Within the hangar bay the massive collection of vines had been rapidly grabbing the chunks of the ship and bringing them in for inspection. The ship opposite theirs, Perfect Intuition was grabbing most of the chunks as the Helmador exploded in their direction, but their ship was acting in tandem. Other groups of Affini specialists immediately began to deploy out into the void, many of the smaller chunks were disappearing off into the dark and they might totally end up lost without any proper form of communication. Affini technology was incredible but it wasn’t perfect and who knows how many people were already spiraling to their death in the void. Tagentis knew this would happen, she even explicitly warned them. She was out with the specialists desperately trying to help contain this mess. She felt it to her core that she was the only one who could save them. Her colleagues were calling out as they hopped from debris to debris checking for life signs. She was looking for something else, a black ship in the void. Please, anything, by the everbloom let me see them! She searched desperately, she saw boxes floating in the drift here and there; giant chunks of ice fracturing and spreading out. The Helmador had officially been an old ice hauler, a defunct position now but on paper the crew wanted to keep up old jobs.
She focused, and then she saw it. A ship tumbling silently. She called it out, and another called it in, the giant tendril of Babylon’s Garden grabbing hold of it and pulling it in. She saw as the Geist’s engines ignited and the ship attempted a hard burn away but it was quickly disabled by a vine shattering the engine bells and encircling the ship.
She ignored the spectacle as it couldn’t be that easy.THERE! Luckily her instincts were right. It was a cargo container painted in black tumbling away. Her metallic eyes strained trying to discern it, she only saw it as it was reflected in a nearby ice chunk. It was by far the most distant object at this point. She couldn’t survive in the void forever; yet she had to get there now, if ever. She jumped for it herself. She heard shouting through the comms, another vine was coming to help grab her and the container. It was only a few moments as she grabbed hold of the container and used her vines to maneuver around looking for an opening. There! Classic 2429 BU standard, she grabbed the release lever and pulled, the container opened its doors and she floated around to the front. Two people, she couldn't tell on sight alone if it was Jade and Scarlett, but she just knew it was them by instinct. Their visors were blacked out, she guessed it was so they couldn't see her eyes. Smart.
The larger of the two people, Scarlett, grabbed hold of the other’s head and pushed the two of their helmets together, she could see her shouting at presumably Jade. Jade stared back at Tagetis, not at Scarlett, even through those blackened helmets she knew Jade was looking right into her eyes. His hand quivered, a thumb hovering just over what was clearly a detonator. That's when she looked behind them, a massive set of explosives. She stared him down, her body slowly unfurling to quickly grab them should he try it. She could hear the other Affini yelling at her to explain what was happening, but all she could do was stare at the two of them. It must have been at least a minute of pure silence, the other Affini began to arrive. They were getting close, far to close, she yelled at them to stay back. Not out of concern for their safety, but because this was her moment. She could bring them in peacefully, she didn’t know much, but she knew they didn’t want to die, or to kill her, they would have pressed the detonator already. Then it dropped from his hand and Scarlett instinctively threw out her laser rifle and assortment of pistols. She moved forward and grabbed the two of them, injecting them with a Class Z into their arms. Scarlett went limp, but Jade stayed standing, she noticed after a second her needle hadn’t gone into any flesh with Jade. She was caught off guard at first before he simply gestured to the center of his chest. She injected him there and he went limp as well. The other specialists were trying to talk to her but she couldn't hear anything as they returned to the hangar. Two Terrans carefully carried in her arms.
40 Minutes Ago
“Captain please, I can stay here and help!”
“Falchion this isn't up for debate, get to block 5 immediately. We aren’t getting out of this one” The whole crew went silent as they heard the captain’s words. He looked around at the rest of them “This is it people. End of the line. Me and Elizabeth will stay till the end with the Geist, we’ll try to escape in the reserve container but we’re hemmed in and you all know they wont fuck this up.”
The whole crew had stuffed in for a final meeting; they stood straight and saluted the end of the Geist. The ship’s gentle hum greeted them. Someone started singing, the Captain couldn’t tell who it was but soon they were all singing an ancient sea shanty about the infamous Captain Kidd.
My name was Captain Kidd,
As I sailed, As I sailed,
My name was Captain Kidd,
As I sailed,
My name was William Kidd;
God's laws I did forbid,
And mostly wickedly I did,
As I sailed.
The captain smiled, and nodded to Axe who began playing the song on the ship speakers. Silent running was shot to hell anyways. The crew laughed and began to break out the drinks from the captain’s secret stash. Old brandy and what they had collectively called the “Antifreeze Special”. The captain held back tears before returning to his initial commands as the song came to an end.
