The Spirit of Vengeance has certainly seen better days. It's been… At least several centuries since the Accord was dissolved. Most likely much longer, really. Though Rage couldn't care less. If you asked them however, of course they'd show the fervor their ship mates demanded. Hate was basically the first emotion they were taught, and the last one, for most of the people aboard.
Kinda easy when you're born into the rebellion.
A rebellion was a hard name for it now, however. It has been centuries since anyone on board has even touched a planet, let alone Terra itself. Felt anything but greasy metal floors under their feet. The Compact already won. That was it. They controlled anywhere a human could ever dream of wandering, and any other rebel ship was long detained and taken. They had literally nothing to fight for, not that it stopped anyone else.
Not to mention the hypocrisy. Creating test tube babies to grow more human workers to pilot the ship to… who knew. None of them were the so called Free Terrans that once instigated this rebelion. None of them were even a Terran anymore either, for that matter. All of them were clones of the original crew of the ship, at least that was told to them from the get go. No mother. No father. Nothing but a life of servitude to a cause that had nothing to do with them. Their commander probably didn't fully understand it either. Following the orders of his commander before him, and his commander before him as well. A mission generations in the making.
They couldn't use the jump drive. Both because it was broken down by now and because the weeds would notice their ship if they did. That's what everyone around Rage called the Affini. A name that, for as much as they gathered, was based on the slur used by rebels of old years and years ago.
In fact, the only reason they were able to know what an Affini looked like is because they were shown old propaganda videos. This is what passed as "educament" on the Spirit of Vengeance. Taught to hate from the day they were born, that they are accomplishing some sacred mission left for them by their ancestors, and how to do the one specific job on the ship they were practically cloned for. All so they could fight the monsters.
Giant plant creatures, from the looks of it. They ate humans and vomited their bones, and other nasty things. Rage didn't want to believe a single word of it. Then again… It's not like they had anyone else to talk to. Doubt wasn't seen kindly on this ship.
Getting up from their sleeping pod, Rage looked around for their comrades, if they could call them that. What kind of names were those, anyway? Wrath, Pain, Mayhem. They could tell those were stupid names. Their own name was stupid. They weren't even names anymore. Just words for hatred and the urge to kill.
Still, they paced slowly, getting out of the pod as they passed by the shower room. Seeing their own reflection. They hated it. It was horrid. They had no idea if anyone else felt like that on the inside, but they would never be able to tell. They didn't dwell on it long, as they exited the hall to the corridor, hoping to get some nutripaste before it was all out for the day. Again.
"Rage! Death to the weeds!" They heard someone call out to them as they passed the corridor. Wrath, it would seem.
"Death to the weeds brother!" They called back, and the two shared a tight, sweaty handshake. It made them sick to their stomach. Nothing felt worst than having to deal with Wrath. He was the most brash, aggressive, and meatheaded person they knew.
The Captain's favorite, to no one's surprise.
It didn't matter if they were lying about this through their teeth. Wrath liked doing this. It was their form of teasing. Keeping Rage on their toes They could see the entire pointlessness of this mission of theirs, but it's not like they could talk about it.
Not if they didn't want to be branded a traitor and killed.
Such was life. They had to hide away everything to their head. No space to act out, no reprieve from the constant environment of toxic hatred that festered everyone in their vicinity. They saw what happens when someone dares to show any example of free thought. Thrown out an airlock, while the captain grumbled and waited for another clone to take their place. They heard that in older times they would get shot too, but bullets weren't available anymore.
As Rage moved about from the hall to the feeding chamber, a brief glimpse of the space outside them peered into view. Compact space. They were deep, deep in enemy territory now. They weren't even free terrans anymore. Just a group of hateful humans going to somewhere.
At least their captain seemed pleased. Commander Victory the 486th. The name given to literally every single captain. No one even knew where the captains were born. Just that every few short years a new captain would appear, saying the change was made, and everyone would go back to their business.
"Rage! Come here boy, I need a word with you!" They heard the captain call them and cringed internally. They hated their name. Hated it more than they hated anything else.
