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The Other Side

of

Tomorrow




by

Rabb Marcellus


The Other Side of Tomorrow

copyright © by Rabb Marcellus



All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned or distributed in any printed or electronic form without written permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.



This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events or locales is entirely coincidental.


Table of Contents

Prologue

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Author’s Notes

Other novels by Rabb



Prologue


Everything had changed! A virus, an incurable virus! Abandoned by Earth! What next? Earth Alliance’s exploration for planets in the Universe with the same characteristics as Earth had become a death sentence for the fledgling colony on Carina Three. Never would they have believed that the governing powers would have allowed this to happen!

A few years ago, naturally occurring wormholes had been discovered at the extreme ends of Venus’ elliptical orbit.

Earth’s Alliance now had the means to enter another solar system to search for new worlds compatible with mankind’s existence. Worlds desperately needed for the survival of a human civilization that had depleted its reserves and overcrowded its domains. Each planet had its own Lagrange points where wormholes would open allowing transport into another solar system.

As luck would have it, the Venus wormhole had transported Alliance’s Navy ships to the second planet of a system surprisingly similar to Earth’s solar system. From all indications, it was completely void of intelligent life—a must as far as the Alliance was concerned.

The Carina solar system, as it came to be called, had been named after the scientist who discovered it. Its bright star hung in the blackness of space surrounded by eight planets in stately orbits.

However, the third planet that orbited the Carina star, was in an area proclaimed by Earth’s scientists to be in the Goldilocks zone—far enough from the searing heat of the sun, yet close enough for the sun’s warmth to encourage life. Carina Three sparkled in contrast to the darkness of space, blue and pristine—like planet Earth.

Its landscape was comparable to North America in the fourteenth century during European colonization. Its vast oceans and continents brimmed with life. Its forests and mountains, lakes and rivers welcomed the new explorers. Another vast wilderness prime for human settlement.

A military outpost had been the first to be established on the planet. A space elevator had been constructed to ferry material to and from orbit and the Alliance had assigned a Navy fleet for the protection of the new colony forming below. Progress had been excellent…until…

A ruthless insectoid race, with advanced technology and powerful armada emerged through the wormhole of Carina Three. Their stealthy, mirrored ships gave them the advantage of surprise. They too, had searched in vain for a system in which to expand their growing civilization. They discovered the Alliance’s Seventh Fleet orbiting the third planet and with their curiosity roused, decided to explore further.

Months of inspection of the system had shown that it would provide whatever they needed for survival of their species. The insectoids’ needs were all consuming and any intelligent life they found in this system was of little consequence; a mere inconvenience that would be eradicated. ‘Primum non nocere’ —first, do no harm— held no meaning for them.

They had attacked the Navy fleet in orbit around Carina Three in an effort to destroy any resistance to their invasion of the planet below. To their surprise, however, the lifeforms had proven to be formidable opponents. Bewildered, the insectoids withdrew to a safe distance.

They re-evaluated their strategy. Bacteriological warfare seemed to be the smartest solution to their problem. They would just exterminate the humans, therefore sustaining no further casualties or damage to their armada.

In a clandestine attack on the planet, they abducted a young girl, Drew Douglas. Once aboard their ship, they infected her with a deadly virus and then, returned her to the surface of the planet. They withdrew to let nature take its course, confident that the virus would spread throughout the settlement, killing these creatures. Invasion would be effortless.

They’d wait, and when it was time, they would simultaneously attack the fleet and bombard the outpost on the planet below—a two front attack. Any possible hindrance that was left would cease to exist.

Weeks went by, and the reduction of radio signals from the planet seemed to indicate the success of their plan. The aliens attacked, and once again were surprised to be soundly defeated!

It had been six months since the aliens arrived. The wormhole to their system was about to re-open and they needed to retreat. They left, defeated for now. In six months, however, the wormhole would open to the Carina system again, and this time they would return in full force and with a new strategy.



The humans were left to die. The Alliance’s fear of transferring infection back to the Sol system—Earth, terra-formed Mars and Venus—caused them to place a restriction on travel to Carina Three. Mankind’s hopes for expansion were placed on hold.

Chapter 1



“What do you mean, I can’t go home!” Commander Meg Douglas declared hotly. Her dreams of returning to some semblance of sanity seemed to be disappearing fast. “I intend to get away from this planet as soon as Drew is able. She can have her baby on Earth and we can all begin healing from the ravages of this war!”

Meg stood in the small office of Dr. Nicholas Mason, friend and lover. He was a captain and head of surgery onboard the hospital ship, Mercy orbiting Carina Three.

Her slim, 5’ 3” frame stood stiffly, trembling with rage; her normally confident demeanor, suffering from a loss of control. Honey blonde hair framed beautiful, gray eyes that stared out a window into the darkness of space. She focused on the stars beyond, and tried to compose herself.

Memories of the attack on the surface of the planet, and the new outpost where Drew had been abducted returned with a vengeance. She had mourned the loss of her daughter, sure that she was dead.

She remembered her joy at the discovery of Drew outside the perimeter of the outpost, and the shock when she found out about the pregnancy. Her fear that the child was alien was allayed with the doctors’ determination that the baby was human.

Relief had returned once again. But that had quickly turned to dread as the soldiers in the patrol that found Drew began to die, one by one.

Thank God Nick had issued quarantine orders for Drew and those crewmen, she thought. The virus those aliens gave her could have wiped us all out.

Now she waited anxiously for proof that the baby was developing normally. However, the resources for assuring that outcome were few. In her mind, she knew that a cure had to be found before anyone could travel back to Earth’s solar system, but her heart cried out for any help she could find for her daughter and grandchild.

“Meg,” Nick pleaded, “I strongly doubt that your husband will approve your request! Frustration evident in his brown eyes. “We don’t know what we’re dealing with here or what this virus will become. It’s modifying Drew’s DNA as we speak and only God knows what’s happening to her baby! You’re a nurse, for God’s sake! You should understand the risks involved!”

