The screen blinks to life.
Sober, shocked. Mei composes herself after a split second. “I thought you were dead.”
Every monotone word heavy with threat.
“You can throttle me near death another time. Perhaps when you pick me up.” I smile, feeling relieved the ailing equipment is finally working. “I’ve had to go through a few favours to get even this ship. She’s gone through a lot.” The grin saying the tales she’s expecting.
“Send the package, I’ll go meet you.” She says, gaze darting to another screen.
I clear my throat, Mei’s attention darting to me. “A slight issue. We don’t have a probe launcher. They’re jury-rigging a missile launcher. Poorly. And it wont work.” I pause for this to sink in, “there will be a transport enroute, but no one’s entirely sure how long.”
She grunts, “name of the-” I cut her off with a wave of the arm, the child in my lap squirming.
“These things are slaves. I doubt they have the cognitive capacity to understand anything but the task they’re set.” Mei blanches. “No, they haven’t boarded. No, I haven’t boarded their vessels. No, nothing has passed between the vessels.” She looks visibly relieved, her attention turning to the child in my arms.
“How are they?” She asks, genuine concern in her voice.
“They’re fine, and a little more grown up than you last met them.” The screen flickers alarmingly. “I’ll contact you as soon as I know anything.”
She nods, the hastily fixed ship communications array giving out at last. With a sigh, I turn in after a long day of fixing minor faults. And a nice, long shower.
The screen blinks to life.
Rage. Blood. Death.
“I am the taker of life, I have come to reclaim what is mine,” I say. Deathly calm like the eye of the storm. The roiling rage screaming to be unleashed.
A salvo of heavy missiles tears through the docking bay doors, my Gila-class Cruiser screaming in after. The ship slams in to the wall, throwing the crew forward. I care not for anything but my mission.
Vessel secured, my strike team of 12 souls streaming down the exit ramp. “I am vengeance, I am death!”
A blood-curdling scream tears from my throat as I launch myself at the nearest defender, his woeful defense battered aside by the two-handed sword in my hand, combat drones and weapons fire screaming over my head.
The blade bites deep, separating his head from his shoulders. I move on, diving forward and to my right, rolling behind a crate. Back on my feet, the silvered blade passing through a man directly ahead of me. Pull back, step left, sword swinging, severing another’s arm. Reverse, blade up in to his gut. A manic laugh bubbling, trying to escape. I choke it back, spin on my heels, another down, a meter and a half of shivering, bloodied metal erupting from the back of his neck. Momentum carrying me forward, the body dragging my aim down. But that’s fine. His astonished gasp echoing in the sudden silence. The lifeblood from his pierced heart leaking from the wound.
I pull the sword free and look around. There is no one left alive but my own people.
We move on, splitting in to three groups. I halt just before a corner, using the tip of my sword to look around. “There’s twenty or so people, a few barricades. Demos?” I glance at the hulking Brutor at the end of the line. He grunts in acknowledgement, rifling through his pack.
I swiftly move further away from the corner, eying the large charge in his hands. He hefts, then launches the device. A yell, “Bomb!” Then a loud, violent explosion tears down the hallway. With the all clear, I step around the corner, following the path laid before me.
At last, I reach where the tracker implant guides me. And stop. With a deep breath, I hit the switch, detonating the breaching charge. Adult screaming, a baby crying. The sounds assault me, angering me. I step through the doorway and point my sword at the woman cringing there, “give me my son, and I’ll go easy on you.”
Her fear as palpable as the stench of urine. The wet patch spreading beneath her. Gently, she lays the infant on the table, turns and tries to flee through the door. A short burst of automatic fire signaling her end. I pick up the child and smile, “dearest Roland. I missed you, my sweet prince.” His wailing stopping, he coos, gurgles and smiles.
My life is almost back to normal.
“A long way from home we have traveled, but we’ve arrived now. We’ll be safe, and soon I’ll contact your father. Hush now, everything will be fine. You’ll see, my love.”
I smile, tuck Elizabeth in the bunk she’s been using on the long voyage and kiss her forehead. She nods, unshed tears burning in her eyes. The sight breaking my heart anew, I pull her in to a soothing embrace. Pouring all the love I have for my precious children. She falls slowly in to the land of dreams. And sweet may they be.
The aging, breaking vessel thuds to a halt, warning lights blinking as the malfunctioning equipment onboard return false readings. I kick the console. “Worthless piece of shit,” I mutter under my breath. The station controller calls over the comm line, “Yer all locked there, doll. Wanna hand with yer stuff?”
