The Ragged Edge of Time: Science Fiction Novel Extract #4

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Last Updated on November 1, 2022 by ADMIN-TOM

The Ragged Edge of Time
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Chapter Four: The Dominator

The main deflector dish on Hugo’s flagship, the Dominator, was badly in need of realignment, or so the captain thought. Too much space dust and debris was getting through and causing pitting to the sleek black hull and Captain Karnc’in was very particular about his ship’s look.

“I like my vessels to look good,” he had told the Captain of Engineering. “There is no call for a shoddy ship in this fleet and Lord Vastos would, I’m sure, agree with me.”

The Captain of Engineering had saluted and left without a word and assigned a lowly mid-shipman to the task.

“Waste of damn time, if you ask me, son, but there it is, orders are orders and these are yours. Realign the deflector dish and make it quick.” The Captain of Engineering dismissed the low ranker and left for other duties.

The mid-shipman looked about him and pulled out his technical reader as he entered the deflector dish array compartment. There was no one around to ask what exactly it was he was supposed to do, so he viewed the schematics and tried to make sense of the task in hand. Not easy when you were trained in planetary plumbing, not space borne engineering. But wars make strange bedfellows and the number of new casualties on a daily basis was alarming. So, he had been pulled out of his cushy civilian job and rushed through naval training college. When he emerged on the other side, he had gained a nice new uniform, but knew even less about engineering than when he had first gone in. Such was the slipshod way Lord Vastos managed his navy. Men were not employed for their technical skills; they were cannon fodder and the mid-shipman knew that only too well. Six of his classmates, of thirty-two, had been killed within a week of boarding the Dominator.

“Keep your head down and don’t make enemies,” had been his father’s parting words at the naval dockyard orbiting Alpha Zsitaris.

The mid-shipman had done exactly that and, so far, he had survived. He turned to the deflector control panel and punched in his access code. The panel lit up and welcomed him in a flat metallic voice. He flexed his fingers and began tabbing through the menus until he found what he wanted. A diagnostic revealed the deflector was misaligned by only a few microns.

Not enough to pass a fart through.

But he did as he was told and realigned the dish. After he had finished the task, he logged out of the control board and whistled an off-key tune to himself as he left the small compartment.

Neither the ship’s Captain, Lord Vastos nor the mid-shipman would know what had happened as the mid-shipman had misaligned the entire array, but the consequences of the mid-shipman’s actions would reverberate throughout human history.



It was never Vastos Hugo’s intention to drift around in space and wait for the earthers to capitulate. He wanted out and out rabble-rousing victory, where his men would exalt him on high and give him the power-base he needed to take the throne from the emperor. At the very least he wanted to create his own empire from the shattered remains of the earther’s puny little world federation. The Empire of Earth had a nice ring to Vastos and he could live with that if the Pleiades Empire was never going to be his.

But all that was irrelevant. Here he sat, his fleet keeping station around Ganymede, as he waited for the earthers to capitulate. But of course, that wasn’t going to happen because the earther navy and the planet’s defences were stronger and more adaptable than he had thought possible. And of course, his own exalted navy had in fact proven to be no match for an out and out ship to ship battering which the earther navy had ruthlessly exploited in all their engagements so far. Frustratingly, Vastos knew he had met his match and he was furious.

“Where is Admiral Ganc’in? He should have been here an hour ago.”

Vastos Hugo sat in his command chair aboard the Dominator and fumed. His command centre was rather more like a medieval court where a King entertained his courtiers, rather than an out and out command centre for a battleship. Either side of him Admirals, Generals and their aides stood and muttered to each other, each keeping a wary eye on their Lord and Master as his mood darkened minute by minute. Walls were adorned with squat cubed plasteen holograms of battles that Vastos had won and endlessly played out the tableau for all to see. Nobody was looking though, having seen it too many times before. True, Vastos had never been beaten in battle, but the tableau presented here; each commander knew, did not tell the full story and tended to omit the role Vastos’ military commanders played. There was one lonely pedestal at the very end of the rows already there, testament to Vastos Hugo’s brilliant leadership. This last pedestal was bare and was due to hold the hologram of Hugo’s battle to subjugate Earth. It was bare, all in the room knew, because Vastos Hugo had failed in that goal and was continuing to do so in what was fast becoming a war of attrition. Vastos needed a breakthrough and that was what Admiral Ganc’in was about to deliver for him.

“His shuttle is still delayed, my Lord,” Vastos’ right-hand man Mes’in said in a matter-of-fact voice. A right-hand man he may be, but he was also the emperor’s spy and was smiling in that sycophantic way he had. He just loved it when Vastos’ plans went wrong and he would be communicating this as soon as possible to his Lord and Master the Emperor.

“I am awaiting a final victory and this is put on hold because of a technical problem with a shuttle? Is that correct, Mes’in?”

“Yes, my Lord, that is correct.” Mes’in moved slightly away from Vastos. He had learned from experience that his Lord could be somewhat erratic and had been known to vaporize courtiers whom he felt simply looked at him the wrong way. Mes’in wanted to keep his body in one piece.

A signal beeped on Vastos’ command console.

“Yes,” Vastos almost shouted.

“Shuttle four on its way, my Lord. It will dock shortly.”

“Finally!” Vastos muttered. He clicked his fingers and a runner appeared from the shadows and bowed, deeply. “Bring the esteemed Admiral here, quickly.”

The runner left at a trot and Vastos drummed his fingers on his command console.

Copyright © Tom Kane 2022

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