Antares Passage — An Excerpt
.. "Put the system primary up on the screen, Mr.
"Coming up now, Captain."
A few seconds passed before the screen flashed once
and a yellow-white disk lay centered in the field of view. The only
features on the star's surface were a few sunspots trailing one
another across an incandescent plasma sea. Even though large enough
to swallow a hundred planets the size of Alta, the spots were minor
imperfections when judged against the whole disk of the star.
"We're waiting on confirmation, Mr. Cristobal," Drake
said after a dozen seconds passed in silence.
"Uh, sorry, sir. I was just rechecking my data. It's
Sol all right. The spectrum matches to ten significant places."
"Very well. Mr. Haydn, pipe this view into
Communications Channel Two. Then switch the main screen to the
"Aye aye, Captain!"
The screen changed again, this time to a schematic
diagram of the space in the vicinity of the Sol-Goddard foldpoint.
As the screen came alight, it began to fill with symbols that
quickly painted a picture of the foldpoint defenses. There were
several low whistles on Discovery's bridge as their extent
became apparent. They had started out formidable, and were getting
more so with each passing second.
Radar and infrared sensors had quickly detected
thousands of objects scattered throughout the volume of space
occupied by the foldpoint. Each was the size of a small scout ship
and constructed of an open framework of girders, fuel tanks, and an
oversize photon drive. The nearest such was less than a thousand
kilometers from Discovery, and after a visual examination, the
technician manning the threat console tentatively identified it as a
high acceleration orbital mine.
Just beyond the foldpoint's periphery floated two
hundred orbital fortresses. Telescopic examination of the closest
showed it to be bristling with heavy lasers, antimatter projectors,
missile launchers, and various ports that were presumably used to
sortie manned interceptors. Interspersed among the offensive
weaponry were long and short range sensors, heat radiators,
communications gear, and a number of less identifiable mechanisms.
Judging by the amount of quiescent energy the orbital fortress
spilled to space, it was more than a match for any normal fleet of
If the line of orbital fortresses weren't enough,
long range sensors detected three formations of warships maintaining
station at various distances from the foldpoint. Each fleet was
positioned to interdict the most direct route to Earth, and each
appeared to be composed primarily of blastships and heavy cruisers.
Drake keyed for the technician manning the
countermeasures console in the Combat Control Center. "What's the
E-M spectrum like, Mr. Benson?"
The technician's lined features split into a wide
grin. "You could come close to frying an egg on our hull, Captain,
the radar beams are so thick out there! I have identified 1312
separate sources of E-M radiation in the vicinity so far --
everything from search and fire control radars to ranging lasers and
"Let me know if that changes."
"Mr. Cristobal. Where's Teddy Roosevelt?"
"Ten thousand kilometers off our beam, sir. Almost
due galactic north. She has gone to one-tenth gee and appears to be
maneuvering for rendezvous."
"How long until Alexandria comes through the
"Another two minutes, twelve seconds, sir."
"All sensors at high gain?"
"Yes, sir. High gain and recording."
"Very well. Stand by to report her arrival."
The countdown chronometer ticked off the remaining
minutes and seconds. When the proper time had elapsed, the converted
liner flashed into existence some six thousand kilometers in front
of Discovery's bow.
"Message from Teddy Roosevelt, Captain," the
communicator said immediately after Alexandria's arrival.
"Put him on, Mr. Haydn."
"Channel Three, sir."
Drake turned to where Admiral Ryerson's features were
visible on an auxiliary screen. "Yes, sir?"
"You have been cleared to enter the solar system,
Captain. Please move your ships to the main traffic corridor as
"Will do, sir."
Ryerson glanced away from the screen pickup, then
back again. "We calculate rendezvous in forty minutes."
"See you soon. And Drake ..."
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Page last edited on
June 18, 2011 10:06 PM