David pushed in the disc and fiddled with some controls. Suddenly, the lights dimmed, and a violent noise filled the cockpit.
This was the only way to listen to music.
The noise blasted David's ears, but not a sound was to be heard from his ship anywhere else in the Galaxy. He imagined playing the instruments with his hands as his ship floated through space.
Several thousand miles away, another small ship of some sort waited, and watched. It wasn't a ship that would be identifiable by any human, but a human would be able to describe what it looked like. A bug. Any human, looking at this ship, would say, "It looks like a big bug," or something to that effect. However, no human was looking at this ship. It was the ship who was watching the human.
The pilot of the bug-ship's name was Gren-Thre'dar, (which could roughly translate to Guard Chieftain, or alternatively Goat Herder) and had been in the naval forces for nearly twenty years. He'd gone off to make another mug of somva, a coffee type of drink with the consistency of a milkshake. The ship was in charge until then. The ship, who'd been named Dag'ale-Svlas (Final Victory), wasn't much older than Gren. He was approximately 107.
David's full name was David Alexander Flagstaff II, and he'd named his ship Final Victory. His ship was only a few years old, David was 27.
The Dag'ale-Svlas flared to life. It's master had returned, and had decided what to do.
David switched discs.
Gren fired up the engines, and charged the cannons. The human would not escape to report anything.
David turned up the volume.
The bug-ship moved toward the craft of metal and plastic at an alarming rate, which, from any observable distance, only seemed like a crawl. Soon, the Dag'ale-Svlas was in range.
David studied the controls, and his gaze fell upon the radar panel. A small blip appeared somewhat close by, and moving fast. Odd. David turned down the volume, but the noise level in the ship barely had time to change before it exploded, scattering its charred remains over empty space, some of which struck the bug-ship as it kept a steady course to the next star.
Dale looked at the package with curiosity. It was completely unmarked, wrapped in brown paper. It was an almost perfect cube, and the paper in the corners was slightly ripped and worn. It could have anything in it. But it wasn't his job to guess what was in the shipment. It was his job to find out.
Dale Brunswick, officer in charge of customs on Port Kane, was dismayed when a Pegasus, christened New Glory, lurched into his dock just a matter of minutes ago. Pegusi are known to hold about nine hundred tons of cargo, and often exceed that amount. That is a lot of goods to search through. This Pegasus, however, caught him completely by surprise when his workers found seven of the eight cargo pods on the ship completely empty. The fourth one they checked contained the package.
As he ran the ultrasound scanner over the package, he looked at the image that was being formed on the monitor. The package contained datacubes. Without a doubt. Dale groaned. He could've guessed that that's what was in the package, but he had needed to know for sure. Not only that, but now he needed to know what was in the cubes.
The captain of the Pegasus, by the name of Rachel Sanborn according to Federation records, didn't act like a thing was out of place as she stepped out of her ship. She simply asked when the package would be ready for delivery. Dale had told her that it depended on what it contained and left it at that, before heading off to check it.
Seeing as how datacubes can contain anything from grocery lists to military grade weapons specifications, Dale headed to a private office to read the contents of the cubes, three in all. He brought the package through a door, labeled Thorough Inspections Department. Really, the "Department" consisted of two rooms, one with a secretary behind a desk, which lead to another with some chairs and a table. As well as some other electronic scanning devices, it also contained a datacube reader.
As he began the quick task of unwrapping the package... carefully,... damn. The paper ripped. Dale thought, Forget it, and shredded the wrapping. Next he attempted, almost successfully, to open the small aluminum box. Inside were the three cubes, and a small amount of noxious gasses. Dale inadvertently took a whiff, and everything turned black before he could call out.
Pounding. Dale woke up to a throbbing headache, and a blinding light. After a moment of blinking his eyes, the light subsided to the normal light of the room. His headache calmed a little, but remained. He carefully stood up with a groan. The blood rushing from his head nearly made him pass out again. He got to one of the chairs in the room, and sat. As soon as he wondered where he was, he remembered what had happened.
He quickly noticed that the datacubes were missing at that point, and also noticed a note on the table.
Dear Officer Brunswick, Thank you for being so courteous to me and my crew today. You have made our jobs much easier. I am sorry we couldn't meet under less hostile terms, but what was done had to be done. It was a pleasure to meet you. Sincerely, Rachel Sanborn
Zarquon. Dale got up less woozily this time, and approached the door. It was locked. A swift kick opened it. The secretary was slumped over his desk. Dale checked his pulse. Still alive. He left, and walked back into the docking bay. There was a dockworker sitting up and rubbing her temples, but obviously just as dazed as he had been. Other dockworkers weren't even conscious yet. The security doors to the docking bay were locked from the inside, and when Dale stepped out, he noticed absolutely nothing unusual.
