Mission 33: WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE
The contents of the Ship Logs are considered to be a
"compilation" under the provisions of Title 17, U.S. Code (known as
the Copyright Act): that is, "A work formed by the collection and
assembling of preexisting materials or of data that is selected, coordinated or
arranged in such a way that the resulting work as a whole constitutes an
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Captain; however, automatic transfer of ownership to STARSHIPS OF THE THIRD
effected upon publication of this mission by the ship’s Captain ipso facto.
As outlined in Circular 1 (Copyrighted Basics, Library
of Congress, Washington DC, USGPO 1989-262-309/12), "copyrighted in each
separate contribution to a periodical or other collective work is distinct from
the copyright in the collective work as a whole and vests initially with the
author of the contribution."
This mission may not be reproduced in any form without
the express, written authorization of STARSHIPS OF THE THIRD FLEET.
Main Bridge, USS PHOENIX
Lieutenant Sidney Walker slid into the
Communications Officer’s seat on PHOENIX’s Bridge after officially
relieving the previous watch officer. She glanced around as she
firmly seated her personal earbug where it belonged and punched her
own code into the console. The console computer acknowledged her
right to issue it commands and a synopsis of the last hour’s
messages scrolled down the screen. It was the middle of the ship’s
"night," and there few other watch officers present. Navigation and
Helm, of course, were manned, as usual, and Sidney nodded to
Lieutenant (junior grade) Don Walker (no relation) at Navigation
when he smiled at her. Ensign Jared Fenwick’s back was to her at
Helm. Commander Stryker sat in the Command chair, studying something
on his console Sidney couldn’t see. The "chirp" as the
Communications Console recognized her brought his eyes up to her
station and he smiled absently at her before looking back down. The
Engineering Console was manned by someone she didn’t know. The
Science Station was empty.
The last message recap disappeared and
LT Walker settled in for a quiet watch. It would be a welcome change
from dealing with all the convoluted ins and outs of the last
mission. Sidney sighed. She hadn’t been involved with the M/V
Azure Sky or the asteroid that had belonged to Don somebody or
another or even the happenings on New Canton. In a way, she was
jealous of the other crew members; but that thought faded as she
remembered the results. Maybe an exciting deployment wasn’t all
it was cracked up to be, she thought to herself. There might
be something said for a sedate, unexciting, boring job. PHOENIX
was on a charting mission to an area called The Big Easy,
which, she mused, could certainly come under the classification of
Sidney had absolutely no idea why this
particular area of space was called The Big Easy and had come
up empty when she tried to research the name on the ship’s Main
Library Computer, except for a veiled reference to a city on Earth
that had been swallowed up 200 years ago by the Gulf of Mexico
during the rise of sea level caused by one of the planet’s many
warming spells. Little was known of The Big Easy as well,
except that there were star systems and, possibly, planets. It would
be the job of PHOENIX to find out16
for emergency traffic, which were always monitored; and those
assigned to Fleet usage, but most of them were used by anyone who
wanted to send a message from point A to point B. Each entity in the
Federation, whether it was a ship, a station or a planet, had an
assigned frequency. PHOENIX’s frequency was ABZ-452. The
interesting thing about them was that if the frequency was not being
used, there was a musical tone to the carrier. When you "Surfed the
Net" you programmed your communications scanner to randomly sample
different frequencies and impose a rhythm on the sampling. Sometimes
the combination of carrier tones would create a weird sort of
symphony that many Communication Officers enjoyed listening to. LT
Walker had never tried it, but it seemed like a fascinating thing to
do. She glanced around the Bridge once more. Satisfied that everyone
was busy with their own consoles, she instructed her console to
begin a random search of frequencies A-01 through ZZZZ-1000 with a
syncopated theme and to send the signal to her earbug.
Bridge, Imperial Ship Deathbringer
The Hsssttsk battlecruiser
Deathbringer was imitating a hole in space—and doing it quite
successfully. Only its passive sensors were operating, its engine
throttled down to a level that just barely operated the
environmental systems which kept the crew alive. Novice Warrior
Yklash made not a sound as he carefully scanned the multitude of
channels in subspace, looking for the telltale sign of life.
Although young for such an important post, Yklash was an
accomplished Communicator. He had already found two other
civilizations on this, his first voyage aboard a Hsssttsk warship.
Even now, other ships of the fleet were rounding up the beings he
had found to take them to the Home Planet and feed the millions and
millions of fellow Hsssttsks who were desperate for food. The fact
that the two civilizations were sentient beings, one of them with
spaceflight, was totally unimportant.
