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The Starship MOSES Incident

©03 Levite

(Christian Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy Adventure)

        (Note from Flag Officer Review Board: This report is an attempt to bring a matter that has become something of a fleet legend to rights as a curious, but not completely outrageous incident. Some of the following information may be somewhat subjective, but all has been reviewed and is considered accurate as far as the Board can tell. Deputy Admiral Jackson VonDeSagen, reviewing officer.)

        The fleet class frigate, the Commander Winestrap H. Moses was on deep space patrol when word flashed across the channels that a major border incident had occurred with the Daimieon Triumvirate and a state of open war was now declared. All patrols were now recalled at best speed to United Space proper.

        "We're on the wrong side of the line." Lieutenant Hastings said from the navigation station. "And I don't see a way through."
        Captain Mfstra glanced at the display. "Is there any way around the area of general conflict?"
        The navigator touched a few controls and shook his head.
        "We were just scanned by a Daimon cruiser. Going to evasion course Tango."
        "Continue." Captain Mfstra nodded to the pilot. "Tactical Officer to the Bridge." She said to the intercom.
        In a minute the voice of the tactical officer announced he was on his way.
        "I'm getting some Daimon crosstalk, there is a flight of fighters looking for us less than a parsec away." Ensign Baker talked as he listened to the enemy communications.
        "Pilot, set course 221. We'll see if we can duck out of sight in that dustcloud."
        "Yess'm." Ensign Moorish replied.

        They flew to the very edge of the cloud and slowed to a few hundred metres per minute. Gliding into the cloud so as to not disturb it. Unfortunately, while the cloud would conceal them from any casual scans by their enemy, it would also prevent them from watching for Daimon ships.
        "Plot the best course to friendly territory." Lieutenant Burris asked Hastings.
        "There is no best course sir. Even to make a run to neutral space would take us right through heavily defended areas. We are in about the worst possible location to be stranded right now. Everything around here is claimed by the Triumvirate." Hastings highlighted the hostile area for them.
        "Whew." Baker exclaimed suddenly.
        Captain Mfstra looked his way.
        "There is an entire fleet of Daimon warships right next door. And from this chatter, they have some sort of secret weapon." He kept listening to his implanted datalink as he talked, which gave him a far away look in his eyes.
        "Let's hear it." Burris said.
        Baker ran his hand over a few controls. The bridge came to life with a deafening array of beeps and squeals that was the Daimieon language.
        The captain waved her hand at him and winced. Baker changed it over to the translator. The talk was still confused. Baker worked to pick a single channel but the discussion was obviously about plans being carried out elsewhere.
        "Why don't they control their idle chatter?" Hastings asked.
        Captain Mfstra shook her head with a grin, "You're not familiar with the Daimieons are you?"
        Lt. Burris agreed, "For them, this is almost a dead silence."
        "Unless they actually under fire, they all talk almost constantly. I've seen tapes of the negotiations we had with them. Our ambassadors had to be treated for migraine headaches after just a few hours of listening to them."
        Baker laughed, "I thought my sister talked a lot until I studied them in the academy."
        "How can you run a fleet that way?"
        The captain chuckled, "Apparently just fine, thank you."
        Burris studied the sources of the incoming signals against their plot map. "It would seem everything we're listening to is between us and friendly territory."
        It was obvious the MOSES' bridge was not a Daimon ship. Total silence reigned for several minutes.

