Harmony of color throughout Old San Juan make this a photographer’s dream. The combination of cobblestone streets, beautiful windows and doors, and alternating colors on each building begs the camera to shoot almost continuously.
Harmony of color throughout Old San Juan make this a photographer’s dream. The combination of cobblestone streets, beautiful windows and doors, and alternating colors on each building begs the camera to shoot almost continuously.
This weekly photo challenge from the Daily Post can be a great deal of fun. Follow the link to see other entries.
This picture was taken in the Andromeda Botanic Gardens in Barbados. I cannot remember the name of the fruit, so please let me know if you can identify it.
For today’s Daily Post, I want to give you a taste of Nu Book 2 – The Esss Retreat. Asteroid Mining Company (AMC) has developed a new fighter for the United Space Navy and Sted Richardson is in the process of testing the main lasers on each of the new ships.
The Featured Image is a publicly available wallpaper from the site www.thesurge.com and can be accessed by following the link.
This work has not been through professional editing, so any corrections or thoughts would be appreciated.
Sted was afraid to be too optimistic about their first coordinated test. They were using the shuttle Endeavour as their mock target. The shuttle had finally arrived in lunar orbit three weeks after Sted and Jessica and, after being emptied of all unnecessary personnel, it was placed in an orbit that allowed the training attack runs to be hidden from anywhere on Earth.
The initial testing was strictly to see how well hidden the Scorpions could remain, so two naval destroyers were placed in orbit with the Endeavour. Once everything was in place, the group of five fighters streamed up from the lunar surface toward the flotilla in orbit so that they could establish baseline radar and visible and infrared spectrum readings as they approached.
With the fighters under power, they were easy to detect from the output of their engines. Once the engines were cut, however, they were undetectable. Their exterior panels successfully absorbed almost all wavelengths of radiation, or at least failed to reflect that radiation back to any active sensors. The Scorpions were, in effect, the stealthiest ships ever constructed by humanity.
Sted had been anticipating the laser targeting tests for the last couple of weeks. He had worked with Captain Evans on finding the quickest way to test all the new equipment and crews and they had settled on doing individual ship tests for this phase.
“Scorpion One, this is Scorpion Leader,” said Sted over the command channel. “Commence your initial laser test run. I will light up the Endeavor on my mark.”
“Commencing first pass,” replied Captain Evans from Scorpion One. “Awaiting your mark.”
Sted held back for a few more seconds to allow Scorpion One to achieve an optimal position for their first test laser shot, then looked over at Lieutenant Wessel and gave her a slight head nod telling her to activate the spotting laser. He then opened the command channel once more and called out “Mark!”
The spotting laser painted a small target in the center of the number “2” on the tail of the Endeavor. Since Scorpion One was not aware where the spot would be painted on the hull of the target, Sted figured it would take several seconds to acquire the target point and get the main laser properly aligned. He was pleasantly surprised when Scorpion One’s main laser got off their initial shot in under three seconds. Accuracy, however, did not match quickness of the delivery.
“Scorpion One, you were eight meters wide of the target at 290 degrees. Adjust your targeting optics for the next pass. Scorpion Two, commence your first pass and fire on my mark,” commanded Sted.
“Scorpion Two commencing first pass,” replied Captain Elizabeth Bell.
“Lieutenant Wessel, adjust the initial target to the center of the airlock door at loading bay three on Endeavour,” said Sted. He wanted to adjust the initial target for each ship so there could be no anticipation by that crew.”
“Ready at the door to loading bay three,” replied his weapons specialist.
“Mark!” barked Sted over the command channel.
Nothing happened. Sted waited patiently for all of 30 seconds before commanding “Report, Captain Bell!”
“Scorpion Leader, this is Scorpion Two,” replied Captain Bell. “We have a main laser malfunction. I repeat, we have a main laser malfunction. We have no clue what is causing the problem.”
