Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer
The attack cruiser Etherwolf docked at the Alliance Refueling Station orbiting Vesta, the second largest planetoid in the asteroid belt. Captain Olbers disembarked the Etherwolf and was greeted by the Station Commander. Sarah Wilhelm saluted sharply, and then extended her right hand. “Ah, Captain Olbers,” she said with a broad smile. “It’s a pleasure to finally meet the legendary captain of The Black Star.” The Etherwolf received the nickname The Black Star because every enemy ship it encountered during the interstellar war with the Arcturus Empire was never seen again, similar to matter disappearing forever into a black hole. It was a reputation that Captain Olbers had no intention of dispelling. She continued, “What brings you to the asteroid belt?”
After shaking hands, Captain Olbers replied, “I’m here to pick up a priority package from Earth Command. Has it arrived yet?”
Commander Wilhelm’s jovial mood suddenly darkened. “Oh, so the package is for you. Yes, Central Intelligence arrived with it two days ago. They’ve placed armed guards around the storage bay. I can’t get within 100 meters of the bay doors. To be honest, Captain, I don’t enjoy being kept in the dark when it concerns my Station. Mind telling me what’s in the package?”
“Unfortunately, Commander, I’m afraid that information is top secret. But believe me; you’re better off not knowing. Please inform CI that they can transfer the package to the Etherwolf immediately, and I’ll get out of your hair.”
Three hours later, The Etherwolf separated from the refueling station and headed toward the Constellation Bootes. Specifically, toward the left foot of the Herdsman (otherwise known as the Bear Driver). With luck, the war with the Arcturus Empire was about to come to a swift end.
“Your Eminence,” reported the Arcturian Minister of Intelligence, “our situation is becoming desperate. Our spies on the Vesta Refueling Station believe that the Black Star is carrying a doomsday devise. We think they plan to destroy our homeworld. A week ago, two of our best battle cruisers engaged the Black Star in the vicinity of Beta Comae Berenices, only a dozen light years from here. Both were destroyed. We don’t know if the Black Star has an unbeatable arsenal, or the captain is a tactical genius. We’ve recalled the Deep Space Fleet to fortify the Homeland Defense. We will attempt to establish a barricade around the perimeter of our solar system. May the gods help us?”
Two days later, the Black Star entered Arcturian space. “Your Eminence, the Black Star has given us one rotation to surrender. If we don’t, they say we will be destroyed.”
“Nonsense,” blasted the Emperor. “He’s bluffing. How can one ship threaten our entire fleet? I don’t need one rotation, I don’t need one second. Attack the infidel now.”
The Arcturian Fleet swarmed toward the Black Star like a thousand angry bees. The Black Star went to warp and reappeared seconds later above the Arcturian sun. No ordinary ship could match that maneuver. The Black Star released its payload. As gravity pulled the package downward, the Arcturians tried to destroy it. Their weapons vaporized the external containment hardware, but had no effect on the contents. Solar prominences twisted in the intensifying magnetic field as the object plummeted through the chromosphere. Powerful solar flares exploded upward from the impact site, racing past the location that had previously been occupied by the now departed Black Star. The sun began to pulsate.
Several hours later, Captain Olbers transmitted a sub-space message to Earth Command as he returned home. “Success is a planetary nebula in the aft sensor array.”