Please find below the first chapter from my book "UES Excalibur." I hope you enjoy reading it as I enjoyed writing it and that it gives you a taste for the full story which is now avaiable on Amazon.
Chapter 1 - 2120
“UES Enterprise to Excalibur, how are the final preparations going? All set for your big show starter Darren?”.
“As ready as we are going to be Chris, hope you are ready to get shown up in front of the rest of the fleet!” replied Darren.
Both Darren Harris and Chris Munsfield had attended military school together and all the way through had shared a healthy sense of competition. Up until recently Chris had had the upper hand with the command of the “UES Enterprise”, however this was all about to change when Darren was given commission of the Excalibur. The Enterprise was a dreadnaught class cruiser and was armed to the teeth with a full complement of nuclear warheads, two rail guns and a full fighter bay, however it was also very slow with very little maneuverability. It was designed for war and was the pride of the fleet. The Excalibur however was designed for exploration but that didn’t mean it wasn’t prepared for a well-armed assault if it needed to, armed with a rail gun, a small complement of nuclear missiles and a small fighter bay, it was prepared to hold its own if required. The Excalibur was designed like a sword and was given its name from one of the best known swords in legend. What the Excalibur lacked in additional weapons it gained in maneuverability, with twelve small thrusters at the hilt surrounding the main thruster giving the Excalibur incredible speed and with smaller thrusters located all the way down the blade, it was able to maneuvre with astonishing accuracy. It was also equipped with two additional pieces of equipment that no other ship in the fleet could boast. The first was a kinetic hyper jump drive, allowing the ship to travel incredible distances and the other was Guinevere, the ship’s AI or artificial intelligence which was able to make quick decisions in case the crew became incapacitated or as an additional advisor to the captain.
“Right, let’s get this baby tested” said Darren, “Helm, make course for our testing ground around Mars’ orbit if you please, maximum thrusters all ahead.”
Darren took his seat in the Captain’s chair which at first glance was more like a cosy armchair than something you would expect to see on the bridge of a ship. It was black and made of leather and its position gave Darren the perfect view of everything that was going on on the bridge of his ship.
The helmsman, a blonde haired female officer who was very stout and had a great presence about her, acknowledged the order she was given and pressed the appropriate buttons in front of her, firing up each individual thruster before firing up the main thruster and setting Excalibur in motion.
“Aye sir, all ahead full. All hilt thrusters have been fired and we are on route to Mars.”
“Thank you”, replied Darren, “Excalibur, hail the Enterprise”, he commanded.
“Captain Munsfield responding” replied Guinevere.
“All set to escort us to Mars, Chris?”, asked Darren who was all set for the sarcastic response he knew he was going to get whether he wanted it or not.
“Would you like me to hold your hand as well Darren?” responded Chris Munsfield.
“Aww didn’t know you cared!, No, just the escort will do thank you”, replied Darren with a rather large grin across his face.
“No bother” replied Chris. “Enterprise will be at your six and have the best seats during the test.”
The Excalibur was about to test, for the first time, the kinetic hyper jump drive and make a quick two minute jump which would take them about five light years away from their current position and then they would jump back again. It was all going to be quite routine.
“We are approaching Mars now”, said the helmsman.
“Thank you”, replied Darren. “Put us in a high orbit. Where is the Enterprise? Lagging behind is she?”
“Yes sir, a little, she is about five minutes out”, replied the helmsman who could see that Darren was enjoying every moment of the lead that he had on his former classmate.
Darren twisted his chair to a console that was on his left and pressed a button which activated a holographic display and presented an image of a woman, small in size but that was only due to a limitation of the console that was currently displaying her. She appeared to wear a dress which covered her from the breast down and wore a scarf around her neck. She was very beautiful to look at and so obviously the designers had taken great care in her detail.
“I see you are dressed for the occasion”, said Darren.
“I thought I would make the effort”, replied Guinevere.
“Are you nervous?” Darren asked.
“Captain that would mean I understand emotion, which I certainly do not, however I may be a little….Just don’t tell anyone.”
“Oh your secret is safe with me”, replied Darren who was smiling just ever so slightly.
The Enterprise came up behind the Excalibur and then maneuvered beside giving quite an exceptional sight, two of the most impressive ships within the United Earth fleet. The science station located behind the Captain’s chair started to show up a warning and the Science Officer who was young and eager was ready to bring this to the Captain’s attention.
