(Personal Story/Kyrene System, Recording: 12:48:34 Hours ago)
Part Eighteen of Teir -
He sat in the thin chair, longer than he wanted, stiff and aching now, but there was nothing for that, once he had taken his seat and the comm officer had started the holo there was no choice. He sat with the other officers of the Liberty Belle, held in suspension as the minutes had moved in agonizing slowness across the white paneled bulkhead of the galley cafeteria.
It had been the largest open space aboard other than the flight hangars below where the strikecraft lined the walls and floor of the parking bays, just off from the launch tubes. He had wanted them all together when they saw it.
It had been his second time.
He didn’t know if he could sit there again and view it.
But he had needed to be with them when they did.
When the holo froze at the last instant the first time, when he had been alone in his cabin and the comm officer had come to him and told him, he had put his hands on the armrests of the thin chair and wondered if he had the strength to stand.
He had managed slowly.
“Where did you get dis?”
The comm officer had sat behind him. The cabin was not overly large, no cabins aboard the Belle were, not even the Captains’.
“Advent projection, it was picked up by our relays and rebroadcast.”
“How long ago?”
“Little over twelve hours ago now, sir.” Handel had stood, rigid when his Captain had stood. He stood now, only answering what was asked of him. His hands at his sides, trying to put out of his mind what he had just seen.
The Captain had nodded slowly, more as if to himself than to Handel.
“Mmm.” The Captain had grunted then and turned away.
“Get the crew up here, they need to see this. But-“ He had turned and looked in the comm officers eyes then, “give me a bit, will ya? I need some small time.”
“Aye sir. One hour?”
The Captain turned then, looking for a moment distracted, he looked in the man’s eyes and frowned a moment, and then his eyes cleared. He nodded.
“Yes. An hour then.”
That had all been 4 hours ago.
Lieutenant Rennie had just gotten back from her survey flight out. She had brought the combat fighter back in slow, milking the low fuel in short delayed bursts and radioed comm. The response was slow coming back and she had almost been about to relay again when the clearance came through.
“Clear to tube five Delta Roger, land it and park it. Out.”
Where had the ‘Wecome Home!” gone?
She had fluttered in, coasting, popping the exhaust engines in small bursts and glided in a slow tilt port, tilt starboard wag before she got the stubby flat bellied beast into the tube and halfway down the landing corridor before she pulled back the flaps and hit the blower one strong punch, then revved it all the way down. The beast sliding into the mag net and stopping, then the arm cranes plucking her gently from midair and lowering her to the floor, then the taxi scoots were pulling in and hooking her up even before she popped the cockpit hood and pulled of her breather and slid over the side onto the wing.
She had jumped to the floor then and waved to the crew on the taxi’s.
“Take care of my baby!” she yelled across the open space.
One of the guys on the base hook gave her thumbs up, though she couldn’t see his face for the mask.
She was hungry, but more tired than anything. She decided to skip dinner and just hit the rack and think about eating tomorrow.
That is when she had come on Captain Sarkov in the hallway up toward the officers quarters.
Captain Pavel Demitri Ivanovich Sarkov.
East Ukrainian immigrant into the Federated Bloc that had joined the Trader Emergency Coalition when the lizard’s had come into the system some twenty five years ago.
Six years before she was born.
He had watched her, since she had first requisitioned aboard two years earlier, and she had thought maybe he had a wandering eye for an old man. Until she learned he had a daughter her age and that like Rennie she had black hair down to the middle of her back and dark eyes.
She had smiled then when she had seen the photo that he kept, and it eased her mind, instead of thinking he was giving her the eye.
He looked haggard now.
He was a middle height man, broad shouldered, but much of the muscle had gone soft in the years out in deep space.
They had crossed over in DS space more than 8 weeks ago, a single Capital Carrier and half a dozen frigates, an insubstantial force by all accounts here. They paid their passing duty at the wormhole and went their way, steaming across the stars on slow subspace engines to save on fuel, just in case as the old man had said.
She had laughed at that.
Captain Pavel Demetri Ivanovich Sarkov, who drank like a fish when the vodka ran, and played cards with his officers til they or he had lost everything he currently had in his pocket.
That had been the old days, back home in Trader space.
It was different out here.
He was different out here.
They were all a little uneasy, but keeping busy kept most of that at bay.
The rest you simply tried not to think about too much, and went on.
And so she saw him here, halfway back to her cabin and he must of heard her, because he turned around and stood there looking at her like perhaps she was his daughter.
It worried her to see that look in his eyes.
What was the deal?
“Is-“ She began, but he raised a hand and walked slowly back toward her and stopped.
He leaned a hand on the bulkhead.
Oh my God!
She had never,
Never seen him lean on anything.
“Ya need to see something. It is not pleasant, I will tell you dat now. But it needs to be seen.”
She nodded slowly.
“I have seen it… already-“ he stopped, his eyes far away for a moment, then he shook his head to clear it and went on as if he hadn’t stopped at all. “one more time shouldn’t hurt too much. It’s not something you want to see alone ‘Konfetka’ (sweety).
He walked past her then, he didn’t even smile, as he normally would, or touch her shoulder, or take her hand and pat it, like a concerned father would, as he had so many times in the past. But not now.
They went down to the galley cafeteria, which was empty now, the Captain punching the comm on the wall and relaying to Handel, “Handel, galley. ‘yeshche raz.’ (one more time.)”
It took several long minutes for Handel to make his way down, from where ever he had been, and his eyes were red, the top button of his coat mis-buttoned, so perhaps he had been asleep. The comm officers gray hair was pushed back and he was balding, but he came in the door and stood there, straight, with his hands folded in front of him and nodded to Rennie when he saw her.