The Hsssttsk Queens—there were hundreds
of them now—were fertile and laid thousands of eggs at a time. Of
course, not all of them hatched. The Queen often made a meal of her
unborn offspring, especially since fewer and fewer Ghugh (the
favorite meal of a Hsssttsk) were being produced. Novice Warrior
Yklash didn’t know why that was; the question of why seldom crossed
his mind and, when it did, he spent very little time on it. The only
thing of any importance to a Hsssttsk, any Hsssttsk, was food—any
kind of food.
The ship had gouged a ten-mile-long
furrow in the grassy plain when it plowed into the planet. The once
powerful Jirzzaque warship now lay in three broken and smashed
sections, the bodies of its crew nothing more than crumpled forms
rotting in the bright sunlight. There were no survivors. There was
enough power left in the backup systems to transmit a weak
signal—and that wouldn’t last but a few more hours. The subspace
transmitted neither knew nor cared that the ship had crashed. It
simply fulfilled its designed purpose and sent out the
pre-programmed message over and over again.
Main Bridge, USS PHOENIX
Sidney quickly got bored with "Surfing
the Net." It was an interesting experience, but not one that excited
her. Maybe I’m not doing it right, she thought. Master
Chief Miller seemed to think it was great fun. What am I missing?
She reached out to the console and stopped the random sampling,
frowning as she thought hard. Suddenly an orange light appeared on
her screen. Sidney glanced at the readout and quickly entered the
frequency. Null? She thought. If it’s a null frequency,
why am I getting a signal? Honing in on the signal she boosted
the gain. The signal strengthened and she held her hand over the
earbug as though that would help her understand what she was
hearing. The signal was still weak even after she boosted it, but
Sidney managed to locate its origin in just a few seconds. She
listened for a moment, puzzled at the lack of intelligence in the
"Commander?" she called out.
Stryker looked up from his console.
"Commander, I have an incoming signal
on a null frequency." Walker tried to sound nonchalant, but it
wasn’t easy. For some reason, alarm bells were going off in her
head. She wasn’t prescient but she had learned long ago to listen
carefully to the little voice in her head that kept repeating
"Source?" Stryker asked.
"Two eight five by one three three by
zero one nine."
"Navigation, what’s on those
coordinates?" Stryker turned to look at Don Walker.
It took LTJG Walker a couple of minutes
before he could answer. "A class K star, Commander, with no
planetary system indicated—it’s an unexplored system."
"Still have it, Sidney?" Commander
Stryker turned back to the Communications Officer.
"Yes, Sir. Weak but steady. Nothing but
a tone. It sounds like it might be some sort of beacon."
Stryker leaned back in his chair and
absentmindedly stroked his goatee, his eyes unfocused as he
contemplated the information—or lack thereof—from Sidney and Don. It
took him less than 30 seconds to make a decision.
"Helm, plot a course to the signal
source. Warp 2. Estimated time of arrival?"
"Four hours, Sir," Fenwick answered
promptly. He had started to lay out a course as soon as Sidney
reported the bearing.
Stryker nodded and punched a button on
the arm of his chair. "Captain, this is the Bridge."
Captain T. E. Lawrence’s reply was
immediate even though she had been sound asleep. "This is the
"Captain, I have an unknown signal on a
null frequency classified as a beacon. The ship is at Warp 2 heading
for the origin coordinates. Estimated time of arrival is four
T. E. nodded then realized Stryker
couldn’t see her. "Good work, Commander. I’m on the way up."
Bridge, Imperial Ship Deathbringer
"Warrior Joat! I have an unknown
signal!" Yklash called out, his green skin flushing in his
excitement. Was this a third world he had found? If so, he would
surely be promoted and—Yklash licked his lips—given extra food.
The harsh voice of the captain
shattered his excitement. "Useless report! Do it right or you will
be my dinner!"
Yklash gulped. "Sir, I have an unknown
signal from an unexplored system approximately 100 light years from
"Nothing more?" The voice dripped with
"No, Warrior Joat. No other information
Without turning his head, the Hsssttsk
captain snapped at his helmsman. "Take us there! Now!"
The small animal sniffed at the body
and backed hastily away from the pungent smell. There was nothing to
eat here. It turned on its back legs and wandered off, oblivious to
the signal still being transmitted from the wreckage; a signal that
would trigger an encounter between two totally different
civilizations. The crews of both ships would soon learn that it can
get messy when worlds collide.