Episode 6: Family Standoff
As soon as my jump was complete I began a scan of the area and set up a new jump point. I looked around and recognized some of the planets nearby. Although I had not visited this region of the system often, I knew it well. This is where Starlance High Command is located. When the scans were complete, they confirmed my location. Further analysis indicated that the energy arc supercharging my ship had overloaded the jump drive. The extra juice made it overshoot my original target. “This could’ve been far worse”, I thought. All systems were at nominal levels, I decided to not overstay my welcome and dash away. A large sensor net, similar to the one near Proxima Centauri One, was active here. This one extended much further and covered a very large portion of this region. No doubt they had already detected my arrival. I haven’t detected any patrols nearby, so it is possible I can give them the slip. The nearest jump point is pretty far, but at full speed I should be safe, or so I thought.
“Unidentified ship, you are trespassing on Starlance High Command. You are to stand down. Your ship will be towed to space dock and you will be put under our custody”, such was the usual message they sent over. I started tapping into random communications to keep track of enemy movement. Then, I heard it.
“All units, this is Captain Greer. Squad up and meet at the target’s coordinates. He won’t escape this time”
My sister, ever pleasant and highly influenced by father, was on her way. She would either capture or kill me. Knowing her, capturing me would give her a chance to gloat. I am not going to give her that satisfaction. Engines at max, time to go. In all, four squadrons were on my tail. Two of them had adjusted their approach to try and pinch me at a specific position. I know their tactics. So I let them try.
Ships on the left and right, a few more from above and below, and two squadrons behind me. They were fast. The Star Shadow had a lot of modifications, but even so they had the upper hand. I had loaded the ship with a large payload of munitions for the battle against the Supremacy Cruiser, this too had an impact on my overall speed. Naturally I would let loose all the fury of the Star Shadow. The enemy fighters were holding me back from the jump point and helping the squadrons behind me catch up. At the cost of many of their fighters, the squadrons had almost arrived when a communication arrived.
“Hello brother, are you going to murder me the same way you’ve murdered countless others who were once your comrades?”, the voice seemed familiar. It wasn’t Anabelle though.
“It seems I was bound to meet up with you at some point, Marina”
“I’m glad you still remember me, being the forgetful little brother you are”
“I can’t promise I’ll go easy on you. Afterall you’re part of that organization that continues to repress these systems”
“I am only following orders. If you come quietly I’ll even vouch for you”
“Sure, and Anaballe will have nothing to say about that. I’d rather continue to draw father’s ire”
“Adrian, little brother, refusing Marina’s help might be the last thing you do”, now that voice I recognized easily. It was Anabelle. “Stand down Adrian, I won’t ask again”, it was likely she is leading one of the squadrons approaching from the rear.
“Sorry dear sisters, I feel I have to disappoint you again”, my ship was really close to the jump point now. I would have to continue to maneuver carefully to reach it without them noticing. My hatred for my father was one thing. He turned this family into this nightmare of combat obsessed people. I switched my weaponry to enable disabling of electronic systems. Despite my anger at father, I still decided against killing my siblings.
I disabled most of the ships that were still pursuing me. The only ones still too far were the squadrons behind me. Anabelle continued her threats to capture me, but by the time she was close enough to fire, I was ready to jump.
“Sorry sis, we will have to talk again some other day”
“Adrian you coward! Get back here!”
That was the last I heard as my ship disappeared from the sector and reappeared in another. Once again, I scanned the region to make sure I was at a safe location. No ships nearby. I was safe. After several additional jumps I was back home. Every ship leaves a small energy imprint at its jump location. I always made sure to leave hidden traces throughout the system in order to fool any Starlance observer drones. Larger ships had a more difficult time. The larger the mass, the more time it takes to make a jump. All the science and engineering behind jump drives was always a fascinating thing to explore. Sadly Starlance and all the conflict it has promoted has driven me to continue being a soldier.
I settled into my chair and desk. The monitor in front of me marked various messages that had arrived through the usual encoded channels. Mara, Patricia and even Ivanov were asking my whereabouts and whether I was fine or not. Feeling that they cared about my wellbeing was nice. It gives me strength to continue the fight. I prepared an answer and sent it through a secure channel. I think I need some time off after all that.
Episode 5: The Starlance Offensive
It has been a few months since the confrontation at Epsilon. From that day Starlance has been on high alert. To the point where the Supremacy class cruisers were scrambled to patrol areas of great importance. We also received worrying news that Starlance was planning to build even more of those battlecruisers. The amount of resources and time needed to build them gave us the chance to try to either stall them, or maybe even destroy their construction capability. This meant that we would have to strike at their most heavily defended bases. Proxima Starlance One, the starting point of my involvement with the group, is one such target. Another target is Proxima Starlance Four, where the Proxima Eclipse was once repaired. Thinking back on it, being near that station was ominous. As if some of the people there knew that the Starlance Legacy was the ship that had attacked us. This could be coincidental though. I’ve come to hate the organization so much. Even my old memories are overwhelmed with anger.
I have been busy doing occasional skirmishes against Starlance all this time. Our main targets have been supply runs that could serve to aid in the construction of more ships, including the Supremacy Cruisers. We also got lucky not too long ago. A data leak pointed to one such cruiser needing urgent repairs to its main weapon. This gives us a chance to strike at them at their weakest. Meanwhile, the scientists we rescued have been hard at work analyzing the data I got from sector Epsilon. They have been taken in by the Centauri Liberation Front. The Front has kept a hidden base at the edge of the Centauri systems, allowing them to strike at Starlance without drawing too much attention.
The increased patrols have made it difficult for the unlicensed traders to earn their living. Not long ago I discovered that Starlance would brand said unlicensed traders as pirates. Funny that the only thing needed for them to become outlaws was some odd registration. The entire system is bureaucratic and forces people to jump through a lot of hoops, unless they had gained previous favors through either military service, or special agreements. This had been going on for years. Only recently discovered from multiple hacks done to their databases.
