Category Archives: Silent Station

Silent Station – Part Eight

Archer notified Ben Bryant, his commander on board the Argo II, that he would be gone for nine hours. The trip normally took, according to Thad DeVrey, three hours out and three hours back. DeVrey estimated that Archer would spend about an hour looking at “the find.”

Archer met DeVrey at “The Web,” he was waiting for Archer and taking to Circe, the bartender.

Archer followed DeVrey to the wing where the mining craft where kept.

“Sorry it’s not the most comfortable ship in the fleet, Captain, but it will serve its purpose.”

After they left the Tarantula, DeVrey pointed the ship towards the asteroid belt.

“Aren’t you worried that I might know the location of this ‘find’ and come back without you?” Archer asked.

DeVrey smiled, “No, I’m not. Frankly, Captain, you seem like someone I can trust. You don’t seem like a corporate pawn, but is interested in doing what’s right. Also, there is no one in space that can handle this belt like we do.”

“What about the miners on SMS-347?”

“Captain, we trained every one of them. They would have been killed in less than a week had we not. I trusted those men a lot, and Hal the most. We would go out and look for workable rocks together. We would decide what team, his or mine, would work the claim. When we found what I’m going to show you, we had it all worked out between us. Both the MMA and Recalcitrant Laboratories would have made a mint.”

“So you think they were killed to keep it quiet?”

“That’s what I think,” DeVrey said. “But I’m sure they will say the same thing about me. That’s why I’m bringing you here. So someone other than myself needs to know what’s going on.”

“So, you and Hal had an arrangement?” Archer asked.

“Yes, we would split up the asteroids based on needs. Recalcitrant Labs are more interested in heavy metals and of course iron. We would split those 50/50, the iron that is, we have no need of some of the more exotic heavy metals.”

“And what did the MMA get out of the deal?”

“We mostly wanted water. So we took 90% of the ice balls out there. Hal only needed enough to maintain the station. We have some water planet-side, but it’s a pain to pull out of the substructure.”

“I thought Mars had lots of water,” Archer said.

“Yes, we do, Captain. It’s buried pretty deep and we spend a lot of time and energy drilling for it. We recycle what we can. We use a lot in refining iron and making steel, most of the water is turned to steam, recapturing it can be tough.”

“When you refine the iron asteroids?”

“No, iron is one thing Mars has plenty of. The planet is red because most of the surface is just rusting iron. We just scoop it up and refine it. The metal is mixed in with a silicate compound, so we use that for glass. We use the glass to maintain a pressurized environment.”

“Won’t the glass crack?” Archer asked.

DeVrey smiled, “That’s what everyone thinks. We managed to layer the glass with a silicon sealer between each layer. If the glass suffers an impact, generally it won’t break through all layers. We get the damaged part fixed in no time.”

“Does that happen a lot?”

“There is hardly any atmosphere since the magnetosphere is almost non-existent. We have theories on how to fix it, but it would probably take around 200 years or so. We have small herb farms on the actual surface, which does fine in the CO2. The only thing that harms them is errant radiation, which rebuilding the magnetosphere will eventually stop.”

“It sounds like a tough time,” Archer said.

DeVrey shook his head, “We know nothing else. We do what we do. We are growing all the time, opening new habitats. Always building new pathways. We do well with oxygen production and water location. It’s easier when we find it in the asteroids, though. Which is why we became miners.”

“And then Earth moved in to your mining territory,” Archer said.

DeVrey sighed. “At first it was like that. After working with Hal and his crew, they were no so much the competition, but more like partners. We knew what they need to run the station, what elements they wanted on Earth. Our needs were more basic. We don’t need the heavy metals for propulsion systems. That’s what Hal and Betty would do every couple of weeks. They would bring water and iron and we’d swap out with the heavy elements that we mined. It was win-win for both Earth and Mars.”

Archer was amazed that DeVrey could carry out the conversation and pilot the ship through the maze of asteroids. Occasionally, a red light would light or a buzzer would buss. DeVrey would tweak a control with hardly a thought or break in his story telling.

Without not much warning, DeVrey reached over and flicked off the outside lights. He also flicked another switch and Archer could hear some servos running. He must have looked a little confused.

