Imago – S01E03 “Pilot Part 3” – Act II

This entry is part 8 of 12 in the series Imago

“Red alert!” Gable bellowed as he stormed onto the bridge with Hala and Ambassador Rebina trailing behind him.

Phoebe appeared in a flashing haze of the holographic emitters rendering her. “The final docking point was disengaged the moment you cam on board, Commander. Weapons are charged, shields are standing by, and the navigational plotting you asked for is laid in.”

“Navigational plotting?” asked the Ambassador. She was adjusting a mantle of heavy plates of what looked like polished stone over her shoulders and chest. “You told me nothing about planning to leave—I shouldn’t be here. My people will not be safe if.”

“Method action, Ambassador.” Gable cut her off. We’re not running. But I want you up front and center when I contact Trenling.”

Rebina’s eyes narrow. “You know this Ex-Law, don’t you?”

Without his expression changing from its general storminess, Gable nodded. “He was an officer under my command. Until I just heard his voice again, I would have told you he was a good man. That’ll teach me for forgetting how much everything we lost can change a person.”

This admission made Rebina tilt her head. “Is that the cause of all the rumors I’ve heard about you, Commander? The war ended and you gained a strange and benevolent strain of insanity?” Gable didn’t reply and so she pressed. “Do you think you’re mad, Commander?”

“I think these are personal questions, Ambassador. I seem to remember not asking you why the Ex-Laws are after you. But yes, I’ve changed.” without missing a beat, his face changed a an odd amusement of a man with an idea forming in his head and asked, “Did you have butterflies on your homeworld?”

Rebina almost shook her head in shock at the sudden shift. “Excuse me?”

“Butterflies. A lot of worlds terraformed to support spacelings and our relatives like your people have them because they’re a major pollinator. The point is, they’re born as ugly, nasty worms that do nothing but eat and destroy plants. Then they wrap themselves into a cocoon and become an imago before eventually emerging as a colorful, vibrant and useful butterfly. If you want to categorize me, I’m still in my cocoon—that the Supreme Eye is my cocoon. Maybe I’ll die here. Maybe I’ll become something better. I suppose that’s why I went to so much trouble to get her in the first place.”

Before the Ambassador could respond to that, Gable nodded to Phoebe. “Hit the Ex-Law carrier’s ansible with a request for an audio-visual connection. Don’t give him any callsigns or any other fanfare, just ask for a connection.”

Phoebe nodded enthusiastically. “Sending now, Commander.”

“Captain.” Gable said automatically. He didn’t get a chance to expound upon his point, as the connection request went through almost immediately and a chest-up view of Nichol Trenling, who was sitting back in a captain’s chair with a cock-sure expression on his face, appeared on the large holographic projection that made up the primary forward view screen. He was an exceedingly handsome man with a strong chin and dark, curly hair he wore long and his skin was fair instead of a usual fish-belly pale of more spacelings..

“Attention unknown…” His expression collapsed into a mix of confusion, reverence, delight and nervousness. “Commander?”

“Lieutenant.” Gable inclined his head. “But I suppose we should both be saying ‘Captain’ now. As in Captain Adrian Gable of the Independent Carrier…” At this juncture, he looked to his left at Hala and PHOEBE’s projection, and to his right at the Ambassador and let a smile play at his lips, “Imago.

Any semblance of confidence and assurance in Trenling had been eroded and he was still struggling to build it back up. “Imag— Commander, is that the Supreme Eye? What happened to it?”

“Vinto Mors happened to her.” Gable said, settling back into seriousness. “A lot’s happened since the war, Captain Trenling—some things more favorable than others. For example, I hear that one of the best men ever to serve under me is hunting down refugees for a bunch of puffed up remnant bandits.”

Still composing himself, Trenling shook his head. “I always imagined that someone who rose up the ranks far enough to be the commander of a fleet, would understand more about what the Ex-Laws are trying to do. We aren’t bandits, we’re unifiers. We’re trying to bring stability back to the galaxies.”

“I think the Ghevet would probably beg to differ.” said Gable. “I know for a fact that the Ambassador does. Something about the Ex-Laws killing most of her family. I think you had better explain yourself.”

