This story is written by MadAce and is originally published on http://starportdock1.tripod.com , www.starportgame.com/phpBB2 and http://starportbar.tk . Any alterations and/or distribution to/of this story must only be done after permission of the author and with co-publication with this disclaimer and with the original source of the story. All events in this story are completely fictious and any similarities with real-life events are completely accidental. All characters described in this story are based upon real characters playing in the mmorpg/mmorts Starport: Galactic Empires. Any comments concerning the contents can be mailed to email@example.com.
I: The Presidential Menace
I walk trough the busy corridors of New New York I catch strange sounds. My look
wanders around as I search for the source of these odd sounds. Nothing seems
different until I see the large doors of The Madison Square Party Dome wide
open. It’s one of the many complexes in the immense starbase of New New York
that never opened because there was no interest. Until now. I plan to walk past
because I have important business 13 systems away in my newest colony. With
great sense of duty I walk past an enormous sign stretching above the door that
says: “Halloween party!! Non-Stop for 2 weeks! Only captains. No costumes
(you’re ugly enough!). Invitation required!”
I amaze myself about the stupidity of this old and commercial festival as I walk firmly past the loud music with great sense of duty. Until I catch a smaller sign hanging above the larger one. “Free drinks…” I quickly change direction towards those nice free drinks. Sense of duty is ok, as long as it doesn’t cost you anything. A huge guard appears before me, stopping me in my path to the bar. “ Can I see your invitation please?” He growls. Whilst mumbling: “I think I have it here somewhere…” I open my jacket to “look” for my invitation. I gently unveil my P-95-AMC Sub Machine Gun. The guard’s eyebrows rise a little. He steps aside. I say “Thank You.”, and I continue my way to the bar. The Antarean behind the bar sees me and gives me a nice Captain's Stash. Together with the seemingly eternal “Here you go, buddy.” He must be used to people asking the most expensive drink. It seems to be a galactic habit, living large on the expense of others. With my free drink in my hand I let my glance wonder around the large room. Somewhat further I see the organizer of this party blabbering drunk to a bored Keten. Across the room Fallyn looks at me. Like he says to me:” Don’t you dare open your mouth!” On the dance floor I see LordDopey showing of to some girls. Even with this dim lighting he keeps on his sunglasses. I hear some TSJACK! -Sounds coming from the doorway and a silent scream. Nobody seems to mind. I turn my head and I see the crowd making place for CREEPER. As always companioned by some flattering minions. Maybe they just don’t want to be shot down because they say something CREEPER doesn’t like. I can hear the guard scream again. CREEPER didn’t have an invitation. So he apparently used the same system as I did. With some minor adjustments. I threatened the guard. CREEPER shot him. The guard screams for the last time. I begin with my 8th drink. Everybody seems to have a good time, except for the always-serious Chief Of Police Schild. Just when I see Rohirrim looking angry and turning towards me, the lights go on and the music stops. I hear a loud voice bawling trough the large room. “Live from Earth! The reports on the past American Elections!” The crowd sighs. The voice continues. “The current president has been re-elected. Together with President he also won the elections for UN Secretary Of Defense! As first act in government he declared war on the Antarean People because intelligence reports show that the recent near choking of The President in a pretzel was a terrorist attack by the Antareans!” The few Antareans in the room run to the doorway. Together with the bartender. And just when I wanted my 11th drink! The voice won’t shut up. “To aid this brave war for the good of humanity the UN has claimed ALL captains to join the war effort! Captains that refuse will be killed for treason.” I’m already on my way to the exit. While I walk to my ship my mind analyses the situation. I am a captain so I will be forced to this draft. If I participate in the war it won’t be likely to get killed because the Antareans are not really a war-liking people. Do I want to kill innocent and defenseless people? Not really. So let’s make a choice. The easy or the hard way. … The hard way. So I have to avoid any UN troops. And I can’t get near a starbase because I completely get shot by president-fans. And I can’t get to close to starport because all of their owners are Antarean. And I want to stay neutral. Good plan.
When I get in my ship my first officer awaits me. “Yes, what’s up. Quickly, we don’t have much time.” He clears his throat. “Sir, you have a visitor. Due to the recent developments it is a somewhat dangerous visitor. He’s in the lounge.” The person sitting in the tasteful decorated lounge is very familiar to me. Familiar to all humans AND Antareans. It’s Qoitan, the Antarean Ambassador.
“Good day, MadAce, did you enjoy the party?” When I sit down I notice he doesn’t seem completely worried about the war.
“Welcome in my humble home, but may I ask what you are doing here?”
“You may, and I am here to offer you a small business proposal.” Great! So far for neutral! “I’m sorry, I’m not open for business right now. You will have to ask someone else I’m afraid.” The Antarean laughs.
“Look into the suitcase on the table, dear MadAce.” I open the suitcase. Inside there is a credit chip with $10 000 000 000 deposited on my account. And there is a paper file. I open the map with the inscription “TOP SECRET”. Inside is a file with my real name and the proof that I’m not death, as all governments in the world would like to see. If this gets out the war would stop and all military efforts would concentrate on catching me.
“Ok, what do I have to do?”
II: The War On Tyranism
of people shout my name in one voice, over and over again. The ground shakes
upon every syllable of my name. It’s impossible to see the end of the sea of
waving heads and hands, formed by the millions of people gathered on this night
to pay homage to me, their leader. The crowd cheers as is step on the giant
stage. I feel the vibrations of the countless applauding people right trough the
solid titanium platform. I let my glance wonder over the masses. Luckily it’s
a dark evening, otherwise I would not have been able to ease my nerves due to
the countless eyes watching my every move. It is time to begin.
I raise my hand in a quick gesture. In a second the crowd is silent, hoping to catch a trace of the historical words I am about to say.
“My fellow human beings.” Massive speakers cast my voice over the square, for all to hear.
“This is a day of which your children’s children will speak with great dignity and respect. They will look back and they will know that their world, their way of life, was forged out of your hands, your dreams and your ideas.” The millions seem even more abstract now, when they are all still. I continue.
