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Alpha

Found 7 results

  1. "Well, I seem to have made it in the nick of time. Without further ado, here is my Contest Submission. I can only hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Thank you. " Novawrimo-ThatBrightDawn.pdf
  2. For Blood "Through the darkest night, And the deepest hell, Past the raging winds, And kingdoms that fell: We stayed unbroken. We came as a flood, We left as wildfire. Why? All was for blood." --Recovered text from ancient Malahic Cult. “Suppressive fire! Vortex Three, I need two stand-off payloads. Eidolon, highlight the targets.” I ran out into the dark night, signalling the four soldiers that came with me to get our three diplomats to Vortex Two—the diplomats were of no use here. They nodded and took the surprised women and man to relative safety. “Vortex Two, where are my payloads?!” I shouted as an armoured hovercraft smashed through the make-shift barricade. Locking on the target, I fired a timed explosive into the offending vehicle just as its doors opened for the soldiers to get out. “Get out while you can. We’ll hold them off.” Aditi said, firing a short range homing missile at a jet that came into sight from the east. I nodded and told my brothers to pull back. Two missiles raced from the west, lighting up the sky with brilliant yellow light as they hit home. “Better late than never! Good job, Two.” We retreated to where Meera was impatiently hovering. If the Nightelves had hooters, she would be blasting them non-stop by now. “Hostiles are a quarter mile away. Should I engage?” The pilot of Vortex Three asked. I strapped myself into the co-pilot’s seat and stared down at the failing defence of the Resistance. “Provide support, Meera. Two, get to safety. Three, watch our backs. We’re going in.” We dived into the chaos of flames, smoke and angry screams. As explosion upon explosion rocked the ground, we answered. Fire for fire, rays for rays, death for death and terror for terror. Meera banked the craft hard and my eyes caught Aditi on the ground. Bloodied and bruised, her rifle lay a few feet from her and hostile troops were closing in. “Eidolon, the hatch!” I commanded, even as I unstrapped myself and rushed to the exit. As I jumped out, Eidolon followed me, shooting sporadically in all directions that enemies were. As I approached the ground, he grabbed me for a moment, dropping me hard to the ground. “What was that for?!” I asked, firing at the approaching soldiers. “Don’t expect me to come saving you like that again. I’m not your servant.” I didn’t have time to pick another fight, so I turned towards Aditi. Her eyes were open. “You are stupid.” She said, rebuking me in much the same tone as my mother would have. I shrugged and gently hoisted her onto my shoulder as Eidolon told me she suffered from no internal bleeding. “Meera, I need you to—“ I stared in horror as Vortex One came crashing down behind enemy lines. “Meera!” Jenz’s weak voice came online. “Get yourself out of here, Hisashi…” I left Aditi in the care of Petrovsky and turned back to look at Vortex One. The soldiers were cautiously approaching it, ready to fire at any movement. “Meera? Answer if you copy!” Her voice was slow and confused. “Whaa….?” I sighed in relief and reloaded my firearm. “Vortex Two, go Winchester.” As death rained on our enemies from above, Eidolon and I battled our way to Vortex One. Twice, I was blown off my feet by projectiles that Eidolon barely managed to intercept. For all our effort and the stalwart determination of the Resistance, we were unable to break through to the downed craft. A soldier picked up Meera from the wrecked craft and pointed his gun at her head. “No…No… Please don’t!” I screamed as I blindly ran toward him. “Hisashi, get back now!” It was stupid of me to run out of cover, but I didn’t care. Meera was the closest to family I had, if she died, I would follow in seconds. He paused for a few seconds as if considering whether or not to take her life. As our eyes met, I stopped and waited for him to drop her. In that moment of time, a message was passed. With a pull of his trigger, the soldier sent her to the afterlife and I blacked out. The first thing I remember my sane self doing was putting a laser ray through his forehead. That was the last thing I could clearly remember. I was berserk and flinging death like I had a Death Note with pages to spare. Eidolon was shouting something in my ear. I didn’t care. It was irrelevant. There were only two ways this was going to end. Either they killed me, or I killed them all. Nothing else mattered. They had killed someone of my blood. I growled, snapping a soldier’s neck backward. “For you, Meera. For Blood.”
