2nd WIP: Blinder One – Into the Wilds

In a galaxy that had been scoured and scanned by a thousand civilizations before, Kholis Pisa stood unique in the simple fact that it was ordinary. It was a gemstone of blue in the sea of nothingness, far enough away from any mapped hyperspace lane that enslaving or colonizing it took more credits than its worth. Not even the Empire had bothered to subjugate the planet for its resources yet, leaving it as a free rally point for those that would oppose it, as long as you could get to it carefully.

But that means, there’s the wait time… Kaibus Threll thought do himself as he floated far above the cerulean marble in his A-Wing interceptor. On his nose, the corvette Bellshire also waited in silence to meet a less-than-reputable freighter that had happened to secure some Imperial hardware.

Hardware that would be most critical as his A-Wing’s comm channels went fuzzy again for the briefest of moments, which made his growl in frustration… Never had this problem in my old X-Wing…I miss Thumper.

“Lead, Two. Did your comm channel just go dead for a sec?” called out his wingman, who was hovering on the other side of the Bellshire being equally vigilant and bored as he was.

“That’s affirm, Two. When we get back, we’re taking these in for a full diagnostic.”

“Affirmative. Aaaaaannnd, timer is at zero, Lead. No sign of the transport.” Blinder Two called over. The other interceptor began a slow roll over the corvette’s spine. “Think they’re just late?”

Kaibus grimaced at the thought, because the Alliance needed all the tools and guns they could get, even if that meant having to head all the way back across the galaxy to Hoth so they could experience the deep freeze. “Maybe. Bellshire, Blinder One; how long do you want to wait?”

“Standby, our scopes are clear as well. If there’s no signs in the next hour, we’ll break orbit and…”

The sudden injection of a shining silver dagger into their view quashed the rest of their plan, and the black came alive in sheets of emerald fire. Kaibus slammed this throttle forward to full and yanked his control stick to his chest, “Contact! Confirm one Interdictor cruiser! Two, break wide and draw fire!”

But only static answered him, and the pilot had to choke down the lump in his throat, “Bellshire, give me a vector on any drain you make on their shields!” As the A-Wing completed its loop and came nose to nose with the Imperial crusier, now identified as Gravitiy’s Bane, Kaibus shunted power from aft shields to engines and blasted forward. Not even bothering with a sensor lock, four concussion missiles leapt from his interceptor and smashed headlong into the Interdictor’s bow shields. They weren’t much on their own, but the two turbolasers the Bellshire held on its midsection had picked the initial spot and were continuing to dig into it.

Unfortunately, because they faced an Interdictor, running wasn’t an option until the four massive gravity well generators on the Bane’s hull were smoking ruins. Its larger size made it easier to the Bellshire to keep striking it while it spun along its centerline to keep its own shields as charged as possible. But it was a losing match and Kaibus knew it; Gravity’s Bane simply had more firepower, so it wasn’t long until the corvette shook with a direct blow to its engine block.

“Damn! Come on! Break through!” the A-Wing jockey yelled into his cockpit as another quartet of missiles raced from his nose and slammed into the cruiser’s shielding. But one of them sent little metal shards and fire into the hull of the Imperial vessel.

“I’ve got penetration! Concentrate fire on the starboard fore-section!”

“Coming about, we’ll cut in from above, you hit low!” Bellshire called back, with the unmistakable sounds of sirens and yelling buried in the channel.
They’re hurting and hurting bad…we’ve gotta make this run count! The A-wing dipped and leapt like an unpredictable arrowhead as Kaibus snapped his interceptor around. The Imperial captain appeared to notice the newfound damage on his pristine vessel and had started a rotation away from the Rebel firepower. But the corvette came in charging, and red belches of turbolaser started to beat down the weakened shields. Even if he didn’t see the pinprick opening in the Interdictor’s shielding, Kaibus let loose his final salvo of missiles, and was rewarded with seeing them plunge into the massive gravity generator.

And just as accurately, the Imperial gunners finally scored a hit, tossing Kaibus around his own canopy like a rag doll. Try as he might to regain control, one of the A-Wing’s engines and its entire control surface had been blown away. Without the full thrust of the interceptor Kaibus now felt the infinite pull of Pisa’s gravity pulling him into the blue embrace. As his hull plating began to glow with the friction of re-entry and the horizon grew black, his last conscious vision was of the Bellshire breaking in half at the neck.

*

It wasn’t the overwhelming heat of atmosphere against metal that roused him, nor the A-Wing’s broken frame burying itself into a mile of sand. It was the drip of the night’s last dew onto his nose that woke him with a start. “Huh! Wha…how did?”

As his senses slowly put together the fact he wasn’t a red puddle, Kaibus took in the untainted air that swept freely through his cockpit through many holes and cracks. “Can’t believe this thing held up through all that…okay, I take it back, these speedtraps aren’t so bad.”

