Star Eagle Six by Robert Thomas by Robert Thomas - Read Online



The vastness that surrounds me is beyond my measure. I stare into the void safely tucked away within my cocoon, that which shelters me from the cold expanse of the universe. It is my only salvation. I stare blankly at the panel before me strung with instruments that are nothing but a memory. They call out their song but I do not recognize their words.
The warmth of the yellow star that illuminates my cockpit falls away leaving me in cold shadow. I am a stranger to this space. My memory fails. I have no recollection of the events that have brought me to this point, this time. My future is a canvas as blank as my past. What is to happen to me? Where am I to go? Should this ship be my coffin or my salvation? I remember, I am at war ... Star Eagle Six, is anyone out there?

Published: Robert Thomas on
ISBN: 9781311643971
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Star Eagle Six - Robert Thomas

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Chapter One


Star Eagle Six … the emptiness that surrounded the stricken fighter crackled back into his craft, echoing the vastness that surrounded him. Is anyone out there? Another blast of static shrieked through the com speaker into the cockpit. The noise did little to cover up the alarms that blared around him. He raised his arm and flipped the master switch, killing them all. At least the pressure in the cockpit held. He had his doubts as he surveyed the pitted surface of the canopy. Though the noise was gone the cacophony of blinking red lights was in stark contrast to the blackness of the star field surrounding him.

He was alive; that was all he needed to think about for a minute. He took a deep breath and tried to relax. His frame shuddered as he exhaled and he could feel the clamminess of his skin beneath his flight suit. How many times had he cheated death in this war, a war against a faceless enemy? How could one fight an enemy he had never seen; had no visual cue other than the relentless onslaught of foreboding ships?

He suddenly noticed the stars slipping beneath the line of the cockpit. His fighter was slowly rolling; no, tumbling, he now realized as the stars rolled past him to the left. He had neither attitude nor yawl control. In the weightlessness of space he would never have known without the visual reference. A simple flick of the attitude controls would tell him if he had any control left in the craft. He took a deep breath, releasing it slowly and gently nudged the stick, hoping for the best.

The reaction was quick but not as expected. He toppled hard-over accelerating the roll. A pull in the other direction slowed the movement of the stars across the canopy. He knew instantly he had damaged thrusters. As venerable as the old girl was, well, he just had to hope she had a little more left in her. Another slight nudge eased the roll to near zero. It was likely the best he would achieve. The Talon fighter was a throwback to an earlier time, but she was agile and rugged, inspired from a long line of war-birds dating back hundreds of years to the Home Worlds. It was now all he had.

As the Talon rolled the light from the nearest star began to illuminate his cabin. It showed what his missing interior lights no longer could. The cockpit was intact. It was time to turn his attention to the outside. He was alone. Where was everyone else? What happened to them? He couldn’t be the only survivor. He turned his head from side to side as his craft continued its slow dance among the stars. Where is everyone?

He looked out toward the rising sun, estimating the distance from his stricken craft. ‘About one-hundred fifty million miles; give or take’, he thought. Not too far. He wondered how close his guess was. He brought his attention back inside and tapped on the second screen left of the main guidance display. A blip showed where his finger hit putting him in the center of the display. All other celestial objects within a tenth of a parsec and a mass of half the home world would show up. The thought was anything smaller would be unimportant in an unsupported fighter as its range was limited.

One-hundred twenty million miles. Too far for a stricken fighter but that might mean there was another body in the vicinity. It gave him hope. That thought brought his hands up to the throttle control. He smiled as he thought of past ships he had flown, many with controls that linked indirectly to his brain. Thoughts with subtle gestures controlled the motions of the craft, but he was unable to fly them long-term as the headaches they gave him nearly left him blind, so he was recruited to fly the older models; models he preferred. The bright spot was, he could out-pilot nearly anyone in a more modern craft. His combat instructors used him to put down the ‘hot guns’, new pilots who believed they were invincible. It was often a humbling experience.