By now, seriousness had settled back around Trenling like a mantle. “The Ghevet are a special case. We have reliable intelligence that their royal family is withholding technology that could change everything; that the Ex-Laws could use to forge a new and greater Empire.”

Gable rubbed his face with the heel of his hand. “I don’t believe new empires are something I particularly want to see. Besides, do you know what exactly it is your superiors are after? I do—the Ambassador told me. It’s more likely to get you dead than make you some wealthy feudal lord. Trust me, it’s better for you to just bloom out of here and tell your command that the Ambassador is dead and her entire fleet destroyed.”

Shifting in his seat, Trenling leaned forward. “I can’t do that, Commander. Not only am I under orders, but I’ve served under you. I studied your tactics at the Officer’s Academy even before that. If there is anyone in any known galaxy that knows your tactics, it’s me. This is a ploy: either you’re stalling for time, ore trying to goad me into something.” He squinted as if trying to see through Gable’s eyes.

“Trying, maybe, to get me to move closer to bring my weapons into effective range… which would put me in range of that new spinal gun you’ve grafted onto the Eye. My advance sensors tell me you have nothing else in the way of weapons aside from point defenses, and my people on the station say you’ve taken on nothing in the way of military craft, so my rackoning say that spinat gun is a shield buster of some kind.”

He sat up straight and made a hand signal to one of his officers off-screen. “Your gambit won’t pay off this time, Commander. I doubt your big gun can target my entire complement of fighters and gunships as eaisly as it can my carrier.”

“Com…Captain.” PHOEBE corrected herself quickly. “The Ex-Law carrier is dropping shields over its primary docking bays and opening outer bay doors.”

Gable looked back at Trenling, seeing his former pilot looking cautiously smug. The man he’d known seemed to have been left behind years ago. “You know what to do, PHOEBE.”

Instantly, the connection with Trenling and the Sanguine Rain cut out. “I certainly do, Captain Gable.” the AI chirped. “I started opening the bloom core as you spoke. Fully open in fifteen seconds. Coordinates are already laid in.”

Outside, the plasma vents started opening and rotating into place while inside, the ring arrays surrounding the bloom core began firing their lasers into the plasmatic heart of the device.

Rebina turned toward PHOEBE, then back to Gable. “You’re blooming? That’s your big plan? Run making a run for it? We haven’t gotten all of my people aboard yet. At least give them time to tuck in next to use for the bloom—I notice that you positioned all the haulers for it.”

“We’re not stealing from you if that’s what you’re thinking.” said Gable. “And where we’re going, you wouldn’t want to bring civilian vessels “

Indignation rose and then fell in Rebina’s chest as her eyes widened. “Then Trenling was right. This is one of your exploits.”

“He was part right at least.” said Gable with a barely-there enigmatic smile.

At just that moment, the plasma vents started disgorging ribbons of high-energy matter that wrapped the newly re-christened Imago in a cocoon of purple-red.

“Initiating Rossin-Kilmeer-Baaks Bloom at zero relative velocity and zero relative acceleration.” PHOEBE announced, while also setting up the second and third parts of Gable’s strategy. “Mark: three… two… one. Initialize.”

The plasma flared brightly before collapsing, leaving nothingness in the wake of the blooming starship.

***

“Calculate the bloom telemetry from their plasma pattern.” Trenling said, the moment the Imago started its bloom. “I want to follow them the second we’re able to. But do not recall the scouts. Knowing Gable, he might have altered his feed to make it look like the Ambassador was on his bridge, then bloomed out with her still safely on board the station.”

His crew set to work following his orders as he watched the great carrier disappearing behind a curtain of plasma.

“You could have joined us, Adrian.” He murmured with a defeated sigh. “With your record, you could have made Fleet Comman—”

A tremor ran through the ship, followed closely by alarms filling the air with warning.

Ny-ja! What was that?” He commanded.

“No idea, Captain.” reported the Security Officer. “Sensors are reporting a gravic disruption and proximity alarms are going off up and down the starboard side of the main hull section. Switching to external views.”

When he did, the entire bridge went silent save for the alarms. Looming hugely in the starboard view, so close that someone might have been able to jump from the Sanguine Rain’s hull to it, was the Imago. More to the point, the Imago was fading into view instead of appearing in a blast of plasma as most exits from a bloom did.