“I’m trying to be dramatic, Captain, please bear with me, we’re almost there.”

Archer nodded and waited. He could see a large object appear on the LADAR screen. Soon the object filled the bulk of the readout. Archer could see they were getting very close.

“Ready?” DeVrey asked.

Archer could only nod.

DeVrey hit all the switches at once, the light flooded onto a huge asteroid. Not being able to see the whole object, Archer guessed it was about a third of the size of the moon. He gasped when he saw the ships lights reflecting off the surface.

“What… What is it, Thad?”

“It’s carbon, Captain,“ DeVrey told him. “Pure, crystallized carbon.”

“Crystallized carbon?”

“Commonly known as ‘Diamond’.”

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Silent Station – Part Seven

sstvEntering the main deck of the Tarantula from the shuttle bay area was a little un-nerving. The level of activity was high, with dozens of people heading one way or another. Archer wasn’t sure of what direction to go.

There were no signs indicating “Visitors” anywhere to be found. Archer found himself being a little annoyed. But then again, he realized, everyone here was here for a purpose, a job, and would presumably know where to go.

He scanned the area and caught sight of a neon sign. He headed in that direction. The sign materialized into a bright display announcing “The Web.”

Chuckling at the sign’s sense of humor – What else would you call the bar on a station nicknamed the Tarantula, Archer thought. He opened the door and went in.

“Hi welcome to the web, my name is Circe,” said a pretty young woman at the bar, sliding a napkin towards Archer.

“That’s a fairly mythical name you have, Circe,” Archer replied.

She smiled, “Not as mythical as being the Captain of the Argo II.”

“I see you do your homework here,” Archer replied being caught off-guard.

“It’s a small station, Captain Archer. Everyone knows what going on here. What can I get you?” Circe reached up and pulled two glasses of the rack.

“You can tell me who I should talk to about SMS-347.”

Circe mixed one drink and then another, “Oh you mean ‘take me to your leader’ kind of thing?”

Arched couldn’t help but smile at Circe’s banter. “Yeah, just like that.”

Circe finished the second drink, put then on napkins and slid them both to Archer. “He’s sitting in that booth over there, and that’s his favorite drink. I made you one too.”

Archer took the drinks and headed for the booth. He stopped and looked at the man sitting there. “Apparently, I’m your waiter,” he said.

The man smiled and stood, took a drink and shook Archer’s now free hand. “Circe is like that. My name is Thaddeus DeVrey. I’m the Deputy Director of the MMA.”

DeVrey motioned that Archer should sit.

Archer sat. “Director DeVrey, I am here to investigate what happened on SMS-347.”

“First of all, Captain, call me ‘Thad’ every here does, and they have no idea who ‘Director DeVrey’ is. Second of all, I am sure that you believe that’s why you’re here.”

“You believe otherwise?”

DeVrey smiled. “I believe there are circumstances that have not been adequately explained to you or your crew. I will save my suspicions when we get to know one another better.”

Archer was caught a little off-guard by DeVrey’s candid talk.

“Did you know any of the crew at SMS-347?” Archer asked.

“Yes, Hal and Betty were here all the time. Betty and Circe hung out a lot, complaining about Hal and me. They were great people. We would have done anything to save them.”

“You sure they’re dead?” Archer asked.

DeVrey nodded. It seemed to Archer that he tried to hold back some emotion, they must have been friends.

“Do you have any idea of how?”

“No,” DeVrey answered after clearing his throat. “No idea at all. Hal tried to transmit something to me before everything went dark. It wasn’t complete though.”

“Can you tell me what you did receive?”

“All I was able to make out is ‘They’”

“Like, ‘They are coming’?” Archer asked.

“Yes. Just like that.”

“We found some papers that said the same thing.”

“You did, or your space marines?” asked DeVrey

“My crew did.”

“I wouldn’t expect any detective help from the marines, Captain.”

“What do you mean, Thad?”

“They are hear not to help solve the mystery, Captain. They are here to cover it up.”

“Cover what up?”

“The killing of the crew. And they are going to take over the station, and perhaps come after this station too.”

“Aren’t you being a little paranoid?”

DeVrey took a drink. Archer could see he was a little conflicted, probably on whether or not to trust him.

