Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Chapter Nineteen

Clark was leading a half dozen other scouts as they raced toward the planet. He watched the Heads Up, letting the numbers unwind as the distance between them and the planet disappeared. He was searching for the pickets he'd found before. He, along with his flight, was to destroy them so that there would be no report of a ship entering the system. It was so the ship with the passengers could sneak in and out before it was discovered by anyone on the planet.

Clark didn't like this much more than he had liked being on the fleet ship. He hated being assigned as a flight leader. Now he was responsible for the other people in his flight. If he made a mistake, they could all die. That worried him a great deal but there was nothing he could do about it now. The assignment had been made.

"Time to destination?" he asked the computer.

"Fifteen hours."

Clark nodded but he had known the answer. He'd been watching the chronometer since they had flashed away from the fleet. He had been dreading reaching his destination since then.

"Long range scanners on."


Now Clark concentrated on the HUD searching for signs of the enemy pickets. The system was still a couple of light years distant and the signals from the scanners wouldn't reach it until long after Clark and the fleet had arrived. But, if there was something closer, a ship, a fleet, an asteroid, anything, the long range scanner would find it for him. But the HUD was clean, displaying the readouts that were normal.

"If you detect anything, you advise me," said Clark.


Clark snorted once. It was ridiculous to tell the computer to advise him. It would do that unless he reprogrammed it or shut it down. But Clark was afraid that he was going to miss something important. To miss something would be to let the others with him down.

He tried to relax, to slip down in his seat to catch some sleep. When they reached the system he would have to be alert. But he couldn't sleep. His mind raced as he thought of the things that could go wrong, as he reviewed the various tactics that he would need as they approached the pickets... if there were pickets out there. Maybe there would be a fleet waiting for them and sweep them from the sky. He didn't know and the unknown scared him. That was new. Normally he delighted in that, but now there were others depending on him. It was his own fault. He had found the enemy first and now he was paying the price for completing his mission successfully. He had been designated as the flight leader.

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