“Those risks are the very reason I want to take her back home!” She turned to reason with him and stopped momentarily. One sizzling look at him reminded her why she had fallen in love with this man. He was 6’-2”, with dark hair and brown eyes. Not only was he tall, dark and handsome, but he was compassionate and caring...and always there for her. Unlike her husband, Tom, who was always gone.

She looked away, refocusing on the problem at hand. “Nick, they have geneticists on Earth that know how to deal with this type of thing. We aren’t equipped to handle a virus on this scale!”

“I understand that. But do you really think that Earth would welcome the possible contamination that you would most certainly bring with you? Look at how fast the virus has spread here, and the devastating loss of life that we’ve experienced so far. Do you want to risk taking that kind of destruction back to a civilization as massive as Earth’s?”

Meg threw up her hand in quick salute, “Aye, aye, Captain!” she said and briskly walked out of Nick’s office. She began to calm down on the long walk back to her cabin. She knew he was right. Who knows where this will end, she thought. Or if it will end!

Meg’s mind flashed back to one year earlier, to the serenity of the life she had envisioned. <<

They had come to Carina Three as a Navy family. Back then, she and her husband, Admiral Tom Douglas, had been happy. The separations were hard on them, probably more so on Meg. Their son, Brad, was a fighter pilot and a Lieutenant Commander. Their daughter, Drew, was fresh out of high school and not sure what direction she wanted to take with her life. She opted to accompany Meg to adventures unknown and…to be close to one Jude Harrison.

Meg and Drew had arrived on the planet first and set about establishing a home in the small apartment on the Marine base. Anticipating the arrival of the men in their lives, Meg had organized a dinner at the Marine mess hall for their reunion. Saturday nights were made extra special to boost morale and the mess hall really ‘put on the dog’.

It was to be quite the formal affair. A family dinner that was also to be attended by Drew’s boyfriend, Jude. Then, there was Jessica, Brad’s girlfriend and a flight squadron leader.

Tom and Brad were scheduled to arrive at any time. Meg and Drew waited for them behind glass walls in the terminal building. It had been recently built from logs taken from the surrounding forest on Carina Three. Its split log roof and large glass windows across the front of the building allowed Meg to watch Tom and Brad as they crossed the tarmac from the strip where their shuttle had landed.

Meg’s excitement mounted as she anticipated Tom’s gaze when he saw her for the first time in over a year. She wore a black sleeveless gown with gold sequins sewn into a swirling pattern. It clung to her elegant figure, still perfect after two children and thirty years of marriage.

Drew waved frantically, glad to see her dad and brother again. She had grown into quite the young woman, a carbon copy of her mother. Tonight she, too, had donned an elegant ensemble. Her simple, black dress showed off her sleek, young figure, and a silver, tinsel entwined shawl draped gracefully over her shoulders. Dangling, crystal earrings completed the picture…and something else. There was a glow about her.

She’d just turned seventeen on the trip from Earth and tonight, she planned to dazzle Jude. Her love for him had grown strong over the past months. She flipped her long, blonde hair over her shoulders as she reached out to hug her brother. Her dad was already entwined with her mother and both kids watched with approving eyes.

Eventually, Tom led his family through the entrance of the dining room and eased up to the petty officer who had drawn the duty of maître d’ for the night’s event. “We have reservations,” he said, “Admiral Tom Douglas.”

The balding maître d’ nodded his head with a formal pretense. He looked at his clip board, and smiled, “Of course, Admiral Douglas, we’ve a large table waiting. Please, follow me, sir.”

Fine china and stemware were properly set and resided on starched white linen tablecloths. Napkins were folded precisely and stuffed into water glasses and each table had a fresh flower centerpiece. Industrial light fixtures illuminated the room where seamen, exercising their duty as waiters, moved silently in dress blues, carrying stainless steel platters high over their shoulders. Somewhere a piano played softly, accompanied by the tinkle of china against silver, and hushed conversations.

The maître d’ headed for a table in the corner of the room by the windows. Jessica Vincent and Jude Harrison were there, awaiting the arrival of the Douglas family.

Everyone had dressed elegantly for the occasion, the men in their white uniforms and ladies in evening dresses. Jessica’s attire did not escape Brad’s long look as he kissed her on the cheek.

After they were seated, Tom began, “Everyone comfortable?” He looked from face to face, smiling. “I’m so pleased to be together again with my family, and I would like to welcome Jessica, he looked at her, “and Jude,” nodding to him.

They both mumbled, “Thank you.”

Tom continued, “And, I’m pleased that Lieutenant Vincent,” he looked again at Jessica, “wore a dress instead of her uniform!” He paused, “You look very lovely, my dear.”

Jessica smiled sweetly. She wore a long flowing red dress, its cowl neckline cut low in the front, and its back, even lower. “Thank you again, Admiral.”

Please, for tonight, I’m just Tom.” He glanced around the table.

Yes, please,” Meg agreed. “No military pretense tonight everyone, let’s just enjoy this. I have my family together! My husband, my children and their friends. Who knows when this will happen again?” She gazed from person to person.

Tom ordered wine while the conversations began, gave his nod of approval to the waiter on his choice and as soon as everyone had been served, he stood, lifting his glass, “Everyone…a toast! To God and country!” he said, “and to this family.

Here, here!” came several replies as they tipped their glasses.

After some quiet conversation, Drew began, “Okay, I realize I just spent months getting here but even so I’m not sure how all this space travel works. I mean, I understand the logistics of the trip, but not the technology.” She looked at everyone, waiting for someone to enlighten her.

Tom’s voice carried above the others, “We use our propulsion systems to get us to a Lagrange point. You see, we know that time and space can be altered by very intense magnetic and gravitational fields. And, by that, I mean forces that are on a solar or planetary scale.”

