01649: Fast Fiction - The Lighthouse (Part 2)

The stations had little to speak of in terms of armament - the designers figured that they would represent open trading ports best left defended by its many customers passing through. But with the Lighthouse months away from it's next scheduled trader, the promise of help was not thing they could expect anytime soon.

But what the station lacked in weapons, it made up for in shields. The generators on the station were supposed to be strong enough to withstand a star going nova - although no one had ever tested that. But in the three days since the alien vessel arrived, the shields have held strong.

Although the bigger reason for that is the fact that the aliens have not made any movements since they arrived. After warping in, they had maintained a steady holding pattern just beyond the range of the stations limited laser cannons. Every few hours it would bark out the same unintelligible communication. And the nothing else.

The internal comm sputtered to life with Big Tom's booming voice down in stations engine room. "The engines will hold, Pa, but I don't know for how long. We've never kept the shields running at full strength this long. It's just been too long since we made these kinds of demands on the core."

Rexford carefully considered his options - which were sadly limited. The aliens continued to jam all communications and it would take the nearest output at least another week before they'd notice that they had dropped out of the network completely. They had no real weapons that could do a decent amount of damage against a ship that size - assuming that the cannons still worked at all.

Rexford jabbed at his control panel to open another internal channel. "Talk to me Max - give me good news" It took a while before he responded - from the sounds of it Max had probably run all the way back to the comm port. "Pa...sorry...still...working." he panted. "I need a better idea of what you're up to down there." he replied calmly. One could clearly hear the young man catching his breath before continuing. "I'm trying to convert one of the dead laser cannons into...something. Hopefully a decent transmitter focus. Or a scanner. Not really sure if this will work. But we might be able to punch through the interference...or get a better look at our big bad friend."

Lasers could theoretically function as a decent line-of-sight style transmitter, but that would still be limited by the speed of light. That still mean the message might reach the next outpost a few years too late - assuming they could align things right. But at least that would give them a chance for last messages, maybe? Without firing a single shot, the aliens had already inspired a lot of them to start thinking of these next moments as potentially their last.

But to be fair, this was never a surprise. They knew that when they opted to stay at the Lighthouse despite the recommendations from Command to relocate, they were in for the long haul. and without regular traffic from other human vessels, it was inevitable that someone would take advantage of their isolation. No one had considered the possibility of aliens though.

The whole station seemed to shudder a bit as the lights dimmed for a moment. As power returned to full, Rexford's fingers were already dancing across his control panel to figure out what just happened. "What the heck was that, Tom?" he barked into the comm. But looking at the readouts, he didn't really need to wait for Big Tom. There were power drops all over the station as the system was attempting to compensate for a significant drop in load capacity. Shields were down to 70% and the number 3 reactor's indicator lights were flashing red.

The comm came back to life, but it wasn't Big Tom. "Pa!" Max screamed, "I lost the cannon array in this section. The systems overloaded when the power came back. We're headed to the Core to check on Big Tom - he isn't answering his comm."

Rexford felt his heart lead into his throat. My son!

To be continued...