Dale called a medic team, and the station police to the docking bay before heading to the bar to relax.
A month later, New Babylon spaceport got distress calls from an old Leviathan. The call went something like, "This is Sigma Shipping Flight 29973, reporting an attack from unknown pirate vess-" before their communications went out. A patrol sent out discovered nothing in the area where the call came from, except two hyperspace trails, one from a Leviathan, and the other being a similar size, with unfamiliar engines. The next week, a massive, unknown pirate vessel was sighted and recorded in the Gefjon system. The pilot who sighted the vessel disappeared without a trace the next week.
Rendel slammed into the side of the Carrier, taking out a fighter bay, and three docked Phoenixes.
"No!" cried Stastima. "He didn't have to do that!"
"Calm down, Ace 2," cackled the com. "We have work to do"
"Sure, Ace Leader, I'm going in," Stastima reported, holding back his tears. Rendel was one of his best friends.
Stastima piloted his Patrol Ship expertly, dodging railgun slugs, hail rounds, and fusion pulse fire. As he got closer to the flagship, an Auroran Carrier, the intensity increased. He was able to ionize the Carrier before he was forced to get out. He was not about to commit suicide.
A pack of Vipers came at the Carrier from behind, dispersing the last of the shields and digging into the armor. They were quickly broken up by point defense systems. The Federation Carrier Revenge recalled the pack, but one Viper was hit by a railgun slug, and crashed into an asteroid. The Revenge decided that enough was enough. It launched missile after missile, with alarming speed. The Auroran Carrier was hit over and over, and soon it was finished. The Carrier's reactor exploded, sending large chunks of debris floating in space.
The Revenge called all ships back into formation, but Stastima didn't show up. Nor did he appear on any scanner. The fleet assumed the worst, and left the system, for refuelling and repairs.
The system was empty, excepting debris, one or two disabled Auroran fighters, and a cloaked Patrol Boat. As it came back into reality, a Wormhole appeared near the other edge of the system. A massive ship, the size of a small moon, flew out of it. It was smooth, and yellow-grey in appearance. It had an extensive array of panels that were home to fighter bays, weapons, and scanners of all varieties.
"It's about damn time," muttered Stastima, used to using English by this point. "I was nearly killed."
The massive ship opened a large panel on the side, and Stastima made his way inside the ship. The ship turned slowly around, like a tortoise, and light shone from some of the devices on the bow.
At this moment, a relatively small independent trading vessel entered the system through hyperspace. As the massive ship left through another wormhole and seemingly blinked out of existence, the pilot of the trading vessel sat and watched with wild eyes. No one would believe his story.
Drew kept scanning the computers. It was his job. He had to find whatever was the problem and contact the appropriate engineer to fix it. He had never been so stressed in his career.
Just a matter of minutes earlier, the Starliner, christened Homeworld Star, had been under attack by a small fleet of marauders. Before they could board the disabled ship, an Auroran fleet jumped in, led by a mighty Thunderforge. The marauders jumped out, and at the same moment, a Federation fleet jumped in. A stray railgun shot nearly destroyed the ship, and sent it toward the outskirts of the system. They were still hurtling out of control, but not so fast that a light freighter couldn't catch up to them.
After both fleets left, the top priority aboard the Homeworld Star was trying to contact a rescue ship. The few ships in the system were occupied by another marauding ship, which was attacking just about every ship in the system. In a way, the guests of the Homeworld Star were glad that the other ships were occupied, because that meant they weren't.
The people who weren't working on communication were trying to get the ship fixed. It figured that this mission was going to get them the extra money to buy external repair droids, The crew had their work cut out for them.
Suddenly, over the intercom, the boys in navigation reported something big. Something nasty. Something no one wanted.
"Attention, everyone. Attention. Please make your way to your rooms and secure yourselves. We are about to drift into a wormhole. Please remain calm and strap yourself down." The intercom clicked off, and everyone panicked.
This was cool, this was fun. Safe. Perfectly safe. Like walking on the ground. Like riding a bique. No problem.
Doug was having trouble completely convincing himself that buying a Shuttle in the first place was such a great idea. What was wrong with simply staying on a planet? He wanted to be a writer. That's all. Just buy a cottage in Greenbow, settle down. Write some best-selling novels. Simple stuff. He didn't want to be utterly lost and confused in the middle of empty space, waiting for the remote chance that someone would find him and help him. This wasn't what he was doing at the moment, but that was his biggest fear, as soon as he learned of the possibility.
