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(Chapter 1) M31: First Blood
Posted By: Greg and Wes Foutch<halogod56@yahoo.com>
Date: 7 May 2003, 1:06 AM

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22:47 hrs.

Voice Transmission Received 22.47:17 EST, U.S.S.       

Pinta, Data Link 012:357:261

Decoding Transmission...

Process Complete

Hostiles on board...We cannot hold them off. They've taken most of the ship, everything but the weapons cache, where everyone is hiding, blasting anything that tries to enter. We've kept up the battle for near two days, hiding and fighting. It's made everyone delirious; we can't last much longer. As a result, an ESP (Emergency Security Pod) has been equipped with a homing beacon and jettisoned from the Pinta. The pod contains all access privileges to the flight and weapons files of the cruiser. I hope only hope you can get here in time. I... They're here! There are too many of them, too few of us. I'm sorry to say that the Pinta has failed, the mission has been compromised, but you...

Transmission End

      "Christ. It was sent by ansible?" The General stood over the computer; the technician had requested his presence. The ansible was the fastest way to communicate between off world cruisers and Earth. It was, in short, an instantaneous interstellar communications device. That's how the dictionary put it anyway.
      "No, sir," the technician replied. "At the time of the U.S.S Pinta departure, the ansible was still in testing stages. It was deemed unnecessary for a prototype to be installed."
      "So we don't know when this was sent?" the General asked.
      "No, sir," the technician stated. "But we could get a mathematician down here to figure it out."
      "Great," he said sarcastically. "Forward that to the head of NASA/SEC, and send a copy to my office computer within the next few minutes. All hell had just broken loose and he was the only Brass to know. Someone needs to talk to the Command-in-Chief," the General said, and walked out.
      The General walked through the empty corridors of the station, to his office. The General's office wasn't as one might think. Any person that committed his life to the military, came up through the ranks after 39 years of service, served in 2 world wars, bequeathed his hearing in one ear, and walks on a prosthetic should have a huge office overlooking a beautiful landscape or ocean, able to kick back and enjoy his golden years. This office was just the opposite: second floor, drab walls in a nondescript 4-story building. The only window opens to an adjoining brick building not 12 meters away. He sat at his computer and listened to the taped message again and again, striving to make sense of the events that had just unfolded in his lap. He was saddened by the obvious loss of life that had just taken place in the recent past. A veteran himself, he understood the perils of war. He finally downloaded the troubling message on a small disk, pocketed it, and left his office.
[ident]He fumbled in his pocket for his car keys, as he walked across the old runway, into the old hangar, which served as the parking garage at the station. He sat down in his Mercedes, turned the radio to a news station and drove out of the parking garage. The U.S. government, ever since space travel was practical, set up a chain of satellite stations to maintain communications. The one the General was stationed at happened to be in the middle of Nevada, situated in a remote area that was rumored to be controlled by the Air Force in the 20th century under a cloak of secrecy codenamed Area 51. Legend has it that our government had captured alien craft and living, breathing beings and studied them for years. The Generals own Great Grandfather had told him some bone chilling stories that were passed down to him by his Grandfather. Probably just paranoid folklore is what the General believed. But some believed that it is from these same alien beings that we learned the technology capable today, the technology that made space flight practical, with everyday trips to the moon.
      There was nothing even remotely close to the station unless you counted cactus. If so, the General was blessed. It would be at least two hours before he reached the airport, and probably another two before he could get a flight. Like he said, someone needed to talk to the President; The General had to get to D.C. and needed to get there fast. Picking up his satellite phone and hitting speed dial 07, a few moments later he heard the familiar computer generated greeting on the other end.
      "Thank you, please press 1 to enter security pass code," the metallic female voice said. The General punched 1, then without waiting for further instructions, he pressed his 17-digit pass code. He knew all to well what was coming next as he placed the phone's digital camera to his pupil for a retina scan. Shortly thereafter, he was talking to Tech. Sgt. William Langley, the military commander at Las Vegas International.
      "I need a bird to D.C., the fastest you have. What's fueled and ready?" the General asked.
      "Sir, we have several fueled and at the ready, but if speed is what's important, not comfort, then we need to ready the B.A.D. Boy," replied William. Ballistic Air Defense (B.A.D.) was the code name for a series of fighters that would fly mach 6 and deliver 5,000 lb. warheads halfway around the world in a matter of minutes, not hours. A 2 seater that wasn't known for creature comforts though. This aircraft was capable of literally flying the skin from your face if you let it.
      "How soon? I'm en route. Its 23:50 hours, my e.t.a. is 01:30 hours," the General said as he merged his Mercedes onto Rt 51 to Vegas.
      "She'll be locked and loaded when you get here, Sir"
      The General knew he was in for a ride from hell, and was looking forward to the trip. As he passed the last security checkpoint, he swung his car through the gates to the hangar on the far side of the site. Very few people ever got to this point, even if only to look, and he would soon be seated in one of the most sophisticated aircraft ever designed by Boeing/Lockheed. A small thrill before he had to give the President the kind of news that always ruins a person's day.
      Seated on the starboard side, the lines on the runway seemed to become one as the airframe struggled to grab all the air it could muster. With a collective push forward on the throttle controls and a pull back on stick, the bird took flight. Gear up almost before they left the ground as they "clunked" into position. "GEAR UP" illuminated alongside the array of gauges and dials that flooded the small compartment. The pilot seemed to barely notice; although it was obvious he was in full control. Washington D.C. was only nineteen minutes away. The General almost wished he had a couple hours flight time to delay the inevitable.