“Scorpion Two,” said Sted. “Report back to the AMC factory. We need that laser fixed as quickly as possible.”
“Damn,” whispered Sted to himself. He was really feeling the time pressure for getting these ships up to speed, and this setback would be costly in lost time. Well, there was nothing he could do about that right now. He had to complete the testing of Scorpions Three and Four.
Pushing this problem back into a compartment of his mind for later consideration, Sted ordered the next pass
“Scorpion Three, commence your first pass and fire on my mark,” commanded Sted.
“Lieutenant Wessel, move your target 100 meters toward the bow of Endeavor.”
“Target moved 100 meters toward the bow,” replied Lieutenant Wessel.
“Mark!” said Sted when Scorpion Three was in position.
Testing went on for the next twenty minutes as Scorpion One, Three, and Four each made several more passes.
After five complete passes, two of the Scorpion targeting systems had been tuned to strike the laser spot on every attempt. Scorpion Two and Four were returning to the factory. Scorpion Four required hardware changes in the targeting system and Scorpion Two had to have the main laser completely replaced. Both crews would miss the next set of drills while the factory worked on the fixes. Sted split up those crews so that they could be observers in the remaining Scorpions while the drills continued. As far as Sted was concerned, the test was a real disaster.
Cabo’s iconic rock formation in Shadow from the evening sun.
The people of New York City were blissfully unaware of the approaching alien ship. News suppression from the mainstream media outlets was complete. The North American Union was afraid the masses would react hysterically with a mixture of fear, euphoria, mass suicides, hoarding of food, economic collapse, runs on banks, or any number of other negative reactions.
“The Insider” had prepared Richard and the New York Rag specifically for this moment. Since the electronic media could not be trusted to get this extremely important story out to the people, he would make sure the real story was published on paper that could be handed from person to person with the government completely out of the picture.
The story was short, because there were not many facts to be reported:
Lunar astronomers have discovered evidence of an alien spacecraft inbound to the solar system. The light from the decelerating craft appeared suddenly in the constellation Orion. Analysis of the spectrum of light indicates that the spacecraft uses a combination of hydrogen and methane for fuel and that the deceleration far exceeds what could be tolerated by a human body.
Preliminary calculations give a rough estimate of two months before the craft arrives in the inner part of the solar system near the planet Jupiter.
There have been no detectable transmissions from the inbound craft from which we might gather additional information. The intentions of the visitors are unknown at this time, and speculation would be just that, speculation.
When this news article arrived on the iBlog server, Richard was skeptical. How could the media suppress such a big story, and how could he verify the few facts being presented?
Richard decided to request specific coordinates from “The Insider.” When they were received, he passed them to his boyhood friend Ken, who was an amateur astronomer with his own half-meter telescope. Because of the weather, the viewing up in the Catskill Mountains wasn’t always the best, but it was definitely clear enough over the next few days that Ken would be able to locate this new light source.
Ken contacted Richard in the early hours of the next morning, and the excitement in his voice was unmistakable. “There is definitely a new and bright light source at those coordinates! Did you say your source identifies this as an inbound alien ship?”
“Definitely,” Richard replied. “Can you verify that the source comes from methane and hydrogen combustion?”
“Sorry, Richard, I don’t have that kind of spectrographic equipment. Given a few days, I could tell you if the light source is moving with respect to the background stars, but I have no reason to doubt the story you received. Light sources like this do not appear overnight.”
“Thanks, Ken. I really appreciate your input. I’m going to go with the story today in a special addition of the Rag, and I would like to mention your confirmation, if you don’t mind.”
“No problem. I hate when the government suppresses stories like this, and they won’t be able to deny the story when anyone like me can just point their telescope in the right direction and see the damn thing. What are they going to do to me? You’re the one who has to worry. They’ll be coming at you looking for your source.”
There was no way Richard was going back to sleep after that video chat, so he got dressed and headed upstairs to the office to begin the work on this very special edition of the Rag.