The centrifugal force of the planet opposes the gravity from the sun at the Lagrange point, and a tear in space develops. By going through the tear or wormhole, we can enter another solar system.”

Drew leaned back in her chair with a questioning look. “So where do you come out?”

At a corresponding point in the new solar system,” Tom answered.

And that can be hairy!” Brad added. “The hard part is getting to the Lagrange point in the first place because they’re moving with the planets.”

I see, so you set a course that will intersect and most of the time spent in space is getting to, or from, a Lagrange point? That’s another thing, what powers the ships?” Drew asked.

Water,” Tom replied then smiled, “we have huge tanks of distilled water on every ship. Water is generally available in most solar systems, either from a comet or the polar regions of one of the inner planets. The water is converted into hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis.”

Is that where the nuclear reactors are used?” Drew asked.

That’s right,” Tom replied. “The reactors create electricity. Then, the electricity changes the water into hydrogen and oxygen stored in huge tanks. We combine the two in our rocket engines to produce thrust, which pushes the ship through space. We use the space elevator, here on Carina Three, to bring up the water which is fairly heavy, but easily done by the elevator.”

While we’re talking about the technology involved, how does the space elevator work?” Meg asked.

Tom replied, “Well, you saw the Torus. It’s positioned in geosynchronous orbit above the planet. That means it stays exactly above the same location on the planetary surface.” He paused, and turned pointing out the window. “There, you can see it?” He looked around the table. “That ribbon going up into the sky is a carbon fiber tether and it guides two cars or lifters up and down each side of the tether.”

The station’s drive system is powered by the solar array in space, so there’s a lot of solar energy to power the drive system. The only problem is the time it takes the elevator to move things into orbit.”

But when we flew down on the shuttle, it only took a few hours.

Tom replied, “Yes, but going back up is the problem. The elevator cars and cable drive system can only move at a maximum of about five hundred miles an hour. It takes about forty-four hours to make the trip.”

Good grief,” Meg replied, “Two days in one of those shuttles?”

That’s right. The shuttle you came down on is returned to orbit using the space elevator.”

How does the Navy deal with that?” Meg asked.

We let the elevator lift the heavy materials, fuels, water, etc. into orbit. It can carry personnel too, but each ship in the fleet has one or more Landers. These are rocket powered craft of all sizes that we use to land on the planet and then return to orbit when time is a factor.”

By this time the dining room waiter returned and everyone placed their order.

I remember,” Tom began, “the last time we were all together.”

On Earth,” Drew added.

Yes, we had a beach party…remember?”

That was a long time ago. We were all still in school,” Brad remarked.

We built a fire on the beach and roasted marshmallows!” Drew chimed in.

Well, we’ve got a beach. I wonder, can you get marshmallows on Carina Three?” Tom asked with a grin.

Sure!” Drew replied.

Then, let’s do it again! Tonight, after dinner!” Meg had said. >>



She found herself smiling at the memories, the life that had almost existed. But that was a long time ago—before the aliens—before the attack, she thought, and her scowl returned.



~~~



The hospital ship, Mercy was a comforting sight. She was painted white with Earth’s traditional red crosses on her sides. Most of the ship was tubular, her accommodations rotating around a central axis to simulate gravity. She was the latest and best of her class of ships. Nearly half a mile long, she was the primary care facility for the fleet and the colony on the planet below.

Beyond that was the debris at Lagrange point L1, where two great battle fleets had nearly destroyed each other. The onslaught had left a massive blot. Ice crystals, parts of ships and radioactivity filled the area. Any debris, etc. at that point would remain stationary in relation to the planet and would orbit the sun with it.

The apogee—an orbit’s farthest point from the sun—and perigee—the point closest to the sun—are two places in planetary orbits where this balance of opposing gravitational forces is stressed. For a brief period, a tear in the fabric of space/time occurs. This tear results in an Einstein/Rosen bridge, or wormhole, leading to a different solar system.

The wormhole only exists for a short period of time and disappears as the planet is brought through the orbital curvature. It doesn’t appear again until the planet begins its return trip—basically halfway through its orbit around its sun. The amount of time between wormholes depends on the length of time it takes for the planet to complete its orbit.

Carina Three had an orbit similar to that of Earth’s—one year—and she was about to enter her return trip around the sun. It had been six months since the battle and the alien’s wormhole should be opening soon. There would be no surprises, no sneak attacks. The humans were ready for them this time!



~~~



Three battle ships and fifteen destroyers were arrayed around the Lagrange point battlefield. Their newly applied mirror surfaces reflected the black of space and the occasional glint of the sun. The mirrored surfaces were a camouflage technique learned from their encounter with the aliens.

Each ship was covered with laser emitters, missile launchers and sixteen inch cannons both fore and aft. The center sections rotated to provide artificial gravity for the crews when the ships were in orbit.

The largest battleship, the Invincible, was the flag ship of Vice Admiral Tom Douglas. It had three sections. A long bow section complete with gun turrets—a slotted opening in the front—formed the hanger bay and a large superstructure contained the bridge command center.

The center section was tubular and comprised at least half of her length. It contained the crews’ quarters and rotated slowly, simulating gravity for its occupants.

The aft section housed the propulsion systems, additional gun turrets and structural components for huge rocket engines, arrayed two over two.

The conference room walls were lined with video interface consoles displaying the faces of the captains of the fleet ships. Behind the captains, Tom could see the complement of officers and enlisted men for each ship.

Vice Admiral Douglas stood nearly 6’-4” with a square jaw and military posture. His uniform was precisely according to regulations, as was everything else from his shoes to the rank insignia on his collar. He had a kind and competent bearing, and was generally soft-spoken. He carried himself with confidence, shoulders pulled back and head erect.

The wrinkles around his blue eyes showed his age, but they reflected the determination and wisdom of years of service. He moved to the podium with a slight limp—a battle wound that was still healing from the last attack.

Tom looked out across the conference room of the Invincible. Dozens of ship’s officers and enlisted personnel talked in groups.

