46w, 6dThe Sci-Fi Ponies
Humans have always been known and feared for their dedication to their sciences, their technology... and especially their warfare. And that is still true now, after seven-hundred years of obtaining proper knowledge to explore the final frontier, space.
In the late twentieth century, Humanity was able to explore the space immediately surrounding their home planet of Earth. As the population began to advance beyond the capacity of the planet to comfortably sustain their civilization the subsequent conflict over resources, economics, religion and politics on Earth gave way to numerous wars. Furthermore these tensions put great pressure on the species until the beginning of the twenty-second century, when the transnational organization that became known as the Unified Nations of Earth engaged in more frequent space colonization across their solar system. The UNE sought to represent the entire species, even though no one state ever previously ruled the entire human race. With the discovery of Faster-Than-Light travel in the year 2117 A.D., the UNE began spreading the human race beyond their home solar system, relieving the serious ecological pressure on the home world.
Simultaneously, this expansion was also to usher in promising new opportunities for Humanity, as some of these colonies, such as planet Aria with its bountiful coal and titanium deposits, could offer abundant stores of raw materials that may had otherwise been considerably unique and scarce on Earth. With the initial advent of interplanetary trade driving down the costs of what may had once been an expensive implementation of their technology (such as the forging of space-worthy ships and naval vessels) the effects from these carefully implemented first colonization projects helped to ensure that interstellar trade, travel and communication were to be more commonplace amongst the general populace in the ensuing centuries, eventually granting humanity the capacity to expand to hundreds of worlds and establish colonies at enhanced rates. As a result, more than eight hundred worlds were colonized by Humanity by the year 2496 A.D., the year the Unified Nations of Earth declared themselves the grand Empire of Humanity.
In the year 2505 A.D., Humanity had first contact with a sentient race of alien beings, finally providing an answer to a question that many thought there would never be an answer for. These aliens called themselves the Enlightened. They believed they inherited all of existence from their gods and demanded that Humanity surrender to them and turn control of the Milky Way over. The head of the UNE at the time, Harold Casteel VII, refused the demands put forth by the Enlightened and declared war against them, the first major war humanity had been in since the fifth world war back in 2092 A.D. on Earth.
The Enlightened were, in terms of weaponry and ship design, on near equal terms with Humanity, however, the only edge they truly had was their knowledge of space-travel and unique resources from their home-galaxy to develop advanced engines. When they invaded the Milky Way, they had expected Humanity to surrender at the sight of a technologically superior race, like so many other galaxies had. What the Enlightened had not expected, was to discover a race quite similar to their own, a race whose cruelty could be limitless, a race that had torn itself apart countless times over the course of their existence over the tiniest of things, a race that had waged war after war against its own kind. And the Enlightened had just unleashed the wrath of Humanity upon themselves.
The year 2508 A.D., saw the surrender of the Enlightened, leaving Humanity as the victors of a virtually one-sided war. Human casualties were, overall, minimum. Only two planets, Melody and Eternity, were lost during the war, reduced to slag and glass by plasma and laser fire. But even the loss of those two planets paled in comparison to the damage done by an Enlightened saboteur. During the final hours of the war, when the Enlightened made a last-ditch effort assault on what would later become the human Capital Planet of Nova, the saboteur infiltrated the Library, the repository of all human knowledge and attempted to wipe out all of the data stored there and subsequently eliminate the copies of the data stored across all of Humanity's computer systems. However, the virus was quickly defeated by the Library's Data Defense System and only a small amount of data was lost.
To Humanities dismay, that data contained all the information humanity had possessed on their home planet, Earth. All hyperspace routes, all communications codes, all information on the surrounding solar system, all coordinates, everything. Gone.
As a further result, the pilots who constantly traveled to and fro from Earth, could no longer properly calculate how to get there. With everything deleted, any space-worthy pilots who attempted to establish a new route or map, they would crash into a separate star, or possibly be stranded themselves in an unknown solar system. Far from civilized life.
Humanity had won their first intergalactic war, but they had lost Earth.
Time moved on, as it always has. The spoils of war furthered the technology of mankind and made them stronger. Powerful cloaking devices were developed to hide ships not only from radar, but from sight as well. Energy shielding allowed for weaker ships to fly through more dangerous areas of space unharmed. And new warships were developed with powerful engines far superior to their predecessors.
2600 A.D. welcomed a new species of sentient life to the Milky Way. The Saalwan, (bipedal, humanoid reptiles fleeing the remnants of the Enlightened) had found their way into Human territory. As a whole, Humanity welcomed them with open arms and hearts. The Saalwan would be the first of forty three different alien species to call the Milky Way home for the next one hundred and fifty four years until suddenly, all forty three species left for no apparent reason.
2754 A.D. Humanity was, once again, alone in their galaxy.
Many would call the time between the arrival of Saalwan and the great Exodus a golden age of peace and prosperity. Others called it a time when Humanity took advantage of the other races, using them to make the lives of Humans easier. Still, others would call it that because shortly after the Exodus, the First Galactic Civil War broke out amongst Humanity, threatening to tear them apart.
Excerpt from the Museum of Humanity Audio Tour
Location: Museum of Humanity, Novelis Peninsula, Planet Nova
Converged Solaris Syndicate Flagship Leviathan
Drake tapped his foot impatiently. His hands were clenched tightly on his Hellfire-Class sniper rifle as his eyes carefully monitored the long hall in front of him.
Standing at just over six feet tall, Drake Shields was hardly an intimidating man at first glance. His face was slim and angular, which, combined with his shoulder length jet-black hair, gave him an air of someone who wouldn’t hesitate to shoot you in the back if you double cross him. His eyes were a bright teal in color, and stood out in stark contrast to Drake’s dark hair and tanned skin. As a pirate, Drake had felt the need to dress well. His overcoat had been custom made by the fabric weavers on Sentora in the Fell Rift nebula.
From his waist to his sternum, five cylindrical clasps held the upper part of the overcoat shut, while leaving his chest exposed, revealing a royal-purple collared shirt visible underneath. The lapels and edges of the overcoat were lined with a golden fabric that shimmered faintly with every subtle shift. The overcoat was further secured by Drake’s belt, on which shone several lights of varying colors from the special upgrades Drake had added to the coat. A Reaper-class pistol rested in its holster on Drake’s right while a golden-handled energy cutlass was sheathed on his left.
On each of his index fingers, Drake wore a pair of rings he had stolen from a rare jewelry collection. Rumor was that these two rings contained the galaxy’s only diamonds outside of the long lost Sol system. One was a black diamond, set into a platinum band that Drake wore on his right index finger. The other was a pure cut, crystal clear diamond set into a specially treated gold band that appeared black as the Dark Space beyond the edges of the Milky Way.
To his rear, Yuri Lawrence knelt by a holographic lock panel, beginning his work on decoding the encrypted lock. He had shaggy brown hair, a sharp nose and dark green eyes that were currently looking over the holographic lock, trying to figure out how to break it without setting off too many alarms. A black, long sleeved shirt covered his upper body, while red pants with camo covered his long legs.
A bead of sweat worked its way down the back of Drake's neck as the pirate captain waited anxiously. He did not like these cruisers the Syndicates used. Their hallways had too many side doors and alcoves, all perfect cover in case a firefight broke out, but it left the Cerberus Pirates without cover, although Slayer's size and armor alone almost made up for that. But that wouldn't be enough.
"Yuri, how much longer until we're through?" Drake asked, drumming his index finger on the side of his rifle. "You know I get nervous when we have to wait this long in enemy territory."
"Give or take five minutes," the tech-specialist muttered. "If you stop rushing me, that is."
"Remind me to discover time travel so we can go back in time and kill whoever invented holographic locks," Drake grumbled.
"Drake, I'm trying to concentrate here," Yuri said calmly.
"Silence." The third and final member of the group murmured as his eyes scanned the hall. Slayer was not only the enigma of the group in terms of physical appearance, but he was also the weapons specialist and primary warrior of the group in close combat. When he wasn't wearing his combat-ready full-body Suit, he was wearing an alternative lightweight gear that provided the same purpose of covering his facial features.
As such, the other pirates have never been able to see his face. What one could definitely gather though by looking at him, is that he was the tallest of the group. He came in at six-foot-seven.
Besides that, the only thing anyone could describe about him is his Suit, which he wore at almost all times. A gift from successfully performing a contract of a major Rear Admiral in the Alliance Fleet, the Suit was everything a bounty hunter could wish for. Thought to be honest, it was basic at best in his eyes. But, Slayer constantly worked on it and added several modifications on said armour, eventually having it at a satisfactory level of his expectations to use it in combat regularly.