Scarcely had it made its presence known than the ships point defense turrets opened fire—directly into the un-sheilded and fully open docking bays, where fully armed and fueled destroyed, gunships, and fighters sat waiting to launch. Allegedly safe in the belly of their carrier, they had no shields up and were quickly chewed apart by the defense turrets, exploding into maelstroms of shrapnel that touched off even more explosions.

Trenling leapt out of his seat. “Get those doors closed and the shlieds back online over that section! Lt. Behyan, how the shulka did a command carrier bloom in close enough to spit on us without detection?”

Behyan, a spaceling woman with dark, reddish hair tied back into a whipcord thin braid that reached the back of her knees, was hunched over her console. “I’m still trying to figure that our, sir. The only clue was a series of minor heat damage readings just before gravics and proximity were alerted. That may have been from the plasma burst, but visual records show the ship just… phasing into the visible spectrum.” She looked mildly disturbed. “Sir, I think they may have a cloaking device.”

***

Hala was gpaing at Gable, his eyebrows having risen so high that the tips were resting on his cheeks and the tops almost reached the crown of his head. “You have a cloaking device? On a ship this colossal?”

“Vinto Mors.” Gable said, this time with pride. “It’s the least efficient thing ever, and we can only run it for less than a minute before it starts draining shields, communications and basically everything on the exterior hull, but sometimes less than a minute is all you need if it’s a well-planned minute.

On the main holographic screen, which was currently displaying the blast doors of the Sanguine Rain’s starboard docking bay starting to close, a burst of sparks temporarily dominated the shot. A burst that did not come from inside the ship.

“What was that?” Rebina asked, stepping forward to get a better look as another burst flashed across the screen.

PHOEBE smiled. “That would be my contribution tot he Captain’s plan. We are positioned within fifty-seven yards of the Sanguine Rain’s hull. The shields of Imperial Battle Carriers require that much clearance to form the psuedo-solid barrier. Normally, if a smaller ship were in the way,t he effect would push them away. However, the Imago is far too massive for that and the shield is simply failing over and over.”

“I am becoming less and less skeptical of you by the hour, PHOEBE.” said Gable. “Now let’s send Trenling one last gift fom the Ghevet.”

“Yes, Captain, firing retrorockets now.”

Without even having to ask, Rebina made eye contact with Gable. “The haulers.”

“Even stripped of everything valuable, they’re still seven hundred tons of scrap metal with a guidance system.” Gable confirmed. “We might have been able to trade them at another port of call, but with so many refugees aboard, keeping mass and heat down is a bigger issue.”

As he spoke, the first of the haulers came into the main screen’s view. Its primary propulsion had been stirpped, but six positioning retrorockets were burning at full, hiving it just enough acceleration to break free of the weak gravity of the Imago and cross over into that of the Sanguine Rain.

It’s destination, and the destination of the eight others that followed it, was the slowly closing apertures leading into the docking bays. Someone on the Ex-Laws ship must have disabled the safety mechanisms on the doors, as they were closing rapidly, but not rapidly enough.

Tons of metal slammed rained relative down, hitting the doors, the hull plating around them, and in many cases managing to crash through the opening into the the ever-expanding chaos inside. But most importantly, they stuck. The jammed themselves between the bay doors and their closed position and were ground into place by the safety-disabled doors, becoming building-sized doorstops.

Gable gave a satisfied smirk, then nodded to Phoebe, who didn’t need to be told that he wanted to be reconnected with Trenling.

When the connection went through, it was evident that the Ex-Law Captain was trying to hold his composure to a degree that dwarfed several times over the emotions he tried to conceal upon seeing Gable.

“Captain.” Gable said with faux amiability. “It appears you’ve had an accident in your primary docking bay. That can be very bad for a battle carrier—all that fuel and ammo in there. Even with the best armored airlocks, I’m afraid your ship will be leaking atmosphere unless you managed to seal your outer doors.”

Trenling stopped trying to hold it in. “Do you have any idea how many of my men were in that bay, Commander? How many of them were ex-loyalists just like us?”