He nodded to his Exec, Captain Stultz. “Seats! Come to order!” The captain’s voice resonated loudly across the small space, “please take your seats!”

A hush began to settle over the crowds as their attention turned to Tom. He waited for the large body of officers and enlisted men to quiet, calmly looking across the compartment from face to face. “This meeting is being televised to the assembly areas of the remainder of the fleet. I want to welcome those ships’ sailors and personnel.”

Tom cleared his throat and prepared to address the assembly of officers.

“Gentlemen,” he began. “This is the last briefing before the wormhole opens and the battle begins again.” You could hear a pin drop as all listened intently. “Six months ago, an alien race attempted to destroy our outpost on Carina Three through the use of a virus to kill us all. And then, they mounted an invasion force to finish us off and occupy the planet,” he paused.

“They were powerful and very nearly successful, but we had other ideas!” The room erupted with hoots and cheers that ended quickly when Tom raised his hands for quiet.

“We know to the second when the wormhole will open this time, and we assume, so do they. If I were the enemy, I’d pour everything I had into the opening in those first few seconds to overwhelm any opposition and punch my way into the solar system with as much force as possible.” He paused again, surveying the crowd.

“We have a formidable fleet to greet their attack. Earth has sent reinforcements and we have a total of three dreadnaught class battleships, each with twelve big guns, lasers and missiles. We have fifteen destroyers with similar weapons. We have many squadrons of fighters and we have one more important thing!” He paused again for effect. “We have knowledge about them. About their weapons, their propulsion systems, hell, even their anatomy. We know how to defeat them…or do we?”

When the whispers died down, Tom continued, “If I were the enemy, I wouldn’t use the same tactics and weapons that ended in defeat the last time. I’d try something new, something unexpected. We’ll, we’re not going to give them a chance to do that!”

He turned as the giant screen behind him lit up with a display of Carina Three, the Lagrange point and the old battlefield. Moving to the side of the podium, he used a laser pointer to continue, “I’ve prepared some video clips from the last battle.”

The video screens dissolved into a view from one of the fighters during the last battle. Suddenly, a huge ball of light flashed onto the screen as the first alien ship hit a twenty megaton nuclear proximity mine. Again and again the mines exploded as the alien ships attempted to move forward. “Our minefields exposed the alien ships for the first time.” Douglas commented.

The view shifted to another fighter, farther away from the minefield. White nuclear balls punctuated the space around the alien armada. “This is the bombardment from the fleet. It took several minutes for our shells to arrive.”

The area around the alien ships erupted with a pattern of explosions that blanketed the black of space with white balls of light. In the deadly onslaught, the alien ships began to breakup. “Here, I ordered the destroyers to make smoke and attack!” Douglas remarked.

The view shifted again as the destroyers fired their great engines and moved away from the camera. Ice crystals billowed from their engines and fog emitters. The perspective changed again as one of the destroyers fired its red lasers and unloaded her missiles at the alien armada. “This is battle video of the Repulse as she attacked and then began her rotation to slow her speed.”

Repulse slowly rotated, and simultaneously fired her lasers and guns at the enemy. “About this time,” Douglas continued, “we committed the battle ships.” The battleship Essex thrust forward in a great cloud of fog from her engines. Her sixteen guns fired randomly, belching death at the aliens.

“Unfortunately,” Douglas continued, “the aliens came through the mine field AND the bombardment. Their lasers were more powerful than we had imagined. We cut loose with everything we had!”

The screen showed an alien ship emerging from the fog. A white laser erupted toward Essex, cutting through the ship and cleaving the bow section away. It began to tumble as the remainder of the ship briefly corkscrewed through space. Then her engines shutdown. The open compartments in the two cleaved sections burned through the available oxygen and left a trail of debris in their wake.

“After this, what was left of our fleet continued to attack the remainder of the alien ships. As you can see, it was a close battle. While all this was going on in space, the aliens attacked our settlement on the surface.”

The display shifted to a view over the palisade walls at Fort Carina. “Marines under Colonel Hopkins had built a wall around the settlement from trees in the surrounding forest. They cleared an area between the fort and the forest. Explosives were pre-positioned in this area and in the tree line beyond.” Douglas paused and explained further.

“Bullets had not been effective on the aliens during the first encounter on the surface, so our Marines had equipped themselves with shotguns, cannons and mortar. I’ll let the video tell the rest of the story.”

Screens displayed an empty field bordered by a tree line. Suddenly the tree line exploded, sending trees high into the air. Alien lasers erupted from the trees, plowing the ground in front of the palisade walls of Fort Carina in an attempt to clear a path through the mines.

A dark shape moved within the trees and it opened up with a powerful laser, cutting away at the base of the walls. Two white vapor trails shot across the field as missiles tore into the alien craft and destroyed it. The palisade walls fell with a resounding crash and silver clad aliens bounded across the clearing.

Marines climbed out of trenches inside the walls and found firing positions behind fallen logs. As the aliens approached, they were dismembered by the Marines with shotguns. Soon, alien bodies began to pile up. Just then, Marine mortars opened fire.

“That’s enough,” Douglas waved his hand and the screens went black. “That ground battle was a success, as we all know.” He paused and waited as the audience’s attention returned to him.

“Here,” he pointed to the screens, “at the Lagrange point, the wreckage and debris from the last battle travels with the planet as it orbits the Carina sun.” He paused.

“This wreckage should work in our favor, by providing obstacles to the alien sensors and targeting systems. The ice crystals from the battle will do the same and scatter their powerful lasers. We have placed twenty megaton nuclear mines in the area within the wreckage.” He pointed at the debris field with the laser. “Our fleet is arrayed at these positions, completely surrounding the wormhole opening. They’re as close as possible to reduce the travel time for our nuclear artillery.”

He pointed to each strategic spot. “The radiation in this area from the last battle is off the scale of our detectors and will be even greater after the battle begins and our nuclear ordinance rains down on them!”

