Prometheus Revealed
Moving Day
Wednesday, 1108 GMT
September 9, 2015

Briefly lifting up his helmet visor’s VR overlay, Lt. Trey Drogosch of the Orbital Defense Corps squeezes his eyes shut, wishing he could rub at them with his hand, the old fashioned way. He blinks a few times in the pitch dark, then pulls the overlay back down and watches the virtual displays reappear. He’s barely into the second hour of his shift, but he’s already having problems staying awake. He missed his morning coffee, and now that he’s trapped inside his vac suit inside a Destrier for another six and a half hours, there’s little he can do about it.

Sighing, Trey pulls the virtual control board into his lap and keys for two-handed input, repositioning the yoke to his right to get it out of the way. He cycles through each of the craft in his immediate vicinity—the other nine Destriers flying outrider on Asimov ODB as it’s moved on station; the four fighters flying backstop in case an emergency halt is ordered; and, most significantly, the looming, ill-proportioned shape of Asimov base itself, looking like some sort of wickedly-spiked medieval mace. The objects all appear as wireframe models rendered in varying shades of red, simply floating in otherwise pitch-black space with Trey at their center. It’s all virtual, of course, slightly different images projected directly onto his retinas by his visor gear, thereby creating the illusion of three-dimensional depth and distance. As he turns his head, the Destrier’s onboard computer tracks the movement to feed him appropriate images for his line of sight. Looking down past the control board in his lap, Trey can make out the other two members of his flight, apparently occupying the same space as his legs—though, of course, his legs are invisible in the dark. The only light available within the cockpit, while the ship is in operation at least, comes from inside his helmet.

Deciding to razz his wingmen, he dials the comm frequency shared by just the three of them. “Aeon Two-One calling Two Flight. Count off.”

The first response is immediate and predictable: “Aeon Two-Three reporting as ordered! Cyberbob is ready and rarin’ to go, eager to wail on some alien—

“Thank you, Three, that’s enough chatter.” He can’t help but smile, though.

The second response is a bit longer in coming. “This is Two-Two.” The voice is slightly distorted.

Nice of you to join us, Moneybags!” This from Aeon-23 before Trey can speak.

“Two...” Trey asks, “was that a yawn I heard?”

The sound repeats over the air, clearly a yawn this time. “No sir, not at all.

He smiles. “Well, keep your eyes open, boys. There’s no telling when things will get exciting.”

Yessir,” Aeon-22, a.k.a. “Moneybags,” responds.

On your order, Antilles!” Aeon-23 chimes in a beat later, and Trey rolls his eyes. He and his two subordinates—all of them brand new ODC recruits—had been virtually kidnapped the night before, dragged into the mess hall, and brought before a handful of more experienced pilots who had assembled to help them “choose” their new callsigns. Initially, Trey had been offered one of three options: Horseface, Splash, and Vomit. Fortunately, by surrendering his personal stockpile of quilted double-ply toilet tissue, Trey had convinced them to add ‘Antilles’ as a fourth possibility. He’d sacrificed a considerable amount of his limited foot locker space to bring that tissue onboard, and he would probably regret its loss the next time he was forced to use Uncle Sam’s cardboard-grade single-ply, but he was nevertheless glad to have escaped ‘Vomit.’

His friends hadn’t been so lucky, having no bribes of value and no good way to acquire some. Rich Britt had ended up with ‘Moneybags,’ a rather weak pun on his name, though he didn’t seem to mind. Mostly he’d seemed hurt when they laughed at his suggestion of ‘Maverick.’ As for Shane Ergen... well, he was so excited about getting his own “real callsign” that he didn’t seem to notice just how stupid ‘Cyberbob’ sounded. Even now, the man is still excited. Never mind that the callsign is supposed to be more of a nickname than anything official. Notwithstanding what the movies portray, the designations aren’t actually intended for use in the cockpit, since comm procedures require a more standardized identification protocol based upon flight group organization.