Still, it's not like they had any other option. They approached and saluted. "Head Engineer Rage, sir!" They had to show respect, both because it was drilled into their head since being made and because it prevented them from dying.
Still, the captain seemed pleased with themselves enough. Not that they could complain. Happy captain meant less risk. "How are the engines? I hope we're operating optimally?" It wasn't a question. It was a demand to hear what the captain wanted to hear.
"Yes sir. The Spirit of Vengeance hasn't seen any issues as of late." Sure it didn't, if you didn't count the multiple sub critical failures that the other techies had to deal with on a constant basis, the fact that their warp drive hasn't been online for the past century or even more, the low fuel, the shitty working conditions, the heat sinks malfunctioning, and the fact that the engineers had to be replaced the quickest out of everyone else in the crew because of those. But the captain didn't care.
Instead, they hummed in approval. "Good. Soon enough those weeds will get what's coming for them. In fact… It's a good coincidence I ran into you. Come with me." The captain began to walk, but Rage hesitated for a brief moment, holding their stomach as it grumbled. Shit. The captain was looking at them again.
"You can eat later." They beckoned Rage to follow, and playing the obedient soldier role they were born for, they simply walked after the captain, stomach still rumbling. Nutripaste will have to wait.
Walking behind the captain, they were led into a navigation room, which they've never been to before. Which is no surprise, this room was restricted access. Why the captain was leading them here? Fuck if they knew.
Inside the room, they saw the star map that the captain was usually using to navigate the ship. A hologram of sorts. "Tell me, Rage. Do you know how long the Spirit of Vengeance has been flying like this in weed space?"
That question caught Rage off guard. They didn't know. No one knew. No one but… The captain. "No sir. I do not." They felt an inkling of worry creep down their spine. Still, it wasn't their place to question this.
Captain Victory, for his part, seemed to have this pleased grin he got when he was able to explain things to others. Something about showing his superiority, Rage assumed. "It has been exactly five thousand, nine hundred, and sixty two terran years." The captain began. "A time so long, and yet, so close to an end. Our mission, Rage, is about to be over. And I need you to assist me. You've been one of our longest standing soldiers, and I want your professional opinion on a few things. things regarding our mission. I can trust you to keep this a secret, correct?"
"Sir yes sir!" They saluted again, and that seemed to get the captain to resume their debriefing. "So. I know that you noticed we're deep in weed space. Do you know why?"
They shook their head. "No sir."
"Well… Come take a look at this." They beckoned them over, and showed them the star map that was holographically floating in the center of the room. They could see various galaxies and stars floating by, with the ship being at the center of the projection. However, Captain Victory soon shifted the view forward. Which is when they saw something they never thought they would lay their eyes on. Something that both excited and terrified them at the same time.
The Compact Homeworld.
"Sir, this is…" They began to mutter, but quickly stopped themselves. The last thing they wanted was to voice any sort of objection.
Still, the captain nodded. "Aye, son. You're seeing this right. We're nearing the weed home world, where all these weeds came from. And you know what they say. If you want to cut down some weeds… You better pull them out by the roots."
Their eyes widened for a brief moment, before regaining their composure. They… They were going to directly attack the Compact Homeworld?! Madness. Deranged delusion. They didn't even have any weapon systems anymore.
Rage began to run through their head the possible scenarios. Approach and be destroyed. Attack and be destroyed. There was literally nothing that their ship could do. Fixing the weapon systems was no longer an option either, the ship barely had power to keep moving as is. How were they to attack, let along destroy, an entire planet?!
The only thing they could use to attack the planet was…
They weren't going to fire a weapon. They were the weapon.
At that point Rage wanted to just. Punch the captain, kill him, take over and move away from this. Or do anything else. But motor controls weren't fully functioning either. This ship was a bomb from the second Rage awoke into it. A revelation that washed over them
"Good riddance sir. Finally, those weeds are gonna get what's coming to them." They said with a practiced enthusiastic tone as they screamed internally. Panic tried to settle in, but Rage quickly brushed it aside. There was no point to panic. No point to show any emotion if it didn't serve the purpose of hating the Affini.