I shake my head, forgetting this is a backwater station. Nothing going for it except its proximity to Guristas space. Easy reach for finding a few old contacts. “You okay in there doll?” He asks.
I’m brought from my revery, “yes, sorry. I’m fine, just my children and no baggage.” None of the physical kind, I add silently to myself. Gently, so as not to wake him, I lift Roland, take Elizabeth’s hand, and enter the station proper.
A light is flickering in my peripheral vision. It’s annoying me. So is the obsequious fool standing there acting superior. Not knowing who he’s talking to.
I take a quick glance around, noting the exits, entrances. The filth strewn in the corner. To my left, forward of me. The cracked, charred, oxidizing chunk of metal on the desk. Tritanium alloy of some sort – obviously a piece of some ship’s hull – partially obscured by a mountainous region of paperwork. “What makes you think yer good enough to fly patrol ships in this region?” He says, the sound of dissatisfaction, boredom. Of wanting me to not be here so he can continue watching the holo reflected in the window. Video reduced to minimum, but I can still make out the buff Sebiestor men strapped to poles. The image of such abuse reminding me what’s wrong with Humanity.
With hands on hips, I look him dead in the eye. The thousand meter stare of everyone that’s ever been in life and death situations.
“If you look at my record, I am an accomplished combat pilot. I’ve flown for the Caldari Navy, privateer work. All of those references will tell you the same.” I shift slightly, the Caldari Navy pin on my lapel glinting in the muted, flickery lighting. “Why not just give me a chance?”
He grunts, hand staying below the table. Obviously clutching himself. “Yah right. ‘Kay, I’ll give yer a chance t’work yer way up. You gots a shift in 2 hours. Don’t spend too long gettin’ yerself pretty, it ain’t gun happen.”
With a smile, I nod, stand to attention and march out. It was that, or fly over the desk and sink my teeth deep in his throat.
I spent most my time getting clean clothing and a carer for the children, then with a hug and kiss, left to get acquainted with the docking bay and security. If you can call it that. A single guard, security monitors that ceased to function many years ago, quick release docking clamps. All too easy.
I make my way to the ready room after a short search and wait. The crew I am to be flying with enter late. Ambling along as if they own the place. The Captain of the ship – a tall, skeletal man – comes over, “you the new crew?” He asks, foul fetid breath surrounding me in a cloud. I nod and salute.
“Yes, you’re the Captain?” He looks me up and down, leering in the manner of filthy old men everywhere. And laughs. He turns his back and walks off, the eight other crew members following behind. I grit my teeth and follow, reminding myself this is an undercover operation to commandeer a more suitable vessel to move on with.
I follow the men to the hangar and there, the vessel we walk towards is the answer to all my prayers. All my dreams. Nothing fancy; light, fast, maneuverable, better condition than the shuttle I came in – a Condor-class Frigate. The perfect vessel to commandeer.
A smile creeps across my face, startling the handsome young man looking my way. I compose myself, and observe the Captain, lovingly caress the hull of his battered ship, then key in a pin code on the pad next to the hatch. The view – slightly obscured by the other members of the crew – imperfect for deciphering his deft hand movements. This is obviously a number that’s remained unchanged for a long time. A fact that gets filed under useful information.
The crew splits, “you, woman, go with ’em.” The Captain says, pointing to the receding backs of four men. I nod, salute. Smile. Then turn on my heel. His barely concealed shudder registering. Something to add to my increasing understanding of these backwater fools.
This time, the pad is much clearer, and I note the 9-digit number. But this isn’t the vessel I want. I want to wipe that self-satisfied, leering smirk off that bastard’s face.
The patrol was slow in the cramped, poorly fitted vessel. I had ample time to sit and lament the lack of the safe cocoon of a pod, start working on a plan. But I digress. The time came to disembark and leave the ship. And get some well-deserved rest.
We made it to safety. Of sorts. The drop ship – badly damaged, leaking air – grinds to a shuddering halt. Nose deep in the soft, blasted soil.
The wailing of children brings me to the present. A quick check, they’re fine. I try the rear hatch. Jammed. With several attempts and curses, I give up and try the secondary side hatch. Still no luck. I rig a quick charge, stand back and blow the door off.
The stench overwhelms the children.