DeVrey leaned in and talked in a low voice, “We found something, Captain. Hal and I found something.”

“What?” Archer asked.

DeVrey sat back in the booth. “Hal and I both reported out finding to our governments. Both our governments were in negotiations about it. The company funding SMS-347 broke off the talks, Hal and his crew are dead, and there are marines getting ready to lock down Hal’s station. The fact that you don’t anything about this, Captain, means there is some sort of cover-up.”

“I guess it is all about what you found, isn’t it?” Archer asked.

DeVrey nodded, “You’re right, Captain. Would you like to take a trip?”


“I can’t tell you exactly, Captain. I just want to show what we found to you. So, you will know what this is all about.”

Archer though about it. He didn’t fully trust DeVrey, there was something he was not hearing from him. On the other hand, DeVrey’s conjecture about what might happen was plausible, depending on “the find.”

“How long will it take, Thad? I’ll have to let my crew know, so they won’t worry and get the marines agitated.”

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Silent Station – Part Six

sstvArcher was feeling tired by the time he climbed into the “fast” shuttle. He explained to Commander Ben Bryant what he was going to do. Bryant was not happy. That, and the fact that Bryant shouldn’t tell HQ, made the situation tricky.

“Just call me if they need me,” Archer told Bryant. Bryant reluctantly agreed.

Archer left the Argo II and directed the shuttle to the Tarantula. It was the main station of the Martian Mining Authority. They must have had some interaction with SMS-347, Archer reasoned.

Archer set the autopilot. It would be about a six hour trip, he intended to get at least two hours of shut-eye on his way there.

His portable alarm woke him. The Tarantula was considerably closer. It’s time for a plan, he thought.

He looked at the readings on his pilot display. The shuttle and MMA01 (the official name for the Tarantula) were already communicating. The shuttle was assigned landing bay number seven.

Archer examined the structure of the Tarantula. There was no doubt were that nickname came from. The station had a central hub, which eight radial “legs.” Each leg had a shuttle port at the end. Some of the ports seemed larger, obviously for shipping supplies or incoming ore from the asteroids.

After all, it was a mining station. Miners worked and lived here, Archer reminded himself. Miners who were in competition with SMS-347.

The arrangement between the MMA and the private mining company, a division of Recalcitrant Laboratories, Inc. was an agreement shrouded in mists. One of the most important agreements, with all space going vehicles, was the mutual help in an emergency understanding.

All spacemen and women know their first priority was to help each other survive, even if there was an element of competition. Somehow, the Mars Mining Authority did not come through for SMS-347. Archer was fully determined to find out why.

An orange light flashed on the controls, demanding Archer’s attention. The station queried the shuttle as to landing arrangements. Did the shuttle pilot wish an automatic entry or manual?

Archer chose automatic. He didn’t really know the Martian protocols, it would be best to let the Tarantula bring him in. The decision, however, was not without some apprehension.

The autopilot button dimmed, Archer felt the ship fall under the Tarantula’s control.

Even though the Martians had officially separated from any Earth authority dozens of years ago, guidance systems on most ships were similarly made, for any emergency that was bound to happen.

As the shuttle approached, Archer saw that the Tarantula was impossibly huge. The long arms supporting the ports stretched for miles, it seemed. The rotation of the station allowed Archer to view the complete structure.

The ports and center section were well-lit, with the long arms being shrouded in shadow. An occasional light blinked marking its location. It seemed that the arms were covered with a vast array of solar panels. Archer wondered about the effectiveness of these, this far from the sun. Still, the vastness of space perhaps encumbered the power of the sun less than an atmosphere.

Archer saw the arm marked “7” swing into view. The shuttle shifted course and headed for the cylindrical shape at the end of the long arm. The cylinder lit up.

The shuttle flew under the cylinder and held a position directly below. Archer punched a monitor button to view what was happening above.

An iris like structure opened to reveal a well-lit port. As the opening reached its fullest point, the shuttle moved upward, into the cylinder. Archer watched the monitor and shifted his eye to the shuttle ports.

The deck was ablaze in lights. He scanned for humans, there were none. All the operations were handled automatically. As the shuttle rose into a final landing position, a thin screen slid before the main port.

The screen flashed in bright red letters, “Remain in your craft. Maintain life support systems.”

