From the Inside Flap
"This is the Captain. Wehave just received word from our sentry drones. A force of Laconian ships hasbeen detected in quadrant alpha twelve. Check your systems. We jump in thirtyseconds."
Thirty seconds and enemy ships detected. Is this it?
Xenophon gulped at the realisation he wasfinally going into action. His mouth dried at the mere thought of the dreadedLaconian fleet. His training kicked in, and he ran his eyes along the lines ofdata, checking the power levels, plasma generators, and targeting grid.
As the craft moved from the protection ofthe vast Armada, each one flashed and then vanished. The faster than light (FTL)engines of each frigate propelled them away at unimaginable speed to theirpatrol area. Inside the ship, Xenophon did his best not to retch. No othermembers of the vessel seemed to be adversely affected by the journey. He wascertainly the most recent addition to the crew, but even so, he would haveexpected other members to experience at least mild discomfort during the trip.
"Three minutes until arrival, charging upprimary weapon generators. All stations report in," the Captain ordered.
Xenophon scanned from left to right,looking at scores of numbers and diagrams that showed him everything from thetemperature of the barrels to the heart rates of his two assistants.
"Everything looks good," hesaid, partially to confirm, but also to reassure him that he had made nomistakes. The trigger locks were still active and could only be withdrawn by thetactical officer or commander of the gun deck.
"News coming in from Headquarters, astrike force has been tracked by our primary fleet, and they are in pursuit.Arrival in sixty seconds," said the Captain.
Xenophon's pulse was now pounding. Hecould see his own life signs on the monitor suite next to him. The increase inheart rate simply made him more anxious. One alert message popped up. There wasa slight anomaly in the targeting system. It wasn't serious, but it did throwhim into a minor panic. The change in pressure inside the ship hit inside hisskull, and the feeling of sickness quickly returned.
Wemust be there!
"Battlestations!" called out the Captainthrough the embedded communication nodes fitted to every crewman. The smalldevice was fitted behind the ear and several millimetres under the skin.Xenophon reached out and touched the spot where it had been inserted. Thedoctors said he wouldn't feel its presence, but he felt it anyway. The FTLengine cut out, and his view of the stars shifted from streaks to a still,almost beautiful starscape.
"Enemy ships detected at mark three pointfive. Ready the guns. It's a scouting party."