Ivanov transmitted coordinates for our next meeting and I made preparations to leave my base. The Star Shadow’s weapons got replenished. Maintenance was up to date. Time to see where this next offensive takes us. In a short time I was at the jump point.
Immediately upon arrival Ivanov greeted me.
“Well finally! Why did you take so long?”
“Hey, this ship does not have automated maintenance. I have to keep it in tip top shape.”
“You and that ship have some weird relationship. I’m glad it has actually survived this long. Let’s get this going though.”, my old captain interceded.
Once we were all at the bridge Mara started the briefing.
“Here’s what we have so far. One of the Starlance Supremacy Cruisers is traveling through sector Gamma. According to the information we got its main weapon malfunctioned during battle and damaged a multitude of systems, including their jump drive. They had been in combat with a CLF resistance cell. The information pointed to the cell having been wiped out, but not before providing us with all this”
“So, do we risk taking out this ship?”, I asked curious as to what our plan was.
“It is the perfect opportunity”, Ivanov said.
“It will still take some coordination, but a large enough strike force could break through its defenses and destroy, at the very least, the energy cannon”, Mara continued. “To do this we’re going to need help from the CLF. Once we have confirmation we can strike the target. We must contact them at once though, the window of opportunity is closing. Once that ship makes it near Proxima Starlance Six, it’s game over”
“I will contact them and make sure they provide aid. Adrian, your mission will be to use your ship’s specialized weapons to hit that cannon hard”, Ivanov knew the CLF would no doubt pledge their help. On the other hand, I was curious about what Captain Villanova would be doing.
“Captain Villanova, what will you be doing?”
“Oh please Adrian, we’re not in Starlance anymore. It’s just Patricia now. As for what I will do, I proposed a special mission to Ivanov. We’re going to discuss the details later, but I will be heading out soon”
“I see, well, good luck then”, I didn’t wish to pry further. A lot of these operations are better off known to only a handful of people.
We reached sector Gamma a few hours after our meeting. After this, the operation would have just over two more to achieve our objective. I arrived with a squadron of fighters as support. The small Starlance group was quick to make their usual statements.
“Unidentified vessels, this is restricted space. Leave immediately or you will be fired upon.”
Our response was to increase our speed to intercept. A few minutes later two allied battleships arrived to begin their attack run on the cruiser. The local ‘pirates’ want a little more freedom in the region. A secondary force from the CLF will arrive later to reinforce the attack.
We were met with two squadrons of fighters. Further behind the cruiser another squadron began to move faster to catch up and provide support. By the time they arrived we had already made short work of the defending fighters. The two battleships started bombarding the cruiser’s shields. One of them positioned itself right in front of the main cannon, knowing that it was offline provided a chance to strike the forward shielding directly. While my attack wing engaged the third squadron I moved away and started to make my approach towards the main cannon. As I reached the large opening a transmission reached my ship.
“Well look who it is. I honestly didn’t think you would take the bait.”
A cold chill ran down my spine. It was the voice of my father. Sensors detected the arrival of a ship. Another Supremacy class. My first reaction was to try and move away from my target, but I was already far too deep into the cannon’s opening.
“Looks like I will win after all. No more random strikes against our people. No more false hope of removing our peace. You should know by now that this is what a lot of the people wanted. We achieved it and in a year no less!”
I wanted to answer but I had little time to prepare countermeasures. This required my full concentration.
“I don’t care what you may think of me, but I want you to know I will not give you any chances. You are lost to me. A disgrace. Now, witness our might!”
My systems detected an energy build up. This was my chance. From the moment my father spoke I knew that the ship we had targeted must have been masking its power signature to appear weakened. Now its main cannon was preparing to fire. I was right in the mouth of this beast. Luckily for me, I had other plans. Father’s little ambush would provide us with the perfect opportunity. Despite their deception, our ships were still able to deal some decent damage. Their shield is weak. I came up with the idea of overloading the main cannon and redirecting the energy back into the systems that feed it. This had the potential of being incredibly destructive, but it was worth it if it meant the end of one of these ships. My ship’s sensors alerted me of another powerful energy build up. The ship my father arrived in was almost ready to fire. I saw as energy was being drawn into the weapon. Front row seats to the current most destructive weapon in the system. It was time. Two specially built rockets. Each fired to the sides of the cannon. They latched onto the walls and created an electric arc. I moved between them and used the energy to supercharge my ship’s systems. The plasma cannon was ready in a few seconds. Whoever was commanding the ship would be in for a rude awakening. I started firing. The plasma blasts began to destabilize the energy buildup within the weapon. These cannons had a plating that was made from some of the strongest materials in the system. Those same plates could not withstand such direct punishment, they began to heat up. Whatever was behind these plates, if not similarly reinforced, would buckle under the heat. My own prediction was correct.
In the next phase I used the energy arc to redirect energy into the ship itself. The feedback started causing havoc inside. Parts of the main cannon began to blow up. Sensors detected a blast of energy. One of the battleships, the one providing the support fire from above the cruiser, was destroyed. I would be next if I didn’t hurry. I charged energy to make a jump. At these coordinates I wasn’t sure where exactly I would end up, but it was my best bet at escaping. I sent out a coded message for everyone to retreat immediately and to withhold any reinforcements. The battleship that was attacking from the front moved away to a safe jump point and escaped. The fighter wing also escaped.
“I know you’re still here. You’re alone now. No one will save you from what comes next”
He knew I was going to destroy the cruiser, so he targeted the most likely position that I was in and began to charge their main cannon again.
“Hey father, take this as a gift, from me, to you”, the cruiser began its death throes as its reactor overloaded from the feedback energy and a series of explosions destroyed it from the inside out. Right at the last second, my ship made the jump.