“They will wonder how. They will wonder on how you, their ancestors, have overcome the strains of your generation. How you have overcome the madness of democracy and other illusions of the past centuries. How you repelled the drugs that fuelled countless generations in their hate against their fellow human brothers. Drugs that we now call “populism”, “corruption” and “the hopes of the greedy” Drugs that were known in the past as “elections”, “burocracy” and “democracy”.
But now we have abandoned those concepts of misjudgement and we have embraced the future. In a glorious revolution we have overthrown the mad governments of earth that have crippled mother earth in their megalomania.” Seemingly to underline my words an ice-cold wind blows over the frosty plains of the once so fertile fields of the American Midwest.
“But together we reach out to our future. The future in science, knowledge and understanding. And maybe even a future in which we will destroy our foes still hiding on mars, not accidentally the mythical representation of war. We will even have no need for democracy, for hope and for leaders, because not managers and populists will guide you but real leaders. We will forge a world in which you will have no need of elections or free press, for we will know our duty towards the people. There will be no need for opposition as we will accept not failure, not even from our selves.” I hold a meaningful silence to stress the importance of my words. I hear no still boo’s or any angry mumbling. I have them eating out of my hand.
“But that future will be dangerous. Behind every corner the past and all its mistakes will be lurking, tempting the weak of mind. Therefore you will need guidance. And the one guiding you, the people of earth, mankind, over all the future obstacles we can imagine ourselves, is a strong personality. Someone who lives solely for the people. Someone who will NOT sleep so long as there is injustice or hunger! Someone who will think before acting! Someone that will place himself between you and the hungry hordes of capitalism! Someone who will make a giant hand with your labour, sweat and minds! And with that hand that person will lead you to your destiny of eternal salvation! That person will lead you to your rightful place in the universe, to be master of all that is and all that will be! And that person, is… ME!!” The people start cheering again, louder than ever. While the masses shout my name over and over, an immense contingent of troopers starts marching on the giant square. The loud thunder of their boots becomes one with the roar that my name has become. Huge lights beam daylight over the square. The pack of troopers shines in its typical black and blue uniforms while they continue marching. And when the troopers finally stop their walking thunder, they have formed the words that are the foundation of my empire: “Unity Is Power!”.
The speakers crank up to full power and I shout: “Unity Is Power!”
The crowd stops cheering my name and takes over the word on which I have spread my arms to the sky. “Po-wer,po-wer,po-wer,po-wer,po-wer,…”
The masses become wild and like it’s not enough, just on that moment, hundreds of fighter jets ignite their powerful lights right above the biggest meeting in human history. One by one the planes are replaced by slow flying, colored pixels. Forming my face for all to see.
The people become hysterical. Some of them kneel before the giant stage on which I stand, others wave the blue and black flag of my dominion. All of them shouting either “Power!” or my name. I drop my arms. I raise my right hand very calmly. The crowd stops its hysteria. The troopers present their arms. The fighter jets hover over the square. I bring my lips closely to the microphones. I whisper, but still loud enough for everyone to hear:
“And our children’s children will say: This wasn’t even their finest hour…”
The people clap. They don’t stop. They cheer. The clapping of a few million hands produce a loud rumbling, more capable of embodying my complete triumph than any slogan. I look back to my entourage. The few people I trust have tears in their eyes, so moved are they. I step down from the stage, leaving the masses behind. Represents of all races and areas on the planet start whispering things like “Well done”, “Good job”, “Way to go.” All of them very hushed, like they don’t want to dishonor this holy moment. Tired but satisfied I descend to the narrow underground corridor that leads to the command bunker. The decaying cheering and clapping give me the opportunity to ease my temper and to reflect on our victory, my victory. The future could be open to the total prosperity of the human race, and of every single human being.
Suddenly I hear the quick stumping of footsteps ahead of me. One of my intelligence officers is running towards me. I stop. He stops a few feet in front of me.
“Sir,…” His voice crumbles.
“Speak up, man”, I command him.
“Sir, a battle. In orbit. A U.N. fleet. Thousands of enemy ships. New types… They are overwhelming us…”
I feel my heart bouncing in my throat. My worst predictions are becoming true.
“No,…”, I mumble. “This can’t be happening!” I notice that the clapping and cheering has stopped.
I push away the bodyguards that have appeared around me and start running back to the stage.
I jump on the stairs, but my heart knows what I will find. I stand upon the scaffold. The wind is hard. I feel my clothes waving in the cold gust. I look on the square. The people that were here to honor me are now accompanied to the safety of underground bunkers by the troopers.
I feel my lips forming the word “No.” over and over again. The fighter jets are still there but they have dimmed their lights and are forming new formations. Defensive formations. They are ascending to space. Finally I look up to the firmament.
Now I know why the sky shines like its bright daylight altough the huge lights of the square have dimmed. Thousands of light dots fly in tight formations trough the skies. Traces of multicolored fire spreads between the battling fleets. Soundless explosions all over space. I recognize whole packs of X-10 Diplomat missiles flying away from our hasty constructed missile batteries, to “greet” the visitors. Many of the attacking ships explode, casting shockwaves trough space. Then I see new missiles departing from the other side. Different ones. They fly quickly. They can’t evade the huge Goalkeeper anti-rocket guns positioned in space but there are to many of them.
Then they hit the battle stations in orbit.
For a second the entire square is visible by the immense flash caused by impact of the missiles.
I hear myself shout to the sky: “No! Nukes! Have you lost your minds? Nooo!”
I fall to my knees when I see hundreds of ships destroyed by strange lightning beams coming from the enemy.
And then the road is open for the attackers. I can see them descending to earth. I hear screeching coming from landing and crashing ships all around me. Enormous Solar Cannon bolts depart for the skies in a last attempt to defend the planet earth. The defending fire is concentrated around cities along the horizon.
It’s no use. The lightning coming from the enemy ships is too much for the defenders. One by one is the Solar fire silenced by the enemy. Here and there are there still puny Flak Cannons working, but it’s no use.
I hear loud rumbling casting trough the atmosphere. It’s like the sun is setting. Multiple times at the same time. The light keeps getting brighter until they easily exceed the intensity of daylight. They are using nukes on the surface. The rumbling gets louder, but this time it’s coming from behind me. I’m almost blown of the stage. Hundreds of Avengers fly over the square in the direction of our opponents, wave after wave. My Avengers.