After wiggling every digit and flexing every responsive muscle he had, Blinder One let out a breath of reprieve, as none of his bones were broken. Granted, the blackish bruises now forming on his sternum and along his arms still gave him all new words to curse with, but the pilot had little time for concern, “If the Imps saw me go down, they’ll come looking…gotta get to a safe spot and hide out…”

For a moment, his mind introduced the question ‘for how long?’ But that was a future issue, and Kaibus had the pressing need of survival to deal with first. Popping the manual seal on the cargo compartment behind his left arm, he reached in and grabbed whatever supplies weren’t cooked by the crash, like a small blaster, some rations, and a thermal blanket. “Dammed hand-held comm unit is slag…wonder if this thing’s main radio survived any better.”

Kaibus climbed carefully over the jagged prow of the A-Wing until he found the panel access he needed. Without power, it took all his frustration and strength to man-handle the metal open and toss it aside. After clearing the sudden output of smoke now freed from his fighter’s corpse, he felt around through the wiring and fluid lines until at last, he grabbed the cylinder of the A-Wing’s main transmitter. Which was naturally bolted in tightly.

“Oh, to the hells with this!” he exclaimed, and simply shot the connecting bolt off the transmitter, catching it before it dropped into the jungle of wreckage. “Alright, now all I need is power….power, power,…wait.” His finger had traced around something rough on the supposedly smooth comm unit. Not damaged-rough like it was broken, but like a blemish or imperfection on a sculpture. And when he rotated the unit around, the small black cube attached to his transmitter began to flicker it single blue light. On instinct, Kaibus pulled the small parasite and tossed it as far as his arm could throw. The bug hit the sand and detonated a good few meters away, but it still tossed sand in his mouth.

“So that’s how they found us,” Blinder One surmised, which led him to a dreaded hypothesis; “If my fighter was tagged…sithspawn, who knows how many of our ships are compromised! I’ve gotta get off this rock!”

Only now did Kaibus pause to gauge his surroundings beyond being able to breathe. Looking back, his A-Wing had plowed through a dirt mound farther inland that changed its course like a pinball before hitting the sand and careening another solid kilometer until it had come to rest near the lapping tide of a body of water. Straight ahead, the beach stretched out beyond the horizon. On his right, the sand quickly gave way to marsh and soil, with a darkened forest well behind that.

“Guess I know where I’m staying tonight. Now, let’s see if there’s any useable power cells left for this blasted transmitter…”


**********************

Holy cow, when was the last time I put up 2 posts in a month?

A story you may have seen before: a dashing pilot crashes alone in an unknown and untamed wild. How will he survive? Will he ever be found again?  And is he actually alone? I hope to bring you more soon to answer at least one of these.

I hope you all enjoy.

 

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WIP – Solaris Knight

The new day’s sun cresting over the hills awoke him with cheer. Despite its completely open and visible surroundings on the peak of a lush hill, his campsite along the stomped-in road meant that the light reached him as early as possible so he could continue his journey for as long as possible. Yet, the logistics weren’t main reason he had stopped here, it was far more important to him to feel the warm kiss of light once again.

Stretching out his bare form, he rose only far enough to be able to prostrate to the dawn. “Silena, Light of the World, bless me with your grace so that I may carry your banner…”, his daily devotion began, and it was soon rewarded by the tightness fleeing from his legs and a surge of strength into his chest.

Rise, my sentinel. Receive my will and bring my Light to those who need it.” The reply rang in his soul without spoken word as he stood. It told him many things; that the Divinity which gave him purpose was concerned. That whatever charge she was about to bestow on him would be both brutal and necessary. Yet perhaps most important of all, Silena’s decree told Tolomir that she trusted no one else. “I am your shield and sword, most divine Light.”

A plague of unholy nature has taken the village of Barthselhiem, draining my Light and afflicting the people. Cleanse this scourge in my name!” The order was given, causing his muscles to pulse with energy and his fists to tighten. “You will is my purpose, Divine one. It will be done.” And though his benefactor spoke no more as she rose higher into the sky, Tolomir smiled at the sight of such a gift caressing the horizon. He buried his firepit from the previous night and gathered the small pack that also served as his pillow before he continued on the northward path.

Tolomir knew Barthselhiem well, for the commerce village was well-traveled by many. For anything to take hold over it would require an impressive force of men and steel. This told him that whatever was there now must have been powerful. “A deep unholiness…no mortal needs to know that deep a pain. I only hope I arrive in a time of her satisfaction…” Unless Silena blessed him with haste, it would be a full day’s travel just to get there.

Thankfully, as befit the giver of Light to the world, the Divine was not as patient as her kin, so Tolomir felt no exhaustion as he ran. No pain dared strike his feet and his heart had been commanded to keep him true. Over the Broken Stones that marked the border of two nations that did not concern him, Tolomir’s pace was true. Silena’s radiance bathed him in full at the midday as he sprinted across open Wildlands, causing any beast in his path to make way for him, though many glared in hungered fury as he passed.

Only when reaching the Diamond’s Road did he encounter another person, a figure walking the opposite direction. Tolomir could not see their face, for the person was cloaked in plate and wore their helmet down, but the chill of death that flowed from them made Tolomir’s steps slow to a stop. To delay his travel risked Silena’s ire, of which no mortal should ever beg for. Yet, as her champion, Tolomir knew full well when he encountered one who had forsaken or blasphemed the name of the Light.

