Ingested by an alien ship or entity, Lt. Leon Athalla was in command of a small contingent of fighters that was cut off from the Charon with no apparent means of escape. The fighters’ propulsion systems were curtailed by some form of tractor beam or by technology or biological phenomenon which had never been encountered. They were alone in unknown waters, surrounded by blackness, and cut off from the Charon.
Athalla activated his external forward lights which were instantly absorbed by the darkness before him. The word ‘massive’ seemed to be lacking in describing the sheer size of the ship that now surrounded them. A glance at his sensors provided little additional detail. Whatever was interfering with his engines also seemed to be causing interference with sensors. He sat quietly for several moments contemplating a course of action. Did they simply sit here and wait? As the hours passed their power and oxygen supplies also decreased. The Valkyrie was not a long range, deep space craft and had a finite operational limit before it could no longer maintain environmental conditions required to keeps its occupants alive.
Sitting still and doing nothing was a poor option. It might take the Charon hours to mount a rescue, or days. The Charon might never get the opportunity for rescue operations with the unknowns involved with the alien craft and the nearby star days perhaps hours away from going nova. There was only one option available – use of their weapons. Yet even that option was fraught with problems. What did they target? Firing blind was pointless and reckless without a target. Sensors were unable to determine the source of the interference that had frozen their propulsion systems. Even if they managed to punch a hole in the side of this thing to escape there was no guarantee they would have the capability to leave.
Athalla swallowed as his thoughts drifted to the kobayashi-maru simulation given to those seeking command posts at the academy. Pilots were not required to take the exam, and Athalla hadn’t even given it any thought since his academy days yet here he was – in command, in the dark, and powerless to do anything. Without engines he might as well be piloting a rock.
The thought of rocks quickly faded as his proximity sensors suddenly exploded in a blaze of crimson warning lights. His HUD was awash in alerts as the computer flooded his helmet with audible buzzers and alarms warning of impending danger. Athalla had only seconds to react to the information splashed across various displays. A tap of the thrusters spun his fighter 180 degrees reversing his direction in an instant as he applied forward thrust which he had carelessly left engaged.
The force holding the fighters had terminated without warning as Athalla and a few other fighters nearly drifted into the walls of the ship they had been sealed inside. A pent up breath escaped the pilot’s lips as his heart rate slowly dropped pulling away from the serpent’s hull and back into dark emptiness. Things were looking up. At least now they could maneuver.
“George team, report your status over.”
Each pilot checked in and despite the sudden surprise of being freed everyone appeared unscathed.
“George leader, how do we proceed over?”
Athalla pondered the legitimate question for only a moment now that they had regained the use of their engines.
“Blasting our way out of here won’t work. This ship has already proven it can stop our fighters cold. We should refrain from provoking it, at least for now. It pulled us in here for a reason. I doubt that something this large regards a few fighters as much of a threat and we aren’t large enough to even be a snack so for now I think we’re probably in the clear. We still have several hours of lifesupport before our situation becomes critical. I suggest we try to learn as much as we can about the inside of this thing. We might find out who or what is running the show in here or at the very least map a few possible targets in the event this turns ugly. Assume delta formation. All pilots are to remain in visual contact in the event we lose sensors or communications. We’ll proceed into the belly of the beast on thruster power. We don’t have any idea what might be lurking in here and impulse speeds are just too risky. We know this thing can move and coil so keep a sharp eye on your proximity detectors. I know none of us can see a damn thing right now, but keep your heads on a swivel. We could run into anything in here and need to be prepared for evasive maneuvers. Set sensors to maximum intensity and form up. I’m on point.”
The small contingent of fighter craft slowly entered a tight formation and eased into the darkness before them at a slow, steady speed. It was anyone’s guess as to what they would discover. Athalla could only hope that this snake didn’t bite and wasn’t poisonous. Only time would tell…
[ To Be Continued… ]
Lt. Leon Athalla (apb Tav)
Fighter Pilot, USS Charon