(Author’s note: if you haven’t read the earlier parts of this story, you should read that first before enjoying this story. Start with “Just Another Day At The Office”.
“FIRE IN THE HOLE!”
Peter Mjin hit the button on his remote and there was a series of loud explosions from the Great Hall in the Museum of Antique Warfare. Then everything was silent.
“Did it work?” asked Jeremiah, the leader of the resistance.
As he finished his question, there was a slow, deep creaking noise, followed by a hiss of escaping gas and a metallic groan. BANG! Something hit the floor with an impact large enough to felt by everyone standing a safe distance away.
“Let me check, but that’s a good sound, J!” said Brent, the other of the 2 engineers on the expedition.
Brent made his way into the hall, waving his hands to brush away the large amount of dust and particles of transparent aluminum in the air. “It worked, alright! There’s an entire side open now!”
Cheers erupted from the rest of the group as they all rushed in to the hall to see for themselves. A neat rectangular slab of transparent aluminum lay on the floor, and the giant display case was now open on one side. Jeremiah walked over and laid one hand on the Corvette, caressing the smooth armored hull. “Hello, beautiful lady...” he cooed.
Ace, the group’s pilot, was already climbing up one side of the ship towards the cockpit, followed closely behind by the two engineers.
“Wow, it’s even got that ‘new-car smell’!” Ace exclaimed as he opened the cockpit. “Everything looks mint condition inside too”, he said as he stuck his head down inside to have a look.
Peter Mjin peered over Ace’s shoulder and smiled. “Looks like everything is covered in Taylex, it’s really pristine down there!”
Brent had approached the rear of the craft and shouted, “Peter - I found the charging port! Now get down here and take a look at this with me or she’s not going anywhere...”
In addition to the chatter from Ace and the engineers, everyone else in the group was excitedly commenting on the ship that lay exposed to them; a ship that had not been accessible for 475 years. Jeremiah needed to get the group re-focused.
“Attention, everyone! Attention, please!” Gradually the voices died down and the group turned to look at their leader. “There is much to be done before we get ahead of ourselves. Let’s stay focused – remember, we only get one shot at this.”
Turning towards the resistance movement’s security officer, The Chief, he went on, “first and foremost I need you to make sure this area is secured at all times. From now on, nobody in or out of here except for us. That includes museum volunteers. Got it?”
“The Chief will take care of that, don’t worry”. For reasons no one understood, the security officer only referred to himself in the third person, but according to Jeremiah he was among the best at his job.
“Next, Peter and Brent – your primary mission is to get the power transfer figured out. If we can’t recharge the Stellar Drive we might as well go back to throwing rocks at the Drekons. Take Obi, Dace and Midori along to help since they don’t have anything to do at the moment.”
Juan Obi was the group’s Logistics officer, Dace Reddy was Navigator and Midori Yuki was in charge of the group’s medical needs. So far there hadn’t been any, thankfully.
“You got it, J!” Peter, Brent and the others headed off in the direction of the exit, no doubt to check for supplies on the Alyra. They were hoping to cannibalize parts to connect the Corvette to the mini Fusion plant on board the fast sailing vessel. This would quite likely drain the power plant to the point where the Alyra would be dead in the water. The ship’s captain, P.J. Nath, was decidedly not pleased with this aspect of the plan. He had been quietly brooding in his quarters since Jeremiah informed him of the plan.
For the first time since the display case had been opened, Sam spoke up. “Jeremiah? There may be another problem.”
“What’s that, Sam?”
Turning to the museum curator, Hikaru Shidou, Sam asked, “how exactly did the ship get into this hall initially?”
“I – I honestly don’t know! Mr. Paratwa may, however.”
Hiji Paratwa was the exhibit specialist and was the museum’s most knowledgeable volunteer on the Corvette. “As far as I know, they literally built the museum around it. I think it was delivered by crane into the center Great Hall and the walls and roof were completed afterwards. There aren’t many records of it unfortunately.”
“So there’s no removable doors, or anything like that”, Sam queried.
“Er, no. Not that I know of.” Mr. Paratwa made a frown, realizing what was coming next.
Turning back to Jeremiah, Sam said, “see? We’re gonna need an exit of some sort if you get my drift.”
“Oh, dear.” Jeremiah realized the next part was going to be difficult. “The back wall there faces land-side, doesn’t it, Hikaru?”