_____________

So, this is something I’ve recently been chomping on, and it’s a lot different than the normal flyboys and machinery I’ve done before. Hard fantasy has always been a genre I’ve enjoyed, but never fully acclimated to. So let’s see where this goes.

I hope you all enjoy.

The PsyGear – Part 1

Faded boots crunched down on dirtied snow as she made her way down the sidewalk, clutching a bag of cheap groceries to her tighly, I can’t believe I’m doing this…

It was a path she knew quite well, from her own newly-purchased sublet, across 14th and Briar, and down to the townhouse she had once called home. Even dampened by snow and darkened by the hour it was, the faded tan face of siding and custom windows gave the complex a light, a warmth to it that she wanted to miss. But she also didn’t want to be looking at it again.

Pulling her hood tighter over silvering blond hair, Dr. Maria Foycen carefully took the slush-coated steps to the door and knocked. The doorbell was easily within reach, but Maria knew that the house’s occupant despised the chime and would probably ignore it. Foycen’s instinct told her that someone was home, the car was right where it was supposed to be and half-buried in snow, And Emily hates taking the bus…but she used to hate having a dark house, too…

Maria sighed to herself. She had known it was a gamble to come here and likely a mistake, they hadn’t parted on good terms, or even amicable ones. The smile she had first fetched across a stuffy library during a campus fundraiser had been crushed and buried under things Maria never understood fully. Work had been work, there was always work. She and Emily had quickly grown together in pursuit of science as well as stability and affection. Bio-technology was growing as fast as any other field, and they were going to be partners of the frontier.

And then, just over a year ago, Dr. Emily Callen had gone to a lecture in Boston and never really returned.

It wasn’t like Georgetown University was some poor podunk school for people who couldn’t make it as a fry cook, it was a beacon, had been their beacon, of study and discovery. But when Emily had come back, suddenly millions of dollars in research and technology was “a blind idiot’s mission to take what they couldn’t assimilate…” or even worse, “pointless”. It had been that one argument that made for the first time Maria had stormed out of the townhouse, forming the cracks that would lead to shattering of her heart. Maybe something had snapped within her, Maria had thought at the time. Trying to be an innovator had no measure of professional or personal stress. Maybe the university had suddenly demanded more of Dr. Callen that she couldn’t deliver, as their last paper on chemical imbalances in cells during various stages of healing after trauma had been met with little fanfare, much to their dismay. Or maybe it was me…maybe I just became too much. To much to handle, too much to worry about… was getting married REALLY so bad an idea?

Whatever it was, it had grown a lot worse in the past week. Emily had always been a bit…eccentric, but never to a grating or annoying way. She was just…herself. Since the Boston conference though, Maria had noticed right away that Emily’s attention was more on research that developing lectures, maintaining a relationship, or even sleep sometimes. Yet something in the past week and outright pulled Callen away from the school altogether. No classes taught, no witnesses to where she might be. If not for her email requests, she may as well not exist.

When the locks on the door clicked and shuddered to come undone, Maria jumped slightly. She never locks BOTH locks…I wonder…

Whatever thought she had was punted away as a mass of greasy hair, unusually pale-bronzed skin and cheap cigarette smoke stood before her as a disheveled wall. “Christ, Em! You look like shit!”

Emily grunted a response, but made way for Maria to enter, “Been busy. I’m onto something, something big, babe. I’ve finally found a cause worth studying!”

While none of that made sense, or even sounded like her, Maria felt the faintest flash of feeling in her cheeks at that. A feeling which smashed against Emily’s sudden deceleration. “Worth studying? As in, years of bio-engineering and education just mean jack shit now?”

Callen waved both her hands as if she were swatting a thousand flies, “No, nononono…no, I mean, er, well, the next level. The REAL engineering!”

Maria put her bags on the kitchen island so she could place her hands on her hips. “Funny, my study on the interaction between theta waves of the brain and carbon filaments in implants felt like pretty fuckin’ real engineering to me…”

The sickly doctor suddenly leapt up to clasp Maria’s hands in hers, “But that’s it! Don’t you get it? You started to look, then just gave up and went onto something…something else! I!” she patted her chest, “I finished it!”

Her brain was on fire, comfortably seated in aged rage and disgust at her former love’s condition. She should have stomped out right then and there. If not for Emily’s goddamn kryptonite smile.

Alright,” Maria sighed, shrugging in defeat, “what did you find?”

Emily practically yanked her towards the basement steps, “Not found, BUILT!”

They’d had a lot of plans for the basement level; storage, a reading nook, maybe even a nursery, but not this. Piles of boxes and containers were crammed in the corners, papers upon papers were strewn everywhere else, and the stench of smoke and stale air hung like a deathly blanket. It was no wonder Dr. Callen looked like a shell of herself.

What the hell,…Em, what is all this?!”

Emily pulled her to the center table, where a workstation had been shambled together with tools that one didn’t normally see outside a hospital or laboratory. Maria had no doubt that some poor equipment manager at the university was going to have a coronary when they saw all that was missing.

