Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

Platform

zScore

92%

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

Developer:Firaxis Genre:Strategy Release Date: Download Games Free Now!

About The Game

Legendary designer Sid Meier presents the next evolution in strategy games, with the most addictive, compelling gameplay yet. Explore the alien planet that is your new home and uncover its myriad mysteries. Discover over 75 extraordinary technologies. Build over 60 base upgrades and large scales secret projects for your empire. Conquer your enemies with a war machine that you design from over 32,000 possible unit types.

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Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri Review

By Jimmy Goldstein |

Most games are like cheap beer--you drink a bit, have fun, but soon enough forget what it was you were drinking and what the hell you were doing anyway.

Not this. Alpha Centauri is the work of a master vintner; it's been carefully crafted, each ingredient examined, every process mulled over. Its design has been aged and distilled by worried, loving cellarers; the result is gaming bliss, mead for the connoisseur's glass.

In other words, Alpha Centauri is far more than just Civilization III, and while it was made by the same team that did Civilization I and II and shares all of those games' conventions and designs, it goes far enough beyond the old ones that I'm not likely to go back.


Story

For starters, the setting's changed: in Alpha Centauri you colonize an unknown, alien planet rather than explore the broad sweep of Earth history. Firaxis lavished attention on the background of Alpha Centauri itself; took great care in fleshing out a plot and the protagonists and the setting, making a believable and so a more immersive and compelling game.

Far too many games simply assume that by drawing landscape, tossing in some laser guns and big-eared aliens, you somehow end up with authentic science fiction. What you really end up with is a shapeless mish-mash of cliches, just so much sci fi gibberish.

But Brian Reynolds certainly did his homework. Alpha Centauri has the scientific plausibility you'd expect from Firaxis, designers known for historical games like Gettysburg and Railroad Tycoon. For example, the back of this game's manual has a short essay on the dynamics of planet building and solar system formation, which offers a justification of why the "Planet" at Alpha Centauri is the way it is. While this kind of thing is common in essays about science fiction world-building or in pen-and-paper roleplaying games, it is gallingly rare in strategy games, even on the PC, which is supposed to be a bastion for factual accuracy; in contrast, look at the painstaking realism of flight sims and wargames. (Now if only these guys would tackle the Master of Orion genre with an empire-building game that spans the stars...)

Even more remarkable, is that for a strategy game, Alpha Centauri has a lot of personality and mood. The craftsmanship really shines through. It is hard to convey a sense of story in an open-ended strategy game like this, as these type of games use a set of semi-rigid rules on randomly generated worlds, but Alpha Centauri--probably more than any other strategy game I can think of apart from X-COM--really pulls it off, largely through excellent in-game writing and art direction.

It's through the writing that the personalities of the faction leaders come alive, not only in their negotiations with the player but also in the speeches that accompany each new technological discovery. But this is more than a set of wacky characters. Each faction leader represents a point of view; references to philosophy, religion, ideology and the like permeate the game, something usually not found in games.

Of course after you play it a dozen times, the Secret Project movies, clever snippets of text, and the philosophical facades of the factions fade in importance compared to the core gameplay. But that's where Alpha Centauri truly shines: after all, it stands on the shoulders of the giant: Civilization.


Gameplay

A new setting is nice, but what makes Alpha Centauri is that the weak parts of the old Civilization design have been tightened up, while previously untouchable parts of the rules have been turned into new, complex decisions for the player to make. And complex decisions--weighing tradeoffs, making choices, allocating resources, based solely on the information at hand--is what strategy gaming is all about.

Here's an example. In the old Civs, you were stuck with the military units that came with particular technological discoveries. Invent wheels, get chariots. Invent gunpowder, get musketeers. Here, the components of a military unit--chassis, weapons, defense, and special abilities--are freed up, giving the enterprising player the ability to tailor appropriate units for particular circumstances.

How is this useful? Say you have unruly cities. Build cheap 1-1-1 units with the special ability "Police" and they will break out the nightsticks and lay down the law. Want a cheap, devastating attacker? Build air units with nerve gas pods. But be prepared for the ire of your rival leaders. There are some flaws in this system--the constant need to upgrade old units and the proliferation of unit designs grows tedious.

Here's another example: in the old Civs, governmental types were rigid and tied to technological discovery. Invent writing, you can have a Republic. Invent mass production, and you can practice Communism. Each governmental type had its plusses and minuses.

Here, it's different. There are no rigid governmental types. You can dictate different policies on differing facets of your nation's life at whim. You can practice Green economics while running a Police State. Or have a Fundamentalist government with a Free Market economy. The combinations are many, and they aren't merely window dressing--each choice has a serious, global effect on the science, happiness, military, etc., ratings for your cities.

But these elements are for the serious players who want to fine-tune their civilizations. The casual player needn't address them at all, and neatly offsetting these optional complexities are some really handy gameplay shortcuts that make the game more manageable.

For example, Alpha Centauri has something called Former units, which play the same role as the settlers or engineers of the past. But rather than being forced to micro-manage what improvements they make, turn after turn, you can set them to auto-run, letting them auto-improve just their home base, or globally improve your civilization in general. You can even order them to build a road from X to Y. This kind of design tweaking is made for the gamer, not just to fill out some feature set on a sales sheet.

And to speed up the "sagging middle" and the end game, when you have dozens and dozens of cities to manage, you can turn on governors and set them to auto-produce improvements and units. You can also specify what areas the governors should work on--science, industry, or military. The governors don't always build the most sensible things in the world, but you can always go in and change it.

And on and on it goes. The game has more features than can adequately be covered in a review. A great diplomacy system. An option to turn off acquiring technology through conquering a city. Working borders that the computer players tend to respect--that feature alone is almost enough to make this a better game than Civilization II.

And with so many optional rules that can be turned on or off, like permitting cooperative victories, restricting scientific advances, allowing economic or transcendent wins, even an "Iron Man" option that limits saved games--one is left with so many different possible styles of play that a reviewer has to talk about playing Alpha Centauri in the abstract. Suffice it to say if you want to play a military game, you can turn off all the other alternate paths to victory. If you want a huge, sprawling world with lots of space to expand in, it's there, or if you really want to change the rules around, simply edit the game's text files. So any player of Civilization can with the various custom options put together relatively quickly the kind of scenario that suits their style of play.


Loose Ends

There are points to quibble over, of course, as there is with anything. Rainfall patterns apparently play a role in the productivity of a given swatch of terrain, but I haven't figured out how to get an overall rainfall pattern on the map.

The game's weakest point is probably its multiplayer mode. Turn-based games like this don't lend themselves readily to Internet play--and really, can do fine without it. We tried it here over the LAN of course, but experienced random disconnects. And one of the multiplayer options--simultaneous moves--proved to be very frustrating: whenever you wanted to move a piece, the odds were great the game was processing someone else's turn. If and when Alpha Centauri takes hold as a multiplayer game, I expect players will prefer the turn-based mode. After all, while you're waiting to move your units, you can still tweak individual city settings, so it's not like you're totally unoccupied.

I was also disappointed with the scope of customization. Yes, it's more than what's offered in the previous games, but there's no way to make an ice planet, a desert planet, to make a Tatooine or a Hoth, a Yavin or a Dagobah, whether such planets are scientifically accurate or not. The terrain set graphics are too limited; it might be fun to find Alpha Centauri's sole inhabitable planet an airless rock or a frigid, Martian wasteland, once in a while.

And while pre-game conditions like victory conditions are very broad and flexible, certain underlying presumptions--like the presence of seven factions, the presence of alien fungus, etc.--are rather rigid. This wouldn't be worth remarking on except that the numerous Microprose Civ II expansions--as well as fan-created scenarios--have turned Civilization II into a computer gaming system, rather than just a game--given the inclination, any fan with a graphics program and some imagination can create a Civ II scenario in any period in history, real or imagined: I've played Civ II scenarios set during the Norman Conquest, the War of the Worlds, in a Master of Magic campaign, etc., etc.