Two days later, most of the people of New York City were too busy to notice or react to the announcement running around the news ticker at One Times Square that said, “THE ALIENS ARE COMING!” Their lives were too hectic, or too important, or too overwhelming. But that was the majority. Several pockets of activity were related directly to this momentous news. Already, several groups had gotten permits to set up forums throughout the city to espouse their beliefs on what was coming.
At the corner of Broadway and 42nd street, just below the ticker, a group of saffron-robed monks was handing out pamphlets announcing the arrival of God Incarnate and warning people to get their lives in order for the final hour of judgment.
In Central Park, an evangelical church group had set up a stage where gospel singers were raising their voices in praise to the Lord. Just to the left of the stage was a large tent where a long line of people was working its way into a temporary sanctuary to be baptized in an above ground pool that had been set up for that purpose.
The few newsstands around the city were doing a brisk business for a change. Most had been driven out of business in the past few decades as the majority of people got their news and entertainment from a multitude of online venues. The few that had survived tended to sell only tabloids that appealed to the lowest members of society with stories that seemed too fantastic to be true but always had a thread of verifiable truth to make you wonder. Now, the tabloids could not print enough copies to keep up with demand. Today’s edition of The Flash declared, “Aliens to Harvest Humans” with the accompanying speculative story by Hannibal Burns that “The Overseers of the Universe” had recognized that the ever-growing population of Earth was ruining the planet, and something had to be done to save Earth from the “human infestation.”
Of course, the government-run television news channels gave the news only a few brief minutes of coverage with warnings to ignore all of the crazy stories going around. The government had everything well in hand and would give out regular reports on developments as they happened. This would suffice for the moment, because nobody knew anything at this point. All that was really known was that a spacecraft of unknown origin with unknown intentions was entering the solar system.
Meanwhile, Richard and the New York Rag were strangely silent on the subject of the aliens. The big splash caused by their special edition had started the ball rolling, and Richard wanted more information to enhance his increased circulation numbers.
When he questioned “The Insider,” he received a short note back telling him to hang on until the Navy had more facts. It was much too early to speculate on the nature or intentions of the aliens and their ship heading in from the outer part of the galaxy, but he promised a story about the Navy shutting down facilities in the belt to hide them from detection by the visitors.
Pouring of water
A symbol of purity
I find the greatest moments of solitude when I am near, in, or under the ocean. This is especially true in the tropics. Today’s pictures are from Amadee Island in the French protectorate of New Caledonia.
Artistic representation showing the Trojan asteroid Hektor and its tiny moon. Credit: H. Marchis & F. Marchis
Note: AMC stands for Asteroid Mining Company and AMC Scorpion is the first of a new class of mining assay ship with added defensive capabilities.
As the crew was winding up the analysis of the three drilling sites and preparing to depart for their last target, Julie picked up the signature of an inbound ship drifting toward them from the direction of their last claim.
“We have visitors approaching stealthily from the sunward direction,” she announced to everyone on the bridge.
“Well, that’s never a good sign,” Sted replied. “That usually indicates foul intentions. Bundy, I want you prepared for immediate missile defense. Bill, spin the laser capacitor back up. I want it at full charge in the next three minutes. Once that’s done, I need both of you to get into your vacuum suits while monitoring your consoles.”
With that, Sted switched to the all-ship channel. “All hands prepare for enemy engagement. This is not a drill.”
As soon as Sted donned his vacuum suit, he strapped himself into the command chair and turned to Julie. “Give me the latest on your contact.”
“Contact is at fifty kilometers and drifting toward us at one hundred kilometers per hour. I can’t get a good visual because of the sun, so I cannot identify the vessel’s class. They are, however, already in missile range for the type that destroyed the AMC Pride.”
“Okay, Julie. Prepare to come about. I want the prow facing the visitors as I hail them.”
