Authors: Ben Winston
Tags: #Science Fiction
Beta Test – Episode VI
By Ben Winston
Copyright © 2015 Ben Winston
Published by Blue Space Publications, LLC.
ll rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed by a newspaper, magazine, or journal.
All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
lliance Apollo Base
Selene, Earth's Moon
he Alliance learned a great deal about how the Aracs infest a planet from that initial hive assault. The knowledge had come at a very high price, as many of our Marines, many who were also my friends, wouldn't be coming home. The next assault should be much less costly in terms of loss of life because of the sacrifices of the first assault.
The second hive in the Sahara Desert did indeed show itself when the hive in Canada was attacked, just not in the way it was expected to. When the attack on the queens in Canada began, several Aracs seemingly appeared in different spots spaced roughly a mile apart. What surprised the biologists were that these Aracs seemed to be much smaller than the average observed at the hive in Discovery.
It was hoped that the general unavailability of a food source had hampered the growth of this hive and kept the majority of the Aracs immature. The location where they had appeared was still several hundred miles from the nearest human habitation and was located in the hottest most barren part of the great desert.
Due to the nature of the sand, it was next to impossible to get an accurate scan under the ground. One of the engineers on one of the ships suggested using a type of subspace resonance to scan for ‘blank spots' under the sand. Normally, using subspace would be too destructive to use; at the required intensity, the use of this method would permanently sterilize the ground. However, since this area was already sterile, a subspace probe was built and launched. Unfortunately, the Aracs themselves would have too much earth between themselves and the probe to be effected.
The probe proved very effective in that the entire hive layout was easily mapped. However, it showed that this hive was much smaller and less developed than the Discovery hive had been. Which would follow if its growth had been retarded by the lack of non-replicated food. Two destroyers and several Marine assault shuttles landed near the hive in order to monitor it and try to contain the Aracs until the new troops arrived.
Strangely, the Aracs seemed to know they were under surveillance, as several times small scouts had been observed watching the shuttles and ships from a distance, yet no attack was staged against them, and no tunneling was detected near the ships. It was as if the queens had accepted the situation for the time being and had chosen to wait and see what the Alliance did next.
Once again, the U.N., as well as the leaders of the countries involved, had been notified of the activity. However, none of the Earth troops sent to the locations attempted to interfere and in fact tried to assist the Alliance forces as much as possible. Since the hive was located very close to the border between Algeria and Niger, both countries agreed to supply troops to assist the Alliance forces in a joint operation. Thankfully, Algeria and Niger were on friendly terms with each other.
However, just over a hundred miles to the northeast, Libyan troops began to amass, and not even the U.N. could get a reply from Tripoli as to their intentions. While those troops did not cross the border, they had the terrestrial troop commanders very nervous. In an unprecedented move, both Algeria and Niger, working through the U.N., asked for assistance from the Alliance to provide security for the area for the duration of this emergency.
Councilor Allan Ralston accepted the request, but warned the U.N. that under the circumstances, terrestrial borders had little meaning. It was entirely possible, even probable, that if the Aracs were to move, the Alliance forces would violate territorial boundaries without notice in their efforts to protect the planet.
The U.N. said they understood and would work with the Libyan Ambassador to make that point clear to him. The Alliance had an open invitation to operate in the area with the blessings of the United Nations. While the Alliance fighters providing air support did not violate Libyan airspace, they made it very clear to the Libyans that they were there. Several small sensor drones were sent to monitor the Libyan forces as well as the Aracs. A tense sort of anticipation settled over the area as the forces settled in to wait.
Up on the moon, as was becoming the norm, we were very busy. The AI Athena was still having issues with the personality matrix, but I felt we were getting closer to finding the root cause of them. I would be very careful and thorough in her testing before I would let her be installed. The last thing the Alliance needed was an unstable AI of her power with access to the virtually unlimited resources of the High Command’s station.
The original crystal being grown for Athena had to be destroyed as it developed a flaw after a week. It was found, however, that with careful dissection, the unaffected structure of the crystal could be excised and re-purposed as the main computer for the new armor being developed, as well as other projects that required smaller, less powerful crystals. Four hundred primary processing and memory units were salvaged from the damaged crystal, taking a huge burden off the crystal growing teams.
Ced and Christy teamed up with the Shallan and Simonian armorers who took control of the new armor project. Christy told me that my Marine friend, Sergeant Tul-sa, along with two other troops I didn't immediately recognize, had volunteered to test the armor for the team. Corporal Michael Hayes and Naval Ensign Halley Matheson had signed up as well. Christy told me later that they had been the first two members of the Alliance military we had ever met. Michael was the Marine that guided our pod down to the base on Earth, and Halley had been the flight attendant during the trip to the moon. The event had reminded us that we had invited both to dinner once they rotated back to the moon, so Christy simply invited all three as well as their mates to dinner. That was when I discovered that Sergeant Tul-sa had lost her mate during the fighting. I hugged the woman and nodded toward the table. "Come on, Sarge, let’s have dinner and share a drink in our friend's memory."