Though Alpha Centauri currently lacks this capability, it's possible that with an expansion set from EA or, more simply, tools created by some Alpha Centauri fan community that this "customization gap" could be overcome. And it'd be fun to see someone hack SMAC into a swords & sorcery game, where terrain is altered by spells, not technology. Everything has been set up to allow this--the voiceovers are in MP3 format, the art is largely PCX files.


So while some will knock the game by saying, "It's just what Civilization did before", that's true of most things. Half-Life is just an elaborate form of Wolfenstein 3D. Baldur's Gate is just Dungeons & Dragons. So it goes.

So such complaints are minor at best and to me irrelevant. It'd be nice to see customization and flexibility along the lines of the Civ II line, but what Firaxis has here is remarkable. Alpha Centauri is a better game than Civilization II; it's deep, rich, rewarding, thought-provoking in almost every way. It's not for everyone, but for those who want to drink deeply in the well of gaming, raise a glass.


--Jason Bates

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri Cheats

After starting a game, press Ctrl+K and that will give you access to the Map Editor and Senario commands to alter game play.

  • Y = Reveal Map
  • Shift+F1 = Create Unit
  • Shift+F2 = Technological Discovery
  • Shift+F3 = Switch sides/set view
  • Shift+F4 = Change/set energy credits
  • Shift+F5 = Change Year
  • Shift+F6 = Kill Opponent
  • Shift+F7 = View replay
  • Shift+F8 = View Movies
  • Shift+F9 = Edit Faction Diplomacy

Click on the menu option and select scenario and you will get a complete listing of all cheats and how to access them in the game.

Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri Game Walkthrough

ATTENTION: AN HTML VERSION OF MY FULL SMAC FAQ CAN NOW BE SEEN AT:
http://www.gameadvice.com/html/SidMeiersAlphaCentauri/index.html

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                    Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri (SMAC) - The Fictional Story
                    System: Windows (PC)
                    Author: Jim Chamberlin
		    (red_phoenix_1@hotmail.com)

                    Version: Final (12/30/04)

  ===========================================================================

  << Disclaimer >>

  This document is Copyright  2001 Jim Chamberlin.  All Rights Reserved.

  ===========================================================================

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=--=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-
Version -  0.1 - I decided to take this info from my Sid Meier's Alpha Centauri
                 FAQ, hoping it would make it easier for everyone to navigate
                 it.

           0.2 - A few minor changes.

           0.3 - A few changes.

           0.4 - A few changes.

           0.5 - A minor change.

-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=--=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-

  For those of you who have no idea what this is supposed to be, this small
  section was made to inform you.  I DID NOT write any of this story.  If I did,
  it would be called "fanfiction."  Instead, this story was written by Firaxis
  and distributed from its web site.  It was made for the sole purpose of giving
  the wonderful game of Alpha Centauri a story.  In the game manual, they only
  give you some of it.  This is the COMPLETE version of the story.  If this 
  still doesn't clear it up, let me know, and I'll see what I can do.


   The Sid Meier Alpha Centauri Fictional Story is Copyrighted to Firaxis.

Journey to Centauri : Episode 1

"Captain."
Shapes. Shadows, hovering over him. A sense of threat, darkness eclipsing
his vision, and the distant sound of warning klaxons. He tried to lift his
hands and could not, tried to speak and felt his throat turn to fire. A
deep cold pressed down on him, crushing his bones to ice.
"...this one...hurry" The voice again.
More movement, seen through layers of frost and glass. I am the Captain
came his next thought, sharp and coherent. I should be first....
First out of the sleep. Visions returned to him: the long rough cylinder
of the ship, floating above the chaos of Earth. The massive cryobays with
their rows of sleeping crew, the white-suited cryotechs moving ghostlike
among them. His last memory of laying down in glass and feeling the blue
tide rise to swallow him, forty years and a moment of darkness ago.
Thinking, hoping, that when he woke again, it would be to the sight of
Alpha Centauri's primary cresting the rim of a new planet, a new world.
But now...something was wrong. Someone, unauthorized, moving around the
ship. A wave of dizziness washed over him and his vision blurred into a
sea of blue, red lights flashing in the distance. He could feel the ship
shaking beneath him.

"We move..."

A shadow passed over him, and then another. Footsteps retreated. He stared
up through the curved top of the cryocell, willing himself into the open
spaces of the ship, trying to force his fingers to move. His brain signaled
alarm but his heart and muscles, held in near stasis, would not respond.
He waited, helpless, while the ship hurled on and the warning klaxons
sounded their three beat sequence.

After interminable moments he heard a click and a hiss, and then a storm
exploded beneath him.

Transmission Received,
U.N.S. Unity Central Processor.

Meteor Impact Detected.

Fusion drive shut down.

Severe Damage Hydroponics Mods 2, 3;
cryobay 7.

Triggering automatic wakeup of core staff per coded instructions.

Journey to Centauri : Episode 2
Pravin Lal awakened to the hiss of the transparent capsule door breaking
its seal and the feel of the ship's foundation shaking beneath him. His
heart began to pound and he closed his eyes, breathing deeply, seeking calm.

When his heartbeat slowed he opened his eyes once more. His training had
prepared him for this: disorientation, sleep sickness, a deep fatigue that
seemed to nest in his bones. He spit the respirator from his mouth and
pulled the IVs from his arm, then lifted his hands, placed them on the
glass lid above, and pushed.

The cryocell opened. He was alive.

Around him stretched the expanse of cryobay two, silent and vast, filled
with over a thousand identical glass capsules, each one bathed in a pale
blue light, each with tubes and cables snaking down to conduits in the
floor. Over a thousand crew, but his eyes immediately, reflexively, turned
to the cell at his left. He climbed to his feet and, ignoring the chill,
crossed to it.

He looked down through the glass. There, beneath the frost and bluish tint
of the cryogel, he could make out her soft brown shape, indistinct, and the
darkness of her long hair. Pria. She looked so peaceful, so far away...he
still remembered her gentleness, and their last strong kiss before the
cryotechs closed the cell, locking her away from him.

His practiced eyes scanned the small console above her cell. Everything
appeared normal; she had survived. His eyes flickered once across the
manual release key, and then he saw the red warning lights flashing at the
far end of the cryobay. The ship... he had almost forgotten the danger. He
brushed Pria's cell with his fingers one more time and then turned away.
From a metal shelf at the foot of his vacated cell he lifted a folded
uniform... sleek, comfortable, in the sky blue of the mission's Chief of
Surgery, with the U.N. seal on the breast and no country-of-origin markings
visible. The Captain had lobbied strongly for that.

He slipped into the uniform and flipped on the small computer sewn into
the uniform's sleeve. Status report: the Captain would emerge from cryosleep
shortly, along with the Chief Science Officer and some emergency support
staff. It appeared that large portions of the ship's hull had been damaged,
along with two of the three hydroponics modules. The fusion drive had shut
down.

Pravin entered the Returned to Duty code and headed for the command bay.
The ship was racing towards Centauri system at tremendous speed, and without
the fusion drive there was no way to stop.


Log Entry Received,
Pravin Lal, Chief of Surgery.
I have awakened to find the mission in jeopardy. I go now to join my Captain
in the command bay, ready to learn what has gone awry.
I pray the integrity of the ship's datacore remains true. It is the last
hope of humankind...all of our knowledge digitized for transit to the new
world. If Earth has not survived these last 40 years, then our future lies
in the heart of this damaged ship.

Journey to Centauri : Episode 3
Captain Garland felt the storm of bubbles boil up around him, turning the
thick cryogel to liquid. Fiercer now, growing violent, pounding his limbs;
clench your teeth on the respirator, feel its cool silver shape in your
mouth. He still remembered the training.

The chemical reaction that neutralized the cryogel ended, and he found
himself floating in liquid. Small heating coils on the inside of his glass
cocoon kicked on to warm the liquid, continuing the process of bringing his
body back to life. He sucked air from the respirator, waited for the liquid
to drain away.

Long moments passed. How many breaths did the respirator cartridge hold? Not
many, he remembered, and the liquid should have drained away by now. A
malfunction?

