by Tony Saunders
available on Amazon
JJ Chadwick and Grant Mapps discover the power block, a unique drive system that is both a potent motive force and antigravity device all rolled into one. It uses no fuel, instead it utilises gravitational waves created by astral objects like stars, giant planets and black holes and makes almost all other forms of motive power on Earth redundant. Everything from cars, planes, ships and power stations use the environmentally friendly power block drive. Planet Earth in the mid-twenty-first century has started to recover from the destructive period of the Industrial Revolution that swept over the globe during the previous five hundred years almost destroying the planet in the process.
Chad and Grant build an interstellar vessel, the JJ Grant, utilising the power block drive and set out to explore Earth’s outer planets and beyond into the Milky Way.
They are shocked beyond imagination when they discover the ancient wreckage of an alien spacecraft, containing the remains of humanoid beings and recover a small communication device. For the first time they realise the human species is not alone. Even more shocking to them was to hear the sound of a beep from the device. First contact with the Thark, an alien species, was established. The Thark, a benevolent and highly advanced humanoid species, evolved many millions of years before humankind. Contact with the Thark results in friendship, knowledge beyond imagination and the warning of another species the Orrappa, more advanced than humans, who would if they could, take planet Earth for themselves. The Orrappa have been observing Earth for a long time and an invasion fleet has already set out on the four and a half light year voyage to invade planet Earth.
During the JJ Grant’s exploration of Earth’s outer planets two astonishing things happen, an Orrappa spy is discovered on board the JJ Grant. Hernani, the Orrappa spy, switches her allegiance to the JJ Grant and signs on as a member of Captain Chadwick’s crew.
The second surprise was finding an Orrappa warship abandoned and drifting in space, the ships drive damaged beyond repair.
Captain Chadwick, ever resourceful, salvages the Orrappa vessel by installing the spare drive from the JJ Grant, and appoints Grant Mapps as her captain who renames the vessel, the Helcon.
When the JJ Grant and Helcon return to Earth orbit, Chad tries to warn the world’s leaders of the impending Orrappa invasion force on its way to take over planet Earth.
The world’s political leaders are unable to conceive it possible that another species would invade Earth. Even if they did attack, they see the world as being quite able to defend itself.
Exasperated by the stupidity of the world’s leaders, Chad and Grant, with the backing of their crew, decide to face the approaching Orrappa invasion fleet alone. It is from this point that the story, Mixed Species, begins.
Captain Veerstop, of the Orrappa warship Dipertni, carefully examined the massive vessel on his screen. It had all the hallmarks of an unmanned autonomous ore carrier and her smooth contours and lack of any protrusions marked her out as a Thark design. Hmm, she’s right on time, an easy and prestigious target for which we will be well rewarded… if we can board her.
The difficulty was her speed, which exceeded his own ship’s cruising speed by at least fifteen per cent. It would mean pushing his ship’s drive far beyond its designed maximum and well into the red to match speed with the carrier. His ship would need to maintain that dangerously high speed for long enough to launch a lifeboat and put some technicians aboard the carrier.
If he could get his experts on board, they would break into the central control room, reduce the vessel’s speed and reset the navigation controls. However, if they failed to gain entry, they would have to abandon the operation and return to the lifeboat where he would have to pick them up later.
The big danger for him, and it was a significant danger, was that he would have to exceed the design specifications of his ship’s drive and risk its total destruction by taking the drive well into the red for a significant period. Orrappa drives were notoriously slow and weak. If his drive failed, then all would be lost. Nevertheless, the prize was tempting and the task possible.
Veerstop weighed up the odds whether to take the gamble or not. He looked at his number two. “What do you think?”
“We’ve done it before, but not with a ship as fast as the carrier,” he cautiously replied. “However, with a good pilot and technicians that know what they’re doing, it would work if we can get them on board.”
Veerstop drew a deep breath and made his decision. “Very well, we’ll chance it; you will lead the boarding party.”
The boarding party, comprising Veerstop’s number two, a pilot and three specialist engineering technicians were all fully suited up and sitting in the lifeboat with helmets on waiting launch instructions.
“Check all your kit again, we only get one shot at taking this ship,” the officer said over his suits intercom, watching as they laid out each piece of equipment. “With a bit of luck none of this will be needed.” Each of the technicians also wore a tool belt slung round their waists with a power driver, wire cutters and a selection of small tools.