Episode 4: Mounting Rescues
Another return to sector Epsilon. This time, I was not alone. Mara was with me, flying her own starfighter. In the distance we saw a battle raging on. Engines set to max, it would take just a few minutes to intercept. We caught the enemy by surprise. Two of the Starlance fighters were quickly torn apart by our cannons. The ensuing dogfight kept the attention on us instead of the transport ships. One of them was heavily damaged and could only adjust its course using maneuvering thrusters. Once we dealt with the remaining fighters the challenge became dealing with the damaged transport before more enemies arrived.
“Damaged transport, what is your status? Can you make the jump?”, Mara asked.
“This is transport Tau one, we only have maneuvering thrusters left. Energy shields have been mostly depleted. Suggest we move over to transport Tau two.”
“Damn, that is going to make this very difficult.”, moving passengers from one transport to the other will make them both vulnerable. Leaving the scientists stuck in a failing ship won’t do though. “Mara, sensors are detecting enemy fighters on their way. If I intercept them I can buy you some time”
“I trust you can take them, but if any slip away we’re gonna have our hands full.”
“I’ll make sure none of them make it to you.”
“Then get going. Keep me posted.”
The transports initiated a docking procedure. A sideways tunnel extended from both to allow the people to move through it. It would take quite a while for them to finish so I would have to be thorough when fighting the Starlance fighters. Targeting systems marked five bogies on their way to the transports. I set an intercept course with them. There were also five more that had launched from the damaged research station. If I didn’t deal with the first five quickly, it would be a hairy fight against all of them. So I centered myself and prepared for another difficult battle.
As soon as I engaged the fighters I spent no time in using the arsenal on the Star Shadow. A rocket destroyed one ship, a blast from the plasma cannon destroyed another. Now they were weary of the weaponry so I had to be more careful lining the shots. The remaining enemies were mostly evading, but also slowly moving closer to the transports. Meanwhile, Mara sent coded progress reports, they would be done soon. As I received one of those reports, a fighter tried to break off and make a run at the transports. My ship was much faster and I was able to destroy them before they went any further. Sadly, the other ships that had launched were now very close and the battle was starting to get too close to the transports.
In a moment of panic one of the transport pilots disengaged the evacuation tunnel. Three scientists died when they were pulled into the vacuum of space. Mara was angered, but the pilot explained that there was no time left. In the distance, a ship jumped into the system. It was one of the Starlance Supremacy ships. Before we could do anything they were already launching dozens of fighters. I counted at least four or five squadrons.
“This is getting really bad, really quick. Transport Tau two, I have sent coordinates of a rendezvous point. Get to it now! Go!”, Mara wanted to avoid any more casualties.
“We can hold these fighters off for a while longer, just go!”, I screamed at the pilot of transport Tau two.
The pilot of transport Tau one changed course toward the Starlance cruiser, ultimately it would serve as a distraction. In the midst of this chaos a transmission from Ivanov arrived. We are needed elsewhere to reinforce a similar operation. This one was to help rescue none other than Captain Villanova.
“Adrian, go help Ivanov. I can cover the transport to the jump point”
“Acknowledged, stay safe Mara”, I maneuvered around the fighters and destroyed two more. Just as the next squadron neared, I turned away at full speed. The destination coordinates were hidden away in Ivanov’s transmission. I reached the jump point quickly and made the jump. On the other side, I arrived into a veritable melee. It looked like various factions were fighting in this area. Scans indicated that there were at least three unique groups. Analysis of the area identified it as the edge of the Centauri systems. One of the ships is part of an expedition from the Sirius system. Then I saw a number of fighter craft and Ivanov’s ship.
“What took you? Get over here and help us clean this mess. Two battleships should be at the edge of your sensor range. Assist with the enemy fighters harassing our squad and then deal with those ships, are we clear?”
“Got it. You mentioned something about Villanova?”
“Ah yes, we found her while rescuing one of our own. She was very helpful in the escape, so we brought her with us. I believe she stole one of the Starlance fighters”
“That is not surprising. She is a great pilot, I once had the honor of destroying her. In a simulation, of course”
“Hah! I would expect no less. Now get going, this gets more expensive by the minute!”
Ivanov always accounted for the costs he would incur in every attack. I always found a way to more than compensate. This time, it would be those battleships that would cover this expense. Some outcasts established their own bounties on Starlance ships. We used battle logs and ship records as proof that the enemy ships were destroyed.
I entered the fray. Again I was engaged against fighters of Starlance. My previous captain’s movements were easy to identify, but still I issued a warning to all Starlance fighters. She was surprised to hear my voice and answered back.
“Adrian? What an incredible surprise. I will send you my ship’s information. Update your targeting systems and let’s take care of these rookies.”
“With pleasure ma’am.”
The opposing fighters were no match to our combined tactics. We decimated the Starlance squadron in a few minutes.
“Stay the course towards the Crown. Ivanov will be happy to have you.”
“I spoke with him not too long ago, you’re keeping some interesting company these days Adrian.”
“These are… unique times. We can catch up after I’m done here.”
“Looking forward to it, Villanova out.”
The familiarity of talking with her was a breath of fresh air. Captain Villanova commanded great respect and was honorable to the end. Her defiance of Starlance no doubt fed my father’s anger. No time to reminisce though, the two battleships were moving closer to the King’s Crown and I was ready to intercept. Ivanov sent me a data burst that mentioned the ships didn’t have any more fighter squadrons since they had to scramble to try and stop the escape. This would make my job a lot easier. I had the ship schematics on the Star Shadow’s database. All I had to do now was strike the right points and they would be overwhelmed and destroyed. For this kind of task I had to use everything in my arsenal. A volley of missiles, fully charged plasma shots and steady damage to their shields by way of the main laser cannons. The battleships weren’t completely defenseless. Hull mounted turrets fired, and often missed. Those are intended more to fight larger targets. Still, some were actually manned, and those posed a bit more of a threat. One of the battleships pressed forward even when I had dealt some heavy damage. The other one started its retreat. Those weren’t so reckless, they knew they were outmatched. No choice left but to destroy the pursuing battleship. After a few minutes it was gone. A plasma shot to the area where its main reactor lies caused a chain of explosions that tore the battleship apart. Further ahead of them the King’s Crown made its jump to safety.