It was a slender design, with the helm being a one-way electronic battle-glass model. The majority of the armour was tinted crimson, in order to strike a measure of fear into enemies and for him to do his own version of 'negotiations' with more efficiency.
Proceeding down his body, one could easily make out large muscles built by countless years of strength training to prepare for the targets to come. They were visible through the flexible sectors of the armour. The purpose of these were to resist electrical and EMP attacks on the wearer and the Suit, but it's not immune to them as of this point. The quality of this metallic covering constantly evolved, due to Slayer always finding and installing better models of metal and electronics to improve it.
Resting on his back by a ionic seal controllable in the Suit, was his formidable Energy Katana. This two-handed beast was the primary weapon for Slayer, and as such, one of his most-used tools in his arsenal. He eventually got a setting to compact itself in order to be used with a single hand, which granted him the ability to use one of his Sabre Shots when the situation called for it.
Slayer's Sabre Shots were one of the more noticeable weapons on his person. Two dual energy pistols of his own design were magnetically attached to his hips, pointed so that the muzzles faced the floor in-front of him to ensure faster draw. They packed a far higher firepower than most pistols used in this day and age, making Slayer even more deadly in short-range combat.
His main hand gripped his energy katana still on his back, while his left floated over his offhand Sabre Shot.
Drake rolled his eyes and took another look down the hall. Still clear. Then, the tiniest shift in the shadows caught Drake’s attention. From afar, the sound of a pair of muffled voices reached the ears of the three pirates.
"Contacts," Drake whispered. "Cover now!" Activating the psychic link between himself and his equipment, Drake triggered his active camouflage and vanished from plain sight.
Slayer released the hold of his katana and rolled near a door frame, pulling out both Sabres and leaning his back against the frame.
"Um..." Yuri began to speak, before Slayer quickly gripped the tech and yanked him into the frame with him. He positioned him so he'd still be able to work on the lock.
"Oi, do you want this door open or not?" Yuri grumbled in response.
"You're worth more alive than dead," Slayer whispered, "so shut it and crack the damn lock."
Drake fell to one knee to stabilize himself as he took aim at the shifting shadows towards the other end of the hall.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Breathe in. Breathe out. He recited the mantra in his mind. The shadows were growing larger.
The first soldier stepped into plain view, dressed in the standard Syndicate armor. Nothing extravagant, just a full-body silver-tinted set of armour, accompanied with a black battle-glass face built into the helm. He was laughing loudly at something his companion had said and wasn't even looking around at his surroundings.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Pull the trigger. With a muffled crack, the first soldier fell to the ground, his laughter abruptly stopping as the round from Drake's rifle cut him down.
Slayer quickly craned his head out over Yuri and aimed his Sabres down at the other guard. With a well-timed twitch of both of his trigger fingers, two consecutive bolts flew out and struck the guard’s chest. He was flung back by the force and impacted the wall behind him, with two smoldering holes in his armour accompanying him.
"Oh, this is going to be fun. They have yet another,” Yuri emphasized mockingly, “bipolar line of the code.” He gestured at the lock, looking at his companions.
"Sarcasm, that's a good sign," Drake muttered as he deactivated his camouflage. "How bad?"
"Slayer on hard vodka bad, and I mean the hard stuff."
Slayer grunted and threatened to aim a light, swift kick to Yuri's ribs.
"Knock it off, you two," Drake snapped. "Save it for later. Yuri, hurry it up as best you can. I don't know if anyone heard that but let's err on the side of caution and assume they did." Drake turned towards Slayer and tilted his head in the direction of the bodies. "Let's hide these before the next guard patrol comes by."
Yuri waved a hand at them, motioning them to leave. Slayer nodded in agreement and walked with Drake toward the end of the hall, hand hovering near his katana and Sabre Shot once again. The pair of them moved quickly and quietly to the end of the hall where they proceeded to drag the bodies of their victims out of view.
"And there we go! You are now free to use the door," Yuri commented proudly. Sure enough, he had broken the code all by himself.
Slayer peered down the darkened hallway past the now unlocked doorway. "So, who goes first...?" Slayer and Drake both turned in unison to look at Yuri, who stood between the two of them.
“You’re both looking at me, aren’t you?” Yuri looked up at his companions, confirming his suspicions. “Alright, fine. I’ll lead. Just let me charge this sucker up, and I’ll go first.” He pulled out a simple looking energy pistol from his pocket. He turned it on and it hummed to life, glowing a faint green. While it charged, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a intricate looking glove, glowing red wires wrapped around the fingers. He slid the glove on, preparing for a fight.
"So you finished the modifications on that..." Slayer muttered staring down at the pistol and glove combo.
"Why is it that I get a bad feeling in my gut every time you say the word 'modifications'?" Drake asked, grimacing.
"Because you don’t know what this baby can do, " Yuri grinned as he waved his hand with the pistol in it like an idiot, “and I’m going to show you.” He chuckled before running into the dark room.
Slayer sighed and looked toward Drake. "Does he realize that he ran into a room that’s pitch black?"
"Give him a minute," Drake said with a small smirk. "It’s not the first time he's done this." They heard several loud booms and soon the lights were back on.
"At least he didn't set off any traps,” Slayer commented offhandedly.
"Guys,” Yuri called out, “I think you need to come in here."
"I'm feeling such an odd mixture of excitement and mortal terror," Drake muttered to Slayer as the two of them entered the room.
Slayer walked inside with Drake trailing behind him as they gazed at the area. It was a round circular room with windows facing a passing star along the port wall. Several doors led out of the room, along with a few hallways. Four hover-carts for heavy transport were docked under the windows charging for use. From the looks of the varying crates and canisters scattered about the corners of the room, this was one of the Leviathan’s cargo holds.
Yuri came out of the dark side-room carrying three amber-colored bottles in his hands. He popped one open, taking a deep swig, much to the disappointment of his shipmates.
"Uh..." Drake growled.
"Here, catch; and if you drop it you’re getting shot,” Yuri threatened.
"I'm the captain, remember? That could be considered mutiny,” Drake commented with a stern look in the tech’s direction.
“Just catch the damn bottle,” Yuri retorted, tossing one to Drake and one to Slayer. The ex-bounty hunter effortlessly caught the bottle in one hand and peered down at the old label with minor hesitance.
"How old are these?" Slayer asked, searching for a date on the bottle.
"These, my fine, somewhat-slow friend,” Yuri began, casting a smirk in Slayer’s direction, “are the last bottles of Trevanian vodka to be produced in history, from the year the grape went extinct in two thousand, seven hundred and eighty six."
"Well, these would be worth quite a bit on the market," Drake said, carefully tapping the bottle he had caught.
"There are about four more cases of them..."
"We always need credits." Slayer muttered. He let out a small sigh as he watched Yuri start to claw through more and more canisters and crates in search of their prize; an experimental Saalwan energy drive, rumored to be more compact and far more powerful than any energy drive in use by humans at least. He sincerely hoped it would not be a huge trial to steal and install it, realizing that at least then, they'd have the key tool in finding their long-lost target; Earth.
Slayer walked towards the window and lowered himself to his knees. He inhaled a small breath as he spoke over his comlink, "I need to recharge. Be sure to search all these and steal anything worthwhile."
"Understood," Drake replied as he lifted a smaller crate from the pile and on to the anti-grav cart next to him. "Just don't let your guard down."
Slayer's only response was a sneer as he closed his eyes.
"Huh,” Drake grunted as he picked up a box, “look at this." He pulled something long and red out, and Yuri gasped. It was an Imperial Rear Admiral's jacket the black stitching standing out on the red material, gold trimming gleaming in the light. It had two gold stars on each of the shoulders and two gold bars and a star on each of the sleeves.
"Yeah... I am definitely keeping this. Mine was taken away years ago." Yuri closed his eyes and thought about the one he lost long ago, then opened his eyes again as he reached for the jacket.
Slayer turned his head and examined the jacket now held by Yuri. He let out a silent scoff as he turned back and closed his eyes once more towards the near sun. Decent colors...
"Anything else interesting?" Drake inquired as he examined an access terminal set into a nearby wall. "Weapons? Contraband? Artifacts from Earth?” He reached out to touch the terminal.
"Um, Drake? Please do not touch any of those terminals." Yuri caught Drake off guard, and he pulled his hand back away from the terminal.
"Why?" He asked guiltily.
"Because I need to clear them to make sure there are no hidden ‘surprises’," Yuri mumbled as he stuck his torso into a nearby canister, most likely scouring the bottom for anything worthwhile.
Drake let out a small sigh of restlessness. "Fine, fine. Let's trade; I'll search the crates while you make sure this terminal's safe."
"That sounds good." Yuri popped out of the canister with the Admiral’s jacket on his back like a cape. He walked over to the terminal and began to work his magic.