Once again he pointed to indicate the advance of the alien ships. “They’ll have to enter here. The opening is relatively small. I’m gambling that they will enter our system in the first second of the opening. Our salvos will be timed so that our shells arrive and explode in that same timeframe.” Shouts of agreement punctuated his remarks.

Tom continued, “We’ll continue to pound them with rapid fire salvos and laser attacks at the ship commanders’ discretion. We learned last time that the ice crystals produced by our engines, as they burn hydrogen and oxygen, could be used to target our ships. So, we’ll begin our ship movements prior to the opening, then shut down our engines to reduce their ability to locate us.”

“Gentlemen, be aware that your courses and movements have been calculated to allow your ships to coast through space while you fire your salvos. In addition, we’ll send in fog producing decoys to draw their fire and further smoke up the area as they come through.” He paused, smiling for the first time.

Heads were nodding and a gentle murmur filled the room as plans were being discussed.

Douglas continued, “It’s rare to have the captains from the Carver and the Riley here for this briefing.” He looked from camera to camera, “Most of the personnel under my command are watching this from their ships and I welcome you all.”

He turned and approached a short stocky man with broad shoulders and thick neck. “This is my Exec in the coming operations, Captain Stultz. He’s my second in command and we’ll conduct the operation from the Invincible.” Stultz’s bushy black eyebrows framed deep set eyes that held a permanent scowl. His attitude was all business, all Navy, and he tolerated no foolishness in his command. His men hated to be called before him, but they held the greatest respect for his authority and judgment. “Captain Stultz?”

Stultz walked to the podium and began to speak with a pronounced New England accent punctuated by a deep, gravelly voice, “I only have a few comments to add.” He looked out across the compartment and into the cameras. “Our fighters will be patrolling the perimeter in case they try an end run. Otherwise, the radiation will keep the fighters outside the battle area. I caution you to curtail your radio wave emissions because that’s another way they can target your ship.” He paused, “Any questions?”

Jude Harrison, a skinny kid with dark hair and olive skin, was stationed onboard the Invincible as a fighter squadron leader. He had survived the previous battle and had seen the conflagration up close. His sharp features were accentuated by a thick mustache and his dark brown eyes registered concern as he raised his hand.

“Yes, Lieutenant, you have a question?”

“What if they get through the preliminary bombardment again, Captain?”

Stultz just grinned, “That’s the big question, isn’t it?” He stepped up to the edge of the stage, “at that point, it becomes a big free for all. Ship captains are instructed to use their best judgment to maneuver their ships, or in your case, your squadron. They have a very powerful white laser. You’ve all seen the battle videos. The aliens cut the battleship Essex, and many other ships, in half. Those weapons are our greatest worry. We’ve even given our ships a mirror finish, as you know, to help mitigate those weapons. In addition, they have nuclear ordinance similar to ours.” He paused, looking around the audience.

“We should not underestimate our enemy, but we defeated them before and we’ll defeat them again. Just be careful not to give away your position, either with your engine emissions, your lasers, or your transmissions. They’re very quick and accurate with their targeting; we learned that much last time.”

“Yes, sir,” Jude responded, looking down at the floor.

Admiral Douglas began again, “When the wormhole opens, all hell will break loose. You have your orders…good hunting!”

Jude was experiencing a dilemma, one he was unsure how to handle. He was married to Admiral Douglas’ daughter, Drew, and was deeply concerned about putting any more stress on her and their baby than she’d already experienced.

He knew this coming battle and his part in it were a tremendous burden and he was hoping he could find something in the Captain’s or Admiral’s speech that would reassure her. Guess I’ll just have to put on a good face…and lie, he thought.

Chapter 2



Jude returned to his quarters aboard the Invincible. As he walked through the gray metal corridor within the rotating section of the ship, he had to move carefully. Avoiding overhead ducts and pipes, ducking through bulkhead doors and slipping past other sailors going in the opposite direction could be tricky and his full attention was essential. No daydreaming allowed here.

Finally, he came to a bulkhead door on the left, turned the handle and stepped in. It was a small space, barely six feet by six feet, complete with a bunk that was made and stretched tight in military fashion. A blue woolen blanket with a Navy anchor laid across the middle. The only personal feature was a small picture of Drew. There had been an empty space on the gray wall beside the cabinets. He hung it just above his desk.

His mind jumped back to the moment when Admiral Douglas had told him Drew had been found and that she was pregnant. Once the admiral had confirmed the baby was human, Jude had no doubt that it was his. <<



He remembered their night together on the beach, after that first attack. All priorities had changed. Unsure futures and present fears had caused life to take on an intense quality.

The beach was deserted and dusk had begun to fall. The Carina Three moons had not risen yet. Jude walked with Drew down to the beach carrying a blanket. “There’s a good place,” she pointed, “over there at the base of those funny looking trees.”

I see it,” he replied and began walking toward them.

You’re going to have to unbutton that uniform coat or burn up,” Drew casually mentioned.

Jude removed his coat and pulled off his shoes and socks so his bare feet could feel the sand between his toes. He pulled his shirt tail out and slung the coat over his shoulder, then picked up his shoes. “I’m now out of uniform! If anyone sees us…”

They won’t,” Drew replied, why do you think I picked this spot?” She looked over at him, barely visible in the dark, “You know I love you, with all my heart.”

And I love you too,” Jude replied. “I just wish we had more time and things were different.”

They arrived at the trees and Drew found a secluded spot to spread her blanket.

As they sat down, Drew reached for him and kissed him tenderly. Jude slipped his arms around her waist and laid her back as he continued tender kisses. Drew pulled free and began to slip out of her pink chiffon dress.

What are you doing?”

She didn’t say a word, simply laid back and pulled him down, “What I should have done long ago,” she replied.

Jude’s hands touched her soft, warm skin. Her kisses, more powerful now, probing, arousing his desire for her.