Sickly sweet, the smell of charred flesh, vegetation. Fires burning unchecked. Pensive, unsure. I shut down and run on autopilot.
Ignoring their protests, I scoop Elizabeth and Roland out of the transport, running to the nearest transit station. Mentally pulling maps of the local area from my implants, following lesser used routes. The devastation astounds me. Such a short time, but so much annihilation. But I let it bother me not. The children are the priority. I’ll get them to safety and contact Bill when I’ve accomplished that.
Movement comes from behind. Furtive-sounding steps. I duck around a corner, and throw a grenade. Pace picking up just as I hear a man’s scream cut off suddenly by the muted explosion of the anti-personnel charge.
I reach my destination and stop. Blinking in a stupor. The children crushed to me, wailing in pain, fear, or a combination of both. The crowd milling and crying. A cacophony of human misery. I scream. An ethereal sound of my own grief, fear and anger. Strange to my ears, issued from my vocal chords.
“Focus,” comes a voice full of grief, hoarse from screaming. It takes a moment to realise it was mine. I close my eyes, Elizabeth trying to pull away from the over-tight embrace, and center myself. Awareness hits me like a Nyx impacting a station; I know where to go.
Taking a deep, calming breath, I loosen my grip on Elizabeth, and make my way to a transporter I’d seen en route to the station. Checking to see there are no witnesses, I break in, seat the cargo and begin hot wiring the vehicle. The engine roars in to life, the thickening crowds of desperate humanity left behind.
A short while later, I park up at the end of a nondescript industrial district. Some calm restored, fraying slightly at the edges. Odd looks from passers by and stop. A bloodied, soot-covered woman with a wild look in her eyes stares at me. I reach for a weapon, she mirrors my move. We stand, glaring, unwilling to move. Then the realisation dawns. This is my reflection.
I suppress a shudder, filing the data for later review, and carry on my journey. This has been the longest day for a long time, and I just want to get somewhere safe. Or close to until I can formulate a plan.
At the end of the road, a very normal looking warehouse stands. A sense of menace emanating from the high fence with razor wire curling high on the top of it. But I ignore the sense of foreboding and press the call button at the gate. Automated sentries tracking my movements with the loving attention of target matrices everywhere.
The gates swing open, a pallid man in a guard uniform steps out, flanked by more heavily armed drones, “what do you want?” His heavily accented voice coloured by distrust. He looks from me to the children, “well, out with it.”
I hiss, pulling my daughter closer, “I’m here to see your boss. He owes me a favour,” I respond, pulling the struggling child with me as I step around him. The man’s arm lifts suddenly, a compact pistol aimed at my head. Something about my smile – perhaps the glint in my eyes – makes him hesitate. His eyes go distant, then he nods, gesturing for me to enter.
And so, with a glance at the guard, I enter, the man a few steps behind.
“Why have you come here, little rabbit?” The voice issues from nowhere. For a moment I think it’s in my head. A faint whisper of movement, the voice sounds from another direction, “have you bought me pretties, little rabbit?” Another shift, behind and to the left. Quick as a viper, a slither of silver light extends from my hand. He screams.
“I have no time to play with fools, puppet. I need a fast vessel. Right now.” I turn, glaring in the shadows, the glint of metal jutting from the thigh of the greasy, abdominus form slowly revealing itself as my eyes adjust to the darkness. He hisses, the lights flickering on. I step closer, leaning on the dagger embedded in his thigh, twisting a little, “now, do we have an accord, or shall I begin chopping things off? I want a fast ship, nothing more. If that’s too difficult – once I’m done with you – I’ll move on to the next person.” He whimpers and nods, gasping in pain as I yank the heavy blade from his flesh. “You may want to get that seen to, dear. There’s a lot of filth in this warehouse,” I sneer.
Soon, my children and I were safely ensconced in a somewhat rusty Frigate, making our way to what I hope will be a safe place.
Oddelulf – III, 3 years ago.
Peace, tranquility. Shattered in an instant. A macro shell violently ripping apart my meditation. The ground shakes, quivers, an echo of a partially forgotten dream. The blood rises, the kids.
Household staff quivering, shrieking in fear, a constant reminder that not all people are rational beings. I run, as quick as I can go to the room Roland and Elizabeth are likely to be in. A good thing the insistence children should be educated properly.
The room is empty. A momentary fear shivering through my body. A whimper emits from under the table. Fools.