“Bill, I need the main laser trained on their ship and dialed up to its highest setting. Be prepared to fire on my order.”
With that, Sted switched to the universal hailing frequency. As soon as Julie had the Scorpion facing their enemy, he activated the microphone in his helmet. “This is AMC Scorpion. Please identify yourself immediately.”
Five seconds after the transmission, Bundy Meacham looked up. “We have two inbound missiles. I am engaging laser defenses.” He paused for a moment. “We have two direct hits on the missiles and both have been destroyed.”
“Fire the main laser,” Sted to Bill Overton. “I want multiple holes in that ship immediately!”
With that, Bill sent three fifteen-second pulses through the drilling laser with only two seconds between each pulse. He began analysis of the laser hits immediately, but the sun made any confirmation difficult. “I can’t get a reading on the result of the drilling bursts,” Bill said. “I know we hit them hard, but the sun is masking any readings.”
“Julie, spin up the engines to half power and move us away from the asteroid to get a better angle for Bill’s analysis. Bill, prepare for another three pulses if necessary.”
Once again, Sted hailed the enemy ship. “This is the AMC Scorpion. This is your last chance to identify yourself. Please advise if you have casualties or need assistance.”
“AMC Scorpion, this is Powell Madigan aboard the Falcon. We have sustained significant damage and multiple casualties. We surrender and request immediate assistance. I repeat. We surrender and request immediate assistance.”
“Standby, Falcon.” Sted turned to Bill. “Can you get any better readings?”
“We definitely breached the hull, sir,” Bill replied. “I detect a significant plume of atmosphere streaming out of the ship.”
“Falcon, this is AMC Scorpion. We will be coming around and approaching from the stern of your ship. Any sign of resistance, and we will put more holes in your hull than you can count. Please let me know the number of personnel aboard and the number of casualties. We are only a mining assay ship and do not have the facilities to afford any relief. We can, however, contact our closest mining platform for assistance. They will contact the Space Navy to schedule a rescue mission. That assistance will be at least a week getting here. Monitor the emergency channel for updates on the rescue party.”
“AMC Scorpion, this is the Falcon. We have a crew of fifteen. We have seven dead from decompression when you ripped open our crew quarters. The remaining eight crew members should be able to survive at least three weeks on our remaining air, water, and food supplies.”
“Falcon, this is AMC Scorpion. We are now one kilometer to your stern. We have recorded all of your transmissions and will send these along with our request for assistance. We will advise the rescue party of your current state. Scorpion out.”
Sted turned to Julie. “Please contact the mining platform. Send along the contact recordings along with the coordinates of this asteroid and the condition of the Falcon. We also want to register our claim immediately. That asteroid is our biggest find to date. The platform may want to follow the Navy back here to begin their mining operations.”
AMC stands for Asteroid Mining Company and Cam is Cam Dunston, the CEO of AMC.
Jessica turned back to Sted with such a mischievous grin on her face that Sted could not help but smile. They had just gotten off the transport cab at the shuttle docking facility with their transport bags for the trip back to Luna. Jessica had been gloating for the past two days since the orders had been received for the two of them to board the shuttle for this return trip. Apparently, her suggestion to Cam that Sted was anxious to get back to AMC to work on the new Epsilon fighters had struck a chord with not only Cam but also with the Admiralty.
“Will you stop gloating?” Sted asked, smiling. “Yes, it was probably your suggestion to Cam that got the Admiralty to lift the lockdown of the shuttle. I’m sure they were considering it anyway though, because there are several dozen people here that are needed urgently on Luna and Earth. The shuttle will also be able to bring back some additional specialists for altering the Voyager III design to turn it into a fighter-carrying ship instead of a peaceful interstellar explorer.”
Jessica grinned. “You look so good eating crow! I promise to stop serving it to you now that we’re boarding the shuttle. I think I’ll let the cooks on board prepare our meals for the long trip back, and I’m sure they don’t have any crow in the larder!”