Still... comm traffic is more relaxed on patrol. When you’re in the saddle for eight or nine hours at a go, staying alert is more important than strict comm discipline, and even casual conversations can help. Trey has already observed some of the more experienced pilots getting away with murder on duty, over open comm lines, provided it’s just routine patrol. He decides to allow Shane his fun, as long as the guy keeps it within their three-ship element. In truth, Trey’s already come to appreciate the other man’s unflagging enthusiasm when things get dull, even if he can only boast the maturity of a six-year-old.

Then again, today isn’t just routine patrol. Today is Moving Day.

Trey returns to studying nearby craft. As he targets each in turn, a detailed report is worked up by the radar and augmented from the squadron’s shared database; the data appears to his right, in his peripheral vision, and remains there no matter which way he looks. When he attempts to focus on the blurry report, the system interprets his eye movement accordingly and brings the text front and center so he can read it properly. When he’s finished, a right-left wink banishes it to the periphery again.

Drawing the IDB straw into his mouth by feel, Trey sips sparingly. The in-suit drink bag is an integrated part of his vacuum suit, providing access to roughly two liters of water through a straw suspended before his face. It’s a poor substitute for coffee, but it keeps him hydrated on his long patrol. Two protein bars are also accessible hands-free within his helmet, but he quickly learned to leave those to the end of his patrol, or for emergency use. One way or another, relieving a full bladder while fully vac-suited is difficult—and humiliating—enough. Generating solid waste while on patrol is to be avoided at all costs.

Tapping the underside of his left wrist, Trey brings to life the liquid crystal display of his suit’s integrated sound system. Running through the selections in his personal playlist, he selects a high-energy track, something to help keep him awake.

It’s amazing, he reflects. Just a year ago, he was a computer programmer working a 9-to-5 job and playing video games late into most nights. He made decent money and enjoyed his life, even if it was generally devoid of female companionship. Since that time there have been two devastating attacks by aliens—aliens!—and he was not only recruited to become part of the defense effort, he was one of only nine new recruits to be given command of his own three-ship element. First Lieutenant Trey Drogosch—he likes the sound of that. And then there’s the female angle. Not long after receiving his commission, he met Trudy Luckhurst on a Sunday afternoon in Houston and quickly fell under the sway of her stunning emerald eyes; she fell for him too, and he’s not sure he cares how much of it was his sharp black dress uniform. And so here he is a few months later, thousands of miles outside Earth’s atmosphere, flying a multi-million-dollar V-2 Destrier space superiority fighter... and after only a few days of patrols, he’s bored sick.

He can’t fault the equipment, though. Surprisingly similar to the setup in Rampant, which goes down in his list of all time favorite video games. Just like in the game, many of the Destrier’s systems are customizable. Not only can he select what colors are used to display various kinds of information, he can import his own sound clips for use in place of the standard audio indicators. Trey had immediately customized his gear to match the settings from one of his favorite early-90s space combat sims. And not only because he remains a rabid fan of that franchise—with so much time invested in that particular game, the meaning of its various audio alerts and IFF color assignments have registered at a deep level, and reacting smoothly to them is second nature for him. Which is exactly why Gen. Dunn’s team developed Rampant with that sort of customizability to begin with, to build upon each pilot’s existing strengths rather than start them over at zero with a whole new system.

Humming along contentedly with his music, Trey turns his attention to the unidentified objects appearing on his scope. Even in the immediate vicinity, there are hundreds of examples of space junk, orbiting around the Earth even while Asimov and its minders mesh through on their way to higher altitude. The junk consists of anything and everything humankind has ever put into orbit, including defunct telecom satellites, spent rocket stages, detritus from explosions, and even intact satellites that just days ago were serving some vital purpose. Every contact they come across, it is the Destrier pilots’ responsibility to log size and trajectory, in hopes of restoring the United States’ recently-disrupted ability to track every significant object in orbit.

What makes Trey’s patrol pattern unusual today is the fact that the ODC is in the process of moving its new homes—the four orbital defense bases on which most of the Gryphens live and work—into higher orbit to assume their permanent duty stations. As such, the Gryphens in the saddle today are mostly concerned with unidentified objects moving rapidly in relation to the closest ODB, because such objects represent a collision danger... or worse, they could be enemy ships. So far, the most excitement Trey’s people have seen involved pulling Destriers alongside several larger contacts to carefully bump them out of the way.