A gentle upward push caused the Talon to lurch forward, the engine clambering with uncharacteristic noise. The beauty of the Talon was its ‘quiet rage’, as he called it; deadly, silent. But silence was unneeded in the vacuum of space. He quickly shut the main engine down as the forward motion increased his roll.

The space outside his small world again beckoned him. He plied the area surrounding his craft scanning for what should have been, should have surrounded him after a battle. Where was all the debris that comes with a fight, a fight between machines? He could find none. He was alone.

Star Eagle anyone out there?

The blaring startled him, bringing him to a conscious state. What happened? He brought his hand quickly across his face to try and wipe the sleep from his eyes. His finger stabbed at the offending panel to bring forth silence. What was that? He thought for a second not remembering what that particular symbol was for. He turned his head looking directly to the light from the nearby star, his expression solemn. He knew his fighter was no match for what was to come; the electromagnetic pulse from the mass ejection he just witnessed would obliterate every electronic circuit in his vehicle. He would have no lights, no heat, no life support, no anything.

He ran the scenarios through his mind. The deadly energy pulse was headed his way; that much he knew and there wasn’t anything he could do about it. It was just a matter of how much time he had before it hit. The magnitude of the event was what mattered, what determined how fast it would arrive. It almost didn’t matter, ten hours or twenty, the result would be the same. Unless something changed in the next few hours, his war-bird would become his coffin.

The light from the star illuminated his cabin for nearly thirty minutes at a time as the stricken fighter continued its slow tumble within the void. It then took another hour before it rolled to again capture the light. Captain Francis Turner, call-sign Shatter watched as the graphic symbol of the pulse stretched across the main screen. He switched it from a secondary screen which magnified the image five times. It was like watching any other disaster; he couldn’t take his eyes off of it.

The Talon rolled capturing the light, one last time as the counter on the screen above the main ticked steadily backward. Less than twenty minutes. His attention turned inward, he suddenly realized the cockpit had fallen into shadow, more, his entire fighter. A dull but thickening hum began to permeate his senses as the starlit background to his left winked out of existence, forcing him to look up. The massive shape that now loomed above was larger than any ship he had ever encountered; it was ominous. The dark protrusions emanating from the central core radiated their own energy into the void as his small fighter silently fell within its grasp.

Ooooh shhhhit.

Chapter Two

Lens of the Past

The lights in the lab were fully ablaze except for those against the far wall. The techs had not figured out why that section never seemed to light. It was a constant source of irritation to the doctors and scientists that inhabited this part of the ship. Theirs was a mission of constant change and evaluation; use any scientific means or asset available to defend their home worlds. Although they were considered to be the best minds that could be gathered, they were slowly losing the battle to sheer weight of numbers.

Where did they pick him up?

He was found floating in the Cordian system. His fighter was a wreck, but it somehow kept him alive.

Was it one of the new classes? The younger scientist was now intrigued. He had always wished to become a fighter, a pilot in defense of his homelands, but his was a different calling.

Actually no. That answer came with raised brows. It was an old one. Never heard of the type myself. Something called a Talon.

Really? A Talon? I’ve never seen one of those. I don’t believe they even use them in this sector. I’d love to see one."

You just might get your chance. Andren Cork, the senior scientist on watch just happened to be an electrical engineer. She turned to her counterpart and set her hot tea on the cold metal table. They’re holding the fighter in cargo bay 4. I’d get down there and do some initial checking if you want to be in on it.

Uhm, yes ma’am. Uh, thank you ma’am.

Andren smiled as her younger colleague was quickly out the opening to the lab and was nearly running down the corridor. Scott was exuberant, and as a metallurgist, there was nearly no one his equal. But that was also one of the issues those who worked with him faced; he was too brilliant. She slipped her hand around the tea cup and brought it to her lips. She recoiled at the cool liquid. Disappointed, she set it back on the shiny metal table. Not like home she thought where a warm wood surface didn’t immediately pull the heat out of everything it touched.

