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Rated: E · Short Story · Sci-fi · #2278518
A last outpost into deep space becomes a station for survivors of a great galactic war.
Restaurant at the end of the universe
Nathaniel Miller

The infinity that is space, a world filled with serene light, uncountable stars in the deep darkness and with dying and forming stars abounds with many life forms. Yes, space is alive. The entire universe, our galaxy, and even the many solar systems are filled with many such life forms. They are filled with many that love, aspire and fight in war, and there are others that are peace loving. Many forms of life are in the universe, and they live scattered throughout its cold vastness.

But it is far beyond the galaxies of Andromeda, the Milky Way, or the brightest stars of Antares and Orion's belt that a last Star Port stands. It is known to rocket jocks as the 'Restaurant at the end of the universe', and it is the last known Federation outpost before the open stars of space expand outward beyond Federation Territory.

The station here is really known as Space Stop number five, the home to Guss' Galaxy Café in which it serves as a waypoint for incoming and outgoing Federation ships traversing into deep space. The ship itself is about six city blocks long, as measured on Earth, and the length of a typical New York City Block on the New Earth of 2122 A.D. There is a runway on the spine of the ship, allowing ships of all sorts to dock, a fuel port at the far end of the ship near the head of the main ship and various utility buildings making up the main operations center. Below decks, the ship is mostly commerce, hotel, repair basins, shipyards, and recreation centers for the ships that pass through this gateway.

It is here at this station that the 45th recon wing is assigned, using this station as a base of operations. It is also home to the 109th Fighting Group that consist of nine Destroyer Class Starships, Missile Cruisers, and Mine Sweepers and Frigates that protects the base from hostile enemy, in hostile space.

On board, the flag ship the U.S.S. Swayback, a lead Cruiser in charge of the fighting group is docked here. On board, Captain Texas Lonestar sits in his office, working behind his desk as they spend time moored in space dock. As he signed his name, he looked up as he sensed a presence in the doorway belonging to his Second in Command Commander Alan Burke.

He is an older gentleman, in his late thirties, early forties, with dark black hair, regulation cut, clean shaven of a beard and mustache. He has a round face, a reddish chubbiness to him, being that he is an Irishman. His uniform was new and was immaculate. It was cleaned and pressed from the laundry, no doubt from the service on the station.

"A service that is quite excellent." Tex thought, and he held up his hand pausing for five more minutes before regarding his second in command.

"Commander Burke." Tex said formally, "What can I do ya for?"

"I was just checking if you need me, Captain. I was going go ashore for a half hour." He said, puffing on a pipe.

"Sure, Commander…" He said with his Texan drawl, and managed a smile and a pleasant nod, "Have fun. Do me a favor and bring me a broad when yawl, come back."

"Aye, sir…" Burke said and both men laughed. "Oh yes, the red head in a bottle, Captain? I am a can-do person for that."

"That's the one." Texas said with revelation and nodded as he tapped the door frame before departing.

Commander Burke walked toward the nearest turbo-lift and he stepped in after the cab arrived, the doors whooshing as he entered. After a moment, the cab doors closed behind him and he felt the elevator drop rapidly five levels to the Engineering Section. When he stepped out, he crossed he passage and to the other side and turned the corner. Standing in front of the open hatchway, he saluted a young Lieutenant on duty here with a Petty Officer Third Class, as a messenger.

"Attention on Deck!" The Petty Officer Hank Burton said, clad in the working brown and red uniform. Lieutenant Thomas Apageo saluted too. Commander Burk returned the salute of both men.

"Stand easy, just going ashore for an hour, boys." He said, puffing on his pipe, "Got some new personnel coming on board, and going to hand carry our orders back with them."

"Yes sir." The Lieutenant said, "Bring us back some dames Skipper."

Burke laughed loudly.

"Oh Commander Burke, would you like Company?" A voice called and a hot rod blond Lieutenant Commander ran toward him, Sheryl Brookes. Tall, blond, curved in the right places, and built like a brick shithouse in old world naval terms of centuries past.