Arched felt the shuttle being locked into place. He flipped the switch to view beneath the shuttle. The iris was closing, he saw that is was a triple layer. Nozzles with large hoses attached surrounded the ship.

At once, a fine white powder material coated the ship. The bright red sign began to get blurry when blue lettering lit up, “Deploy UV protection.”

Archer barely had time to put on his goggles when the whole outer surface blazed with an intense blue light. The outer monitors winked out, Archer hoped the cameras were not permanently damaged. He soon have known better, he cursed.

The blue light seared the ship for three minutes before it winked out. It took Archer a few seconds to adjust to the comparative darkness. The sign changed, “Remain in your craft.” He heard a sound at the hatch.

The hatch opened, two small spider looking robots scurried in. They swept through the ship climbing and probing everywhere. They left as fast as they came.

The sign changed. In bold green letters the sign proclaimed, “Welcome to the Martian Mining Authority Station One. Enjoy your stay.”

Archer stepped from the shuttle onto the deck of the Tarantula.

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Silent Station – Part Five

sstvThey are coming. The thought nagged at Archer for hours. Nurse Dontsman could not find anything else. It was as if the station was never inhabited. They are coming.

“Captain, Harland here,” the comm broke Archer’s reverie.

“Roger, Commander, what’s up?”

“The reactor is live, should be full power in about three hours. Lieutenant Brower may be able to start air circulation now. We’ll get other systems as we go.”

“Thanks, Marjay. Anything suspicious on your end?”

There was a noticeable pause. “No, Captain, nothing suspicious. Just a feeling, that’s all.”

“What type of feeling?” Archer asked.

“This room, Captain, is much too orderly. I mean, a lot of activity happened here. Things are spotless, the workstations appear never used, brand new. This station is how old?”

“It was launched ten years ago, fully operational for the last seven,” Archer replied.

“Couldn’t tell it from the conditions here,” Harland said.

“Keep your eyes open, and call if you need anything.”

Archer turned his attention to Lieutenant Brower. “The reactor is powering up, Lieutenant. Harland suggested you star air circulation and get this thing pressurized.”

“Aye, Sir,” Brower said. “I’ll start opening what ship’s logs I can find, sir.”

“Thank you, that will be a great help.”

“Captain,” Lieutenant Nat Armstrong said. “I think it will be time for my men and me to patrol the station.”

“Be careful, Lieutenant. I think you stay in groups of two.”

“Standard procedure, Captain. I will check in every hour.”

The lieutenant left.

Brower turned to the Captain. “I’m not finding any records, sir.”


She shook her head. “I think they’ve be scrubbed.”

“Any backups?”

Brower punched in codes, no response. “No, sir. Nothing.”

“Any telemetric data? I know that it was transmitting to CentCom.”

The thought energized Brower. She leaned towards another terminal. She jumped excitedly and startled Archer.

“Here it is, sir. All the telemetric data sent to CentComm.”

“When did the life support shut down, Lieutenant.”

Archer watched as Broward scrolled through the data. The images on the display looked like gobbledygook to him. She scrolled.

She stopped.

“Here it is, Captain. The last mention of life is about nine weeks ago.”

“Last mention, Lieutenant.”

“Yes, it’s an annotated reference on a system reading, probably by the systems person.”

“What does it say?”

“It makes no sense, Captain. Unless, of course that was the crewman’s name.”

“Read it to me lieutenant.”

“It says ‘SUNT’ Captain. S-U-N-T, I can check the crew manifest.”

“No need, Lieutenant,” archer said feeling a chill.

“Then does that make sense to you, sir?”

Archer sighed. This was not good. “Yes, Lieutenant, perfect sense. SUNT is Latin for, ‘They Come.’”

“Keep checking for whatever you can find. After that, I’ll need to check the operating system, Lieutenant.”

Archer saw Brower’s face glaze over, “Anything else, sir,” she said softly sarcastically.

Archer realized stepped up Broward’s job description. “Well, not all at once, Lieutenant. For instance, when was the last system update?”

Broward punched a few keys. “That’s easy, sir. Eleven weeks ago.”

“Was it installed?”

“Right away, sir.”

“Is there a way to isolate that update and remove it from the system?”

