Into the Whirlwind (Part 1)
Posted By: Daft Shadow =PN=<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 30 January 2000, 12:17 a.m.
The stars fly by as we start up our FTL drive. The deck shakes and the vibrations are much more powerful than usual. I fall back into the chair, its hard, cool feel swallow me. My senses are still working at peak efficiency, and I can hear the ship groan as the gravity well tries to hold onto us. You're not supposed to use the FTL drive when you're near a planet because it could rip you apart, but we had no choice. When you're evacuating a whole planet, you don't have time to follow rules and regulations.
A flash attracts my attention and I look out the view-port. Two ships have collided, each at near light speed. "Poor buggers," I think to myself. What else could I think? No, there is nothing else.
I turn my head as a chink sounds around the wall. Reaching towards my hip, I instinctively move to a crouch. One of the marines rounds the corner and takes a seat across from me. He doesn't ridicule my paranoia, just chuckles silently and looks blankly ahead. I look at him, staring in fact. I can see my reflection in the faceplate. I wonder if he is looking at me. His body seems to indicate it, though you never can be sure. He looks like one of them that I know, but they all look the same. So much the better I guess, that way they always stay the mysterious saviors. Though I had expected them to be a little more powerfully built.
He, I think it's a he, swivels his head to the right as a bright flash erupts through the view-port. The light cascades into the room, and the shadows are briefly eliminated. I watch him twitch, the .44 Magnum jumping into his hand faster than a startled jackrabbit. The armor plates come together as he tenses. As suddenly as he did all that though, he has relaxed. The gun holstered a tenth of a second after it was drawn. I know that eerie brightening to be what happens when you break the light barrier, but the marine took a moment longer to realize this. He turns back to face me and I nod. It dawns on me that his paranoia is far greater than mine, and I smile. It makes me feel good and I doze off with that thought lingering...
I finally leave the cabin after a day of sleep. Venturing out into the bowels of the ship, so familiar and yet so alien. The hum of the lights strikes me and I realize one again that I am safe. I walk forward, gaining confidence with every step. I am safe, and the covenant can't hurt me now.
About 7 days ago, after our ship had landed on Yelanius 3, hundreds of alien crafts entered the system. They wiped out all the ships that were in flight, and settled into a planetary orbit. Their weapons began opening fire upon the planet's surface. Ripping through buildings and utterly destroying whole colonies. Then the damn Cows landed. Thousands of ground troops descended upon the floating hunk of rock. They brought attacks to every standing human, and fought fiercely. If it weren't for the Marine contingent stationed on the planet, we'd have been toasted. They rounded up as many people as could be found, and for 48 hours we fought back. My crewmates and I followed around and fought with Sergeant Gibrowski and his men. Sticking everything from basic pistol fire to I-45 devastater rockets up the collective rears of the Alien threats. But soon enough, we had run out of ammo. A message came from earth just in time. The instructions were simple. Get the hell off the planet.
The evacuation, more like retreat, took place immediately. Having one of the only surviving ships on the planet, the most important marines jumped upon our girl. We concentrated all our firepower on making a hole, and began to leave the atmosphere. Our ship, being twice as fast as the others, made it out of the blockade before any alien ships could pursue us. We got out of the system without a hitch, but I know nothing about what happened to the others. All we can do is hope for the best.
Walking towards the bridge, my boots give their usual click. In a perfect rhythm, not missing a beat, I step forward. Click, click, click; like an old clock. Not a digital one mind you, but one with arms and a second hand. They don't make many of those anymore. Reaching into my jacket, I feel the gold pocket-watch. It is almost 150 years old, passed from generation to generation; father to son. Flipping it out, I check the time. 2:49 is what it reads. Even after 150 years the watch still works. It's much like this ship, or maybe SolCore would be a better comparison.
The metal bridge door opens with a swish, quickly and silently. I step into the room and can feel the atmosphere change. Not in a bad way, but it's just different. The feeling you get when you walk from the cold night air into a stuffy bar. That is, if we were anywhere near a planet that had a good bar.