He reached up, put his hands on the top of the cell and pushed. His muscles
partially atrophied despite the electromuscular therapy administered by the
ship's computer, groaned in protest. The lid would not open. He felt the
cold glass against his palms, unyielding, and felt the liquid around his
face.

God waits in heaven, but we are beyond heaven now. The thought rose unbidden
into his mind. He pushed again, angry, but the seal would not break.

He drew another breath and choked, felt a pressure in this throat. No more
air. He turned in his watery tomb, pressed again. A panic rose inside of
him as he felt his chest compress, his diaphragm forcing the last bit of
oxygen from his lungs into his system.

Not like this... His hands lashed out, seeking an escape. He could feel his
knuckles striking the glass, feel a desperate animal energy howling inside
of him, but his prison would not give.

God waits in heaven, but we are beyond heaven now. His vision swam into
darkness, and he knew what would follow: a final moment of involuntary
struggle, and then a return to the infinity from which he had just emerged.
He thought of the crew, the ten thousand crew, still in the sleep, still
under his care. Faith would not release them, or repair a broken ship.

He felt his heart pounding, and felt a surge of warmth spreading out through
his body. One of his hands struck soft rubber, the seal between the cryocell
and the lid, and he dug his fingers in hard. He felt something tear,
something give. The seal broke.

He pushed upwards, out of the cell. The lid swung open and cool stale air
hit him in the face. He gasped for air, pulling in breaths as icy liquid
ran off of his back.

Around him, row upon row of sleeping crew awaited him.

No transmission.

Journey to Centauri : Episode 4
"Captain. Captain, it is Pravin Lal. Please confirm this signal is reaching
you. Over."

Silence.

"I read you, Mr. Lal. I'm awaiting your presence in the command module. It
appears we have our work cut out for us."

Pravin smiled at the voice of his captain, sounding clearly from the comm
unit woven into the fabric of his collar. He turned his head to respond.
"Yes, John. I am outside of Bay Five, and I will reach you shortly."

He quickened his step, anticipating the cramped warmth of the command center
after traversing the dark silent ship, and also the more important business
of assisting the Captain in finding out what went wrong during their
journey. A small asteroid, he guessed, or some kind of space debris...he
remembered the odds tallied by the flight computer as being 470 to 1 against
such an occurrence, but perhaps their luck had not held.

Or perhaps it was karma, following the humans from their tainted homeworld
into the reaches of space.

Pravin stopped before another hatchway and pressed the unlocking studs. As
the seal released he glanced around quietly; the ship felt hollow and vast
around him, a groaning structure of metal stolen from Earth's crust and
propelled into the heavens. When the hatch opened he climbed into a small
elevator and pulled the activation lever, listening as the elevator began
to whir beneath him, carrying him to the command module at the ship's
periphery. He felt the gravity increase as the elevator moved toward the
outer carousel of the ship.

The smooth shapes of the cryobays receded beneath him and he examined their
surfaces dispassionately. Lonely again. He hoped his mood would improve as
the effects of the 40-year sleep wore off. A session in one of the ship's
gyropods would help to burn the poisons away, but he had no time for that
now.

The elevator stopped and he opened the exit hatchway, then finally reached
the red command module hatch. Unusual...the Captain had left it closed,
requiring Pravin to punch in a security clearance that he had committed to
memory before the journey. The red hatch swung open.

"Officer Lal."

Captain Garland stood on the other side of the command module, surrounded
by computer screens and touchpanels that remained mostly dead, as cold as
the space outside. The Captain looked tired, gaunt, his uniform hanging
loosely on him, but he held himself straight as Pravin entered. A red
Procedural Checklist rested at an angle on the metal table near the center
of the command module.

"Captain. Good to see you again, sir."

"It feels like only yesterday, Pravin." The Captain crossed to him and they
shook hands. "You and I believed in this mission more than anyone. Now I'm
counting on you to help me salvage it."

Before Pravin could answer another of the three red security hatches hissed
open. A slender form in the green uniform of a ship's scientist pushed her
way into the command module and shook the dark hair from her face.

"Deirdre Skye, reporting for duty," she said, and straightened to face her
captain.

Episode 4, Part 2
Captain Garland watched as Pravin Lal opened a panel and touched a series
of activation studs. Around the perimeter of the command module dark screens
flickered on and the slanted touchpanels hummed to life. The air began to
crackle with a subtle energy as currents dormant for the last 40 years
sprang to life, synthesized minds awakening.

Pravin sat up and flexed his fingers, waiting for the touchpanel in front
of him to cycle through its extended wakeup period. As long as there were
no medical emergencies on the ship he would man this console, coaxing
information from the ship's databases as he might coax a diagnosis from a
reluctant patient.

Garland looked around the command module as the screens warmed up. The
module was donut shaped, about 10 meters across and ringed by a bank of
large screens set in the wall over slanted consoles. The surface of the
consoles consisted of flat smooth touchpanels, which accepted input as well
as displaying information, reconfiguring themselves based on the user's
command sequence. These panels were tied into extensive databanks, optical
storage systems sealed in insulated containers in the very center of the
ship.

Pravin began to work, his fingers dancing over the panel in from of him,
his dark eyes narrowing as he became immersed in his relationship to the
machine. Garland looked around again.

"Mister Lal," he said, and Pravin looked up. Garland motioned towards a
panel on the other side of the module. As black and cold as space.

"Here too, Captain," came Deirdre's lilting voice with its soft Scottish
overtones. Another panel out. Her voice remained calm but Garland could
read the tension in her back. Lal crossed to the first broken panel.

"Nothing evident on a cursory glance, Captain. We have taken damage, and
the duration of the journey may have taken its toll."

"Very well," Garland answered. "In the meantime let's fire up these consoles
and find out what we're up against. Pravin, you know what we're looking
for...damage reports, as quickly as possible, and how much we've jeopardized
the mission. Deirdre, man the science console and ascertain the status of
the crew...how many alive, how many awake, how many dead."

Lal nodded and took his seat, began to punch up the relevant data. A
glittering array appeared on the screen before him and he thumbed through
it to the damage reports.

"Captain, first reports indicate heavy damage to Hydroponics Mods two and
three, as well as heavy structural damage in nearby bulkheads, penetrating
through to the drive shield. It is a wonder the drive shut down without
tearing the ship apart."

"Mods two and three, leaving only one functional. That plus the nutrient
pastes in ship's stowage could support how much of the crew...a third? A
half?"

"If revived from the freeze I would say so. It depends on how much of our
journey remains."

"And how much of the crew remains, " said Deirdre. "I have no signals at
all from cryobay seven."

"Past the shattered bulkhead," murmured Lal. "Dead, probably. All of them."
Just then the hatchway hissed open again, and the Captain looked up to see
a shadow cross his threshold.
List of Fatalities
(Cryocell No Response)
Takala T
Vence H
Miller A
Stobie T
Luelmo F
Morin S
Lindahl P
Pettersson D
Landon K
Mannetje C
Coble R
[continued Medical Log
57562A-7B7]

Journey to Centauri : Episode 5
One of the hatches opened into the command bay with a hiss. Garland looked
up to see a form gaunt and angular, bent with age, seeming to fade back into
the shadows of the circular accessway.

"Captain."

Garland narrowed his eyes, then straightened as the figure entered. Lal
stopped his rapid movements over his console to look up. Deirdre kept her
eyes fixed on the readouts in front of her.

"Doctor Saratov," said Garland. The older man kept walking, finally coming
to a stop near the oval table in the center of the room, where he rested
one hand. Garland looked down and took in the wrinkled skin and the slight
tremor that belied the relative youthfulness of the Russian's face. The
sleep had taken its toll on all of them, but Saratov, whose 66th birthday
came two days after the launch, would certainly be dead by now if it weren't
for the stasis of the cryogenic sleep.

Then the Russian looked up, and the captain was caught by the intensity in
the blue eyes, and that insatiable thirst for knowledge; the iron will
formed in the latter day Russian Republic. The United Nations Mission
Council had insisted he was the best, and Garland couldn't divine the
political motives that swirled behind every decision. Still, they needed
him now.