>Solaris Suit Power Level is at: 95%.
Slayer stretched lightly as he dismissed the helms text indicator of his power level, ignoring his companions. He rose to his left knee, then to his feet as he turned back towards the other pirates.
"If you find a set of Thaumite cells, or some MARK VI durasteel plating, grab it. I need something to work on back at the Ethereal," Slayer requested nonchalantly.
"I'll keep an eye out for anything you might be able to use," Drake called over to Slayer as he approached the crates. Slayer acknowledged that statement with a nod and walked over to the door in which they entered from. As he glanced out of the doorsill to check for any patrols, Yuri was still working on trying to break the code to the password.
"Final check, enter password and... We’re in!" Yuri exclaimed.
Good. I'd like to get out of here before seeing Parkins again... Slayer thought as he waltzed back behind Yuri.
"Hey look! A set of Type Sixty Four adhesive grenades," Drake exclaimed. "I've been looking for these beauties everywhere."
"What happened to our last set?" Slayer asked, looking away from the window and back toward Drake.
"Remember that raid we made on Promet?" The pirate captain reminded him.
Slayer cocked his helm towards Yuri. "I thought you two used the thermals while I was dealing with the drunkards?"
"They all look the same," Drake shrugged. "And the last thing you're going to do in the heat of battle is double check to see which grenades you're using."
"There you are my glorious little drive. It is in room 4K. Let's go see how big this thing is,” Yuri called out from his position in front of the terminal.
"I don't suppose you found what I asked for in this storage room, did you?" Slayer mumbled as he casted a disdained look towards a corner occupied by canisters.
"You mean these?" Drake asked, kicking a small crate labeled 'Thaumite cells' in Slayer’s direction.
Slayer's grin could be felt even if none could see it past his helms charcoal visor. "Excellent." He kneeled beside it and examined the label. "Oh, just the model I needed."
"Let's grab a couple of those hovercarts. We're going to need them to haul off our spoils." Drake glanced over to Slayer to see him patting down the crate rather eagerly. "And Slayer’s new toys.”
Slayer lifted the thirty-pound crate of Thaumite cells easily with his hands. "Good to see I'm getting something extra outta this," he looked over towards Drake, "for once."
Drake shrugged. "I figured you were due for a reward. I don't give you enough recognition for what you do. Consider it a gift."
About bloody time... Slayer thought as he placed it onto one of the hovercarts near the entrance they came through.
"Um...I think we are going to need more than a hovercart." Yuri said from one of the rooms.
Drake's eye twitched as he saw their objective come into view. "Well, crap," he said, voicing perfectly the sentiments of the rest of his crew.
Slayer poked his head through the open door and took in the sight of their objective. Standing in the middle of the room was a massive, ten foot high box, covered with numerous Saalwan-esque symbols. Slayer strolled towards the large casing and began to slowly stalk around it. After doing a lap of circling it, he came to a halt and walked up to it. "I suppose this casing isn't needed, right?"
"Honestly? I'm not sure,” Drake said with a groan. He tilted his head in the direction of the tech-specialist. “Any way you can figure it out, Yuri?"
"I have no idea, but we should probably keep it in there until it's on the ship,” Yuri muttered as he gently stroked the side of the casing. “You know how valuable this thing is for us.”
I think I can do this... Slayer smirked as he drew his katana and began to charge it. It began to glow a sinister crimson as he positioned it perfectly in his grasp and pulled his arm back to stab.
Please don't do what I think you're going to do. Drake silently pleaded
"Uh... Slayer?” Yuri called out to the ex-bounty hunter nervously. “Before you do this, think about how the hell we are going to get this off the ship."
"Too late!" Slayed yelled as he dug his katana into the casing. It went in about half-way, before he began to carve a large oval through the exterior.
Drake's palm met his face and slowly slid down his chin as several alarms started blazing. Well, there goes the plan of ‘Don’t let the Syndicate know we’re here’.
"WARNING! INTRUDERS DETECTED IN CARGO HOLD SEVENTEEN! ALL AVAILABLE PATROL UNITS RESPOND!" The Leviathan's onboard AI announced over the loudspeakers.
“Well, we’re boned,” Yuri said with a sigh. “Why is it we can never have one successful heist without setting off some sort of alarm, being chased by guards, or accidentally activating a self-destruct sequence that conveniently only gives us enough time to get to our ship and escape using the shockwaves of the explosion?”
As the katana came full-circle, Slayer quickly sheathed it and rushed inside. Grunting was heard as he walked out backwards carrying their prize; a small, rectangular piece of Saalwan technology that was lit up from the inside with a pale orange light.
Slayer motioned his head towards the door. "Time to go."
"You don't say?" Yuri said sarcastically.
"Grab what you can and run!" Drake shouted.
"To the vodka!"
Slayer began to quickly waddle towards the exit of the storage room. "Someone better start the hovercart!" He grunted as he made his way toward the aforementioned vehicle.
"Way ahead of you!" Drake hollered, quickly setting the destination and movement speed of the transport as Slayer plopped the Drive onto the rear.
Meanwhile, Yuri was trying to stuff as much vodka into the uniform, newly acquired cape jacket, and bags. He got around two crates to fit somehow, but there was only one left...
He took the crate with both of his arms and started to dash towards the door.
Drake grabbed his energy cutlass from his belt and activated it, preparing to run.
That thing was heavy as hell... Slayer thought as he began to circle around to the port side of the hover-cart. "Drake, starboard."
"We're going to die," Drake muttered sticking close to the Drive to provide it with as much cover as possible.
"Make way for the vodka!" He nearly pushed Slayer down and ran outside into the hallway. He looked down the left hallway, screamed and ran the other way. "Let's not go that way!" He screamed as he passed the pair who were just now getting into the hallway.
Drake and Slayer both shot the tech-specialist curious looks as he ran past them. They turned their heads together back toward the hall Yuri had turned around in to find a squad of twenty soldiers charging down the corridor. "Let's."
Drake spun and kicked the locking mechanism, smashing it to bits and bringing the door down between them and the soldiers. "Go! Go!"
Don't have to tell me twice... Slayer thought as he increased the speed output of the cart and charged down the hall towards the docking bay where the Ethereal was docked.
Yuri meanwhile, had ran through a door and was now in an entirely different sector of the Leviathan than the his crewmates. Regardless, he ran screaming as fast as he could from the several squads of guards that had joined the chase. They tried to fire at him, but he was going so fast that they couldn't hit him.
"Why do I let you two talk me into these situations?!" Drake shouted.
"I don't talk! I do something, and we live with it!" Slayer laughed as he slid down the rest of the hallway and rounded the corner, only to see several guards standing there with their rifles raised.
Drake tucked his crate under one arm and used the other to hurl an adhesive grenade right into one of the guards' faces. "You were saying?" He questioned Slayer.
Slayer spun on his heels and charged in the opposite direction. "Yeah yeah... Wait,” he skidded to a stop and turned back towards the quickly unfreezing group of guards, “wasn't our door behind those guards?"
"Here." Slayer quickly shrugged his shoulders, causing his katana to disengage from its sheath and fall in Drake's free hand. "Don't break it."
Drake tossed the crate in his hands on top of the hyperdrive and activated Slayer’s katana, now dual wielding the two energy blades.
"Let's do this," the pirate captain grinned maniacally.
Slayer grunted in the affirmative as he redirected the cart’s destination and stood back with his Sabres in hand to protect it if fire came his way. Right...
Drake twisted to the side as the nearest guard lunged toward him in an attempt to grab by his collar. The guard stumbled past and was met with the edge of Slayer’s katana which sliced effortlessly through his shields and halfway into him. Drake yanked the blade out of the guards body and brought it up to deflect several energy rounds the other guards were firing at him. Using the flat-edge of the cutlass, Drake scooped up the body of the fallen guard and tossed it towards the others with a grunt of exertion.
The distraction worked, and the guards broke ranks. Drake pulled his arm back and sent it spinning down the hallway ahead of him, where it tore into two guards, severing one in half and mortally wounding the other. The other guards quickly recovered from Drake’s distraction and took aim at him once more. Drake smirked and activated the psychic link between himself and his equipment. A brief flash of light surrounded him and Drake vanished from sight.
“What the-?!” One of the guards cried out in surprise. “That bastard’s using Alliance tech!”
“Check your six!” Another one shouted, pivoting on his heel to look at the empty space behind the group. “He could be anywhere!”
“He could even be right behind you,” Drake’s disembodied voice said smugly in the man’s ear. The guard let out a shocked cry and spun around, firing his shotgun towards where he had heard the voice, only to shoot one of his companions in the chest. The other guards all cried out in surprised anger as their comrade dropped to the ground. Drake’s energy cutlass flashed to life long enough to run another man through his chest before vanishing along with Drake’s victorious chuckles.