Drew reached down and unfastened his belt, letting her hands caress his hips and explore his body. The more she touched him the deeper his desire became.

He released the clasp on her bra. It fell away revealing soft breasts. Rolling over onto his side, he completed the disrobing that Drew had started. Then, he hesitated, unsure if this was for real.

Drew felt his hesitation, “Jude, I want this,” she whispered.

Are you sure?” Jude asked.

I’m sure, my love. I don’t know why I’ve waited. You’re everything I want, please, make love to me now while we still have this moment…before the chaos begins.



Jude awoke, lying beside Drew. Carina’s moons were on the rise and he could see that her body still glistened with sweat. It was evident that this was her first time. A sweet feeling of calm passed over him and in that moment, he dedicated himself to her forever.

Drew rolled over facing him, wrapping herself around him, feeling his skin against hers. She began to cry, “That was amazing,” she said in between sobs, “I love you, you know!”

Jude just quietly held her and let her cry. He knew who he was to her now, and he loved it. He just hoped he could survive long enough to come back to her. >>



A view screen on the desk displayed the Seventh Fleet emblem. He sat down in the chair and logged onto the network in an attempt to place a call to her. Drew was still in quarantine aboard the hospital ship, Mercy.

The display changed from the Alliance’s emblem and dissolved into the soft features of Drew Douglas Harrison, his beautiful wife.

“Hi!” she beamed at him.

Jude caught his breath and took a moment to gaze at her. He never failed to marvel at her beauty. Drew’s recovery was almost complete. The unpretentious girl he had fallen for, was nearly back to normal.

The once long and flowing, blonde hair was gone, however. Matted with filth and waste during the days of her captivity, it had been necessary for the hospital staff to shave her head. The hair that had grown back was different. Bouncing, blonde curls softly covered her head and framed her petite face.

Drew’s smile could brighten up any room and her blue eyes twinkled with excitement to see Jude again.

In the isolation ward aboard the Mercy, her vital signs were being monitored around the clock. Since she was carrying the deadly alien virus, everyone around her wore hazmat suits, complete with hood and air tank.

Being confined to the bed was disconcerting. There was some concern that her body was still not strong enough for much activity, and they were concerned about the baby. It seemed to be developing rapidly.

They did move her close to a window so that she could see her visitors, and thankfully there were plenty of those. She also had a video monitor that was mounted on the wall in front of her bed so that she could call someone whenever she got too bored.

In the background, Jude could see the whole ward and the constant activity of the nurses.

“How’s the baby?” he asked.

Drew unconsciously placed her hand on her ever enlarging baby bump. “Just fine, they tell me. I’m nearly due!”

“I know,” he replied excitedly. “I saw the latest sonogram! How are you feeling?”

“Jude, I’m starting to remember things, horrible things!” Lines formed on her gorgeous face as she relayed this latest information.

The horror on her face deepened as she pictured the events of her capture. <<



She had been accompanied by Sargent Samuel Turnage. He had been assigned to assist her in collecting personal effects for herself and Meg from their apartment on Carina Three. There had been little time to pack when the aliens had attacked the Fleet and her dad had sent them to the Mercy in orbit. She was to retrieve what they needed and then she was to return to the hospital ship.

It was a small apartment on the second floor of the building. Drew and Meg had arrived, expecting to stay for the foreseeable future. In the two days before reuniting with Tom and Brad, they had completely unpacked. There was a small kitchen, a sitting area, and a bedroom. There were large windows on both sides and Drew opened them all to allow cross ventilation. She stepped into a large closet, pulled out two suitcases and threw them on the bed.

Turnage just stood there, watching her, waiting for instructions. “What can I do?” he asked.

Drew looked back at him, “Once I get all these items collected and packed up,” she held up her list, “you can take it all downstairs.” She smiled at him, and stopped as they both stared at each other.

I realize that we just met today,” Sam began, “and it may be a little soon… but…could I see you again? I mean…like a date?” he stuttered.

Drew looked down and turned away, “I’m afraid not,” she paused. “I should apologize, I’ve been flirting with you and I’m sorry.”

Why are you sorry?”

I’m engaged to someone,” she said softly.

Only engaged?” Sam smiled wickedly.

It’s more than that,” she turned to face him, “but if I weren’t…” she stopped, and listened.

Sam looked up, listening too. “Rocket engines,” he said as the sound grew louder. He moved over to the window and pulled back the drapes. The sound grew louder until it became a constant thundering that shook the building and rattled the dishes. He strained to see, looking up through the window as far as he could.

The Marine transport had rotated all six rockets, firing them and slowing its decent toward the street between the terminal building and the apartment. As it hovered and slowly lowered, the blast from the engines cleared off the street and water vapor streamed out in all directions.

My God, they’re setting down in the street!” Sam watched as the Lander touched the ground. “This is odd,” he glanced at Drew. “This is damned odd!”

The noise and vibration had diminished, and Drew continued packing. She turned and went into the closet. A few seconds later, she emerged with an armful of clothes. She began to take them off the hangers and fold them. “I could use some help here,” she looked up at Sam, his nose still pressed against the window.

Sam looked back at her with an alarmed expression. “They wouldn’t send a company of Marines down to this area unless…” he turned to the window again.

Lines of Marines ran down the huge ramps and onto the street. Each soldier dressed in camouflage body armor and carrying their assault rifles, or specialty weapon. As they unloaded, they assembled in ranks in the grassy area, awaiting orders.

I don’t like the looks of this. I think we need to go,” he said.

The sooner we get this stuff packed, the sooner we can leave,” Drew watched as Sam checked his side arm. “You mean now? Are you serious?”

He looked at her with an alarmed expression, “Yes, ma’am, he replied, and thumbed over his shoulder, “this is bizarre! They would NOT be deploying here for a drill.”

He looked back out the window, “They’re breaking out into squads probably to form a perimeter.” He paused, “Did you hear that?” Sam rushed to the windows on the other side of the bedroom. It sounded like automatic gunfire.