"Good of you to join us, Prokhor."

"Yes, Captain. I came as quickly as possible." Some of the fire had faded,
replaced by the haunted look of a man shadowed by his own mortality. Garland
flashed back to the personnel records, and he remembered Saratov's tireless
research into genetics and aging. "Selfless," the U.N. Review had called
it, but Garland wondered.

"What is the ship's status?" Saratov asked.

"Not good."

"But not yet critical," chimed in Deirdre, though she had yet to meet her
superior officer's eyes.

"Officer Skye, tell Doctor Saratov what we've got so far."

A wireframe of the ship appeared on one of the screens and rotated in time
to Deirdre's briefing. "The ship has been struck by an unknown body
approximately 48 astronomical units out from the planet that is our
destination. The fusion drive shut down, as it is programmed to do."

"I know what it is programmed to do." The grating Russian accent. Deirdre
stopped. Lal rose from his chair and walked over as Garland motioned Deirdre
to continue.

"Very well. Because the drive shut down during deceleration, we are moving
at appreciable speeds on a trajectory that will carry us right through the
Centauri system. We need to do repairs and restore power within four days
or we will overshoot the target planet and exit the system."

"Can we turn the ship around?" asked Garland.

"The ship's computer has found a way to use what little fuel we have left
to place us in an elliptical orbit, rather like a comet. We can use the
Centauri system's gravity well to return us to the planet a number of Earth
years hence."

"A number of years hence? How many?" came Saratov's voice, a bridge of ice
between them.

"Fifty seven Earth years."

Saratov's hand slammed down onto the command table. "Out of the question!"
he shouted. "We will all die in space!"

Deirdre looked at him angrily and shook her head. "Not all of us." She
pointed to a monitor screen with a video feed from one of the six intact
cryobays, where over a thousand crew slept under glass. "They could last
another eighty years or more in hibernation."

Pravin nodded. "If we could not repair the fusion drive in four days, it
remains our only option. We four could make the necessary preparations,
and the rest of the crew would survive until the next go-round."
"Ridiculous!" said Saratov. "You would have us patch the ship with our
eight hands and then wander Skye's gardens until we perish."

He turned to the captain. "Let me wake my engineers, Captain, as many as
we can, and restart the fusion drive." He rubbed his hands together. "Four
days is enough. They accepted the risks when they took on this mission. They
are loyal to me...they will fix the ship in time."

The Captain's hand reached up to brush the U.N. seal on his breast. "You
recommend waking up how many?"

"Four hundred, Captain. My best and brightest."

"And if they fail to fix the ship and it takes another fifty seven years to
return to the planet, you are comfortable signing their death warrant, and
dying with them on this ship?"

"Four days is enough," repeated Saratov stubbornly. "I will take the risk,
Captain. I will not let this mission slip from our grasp and retire to my
quarters a beaten dog."

"We must decide, Captain," said Lal quietly. "We are very close to our
destination, and time is of the essence."

Garland nodded, closed his eyes for a moment, then opened them and glanced
at Saratov. He saw a deep hunger in the Russian's eyes, a hunger that
disturbed him, and yet, in this instance, might be enough to save the
mission.

"Awaken them," Garland said, and Saratov nodded. Deirdre turned away.

Log Entry Received

Prokhor Saratov, Chief Science Officer
I awaken to find my Captain, his loyal friend Pravin Lal, and my subordinate
Skye turning over the data on our broken ship. I intend to bring my staff
from cryosleep and repair the ship by any means necessary.
I will not die in space, so close to the new world.

Journey to Centauri : Episode 6
Captain John Garland whirled and tensed inside the human-sized gyroscope
that served as the ship's main form of exercise, seeking to burn out the
remaining poisons of the long sleep. The last two days had seen a flurry
of activity as red-suited technicians emerged from their cryocells and set
to work repairing the ship, with Doctor Saratov directing their movements
from the command bay like a general directing his troops.

A series of beeps began sounding down the last few seconds of his session,
and he responded by a burst of furious effort, pulling and tensing with
deep reserves of strength, and he was gratified to see the black and yellow
patterns ranged around the perimeter of the gyrosphere blur by at fantastic
speeds. The final long tone sounded, indicating the end of the session, and
he relaxed his body, letting the sphere spin down to a stop.

"Computer, stop and release," he said aloud, and the sphere gave one last
half-turn before clicking into place in an upright position. He let out a
whooshing breath...he had needed this brief session to shake off the tension
of the command bay. The clamps keeping his arms, feet and waist firmly in
position began to loosen by a remote signal when a light flashed above the
exit hatch.

"Enter," said Garland, and the hatch opened. A young crewmember in a red
jumpsuit stuck her body half into the hatch and saluted. Garland nodded,
unable to salute back while his hands and feet remained fixed around the
rim of the sphere. He felt suddenly vulnerable...why was he constantly jumpy
on his own ship?

"Captain, Officer Saratov asked me to tell you personally that he intends to
turn on the fusion drive for a short pulse test. He intends to fire one
pulse and measure the stress on the ship's structure."

"Is that wise, Ensign Holloway?" The straps released and he stepped down.
The young ensign reflexively took a towel from a small cubbyhole and handed
it to him.

"Doctor Saratov feels it is. Officer Skye is concerned about the weakened
condition of some of the walls, the Greenhouse in particular," she answered,
referring to the last remaining Hydroponics Module.

He nodded, wiping the sweat off of his neck and face. "Then we'd better
discuss it further."

Her eyes flickered away from him. "Doctor Saratov was preparing to run the
tests as I left the command bay, sir. We may..."


"We'll wait." He pushed through the hatchway and punched the command bay
access code on a wall speaker. "Saratov, cancel your tests. We will not push
the tests until all hands agree."

"My people assure me it is safe, Captain. We need to move forward in our
repairs. We have only...37 hours to reactivate the drive before all hope of
stopping the ship in time is lost."

"I said cancel the tests, Doctor. Isn't Lieutenant Skye one of your people?"
A long pause followed before Saratov's voice grated through the speaker.
"Very well. Please return to the bridge so we may discuss this further."
The link clicked off. Garland turned to the young ensign, angry, until he
saw her standing at attention. She stood ramrod straight, ready to serve
the mission in any needed capacity, but he could read the concern in her
eyes. A child could discern the tensions growing between the members of the
command staff.

"At ease, Ensign. You know the ship well...was Lieutenant Skye in the
command bay?"

"No, sir. That is, she was, and then she left. After registering
her...concerns about the pulse test. Sir."

He nodded. "Thank you, Ensign. Please return to your duties." She nodded
and turned to leave. He looked after her for a few moments, plumbing the
depths of his memory, chasing a dim awareness...Ensign Holloway. He didn't
remember her on the list of emergency engineering staff. He closed his eyes
for a moment, then activated a touchscreen under the speaker and typed in a
private text link to Pravin Lal.

Pravin...pls reverify number of cryocells opened under Saratov's command.
Use discretion.

He waited for a moment, watching the glowing letters on the touchscreen
pulse at him, a hunch waiting to be born into a reality.

Just a precaution, he thought, and punched the Send button. He turned away
and headed for the shower bay at a brisk pace.

Episode 6, Part 2
Captain Garland entered the command mod and felt the pleasant post-workout
relaxation drain away as the heat and tension of the ship's crisis returned.
Pravin Lal still sat hunched over a touchscreen, his normally calm face
knitted in concentration. Saratov hunched over another touchscreen at the
other end of the bay, flanked by two of his staff, Ensigns Khosa and Webb.
Garland could see the sweat glistening on Saratov's brow.

"Doctor Lal, you are relieved for four hours. Get some food and rest."

Pravin looked up, his deep black eyes uncomprehending for a moment, still
lost in the computer's dataclouds.

"Affirmative, sir, in one moment please. I am still querying on the medical
records you asked for."

Garland nodded. No response from Saratov. "Dr. Saratov, what is the status
of the repairs?"

