“Life…ah…has found a way, uh…sir.” Jones was struggling to keep his face composed as he wondered if the Captain would catch what Jones considered a rather clever turn of phrase.
“It would seem so, Jones…it would seem so.”
There was a pause as the Captain picked up the microphone. When he had gathered his thoughts, Captain Nelson of the Courser Peregrine, clicked over the relay and spoke.
“Attention crew of the Peregrine, we have contact with an unknown ship, all hands report and prepare to engage. Ready all. I repeat, ready all.”
Jones, the executive officer, repeated every word exactly as spoken. The interior of the ship hummed as the men and women broke their activities and prepared the ship. Many prepared themselves.
“Jones,” the Captain said quietly as the microphone was replaced. “If you feel like joking, keep a fucking lid on it.”
“Yessir,” Jones replied immediately, his smile that had broken the facade vanishing quickly. Jones shook his head subtly, as if unsettling gnats around his face, and quickly regarded the interior of the command center. The pilots sat side by side directly in front of him. The Captain grasped the rails of the dais directly behind Jones. To the left sat ensigns from the comms, nav, and engineering crews. To his right sat ensigns from the weapons, radar, and jump crews. Standing painfully out of place at the left hand entrance to the control center, was the Doctor.
Turning to her, Captain Nelson appraised her and gathered his thoughts. “Finish what you were telling us in the officers mess please.”
“Sir,” she began. Her accent was slower than the Captain’s. “I’m not sure this is the place.” Jones heard it as “ahm naht shu-ah this’s tha plays.”
“No ma’am, we just pinged a raptor as you were explaining your presence on my ship. Finish. Please.”
“These raptor are like none other, Captain.”
“Well…it’s difficult to…”
“Damn that. We’ve no time. Finish.”
The radar ensign broke in, “10 kkm sir and closing.”
“Shit.” The Captain straightened and grabbed the comm mike. “Attention Peregrine, rig for silent and shift all non-essentials.” Jones repeated every word and turned with the Captain back to the Doctor.
“Please continue Doctor, but on the quick step.” The Captain clipped, twirling his hand as if to speed her up.
“Short form,” the Doctor began, “is that at the end of the last millenium life was cracked. All beings that had ever lived, or ever would live, became known through a combination of math, physics, chemistry, and biology. Earth, life, society, everything changed. To accommodate these discoveries the various governments contributed innumerable capital, economic and intelligent, to ensure the preservation of terrestrial life as we know it.”
“Fantastic,” the Captain broke in. “Connect our dots. Sharpish.”
The Doctor exhaled. She started slowly, but gained speed as she went clearly invigorated by the explanation of something that she had dedicated her life to. “They built a ship, a massive living ship designed to be an ark for everything. Within the ship, life was placed and allowed to develop. Because we knew the fundamentals we could accelerate bits and pieces. One group was accelerated and became a variable we had never considered.”
“But you just said…”
“I know. Life, it seems, finds a way.”
Jones stifled a laugh, the Captain rubbed his brow. “So?”
“So,” the Doctor flatly ventured, “the contact you have is with a raptor. Not a raptor class warship, but a raptor. Yes it is in a ship, and yes there are more than one in the ship. But this is a creature unlike any you’ve ever dealt with, even the bio-mech squids of the Locus. My orders…your orders…are to eliminate them.”
“Done.” The Captain had heard enough. The science bored him, but the orders gave him a purpose.
The ship veered away from the raptor. The Captain increased speed to take advantage of the Peregrine’s sharklike design. It slipped through the silent emptiness perfect in its form and function. As it moved to the Captain’s instructed position, ready to fire. The radar ensign shouted:
“We’ve got another hit, contact in kz red 0 high and 45 negative!”
Jones was stunned, there was another ship directly above and to their left angled 45 degrees, giving the attackers a perfect kill shot.
“Clever girl,” the Doctor got out before the ship disappeared in a flash of white.