All the marines turn to look at me, as does Khania. The marine from the other day nods, and I follow suit. He's actually sitting at my usual station, weapons. Khania has already turned back to her console, typing something; coding probably. She likes to do that, creating games and programs. I remember her telling me about someone back on earth who wanted her to make Vid games for him, John I think his name was. She enjoys telling me about the fashion in which she declined his offer and always speaks his name with a certain amount of scorn. She doesn't talk much about her days back on earth, but I'm pretty sure from what she has said that they include some pretty hard times. She left earth only a few months ago, how quickly we have come to the future.
I stroll silently behind Carly, and grab her shoulder softly. My arms snake down her 5'10" frame and rest on her stomach while my head does the same upon her shoulder. Her breathtaking smile fly's through the air and hits my heart dead on. Gliding the distance between the two faces, our lips meet for the briefest of moments.
"Hey sexy, what you up to?" I ask in my sarcastic, pleading voice. It's the game of lovers, something we've been told will pass.
She holds up her Vid reader so I can see it clearly. "Checking up on the latest stocks. Well, at least what they were before those damn aliens showed up and I couldn't hook into the nets." Stocks were something she loved. Actually, they were just about the only reason we stopped by earth anymore. Well, that and dancing. It's strange how of all SolCore's 20+ planets only one of them has any good dancing facilities. Earth is famous for em.
"How you feeling?" she asks quietly enough that only I can hear her.
"Better," was all I responded. She could tell I wasn't in a talkative mood. I stood there holding her for a while, not a word passing between us. It was at this moment that the proximity warning sounded.
It's not as bad as it sounds, the proximity warning. It just means that we will need to ready for the coming out of FTL. The deceleration is the hardest part, but you get used to it. I look around and my eyes settle upon the weapons console and my taken seat. The marine chuckles, gets up, and motions for me to take my usual spot on the bridge.
Giving Carly one last, quick, kiss, I stroll over to my station. I'm back at home again, the green hues drawing me in. My hands skim over the controls, putting all our guns at standby.
Swiveling my chair, I look at the marine now in charge of our ship. "Do you expect any problems when we enter the system?" I ask across the bridge. He looks at me, or at least his faceplate does, and nods his head. Slowly, as if to say he is not sure.
"Well, I would suggest you send any marines not needed to go man the turrets; preferably numbers 4 & 6. I can handle em all, but it's better to have each as human controlled at possible," I say across the room, my voice reverberating with the acoustics of this small bridge. He doesn't move, and a few seconds later two marines in the back swivel around on their heals and head out of the bridge. "Thanks," I say as I turn my chair. I can feel his gaze on the back up my head, the hairs on my neck beginning to arch up just a little.
"Disengaging FTL drive in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1..." Noe, our main pilot, announced loudly to the bridge crew. Her real name is Noelani but we all call her Noe for short. I can still hear the echo from the loud speaker; it comes only for an instant from the hallways outside the bridge. Suddenly the bright light disappears and stars begin flying past us again. I am thrown against the back of my chair and my eyes watch the sensor readings as they begin to pour in. My heart stops when they show a huge fleet of ships, but pumps even harder when I realize they are humans.
The comm. unit beeps and Leonard turns on the Vid feed. We are getting a communication from Admiral Hiram Nelson on the Cruiser Allegiance. The face of a man, older, comes onto the screen. Our de-facto leading marine stands up and salutes smartly.
"Sergeant, report." The man says. If only those simple words were as simple as they sounded at first glance.
"Sir, an unknown alien force entered the Yelanius sector and obliterated the military and civilian forces there. I don't know how many others made it out alive, but I wouldn't bet on there being many, if any others at all." His words sliced through us like a Vibro-blade. The man on the screen was silent for a moment, and then he spoke once more.
"Sergeant, I'd like to offer my condolences and congratulations. I'm sorry for all you lost, and you were not the only ones to have faced this terrible tragedy, but I think it should be mentioned that you are the first group to have survived contact with the alien force." His words cut into us even more. He continued to tell us the stories of 13 other systems that were hit just like Yelanius 3.