It’s like I wake up and begin looking for my staff around me, finding them all at my side.
I notice my gasping for breath so I close my eyes and breath in very deep and slowly. I’m calm. I open my eyes again and I see my staff struggling the strong wind. I stand in the storm like the elements find no grip on me. I turn to my advisors.
To overcome the wailing noise of war I shout as loud as I can: “Call them back! Call the Avengers back! The enemy will have something to counter their cloak capability! We must surrender!”
One of the generals steps forward and shouts: “Sir, we have no prove for that. Maybe there is still hope!”
I see the lights of battle reflected in the faces of my staff. The lights get a red undertone. The general is still talking but I don’t hear him. I only hear one of my advisors saying: “Too late...” All faces take a horrified expression.
I turn around to see the source of their panic. The Avengers are fleeing the confrontation, at least some of them are. All of them damaged and some on their last one-way trip back to the surface. And with defeat the Avengers bring the enemy. Now I can see the ships of our demise: towering ships that I recognize from intelligence reports, they call them The Imperial Starcruisers.
I shout even louder than before.
“Tell all forces to surrender and lay down their weapons! This is meaningless! You have all sworn loyalty to me! Now is the time to obey me!”
I see everybody lower their head on the word “Meaningless.”
Of course our cause wasn’t meaningless. But now it is.
My generals say something in their coms and a second later the fire on the horizon stops, at least the puny fire coming from the surface. The inferno from the skies doesn’t cease.
So they are here to crush even all potential opposition, so be it. The broken Avenger wings fly over in a desperate attempt to find safety. And then there is nothing between the Starcruiser and us. The ship stops. I can clearly see the static electricity building up in its forward weapon mouth. All of a sudden there are bodyguards everywhere. Ungentle are my advisors carried away from the stage in to the corridor, and so am I. The bodyguards are running faster than a human normally could, each group carrying the hulky body of an advisor. My bodyguards are running the fastest, moving their mechanical legs in almost invisible rotations. We hear a deafening grumble vibrating trough the floor.
Then I hear someone cry: “Too late! Hit the floor!” The lights on the sealing shiver for a moment and then dim forever. But there is still light enough to see…
For a moment I get the opportunity to look behind us. A wall of blue and yellow flames is blasting trough the corridor towards us.
The bodyguards fall too the floor. Their full weight all over me for protection.
The heat is horrendous. The oxygen eating flames make it impossible to breath, but still I can hear panicky screams behind me. The flames roll over us. I scream as well…
an instance I am awake and attentive. A dream, or more accurately, a memory. The
same dream as ever. The screams are still bouncing trough my head. I’m at the
bridge. My command chair is soaked from my sweat and so are my clothes. The
lights are dimmed, but I can still see everyone standing behind their desk.
Thanks to the luminosity of weapon fire it’s possible to see the shaded faces
of my crew behind their stations. Now I remember. We were spying on an attack on
a defenseless Antarean starport. The “battle” is almost over. The ships are
destroying the last shreds of the station. A few Antarean Speedstars are trying
to escape but are quickly smashed by the U.N. ships.
“Should we interfere and stop this massacre, sir?”
“No, it’s no use. We were here to asses the enemy treat and are in no state to destroy them.”
“But Sir. Can’t we take just two ships? We are here with six Avengers!”
“Sergeant! I know you are eager to fight but these are clearly some over-motivated idiots bordering the enemy main fleet. We don’t want the enemy commander to know that he is close to our last hideout, do we? And besides, we both know that these mercenaries working for us aren’t really that moved for our cause as we are. So would you be so kind to set a course for home?” My first officer knows better then to argue any further. “Setting a two hop course for home, Sir.”
As the small fleet flies trough the warp gate, I silently whisper: “And about four hops for the enemy to find us…”
always happy when I get back home. Maybe it’s the memory of my former power
that makes me love my colonies so much. Or maybe is it because in the hostile
depths of space there will always be one place to call home. The familiar gas
giants bordering inhabitable space are like giant beacons telling where human
power begins and ends. But overall a solar system radiates an enormous feeling
of peace and tranquility.
for the two fleets that are facing each other in the emptiness of space.
“Sergeant, could our sensors please tell me what the hell this is? And keep the fleet cloaked.”
My first officer fumbles with the buttons of the sensor panel for a moment and then he frowns.
“It appear to be two fleets. Both with their weapons armed. And one of the fleets is ours and under command of Swordremains. The other fleet’s commander is unknown and they seem to be slightly damaged, only their long distance com-antennas. Should I patch Swordremains trough?”
“If you please.” My first officer is as loyal as a two-week-old puppy but he has a tendency to state the obvious and to ask stupid questions.
Swordremains face appears on the screen.
“MadAce! About time you got here! I’ve been pinning this fleet down ever since you went on recon mission. We are equally strong and we waited for your firepower to finish the job.”
“Swordremains, I’ve been away for two days. Have you held them that long?”
“Euh, yea, cool isn’t it?”
I sigh. “Have you tried hailing them?”
Swordremains wiggles uneasy in his captain’s chair. “Kind of, euh, no, not really.”
“Thank you, I’ll take it from here. MadAce out.” Swordremains seemed worried by my unfriendly demeanor. That’s enough of a punishment.
“Sergeant, position the Avenger fleet behind the visitors. And then uncloak.”
The fleet carried out my orders. A split second after the uncloaking a few ships of the guest flotilla turned around to threaten the new come Avengers showing that they are just as vigilant we are.
“Sergeant, try hailing that Imperial Starcruiser, I think I have an idea who’s in it…”
A few seconds later a familiar face appears.
“Arcane! If there is one person in the whole wide galaxy capable of finding me then it’s you. Tell me, why are you here? For a little tea-circle?”
“MadAce, are these baboons yours? Call them back if you please. They have been pinning us down for two days now! I don’t think either of us has time for this nonsense.”
“Yes, that are my baboons alias loyal servants of the rebellion. And why didn’t you stop this ‘nonsense’ by trying to talk with them?”
“For all we knew they could have been U.N. minions. And they didn’t exactly were too friendly when we first entered the system.”
“Shooting the communication equipment is standard procedure when protecting a hide-out. You of all people should know that, I think you put that rule in the U.N. handbook.”
