Walk On

 

Part 3: Briefing

John was straddling sadly the corridors of his new ship, when Luna broke into his brooding thoughts:

-" John, the Lieutenant Commander Zina is asking the whole crew to gather in the briefing room. Follow the white arrows. "

-" Hmm, thanks, Luna. "

Soon, white arrows began to appear on the ground, guiding the fox toward his goal. The fox, which was running, finally arrived in front of a door, that opened at his arrival. He entered a large room, with several seats, and a big Holomap Projector, the kind used to show 3-D maps of space. John saw that all the other members of the crew have arrived, except the Lieutenant Commander. John immediately spotted the wolf, sat alone and Katar on the other end, while Oz2 was nonchalantly leaned over a wall. When Katar saw the fox, the air of despair and boring that was pouring out of his face suddenly vanished away, and the bear smiled toward John, and invited him to seat near him, with a wave of his hand. John smiled in response and nod, but he, nonetheless, sat down near the wolf, which whole body twitched in surprise. John didn’t notice the air of anger that passed quickly through Katar’s traits, smiled warmly to Zacharine, and whispered:

-" Listen, Zach, I’m sorry for having yelled on you this way. Erf… It was entirely my fault, not yours… Friends?  "

With that, John raised his paw toward Zacharine. The wolf looked at it, then at John. A few seconds after, John saw the most beautiful smile taking form on Zacharine’s lips, and the wolf took gladly John’s hand.

-" Friends!  "

The fox mentally sighed with relief. He was scared by the fact the wolf would be too much upset to accept. But it seems that Zacharine was a good enough nature to forgive him. He smiled toward Zacharine, and was on the point to say something when a door opened, to the opposite from where John has entered. He saw Zina and the white tiger coming into the room. He straightened himself and stood up, as the protocol required in presence of someone of a higher rank. He noticed that Katar has stood up at the same time as him, but Zacharine reacted a bit hesitantly a few seconds later, looking at John, while Oz2 only moved slightly his head, in order to glance at the newcomers.

‘They are no militaries’ John thought.

Zina sat down, and invited cheerfully the others to do the same. It puzzled John a bit, and he saw that Katar was also a bit surprised by Zina’s apparent lack of discipline. Zina looked at Oz2, and asked him:

-" Oz2, will you join us, and sat down? It’ll be a pleasure to have you at our table. "

The snow leopard grumbled a bit, and Zina shrugged, giving up. So, the white tiger began to talk:

-" My friends, you may be wondering why we have gathered you here, on this ship, unknown from everyone. It is because we’ll train a new team of Spacefighters pilot, with a new prototype of fighting ship. "

After having said that, the white tiger pushed a button on the Holomap Projector, and a 3-D image materialised itself in the air, showing a Spacefighter, but of a type John never saw before.

-" My friends, this is the Starfalcon. A secret ship designed to fight more efficiently in space, but that is also able to fight in nearly any environments: Planet atmospheres, underwater, and so on. "

John could not prevent himself from blinking a few times, in astonishment. Such projects have run freely in the Galactic Concord, but each time, scientists and engineers found an un-solvable problem. Mainly, weapons and armoury for space battles were inefficient at best, or dangerous at worse underwater, for example. Worst, meta-energy rays were not that powerful inside a planet atmosphere, that’s why, usually, while fighting on planets, pilots exchanged their Spacefighters for Airfighters. Katar’s disbelief was more evident:

-" Impossible! This is a pure utopia. In atmospheres, the meta-energy loose something like three quarters of its power… "

-" But who has said the Starfalcon uses meta-energy?  " The white tiger interrupted. " This form of energy has its limits. That’s why the Starfalcon relies on other forms of attacks and propulsion. The Starfalcon is using Psionics, to levitate, fly and attack, with the help of super-psionic condensator. "

All the crew looked at the white tiger, in total disbelief, gawking at him. Finally, John was the first one to collect back his wits.