After a bit, he logged off the screen and we moved our ship to join the fleet. Floating our way towards on of the larger ships where Noe's fiancee was actually stationed. The Pillar of Autumn was a beautiful ship, and I could see the look on our pilot's face as we neared it and she realized how close she was to her loved one. I wanted to order her to land on the ship, but that was against regulations. After a shuttle came and picked up our leading marine for a debriefing we turned on the auto-pilot, ordering our basic AI to keep us in the general vicinity of the PoA, and then headed off to bed. Both Carly and I were not in the mood for anything but sleep and we dozed off quickly.
It is two days after we came into the system and we've been sitting around just making sure our ship is in tip top shape. The head marine has come back from his debriefing and now we just wait. Waiting to live, waiting to die, no one can be sure. I'm sitting in turret three, absentmindedly drumming my fingers on the firing mechanism. Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I see a bright flash. The same flash of light that happens when a ship drops out of FTL. The flash continues on for another minute and as I look at the arriving ships a silhouette shows for the briefest of moments. My whole body tenses in fear when I realize who has just shown up: The Covenant....
Alarms begin on the ship, piercing the silence like a knife to a balloon. I run full sprint to the bridge, passing the three marines heading back to man our turrets. The bridge door opens and the swish is lost in the alarms, but I am too preoccupied to notice. Taking my seat at weapons I find the marines have brought turrets four, five, and six online. I bring my three to ready mode and sit in silence. I risk a glance at Carly and our eyes meet. She is scared worse than I am. Blowing a kiss across the room, it seems to bring her back from the doze. She may be scared, but she intends to fight hard.
Noe has our main systems online and is just sitting there, waiting for her skills to be needed. Calm, serene, her face shows no emotion, betrays no fear. Khania is the complete opposite. The only way calm can fit into her description is "Calm like a Bomb." Even the marines are nervous. The one in the back is down on one knee, praying.
Our forces mobilize, lining up in a cone to try and envelop them. The covenant force sees our setup and goes into a double vanguard formation so as to strike our forces near the same time. There appear to be hundreds of thousands of them, inching forward. Their ships like ants, small and harmless, but they grow with every kilometer.
Admiral Nelson is on the Vid screen, droning on with a morale speech. Only the marines seem to be listening, I know I'm not. He concludes his speech and logs off. The two fleets get closer and closer, the immense size of our enemy seems to worm its way into the heads of everyone. The tip of their formation passes ours; there is no turning back now. And before I knew it all hell break loose.
I'm not sure who fired first, but it sure doesn't matter. The PoA is a part of the second wave, and since we are one of her support ships we don't engage the enemy for a moment. I can see ships blowing up through the view-port, human and alien. Without warning, our ship banks and drops onto the 80th degree. We are in it.
Noe maneuvers our corvette like it was a fighter and I have all six turrets blazing full auto. I see a fighter start a strafing run on the Vendetta, a nearby, enhanced freighter. Swiveling turret two around I tap the buttons lightly. The gun opens fire and I watch as the tracer rounds fly forward and finally impact. Hundreds of small projectiles rip holes through the fighter and I see small explosions. The ship just floats there, lifeless.
Our ship rocks as Carly fires off one of the SAE modules, search and eliminate. It fly's forward and I follow it with my two port side turrets. Impacting a larger ships shield, it creates a bit of feedback. I press the button and my explosive fire, along with two Stinger 7 missiles, are sent on their way to the alien craft. The Missiles slide through the hole opened by our SAE and impact against the hull I had softened with my tracers. The first missile ripped a fair size hole on the surface, exposing the hallways to space. But the second missile, that's what did the real damage. I had it set to wait two seconds after contact before it detonates and I watch it hit the ship and continue on. The marine stands up, apparently thinking it was a dud, but a brilliant flash seats him again. The whole crew hollers as we watch the alien craft split down the middle.