“Helm. Set course to follow the test route, speed 500 knots. Let me know when we are approaching the staging area.”
“Aye sir!” Replied the crewman.
Lee got up from his seat, patted Vincent on the shoulder to assure him all was under control and headed back to James’ console. “Keep an eye on the power levels to the number 3 coils as we test the repulser. I want to make sure that we stay on top of any spikes.”
“Are you thinkin’ dat she’s right about chargin’ da field?” James asked in return.
“Who’s right? She who?” Lee asked sarcastically. Trying to cover the fact that Mel had succeeded in unnerving him.
“Ya know darn good an well … she who! Mel! Do ya think she’s right?”
“No. I don’t think she’s right. But this late in the game, I don’t want to leave anything to chance. If something does happen, I want us to be right on top of it.”
“Okay. I’ll keep an eye on it.”
“Sir.” called out the helm, “We’re making final turn into the approach for the staging area. Our time to arrival is 4 minutes.”
Lee turned to the view screen and looked to see if he could spot the drone. They were supposed to begin an intersecting course with an unmanned drone to test the station’s ability to avoid any detection from the enemy. The drone they were racing toward was armed with dummy missiles and was programed to detect and fire upon the station when detected. The station’s orders were equally simple: avoid all detection.
They were still too far away to establish visual. “SOPHIA. Give me an inset view with tactical layout.” With that request, a corner of the view screen turned into a tactical layout showing the two vehicles on intersecting courses. “SOPHIA. Time to intersection?”
“The station will be within range of detection by the drone in 2 minutes and 47 seconds from mark.” A tone sounded to set the mark.
“Sound collision.” Lee commanded as he returned to his own seat and buckled up. “Third coil plasma gate FULL OPEN. Select seventy-five percent power to the repulser and stand by. Prepare to actuate on my mark.”
“I thought we were going to get a chance to see what this station could do.” demanded Vincent.
“And you are.” Lee countered. “But not this time out.” Turning away from Vincent Lee called out, “James, stand by.”
“Lee!” Vincent interrupted with an irritated tone. “Your data states that this station is capable of zero visibility at 95 percent. So why are we only going to 75 percent?”
Lee sighed showing his displeasure with the interruption. He knew that they didn’t have time for this argument right now. “Vincent, it could be dangerous for us to go to over 85 percent. This will be the first of many test flights. We’re not ready to go full power until we get more data. Data which we will collect this time out.”
“I came here to see everything this station is capable of, and that means going to full power. Or at least to 95 percent” Vincent demanded.
“Vincent, it’s not going to happen! This time, 75 percent is all we are going to do.” came Lee’s response with a more resolute tone in his voice.
“Detection is immanent! The drone will be able to establish missile lock in 45 seconds.”
“Repulser standing at ready!” said Harris
“Set power to 75 percent! Set frequency to 10,000 cps, range at one quarter mile, and hold!” said Lee as he turned back away from Vincent.
Vincent turned to Harris. Making eye contact with him he frowned and nodded. It was the signal that Harris hoped wouldn’t come.
“Drone has detected the station. The drone is attempting to lock on and prepare a firing solution.” reported SOPHIA.
“Actuate repulser now!”
Harris had over ridden engineering control from the tactical station. Sliding the control to 98 percent he hit the button to actuate the repulser and immediately a blinding flash of light, like looking directly at the sun, shot off the view screen, temporarily blinding almost everyone on the bridge. Everyone scrambled to buckle into their seats as the brilliant light began to fluctuate in increasing frequency, and the station began to buffet as if it were shaken violently. It felt like they had been placed in a giant paint mixer.
“Terminate repulser! Turn it OFF now!” commanded Lee in an unusually irritated and panicked voice. “What just happened!”
“Somebody hijacked da control! Wait a minute! Okay! It’s offline!” James said.
“Stabilizers and Dampers!” screamed Lee. “Get them online before this buffeting shakes us apart!”
Struggling to stay at his console James responded, “Dey’re online!”
“SOPHIA shows all systems are functional!” Mel added as she worked her console the best she could. As small as she was, even buckled in her seat, the violent bouncing of the station threw her around like a rag doll.
“Helm is not responding! We have no idea where we are!” Wallace reported in a frightened and frantic voice.
“James, the gyros! Are they operational?” Inquired Lee.
“Accordin ta dese indications, everything’s operatin within normal perimeters. Da station should be solid as a rock!” James responded.
“An overload in the third coil anti-mater containment is imminent. Anti-mater critical containment overload in 30 seconds.” interrupted SOPHIA.
“Cut power to the third coil repulser! Take it offline NOW!” Lee commanded.
“Third coil repulser’s offline!” reported James as he made his way to the coil control switches and turn number three off. The station bounced a few more times like an object in an avalanche trying to come to a rest, and then it was over.
“Get that containment stabilized. I want to know what happened NOW!” barked Lee.
“Containment is stabilizing.” reported Mel.
“Helm has power. Computing location, altitude, and attitude.” Wallace said, relieved that they were all still alive.
“All areas report damage.” Lee called out over the intercom. Then to Helm one and two, “Helm where are we?”