And then there was what all that equipment surrounded. A coppery disc with wiring wound around it like a constrictor. Within the disc was a cross of some kind of silvered supports which held a small orb stable. What looked like micro-electronics and a small plug composed the orb, all wrapped carefully in a mesh of gold.

Am I supposed to know what this is?” Maria asked flatly.

A question that seemed to genuinely stump Emily, “How do you not recognize your own work? This thing is the answer! Bio-engineering, environmentalism, the world! All of them are going to benefit from this!”

Maria maintained her stone composure, which seemed to really rile Emily, “Simple! This filament, like you thought originally, is carbon and titanium. Had to make it last. When the brain hits a solid state of theta-wave production, it stirs the filament, which makes this, “she pointed at the orb with a shaking finger, “spin like crazy! That spin generates a magnetic field, just a small one, but enough to get amplified by the outer ring! The human brain is literally a generator once this thing is installed in its host! All I need is a clinical trial!”

Maria didn’t want to believe it, that someone she respected, someone she had even loved, had just spouted this nonsense. What the hell happened in Boston?

This…this is all bullshit.”

Emily’s smile collapsed on itself, “I…no, no it’s not bullshit! I know it works! I’ve seen it work!”

Maria shot back with a jab, “Let me guess, you saw this Boston form some crackpot “new-age” shithead and decided to, oh, I don’t know, say fuck-it to everything else because YOU wanted something else to focus on!”

Emily stepped back, shaking even more, though Dr. Foycen stepped forward to stay in slapping range, “All this bullshit! All this, and you didn’t ask me,” she began to count off, “you didn’t tell me, you didn’t even bother to be honest with me!”

Maria turned away, she didn’t want Emily to see a single tear that threatened to fall from oceanic eyes, “You threw us away…for this…and it’s all bullshit.”

Baby…” Emily started, weakly, but a through shake of Maria’s head stopped that thought dead.

You made your choice. I just hope it was worth it.”

Dr Foycen took only one step forward before a shaky hand grabbed her arm, but that wasn’t what alarmed her. It was the prick of a needle into her forearm. It had to be a perfect shot, trying to hit a vein on an uncooperative patient, let alone doing it on the first pass.

Unfortunately, when she’s at her prime, Dr. Emily Callen is very good with small implements like needles.

Suddenly, a wave of chemical sluggishness washed over Maria. She tired to slap Emily away, tried to run, tried to do anything resembling resistance. But whatever she had been hit with was just a powerful and illicit as the rest of the equipment that was in the basement and Dr. Foycen crashed onto the cold concrete floor. Her eyes shut and breathing slow, Emily made sure to check her still-beating pulse with quaking hands.

I’m sorry, baby…but I have to prove this works. I know I can do it…You’ll believe. I know you will, they all will. We’ll make the world better… better. We’ll make it all better…you’ll show them how, for me…you’ll see.”


So, believe it or not, this one has actually been a long-standing idea I’ve had. Sure, you’ve heard it before, “the human battery” idea, but this approach ditches the gel-filled cocoon for something a bit more…personal. And how do these two posts relate? Hopefully one day I’ll show you.

I hope you all enjoy.

The Carnwennan

She had started out life as a Verra GalaxyWorks B-11 ore hauler. Its lines were smoothly crafted for something that looked like a bisected egg with four maneuvering engines jutting out like stumpy turtle fins. At just under fifty-five meters long, there was plenty of room for rocks, a pilot and an engineer to spend lifetimes in the doldrums of moving everything from fertile soil to molten rock between star systems, even if a short jaunt of five light-years could take a week.

At some point in her youth, a wise man had gutted her. A much improved engine was slipped in, as well as a cheap energy shield and an external missile tube, though it probably didn’t do much for anyone since it was locked in place. Whoever had owned her then probably fancied themselves a privateer or mercenary. At least, until they picked on someone much tougher than themselves and had gotten smashed into a moon for the trouble.

That’s where Deter found her, and the two were a match written in the stars. She needed freedom from her purgatory, he needed a fresh start in life. Sure, she was just a hulk when they met, but he had just enough inheritance coin to patch the holes and restart her heart.

And so, she was gifted the name Carnwennan, the shadowed dagger to strike the heart of the greedy, the pious and the false. Which, in this case, would be the Interplanetary People’s Union, or more directly, the Trader’s Quorum. The sole monopoly of shipping and business for any part of human civilization worth a damn.

Of course, it was a bit impossible to be a one-man piracy front, as he’d found out quickly enough. Only by fortune and an amazing failure of slipstream calculations had earned him the services of Wyvorn. The saurian soldier had gotten himself in trouble trying to pull an assassination job on a CEO’s private corvette and had gotten himself pinned in a cargo bay. The Carnwennan had come in screaming out of the slipstream and only slowed down enough to crash into the larger ship at a speed her hull could handle. And since Deter had majorly scratched some paint, the remaining bodyguards were suddenly torn between killing Wyvorn and punishing him. Deter had never seen a Sormorite in action, so watching Wyvorn leap from wall to wall and tear men down with his prehensile claws instead of his rifle was amazingly terrifying. Still, the Soromite’s sense of debt was stronger than even his combat skills and Wyvorn was forced to acknowledge that Deter had indeed saved his life, which means he owed the human a measure of equal value. So he became the razor claws to Deter’s razor edge planning. The saurian had also brought along his one-person shuttle, which fetched a neat purse, even though they salvaged the small auto-cannons of it for the Carnwennan.