"They progress, Captain. We have 36-point-four hours." He lifted one long
finger to point to a set of scrolling white numbers on an overhead screen.
"My gift to you...a doomsday clock."

"I should hope not. I don't think spending five more decades in space with
you and your crew was in the mission charter."

Saratov cracked a tight smile. "Indeed. We are working around the clock,
but there is this matter of a pulse test. It is somewhat risky, but I feel
it is necessary..."

"Understood, but we can not risk further damage to the ship or the remaining
crew. Send five of your best people to Hydroponics Mod One and take
measurements on the hull. Find out why Skye is worried. There is more than
just our lives in the balance."

Saratov nodded. "Very well." He issued a stream of guttural orders into his
wrist link. He spoke quickly and sprinkled his speech with so much technical
jargon that Garland realized it was almost a foreign language.

Saratov finished the order and looked up as if to take the Captain's
measure. "And now, here is something you may want to see, Captain."

Garland walked over to Saratov's station.

"Ensign Khosa has scanned back through the ship's records to decompress the
D7 footage captured by the ship's exterior cameras. We began scanning the
video matrix for the time just before the hull damage occurred...just before
two of the cameras went offline, in fact. Observe."

On Saratov's touchscreen a grid of tiny high-resolution images
appeared...records from an array of cameras placed inside and outside the
ship, recording and storing compressed images once a second for the entire
length of the journey. Saratov tapped one of the squares in the grid and
the image inside ballooned out into a larger size. Garland watched.
The camera showed the exterior of the ship, smooth metal arcing away in a
man-made horizon. A data readout gave the ship's speed...3,359 kilometers
per second, a phenomenally high velocity.

"We all knew the risk," murmured Saratov as if to answer Garland's
developing thoughts. "A miniscule particle at this speed would hit the ship
like a nuclear warhead."

A few moments passed, and then...

One of the cameras automatically swiveled and zoomed, tracking a foreign
body in its range. Garland leaned forward, his breathing quickening...the
magnification on the camera quickly increased by orders of magnitude, and
still there seemed to be nothing, or perhaps now a speck, a tiny fragment
of space-born minerals tumbling through the infinite darkness...

Garland lifted one hand involuntarily...there, a flash of darkness filling
the camera, which suddenly jumped and went to static. Saratov quickly tapped
up another camera and Garland watched as the side of his ship disintegrated,
metal warping and tearing as if burned by a thousand invisible flames.

He strained to hear the explosions, the tearing of metal and the alarm
sirens. He imagined the chaos in the ship, cryocells shattering, lives
spilling onto cold metal floors, but of course he heard nothing. His throat
closed as the magnitude of the event reached him...his crew, his ship, the
lives he shepherded, torn away while he slept helplessly.

Garland looked over to Saratov, who watched the screens with a dark
fascination, the mathematics of destruction blooming in his head. Garland
spoke.

"I trust that proved useful."

"We are using it to calculate the areas of greatest damage to the ship. It
was a piece of space debris, purely a random occurrence."

"Transfer the video to the primary logs and mark it...wait." Garland leaned
over and pointed at a camera view in the lower left corner of the grid.
"What's that?" He tapped the image to expand it as Saratov looked on.

Down one hallway somewhere in the depths of the ship, figures moved,
staggering and trying to right themselves as they tumbled from the shock
of the impact. Dark figures, keeping to the shadows even as they signaled
each other urgently.

Garland watched as one of the figures finally righted itself and moved
quickly on, vanishing into the shadows. Followed by another.

And another.

And another.

Then, abruptly, that camera went out, leaving only static in its wake.

"I knew it," whispered Garland, as he watched the gray static dance on the
viewscreen.

Log Entry Received,
Pravin Lal, Chief of Surgery.
I am currently assisting Saratov's personnel in scanning back through the
visual records made since our journey began. Although they probably won't
tell us much, they hold a fascination for me...they are our history, and
show the passage of time even as we remained unconscious. The prologue to
our next chapter, so to speak.

Mostly they show blackness, cold and empty. Endless amounts of it.

Saratov's people are awake and seem to have survived the sleep well. I have
issued them stimulants to help them work. We will need every advantage in
the coming days.

Journey to Centauri : Episode 7
"There is someone on the ship. Someone unaccounted for." Captain Garland
continued to watch the video matrix, his eyes darting from one camera view
to another.

"It most certainly appears so," said Lal, his words hurried and clipped.
"But there is no record of any cryocells opened. Could the system have
malfunctioned this badly?"

"It is certainly possible," cut in Saratov. "We were struck. Our system is
not foolproof. Still, these individuals made stealth a priority."

Garland nodded. "Saratov, have one of your people check the log file. Track
down any unusual accesses made to the system. Find out how someone, anyone,
could have been awake and moving about before core staff." Garland scribbled
an access code on his touchpanel and quicklinked it over to the science
console. "Check this as well."

"A section of your personal journals?"

"Yes. These are impressions I recorded after waking up. Impressions of
people standing over my cryocell, speaking. Shadows only..."

"Very well." Skepticism flickered on Saratov's face. "We will...look at
them for what they are." Half-dreams came the unspoken thought, eddying
through the command bay. A frail man's crisis of faith.

Garland continued to address him. "We should do a sweep of the ship, and
station people to watch the security matrix. Alert your staff to be on the
lookout for any unusual activity."

"Yes, Captain." Saratov paused, looking down at his own gaunt hand resting
on the hard smooth surface of the console. "Should I have my staff arm
themselves? If they are in danger, I should have the code key to the
armory."

Garland's head snapped around. "The armory!" He sat down at the nearest
console and punched up the entry logs to the armory. "We should have
checked it first thing." Thin lines of yellow and green flickered nervously
on the touchpanel.

"No breach. Still..." He turned to Pravin. "Has anyone cross-checked the
access log? Are we sure it hasn't been tampered with?"

Pravin's fingers danced for a moment. "No breach apparent. Still..."

"Still, the log is a file like any other. What if the log itself were
changed?"

"Difficult to say. It is encrypted, but the encryption is not 100% secure."
Saratov cut in. "You are wasting your time. The log is changed hundreds of
thousands of times a second, if not more. Unless we can single out a precise
timeframe..."

Garland shook his head, tapped his fingers on the edge of his console. "No,
never mind that." One hand reached up to brush the U.N. seal on his breast.
Abruptly he turned, addressed the young ensign still at the science console.

"Ensign Khosa. Look for a time when the log wasn't changed for a period of
time. A...break of some kind. Start one day before that video footage, then
work forward to the impact, and then backward from that same point." Garland
turned to address Saratov. "Doctor Saratov. Send one of your crew to do a
visual check on the armory."

"My engineers are valuable, Captain. We have less than 36 hours to repair
the ship. I do not believe I should have my people patrolling hallways or
hunched over video monitors."

Garland nodded curtly and turned away. "Pravin, we may have to find a few
noncritical staff to awaken. In the meantime find the nearest person to the
armory and have them do a visual."

"I will do it," came Saratov's voice, sheathed in steel. "But if you believe
my people are in danger, we must arm ourselves. You must transfer to me the
armory code key."

"Negative. Only Doctor Yang can give out that code."

"Doctor Yang, or yourself."

"There is no reason yet. Those weapons are for use against an external
threat until Doctor Yang says otherwise. Now tend to the ship. We need your
people with calipers in their hands, not shredder pistols."

Saratov remained still for a moment, and Garland noted the tremble in his
hands, held tight against his side. "I will register my concerns in the
log. We can not afford any distractions, Captain. Remember that." And then
Saratov turned, activating his commlink as he did.

Garland faced Lal again. "Awaken Dr. Yang and 20 security staff. We appear
to have taken a part of our past troubles with us."

