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The Lucilius Parables, Volume I

A LUCILIUS PARABLE: FLEETING OPPORTUNITY

September 13th, 2020

 

Lucilius woke up on the floor of the command deck, a crushing headache screaming in tune with the ship’s alarms as he stumbled up and pulled himself back into his seat.  He looked around at the rest of his crew on the floor, all of them coming to and looking around.

 

“Engineering, status report.”

 

The lieutenant was grabbing his head as he looked at the various blank screens and controls.

 

“Life support nominal, engines coming back online,” the lieutenant called out.

 

The rest of the bridge was dark, dim with emergency lights.  Lucilius rubbed his eyes, trying to figure out what had happened.  Lucilius was captain of the Starship Fredinand, now lost somewhere in the deepest reaches of the August Galaxy.  His mind ran through familiar protocol as he wondered at the possibility of some sort of electrical storm, trying to guess what might have happened as the ship’s systems rebooted.

 

“Captain,” called one of Lucilius’ lieutenants. “scanners have picked up a spacial anomaly and a ship, in the forward quadrant, ”

 

“On screen,” Lucilius commanded.

 

Before the command crew a blank wall wavered into focus to show a spinning disk of light and hovering before it, a ship, tiny in the distance.

 

“Navigation, do we have readings yet?” Lucilius queried.

 

“No sir.”

 

“Comms?”

 

“Still down sir.”

 

“Engineering?”

 

“Engines nominal, hyperdrive is down, weapon systems down, primary and secondary life-support down, tertiary active.

 

“Johann,” 

 

“Sir?” Answered the pilot.

 

“Bring us in closer.”

“Yes, sir, distress protocol?”

 

“No,” Lucilius said.  “Don’t know who’s down there, still don’t know what happened.  Fly casual.”

The ship began to approach, and slowly the distant ship began to grow before the enormous disk of light.

 

“Comms?”

 

“Still down sir.”

 

The distant ship continued to grow on screen as they approached, the details still bleary by the distance and the glow of the spatial anomaly.  Lucilius squinted at the screen.

 

“Navigation, magnify.”

 

“Already at full resolution sir.”

 

Lucilius stood up, wavering for a moment as the blood rushed from his still pained head.  He steadied himself and walked to the front of the bridge to look closer at the wall screen.

 

“Comms?”

 

“Working on it sir - the system seems to be locked in a recursive reboot.”

 

“Nav, we have a location yet?”

 

“Seem to be having the same problem, systems are displaying old positions with every reboot.”

 

Lucilius squinted hard at the shape of the ship on the screen.  The screen momentarily flickered as the navigation officer rebooted the system.  Something about the bleary geometry seemed familiar.  He had the eerie sense that he’d seen this ship before.  It seemed to be edging closer to the disk of light.

 

“Nav, what’s going on with this ship?”

 

“They are approaching the spatial anomaly.”

“Johann, speed it up a bit, I don’t want to lose them.”

 

“Comms?”

 

“Status unchanged, reboots are throwing no errors, The Ferdinand is only picking up its own comms systems, it’s reading like there’s nothing else in the area.  Still trying to determine what’s wrong.”

 

“Jammed?”  Lucilius asked.

 

“I don’t think so sir, it’s like we’re alone, jamming would disrupt our own signal which is stable.”

 

“Do a general broadcast.”

 

The Comm’s officer nodded to signal Lucilius.

 

“This is Lucilius of the Starship Ferdinand, identify yourself immediately.  Communication jamming is an act of war.  If you do not identify yourself we are bound by federation law to engage you as a threat.”

 

All that followed was silence.  

 

“Sir, the ship is approaching the disk.”

 

“Johann speed it up, I want eyes on this ship before it passes into the anomaly.”

 

“Distress protocol?” The pilot queried.

 

“Engage all tactical measures necessary.”

 

The glimmer of a smile fluttered momentarily across the pilot’s face as he opened the ship’s throttle, sending them hurtling forward at attack speed.  Lucilius took another step closer to the screen.

 

“Nav, get me geometry read-out on this ship before it vanishes.”

 

“The spatial anomaly is disrupting scanners,   Only partial readouts are coming back.”

 

“Piece it together!” Lucilius commanded.

