The faint echo of water floated through the caverns, a haunting ballad. The air had a heavy smell, dark and full of sorrow, a place that was not meant to be disturbed. An ancient iron gate that had been blasted open lay in a twisted heap on the cold earth. The cavern was wider than a mile and a half, with a length to match. An abyssal crack that seemed to reach into the mouth of hell itself split the expanse in two. Upon the far side amidst the fog, were the remnants of a temple.
They had arrived…
1st LT. Frost always woke at that moment, at the same place each time, every time. Cryostasis had a peculiar effect on the minds of men. Most commonly compared to hallucinogenic drugs, its effects amplified the imagination and brought dreams into reality. Wiping the Cryo gel out of his eyes, he turned and looked out the window. A full five inches of ionized glass separated him from the endless blackness called space.
“Damn, another cold re-entry.” Frost said under his breath.
He was convinced from the trip’s inception that the Applied Planetary Alliance was trying to waste as much time as they possibly could. He was top of his class at the academy and held enough piloting records for speed and combat that an entire year of graduates couldn’t match. Here he was wasting his time attending the boring induction ceremony of Terra Epsilon. A bell chimed.
“15 minutes till DeCon.” An automated female voice from behind the door called. “Please be in the appropriate dress.” Meaning naked.
Decontamination, it was the most annoying part of faster-than-light travel, and the most painful. They stick you in a plastic bubble shaped room and give you the most excruciating tan of your life. Small emitters lay about the room that bombarded your skin with mild doses of Delta-5 particles that eliminated any foreign contaminates -- as well as the first and arguably second layer of skin. Most people didn’t complain though, because feeling anything was better than the numb senseless sensation Cryostasis brought on. You unfortunately have to be put into Cryo, or frozen sleep, for long jumps through space. He stepped out of the decontamination room and adorned his special 3 button black flight suit. Once all of his commendations were attached, he took a small pin shaped like an angel and fastened it to his chest. It was made of a metal that moved like water but made diamond shatter at the slightest touch. No other person in the known universe had a pin like this. The pin was the ignition key to a Dark Matter Engine aboard his specially commissioned Star Fighter. Dark matter propulsion had only recently come to the scientific community and very little was known about it. It was his ship that possessed the first drive, a drive not made by humans. In 3107, man was just finishing colonizing his fifth planet.
Scanning his fingerprint on the door’s biometric scanner he sauntered out to the gold and purple velvet adorned hallway of the Allied Planetary Alliance Royal Cruiser. Essentially this was an old cruiser from the Tri-planet war that has been demilitarized. The ship was floating in sub orbit around the newly colonized azure planet. Cassius Frost quickened his pace after a small glance at his watch, the president did not like to be kept waiting. He was a pompous man in his late 60s with long hair about down to his shoulders and a large handle bar mustache that was died white for “effect”. His hair had filament inlay that caused it to shift colors every few minutes. This only made his multi-color tuxedo all the more ridiculous as it matched his Technicolor hair. Cassius thought this man a joke.
“Well, ball me up and launch me outa an escape pod tube, there he is! I told you he would be on time. Gentlemen I am pleased to announce 1st Lt. Cassius Frost star pupil of our very own Celestial Combat Academy.” The president smiled his best fake smile and shook Cassius’s hand. “Would you please join me in the next room son” Together they took off walking, before getting to the room they made sure in grabbing some of the high end refreshments. “I know it is hard for you, but I want to thank you for not bringing that unholy abomination in this time of peace. I don’t want these people to feel like I am taking over just offering a guiding hand.”
“We all know the APA is the nicest bully on the block.” The lieutenant said with chagrin. A small blood vessel pulsed at the insult to his ship.
“Listen your only here as a representative from the academy, otherwise I would send you back out running pointless recon missions against an enemy that poses no real thr …” The president of APA never finished his sentence. The color drained from his face as he faced the window. Outside the cruiser, a class 5 wormhole had begun opening and thousands of void raiders poured out like flies from the devil’s mouth. Among the swarm were battleships, carriers, fighters, and a super carrier. This was not just an attack, it was an invasion. This was no match for the toothless cruiser and its 4 standard escorts. Cassius’s hand flew to his chest and tapped the pin; the ripples from his touch floated across the angels wings.
“Play time.” he said with a voice that would turn fire to ice, and his magnificent fighter de-cloaked 10 meters away. The hull rippled with same ethereal shimmer as the pin and a ghostly voice filled the room.
