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Affront to a God [Part One]
Posted By: Mainevent
Date: 15 July 2004, 5:52 AM

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Author's Note: Originally Planned to be my Fan Fiction Contest Entry, but since it was scrapped, I'm posting it here. Enjoy.

Foreword: Pirates loom menacingly throughout the galaxies, waging a constant struggle against the United Nations Space Command. But they're fighting a losing war. Out-manned, out-gunned, and out-classed, they struggle to survive anyway they can. Living on outdated, and normally stolen, UNSC ships, they wage their war for independence and survival when and where they can. But for the crew of the Black Knight, their battle has just begun; and will bring them closer to the UNSC than they would have ever thought, while being the very thing that began their reunion tour.

Affront to a God

May 13, 2494
UNSC Controlled Territory
Alapsa Colony World Orbit

      Patrick Movinkov hustled through the shallow corridors of the pirate vessel Black Knight with surprising speed. The low bulkheads and high door frames normally restricted fast movements. But today was different. The entire pirate co-op living around Alapsa had been discovered by the UNSC. They were hopelessly outgunned, and grimly outclassed.
      The UNSC arrived in-system, not with the normal single patrol cruiser, but a hunter-killer squad of six cruisers . By comparison, the entire pirate fleet consisted of the modified cruiser Patrick was on, and a handful of prowlers and corvettes. Klaxons roared to life as he stumbled over a beam. They were late, but did that really matter? They didn't really have a chance anyway.
      They could jump; but where would they go? Enter a random vector and hope for the best? Anything would do for now, it was that or end up in some rat-infested prison. They could always jump again if they missed. But their options were limited, they weren't terraformers after all. There just weren't enough habitable worlds out there for them to risk all of that.
       He was confident they'd find a suitable world soon, he had faith in his captain. But he still reserved a bit of his faith for luck. Pat always had been lucky, and that fueled him. He was one of the few pirates who still had hope. Foolish as it was, he still believed in the world his father had taught him, a free world. One not ruled by the militaristic UNSC and bound by its rules.
      The old metal doors to the bridge glared red up ahead. Their glow wasn't a reflection of warning lights, but the build-up of years worth of rust. For all he knew, they didn't even work. Nothing on this ship worked anymore. Hell, he'd be surprised if the Black Knight would even be able to make a faster-than-light jump. The Shaw-Fukijawa engines hadn't been used in seven years, and the ship's reactor was in dire need of repair. It would probably blow them all up on activation; doing the UNSC's job for them. He laughed at how convenient that would be.
      "Yes general, the operation was a success. We arrived in- system and they promptly blew up," he muttered to himself as he worked his way through the barrage of people littering the hallways. Old women, children, wives, sons; ordinary people. Not murderers. Just those tired of living the UNSC's way, and ready to live their own lives.
      Captain Blackwell was issuing orders to everyone he could, but they couldn't move the ship any faster. The Black Knight just wasn't pulling enough steam. Their headway was half of what the new UNSC cruisers were. The ship shuddered violently as the MAC round sliced past the hull. That wasn't a miss, the on-board computers were too advanced to miss, it was a warning shot. They wouldn't get another one.
      "How are the reactors?" He screamed over the cry of children and groaning bulkhead.
      "Depends on how religious you are," Starsky replied.
      "Cut the shit Starsky and answer me!"
      "I'm telling you captain, you have enough here to jump, but it's risky."
      "I don't think we have an option. Hit 'em."
      "Where are we going?" she asked stupidly.
      "Anywhere, insert a random jump vector and get us the hell out while we still can." He finished his sentence as a collision alert screamed to life. Archer missiles.
      Patrick watched the ship's cameras as the ten small white flickers ignited. They wouldn't destroy the ship, not by a long-shot. They would, however, blow the engines straight to hell. An ominous hiss erupted as an overhead valve broke. The ship began to shake. Obviously the slip-space reactors had just activated. Hopefully they'd engage before the missiles did. Because if they weren't going to send everyone aboard the Black Knight straight to hell before, they would when the missiles arrived.
      The rumble shuddered through the bulkheads, and the ship let out weary groans. The gigantic cruiser felt like a tin-can in a giant's hands. The giant was squeezing oh-so-slightly and shaking too. Not to kill the ants that had crawled inside, just to shake them up a bit. The rumble was a constant dull thump against the ship, and they could all feel it jerking upwards through their toes. UNSC or fate, which would get them first?
      The space around the ship began to boil, and the view-screens went black. No stars, no light. Subspace was pitch black. The side-effect of faster-than-light travel was that there was no light. The vast void of space was even more boring without it's sole attraction. But the pirates didn't do what they did because it was fun. They did it because it was their life. As boring and devoid of scenery as it may be, it was their home. At least for now. Patrick hoped that one day they could find a place to settle down, where no one would ever bother them. It didn't seem likely though.