Falchion had been crying, but with a pat on the back from Liz and a nod from the captain he took the rest of the bottle with him, disappearing off into the bowels of the ship. The captain began barking orders to the rest of the crew “Sword, Spear, Seax, you three are going out there, Block 2B” The group nodded and hurried off, the flight controls were taken by Knife.
“Glaive you're up there in the captain's quarters, give em a good show”
“Yes captain! I’ll give em a run for their money”
The captain turned to Axe “Block 18C” she nodded and moved silently back into the ship. “Knife I want you down in 21F.”
“Captain will all do respect I ain’t abandoning my ship, let those plants take me with her.” The captain sighed, she was almost more overprotective of the ship then he was.
“Well Knife, give her a good send off. No shooting. If they try to grab you, give em a good chase.”
“Don’t worry captain, I’ll keep her and Delilah safe”
The captain nodded as the ship was emptied down to just 3. It seemed oddly quiet after the sendoff. It wasn’t long now, the automated answers to the Affini ship were wearing thin. Glaive would buy them some time, but he was likely gonna end up flirting with whatever Affini comms officer was talking to them. He didn’t think Glaive would make a good pet, but he might give the Affini a run in bed. The captain chuckled slightly, his shoulder was met by the sturdy hand of Liz. She squeezed slightly, it was rare to see her anxious like this. The two remained silent otherwise.
“Alright captain, this is it, we’re in free fall and it looks like we might make it but it's now or never to get in the box.” The captain rose from the chair “Godspeed Knife. Bring her back to me”
''Aye, I will captain.”
The captain drifted off to the cramped container, a large explosive device rested behind them, he held the detonator and mulled his options. When he had first heard of the Affini he thought suicide would be a better option then personality death, but he also knew that that wasn’t how it worked. Even then, when drugged up and domesticated, there was no blurring in your consciousness, you simply changed. Your senses continued and things became different, but the only external way to know that things were different was how others reacted to you. He had been scared of how his crew would treat him, and how he would see his crew. This was all assuming what the propaganda was true at the time, of course. He knew it was now, but back then the Affini represented a true existential horror. They could be lying, they could simply wipe humanity off the face of the galaxy or turn them into some horrific biological experiment for fun. He didn’t regret his actions now, even as he saw how benevolent they were. Death was irrelevant, a pointless act of struggle in the face of them. What he had done was a far greater act of resistance. Even if doped up, his past actions held weight for the sands of history. As much as hated his father, history was the ultimate judge for all mankind.
We become immortal through our actions, only history will keep you alive till the end.
His name would not go down in history, it was never the point, but his actions would at least, cause a ripple. The crate shuddered as its clamps released and it was now truly alone in the black. If they weren't caught by the Affini he had an SOS beacon and a direct comm link to the overnet. They could get rescued, there was nowhere really to go, even this crate was a final act of pointless rebellion to see if humans could get lost in the cracks. If the Affini couldn’t find him then he would have won in his own way. Yet, his thoughts came to an end as something grabbed onto the crate, he turned to Liz who readied her Laser Rifle and looked around trying to track the movement through the vibrations. He knew she must have been swearing up a storm and salivating to fight an Affini, but with the comms off for now he couldn't hear anything but his own thoughts. He tapped a button on the side of his helmet and a blackened visor came down, he knew the Affini could hypnotize him so he wanted to make the final choice clear of mind.
He held tight onto the detonator, suicide was pointless..., but he was still scared more than anything of losing who he was. The cargo door opened, not teared off, he thought that was odd, most Affini didn’t know how to operate obscure Terran tech much less act with a coolness to not tear metal and save lives first, worry about appearances as a horrific monster second. He couldn’t see her face but he saw what looked like legs, far more human than most Affini he knew. He looked up following the lines until he stared at what was presumably their face, he couldn't see it but he felt it. His head was yanked back by Liz, he could hear her now through the vibrations between their helmets. It was distorted but clear enough, “CAPTAIN ARE WE GOING TO DO THIS, IT'S NOW OR NEVER. CAPTAIN!!!” She kept repeating his “name”, and he whispered something silently, even his own mind didn't hear it. He looked back at the Affini, staring at her waiting for her to do something. She just stood and watched. She let him have his out if he truly wanted it. But he didn't. He let go of the detonator and the Affini closed in on them. Liz went limp, he felt something try to stab his arm, hah, can’t get me there girl. It's all metal there. He guided her to the flesh he had left, he tapped around his heart. He didn’t want to be awake for whatever tests they ran on him. He had never been in their vets before. He had tried to talk with some Veterinarians but couldn’t get a straight answer about what they did in examinations. He also wondered perhaps it was a mistake to be injected so close to the heart? Could you overdose on xenodrrrrruugggggs?
His mind faded away into sleep and any thoughts he had left were gone.
