Empty Nest

The Captain sat on the bridge of the flag ship, a cruise line ship that had been hastily refitted, of the United Earth Space Force. The bridge was spacious with a large forward window. The captain’s chair was plush and soft like an well worn armchair; less a command seat and more a throne. Around it several screens had been added, hard mounted through the plush carpet, to give the captain situational data. Currently they displayed files on the situation that was her current mission.

Eight months ago a FTL drone had arrived in Earth orbit and transmitted a message from a mining colony. It was a simple declaration of independence. Most people thought a single colony declaring its independence was just posturing, perhaps a bid for better pay. Some feared it would start a movement among the colonies if allowed to stand unchallenged. The debates seemed never ending until the cargo ships began returning empty. They reported the colony had ceased trade until their independence was recognized. Spurred by corporate interests a fleet was assembled and dispatched to bring them back under control.

“Captain we will be exiting hyperspace in five minutes,” the helms controller said.

“Thank you,” the captain said. She switched her screens to tactical view and ship’s systems. They weren’t expecting a large fight. The colony at most had one transport ship and a couple of cargo ships, nothing that could truly be considered a threat. The fleet was a show of force to send a message to other colonies that might try this stunt.

The ship fell back into real space and the Captain’s displays filled with data. The rest of the fleet reentered real space seconds later. The Captain watched as the fighters launched and zipped ahead of the larger ships.

After a few minutes, the communications officer spoke up, “Captain, we are receiving reports from the fighters. The colony is shut down. All transports missing. I’m picking up a message being broadcast from the colony.”

“Let’s hear it.”

“–We know you would come once it started to hurt the money men. We’ve grown tired of the corporate overlords so we’ve left. We’ve stripped out some essential systems but tried to leave the colony and mining facilities as intact as possible. You should have no problem moving in the next batch of worker drones with minimum repairs. We’re going someplace were we can live free. Don’t come looking for us. You won’t find us. Maybe someday our great-great-grandchildren will meet your great-great-grandchildren as lost brothers. Maybe not. … To whom ever comes for us; we’re already gone. We knew–”

“The message repeats on a loop,” the communications officer said.

The captain leaned forward in her chair and stared out of the large forward window at the dark empty colony. “The nest is empty,” she said softly to herself.

“I’m sorry what was that, Captain?”

“Nothing. Order the fighters back and the fleet into a holding orbit. Contact the Gemini and ask them to prepare a boarding group.”

“Yes, Captain.”

They made it out, the Captain thought, free of the Companies. She watched as the forward view slowly shifted from the colony to open space. The Captain smiled and wished them a safe trip.

Author Note: “Dreams Not Chased“, while published first, was spun off of this story