  3. “They told us it was impossible…They were right.” The scorching sun, the blistering desert wind, the screams and shouts of the desperate people behind us. The images immediately switched to outer space. I saw the earth, a small blue sphere, seemingly insignificant against the backdrop of the celestial realm in all its glory. The image stayed there for a second shorter than I would have liked it. Again, I was teleported into the chaos I just escaped. The people were being held off by armoured guards. Somewhere in my confused mind, I sensed a tinge of acquaintance with them all. The crowd seemed grimly desperate to get to where I was standing. “Hisashi, we need to leave, now!” A voice screamed in my ear. As the view turned, my eyes caught Kyle standing in the crowd. He was wearing the same uniform the others were wearing. Standing beside him were Nora and little Jeane. The three of them waved frantically at me, smiling and cheering me on. Somehow, I knew that they were all just trying to be brave: the sadness beneath their eyes was way too evident. But, my brother seemed happy, almost ecstatic at my departure. The door closed and darkness enveloped me. I woke up with a dreadful headache, enough of it to kill every living human three times over. My entire body was stiff and ached with a pain that drove me to the edge of utter madness. The place was cold, as if I took a walk on a winter evening without so much as cloth on my back. Somewhere in my foggy mind I remember being told to stay still and wait the pain out. While I waited for the pain to subside, I strained to get my thoughts together. The thoughts that came were ones I didn’t ever want to remember. I slept off, the tiredness overcoming the terror of pain. Kyle, Nora, Jeane, Sonke, Tzu, Peretti, Karl… A pang of guilt stung me, hurting more than the pain my body had to endure. I killed them. I killed them all. The Arkship could only take so few people and it was no secret that to a large extent, the selection process was corrupted. What was to become of the people left behind? Death, famine, wars, disease and distress. Oethe Inc. had decided to change that. As the Arkship was being constructed, Oethe was busy building our light at the end of the tunnel. The masses sponsored the project: any alternative hope was worth the world. Hundreds of billions of dollars were poured in and still the people on this craft with me were the children and grandchildren of those that had started the project. What was the name again? I struggled to scratch my head, realising that I could move my hands. How long was I asleep? I craned my neck to the left all that was there was the white wall of the “Cocoon”. With a hiss, the transparent cover slid down, and the Cocoon tilted, patiently waiting, it seemed for me to make my first step. It was harder than I thought possible. My body was as stiff as a mountain. With great difficulty I put one foot out and adjusted my weight—I was floating within the moment. Slowly pulling myself along the cold metallic walls, I used the faint illumination provided by the electric blue phantom lights somewhere on the roof to guide myself along the dark corridor to the control centre. The pain was immense, nerve wracking at times, as my joints began to recover the fluidity of movement they once had. We had been warned, hadn’t we? The project we were undertaking was one that entire nations in a massive and surprisingly concerted effort struggled to finance and complete. Even if we did complete the project, what would happen if an error on the on-board computer wiped us out in space? What was going to stop space debris from destroying this fragile structure? Nonetheless, we pressed on. What hope did we have here on earth or with the corruption fraught selection system the United Nations hailed as fair and square? We had no hope on this planet. As I entered the massive control centre, Eidolon came online. “Hisashi, how are you feeling?” I loosened my tongue and tried to reply. All that came out was a grunt. “Is that how you thank me for keeping your sorry life intact?” I shook my head, half amused, half frightened. Eidolon was the on-board AI developed by Oethe. He was more human than computer, being based in part on the high output brain scan of the Oethe founder. That made him, above all else, dangerous. “I would have opened the air-lock to teach you manners, but the lot of you are still going to die anyway.” My neck snapped in the direction of his holographic image. “Ow! Whaa…do…say?!” “There is a catastrophic system failure in Section 53. The Instant On-board Error Analysis and Repair System (IO.EARS) has reported its inability to fix the problem.” Section 53 was the central propulsion hub. “How much…tume… we have?” I asked, sweating despite the cool breeze. Eidolon moved across the room to the windows. “Until we enter the gravitational field of the Arkship’s current home: one hour, fifty-four minutes and thirty-three seconds.” Panic kicked in faster than light. I could leave this ship and escape. There were enough emergency crafts to go round and I could at least save myself and carry the legacy of the Oethe with me. Eidolon could be deactivated or commanded, either way, I would need his help. “Thinking of leaving, aren’t we, Grand Architect?” I spun round and flew back in bewilderment as Eidolon closed in on me. “I’m disappointed.” Even as he said those words, the command centre lit up in a brilliant but, macabre show of red lights. Eidolon stood over me, looming and threatening even as the lights made his face seem dark, almost hellish. “You are—“ “Shut up.” I spat and assumed my standing position. He looked taken aback. “I said shut up, if you didn’t hear me the first time. I’m not leaving. Go make yourself useful somewhere.” Without so much as a word, the AI vanished into animated aurora that flew down the corridor and out of sight. Running away right now would make me a worse person than all the tyrants, dictators, cowards, deceivers and war mongers that made us leave in the first place. I slowly sat down in the Prime Seat and assessed our imminent death. The five hundred and fifty-seven people on this ship were my family and responsibility. The survival of Project Deliverance hung on my shoulders. From what the Argos’ computer was relaying to me, there was no chance of survival. The critics of this Project Deliverance had clearly told us: “It’s impossible.” They were right. The planet loomed ahead, embracing us with arms of death. At this speed, we would all be dead before we felt any pain. I whispered to myself, lost in fear, terror and desperation. “Hold on, Kyle. I’m coming.” Part Two will be released soon. Stay tuned for more. Find out more about the Aether here.