Andren let her hand slide down the table feeling the effects of its scarred surface against her skin. This ship had become more than a home to her; the friendships she had developed went far beyond the natural bonds created in the labs in a work-a-day world. It was more than that, as it had also become her prison. The memories of a ravaged planet swept to the forefront and she remembered again why she was here. It was a time of war, a time of survival. There was no other option.

Work beckoned as a light flashed on the wall above her workstation. She had been waiting for the main science computer to render the results of her newest experiment and the conversation with Scott was simply a way to kill time. She stabbed at the button that brought up the results and scanned the graph, a linear representation of the electron flow. Another swipe of her finger superimposed that line over another showing the differences. A raised brow was the result. Not what she expected, not at all.

It took Scott Larson less than ten minutes to make his way to the cargo bay that held a piece of the past, a link to a world he would never know. As he entered through the bay doors he stopped short, his stare falling on a heavily-scarred hunk of metal. He was overwhelmed. ‘It’s beautiful’, he thought. It was the metallurgist in him seeing the exquisite design of a craft built long ago. He couldn’t take his eyes from it. It was like seeing everything he had ever dreamed of as a boy brought to life. He just stood there admiring the vehicle as his mind put it back together, and smoothed out the edges, piece by piece.

Sir, may I help you? The guard was quickly by his side, a slight nod at seeing the I.D. hanging from his shirt. Are you here to inspect this scrap pile?

Yes, Scott replied without taking his eyes off the fighter. How long has it been here?

It was brought in at 1800 hours yesterday.

Has anyone else been here to inspect it? Scott pried his eyes off the fighter and looked at the guard.

Not since I’ve been here, but I’ve only been on duty for a few hours. The guard turned his head and looked across the bay at the craft. I assume others from your department have been here, but that would be a guess.

Thank you. With that Scott walked across the cavernous bay and came within yards of the craft. He noticed the sensors monitoring the craft’s emissions, four tall posts surrounding the ship loaded with electronics. No telling how long it had been floating in space, and what that space contained. Radiation could be deadly if not detected, or cause serious interference with the ship’s systems. The sentinels stood silent.

He took a deep breath and stepped up to the Talon’s side placing his hand against its worn skin. The metal had returned to the temperature of the bay which was slightly below that of normal living quarters, like a glass of water that had just given up its ice. He moved his hand over the skin, feeling its texture. ‘Must have been designed as smooth’, he thought, but as his eyes slid across the battle-scars it showed the effects of a hard life in the vacuum of space.

Scott stepped back and looked up toward the canopy. The structure was intact but lifted away, tilting upward. Someone had been in there. ‘Had to be’, he thought. ‘There’s no other reason for that to be open.’

It took just a few seconds for him to scamper to the top of the fighter and find himself looking down into the cramped cockpit. He was surprised at how small it seemed. The controls were tightly bunched; a menagerie of gauges, dials, buttons and screens that would have filled the pilot’s view below his line of sight. As intelligent as he was, the complexity of the layout gave him a sense of awe. Then, his analytical side began to understand the flow of the sequences involved and the thought that went through the design. The relationship in the system’s organization was mathematical, almost musical, a refrain repeated in chorus and the more he studied it, the more he saw the simplicity of its design. It was instinctual.


The unexpected voice startled him and he nearly fell into the craft. He looked up and smiled as his best friend came running across the bay, the metal surface silent beneath his soft boots. Jeff Sinclair now stood directly beneath him as he peered over the side of the dead fighter.

What is the junior award-winning physics associate doing in a cargo bay?

I’d say he’s doing the same thing you are, he called back up. My senior sent me down to have a look at this ship.

Why does a physicist want to know about an old fighter? Doesn’t seem to be in your field of study.

You obviously don’t know the story of this ship then. The young scientist quickly scaled the side of the ship and joined his friend. He leaned against the canopy and looked into the cockpit. Wow.