Arcane’s head rose a little. “So I found your hide-out?”
“You didn’t answer my question. What is a former U.N. security officer doing in the system of an outlaw and a notorious rebel leader?”
“You say former. That means that you know what happened. That should be enough of an answer.”
“Yes, I know what they did to your friend, Damus, when he tried to protect a group of Antareans… I was very sorry to hear that. I think that explains your sudden turn to our side.
But what about those idiots following you?”
Arcane shook his head a bit. “Our relation isn’t exactly… close. They are just following me because they know I could bring them to you.”
“Sounds good. Tel your clique they should tag along, or get destroyed, their choice.”
“Ok, Arcane out.”
One by one are the renegades turning towards the direction that my fleet is going to. Some of them hesitating, as if they are expecting a trap. Others seem ready to flee, but they are quickly persuaded to follow by the gentle display of sharp nukes hanging under every ship that is under my command. At the end none of them needed aggressive persuasion.
elegant as a spaceship is cruising trough the black infinity that we call space,
as bulky is the giant metal construction of a spacecraft when it crashes in a
slightly controlled way to the surface of a planet. We call that process of
surrendering to gravity: “landing”.
As if the shivering and bumpy descending to the soil isn’t enough, it gets worse. As soon as the atmosphere is thick enough to propagate sound, so soon can the giant engines of a spaceship torture their passengers with a staccato of defining howls, roars, puffs and yells, ultimately strong enough to torment the landscape of any unsuspecting planet with enough vibrations to flatten a chain of mountains or to remake the same mountains on flat plains maybe hosting the widest variety of life, at least until a group of spaceships passes by.
It gets even worse when you land on a greenhouse planet with an atmosphere thick enough to cut in peaces and serve as steak. Like we are doing right now.
“Make sure only the help engines are ignited when we land on the biodome!” I shout trying to overcome the howling and screeching of the engines.
A lot can be learned by watching a captain land. Judging the secure and quick turns and maneuvers of the visiting fleet I was right to not destroy the fleet in an instance. Maybe they can be useful.
servants are waiting for me while I exit the ship. They follow me when I walk to
the elevator that will bring me to the top floor of the highest building in the
“Any orders, Sir?” They know what to expect when I come to a colony after being away for a few days.
“Yes, change production from Laser to Nukes. Upgrade to 100% military. Tell people to prepare for evacuation. No taxes will be assessed from now on. Repay he taxes of the past two months. They will need their money when they try to disappear in other colonies. Position all mines around the biodome. Change the defensive formation of the Flak and Laser cannons to the 7-square chessboard formation. Bordering must be done by Flak. When the Dreamsowers come back from their trade runs tell them to stay, they might be needed for evacuation. That’s all for now. Oh yes, see that all prisoners are executed. It doesn’t look like they will reveal who betrayed us by sending that UN fleet to the area around our hide-out.”
All butlers nod, one asks: “And the prisoners on the landing dock? Should they be executed?”
“No, just send them to the meeting room in my Mansion. Order the same to all my captains.”
Just at the last nod of the butler the elevator doors open to my Mansion at the top floor.
the doors close again I feel free to crash in one of the big, soft seats that
are spread all around my living room. I take the liberty to close my eyes for a
while before the meeting begins. Just when I succeed in thinking of nothing for
a moment I feel a presence in the room.
Without opening my eyes I say: “Qoitan, I still don’t understand how you always manage to bypass the security. And even more annoying is that you choose to act as if this whole colony is yours. I am the CEO, and even I don’t feel like it’s mine. Is it custom for Antareans to barge in to someone else’s home?”
I can almost hear the Antarean ambassador smiling.
“I am surprised how someone that can remain calm in an all open one-hundred ship fleet battle is irritated by a friendly Antarean that sneaks into his quarters.”
I open my eyes and sit straight. Qoitan is as motionless as always. A big robe painted with unearthly signs and patterns with a bald head on top of that. Behind him a big window offers a view on the colony with behind the large towers an ever orange sky, somewhat darkened due to the nightfall. Qoitan seems strangely impressive with that background.
“Ok, ok. Somehow a discussion with you is even more tiring than an all-open one hundred ship fleet battle. What do you want?”
“I am just here to inform on how the war is going so far.”
I spread my eyes wide open. That guy is just unbelievable!
“Oh, everything is going just great! We have lost about 50 colonies the past 9 months. I’ve spend the complete ten billion on hiring some suicidal mercenaries even less motivated than a turkey on Thanksgiving. I’m paying them from my own fortune now to stop them from turning to the UN side. We are now stuck on my last hide-out, a capped greenhouse colony with an Ion Tower that will hopefully work for the next few days because some idiot, I suspect it to be Beef, has sold our approximate location to the UN. If the enhanced Ion Tower stops working for 10 seconds it will stop interfering with enemy scanners and then they WILL find us! And then will be stuck in this galactic arm with a huge fleet after our blood! So the war is going just fine!” While I was shouting I stood up from my seat and walked past Qoitan to the big window looking over the colony. I stop screaming to the window and turn to Qoitan.
“Any ideas?” I ask him.
Qoitan stops smiling as he says: “Somehow I get the impression you didn’t go all the way. I expected more of you. Judging by the file I read you could win a fleet battle with two vultures, six negotiators and one galaxy whale, and still come out without a scratch.”
I turn back to the window and I watch the people go about their business far below in the streets of the colony. Qoitan is right. But when I use my skills UN analysts will sure be smart enough to recognize my hand when I pull of a stunt like that. So I have to lie to Qoitan, again.
“I lost my strategic genius after they patched me up. You paid for me and you got all of me. Live with it.”
“Maybe you will be more motivated when your world crumbles around you. The UN won’t stop with you. They will hunt down everybody affiliated with you and then…”
“Yes, I know! It happened to me once before and it will happen in the future. I just hope I will get used to seeing my loved ones tortured to death. I almost did last time… Now get out! I need to prepare for a meeting to try to survive this madness.”
I look for Qoitans reflection in the window. He already left the room.
like to be the first in a meeting. Then the other participants come in to the
room when I am already seated, like I was waiting for them, this gives them the
feeling that I find the topic more important and with that comes an anxious
feeling. As nonchalant as the image of a space pirate may be, he can’t deny
his social instincts. My loyal captains are used to this trick but even they
feel the urge to excuse themselves. Just the same now.