“You son of a bitch!” One of the others cried out, spinning around and trying to find any sign of their target. “Show yourself, you coward!”
“Geez, you’re bossy,” Drake’s voice grumbled. Another flash of light filled the hall as Drake appeared, arms spread wide in surrender, alongside ten other Drakes, all of whom were identical in every way and standing in a perfect circle around the remaining seven guards.
“You’ve gotta be kidding me,” a guard groaned. “He has holographic decoys too?”
“Even better,” the Drakes all spoke in unison, "explosive holographic decoys.”
“Explosive?” The guards all repeated. The Drakes all smiled warmly at the guards, and began to glow red. The holographic generators that Drake had placed around the guards while cloaked all detonated in unison, reducing the remaining guards to barely recognizable lumps of flesh and blood.
“Gross,” Drake muttered as he deactivated his cloaking device and wiped some of the residual blood off of his coat.
“Surprised you aren’t Syndicate,” Slayer remarked with a chuckle. “That was rather brutal.”
“We’re in a rush,” Drake reminded him as he passed the ex-bounty hunter his energy katana back, “so let’s get back to the Ethereal.”
"Where the hell is the,” Yuri gasped, “docking bay?!" More guards had joined the chase after the vodka stealing pirate. He had run almost around the entire ship. He had thought he had figured it out, but it turned out that the corridor he thought led to the bay, really led to the bridge. That wouldn’t end well, Yuri thought as he continued to run around the ship.
Slayer meanwhile, finally had arrived at the Ethereal and began unloading near the cargo holds ramp before hearing Yuri’s voice over the comlink.
Must I do everything? He thought as he walked back out and left Drake to try and prep the ship. He strode quickly back toward the door closed by Drake during the escape and planted his feet heavily in front of it. Slayer reached behind his back and drew out his katana, charging it once more.
Instead of carving a hole through the barrier, he simply stabbed the center and twisted the weapon back and forth in the same spot. The area around it gradually became hotter and brighter before it looked like a magma spot from Mageast.
Withdrawing the blade, he locked it back into its sheath on his back. Slayer threw his leg at full-force into the spot, causing the middle of the barrier to crumble with ease.
The sounds of a certain vodka loving technician and rifle fire filled the air as Slayer drew his Sabre Shots and positioned himself near the left side of what was left of the barrier.
Slayer tensed up, feeling his muscles ready to spring out at any moment. The sounds were becoming louder and more constant, and he knew he'd have to act quickly. Slayer poked his head out from behind the barrier for the briefest of seconds, both of his Sabres primed to face...
Slayer lowered one of his arms in confusion. What the...
Drake looked around from the entry to the Ethereal, realizing there were no sounds of fighting like he'd expected. "What's going on, Slayer?"
Slayer crouched back down and holstered his left Sabre. Using the same hand, he brought his two forefingers to his helm. "Thought Yuri was bringing company."
"Where'd he go?" Drake asked as he entered the access code to open the door.
"Not sure..." Slayer sighed and quickly made his way back to the hangar. "Let's just load the rest of this."
Drake nodded in agreement and began pulling the crates on board. "Get that thing down into Engineering," he said, gesturing at the Salwaan drive they had stolen. "Yuri can install it when he gets back and we finally get out of here."
Slayer grunted in response and lifted the drive, marching up the ramp with it on one shoulder.
"Oi!" They both turned around and looked at the end of the hallway to see Yuri running towards them as quickly as his legs could carry him.
"Hey look, there he is." Drake muttered with a miniscule sigh of relief.
Slayer simply rolled his eyes and began marching into the ship once more. "Took him long enough-"
At that moment, they saw and heard what he was running from. Nearly fifty infantry units, from what they could estimate, were chasing him. He was screaming and still somehow he had all the booze with him.
Slayers eyes widened and he cursed under his breath as he quickly set down the drive in Engineering and began going the length of the Ethereal to the lift leading up to the Upper Deck.
"AHHH!" Yuri’s cry echoed around the docking bay, full of panic.
Drake let out a roar of frustration. "Honestly, Yuri?! Again?!" He scrambled to finish shoving the remaining haul onboard before he sprinted to the lift after Slayer.
The door to the lift slid open and Slayer squeezed himself through the gap before they finished. He sprinted across the twenty or so feet to the weapons control room behind the cockpit. He all but threw himself into the chair and began powering up the Ethereal’s weapon systems.
>Manual Infantry Turret Online.
Slayer laughed twistedly as he sat in his special rigged chair. It was connected directly to the weapon controls of the ship, making him the sole defender of the ship in flight.
And he was a damn good shot.
"Give them hell, Slayer!" Drake shouted as he began powering up the Ethereal's engines
Let's provide him some cover... Slayer thought as he quickly calibrated the turret so its line of fire aimed down the hallway and over Yuri's shoulder. His grin turned more malevolent as he began pressing his thumb on the trigger.
Bolt fire continuously rang out and made contact with more and more soldiers as their rifles tried to strike the turret and Yuri. Each shot took down two or three soldiers, and bought the tech person some much-needed time.
Yuri had managed to get to the cargo ramp at that moment. Once there, he placed down the goods on the inside and swiftly jogged out. "Slayer, stop firing! I got this!"
"Headshot!" Drake shouted as he watched one of the patrol guards fall from his vantage point in the cockpit. "Nice shootin', Tex!"
"Who?" Slayer questioned as he shut off the turret and began calibrating the other weaponry.
"I have no idea!" Drake said as he activated the ship's navigation and powered up the engines. Various diagnostics flashed in blue and orange across the screens as his fingers flew across the holographic keys. "Yuri! Get your ass back onboard!"
Yuri ran outside of the ship, stopping in the middle of the bay, right in the path of the advancing guards, their guns raised and yelling random curse words, some more creative than others.
With a faint hiss, an earbud-looking device slid into one of Yuri’s right ear, blocking off all sound. The other ear had no need for the device. Yuri was deaf in that ear, due to his ‘unusual’ fighting style.
Yuri raised his glove, pointing the palm at the oncoming horde of mercs, still expressing their vast amount of curse-filled vocabulary. The glove began to glow, slowly gaining in intensity.
Suddenly, all the mercs collapsed to the ground and grasped their ears, most of them screaming in pain. The ones not wearing a helmet got the worst of it, their ears beginning to bleed. Yuri smirked and stopped the noise, his glove instantly ceasing its glow. He turned around and walked towards the ship, strolling along as if it was a casual walk through a field of flowers on a warm spring morning.
Slayer frowned at the large flurry of merc bodies being deafened by Yuri’s Sonic Wave. Needs higher output... he thought as he began prepping the other systems for their escape.
>Ion Cannon is Charging.
>Sectic Missile Launcher is Online.
>Auto Anti-Fighter Turrets One and Two are Online.
"Ok,” Yuri paused and gave a quick glance over his shoulder to make sure there were no more troops following them. What he spotted did little to lighten his mood. “Oh hell...” he groaned, turning back towards the Ethereal and breaking into a sprint. “Go! Go! Go! They’ve sent out shock-troops! They’re armed with a plasma cannon!"
Slayer cackled as he directed the Sectic Launcher towards the infantry.
"Die!" The ex-bounty shouted at the targeting screen in front of him.
Several missiles fired off in rapid succession as they detonated throughout the corridor, annihilating any reinforcements while triggering the plasma cannons’ core, sending bodies flying into walls and any other mercenaries trying to get up.
"For the love of Moustaka, take off!" Yuri shouted as he entered the Ethereal’s front cargo bay and slammed his palm against the controls to close the ramp and seal the ship up tight.
Three silos on backup... Slayer noted as he reloaded the S.L. and checked the status of the Ethereal’s shields. "Shields at seventy-five percent power. We're combat ready!"
The Ethereal lifted up into air and spun towards the massive bay doors leading into the openness of space. "Slayer, make me a path," Drake called back to the other pirate.
"Got it." Slayer mumbled as he prepped the S.L. once more. A singular missile left it’s respective silo as it sailed through the air to impact the sealed passage. The explosion easily damaged it to the point of forcing the mechanism open, granting the Ethereal a guaranteed route out of the hanger.
Five shots on backup, two silos are available... Slayer thought as he continued monitoring his screens located all across his station in the cockpit.
"HA HA HA!" Drake laughed as the Ethereal's engines roared to life, frying the reinforcements that arrived. The Ethereal blasted out into the stars.