-" Hrrmm, that’s interesting… But, don’t you think it has been useless to recruit us? I mean, at least me, as I’m no psionics… "

-" That’s where you’re making an error. We have chosen the whole of you for precise reasons. Oz2, here, " The white tiger said, glancing at the snow leopard. " Has developed a latent psionic ability, giving him a natural and instinctive skill toward machines. After a moment of studying a device, he is able to repair it, upgrade it, and use it without problems. "

For the first time, John heard the grumpy snow leopard speaking in long sentences:

-" Harumph. That’s no psionics. Mere skill, suffice to study well a device to make it works… "

-" Error. We have measured your Psionic Potential. It’s very high. Then, when you upgrade a device, no one else is able to use it, but it works more efficiently in your paws. It’s what is called an ‘Attunement’, or a slight specialisation of psychokinesis. You’re bounding psionically involuntarily to your devices… "

The snow leopard looked quite stunned by the revelation, but it would be hard to say, as his cap constantly hid his eyes. After that, the white tiger continued, looking at Katar.

-" You, my friend, you’re what we called a ‘Psychosurgeon’. Don’t lie to us, we know your whole file. You’re able to heal wounds with but your bare hands, and the strength of your mind. "

Katar looked at the white tiger, his paws on his chin; fingers crossed in front of his muzzle, giving a real mean look to the white tiger. But he remained silent.

-" Then, you, Zacharine, you’re one of the most potent Psionics we ever spotted. "

Zacharine blinked twice, and his ears perked down. He was surprised, and could not really believe what the white tiger has just stated, but he said nothing. That’s when John intervened.

-" Hem, excuse me, but I still do not see what I’m doing here. "

-" That’s very simple. We have measured the time of response between you and your team-mate. In every occasion, this time was one second shorter than for every other psionic links. Only one explanation is possible: You were directly mind-linked to your teammate. That’s also why you were both manoeuvring with such ease and efficientness: You were knowing instantly what to do, on an instinctual level. "

John looked at the white tiger blankly. He could not believe this. It was too much for him. Katar smirked a little.

-" Feh. That does not answer his question. As Carpenter is now dead, this link is now broken. You should have recruited the both of them a bit before. He’s no more a Psionic. "

-" Maybe. Maybe not. " The white tiger simply replied. " This may be only a matter of closeness. We hope that being in the same team might help you to mindlink to each other. "

John could not prevent to feel bad. He disliked the whole idea, being used as a tool, and nothing else, to relay information… That’s when he noticed that did Jenny, the Psi of his ancient team do exactly the job, and he felt even more ill at ease…

-" We have gathered each of you for the mere reason that, with your psionics abilities, you’ll be able to connect directly to a Psimatrix, programmed to be linked to each of your special abilities. Consequently, each ship is dedicated to one of you, and only one. They are very personal devices, accorded to answer only to your own psionic mark. The Psimatrix is also used as a source of energy for the ship, as it is coupled with a psionic condensator. Inside your own ship, your psionic abilities will be raised by something like one hundred times. "

A gasp of stun could be heard from the four Furs.

-" Erf, well… " Katar finally managed to utter. " All of that must have been costly… This ship, large and comfy… The A.I… These incredible ships… Gathering here some of the best pilots, that are also potentially awesome Psionics… Now, I’m wondering, for which purpose?  "

Katar then looked casually at the white tiger, which answered after re-dressing his tie:

-" Simple. You know about the Venefice. "

All shivered at the mention of the dreaded aliens. The white tiger then activated the Holomap Projector, to show a spherical map, with notes of East, West, North, South, Zenith and Nadir. John immediately recognised a space map, but with a very large scale, something of several thousands light years… The map was vaguely divided into three shapes of different colours, blue, yellow, and black, the three with tiny sparks to spot stars, planets, and other astral bodies of note. John also took note of the fact that the yellow shape was bigger than the two others.

-" What you’re seeing here is the repartition of space territorial control. The yellow area embodies what the Venefice control… "

John opened his eyes wide in amazement. He has always known that the Venefice were dangerous, but he never imagined that they could be that powerful…

-" The Venefice were encountered in Deep Space 7 years ago, GCS [Galactic Concord Standard]. We tried to enter in contact with them, but each time, attempts failed. Then, the first raid occurred, on Thelsea. The planet was attacked without any warning. The Venefice destroyed the cities, and pillaged all metals available on the planet. After this first attack, others occurred on several planets of the Concord, and even on planets in the Deep Space, unaffiliated with the Concord. We now know for sure that the planets of the Deep Space aren’t involved in this war… "

Katar slightly moved on his chair, a bit exasperated by the white tiger last remark. This one seemed to not have seen the bear’s exasperation.

