This is part 2 of an ongoing series, please read part 1 here first.
Captain Ruiz sat for the next briefing, not that there was any new information. There had been no new ships arrive in the system and no new information from the station, so Earth may well have blown itself out of existence.
He sat back in his chair looking at his XO, Lieutenant Commander Ruggier, who sat opposite. They were in his state room, away from the bridge crew. They would find out what they faced when they made contact and not before, the same as ever. Ruggier grunted and put down the manual he had open. The one that stated for “First Contact Only” in big red letters on the cover.
‘Anything useful in there?’ asked Ruiz.
‘No Sir,’ answered Ruggier. ‘About the only thing it says is try and not get annihilated by any new intelligence we meet. Almost all the other pages say at the commanding officer’s discretion. I’m sure they’ll change it after our first contact. If we survive.’ He had a small smile cross his lips as he said the last.
Ruiz nodded; it sounded like he’d read it correctly then. It was up to him how to handle this, and it would be him that would take the fall if all went wrong.
They were less than an hour from the expected scan pickup point when the computer screens lit up, detecting something moving towards them at high speed.
Ruggier was only seconds behind the scan techs in working out that whatever was incoming was not going to be a first contact. It was a fleet from Earth. A big fleet from Earth. They weren’t sending any ident signals but the computer system confirmed that the scan profiles matched ISA data.
Ruggier was on the comms with them as he was signalling hurriedly for someone to find Captain Ruiz and get him on the bridge.
As Ruiz rushed to take his place, all of the screens locked and switched to the ISA logo – a simple planet with an old style sailing ship next to it.
‘Comms down, Nav down, Weap down’ yelled Ruggier, ‘System lockout initiated. Awaiting confirmation.’
Ruiz nodded, every recruit was taught what this meant; everyone knew all they could do was sit back and wait. It meant their ship was talking to the incoming ships, and it thought it was outranked. Designed as an anti-mutiny system, it was implemented after the separatist wars over fifty years ago. All personnel knew it existed, yet no one ever expected to see it in action. It could only mean that something had gone wrong on Earth.
The main screen flickered and switched to show a stern face.
‘Captain Ruiz’, she said, ‘I am Admiral Jeana Tryphosa-Heyman. Please have your ship join in formation. We will then proceed and hold 100k from the station. You will be briefed. Out.’
All the screens returned to normal. Ruiz paced impatiently while he waited for the official order come through.
‘Confirmed order sir.’ The com tech flicked the order to Ruiz’ private screen.
‘Helm, join fleet, position rear left flank. Co-ordinate with the other ships to confirm distances. XO. Signal confirmation to the fleet and then meet me in five.’ Ruiz stopped sharply and marched off the bridge.
Ruggier watched the Captain’s back, held straight, head high. But there was something else about the way he moved as he left the bridge, something that Ruggier could not put a name to.