  4. Destroy You must have thought this was it. You must have said it’s the end. Listen…to my words, attend. Do rocks fall from the sky, And statues come from above, To land like a white dove? Rocks may shatter and crumble And you may think you’ve won, They’ll survive—not as one, But as small bits of the whole. Destroy all, if you may, We’ll live under the sun’s ray. Songs of Adrohen Chapter 149. The Kalnian Books. “He’s taking quite a while; don’t you think?” Kuro asked, moving silently beside me. “Yes.” I yawned a bit and paused to look at the stars. Olympus Ariana—for that is what we survivors named our little territory—was much too crowded and noisy for my liking. I skipped over a root and stared into the grassy plain beyond. With a final sigh and a quick glance at Shiro, I continued moving. I knew I shouldn’t have moved beyond the borders, but who cared? The self-proclaimed Defence Department was already laying down silly laws to “protect” us. They’d have a whole mess on their hands by the time I was done with them. “You shouldn’t go there, Oru.” There she was again, sticking to the rules. I smiled mischievously and turned to Shiro. “You want to stay behind? Sure. Kuro and I will be back soon.” I scratched Kuro’s head and he hooted. Laughing at him, I moved onwards; sure enough, Shiro’s light steps followed behind us. There is something about the purity of undefiled nature that makes it stand apart from anything else. The stars, the forests, the plain. Man knows nothing but to defile: a pity and a shame. My mind wandered to the Grand Architect and his mission to the Novark. “Feeling tired already?” Shiro asked, a few steps ahead. “Nope. Just waiting for your delicate lungs to catch their breath.” “Shut up…” She whispered, lying down beside a gnarled, but fruitful tree. I smiled, half yawning, half fading into the beauty of a silent night…I wished I could sleep, but it wouldn’t come, no matter how I lay on the waving, cool grass that stretched for miles around or how softly the wind blew under the serene starry night. All of a sudden, Shiro sat up, her white hair moving like silky crystal strands in the zephyr. Kuro stirred as well, looking in the direction of Olympus Ariana. “I think there’s trouble back at Ariana, Satoru. We should leave, before “didi” finds us here.” Kuro announced, standing on a low hanging bough. I moaned and sat up, glaring angrily at him. ““Didi” is a poor name for the Defence Department, stupid.” He hissed and started moving. Well, there go my plans for some mental chess matches. I followed, trudging along while he and Shiro moved swiftly to the outskirts of Ariana. As we got closer, I cringed at the noise coming from the camp. “Hurry, Oru! Something’s gone terribly wrong!” Shiro alerted us and disappeared into the crowd. I lost Kuro in the rush and found myself jogging past white three-storey tall Sections, abandoned camp fires, whispering circles of people and heavy machinery. A lot of people were walking around from place to place and scarcely a lip seemed to be still. As I got closer to the gathering, a series of loud wails came from somewhere beyond. A quick voice told me that there was no way I was going through this crowd. Instead, I looked at one of the Sections to the left and the Heavy Duty Excavator that someone carelessly left in the Civilian Zone... Tsk. Do they have to give names to everything? By the time I’d climbed up the boom and hopped from the bucket to the second storey of the Section, I could see Shiro’s feet swinging from the top of the Section’s sloped roof. Climbing in the Tang suit was easy, but not with the loafers on my feet. Kicking them off, I clambered to the top, thankful that Oethe decided not to make the sides of the Sections completely smooth. As I looked out and over the crowd, I ruffled Shiro’s hair a bit, until she threatened me with her rifle. “Hm. Another of the Nightelves has just landed. They lost one to the Arkship folk then.” I noted, sitting down. We looked down at the metallic landing pads, lit up by powerful floodlights that covered the area in an ambient blue hue. The technical officers were already repairing what damage the Nightelves sustained as the soldiers walked out of the craft. Other engineers