A-Crux of Dragons – Chapter 2

President Leonel Hernandez had been looking forward to today.  After decades of lobbying, years of construction and testing, and with a little luck, The Nina was ready to launch the people he led into a new era of exploration and science. Today was supposed to be the celebration of the work his family had been focused on for generations!

But a dark cloud hung over his head as he finished changing and preparing to face the public at the launch ceremony.  He was supposed to be announcing a mission to explore, to open doors to new avenues of peace, prosperity and growth, but instead he would be breaking the news to his nation that one of their colonies had apparently been attacked and destroyed by an unknown assailant.

The people already knew it had happened.  When comm traffic from eight million souls suddenly goes dark, everyone starts looking for answers.  His people knew that the media already had the footage from the secure S.O.S. in hand thanks to hackers all over the planets, they were mercifully holding it back from the public in an apparent test to see what their President would do in a few minutes.

8,235,302 known souls had been on Kranos Delta.  The colony had been the first true success of interstellar expansion beyond the Great Exodus and after the Super Nova’s dark years.  250,000 settlers had found a way to make the planet a home, build a lush, beautiful world, and begin their own expansion to the moons and other planets in the system.  At last count, the system had been home to just over 11 million souls on two planets, 18 moons and a handful of space stations.

The last of which had fallen dark about two hours after the initial attack.

Hernandez now wrestled with the duty he had to perform.  The Nina was the only ship capable of getting to Kranos Delta within any reasonable hope of helping any survivors.  All the fleets other FTL ships were either heading in the wrong direction or not in a position to enter any of the streams that would lead them to Kranos. 

“Damn physics!”  Hernandez cursed out-loud as he reconsidered options he had poured over all night. He slammed his fist into the console as he stood and walked to the window facing the Gardens of Hope and Endurance.

He was thankful for the covering on the window’s outer panes which blocked him from outside viewers.  Both gardens were packed with families who’d come to see The Nina’s launch and celebrate the events of the day. 

From his apartment eight stories above the gardens, he could only see the mass of bodies moving around.  Touching the controls, he magnified the natural image so that he could see the people and their faces.  He smiled as a group of children ran through the crowd chasing one of the many insects that called the gardens home.  They were innocent, playful, happy.  Would that change when he began to speak?  Would the images they planned to show taint them forever?

He turned his attention the adults.  There was an excitement in their faces, but it was a guarded excitement.  It’s as if many of them knew that today’s launch wouldn’t completely be the celebration they’d come to see.

Hernandez closed the image returning the window to a natural view and opened another set of controls.  He needed counsel, guidance.  He needed to hear what someone with more experience would do today.

John had been working in his office, adjacent to the ship’s chapel to wait out the final few minutes before he would be expected on the bridge for the launch ceremony.  He’d come back here partly because he expected the notification that had just started flashing on his console to come. 

‘Incoming Transmission:  Secure 1A1 – Office of President L. Hernandez’

Tapping the control, John grinned at the young man as his holo image filled the empty space in the room.  “Cutting it a little closer, aren’t we?”

“What, the ceremony doesn’t begin for 20 minutes, neither of us are more than 45 seconds from where we’ll need to be when it begins.” Hernandez quipped back in a failed attempt to hide his nerves.  He stood there looking at his old mentor’s image in his own apartment for a moment before sighing.

“Yeah ok, it is a little close.  I was really trying not to bug you today, but I am at a loss of what to do or say in a few moments.” Hernandez turned again and looked out the window, thinking of the kids he’d been watching moments before. “How do I tell a nation that 1/5 of them are likely dead and gone?”

John himself stood and strolled around his office to look out at the chapel. When he had brought the ancient sanctuary program online only three candles were lit, now John wasn’t sure that there was a single one unlit. The crew was obviously mourning, hurting, and looking for answers, yet in his short walk around the ship he found them to also be determined, focused, and ready.  Oh, there would come a time when the pain took its toll, but for now these people were only focused on finding answers and, hopefully, saving lives.

“Leo, just be honest. The people are resilient and they won’t take this loss lying down.  I feel you’ll find that the masses will demand answers and will do whatever it takes to find them.  While I HATE to take a victory in such tragedy, this might be the push you need to expand the exploration and expansion program to a point that we might finally relocate Earth!” John internally chastised himself for the amount of hope he vocalize in that last sentence. If he was to ever escape the prison of this body, the torture of living until Christ’s eventual return, humanity would have to return to Earth and restore the temple. Right now, with the coordinates of Earth’s star lost to the Super Nova, John’s freedom from living seemed like only a dream.

The Gardens of Hope and Endurance hosted vastly different groups of people for the day’s celebration and ceremonies. The Garden of Hope, being a public space for play, communing, and social events hosts the general public, many of whom were unaware of the events in the Kranos System. There had been passing conversations of missed calls and broken news feeds, but such things happened from time to time when you were dealing with a few dozen light-years in distance.

