Sci-Fi Contest Entry - Please let it be Spring!
|Oh God, let it be Spring!
Admiral Joe Carpenter was frozen and buried under a mountain of debris from his broken flagship. He was stranded and adrift in space on a rock fragment of the habitat the Emperor had used as a weapon in their last battle. On Earth in the Northern Hemisphere, it was Springtime. However on the dark side of an asteroid Spring never comes. It is always Winter there. He still remembered his last battle with the Empire. That victory had cost this sacrifice. For four hundred years he had lain here, unable to die because gifted with immortality, 2150 years before his entombment, yet unable to move or truly live also. Here he lay, his consciousness still mysteriously active, even though the hardware of his brain was as cold and hard as the rocks around it. His spirit floated to and fro, with an orbit of its own, around his asteroid which he had named Purgatory. He was able to look down on the frozen rocks that covered the icy form of his body trapped in darkness. In such Wintry emptiness, he had millennia of memories and experiences to keep him company.
Oh God, how long must I wait here?
There was never an answer. Four centuries of silence in fact. But still, he spoke with God as if He were his only companion upon this rock
I am a ghost in limbo between two states of being. Though you slay me, ignore me, indeed treat me with indifference, yet will I trust in you.
For four hundred years he had probed the emptiness around, testing the limits of his telekinetic powers, without the body that seemed to form an essential part of them. He reached further and further outwards finding nothing. For four hundred years he prayed for Spring, for the ice to melt, and for rescue into a world of air and life and the company of people. He longed to laugh, cry, love, and hate again, he kept his faith and hope alive. If he did manage to climb into the sunlight he knew his body would bloat up and he could drift for millions of years in the harsh sunlight. He wondered if that would be better, touring the galaxy as a conscious corpse, until Kingdom come. He noted with some despair that his course took him away from the sun and out into the outer reaches of the solar system towards the realm of the Emperor and his evil Empire. The Earth Republic would not look this far out. They had not found him in the first crucial hours, maybe there was no hope after all that he would ever be rescued. He prayed for the millionth time from the darkness for the thaw that follows Winter,
Oh God, let it be Spring!
Admiral Joshua Carpenter was the grandson of the famous Joe Carpenter, who had saved the Earth Republic from the Emperor's invasion fleet, four centuries before. He was not an immortal, though he had inherited some of his grandfather's powers and had been blessed with an extraordinarily long life. He had spent the last one hundred years in Space Fleet convinced that he could find his grandfather's body. It was one of the directives of the Space Fleet through the last four centuries. Though today, too many in the Earth Republic, it seemed increasingly archaic and anachronistic. The spin-off benefits of mapping and exploring the nooks and crannies of the solar system were the reason that it persisted as an official rationale for the fleet.
The Admiral addressed the ship's cyberwarfare chief.
"So what have you found, that has gotten you so excited?"
"Admiral we have been working our way through the Emperors files that we retrieved last month and we found this"
The Chief turned towards the screen and with a handheld control clicked the screen to the appropriate report.
Joshua read with some interest
"Giant genetically engineered wasps!"
"Yes, it seems the Emperor plans to release these on Earth to cull the population there. Should I inform Earth sir?"
"Yes, of course, but send this to the Earth Intelligence Directorate first before you send it to the Fleet Admiral."
"You do not trust Fleet Admiral Levington, sir?"
In the last few decades, he had been aware of some evil at work in Earth's leadership and he did not fully trust them anymore. But he could not say that to his cyber chief.
"This is a threat to the planet as a whole and not just a Fleet matter."
The ship's captain approached him and Admiral Carpenter dismissed his cyber chief. The Captain whispered into the Admiral's ear.
"Fleet Admiral Levington is rumored to be preparing to cancel the search for your grandfather on grounds of expense and worries that it might provoke conflict with the empire."
Joshua's knuckles whitened at the news.
"OK, so we do not have much time, but we do not have specific orders yet."
"Yes sir, but you will be pleased with what Navigation just picked up by using the enemy's star charts on asteroid movements which we hacked."
"Yes?" said Admiral Carpenter
"There is an asteroid, two weeks inside Empire territory, that was at the location of the battle on the day of the fight."
"So it is possible that debris from the battle fell onto that asteroid during the fight and was carried away by it?"
"Yes sir, we risk war if we search this out, and it is my duty as your first officer to point out that this may not sit well with your new boss at the Admiralty." the Captain said that with a smile which made it clear what he thought of the new boss.
"Your objection is noted and will be placed into the record," said Joshua, "But as your senior officer I am commanding you to organize the fleet on an intercept course to that asteroid."
Within minutes the fleet was speeding towards the Empire's border in full stealth mode. The empire's sensor-grid was hacked and placed into a loop filtering out the Earth Fleet's movements. Joshua hoped therefore that he had the element of surprise and could complete his mission before the main enemy fleet could be organized to oppose him. He instructed his hackers to plant false information in the enemy tracking systems pointing to an incursion at a point on the other side of their territory and many weeks distance from where they were going. The only possibility of discovery now lay in visual observation. But since the ships were running dark, with only a minimal light signature, such discovery was very unlikely,
The fleet was only hours into Empire territory when they received the orders from Earth to turn around and come back.
Joshua ignored the orders citing pressing local information that was of strategic benefit to the Republic but which could not be shared at this time and proceeded onto the asteroid. It was a command call that required a successful outcome, as the consequence of disobeying direct orders was an almost certain court-martial if sufficient grounds were not found to justify the claim.
As predicted, it was clear that the asteroid was pitted with the debris of an Earth ship even at a distance. Joshua noted with some satisfaction that the debris matched the configuration of the ship his grandfather Joe had been flying at the time, the ERS Victory. An expedition was prepared and Joshua himself went to retrieve the body.
As he was leaving the ship the Captain gave him the latest report.
"Earth is increasingly insistent that we turn around and come back. They are afraid we are going to provoke a war with the Empire and are demanding an explanation as to what is going on."
"Stall them, tell them I am unavailable right now."
"I did and they said that if you were not available in the next five minutes then I should assume command and turn the ships around."
"Then say you are prepared to assume command but insist on waiting for the retrieval of the away team before departing. The message to earth will take at least an hour by which time this will be all over and I can replace it with a better one"
"Good idea, but we have worse news, we have been spotted by the enemy and there are at least three enemy fleets the size of our own vectoring in on to our position."
"About three days for the nearest fleet."
"We have time to search this asteroid properly. In the meantime plot a route that maximizes our chances of non-engagement with the enemy and allows us to leave his space as fast as possible. Also, use that as an excuse for the delay with Control."
With that Joshua left the ship and sped towards the asteroid in his small and more mobile two-man craft. He left the space beside him, and the cargo hold, free, in the hope of what he might find.
In fact, it did not take long at all. Decades of experience out here in the wilderness of space had taught him excellent piloting and scanning skills and he knew what a frozen body looked like. He received a loud ping on his scanner as he found what he was looking for. He radioed back to the ship.
"Thank God, I have found him."
Back on board, he ordered the Captain to execute the escape plan and to notify the full spectrum of authorities on Earth of their discovery.
An hour later Joe moved, the ice of four hundred years of captivity melted away. He was still wearing the uniform of Admiral of the Fleet the later version of which was now worn by the undeserving Levington.
Joe woke to see Joshua's face smiling down on him.
"Thank God it is finally Spring," he said.