Authors: Stephen Arseneault
Tags: #Sci-Fi & Fantasy
Those who are responsible for their own existence will determine their own fate. If the end comes by the hand of another it will not be of importance. Only the paths chosen to arrive at that moment are of consequence. May we all choose the right paths for our journeys.
Dedicated to my co-workers for their support of my writing endeavors and for their patience in listening to me talk endlessly about them!
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Copyright 2012-2013 Stephen Arseneault, All Rights Reserved
Alarms were sounding all over. Four satellites had been destroyed. The last time it had happened was almost 70 years before during the Sodium Apocalypse. Bases were on high alert. Fighters and warships scrambled. The world was on edge. The Media were all asking if the aliens had returned. The Commander-in-Chief had not yet given an answer.
During the Sodium Apocalypse (S.A.) three large alien craft descended on the Tampa, Florida area. Armed with gravity wave concussion weapons, they flattened the city, killing every human being. The alien attackers then proceeded to move across the state, cutting a wide swath, first crushing and destroying Orlando and finally the Daytona Beach area.
The attack only lasted a few days, but the cities and the surrounding suburbs for a 100 mile wide path had been completely annihilated. Only a handful of survivors remained.
The aliens were met with futile resistance as their technologies were far superior to our own. They demanded that no radio broadcasts of any type be made and no aircraft leave the ground. They gave notice that all Humans remaining on the peninsula of Florida be removed. For three weeks every resource available was used to make that happen.
Ships could not sail in the Eastern Atlantic or Gulf Coast regions. Any violations would be met with swift retribution. The governments of the United States and the rest of the world quickly capitulated to the alien’s demands and a peaceful co-existence ensued.
The alien ships had come to mine Sodium from the oceans. The bloodbath had been a warning that they were not to be trifled with. A group of four had managed to stay alive in Central Florida during the aftermath, with no communications they were unaware of the survival of the rest of the world.
For more than three years they struggled to rebuild some semblance of a normal life… a sustainable life. For more than three years they cowered under the protection of any cover they could find. During that time they worked feverishly on a weapon they hoped to be able to use for hunting. It was a coil gun made with a mystery technology that one of the survivors had received as a young boy. It had been thrust into his hand by an old stranger while on a family vacation.
With the computer wizardry of a teenage survivor the coil gun soon became a formidable weapon. It was far more powerful than the survivors had ever dreamed. With the new weapon the group decided it was time for Mankind to take back what was rightfully theirs. It was time for revenge.
A set of hard-fought ambushes ensued destroying two of the immense alien craft and driving the third from the planet. Only then did they learn that the rest of the world was still alive. The S.A. had changed the course of Man.
Although it had not become a perfect world, the peoples of Earth and their governments had learned to cooperate and settle arguments without the use of a sword. Each nation retained a military as real trust was something that only existed on the surface. A peaceful co-existence of nations had continued, but with an always watchful eye.
I was in transition from my previous gig with a fighter wing to my new assignment in the Astronaut Corps. If a fight was coming, I reasoned that chances were good that I would be involved. I had applied repeatedly to the USAC only to be rejected due to several infractions on my otherwise stellar record.
I was a great pilot, but I sometimes neglected to follow the rules. A Mach two beach flyover to impress a girlfriend and a drunken fight in the Officer’s lounge were two of my stable of infractions. I was sure I had only been allowed to stay in the service due to my family connections.
My Great Uncle, David Brenner, was revered throughout the world. He was our nation’s top scientist. He was the same David Brenner, who as a teenager, had helped defeat the aliens during the S.A. As his Great Nephew I had many doors opened to me throughout my still young career.
The first was in college... where I was not always the best student. Next was in the Naval Academy where I had stepped on a few toes of high ranking Officers. My commission as a UAV pilot had surely only been granted out of respect for my Great Uncle. And now, my acceptance into the newly formed USAC was likely also from his doing.
