"It's a worst case scenario." Captain Rolland Barron stood on the command deck of the Excalibur, hands folded behind his back. Projected in front of him on the viewscreen was General Qarin Shinn, the heavily decorated Captain of the Federation flagship Fuchai, staring back silently as Rolland reported. "They're using robots to grow their fleet. They've attacked five planets so far, and it looks like they're increasing the size of their forces with each invasion."
"It's worse than that," Jordan Rattan interjected, joining Rolland at his side. "They built a device to control the machines and their fleet," he continued. "Some kind of cybernetic system that combined the thought patterns of different people. Those people died centuries ago, but they left the machine running."
"Are you trying to tell me a machine is in control of the fleet?"
"It looks that way." Jordan nodded. "The machine, and whatever's left of those dead men's brain waves inside the computer."
"It makes no difference. You are to return to Sol immediately," Shinn ordered. "I look forward to your complete reports."
"There's something else," Rolland said.
"And what's that?" Shinn lifted an eyebrow.
"The Catechumen have been taking prisoners," Rolland said. "Over a hundred thousand of them. They're keeping them in some kind of neural prison."
"Whatever concerns you have, you may raise them in your report when you return. You have your orders." The screen blinked, and Shinn's image was replaced by the surrounding stars. Clarion was a purple marble in the distance. An Armada of Catechumen vessels spanning the space between. Several of the cross shaped vessels floated nearby: the Messiah, the Testament, the Sepulchre, and the Revelation.
"You heard the General." Rolland spun towards Chief Navigator Megan MacLeod. "Let's get out of here."
"Aye-aye, Captain." Megan tapped at her console. With a humming sound, the Excalibur rotated in place, then headed into deep space away from Clarion.
Rolland closed his eyes and, with a drawn out sigh, rubbed his face with open palm.
"Something wrong, Captain?" Erin asked.
"After what we've seen over there -" Rolland shook his head "- I can't believe we're expected to just go home."
"I know you want to help them," Erin started, "but it's going to take time. You have to work with the assembly."
"It doesn't feel right." Rolland lowered himself into the Captain's chair. "The idea of sitting around talking, when right over there, there's a hundred thousand people who need our help." He threw his hand towards the rear viewscreen, where the Sepulchre was shrinking away into the distance. "I don't want to talk about helping them. I want to help them."
"You'll only help them by talking," Erin said. "There's nothing we can do from here."
"I don't know if I trust the assembly to do the right thing."
"It's not about trust. It's about changing their opinion. You have to get them to agree with you. You have to fight for it."
"If it makes you feel any better," Jordan said, "I'll be recommending intervention."
"You know the politics of the assembly -" Rolland looked to Erin "- you really think there's a chance they could go for it?"
"Maybe." Erin said. "Say, how long 'til we hit the first hole?"
"About an hour," Chief Navigator Megan MacLeod reported. "Smooth sailing 'til then."
"If you'll excuse me Captain -" Erin started for the exit "- there's something I need to attend to."
YOU ARE READING
Angels and WormholesScience Fiction
A star-faring religious cult has created an army of robotic zealots designed to follow holy scripture. As the robotic menace spreads across the galaxy, it takes prisoners to be 'excommunicated': hooked into a neural simulation of eternal torment. Ca...