"I heard you are going ashore and I cleared it with Captain Lonestar."

"Yea, that'd be great." She saluted the quarterdeck, and the men manning the post eye her silently. All were grinning widely.

"Alright… Alright… As you were, men…" Commander Burke said tersely, and he opened his arm, allowing her to take it. He walked with her through the hatch and across the interior of the arm that docking arm that connects the ship with the station.

On the bridge, at the same moment however, Lieutenant Samantha Fredricks sat at her console, and even in space dock she managed a yawn at the sheer boredom she felt right now after a long night of double watches. She was bored but wanted extra duty to pass the time away. There were only a few things in space dock to do and once done it was back to being bored.

"At least duty gives me something to do." She thought, and turned as her console beeped. The young woman had been running a diagnostics on her panel, per regulations and S.O.P. (Standard Operating Procedure) in Space Dock. A print out streamed on the screen near her console.

The console whistled and a voice echoed from the speaker.

"EDC Control, to Swayback… Come in please."

"U.S.S. Swayback, we are receiving." She replied, formally.

"Copy operational orders for departure for mission to nearby sector to your station."

"Acknowledged," Samantha replied, and she turned to intercom button, "All hands, Yellow Alert! Captain, to the bridge!"

Down in his office Texas, still sitting at his desk, turned to hit a nearby button on his console.

"Bridge, this is the Captain. What's going on?"

"We have operational orders coming in, sir for a mission out in a nearby sector from operations." She reported, "Do you want me to pipe them down there?"

"Negative. I'll be right up." Tex replied and he hit the button to close the channel. He stood up from his chair to stretch and he quickly walked toward the doors of his quarters that opened up obediently for him.

Fifteen minutes later, he walked onto the bridge where Samantha sat at her console. She looked up to nod to the Captain who walked toward her.

At his console, Hikaru Tanaka the Helmsman stood next to the console, chatting busily with Pavlovich Andrevolich the Navigator on duty who had been called to the bridge. Behind them the Turbo-lift doors opened, allowing a young woman named Kaitlyn Dar to enter, dressed still in her bridge coat as she entered and walk to her station. Down below in the Engineering Section, Voloxa D'Quizar lumbered into the main section.
Somewhere at the gantry, a few of the crew returned from short leaves off ship and others on official business. The crew was slowly returning.

Meanwhile on the main operations shack of the space station, that Commodore Robert Allen Pleasant sits in his office, typing on the computer as he works doing his basic reports that he transmits regularly to Earth Defense Command Headquarters, Earth. Work that by all means is routine, even though he has a limited staff here on this mobile space station that can be moved out of harm's way at a whim when overwhelming forces moves in that his security forces cannot handle. He reached over to click the intercom.

"Lieutenant Piper, can you come on here, please?" He said and he clicked off the channel.

A moment later, a young woman, clad in the familiar blue and light blue uniform of the Space Corps stepped into the office, bearing a tablet.

"Yes Commodore." She said smoothly. He eyed her.

"Have the communications division send this report out to the EDC Headquarters, Earth at once." The Commodore ordered, “and, Do me a favor and send for Captain Lonestar of the Swayback to report to me at sixteen hundred hours."

"Yes, Commodore…" She replied, quickly typing on her tablet, nodding and exiting the room.

Back on the Swayback, the crew now fully reported, has returned to the ship. Samantha sits at the Communications Station and hits the button when it beeped and she received the call over her headset.

"This is the Swayback, go ahead Control." She said, "The Captain? Yes sir, I will transfer you, please stand by." Samantha turned to the intercom.

"Captain, I have control on the line, standby for message.” She said, and glanced at the bridge as everyone was staring at her.

"Acknowledged," The Captain replied, "Has Commander Burke reported in yet?"

"No, sir…"

"Have him report to me in my quarters when he returns." Tex ordered and she grimaced.

"Yes, sir…"

A moment later, Commander Burke appeared from the Turbo-lift onto the bridge, again puffing on his pipe.

"Commander…!" She exclaimed with a smile, "You need to report to the Captain in his quarters."

