A tale of The Light Years War.
(c) 2015 Thomas F. Brown, All Rights Reserved.
This material may not be reproduced in any form without the expressed written consent of the author.
At the stroke of midnight on the first of January in the year 2201, an alien armada of unknown origin began attacking human colony worlds across the known galaxy. This was the beginning of what the press would call “The Light Years War”. Earth quickly found itself in a precarious position. But the enemy had its own difficulties….
The individual known as Calm-Assurance-From-Careful-Planning had no title in the human sense. Rather, his authority on board the starcarrier – that was the human designation for his vessel – was indicated by a universal two digit number, called a “platen” (this is a loose translation of what is, after all, an alien concept). Relationships were a vital concern for the natives of Habitat Space. Some of those relationships were social, others professional, and you had to know your ranking in both. Failure to treat someone with the proper respect – not too much or too little – could have grave consequences. It all boiled down to a game of numbers – of platens.
Calm-Assurance-From-Careful-Planning, platen 26 of vessel 2183941 – in human terms, the ship’s captain – travelled down the weightless corridor towards the Bridge, occasionally using a hand to control his flight. The fact that he had hands in place of feet made navigation easier than it might have been for a human being. To that same human being, the Bridge would have seemed cramped and crowded. Low-ceilinged, the room was filled with pipes and hand-holds of various lengths to assist navigation in zero-gee.
Gravity, even the false kind produced by centrifugal force, was simply not an option for a race who lived their entire lives weightless.
The captain entered the room, using several hand-holds to come to a complete stop. Then, lacking vocal chords (which would have been useless in any case as his audience lacked the ability to hear sound), he broadcast two icons using his organic radio transmitter: imperative and query.
“Status?” was what this meant.
“We’ve managed to decrypt and partially translate the star map obtained from the Grounders’ ship,” his subordinate replied. “Grounders” was the pejorative given to humanity in general and the peoples of Earth in particular. In response, the captain transmitted the same two icons, this time in reverse order.
“And?” the captain was asking.
“We’re having difficulty with the translation. Many of the files associated with the star map were deleted by the ship’s crew before we could stop them. Listens-to-Stars tells me we now have the location for several Grounder worlds, but he’s uncertain which one matches our attack orders.”
“We’ve been ordered to attack the colony Grounders designate 360 Lepi. How difficult is it to read its location from this captured star map?”
“Sir, the translation of the alien language has been difficult at best. Plus, the cross-reference was only partially recovered. It was one of the documents the Grounders were deleting when …”
The captain transmitted a single imperative icon. Then, after a pause, he sent it again. In response, the subordinate, shocked into submission, lost all pigmentation for a moment, his skin becoming pale and reflective as a result.
“Yes, sir.” The subordinate accompanied his words with a pair of imperative icons, sent together without a pause separating them.
“Continue,” the captain said after a short pause. The fact that he said it in words, and not as iconography was meant to serve as a warning. Brown and gray pigmentation flowed once more across the subordinate’s body as he tried to collect his thoughts. The captain didn’t want to hear excuses. He wanted answers, and he wanted them now! The subordinate made a fateful decision.
“We have identified the Grounder colony’s location,” he told the captain, mentally making the selection himself.
“Excellent. Set course immediately. Maximum speed.”
“Sir, a question?” The subordinate accompanied his words with an icon of submission.
“What is it?” the captain sent, accompanying his own words with an icon of impatience.
“What approach do we set? Destructive?” The ship’s faster-than-light drive wasn’t based on the same technology as Earth’s. Called an Alcubierre Drive, it wrapped a cocoon of warped spacetime around the ship. But travelling in that fashion pushed a wave of destructive particles and space debris ahead of the vessel, devastating everything in its path, be it ship or planet. It made for a crude, but effective, weapon.
“I think not,” the captain replied, thoughtfully.”We need to gather more intel on the Grounders and this may be an ideal opportunity to do that. Drop out of FTL in the system’s Ort cloud. We’ll launch smaller craft to engage the enemy before we approach the planet ourselves.”
The subordinate transmitted an icon of acknowledgement and turned to carry out his orders.
Thus it was that an error in translation, combined with questionable judgement, caused vessel 2183941 to attack the isolated colony of 360 Lupi, rather than the military base on 360 Lepi.
To be continued …