Through the second floor window he could see a broad empty field and beyond that, a tree line. There, glistening in the sun were ten alien shapes advancing through the grass. Then, he heard another popping rattle.

As he watched, a single Marine squad entered the field from around the right end of the building. As they advanced toward the aliens, they spread out and moved further into his field of view. The silver aliens opened up with their lasers. Bright white streaks of light cut through the Marines like a hot sword, separating them into pieces, leaving burning bodies in the field.

The remainder of the company of Marines heard the popping of the guns and the loud hum and sizzle of the aliens’ lasers. They broke formation and streamed around the corner of the building. Staying low, they moved into the field firing their assault rifles on full automatic as they advanced. They scrambled to find firing positions on the ground where they could target the aliens without hitting another Marine. As the seconds went by, the men spread out, hit the ground, fired, and then moved again until the entire company was around the building and engaged in the firefight.

The warrior aliens stopped their advance momentarily, and used their white lasers to cut through the defenders with a continuous sweeping motion, burning through everything it touched. The aliens were hit almost continuously by gunfire, but none of them went down. They stood there in their mirrored armor, sweeping their lasers. The aliens once again quickly advanced and Sam could see they were nearly at the building.

He turned and grabbed Drew by the arm, “We’ve got to get out of here, now!” He pulled her toward the door and stopped, listening. “Quiet!” he said.

Drew listened and heard a hum and sizzle noise from below. Footsteps came bounding up the stairwell, and then she saw it. A silver shaped monster. It was enormous. A hideous shape, with four arms carrying laser weapons.

She backed up into the room, Sam leveled his service automatic at the creature and fired. Pop, pop, pop. He put three rounds into it, and it just kept coming. Sam backed up, standing between Drew and the door, protecting her. He continued to fire until his pistol was empty. The creature entered the room, energized its laser, and cut him in half. His body collapsed in a heap of burning clothes and flesh at Drew’s feet.

She stood there, frozen in fear as the alien leveled its laser at her, and then she fainted. The alien slung one of its laser weapons over its shoulder, and now with its free arm, reached down and picked her up. It turned and with Drew over its arm and went back the way it came. It slammed her head into the door frame, bounded back down the stairs and into the field outside.

The silver clad aliens halted their advance and began to withdraw. They disappeared into the trees with Drew and headed for their waiting ship.



Drew woke up on the floor of the alien ship, her body flattened by six gees of acceleration. Her bladder had been forced to empty and she lay in her own urine. She tried to look around, but it was hard to move her head. Her vision was blurred by the constant acceleration and the dim light in the ship. As her vision began to clear, she could see the armor clad bodies of alien warriors lying on the floor all around her. Their mirrored armor was riddled with bullet holes and they were dead, lying in their own blood.

Starting to realize that one horror had been replaced by another, she began to cry softly, still pinned to the floor.

The alien ship continued on its rapid journey through the star strewn blackness of space, only the autopilot knew the destination. Within its cold dark interior, Drew sobbed and gave herself up for dead.



Drew felt water in her mouth and she swallowed, compulsively. More water and she continued to swallow, to revive. She was awake, now, and felt herself floating, felt the restraints on her wrists, ankles and waist. She opened her eyes to the glare of light. Slowly her eyes adjusted.

She was naked and floating in a small compartment. All around her were little translucent beings with four arms and two legs. Their bodies consisted of a head, thorax and abdomen, like an insect. Their faces were more human and expressed curiosity. They wore no clothing, and she could see almost straight through them.

There were only about five of them, floating all around her, examining her, feeding her fluids. She felt somehow calm, and it occurred to her that maybe she was sedated. She dismissed the idea. How could they know that much about her physiology? How long had she been here? she wondered.

The fluid kept coming and Drew kept drinking until she was full. She had to turn her head to stop and the fluid formed round droplets in the zero gee environment, then floated away. She felt a twinge of nausea but it passed. She was wide awake by now...then, it began.

One of the creatures retrieved an instrument mounted on a long lever attached to the wall. On the end of the lever was a sharp cutting blade. It cut into her upper left thigh and removed a small chunk of flesh. Drew cried out in pain, and the five beings shot to the wall in unison. Her wound began to bleed, red droplets drifting away in the atmosphere.

You bastards!” she screamed and tore against her restraints. The aliens watched, but their expressions were unchanged. They moved closer and produced an array of probes and sensors. They set to work examining every square inch of her. Every bump and orifice, every hair and toenail in great detail. But no more samples were taken.

Drew closed her eyes and tried to block it all out. She squirmed and fought their probes, but to no avail. Finally, the exam was over and she was left alone, floating, still naked. On the ceiling above her she noticed a three-dimensional image of herself. She saw her bones and organs as though she’d been imaged by a medical scanner. She was cold. She could breathe easily, she realized, and her bleeding had stopped. She closed her eyes to escape again, to sleep.



When she awoke, she realized she’d been moved to a small spherical cell. The restraints were gone. It was warmer and there were feeding tubes built into the wall. It reminded her of a hamster’s cage. She floated there in zero gravity.

How long has it been?” she muttered. “Days, weeks?” She knew it hadn’t been much longer because her menstrual cycle hadn’t started. She was still naked, and she longed for her clothes, a blanket, anything. Instead, she pulled her knees up to her chest and held them with her arms, floating like a ball.



Her concussion was healing and she was getting stronger on the tasteless alien food and water. Now, it was a fight for her sanity. Earlier, when she began to realize that she would probably spend the remainder of her young life a captive, hysteria had taken hold. She screamed and cried, kicked her feet and tried to beat her brains out against the wall, nothing worked. She was still alive!