      Patrick had been busy doing nothing for three weeks; half the time expected until the final destination. Their random vector had to be far enough out of UNSC patrolled space that they knew the cruisers wouldn't follow them. If they could find them, that was. As far as Human understanding of subspace went, they could see the hole the reactors ripped in normal space a mile away, but in subspace itself they were blind. Point the ship, estimate how long it took to arrive, and traverse subspace until they arrived. This method was sloppy and ineffective at best, and often required ships to traverse normally before arriving.

      The Black Knight had been straining as her engines struggled against time and a lack of mechanical attention. Captain Blackwell was wise enough to take them off-line for a bit, and make repairs. They'd been shit-out-of-luck with the timing though. The aging cruiser exited amid an asteroid field in a system not too dissimilar with Earth's. There were twelve planets, all revolving around a medium G2 star. It was a beautiful but deadly galactic scene, all played out on view-screens as the crew watched in anticipation. Pat was awed by the celestial scene; finally something beautiful for them.
      The entire command deck struggled to pull the ship out of the asteroid's paths, but the energy used to force an exit-hole had taken up too much to get the normal engines up in time. Collision alarms were activated in a vain attempt at doing something productive, but they were useless. It just told all of those onboard they were probably about to die. Their last minutes couldn't be peaceful ignorance before a relatively quick death in the fireball or vacuum, but nervously panicking and wondering.
      The impact shuddered through the hull, tearing through layer after layer of titanium plating. Decks buckled as it plowed through vital systems and finally came to a stop. Plumes of fire shot out of the ship, and the icy-hot vacuum of space engulfed hundreds of people. The gasses in their bodies tore through their flesh as it attempted to balance the pressure, but it was useless. The corpses of friends and family imploded in the doldrums and floated helplessly away. The tiny thumps of their bodies banging against the ship could be heard even on the command deck, and many were crying.
      Blackwell didn't have time to cry, he only had time to get his ship out of the way. If he didn't, they'd all end up like the others. Luckily the asteroid hadn't severed the generators or main engines, and they were finally warming up enough to move the ship out of harm's way.
      Sensors bleeped to life as they all saw what floated ahead. The computers seemed to be having as hard a time figuring out what it was as they did. Patrick had never seen or heard of anything like it before. He huddled over Stocklear as he checked the initial scans. Ten thousand kilometers in diameter, and roughly twenty-two point three kilometers thick, it was entirely unnatural in itself. The outer, artificial rim was made of an unknown metal alloy.
      "I don't know what the hell that thing is, but we're landing on it," Blackwell said in his deep, masculine tone.
      "Is that such a good idea?" Starsky asked with the same amount of paranoid fear they all had.
      "We don't really have a choice," Makinnley added sourly, "the other planets are uninhabitable. This is the only one with a suitable environment."
      "That and the fact that this piece of shit is about to fall apart on us. Hull integrity at fifty-six percent and declining. That asteroid did us in sir. Even if we wanted to, we wouldn't last long enough to make it to another planet. It's the closest thing we can land on, we'll have to take it." Stocklear figured he'd throw his two cents in as well.
      Nobody, least of all Captain Blackwell, liked being out of options. It wasn't Human nature. But it was their only chance of surviving. The ship felt ready to break apart, and the eerie straining sounds as metal ground against metal wasn't a relief. Everyone was knocked harshly to the side as another asteroid impacted.
      It had been undetected by the sensors; not surprising considering how old they were. Too many objects to track at once, and the computer did seem to be focusing all of it's attention on the massive object ahead. There were enough anomalies to keep the system busy for a week. Any more missed asteroids and the system would be gone. So would the ship.
      "Hull at twenty-two percent. This thing can't land even under remotely safe conditions. We'd burn up in that thing's atmosphere." Stocklear interrupted.
      "How do we do it then? Float it out? Because you know as well as I do that there aren't enough ships for everyone aboard to make it off alive," Blackwell bellowed angrily.
      "Yes sir, I know full well there aren't enough ships to make it off of the Black Knight alive." A pang of regret and remorse shot through Stocklear's mind, and eyes.
      "You're suggesting that we leave no telling how many people behind to die?" Starsky interjected hostilely.
      "I'm not gung-ho for it either! You guys know me better than that. But honestly, what other choice do we have? This bird can't make it through the atmosphere, it can't wait for us to come back on multiple runs, and there aren't enough ships for everyone to get off at once. At least this way, some do get off. And some is better than none," he replied downtrodden.