“Captain!” announced the young officer.
“Yes, Science Department, what is it?” asked the Captain.
“Excalibur has just picked up on some strange weather which is heading this way, looks like some sort of ion storm but I cannot be sure at this distance.” The Science Officer was a young good looking chap who was currently stood to attention much to some of his peers amusement.
“Thank you for that Ensign?”
“Ensign Culbin, Sir”, replied the young science officer who was still stood to attention.
“You may return to your post and be at ease, Ensign”, ordered Captain Harris who was trying his best not to scare the young ensign into pulling a muscle or something worse every time he stood to attention. The young ensign nodded and returned to his post.
“What about it Guinevere? Is a little bad weather going to prevent our test?”, asked Darren who was only ever so slightly nervous about this ion storm as there was something he was trying to remember, something that was niggling away at him that he should know.
“No Captain, the ion storm shouldn’t interfere with the kinetic hyper jump drive. We are ready to give the Enterprise a run for her money as you humans might say”, replied Guinevere.
Darren gave a slight nod and a little smile and sat back down in his chair.
“Right Guinevere, signal the Enterprise and let them know that we have seen the bad weather and think it to be a passing shower and we are ready to begin the test”, ordered Captain Harris.
“Enterprise responding and have said weather report acknowledged and good luck”, said Guinevere.
“Guinevere, open ship wide comms”, ordered Captain Harris. “All hands, we will start testing the new kinetic hyper jump drive. Please report to your stations and department heads. Please report back any and all findings to the bridge. Guinevere, close ship wide comms and Helm, please take us out of Mars’ orbit and five hundred kilometers away from the Enterprise.”
The helmsman acknowledged the command and maneuvered the Excalibur out from Mars’ orbit and engaged the smaller hilt thrusters to move away from the Enterprise.
“Captain we are now coming up on five hundred kilometers.”
“Thank you Helm”, replied the Captain. “Ok...Here we go. Guinevere, engage kinetic hyper jump engine and set the exit point on the edge of our solar system, just going to take a little trip.”
Darren shuffled in his chair as if trying to find his comfortable spot but he knew really he was nervous and he still couldn’t shake the feeling that he was forgetting something important.
The cross guard section of the ship started to spin, slowly at first and then gradually gaining speed faster and faster. Inside the ship in the engineering department a long tunnel went from one end to the other of the very large section of the Excalibur and pulses of kinetic energy were starting to come down faster and faster to match the speed of the spinning cross guard outside of the ship.
“Status of the cross guard?” asked Darren.
“Cross guard currently spinning at one hundred thousand kinetic cycles”, replied the helmsman.
“Ok that’s enough, lock it down before we end up going further than we want to”, ordered Darren.
Outside of the ship the cross guard came to a tremendous stop, lightning bolts came from the points of the cross guard and made their way to the blade point of the ship which then fired out shortly in front of the ship and created a vast portal ahead of them.
Inside the ship in the engineering department the excess kinetic energy made its way down the tunnel to fill the Excalibur’s energy reserves.
“Engineering to Bridge”, the call came through on the large console to the left of the Captain’s chair. The same console that was responsible for bringing Guinevere to life.
“Go ahead Engineering”, replied Darren.
“Energy reserves are now at full capacity, the excess burst from the kinetic pulse worked exactly as it should do, Sir.”
Darren took a huge deep breath and breathed a sigh of relief. It was one of the stages he had been most concerned about. If the excess energy had not divert as it should have done then there could have been a blockage somewhere which may have caused an overload.
“Status of hyper jump portal?” asked Darren.
The eager young science officer turned round and said “Hyper jump portal appears stable, Sir. No instabilities detected.”
Darren was about to give the order to proceed all ahead full, through the portal when the emergency alarm ran throughout the ship.
“Report!” ordered Darren.
“The ion storm has just impacted the hyper jump portal and appears to be causing severe instabilities.” The science officer had sweat dripping down his face as he was just trying to figure out if he made a mistake in his readings. He gave Captain Harris a look which showed panic in his eyes.
Darren turned round to the holographic projection of Guinevere and said, “Gwen assist in science and confirm those readings, find out what’s going on.”
Outside of the ship the portal was beginning to fluctuate as the ion storm was interfering more and more. The portal was starting to change shape ever so slightly and was stretching towards the Excalibur almost like tentacles.