The lifeboat had been specially adapted for this type of task and was equipped with four powerful rubberised electromagnet feet mounted on its landing gear and controlled by the pilot. They’d used electromagnets on similar hijackings in the past with great success. The captain’s voice came over their headsets, “Stand by, we have the carrier in sight, you should be able to pick her up on your screen.”
The design of an Orrappa warship was such that lifeboats docked externally to save space within the craft and ejected from the docking rig when needed.
The pilot responded, “I have her on screen, sir… she’s coming up fast.” The pilot watched his screen intently seeing the giant vessel relentlessly gaining on them. Now he could clearly see it quickly overhauling them. Within moments it was below him, there looked to be no end of it and seemed to go on forever. The pilot eased his lifeboat’s drive to maximum power, he had to launch at speed and at just the right moment. The passage of the enormous vessel began to slow beneath him as the Orrappa warship accelerated rapidly, attempting to match speed with the carrier. The captain’s voice on the speaker called, “On my mark undock.” A few moments of silence, the pilot’s fingers hovered over the switch, he heard the captain call, “Undock. Undock.”
Flicking the undocking switch, he barely felt the vibration of the clamps retracting, as the lifeboat broke free of the warship, its drive at full power and approached the carrier’s deck fast… a touch too fast and made a hard, jarring landing. The small vessel would have rebounded from the deck had it not been for the powerful electromagnetic pads which instantly clung to the smooth polished surface of the carrier’s deck, sliding along the deck shedding excess speed before coming to a halt. Moments later, the officer was bellowing over the intercom at the three technicians, “Come on move it, get out there and get to work.” The leading technician spotted the giveaway red and white striped access cover over the control centre and pointed to it, “Over there, sir.”
“OK, don’t stand there admiring it, get out there and get it open,” the officer bellowed. He and the technician awkwardly clumped their way, in their rubberised electromagnetic boots, to the access cover trailing their tethers behind them; the other two technicians remained with the lifeboat ready to bring out whatever tools they needed. Above them, the warship was fast falling behind unable to sustain the high speed.
The officer smiled to himself when he saw the two recessed lifting handles that only required raising into a vertical position and then turning through ninety degrees to release the hinged access panel. It took only moments for the technician to lower himself into the small control centre and located the ship’s tracking device. On the intercom he called, “I’m removing the tracker now.” Using the portable driver from his belt holster, he quickly removed the screws holding the tracker in place and passed it up to the officer.
“I need the course settings, sir.”
The officer handed down the data card and called on his intercom, “Reduce the vessel’s speed by fifteen per cent.” He watched as the technician made the adjustments. After a short time, the technician eased himself back up to the deck.
“All done, sir.” Together, they replaced the cover and locked it in place.
The officer tapped him on the shoulder, “Come on, the sooner we’re back on board the better.” Going back to the lifeboat was easier; they were able to pull themselves back using the tethers. Even as they reached the lifeboat, the slow shifting of the stars told them the vessel was slowly turning to take up its new course.
The officer, about to board the lifeboat, looked at the tracker in his hand, he could not keep it and neither could he smash it. Grinning to himself, he threw the tracker in the direction that the vessel had been travelling in. Let them chase after that.
Captain Veerstop broke out extra rations for the crew to celebrate the successful hijacking of the Thark carrier and her cargo of iron ore. “It’ll mean promotion for us all; you might even get your own command,” he said, raising his glass to his number two.
“Thanks, sir, nothing I’d like better. How’s the ship’s drive?”
“The chief says we were lucky, it’s none the worse for its mistreatment and is functioning normally.”
“That’s good, sir, it was certainly a bit of luck that we happened to spot her.”
Veerstop grinned, “No luck involved, number two, just good intelligence.”
“Really! You mean you knew the carrier’s route?”
Veerstop nodded. “Time, speed, course, destination and cargo.”
“That is amazing, sir, but what about Thark patrol vessels?”
Veerstop tapped his nose and grinned. “Yes, we know where they are too.”
“How’s that possible, sir?”
“Apparently our people have access to intelligence like this at the highest level.”
“That’s unbelievable, what happens now?”
“Now, we escort our prize back to Orrappa and spend time with our families before we have to go out for our next victim.” He savoured the thought of seeing his partner and family so soon again.
action & adventure