A sequel to Tears of a Clone by Csquared
Ten years had passed since the day the Survivors had decided to depart their planet. Ten years had they been searching for Earth, for their long forgotten ancestors. Ten years had they failed miserably at getting anywhere close to their destination.
Of the two hundred brave souls who had agreed to leave everything they knew behind on the long shot that they would find Earth with their corrupted navigational charts and faulty computer systems, only fifty-eight were still alive to continue the journey... and twenty-four of those were children. Most of them had finally succumbed to the aftereffects of prolonged radiation exposure. A few others had ended up committing suicide after loosing all hope of ever reaching another home, and two had even been murdered by a man that had fallen into a delusional and irrational state. All in all, moral was not at its peak, and even the virtually radiation-free and genetically normal children did nothing to alleviate everyone's sense of impending doom.
Van-el was sitting and contemplating their incredibly bad fortune when one of the vessel's yeoman (one of Van-el's daughters whom had recently turned twelve years old) came bursting into his quarters.
"Do you have some reason for disturbing me?" Van-el asked crossly. He had made it clear long ago that he would not tolerate rudeness from any of his children.
Even Van-el's particularly harsh mood couldn't stop the enthusiasm that the young yeoman was exuding.
"Yes sir!" She shouted happily. "We're coming up on a system that rates at over a nine on the probability scale with the navigational computer! It's a single-star system with eight planets... ten if you count two asteroids in planet-like orbits. The sun is close to the size and type that the databanks predicted Sol to be."
Van-el couldn't help but smile as he heard the news. They so rarely found a system that might possibly contain Earth that it was beginning to seem as though they might as well give up and just settle down on any near-suitable planet they came across. At last, maybe they had found what they had been looking for!
"Thank you yeoman," Van-el replied with his glee just barely in check, "I'll report to the bridge immediately."
Van-el made record time climbing the fourteen flights of stairs (the lifts had long since malfunctioned) to the bridge. He hardly even noticed his nausea as he passed through the artificial gravity field into natural micro-gravity. Everyone was all-smiles as he launched himself from the stairwell directly to his command chair. He nearly overdid it and barely grabbed onto the seat, jerking himself to a stop. He always hated moving in micro-gravity.
"Commander," Van-el ordered his first officer, "please extend the artificial gravity fields into non-living areas. We can afford the extra power drain if this is really the place we've been looking for."
"Yes sir!" Kara exclaimed loudly, quickly manipulating a few controls. Soon, all of their feet were resting comfortably on solid deck.
"How long until we enter the solar system?" Van-el asked her.
"Approximately one hour, captain. I advise that we set our course towards the third planet in the system; based on our long-range scans, it seems to be the one most likely to support human life."
Van-el nodded, and was about to respond when the mini-console attached to his chair gave off a series of warning beeps. He quickly checked the display, and felt his heartbeat begin to race in anticipation.
"I can't believe it," he muttered, "it's a ship. It's a ship!"
His tactical officer, a woman that went by the name of Lin-ae, did not seem so happy at the development.
"Sir," she reported, "that ship is currently on what I would label an attack-intercept course. Their positioning is optimized to face the majority of their weapons towards us. Sir, I am detecting more than forty particle cannons aimed at us, as well as at least fourteen torpedo tubes of varying sizes. The tubes, judging by the energy I am reading from them, carry cold fusion detonation cores that are each at least as powerful as our central reactor. If they decide to attack, we will have no defense. The energy displacement grid hasn't been activated in eight years, and we removed all of its auxiliary and tertiary systems to provide replacement parts to critical systems. Even if the grid was at full power, a single C.F. detonation core of that power would be enough to smash through the grid and turn this ship into its constituent elements."
"Thanks for the cheery news," Van-el replied with a smirk, "but we really can't worry about tactical scenarios. We're on our last leg, and as you said, we have no defense anyway. So if they decide to attack, we're dead. That simple. Now, Kara, if you would be so kind, could you open communications channels with the ship?"
"Done." Kara replied shortly.
Van-el, as was his habit when addressing the communications system, looked up at the ceiling.
"Unknown ship, this is the space vessel Survivor, Captain Van-el speaking."
