Burning Bridges - Chapter 2

TNS Galahad 
Ross 154 System
29 September 2142

"Ma'am, I'm detecting a trans-D threshold," Crewman Fayola Mbeki said. Heading one-zero-two by plus-one-zero, distance ... 500 kilometers."

"Birds," Kim Masterson said. "Sound general quarters." As an alarm klaxon began blaring, she continued, "Helm, make our course two-six-zero by minus-one-six, distance two kilomters. Put the asteroid between us and them."

"Aye aye. Setting course," the helmsman said.

"Crewman Mbeki, disable active sensors, but keep our passive sensors trained on the threshold. As soon as you read ships, let me know what we've got."

The klaxon ceased. "Aye, ma'am. How many are we expecting?" she asked.

"No idea," Kim said. "But it's probably the same number that hit the outpost the first time."

"Ma'am, we're in position behind the asteroid," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Amiyah Khan, who sat at helm.

"Acknowledged, Khan. Rig us for low emissions." 

"Aye aye, rigging for low emissions," Khan said. The ship's lights dimmed, several uncrewed consoles on the bridge powered down, and Kim floated into her chair's harnesses as the ship's artificial gravity systems shut down. "We'll have about two hours before we have to vent the ship's heat sinks."

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Burning Bridges - Chapter 1

28 September 2142

Kalis sneered at the dish of chicken and rice that Dr. Edward Sergas had left on her bedside tray. It had gone cold hours ago, but the doctor seemed to hope she'd change her mind and eat eventually.

"Eddie tells me you're not eating." Alex walked into the sickbay and took a seat on the side of Kalis' bed near the door. "But I'm a hopeless optimist, so I thought I'd ask if you wanted to grab something at the officers' mess. It's still starship food, but the chef knows his way around the spice rack, and he makes a mean chili."

"Not really hungry," Kalis said.

Read more: Burning Bridges - Chapter 1

Burning Bridges - Prologue

Ross 154 Research Outpost
22 September 2142

Kalis Hansen Vilneaux drew in a breath of cold, thin air, and realized she was still alive.

She tried to open her eyes, but they were stuck shut. She tried to swallow, but she didn't have enough saliva for it. The taste of vomit hung in her mouth and mixed with the coppery odor of blood to assault her nostrils. She could move her arms, but they were reluctant, and they hurt. She tried her legs next: they wouldn't move, and they didn't hurt. She hoped they were only pinned -- she didn't want to think of the alternative.

She and her husband, John, had been eating an expensive sushi dinner. She had made a breakthrough in her nanobiology research, and he had just secured a budget to make a documentary on the Altered's exodus from Luna back in the 2120s. They had reason to celebrate, at least until the alarm klaxons started blaring. The outpost's location was supposed to be a secret — one asteroid among tens of thousands in a field orbiting an ordinary M-class star — but somehow the Birds had found it.

"John?" Kalis' voice croaked, and her vocal cords felt raw. Had she been screaming?

Then she remembered.

She and John had run for shelter. The Birds had begun hammering the outpost -- first its defenses, which offered little resistance, then the base itself. The asteroid offered little protection, and an attack knocked both of them off their feet. John regained his footing more quickly, turned around as if to help Kalis back to her feet —

— and disappeared in a flash of blue-white flame so bright it blinded Kalis for several seconds. When she at last blinked it off, she looked around, frantically, hoping that the burst of plasma from the ruptured conduit had somehow not disintegrated her husband in a thousandth of a second.

She remembered, and she began screaming again, as loud as she had screamed when the outpost's walls and the asteroid had collapsed around her.

Read more: Burning Bridges - Prologue