At the moment, he was in the New Babylon Interstellar Spaceport, checking out job opportunities. It was mostly limited to heavy cargo missions, but a few passengers were willing to empty their wallets to get a few dozen light years away. Probably some rich kids running away to join the circus, thought Doug to himself, chuckling a bit. He picked a small cargo run, out to Greenwich, in the Horizon system. The name of the place sounded nice.
Getting the details worked out, the cargo was placed aboard his ship, and he was ready to set off on his first mission. Just a quick couple of quick checks and adjustments, then startup. The ship hovered a few meters off the ground, clearing the docking pad. Doug turned it slowly toward the exit route and brought it out into the open, before gunning the engines almost inadvertently. Finally sailing clear of the planet, Doug looked around at the scenery. The world of New Babylon was far below him, still taking up most of the view. Barely visible along the edge of the planet was the torn, ghastly remains of Spacedock IV. It hurt to think of the Great War that caused the damage, and much other destruction elsewhere. A bright white speck was Georgia, and a larger, much closer speck was the Hypergate. All else was inky blackness, with bright specks of stars stuck in it, glittering the scenery.
Coasting past to where the gravitational field had less effect, Doug prepared the hyperspacial engines. All systems were online and functioning up to capacity. Coordinates were set for Sol. It was just a matter of flipping this switch... and pressing this button...
Things got hazy.
A loud cracking, banging sort of noise pounded Doug's eardrums.
Things didn't look very different at first. But here... the sun was kind of a yellowish tint, not the deep orange he was used to. The stars had shifted, just so, and the usual familiar objects were replaced by much less familiar ones. They looked like ordinary stars, but at this speed, they didn't move with him as fast. His scanner picked them up. Jupiter... ah, that name sounded familiar. Hm, gas giant, uninhabitable. His scanner also picked up something he didn't see, the thin asteroid belt between the orbits of Jupiter and... ah, here it is, Mars. Mars is normally uninhabitable, of course, but here... there were interplanetary cargo ships buzzing around the Red Planet. "Terraformation in Progress," the scanner indicated. Wow, that's really something. Maybe they have some new technology. And there... that's Earth. Hm, not as impressive as I figured, thought Doug. Oh well.
The next jump into Alphara proved to be much more interesting. Well, in a way. There was nothing to see, but dodging asteroids was a real blast, especially when the entire system was filled with interfering electromagnetic waves, rendering most of his sensors useless. The star wasn't orbited by anything natural except an enormous gas belt, causing a hazy mist to blur anything he could normally see. There wasn't anything worth looking at in Alphara anyway, as Spacedock III had been wrecked long ago by the War, and the Hypergate was unavailable and unnecessary at this point. Well, it was time to go. Coordinates were set to Spica.
Doug was beginning to rather enjoy his journey, until shortly after entering Spica. Upon his arrival in the system, he just meandered around, picking up information about the planet, and scanning passing ships. But as soon as he was ready to leave, his feelings changed from idle pleasure to utter horror. Curses echoed around the cabin as he checked his energy levels. Zero. He'd had so much fun looking around that he never bothered to land on Earth to recharge! How could things have gone that wrong? What happened?
Doug looked around for something, anything, to save himself. There were no ships around anymore. There was only one thing left to do. He headed down to the planet to camp out.
Touching down on Spica, Doug looked out of his viewing ports. It was actually a rather nice planet, save the methane atmosphere, and ammonia pools covering the land. Staying in the shuttle was probably the best idea.
After several hours of total boredom, Doug fired up the engines once again. There was bound to be a passing ship nearby. Right?
Breaking free of the atmosphere, the scenery turned from hazy white to inky black once again. And nearby, within sight, even, was a large, alien looking ship. Very large. In fact, the ship wasn't very nearby at all, but it was so astonishingly huge, it looked close by. As Doug scanned the large, organic looking thing, he remarked to himself how much like a lobster the thing appeared to be. His amusement turned to horrified curiosity as several dozen specks burst from inside of it, like a fine mist. Each particle got bigger as they zoomed closer and closer, and soon, they began to take on shapes. They were... bugs! Well, giant space-borne bugs of some sort, and as Doug tried to work all this out, he realized that he was in quite a lot of danger. The bugs circled him, and they were indeed quite large things. The smallest were twice as big as his shuttle.
Suddenly, a transmission from the alien ship dissipated the silence.
"... Attention... Earthling... you have seen us...
... you will now be exterminated..."
As the bugs' ruthlessly efficient weapons tore through Doug's shuttle like it was paper, he remarked morosely to himself that he completely forgot to name his ship.