Armory Log File
Armory sealed M.Y. 2060. All weapons accounted for, General Briggs
presiding.
Ship's launch M.Y. 2060.
MY 2060 - 2099 : <no incidents recorded>
MY 2099 : Access granted, self-running executable [source: ship's main
computer, thread ID 457.456.124.32.12274, validated secure]
MY 2099 : Password changed per instructions, J. Garland.
MY 2099 : Armory hatch released.
MY 2099 : Armory hatch sealed.
MY 2099 : Armory hatch released.
MY 2099 : Armory hatch sealed.
MY 2099 : Restart armory log per coded instructions.

<<RESTART>> : Armory sealed M.Y. 2060. All weapons accounted for, General
Briggs presiding.

Journey to Centauri : Episode 8
The lid to his cryocell hissed open, and Sheng-ji Yang emerged into
darkness and immediate danger. From the shadows surrounding his cell
peered the narrow deadly eyes of shredder pistols, their barrels leveled
directly at him.

Sheng-ji stood calmly, using his hand against the cryocell to steady
himself as waves of post-sleep nausea washed over him. No weakness...his
eyes flickered in the darkness, marking the position of every enemy. He
could not see their faces...the main lights in this bay appeared to be
malfunctioning, or shut down, and he could see only the other cryocells
with their soft blue glow, like phosphorescent flowers in a field of
darkness.

He willed his muscles to relax with exquisite control. His eyes flickered,
just once, across the black metal lockbox on the shelf at the foot of his
cryocell. He wouldn't betray his intentions by looking at the box again,
but in his mind he carefully reconstructed the exact positioning of the box
on the shelf, its exact height from the floor and the position of the
softly glowing shape of the digital print lock. The lockbox carried his
personal arsenal: his shredder pistol, a submission rod and several sets
of organic restraints.

"Move away from the cell. Follow the exact path we have laid for you." came
a harsh, gravelly voice from a knot of shadows only two cells away. He
looked down to see small glowing blue dots on the floor leading away from
his cryocell. Why?

"On whose orders?" he asked, his throat husky from disuse...let the games
begin.

"Do not answer him," came a soft, steely voice from a position, amazingly,
even closer than the other, a peculiar dark knot of shadows barely an arm's
length away. A chill crossed him, briefly...that this person dared to crouch
so close to him. He read the shadows quickly, making out a silhouette. The
shadow...this person...waited with catlike alertness, their spine burning
tight as a wire. Who?

"Do not answer this man," the voice continued. "You are forbidden to speak
to him. And, Doctor Yang, do not speak to them. Simply follow the path we
have laid out for you."

"Am I to..."

Suddenly the shadow exploded into motion, and a black serpent crossed the
distance to Yang in a heartbeat. Yang felt red hot wires of pain lace his
neck, and he fell to his knees, cursing the post-sleep weakness that dulled
his reflexes.

Psych-whip, a part of him thought calmly. They have been in the armory. An
then he smiled as the pain intensified...he welcomed it, opened himself to
it, letting it dance on his nerves and dissolve into his spine. Pain, awaken
me….

"We mean you no immediate harm, but I know of your special talents. You
must follow my instructions. Do not speak. Crawl along the blue lines."

He looked at the blue dots on the floor, his head still swimming. His eyes
flickered up to one corner of the room, a zone of darkness with the vague
sense of a metal bulkhead curving. In that darkness he could imagine the
bland silvery eye of the security camera staring down at him, but it could
not see into the far corner, where the blue dots lead.

He felt the muscles tighten along his back. He felt the cool metal floor
beneath his hands.

Abruptly, he stood. Electric tension jolted across the room as shredder
pistols twitched to follow him. He could smell the uncertainty...should we
fire?...and it had the metallic tang of fear.

He took one slow pace along the blue dots, shuffling as if from fatigue,
and then every muscle in his body exploded backward toward his cryocell as
a yell from the bottom of his lungs split the darkness. One roll and he
reached back over his head to take the black metal lockbox into his
hands...no wasted motion, no wasted time. He had already seen the action
in his mind. And then...

...no turning back, but instead he went up and over his cryocell, the blue
light illuminating him for just a moment. A burst of shredder pistol fire
crossed the darkness, humming in a cloud all around him, liquefying the
glass beneath his feet, and as he leapt he felt the sharp stinging pain of
the psyche whip on his back.

A wave of nausea overtook him and instead of fighting it he used it,
followed it down, his body spiraling drunkenly into the space behind his
cryocell. He could feel the confusion in the room as shadows lurched
forward, orders issued in hisses. No shouts and no further fire...near
perfect silence, he thought. Amazing discipline, as if….

No matter. He had moments, and moments were all he needed. Crouched in the
darkness he punched the Release code into his lockbox. He flexed his hands,
deadly weapons in their own right, serpents awaiting their venom.

The box would not open. It remained inert, a block of dead cold metal in
his hands. He turned it quickly face up, tried to make out the letters
printed on top. A. Shaw. They had switched lockboxes on him.

A shadowy form rose above him, and he caught a sliver of blue light across
familiar features.

"You..." he said, wanting to buy time.

A dark metal shape crashed into him, and his vision burst into blue
fireworks on a night black sky.

From the Unity Library,
Doctor Yang's Collection:

Weapons are the tools of fear;
a decent man will avoid them
except in direst necessity
and, if compelled, will use them
only with the utmost restraint.

He enters a battle gravely,
with sorrow and with great compassion,
as if he were attending a funeral.

Tao Te Ching,
Steven Mitchell trans.


Journey to Centauri : Episode 9
"Where is Doctor Yang? He should have arrived by now." Garland's question,
not directed at anyone in particular but not quite rhetorical, floated into
the confines of the command module. He ran his finger around his collar...
it seemed to be getting hot as the tension on the ship increased.

A new Ensign, Martchenko, had taken Khosa's place at the science console.

He spoke up quickly.

"That is correct, Captain." He punched up a schematic of the ship, got a
highlight of Yang's cell. "Cryobay three, cell 457. Open."

"Then where did he go?"

"Where indeed?" came the voice, laced with the hiss of static, coming from
the comm unit unbidden.

"Trace it!" shot Garland, then crossed to the communication console.

"Sender, this is Captain Garland. Identify yourself." Saratov had frozen,
reading the situation, trying to force this turn of events into logical
structures that left little room for human ambiguity. Garland stopped
watching him, refocused on the voice.

"This is Corazon Santiago, Captain, of the security staff. Dr. Yang is with
me." Garland's hand lifted to the insignia on his uniform as he scanned
back through the ship's rosters. Santiago...the woman's voice sounded
smooth, commanding, brusque...elegant yet strangely flat.

The touchscreen at the comm console flickered and changed to a dossier:
name, Corazon Santiago, a minor security functionary under Dr. Yang. A
Lieutenant, placed in charge of a division of men and women, about a
hundred, for no immediately apparent reason. She had stern features, light
brown skin...born in Puerto Rico and moved to Mexico City, then finally
ended up in New Los Angeles. All violent places now, riddled with gang
fights, fires, riots...par for the course in the last days of Earth.

Deep brown eyes stared at him defiantly from the digitized picture.

"As you may know by now I was released from the cryosleep by a
self-executing agent placed into your system by a...friend back on Earth.
I and fifty of my companions are members of the Spartan Coalition...do you
know of us?"

In a small panel a printout of her words spooled...Garland highlighted
Spartan Coalition and punched up a link. "'A group of radical survivalists
based in New Los Angeles with extensive political connections. Determined
to secure the survival of humanity during the increasing chaos of the late
21st century.' Sounds like you're just one of us."

She laughed. "I assure you I mean you no harm. I and my people only intend
to be given a fair share of the ship's supplies and placed on a deserted
section of Planet to pursue our own destiny."

"And how does that differ from the rest of us? Do you question our will to
survive? Why would you need to alter the ship's records and endanger the
mission for that?"

"Look around, Captain. This mission stinks of politics under a veneer of
idealism. We crave survival, pure and simple, and this focus gives us power.
We wish to play out our destinies on our own terms."

The Captain's eyes flickered rapidly as he tried to absorb her demands and
determine the danger to the ship and its thousands of sleeping crew.