I rush over, grabbing my infant and adopted daughter from the terrified nurse’s arms, “round up everyone you can find and meet me in the landing bay,” I yell at the terrified woman. With that, I leave the room, babe in arms, toddler running to keep up with my measured stride.
A quick change, strapping my favoured blades and firearms in easy reach, a carrier to keep my arms free and Roland out of harm’s way. This place was supposed to be a haven, safe. The anger welling inside, simmering away to be unleashed. I take Elizabeth’s hand and turn. The world turns inside out.
A shell lands close enough to obliterate the landing field, but not close enough to destroy the farther end of the estate. I hear screaming, crying. Children in terror, adults in fear, pain. Potentially death. I ignore the adults and put all my will in to the children. Those precious little beacons of life.
Soothing Elizabeth, I heft her on to a hip, and start a loping jog. Out of habit, I’ve planned for this. Always have an escape plan, even if you don’t think you’ll ever need it. The wheels set in motion.
A short jog down the beach, there is a cave. In there, a month’s supplies for four people and an emergency short-wheelbase vehicle. Praying to every deity I can think of, I start the engine. The quiet hum of the antique machine giving a momentary relief from the anxiety.
I set the children in the vehicle and step on the accelerator, mind half on finding an exit, half on driving.
The bombardment stops as suddenly as it began. The eerie silence jarring. Then I see them, streaks of fire and smoke in the sky, landing craft. Following its trajectory, I park in a wooded section just shy of the landing zone and wait. Soothing the youngsters, handing Elizabeth a communicator. “Stay here, be quiet. We’ll play a game; if anyone comes near the vehicle, press this button and say as quiet as a mouse, contact.” She nods, the fear slowly draining out of her, colour returning.
I lock the vehicle and leave, taking a circuitous route to the projected landing zone. I wait.
A loud roar heralds the dropship’s arrival. The trees swaying, ground rumbling as the light craft skims over the land. A sharp twist and dust cloud, the craft lands. I count the heartbeats as the ship settles, landing ramp slowly descending, ready to unleash its payload on the stricken planet.
Angels. I spit in the dirt, grinding teeth as I level the assault pattern rifle, take a deep breath, and squeeze. High-velocity death spewing from the muzzle of the rifle, I duck and swing around. There was a rock a few meters away to use for cover. Running low, reloading as I go, then spray again, chuckling quietly to myself as the remaining men fire at my previous position.
Duck, dash, reload, wait a moment. I dive out of the treeline, covering ground as quickly as possible. Rifle in a ready position.
Adrenaline, anger, blood lust carrying me forward, I drop the rifle, drawing the twinned blades that have gone through so much in the past. I stop by the side of the craft and use a dagger as a mirror. Two people at the far end using boxes as cover. I smile, priming a small incendiary and toss it in.
“Grenade!” One man screams, a loud whooshing crump followed by a wash of flame is my cue. Quick as a serpent, I dive through, throwing another incendiary, this time with pinpoint accuracy then use a bench near the entrance as cover. The men scream as they burn, but I ignore their pitiful pleas and head to the cockpit.
I return to the children, and drive the vehicle straight in to the dropship. Leaving the stricken planet behind.
Sat here watching Armageddon, and I must say… The hell?
First off, I’d like to point out the that firing nuclear missiles at an asteroid heading towards the planet could destroy the object, or redirect it. Depending on the composition.
The other ideas were stupid. Let’s be frank about it. Solar sails would slow down a small amount, but with a global level extinction event-size asteroid heading towards us, it wouldn’t make a blind bit of difference. Really, it would just add a tiny bit of extra mass to collide with Terra.
Another good idea would be aiming several lasers at the object. This would cause something called laser ablation. Without going through all of the fun physics, it’ll basically turn the surface of the ‘roid into a rocket engine- vastly simplified I know, but this is a fiction blag, not a science one.
Velocity in MP/h? Huh? Surely NASA has been using m/s since they started, right? I mean, that’s the SI unit all physics nerds like myself were taught.
Then there is Terran gravity. On an asteroid. That didn’t pull Luna towards it as they passed. I know they said that the rock would have unpredictable gravity, but this is ridiculous. How can the shuttle land so heavily on the ‘roid, yet a few kilometers away, the ‘Armadillo’ takes flight off a canyon. Maybe the vehicle that got blown of into space was just in a rush to get home? I don’t know, possibly.
I’m not here to be a film critic, but this makes the movie’s plot looks an awful lot like gauda.