 

“Working on it.”

 

Lucilius looked back at the pilot “Open it up!”

 

Johann slammed the throttle all on and the ship lurched forward, but moments later the ship ahead disappeared into the disk of light.  The pilot eased up until they slowed to a stop before the disk.

 

“Sir I have a bogey in rear quadrant.”

 

“What?”

 

“Just popped up out of nowhere.”

 

“What’s it doing?”

 

“Just sitting there.”

 

“Nav error?”

 

The navigation officer looked back at Lucilius with a baffled look about the strangeness of the entire situation.  Lucilius nodded.

 

“Engineering, warp still down?”

 

“Yes sir.”

 

“Weapons?”

 

“Still unresponsive.”

 

“Nav, where is that bogey, do you have a reading on the ship yet?”

 

“Hasn’t moved.  No resolution, proximity to the anomaly seems to be corrupting our scanners.”

 

“Engineering, reboot all systems now.”  He stepped closer to the engineering consul to watch the screen readouts.  The young engineering officer quickly touched a temple, wincing with pain before tapping more initiation commands into the consul. 

 

 “Come on my boy,” Lucilius said, “give me my guns.”

 

The screens read anew and turned up the same readout.  Only primary engines and tertiary life-support systems were active.

 

Lucilius spun around, “Nav, where are they?”

 

“Approaching.”

 

“Speed.”

 

“Cruising.”

 

“Comms?”  Lucilius called out.

 

But before the officer could respond, the bridge boomed.

 

“This is Lucilius of the Starship Ferdinand, identify yourself immediately.  Communication jamming is an act of war.  If you do not identify yourself we are bound by federation law to engage you as a threat.”

 

Lucilius grabbed his own forehead.  “Comms, reboot your systems now.  Nav give me 10 second updates on position, if speed changes give me a weapons distance countdown.”

 

“Engineering, warp status.”

 

“Still down.”

 

“Can anyone give me information on this thing in front of us?”

 

The bridge was silent.  Spatial anomalies were extremely rare but Lucilius had come across one or two.  He knew their instruments wouldn’t be able to penetrate the details of its mystery.  He knew his crew would have no answers.  The question was designed not for an answer but as a proposal to his officers, illuminating the few options they now faced in the event of assuming the worst.

 

“Move us closer.” Lucilius said.  Johann looked back at his captain and Lucilius nodded.  The ship broke its stationary position and began to approach the turning undulations of light.

 

“Sir, the ship is accelerating.”

 

“Comms?”

 

“Unchanged.”

 

“Jammed?”

 

“I don’t know, could be the anomaly.”

 

The Navigation officer spoke, “The ship has entered weapons distance and is still accelerating.”

 

Lucilius looked back at his pilot “keep us out of range!”

 

They all knew their only option now in the face of an approaching enemy within weapons distance.  The anomaly was an existential gamble, perhaps more fraught than destruction by an enemy, but all of them were bound by the simple tenets of their profession to endure and explore at the cost of potential destruction.  Fate at the hands of an approaching enemy was a two headed possibility at best, but a spatial anomaly contained possibilities that could not even be calculated.  All of them knew that without their proper systems, their only choice was to follow the chased ship into the portal.  Perhaps that ship had ventured into the unknown knowing where they were headed…

 

“Weapons distance, 10 seconds!” The navigation officer called out.

 

“Johann?”

 

“5 seconds to impact.”

 

“Comms?”

 

“No change,” the officer called out.

 

“4 seconds to impact.”

 

“Engineering?!” Lucilius barked.

 

“Warp down, weapons down.”

 

“Nav?”

 

“5 seconds weapons distance.”

 

“3 seconds to impact,” Johann called out. “2 seconds.”

 

“Brace for impact,” Lucilius shouted, and just as the ship closed in on the blinding anomaly Lucilius noticed one of the unnoticed screens to the side of the navigation officer.  The ship’s computers had patched together data on the ship they had chased before it had disappeared into the anomaly and was now displaying the image on one of the navigation screens.  As they passed into the anomaly Lucilius finally realized why the ship had seemed so familiar even  in its blurriness.  On the screen glowed the sheer and sleek lines of The Ferdinand.


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