"Then why contact me now? If your only goal is survival in its purest form,
why can't you pursue that as easily on this ship or on Earth itself?" A
pause. "You must realize by now that the ship is off course. If we do not
repair it within 34 hours, we will overshoot the Centauri system and be
unable to return for decades." Another pause. Reading the silence. "You
can't fix the ship alone. We're in this together."

When her voice came back he could hear the anger in it, the violence
boiling beneath the surface. "I want no philosophical debates with you,
Captain. Our course is firm. Fix the ship if you must, but with our
presence discovered we must take steps to protect our position. Nothing
else matters, and we will survive because of it."

"Because of a single-minded focus that jeopardizes the mission?"

"Exactly because of that." He could feel a cold satisfaction humming
through the commlink. Pravin Lal shook his head; they could all feel the
finality in her voice.

"Then what do you want?"

"I'm sending one of my representatives to the command bay. We will discuss
it further then."
"We can not allow a...mutinous crewmember in the command bay."

"You can, Captain. I am telling you that you can. Do not seal the lift or
we will begin picking off engineering crew one by one."

Garland heard a Russian curse cut the air like acid. Garland thought
furiously...what do they have? How many are there?

He had to buy time.

"Very well, Corazon. Send your representative, and leave the maintenance
crew unmolested."

"Do not call me by my first name, Captain. Remain in the command bay; we
will see you shortly." The transmission ended. Captain Garland crossed to
Lal.

"Where is she?"

"The communication originated from a storage room off of cryobay three, the
bay where both she and Dr. Yang slept."

"A large part of the security team is in there." He paced once across the
bay, once back. "Determine how many they have..."

"Of course, Captain." Pravin switched back to a formal mode of address as
the crisis deepened.

Garland turned to Ensign Martchenko. "Get this Santiago's dossier. And
hurry the check on that armory log thread. We need to know if they have
weapons."

The young ensign began clicking the touchpanel frantically. Garland let out
a deep breath and looked down at the security matrix. Several cameras were
out now, or the rooms they observed remained dark. Systematic sabotage, or
circuits worn down from the long journey?

"Do you think they'll attack? How serious are they?" he asked quietly. More
half-rhetorical questions. Captain Garland looked up to the low ceiling of
the command mod, where the United Nations star seal had been etched into
the metal. The damaged ship...

He turned to the science console. "Commander Saratov, we must..."

But the gaunt Russian was nowhere in sight. Saratov was gone.

Ship's Transmission,
Prokhor Saratov
The conflict with the mysterious insurgents has jeopardized my engineers'
ability to repair the ship in good time. All here are consumed with the
immediate conflict, but I keep my eyes to the new world, always.

The Captain may order my people into battle, and I must prepare for this.

I will not be caught off guard.

Journey to Centauri: Episode 10
Prokhor Saratov paused in one of the ship's long cylindrical accessways
and brushed his fingers along the seam of a ventilation duct. He wrinkled
his brow, as if concerned about structural damage, and his eyes flickered
up and down the accessway. Broad yellow stripes stretched along the wall
in each direction; this accessway remained slated for heavy equipment and
supply transport only.

There were cameras, of course, but few people to monitor them. All hands
were directed toward repairing the ship, including his own. But first he
had a job to do.

The silver ventilation duct opened and seemed to swallow him. A moment
later, the accessway stood empty.

Saratov breathed deeply, trying to remain calm in the narrow confines of
the ventilation duct. He got down on his hands and knees and crawled,
wrapping a length of lightweight polishing cloth around his hands to muffle
their impact on the strong yet flexible surface beneath him. He had shut
down all the infrared sensors along this path for one hour.

He could feel pain pulsing up and down his spine already. He crawled on,
through small tunnel after small tunnel, following pathways displayed on
his tiny wearable computer. Left, left, right, down dark and narrow paths.
His joints ached, and the air stuck in his throat. Darkness closed in on
him, and then...

There. Ahead, a small grate, crisscrossed by infrared beams he was not
authorized to deactivate. Through the grate he could see a small room with
red stripes swashed along the walls.

Craning his arm he pulled a small thermal tool from his belt and edged up
to the crisscross of beams. He turned on the tool, calibrated its
temperature carefully to a point far below freezing, and directed it's icy
bluish spray onto the glass nodes of the infrared detectors. One, two,
three, quickly moving from one to the next. His hand trembled a bit but his
eyes remained flinty, analytical, timing his movements with decimal point
precision.

At the last node he pushed through, his hands on the grate and pressing,
ignoring its clatter on the floor as he emerged from a tiny opening some
five feet off the floor. He fell and landed hard on a cold metal floor.

To his left, a nondescript red metal door at the end of the narrow room he
had entered. The words 'Weapons Bay' were stamped across the edge seal of
the door. Beyond that door, the armory. And the other direction...an
antechamber, perhaps filled with renegade crewmembers.

He had no keycard to open the Weapons Bay, and if he had one he could not
have used it without triggering a signal in the command bay anyway, but
that didn't matter. Someone had rewired the door logs already; that was
obvious.

He punched a simple access code into the door and it unlatched with a
clicking sound. No alarms, no footsteps, no summons from the Captain.

The great red door swung open, and Saratov walked through.

Episode 10, part 2
"Find Saratov!" Captain Garland shot to Lal. Ensign Martchenko sat rigid
at his own console, but Garland ignored him. At this moment Garland trusted
Lal, to the exclusion of anyone else in command.

Except perhaps Skye. Skye...

He punched a link to her. "Officer Skye, acknowledge immediately."

"Yes Captain." Her voice sounded crisp and smooth, professional in this time
of crisis. "I read you."

"We have discovered insurgents on the ship. Crewmembers moving about
without authorization...we don't know how many or exactly what they want.
We don't believe they are in your area, but you need to be careful. Have
one of Saratov's crew post outside the Hydroponics module."

"Saratov's people are no longer here, Captain. They left a few moments ago
under orders."

Garland froze for an instant, startled. "Did they say why?"

"No, Captain. They were pinging the synthglass panels on the far side of
the Greenhouse when a commlink came in. All three of them packed their
tools and departed quickly. And Captain...I could use people here. Whether
we stop the ship or not, someone will need to eat, and my hybrids need
tending. I can't rely on...that is to say, Saratov's people are quite busy."

"Understood. Send your crew requests to the command mod and we'll trigger
their wakeup from here. Keep the number to a minimum. Also, activate the
motion detectors in the hallway outside the Greenhouse. Be careful,
Deirdre."

"Understood." Her fluid voice hung in the air for a moment after Garland
closed the link. Then he tapped Lal on the shoulder and issued him quiet
orders.

"Where is Saratov? Key in to the tracking unit in his uniform."

"Commander Saratov is...inside a mechanical accessway. The delta on the
tracking module is not zero, so he must still have it on his person...wait,
he is moving only...2 centimeters...and now one and a half centimeters the
other direction..."

"Get a visual." He glanced over at Saratov's ensign, Martchenko. He could
practically see the man's ears burning.

"Captain." On Lal's screen flickered the image of a wide circular accessway.
There was no sign of life. "The tracking module puts him in that hallway,
shifting slightly back and forth..."

Garland leaned over and scanned the image carefully. "Wait. Zoom in, here.
Enhance." Lal's fingers danced, and a spot on the floor expanded in a series
of fluid jumps.

There, on the floor: a tiny metal and glass cylinder, rolling back and forth
on the curved floor of the hallway.

"He's pulled his tracking unit out, or it's fallen out. But where is he?"

Lal punched up a schematic of the ship. "The accessway leads to cargo bays
on either side, full of equipment in one, common supplies in the other.
But...here, a small maintenance duct. Leading to..." The schematic whirred
along the length of the duct.

"The weapons bay." said Garland. "But he can't open it."
"Unless the code has already been broken. He may have reason to believe
that it has."

"Open the datalinks. Reconstruct whatever he was doing on his console before
he left,  keying on that magenta color  the computer uses to highlight final
results."

"There's no need, sir." came the gruff voice of the young ensign. "I believe
the commander had something running here before he left."

Garland crossed to the science console and looked on the screen.