      Silence was golden for several minutes as they drifted nearer to the object, but deeper in thought.
      "So how do we choose who lives and who dies?" Blackwell asked under his breath, almost shallow enough not to be heard.
      "I can't believe you're even thinking about this plan captain! Starsky screamed. This, this is ludicrous. You'll all burn in hell for this." She stood up at her station, stared at the two men while shaking her head, and stormed off of the command deck and out of the bridge. The tension was so thick you could cut it. Patrick had a hard time believing they were probably actually going to go along with this plan. But what other choice did they really have?
      "Well the selection is obvious. We need as many children as possible, and the smartest adults. Doctors, teachers, engineers, and whatever we have in the way of farmers." Pat spoke up with the courage no one else had.
      "Alright then, do it. No equipment other than medicine and the few weapons we have are allowed on the ships. I want as many people as we can get to make it to that planet. Get moving. I'll stay here and try to hold her together as long as possible, and then I'll manually pilot her into the atmosphere."
      "As glorifying as that would be sir, you can't do that." Makinnley said.
      The logic of the situation was simple, but clouded.
      "You're the only one anybody here sees fit to lead us, especially if we have to live on this thing for God knows how long. If we spend time fighting over a leader, or arguing about who gets elected to the governing council, nothing will ever get done." Stocklear said as he realized the situation.
      "We can say that the ships will be setting up a base while we land, but that can only get us so far if everyone knows the captain isn't actually on the ship. Mayhem will ensue. People can't know that you're gone." Patrick added the death touch to the situation.
      The single bit of truth that always reared its ugly head. If Blackwell stayed, the survivors were doomed planet side. If Blackwell left, the remaining passengers would tear the ship apart in endless leadership struggles, and there's a very real possibility that nobody would ever leave. But on a ship full of friends and neighbors, how did you get the captain off unnoticed? The answer was simple; you didn't.
      The captain put the ship on lockdown, and headed with a contingent of four armed men to the only operable docking bay still onboard. Six retrofit TS-90 Clemson Aerodyne "Planet Hawks" were waiting beside four Cougars . The existence of everyone still alive rested solely on those ten ships, and the two hundred or so people who would ride them to the surface. Patrick was glad the ship was full of religious people, because they'd need their God more than ever today.
      Patrick entered the large hangar with a hurried pace. The massive six story room was covered with columns and parapets from which all sorts of mechanical equipment hung. Three gigantic yellow and black striped cranes were dangling overhead. The metal here was much more worn than in other places, but devoid of rust and other obtrusions.
      Six of the men, each leading a small group, entered the bay. Blackwell had already slipped into one of the Cougars, and it was Patrick's turn. That was, if he was invited. He'd naturally, arrogantly, assumed he would be. After all, half of this was his idea. But Stocklear had stayed, and it was just as much his idea as Patrick's. Stocklear was a man who believed in duty above all. He'd remained for two reasons: he'd been given the authority to run the ship when Blackwell left, and more importantly his wife and son were aboard.
      Movinkov. He couldn't get far on that name. He'd have to use his clout with Blackwell to garner a ride to the planet. After all, the two men had known each other for years. They'd practically started their pirate lives at the same time, and had been in the same barracks on the Rabble Rouser. The two weren't best-friends by any means, but they were closer than many who were going. Though he wasn't sure how far that stone would bounce before sinking.
      To his surprise though, nobody checked to see if everyone who was on the ship was actually supposed to be on the ship. They must have figured that if you knew the ships were leaving then you were supposed to be on them. That would work just fine for him. He rested his head on the soft support attached to the wall. The normally exquisite personal craft had been totally reconstructed by the pirates to serve solely as a transport. The six person occupancy it once had was now tripled to eighteen. Which meant that the seats were as uncomfortable and cramped as possible. But Pat didn't mind, not today. Today he was going to be one of the few that survived. If not because of fate, because of his own volition.
      His eyes slowly etched closed as he fell asleep. The constant shaking of the vehicle didn't hamper his attempts, but in fact helped pacify him. It'd been a long day. He'd get as much sleep as possible. In several hours, he and nearly three hundred others would be taking their first steps on this new world. They wouldn't be giant leaps for mankind, not by a long shot. But they'd be baby steps for the piracy. Infantile jolts to keep her alive and kicking, and as much a thorn in the UNSC's ass as ever.