The expedition ship from Sirius had sustained some damage, so I offered some assistance. They were mostly caught in the crossfire of the early battle. With some of my help they were able to fix their jump drive. Apparently most of the other systems are unaware of this war in the centauri systems.The grateful scientists mentioned they would convey the information I gave them to the Sirius System senate. Anything that could help destabilize Starlance was welcome.
On my flight towards the jump point I was lost in thought. This was indeed a war. Despite not being openly declared by any of the parts. Starlance regarded us as a nuisance. A few rebellious pirates and outlaw organizations. The truth is, the Liberation Front and most of the people fighting simply wanted to return to their colonies. They wanted the freedom to do more with their lives. A choice beyond Starlance. I admit that the hidden ambitions of high command, or of my father, were not so easy to see. To reach this point, and to see so much loss of life was heartbreaking. Despite feeling terribly about it, my resolve could not break. Father would have to face justice someday. For endangering civilians and subjecting colonies to their oppressive rule.
9/13/2020 A sort of mini E3
Although I tempered my expectations going into the first of today’s presentations, I have to say it was pretty good. Nintendo offered for us its usual September Direct this morning. As a quick recap, the biggest names in it were: Fire Emblem, Pikmin, Octopath and the subtitle reveal for the sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. A number of other games were shown as well. A number of them, coincidentally, are basically farming simulations like Harvest Moon, Fae Farm and Harvestella. A remaster of Tales of Symphonia was also announced. That one caught me by surprise. I really enjoyed it on GameCube so I’m glad its getting released, in lieu of an actual GameCube virtual console on Switch (Wishing Baten Kaitos got a remaster or remake). Another unexpected surprise was Octopath Traveller 2. I enjoyed playing a bit of the first game, but I confess I wasn’t able to finish it. Perhaps this is a good time as any to get back to it, though I might have to start again. I’m really glad Pikmin 4 was properly announced. They didn’t really show much, but it was good to see they’re working on it. Pikmin 3 was a lot of fun to play, so I’m sure the sequel will be just as good. The very first announcement was Fire Emblem Engage. A rather odd subtitle for it, but it ties to a mechanic shown in the trailer. It looks like the main character can gain attributes of other characters from the franchise by equipping special rings. Of the old characters Marth, Celica and Sigurd were shown. The final reveal showed a little bit of The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom as well as its release date in May of next year. Surely they will show more as that day nears.
Second presentation of the day was fairly short, but right on to the point. The very first entry was Tekken 8. Though I don’t follow any of the fighting games, I honestly didn’t think there were that many of them. Two games focused on PSVR. Most of the others that were shown focused on action. Quite a few of them are set in Japan and featured a bit of swordplay. The closing game was none other than God of War: Ragnarok and gave us another look at the story.
Both Sony and Nintendo continue to cater to their audience in their own way. Anyone with enough money and time might still get a big backlog of games with all that has been announced. Have fun!
Episode 3: Return to Epsilon
I arrived a good distance away from the main weapons staging area, Sector Epsilon. My previous time here was nearly a complete disaster. A few months ago I learned that the malfunction of the jump drive on that ship I used was a malicious piece of code placed to execute the moment of the jump. I studied that day closely to prepare for this new mission. The target was a hidden cache in the center of the minefield. Maneuvering through the field might be difficult, but if I could find one thing that could provide an advantage against Starlance it would be worth the risk. As quickly as I could I set up a scan of the area. I discovered something new. A research station was established not long ago. Some of the smaller patrol craft were doing the rounds close to a large asteroid. On the other side of it was the station. It was a good idea to use the asteroid as cover. They were close enough to monitor most of the sector. Whether they detected my arrival or not was a mystery, but so far none of their ships moved in the direction of the field. They most likely think that no one would be insane, or foolish enough to go near the minefield. At this point I think I am a bit insane.
A few short minutes was all I needed to hack into the systems. The minefield and anything tied to that old code system used to deactivate them were now inactive. Surely this would call the attention of the research station. So, to ensure my success, the system was rigged to reactivate and go rogue. This meant that no codes or anything would work to deactivate again, at least, for long enough to do some damage. With the systems down it was time to hit the cache. The Star Shadow’s engines quickly warmed and I blasted off. This cache was a large storage container, almost big enough to be its own starship.
Movement was detected in the outer perimeter of the minefield. I was already inside the cache searching the database for records of anything that could be useful. Although most of the equipment was too heavy to take with me there were a lot of schematics. One of them stood out. An energy redirection and dispersion shield. The perfect defense against the Starlance Supremacy Cruisers. It was developed as a countermeasure against the ships in case they were captured by enemy forces, but the research was halted shortly after the initial tests. I transferred as much of the data as I could to my ship and got out of there.
A few small fighters entered the minefield. They moved towards the cache just as I launched away. Considering how valuable that thing was I decided to let loose. I fired a fully charged blasma volley towards the main power core and destroyed the container. The enemy fighters gave chase, but I was not about to leave without a parting gift to the space station. Once I was out of the minefield I reactivated everything in the staging area. This not only included the entire minefield, it also included several experimental weapons and automated systems. Suffice to say the fighters were toast. Some of the automated ships inside began firing weapons all over the place. Their targets included some of the mines as well as the asteroid. They must have detected the station.
With the station on view I decided another gift was in order. Their defense turrets fired on me, but the disruption systems kept them busy with sensor echoes. Once I had the gift ready I sent it away. A program made to cut up chunks of data and delete them. There was also a bit that activated the station’s engines and moved it to just the right position where it could get attacked by some of the experimental weapons. As I was leaving I saw some escape shuttles leaving the station. Meanwhile pieces of it began to break as the weapons made short work of it. “All in a day’s work”, I thought to myself as I made the jump back home.
