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The Signal – Chapter 1: Addie

Last updated on May 27, 2024

UEFS Aconcagua – Menkent Star System

17 November 2725 – 06:33

The distinct two-tone klaxon of the all-hands alarm was more than enough to wake Addie Forrester up from her normally light sleep. It was not, however the gentle chime and warm dim light of her normal wake-up alarm. It was also an hour early. 

Her berth in the junior officer’s quarters was one of three conjoined by a small common area and sharing a single washroom. While she was sleeping or just wanted privacy, a pressure door would slide down over the opening to the larger room, leaving her in a space the footprint of her one by two meter mattress with a little over a meter of headroom. In an emergency, her berth would be sealed off against vacuum and—conveniently—noise. At her height of 173cm, it was slightly claustrophobic for Addie, but not so small as to feel like a coffin. 

The lights in her berth and all the sleeping quarters were lit in a relatively dim red color in an emergency, just enough light to completely make out her surroundings, but the right color and brightness to preserve her night vision if she needed it. She could see the display panel to her left ringed with the slowly pulsing red emergency frame and displaying some basic ship information.

The ship was in reverse thrust of -1.9G, entering into the primary planetary band of the star Menkent and aiming for a L1 orbit of the planet Arsenal, a relatively new colony world on the closer edge of UE space. The planet’s largest moon was of a very similar composition to Luna and was being mined for its abundant helium-3 and aluminum to support the new colony and further expansion. 

Arsenal was supposed to be one of five stops on the Aconcagua’s shakedown tour, projecting the UE Fleet’s commitment to the security and assistance of the colony and its people, as well as furthering scientific research being conducted into terraforming on Arsenal. 

Addie pressed a button on her display to pull up the environmental monitoring and control screen. It showed—as she’d hoped—that there was still plenty of breathable air outside her berth. Of course the door into the common area wouldn’t slide open if there wasn’t, but it felt good to check. 

As the door opened, the sounds of the alarm and the voice of the ship’s AI over the public address speaker suddenly became much louder and more disorienting. There wasn’t any shouting or explosions. That was good at least.

“All hands secure for battle stations. Emergency. All hands secure for battle stations.” The voice calmly repeated the phrase over again every ten seconds or so. 

In her sleep-deprived state Addie struggled to remember for sure, but she thought there had already been a battle stations drill in the last duty cycle. As she pulled on the previous day’s uniform pants that she kept at the foot of her bed for a situation like this one, the thought that this might be a real emergency was growing louder and louder in her mind. 

She carefully crawled out of her bunk—all of a sudden aware that she weight a little less than twice what she did under 1G. She pulled out the drawer in the locker below her berth that contained her battle stations gear and started to put it on, noticing her roommate Junior Lieutenant Anjitra Bajwa was awake and had just slid open her berth’s hatch.

“Addie what the fuck? We already did one of these,” Anjitra groaned as she slid her feet down onto the floor, not bothering to put on any uniform pants. She was a much heavier sleeper than Addie. 

“I think this is the real thing Anj,” Addie responded while zipping up her combat vest, a slight tremble in her voice that was as much fear as excitement. 

“Oh shit.” Anjitra’s eyes widened at the sudden flash of understanding. She was fully awake now if she wasn’t before. 

“I have to get down to the ready room. Receiving bay?” Addie asked as she checked and slid her service pistol into the holster on the front of her vest.

“Yeah. Brunner is in triage right now. Hopefully whatever the fuck is happening we won’t be needed,” Anjitra responded as she started to throw together her own uniform and gear. She was a medic on the hospital decks. 


The flight wing’s ready rooms were located on the deck just below the ship’s primary hangar deck. The hangar was partially pressurized so as not to be so much of a burden on the ship’s air handling systems when the spacecraft elevators would be depressurized for ascension into the completely unpressurized flight deck. 

This gave an eerie muffled tone to the sounds that would transfer through floor of the hangar into the ceiling and bulkheads of the ready rooms. The more activity on the hangar deck, the eerier the sounds would be. Right now there was as much activity as Addie had ever heard happening above them.

The ready room itself was similar to the junior officer’s quarters she had just come from. A room with berths on three sides and a common area in the middle. Instead of just one berth on each wall with a locker below it, the ready rooms had four berths on each wall, each of which were slightly smaller than her personal bunk. These were for quick rest for on-duty flight crews. 

