Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Sneak (05/12/16)
- TITLE: This is the Final Voyage...
By Art Westefeld
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While we technically were at peace, we still did not have freedom to openly go to any world we wanted, but we could land, evangelize, and leave without unfriendlies knowing we were there. Was this the best way to spread the Gospel? We have to make do with what we have.
The planet Centauri Six, renamed Sharia by its Muslim colonists decades ago, was now, according to the newsfeeds, having trouble with the planet's environment. Food was not growing. People were starving. The Sharian government refused all offers of outside help, since the help would be unclean. We couldn't just let people perish due to stubbornness.
The Sneaker could slip on to Sharia and distribute food and supplies, along with tracts and Bibles, to the hungry residents on the outskirts of the world. It was a mission our captain, Captain Rogers, felt we ought to do, despite personal risks. Chief Engineer Romanova felt we could get in, offload supplies, and be out in a matter of hours. Though First Officer Barnes was concerned we were heading for a suicide mission, as always, he followed orders and got the ship ready. Operations Officer Blake utilized any spare time pre-launch by having the crew prepare food packets.
At hyperlight factor eight, we would make the trip in two days. Allowing for a day to offload our cargo, we'd be back home in a week.
So we went to Sharia and landed in a lightly-populated area, a few hundred klicks south of New Medina. We had expected to find a few people to deal with, but not a large group circling the landing-site Mr. Blake had chosen. Upon disembarking, we learned why there was a large crowd. Our ship’s invisibility screen had failed.
Unlike their government, these people welcomed us with open arms. Happy to have the help, our holds were emptied in only a couple of hours, and it still wasn’t enough to feed the people who had welcomed our arrival. Several families asked us to take their children to Earth, so they could get food and medical care. Captain Rogers decided to help those families. Other senior staff felt that unless we could get our invisibility screen restored, we would be putting these children at risk. The planet had a full defensive battery, which could be used to attack us!
Captains have always had unlimited control of their ships, but we were following United Earth Space Defense Fleet command structure, which meant I, Dr. Palmer, the ship's Chief Medical Officer, could countermand his orders if I felt they would endanger the crew. As we were all Christians, I felt we ought to try, even if it meant certain death for us and our passengers.
We made for beyond Sharia's atmosphere, so we could activate our hyperlight drive, which if engaged in an atmosphere would destroy the planet's ozone layer. No one deserved that, even these religious fanatics.
As our Helmsman, Mr. Barton, laid in a course back home, our ship was hit by a Tachyon Missile. It would only slow us down, as long as we had shielding up that is. A moment later, the planet's communication system contacted us.
"Return the children to the traitorous parents, or be targeted by a more powerful weapon, infidels."
The crew was unanimous in our decision. Teleport beams would allow the surface to count numbers of lifeforms teleporting down to the surface. We locked the ship's computers on a course for Earth, teleported down the officers and crew of the Sneaker, and sent the kids on their way to safety.
I am writing this down as part of my confession for our sham trial. We knew all along that we were going to die, but we met death, heads held high, like the early Christians. We were martyrs for the faith, since 'no greater love has any man than to give his life for a friend.' We were going to give our lives for those kids, and knew Earth would not return them to Sharia.
Author’s note: Dr Palmer quotes a paraphrase of John 15:13.
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