INT – DAY – Bridge of star-liner Borealis
The spacious bridge is full of busy, stressed-looking people trying to figure out what their situation is, pouring over sensor data, internal system monitors and readouts, and status reports from throughout the ship. The captain, a slender, dark-skinned, dapper man in immaculate uniform sitting in the command chair, looks worried. A middle-aged woman, the FIRST OFFICER, approaches him in a uniform with several stripes on the sleeves, also looking worried.
First Officer: Captain, the passengers are getting restless. They’d REALLY like to know what the situation is.
Captain Soto: I would, too… I suppose I’d better say SOMETHING official, if only to quiet them down for a bit.
He looks to one of the younger techs on the bridge, a young man with no insignia on his uniform.
Captain Soto: Put me on ship-wide.
He composes himself, sitting upright, making sure his uniform is correct for a moment. The First Officer looks him over, nods approval as he puts a polite, in-control smile on his face. He nods to the tech. The tech motions a count-down with his fingers, 3, 2, 1, and points at him.
Capt Soto: Greetings, passengers and crew. This is Captain Soto… As you know, subspace conditions forced us off our planned course. We have transitioned into normal space in a system that only recently came back out of the Deep. We do not see any signs of human activity, but we have not suffered any damage to the drives, or any other critical systems. We are fine for now, only delayed in reaching port. The system we are in has a partially terraformed world and is not unknown to us, though current data is sketchy. I’m sure the swirl that drove us in here will pass in due course, and we can be on our way. Typically they last for no more than a week, and we have supplies for far longer than that. Until we know more, out of an abundance of caution more than fear, standard policy is that food rationing will be required, but I’m sure it will not be necessary for long. In the meantime, please feel free to use all the recreational and entertainment facilities, and move about as you normally would. I will keep everyone up to date if there are any new developments. Thank you for your attention.
He smiles a confident, reassuring smile into the camera. The young tech signals him that he’s off camera. The captain slumps.
Captain Soto: Anything? Anything at ALL?
Several of the people on the bridge turn to him and make apologetic shrugs, frowns, or head-shakes, as if to say “no, everything still sucks.”
Long Range Sensor Tech: Sir. Records say this is a failed terraforming operation, but I’m seeing a long line of gas transport spheres between the gas giant and the second planet. LOTS of them. Barely visible on the far side, just coming out from behind the star.
First Officer: Could be on total automatic.
LRST: Maybe, but THOUSANDS?
Captain Soto: Check again.
LRST: I DID. Three times. I’m pretty sure the readings are good.
First Officer: Anything new on subspace?
Transition tech: Nothing good. Still getting worse. Can’t leave for at LEAST two weeks if the pattern is typical. Possibly much longer.
Captain Soto: (resignedly, as if accepting fate and trying to put a best face on it, to the First Officer) Any gut feelings? Visit the gas giant first for the view, or the second planet looking for people? May as well take a tour if we are going to be here for a while.
First Officer: I’d rather avoid a robo-moon if we can. Lots of moons at the gas giant for viewing. No need to scare anyone if we don’t have to.
Captain Soto: AND we can say we are keeping farther from the star to make a faster jump when we need to. Good. Plot a course, lay it in.
EXT – NIGHT – Space, in high orbit above a gas giant
The star-liner Borealis is floating in space. A large, fancy ship, with lots of windows, projections, and details, it it viewing the gas giant and it’s numerous moons. The light from the distant sun is dim, but the shadows are sharp. There are also a large number of spherical white dots sinking into the atmosphere of the giant planet, some rising out, and a long line of them stretching off into space sunward, disappearing into the distance toward the shining dot of the second planet.
First Officer: (VO) Below is the fourth planet, a typical gas giant, a bit smaller than Jupiter. There are 55 moon, though most of them are little more than big rocks. The string of pearls you see, as they are commonly called, are automated gas transport spheres used in terraforming. They are a bit more than a kilometer in diameter. They sink deep into the atmosphere, and use the natural air pressure to fill them with hydrogen for-
INT – NIGHT – Lounge with large windows
There are a small crowd of various passengers, comfortably attired and mostly sitting looking out the viewing ports, listening to the description narrated by the First Officer. Among them are Penger Trask and his wife, reclining and watching the GTSs and gas giant.