"Can you interpret?"

"The armory log file, usually updated several thousand times a second, had
no updates for a period of over three seconds during this time frame." He
flicked his hand towards a highlighted time range sometime before the ship
had been hit. "It must have been tampered with, sir."

"So Santiago's people must have gotten in. They are armed."

"Captain. Look at this as well." Lal's lilting voice had gotten faster and
more clipped, excited. "Most of the engineers have moved into the same
general area. Near the weapons bay."

Quicklink [encrypted]:
Orig: Commander Saratov
Recip: EmergEngineer@science.unac.unity [subset: Trusted]
Stabilize current assignment, then converge on attached coords. Ensigns
Preuss, Landon, Ritzka move immediately. Use caution, discretion.

Journey to Centauri : Episode 11
"Commander Saratov. Commander Saratov! Respond immediately." Garland stopped
to listen, searching the pure silence of the commlink for any sign of reply.
"Nothing, Captain," said Lal.

"Try one of these engineers we're tracking. Try this one..."

"Saki." Lal tapped a glowing indicator on the screen and a channel opened
immediately. "Lt. Saki come in. This is Commander Lal and Captain Garland,
in the command mod."

A pause, thick with hesitation. Finally..."Yes sir. Sirs."

"What are your orders, Lieutenant? What has Commander Saratov ordered you
to do?"
"He has ordered us to the Weapons Bay, sir. Is there something amiss?" Tha
last word...'amiss'...sounded strange to Garland, like a word out of an
19th century play, so polite.

"Has Commander Saratov told you anything about your assignment?"

"Negative, Captain. Is everything all right, sir?"

"Radio me when you reach your Commander, Lieutenant. We have lost contact
with him and we are concerned." Not exactly a lie but not the whole truth
either, thought Garland as he broke the link.

"Saratov must be taking matters into his own hands, fearing for the safety
of his crew. He wants to distribute weapons, and with these insurgents in
the ship I can't quite blame him..." Garland paused, again looking up at
the U.N. symbol etched into the command mod's ceiling.

"What will you do, Captain? We must fix the ship, and Saratov is acting
against orders.'

Garland let out a deep breath. "Not completely against orders. The safety
of the crew must be our first concern. I can't push this issue with Saratov
while the ship remains damaged. But I can go down there and locate him."
"A moment," responded Lal, soft and urgent. "Two of Saratov's engineers
have reached the antechamber to the Weapons Bay. I believe they are opening
it..."

Episode 11, part 2
Paul Landon and Diana Preuss, engineers under Saratov's command, pulled the
release lever and waited as the first set of security doors swung open.
Landon stood to one side, flexing his muscles nervously, his hands gripping
a concussion hammer tightly. His palms felt hot and sweaty, but when he
glanced at Diana she stood calmly, ice cool, a thin smile frozen on her
face.

A sliver of light slipped from between the doors and expanded as they swung
to their full open position. Landon caught Preuss' eyes and they both moved
to the sides, listening intently, staying in the shadows. As the doors
reached the full open position they looked at each other, communicating
urgently with their eyes alone.

Use caution, discretion, Saratov had told them, and directed them to a set
of coordinates centered on the other side of this antechamber they had
opened. Caution from what?

For long moments they waited, scarcely breathing. Landon's senses were in
overdrive...he could hear the quiet groaning deep inside the ship, and he
could feel his pulse pounding in his ears. The antechamber yawned darkly
between them. Landon gestured to his wrist and pointed inside...

Preuss motioned in the negative. She pointed at the ground.

One faint shadow, stretching from the antechamber, shifting slightly as if
something were moving between several lights. A hiss of breath escaped from
Landon's lips.

From behind them came footsteps, and another red suited engineer entered the
hallway, footsteps echoing on the metal floor. Landon turned...it was
Ritzka, another engineer with combat training, arriving early. Coincidence?

Landon started to signal him but comprehension had already washed over
Ritzka's face. He paused for one split second, rooted to the floor, and
then threw himself to one side.

There was a small cracking sound and a peculiar metallic thump. Landon
looked wildly down the hall as Ritzka's eyes flashed with panic and he
crawled rapidly into the cover of the shadows along the hallway. That
cracking sound...

There. Landon could see it...a small hole, as if the metal in the wall had
been melted by a burning coal, about three feet to the right of where Ritzka
had stood. Shredder pistol, set to fire in pulse rather than spray mode,
and set at low power so it didn't puncture the metal.

Landon moved farther back into the shadows, his breathing quiet and shallow.
His fingers crept to the 'on' switch of the concussion hammer, but he didn't
push it yet. He heard the rustle of cloth, and then the quiet clicking of a
computer touch screen from inside the antechamber.

His eyes shot to Preuss' and he caught the quick nod. His muscles, wound
tight from the tension of waiting, exploded into action as he rushed into
the antechamber. Bright lights burned his eyes for a moment and he caught
a quick adrenaline-pounding glimpse of a small cylindrical chamber, broad
red swatches on the wall, another set of sealed doors, and off to one side
a small but muscular man in a red security uniform, kneeling against the
wall and typing into his quicklink.

Landon hissed out a breath and felt the concussion hammer jolt to life in
his hands. The small security guard rolled quickly and a shredder pistol
appeared in his hand...he moved his arm as if to sweep the chamber but the
pistol was still on pulse mode, and Landon heard the pock pock pock of
single shots hitting the metal around him.

He lunged and lost his footing , the concussion hammer jolting the floor
and sending a nerve-jangling vibration through his hands and arms. Scenes
flashed...he could see Preuss leaping like a cat, and then he heard two
more pocks and a meaty thump, and she fell hard and fast to the ground,
her legs cut out from under her. Her forehead hit the ground hard and Landon
could hear the crack even as he came back to his feet and the little tight
man in red, the security guard, rolled across the chamber.

A pause. A heartbeat, as the little man flipped something on his weapon.

No.

Landon scrambled forward, feeling the bile rise in his stomach, smelling
the reeking sweat of desperation as he tried to move forward while keeping
his head low. He heard Preuss yell, a strong yell that cracked at the end,
and then there was a hum and a black cloud filled the chamber, and then he
saw her torso turn into a cloud of blood swirling backwards along the wall.

He clawed his way to his knees and swung the concussion hammer, and felt
the impact rock his arms and bones as the blow landed on the side of the
little man's head. Landon heard a sickening snap, and looked away from the
blow, only to feel his right leg turn into fire. He felt his jaw fall open,
his muscles losing control, and turned to see the blood patterns on the
wall, swirls of red that used to be his leg.

Blood on the walls of the Unity. The world turned to darkness, and Landon
fell

Ship's Logs
Paul Landon, Engineering Staff
Weapons are tools," Commander Saratov once wrote. "Their function is
violence; when used by a technician, rather than a warrior, they can
fulfill their intended purpose: to assist in clearing out the useless to
make way for the functional.

"And, like any tool, they can help humankind to make the inevitable happen
more quickly."

Journey to Centauri : Episode 12
Deirdre Skye stroked the collar of her uniform and looked out through the
transparent wall panels of Hydroponics Module One, tracing their path as
they curved down to join the ship's hull. Beyond them she could see the vast
sweep of space, the stars swimming around the ship as the Unity hurled
forward. From this vantage, at the edge of Mod One, she could also see the
surface of the ship stretching away from her, weirdly shaped scraps of
metal rising up across a burnt and twisted landscape, the remnants of their
collision.

Across the damaged surface she could see the dark edge of cryobay seven and
its associated living facilities. The edge of the cylinder had caved in,
but beyond that it looked intact. Still, they had no contact with bay seven,
no signs of life. It was this burnt landscape outside her very windows that
had led Deirdre to caution the Captain about Saratov's rush to trigger the
pulse test.

"Deirdre."

She turned to see the Captain walking toward her, pushing through the
branches of some dwarf avocado trees. Nearby two of her staff were packing
the rough green fruits into lightweight foam coolers.

"Captain." She took a sip from the silver mug in her right hand and looked
over the climate control tiers  
                    

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