They found Anon easily enough, but bringing him into the group was more difficult. The pilot had been a member of the Quorum and was guiding a shuttle hauling six tons of uncut diamond when they pounced. It should have been easy prey, but Anon evaded them in an asteroid belt for almost two days, hopping in-between, around and even through the stellar remains. When they finally pulled him aboard, Anon was smiling like a fool, as he’d never had such a rush. From there, it was easy to woo him on-board the Carnwennan with a cut of the profits and a chance to modify her for maximum speed and maneuverability. Anon had a good nose for speed, though he was never quite satisfied with how she handled. “I’ll get it balanced one of thes days, just gotta get the sweet spot!”

Yet for all the skill and craziness Deter had assembled, the Carnwennan still needed someone to maintain her far better than he could. There were plenty of hands available for the right price, of course. But on their way to the shining, seedy city-planet of Aramat Prime, Deter had felt a twitch in his gut and pounced on an un-registered freighter as it came their way. What they had set upon turned out to be more like a flying vault, with layers and layers of locks, security drones and electrified traps. And at the center of them all was a man, bound in chains and cryogenic suspension. At least, Vex had started as a man. His arms and legs had been augmented and spliced so much that was barely any flesh left. What was even worse still was his face. Whatever had been done to Vex had also removed the man’s lower jaw completely and replaced it with flexible metal plating all the way down to his sternum. Granted, neither of these issues seemed to slow him down, as the cyborg was able to rib himself free from his bounds once Deter woke him up. His price was simple; the mechanized man would help Deter with whatever he needed so long as, when the moment presented itself, the pirate took Vex to the Core world of Mars to do whatever it was he needed to do. Since the Carnwennan now had itself an mechanic that would literally link himself to the ship and keep her alive in measures well beyond any normal human, Deter eagerly agreed. Vex had repaid his freedom by building an impressively powerful slipstream wave disruptor into her hull, so Deter could snatch hapless cargo ships right out of light-speed and pick them clean in the confusion. None of them had ever seen such a technology before, though it was enough that such a machination wasn’t pointed at them.

Now, the Carnwennan skipped among the waves of the slipstream, racing away from its last kill with bounty tucked securely in her arms. In the cockpit, Anon was perched like the lanky goose he was, fingers flying over the controls to plot the evasive course back to Kranob and hefty payday. Wyvorn was curled up in his quarters, relaxing under inhumanely arid conditions. And probably still cleaning bits of merchantman from his claws, freakin raptor
Vex had never left the engine room. In fact, he never really left there. This was fine by Anon, as the unblinking cyborg scared the ever-loving shit out of the pilot. Deter understood, though. It was an unspoken agreement. Some men have an element, some just have an ease about them. That guy…I think he had both once. Before he became half a man.

Taking a long drag of cheap rum in the solitude of his own cabin, Deter pitched his booted feet up onto his desk and leaned back to watch the iridescent streaks of faster-than-light matter scream past. The captain raised a glass to his window “Here’s to you, baby. You did good today.”


So, this a companion to something I wrote many a year ago, back when I was in a very pirate-y mood and just wanted to leave the troubles behind for the wind, the sails and the rum. Still sounds like a good idea, somedays…

I hope you all enjoy.

The Inevitable End – Prologue

Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing on certain days.

For people in the United States, they remember September 11th, 2001, an attack that shook a nation.

In the United Kingdom, everyone remembers March 19th, 2022, the day their last and perhaps greatest Queen passed away in peace.

For the people of South Korea, it was December 1st, 2019. The day that the Kim regime of their northern antagonists and brothers collapsed and chaos gripped a peninsula.

Each of them a worthy note in history, but never truly impactful in the great string that was existence. After all, everything that lives must eventually end, but not something anyone ever really likes talking about. Even planet Earth, shining blue oasis in the void, was doomed after a few billion more years.

At least, that’s what was supposed to happen. But on June 9th, 2023, that all changed.

That day had a lot of names assigned to it when it happened: “The Day of the Second Sun”, “International Illumination Day”, “A Day Against All Odds”. Those were the nicer ones. The more common ones were simpler; “Doomsday”, “Ragnarok”, “The Second Coming of God”, and such. But it was a day that no one could deny as fiction. A day that everyone on Earth could remember.

On that day, which had been predicted for decades, the massive interstellar rock known as Comet X381977, or “Martha’s Comet”, slammed into Jupiter. It was supposed to be a moment of scientific marvel, as humans had never seen an object the size of our own Moon crash into the massive gas giant. NASA gathered up its pennies and got its highest-end probe, the Aldrin 1 in place weeks before hand to gather every tidbit they could, and they weren’t alone. The Russians, the European Space Agency, the Chinese and the Japanese all had something in orbit around the gas-ball in time. And they weren’t wrong, it was a scientific jackpot. It was data that careers and lifetimes would be built upon.

And then Martha’s Comet hit, and in less than an hour, the planet we knew as Jupiter was gone.

