This story is by Justin Schottmuller and was part of our 2017 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the Summer Writing Contest stories here.
“Midshipman,” the Admiral barked. “Take your post.”
Adrian Carr scrambled for the communications console. Admiral Peter Kane ran a tight ship and he was not about to become the subject of his ire, especially in so desperate a situation. Removing the still smoking husk of his counterpart from the communications chair, Adrian put the headset on and started rebooting the damaged system.
Adrian took a moment to look over the bridge. He imagined that he looked out of place in the wreckage of the damaged command center; still wearing his bed clothes and shower shoes. The first strike had thrown him from his bunk. Astrid, his girlfriend, and her picture jumped into his thoughts. It sat in the left breast pocket of his uniform. He silently cursed himself for the oversight. His brother Sydney would never let him live down forgetting that picture.
“Status Carr,” Admiral Kane barked. It was no surprise that the old man was the only one still standing in the wreckage. Rumor had it he had browbeat the devil into giving him back his soul.
“Five seconds until reboot and diagnostics sir,” Adrian called back.
The Admiral nodded as he turned to study the tactical map. Shots from the enemy fleet were pounding on the shields. Tremors reached the bridge as other members of the bridge crew arrived. More dead sailors were replaced as the computers and command screens of the bridge flickered back to life.
“All stations this net, all stations this net, this is Kingpin. SITREP, over.”
The other ships in Admiral Kane’s fleet reported in with minimal damage as the final members of the bridge crew filtered in to take their positions. The USS Corbula had taken the brunt of the ambush. A quick look around the bodies on the bridge made it easy to believe.
Admiral Kane typed in the last few tactical orders to the holo display. The screen lit up as ordnance from his fleet slammed home, flaring shields and doing nothing to the enemy. His second in command, a portly man named Tibbs, wobbled through the door as another tremor shook.
“Do we have an ID on them yet,” Kane grumbled.
“They are marked as Russian Federation ships Admiral,” the Captain said.
“That means we were set up,” Kane said. He slapped the podium near the holo-display in frustration. “We’ve got one option if we’re going to get out of this. Carr, you’re going to have to jack into the system.”
“Admiral,” Captain Tibbs interrupted in hushed tones, “That is not tested tech.”
Both officers looked at Adrian, the full weight of the Captain’s words in their stares. His hand reached up to the copper jacketed neural feed that had been installed into his skull. The techs had told him this would allow his brain to process the radio signals directly. It would take some time but tests had shown the human brain to outwork any computer made to date.
With a nod to his superiors, Adrian pulled the cable out of its storage space and inserted one end into the skull-port. The vibration of it locking into place ran across his entire head. Taking a deep breath he inserted the other end into the console. He was inundated with radio waves and data. His brain struggled to filter the overwhelming flow of information and his body slumped limp in the chair.
Forcing aside the background waves from space, he turned his attention to the data waves. Finding the pattern, his brain dialed into the correct frequencies and in a matter of moments that felt like an eternity he had complete control of the communications network.
“I’m in Admiral,” Adrian said. His voice came out of a speaker, his own body limp in the chair.
A drop of blood fell from his nose.
“See if you can isolate the frequency of their shields,” Admiral Kane barked. “And let the fleet know to hold fire.”
Brainwaves turned to radio waves and the order was given as it left the Admiral’s lips. Adrian turned his focus onto the Federation ships. Their shields hummed as his mind tried to dissect them. The focused light of the shields was simply another form of radio wave. His brain strained to find the pattern and frequency.
Blood flowed free from his nose soaking the front of his shirt.
“Admiral, we have to pull him out,” Adrian heard the Tibbs call. “It’s killing him!”
“I almost have it Captain,” the speaker crackled again. Admiral Kane signalled the Captain to stop. “Just a few more seconds.”
Adrian was lost in the world of waves. His senses were merely processing the data sent to him by the ship and it was a world he had never before known. His brain fought itself trying to make sense of this world and force it to a reality he knew. Every antennae, every piece of light from a star, every quasar and pulsar that sent out an electromagnetic wave washed through his senses. He could feel the battlefield like he felt Astrid in the dark. The sun left a salty taste on every surface it touched. The intermittent blips from anomalies pinged in his ears while the distant stars carried the sweet smell of roses.
Blood started to seep from under his eyelids.
Like the last turn of a combination lock, the Russian shields gave up their secrets and Adrian knew how to bypass them. All members of the fleet were given new firing sequences. He could have loaded them himself but a sense of military protocol kept him in check.
“All batteries ready to bypass shields on your orders Admiral,” Adrian’s speaker reported.
“All batteries fire!”
Captain Tibbs rushed over to Adrian as the Russian Fleet began to disintegrate. A handful of keystrokes and he was unplugging the neural feed. Blood ran out with the cable as Adrian fell to the floor unmoving.
Adrian’s eyes stared at the ceiling, still not seeing.
“Captain, I tasted the sun…”