Exciting or not, they’ve nevertheless attempted to get closer scans on anything measuring more than a square meter in profile. The process is tedious, of course. A few radar pings doesn’t tell you much beyond the fact that something exists at a given point in space—that and its apparent size. It takes the combined efforts of multiple Destriers’ radars to get a more complete 3D picture, and even then, the assistance of the distributed tactical supercomputer is necessary to stitch it all together into a cohesive wireframe model. The more environmental information the Gryphens can feed into the master database used by that computer—which was christened JCN, or “JACEN,” and runs on hardware from each of the four command habs—the better capable their systems will be of predicting combat conditions and identifying types of objects they’ve encountered before.

Performing a general scan of the area, Trey picks out the largest unclaimed blip within two hundred miles of himself. He studies the limited superficial data available for it, deems it uninteresting, and catalogs its flight pattern and emissions signatures to the databank without seeking further detail. There’s far too much garbage floating around out here, constantly in a state of flux, to do a detailed scan on everything that floats by. For the most part, what he’s been trained to do is consider an object’s behavior and its heat and energy emissions to establish how much of a danger it poses. Physical appearance doesn’t really enter into it.

Over the next hour, he performs catalog entries for three more boring contacts before seeing something that makes him sit up straighter. He keys a request through the system, and after a few minutes, Collin Hartford of Three Flight obliges by scanning the object from a different direction. Which confirms Trey’s suspicion, sending a thrill of adrenaline out to his extremities.

“Aeon Two-One to Aeon Lead, come in.”

Go ahead, Two-One.

“I’m flagging a mark on your display, already in the system as Trudy-One-Zero-Three.” The Gryphens are given a wide latitude in how they key their catalog records, and starting with his very first patrol, Trey had used his girlfriend’s name for identifying the more distinctive entries.

I see it,” his squad leader responds. “Stable orbit. Bleeding some mild radiation, nothing unusual. What’s the problem?

Trey smiles in anticipation. Yes, half the defunct satellites bouncing around in Earth’s orbit leak radiation—the ones that were built with decaying nuclear power sources rather than solar panels. But as for Trudy-103... “Look at the timestamp, sir. I tagged this bogey yesterday at 1757—it should be about 3,500 miles behind us.”

There’s a long pause, and Trey can imagine his CO, Lt. Col. Austin Allen, pulling up the details on his databank entry. “You’re right, radiation signature is pretty close. Heat and radar could be a match, too.

“It’s definitely One-Zero-Three, sir.” There may be dozens of old satellites bleeding the same radioactive element, but the rate of emission is almost always going to be unique, based on the age of the sample. In Trudy-103’s case, it’s so faint as to be nearly unnoticeable. “JACEN concurs, it’s the same contact.”

Very well. Maintain your patrol pattern, but keep an eye on your girl. I’m gonna call this in.

Col. John McLaughlin floats briskly into the command hab aboard Asimov ODB, just swallowing his last bite of dinner. “What’ve we got?”

“One of the boys in Two Flight—Drogosch—may have identified an alien spacecraft,” says Lt. Col. Kyle Major, base commander for Asimov. “It appears to be shadowing us. He first tagged it eighteen hours ago, and now it’s suddenly ahead of us again.”

“Have they approached it yet?”

“No, they’re waiting on you.”

McLaughlin pauses to think a moment. “Tell them to hold formation a little longer, and get me a secure line to General Dunn.”

A minute later, Kara Dunn has been brought up to speed. “Maybe it’s one of the alien fighter craft mentioned by KLINE. Nymphs.

“It’s the right size, at least,” McLaughlin agrees, looking at the radar data they’ve already captured.

But we really won’t know much until we do a higher-rez scan.

“You can pull what we have so far—Trudy-103.”

A few moments pass while she does so; Kara herself is currently on patrol, leading Vulcan-One Flight. “Yeah, not much definition here. It could be anything.

“Except for its behavior, yeah. Pretty subtle.” He bites his lower lip thoughtfully. “I’m going to send them in for a closer look—four craft, start at a distance and shrink the pyramid. No active radar until they’re close-in, then ping her hard from all sides. Hopefully that’ll give us the resolution we need, and if it’s an enemy spacecraft, the sudden attention’ll probably make her jump too.”

