Posted By: Mr Bill Jr V<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: 31 October 2002, 6:43 am
Human. Mortal. Imperfect. A taunt, nothing more. The very word an explanation of man's inevitable fate. His mouth, twisted upwards, grinning, as blood fell from his lips. His eyes, hollow, fate capturing his spirit, after searching these many years. All existence is haunting, an echo of what could have been, and what never shall be. Those he should forgive, those he should love, those he should forget; nothing but specters of his departing mind. Will to breath; drained. Will to carry forth those last few moments; folded away. He dies, dripping away into time. His place lost, as seconds fall into hours, and days into years. The seasons change, but never again shall he.
"They want the ship brought around," started the voice of a man, uncertainty his only means of expression, "a new heading, I think."
"Again?" The second man, of different temper from the first, spoke with concern.
"They just read it off. Check it yourself if you don't believe me."
The second man, mettle tested, took the facts into account, considered briefly, then calculated a response.
"They want us moved to this sector, here."
The older spoke once more, "Orders are orders."
This response fell easily within reason. Over the past month, several flights had been delayed to conduct such off course patrols through this very region. It seemed all to possible that the text formatted across the display was another such request. Already, three course corrections had come through, but never so far away. No, something was amiss, however reasonable.
"How much time do we have?" spoke the older man, blue uniform revealing his importance.
"With a correction like this; maybe, four hours."
A moment of hesitation, then: "Take us onto the new heading."
With a flare of ionic energy, it was done. Stars burning, so far away as to remain no more then hidden sculptures of far greater grandeur. They came upon, again and again, once more mocking what little existence remains. Billions, beyond the comprehension of human thought. Only words, describing nothing. But, they are there. For the life of one star gives the lives of trillions. In that moment of a new sun's life, several billion years, all time has passed by, from the rise of Earth, to its fall. From the creation of machine to it's disappearance against time. How can a machine be asked to describe the ether? The same response will always be given:
Live, die; and he was awake.
Upside down, or right side up, both one and the same. Floating there, back against steel bulkheads, rivets and bolts. Little could he tell, within the hour he would transpose this world, entering into the final stage of mortal life. But not now. Now only one thought occupied his mind.
"Light." Rubbing his head, to shake of the last remnants of sleep, he slammed a hand against the backside (or right side?) of the wall facing. Flicking a switch, lights burst back into function, glow brightening the miniature room. In the last moments before time brought back harsh realization, he shot a glare through the porthole to his left. He was indeed still in space.
"Not here, again." Pulling a shirt over his head, he brushed an elbow against the bulkhead deactivation mechanism. Air swirling in a free fall environment, and pressure shifting, the door slid open. Floating without any form of grace, pants half on, Darrin Kel greeted another day- his last.
Does the hunter strike first? Or lie in wait? Can the hunter hide in ambush, and still truly uphold its title? Such questions must the hunter always consider, as the name denotes. The hunter is given this choice, the fundamental advantage over ones prey, a primal urge to strike fast, devour a being, and return to the shadows. Living in the darkness, crawling through life in fear of redemption for your deeds. For should ones prey fight back, in force, the hunter has no choice but to flee, back to the shadows; and if pursued, then to die. So they live, forever living in terror, fearing the inevitable; those who would resist.
The hunter sensed change. Feeling through the ether, his mind beginning to react. Two ships, blue shimmers of jaded reflections, small but fast. Sleek, transparent hulls glimmering, the two came once more to life. And with sudden ferocity, they were gone, blurs of ion rippling through the void.
"Why the course change?" came the groggy voice Darrin Kel.
The soldier, the older, the man in blue, responded with absolute certainty, "Orders, from higher authority."
Kel grasped the meaning hidden within that sentence. Specifically the tone of contempt used by the man in blue. It was another reminder, given daily, that Kel was a civilian, on a military flight. Of course, Kel didn't care one way or the other. Two weeks of free fall, and frozen military rations had been enough to brake his spirit. Tedious routine alone would have been enough, had Kel not spent his last month onboard an Eruim class frigate, watching fleet maneuvers. The boredom induced by such an experience had suitably hardened him against the current tasks; cleaning ion injection engine tubes for the most part. The coolant systems onboard had an annoying tendency to short out related systems, always requiring additional work.
From the bridge, if it could be called that, being little more then a square room with two seats and several terminals, Kel watched little more then nothing. The ship was moving, he knew that, but it was not evident from the view screen. Occasionally the stars would swirl as the ship made another course adjustment, but for the most part remained omni directional.
"Civilian Kel, if you have no other questions, please remove yourself from the bridge" The soldier had no intent of being rude, Kel knew that, it was merely his nature, and Kel was used to it. He pushed off the bridge wall with his hands, floating at an odd angle down a long corridor.
Fixing his hands firmly against a near bulkhead, Kel succeeded in reattaching a derelict bolt, knocked free by some unseen force, floating nearby. Kel settled against the bulkhead, reveling in this minor triumph. While his fate was beyond his control, under the influence of so many factors; the man in blue, his copilot, the ship, space, and, above all, time. He had lost control, and was now only watching what transpired from afar. Yet, to be able to effect change still, as he had with the bolt, reminded him of his existence.
At this point, something powerful struck the ship, several meters from Kel's location.
"What in the hell was that?" spoke the man in blue.
"Long range weapon of some form, I think."
The soldier was shaken, and had it not been for the restraints of his chair, probably hurt. Whatever force had made contact with the ship was powerful, no question. A flashing alarm indicated that the rear linking corridor had been sheared almost in half.