Swordremains comes in first, mumbling something like: “Oh, are we too late? Sorry…”. Just to play along the game. After Swordremains Caia comes in, self-confident as ever and not fooled by my innocent trick. The next two people to enter the room are Garygolf and Prosoft, both entangled in a seemingly important discussion. They stop talking when they feel my glance on them. After them Phase comes in, focused like only a madman can be. These are the last survivors of the captains that are loyal to me, and more important, loyal to the cause of the rebellion. Some of them have always been hunted down by the governments of the galaxy, but all of them are sick of tyranny and they would do anything to get the old UN back. They all take their seats attentive of what to come.
Then the door on the other side opens, letting in the new-come prisoners. First Arcane, followed by his CEO Olterin. Then Nightmare, enshrouded with that sense of mystery that makes him so legendary. After Nightmare comes the entire Lanceheads Corporation. First the CEO Artan, then PvtCaboose and CielNoir. Last to enter the room are LordDopey and Relentless. The prisoners show no sign of emotion and every one of them is still. They don’t even seem to notice the fifty guards positioned along the walls, aiming their FAMAAX-rifles on the heads of the captives. Both sides of the table assess each other carefully.
“Lady and gentlemen. Stop looking to each other like you are about to pound your chest and with a loud roar start hitting the other person on the head with a stick. Let’s try to pretend we are civilized and let’s try to talk our way out of this unfortunate situation.”
The people on my side of the table obey my command in reflex but the other side just stops looking bloodthirsty.
“Have the prisoners chosen a representative?” Silence. “Have you tried?” Angry looks and rolling eyes along the other side tell me “Yes”.
“Ok, this will make things a bit more complicated but not impossible. First we should know how the galactic situation evolved in the past few weeks and days. Caia if you please.” She nods and she walks to the large presentation screen facing the middle of the table. A map of the galaxy appears, turning in full 3D. “This was the situation 9 months ago, before the war.” She speaks like she does nothing else all day but presenting battle overviews to rebel leaders. The testosterone makes the audience all ears
The map unveils a view on the galaxy that is familiar to us all: hundreds of space lanes warp gates and StarPorts. “Then the rebellion begun, just as soon as the UN declared war on the Antareans.” The UN territory spreads out faster and faster, entangling every systems it encounters and finishing it of with a red color to show the system’s new affiliation. Here and there green systems emerge but they are quickly silenced. Caia continues. “As you can see, the rebels are unorganized and quickly destroyed by the UN troops. The expertise among the rebel captains was great but they were soon persuaded to the other side, either by hard cash, either by the barrel of a gun.” A small window under the map unfolds revealing a scrolling list of casualties. I know the scrolling will continue the entire meeting. The amount of green systems on the map is getting less as the time passes. The map stops turning and finally orientates, forming the largest concentration of green systems on the new south. “The green systems on the south were our base of operations. But our concentration was ultimately discovered by the enemy. Treason was the source of our demise. This is the current situation.” All systems in the galaxy are red, except for a few blinking stars on the south of the galaxy. “This is the last hide-out of the rebellion. There is no hope for us but our commander MadAce has a plan. Your turn MadAce.”
“Thank you, Caia. The only option open for us is to strike the enemy in their own territory but still we will have to evade open confrontation. No more mister nice guy. We have played along for the past few months but now it’s time to embrace the ancient tactics of resistances spread all over history. We must toy with the media, fight the enemy propaganda machine and at the end we will have to wake up people. This tactic has worked as a last resort to all oppressed and finally they triumphed. It will be a hard fight. The enemy will call us terrorists, but we must be known as the resistance. If we succeed in that, victory will be assured. But first we have to get the hell out of this system. We are stuck here and they are looking for us. Our only option is to stay silent until they advance to the next system. Then we will be behind enemy lines. When the enemy passes we will have a small window of opportunity to escape. After the escape we will need all help possible. That includes the help of you, the people we captured. Will you forgive us our brusque behavior and join us in the fight for justice?”
I look at the captives one by one for a second. Finally a mass of yes’s and ok’s and why not?’s fills the room. I nod; I even allow myself a little smile.
“Then I greet you as soldiers of the rebellion. I will trust you and I will give my life for you. I expect the same from any member of the revolution.” To emphasize my words the contingent of guards departs. The slightly red connotation of the lamps in the room disappears. I think it will be clear that that were lasers, ready to fire.
“My other captains will give you your orders. We must prepare for evacuation now, so we can get the hell out of here as soon as the enemy fleet passes this system. Good luck with the preparations. You are free to go. Artan, would you stay for a while please? I wish to discuss something with you.” The others leave the room, engaged in animated conversations and seemingly untroubled.
“I couldn’t help noticing your resilience to join us. Then why did you want to find me?”
“Well, “commander” MadAce, under normal circumstances I wouldn’t even sit with you in the same room without a gun placed on my head, or yours. But things have changed. MSR corp is taking advantage of the war and is slowly taking all our colonies. I promised my members revenge and this seems the only way to get it. Would you please excuse me? I think we have more important things to do.”
He stands up and walks to the door without even waiting for my response.
“Artan!” He stops and turns to me.
“I’m watching you. Don’t do anything stupid. Close the door on your way out.”
He just looks at me with his face set on “emotionless”. Then he went, without closing the door on his way out. Thank God for automatic doors.
launch pad is full of ships, each of them almost ready for the imminent crisis.
Even the thick glass of the hallway’s window vibrates enough to emote the
giant howls of the departing and arriving ships. Dozens of people are running
around trying to meet the impossible death-line I set for the mass departure.
And even then we won’t be ready before the enemy gets to this system. I
can’t help hoping that this galactic emergency will come to a quick end,
without us having to surrender.
Most buildings of the colony are empty. Only the lights in the weapons factory and the ion tower are on. The nuke production teams are working overtime to answer to the demand set by the rebel fleet, and the Ion Tower is, in short, our only hope. Again I ask myself: Will this effort be enough? The future will tell but I’m not sure if I want to live that particular future.