June 8, 2494
Uncharted Territory
Unknown Ring Construct

      All of the ships had been lucky enough to make it to the planet intact. Headcounts came up to two hundred fifty-two people. Not a lot, but it would have to do. They'd all spent the last two days in mourning over their fallen crew. Their friends. The Black Knight attempted valiantly to enter the ring's orbit, but it had failed. She broke up into thousands of tiny pieces and scattered across the arid desert landscape on the other side of the ring. They had all watched as it split violently down the middle, and then floated into two separate areas. So many innocents dead; such a tragic waste of life. For what? For their beliefs that didn't mesh exactly with those on Earth.
      Well, this was their home now. This was their revenge. It was here that they would steadily grow forth from the ashes of their fallen compatriots. It was here that they would build there homes, their families, their very lives. No more running; they couldn't run. So it would be here, that they would fight to the death for their freedoms. And may God have mercy on whoever tried to take those away. Because for those who lose it all, there's nothing left at stake.
      Luckily though, the groups had managed to sit down in a lush plains region on the south side of the ring. Well, they called it south. It was "down" to them from the vector they had entered this region, and so they designated it south. The long sloping plains were dotted with lush forests. Several large lakes and rivers teeming with local fish life were also scattered across the terrain.
      But first things first when it comes to survival, and that's shelter. Blackwell had come up with the idea to use the large concrete-looking structures as temporary havens. Strangely hypnotic blue beams shot up from them like plasmid-geysers every few minutes. They provided a beacon to the many who would get lost in the first days, a light source at night, and a copious amount of heat. Animals also didn't seem to come near the buildings, and for that they were all grateful. Nobody had had enough time to fashion any sort of weapons, and they were under strict orders not to use the thirty guns they had mustered unless absolutely necessary.
      Patrick returned from a day in the woods. He had assigned himself to a hunting party the first day, but he had never hunted a day in his life. From the amount of food they'd returned with, it appeared he wasn't the only one. But he wasn't half bad with the spears they had made from tree branches and the hundred or so machetes and combat knives brought with them. So he stuck with it. On the second day he'd managed to find and kill a wild boar-like animal, but this animal wasn't as naturally aggressive as the Earth version.
      He stretched out on a long grass mat one of the women had made. In the beautiful pink of dusk he couldn't help but laugh as the irony caught up with him. They'd all just gone from the most technologically advanced species in the known universe, save whatever built this installation, to primitive creatures. What did he have now? Nothing. A grass mat and a spear.
      Only days earlier he could have had the ship's cook prepare him anything he could think of to eat, but today he was completely dependant on the meager pieces of food that the group managed to rake in. Disheartening and amusing at the same time. His eyes blinked heavily as he watched the sunset on the ring. Sunset here at least. The object had been perfectly positioned so that each portion only got sixteen hours of sunlight, and eight hours of darkness. Nearly identical to the Human internal clock, and somewhat fascinating.
      But there was something far more fascinating than that at that moment. It was the lavender purple of the distant planet that danced in the light. The majestic strawberry, cream swirls of an ancient thunderstorm on the nearby gas giant. Flares of white as meteors dashed across atmospheres for mere seconds before dying just as quickly. The aurora borealis of the smaller of the two planets they were wedged between, rippled across the magenta skies like waves. He smiled as he counted the stars that winked at him, secretly telling him that he'd be safe; and that he was, at least for tonight, free to dream.