### [Fighter Squadron hovering between Charon and the 'SpaceDragon'] ###
Lt. Leon Athalla climbed and dove, looped and spun, as he kept the alien objects affectionately dubbed 'tadpoles' entertained while rescue operations were carried out on a nearby shuttle which had collided with one of the inquisitive, slug-like ships. Keeping one eye on the three tadpoles surrounding his fighter, Leon was also engaged in running detailed sensor scans of the serpent-like main body which was yet to be classified as a vessel, a lifeform, or some hybrid of the two.
He hadn't time for detailed analysis of the scans. His mission was simply to take them while beaming information back to the Charon so that the scientists could do..whatever it was they did. Splitting his attention was not often something he preferred, but at the moment the tadpoles were not a threat and obtaining detailed scans for the Charon was a top priority. In order to make some researcher's day, Athalla, now in command of the squadron, had ordered the team close in to the main alien body to perform sensor scans in addition to keeping its offspring amused in the process.
The mission which had started out as nothing more than babysitting for a handful of shuttles had shed its lack of action and become fun – something none of them had expected. The tadpoles were certainly agile and quick often mimicking complex maneuvers like a child learning to tie a shoelace. Then there was the parent or 'mother' someone had called it over the comm. which was an even larger mystery as its presence, intentions, and abilities were unknown.
Athalla was about to order the squad to form up and make a coordinated pass of the alien object when his eye detected movement which was almost instantly confirmed by the other pilots as the comm. line exploded with chatter.
"Uh George Leader we have observed movement from the alien vessel. Activity unclear but from my position something is opening." "Seven O'clock. Mother ship opening. Orders George leader?"
"Keep the channel clear", Athalla barked at the pilots the fun factor suddenly fading at the unexpected activity from the alien ship. "All fighters form up. Concentrate sensors on the opening, but maintain your distance. We need to perform a threat assessment as well as relay all sensor data of this thing's internal structure to the Charon for analysis.
Athalla had hardly issued his orders when a long dark shadow suddenly swept over his canopy as the alien vessel opened with a speed and ease he had never witnessed.
"Fallback to the Charon immediately", Athalla suddenly shouted to the squadron as they fighters were quickly overtaken by the massive alien vessel. "Repeat, all fighters fallback to…"
The stars slowed and stopped moving. Athalla immediately rammed his throttle forward as it clacked against the end of its track. His impulse engines roared to life as his HUD and avionics registered 110% thrust - yet he wasn't moving. The alien ship now blocked out most of the nearby star as it quickly enveloped the squadron with amazing speed through some sort of portal or mouth like maw large enough to swallow a dozen Charon sized starships.
"Engage warp drive!", Athalla shouted activating his own engines. Instantly his instrumentation and HUD bled crimson as alarms, warnings, and alerts flooded his senses. A quick check of various systems indicated they were operational, but once again he was not moving. His computer shouted out a warning about its inability to create a stable warp field due to an unknown cause. Athalla cursed himself for not paying more attention to the seemingly dormant mother ship and as a result the Charon was now out of sight with the light from the nearby star slowly fading from view as they were encircled and swallowed by the alien ship.
"George leader this is George 4 - unable to move. Propulsion systems are not responding. Permission to redesignate target as hostile and lock weapons?"
Athalla's gut reaction to the request was also to lock weapons and attempt to fight their way out, but there were too many unknowns. Violence now might endanger them as well as the Charon. They had yet to be attacked and were only immobilized or so it seemed. Despite his instincts they needed to wait. Attacking was an option, but until the situation changed it was a last option.
"Negative. All fighters stand down and wait for further instructions. I repeat, stand down. We will not engage unless attacked is that perfectly clear?"
Athalla noted the responses of the pilots and quickly tried to hail the Charon. His calls were answered only by static. He repeated his attempts on all emergency frequencies but was met by the same result. Shortly thereafter the giant maw that had enveloped them closed completely blotting out the light of the sun and bathing the pilots in total darkness.
[ To Be Continued ]
Lt. Leon Athalla
Lt. Leon Athalla
Fighter Pilot (apb Tav)
Fighter Pilot (apb Tav)