The Unification Mission Excerpt
Updated: Sep 13, 2022
Soft Science Fiction
Closed Door Romance
January 15, 2638, Border to Shimbahn Unification of 5’s Inner Territory
Alma could just about touch consciousness. But she knew she was still dreaming. Memories that had not happened yet were flitting through her mind like torn papers slowly falling. In one scene, she was surrounded by a crowd of grey Unification citizens in a stone building lit only by candlelight, where a ceremony was taking place. This seemed odd to Alma as humans had given up religion centuries ago, but there she was, as unlikely as it was, in a crowd of aliens, desperately searching for someone. She had the urge to call out a name, but, in that instant, she panicked because she couldn’t remember that important person’s name. The alarm she felt at not being able to remember it caused her to jump, and she awoke completely in her hyper-sleeping pod.
Alma didn’t open her eyes, but another jolt from the sleeping pod forced her to open them. She was so cold and the lights so bright. She quickly closed her eyes again. And again, the sleeping pod jilted her. She opened her eyes again, and this time she kept them open, waiting for them to focus, for the pain to dissipate, all the time going over in her mind the side effects of hypersleep space travel.
After about twenty minutes, she released the restraints on her sleeping pod and slowly and shakily put her feet on the cold metal floor. Alma paused, holding the side of the pod for support with her clammy hand, letting the nausea wash over her as the room spun. When she felt well enough to walk, she still felt as if she was asleep. She touched her face. “Am I awake?”
Alma looked down at her bare feet, stomping them up and down on the freezing metal floor. Still numb, she kicked her right foot hard into the control panel on the side of her sleeping pod. She broke a few buttons, and her foot was now bloody and had some shards of glass sticking out of it. “Yep, that hurts. I’m awake.”
“Captain, are you okay over there?” asked Doctor Galen Harvey from across the 234 sleeping pods that still held the motionless bodies of the Indy crew. It was a protocol that first the medical team was roused, then the captain and officers, followed by the crew.
Alma walked slowly, limping a little, toward the small makeshift medical screening area where Galen, the Indy’s doctor, was setting up equipment. “Yes, just making sure I was really here, you know?”
Galen sighed and motioned for Alma to sit on the silver medical bed. “I understand but trust me. You’re awake. You don’t have to hurt yourself to prove it.” He took out a healing polymer device and began extracting glass from her right foot. “I can give you something to make things seem more real if you like?”
“What’s in it?” Alma, like most JC citizens, was highly suspicious of medicine.
“I’m not playing games, Captain. I’m the doctor, and you’re the patient. Do you want it or not?”
“Yes,” she replied reluctantly. Alma watched Galen prepare the medicine from his supplies and thought about how lucky she was to have him on board. So many of her original crew had not wanted to follow her on this mission, and Galen was the best doctor in the fleet. He didn’t need to come to prove himself or for UCs, but when she had asked, he hadn’t hesitated in saying yes. She supposed that since he was middle-aged and without family, he may be figured he had nothing to lose.
Galen administered the drug with a painless shot to Alma’s naked shoulder. “How do you feel?”
Alma closed her brown eyes and took in the weird feeling throughout her body. “I feel like I’ve been on the biggest drinking binge of my life with the cheapest alcohol known to humankind.” She took a deep breath. “No, not the cheapest alcohol — even worse, my father’s moonshine. It’s bad.”
Galen laughed a little and ran a hand through his short brown hair. “All your scans look good. Just go about your business. It’s always like this coming out of hypersleep. In a few days, you will feel like yourself again.”
“How many times have you done this?”
“This is my fifth long hypersleep,” he said casually. “You get used to them.”
“I’m never going to have to get used to them. The first thing we’re trading for is jump drives. Then it’ll only take a week to get home,” Alma said confidently.
“We will see. I hope we haven’t come all this way to find out that they’ve changed their minds about trading for technology.”
“They aren’t the Red,” Alma said, not wanting even to consider the possibility of failing.
“No, they’re not,” Galen agreed. The Shimbahn Unification of 5 were renowned for their straightforwardness, efficiency, and honor, opposite the JC’s nearest neighbors, the Red. “But it troubles me that they didn’t bring us here themselves if they were so willing to trade.”
“I’m sure this is just a precaution to ensure we’re serious, too,” Alma replied. “You know as well as I do that humans don’t have the best reputation.” She looked behind her shoulder as the rest of her crew was waking up. “I’ll be in my quarters and then the bridge. Make sure you see the senior staff yourself and give them all what you gave me. I don’t want any dreamers at their posts.”
“Yes, Captain,” Galen said as he watched Alma leave the hypersleep area.
When Alma entered her small quarters, she opened the tiny wardrobe that barely held her uniforms and pulled one out. It was a plain, form-fitting jumpsuit like all the JC uniforms zipped up the front. The color of hers was dark purple to denote her rank. On her left shoulder was a patch with the JC emblem, which featured an embroidered black circle with five differently sized smaller white circles in a straight line representing Earth, the Moon, Mars, Europa, and Enceladus. Her name and rank, “Cpt. A.H. Johnson,” was also embroidered in black across the top right-hand side of her uniform. She ran a finger over her name and said quietly, “And relieved to be alive, on this side of the galaxy, and still be captain.”
