Written for the Speakeasy. A story, about underestimating an opponent, begins after the image.
Genre: Science Fiction
A Short, Little Rebellion
Looks can be deceiving, but some just refuse to listen, noted Callum.
The battlecruiser’s main screen showed only stars. Captain Alexander Brewster spoke to the man to his left. “Not that I expect much, Mr. Tyrie, but any idea what sort of defense forces they have?”
Planetary Liaison Callum Tyrie shook his head. “None, sir. The workers of Pinnatin IV are notoriously secretive. To be honest, I’ve never even seen one. I think we should be cautious.”
Brewster scowled. “Seriously? They’re just a bunch of loggers. Granted, the wood of Pinnatin is the most exotic known to humanity, but a tree is a tree. It grows, you cut it down. How technical is that? These have no spaceships as far as anyone knows. Imperial vessels do all the hauling. If they were advanced enough for space travel, we wouldn’t have to do all that.”
The steely-eyed Captain glared. “Meaning what?”
Callum shifted uncomfortably. He wasn’t used to this. “What they make isn’t ordinary wood. Their materials are impossible to produce even with advanced manufacturing techniques. Some of their wood is harder than titanium. You don’t ‘just cut down’ a tree made of that.”
Brewster rolled his eyes. “Whatever. In any event, they will honor the wishes of Emperor Delacruz and provide the shipment of Intrajan wood. We will not be denied by the Emperor’s subjects.”
Callum couldn’t believe the naivete of the captain. Though wary of the ire of the man, Callum forged ahead. “May I remind you, Pinnatin is not technically a member of the Empire. And if they say they cannot provide that much Intrajan, perhaps we should take them at their word.”
Brewster stood and towered over Tyrie. “If the Emperor claims Pinnatin IV as his, then it is his! They are therefore the lawful subjects of the Empire of Man’s twelve planets, and this short, little rebellion against the wishes of the Emperor will be put down. Are we quite clear on that, Mr. Tyrie?”
Callum was saved from responding by a sensor tech. “Contact! Bearing 012 zulu 353, range…uh…9000 yards.”
“9000 yards?” bellowed Brewster. “What the devil are you doing, Hopkins? How did it get so close before you saw it?”
“Unknown, sir. Scanning the vessel now.” Brewster paced while he waited. Hopkins said, “Sir…ah…”
“Spit it out, man!”
“…It seems to be made of wood. That’s why the scanners didn’t pick it up.”
“Oh that’s bull!” raged Brewster. “Gimme a magnified visual.”
When the screen updated, nearly all the bridge crew gasped. It looked nothing like a ship. Clusters of stout trees with vibrant, healthy leaves, grew in all directions from a single point.
“How could any plant survive in the vacuum of space?” said Brewster. He chuckled. “I never expected to find driftwood in orbit.”
Hopkins spoke again. “It’s no driftwood, Cap’n. It’s changing course to intercept. Accelerating at…oh my god.”
“700 gravities, sir!”
“That’s not bloody possible!”
Ensign Pepperdyne spoke up. “Incoming transmission, sir. Audio only.”
Captain Brewster eyed Callum. “Is this how it goes, Tyrie?”
“Pretty much, sir.”
“I suppose they’re about to beg for mercy,” said Brewster.
“Really?” said Callum. “After that demonstration, you’re still confident?”
Brewster waved away at Callum. “It’s a fucking space tree, Tyrie. Open the channel, Pepperdyne. On speakers.”
A low, earthy voice played acrossthe bridge. “EMS Achilles. Lower your shields and heave to. Prepare to be boarded.”
Brewster raised his eyebrows, but he continued undeterred. “Unknown ship. I speak with the authority of Emperor Delacruz, Ruler of the Empire of Man. “You will halt and…”
“Drop your shields, Achilles. Do it now.”
“Vessels of the Empire halt for no one! You will…” A flash of light filled the bridge.
“Sir! Shields are down.”
“Incoming transmission. Audio and visual.”
Brewster had begun to sweat. “I’ll take that, Pepperdyne. At last, I get to tell this pissant off.”
“I’m readying my ‘I told you’ speech,” said Callum, unimpressed by the bluster.
The view of the tree spaceship changed. It was replaced by an inhuman face made of wood with antlers of oak. Branches grew from his shoulders and back. “EMS Achilles. The Arboreal Empire has tolerated your Empire’s excesses enough. As long as you behaved, we accepted our trade agreement. But now you come to force us to comply to your wishes? The 500 worlds of the Arboreal Empire will now crush this short, little rebellion of yours. Prepare to be boarded, or die!”
“Oh yeah, you told him off alright.” murmured Callum.
“Piss off, Tyrie!”
Each week, The Speakeasy hosts a writing challenge, inspired by a sentence and a media prompt. Sorry, this is not my best work. I had a lot of distractions as I attempted to write this. The story is probably as scattered as my head is right now. Still, I hope it entertains. This week’s prompt may be found here: http://www.yeahwrite.me/speakeasy/153-open/