The captain, for his retort, nodded vigorously. "I can see it in your eyes boy. You got the idea. Good, I hate people who don't get things fast. You're lucky you're not like your predecessors. Every once in a while, someone from your cloning vat goes rogue and we have to kill them. I'm just glad to have you as loyal as everyone else now, at the very end. Which brings me to the reason I brought you here." The captain cleared his throat. "I want you to fix the Warp Drive. Use whatever means you need. Everyone on this ship will send the biggest message to the universe."
Now there were two parallel thought lines in Rage's head. The first one how to fix the engine up to allow one final Warp jump. It was going to be really difficult, all things considered, but not outright impossible. It would require a lot of resources from the rest of the ship, however. Which really, they doubted the captain cared about.
The other was how to get out of this death trap as soon as possible.
"Very well, sir. I'll see to it right away!" They gave the same loud tone that was expected of them. All while quivering with fear inside. They didn't want to die. Not to this pointless war. Not to this pointless man. The same man who executed their… No. They brushed the thought aside. They couldn't let themselves get swept up in pointless emotion. Still, it gave them an excuse. Some time to breathe.
"Very good. You're dismissed, Rage. Let the others know their orders, and do not fail us. We will yet show these damn weeds what happens when you try and oppress humanity. Free Terra till the end!"
They saluted and exited the navigation room, walking towards the engine bay. It took everything they had to remain calm and not sweat bullets. At least they were able to pretend, like always. There was no space for anything else.
As they paced towards the engines, Rage decided to take the detour route. Nothing wrong with it. If anyone asked, they could just say that they wanted the time to think about their mission. It was like a religion to most folks on the Spirit of Vengeance. People practically worshiped the conflict and death to come. Even if in reality, they did this so they can delay the inevitable even if by a few scant seconds.
However, walking down this alternate path proved useful, in its own way. They noticed something.. It was always there, but… Well, now it actually caught their attention. The emergency escape pods. This section of the ship was sealed off as well. The Captain once mentioned, when another soldier was attempting to enter it, that there was nothing there anymore. Not before summarily executing him as a traitor and tossing him out the airlock, like the rest. Rage never really thought about it much. They just took the captain's word that there was nothing there. But, maybe… Just maybe.
A plan began to hatch in their mind as they entered the engine bay, greeting their usual co-workers. Spite, Agony, Fire and Brimstone, as well as Death. The usual Engine crew. "Rage! Where the fuck have you been?!" Fire shouted at them.
"Direct orders from the captain, brothers!" They shouted back. "We're fixing the Warp Drive! We have full access to the ship's resources, so don't give me any fucking excuses!"
The other engineers looked at once another with glances of disbelief. This made Rage pull the one card that they didn't like pulling. "Do I need to tell the captain you're all having any second thoughts?" Of course they would. Any sane person would, considering everything. Rage just knew how to hide it better.
"N-No Rage, we'll get on it right away. Come, join us." They followed Spite. Spite was even more scrawny then they were, which was great because someone needed to crawl into those tight tubes and fix things from inside. A cruel task, but then again he was made for this exact purpose.
Really, Spite was one of the only people on this ship they halfway tolerated. Spite was highly agitated, much like the rest, but sometimes when the time to sleep came, the two of them would talk. They did share adjacent sleeping pods, after all. And they would talk about… Anything, really. Out of everyone, Spite was one of the only people who didn't seem to be all hate and no brain. Sure, his fervor against the Affini was as strong as anyone else. But… He seemed to have plans. For what he'd do after they won. How he wanted to see what a planet looked like.
Really, what did a planet looked like? Up close, that is. All they knew is that they were round things in space and that getting too close to one would suck you in.
They considered letting Spite in on their plans, as they watched him crawl into another tight fit of a tubing to reach some panels deep inside the engine. No. Too risky. If they let him know, he would most likely rat them out and that would be the end of it. Spite was nice… But fear kept them alive. They weren't going to stop listening to the fear that ran through them.
What followed was several hours of fixing the old Warp Drive engine. They were lucky, it died out of age and no power, rather than any direct damage. It would require a lot of re-routing, but it would leave them able to actually operate it again. Even if the ship would be an effective floating rock afterwards.
Not that it mattered.