After the S.A., David Brenner and his team of nearly 40 top scientists had been working diligently on high priority projects. It had taken almost three years to gain entry into the lone damaged alien fighter that had survived. Up until that day only a handful of scientists, restricted military personnel and the President himself were aware of the craft's existence.
The world had been told there was no surviving wreckage from the S.A. All had been led to believe the remaining alien craft had left the planet after cleaning up any wreckage. That statement had been true except for this one remaining vessel.
The alien fighter had been outfitted with a canister of highly corrosive liquid. When disabled the craft would release the canister, which would in turn cover the ship with a corrosive mist. Within ten minutes the craft would dissolve into nothingness. My Uncle had narrowly escaped death when that very canister was being removed from the lone wrecked alien fighter.
The canister firing mechanism had been damaged during the S.A. when a coil gun projectile had knocked the fighter from the sky. The technicians removing the canister had unwittingly re-activated the trigger when pulling it from the craft. The canister had been placed on a table 30 feet away from the alien craft when the accident occurred. The result had been the death of three technicians and the two scientists who had been overseeing their efforts.
David Brenner had only walked away moments before for a cup of coffee. A substantial portion of one side of the fuselage and of one wing of the alien craft had been dissolved by the mist. Only the quick action of a support team member had prevented the complete destruction of the vessel. With the mist spreading out from the canister the team member had jumped into a tug attached to the front of the craft and began pulling it away.
He had crashed the tug through a hangar door while pulling the ship to safety. David Brenner, the remaining scientists and the other workers had scrambled for the hangar exits. Minutes after the alien craft had been pulled into an adjacent hangar, the first hangar collapsed. Luckily, the brief moment of exposure to the open skies had not been enough for the alien fighter's existence to be discovered.
For three years David Brenner and his team had been busily attempting to learn the secrets of the invaders. One benefit that had been derived from the canister mishap was that the interior of the ship had been exposed. With the vessel open, David and the other scientists had managed to discover the secret of the alien craft's power system... Sodium fusion.
A simple fusion reactor, coupled with a generous supply of Sodium, could keep the craft fully powered and in flight for many months. Over the following years David Brenner and his team had unlocked the technology of the Sodium fusion reactor.
In addition to understanding the alien's power system, the team had also replicated and then greatly enhanced its performance and efficiency. With the abundance of Sodium on the Earth and with the enormous power generated by a single reactor the United States had seen a new energy renaissance.
With the world no longer dependent on fossil fuels and with an abundant supply of clean cheap energy, world perspectives had changed dramatically. Every nation had been offered the power free in return for renewed diplomacy and friendly cooperation.
For security and control reasons the reactors all remained in the United States under heavy guard. The power was broadcast to the other nations of the world using gigantic Tesla coils. For 70 years the system had worked. For 70 years Man had been largely at peace.
During those years the United States had greatly enhanced its military capability. The aircraft of the US armed forces had been outfitted with high efficiency coil guns, nano-reactors and electric turbines. The strength of the military was viewed as one of the reasons for the long period of peace.
As a U.S. government strategy to preserve its technological advantage of Sodium fusion, the nano-reactors could only be started using a full sized reactor. Each reactor had also been outfitted with a tiny canister of the same corrosive liquid that the alien craft had used. With several layers of fail-safes in place there was little danger of the technology falling into the hands of potential rivals.
Many of the United States defensive aircraft were in the form of UAVs. I was one of the lucky few who had been given the chance to pilot them. My career in the Navy had been as a pilot for one of the remotely piloted UAVs.
The USAC had come about under military control. With improved economies and world peace, man had once again regained his desire to explore the solar system. Since being a young boy, I had dreamt of being one of the first astronauts to reach Neptune. Little did I know that I would soon go far beyond.
For the last decade David Brenner had been busily designing space propulsion systems. Some of it had been derived from the alien craft and some from his own team's ingenuity. If anything... my Great Uncle was a brilliant man.