“That’s it! You’re definitely going to have to be punished once we get onboard.”
“Well, you get almost three months to figure out the best way to administer your punishment,” she said. “If you need some suggestions, I’m sure I can think of a few!”
They moved across the large shuttle receiving area and took the lift down into the shuttle. With the shuttle docking facility on the opposite arm from the interstellar development platform, and with both rotating around the central core, the shuttle had been designed with its main entrance on the top of the craft, where it locked onto the docking facility.
With so few returning on the shuttle, and with Lockheed still trying to lure Sted into their service, they had been assigned a luxury suite for the trip back. The suite was almost as big as Sted’s apartment back at the shipyard. The only difference was the presence of a real office facility right in the suite and the lack of a kitchen/dining space. All dining on the shuttle took place in the main dining room, similar to a cruise ship on Earth’s ocean liners.
As Jessica unpacked their few belongings, Sted palmed the desktop communication screen to find out the details of his orders. He knew the Navy would not let him be idle during the long trip, so he was not surprised with the number of emails with attachments waiting for him. Only one of the emails was highlighted in red, so he touched the screen to open it. A video recording from Cam popped up on the desktop.
“Hello, Sted,” said Cam’s recorded voice. “There is a locked drawer in the desk that will only open to your right thumbprint. Inside is a chip containing the latest design specs for the Epsilon class fighters we are starting to put together here on Luna. As soon as you get settled, I want you to review the designs and draft any suggestions you might have beyond what you’ve already communicated to us through Rear Admiral Cunningham and directly to me when you disagreed with her assessments.
“By the way, your suggestion for interchangeable skins for the Epsilons created quite a stir among the engineers here. We have already redesigned the mounting of the outer shell layer, and one of our youngest and brightest engineers has come up with a way to change the surface of a single outer layer to switch to matte black from mirrored by running a current through the transparent surface layer. When current is applied, the layer changes from transparent to a dusty charcoal black. When the current is turned off, the layer switches back to being completely transparent, and underneath is the mirrored surface. We just got the frequencies of the alien laser used to destroy a camera-carrying missile out in Jupiter orbit, so we will be adapting the mirrored surface for those specific frequencies.
“What we are looking for from you is a set of fighting tactics to be used by the Epsilons against one of those smaller craft that came to visit us so recently. Based on those tactics, we need to know what changes need to be made to the fighters.
“We have arranged for your communications to have top priority from the shuttle, so if you have specific questions or need additional information to continue your research, just store your requests on this console in the High Priority Request folder, and they will be routed to us automatically on the next transmission. Likewise, we will have our responses and any requests that we might have in the High Priority Response folder on your desktop. When any response is posted in this folder, you will get both a visual and auditory signal from the desktop. Also, if you are not in your quarters at the time, your personal communicator will be notified.
“I look forward to hearing from you in the very near future. By the way, Vice Admiral Bunting sends his personal regards to both you and Jessica. Her suggestion to bring you back to Luna came at just the right time based upon the intelligence the Navy has been gathering about the aliens. We can’t get you here any faster than the shuttle can fly undetected back from the shipyard, but at least we can take advantage of your expertise while you’re in transit.”
As the message went dark, Jessica tapped Sted on the shoulder and then put her arms around him from behind. She knew how valuable Sted was to the Navy right now, but did they know just how valuable he was to her? She sincerely doubted that.
“Well, honey,” she said. “I know they’re going to keep you busy most of the way back. Just remember, you promised some punishment for me on this trip, and I expect you to deliver.”
With that she kissed him on the top of his head, swiveled his chair around, and then sat in his lap for a hug of reassurance that she needed desperately.
Birds in flight, especially when they are gliding on the wind currents, are very graceful. For today’s challenge, I went back to our trip to the Gannet colony in at Cape Kidnappers in New Zealand to select the most graceful shot of these beautiful birds in flight.