        It took Baker some time to track down a few relevant transmissions of their new weapon. It seemed that even highly classified military secrets were the subject for casual conversation for the Daimieons on open interfleet channels.
        In the conference room he played the pieces for the captain and her aides. The weapon was built into a single massive ship. Its purpose, to release a giant cloud of charged energy plasma over a planet from a high orbit, effectively suppressing all electrical activity on the planet, rendering it defenseless, and possibly even killing all animal life on the world.
        "I wonder if our high command has this information?" Burris said.
        "I doubt it. These frequencies are low energy, from that distance, it would be unreadable, and in combat areas they keep their ship to ship channels closed." Captain Mfstra answered.
        Baker was still monitoring the enemy. "They are moving away slowly, but they are still scanning for us."
        Captain Mfstra nodded. "Things have changed now." She tapped her nails on the table deep in thought. "Before this information came to us I was content to wait here until an opportunity presented itself for us to get home safely. But now..." She trailed off.
        "We have to get this information to fleet." Burris finished for her.
        The others frowned and nodded in agreement.
        "This ship can't shoot its way through half the Daimon armada. We'd be lucky to get out of this system before we got lit up." Lt. Commander Quitzel, the engineer said.
        "I know. I know." She was thinking hard and fast. "There has to be a way." She looked at the display screen. "What's around here we might make use of?"
        Lt. Burris looked out the window on the other side of the room. "Around here? A lot of nothing. Dust, rocks, that's about it."
        They discussed several options, none of them acceptable.
        The captain finally stood and stretched her back. "OK. Let's break it up. Go back to your stations. Sleep on it. Get a meal. I want fresh ideas on the table in eight hours."

        Captain Mfstra retired to her quarters. On the small ship, even the captains suite wasn't much larger than an academy dorm room, she had the choice of sitting at her work station, in one of three rather uncomfortable chairs around a small table, or laying on her bunk. She showered and chose the bunk, actively trying not to think about the problem.
        She tired of looking out her porthole at the slightly glowing cloud of dust and reached for her small viewscreen. Years ago and lightyears away, when she was a little girl, and she couldn't sleep her grandmother would read to her. But now her eyes didn't want to stay open to read.
        "Entertainment division." She spoke to the computer. "Read me something from the Bible, in an old woman's voice."
        "Please specify translation and chapter and verse, or story desired." The machine responded.
        She wasn't looking for anything specific.
        "Wherever I left off last time."
        There was silence for a few seconds, then the computer began speaking slowly in a slightly raspy but gentle voice. It went on for several minutes, the captain felt herself drifting off to sleep, then she snapped fully awake.
        "Computer, repeat that last verse."
        "... And when she could no longer hide him, she took for him an ark of bulrushes, and daubed it with slime and with pitch, and put the child therein; and she laid it in the flags by the bulrushes."
        "What verse is that?"
        "Exodus. Chapter two, verse three."
        She had an idea. It was a bit far fetched, but maybe... just maybe.
        Too excited to sleep she put her uniform on and went to the bridge.

        "Captain on the bridge." A young woman announced from the pilot station.
        "Good evening ma'am." The third officer greeted her. "Is something wrong?"
        "No, no. Just had an idea I'd like to check out." She walked to the scanning station, which was unmanned during normal operations. "As you were."
        "Can I help you?" A very young ensign she only knew as McBride stepped to the station.
        "I think I can handle it. I'll let you know if I need you." She smiled to the man.
        "Yes captain." He nodded and went back to his duties.
        She had to use an active scan to locate what she had begun to think of as arks. Then it was some time before she could track the nearly random orbits of the targets, finally she had one about the right size and in approximately the right flight path.
        "Navigator." She said, she turned toward the bridge proper. "Track the orbit of the object identified as Ark 325 in the active scan database."
        "Yes'm." Ensign McBride responded immediately. The young man pushed buttons and adjusted controls almost joyfully, eager to prove himself to his commanding officer.
        Captain Mfstra sighed as she watched. It hadn't been all that many years ago since she was on third watch, alternating between various assignments looking for her niche in the fleet. It hadn't been THAT many years, but at times, it seemed like it.
        "Ark 325 is coming back as a rouge Asteroid on a fast semi-elliptical orbit that will take it very near United Space territory in three weeks." Ensign McBride reported.
        "Confirmed Captain. Its course is not extremely predictable given the local gravitational variables from so many small bodies, but it will come within at least two parsecs in about twenty-two days." The pilot grinned knowingly at Ensign McBride.
        The captain stood and nodded. "Very good. Leave notification for all department heads, staff meeting at zero six, and Mr. McBride, I would like you to attend as well. Bring with you everything you can learn about Ark 325 before then."
        "Yes Captain." He jumped to his feet and saluted. Something not usually seen on the ship except when high ranking officers were present.
        She returned his salute and went back to her cabin where she had no trouble getting a few hours of excellent sleep.