“Enemiessss….” Hissed the ship. The look of rage on president’s face was priceless. This ship was unlike any found in the galaxy, it had not been manufactured or created by man, it had been found. It came to Cassius, as he floated through space with the rest of his wreckage from his T79 Spec Ops cruiser.
It had been a normal intelligence run against The Void, a rouge group of colonists that rejected society. Nothing could have predicted what happened, not Cassius or his trillion dollar sensors aboard his ship, or command. His ship had collapsed in on itself like a pop can under too much pressure, and proceeded to tear its self apart. To this day no one knows why, but out of the black drifted Redemption. The ship was 276m long from nose to tail and never quite held a constant shape. It looked like an ancient sword with jagged teeth running down the blade. The cockpit which seemed to emit an unsettling blue glow almost seamlessly faded into the hull near the back.
“ARE YOU MAD?” screamed the president, “They will tear you to pieces! You’re one against thousands. What hope does a cocky little punk like you have?”
“Ha-ha.” Cassius chuckled, a devilish grin crossing his face. “What makes you think I need hope?” With that he dematerialized, his ship took him aboard. Silently drifting toward the ever growing army, The Angel of Death had taken flight, and with it the promise of redemption.
The ship accelerated towards the mass of unfolding terror. A smirk dawned on Cassius’s face. He loved battle; out of all the simulations in flight school, he excelled in combat the most. He calmly switched over to manual and shut auto pilot off, a few warning lights flashed.
“Want to feel it, don’t you?” the ships female metallic voice cooed.
“We have had this discussion before. If I kill someone, it will be by my own hands. That is a courtesy my enemies deserve.” He pushed the throttle forward and the dark matter engine made its familiar low octave hum.
“Are you ready to dance on the wings of angels…?”
“To the silence of guns…”
“Bring justice to those who are evil…”
“Redemption for the innocent has begun...”
As the ship and he finished the academy battle prayer, the first proton torpedo created its bloom of death just off the bow of the ship. Cassius’s hand quickly flew to the top right panel and pushed all shields to max in expectation of a further onslaught. Without warning the communication screen crackled and a face that once was human became now more machine. “We are the void, we have come to end, and we have come to stop the oppression of free worlds.” Cassius let out a heavy sigh, he had no patients for lunatics. “This is Lt. Cassius Frost disengage or I will be forced to open fire.” He hated protocol, but the alliance code dictates that you must offer a chance for diplomacy. He probably could have argued the proton torpedo made this conversation irrelevant but he was in a good mood and decided to play by the rules. The voice chuckled lightly “You, your one worthless ship, and your puny alliance will not survive the coming storm. We will wipe this blight off the star charts.” Cassius could feel the ship shudder, and rightfully so. Nobody likes being insulted. He extended his right hand over the center panel that had phased out of the hull emitting a pool of blue light. Small almost ethereal tendrils reached up into his hand and began fusing to his nervous system. The ship was now being controlled by his thoughts, not his actions, almost tripling his reaction time. Two more torpedoes at 110 degrees, the ship’s shields easily absorbing the blast. However he suddenly experienced pain, now that he and the ship were neurologically linked, its pain was his pain. He looked aft and saw that those torpedoes had a secondary charge of depleted uranium mines capable of punching through normal shielding. A few buttons later and the holes were absent leaving the rippling hull glass like.
Cassius accelerated to flanking speed as his ocular implants displayed a matrix of color with the location of incoming missiles, torpedoes, and craft. He closed on the nearest battle group and readied the guns.
“I’m reading 3 cruisers, 6 battleships, and 30 fighters within Heaven’s Blade range. Would you like me to engage?” The ship announced. Heaven’s Blade was a nickname given to one of the ships unique abilities publicly because of the golden shimmer that it visually created. The ship super-heated the edges of its hull with latent energy gathered from its environment to the point of becoming one massive plasma cutter. Because the energy was gathered from the environment, energy weapons actually fueled this reaction making it stronger, hotter, and brighter.
“Initiate Heaven’s Blade, let’s give them a show.” The world turned white as edges began to glow. He used the unique dark matter core to create sudden bursts of speed much like a humming bird on earth. This allowed him to slice through almost anything.
Reverse, accelerate, 180 degree flip, side shift accelerate, twist…he blasted through the last remaining cruiser. Cassius was enjoying himself, he had half the fleet laying in waste behind him. All four barrels of his proto-ion reticulated GAUSS cannons slowly returning to black losing their heat. The heaven’s blade having long been exhausted, he had resorted to guns. His hand twitched and he returned the ship to its resting state. His ammo counter read 200/10000. The surface of the ship rippled as it repaired what small damage it had sustained. He hailed the super carrier that floated in front him.