Gable made eye contact and refused to break it. “Do you know how many people were in those refugee fleets? Given how nearly their entire planet was at war, you might have been driving them to extinction. Did you think about that, Lieutenant? Did you or I think about that when we, in this ship, coordinated orbital bombings of cities, nations—even continents that the Empire decided needed ‘pacification’?”

He stepped around his console and walked toward the screen. “Every one of the people we murdered, every one of the people the Zact or the Theiepoles or the Carrigs murdered for conquest had storied just like your men. And I mourn your people, just as much as I mourn Frough, and Demmpseki, and Meyrth.”

Trenling’s face went red. “Don’t you bring Mey—”

But Gable talked right over him. “But the difference between the people on your ship and the ones I’ve taken onto mine is that yours had a choice!” By now, he was roaring. If he could have, he would have gotten directly in Trenling’s face. A second later, he caught himself and visibly struggled to rein in, as red-faced as Trenling and shaking besides. After a moment of quiet, which extended even to the bridge crew of the Rain, he licked his lips and spoke again:

“Some of them are still going to be alive in the bay, Nichol. If you care about them so much, then you need to get to them and I promise you that your fire crews and space walking teams will have zero chance of doing so with my turrets pouring fire into that bay. If you start calculating right now, you can bloom somewhere friendly in time to save them. You have my word that I will not gauge your pattern. I will not pursue.”

For a long moment, the two captains stared at one another. Then Trenling nodded. “You’re right, Commander. About a lot of things.” He looked to someone off screen. “Navigation, begin calculating for bloom to Forward Five.” then his attention was back on Gable, or rather looking past him at Rebina. “I know you were bluffing, Commander. You have no idea what it is we’re looking for. But believe me, this isn’t the end. We will come after her and any other Ghevet Royals still living. I’ll be with them. This is too important.”

Gable inclined his head. “Then I suppose we’ll be seeing a lot of each other then, Nichol. Imago out.”

He stepped back as PHOEBE killed the connection and waved a hand to her. “Take us out of range of their plasma vents” With that said, nodded to Rebina and Halas and started toward the doors tot he bridge. “Are my quarters…”

“Intact, Captain?”

“Yes.”

“I’m afraid Saadis Vinto converted it to a lounge very early on.”

“Does that mean there’s liquor?”

PHOEBE nodded enthusiastically. “Over three hundred varieties!”

Gable closed his eyes and hit the plate that opened the doors. “Good.”

Series Navigation<< Imago – S01E03 “Pilot Part 3” – Act IImago – S01E03 “Pilot Part 3” – Act III >>

About Vaal

Landon Porter is the author of The Descendants and Rune Breaker. Follow him on Twitter @ParadoxOmni or sign up for his newsletter.

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6 Comments

  1. The typos, they’re back! And they brought friends!

    be safe if.”
    Since she’s being cut off an ellipsis (…) might work better here IMO.

    usual fish-belly pale of more spacelings..
    most spacelings.

    Any semblance of confidence and assurance in Trenling had been eroded
    Sounds wrong. ‘Any semblance’ implies it’s all gone, ‘eroded’ implies there’s some remaining. One of these needs to change.

    ore trying to goad
    or trying

    so my rackoning say
    reckoning says

    next to use for the
    us

    un-sheilded
    unshielded (i before e, lose the hyphen)

    fueled destroyed, gunships, and fighters
    destroyers,

    contribution tot he
    to the

    way,t he
    way, the

    that our, sir.
    out,

    had been stirpped,
    stripped,

    hiving it just
    giving

    It’s destination
    Its

    shlieds back online
    shields

    slammed rained relative down,
    I suspect you could lose ‘rained relative’ here. Some sort of change, anyway.

    The jammed themselves
    They

  2. Is there an episode 2 act 3? I seem to be missing part of the story and I can’t find it.

  3. Gable fails at entomology. Imago is the fully developed adult form of an insect.

    Also in part 2 act III there’s the phrase ‘fuel payload’ which should probably be ‘fuel capacity’ as a vessel’s fuel is not payload but for their own consumption. After all ‘payload’ is the load you get paid for, meaning cargo and passengers.

    • More like Vaal and by extension, his Middle school education fail at it. I was always taught larva – imago/pupa – adult

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