As I sat on the sofa in the Astronaut lounge, I awaited my new orders. I watched intently as the developing story unfolded on the 3D wall holo-screen. With all the alien speculations the nations of the U.N. were once again calling for the release of the secrets of Sodium fusion power… just as they had many times before.
As I watched the reporters and media pundits throwing out their wild accusations and theories an executive aid of David Brenner stepped in front of me. She was a young ensign and a very attractive one at that. The aid touched a medallion on her hat and a miniature holo-projector sprang to life. My new orders had come in. As I watched the hologram floating in the air in front of her I couldn't help but muster up a smile and a wink. Ensign Braswell however, remained professional and did not return the favor.
The news was fantastic. I was being assigned directly to my Great Uncle's research team. It was the most coveted job a pilot could dream of. I jumped up from the sofa, kissed the aid on the lips, turned and walked towards the exit. I had a big smile on my face that only broadened as I heard the aid say "Thank you sir." as I left the room.
I reported to my quarters where another aid was to come by to collect my duffel bag and to lead me to a transport. I was then flown to Area 51 in the Nevada desert. When I touched down at Groom Lake I was surprised at how few buildings there were. I had thought I would be housed at the new Regents Air base about 200 km away.
Regents, was where the bulk of the new activity with fighters and weapons had been taking place since I had been a young boy. The Regents base housed our most highly classified secrets… or so I thought. When I exited the plane and entered the old building at Groom Lake I was a little disappointed.
What I did take note of once inside was all the security cameras and automated mini coil guns. The building’s interior was heavily defended. After a bio-scan to verify my identity I was escorted into an elevator. We descended two floors and exited into another room. I was again subjected to a bio-scan only this time it was much more thorough... and a bit invasive.
My escort then pointed me down a long hallway and watched as I walked the 150 yards carrying my duffel. At the other end of the hallway I was greeted by another escort and taken into the next room. Again I boarded an elevator and again descended another two floors. Upon exit from the elevator I was greeted by a third escort. After another long walk down a curving hallway I entered a room that had a windowless shuttle sitting on tracks in the floor. There was a closed door on the wall in front of it.
The shuttle door opened and I sat and was buckled in by the escort. When the door closed I was in complete darkness. I sat quietly as the shuttle began to move. I could hear the door to the room open and then moments later close after the shuttle passed through. The shuttle then quickly accelerated and then just as abruptly, it came to a complete stop. I sat waiting for a door to open. What came next was unexpected.
I felt the shuttle lift slightly and it then began to spin. The spinning increased until I was pressed hard back into my seat. When the spinning finally stopped I was relieved, but completely disoriented.
The shuttle was once again placed on a track where it then began a rapid acceleration. The speed continued to increase for a full minute. A short time later it began a heavy deceleration that would last the same amount of time. When the shuttle came to a complete stop I was sure that I had traveled at least several hundred kilometers.
As the door opened into a bright room I squinted my eyes. I was then greeted by a new escort. Again, a complete bio-scan was done to reconfirm my identity. When complete, I was taken into a room that had a blast door. Once the blast door had been opened before me and then closed again behind, I boarded yet another elevator.
A 22 story drop then brought me into a room that was attached to another long hallway. I was beginning to get irritated and wondered what all the fuss could possibly be about. The hallway was dotted with many doors as we walked. The escort beckoned me along with a smile and a semi-auto coil machine gun that was powered by a pico-reactor.
When we arrived at the door labeled 236A the escort knocked and then turned and walked back towards the elevator. When the door opened I walked into a room where my Great Uncle David was sitting at a desk.
David Brenner rose and came to greet me. I received a big hug and welcome from him. I had only had the privilege of briefly meeting David Brenner once before. He had attended a band concert rehearsal that I had played in during my seventh grade year of school.
I had the pleasure then of standing in awe and listening while he had praised my performance. After a brief chat with my parents he had been whisked off again to other more important duties. The fact that he had taken the time to pay a visit had left me with an immense sense of family pride. He was after all, the man who had first saved and then powered up the world.