“I’m sure it is all integrated, sir. I would have to find the original back-up and restart the entire system. It would wipe out all the data as well as any other updates.”

“This station has back-up systems, right?”

“Certainly, sir.”

“Then take the back-up system off-line. We’ll preserve that memory and you and your team can inspect it. Put the original system on the main system, and you will have to check all the updates before installing.”

“Can I get Baker and Anders over here, sir?”

Archer thought about it. “Who is more detail oriented?”

“That would be Ensign Baker, sir?”

“Well, then, we’ll leave Anders on the Argo II and Baker can comb through the code. You’ll oversee all those operations.”

Brower looked relieved. “Thank you, sir.”

“Lieutenant, I’m not trying to work you the death here. It’s just we cannot continue our mission until we figure things out. I don’t want to be here forever, but with that said, I don’t want any loose ends.”

“Aye, sir.”

The comm beeped. “Sir, Harland here. The reactor star up is nearly down. I will start air production. We should be able to breathe normally in about an hour and a half.”

“Thanks Commander,” Archer said. “Is it required that you stay there to complete that operation.”

“Well, technically, no. I could rig things to run from the bridge.”

“Great, as soon as you can get here, I’d appreciate it.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Lieutenant, can we communicate with the Argo II?”

Brower punched a few buttons and flipped some switches. “I believe we have comm power.”

“Open a channel, please.”

Commander Bryant came on. “This is Bryant.”

“Ben, this is Ed, our comm is live.”

“Great, Captain. Are things going well?”

“Harland seems to think so. I going to need you to send Ensign Kyle Baker here. We have a lot of code to go through. How are things there?”

“No prob here, sir. Just trying to stay away from asteroids. I’ll be sending Baker on the next shuttle. Shuttle Three should be disembarking you station soon.”

“Tell them to hold until I get there, Ben. I’m coming back for a bit.”

“A bit?”

“We’ll talk when I get there.”

The door opened. Commander Harland stepped into the room.

“So, Captain, what do you need me here for?”

“I giving you command of station, Commander.”

“Where are you going?”

“I have to investigate the Tarantula.”

“What? Why would you consider that?”

“The only clues that we found so far is the note, ‘They are coming’ and the one that Brower found in the system. It said, ‘They come.’”

“If you think that anyone at the Tarantula did it, then you might be in danger, Captain.”

“That’s why I’m going alone, Archer said. “Commander, I know you’ll be on the ball here. Do not let Armstrong and his marines push you around. You are in command.”

“Aye, sir.”

“OK Commander Harlan, you have the conn.”

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Silent Station – Part Four

sstvArcher pressed the “Open Airlock” button after everyone donned their helmets and gave a thumbs-up. Hissing began. The passenger compartment was engineered as a self-contained airlock, for quick deployment. The pilots of the shuttle were housed in a pressurized area, set apart from the main storage areas.

The hissing diminished. The locking mechanism clanged. The door of the shuttle slid open. The airlock chamber of SMS-347 was dark except for a low light emergency LED.

Archer turned on his helmet light the rest of the team followed his example. Archer stepped into the chamber. He carried two extra oxy bottles. Each of the marines carried four. They placed all the extra bottles on the floor of the chamber.

Archer resealed the airlock chamber. “We’re on. We should have enough air to keep going until you resupply us.”

Archer’s comm buzzed back. “Roger, Captain. We’ll be back in a couple of hours. Holler if you need us sooner.

“Thanks, Bert. We should be good,” Archer replied.

“OK team,” Archer spoke to his group. “We are going to take it slow and steady.”

“I should be up front, Captain. We need to make sure you are covered,” Lieutenant Armstrong insisted.

“Sure, Lieutenant, let me get this hatch opened first.” Archer went to a panel. He turned an inset locking ring. The panel opened revealing a glowing key pad.

Archer pressed five numbers. The airlock lit up. Archer could hear the hissing as the pressure equalized with the main station.

The door slid open.

Armstrong pushed past Archer with one of his men. The other covered the back of the group.

The hall was dark, only the lights of the company lit the path.

“First passageway on the left, Lieutenant. Then we go up two levels on the stairway.”

“Aye, Captain.”