Qoitan is disturbing my thoughts, again.
“Well MadAce, aren’t you happy to see all that activity? Doesn’t this remind you of the good old days, when you were in command of humanity?”
“Clearly that file wasn’t able to tell you everything about those days. But I guess I can’t blame you. Those few hundred pages are all what is left of the truth. That time the people weren’t driven by despair like they are now. They were driven by hope. Believe me, man is capable of moving planets when motivated by hope.”
“Why can’t you inspire your soldiers to treasure the same hope? It would greatly help our cause.”
“Because the situation is different now. Hope needs bribing trough victory, waving flags and blaring trumpets. Or hope needs madness. I can’t give either one of them. I’m afraid I’ll have to fuel our revolution on…”
I keep silent because something is wrong. Something in the panorama is not right.
Qoitan must feel it too because he also looks for the source of our shared anxiety.
Then I see it. The lights of the Ion Tower! They are dimming. Half a second after the lights are totally out the sirens of the base are sounding. By then we are already running to the underground hallway towards the Ion Tower. I with my P-95-AMC Sub Machine Gun and Qoitan with a short range Blaze Laser Cannon. On the way some of my captains and guards join us. We stand still in front of the doors of the Ion Tower. The green light is on, there is air in the Tower. As the door opens I say: “Gentlemen, the real war has begun…”
We step inside.
Ion Tower is a large construction stretching many floors, both under and above
ground level connected by stairs and platforms placed concentric around the open
middle. Where a giant surge of electric power radiates trough the centre
emitting a sound that could be best described as “the constant death cry of a
tortured whale”, making all normal communication impossible. Another side
effect of the enormous power casting trough the tower is the constant air stream
raging around which makes it impossible to reach good walking speeds.
Speaks to reason that running is out of the question.
We came in the giant structure approximately in the centre level.
I quickly asses my assets, ten guards and the captains around me: Qoitan, Artan, PvtCaboose, Caia, Arcane and Garygolf. All of them are carrying weapons, even the ex-captives who were supposedly free of arms.
Whoever managed to sabotage an Ion Tower in the midst of a colony at high alert could be capable to tackle this threat. Ah well, no use in stalling the inevitable.
“Arcane, Olterin, Artan, five guards, come with me! We will go to the Power circuits at the lowest level! PvtCaboose, Caia, Qoitan, Garygolf and the rest of the guards you go upstairs to check on the Ion Generator! Try to stay in contact! Go!”
We swiftly scatter. Altough we are all captains born and raised in space, we know the ground combat drill. Without a real effort we cover all corners, focused on any out of the ordinary signs.
The first three levels downwards seem normal. Small discharges of static electricity casting trough the air make it hard to concentrate. Bit by bit we descend, making both the electric activity and the wind a little better to endure.
Two levels from the ground floor we find the first dead body. It is a guard with his throat slit wide open. A small puddle of blood draws a red blanket over the scenery. The sentry’s eyes gaze in to infinity like he can’t believe he’s dead. It must have happened in a split second, the guard didn’t even have time to pull his weapon. I quickly taste his blood.
“He has been dead for 17 minutes, about the time when the alert started! Be as vigilant as you can from now on! Our foe is not far!”
We take the last two stairs to the lowest level. Bodies are spread across the floor like some kind of plastic art, each of them clearly killed in an instant. I notice that the electric activity is getting less by the minute. The saboteur appears to be succeeding in bypassing the security of the system.
There in the middle of the open space that forms the floor of the Ion Tower stands a hooded figure, clearly working on the control panel of the Tower.
I hear Olterin speaking in his com: ”Garygolf, did you find anything? Nothing? Ok, get down ASAP. We found the bastard.”
Time for a battle plan.
“Ok kids, we can’t shoot him from here. We could hit the control panel. We will fire over his head to draw his attention and when he fights or runs we lure him away from the panel. Arcane you go for the controls, try to bring them back online. Oh yea, do you all have a close combat weapon?”
The five guards reveal their standard issue vibro daggers. Olterin pulls out a carbon sabre and Arcane unfolds a small nano whip. Artan pushes a button on his glove and an electric claw starts charging. A typical blunt weapon for style-less people. “Just in case he won’t leave his position. Ok! Fire!”
I spray a load or two of the small bullets my weapon is notorious for. Red beams of Artans laser weapon liquefy the ground behind our adversary’s feet. The distinctive white plasma bullets of my guard’s AK-704’s leave the other side of the room full of holes. Nobody can see the small lancets Olterin’s M-2490 is firing but we all know they would produce an explosion of blood and flesh when they would hit a living organism. Arcane tries to startle the enemy with a treat of mini-grenades provided by his IPG-launcher. The wave of multi-sourced firing sounds echoes trough the large tower even overpowering the howling of the wind and the rattle of the electricity in the air. The fire seizes. The hooded figure stops working on the panel. He just stands there like he is aware of the fact that we won’t hit him while he is around the control panel. The figure turns around. Nightmare smiles at us. “Just when I anticipated you MadAce. Now come on, I expect a great deal of you…” Nightmare’s robe falls open, exposing a wide variety of blades and swords all of them sparking and shining, some of them red of fresh and dripping blood. Nightmare positions himself in front of the control panel. Ready to greet us.
I slightly lose my temper. “That asshole is toying with us! Kill the motherfucker! Attack!”
We engage him like millions of warriors in the past have attacked an opponent: screaming our voices raw.
We manage to travel the 150 meters to the centre of the room in 40 seconds, it took us another 5 seconds to surround our adversary, just enough for him to kill the first guard in a haze of blood and entrails. I dare to spray a load of bullets with my P-95 but Nightmare amazes us by repelling the bullets and in the same instance beheading the second guard. The result is that the floor is so slippery with blood that a third guards loses his balance and falls, following the second guard in dead a split second later. The dance that comes with retaking positions gives me the opportunity to evaluate our opponent. It is clear that Nightmare’s muscles are improved to allow him to move faster than sound, just as I can. The only difference is that he can do it twice in a row with the same muscle, unlike me who will scream of pain when trying to do that.