She began paying attention to the difference in her captors. The four aliens who examined her and seemed responsible for her care, had different splotches on their transparent skin. They were gentle with her, except for the chunk they’d taken out of her thigh during the examination. She remembered how they’d freaked out the first time she urinated. By the time she could no longer hold it, the stream had come out with such force in the zero gravity that it formed a considerable spray of tiny yellow droplets, which coated the walls of the room.

Then, there were the whities. Small aliens with the same body structure, but only about two feet tall. They came in and cleaned up the mess, moving quickly, then departing. Since then, every time she had to relieve herself, they came in and disposed of her waste.

She’d long since decided she would probably die here, and spent hours devising ways to speed up the process. There were periods of hysteria, depression, and loathing. She knew them all. But what began to permeate her soul was madness, and Drew welcomed it.

Day after day and week after week Drew endured the indignity of her capture—always cold, always naked and alone. She had no hope, no future except the weightless prison that was her reality. She withdrew more and more into herself, mentally creating her own world to keep out the demons.

Curled into a ball in her weightless prison, her blonde hair, matted, tangled and filthy. Her naked body was covered in her own waste. The whities would clean the cell but they wouldn’t touch Drew. She drooled constantly and refused to eat. Her body was skeletal, ­­­­skin over bone, and the weightlessness reduced her bone mass. She twitched and screamed whenever the aliens disturbed her, otherwise her bubbling sounds were all she had to keep her company.

Suddenly, the door opened and light streamed into the small cell. Two warrior aliens marched in, and with them were two of the small alien attendants.

As they approached, they grabbed her arms. She screamed and fought, kicking as hard as she could, twisting and bucking in the weightlessness. A warrior on each side, stretched her arms and legs so she could hardly move. When she finally became subdued the attendants moved under her with strange looking syringes in their claws.

Drew tried to twist, but it was impossible. Then, she felt the needle as they injected her on the right side of her butt. She cried out. Then, came another injection in the other cheek, and she passed out. >>



“Drew!” Jude yelled loudly, in an effort to bring her back to the present!

She stared blankly at the screen. As her eyes began to focus on Jude’s face, she realized she’d been lost in her nightmare of visions again. She blinked her eyes, reality taking hold. She was back home, she was safe.

Damn it, I need to be with her, holding her! he thought and his very being screamed with frustration. He shook his head, “Drew—remember what the doctor said. You’re supposed to write down all you visions and dreams, then, just let them go. You have to forget them—for your own sanity!” he pleaded.

“I’m trying,” she replied, “but the nightmares, they won’t stop! I write them down but as soon as I close my eyes, they begin again!” she started to tremble. It even happens during the day now!

“I know it’s been hard, babe. Hell—it’s been agonizing! Concentrate on the baby, our family, and all the adventures we’ll have together!”

He remembered Dr. Mason warning him about post-traumatic stress, P.T.S.D. He said that Drew was a prime candidate! How will she react to the news about the coming battle? the question clamored in his head.

“You’re right, I know you’re right.” She slowly began to smile, “When I get out of quarantine, we’ll be together again!”

Jude smiled, he paused, examining her face. Then, he said nervously, “Drew…we had the battle briefing today.”

“Oh, God! Is it starting already?” she asked.

“Yes, and your dad’s going to kick their ass again!”

“You think so?”

”Yes! I know so!” Jude continued slowly, softly, “Drew, I’m the new fighter squadron leader. The promoted me into Jessica’s spot.” He watched her face closely. That may not have been a good thing to tell her, since Jessica didn’t make it out of the last battle, he thought.

“We’re largely out of the main battle,” he continued, “sort of a reserve force.”

“So, you’ll be safe?”

“I don’t see how any force can survive what the Admiral has planned. I think the whole fleet is safe.”

“Jude, this is tearing me apart! I can’t even hold you before…what if…” Drew began to cry. “When does it start?”

“Tomorrow…details are still being discussed, but we have to take our positions soon so that we’ll be ready.”

“My dad is on the Invincible with you. Mom and I are here on the Mercy! We’re all separated!” her voice started to crescendo. “I can see the flurry of activity through the windows. Everyone is preparing for the worst!” she said, frantically and looked away to hide her tears.

“Drew,” Jude began, “Drew! Look at me! We have a tremendous force, a larger fleet than we had before. Earth sent us reinforcements, more ships. It’s not like the last time, Drew. We have two new battle ships, along with the original fleet and its replacement ships.”

“Yes, Mom told me,” Drew replied. “I just feel so helpless here in quarantine row!”

“Call your dad. Talk to him. He’s busy, but I know he’ll take the time to talk to you.



~~~



Aboard the battleship, Invincible, Vice Admiral Douglas was video conferencing with his destroyers’ commanders. His office was large and luxurious by Navy standards. His quarters were ringed with video screens, and displayed the image of each commander.

By his side, stood a tall, beautiful woman—his aide, Elizabeth Russell. Her deep, ocean blue eyes adorned an elegant face. Short, dark hair revealed a long, graceful neck that swept down onto a voluptuous body that dramatically filled out a Navy uniform. Her attributes could have made her a model, but she chose instead to follow her father’s example and serve in the military.

Ensign Russell’s father, a Marine, had been stationed on Carina Three as a sergeant major. He was all she had left after her mother died and they had been separated for two years, far too long. She wanted to volunteer for a duty that would allow her to be closer to him, but the timing had never been right. Then, Admiral Douglas had returned to the Venus wormhole station to confer with Earth’s Admiralty on the status of the new outpost.

She had immediately been attracted to Tom Douglas, and upon learning of the death of his aide in battle, she seized the opportunity to fill the position and travel back with him to Carina Three.

Tom was reluctant at first, mostly because of her good looks—afraid of the pretty woman syndrome. However, he had needed a new aide, and rumors about the alien virus had made volunteers few and far between. He interrogated her fiercely. All her answers were right on the mark. Finally, tiring of the third degree, she had challenged his prejudice. He liked her mettle and had to admit to judging her prematurely. He had agreed to give her the position, albeit with a warning—one hint of inability on her part and she was out.


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