The rotation of the station provided a pseudo-gravity. The effect was nearly half of earth’s gravity, which made the walking a little difficult. Archer saw Armstrong turn.

The stairway was located and Armstrong began to climb. He held a small sparker in his right hand. He nervously turned at the different flights of the stairway.

Archer turned to look behind. The rear marine walked mostly backwards, covering the party with a larger, deadlier sparker. Archer felt like making a rude comment on how they expected anything to be alive in a zero air and near freezing environment.

Armstrong waited at the top of the stairway for directions.

“Sorry, Lieutenant. The main bridge is towards the right, and then straight ahead.”

“Roger, Captain.” Archer watched the lieutenant turn and walk.

The walk took about ten minutes, Archer reasoned. The door to the bridge stood before them.

“Commander, Harland, I believe you have the codes for this room?” Archer asked.

Marjorie Harland worked her way to the door. “Aye, Captain.”

“Lieutenant Armstrong, when we open the door, please secure the room. Please refrain from sparking anything, hopefully we’ll find some friendlies here.”

“Roger, Captain.”

“Commander, I think we are ready.”

Harland opened the panel. The key pad glowed red. She punched in a six digit code. The panel glowed blue. Harland then punched in a ten digit code. The panel glowed green and the door slid open.

Armstrong and his two marines entered the room. Archer stood with Harland in the hall, each illuminating different approaches to the room.

“All clear, Captain,” Armstrong reported after five minutes.

Archer followed after Harland. She moved to the main control console and sat down. She started pushing buttons.

Archer hit a comm button on his wrist. “This is Team One, we have reached our objective. Please report your status.”

“Team One. This is Team Three. We have just cleared the airlock and are making slow progress.”

“Team One, this is Team Two. We are close to our objective.”

“Roger Teams One and Two. Please issues status updates as needed, but I want to hear from you both in no longer than thirty minutes.”

Both teams acknowledged Archer’s orders.

He walked to Harland. The main Operating screen was up.

“It’s rebooting, Captain. It looks like it went to a complete shutdown,” Harland reported.

“How long until lights on?”

“I started in safe mode, Captain. I won’t to control each system as it becomes available. Lights and life support are generally first in the queue, unless this has weird programming.”

“Do the best you can do, Marjay. Ultimately, all we need now is lights, air, and heat. I don’t want any other systems until we do a complete check.”

“Got it, Captain.”

Archer checked his air gauge. He still had two and a half hours. They would probably need to get the air tanks soon. Hopefully, with lights.

“Captain, Team Three here. We have reached our objective. We are standing by for power up.”

“Roger, Team Three. Shouldn’t be too much longer. Once power is up, please check for any entries that we should be aware of.”

“Aye, Captain.”

Archer didn’t think there would be any survivors. Shouldn’t there be bodies.

The lights came on.

“Yay, Marjay!” Archer said.

“Sorry, Captain. This will not be long. We have about three hours of back up. I’ll have to get to engineering and get the main reactor started. We have limited controls right now. No sense getting the air and heat going. That will kill all the backup power.”

“Sounds good, Commander. Any idea of time?”

“I don’t know, sir. If there is any problems, I would have to assess. If things are good, three four hours, full power by eight hours.”

Armstrong assigned one of the marines to escort her.

“Let me have a sitrep when you get there,” Archer said as Harland stood.

She gave him a thumbs-up.

“Captain, Team Two here. We have reached our objective.”

“How is everything there, Lieutenant Brower?”

“Honestly, Captain, I’m not sure that there is anything I can do here. Not until we get full power, that is. It seems this is just a back-up to the bridge.”

“Makes sense, Lieutenant. Commander Harland is on her way to engineering. Perhaps you would be more use on the bridge,” Archer said.

“We’re on our way Captain.”

“Captain, this is Lieutenant Dontsman.”

“Yes, Lieutenant, what have you got?”

“The chills, captain.”

Archer waited for an answer.

“What do you mean, Lieutenant?”

“This medbay is spotless, Captain. There is no sign of any illness that may have struck the crew. But there is a note, Captain.”

“A note, Lieutenant? What does it say?”

There was a long pause, as if the nurse gathered her strength. With a sigh she read the note, “They are coming.”

