Author : Patricia Stewart, Staff Writer

The Flagship of The Alliance Fleet, the Apocalypse, approached the fifth planet of the Sigma Octantis system. As the bridge crew was busy performing their assigned duties, Ellison Resnick sat in the Captain’s Chair in the center of the bridge. Captain Resnick stifled a yawn as the blue-green planet began to fill the lower half of the main viewscreen. Once again, Resnick was in a gray mood. He’d come to hate his job since the life forms of Earth, Centauri, Orion, Eridani, Pavonis, and Vega formed The United Alliance of Planets less than a decade ago. After the treaty, space exploration evolved into something less meaningful, at least to him. With shared databases and technologies, the last decade was void of the thrill of discovery, the anticipation of the unknown, the excitement of battle. There were just monotonous encounters, boring negotiations, and agonizing diplomacy. Diplomacy was the worst of it. As captain of the Apocalypse, Resnick was often expected to be “The Great Arbitrator” of the inevitable interstellar disagreements. As a consequence, he spent most of his time studying interspecies protocol, so he wouldn’t offend some pompous bureaucrat. Dealing with the insectoids of Eridani was torturous. It took over an hour to perform their greeting ritual. And heaven forbid you should make a tiny mistake. It was like you defecated on their Queen. And speaking of foul smells, the stench of the Vegan homeworld could make your eyes water; while you were still in orbit.

Captain Resnick realized that he needed to improve his frame of mind before the upcoming conference. He closed his eyes and began to breathe slowly and rhythmically. He tried the mental exercise they had taught at the Academy. The “put yourself in a happy place” crap. Okay, he thought, maybe the beaches of Hilton Head Island, or the slopes of Olympus Mons. Resnick was contemplating his list of pleasing destinations when he was interrupted.

“Captain,” called out the helmsman, “we’re receiving a distress call. The cargo vessel Almucantar is requesting assistance. They’re under attack.”

“Battle Stations,” ordered Resnick. “Plot an intercept course. Proceed at maximum speed.” Resnick’s heart began to pound as the warp engines engaged. “Put tactical on the main viewer. Let’s see what we’re up against.”

It took less than four minutes to reach the Almucantar. She was badly damaged, and her shields were weakening. She was venting plasma. Several thousand meters off her bow was a large pirate cruiser firing a photon cannon at her bridge section. There were six small fighters swarming around the Almucantar’s engine nacelles. “Launch all fighters,” barked Resnick. “Initiate attack sequence Delta. Let’s take out the cruiser.” A volley of torpedoes slammed into the cruiser’s shields. “They’re shields are down to 60%,” announced the tactical officer. “We’re reloading the torpedo tubes.” The pirate cruiser quickly rotated to engage its attacker head-on, and its six fighters joined the battle. Resnick was showered in sparks as his ship’s shields absorbed a direct hit. “Return fire. Give ‘em everything we got.” Another volley of torpedoes raced toward the cruiser as tracer rounds from the two forward batteries streaked toward the enemy fighters…

“Captain. Captain Resnick,” interrupted the pleasant voice of yeoman Sunee Onizukia. “The shuttle is ready to take you to the Octantian Embassy. They’re expecting you at 1100 hours. Shall I ask them to reschedule?”

Damn, thought Resnick as his smile faded away. Reality. “No, Yeoman. Tell him I’ll be there in twenty minutes.” Resnick stood up and headed toward the shuttle bay. Well, he admitted, at least I’m in a better mood now.

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