At that moment and in the days that followed, the world was both in awe and panic, as suddenly, there was no such thing as night. Whatever that rock was made out of, it succeeded in igniting Jupiter’s atmosphere into a second star, an act that was thought impossible by science until it happened anyway. All those years studying the many moons of Jupiter, all those theories about what may be possible to mine or even colonize just on the other side of the Asteroid Belt was gone, flash fried and melted or sucked down into an interstellar furnace.

But the most damning impact of all hit us only a month later, and it was a double whammy. The uppercut was the frightening theory that the Van Allen belt, that nurturing blanket of radiation that helped shield the Earth from the never-ending barrage of solar power, was being shoved away. Now everything that was in orbit, from communications to geo-location was going to feel the wrath of extra radiation and solar particles they were never built to deal with. The mere prospect of losing the internet was a world-wide blender of economic crashes, destruction and deaths.

And that wasn’t even the worst part. The real nail in the coffin came from the simple fact that Jupiter, as large as it was, was never meant to be a star, and so never had enough fuel to sustain such a reaction. Even a month later, it was already measuring a few hundred kilometers bigger and a few hundred degrees cooler, not to mention the shifting reddish tint. In just five years, humanity would have a front row seat to watch the Earth get swallowed whole, even though it would be a burnt up rock long before then. And all that assumed the change in gravity didn’t pull the Moon down on our heads.

So, we faced a choice of such magnitude that nothing that had come before it even seemed relevant: Do we come together as a species and try and save ourselves from certain death, or was the human raced damned by its own stubbornness and inability to cooperate and overcome even basic ideologies?

The real answer should have been obvious: Both and Neither.

————————————————

This is the start of an idea that will likely be a NaNo entry someday. Somewhere between “The Martian” or “Interstellar”, the story of if and how we can save ourselves from extinction, and the real level of what it would take to get some people to actually talk to each other.

I hope you all enjoy.

Demon’s Rise

Again and again, he had played the numbers game on the computer screen before him. Again and again, he studied the ballet of her death in the choking grey skies over the Waldreich mountians. Again and again, his fists clenched at her turns, moved unconsciously to tease a throttle that wasn’t there and pulled back to put her nose to the blue one last time.

And through it all, the Demon Lord could not paint in his mind a picture of his target. The recordings taken from Vixen’s mangled black box were remarkable intact given what her final resting place looked like. She had been returning from a textbook strike mission on a camp of “revolutionaries” the government of Ustio wanted put down before they rose into a wildfire. He had visited her that morning, jealous of how her Su-34/FULLBACK would taste clean air while his F-15C/Eagle was in pieces after flying far more hours than it was ever supposed to. She was merciless in her teasing, that the hellhound on his nose would have to sit and wait like a good boy until she got back, and tempted him with a last kiss and the promise of all good things to come.

The mission itself was uneventful. She had coordinated her location and vector with Valeris Air Base controllers, held an easy thirty-thousand ft altitude while she locked up her targets and then rolled easily into a screaming dive and almost mach speeds. Pitiful anti-aircraft fire rose up to challenge her, but she paid it no mind as she unloaded twenty-thousand pounds of armament on helpless tanks, fuel trucks and radio stations. Whatever hardware was left after her run was quickly abandoned as any surviving troops ran into the snow.

Her course back home should’ve been just as simple, a series of turnpoints on a map, confirmed by her satellite navigation and her hand map. But deep in the rocky peaks, someone had been waiting for her. Her radar had never classified what it was, but it was fast, closing rapidly on Vixen. She had seen it, and dodged its first shot with panicked luck. He’d watch her speed scream up and down as she dove away and wove around snowflakes trying to get clear. But it hunted her, missing barely with its second missile shot before scoring its deathblow with something else. Cipher could practically feel it now, the moment the FULLBACK shuddered against the impact and rocked onto its side before beginning its final spiral into the rocks, smashing belly-first into what was once a riverbed. It was a moment that never failed to choke him with his own heart and engorge the fire in his blood.

These thoughts still ran though his mind, even as recycled air pumped into his chest and the roar of thirty-thousand pounds of power pushed him through the black of the moonless night. At first, he didn’t want to take this mission, as blowing holes in a runway owned by a bunch of mercenaries and idiots didn’t thrill him. It was the location that made him take it, because this normally forgotten about strip was just on the edge of the mountain pass. Even something short range could have launched from here and waited for her in the nearby peaks, waiting to pounce on his Vixen. So maybe melting some concrete would at least steady his nerves so the Demon Lord could think.

“Eagle Eye to Galm One, we’re reading a huge uptick in radar activity! Multiple missile systems!”

“Copy. Galm One engaging.” It was the only response he had to offer his overwatch. And the only response that mattered. Though his heart began to rock his chest like the thud of a drum, it was not in fear that Cipher narrowed his eyes. It was in rage.

He saw the first missile coming to greet him before his Eagle did, and the Demon Lord spun belly to sky and fired in return. His aim was true and the foe that had tried to burn him down lit the ground around its crater like wildfire. Pushing past the sound barrier, Cipher lobbed another missile into the bulbous fuel towers near the runway and the entire valley was suddenly illuminated by a second sun.