“What for, Sam?”

“We have a mission, Commander.” She replied, “We have to take the fleet out, the Captain has the encoded destination in his quarters.”

“Alright, I’ll go to his quarters, straight away.” He replied, “Thanks.”

The Commander headed to the Lift and the doors closed behind him. A moment later, he was on level five and walking swiftly down the corridor toward the Captain’s quarters. He hit the buzzer.

“Come!” Texas replied as the door opened and allowed him Commander Burke to enter. Texas, seated at his desk, looked up at the Commander and grinned.

“I got the word, what’s the scam Skipper?” Burke asked, moving to the nearby seat, turning it and straddling it backwards. He imitated another known Commander from an ancient twentieth Century TV Show, making Texas smile.

“Well, we are ordered to take our Destroyers and the Recon bunch and head out to sector nine-twenty. The Thyrnn and Elowan are at it again with a minor skirmish, their truce didn’t last long, and the Federation is intervening. However, in the meantime, they are not adhering to the Federation's neutrality by attacking our vessels. So we are going to recon and move the station to the new sector out of the territory of either side until resolved.”

“Greaaat…” Burke replied, “Just when you think the neighborhood is safe.”

“Once we report, the Commodore will move the station, and we will cover the move.” Texas said, “We have a good report that the Thyrnn and Elowan could mistake our presence as hostile and attack. We are to evacuate all non-combatant personnel, or ground them while they move.”

“Affirmative, Sir.” Burke replied nodding as he took notes in the tablet in his hand.

“We leave at 0800 tomorrow Al.” Tex added, “What I can tell you is we’re taking only a fraction of the fighting group, the rest has to stay on station here. The Thyrnn are moving toward this sector with everything they got. Apparently they think we are in cahoots with the Elowan.”

“I have a better idea, sir. Just bug out together and send recon over there, and escort the station toward the new sector.” The Commander suggested, “Might smooth the way, and guard the station from attack.”

“You know that might be a better play.” Tex said, “We’ll suggest it to the Commodore, when we see him at sixteen hundred.”

“We’re seeing the Commodore?” Burke gasped, and he casually glanced at the ceiling as-if to give him strength.

“You know the Commodore?” Tex asked his second in Command who nodded shortly.

“I busted him in the nose while he was my Captain for being a Captain Bligh and too harsh to the men, and his constant hounding them. I spent time in the brig, lost one stripe but I laid him out. He now, as a Commodore, holds up my Captaincy every chance he gets.”

Tex laughed loudly. Burke only smiled.

“He deserved it.” He said, “How he made Commodore is a mystery, at least he’s commander of a space station and not a fleet. He’d get them all killed.”

“Well for the duration, you will refrain from hitting the Commodore.” Tex said, suddenly serious, “No matter what. We are assigned to the jerk, and he is our commanding officer. We have to do what he says. No matter if he’s incompetent or not.”

“Aye, sir,” Burke said, “It’s been a long time, I don’t think he will remember, sir.”

“You’d better hope.” Tex said as he stood and nodded, “It’s fifteen-thirty hours, we have a half hour. We’d better see this knuckle head.”

“Yes, sir,” his second in command replied and together they walked from the Captain's quarters to the gantry. They both saluted the watch before leaving the ship and entered the interior of the station. They navigated the many passages to keep their appointment with the Commodore.

Meanwhile, Sarah Hill commanded the U.S.S. Searcher, a Recon, Interceptor Class Starship bound for sector nine twenty with at least a dozen other ships as per her orders from Captain Lonestar of the U.S.S. Swayback. Her orders were clear, see what was in the area of the sector, and report. She and her group were to make sure of the area and region of space, making sure there were no hostiles in the vicinity.

The Star Port Number Five would be docking here in this sector because of hostilities on the Thyrnn and Elowan border of space. The Federation mediated, the Thyrnn raided and attacked any intruders to their space, as did the Elowan. A problem that the Federation could not afford. All Federation ships were being pulled from the region of space and a sanction was put in place by the EDC council till hostilities could be resolved.

