Part I - Diabolical Aliens launch a devastating attack on Earth
Science/1st Officer Ghislaine 'Beta' Vangelos noticed Captain Foxwell and his surveillance party were anxious to begin exploration of planet Vorcia, the only class M (earth-like) and previously thought uninhabited planet of the Voricia Star System following a successful landing the previous day aboard their spaceship, 'SS Stargazer,' a first generation star system battle cruiser. The First Officer informed the Captain atmospheric conditions were suitable for human life. Strangely beautiful, non-familiar vegetation and plant life were visible on the surface from the spaceship's observation panes. Spacesuits would not be necessary outside the ship, and the surveying party, fusion laser pistols holstered to their service belts and led by their new Captain were soon surveying the landscape and thick vegetation within eye distance of the 'Stargazer.'
"Down! Get down!" Foxwell shouted in a whisper as he repeatedly motioned for the trail of crewmembers behind him to drop. Beta dropped to one knee, the others immediately following suit. A foreboding scowl, unfamiliar to his crew, spread over the Captain's face as he scanned a Metropolis of gargantuan and futuristic design as far as the eye could see.
"Hand me the Vortex Field Viewer," Foxwell ordered as he extended his arm to receive the 3D laser telescope carried by a member of the surveying party. "Odd, very odd," he thought to himself as the viewer automatically adjusted the zoom and focus for optimal viewing. Buildings, infrastructure, industry all appeared intact, with no related humanoid, other mortal, or mechanical movement of any kind. Captain Foxwell handed the telescope to Beta. She raised the Viewer to her eyes as she initiated a sweeping view of the enormous city below the elevated mountain ridge where the surveying party waited for their Commanding Officer's next order, their presence shielded by the heavy vegetation.
"It's enormous Captain, more like a conurbation; even with the Viewer I can't see it all, nor do I see any evidence of activity, almost like the entire region has been abandoned," she reported.
"My thoughts exactly," Foxwell replied. "Lets get back to the ship. I want a reconnaissance team comprising you, myself, and five security officers, as well as a driver. Prepare the Rover and supplies for a possible 24 hour excursion into that Metropolis ......, or whatever it is; let's find out what's going on down there."
"Acknowledged, Captain," Beta responded.
Several hours later a reconnaissance team the Captain ordered to include the rover's driver/navigator, Ensign Roberts, was slowly making its way down a rocky, 15 degree pitted slope from the elevated vegetative terrain.
"Distance to the outskirts of the City, Ensign?" Foxwell inquired.
"Approximately 30 Kilometers, sir."
"Time to get there?" the Captain continued.
"Taking into consideration we don't stop or reduce our current speed, time of arrival to the mountains's base and level ground is approximately 3 hours, 35 minutes."
"Captain, recommend we stop prior to arrival at the city's outskirts,' Beta quietly interjected, "we can undertake further reconnaissance and allow for a short break before continuing into the city."
Foxwell slowly nodded his head in agreement. "Have one of the security officers relieve Roberts at the 15 kilometer mark, everyone else get some rest until we reach our stopping point," the Captain ordered.
"Understood," Beta replied.
"Three and a half hours later the rover stopped approximately 100 yards shy of the mountain's downward slope, which had incrementally leveled to less than 5 degrees.
"Captain, we're just short of a football field from the end of the tree line," the relief driver reported.
"Recommend we initiate brief area reconnaissance before revealing ourselves and continuing into the city," Beta again recommended.
"Agree," Foxwell replied as he now directed his remarks to all members of the reconnaissance party. "Ensign Roberts will remain with the Rover along with a security officer. The remaining crew will divide into two teams to scout the immediate area around our current position; we're attempting to determine if there's any evidence of activity before breaching the tree line and heading into open terrain leading to the city. Any questions?" the Captain asked.
There was no response -
"Alright," the Captain continued, "two security personnel will accompany Beta and conduct a sweep approximately 100 yards left of our current position; the other two security officers will accompany me to sweep the right quadrant. Everyone check their laser pistols and communicators; we'll meet back here in fifteen minutes; let's roll."
Ensign Roberts and security officer Sarah Lindsey waited uneasily inside the rover for word or return of the reconnaissance party. They didn't know each other well, occasionally catching a glimpse of one another in the corridors of the Stargazer during official duty or personal time, silence permeating the inside of the vehicle as they both continued to impatiently glance through the thick window panes for any sign of the scouting crew members. Roberts decided to break the tension with a little humor, fidgeting nervously as he finally asked, "hey, uh, have you heard the latest space joke?"