The Eagle howled over the strip as he made his first pass at barely a dozen feet above rooftops, mauling hangers and fleeing trucks with cannon fire. Setting eyes on the control tower overlooking the carnage, he snapped his wings into a vertical rise and released one of the free-fall bombs into the main window. The flames ate effortlessly at equipment and man alike, with one poor soul tossed from the tower like a rag. Cipher watched the man fall without sympathy or pity, but only hoped that the fall killed him and not the burn of the destruction below.

His radar screen alerted him automatically to the approach of something from the air, but he’d paid it no mind until now, for the Eagle now saw its target as a pair of Belkan-built J-10/FIREBIRD. The smaller interceptors quickly moved to face him, one breaking away to try and pull the Demon Lord to expose his flank to either enemy.

Cipher smiled a predatory grin and kept his head-on course to the fool that now challenged him. Both jousters fired a missile within the same second, but where he bounced his Eagle higher into the air like a rock off the water to avoid the shot, his foe had attempted a simple bank away from the approaching death. Cipher caught the J-10 right at the throat and snapped it in two, leaving only metal rain to greet the ground below as he turned to face the other opponent. The smaller fighter had placed itself behind a line of hapless grunts who aimed their smaller shoulder-mounted missiles at the Demon Lord and fired, but Cipher pulled his Eagle into as tight a loop as it would manage, sending the defending shots effortlessly into the clouds. The second bomb that dropped from his wing was just as unforgiving as the first, landing square in the cluster of soldiers that were now trying to escape him.

Come on, you son of a bitch…show yourself to me! Just for a moment! I’ll burn your ashes into the snow for what you did to her! His mind raced as the second J-10 pulled into a its own tight turn to try and evade him. Stomping on the rudder pedal, the Eagle slid like a knife in the air and brought its teeth down on the supple spine of the FIREBIRD. Unspent fuel and ammo sent shards and flakes of his latest kill in every direction, and the Demon Lord rose away with ease.

Coming around again to align with the runway, Cipher let go his last two dumb bombs, the heaviest of the two he’d chosen for this mission. Punching through concrete and steel with ease, two volcanoes of dirt and stone bubbled under the ground before ripping the skin away from the ground, cracking the strip for dozens of feet in every direction. Only the central hanger remained standing now, sheltering what looked like a simple large transport. And if that massive bird stayed still, the Eagle may have overlooked it. Only when the lumbering mass began to pull out of the hanger did the Demon Lord set his sights on it. Maybe they thought he was expended, or maybe they were counting on its nature as unarmed prey to dissuade him, Cipher wasn’t sure. Nor did it matter.

“Attention, attacking aircraft! We surrender! Repeat, we surrender! Our plane is full of wounded and will not engage!” they called to him, the fear in the voice clear even through the static. And for a moment, he hesitated. All of this death, all the money this mission would bring him…and it meant nothing. The one thing he’d hoped for, the sole reason the Demon Lord had been summoned here, had not showed. Somewhere out there sat a pilot, man or woman, who now wore his beloved Vixen as simply another kill. Someone had dared to challenge the ruler of these skies by ripping his heart out.

Cipher offered them only one response, his missile smashing through the transport’s canopy and detonating somewhere in its belly. It shattered like paper from the blast, unsupported wings crashing down into the snow and rotting fire catching hold of the hanger the helpless target had emerged from.

 

The Eagle circled around one last time as the flames blotted out the stars above him.  He knew she never would’ve taken that shot, she was better than that. He knew that somewhere, far away from the carnage, the operators on the ground and aboard the AWACS that had seen him through thick and thin had just watched him carry out a massacre. It should’ve mattered to him…but it didn’t.

“AWACS Eagle Eye to the Demon Lord. I think you’ve just earned your reputation.”

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It’s been a long time since I visited one of my favorite pilots and his world. Usually, he is the hero, a Demon in name only out of respect or fear from his enemies. Never his friends.

But that’s not always the way he has to be.

I hope you all enjoy.

Task Force Flashburn

It was an idea born from time-tested tactics and private conversations while the main planners and generals conferred. Each representative had brought, in some capacity, their best minds to the quorum, allowing for the most expansive planning within the circle. It had been General Antilles that first raised the notion of the Rebel’s classic “hit and hype” operations, which would at least force their Imperial foe to raise the alert in places other than where the Joint Fleet planned to strike. And while the larger operation matured in the squabbles and egos of the leaders, their trusted few began the initial stages; forming Task Force Flashburn.

It was a quick and dirty assembly of ships with a single mission; take down the Imperial Trade Consortium at Valius IX and wipe out as much of the defending support as possible. This would force the Star Destroyer Hate’s Hammer to move further away from the Prash’guthali sector and hopefully, reduce the number losses the main force would sacrifice.

Unfortunately, as the Fleet rallied behind its newly unified banner, there wasn’t much each side was readily able to commit in just thirty-six hours.  The U.S.S. Diamante, having barely escaped the Utopia Planetia raid, led Starfleet’s banner. But the small Saber-class scout only had one partner in its colors, the older Miranda-class Khartoum.