“Just what the sector needs down in these parts. A war between the local star clusters.” Sarah thought to herself, and turned herself back toward the view screen. Her ship, a six person crew manned her ship. Her Helmsman, a Veloxa named Q’Tibzrl sits at his station, while his counterpart and mate Thzzzbri Ant’que sat at navigation. The Communications Officer Raymond Jones sat his console. The Weapons Defense Officer, Derick Chang sat at his console. The Science Officer Brett Smith stood at the viewer for the sensors that echoed across the bridge of the Interceptor Class Starship.

As they approached sector nine-twenty, the Captain watched the stars of space as they plowed through them at Warp one. Captain Hill became aware of the sensors and turned her chair toward the science station where Lieutenant Commander Smith was doing constant scans of the space ahead, even before they arrived at the sector.

“Ma’am, we have reports from the other ships for their arrival at their destinations in this sector.” Lieutenant Jones said, half turning with a nod and making the Captain respond with a nod of her own.

“Alright, start the recon probes into their sectors and be careful.” She said.

“Aye, Captain.”

“What’s going on Commander Smith?” The Captain said suddenly, “You have been scanning our approach of the last three sectors since we warped into the area.”

“I am just adjusting the sensors, Captain.” He said.

“Oh.” She replied, unconvinced, “Well we’re here, might as well start scanning the sector, and the solar system we have in this sector.”

“I already have, it is a class K sector. Five planets, two are gas planets, and three are ice planets.” Smith reported, “No habitable life in this region. Planets are Helium, Methane, Mercury, Argon, Ice, Zinc, and trace amounts of Nitrogen and Oxygen.”

“Very well…” Sarah said, “Keep scanning, and approach the system cautiously helm.”

“Aye…”

“Make the report.” Sarah told the Communications Officer, “Make it directly to the Task Force Commander.”

“Aye, Captain.” He replied as his hands danced over the console.

Outside in space, however, their ship was being watched, examined and quartered by the Spemin ship that had been wandering by in this sector. Known for their idiocy and their bluffs, they watched greedily as the Federation Interceptor Class Starship entered the system. Just as the ship continued to make observations about the assigned sector of this star cluster, they also noticed that there was motion nearby on their motion sensors. Reaction was immediate.

“Captain, we have a contact on the motion sensors. X: 15 by Y: 20, by Z: 8…” Commander Smith at the Science Console reported.

“Long range scans, did they show anything when we entered the star cluster here?” Captain Hill asked, and she glanced at her First Officer/Science Officer who shook his head.

“Do we know who exactly this ship is?” asked the Captain and again the Science Officer shook his head.

“We’re doing long range scans, but we are too far for a computer image.” He replied, “What we can get, I am doing a comparison against the database we have on ships on file.”

“Yellow alert… All decks…” Captain Sarah Hill ordered.

“Energize defense fields.” Lieutenant Chang ordered into his headset.

Down in Engineering, one of the engineer’s mate’s turned to flip the switches energizing all the defense fields and systems for readiness for defensive weapons on the ship. On the bridge, sitting next to Q’Tip, the Helmsman, the Navigator flipped the switches on his console charging the main phaser units.

“Status…” Captain Hill exclaimed.

“Motion Detectors report, X:20 Y:5” Commander Smith, the Science Officer replied, “Still closing.”

“Mr. Chang? Shields up please…”

“Shields are up.” He replied stolidly, “Running at maximum.”

“We have visual, Captain.” Q’Tip replied, “On the Port side.”

“Helm: Slow to Impulse Power. Make for warp point, five.” Sarah ordered, and the helm complied, making the ship shudder and slow.

The Spemin ship lurched as it turned toward the Searcher, and a moment later a phaser beam sparked out striking the small interceptor’s shields making it lurch.

“Phaser hit, Captain.” The Weapons Defense Officer reported, “No Damage.”

“Alright, aim torpedoes at that ship and return fire.” The Captain said.