and soldiers seemed agitated and quite pissed off. “Crap. That means the Mad men will get their hands on our tech.” I shrugged and looked beyond the laser fence into the distance of the grand night scenery the planet had to offer. “Perhaps.” Kuro found his way to us and panted for a while before staring me straight in the eye. “The Grand Architect’s dead.” Great. First day of contact with the fools and they managed to kill Hisashi. Kare wa bakadesu. “What? No tears from you?” Kuro asked bewildered, looking from me to Shiro and back. “Nope.” I answered, stretching. “Me neither. He was an idiot for going out to meet them like that. He should have let Intel. go first.” “You are hard people, you are.” He said and settled down behind us. By the sound of the “wailing wall” from beneath us, it was clear that the people below were quite the opposite. “Who’s going to select the next Grand Architect?” Shiro wondered, fondling her rifle. I scratched my head, trying to get my thoughts in order. It could only be one person—or thing as the case might be. “Eidolon.” Kuro grunted and we laughed. “I’m sure he’s not going to pick you.” Shiro chuckled, aiming at a flood light in the distance. “You kids! Get down from there!” “It’s Hartmut!” Kuro said and slipped down the other side. I looked over the edge of the roof at the annoying man and sighed. “Shiro, are you…and she’s gone.” I muttered to myself, after sighting her long white hair disappear behind the other side and I jumped off the Section. I barely made my landing on the bucket, before intentionally losing my grip and sliding down the boom, tearing my trouser in the process. With a hop and a step, I was face to face with the six foot German body builder. He stared down at me like I was a protein shake. “What were you doing up there, Satoru?” I stared back into his eyes, refusing to answer or break my gaze. You tell me. He lingered for a few seconds and turned his eyes somewhere else. Bingo. “Nothing, Hartmut.” I answered at last, checking my torn trouser. “Don’t tell me that. What were you doing?” “Perhaps you saw me grow fifteen limbs? Or do you have evidence that I contacted the Mad men? Maybe you saw me shoot down a few Sections that are still in orbit?” “Don’t—“ I growled at him and he backed off. “This is why people don’t talk to you, freak.” He spat and turned away. There. You did it again, Satoru. You just had to make him hate you. I sighed and picked my loafers that he’d neatly arranged for me beside the Excavator and walked to my Section barefoot. “Satoru Masanori.” A voice trumpeted as I bumped into something cold and metallic. I looked up and saw a battle scarred Eidolon facing me. From the looks of it, it was clear that I’d spent eight minutes walking into the crowd of people. How did I get here? “Are you or are you not Satoru Masanori?” Eidolon asked. I gave the AI a cold stare and replied. “I am.” “Good.” He lingered for a few seconds more as if he wanted to say something before turning away. The crowd followed him and some strangers that seemed to have come with him. “Who are they?” Kuro asked behind me. “Refugees.” “From the Arkship area?” I gave him a tired look. “From the netherworld, stupid.” He scratched my face and left in anger. I tried walking to my Section again and found it this time. Shiro was already waiting for me on the roof. I was there in a few minutes, after picking a silk shirt and a pair of trousers. “Tell me something, Oru.” I yawned and flexed my neck. “What is it?” “If you are made the Grand Architect in place of Hisashi, what would be the first thing you’d do?” “That’s sudden. I haven’t thought about it.” I lied and closed my eyes. I had already planned to do a total change of the Oethe structure once we landed, but making friends wasn’t my strong point, so I’d have to do things the labour intensive way. “You’re lying to me.” She said, smiling at her rifle. “You’re going to try to make it happen, yone?” Kuro slapped the back of my head. “He is going to do it.” I picked up Haiiro and the thin white ghost lights lit up from the handle, like a glowing liquid filling a cup, until they reached the muzzle of the pistol and the lights circled round. “Yes, I am going to do it: I’m going to destroy everything.”