We are back to square zero except with three guards forming dead obstacles on the floor. Nightmare is quickly turning around, vigilant for any attack. My P-95 unfolds to a series of sharp edges and razor blades, the signal for my partners to join my attack. Arcane swings trough the air many times in the same instant creating a field of the sharpest lines possible. For a flash in time Nightmare looks like a typhoon of shiny metal, creating a spray of molten metal flying trough the air all around us. The next moment Arcane finds his whip destroyed together with two of Nightmare’s blades. During the tick it takes for our foe to change weapons, Arcane presents him with a frustrated blow on the head with his IPG-Launcher getting a cut trough his knee in return. The time this confrontation took is enough for Olterin to repel the finishing blow meant for Arcane. To prove that he is losing no ground on us Nightmare makes a backwards somersault over our heads in the direction of the stairs, away from the control panel, killing the two remaining guards on the way with two throwing knives in their chest. The momentarily absence of Nightmare around the control panel gives Arcane the opportunity to complete his mission: bringing the Ion Tower back online.
Our enemy is far to calculated to allow us such and advantage so early in the skirmish. He doesn’t seem at all bothered about us taking advantage of the fact that he is out of the panel’s vicinity. He smoothly evades the crossfire of bullets we treat him with. I take a moment to wonder what he is waiting for. Time to seize the day. I make a forward flip in the air while folding the knives of my little P-95 to a boomerang. Upon landing I throw the adjusted weapon to his middle. He quickly repels the attack with at the same time granting himself the liberty of being a bit unstable, following in a daring attack from Olterin with his M-2490. Nightmare seeks refuge to the ground but is too late to avoid being hit by two lancets. I’m happy to see at least some blood spraying from the wounds, together with a manifold of metal and wires. Not all artificial. Where this is the time for Artan to at least try to hand out the finishing blow, he surprises us by choosing to let Nightmare jump back on to his feet. A little weaker but a lot richer in experience.
Suddenly the activity of the Ion emitter is doubled resulting in an explosion of wind and electricity. The Ion Tower is back on line. Nightmare is actually stunned for maybe a whole tenth of a second. But he soon rushes to the control panel where Arcane is still messing with the controls, ignoring his bleeding knee. Somewhat naïve Olterin and I try to stop Nightmare but the next moment we are thrown around the room like two rag-dolls. Nightmare draws a long one-handed katana and time seems to freeze. The shining blade descends upon Arcane who tries to roll away from his demise. But in the corner of my eye I see something floating trough the air with a near unnatural slow velocity. After a few slow-motion turns of the device I recognize it as a Zero Kelvin Detonator. My view turns back to the massacre scene involving Arcane and Nightmare. The katana is a little closer to its foe and the foe is a little more out of the way, but not enough to evade the three molecule wide, carbon enforced black matter katana. On Arcane’s face the first signs of an expression containing despair are beginning to show. The next moment a bright white flash descends upon the picture catching Nightmare and Arcane in a corona of blistering energy. The white bolt stretches and expands upwards until I see Garygolf balancing upon the beam, his face wrinkled in a sadistic grin and his lips forming a word that a can recognize as “Antfucker!” The scene gets a surreal impression when Nightmare and Arcane are lifted from the floor by the immense gravitational power of Garygolf’s Pure Energy Weapon. A tumbling Zero Kelvin Detonator positions itself under the hovering Nightmare and Arcane. The pair of combatants is moving faster as the discharge of Garygolf’s energy salvo begins to unload. As soon as Nightmare and Arcane have reached Garygolf’s level, about halfway the first floor, the Zero Kelvin Detonator breaches and unfolds a pitch-black dome, which is rapidly expanding and spreading its destruction with each passing millisecond. At that time I begin to notice my own reaction on the situation. I appear to be balancing on one hand, the rest of my body completely stretched floating away from the floor. I seem to have jumped pure on instinct.
The black dome of destruction has reached its maximum size and is disintegrating bringing along a wave of pure vacuum, quickly crawling over anything that is somewhat warm except for air. I see the almost liquid embodiment of pure cold passing under me just a microsecond after my hand left the floor. The cold wave is disappearing and is completely gone just as soon as I hit the floor. I quickly look to the control panel just in time to witness its dematerialisation to a pile of dust quickly carried away by a gentle gust, spreading every trace of the panel in the air.
Time is back to normal. I’m back on my feet just in time to catch the boomerang shaped P-95 and to see Nightmare, Arcane and Garygolf hit the floor. Suddenly Nightmare is surrounded by the remaining guards and Qoitan, quickly followed by Caia. An alarm sounds trough the tower at the same time a calm computer-voice declares: “Intruder alert. Fleet is entering our system. Ships detected: 169 and counting.” The voice stops and the alarm gets louder. All hope is lost. The enemy will find us. The Ion Tower can never be repaired in time.
Nightmare tries to stand up but his body is completly uncoordinated, probably from the electro magnetic pulse generated by Garygolf’s salvo. The rebels will have no mercy, certainly not now while they are confronted by a certain death by the hands of the just arrived fleet. But Nightmare doesn’t seem desperate or even worried.
Artan’s voice echoes trough the room: “Drop your weapons, assholes or I’ll blow up MadAce’s head!” I hear a gentle click of Artan’s Grenade Launcher behind my cranium, just to make me understand the situation. The strange plateau of an almost slaughtered Nightmare stills in a split second. Then I hear an engine quickly charging, making an ultra high sound soon impossible to hear, only leaving a painful resonance in the air. That doesn’t sound like a Grenade Launcher…
“You were my CEO Artan, but I made it a hobby to annihilate every single backstabber in the galaxy and you appear to be the next one on my list.”