“I am targeting that ship.” Chang said, as he pushed a few buttons on the console. After a moment and a few more hits with phasers that made the ship lurch multiple times, it beeped.

“Fire…”

Torpedoes erupted from the Searcher’s weapons, like red missiles they bombarded the Spemin ship, and explosions erupted on its hull, causing great damage. A moment later, more ships warped in.

“More ships off the port quarter, Captain.” Commander Smith reported, “Same class. The ship that we have been attacking has sustained considerable damage.”

“I don’t like these odds, get us out of here.” The Captain ordered, “Maximum Warp.”

The insect-like helmsman touched his controls and the ship disappeared into warp space, banking sharply to the left. It headed directly at the third icy world.

“The enemy ships have gone into warp behind us.”

“Steer to one 314 mark four.” Hill ordered, “Take us into and through the orbital plain, so we can sling shot to other side.”

“Are you kidding?” The helmsman asked, “At Warp Ten?”

“You got it... Navigator, lay in a course 180 mark 8t after sling shot effect and head for the edge of the star cluster.”

“Right.” Thzzzbri replied, punching the calculations on the console.

“Execute.”

The ships raced toward the third planet, heading toward the barren icy world that they had scanned not long ago as a mineral base. As it approached, the ship struck the orbital plane and it started to heat up as it entered gravity that was on this world of ice.

“We have gravitational field.” The helmsman said, “Here we go.”

Outside the ship was grabbed by the gravity off the planet and pulled hard and close down into the light atmosphere of Helium, Argon, and Carbon Monoxide. The skin of the ship began to heat up and turned into a ball of flames as the ships behind tried to follow and an explosion soon happened as they hit the planet surface, crashing and erupting in a crater. The Searcher was slingshot to the other side of the planet, in a diagonal line, and thrown clear as it maintained warp ten. As the ship engaged on its new course, it streaked across the solar system toward its edge. Behind them, the other ships were tangled up in the explosion, and a few of them appeared from it, limping, and severely damaged from it. The EDC ship had escaped.

There was no excited whoop from the bridge crew, or an exasperated breath or a sigh of relief. It was all in a day’s work for the crew, as they maintained warp to get the hell out of dodge as it old cliché of the twentieth century said.

The ship was headed home, ducking and dodging the space bodies toward the edge of the solar system.

“We are free and clear to Navigate.” The helmsman said, breaking the silence, as the ship appeared from the star cluster, intact.

“Send recall signal to all ships.” Smith ordered, “Rendezvous, our coordinates.”

“Aye, sir…” The Communications officer replied, turning to his console.

Meanwhile, in the other part of the cluster of sector 920, the recon ships heard the recall tone, and they all headed at high warp speed out of the area before they were sighted by the Spemin ships in the sector. They headed toward the Searcher that waited for them one sector over. The Searcher had a lot to report to the Task force Commander, and all of it bad. A hostile Enemy was in control of the Sector and they had to pick another spot. They just now wait for new orders.

The captain wondered what was in store, the hostility well known between the Spemin and the EDC. She needed help and sent an urgent message to base asking for reinforcements. Meanwhile, however, the enemy approached, searching for the upstart EDC ship and their crew. Revenge as a motive to destroy.

"I hope help gets here soon.” The Captain thought, remembering the Swayback and Texas Lonestar, a savior many times to bail her out in need. She hoped the message was received soon, but there was no guarantee of that.

Shaking her head she turned to the helm.

"Helm?" She asked.

"On course Captain." The helmsman replied.

"Captain, a large body of ships are approaching." The science officer reported.

"Shit!" Sarah exclaimed, "Helm, we can't take on that many or out run the big ships. Slow to impulse and active cloaking device, turn to course 228 mark two. Relay to all ships to activate cloaking and wait.”

The helmsman executed the course.

She glanced at her crew, nervously looking at her.

"We wait..." Sarah told them, "Until help arrives. If we can find a planet to land on and we'll hide there."

The science officer grimaced but only nodded as they were hopelessly outnumbered and gunned. All they could do is wait.

WC: 3,984
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