Without any delay, a booming male voice responded over the speakers. "Captain Van-el, this is Captain Smith of the United Star Vessel Endeavour responding to your hail. What are your origin, your cargo, and your destination?"
Van-el took a deep breath to steady his nerves before he responded, just barely noting with a touch of mild curiosity that Captain Smith spoke the same language as he did, with the exact same accent.
"The Survivor originates from a world approximately eighty thousand light-years from this system, and I doubt you'd be familiar with its name even if it mattered. We are carrying almost sixty refugees from that world, which has been destroyed by years of war, to Earth, if permissible. We really don't have anywhere else to go."
This time it was a couple of seconds before Captain Smith responded.
"Captain Van-el, please lower your vessel's speed to less than one percent of the speed of light. If you'd like to go to Earth, then we're going to need to speak in person."
Before Van-el could formulate a reply, the communications channel went silent. He quickly ordered the helmsman to cut the faster-than-light drive's power and to redirect the energy to the sub-light systems... something they hadn't needed to do for close to five years now. It took a little more than a minute to slow the vessel's forward momentum to the limit Captain Smith had set.
"Sir," the tactical officer reported, "the Endeavour is changing course and speed so that they will end up alongside of us. I am detecting a power down in their weapons systems. Looks like our luck is finally looking up."
Van-el nodded. "I know our sensors don't have the resolution they used to, but can you tell if their docking systems are compatible with ours?"
The tactical officer took a few seconds to check her displays before she responded. "I cannot be sure from a single scan, sir, but most likely, yes. I doubt our umbilical lines are compatible, but if all goes well we won't need to transfer any power or supplies to the Survivor anyway. The personnel transference gantry systems seem to be an almost exact match to theirs though."
Even though the systems were compatible, both of the captains took plenty of time to make sure that nothing was going to go wrong when they started sending people to each other's ships. They also ended up deciding that Van-el would be meeting Smith on the Endeavour.
"Open the hatch," Van-el commanded as he prepared to cross the fifteen meters between the Survivor and the Endeavour with nothing but a couple inches of reinforced glass in-between him and an icy void, "and pray to whatever deity you choose to follow that we got the atmospheric seals tight enough."
When the thick titanium hatch whistled open, it was if Van-el had been struck. He couldn't believe the utter enormity of the Endeavour. Sensor scans were one thing; seeing a ship of this size was another. It had to be at least four kilometers long, and probably more than a kilometer from dorsal to ventral sides. The Survivor didn't even qualify as a light freighter when compared to this monster.
As he made his way closer to the other vessel's airlock, he became even more impressed with the Endeavour. Its gleaming silver hull showed not a rivet, an indentation, nor any other sign of being put together from various pieces of metal. It was almost as if the entire ship was forged at the same time, as if it was nothing more complicated than an ancient sword. Even the Endeavour's airlock managed to impress Van-el. It was a metal iris perhaps three meters in diameter, which winked open at an incredible speed without making the slightest whisper of a sound. Van-el hurriedly made his way inside; he wanted to see what the interior of this behemoth looked like.
It was actually somewhat disappointing and anticlimactic. From the utilitarian gray walls to the solid black floors and ceilings, the corridors and rooms all looked pretty standard as the inside of starships go. However, Captain Smith was most definitely not disappointing. The massive captain that met him just as soon as stepped into the ship stood at least two hundred and ten centimeters tall, and must have weighed a good hundred and thirty kilos. When he shook the big man's hand (he was surprised to see that hand shaking was also still common in this separate race of humanity), his own hand was swallowed up like a ship into a singularity.
"Good to meet you!" Captain Smith proclaimed in a booming, jovial voice. "I'm Captain Smith, and I expect you're Captain Van-el. Why don't we get down to the steel tacks straight away? Follow me to my study."
Van-el tried to open his mouth to respond, but Smith was already heading down the corridor towards a series of lifts. He had to half-jog to meet the man's long stride.
"One hell of a ship you have here." Van-el said as they walked into Smith's study, a small room with barely enough room for a desk, three chairs, and the thousands of books that were jammed into it. "In my thirteen years of life I've never seen anything quite so large."
Science Fiction /