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Silent Station – Part Two

“Captain to the bridge,” squawked Archer’s wrist-comm. Archer was already on the way there and did not reply.

“Report, Commander,” Archer said as he stepped out on the bridge.

“Captain, we have a lock on the station. We should be visual soon,” Bryant replied.

“Excellent, Commander. Patch it through to the mains screen when you can.”

“Aye, Sir.”

Archer stood by the screen waiting. He could still feel the powerful engines vibrating through the deck. This time, however, the engines were in deceleration mode. The bridge of the Argo II, shifted when the braking maneuver began. With the reverse of the engines, the deck was oriented to still use the thrust as a gravity generator. The deceleration was only half a g, which kept everyone on the decks, but kept movement slow and steady.

“Captain, the visual is now going live,” Bryant said.

The main screen grew dark. Archer could see the edge of the asteroid belt, with various misshapen masses of rock and ice. He strained to see anything that looked like a man made station.

“Trying to increase magnification, Captain. It’s pretty maxed-out at the moment,” Bryant said.

Archer nodded.

The screen blinked.

“How is that, Captain?”

Archer stared again. There was a structure in the midst of the chaos of the asteroid belt. He could not quite make out the shape, but there were a few lights visible from the station.

“Range, Commander?” Archer asked.

“We’re 83 thousand kilometers away, sir. We might have to slow a little more, Captain. I make our arrival in about five and a half hours.”

“Thank you, Commander. I will be back in four hours,” Archer said.

“Shall I prepare the ship to dock, sir?”

“Negative, Commander. I do not want anything from that station interfacing with any of our systems. We’ll use the shuttle to transport the marines.”

“Aye, sir.”

Archer took the tube down three levels and headed for the System Operations Department. At the door he held up his wrist-chip and waited for simultaneous retinal scan. The doors opened upon completion of the identification process.

Archer headed for Lieutenant Denise Brower, Chief Systems Analyst.

“Captain, what brings you down here today?” Brower asked.

“Lieutenant, I need you to make sure that we aren’t contaminated by any corrupt files from SMS 347. In fact, I want to lock down our systems to prevent any system invasion by anyone,” Archer said.

“Would you be talking about any system updates for CentComm, sir?”

Archer thought a moment. “Can we get the updates without putting them in the system until you check them out?”

“I’ll have to set it up that way. It will take a little while.”

“Thanks, Lieutenant. Also, we are going to have the check out SMS 347’s system to check if there was or is a malfunction. I don’t want to do a restart of the systems if there is a problem. I’m not sure what we’ll find there, but I want to proceed with caution.”

“You’ll be happy to know that I have Baker and Anders on that one, sir. They’ve been getting familiar with SMS 347’s operating system. I believe we can do a low-level life support start-up. That will just supply heat and oxygen. We can start other systems as we check things out.”

“Great, lieutenant! I knew that you would be on the ball.”

Archer left and took the tube down four more levels to the small hangar.

Master Chief Parker greeted Archer, “How’s it going Captain?”

“Great, Master Chief. We’re getting stuck with another delay. This one might be a problem though?”

“How’s that, sir?”

“We’ve got a mining station that went dark. We’re the closest for an SOS.”

“What about the Tarantula? Don’t they have someone?”

“CentComm wants to keep the MMA out of it. Says it’s our problem.”

Parker shook his head. “Can’t we all just get along?”

Archer nodded. “I’m just checking on how many of the shuttles we can use.”

“I’ve got two ready as always. I’m sure I can get the rest lickety-split, sir.”

“I think we’re going to need them. CentComm want the marines to hold down the station.”

“So, that’s what it was all about,” Parker said.

“What do you mean?”

“The marines. There was no need for us to have Marines on board, sir. I knew they were up to no-good.”

“Who was up to no good, Chief?”

“CentComm is who. They must have known they were going to divert us to that station. I just hope were not being played, sir.”

The chief was right, Archer thought. He felt a rise of anger. We’d best not get played!

“Oh, Chief. The fast shuttle, get that one ready soon and don’t let the Marines have it.”


“I might go to the MMA at the Tarantula.”

The chief nodded.