First Officer: (VO, continued) -mixing with oxygen liberated from the crustal rocks to make water, back on a world being created. On the planet surface, internal pressure forces it out, so no pumping is required, just very large valves. The Chorleywood-Fairchild process, as it is called, is a critical part of terraforming. Silicate rocks are typically about two thirds oxygen by weight, and each terraforming platform can produce over a cubic kilometer of water a day. Carbonate and other carbon-bearing rocks are also extensively processed, as they yield massive amounts of carbon dioxide, critical for establishing plant growth on a planetary basis. The various mineral byproducts can also be used in supplying manufacturing elements. It is usually expected to take centuries, and dozens to hundreds of terraforming platforms working full time, before a world can be totally self-sustaining, with balanced water, carbon, and heat cycles.
While she talks, the passengers watch what’s moving around before them, and occasionally point things out to their companions.
INT – NIGHT – Bridge of star-liner Borealis
The first officer sits in the command chair. The captain is not present. There are fewer people on duty, and the lighting is dimmer than before, subdued. They all look tired. One of the men at a console suddenly sits upright sharply, and starts adjusting controls on the displays before him. The First Officer looks at him inquiringly.
First Officer: What?
Sensor Tech: Got something headed this way. HOT. Coming from the second planet’s biggest moon. NOT a GTS. Drive signature doesn’t match anything on record. Acceleration is more than four times our max… and increasing.
First Officer: Oh, shit. Wake the captain. NOW. ETA?
Sensor Tech: Couple of hours just passing at speed, maybe six if it matches vectors.
The First Officer looks at the pilot inquiringly.
Pilot: ZERO chance of transitioning in the next week, Ma’m. Gotta meet ‘em.
INT – NIGHT – Bridge of star-liner Borealis
On screen, at full magnification, is Tajemnica, still small in the distance, but some detail can be seen. She is sporting a full complement of turrets, half of which are flush with the hull using replacement “turret hatches”, half of which are attached grav tanks, with armor slabs shifted around them. There are a dozen missile launch pods attached to various hard-points around her hull. She is barely recognizable, looking sinister and deadly in the dim starlight and sharp shadows, the glow of space being beaten into submission by her drives looks almost like her own personal escort of demons swarming about her as the field pulses and shifts. Captain Soto and the full bridge crew are now on the bridge, alert and VERY concerned looking.
Sensor tech: Holy-… Deceleration increasing. Going to JUST miss. Barely. If nothing changes.
On the screen, the image grows, and the glow about her intensifies.
Com Tech: Still no response to hails.
First officer: Should we inform the passengers, sir?
Captain Soto: Of WHAT? We’re about to die? We have a UFO? We’re stuck here for at LEAST a month, and that’s almost all the food we have? We have an ancient Orion-class warship we can’t possibly outrun screaming down on us, with unknown intent, from an old robot military base? Ignorant, happy, and quiet is fine by me. Crew is already on alert for “a drill.”
First Officer: Right, sir. Wait it is.
They watch tensely as it gets closer and larger, and glows even more brightly. They look from the screens to where they can see it with the unaided eye out the portholes. Tajemnica seems to come rapidly out of the darkness, growing from a glowing dot into a full-sized ship surrounded by its own blazing aurora in moments. Everyone on the bridge inhales sharply, winces, and braces in anticipation of a collision that doesn’t come. Tajemnica comes to a full stop, hanging in the very near distance, nearly nose-to-nose, glow-free.
Com Tech: Signal, sir!
The main screen changes from an external camera view of Tajemnica to Helton, standing at the command station, nothing but blank bulkhead behind him. He’s dressed casually, unshaven, a little rough looking, but smiling and cheerful.
Helton: Welcome to Piper! Sorry if we gave you a scare. Ship just got a tune up, wanted to see what she could do. Need a lift?
INT – DAY – Tajemnica bridge
Helton: Sure this’ll work?
Stenson: (OC) No. Not SURE about any of this. But the Colonel REALLY wants to get back out of The Deep to follow up on that contract message the Borealis had.
Quiritis: We’re as ready as we’ll ever be. Give the word.
Bipasha: Smart-ass captain for a smart-ass ship.
Helton: What’s the word, then? Can’t use “engage” ‘cause I’m married. How about “time to swim in The Deep end.”
Allonia: I like that.
Quiritis nods, and works the controls.
EXT – NIGHT – Space, in high orbit above a gas giant
The star-liner Borealis is floating in space, gas giant now far away in the background. Right beside her floats Tajemnica, looking tiny and insignificant. Space around the Borealis glows a bit, and then space starts glowing much more intensely around Tajemnica. The drive fields intersect and interfere with each other, and the field from Tajemnica extends and grows, enveloping the star-liner, growing more intense as it goes. The interference patterns brighten, then with a flash they disappear as the fields lock together. A bit more intensifying and spreading, then as it pulls in tighter around the two ships, they wink out of this universe, and the field dies away.
Fade to black