mix of the previously mentioned two, and then it began to shape that framework to what it heard. Soon, it began to decipher the language, and then once that was done, it started to translate. It was then they realized that what was happening could get real bad real quick.
As it began to pick up on it, they heard, "...violating our space again! We shall never join or submit to your tyranny! The Gnarl needs to know their place!"
"This was not arequest this time!" snapped the Gnarl ship, (though they were not sure who was who just yet. They had their guess, but they had to be sure.)
"Are you threatening war?" snapped the protagonist in this crisis.
"You shall not submit," said the antagonist, "then you make war inevitable, though we cannot figure out how you think your petty fleet could stand against us. Stand aside, spare your lives today, and let the invasion force through."
"Talk about cocky,"said Uranus, "They brag about an invasion, and they don't even take the time to be stealthy about the thing."
Soon, the frigate was joined by about seven other vessels, ranging in size from corvettes to light cruisers. Yet, this was all that came out to face them. Since this was an intelligence mission, any calls to engage a target would have to come from the outer scouts. Saturn then said, "Sadly, we have to let them engage. It could be that the smaller have weapons that are far beyond what we have."
However, Olympia was shaking her head and saying, "I am not so certain of that. I can tell you that the larger ship is the Gnarl."
"Okay, so we know who was behind the attack," said Pluto, "But we have to make sure that we do not interfere on affairs as much as we can. However, if they are talking invasion, I can only think their purpose was to size us up."
"I hope they got an eyeful!" said Saturn defiantly, "We do have a sizeable fleet and fighter force with powerful weapons!"
"True," said Neptune, and then Uranus said, "Yet, we only beat one ship, and we had two. There is no telling how big the area of space they control is."
"That basically means that, the bigger the area controlled, the bigger the fleet could possibly be," added Neptune.
As they were assessing things, they watched the seven smaller wedge shaped ships all begin to maneuver to block passage of the Gnarl craft, which then brought about a response of their blasters. After a few volleys, one of the corvettes vanished in sparks. The captain then said, "Do we intervene?"
There was silence for about 30 seconds. The worry was getting involved with something more than what the kingdom needed to be in, and they were balking. A destroyer went up in sparks, though they were pounding the Gnarl cruiser. They were doing damage, but not enough. They had weapons on par with the larger vessel, but they were not enough. Then, Saturn's eyes got that glassy look, and she began to say, "Invasion: they intend to invade and conquer all they find. Beware: they are like locust!"
She then staggered and grabbed a console to steady herself. That was all Pluto needed to hear, and she said, "Looks like we may have a new ally, like it or not. Commence with the attack!"
Scanners on both ships were going crazy as a new vessel emerged, and it was far different to anything they had yet seen. The remaining five vessels were not sure what to do, and wondered if they should break off the attack, and try to summon the rest of the fleet. However, they watched the unknown vessel was maneuvered behind the Gnarl ship when it became visible, and then it began to launch what they had to assume were light balls from several spots on the bow. They seemed to act like their missiles, but they were certainly not comparable to any star fleet they had yet encountered. The Gnarl, however, were now in a panic. They had no clue how this ship just popped out of nowhere, but they did know from the records of their fallen comrades before they were destroyed that it resembled the vessels that had attacked and destroyed their sister ship. It was only one ship, but it had the element of surprise, and was set at avulnerable spot on the ship. As a result, they had to shift the shielding so as to cover it, but it weakened the vessel's overall defenses. The ship shook with the impact of the torpedoes, and they knew that, though the shields blocked the explosive power of the torpedoes to some extent, it still shook the ship, causing superstructure damage. It started to maneuver to try to compensate for the new foe, but the other vessels took the chance to maneuver to better attacking positions and then began to pound on the vessel. The strange vessel was maneuvering to the engines now, firing both torpedoes and particle accelerators. Before long, the shields were breached, and after another volley, the Gnarl vessel exploded in a bright flash and then vanished quickly in the vacuum of space. In one flash, an initial invasion force was no more. They were about to go back into cloak when the five vessels there surrounded the Catfish, and started to transmit messages to it. The universal translating programming started to piece their language together, and though it took alittle longer this time, they finally realized that they were demanding identity and affiliations. They also warned by this point that if no response was given, they would either surrender their vessel and prepare to be boarded or prepare for attack. Quickly, the hailed the vessels from this world around Tau Ceti and they said, "We are the UES Catfish from the Silver Millennium Kingdom. This seems odd to say, but, we come in peace."
There was silence for about 20 seconds because, first, they did not know the intentions of the foreign vessel, and second, they wondered why these strangers somehow knew their tongue. They then said to the Catfish, "If your intent is peaceful, then we do believe that you would accept a boarding party?"
The captain called things back to normal by lowering the shields and telling the ship to stand down. The captain then said, "Unknown vessel, we stand ready to accept your shuttle. Lock onto our signals and we shall show you where to dock."
The science team was then already rigging their portable computers to be ready to translate for them. They had to do this right, or there was no telling if they would create a new foe along with the foe they had now discovered. One thing was sure: they came on afact-finding mission, and they had indeed succeeded more than they intended.
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