Unlike the majority of the ship that worked one of three eight hour shifts, the spacecraft wing worked twelve-hour shifts. For the Albatross, the basic crew was made up of a pilot, a copilot, and a payload officer—Addie’s job. On long duty shifts with any downtime, rest in the bunks was encouraged. A crew might have to be ready to launch their ship at any time and it was better for them not to be exhausted.

In the center of the room were two tables and a handful of chairs for all of the flight crews, with a large display wall opposite the center berths. For most planned missions, their squadron commander would present a briefing on the objectives of the day. Usually things like flybys of space mining stations, transport of colonists to the ship for advanced medical care, ferrying bulky cargo to one of the other ships in the fleet, or something of that nature and severity. 

Addie’s commanding officer, Senior Lieutenant Alexy Marakov and his copilot Junior Lieutenant Rachelle Michaelis had also just arrived to the ready room. Alexy was a tall, broad shouldered man from Eastern Europe, with stern features and graying black hair that belied his incredibly gentle and youthful personality. Lieutenant Michaelis on the other hand was relatively short with dark brown skin and hair pulled tight to her head in braids. Despite their differences in appearance, you could mistake them for siblings in their affect towards each other. 

That was largely because they had worked together for several years as copilots on the Wabash before transferring to the newly christened Aconcagua just four months prior. Their payload officer had left the Fleet to start a family on Proxima II, and Addie was his replacement. Despite her fear that they wouldn’t take to her like her predecessor, they had welcomed Addie in like a little sister, making them a part of the family that she was hoping to find on this new ship.

“Lieutenants,” Addie greeted them as she sat down at the table facing the display wall. As of yet, it didn’t have much more information than the display in her berth.

“Addie,” Rachelle responded, quickly adding “before you ask, we don’t know anything either.”

“This is definitely real though,” Alexy added.

Before they had a chance to further the conversation, Lieutenant Commander Xiao Lu-Wei entered the room, drawing the attention of all of the flight crews. 

“Everybody here?” he asked with the booming voice that instantly redirected everyone’s focus to him. 

“Yes sir,” Addie and everyone else in the room answered in near unison. 

“Good. Good.” Commander Xiao responded as he thumbed through a few screens on his handheld.

“At around 06:15 command deck received an emergency subspace message from Fleet HQ on Arsenal. It had what information they were able to provide, but for the sake of brevity they informed us that they were under attack both on the planet and the moon by an unknown assailant. The light cruisers Evansville and Patras moved in to engage along with a handful of smaller ships, the orbital weapons systems, and planet-based fighter spacecraft.” 

“HQ lost contact with both cruisers here.” Xiao turned around and pointed at a map of the system that was now displayed on the wall.

“We have only been able to receive spotty communications from the ground since dropping out of subspace and beginning our deceleration burn. We are going to be falling into orbit of the far side of the planet’s moon, in hopes that whatever force is attacking the planet will have a blind spot there. Hopefully that is the case because we haven’t been able to pull them up on our sensors either, and we have no telemetry from the planet.

“Charlie-1, Charlie-3, and Echo-1 squadrons have already launched to scout around the near side of the moon before our arrival and we will have data from them in the next five or six minutes. We along with Bravo-2 and Bravo-4 squadrons will be launching momentarily to arrive just ahead of the rest of the fleet to transport rescue personnel and evac any casualties from the mining bases on the moon. Alpha-1 and Bravo-3 will be transporting ExFor boarding forces for security and to retake the mining station.

“We believe there could be dozens, maybe hundreds of casualties on the mining station, and unknown assailants. Our mission will be to secure the facility, evacuate any casualties back to the Acon and reactivate the facility’s systems so we can determine what the hell actually happened down there.”

“Everybody clear on that?” Xiao set his handheld down on the table in front of him and stood up with aggressively straight posture. 

“Yes, sir!” everyone reported, again mostly in unison. 

“Good, good.” He hunched back down slightly. “This is our first combat mission as a ship. For some of you this might be your first time in combat ever.” Xiao looked briefly at Addie and a couple of other flight crew members as he took a brief pause. 

“But we are all in this together. We will fight together and succeed together. We are the Fleet!”

“The Fleet is here!” everyone responded in loud unison. 

The Signal is a work of fiction. Unless otherwise indicated, all the names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents in this book are either the product of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

The Signal © 2024 by Taylor Sloan is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. To view a copy of this license, visit

Published infictionThe Signalwriting

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