The Klingons fared no better, with only one legacy K’tinga-class battlecruiser and three small B’rel-class Birds-of-Prey for the call. Though while the machines were often outclassed, their crews sung the songs of battle as heartily as any other warriors.

The New Republic summoned the most to Flashburn. One Nebulon-B frigate formed the center of the fleet, along with two CR90 fast-attack corvettes to maul opposing fighters, one GR-75 transport to haul the fuel and supplies everyone would need, as well as plunder anything that was of use. To cover them all, one squadron of A-wing interceptors shielded two lumbering Y-wing bomber squadrons.

And risking more than the rest of the group combined, the Cardassians had sent one of their few Galor-class cruisers to the call, which was still more than the Romulans pledged. But it would have to be enough. In five days’ time, Flashburn had a laundry list of appearances to make and Imperial war efforts to vaporize. At the end, everyone left would rejoin the Fleet at the heart of it all, and hopefully with resounding success.

The Trade Consortium itself shined above the icy blue gemstone that was Valius IX, with freighters of all sizes and trades coming to and fro. It’s main line of defense was an old Carrack-class light frigate and maybe two squadrons of TIE fighters, provided all of them were operational and on alert. These would be the first targets. Once those were burning in space, the bombers and Birds of Prey could dance between the hubs of the Consortium and melt whatever suited their fancy. The cruisers and battleships would dismantle the entire complex from one end to the other. By consensus calculations, the moment their approach was detected, Flashburn had at most ten minutes of play time before the Star Destroyer would appear and burn them all out of the stars. That didn’t leave much time for fancy tactics, so it had been decided to strike as a combined force.

As expected, the Imperial alarms began to scream barely a second before the entire Task Force emerged from light speeds. In a stroke of thankful luck, the Imperial frigate was moored and powered down while its crew lazed about the station and only four TIEs patrolled the incoming traffic. Diamante and the Birds of Prey immediately leapt ahead of the pack, with the A-wings screaming forward in pairs to wipe out any defensive cannon fire. Torpedo hit after torpedo hit liquefied the unshielded Carrack’s bridge and spine, while the interceptors danced effortlessly around panicked sentries. One of the CR90s also surged into the fray, shredding the TIEs as they came around.  A few of the merchantmen dared to fire back as well, which only served as marking them as dead men for the Klingons and Cardassians.

Diamante to Task Force. All defenses are down and the trade ships are fleeing or have surrendered. Focus fire on the trade platforms, and signal our transport to move to Docking Bay Theta-One-Seven. Looks like there’s some goodies there for the taking.” The scout reported as it came around to face parts of the burning station, cutting through vital points with ruby lightning.

Coronation copies. All fighters, form up and stay on alert. Any freighter that wants safe passage out of here comes with us. Hustle up, people. We’ve got about four minutes left to make our exit!”

As much as it pained them, Klingon honor did not permit them to fire at the helpless, even if they flew the enemy flag. But that didn’t stop them from weaving between the frightened merchants like daggers and popping a few more disruptor blasts over the bows of those running the wrong way. The Galor-class Talnash swooped in to take equal advantage of the chaos, beaming away anything that wasn’t nailed down or claimed, which would be welcomed by the Cardassian efforts.

Khartoum picked up the signal first. “Alert! Inbound subspace wave! Looks like a larger cruiser heading in, bearing two-six-six by one-three-eight, at our starboard plane!”

Immediately, everyone who was in or around the station rose away from the devastation to reform the group as their new challenge thundered in with cannons blazing. Thankfully, it was not Hate’s Hammer, but even the older Victory-class Star Destroyer packed equal firepower and Starfighters to the Task force. The more mobile starships and fighters scattered to make their individual runs, while the larger battlecruisers and frigates met it head-on. One of the Birds-of-Prey was snapped in half almost instantly as its attack path began.

Diamante put her belly to the Destroyer and fired as fast as it could, emptying its torpedoes into the larger ship’s belly. All around, the newly launched TIE fighters chased after the Y-wings, with one full squadron breaking away and carving a path of fire along the Cardassians’ bow. Try as it might, the Galor-class cruiser only picked off a third of the Imperial fighters before one of its engines detonated, shearing off the accompanying wing and leaving it easy prey for the Destroyer to pick apart.

Coronation kept its corvettes in close, Khartoum and the Klingon cruiser folding into the pack to defend. Turbolasers and disruptions matched slice for cut and pound for tear as the two sides battered away at each other. One of them had to give eventually, and the moment the Destroyer’s shields collapsed, the Diamante and the last Bird-of-Prey dove in from above and shattered the bridgetower of the Destroyer. The Imperial’s engines fluttered and winced before finally dying out.

And through all that, the collective countdown had been lost in the fray. Yet Hate’s Hammer never appeared, even as the Task Force escaped with their victory. And while bloodwine and whiskey were shared among the conquerors, report of their mission and losses still worried those on the front.

Flashburn still had a lot of mission left, and the fighter production factory that was their next target was not so easily destroyed.

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A pairing to go along with the master battle plan, because a feint has been a time-honored military strategy for centuries.

At least, when it works.

I hope you all enjoy.