He had some dreams, at least he thought they were dreams, people talking, some arguing, a few questions, more arguing. Must be doctors. Did his surgeries go wrong? Wait, no of course not he had those surgeries over a decade ago. Everything was fine. Were these dreams? Well nothing to do I suppose. Anxiety began to swell, even if he knew nothing could be done it didn't stop his mind racing. He suppressed it as best he could.
Another dream, an actual dream this time. He found himself back at the Naval Academy, Elizabeth was just getting out of her classes, he waited outside the building looking over a tablet. Reading about Napoleon, the battle of Austerlitz, one of the greats of course. He sometimes fantasized about what it would be like to be a new Napoleon. Rally the disparate peoples of Terra and defeat the old powers? Restore the democracy once promised to them? Idle thoughts, but they were satisfying when he was bored. Of course, Napoleon ultimately lost, succumbing to his hubris and over ambition. The curse of all empires. At least all human ones. Even the Accord was failing, economic monopolies were ripping apart the vast worlds, the rich waging petty wars against each other and every year another minor revolt somewhere across the expanse. Even if the Terrans like to claim absolute power, their supposed rule was filled with holes. His father knew it, and he suspected thats why father demanded more and more. His inheritance was slipping away and grandfather was too arrogant to do anything. Eh what could be done.
He was nearing the top of his class and he was the best in the simulators. His grades were near perfect, and he could easily secure a position in the Cosmic Navy. His life would be secured even if his family’s fortune burned to the ground. Beyond his entire life's future being staked on his performance here he did enjoy the Academy. He loved the battle simulators and learning about the past, in another life he would have wanted to become a historian just pouring over what had been. But instead he was here. There were his “classmates” who were arrogant pricks, but he loved seeing them filled with rage and hate as he bested them at every opportunity. He knew they would do something against him but he wasn’t afraid of them, he was clearly smarter than those fools. They were only here because of nepotism anyways what could they do against him in a real fight? They were really just another opportunity to prove himself if he beat them here he could keep winning. Take everything and anything, every inch they give steal a mile. Of course, even if they tried to do something as idiotic as beat him up or try to kill him, he had Liz. She was a superb bodyguard. He would be fine so long as she was there.
Oh look, another group of asshats were coming. They looked riled up today. Perhaps it was from earlier when he embarrassed them in class. They couldn’t even understand the most basic Hammer and Anvil tactics. He put down his tablet and watched them approach. What are they gonna do, attack him in broad daylight? Even if he wasn't on the best terms with his family he was a part of the Sakarian elite. No one would attack him openly, verbal sparring sure, harassment, some punching here or there. He's taken it all before. Liz would be here soon. He straightened himself and smiled at them. They stood in front of him for but a moment before as one of them nodded to someone behind him. He glanced and saw two thugs behind him. Crap, I’m surrounded. He instinctively stood up, turning to throw his tablet at his would be assailants. The tablet landed a solid blow, some swearing. He ran for the front door, there were guards there, cameras, Liz would be there.
That was his first mistake, he had been so trained by the system, even as much as he hated it, he trusted it. The guards were paid off, no one was going to save him. He ran as fast as he could, stumbled into the hall, people moved away quickly, more goons, guys from Liz’s class came out and surrounded him. He fought back, used every ounce of training he had. Despite not being athletic; he still was a top student at the military Academy. Dodging as much as he could, punch back, trip, stumble, crack, metal object lower leg, knee broken, his family had a history of weak knees. He crumbled, cried out in pain, another crack, his left shoulder plate, someone grabbed his head, smashed him into the floor, bloody nose. He passed out.
This pain faded.
He was in Delilah, right. It was the Herkalian Front. He and Glaive had to take out a spotting bunker. It was easy enough, their Combat Suits should beat any ground troops present. They were the cutting edge of Chassis design. Maybe if they were outnumbered 4:1 maybe 3:1 it would be precarious.
The two of them crested the hill. Glaive spotted three tanks and two drone carriers. They unleashed hell on them. Shoulder rockets out. Heavy cannon pumping rounds down range.
Close the distance. Crush them. Compressed metal and blood.
Soldiers fleeing. No survivors. Pop. Pop. Pop. Pop. The casings hit the ground and it was over.
He breathed heavily, his head hurt but he could pull through. He was still getting used to the implants. He squeezed his mechanical hand and in turn Delilah squeezed hers. One mind.
Glaive called him on the comms. RTB.
Another year or so, he could get a shuttle and get the hell out of here. He could see Liz soon. He had to see her again. What if she wasn’t there? What if he was alone again? No.
Another dream, another past memory.
He felt like vomiting.
Rejection symptoms? Unlikely, his body had no issues with the immuno response.
His body could handle it.
No it was a memory...a phantom...it was burning....melting....bone slipping through.
Cold agony took it away.
He finally woke up, it was soft, far too soft, but at least he knew where he was.