It was kind of awkward at first, but eventually everyone relaxed and the evening turned out pretty good. Tul-sa got a little drunk, but didn't go overboard. Ensign Matheson said she would make sure she got home okay.
It had taken the engineers less than a week to assemble and build a working prototype of the new armor. Initial tests proved very promising, however, difficulties arose with the shield being developed for it.
The designers were having difficulties getting the field to conform to the shape of the armor. There was also the issue of the shield not being able to cover the entire unit. For example, if the field were formed under the unit, the ground or surface it was in contact with was immediately forced into hyperspace and destroyed. It was a great way to dig a quick hole, but was useless as a defensive measure. Both Ced, as well as the Shallan engineers, were confident they would figure out a way to make it work.
Christy's emergency biocyte module for the armor was still in development and was not part of the original prototype. However, she was making steady progress in adapting the tiny devices. In order for them to be fully realized as a part of the system, the Alliance Medical Command would have to approve their wide-spread use, which was still pending while they reviewed all the data. They did, however, release the devices for use in the Apollo facility as well as the ships present in the Sol system. In this way, more data could be gathered. Christy was also awarded the title of Medical Doctor by the Alliance, as certified by the medical staff of Apollo base. Christy Cowan MRD (Medical Research Doctor), MD. I couldn't have been more proud of her.
Her long ago mentor from MIT, Doctor Ellis, must have been proud of her as well, because he not only got permission for them to visit, but he also recruited Christy's parents. They arrived at the base in time for the ceremony awarding Christy her license to practice medicine. Both Doctor Ellis and Carl had also been in attendance for the ceremony and we had a great reunion with them.
But as with all things, the uncertain calm that had settled around us was not meant to last. Once again, the universe felt the need to make its presence known
ark Shroud Mountains Complex
New Chamber of the Queen
Planet Veranor, Astralix System
t was taking a long time and the project still wasn't finished, but her drones were working tirelessly to move all the computers and power systems to her new chambers. As she sat on her portable platform, she contemplated her activities. She had sent a third of her fleet back to where they had destroyed the Veranorian ships. The space docks and other facilities there had been damaged, but were still mostly intact. They were being restored and modified for use by her broods. Also there were the remains of all those ships to use as raw material it would be a shame not to use the gifts her broods had given her.
Once the facilities were restored, she would begin construction of new ships. Ships designed for her broods, with the technology of their former masters to turn against them. Only this time, her ships would be far more powerful than the underpowered tubs the Veranorians had built for them. Her broods could tolerate much more than the Veranorians had given them credit for. Less power needed for inertial dampeners, more powerful engines, smaller crew areas...... yes much could be changed to make the ships more powerful. Her broods knew what was needed, and they were working hard to fulfill her will.
"Now, what to do about the humans that had defeated her seeding mission. How did they even know the seeding had been successful? No matter, they had, and they attacked before the one remaining hive could finish maturing. It had simply been bad luck that more of her seeds hadn't survived impact. The one remaining hive was doomed anyway, even if the Alliance left it alone it would die out. It had arrived in a place where there was no food for the queens or the broods. The replicator could keep them fed, yes, but in order to mature, the queens needed fresh proteins. The only reason the Queen was allowing that hive to continue was to see what the humans were up to. Perhaps an opportunity to feed her brood would yet present itself. If not, well... there was always the next seeding mission.
She had already planned to attack the shipyards at Galtar and was working out how to destroy the cursed Alliance command facility, but she was beginning to wonder if she should pay more attention to that human world that had stopped the seeding. How had they done that? No one else had even detected her seeds before, and these... humans had stopped her queens before they could even get out of the ground!
No, the greater threat was Galtar and the Alliance command structure. She would burn Galtar to the ground first and destroy those cursed insolent queens to distract her enemies while giving her broods time to build up her seeding fleets. Then, when her broods fought the Alliance at Novalus, more would be falling from the sky than just their precious command station! She just needed time to build the seeding ships.
However, before any of that, she needed more planets under her control. Between her and the Galtar system were several worlds her broods could thrive on. She reached out through her queens and gave her orders. Not all of the worlds were inhabited by the Alliance, and their destruction would bring her some pleasure, but the important thing was to spread her broods out, expand the influence of the Grand Hive, and breed more soldiers for the coming battles.
She watched through the eyes of her queens as several seeding ships were loaded and sent from the big ships high above the planet. She looked forward in much anticipation to the time when she could send the orders for the seeding of the core worlds.
Yes, as soon as her broods could get the ships built, she would begin seeding every known habitable world. She would spread her spawn to all the stars in the heavens, and the universe itself would cry under her rule!
ffice of Lord Doctor Cowan