        Several hours later, around the table the idea began to take shape.
        "We could bore into what appears to be an impact crater near the top rotational pole. Then pull some debris in after us. They'd have to be right on top of us to detect us with a routine scan." Burris was warming to the idea.
        "Even then, the Asteroid has enough of a magnetic field and several veins of iron/nickel running through it, I don't think they'd pay any attention to us." Captain Mfstra said.
        "Unless some Daimon uses it for target practice." The engineer, Quitzel remarked.
        Ensign McBride sat silent, wondering at the officers around him and their easy exchange of ideas and how they built on one another. Even criticism and disagreement was taken in stride, with the captain having the final word. He marveled that it seemed to be an ideal family, with respect and encouragement freely given and received by all.
        He was aware somebody had been calling his name. "Yes, sorry. Thinking."
        "We encourage that." The tactical officer grinned. "How much pushing would we have to do to speed our ark up without it looking too obvious?"
        McBride touched his notepad a few times, "We could accelerate it by about two thousand kilometers an hour and be within the average velocity of other rogue bodies in the area. That would knock three days off its transit and shouldn't draw undo attention."
        Quitzel shook his shaggy white hair, "Given its mass, we could do it. Slowly. But we could do it."
        Finally captain Mfstra sat back. "OK. Once over neatly. We drill a MOSES size hole in the impact crater in the north pole of Ark 325. Then we push and shove it to an acceptable speed without blowing our engines up. Then we scoot into our hole and pull some spare rocks in behind us. And then we shut everything down but life support and ride along for about eighteen days, through the heaviest of the Daimon defenses." She took a deep breath. "Then, we push our way out and make a mad dash for friendly space."
        "And hope the war isn't lost by then." Burris added quietly.
        "We can only hope and pray its not." The captain said. "But my first duty is to this ship and crew. Then to safeguard this new information and see that it is received by Fleet Command. If I can fulfill those demands, I'll sleep well tonight. If not. The review board may disagree, but I have done my best." She looked around the table person by person.
        As she made and held eye contact with each officer, even Ensign McBride, they nodded, some frowned, but they nodded.
        It was her ship, they were her officers, and once her mind was made up, that was that. She never berated or exacerbated them, she allowed discussion and even offered explanation of orders, to a point, she was still the Commanding Officer.
        Captain Mfstra thought of her senior officers as a traditional family, with herself as the head. And she treated them as such, to a point. Discipline was maintained, everything was done properly, and in an orderly fashion. When she thought about her position she always remembered all those that had lived, and died, so she could sit in the center seat.
        It seemed to work. The MOSES received consistent high marks in crew morale and efficiency.

        They were working on the planetoid within the hour. The ships weapons made short work of boring out a hole they would fit in. Then they moved several large chunks of rock near the hole to be pulled in after them.
        The hardest part was accelerating the slightly egg shaped ball of rock to an acceptable velocity. The engineering staff kept the engines right below the red line as they pushed with everything the small ship had. Quitzel was everywhere at once, he was convinced if he personally didn't look at every engine indicator in the control room every few seconds, the ship would explode without warning.
        Finally they were moving at the prescribed rate.
        "Now we crawl in a hole and pull it in after us." Burris said dryly.
        "Exactly." The captain smiled.
        It didn't work that way exactly. Several of the stouter crew members had to don environment suits and go out and maneuver the nearly weightless rock into position in the micro gravity of the planetoid. But finally it was done. From the outside, Ark 325 appeared nothing more or less than every other random chunk of a never born planet roaming the sector.

        Now it was just a matter of time.
        They shut everything that wasn't required. They sat in the half light, in air that was almost stale at times, with nothing to do but read or talk. No unnecessary power was used against the odd chance that some Daimon ship might do an intensive scan of their ark and detect them.
        People fell to walking around without shoes and speaking in whispers even though that was completely uncalled for.
        Captain Mfstra showed several of the crew where her inspiration had come from and the story became popular for dramatic reading circles among off duty personnel. She was also sorry to have to explain that this was not the Moses the ship was named after, but given the current situation, maybe it was a good sign.
        Ensign McBride and several others developed a way to run a passive scan through several of the cracks in the plug of their hole. They worked at it until they could map their progress against the star field.
        The MOSES was a small ship, without extensive recreational facilities, so their options were minimal at best.
        The reading circles memorized the entire story of the Patriarch and role-played the Exodus scenes before Pharaoh to a packed dining hall.
        "Let my people go." Became a catch phrase on board.