  5. Don’t Save Me. "I have nothing left to lose, Nay, I want to lose nothing more. What is life but a ruse? What do I have left to live for? More time will bring only rue, More of life will leave me with less. I have family here, true. But, beyond, we’ll all suffer less." Kyle Susumu's Diary, last day of Earth’s existence. Somewhere along the line, I lost count of the number of people I was killing. I left Eidolon to do the job of protecting my back while I cut the strings of fate of every hostile organism in sight. Was I selfish? No. Was I careless? No. Was I a mindless beast? Yes. One after another, lives got snuffed out by my rage, my firearms and my hands. For all the bright flashes of light, the shouts of rage and terror, the sound of feet and ammunition and the stars that watched in serene silence, my mind was bent on only one thing: taking these bastards with me. “You are the most stupid fellow I’ve seen all my life!” I ignored the AI even as a shell blew up less than a score feet away from me. The unforgiving force of the explosion threw me into the air like a rag doll. My face was the first part of my body to hit the flaming frame of a destroyed vehicle. Surprisingly enough, I didn’t black out. I was no soldier, but I understood the benefits and dangers of passing out in the middle of a fire fight. As the pain coursed through my being, I longed for the benefits. Struggling to get on my feet, I spotted a soldier coming towards me. His uniform had neither the insignia of the Resistance nor the design of the hostile forces. I barely made it to my feet before something snapped and I fell down in a heap. A chilling, electric pain charged through my bones as I realised what just happened: my spine had broken. I couldn’t feel my legs and the rest of my body was in too much agony for me to lift a finger or call for help. All I could do was watch him through the rage that clouded my sight. Where was Eidolon? “Are you okay?” This guy had to be a joker. Did I look okay? A bullet ricocheted off the frame, reminding us both that the battlefield wasn’t a place to chat. Then, he made the big mistake of trying to drag me away. If I thought I couldn’t speak, I was right—I screamed. Startled, he dropped me abruptly and looked me over with concern. That caused me even more pain. The stranger laid me on my back and crouched on the ground. Something exploded a distance away from us, followed by the short scream of a combatant. “You have broken bones. Wait here.” I groaned and managed to get some words out of my mouth. “Don’t save me. Save them.” I looked towards the retreating soldiers of the Resistance. His face clouded. “I’m not with them.” I gave him questioning look. “I’m with the Earldom.” What kind of name is “the Earldom”? Probably some conceited people with enough hypocrisy to pretend they didn’t want to control everyone else. Vortex Two was trying to hail me through the communications device. After some quick thinking, I decided to answer. “Vortex Two, find Petrovsky and track my beacon. Come pick me up in ten minutes.” “Yes, sir.” I looked at the Earldom fellow one more time. “What’s your name?” “William.” He said, getting impatient. Talking was hard and I was pretty sure the warm liquid I felt under my back was blood. Whatever had to be done needed to be done fast. “Does the Earldom support these madmen?” “Do I look like I support them?” “You tell me.” He sighed and rubbed his face. “I don’t support them. Listen, we’ve got to get you to safety.” I was about to say something, when I saw a shadow on my chest. “Put your hands in the air!” William looked up and aimed at whoever was commanding. I could tell it was Petrovsky, although I couldn’t see him. “Petrovsky! This…man is not an enemy!” I almost choked on my blood, before William raised my head a little. The Russian came into sight, along with four other Resistance members. I knew there were more, but I couldn’t see them. Where was Aditi? “Where’s Aditi?” I asked him. He bent down and looked me in the eye. “She’s dead.” “What?!” I shouted before gurgled breathing reminded me that I was still going to meet her anyway. He looked at William and I answered the question. “He’s with us. Take my wrist band. It has a beacon in it. Take it and get out. Vortex Two will pick you up.” He sensed the message right away. “You want me to leave you here?” My eyesight blurred for a second and I spat out more blood. “I won’t be of much use. But you, you can help them. My spine’s broken and I’ve lost too much blood. You’re standing in it.” He looked at his feet and barely managed to hide his shock. “I will not leave you here.” William gave an irritated sigh. “Don’t save me. Save your men. I’m dead already. Get out: Vortex Two is searching for you and they already have the beacon’s signal. Don’t let them come here, don’t let them find me.” Whatever he wanted to say, he kept it and nodded solemnly. “You are too good to die alone.” He whispered and stood. My vision darkened five shades and I just had to close my eyes. “I’m not alone. They’re with me, they’re waiting. Go, Petrovsky: I won’t forgive you…if they come…” The sounds became distant, but I heard them leave. The explosions faded into muffled sounds as I tried to open my eyes one last time. All I could see where the stars, twinkling and shining. I had brought the legacy of Oethe to this planet. I had succeeded in my job. Did Eidolon know that I would die? Where was he? A crackled voice spoke gently beside me. It was Eidolon. “Goodbye, Grand Architect.” I grunted and caught a last glimpse of the stars. Kyle, Nora, Jeane, Meera and the rest would be waiting for me, I’d finally get to see everyone again. That was where I was headed now. My final resting place. My home among the stars.