“Yes, but I don’t see – OH NO YOU DON’T!” His eyes grew wide with fury as he grasped the hidden meaning behind the questions. “Nobody is blowing any walls out of my MY museum!”
Jeremiah calmly approached the curator and laid a hand on his shoulder. “Walls and museums can be rebuilt, Hikaru. Our people and way of life cannot. We need to do this.” After a long and uncomfortable pause, Hikaru nodded once to Jeremiah and strode out of the hall.
An hour later, the engineers returned with their 3 helpers in tow, dragging a large cable with them. “This is the power transfer cable, J. It is long enough, now we just have to piece together a connector for the ‘vette’s charging port. Give us another hour and we’ll be ready to test it out”, Brent explained.
“Please be careful. We can’t afford to overload any of the circuits onboard.”
“We can control the transfer from onboard the Alyra. One of us will work the controls on that end while the other monitors the Corvette. We’ve got it covered, J!”
While the engineers were working on their power problem, Ace had been poring over every inch of the cockpit of the Corvette. Gingerly climbing up the side, Jeremiah paid him a visit. “So, Ace, what can you tell me about our antique friend here?”
“Well, I’m sure it’s more impressive when all the little doo-dads are lit up. But so far, so good. It doesn’t look all that different from the Trade Ships I fly.” Ace pointed in sequence, “throttle, anti-grav initiators, landing gear – I’ve identified a bunch of stuff so far. For the rest we’ll probably have to wait until we have some juice in her. Have a look at this”, he pointed to an engraved nameplate on the cockpit wall. The plate read “Corvette Serial # TK-421 Commissioned at New Liberty Shipyards for Captain Cynewulf of the 8th Expeditionary Fleet”.
“Looks like this ship had a captain who never got to fly her”.
“Well, she will have a captain now, Ace”, Jeremiah responded, patting him on the shoulder. “Hopefully, if our engineers are as good as they seem to be you’ll be able to check out the rest of the systems soon enough.”
Meanwhile, Sam had taken the opportunity to work with Nika on setting up a communications “command post” in the museum’s main exhibit hall. Together they transferred all the comm equipment from the Alyra and hooked into the museum’s power supply. His first order of business was to log in to the IGCBCS and see what was happening online.
Upon connecting, the screen indicated that he had 4 messages waiting – and unfortunately the number was in red meaning he’d been attacked since his last log-on. “Vultures!” Sam exclaimed as he saw that another two of his bases had been taken over by users from [VNDKR]. They were one of the guilds that had wiped out nearly all of [CSTS3]’s fleets after the Drekon raid rendered nearly everyone inactive.
Sam adjusted his queues and dispatched another message to Speedy, asking him to verify the scanner readings for orbital space. Speedy had informed them during the sea voyage that as far as they could tell there was no Drekon fleet in orbit, but all the same Sam wanted to be absolutely certain.
Hikaru, who had been absent for a while, entered the hall and sought out Jeremiah. His expression was much calmer. “I hope you can forgive me for my earlier outburst, Jeremiah. It’s just that I’ve grown attached to this facility – it’s been my life’s work.”
“Certainly, don’t think twice about it. I know this has all happened very fast for you.”
“Just promise me that your engineers will limit the damage as much as possible.”
Jeremiah chuckled. “Don’t worry! Those two fellows are real magicians!”
“I prefer ‘illusionist’ myself”, said Peter Mjin, smiling as he approached the pair. “Brent and I are ready to hook up the power, J”.
“Excellent, please proceed.”
“Let’s do it!” Peter Mjin left to control the procedure from onboard the Alyra while Brent and his helpers proceeded to drag the power transfer cable to the now-open case that housed the Corvette. Shortly they had the connector seated in the Stellar Drive’s external charging port. “Step back, everybody, just in case.” Grabbing a hand-held comm from Nika he called Peter onboard the Alyra and said, “we’re ready on this end. Let’s do this like we talked about – start with a trickle, like 5 percent gross output or so”.
“Roger that, here goes nothing!” came the reply over the comm.
Several tense moments passed when Ace impatiently said, “should we be seeing anything?”
“Increase it to 10 percent, Peter”, Brent radioed over. “Roger that”, came the response. Still nothing seemed to be happening. Turning to Jeremiah, Brent said, “I don’t want to rush it, J – we only get one shot like you said, and I don’t want to burn anything out. I imagine replacement parts would be pretty hard to find these days”.
“I understand perfectly. You do what you think is best, and we all trust your judgment.”
