The early morning was crisp. The smell of dead leaves and damp wood was predominant. A lone look-out stood staring at the dark navy sky. Swallowed in the inky murk, the look-out seemed more of a shadow then anything else. The shade stood tall and lanky, and scratched a stubbled cheek. The small pin pricks of light that were stars, shone brightly, creating a veritable Connect-The-Dots puzzle. The world was quiet and dark at that time of the day, and with the stars out in full force, Star Shine was in affect. All barriers were functioning and the occupants of the base complex were safely inside. He observed the sky, pulling a hood over his head. While his headset communication device knocked slightly against his mouth. He returned it to position and turned his attention to the complex below. Mostly military and research buildings dotted the area with a spattering of residences throughout. Of an older construction, the buildings were in a terrible state of disrepair. Nothing had been rebuilt since the war. There was no time to repair, the human race was barely holding on by a thread. All their efforts went to immediate issues.
Suddenly the receiver burst to life.
“General, this is Castle, over.” A slight blow of static accompanied the communiqué. The voice, however, sounded sure and strong, if a little serious.
“Castle, report.” The man responded curtly. His voice was gruff as if he hadn’t spoken in ages.
“Sir, we’re showing significant cloud cover moving in from the east, ETA five hours. It looks like we may be able to allow outer travel.”
“Very well, Major Klinas. Inform the data networks, but do not post until that time. I won’t risk it if it becomes flighty.” The General paused, “Major, double check with Tower. Their sensors may be able to pick something else up. Report back in two hours.”
“Aye, Sir. Survive.” The headset went silent as the Major terminated the connection. He looked over towards Castle and saw the light array align towards Tower post to exchange data. The General turned towards the door back inside when something briefly shimmered in the corner of his eye. He turned to look and saw nothing. Just as suddenly, monitors inside the Command and Control Centre lit up and came to life as an alert sounded inside. He turned to see his aide walking briskly towards him. He turned to meet him.
“General, Sir, the A.I. has picked up some anomalous readings while doing deep space analysis. The monitors sprang to life and started to render a representation.” He presented the general with a display book. Looking quite similar to laptops of a century ago, the book opened vertically and contained both a display and a user interface. The display book was connected wirelessly to the mainframe and was, as a result, able to display the A.I.’s model. The General looked to the screen and his eyes widened slightly.
“Interesting,” He snatched the book and proceeded inside to the CNC. “Colonel Michaels, get in contact with Major Klinas and tell him to cancel the outer travel bulletin,” he paused for a moment as if in thought, “and would you escort him here so that he may have a look at it?”
“Aye, Sir!” The colonel threw up a quick salute, turned quickly and marched off to perform his duties. The general opened the door and saw that the CNC was abuzz with traffic. Officers were hurriedly running back and forth between monitors and each other trying to make sense of the new data. His second-in-command came to his feet and immediately crossed the floor to meet him.
“Sir, this data is unthinkable! The A.I. is saying that it’s a frequency oscillation display, superseded by frequency visualization, superseded by a subspace bubble tracker. But the data coming in is nothing short of impossible!”
“Jonas, calm down and let’s think this through. First thing I want you to do is, using the A.I., code a program to predict where it might end up that’s close to us. I’m going to order the Air Force to direct the HMSS Balthazar, the HMSS Church Hill, and the UNSS Hammer to be ready to launch on a moments notice.” The general looked at his second and frowned slightly. The colonel was nearing a panic. His brow twitched slightly, and he clasped his hands together a little too tightly. His normally calm face was now taut with worry, his brown eyes wide and darting. It was obvious he was trying to make sense of what was happening and coming up short. “Major, just concentrate on coding that program, please. I will worry about the analysis, dismissed.”
“Sir, yes Sir.” He quickly moved off towards the back of the room to an unused terminal. The Command and Control Centre efficient, around it’s circular perimeter, monitors and terminals lined the walls, giving read outs of all sorts: from food and water consumption, to radiation levels, to subspace traffic bandwidth, to specific bio readouts of any individual in the complex. The back of the room was the command area, higher than the rest of the room it had the mainframe and A.I. interface along with communications, tactical, and engineering stations. It was to this area that the general walked. His spit shined boots clacking loudly on the grated metal floor. He straightened his black uniform top and walked right to the A.I.’s screen. He stood there looking at the new data. Dark goggles hung around his neck, his hair was greying from it’s natural black and was close cropped. Narrow steel blue eyes studied the display with a quiet intensity. Whatever it was, it was moving very quickly. He studied the output of the monitor and began creating a model of it in his own mind.
Why is it moving so fast? He thought.
“Sir, those savages have broken through the line!” An uppity British officer said in a navely squeal. He probably wears that uniform at home to impress his friends. The red and gold jacket adorned with medals, the starch blue billowed pants. The General, on the other hand, stood calmly and sipped on a cup of tea.
“Keep your wits about you, Major! This room is for the Gentlemen of the war!” Chastised, the Major forced himself to stand still, though the urge to run from this place had taken a firm hold.
“I’m,” he swallowed, “sorry, Sir.”
“Now, Mister Caruthers, could you please move the 24th and 39th cavalry around this ridge, please, and order the men to stand to and wait for the enemy.” The general said looking at the map of the war.
“It’s alive…” the general said quietly. The display on the monitor continued to pulse brightly. He found himself filtering out all sound and just concentrated on the display. The world melted away and the anomaly had his complete attention.