  6. Dusk at Dawn "A new promise, a brand new hope. Another chance, another life. Beyond the skies, fly and elope. Your path is yours, prospects are rife. All will follow, and tug the rope. Vive la difference! Views, thoughts and strife. Friends will be made, build your own tope. Foes will strike, play the fife. The occasions, new life is borne, The pale terrors, a dusk at dawn." 2 Ronhel Chapter 4, verses 57- 59. The Kalnian Books. Despite my efforts to secure a safe landing for everyone, three Sections plunged from the atmosphere at breakneck speed. Two of those housed equipment and supplies—not much we couldn’t do without. The third one, however, held two hundred and fifty thousand people and there were no survivors. As I stood on the hill overlooking the blackened pile of bodies that didn’t make it, I felt ashamed. Just hours ago, we were rejoicing as the Cocoons warmed up their human cargo before waking them. In groups of fives and tens, they came out, shaking, scared, some were excited. As they realised they’d made it, they cried, shouted, laughed, danced or just stared in the distance out of utter amazement. The weather was windy and bright, the fields of green seemed to agree with our presence. Eidolon reported that a few Sections had missed the correct entry angle and burnt up in the atmosphere, others floated off to deep space, but three, he warned, had gone dark—possibly as a result of the battering Terra Ulterior had taken from space debris. More than half a million people waited for the last set while laughing and talking. That was until they fell from the sky and hit the ground with a terrifying sound. It was the sound of death. Here I stood, joy turned into sorrow as the wind conveyed the thick, repulsive stench of charred human corpses. Their remains were scattered over a radius of two miles. My eyes caught sight of a half-burnt piece of cloth, just beside a broken skull. I turned away. There was work to be done. We had to find a way to bury all these people, before diseases reared their heads on this planet as well. But, getting the people who had just anointed me as their saviour to do the task of undertakers was proving as difficult as raising the dead back to life. “I don’t envy your job.” Jonathan said behind me as I moved to help a few people with the grim task. Giving him a weak smile, I threw him the access card to the Section containing the heavy-duty vehicles. “But, I will envy yours in a moment.” As dusk set upon the planet, camps were being set up well away from the macabre scene. In a couple of days, the corpses would be well hidden and we could move on. In the meantime, I set about socialising and encouraging the survivors. Eidolon said the humans from the Ark ship had been on Alioth for three months. Gaining access to the Ark Ship’s records was proving a bit of a hurdle, even for Eidolon. He kept complaining about the schizophrenic and slightly mad AI of the Ark Ship: Aphelia, being too advanced for his liking. I could only listen to his complaints for so long before I set off to look for this famous Ark Ship and the humans that came in it. There’s something about exploring at night that makes you feel unnecessarily alert. We hadn’t come across any animals, although we could hear them (which in its own right was strange), there were no humans around, but the people we came with for scores of miles around, and we had nothing to fear from supernatural incursions. Yet as I and my newly selected team of former diplomats and veterans crammed ourselves in three aircrafts, we were silent, almost paranoiac as the silent crafts glided through the darkness of night and under a spectacular scenery of stars and constellations. The bays were mostly silent except for the occasional remark or short-lived humorous attempt to lighten our hearts. As we got closer to the majestic structure that stood out from the landscape, we began to see the first signs of human settlement. Small towns, villages and distinct enclaves lit up by lights and crafts. The skies were mostly clear, except for a few daring crafts that flew close to us and darted away all of a sudden. It happened the first time, then the second and the third. “They are warning us.” I told Meera—a good friend of mine and the best pilot I’d ever seen. “I know, Hisashi. I can feel the tension in the air.” I raised an eyebrow at her and returned to bay. Whatever it was, we had best be ready. “Gentlemen, strap up and strap in. Prepare for evasive manoeu—“ And it came. Our Nightelf blared a lock-on alarm before the droning alarm of incoming missiles. The craft swerved to the left and upside down, throwing whoever wasn’t secured at the padded ceiling and to the hard sides. “Vortex Three! ECM is your call! Vortex Two S&D is up your alley! Meera, stick with the aggro.” I shouted, even as my head slammed against a soldier’s shoulder. The pilots