I still don’t dare to turn around. I don’t even feel the urge to make a little gamble and warn the people surrounding Nightmare to watch his hands and especially the knives he’s pulling out of his sleeves. Artan goes on the old-friend-tour: “PvtCaboose, come on man. I’m doing this for the corp! Peace said we could have all our colonies back if I helped Nightmare! The other side just pays more! What are you going to do with that Portable Death Ray? You can only fire once with it, and you’ll probably kill yourself in the process. Come to your senses and help me… It’s so much more lucrative! The UN will even give us the same toys Nightmare has! You could see what he can do! We can even…” The confirmation that Artan doesn’t have the same abilities Nightmare has is the sign I waited for. In less than a microsecond I turn my left leg behind me and kick the grenade launcher out of Artan’s hands and before the feeling of that action reaches his brain I manage to turn around and kick Artan half-way the room. Nightmare waited for me to make the first move. Just as he lands next to Artan’s body I see the bloody and almost unrecognisable remains of the five guards that were closing in on Nightmare to contain him, a lethal mistake. Nightmare picks up the unconscious body of Artan and jumps away just before the ground where he stood is scorched by multi-sourced fire coming from our weapons. Everywhere he jumps Nightmare is followed by a crescendo of bullets, beams and other destructive inventions. Why is he jumping around like a hyper kinetic rabbit? He must have a way out. My COM vibrates. At the same time the floor seems to resonate and the sound of Solar Cannon Fire joins the pandemonium of alarm sounds and weapon fire. Trying to overcome the noise of the alarm and the exorbitant amount of firepower I shout in the microphone. “What the fuck do you need me for in a time like this! Can’t you fucking think I’m fucking busy?”
Swordremains doesn’t give the impression he is at all bothered by my unsociable expressions.
“MadAce! I can only talk to you for a moment! I can’t even hear you. We have to get out of here ASAP! You clearly didn’t manage to save the Ion Tower, so they came at us at full speed! They will be here in a few seconds, they just landed a wave of ships trough the warp gate and we don’t have time to wait for you… I would wait but you ordered me to take care of the others so… We left a scout in bay one! Good luck!”
A few seconds? Maybe that is the way out Nightmare was w… The roof explodes in a flash of light, throwing chunks of Titanium and Carbonite all over the central part of the tower, giving us only a few seconds to find shelter under the plateaus. The yellow-greenish light of the ever-glowing acid clouds replace the fainted tower lights. A second alarm begins to sound warning us that the toxic atmosphere of the greenhouse planet is entering the tower bringing with it an immense pressure and a lethally high temperature. We have about a minute before the protection shields give up and the contamination is free to reach the floor. But I am still determined to finish of Nightmare, age does not prevent a lust for vengeance. The pain rages trough my left leg since I used it to kick Artan away soaring trough the room.
Ah well, I have two legs don’t I?
“Everybody! Go start up the scout’s engines in bay one! It’s our only means of escape! I’ll finish of Nightmare if I find him! Just wait for me for as long as you can! Don’t protest! This is personal!”
They hesitate for a few seconds but then PvtCaboose picks up the wounded Arcane as if he were a little baby and starts climbing up the stairs as quickly as he can. The others follow him, glad to be able to get to safety.
The pieces of the roof spread around the room and the increasing amount of toxic gas make it hard to search for a seemingly invincible martial artist. And the sore leg doesn’t make things happier. No pain, no gain, I guess. Then I see a black form crouched on top of a giant chunk of roof. What the hell is he doing? The somewhat thicker air starts vibrating and emits a noise I can only identify as the engines of a Sethdar Cruiser. Then the blinking lights of the cruiser appear trough the enormous hole in the roof. The ship hovers at the same position like it is waiting for something… Now I understand!
I crouch on the floor just like Nightmare and with exactly the same goal: to leap the massive twenty floor high centre of the tower to follow my rival inside the Sethdar Cruiser. Only a few seconds left. I concentrate on my every muscle, sending out repair and stimulation nanites to prepare my body for the unnatural achievement we are about to undertake. What if Nightmare’s technology is better? Ultra-adrenaline is raging trough my blood and my heart is doing 500 contractions a minute. What if he has a mini rocket booster to help him the last few floors? But I know I stand a chance, after all he has to carry Artan with him. Why is he doing that? He killed so many people today. Then I realize he only killed guards! Why? And why is he doing the effort to save Artan?
A small tremble in the ground alerts me about Nightmares jump. I jump after him in the same second. All my muscles are swollen to twice their normal volume. We pass the first 5 floors in an instant. But I am gaining air on him. My pulsating body makes a few flips in the air to get closer to him. Halfway there. The air is getting thicker the higher we get due to the larger percentage of greenhouse atmosphere gasses. I hold my breath to prevent intoxication. We still have a massive speed taking us soaring trough the sky and finally I reach Nightmares altitude. I fire a few rounds at him, but like I expected he easily evades the bullets. A flip and I’m close enough to swing my blades precisely to his neck. He clamps Artan between his legs and then Nightmare draws two swords just in time to repel a rapid evolution of swings and stabs from my side. The speed of attack and defence increases until a point where we make contact once every millisecond. Clearly too much for our swords that spray a fountain of molten metal and carbonite trough the air, leaving a trace shimmering sparkles behind us. In a last attempt to finish the job I stab with one of my blades at a speed large enough to make my arm pass the sound-barrier resulting in an explosion of some of my arm’s muscles in a blaze of blood and skin. Instead of retreating, Nightmare comes at me dropping both his swords and taking my P-95 in both hands risking the loss of a few fingers to the blades. While spinning around we exit the tower trough the hole in the roof exposing us to the full rage of the hostile atmosphere of the planet and at the same time granting us a beautiful view at the battle raging below us. Only with my left arm I try to fight of a seething Nightmare but I still get the chance to catch a quick glance of the world around us. Around the warp gate a cloud of ships is taking on the Laser Cannons while a few sliders try to bypass the mines placed along the canyons. Some smaller ships managed to bypass the defences and are attacking the launch pad cutting of al escape for the remaining rebels. Every second I feel the warmth of the Solar Cannon Bolts departing for the enemy. The thick air easily propagates the sounds of the clash, even degrading the massive noise of the Sethdar’s engines to an irritating buzzing.
We are almost at the ship. Nightmare is trying to break my arm not realizing that my bones are made of ultra flexible fibreglass alloys.
The huge cargo bay doors of the Sethdar open and suddenly Nightmare stops wrestling and he… grins. Why?
The following sensation is a rapid acceleration when Nightmare throws me against the roof of the cargo bay directly followed by a blast of pain raging trough my head.
The last thing I see is Nightmare entering the cargo bay just a second behind me and then I fall. And just before I lose consciousness my mind is eaten by the purest darkness and not only because of the cargo bay doors that close, barely in time to stop my unfortunate descend to the surface.
To be continued...