“She hasn’t seen it.” Sarkov said.
“Ahhh.” Handel tightened his lips a moment and then bowed in her direction. “If you would like a seat Lieutenant.”
She nodded and sat down.
The chairs were stiff.
Hard thin metal bracing.
Serviceable and it lasted, but it was hardly comfortable.
Sarkov nodded and sat as well, next to her, his eyes forward on the blank bulkhead until the lights came down and the holo came up.
The corridor was almost empty.
A few crew moved about. Some with data pads, others with tools, or simply nothing at all. They appeared to be Advent, from the white robes and slips, the masks that women or men wore as they passed into and then out of the reference point.
“How…?” She whispered.
“Advent relay transmission, Tech relays which belong out here re-transmitted.” Sarkov said in a dull voice.
Then there were more people, a woman, half naked pulling on a over-gown as she came out a cabin door and headed up the corridor, the reference point following her. She walked resolutely, not quick, but not slow. She wore no mask and her face was calm, though it appeared her jaw was clenched.
She moved down the long corridor to a crossing corridor, then left to a bank of vators in the left wall. The door opened before she even reached it.
Rennie lost count, but then the vator slowed and stopped. The woman exited on a bridge. White circular walls with embedded crystals in the console that encircled the room, a single larger crystal embedded in the ceiling. A transparent vid screen covered the entire four hundred spans of space between the left and right edges of the console where slipped, masked women sat at stations, not moving, not turning, staring straight ahead at the blank walls in front of them.
A slip of ships came up on the screen then.
The woman said something in that slurring Advent tongue, but only a few words. An exclamation perhaps, they were probably communicating psychically anyway.
None of that was recorded in the holo.
Simply the words and the images.
The bridge shook for a moment then, and a shimmer of light moved out away from the ship? Ship? Starbase more likely. It was too large to be a ship, impacting the ships that had appeared over the event horizon.
The woman made to turn away then, when she suddenly turned back. Someone must have said something… thought something.
Another group of ships was appearing over the event horizon, suddenly there as if from nowhere. Out of the ether at the edge of the visible line of sight.
Another tremor and another shimmering wave went out from the starbase.
Then another group.
There was no tremor this time.
And two more groups came over the horizon into existence.
The scene shifted then.
Pirates coming up on the Tel’ Ahn See, firing all their mounted guns.
The blasts were red and lingered in the reference point long after the beams had already left the attacking ships and were on their way to their targets.
The Tel’ Ahn See was lit in a wave of red light.
Inside the corridors walls simply vaporized.
A woman running down the long stretch of white floor simply disappeared as the wall and floor under her turned to red rimmed light and then was gone.
Smoke filled the hallways, and then the starbase must have shifted because the reference point turned on its side. Light blossomed and consumed steel, silently. A woman ran, her arm gone, blood spilling out and rising into the air, she wore a mask and was barefoot. She sprinted down the hallway as if the reference point had suddenly sped up.
But it hadn’t.
She moved in a blur.
The hallway behind her vanished in red light, walls caved in and smoke and debris and people floated. The lights failed, then came up half dim.
The woman moved,
Her arm moving forward,
Her front leg out in front and off the floor,
Her back leg pushing,
When a severed wall appeared in front of her.
She tried to stop, half turning when it caught her cutting through her, the bulk of the wall hiding what remained below.
The top of the woman’s body turned, blood spilled as her face impacted the side wall. The mask bent and half shattered.
Long black hair fell out of her mask, falling behind her, draping across her shoulder as if some fashionable style.
Half the mask remained, covering the left side of her face. The right side was broken and gone, blood spilled and floated in the dim and smokey light, her blue eye still and unmoving, as her black hair drifted over her face in slow moving strands.
The screen went red then.
All of it.
Then it shifted.
Graceful circular swans were half gone, smoke and debris and blood filled open space, bodies floated unmoving. The two starbases had tipped and moving in slow motion with no stabilizers were merging.
But there was no sound.
Jets of escaping atmosphere jetted in long white-clear jets. Beams crushed beams and walls collapsed and caved in. Black fire burned out of those torn and mangled sections as they continued to fall into one another.
The space between was spilling radiation.
Pirate ships by the dozens exploded in mid air, turning, firing, and then simply exploding into sharp edge black fragments with bedsheets and jeweled necklaces and blood floating in the dark.
The last Starbase turned its guns forward,
The eye of the gun shifting, as the Advent trackers did.
A pulsing purple light shimmering along is side track around the outer ring.
It circled once, brightened, and then a second time,
Halfway through the third circle the outer ring simply exploded in red and black, fires welled up in the cavities as the shattered fragments of it fell away dropping lower as it still burned.
A figure in white stood on a ledge at the edge on one side of the cavity, too far to see if it was a man or woman. Standing still.
Robe moving slowly, as if in some deep void breeze.
Until the Starbase fell in slow degrees over its side, and the figure slipped from the ledge and vanished into the debris and red fire of firing guns and disappeared.
The bridge was gone.
White seats were empty and tipped over on their sides.
The roof of the domed room, with its embedded crystal dark, had collapsed and only a quarter of the room was still visible at all.
There was a white light then.
Large as it moved toward the reference point,
Getting whiter and whiter,
Larger and larger as it moved into the screen and covered it completely.
There was no sound.
The reference point shifted.
Short stubby missiles glowing red and green were leaving the bombardiers, moving in slow arcs that brought them over the blue cloud line and the white sky of the planet below.
The screen froze as the first touched the world.