Impressive layout, isn’t it?

How do they keep all that straight in the heat of battle? I’d be dead in no time. Jeff slid back onto the top of the ship, pulled his legs up close and looked to his friend while he unfolded what he had been told.

The fighter was discovered in the Cordian system. The problem is, this type of ship had never been dispatched to that sector. It was far outside the range it could accommodate without heavy support from the fleet, and so far they have yet to uncover any records suggesting that had ever happened.

So? Scott sat back on the edge of the cockpit and listened intently.

So, that means this fighter popped into Cordia out of nowhere. That’s hard to do.

But not impossible, Scott countered.

Impossible no, but highly improbable. My senior wants me to check out the ship’s structure to see if it’s been manipulated somehow.

In what way?

Oh, changes in the structure, size, fatigue; those are the starting points.

I can help you with that. Scott was immediately on board. I’m your guy for changes in the metal structure. I can measure any changes that may have taken place and depending on what we find, I may be able to detect when they took place.

How would you do that?

The original metals used when the ship was built would have a unique signature from when and where they were fabricated. Any changes we find should have a decay factor and leave a trace signature.

And from there we can determine if a power source came in contact with the ship. If we’re lucky, we may be able to determine what type of source or type of energy.

The next thirty minutes passed as they discussed the equipment they would need to begin their adventure. They would meet on their next duty cycle in ten hours. A full shift of sleep was the next order of business. It had been a long day beneath the artificial lights of home.

* * *

What do you have there, Andren?

Hmm? Andren turned at the unexpected voice from behind. What are you doing in the lab this late in the shift?

Couldn’t I ask the same of you?

You could, but you know you wouldn’t get much of an answer, she replied with a fatigued smile. Danson, you’re never up this late. Spill it.

I just came from the medical lab.


Surprised? Danson Lynn returned the smile and casually moved to the computer display that was now behind Andren. What have we here?

Something that was quite unexpected. Andren turned and pointed to the monitor. See the dispersal pattern? I have never seen the flow react that way before.

What happened?

We injected a burst of gamma particles into the electron field and they produced this pattern.

That’s a wide spread. Is it meaningful?

Meaningful? Andren leaned against the shelf that projected from the wall. I’m not sure what you mean.

Can it be adapted to a useful function?

It’s too early to tell. This is the first tell-tale signature I’ve seen, but it’s just a random experiment. I don’t know if it can do anything other than make a pretty display on the screen. She raised her hand and rubbed her eyes, then let her fingers slip down the rest of her face. Her eyes flittered bank and forth to the screen hoping Danson would drop the subject. I must be more tired than I thought."

It’s the end of the shift, Andren. It always catches up to you.

I suppose you’re right. She dug her fingers deeply into her scalp and pulled her auburn hair back tightly. I won’t know anything else until I have time to run a few trials and see if we can replicate the results. Until then... she sighed, it’s no big deal.

* * *

The lights to the lab clicked on brightly filling the darkness with an austere glow. It was a far cry from the natural light she so dearly longed for, wished that would caress her face one more time. She hadn’t felt the warmth of a true sun in nearly a year. The white lights flickered and shimmered brightly, reflecting off the metal surfaces. It was a hollow light, one that the scientists on board from every Home World the galaxy over, were forced to live with. One more month of duty cycles and she would be able to take some leave. Her home world of LeLairn would be the perfect spot, if she could swing it.

This ‘morning’ she felt renewed. For the first time in over a year she had a new sense of purpose. Each experiment before was one failure piled on top of another. This one though, showed promise. It was something she had secretly been hoping for, secretly working on; and she was close, desperately close. She could almost taste the success and she knew this latest experiment, if she could replicate it, would validate that success.

She set her hot tea down in its normal place on the metal table and slipped her stool beneath the terminal. It was like an old chair that was broken in with her special touches. Her arm came naturally to rest on the edge of the terminal where she propped her elbows, resting her chin across