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Silent Station – Part One

sstvCaptain Edmond Archer stood on the bridge of the research ship Argo II gazing at the main screen. The stars stretched across the view. He felt the quiet purr of the ship vibrating through his boots as the ship hurtled through space. This was the fastest ship ever built and Archer felt the responsibility of that knowledge. He didn’t want to be named in that list of captains that destroyed the brightest/best/most indestructible ships on the very first voyage.

“Helm, report,” Archer said knowing that the crew had eyes on him.

“Captain, we are past the moon’s orbit and increasing speed at point seven G’s, sir.”

“Very good, helm. Steady as she goes.”

“Commander Bryant, you have the conn. I will be inspecting various systems on board,” Archer said.

“Aye Captain, I have the conn,” Commander Ben Bryant replied. Commander Bryant was one of three commanders trained in ship operations, along with Archer.

Archer left the bridge. The passage between decks resembled the pneumatic tubes used in 50’s era businesses. There was only room for one person. The ship was also equipped with small stairways and crawl ways, if gravity were lost.

Archer headed for engineering. Archer trained as an engineer and knew how the ship functioned. Yet, he did not have that personality that would make a great engineer. Archer loved action, not testing, re-testing, or re-re-testing. It was do or die, which was better for an officer as opposed to one working under an officer.

Marjorie Harland barely nodded when Archer strode into her domain. Her eyes were fixed on the engine monitoring system. Harland was the second commander trained in total ship operations and was third in command.

“How is it running, Marjay?” Archer asked.

“It’s doing wonders, Cap’n. The intakes are collecting enough ice particles, the separators are making enough Hydrogen for fission and enough oxygen for us. We could go on indefinitely without a refuel.”

“We’ll have to see how things look outside the asteroid belt. There are those that think it’s all a desert outside there.”

“We should find out soon, boss.”

Archer’s wrist-comm lit up and Bryant’s voice announced, “Captain to the bridge!”

Archer hit a small button and replied, “On my way.”

Archer left engineering and took the tube to the bridge.

Archer walked on the bridge. Bryant waved him over, “Captain we have a transmission from CentCom.”

“Main screen, commander,” Archer ordered.

The screen lit up. The image of Admiral Harold Johnston stared from the screen. The shield of the Interplanetary Defense Force filled the wall immediately behind the Admiral. Even with the neutrino communication system, there was a few seconds of delay before the admiral saw Archer.

“Hello, Edmond. I hadn’t realized that I would have to call you so soon on your mission.”

“Hello, Admiral. I am a bit surprised myself, especially after that resounding sendoff.”

“Unfortunately something has come up that might delay your expedition to the outer system.”

“Delay, sir? Things are working well at our end.”

“I’m sure they are working. Your crew is too well trained and even helped develop most of your systems. We have a problem, Edmond. Your ship is the only one near position to do something about it. I’ll try to make your delay as short as possible.”

“What seems to be the problem, Admiral?”

“One of our mining stations, SMS 347, has gone dark.”


“We are receiving minimal telemetric data, we haven’t had voice communications for several weeks.”

“And you’re just getting concerned now, sir?”

“It’s the Wild West out there Edmond. These mining stations are at the edge of the Asteroid Belt. There is constant interference from all sorts of things. Usually, communication is back up in a day or two.”

“But this time?”

“Telemetric data has shown the life supports systems have been shut down.”

“Shut down? Who shut down the life support?”

“The station’s computer is programmed to shut down life support when no life is detected. All the data we received just prior to the shutdown indicates that the computer acted properly. We have tried voice communication and encrypted communications. We have heard nothing. We need you to check it out.”

“Isn’t there a local authority, Admiral?”

“Well, yes and no, Edmond. Here is where it gets sticky. The station is owned by Recalcitrant Laboratories and the staff there are contractors. The main re-supply station is owned by the Martian Union. There is a supply link, but you can imagine the miners do not get along. There has also been some controversy about claim assignments.”

“How much controversy, Admiral?”

“The Martian Mining Authority has filed several grievances with IDF about Recalcitrant’s practices.”

“So, we may be looking at some sort of retaliation?”

“It could be, but be careful. You’ll want to talk to the MMA’s director at Haven Station. But first, take that small team of Space Marines that you have and secure SMS 347 and find out what happened.”

“Aye, sir. We’ll figure it out.”

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