“Captain, we might have an issue. Actually, no might about it!” said Guinevere, who was now a holographic projection on the science station.
Darren got out of his Captain’s chair and made his way over to the science station to see for himself what was going on.
“Why can’t anyone tell me what is going…” Darren couldn’t finish his sentence because in front of him on the display console was the read out from the portal and he instantly recognised it and knew what he had forgotten that he had been trying to remember ever since he was told there was an ion storm.
“Helm full reverse!” Darren commanded.
Outside the ship the smaller thrusters on the outside of the vessel got into position and fired. Back inside everyone could start to hear the creaking of the ship as the strain of reversing from the portal was becoming evident and Guinevere was looking around and appeared a bit uneasy.
Captain, what aren’t you telling me?” asked Guinevere.
“I’ve seen those readings before and I know what that portal is, we have to get out of here, signal the Enterprise for emergency assistance”, ordered Darren who was in almost full panic mode as he realised what was happening and started to feel for a chain around his neck which held what appeared to be a memory stick.
The Enterprise in the meantime had started to make its approach in an effort to give assistance. Then with an almighty shake the Excalibur was struck with an energy bolt causing the kinetic hyper drive to slowly start up and cause the ship to start to be pulled back towards the portal again. Darren looked out of the main viewer and saw that the ship was moving back towards the portal. He managed to pull himself to his feet and shouted “Report!”
“Sir, this is Engineering. The hyper drive has come online and we are being pulled towards the portal. We have tried shutting down the drive but it won’t turn off.”
Darren looked at Guinevere and said “my office” and walked to a room at the back of the bridge pulling the handle to open the door to his private office. Before he entered he turned around and looking at the helmsman said, “Helm, keep us at full reverse, do whatever you can to prevent us from entering this portal.”
The helmsman nodded and Darren entered his office closing the door behind him. Back on the bridge the crew were all looking at each other as they wondered what was happening and how they were going to get out of the situation. The crew had only been together a short while but they were already starting to perform like one of the best crews in the fleet.
Guinevere appeared on Darren’s desk and followed him round as he sat in his chair behind it. “What’s going on? What aren’t you telling me?” she asked.
Darren took the memory stick from around his neck, pressed a button on his desk which revealed a hidden access port and he plugged in the memory stick.
“Access this”, Darren ordered.
“It is encrypted”, replied Guinevere who was still looking puzzled.
“Authorisation code Harris alpha one seven” he replied.
Guinevere accessed the data and Darren could see that with her eyes closed she was taking in the information. It wouldn’t take her long and Darren knew this. Once she had finished, after only a matter of seconds, it was Darren who spoke first. “Well?” he said.
“I am not sure entirely what to say, but I suppose it is clear what must be done. Where did you get the information?” she said.
“My grandfather, he passed it to me shortly before he died and said I would know when and what to do. I didn’t know what he meant at the time but now I do. I will give the order”.
Darren nodded at Guinevere and got up out of his chair and the holographic version of Guinevere disappeared and Darren made his way back to the bridge. The crew immediately turned around and looked at him and he gave the order.
“Gwen, ship wide comms. All hands, this is the Captain. Abandon ship! This is not a drill! All hands to the escape pods and fighter bays. Make your way to the Enterprise who is already en route to provide assistance. Gwen close comms.”
“Gwen going by the data I have just given you do you agree that the crew will be safe as they do not have a hyper jump drive equipped in the escape pods?”
Guinevere was quiet for a second or two while she retrieved the new data and then said, “Yes Captain, all crew will be safe. The Excalibur and I will be pulled into the portal and it will close shortly after.”
Darren sat in his chair and looked at Guinevere. “It has been a brief relationship for you and I, but I wish I was coming with you. I envy the adventure that you have ahead of you”, he said.
“There is no guarantee that the history you have provided me will be what will happen and also with the additional radiation risk I could not guarantee your safety”, said Guinevere.
Darren looked at her and said, “Of course, you are right. Take care and good luck!”
“You too”, replied Guinevere, and Darren took the transport elevator
at the rear of the bridge to take an escape pod with the rest of the crew.
Outside, the escape pods were ejecting one by one from the blade section of the ship and each of them made their way to the Enterprise who was now close enough to start picking up the rescued crew members. The Excalibur, with her thrusters now disengaged, was drifting at an angle into the portal. Within a matter of seconds the portal had closed and the Excalibur was gone.
Copyright David R Harrison