"No, can't say I have," she replied in a delayed and somewhat perfunctory tone, continuing to focus her attention on the status of the reconnaissance personnel, occasionally scanning the terrain through the Vortex Field Viewer.
Ensign Roberts hesitated for a moment, then decided to tell the joke. "Two astronauts were in a space ship circling high above the earth. One had to go on a space walk while the other stayed inside. When the space walker tried to get back inside the space ship, he discovered the cabin door was locked, so he knocked. There was no answer. He knocked again, louder this time. There was still no answer. Finally he hammered at the door as hard as he could and heard a voice from inside the space ship asking, who’s there?"
Security Officer Lindsey turned around slowly as she stared directly at Ensign Roberts before rolling her eyes and replying, dismissively, "oh puh-leeze," shaking her head and turning back in the direction of the window pane, the young Ensign now embarrassingly wishing he had kept his mouth shut.
Fifteen minutes later both groups returned to the rover with no evidence of activity or unusual sightings, re-boarding as they exited the cover of the tree line and continued onward into the open terrain, the ground level underneath the rover now level.
"Distance to the City? " Foxwell asked.
"3.3 kilometers per the range finder, smooth terrain ahead," Roberts replied.
Ensign, set the scanner for evidence of movement or activity, increase the rover's speed and prepare to stop on my order," Foxwell directed.
Five minutes later the rover entered the city as a series of linked streets of unknown composition became visible, contrasting with the gold colored, smooth metallic surfaces of structures resembling buildings of varying sizes and heights that enveloped the stargazer's crew and vehicle like some monstrous behemoth. Unfamiliar writing and symbols were visible on most of the structures as the rover passed one configuration after another.
"Captain, scanner readings indicate no movement, no evidence of humanoid or alien life forms," Beta reported.
"Stop the rover," the Captain ordered.
"Aye sir" Ensign Roberts responded as he brought the vehicle to a complete stop.
"Ensign, you and Lindsey will again remain here with the rover, everybody else outside; same three party teams as before armed with laser rifles. Select three structures; use the rifles to cut openings if there are no visible means of entry; let's see if we can figure out what's going on. We'll meet back at the rover no later than 1800 hours."
Captain Foxwell and two security officers walked one side of the street. Beta and her two officers patrolled the opposite side as both parties selected three structures at random. Using their laser rifles they cut through what was thought to be possible access points. After each entry, a luminescent array of unframed electronic screens were present within 25 feet of entry, levitated vertically approximately 10 feet and tilted forward 15 degrees as they slowly and continuously rotated, depicting what appeared to be the same celestial display with indecipherable writing and symbols running along the bottom. Scanner recordings were taken of each screen as the parties completed their sweeps and returned to the rover to begin the journey back to the Stargazer.
"Any idea what those displays are?" Foxwell inquired, directing the question to Beta as the rover began the trip back to the Stargazer.
"Working on it, Captain. All screens depict the same image; they appear to be a map, interstellar of some kind," Beta replied as she concentrated intensely on the scanner's playback of the displays, reviewing the star map and using the scanner's data base to assist in deciphering the puzzling and unfamiliar language.
Moments before the rover's return to the ship, Captain Foxwell received a signal from the Stargazers Communication's Officer.
"Captain, you have a priority one message from Galactic Fleet Command,"
"Put it on speaker."
"This is Admiral Perry, Galactic Fleet Command. Earth is under attack from intergalactic vessels and beings of unknown origin; planetary damage and casualties extensive; global defenses have been insufficient to repel invaders. All fleet combat vessels are to cease and desist current operations and set a course for immediate return to earth. Maintain open communication on secure channels for updates and briefings regarding Galactic and Space Ship offensive strategies." End of message.
The crew was stunned into silence by the content of the message. Before the Captain had a chance to respond to their overwhelming shock, Beta turned quickly toward Foxwell.
"Captain, I've completed my analysis of the data collected from the Vorcian displays," she said hurriedly.
"What is is it?" Foxwell asked, tension now palpable in the rover.
"It's a map, Captain, with an invasion plan. Target is - EARTH."