The Leviathan was beginning to quickly pick up its pace as it pursued the pirate group 'Cerberus'. Leading the ship was Admiral Parkins. He had been the Commander of the Converged Solaris Syndicate since its founding thirty years ago, and he intended on keeping that position by capturing the group. That fact brought up minor thoughts of the Syndicates birth...
The Syndicate was originally underestimated. The Imperials and the Alliance considered the group as nothing more than a group of thugs who had ascertained a small fleet. However, what they lacked back then in numbers, they made up for it on the battlefield. Their ferocity on the fields of war quickly changed their opinion, and they became strong enough to enter the Civil War.
Did they truly need to construct an organization to join the Civil War? Probably not. Then again, they were the cutthroats and mercenaries who opposed both factions, and wanted to make a difference. Not like the systems who chose to be neutral, but to have the chance of commanding the systems-- No... the entire galaxy. Earth included.
But this Cerberus... this group of pirates had been able to sneak onto the Syndicate’s flagship. And Parkins intended to capture the lot of them, in the name of the Syndicate. Especially one of its former agents... Slayer. How they could even think their lone ship could turn the tides of the war with this marvel of a combat-ready ship though, was baffling.
The Leviathan took the basic shape of a pincer. The bridge that held the primary controls and where the Admiral usually situated himself took a reclining T-shape, allowing shots to simply graze off. The large space in the centre of the ship assisted with dodging turret fire from side-to-side affairs with other ships, as well as an opening for snub fighters to pass through.
Parkins drummed his fingers against the control panel restlessly, staring at the ends of Cerberus' jets as they progressively began obtaining speed. He had always been able to keep his cool in these kinds of situations, but the last encounter with those damned aliens to obtain the drive was... stressful. How these pirates got on board in the first place, I'll never know...
"Sir!" He glanced towards an officer who was managing the ship's comlink. "They will escape in approximately one-point-five minutes if we don't increase our-"
"Do it." He interrupted, redirecting his focus back to the window of the Bridge. "Alert the Weapon Technician crews to ready the Auto-Turrets, and concentrate them on Cerberus' engines."
Parkins smirked as he saw the beginning shots ring off from the turrets situated around the ship. Small automated turrets were steadily increasing their volleys, making him grin even more. It was obvious that he was quite pleasantly surprised that neither of the other fleets knew about the drive. Which meant that the Syndicate could still keep it a secret... but the pirates had to be stopped and the device extracted.
"They'll be a thorn in the Syndicate's side no longer-"
"Admiral Parkins, sir!"
His eyes widened as he was interrupted before his monologue could have begun. Parkins whirled around and snapped at the Radar Technician sitting several chairs away. "What?!"
He nervously gulped before speaking. "A-a single hyperspace route is forming eight-point-nine clicks to our starboard side."
"So?" He responded bitterly, quickly glancing at the window to see Cerberus’ engines struck by the Leviathan’s turrets. Excellent-
"It's an Imperial Dreadnought."
His smirk disappeared entirely. "...Is it the Hammerdown?"
"No sir, but from the signatures we're getting, it's from his squadron."
Parkins sighed and rubbed his temple throughly. "Great..." He glanced up towards the Ethereal to see its speed diminish by each passing second. "Call in two support frigates,” Parkins ordered as he stared out, “and send a group of snubs to deal with Cerberus. All other forces, focus on this Dreadnought."
"Yuri, get that drive installed, on the double!" Drake yelled into his headset, trying to get as fast as he could out of the way of the Leviathan and into the relative safeness of space.
Yuri groaned as he pushed the drive into a position where his abnormally tall frame would not fit in a million years. He picked himself up, and looked over the drive, trying to figure out how the hell to work it, or better yet how to install it. Yuri reached and pushed a button on what he guessed was the console. He braced himself for anything, but nothing happened.
Except for the holographic screen that was suddenly projected out of the drive. Yuri smiled evilly and began to try to figure out what he was looking at.
And for the first time today...
They lucked out!
“Drake, we’re in luck,” Yuri commented over the intercom, catching the attention of both members of the crew.
“I’m all ears,” Drake said, his eyes never once leaving the navigation console as he carefully monitored enemy movements around them.
“The drive has an installation manual...” He smiled as he read over the guide, which had a convenient translator built in.
Drake’s brow furrowed. “That seems a little too convenient. Be careful with that thing, Yuri. I’m starting to have doubts.”
“Do you want me to run a full scan on it?” Yuri asked, now looking at the drive with concern.
The Ethereal rocked as a stray missile from an Syndicate Snub-fighter exploded against its shields. “Worry about it later, Yuri,” Drake ordered. “Right now, we need to get the hell out of here.”
“You got it!” And with that, he closed the link and began to work on the drive.
The proximity radar next to Drake lit up with a single dot, lonely in space without any other dots around it, except for the dots that represented the Syndicate ships. Drake turned his head towards the screen, studying the screen with interest and a lot of concern. The lonely dot was suddenly getting a lot less lonely, with dozens of smaller dots appearing near the ship.
"Drake,” A sudden, concerned voice spoke into his headset, ”We’ve got a Dreadnought on our hands.”
His only response was an irritated groan and a slap to his forehead due to the mounting frustration of the events. “What are our options?”
“Well...” There was a brief silence with only the whirling mechanisms of the engine as feedback. “We could-”
“Surrender, run, or what I hope we’ll do; shoot our way out.” Slayer interrupted as he finished calibrating the Ion Cannon and synching the Auto Turrets. There was a discerning silence between the other two crew members before Drake spoke.
“We came this far, and there’s no way we could get out of this by surrendering...” He brought his attention to the glass window that separated himself from the Syndicate and Imperial vessels in the surrounding space. “Hell, I’m going with Slayer; might as well fight our way out. If we die, we go out with honour.”
“I understand taking on the Leviathan, but taking on a Dreadnought and the Leviathan at the same time is a completely different matter altogether.” Yuri basically cried into the intercom, the distress in his voice easily able to recognize.
“Would you prefer going out like a coward, or going out with honour?” Slayer retorted.
“I would prefer to live, thank you very much.” Yuri answered back.
“And our best chance lies in using our guns and making our own way out. Most likely if Imperials are coming, that means that the Hammerdown will too. Considering the relationship between the Syndicates’ Admiral, and the Imperials’ Admiral, their feud should grant us enough time to fight through the discombobulated fighters and do a tactical advance away from the conflict.” Slayer finished, kicking his feet back onto an inactive panel.
“Unless... They send a fleet instead of the Hammerdown, in which they kill us both and keep us from... kicking ass in a different direction.” He retorted, stopping for a second to work on the drive.
“I think you underestimate how deep the feud between Parkins and Moustaka truly is. If Imperials know that Syndicate got ahold of Swaalan technology, no doubt it would draw out Moustaka even further.” Slayer countered.
“So... All we have to do is hold on for a little while is what you’re telling me?” Yuri asked, punching random buttons on the console in front of him.
“As long as nobody else shows up uninvited, then yes; that’s exactly what I’m telling you.”
“Sounds like a plan... I hope.”
Drake’s voice crackled to life over both of their headsets, clearly agitated. “I hate both of you some days, you know that?”
“Drake... Is it your time of the month again?” Yuri commented rudely, snickering at the same time.
“What the bloody hell did we do?” Slayer asked, sticking his head out of the door to the weapons control room to glare at the back of Drake’s head.
“Because, due to you idiots, the number of Syndicate fighters have doubled!” Drake roared as he dodged a small volley of missiles from said craft.
“Well, excuse me, Captain!” Yuri yelled into his comlink as he rushed around the Engine Room, checking on the Port and Starboard engines to ensure they’re functioning properly. “But we kinda needed a game-plan!”
“Shut it,” Slayer muttered in a calm tone as he locked onto another wave of Snub-fighters and eliminated them, ”just... focus.”
As the words left Slayer’s mouth however, one of the fighters got a lucky barrage and impacted the port side of the Ethereal, sending it into a physics-propelled corkscrew. Drake grumbled in annoyance as the ship rocked and he attempted to realign.
Drake twisted in his seat a bit and glanced at Slayer. “You were saying?” He grumbled as he leveled the Ethereal out.
“This is why I don’t talk that often...” Slayer muttered as he turned back to his station.
“What the hell was that?” Yuri groaned, picking himself up from the floor of the engine room.
“That was Fate, paying both of you back for opening your mouths in a combat zone,” Drake replied, sending their ship into a roll to avoid another strafing run from an Syndicate Snub-Fighter.
“Drake, I will backseat drive the shit out of you if you don’t shut your mouth and get us as far as you can away from this fight!” Yuri screamed into the intercom, anger in his voice clearly understood by all.
“I only spoke to create the battle plan. So I recommend you stop blaming us for faults due to your failure.” Slayer spoke as he finally got the Shields and Weapons into order without constant monitoring being required.