Two days after my little stint at Epsilon we’re discussing what to do with the data I acquired.
“Obviously we don’t have the manpower to finish the research on that”, Ivanov said while glancing over some of the data. “None of our technicians are prepared to work on any of this. Did you really find no weapons you could bring?”.
“Nope. Nothing. I don’t think they would be so careless to leave anything too easy to acquire, or else anyone would have been able to do it”
“What about this?”, he pointed to a supposed shield piercing weapon.
“That is an early prototype of what the Supremacy class cruisers use. It no longer holds any relevance. Its old research, though we might be able to glance some of the initial base systems used to build and scale the weapon to the massive ones currently in use”
“Hmm, then I will forward this information to the techs. Maybe they will get inspired”
“We need more than this Adrian”, Mara was concerned that I risked my life for nothing.
“Look at this part here”, I pointed to the dispersion shielding. “This could potentially redirect and disperse the energy from the Supremacy class’ main weapon. According to this research it is possible. Sadly, like you said, it still requires much more research to create something reliable”
“Not to mention that the only way to test something like that is to have one of the Starlance Supremacy Cruisers fire at us”, Mara was beginning to sound frustrated, but before she could continue an alert sounded about an incoming distress call.
“Help, please. If anyone can hear us, we are scientists and researchers from the Starlance research station Proxima Tau. We have sabotaged the station after an event with the nearby staging area in Sector Epsilon. Our transports are under siege, we need assistance!”, the message then repeated.
“I’m going to head out. If anyone can help us develop anything from here, it is them”, I said as I started to make my way out of the bridge.
“Wait! I’ll go with you. You can go alone in this one”, said Mara.
“Go on then! I will monitor Starlance communications and bail you out if things get dicey”, Ivanov said just as we were out the door.
Episode 2: A New Offensive
“You have a very resourceful sister, and a family that is basically crazy!”, Captain Ivanov greeted me with these words as soon as I boarded his ship. His remark left me perplexed. “Come now my friend, we have much to discuss.”
The starship was very peculiar. Named the King’s Crown, it had a large assortment of modifications. I helped with providing these changes and thus had to study the original plans. Originally a Starlance Assault class starship, weaponry and power generation changes were made. Weapon damage output was increased at the cost of rate of fire. Meanwhile its own defenses and engines were modified for speed and resistance. I used a lot of what I learned to make adjustments to my own ship. This vessel has mixed use hangar bays. They can store a small amount of star fighters but they are mostly used for cargo. There is also a smaller assault fighter, which is the ship I encountered the first time I met Ivanov.
James and I arrived at a meeting room. I guessed Ivanov’s next question and thus started our conversation.
“Ivanov, this is James Collins, brother to your doctor and a very good friend of mine.”, I had briefed James on the way back about a few things and the fact that Ivanov was a pirate. He was reluctant to meet him at first but I assured him that Ivanov is an honorable man. “James had been trapped in the sector I was researching.”
“Ah, I see. What of your mission, what did you find?”
“All the data I could extract from the ship is stored in this data pack. We should have your technicians inspect its contents.”
“Good, that will take some time, so while that happens you should see this”, Ivanov showed me a strange looking device. After a short inspection I noticed it was a highly disguised data pack. “I took the liberty of verifying its contents. I confirmed the young lady’s identity, it is your sister with a message to you.”
“You watched it?!”
“Hey, I have to keep an eye on my interests. You are my friend and I felt it was necessary.”
“Nevermind, can I see it now?”
I connected the data pack to a nearby monitor and saw Dana’s face appear on the screen. A wave of relief washed over me. She explained some of the events that had transpired while I was away. Her survival depended on the sacrifice of many of her own friends in the colony and a number of soldiers that worked for the CLF. The message was about a month old and she used a complex network of messengers to send it my way. As she expressed herself, I had become an elusive man, and in the eyes of Starlance, a dangerous renegade. My exploits and raids on Starlance became well known, even Dana spoke of some of them. This was also the reason for her message. It was time to prepare for a far more destructive blow to Starlance. Dana revealed that Starlance was preparing to launch two new Supremacy class cruisers. The Centauri Liberation Front and a number of pirate factions were now willing to unite their strength to ensure that freedom was attained once more. A plan was being created for the purpose of crippling Starlance. Her last words were for me to stand ready and that I would soon be needed.
“And that is it, your sister said to prepare and we will do so”, said Ivanov as soon as the message ended. “You should go rest for a moment, maybe talk to your friends. I will be on the bridge preparing a new task for you. Mara should be arriving soon as well, join us at the bridge once you’re done here.”
“Good then.”, I looked toward James, “Let’s go find Crystal, she should be on a break now.”
The internal corridor of the ship had been stripped of the usual paneling used to cover the supply pipes and other systems. Only a few remained in place to protect more critical circuitry. This gave it a very crude look, a stark contrast to the sophisticated and sleek look of Starlance ships. James looked around and winced as we made our way to the mess hall.
“You should groom a bit by the way, she might not recognize…”, I was cut off by Crystal as she jumped from her seat and hugged James.
“James! I’m so glad you’re alive!”, she said and then released him, taking a few steps back.
“I’m very glad to see you too Crystal. Is everything ok here? Are they treating you well?”, James said, concerned she works for pirates and mercenaries.
“Oh I’m fine. We have had a lot of work. Supplies are almost always low and I’ve seen some, well, interesting injuries to say the least, but they have always treated me with respect. Not that I wouldn’t give anyone a sound thrashing if they disrespected me”
“Whoa, that bad eh?”
“Yeah, anyway, you should do something about that long hair and this beard. Adrian can give you what you need as well as the details of our next steps. Get going, I have to go back to work”, she turned and sat back down to finish her food.
“This is almost like back at Starlance. How is this ship running so smoothly?”, James asked, turning to me.