        Even so, it was a very long three weeks.
        "Well, we are almost there, two more days and we'll make a run for it."
        "If you say so captain. I'd rather wait until we were just past perihelion, they might be watching the ark when its that close to the line." Burris said carefully.
        The point was considered, and the captain nodded.
        "Two more days hiding in a tomb." Quitzel remarked with grim resignation.
        "I thought all the people in that book stayed in their tombs only three or four days." Baker said almost seriously.
        "This ship is the MOSES." Captain Mfstra said with a smile at old memories of Bible stories. "Not the Lazerus or the Jesus."

        The remaining few days passed. Then suddenly McBride announced over the intercom that they had passed perihelion and were hours from emergence.
        The ship came to life. After over twenty days of near silence, it seemed noisy on the bridge. Stations that had been dark, glowed brightly, information flashing across the screens. Crewmen had been planning how they were going to move the rocks holding the ship in for weeks. Now that it was time for them to do it, the job went so smoothly they couldn't believe it was over in just a matter of minutes. Finally everything was ready to go.

        Captain Mfstra stood in the middle of the bridge and looked around at the officers surrounding her. They looked back at her, taking strength from her confidence in them.
        She nodded to each in turn, then took a deep breath.
        "Pilot, estimated time of arrival in friendly space at maximum supralight speed."
        "Six hours and forty minutes, Captain."
        She nodded. They still had a long way to go, but most of the enemy's forces were behind them now.
        "Take us out on maneuvering thrusters only. Tactical, full active scan for Daimieon Triumvirate ships when we are clear. Navigator, plot best course and speed home. Communications, compose a message in the latest code, explain what we have about the weapon, and where we've been, include our time and place of rejoining the fleet. "
        Four `Yes Ma'am's' followed her orders.
        The ship moved clear of the planetoid ever so slowly. Lt. Burris scanned everything large enough to be a ship within range.
        "I'm reading over a dozen Daimon ships of all descriptions in our neighborhood, but I don't think they've seen us yet. The closest enemy ship is a fighter fueler less than a parsec away."
        "They'll know we were here soon enough. Pilot, maximum speed, shortest route, engage when ready. Communications, once we are at speed, send the message, repeat until answered."

        The ship was now flying as fast as it possibly could. The message to the fleet was answered almost immediately, with instructions to report to an administrative base for debriefing.
        The Daimieons had used the weapon on a couple of outlying bases and colonies. With devastating results. But the high command had no idea what they were dealing with. Evidently the information from the MOSES had come as a complete, but welcome, surprise. Now they knew what it was, and some of how it worked, and what it did, the fleet began working on a defense to it.

        Several days later, it was clear that Captain Mfstra and the MOSES had played a decisive role in the war. With their secret weapon exposed, the Daimons lost the initiative and the fighting worked to a standstill and a truce was called.
        The debriefings of the entire crew went well. Later every single crewmember, at the insistence of Captain Mfstra, received some sort of commendation. The Captain and her bridge crew got a handful of medals each.
        "With cluster no less." Lt. Burris smiled at his largest medal hanging by its glossy ribbon. "Almost worth putting on the dress uniform for."
        Captain Mfstra nodded and smiled. "And the best part is, we didn't fire a single shot in anger at another living soul to do it."
        "Now will you answer my question." He said as they walked back to the docking port.
        "Which question was that?"
        "Do you really believe all those old stories in that book?"
        She smiled and nodded. "Moreso all the time. Moreso all the time."

(Note from Flag Officer Review Board: The forgoing narrative, as was stated before, may contain some subjective information, however, it is presented as an historically interesting document. It is worth noting that the crew of the MOSES stayed intact for the most part and continued to serve with distinction for many tours of duty. Deputy Admiral Jackson VonDeSagen, reviewing officer.)



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