Chapter 2

The 12th Galaxy

Chapter TWO

Captain Tucker stood tall on the Bluebird, hands folded on his back, looking at the screen in front of him.
– Where is it? he shouted impatiently.
The chief technician was scanning space, working through coordinate after coordinate.
– I’m sorry, sir! she said apologetically.
– The Blackbird is nowhere in sight. They must have jumped somewhere.
Captain Tucker was a thin, tall man with thick, dark hair and a very bushy mustache. He wore small, round metal glasses, the ones provided by the army. He was also a very strong man, and he was fair and just with his crew. Now he was puzzled that he couldn’t find the Blackbird, and he had a really bad gut feeling that something was wrong.
– It should be here, he snarled, biting his teeth.
– Can you widen your scans?
The chief technician was a young brunette named Rush. She had long hair put up in a ponytail. She typed something on her panel and turned to her captain.
– Widening it as much as I can, Sir! she said.
A small bleep sounded from her screen. She turned and made a gasping sound.
– Captain! she shouted.
– There is lots of debris out there!
Captain Tucker was still standing in the middle of the floor.
– On screen! he barked.
The main screen showed lots of different pieces of hardware floating around in space.
Captain Tucked made a sigh before he sat down in his chair.
– Analyze the debris thoroughly, he said in a trembling voice.
– I want to know what this debris is from, and where it’s made. Get started!
– Yes Sir!
The technicians on the bridge got very busy. They all had a bad feeling about this…

Alistair Brown woke up with a sudden jerk. His head ached, and he raised his right hand instinctively up to his short, blond head. His hand was full of blood, revealing that he had indeed a head injury. Alistair looked around him. He was trapped inside the cockpit of his star-fighter, and flames were licking the outside body of it. Slowly he started moving about, trying to find the lever to open the cockpit. That’s when he discovered that his left arm was hurting too, most likely broken as his fighter had crashed.
After many grunts and screams, he finally managed to open the hatch on his fighter. Standing up, he saw that Ray Gordon, his gunner, was sitting dead in the back. The flames were getting closer, and the heat was unbearable. He slid down the side of the fighter and hit the ground with a grunt. Slowly he crawled exhausted away from the burning wreck, and he passed out under a tree root just before his fighter exploded loudly.

Vise-president Lynda Stockton stood in the red office, situated right under the oval office, looking out on the night sky. No word from the president yet. She felt sick. Pulling herself out of her trancelike state, she turned around and poured herself a glass of culinar, the planets strongest and best tasting alcoholic beverage on the planet Xyver II. It was terribly expensive, but the Presidential House had plenty of money. So did Mrs. Stockton. She’d had herself a long and prosperous time making herself wealthy before she started in politics.
The vice president was in her 60s, had grey, shoulder- length hair. She enjoyed dressing in cardigans knitted with wool from her own constituency,  a factory she had supported as vigorously as she could while she was in office.
But tonight, all this wealth she had acquired seemed so unimportant. President Hooper had made it clear that he wasn’t sure if he would return from his mission to the Maxwell, and Lynda Stockton would have to take his place quickly if he were to get killed by the emperor.
Stockton poured the culinar down her throat, feeling it burn as it slid down her throat.
She thought of all her years when she had been building up her empire, Stockton Mill. She was possibly one of the richest people on the planet, but in her older days, she wanted to contribute to society, do her part in the community, try to distribute the fatness of the land in a more socialistic manner. She wanted people to get more of the riches of the planet Xyver II, and she had really changed her opinions about welfare, caring for people, and fairness to all. Why should she be one of the few that gets to taste culinary?
The phone started ringing on the desk, she jumped a bit.
She hasted over to it and lifted up the receiver.
– Stockton, she said with a sharp voice.
– Mrs. vice-president? a voice said at the other end.
– Yes?
– This is general Christensen from SpaceCom, the voice continued.
– I’m afraid to tell you that it looks like the Blackbird has been blown up with all it’s crew.
Stockton suddenly felt sick and dizzy, and she plumped herself down at the desk.
– Oh my God, she moaned.
– And president Hooper?
The voice of general Christensen came through again.
– We don’t know if he was aboard the Blackbird when it blew. Most likely has the Maxwell blown it up, but the president could be hostage or guest aboard the Maxwell. We don’t really know yet!
– Oh my God!
Lynda Stockton held her head in her hands.
– This is what he was afraid of, she mumbled.
– We suppose he might have been killed or been held hostage, so we recommend that you take the presidency straight away. We need to gather all our forces from all the planets and meet our common threat together.
We need you for that job right now, Mrs. president.
Are you ready for it?
Stockton’s face was white as if she’d just seen a ghost, but she gathered herself together as quickly as she could.
– Yes, yes, of course! she agreed.
– I’ll call the senate immediately!
General Christensen cleared his throat.
– Well, I suppose you have a lot to do, he said.
– I will be in touch later when we know more.
Goodbye, Mrs. president!
– Goodbye, general,  she replied.
She hung up and walked out to the terrace, gabbing her glass with her as she passed the desk.
She was now to be the president of the biggest planet in the 12.th Galaxy and most likely lead the Galactic Counsel.
A smile started creeping out on her face. She lifted her glass up high and made a toast to herself.
– Finally, it’s my turn! she said in a loud voice. Then she poured the rest of the culinar into her mouth and threw the glass over her shoulder. The glass shattered into a thousand pieces…