-" Obviously, we strike back. And thus began the Venefice War. Now, the Venefice control a large part of the known space, plus what we cannot see far in the Deep Space. We’re fighting a huge alien empire. And we are slowly loosing the battle… "

The whit tiger’s last statement send chills running down the spine of everyone else in the room.

-" Why?  "

All were surprised for it was Zacharine who asked it.

-" Why do they attack us?  "

-" We do not know. By observing how they attack planets but do not try to colonise them, we suspect that they are somewhat bound to space. And as they pillage only metals on those planets, we think that they feed upon metals… "

-"  ‘We’ suspect? Who are ‘we’?  " Katar demanded

-" The Service. "

-" Ah, yes, obviously, The Service… And, if the Service is so powerful, why don’t they have stopped the Venefice?  "

-" Politically speaking, it’s impossible. Technically speaking, the Venefice came from the Deep Space. This, and the Concord is slowly crumbling into pieces… "

-" What?! ? " They all exclaimed. Even Katar…

-" The planets inside the Concord feared, with reason, that the Venefice might attack them, and they complain that no one is defending them. The problem is, we cannot defend all the planets inside the Concord. We could hire mercenaries from the Deep Space, but they are scarce, as the Independent Systems, and the unaffiliated planets, to defend themselves already hire them. The different fleets that are running through the Galactic Concord are far from enough to protect the whole of it. "

-" So " Katar intervened. " You’re recruiting tiny Psionics teams and give them wonderful new ships, in order to attack the Venefice by surprise, and without anyone knowing that?  "

-" Almost. The cutting edge is that, you included, there is only one such team… "

Katar visibly get paler under his fur…

-" Another thing is that the Inner Ring of the Galactic Concord have already lost three of his members… There are only two remaining planets in the Inner Ring… "

-" B,b,but… " Zacharine started. "Normally, when a planet of the Inner Ring falls, another one is immediately elected to replace it… "

-" Normally, yes. This measure was taken in case of galactic war. The main problem is that the Galactic Concord has never experienced war before. The systems are slow, we lose a lot of time by trying to collect all the data lost on the three fallen planets, and many planets are competing to be in the Inner Ring. Plus, gathering soldiers became even more difficult with the beginning of the Venefice War. This war could surely be the death of the Galactic Concord. "

-" And?  " Katar simply asked.

-" And, what do you think the Venefice will do when the Galactic Concord will fall? You know that the Galactic Concord is a wall keeping the Deep Space safe. If this wall crumbles, the way will be clear for the venefice to attack all the other systems. One by one. "

Katar could simply nod in agreement. Even if it was not perfect, the galactic Concord was a united group of planets. The Deep Space contained only independent planets or tiny confederation, but nothing that could be compared to the Concord…

-" So ", the white tiger continued. " Our mission is simple. We have to defeat the Venefice. Or to find a way to communicate with them, and try to understand their needs and goals. For that,  we need as much information as possible. So, the goals of the Starfalcon 1 are to defend the Galactic Concord and the planets of the Deep Space from every Venefice attacks, and finding data concerning them. For the scientific part, the Lieutenant Commander Zina will be of a great help… "

The tiny cat waved her hand, smiling warmly to the whole of them. ‘A scientist’, thought John. I understand things better, now…’

-" But " Zina added. " Me alone, that would be way TOO hard. That’s why I’ve called for help. Soon, we’ll have a guest, the professor Zephyr. With Luna, that will do the scientific part of the Starfalcon 1… "

-" What? The A.I. thingy will help you in scientific matters?  "

-" Katar, I prefer being referred as ‘Luna’, and not as ‘A.I. thingy’. But that’s personal… "

Katar blushed, and apologised to Luna.

-" Yup, me, Luna, and Zephyr. We’ll have a lot of work in the coming days.  I think you should go see your Starfalcons and get accustomed to them. "

With that, Zian stood up, and walked toward the door from which she has entered, with the white tiger. Arrived in front of it, she invited them to follow her. They all stood up, except Oz2, who simply left the wall. And they all followed the tiny white and black cat.

End of Part 3