“I’ll give you all the details you need later. For now, go do as your sister suggested, you look more like a pirate than any of us”. After his meeting with Crystal he seemed far more energetic and hopeful. I showed him the place he would be staying at.
After leaving James I made my way to the bridge. There, Mara and Ivanov were waiting.
“So you have finally decided to join us. I would have called ahead, but your little reunion seemed important”, Ivanov said.
I replied, “Finding an old comrade alive is indeed important. You should know that by now. Every ally we find is important for the coming battles”
“Yes, yes, I will not question you. What rank were you again?”
“Buzz off Ivanov, I am no longer a Starlance grunt as before”, the remark irked me the wrong way.
“It’s actually kind of funny how these guys have influenced you. You’ve grown beyond that shy little man”, Mara said with a big grin on her face, “Let’s get to work though, we have our hands full right now. We have to start making our moves against Starlance”
“Of course, I’ll let you old soldiers begin”, Ivanov said as he sat at his chair while we moved up to the holographic projection table.
“As you well know Starlance has a tight grip on the systems. Their heavy handed approach has made them enemies within the colonies, despite many of them pledging their allegiance. We have no hope that Earth or the Sol System will interfere. For months we heard nothing from them, so I don’t think they’re coming. It’s up to us. Our tactics have so far revolved in poking holes in their defenses. That is, until their Supremacy class cruisers are moved to engage. At that moment we scramble away before we get destroyed. In the year that has passed since the battle at Proxima Centauri One we have discovered that they have only made small improvements to their weaponry. Meanwhile we have continued our search for a way to thwart those powerful ships”, Mara explained in her debrief. “Adrian, the data you brought from the Proxima Eclipse helps a little in understanding how much power those energy cannons can unleash. Sadly, a lot of that data is also a year old, which means we can’t rely on it too much. The engineers and technicians are still analyzing the data though, so there is still a chance to find something that could help us”
I continued, “In the meantime I have a number of targets that I have taken interest in. I am not exactly sure what the capabilities of what remains of the Liberation Front are, but these targets are important if we want to truly strike a blow to Starlance. The first is Centauri Starlance Four. This base and its accompanying space dock are the main launch point and repair center of Starlance in Proxima Centauri. Hitting that station will weaken their response time to threats to their other stations in Alpha Centauri”
“What is the next point of interest?”, asked Ivanov.
“You can’t be serious”, Mara said, her expression changing to a more serious one. “Last time you were there you nearly died along with James.
“It’ll be very different this time. I’ve been spending time researching the old activation protocols and control systems of the weapons there. I found something we overlooked before. Hidden deep within the minefield is a cache. Whatever it contains could help us fight Starlance”
“Are there any other targets? I admire your courage Adrian, but you shouldn’t risk everything on a hunch. Besides, we need you for the coming conflict”, I knew Mara was worried, but I felt that it was important to do this.
“Sector Epsilon is also a key test area for Starlance. Stopping them from using it will force them to find alternatives closer to their own territory. They will not want to risk experimental weapons near any of their other stations or fleets”
“Well, I don’t care how you proceed, but you’d better come back in one piece. You still owe me for that stunt a few months ago”, Ivanov was referring to a brief stint where I nearly faced off against one of the Supremacy Cruisers. If it wasn’t for his diversion Starlance would have caught me.
“There you have it”, I looked at Mara with a slight smirk.
“Oh whatever. I’ll see if I can arrange a meeting with the leaders of the Centauri Liberation Front. Like the captain said, you’d better get here in one piece”
“I’ll do my best”, I said, and then left the bridge to get to my ship.
I arrived at my base in half an hour. All the stealth tech I had to acquire to have a little peace was worth it. I also had a nearby Starlance listening post that I hacked into. With it I was almost always up to date with information. That is, until they entered the area and restored the satellite’s systems. In order to avoid any suspicions on my whereabouts I planted jamming devices and programming bugs in many other similar satellites. At the very least, it keeps their technicians busy.
Episode 1: River of Time
In all my days spent traveling through the stars in this past year, I did not once think of returning here. Where am I? My most recent jump took me to the one sector that still filled me with dread, sadness and hatred. This anger was as present as the day I battled here. It has been a little more than a year since that day. The sector was blockaded by Starlance and a number of patrols guard its edges. A military station and a sensor net now orbit around the remains of Proxima Centauri One. It is a reminder of the power that Starlance has acquired. The wreckage of the Proxima Eclipse also haunted the vicinity.
The Centauri Liberation Front had no choice but to go into hiding after such a devastating confrontation. A long range message was sent to the Sol System and Earth, but no response was ever received. We speculated that Starlance had jammed all communications, a common war tactic. In this war they mercilessly hunted down people by mere suspicion of aiding either pirates or the CLF.
With my escape from the battle and nowhere to turn to I decided to take on jobs as a mercenary. This quickly earned me a reputation and the branding of renegade by Starlance. My own father put a price on my head, though this tactic failed to gain any real interest among the mercenaries. With the money I made and my technical knowledge I built a small refueling station for myself. This included a cramped room that served as living quarters. It was crude and sometimes troublesome but worth it. I gathered as much technology as I could, even stole from Starlance in order to build a place where I could sleep safely. A number of devices helped with concealing the base from scanners and unwanted visitors. This also allowed me to make additional modifications to my ship, the Star Shadow.
Of my friends, I knew of two whom I reunited with. Chief Mara came to serve aboard a pirate ship as the second mate for her military experience. Crystal was also alive and well. She became a medical officer aboard the same ship. I met them after my dear brother set a trap for me using a mercenary job as bait. A very helpful pirate captain saved me that day, and since then we have been close friends. His name is Ivanov Roshenko and to my surprise I had met him once before. When I was still a soldier during an exchange of information, I battled one of his assault vessels. He did not recognize me at first. Once he talked, his accent made me realize who he was. I found this humorous, fate seemed to tie us together. Many months passed and I helped Ivanov gain power and wealth. His missions were often risky, but the target was almost always Starlance. The rewards for his missions were also good and allowed me to keep Starlance in check. I monitored everything, from weapons exchanges to the most vital communications between high command and the Starlance Legacy. Father was very displeased with many of his officers and their failure to capture any of us.