After a moment’s reflection, Alma went into her small bathroom and washed her face while taking in her appearance in the tiny square mirror. She thought she would’ve looked more rested after three years of hypersleep, but she looked the same as when she entered the pod, exhausted. She used water and a small wooden comb to make her bobbed brown hair presentable. Content with her small ablutions, she went to her desk. Her ancient computer was blinking at her. She grabbed the soda she had purposely left there three years earlier and quietly said to herself, as she sat down and opened the drink, “Let’s see who has been talking to us.” She unlocked her computer with her voice activation code. “Computer, this is Captain Alma Johnson, code Beta-Zeta-Sigma-Sigma-5-5. Unlock.”
Alma’s computer answered her in a stern female voice that always took her off-guard, “Captain Alma Johnson, your computer is unlocked.”
First, Alma looked over the ship’s systems. Most everything was working properly, except the ship’s translators. This was a problem because their embedded translators worked only for the spoken word of the Unification language. She sent a message directly to engineering to make it a priority to have that repaired.
Then Alma looked through her messages. There were, of course, a lot from the JC and one from someone in the Unification, sent just yesterday. Alma touched the Unification hieroglyphic message, hoping whoever wrote it knew about their ignorance of galactic written languages. She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the message was in a language she could read.
We have been ordered directly by the imperial family to meet you sooner than previously arranged. We will be with you shortly after you awake from hypersleep. Stay the course. May the gods give you strength.
“Oh great,” Alma said sarcastically and then left her quarters for the bridge at a fast pace. She entered the bridge from the rear and sat beside her first officer, Christopher, in the captain’s chair directly behind the helmsman. The bridge was small and had no windows, just computer screens.
“Eito,” Alma said, and a middle-aged Japanese man looked up from his terminal. “Please scan for any Unification ships in the vicinity.”
“Aye, Captain,” he replied without hesitation.
Christopher and the rest of the bridge crew gave Alma a questioning look. Alma ignored them. She was half wondering if this was still a dream or if she was awake. She still felt so strange from the hypersleep.
“Captain, five Unification Alpha ships are on an intercept course. They’ll be with us in approximately an hour.”
“Maintain course and speed, Eito.”
Alma addressed her communications officer, a brilliant young woman from Seoul who had sped through the fleet’s academy so quickly that she was only 21 years old. However, her calm voice made whatever was happening seem like it would always work out in their favor. “Selma, please open communications to all the JC ships.”
“Aye, Captain, communications open.”
Alma stood up from her chair, picked up an old-fashioned telephone receiver, and addressed her crew and the two civilian ships traveling with them. “This is Captain Johnson. I received a message that our Unification escort ships will meet us within the hour as the imperial family is impatient for our arrival. This is a good sign. It’s sooner than we expected, but we are more than rested and ready for this. This is what we came here for. Let’s hustle to be ready. Johnson out.”
Alma sat back down in her captain’s chair, returned the phone to its cradle, and looked at Christopher’s questioning face.
“That’s what the message said. They’ll meet us. I’m not sure what the difference is between us arriving tomorrow or in a week, when it’s taken us three years to get here, but we are in no position to question what the Unification wants. It’s a good sign.” She said the last sentence loud enough for everyone on the bridge to hear.
“Captain, we have got an incoming message from the Unification, Alpha Class Ship the Fer. They’re instructing us to power down our engines so they may extend space tractor beams around our ships and escort us to Sa.”
“Acknowledged and relay the message to the other JC ships.”
“Eito, complete stop,” said Christopher to the helmsman.
“Viewer on,” Alma commanded, and one of the small screens on the bridge changed from data about their course to the camera outside. The Indy bridge officers were amazed to see the five massive Unification Alpha Class Warships on the screen.
“Their ships must be at least seven to ten kilometers in length,” said Eito admiringly. The Indy, a JC Tier 5 ship, was only two kilometers long.
“And beautiful in a strange way,” Selma added. The Unification warships were shaped like soft triangles and looked almost seamless compared to their clunky ships with uneven hulls.
Not long after the engines were cut, the Unification ships released massive, orange-colored tractor beams onto the JC ships to drag them through space. Alma leaned over to Christopher. “I wonder if this is the first time they’ve used these tractor beams for dragging ships they haven’t conquered in battle?”
Christopher’s blue eyes focused on the view screen, and he ran a hand through his short blonde hair. “It’s completely humiliating to arrive this way. How can you even joke about this?”
Alma shrugged. “We’re in no position to be anything but humble.”
“Until we get the jump drives, that is,” he replied, and they both shared a smile.
“Captain, we’re being hailed again. Their admiral wants to speak to you on a private channel,” Selma said.
“I’ll take it in my quarters,” Alma replied as she left the bridge. During the short walk, she suddenly became irrationally nervous about speaking to a Unification officer for the first time. She wanted to make a good impression. She had her heart and soul set on returning to Earth with those jump drives and regaining some of her social standing by succeeding here.
Standing in front of her desk, she took a deep breath, ran both hands through her short hair to ensure no strands were standing up at odd angles, sat down, and pressed the green button to enable the connection.
The Price of Redemption
Captain Alma Johnson has accepted a dangerous mission to the Shimbahn Unification of 5, located on the far side of the galaxy. She and her crew have one task, to return with jump drive technology. If she is successful, she will have redeemed her reputation and secured Earth’s economy. But there are troubling rumors in the galaxy that the Unification wants human females in exchange for the jump drives. It’s up to Alma to discover what they really want and decide if the price is too high for humanity or her.
How much is Alma willing to sacrifice to complete her mission?
Soft Science Fiction
Closed Door Romance