So, for the most part, the people gathering in the Garden of Hope were playful and light. Laughter and anticipation filled the Meadows and bounced off the canopies above. Children ran and played, chasing butterflies and picking flowers while laughing and enjoying their day. It was truly a place that was living up to its name as the hopes and dreams of so many seemed to energize the air.

Those gathered in the Garden of Endurance were not so lucky. Their hushed tones, solemn demeanor, and occasional tears spoke volumes about the burden of government over that of the people.

Many here had witnessed those distress calls, had heard the screams, and would endure nightmares for years to come simply because they had been chosen to lead the people. None of them, though, had signed up to watch millions perish and not be in a position to do anything about it.

Across the A-Crux system, the scenes between the two gardens played out over and over as the general public stood unaware of the horrors their military and their government had witnessed just hours before.

President Leonel Hernandez was about to crush many dreams, about to scare many people. He too had not signed up for this.

Foregoing much of the pomp and circumstance that would normally proceed his arrival at such a ceremony, Hernandez merely checked that Captain Dawn and her crew were ready before quietly making his way to the podium.

Doing so in such a manner caused the system of A-Crux to fall into a silence not heard since before their forefathers had entered the system all those generations ago to make a new home for themselves.

Hernandez looked out over the crowds, careful to avoid eye contact as much as possible as he stilled his nerves.

“My fellow mankind, believers of the Word, followers of Christ, and keeper of the way of the Cross. Today will be a good day, even though yesterday tragically was not.” Taking a new moment to still his nerves, Hernandez noted a soft murmur from the crowd below.

“At 3:26 A.M. Prime Standard Time yesterday morning, we received a distress call from Kranos Delta. In the hours that followed into early this morning, all communications from the Kranos System have gone dark and due to images seen by many in the government and military, we are currently under the belief that all souls in the system have been lost.”

The murmur turned into a roar of wailing and anger. Hernandez had expected as much and allowed a moment for everyone to express their initial shock at the news.

Holding his hands up, he softly began again. “Obviously, the celebrations of today will be postponed, but the launching of The Nina will continue with one vital change in mission. Captain Dawn and her crew will head directly to the Kranos System and begin searching for answers. We will find out who or what is responsible for these attacks and we will then determine what is to come next.”

Hernandez stopped short of declaring that military action would be taken solely because he was afraid whoever or whatever had attacked Kranos would outmatch anything he had at his disposal currently.

“So with a heavy heart, but all the support and love of our people here at home and across the skies, Captain Sarah Dawn, I give you permission to leave space dock and begin your journey.  One day that journey will be to explore and expand knowledge, but today your journey is to find truth and break closure for everyone who remains.  Seek out first any who you might be able to save and help, and second the clues needed to find who or watch caused so much suffering.  God speed Captain and Crew of The Nina.

Lieutenant Jeffery Post sat at his console, quietly listening to the comm traffic from the President’s personal guard.  Any minute he knew the call would come that the President was ready to begin the ceremony and he knew Captain Dawn did not want there to be any delay because of the ship’s status.

While he was waiting, he checked over the communication systems for the thirtieth time in half-an-hour. He kept telling himself to believe the diagnostics, after-all this is a new ship, but he still feared there would be something crop up to interrupt the proceedings.

“Nina, the President is making his 3mway to the door.” Post heard through the chatter.

“Confirmed.”  Turning in his seat, he looked down to the Command Well’s center seat. “Captain, he’s headed out.”

Standing, Captain Dawn stepped forward to the true center of the bridge, “Thanks Lt.  Shipwide please.”

Post turned back to his console, tapped a few control and silently motioned to the Captain the channel was open.

“Alright people, this is it. The President is headed up to the podium, let’s be ready for a faster launch than expected. Start your pre-flights now and report by text to the bridge. I want go/no-go in five minutes.” 

Post, who had turned to watch the Captain speak nodded as she signaled for the channel to be closed and tapped the commands without looking.

“Lt. Signal me as soon as we get the reports from all stations, preferably with something discrete.”

“Yes ma’am.” Pausing to listen to traffic from the President’s team as he turned to watch the reports come in, “Ma’am, the President is ready to begin.”

“Look professional folks. Lt., bring it up on all viewers.”

Working the controls, he watched the last Go report come in. Before opening the official channel, he looked at his Captain once more, “And Ma’am, go.”

As the President’s image came on screen, the Captain responded to Post with a behind the back thumbs up as she nodded silently to President Hernandez.

Not ten minutes later, Post was confirming with Station Control their clearance for launch and signaling for all mornings and umbilicals to be retracted.

The crew each in turn focused on their tasks as they slowly eased away from the dock and began to build up speed on course for their Leaping Point. Inwardly, Post was sad to leave A-Crux behind, be he was excited to be headed into the unknown. As he secured his station for the Leap to the string, he wondered if the work would truly be worth the sacrifice of leaving so much behind.

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