Starlance applied a strict military code and rules that led to uprisings in some colonies. Those that agreed with the new policies were allowed to maintain control of colonial leadership, the rest were replaced with commanders and officers. The mining operations that were having trouble in the past no longer showed those problems. The military force itself was causing the accidents in the mines in order to blame the CLF and pirates. Now that these supply lines were under their full control, there was little need to continue the charade. The lack of accidents helped ease the minds of some people and reinforced the idea that Starlance was in full control.
Mara, Ivanov, Crystal and I decided it was time to begin to take steps to free the colonies in the same way that the Centauri Liberation Front wanted. People had become very unhappy under the rule of Starlance. This is why I returned here, to this sector. Mara knew that they left the wreckage of the Proxima Eclipse untouched after the battle and since they established the blockade no one else has had access to it. This meant that data recorded in its last battle could still be recovered and used to formulate a strategy against the Starlance Legacy.
The Star Shadow had its signal deflectors online. I passed through the sensor net without a problem. My approach to the Proxima Eclipse was filled with memories of the battle. Glimpses into the past that were painful to me. Dana, Vivian, James, Vance and Captain Villanova were all presumed dead.
After a second sweep around the ship I saw one of the hangar bays with its doors jammed, still showing the signs of the desperation to evacuate the ship. It seems one of the escape vessels hit the door. I entered the hangar bay and surprisingly some of the systems were still operational. A light blew and faded in a flare of sparks as I landed my ship.
My helmet activated and closed up. I wore an armor suit that I developed for use in hostile environments. The alloy plating and an energy shield provided ample protection. Added to this was a number of sensors and analysis programs for monitoring. Scanners showed that the air was breathable, somehow life support was still operational. “Incredible!”, I said to myself. Here I was, a year from the battle that crippled this ship and its life support system was still working. The Proxima Eclipse was a sturdy vessel, despite the damage it had sustained. Artificial gravity was active as well. This turned my surprise into suspicion, there was someone on the ship. Inside the hangar control room, dust had settled all over the computer interface and the monitors. I brushed off the dust and input a series of commands. Nothing about the programming had been tampered with, which meant that Starlance had not boarded the ship. The monitor displayed the door jam, nothing could move those doors anymore, they would have to be replaced if they were ever to work again. As I checked the system further it was revealed that the main computer core was destroyed, but that the bridge core was still operational. If I was to find more information I would have to get to the bridge. Luckily, it was just a short climb away. I doubted any of the rail transports had survived but I walked to the nearest station to make sure. Many of the doors required manual override to open and some I had to force open. Once at the rail station I saw the transports broken down and a mess of cables and panels over the rails. To the right side of the room is the main service shaft that would lead me to the bridge. Before I began my climb I checked the scanner for any activity. A small blip confirmed my suspicion, there was someone on board and very likely he or she was on the bridge.
After about thirty minutes of climbing, with sore legs from hauling that heavy suit, I made it to the bridge. I drew my weapon and slowly continued to enter. Once inside, I looked around, but all the lights were off. When I moved to see if the interface worked, my proximity sensors warned of someone in the room. Before I could react I felt a weapon pushing against my helmet.
“Who are you? Are you with Starlance? Why are you here? Show yourself!”, a man roared at my side. The lights were activated. Many systems on the bridge seemed operational. I decided to reveal myself to whoever was threatening me.
As my helmet withdrew, the stale air assaulted my senses. I shook my head a little and looked to my side. The man had his eyes wide open.
It…, it can’t be! It’s impossible! Adrian!”
I stared at him wondering who he was. His voice was familiar, but his long hair and beard made him difficult to recognize. It had been more than a year, but I guess there were no other possibilities, it must be James. So I asked, “James? Is it you?”
“By god Adrian! You remember!”, he threw his gun on the floor and embraced me. I was taken aback, but reciprocated nonetheless.
When he released me, I looked at him again and saw the familiarity that he shares with Crystal. I began to ask about what happened and how he came to be there.
“It has been a horrible year Adrian. The colony survives but barely.”, his voice breaking up a little. “Adrian, I must ask, please be truthful, what happened to Crystal? If you know, please tell me!”
“She is safe, I discovered her serving with… a friend of mine.”
“Oh thank goodness, I thought she had died that day. We became separated, so I decided to return to the carrier in order to help with the evacuation.”
“What happened that day? Where is Captain Villanova?”
“I don’t know, she escaped on an assault fighter so that she could protect some of the fleeing ships. They were being fired upon by some of the Starlance fighters as if they were target practice. Some of us had to remain so that the carrier could continue to function and provide some cover. I volunteered to command in case there were any boarding parties, yet none ever came.”
“And now you’re here.”
“Yes, after a few days we restored short range communications. Some of the survivors on the colony sent a transport for us, but we eventually returned later on. We wanted to continue to monitor the actions of Starlance. We saw as they closed off the sector. They didn’t care for any of us, nor the colony.”
“What about supplies?”
“The colony is still partly operational. They provide some food on occasion, though the Eclipse still has some stores of rations. The past few months I’ve stayed mostly on my own keeping some systems actively monitoring. Most of the equipment here is working at minimal capacity so as to not draw attention. So, that leads me to the next question, how did you pass the sensor net? Also, what are you doing here?”
I explained my mission to James and some of the events that had happened during the year. After that we settled down to copy some of the data I needed. I offered James the chance to see Crystal and he was more than glad for the opportunity. He left a message in case anyone returned from the colony. No one had relieved him recently though, many had lost hope that anything would be done against Starlance.