“Slayer, I’m not blaming you two. I’m simply calling you two the tools used by Fate,” Drake replied in a disturbingly calm tone. “Yuri, we’ll get away faster if you stop yelling and find a way to increase our engine output so I don’t have to focus on that while I’m dodging a full missile battery that currently has a lock on us.”
Slayer sighed. It happened again; that random occurrence where he forgot to keep his attitude in check. Granted, he chose to join this little group, so he was entitled to use whatever attitude he wished, but it wasn’t going to keep him alive. “Very well, I’ll try and make sure everything on my end is sound.”
“Ok, I can only do one thing,” Yuri grumbled as he double-checked the diagnosis of the Drive, “...I can either get the drive to work and possibly find a way to Earth, the odds of which are about one in six million, or increase the engine output to get away from here... The choice is up to you guys.”
“Earth. We stole it for that reason, so let’s use it.” Slayer remarked.
“Drake?” Yuri asked.
Drake was silent for a long moment. On one hand, they could have a definite way to escape with the Ethereal intact. On the other, they could potentially find Earth.
Earth. It was the whole reason why he founded the Cerberus Pirates in the first place: to find a way back to humanity’s homeworld at any cost. It was what Jenna would have wanted. Drake let out an audible sigh. “Rear-shields at maximum. Yuri, get that drive installed ASAP.”
“Would you like to lock in your answer?” Yuri joked.
“Just do it!” Drake and Slayer shouted in unison.
“You got it, diverting all power to the rear shield!” Yuri’s hands swept over the console, sending all the unused power in the ship towards the shields. He then turned towards to the drive and began following the installation guide.
“Slayer, I have an idea to give us a little bit of time.” Yuri commented, catching Slayer’s attention.
“Does it involve my guns?” Slayer asked hopefully.
“You got it! Is the Ion Cannon charged?” Yuri asked with a hopeful tone.
“Extra weapons take longer. I expect our round in about ten seconds.”
“Target the bridge when you fire it. If we can knock out its main systems, it'll give me enough time to install this drive!” Yuri exclaimed, diverting all of his attention to installing the drive.
Slayer didn't skip a beat. He double-checked the Anti-Snub Turrets to make sure they were still targeting on Auto, and noted that the S.L. was still eliminating any passing fighters. He selected the Ion Cannon as it was still charging and aimed it at the Leviathan’s Bridge. He flipped back a switch and placed his finger on the trigger located on the remote stick he used for certain missiles.
>Ion Cannon is Charged.
Slayer grinned and pulled his finger back, disengaging the lock on the inner workings of the weapon. The result was an instantaneous release of a blinding blue bolt of electricity. It ripped through the vacuum of space as it approached its mark. Slayer leaned in slightly due to anticipation, watching it get closer...
Bullseye. Slayer smirked as he watched the blast strike the base of the Leviathan’s Bridge. Surges of ionic power flowed over its shell, undoubtedly disabling enough systems to buy the crew enough time for a solid jump. However, he relented on firing at a more crucial point, due to needing the Syndicate Flagships’ weapons to keep the Imperial Valiant at bay.
“Slayer... the Leviathan's pulling away to engage the Valiant.” Drake called over the intercom.
“See? Told you.” Slayer muttered as he glanced at the radar to confirm that the large hulk of metal was pulling away slightly, as well as its fighters. Those were indicated by smaller dots flowing towards the parallel hull belonging to the Imperial vessel.
“Don’t get your hopes up yet, the frigates and most of the snubs are still coming after us. Mind doing something about that?” Yuri called, looking away from the radar screen that had previously drawn his attention.
Slayer grunted in response as he recharged the Ion Cannon once more. The ship rocked as another missile slammed into the rear shields, sending sparks flying in the engine room. Yuri dived to the floor and covered his head. After a moment, he stood up, making sure nothing was breached.
“Could you maybe... start now?!” Yuri screamed. No response was given, but the batteries started firing at a more rapid rate.
“Good Slayer, you deserve a cookie.” Yuri joked, his hands deep into the internal wires of the ship.
You deserve my metal boot up your ass, Slayer thought.
A loud cackling was heard over the intercom, accompanied by several loud, electronic pings. "Hehehehe. I can't thank you enough Cerberus. You've done all of our dirty work for us."
Drake's blood ran cold and he felt his muscles freeze up. He'd know that voice anywhere. The voice of Fleet Admiral Mark Kinz, leader of the Alliance Separatists. A large fleet of ships appeared out of thin air as the Alliance fleet deactivated their cloaking devices and moved in to attack the Syndicate ships. Prominent among them was the Endless Tide, a massive, wedge shaped capital ship, designed for focusing all of its fire power forward and to the sides, where Admiral Kinz was no doubt positively glowing with glee.
"Now, hand over the Ethereal and the Saalwan drive," Kinz demanded, his voice now adopting a larger degree of cockiness.
"Burn in hell, Kinz," Drake growled as he quickly got back to work and sealed the communication breach. "My only regret is not being able to kill you today."
Slayer looked back up to see the Alliance Fleet off the starboard side. He let out an irritated snort of air. Damn it...
Yuri just sighed, nothing more, nothing less. The day started off great, but it had slowly degraded from less than shitty, to a river of fudge colored crap.
“Anyone have any ideas on what we do now that we have an Alliance capital ship after us as well?” Yuri groaned.
“Not exactly, no.” Drake remarked as he glanced back towards Slayer. “You got anything?”
Slayer simply stared at the Alliance ships, and then towards the space battle already in-progress. “Drones are faster than Snubs. They fight for the right to capture us.” He turned back to face Drake, staring at him with a hard gaze. “I suggest we jump for Earth, while they’re busy brawling.”
“Slayer... If you can tell me how to get to Earth, I would be more than happy to jump us there. This thing doesn't exactly have many non-Galactic Basic maps on it, ya know,” Yuri spoke.
“Scan the drive’s hyperspace routes. On the side,” was the response. Slayer looked over at Drake to be met with a questioning glance. “All drives made by Saalwan should have them, according to leading xenotechnicians.”
“Give me a few minutes, and keep those damn fighters off of us,” came Yuri’s muffled voice through the crews’ comlink.
Slayer nodded to himself, and primed the Sectic Launcher once again. Let’s see here... he thought as he glanced at the two conflicting surge of dots vying for dominance around Ethereal’s airspace. If I strike these three, it should cause a chain reaction... But that won’t work unless....
Meanwhile, Yuri was trying to figure out how to access the drive’s navigation menu, if there even was one. The installation guide had actually worked, so he had been able to hook it up to the reactor that powered the whole ship. Its appearance was the same powered up as it did without the main power hooked up to it. Heck, even the green glow looked the same...
“Ok, let’s see what you have in here.” Yuri mumbled to himself as he began to search through the command and core program files in what he guessed was the Drive’s main computer. He was careful at the programs he opened, and even more careful at the files he moved. The last thing he wanted to do was to somehow blow up the ship, which had almost happened more times than he cared to remember.
“No... That’s the antimatter to liquid... Carbon? Never seen that before.” He mumbled to himself, not knowing how the drive worked. It was nearly as annoying as when Slayer got drunk on Promet, which had sapped a significant amount of the group’s stored credits as compensation for the damages he had caused. Pirates or not, they weren't big on property damage in neutral systems.
The Ethereal took a sudden lunge to the left, dodging now the increased push of both Syndicate and Alliance craft. The ship's occupants knew quite well that they could only fight so many forces at once, and the reinforcements coming in were cutting dangerously close to that limit.
“Slayer, how’s the ammo?” Drake called out.
“Doing good.” Slayer responded as he brought up the stats on an adjacent panel. He peered at it and spoke again. “Though not for long.”
Yuri sighed and slumped up against the wall, slowing falling down onto one of the cold, metal grates of the engine room. He had searched every program that he could read or knew what it did. And nothing had worked. No star charts had opened with the desired results, no possible jumps.
Hell, the only thing that had changed was the user menu was now black, instead of red. Which really did not look that well on it... hell, the red had given it a look that would strike mortal terror in many civilians. In a way, it comforted him.
Wait a second...
Wasn't one of Sol’s bodies called the ‘Red Planet’...? What was the actual name though? Wait wait, that’s not important... Urgh, what was that detail?! The planet had something, a resource. It could be anything though: mercury, silver, iron...
“I'm a genius!” He yelled, punching both of his arms into air. He ran over to the drive and grabbed a wire from the console, plugging it into one of the holes on its side.
“What did you find, Yuri?” Drake asked, hearing the shout from the comlink. He only winced slightly, but he was used to Yuri being overzealous when he worked.
“Computer, scan the Orion arm for any above C-class planet levels of iron oxide.” He yelled, excitement evident in his voice.