of the other Nightelves acknowledged the commands and set to work. Meera, on the other hand, kept us flying at the walls and ceiling. “It’s the madmen.” Eidolon hinted through my sub-dermal communication device. “So soon?” I asked, scrambling for a harness as the craft levelled for a second. I barely made it and strapped myself in before Meera banked the craft hard. “They are humans; they hardly need anytime to cause chaos.” Jenz said and began firing at the missile batteries. While we made it safely out of the danger zone, Eidolon battled to keep Aphelia from gaining unauthorised access to our crafts. “Is this her doing?” Meera asked, sweating and out of breath. “Ask her when you see her.” Eidolon replied and highlighted a craft through the screen. I sat in the co-pilots seat and pointed at the building it was heading for. “Head there instead. Vortex Two, offset half a mile south and land. Vortex Three, remain airborne.” Our Nightelf hovered a few metres over the ground while our security dropped down. Naturally, I dropped down first and proceeded to the stranger that led us here. Another one came from the building, waving her hands frantically. “Get them out! Get those jets away!” Meera uttered a curse and flew to the skies. Eight of the security detail swept the premises, while four came with me. Two missiles streaked over the horizon, following Meera. Once inside the house, the strangers introduced themselves. “Petrovsky. Lieutenant in the resistance.” The pilot said in a gruff voice, shaking my hand with a steel grip. “Hisashi Susumu.” I replied, trying to release his grip from my hand. “You are not one of us. Where did you come from?” Aditi, the woman asked. I gave her the summary of who we were and where we came from, making sure to leave out important details. In return, they let me know that the “madmen” had seized control of the area surrounding the Ark Ship. The Resistance, had tried to hail us, but the Nightelves communicated on a different frequency than the common one. We promised to return to help them fight back against the oppressors, giving them a highly inaccurate estimate of how many we were. Scarcely had we gone halfway through details and logistic support that Eidolon sounded a warning. “There are almost a two hundred hostile troops in bound to your position. The Vortices can’t help right now: we don’t know the extent of the enemy’s anti-cloaking capabilities.” I grunted, deep in thought and he snapped at me. “Grunt one more time, and I will aid them in killing you.” Absent-mindedly, I turned to the security detail. “We’ll have to fight our way out of here.” Petrovsky held my shoulder in a big hand. “We have thirty Resistance soldiers here. We will get you out. I will call for reinforcement.” With that, he jogged out of the door. Aditi pushed somethings into my hands. “Take this.” I looked at the strange devices. Something in my head told me they weren’t unfamiliar. “It’s a kadpak and a nanoformer. I don’t think you have any in your ships.” I stared at her, liking the Resistance more until an explosion jerked my attention. “Stay together, guys. Let’s give them hell. For blood!” They raised their weapons and screamed into the night. “For blood!”
  7. The Aether Backstory Part 2 "You Will Remember Us" "Row upon row, heap upon heap. This is our fate, left to perish. Stride after stride, leap after leap. All our glory, naught but a wish. Cry after cry, "Weep", I hear. "Weep." Terror fills us, as we vanish. You were our hope, our wish, our light. You let us die, by war, by blight. Know this traitor, alone you'll die. Screaming, shouting, alone. Goodbye." Graffiti writing on Terra Ulterior. Author: Unknown I couldn’t believe this was happening. Of all things to go wrong, why propulsion and why now? Gritting my teeth, I looked at the screen. The new planet’s gravity field was just over seven hundred and sixty thousand miles away and the ship was moving at 324,857 metres per second. I did some calculations in my head and sighed. I had just over an hour and fifty-four minutes to avert a catastrophe. “Eidolon.” I called, my voice shaking a bit. He materialised in front of me. “Are the retro-thrusters in good condition?” He shook his head. “Sixty five percent of the retro-thrusters can squeeze out a performance of thirty-three percent capacity. Thirty percent are working in good condition while the remaining five are all but destroyed.” My mouth twitched. Well, if around a third of the thrusters could work, my plan might be feasible. “Where are the majority of the thrusters located?” “At the rear—facing the rear.” I gritted my teeth again. For all the peace that the Aether was meant to offer, I felt none of it. This was going to be one bloody day in the history of Oethe—and probably it’s last. As I glanced at the grim looking AI, an idea blossomed in my head. “Can you to maintain the ship’s