“Human vessel, you are ordered to reverse course immediately, or we will open fire.”
Dr. Calvo frowned. Attempts to make long-range contact with the last Tripodian colony had failed. Now that the his ship had finally arrived, the welcome news of life signs on the planet had been immediately interrupted by a blockade.
“This is the medical ship Asclepius. We are on a mission of mercy. Request clearance to pass.”
“Negative, Asclepius. This system is under strict quarantine. Reverse course immediately.”
“We are here to help prevent further spread of the plague,” said Calvo. “I must speak to your commander at once.”
“I am the last remaining commander of the Tripodian fleet, Human. My patience will not last much longer.”
Officer Johanssen at the sensor station spoke up. “Sir, they are powering weapons.”
“Please commander, we are here to help you,” said Calvo, letting his voice rise in volume slightly. He took a breath. “You are aware that the plague has a long incubation period, but once symptoms appear, death comes quickly. Your colony may already be exposed.”
“We are fully aware of the nature of the plague, Human. We know far more than you realize.”
Calvo paused a moment, his eyebrows cocked slightly. He continued. “We are close to finding a cure, commander. But we must establish a clinic here now, if we wait for your people to start getting sick, it will be too late.”
“Again, we are aware of your clinics on our other worlds. We have no interest. This is your final warning.”
Through the comm system, Calvo could hear what sounded like an alarm blaring.
“Do you require assistance, commander?”
“Your long-range sensors are not as advanced as ours, Human. If you will not heed our warning, examine the scan data we are sending you now.”
Calvo quickly rose from his command chair to join Johannssen at the sensor station. “What is it, officer?”
“A fleet, sir,” said Johanssen. “It’s just appeared in orbit around the secondary star of this system.”
“How many ships?”
“Thousands. Checking the database. We haven’t seen this model before, sir, but the radiation signature …”
Calvo’s face turned white. Yralen.
“Impossible,” said Johanssen. “They’re dead!”
A silent moment passed.
“We thought so,” said Calvo. “We knew they had colonies. But they never returned to New Earth.”
The commander’s voice returned over the comm system. “Leave now, Human. I have no more time for you. I must defend my people.”
Calvo returned to the command chair. The remaining Tripodian fleet was no match for the invaders, but there was nothing the Asclepius could do. “Thank you for the warning, commander. Good luck to you.”
He signaled to the helmsman. “Get us out of here.”
Commander Kre-Ta stood motionless on the bridge of his flagship, watching the sensor readings of the enemy fleet. The Yralens were nearly finished re-charging their energy cells in the glow of the secondary star.
He checked the readings on the position of his ships. They were holding steady in formation, but he knew it was a hopeless fight. The remaining colonies of the Yralens outside Tripodian territory had never dared attack while the blockade remained at full strength, but now the commander’s fleet, and his people, were decimated and ripe for conquest. Nonetheless, the last bastion of Tripodia would leave the galaxy with a sword in its hands.
Lights flashed on the sensor readout.
“Commander, they are departing the system.”
The commander paused for a moment. Then he let out a sound that made his crew stare at him in bewilderment. He was imitating human laughter.
Kre-Ta knew the Yralen fleet had returned for one grim purpose. But Tripodia was not the target.