Keying the comm again, Brent said, “Peter, go at 20 percent and stand ready to hit the kill switch on your end”.
“Roger, increasing to 20 percent and standing by”
A slight hum began to emanate from the area of the Corvette as the increased power began to flow through. “All right, let’s ramp it up by 5 percent every 30 seconds unless you hear from me otherwise, okay Pete?”
“Got it, I’ll call out the benchmarks for ya” Peter answered. “25 percent coming up now”.
The hum gradually increased as Peter ramped up the power, then at 45 percent something happened. “There’s a light!”, exclaimed Sam. Sure enough, an indicator on the underside of the Corvette at the charging port was gently glowing. It was hard to make out in the semi-darkened hall. As Peter called out the 50-percent mark it got brighter. At 60 percent it shone steadily and a chime sounded from the cockpit.
“Hold it there for a minute, Peter! We got something here!” Brent called over the comm. “Ace, let’s get you in the cockpit and see what’s going on”.
Ace eagerly climbed aboard and sat in the pilot’s seat. He had already located a button on the center console labeled ‘MSTR PWR’ which seemed like it would be the main “on” switch. “Should I try it?” Ace asked.
“Go for it, let’s see what happens” answered Brent. Ace held his breath and reached out his finger hesitantly. “Please don’t blow up, please don’t blow up” he whispered to himself. Aloud, he said “here goes! 3...2...1”, and with that he closed his eyes and punched the button. Thankfully, nothing blew up. Ace released his breath and opened his eyes. Dim lights came to life in the cockpit. The center screen was still dark. “I don’t think there’s enough juice yet”, he called down to Brent. “Not by a long shot”.
“Peter, up it another 10 percent slowly please”, he called over. The lights in the cockpit grew brighter still but the center screen remained off. “How’s that, Ace?”
“Not yet! More juice, please!”
Brent relayed the message to Peter who increased the output from the mini fusion plant to 80 percent of its capacity. “Brent, we’re starting to see a temp increase on the output port here”, he called over.
“Roger that, hold it there for a sec. How about it, Ace?”
Ace was about to reply, when a female voice with a strange accent suddenly announced, “Stellar Drive charging malfunction. Insufficient input voltage. Please increase input voltage.” Ace nearly jumped out of his seat in fright. The message repeated over and over. “She’s talking to me! And she wants more power!”.
“Typical woman!” Ace thought to himself and chuckled.
“Peter, can we up it some more?” Brent asked.
“We’re gonna bump up against the output limit or a major thermal overload problem pretty soon, but let’s see what we can do!” Peter replied. At 90 percent another chime sounded and the center screen finally came to life with the words “initializing...”. The female voice spoke again. “Stellar Drive charging is in progress. Estimated time to completion is eighteen hours, 34 minutes. Please disengage all primary systems during this time. Thank you.”
Ace pumped his fist in the air and called out, “WOO-HOO! She’s alive! She says it’ll be 18 hours and change to a full recharge, Brent”.
“Peter, how’s it holding up? Can it take a sustained output for nineteen hours?” Brent radioed over to his counterpart.
“What? That long? Dang, I dunno Brent. So far it’s smooth, but running at 90 percent output for a sustained length of time like that, she’s gonna heat up that cable pretty hard. If we can keep it cool somehow – as well as the output and input ports - that’ll help. But barring any spikes it should hold up. There won’t be enough juice left to power the Alyra when we’re done, that’s for sure though” came the reply.
“We knew that going in. I’ll see what I can do to keep the cable cool.”
Up in the cockpit the center screen had changed to a progress bar showing the words “Charging in Progess” and a status bar displaying 1 percent. Ace climbed down and made his way over to Jeremiah. “Once she’s fully charged I think I can fly her, J. I’ll know better tomorrow after I’ve had an opportunity to check out the rest of the systems. But she’s alive, can you believe it! We did it!”
Jeremiah was restrained in his celebration. “There is still much that can go wrong, but so far we seem to have caught all the breaks. Good work, Ace. And that goes double for you and Peter, Brent!”
“What happens next?”, Sam asked.
“Now, we wait. And do what we can to keep that cable, and those ports and connectors cooled off”, Brent responded.
“I have some portable fans we can hook up, and I can set the museum’s environmental controls as cool as possible” Hikaru said to Brent. The two of them left to go see about those items.
“It’s going to be a long, long night...” thought Sam as he gazed in awe at the 475-year old ship slowly coming to life before his eyes.
TO BE CONTINUED..