“Scanning... Scanning... Two-hundred and twenty five matches.” The computer responded in its dull tone.
“Computer, of those planets, how many are close to G-type main sequence stars?” He asked.
“There are thirty five.” It replied.
“Of those, which ones are more than three-hundred light years away from Canopus?” He asked, his voice giddy like a child receiving their first hover bike.
“One,” was it’s only response. Yuri jumped up and cheered in delight. He had done what no one else had ever been able to do.
“Yuri,” Slayer called out, “I believe you got our target. Lock.”
“You got it!” He yelled, his fingers dancing over the keyboard with incredible speed. The Drive began to hum as the computer did what Yuri could not and programmed the route into the Saalwan drive.
“Alright you two, let’s get out of here once that’s linked!” Drake shouted exuberantly. It rather surprised the crew, even Drake himself, at his giddiness. Then again, taking into account that they'd finally be able to escape the war they were forced to fight for the good of the innocent (but mainly themselves), and finding humanity’s lost home planet, almost any other person would be acting the same way.
The same could be said for Yuri, but instead of being forced into the war like so many others, he had joined it and done the ultimate deed. A deed that had been haunting him for his entire life. And now, he was finally going to be able to run away from it for good.
Slayer had similar thoughts flow through his vision as explosions radiated around the Ethereal in flight. The glow of destroyed cores, tattered remnants of metal scrap, high-powered bolts of energy whizzing past into the void of space... in an ironic sort of way, he’d grown accustomed to this. Almost to the point of not wishing to see whatever new was in store. But, when thinking about his past, the one that started him on this road... he considered that maybe, it wouldn’t be too bad.
Drake stared at the hyperspace data being uploaded to the screens in front of him. Earth. For the past five years of his life, he had dreamt of finding Earth. Finding it was the whole reason why he had founded the Cerberus pirates in the first place. Five long years were finally coming to fruition, and he only had one regret now. Drake closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath. She always wanted to see Earth. To stand on the soil that gave birth to our race, to breathe the air our ancestors did; to look up at the stars with the same wonder.
“Locked on and ready when you are el Capitan.” Yuri grinned, finally saying the words he had waited to say since joining the crew. To say he was happy was an understatement by a light year.
“Ready,” Drake mumbled, opening his eyes and staring through the thickets of battle, “Set...”
“Can we go already?” Slayer uttered in annoyance at the dramatic situation Drake was creating.
He rolled his eyes and saw the perfect opening. “Now!”
There was a lurch; an unexpected yank of the ship as a glow began encompassing the entire hull. The space before them seemed to stretch out, telling the crew that hyperspace was shortly awaiting. But of course, Lady Luck was rarely on Cerberus’ side.
Moments before escaping, a stray missile from a fighter affair smacked the Starboard engine of the Ethereal. The result was the ship’s angle being shifted to a significant degree, before the crew was launched forward into the deep recess of space.
Drake breathed a sigh of relief as he slumped back into his chair. The jump with the drive had been successful. The radar screen to his immediate left showed no hostile forces in whatever system they had arrived in. It did however, display a large green and bluish planet relatively close.
With a flick of his wrist, Drake put the Ethereal into autopilot and raised a hand to his earpiece. "Good news, fellas. We made it out alive."
Slayer let out his own small sigh of relief as he rose from his position. "About time we got out of lethal space."
Drake turned his chair around to face the weapon's specialist. "Nice call on that Ion Cannon," he said. "Did one hell of a number on the Leviathan.”
The response was a simple shrug as the ex-bounty hunter tapped a nearby screen. A resounding ding sounded as the system went offline to recharge and release heat. "We better go check on Yuri. Knowing him, he probably is having trouble keeping our new prize in check."
"You go on ahead," Drake waved off Slayer. "I'm going to run a few scans of this system first. I have no clue where we ended up."
Down in the engine room, Yuri slowly picked himself up from the floor of the room, dusting himself off and making sure nothing had been broken. After doing a complete pat down of his body, he sighed in relief. "Thank god, that could have really hurt. Now, what the hell did you do...?" He stated, looking at the piece of Saalwan tech that brought them to wherever the hell this is.
Drake spun back to the main control console and pressed a few buttons to initiate a preliminary scan of nearby space. "Huh, there's an awful lot of water on that planet," he noted as the scans immediately focused on the nearby celestial body. "What planet is that?"
"UNKNOWN," the Ethereal's computer replied in a female-esque voice.
Drake let out a groan. "What system?"
Drake raised an eyebrow. Could it be...? Legends say Earth was mostly water. Did they actually find it? Their ultimate goal? "Computer, are we in the Milky Way?"
Silence filled the cockpit for several long moments. "NEGATIVE."
Drake's heart immediately plummeted. He shouldn't have gotten his hopes up. But if they weren't in the Milky Way, where were they?
"Yuri, status report," he requested as he activated his earpiece again.
"Well, I got good news and bad." He said sadly, fiddling around with a bunch of wires.
"Bad first," Drake's voice requested.
"Well, the bad news is that the drive is shot." A small amount of electricity arced somewhere in the now nearly wrecked engine room.
A groan of frustration filled Yuri's ear. "Anything else?"
"Let me see..." Yuri rolled out of the web of wires, and walked over to one of the computer consoles. He typed in and slammed his fist into the console in anger.
"The shields are gone, and I mean gone. The shield generator is all but useless and the backup has no power running to it."
"Just a moment then," Drake grumbled. Yuri listened intently as the sounds of Drake's frantic typing came over the earpiece. "I'm going to manually override some of the power systems to see if I can divert some energy to our shields. Not that we really need them, since we're in a non-hostile zone. But it's better to be safe than sorry.”
"Speaking of which...Where the hell are we?" Yuri said over the gradually getting louder hum of power.
"We are in the middle of nowhere," Drake said sarcastically. "Literally. Scans can't even tell where we are. I'm officially calling this sector of space 'H'."
Slayer merely raised an eyebrow as he listened to his comlink. He had taken the lift down to examine his workspace (monitoring Yuri wasn’t on his list of concerns) to ensure the cells obtained from the Leviathan raid was still functional.
"Why sector 'H'?" Both Yuri and Slayer asked at the same time, although the latter sounded far less concerned or confused about the matter.
"Because the letter 'H' is the middle letter of 'nowhere'," Drake explained. "I was making a joke and trying to lighten the situation."
Slayer merely shrugged to himself as he walked into his workspace. It was a modest little chamber, filled with a variety of canisters for storing power cells, stands for sheets of metal, and workbenches to integrate specific abilities. He began to search the slightly messy area for his goal, making notes about what to fix due to all the hits they took.
"I don't get it, how can we be in the middle of nowhere if we don't know where nowhere is?" Yuri exclaimed, now slightly more confused.
There was a pause over the headset. "Slayer, smack Yuri as hard as you can without killing him when you get down there."
The ex-bounty hunter let out a small chuckle as he heard the request and saw that his cells were still intact. "In a moment. Checking things out on the lower deck."
"Is the kitchen on fire?” Drake asked as he began shutting off unneeded systems. “Again?"
"Drake, we'll continue this later," Yuri muttered into the comms. "Slayer, I need you to check the weapons grid, I'm getting strange readings from the Ion Cannon."
Slayer side-stepped over to his secondary weapons panel on the wall and pulled up the statistics. “It’s fine.” He muttered, rolling his eyes and placing a piece or so of vital equipment back into its original cluttered, yet organized form.
Yuri just grunted in confusion of the energy readings he was receiving, and went back to assessing damage in Engineering.
Slayer meanwhile strolled out of his space to check the neighbouring rooms. A quick swipe of his hand over the sensor later, and the Kitchen's door slid open from the half. Luckily, there were no fires present, and the small mini-bar that Yuri installed had all of its liquor still properly shelved.
Snagging a bottle of 'Yisten Yeger', he sent a neurotic message to the Suit. Its response was revealing the small hole in the helm where his mouth would be. Satisfied, he took a large swig and set it back. "Everything’s *hic*... good in the kitchen."
"Please tell me you aren't already-" Drake began before several warning lights flared to life on the console in front of him.
Slayer readjusted his helm and resealed it. While he watched the lights flashing and listened to the sirens blaring, he simply sighed and rolled his shoulders to crack his back. "What is it this time?"
"Drake... Are you getting the same thing on your end?" Yuri said with a hushed voice, staring at a rapidly blinking screen in front of him.
"Unfortunately!" Drake shouted from his end. "Hold on tight boys, 'cause our shields are down and we just exited hyperspace directly into the path of a meteor shower!"
Slayer strolled to the table where the crew normally ate, and reclined back in one of the seats. If it's not one thing, it's another...
