Earth space, Systems Confederation
November 2309

“This is Death Angel Four, approaching the unidentified vessel, eleven mega-klicks out.” First grade lieutenant Cassie ‘Hulk’ Lupo of the Systems Confederation Navy, a Wasp-class fighter pilot, broadcast into her helmet’s microphone. Thoughts of her task calmed her, but she was not amused at all.

A few minutes prior, she had been rudely awakened by the station-wide klaxon alert followed by a scramble order for second flight of Death Angel squadron which came in through public announcement. Their training paid off, Cassie and her wingmen were able to take off in less than two minutes and now they were heading towards an unidentified bogey near the moon with linear displacement drives propelling them at one third of the speed of light.

The linear displacement drive was a near light speed propulsion system. It achieved relativistic speed very rapidly by displacing the space around a vessel a few millions times per second. It was similar to the concept of Alcubierre drive but slower as it was limited to ninety-nine percent of the speed of light. This remained the humanity’s primary meaning of interplanetary traveling for nearly three centuries since its inception in late 21st century.

“San Diego Four, sitrep, it is not responding to our hails and the parrot is not squawking. I repeat: it is not responding our challenge.” The flight controller’s voice responded through her helmet’s speakers. “Passive sensor network is detecting main bangs. The bogey is illuminating. Proceed with caution.”

“Copy, I am on course one-two-seven.” Cassie replied with a hint of surprise. It would be extremely foolish for anyone to use active sensors such as a faster-than-light scanner, radar or LIDAR in Earth space, a highly restricted area, due to the astonishingly high volume of traffic laden with valuable or sensitive cargos shipped through this space. Using active sensors usually was an invitation for everyone in the area, especially security force to blast away with high-powered particle beam cannons.

“What do you think of this bogey? It could be one of these damned amateur joyriders.” First grade Lieutenant Lucas ‘Dart’ Bushnell, one of her wingmen, pitched in his opinion.

“We will see when we get within visual range.” Cassie replied.

A warbling tone rang out and it grew progressively louder as they closed on bogey, signaling them it was time to disengage the linear displacement drive.

“Disengage on my mark… now.” Cassie announced.

A trio of Wasp-class fighters, new-generation fighters that replaced the Blitz fighters that had proudly served both the Earth Commonwealth and very short-lived New Alliance during Independence War thirty-seven years ago, blurred into reality within five kilometers of the unidentified vessel.

Cassie spotted a bogey, “San Diego, tally-ho.”

“Roger, tactical datalink received and I can see the bogey now.” Flight controller acknowledged.

Upon seeing the intruder, she finally understood why the flight controllers were talking about this unidentified vessel. It was unlike anything she had seen before and the vessel recognition database was unable to identify this particular configuration. With aid of long-range imaging module, she could see a small, sleek-looking one-man spacecraft with two swept-back wings and a vertical stabilizer, two intake ducts, and each wing with a long barrel protruding outwardly, indicating it was an armed vessel. There were markings in English all over the vessel. The occupant appeared to be a female human and if Cassie had to guess, she had to be in twenties.

Not an alien then, Cassie mused as she stared at the small dart-like vessel.

“Not a joyrider” said Dart, sounding surprised.

“Death Angel Four to unidentified vessel, identify yourself and prepare to power down.” She paused for a moment to wait for a reply from it. There was none. She sighed in frustration. “I am going to move closer to the bogey for visual communication. Cover me.”

“I have your six.” Dart replied.

“Same here.” One of her other wingmen known as ‘Chef’ declared.

Cassie throttled the engines to one-fourth power with keen eyes fixed on the bogey’s flight movement to look out for any subtle clues that may constitute a threat. She trusted her wingmen to keep an eye out for any potential dangers that may come from it. She was aware that approaching an unknown vessel this close was a very risky prospect because several fighter pilots and law enforcement officers had died this way when pirates sprang ambushes on them. However, her instincts were telling her this one was different and unusual.

With great caution, she approached and pulled up next to the unknown ship with particle beam cannons aimed directly at it, a precautionary measure. From this position, Cassie clearly could see the occupant’s body movement getting more flaccid, her head arching back and forth against the headrest, her limbs moving very slowly and erratically, an indication that the she was losing consciousness. To be certain she had the imaging module zoomed on the occupant’s face. Then she saw her fatigued eyes staring directly at her, filled with fear and uncertainty, and then the occupant passed out.

“Shit!” She muttered, not expecting this to happen. Reacting to the unforeseen situation, composed Cassie announced, “San Diego, sitrep, send in SARV for emergency retrieval ASAP! The occupant has gone out cold.”

The response from San Diego Base’s flight controller was swift and calm. “Affirmative, I am deploying SARV to your current location. You stay still and keep tabs on her condition.”

“What happened?” Came a call from Dart.

“I really don’t know.” Cassie shook her head. Her thoughts were on the occupant’s well-being.

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