“Voice of the void, I have tested your fleet and they have proven themselves wanting. Turn your tail and run like the floating cesspit you are.” For a moment the screen remained black, then the twisted machination appeared again, eyes bloodshot, a small gasket from his head steaming, clearly broken.
“YOU HAVE BROUGHT ABOUT THE RECKONING OF YOUR ENTIRE RACE!” the voice screamed hoarsely, and then the screen cut out. At first it seemed like nothing would happen but then the remnants of the fleet began ejecting their warp cores.
“What could they…oh god!” It dawned on Cassius like asteroid impact. They were going to use the remaining warp cores to open a second Class 5 worm hole. Never before had two class 5’s ever been opened within 10 light years of each other let alone a few miles. This was for fear of ripping apart the fabric of space. The cores began converging near the nose of the super carrier, a bead of sweat rolled down his face falling off his chin. Paralyzed, he could only gaze out of the iridescent blue canopy. He snapped out of it and looked around rapidly trying to figure out if he had time to warp out, destroy enough of the ships, or take out the super carrier. If only there was some way he could. Frantically, he scrambled around the cockpit for some hint of a plan. The pressure and energy was cracking and frying the systems SAFEGUARDS OFFLINE flashed on the screen.
Warning lights began flashing and alarms came screaming… he slammed his fist on the dash. All the screens went black save for one in the center. A symbol much like the pin rose up, this time the metal that rippled was white and seemed to be self-illuminating, at its center was what looked to be a ball of white shifting energy.
“WHAT!!! WHY ARE YOU CRYING?!?” Cassius was to the point of panic. His screens were off, nothing was working anymore. His flight suit uncomfortably clung to his arm and legs. No matter how well the life support system of the ship filtered the air he couldn’t draw a steady breath. So he did the only thing left to do, he reached to touch the pin that had appeared on the dash. The wings rippled like his black pin but they did not stop, instead increased in frequency. A female voice emanated.
He shuddered, he was used to the ship addressing him before, but not like this. Instead of metallic this was almost biological. It sounded so familiar, a deep sadness washed over him, he still was connected to the ship was that where the feeling was coming from? Such sadness…
Melodically the ship began to sing,
Time to calm the storm,
To end all sadness and scorn,
A life a new in a place unknown,
A future that is yours to own.
Flash…Flash…Flash a mosaic of red and yellow was painting itself across the stars. A terrible masterpiece unfolding.
Sadness and sorrow have yet to bloom,
Ignorant to the impending doom,
Untainted by unquenchable lust,
Glimmering towers never to rust.
The light from nearby stars was starting to bend. A shaky breath drawn, tears began to run down Cassius’s face as he watched the surface of the planet starting to be torn asunder. Millions of people on the surface, pin pricks of light, faded as they experienced gravity fluxes that caused them to implode. No words could accurately describe the atrocity or the scale of this destruction.
“Shall I save them?” the woman’s voice asked.
“…Y…es...” the words barely breaking from his lips.
“Deus ex machina infenitum. Soul drive engaged.” The ship turned as white as freshly fallen snow. White wings of light extended from the sides of ship, beams of energy encased the ship rotating faster and faster suddenly stopping, time stood still.
The last thing Cassius heard before blacking out was a woman crying.
It felt like he was stuck in syrup, small vibrations and points of pressure danced across his skin. Brief images danced in his vision and his concept of time vanished. Everything was white, he could barely keep his eyes open.
“Death, this has to be death” He said, or thought, couldn’t quite tell which at the moment. The comment seemed to echo around him. His eyes coming into focus showing that he was standing in a field, lilac and daffodils stretched endlessly to the horizon in varied patches with large towering oaks around the edges of the plain. Small crystalline structures floated around the field and standing about 50 yards away was a girl, back to him, barely clothed. He drew in his breath, she was the single most beautiful thing he had ever seen. It seemed like the light bent around her and emanated from her as well. He longed to see her face and hear her voice it was though the magnificence of the field became nothing. The Crystal structures dimmed as she spoke.
“You shouldn’t be here…”
The ground began to disappear at his feet into endless blackness, down he fell. Visions from the past flashed before him until one settled.