Once all the information was on a data pack it was time to leave. As James and I returned to my ship I was very curious about whether I could visit the colony. He answered that they would gladly accept any outside visitors but I would have to bring something in exchange. Information was the most valuable thing I carried and they were desperate for it. So I made my way to the colony. A short detour and I was able to talk to some of the leaders of the survivors. The real reason for my visit though was far more personal. Dana had been in the colony when it was struck by the Starlance Legacy’s main weapon. I speculated that there was a faint possibility that she was still alive. After about an hour long search, the computer system revealed a log entry with her name, it was three months old. It was some relief for me. I asked around what happened and one of the medical staff working there told me she had left in search of a way to gather supplies. She was accompanied by a small group of CLF soldiers who had stayed behind to protect the colony. Again I feared for her life, but if she had survived until three months ago then I had no doubt in my mind she was still alive. Her resilience matched my own. After a few more exchanges with the leaders, James and I left the colony.
Just a quick message. The next part of the Starlance series will be uploaded soon! It continues the story as Adrian now battles against the security force. I will be posting the episodes twice a week, most likely on Tuesdays and Thursdays. While this series goes on I am working on rewriting the original Seven Worlds story which will hopefully be the next big story on the blog. I hope that you continue to enjoy what I write and don’t forget to share the blog and donate if possible! Thank you very much!
(I originally wrote this short story in Spanish, my native language. A translation is available at the end)
Me encuentro al borde de un abismo. El fondo se presenta con una oscuridad inmensa. A mis espaldas un desierto, un pasado lejano al cual no quiero regresar. Cada memoria es un pedazo de mi lleno de dolor. El arrepentimiento se apodera de mí. Las mismas preguntas continúan haciendo eco en mi mente. ¿Habré hecho lo correcto? ¿Y si hubiese tomado una decisión distinta? Pero no, ya no hay vuelta atrás. La ciudad se encuentra en ruinas. Solo unos pocos pudieron escapar su destrucción. El reactor central, que energiza toda la ciudad, finalmente falló. No llegue a tiempo con el reemplazo de una pieza clave para su funcionamiento. Por meses busqué y solo encontré hostilidad. Cada batalla solo retrasaba mi llegada a la ciudad. A mi regreso con la pieza me encontré con cientos de miles corriendo despavoridos, buscando alejarse lo más posible del centro. De un momento a otro me vi en la obligación de unirme a la multitud. Tuve que dejar la pesada pieza en medio de una calle. Al final un enorme estallido hizo caer a casi todos. A penas logramos levantarnos cuando un temblor comenzó a sentirse por toda la ciudad. En el centro solo se veía polvo y humo. Aquel atardecer fue uno muy triste. Todos estábamos muy conscientes de cuán oscura sería esa noche. En los días siguientes la ciudad comenzó a vaciarse. Tan solo un mes pasó y ya solo quedaban unos pocos refugiados. Un pequeño generador portátil proveía energía al único edificio que aún quedaba en pie. Las pocas amistades que tenía allí desaparecieron desde el día de la explosión. En fin, no me quedó otra opción que aventurarme nuevamente.
Es así como me he encontrado en este momento. Mirando esa oscuridad profunda que me consume. No pude salvar la ciudad. Ni tan siquiera logré encontrar a mis amigos. Lentamente doy un paso más cerca. El aullido del viento me ensordece pero a través del estruendoso sonido una voz se escapa. Alguien cercano me llama. Miro hacia atrás y veo a un viajero que se acerca. Ya frente a mí, extiende su mano y me dice, “no des otro paso hacia allá, he visto cómo otros han perdido su vida de esa manera. Sígueme, conozco como llegar a un refugio cercano. Reconozco que estos tiempos no son para nada fáciles, pero no pierdas las esperanzas”. Decidí seguir junto a él. Durante el camino me habló sobre sus aventuras. La similitud a mi propia situación ayudó a sanar un poco esas heridas del pasado. La llegada a este nuevo refugio me ayudó a restablecer alguna de la esperanza que había perdido.
I find myself at the edge of an abyss. The depths show a great darkness. Behind me, a desert, a far away past to which I do not wish to return to. Each memory, a part of me full of pain. Regret takes over. The same questions echoing over and over. Did I do the right thing? What if I had made a different decision? No turning back now. The city lies in ruins. A mere few were able to escape its destruction. The central reactor, which powered the entire city, had failed. I could not arrive in time with the replacement part necessary for its operation. For months I searched and only found hostility. Every battle delayed my return. When I finally reached the city again, with the part on my back, I was met with hundreds of thousands running for their lives. I was too late. Everyone was trying to go as far away from the center as they could. In a quick moment I joined the multitude of people. I threw the reactor part aside. Finally a powerful blast knocked most people to the ground. We had barely returned to our feet when a strong earthquake was felt across the city. At the center a cloud of smoke and dust covered everything. That afternoon would be the saddest yet. We were all too aware of how dark that night would be. The following days saw the city slowly emptying out. A small portable generator provided power to a single building that remained standing. My friends had disappeared on the day of the explosion. In the end I had no other choice but to leave.
That is how I find myself at this moment. Staring at this profound darkness that consumes me. I failed to save the city. I couldn’t even find my friends. Slowly, I take a step forward. Despite the deafening howl of the wind, a voice passed through. Someone nearby called to me. I looked behind me and a traveler neared. Once he was in front of me, he offered his hand and said, “don’t take another step, I’ve seen how others have lost their lives that way. Follow me, I know where there is a shelter nearby. I am aware that these times have not been easy, but don’t lose hope”. I ended up going with him. On the way, he spoke of his adventures. The similarities between our individual situations helped ease my pain and heal old wounds. Our arrival at the new shelter aided in restoring some of the lost hope.
With the site reaching 25 followers, which makes me very happy, I felt motivated to add a proper logo. So here it is. I hope you continue enjoying the stories written here. Meanwhile I will strive to create fun, engaging content to the best of my ability! Have a wonderful day!