Song of the Valkyrie(c)
Book 2 of "Pandora's Box"
For your reading enjoyment, here is the first chapter of the second book set in the "Pandora's Box" universe, "Song of the Valkyrie". If you like it, rattle my publisher's cage about it. ;) E-mail my publisher at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask her to publish the next book in the "Pandora's Box" series. =)
SONG OF THE VALKYRIE
(BOOK II OF PANDORA'S BOX)
All Rights Reserved
"Good afternoon, my child. Zeno says you are finished with your studies for today - have you returned to hear more of the stories of Mars? Ah. Which one were you interested in? Oh, that one? Well, that story is a complicated one, even for me, Old Aesop. Part was told to me by an inorganic citizen of Mars, but much of the story contains the recollections of organic beings. As you know from being one yourself, the memory recall systems of organics are a bit inaccurate, and rather subjective. Your Stoic training will help you overcome this, but one of the organics whose memories are a part of this story never had the benefits of being a citizen of Mars. Now: Our story takes place a long time ago, before we met our friends in the Confederation, but after the incident with the Jovians... Hmm? Where shall I begin, you ask? Well, like all my stories, I shall begin at the beginning, carry on through the middle, then, when I've reached the end, I'll stop. Ah, I thought that would make you laugh. Good! Let's begin, then."
Song of the Valkyrie.
"Approaching Sol system, captain. ETA 90 seconds." Lieutenant T'Vrosh called, not looking up from her navigator's console.
"Prepare for re-entry from hyperspace. When we have fully merged with norm-space again, assume an orbit ten planetary diameters out from Mars. Tactical on viewscreen. Open comm channels. Hail the Martians. Inform them we are on a mission of peace. All crew to battle stations in case the NAD doesn't buy our story - we may have to fight our way out of here. Yellow Alert." I replied, trying to keep my voice calm as I quickly rattled off my orders.
"Aye, captain." the bridge crew replied. The alarm klaxon sounded, and Lieutenant Ch'Lass' voice rang out over the ship's speakers. 'General Quarters! General Quarters! All hands to battle stations! Yellow Alert!" Throughout the ship, the three hundred and nine women of the crew went to their assigned duty stations and waited, some nervously, some fearful, some excited - many all three. I knew this as I was feeling the same emotions myself. My First Officer was probably already in the Auxiliary bridge bringing the backup command systems online and giving stand-by orders to the Officer of the Deck. Suddenly, the main viewscreen that dominated the bridge came to life, displaying our relative position to Mars. There were no other ships on screen - we were alone in space, apparently.
"We have successfully merged with norm-space again, captain. Full control restored to helm officer. Sensor-mode engaged." Lieutenant T'Vrosh called from her station.
"Confirmed, captain." Ensign D'Nal called, thumbing a switch on her the helm console to engage the maneuver drives and attitude adjuster jets.
"The Martians are hailing us, captain." Lieutenant Ch'Lass, the ship's comm officer called, her finger pressed to her earpiece to listen.
"No visual, captain. Engaging translation computer." Ch'Lass replied, tapping a sequence into the keyboard at her station. 'Damn. So much for dressing up for the occasion.' I thought sourly, glancing down at my painted fingernails and trying to keep the frown from my painted lips. I smoothed the front of my full dress uniform anyway - visual communication might be established later, and my orderly shouldn't have to know that an hour of her helping me primp and be perfect for this meeting didn't go entirely to waste.
The bridge speakers came to life with the sounds of an alien, yet recognizably female speech. At the bottom of the screen, below the tactical display, a subtitle appeared - the translation computer's attempt to render the Martian's ancient language into something comprehensible. 'This is Angel, Security Chief of the Mars Colony, calling unknown ship. Please identify yourself.'
"Captain, our mission information appears to have been correct - they are using a variety of English that is approximately 18 centuries old." Ch'Lass commented.
I nodded. Our own language was Valhallan Standard Esperanto, and it had undergone natural evolution and change in the fourteen centuries since the colony ships were first launched (in fact, an enormous amount of change), but the language of the North American Directorate and Mars Colony had not changed one whit - though why it hadn't changed, we had no idea. It was not known why the colonists had chosen to switch from English to Esperanto (some of the records of the colonists aboard the ship had been lost centuries ago in a computer error) but they had. "Engage R/T Translation so I may address them directly."
"Aye, captain. R/T Translation engaged. Go ahead." Lieutenant Ch'Lass replied. A small microphone emerged from a slot on the the armrest of my chair, and I picked it up and thumbed the switch to speak.
"This is Captain Evliir Mortalae D'Shan, of the Valhallan starship Valkyrie. We are here on a mission of peace. We politely and formally request an audience with your leadership or their designated representatives to discuss our mission." I said, then released the microphone switch and waited.
"Scrambled comm transmissions are being directed towards Earth from Mars, captain. I have already engaged our crypto systems to decipher it." Ch'Lass called.
"Not their usual game transmissions?"
"Well, it follows that they would alert their allies to our presence. Continue monitoring their transmissions, and let me know when you've cracked their encryption algorithm."
"Aye, captain." Ch'Lass replied.
"Orbit achieved, captain." Ensign D'Nal called.
"Acknowledged." I replied.
"All battle stations report ready and standing by, Captain."
The response from "Angel" continued without pause, and I read the translation on the bottom of the screen to catch up. 'A landing on Mars is not possible. Mars is a totally germ-free environment. Any attempt at a landing will be viewed as an act of hostility, and dealt with accordingly. Communication with our leadership is possible, but only via comm-channel at present.'
"What weapons do they have available?" I asked.
"Sensor scans indicate they have a ring of short-range defensive satellites in orbit about the planet. They also have a single mass-driver in their largest population center. I would estimate we are in no danger should they turn hostile - though the offensive capabilities of their allies, the NAD, remain to be seen." Lieutenant T'Vrosh replied, looking at the readouts before her.
"I would say that what we saw they did to Jove when we passed through the Alpha-Centaurii system is fairly indicative of the NAD's military capabilities." I replied, and several in the bridge crew shuddered. Jove had been rendered an airless, waterless rock, drifting in space - though the reason why this had been done remained a mystery. All that was known was what the warning sattelites in orbit said - that this was the penalty for violating the space of the Sol System. Keeping a close eye on the tactical display, I thumbed the microphone again. "Comm-channel communication would be appropriate and satisfactory for the moment, considering your situation and ours. You see, we have come here on a mission of peace. We have a problem that we are hoping you can solve."
'Please explain the nature of this problem.' the alien voice replied, the translation scrolling across the bottom of the tactical display.
I took a deep breath to relax myself, then began my story.
My novel, Pandora's Box, is available now from Ebooks - I hope you enjoy it. =)
- Jim Farris