His head hit the desk with an alarming thud, dazed and confused he looked about. He was in the academy and by the looks of it Combat Training 3208 Mr. Hennsi’s class. But things seemed wrong, the angles of chalkboard and the way the light passed through the dust that moved about through the rays of light hitting the mahogany desks. Something was very wrong indeed, the wallpaper was blue not green. In fact the more he looked the more inconsistencies he found. The bell sounded, he head snapped at the clock, it was time to go. He bolted to the door and grabbed the door handle. As he swung the door open the power went off and again the world was lost in blackness, before he could utter and exclamation the power returned. The hallway was just as empty as the classroom and had that familiar unease about it. The hanger doors lay at the end of the hall, he decided if he could find a ship he could sort this all out. Everything was better when he was flying, the world seemed to make sense and he could control what the outcome was. The doors slide open with a familiar hiss and he stepped in to the yellow light of the academy’s hangar. His entire class stood at attention midway in the room.
”Cassius Frost! Fall into ranks immediately! You have fallen asleep in class for the last time, did you forget that today was job assignment day!?” Headmaster Vie shouted, voice amplified by the barren walls. Cassius ran to his spot as the sorting began. Each student in his first year was given a task to complete for the academy for 3 months to determine where he or she would be placed for the next 5 years. 30 names later and they were getting close to him. Butch Gilder, Protec, a wild smile crossed the boy’s face. Protec was the 2nd most sought after job assignment right out of training because it involved flying expensive dignitaries and parties around in cruisers. Samantha Tipp, A.S.D, Aerospace Science Division was only given to students that failed combat but excelled at studies. Cassius remember back to the entry physics test she had corrected his professor 3 times in the first week of class and was immediately moved out. Cassius Frost, the headmaster grinned Outer Pat, he scoffed, that job was reserved for the most unruly students. It involved patrolling the outer sectors need uncharted space for “The void” a supposedly deadly race of malformed humans bent on destroying civilized humanity. They were dismissed and all the students rushed to the areas where there ships rested for their new jobs. Cassius stood in front of a half busted spec ops cruiser.
“Finally you get what you deserve, trash” the headmaster said as he passed. Cassius was accepted into the school because of one reason only because of a government program for orphaned youth. It was mainly a PR stunt to show the public that the school was accepting. These transfers were treated like dirt by most of the teachers and worse by the students. Cassius choose to not let that comment bother him, he had his first ship. He climbed in and marveled at the complexity of the recon craft even at 50 years old this ship could out maneuver half of the ships in existence because of its military origins. It had a swept wing design, 4 wings each at 90 degrees from the next. The thrusters produced 110,000 pounds of thrust a piece and he had 4 of them, doing the rough calculation in his head that means he could go… fast as hell. The console was a little worn but it seems like the last pilot had held it together as well as anyone could. He started a quick diagnostics, Numbers flew up on all the screens as the computer did a quick test of each of the systems. 1 engine would need to be rebuilt. His heart dropped, that would take all of his savings, Cassius could always run on 3 but he wouldn’t have enough power to escape any gravity greater than that of a small star. Well it was better than nothing, the academy prided itself on equipping its students with the best technology so even the “junk” that Cassius had received was better than any civilian craft save for the rich boy rides. He pulled out his credit card size glass phone and transferred money to the primary account. 12000 credits later the new ignition systems and engine parts were on the way. He wouldn’t have to wait long because most of the stuff sent to the school was expedited. He got to work cleaning, the chairs, the screens, steel trim, and most important the weapons. He took great care making sure the firing systems were in the up most condition. He slid the sonic rag down the barrel, dust and space gunk fell the word Dio was inscribed on the tip. He wondered if all the guns had names inscribed on them and sure enough the words Nero, Zia, and Helios were inscribed on the respective barrels. Someone was just as attached to weapon as he was, he liked the ship. 1 more thing to test, the AI, they tend to be a little funny after a few years. Climbing up into the ship he made his way back to the cockpit. Casually he flipped the switch marked A.I. and waited, and waited.
“Hello?” he asked
“Welcome to the T-89 Spec Ops Cruiser, please set destination” a male mechanical voice said.
“No hey how is it going?” laughed Cassius
“Destination not recognized please repeat”
“I guess you were before personality chips huh, well that makes my job easier the last thing I need is a smartass computer giving me crap too.” He scratched his chin. “What do I call you?”
“I am T-89-207b”
“Okay then…” There was a loud thud and Cassius hurried outside to see what it was. Money couldn’t buy everything. One of the students had backed their new ship into the main door to hangar leaving a huge dent. Cassius sighed, he hated people especially the stupid ones, and they picked on him, belittled him, and beat him up. So he made no effort to help someone whenever they needed it. Life had shown him no kindness or compassion so why should he return the favor. His parts arrived on the hangar trolley and Cassius got to work fixing his ship. Suddenly he slipped on a puddle of hydraulic fluid. The world faded to blackness again…