Drake's hands flew across the main controls as he attempted to increase the power of the Ethereal's shields. He had limited control, unlike the unrestricted access of Slayer’s panel and the overriding access of Yuri from his panel down in Engineering, but it was enough to increase the power easily.
The engine room began to rattle and shake as the reactor began to glow a sickly blue. Yuri was thrown off his feet and onto the metal grate of the floor. He climbed up to the console and began to desperately try to reroute more power to the shields, but it was all for naught.
Slayer gripped the table casually and held himself to avoid being flung by turbulence. Quickly standing and exiting the room, he tapped the sensor and sealed the door. Moving swiftly towards the lift, he jabbed one of the few buttons on the accompanying panel and stepped into the door.
It closed and a few brief moments later, it reopened back at the Upper Deck. He began trudging towards his seat which commanded the Ethereal's Weapon Systems, but the turbulence was slowing him down. If it wasn't for his armour, no doubt he'd been flung all over the cockpit.
"Focus on moving, and less on shields. We need to conserve power..." He mumbled as he sat back down at his Weapon centre.
"Easy,” he was interrupted by a thud, “for you to say!" Yuri screamed into the headset. He tried to hold onto the center console but ended up being slammed into the wall.
The Ethereal shook violently as the meteors wore down on the shields, rapidly eating away at their energy. In less than a minute, the shields became visible before fading out.
"Son of a-” Drake shouted. “Shields are down!”
Slayer was still sitting in his revolvable chair, staring out the helm of the ship with Drake frantically tapping away in the foreground. "It seems the stream of meteors are blocking off any routes...except for one..." He leaned forward slightly to identify the spot. "Is that... a desert?"
“Yes, I’m trying to land us somewhere soft that won’t drown us, thank you!” Drake snapped as he gripped the controls tightly. A rather large meteor slammed into the side of the Ethereal, throwing it into a spin and disabling the interior artificial gravity generator.
Slayer slowly began to float, but yanking himself back down to his seat and strapping himself in ceased that.
"Oh come on!" Yuri shouted as another thud sounded out. The gravity could not have turned off at the worst of times. Yuri was caught off guard and was thrown into one of the pipes that had some sort of gas flowing through it.
“Yuri!” Drake shouted as his nerves began to wear even thinner. “Fix the damn generator!”
Yuri reached behind his head and felt blood. Turning around, he looked at the pipe and discovered it was covered in blood. "Drake... I'll get on it, but I need medical help." He began to feel woozy but ignored it and floated towards the direct gravity control panel. He tore some wires out and plugged some together. He pushed a button on the console and dropped himself onto the grate. Hard.
Another barrage of meteors slammed into the hull of the ship, further throwing the ship into a spin.
“WARNING. REAR STABILIZERS OFFLINE,” the Ethereal’s interior computer announced.
“Slayer, we are probably going to die,” Drake said. “Admittedly, Yuri will probably go first if that thud is anything to go off of.”
Slayer merely sat there, staring out the window at the onslaught of meteors whizzing past the ship's vision as it further span around. It was a common occurrence; in stressful situations, his personality shifted from callus and bloodthirsty and rather shifty to silent and calculating. Surprisingly, he began to speak. "Where's the Repair Drone, R5-B2?"
“Gone. We lost him two weeks ago when we raided that Alliance Supply Ship. Remember?”
"What about the Medical Bot, E-7?"
"Currently in use." A stressed voice went through their headsets.
“What good would a medical droid do for a ship?” Drake asked.
Slayer rolled his eyes and tapped one of his consoles and began typing in commands aloud. "E-7, administer Substance P3 to Yuri, then go offline in the Cargo Hold."
“WARNING. APPROACHING ATMOSPHERE AT DANGEROUS VELOCITY. SEVERAL HULL BREACHES DETECTED IN ENGINEERING. HULL INTEGRITY COMPROMISED. ATMOSPHERIC ENTRY NOT ADVISED.” The computer announced
“That drive was not worth it!” Drake growled.
Slayer rolled his eyes and spoke through his comlink. "Yuri... you good?"
Yuri slowly stood up, and rubbed his arm. The drug had sealed up his wound, but he was still woozy. "It helped, but its still-" He was cut off by the sound of metal being torn against itself. "Drake... What the hell is going on...?"
“We’re dying,” Drake grumbled.
“WARNING. I’M SCARED, DRAKE. WILL I DREAM?”
“You’re a diagnostic program that is not self-aware, so no.”
Slayer casted a disgruntled look at the P.A. system of the Ethereal. Note to self: If we survive, disable that damned program...
Drake and Slayer both winced as a smaller meteor shattered through the viewport and smashed the control console in front of Drake. The air in the cockpit rushed out for a couple of brief seconds before a steel plate rose in place of the glass that was now missing.
“I think the problem solved itself,” Drake said as he rolled the meteor off.
"What, being able to see death? If so, the steel plate has certainly helped."
Drake flung a piece of shattered glass at Slayer. “Shut up. It’s only that left side.”
The piece of glass simply collided with Slayer's shoulder before shattering into multiple shards and falling to the floor. He glanced back up to determine that indeed only the left side of the viewport had been sealed. "The planet is on the left side..."
“And we’re being pulled towards it,” Drake reminded him. “I’m not too worried about finding the planet.”
"Guys... We got a problem," Yuri managed to gasp into the intercom after coughing. “A big problem.”
“Speak of the devil,” Drake said. “Go, Yuri.”
"Tritium 369 is leaking form the core..." He gasped again, struggling to open the door as he got weaker and weaker.
Drake and Slayer looked at each other for a moment.
“Seal it all off and get out of there, Yuri,” Drake ordered. “We’ll worry about it after we land.”
"Is any one by the door to the engine room?" He gasped, rapidly running out of air.
"Negative." Slayer retorted.
"Please keep it that way for a second." He stood up and stumbled towards the reactor. After gaining some distance, he rammed the steel door with his shoulder. The result was him blasting through the door and collapsing onto the cold floor.
Yuri wheezed and crawled over to the emergency airlock control. He had a massive coughing fit from the lack of oxygen, but soon enough, he had crawled close enough to seal the emergency door, trapping the radioactive gas inside the chamber. But, during his short time exposed to it, he had most likely signed his own death warrant. Then again, the effects of Tritium hadn’t been tested to whether it had long-lasting and detrimental effects or not.
Drake rapidly pulled on a series of levers next to him as he attempted to slow their rapid descent into the atmosphere of the uncharted planet. An orange and red tinted fire was forming around the helm of the Ethereal.
“Come on! Come on!” Drake growled. “I don’t want to die in a crash! I don’t want to die in a crash with...” Drake briefly glanced behind him at Slayer. “... These two.”
"Oh, come now," Slayer retorted as he sat upon his seat. "We aren't that bad."
Drake shot him a deadpanned look. Slayer simply shrugged in response and spun back towards his array of consoles and screens. Their moment was broken up by a dead looking Yuri stumbling into the cabin, covered in various fluids and limping into the spare seat next to Drake.
"Thanks for all the help." He moaned in a sarcastic and weak tone.
“I am trying to keep us all in one piece,” Drake snapped. “So excuse me!”
Slayer glanced back towards Yuri, then back to his work before doing a double-take. "You look like shit."
Another meteor chose that moment to slam into the Ethereal, causing several panelings to come loose and fall on Yuri.
"Fine job you’re doing there Drake. I wish I knew where you got your flight training from, so I could punch said thing in its face." Yuri growled, attempting to remove the piles of metal now on top of him but failing.
“We. Are. Crashing,” Drake snarled. “Flight training means shit.”
"You’re still doing a good job in that department.” Yuri groaned with sarcasm in response as he glanced towards the armoured warrior of the group. “Slayer, a little bit of help here?"
Slayer stood up leisurely and flipped over the lowest sheet of metal on Yuri, sending the other bits towards one of the corners of the cockpit. It was a smooth maneuver, and Slayer simply shook his head at the simplicity of removing the debris. "Next time, try harder." He muttered as he returned to his spot.
The Ethereal began shaking more violently as it continued its downward descent into the night-darkened side of the planet. Fire roared off of its sides, illuminating the skies like a small star.
Slayer sighed as he watched the rapidly-approaching ground. He looked over at Drake, and spoke in a collected tone. "So much for our crusade, eh?"
"If we survive, I swear to god I am going to drink all your booze Drake for getting us into this damn mess." Yuri said angrily, climbing back into the chair, buckling himself in.
“This is it, boys,” Drake said solemnly. “This is how we die.”
Silence fell over the three pirates as the dark ground rushed up to meet them. There was the screech of metal, accompanied by the shattering of glass and no less than two explosions, followed by silence.