Sounds good. But make sure your people are clear, it’s weapons-safe for now. Remember...” She trails off. “John, are we private?

“Yeah,” he replies, glancing around the command hab and squeezing the headphones a bit tighter over his ears. “What’s up?”

Peterson is convinced KLINE was acting alone, but there’s something he’s not telling us. I don’t know if we have potential allies among the K’lurans or not, or if maybe there’s some other alien race out here, but... I just don’t want to make any assumptions, okay?

“Understood. Asimov out.”

From within her own craft roughly nineteen hundred miles away, Kara uses her command override to listen in as McLaughlin explains the assignment to the pilots arrayed around Asimov base.

And remember, what’s important here is that we get information. Any of you fires on that thing, I’ll have your hide, you understand?” There’s a chorus of acknowledgements. “Good. We want to know what we’re up against. Get to it.

Over the next half hour, four of Aeon’s Destriers fall back and begin drifting away to investigate various objects along an entirely different trajectory from the possible Nymph. Slowly but surely they work their way through a wide loop to enclose their target in the middle of a pyramidal formation—a four point shape, each of its four sides a triangle.

Very good,” comes McLaughlin’s voice. “Now slowly close the noose. One-point-five gees max. Hold off on active radar until you’re within twenty miles, but be ready if she bolts.

They end up getting much, much closer than twenty miles, actively painting the target for more than a minute without a twitch. “I can’t believe she’s holding so still,” says Drogosch as the wireframe model in Kara’s display takes on increasing detail, for it’s immediately clear this is no space junk. It’s a vehicle for sure—a much prettier, more streamlined design than the Destrier, sleek and sweeping like a fighter jet. In fact...

“Alpha Command, this is Vulcan Lead,” Kara comms, calling out to McLaughlin. “Do those look like wings to you?”

Sure do. This looks more like an airframe than a spacecraft.

A startled gasp comes across the Aeon squadron channel Kara’s tapped into. “There she goes! Man...” Drogosch sounds surprised. “She’s moving... that’s gotta be almost thirty gees!

Kara gulps. Thirty times the acceleration of Earth's gravity? It's an incredible rate of accel, more than double what most of her pilots can probably handle without blacking out, enough to go from standing still to 1,000 miles per hour in less than two seconds!

Vulcan Lead, Asimov here. She’s gone, just like that.

“I know, I was watching. John,” she continues, momentarily forgetting comm protocol, “upgrade that Nymph to threat-priority-one and alert active patrols.”

Will do,” he acknowledges. “But Kara...” He pauses, and Kara can tell the man is a little shaken too. “If all the K’luran craft have that sort of maneuverability, we could be in serious trouble.

Thinking back over what she knows from the KLINE Document, Kara finds herself agreeing with that assessment.

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Prometheus Revealed Book Cover

You’ve seen the big-budget summer action flicks. You’ve read the books, maybe played the video games. You’ve heard all the conspiracy theories. But this is the real world, the present day. If the unthinkable happened, if we faced an actual, verifiable threat from outside our planet...

What would we do?
The Gryphens Duology tells that tale.

Blending military thriller and science fiction—with an emphasis on the science—new author R.L. Akers produces a well-crafted story peopled by characters you’ll grow to love and hate. When the threat from outer space becomes known, the U.S. government is caught unprepared. With time running out, the military must adapt to an entirely new variety of warfare. Pilots and soldiers must be recruited, trained, and deployed to defensive installations in orbit above North America, and technology must take a giant leap forward—with considerable assistance from a surprising source.

But there are those who would halt these preparations: mercenaries and even traitors within the ranks. What motivates them to betray their world is unknown, but they will stop at nothing to prevent the newest branch of United States military from fulfilling its mandate.

From the shadows of rural England to the bowels of Area 51’s Groom Lake installation, from the most remote corner of our planet to geosynchronous orbit thousands of miles above, the Gryphens Duology comprises a single well-researched and believable story about humanity’s real-world response to the threat of alien invasion. You won’t want to put these books down!

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