"Tell Kel to get up here. I don't want him getting blown out into space by that fracture."
The younger man, the copilot, complied quickly, speaking through the microphone in his helmet.
"Any idea what hit us yet, soldier?"
After a moment, "Looks like a plasma burn," the captain's heart jumped, "range scan indicates no ships within the perimeter though," then calmed. A vision had thrashed his mind, an image of feral destruction, blood, carnage, and pain. Only a vision.
"I'm going back to find Kel. Keep me informed if anything shows up."
Kel was at first falling, like a leaf from an autumn tree. Then landing, awakening suddenly. His vision was blurred, blood covered his face. He could hear the distinct sound of air leaking, followed by a mechanical grinding of gears, then the screech of metal on metal. Then silence. Wiping the blood form his face, he found himself within a few meters of a closed emergency bulkhead. He collapsed backwards, sucking in air slowly, a great pain in his chest. Then someone grabbed him, effortlessly dragging his body away.
"What happened?" mumbled Kel, only after great effort.
"Something hit the ship."
"Oh my god. We have to get out, get to safety. Or..." Kel's train of thought died, and with it his memory.
"We've got trouble," started the copilot, "I can't see anything directly with the scanners, but something's out there."
"How do you know," responded the captain. Kel sat nearby, still recovering his senses.
"Watch," the copilot brought up a display, showing a view of stars. The captain recognized it instantly. He was seeing the camera shot from the ship's rear.
"This was about ten minutes ago." The view stayed placid, though all knew the tape as rolling. Kel saw it first. Like a moving shadow, a star vanished. Then other; then the first reappeared. This processes repeated itself until the shadow had crossed the screen completely.
"I'll be honest. I'm more then a little worried," spoke the copilot.
"As well you should be. I've never seen anything like this. But they're learning."
Kel lapsed into confusion.
"They destroyed our access route to the memory core, you do realize that."
"I'll be dammed." The copilot looked blankly at the screen now, reviewing the tape again.
Kel spoke finally, "What's going on?"
Both men turned to face Kel, stared for a moment, then returned to viewing the display. The man in blue broke the silence.
"This, Darrin, is a military patrol ship. Our operations in this sector over the past few months have been to investigate these such sightings."
Kel thought on that for a moment.
"Can we leave? I don't think we should stay here any longer, now that you know."
"You're very right indeed, Kel. That's why we've been warming up the FTL engines for the past thirty minutes. We make the jump in five minutes."
Kel relaxed slightly, but his confusion still seemed beyond grasping.
"Why I am here?"
The captain laughed, "Every patrol needs a civilian observer, Kel. It's mandatory ruling."
"Why?" persisted Kel.
"To keep the military in check. You don't need to know the details."
The copilot drew the captain's attention, "We're ready with the scans."
"Good, begin at once. I don't want to wait here any longer then necessary., with two Covenant ships."
"Scans?" came Kel's perplexed voice.
"A multi layer of broadband pings. Just a quick check. It'll pick up anything within the perimeter, but might draw a fair level of attention to ourselves."
"Then we," began Kel, "should jump out of system immediately after," finished the man in blue. "I know."
Kel found it next to impossible to relax. His whole world view had been shot to hell, every piece of puzzle fit so neatly before, now it lay scattered. And this sense of helplessness was almost beyond his control. Two ships! Two Covenant ships. But they sat here, completely open. So why did the aliens not attack? It made no sense in Kel's mind.
A speaker screeched into life, and Kel almost jumped, had free fall not prohibited such an action.
"We're pinging now, Kel. Expect to jump out in under a minute."
Kel had left the bridge long ago, and headed to his room, what little sense of security it offered felt fleeting, now.
For a second the ship shook. A split second of energy emitted, then dieing.
The speaker came on again, "That's it. All right, hit it..."
Kel was already running from his room.
Two things occurred in that moment. Firstly, as the wave of energy burst forth from the ship, a quick flash reaction occurred across the hulls of two Covenant destroys hovering, invisibly, several thousand meters away. The results of this reaction caused the ships to appear, easily viewable from Kel's window.
Secondly, the copilot had engaged the ship's FTL drive, per the captain's instructions. The twin alien ships, seeing their pray about to escape, lit their hull's with plasma charges, intent on disabling the human ship. And they did.
As Kel ran, two streams of plasma simply atomized the ship's engines, then vaporized the bridge. Within moments, air leaking free, the alien ships came closer, moving to within a hair's distance of the human vessel. Kel, flung upside down by the previous impact, smashed against a bulkhead, passing out. He wasn't missing much.
The alien ship maneuvered into perfect docking pattern, clamps digging into the human ship's hull. Air pumps engaged, blowing free the ether, and sealing an entrance way. The first to punch a way into the human ship was a warrior, standing far above Kel's own height. Kel, regaining vision, and conscious, focused himself once more. Seeing the human standing their, the alien let out a gasping charge of energy from his hand held weapon., blowing himself backwards some. The impact on Kel was devastating, melting away his shoulder, down to the bone. His gasp of pain was cut short, as another one of the creatures burst forth, carrying some form of sword.
The thing looked down upon Kel, seeing the creature below him squirm, and whine, clearly in great pain. The hunter picked the prey, hauling Kel into the alien's fist. Kel managed one gaze, deep into the creature's eyes, before the alien thrust his sword through Kel's stomach. With that dying gaze locked, Kel's mind began to slide. He found himself heading backwards, from end to beginning.