Captain Tucker swung round in his chair.
– Report!
Chief technician Rush answered with sadness in her voice.
– There is no doubt, Sir! It is the Blackbird. It’s broken in two, then shot to pieces. We have found many pieces of debris, Sir, but there is no sign of the star-fighters. They must have launched before the Blackbird got blown up1
Captain Tucker rose from his chair.
– I suppose we haven’t picked up any distress calls or any other space craft, he said, trying to keep a straight face.
He was thinking of captain Hardy, a man who had been like a father to him. His death would not go unavanged.
Rush’s voice broke his train of thought.
– There has been no calls of any kind, Sir, but we have found some ion-trails and some radiation-trails.
– Explain!
– Well, the chief technician said.
– There are two ion-trails, suggesting that the Maxwell were not alone. It seems like they had help of another star ship.
She caught her breath.
– The radiation-trails are most likely from damaged star-fighters. We have picked up four trails, Sir. The other fighters seems to have been blown into smithereens, Sir.
Tucker turned towards Rush.
– Sarah, he said, using Rush’s first name as he pleaded for her help.
– Can you find out where those trails are going?
Rush nodded seriously.
– Of course, captain. Just give me a second…

Alistair Brown heard a sound far away. It was coming closer and closer. He recognized the sound of rain, and he opened his eyes. His head was throbbing. With a groan he raised his head whilst leaning on his right arm. It was too painful to raise his left arm, so he laid himself down again. He touched his forehead, only to discover that he was still bleeding. With great difficulty, he managed to tear a long strip of clothing off his uniform. Slowly and painfully, he tied the cloth as tight as he could around his head. It was dusk, and the sun was about to set. Brown realized that he’d have to find something to eat and drink, but he wasn’t to certain where he was. He knew he was on Xyver II, and he knew he was in a forest, but not to sure how far away he was from civilization. Slowly he started searching the ground for food. After quite some time he found some black berries, and he ate as many as he could find. Yet another hour later, he stumbled around the woods, finally finding a small creek where he could get some water to drink.
The sun shad just set, and after a quarter of an hour, the place was clothed in darkness. Alistair Brown laid down beside the brook, determined to get some rest and gather some more strength.

In the oval office, Xyver II’s newly appointed president, Lynda Stockton, sat behind the desk. Around the table were the holograms of prime minister Hayes, duchess Blacklock, Mr. Goldstone, president Arnold and lord Greyhill.
– As you may already know, president Hooper is assumed dead, and I have been sworn into office a few minutes ago, Stockton started.
– I strongly suggest we don’t linger, but send as many battle ships we can spare to Axomorphilidad to try to defeat our common enemy in one swift stroke. Apparently, there was another unknown starship with the Maxwell when the Blackbird was destroyed. I suggest we use the element of surprise and attack straight away. Two starships will not be enough to defend the emperor if we all contribute with one or two starships each for a joint convoy of starships as our front line against the enemy.
She paused and looked at the holograms.
– What do you think?
The other leaders seemed to think that a surprise attack would be a good thing, but general Hayes was silent for a while.
– I don’t think we can count on this attack being a surprise attack, he said dryly.
– Our enemy has just destroyed one of our best starships, and I think they will expect us to try to retaliate. We need to be careful that we don’t go into a trap!
The other leaders nodded, and a humming noise rose as they started talking to each other back and forth across the table.
Stockton raised her voice.
– Gentlemen, please!
The humming ceased, and Stockton said:
– What do you suggest, general?
General Hayes stood up.
– We need two waves of starships, one that will be seen by the emperor approaching Axomorphilidad, and another one that will follow so far back that Hoff won’t see them before he has sent his starships. Then again, they must not be so far behind that they can not come to the aid of the first wave.
Everybody seemed happy with this.
Stockton stood up.
– We must see how many starships we can spare for these two waves! How if we convene in an hour, and then Xyver II and Orto can send their ships off to Plinky, Xyver and Minnus before going the last leg to Axomorphilidad.
There was again a humming of voices as they all seemed to agree between themselves.
Stockton walked to the side of her desk.
– As soon as Xyver II and Orto has joined their ships, we will send them off towards you.
Her voice was quite loud.
– Until we’ll meet again…
One by one, the holograms flickered and disappeared.

Emperor Hoff stood up and turned around as general Tawka entered the imperial throne room aboard the Maxwell.
– Good, he said pleased, smiling from ear to ear.
– No problems with the humans, I hope?
The ugly looking robot called Tawka that had just entered the room was black, same height and build as a human, but the mask it wore looked like a demonic face. He came over to the oval table in the middle of the room, turned round, and saluted. A mechanical voice cut through the air.
– Long live the emperor! The humans has been exterminated one by one! No fighters got away! Long live the emperor!
Hoff turned and looked over the room. His twelve generals were all gathered together, sitting round the table of power.
The emperor cleared his throat.
– Good, general Tawka! I hope you are all functioning at top level today, because we have many important things to discuss!

– Is he alive?
The young gunman leaned over the older pilot in the dark, trying to get a good look at the wounded soldier on the ground.
– Yes, he is, the pilot said slowly.
He shook the soldier violently.
– Hello soldier! Can you hear me? We’re here to rescue you!
The soldier opened his eyes slowly, squinting in the strong light from the star-fighter.
– What’s your name, soldier? the young gunman inquired.
The soldier opened his mouth a little, wet his lips and swallowed hard.
– My name is Alistair Brown, fighter-pilot on the Blackbird, he said slowly.
– And somebody is going to pay for this…

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