This weeks Flash Fiction Challenge from terribleminds: 1000 words of Space Opera.
It is mid-morning on Jump Gate Control Base Homestead, located on Nyssa-4, the fourth planet of Homestead’s star system. The planet is a rock, not quite the size of Homestead, and incapable of supporting life. It is bad for colonization, but perfect for a Jump Gate base. It is close enough to the star to make good use of solar power. Nyssa-4 is close enough to Homestead to be practical for Jump Gate traffic and the occasional shore leave, but far enough away to not be a danger to Homestead should there be an accident with the gate or a ship coming through it.
Lt. Controller Pall Boro is two hours and three cups of coffee into his ten-hour shift at the gate monitor console. Jump Gate Control didn’t skimp when it came to supplying bases with necessities, such as coffee, but Pall couldn’t help but think the coffee tasted a bit off due to the recycled water, even if the coffee itself did come from the better growers in the Free World League.
“We make due,” Pall thinks. He checks the duty calendar on his console and takes solace in the fact he only has three weeks left on his two month duty rotation until he can return to his home on Murdo for his month off-duty.
Pall is picking a piece of lint off of the sleeve of his royal blue duty jumpsuit when the advanced arrival signal materializes on the main holomonitor of his console. The name and a three-dimensional model of the arriving ship take up the majority of the console, while various status reports scroll on the secondary monitors to either side.
“Control Commander Arris, FWL freighter Dependable arriving at Jump Gate on schedule. All conditions favorable,” Pall announces. “ETA, three minutes.”
“Thank you, Mr. Boro,” Commander Janny Arris says. “Keep me updated on Dependable’s progress.” She turns her attention back to her own console, reviewing duty logs from the previous shift, updates from Jump Gate Control, headlines from Homestead and other local planets and the mess hall’s menu for the night.
“Aye, Commander,” Pall says. He runs a scan on the area in front of the Jump Gate to be sure it was clear of debris or traffic that could damage the ship as it slid out of the gate. He requests an update of the local space weather from the base’s satellites. All conditions continue to be favorable.
As the six satellites that would form the Jump Gate adjust their position to accommodate the size of Dependable, Pall turns his attention to the model on his holomonitor. Dependable is one of the newer, external carry variants the League’s shipyards were constructing. The aft section resembles a stack of three boxes, increasing in size from top to bottom. The top section houses the bridge and crew quarters. The middle section is the living area for the passengers and crew, as well as quarters for the passengers. The bottom section houses the engines and engineering. From the bottom and middle sections, four massive cylindrical structures protrude. Various cargo containers and non-jump capable ships are attached. When Dependable reaches a destination, passengers and crew would access the containers and ships through the cylindrical super structures. Once the new arrivals detached from the super structure, Dependable could depart for its next destination.
The six satellites are in position. A timer on a secondary monitor counts down to the one minute mark. “Control Commander Arris, one minute until Dependable’s arrival. All conditions satisfactory.”
“Thank you, Mr. Boro.”
“It’s show time,” Pall thought. After all of the departures and arrivals he has seen in his years in Jump Gate Control, he never ceases to be amazed by the sight.
The six satellites begin to glow with a nuclear charged light as each one forms two beams of energy connecting it to its two adjacent satellites, forming a glowing white hexagon against the black back drop of space. The interior of the hexagon shimmers blue with Dependable’s arrival. The bow of the super structure begins to slide out of the gate, while the rest of the freighter, still on the other side of the gate, seems to stretch into infinity. From Pall’s angle of view, below the gate on Nyssa-4, the arrival is an optical illusion. A ship appearing through a hoop from the emptiness of space.
The Dependable continues it’s exit from the gate until it has completely arrived. The gate closes as the satellites power down.
“Control Commander Arris, the Dependable has arrived.”
She can hear the excitement in his voice. “Thank you, Mr. Boro. It never gets old, does it?”
The model on Pall’s console flashes red. “Commander, we have a distress call from Dependable.”
“Mr. Rodriguez, hail the Dependable, all frequencies. Flight Master, alert all pilots and bay crews. I want all rescue, repair, and fighter squadrons ready to launch as soon as we find out what’s going on. Mr. Boro, continue all scans in the Dependable’s immediate area. If a neutrino farts, I want to know about it.”
“Aye, Commander,” all three officers respond in unison.
The explosion rocks the bridge of the Dependable just after the helmsman announces the freighter is clear of the jump gate.
“What the hell was that?” Captain Klein says as he regains his seat on the pedestal, surrounded by his bridge crew at their stations.
“Multiple reports of an explosion on the recreation level, near the dining area,” the First Mate reports from Klein’s right.
“Rescue-Med and Fire Suppression crews in route, Cap’n,” the Security Chief reports from Klein’s left.
“Chief, remind the crews to work quickly, but keep their heads up,” Klein says. “Where there’s one explosion, there could be more. And get me a visual.
“First Mate, alert Sick Bay they may have customers coming. They can use the exercise area for triage, if needed.”
A second explosion rumbles through the deck. A third quickly follows.
“Where’s my visual?” Klein barks.
“On screen, Cap’n,” the Chief reports.
“Captain, Jump Gate Control is hailing us.”
“As if I don’t have enough… put it through to my station, Ears,” Klein tells the Communications Officer.
A screen on Klein’s console blinks open, filling a quarter of the monitor with the image of a female, her brown hair tightly pulled back.
“This is Lt. Sasha Rodriguez of Terran Confederacy Jump Gate Control Base Homestead, hailing the Free World’s League freighter Dependable. Do you need assistance?”