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.