current course, while reversing its direction?” “You want me to spin the ship on its vertical axis?” Stupid computer. “Yes, of course. I can. It’ll take me no less than thirty minutes to perform that little trick.” I nodded. “Get to work.” While Eidolon began to slowly position the ship aright, I jogged down the barely lighted corridors, checking for information on the ship that would provide an overlay of the ship’s structure. Somehow, I had forgotten what the ship even looked like, although I was pretty sure I knew at one point. IO.EARS kept on trying to reboot and dynamically repair Section 53, even though it had failed to do so over two million times. My search ended up being nothing but a dangerous waste of time. Eidolon stated that the information was securely locked—another way of saying that I didn’t have the required access level. After thirty-three minutes, the axis manoeuvre was eighty-three percent complete. The most disturbing thing was this: I was completely powerless to do anything, but wait as I left a crucial part of the survival plan to be handled by a computer. Was this the punishment we had to face for leaving our fellow humans behind? I scowled at the idea, disgusted that anyone would even blame us for leaving. Our selection had been determined by the masses, billions of people cast their opinions for who should and who shouldn’t leave. In essence, we didn’t pick ourselves, the people on earth did. While fidgeting with the unease of imminent death, I wiped my wet hands on my shirt. Eidolon had just a few more minutes to complete this manoeuvre, or there was no way I was going to be able to make this work. “You will survive.” I remembered Nora telling me. She was the kind of person that’s a mother and a friend to a younger in-law. “You will survive. You’ll go out there and you’ll make sure that nothing goes wrong. You have no choice. You’ll remember us and survive.” “I will survive…” I muttered to myself, lost in thought. “Grand Architect, the manoeuvre is complete.” Eidolon said, pretending to be out of breath. I acknowledged him with a small grunt, and he growled. Ignoring him, I set to work. “How much fuel do we have left in the retro-thrusters?” I asked, keeping my eyes glued to the screen as the control interface rose from the floor. “Fifty-three percent is left.” My mouth twitched again. “Good.” Carefully and slowly, I pushed the rear-facing retro thrusters to half capacity, using the side retro-thrusters to stabilise the ship and maintain the course. Eidolon aided me by showing the simulated course and the jargon of calculations only a mad man would need at this time. Reduction in speed was minimal at first, but the structure began to slow…by 0.184 percent. “This is crazy…” I muttered to myself. The AI chuckled. “Can’t you even pretend to be bothered?!” I demanded in frustration. He shook his head. “No, my dear friend. I can’t. But, I could override IO.EARS and attempt to force the engines to start—ignoring any errors that could wipe us all out, of course.” I gaped at him, somewhat excited, more infuriated. “Couldn’t you have told me sooner?” He shrugged in a carefree manner. “You didn’t ask.” I dismissed him with one sweaty palm and wiped my face with the other. Ten minutes left and Section 53 finally came online, although at less than five percent capacity. With all retro-thrusters working overtime, we had dropped our velocity to 240,000 metres per second. Once we entered, the planet’s gravitational field, things could change drastically. For one, our gained progress could be nullified in mere minutes. An alarm blared, sending me out of my skin and I heard the structure make a terrible groan. “Eidolon! What did you do?!” “We have lost control of all the thrusters at the front of the ship. They are accelerating. I warned there could be errors, Grand Architect.” I was about to scream out my life on the emotionless AI, until I had another crazy idea. “Switch off the Section 53.” “What?” I shot him a sharp glance and turned off all the retro-thrusters. An hour later, we were moving at blistering speed of 417,087 metres per second and three-quarter of a million miles away from the planet’s surface. “Restart Section 53—at full capacity.” I said, lost in stupor. “You’re a mad man.” “Maybe so. But, I am the Grand Architect and you have no choice but to obey.” He nodded and brought the main propulsion online. The ship groaned in a terrifying manner, the stress sure to cause some loss in the structure’s integrity. “How many detachable Sections are there on the ship?” He acted like he was thinking and replied at his leisure. “Fifty-nine.” “The majority of the people are housed in Section 32, yes?” “No. The majority are housed in Section 39. Two hundred and ninety thousands of them.” I snapped my neck in his direction. “You were unaware that your batch was the smallest and by no means the only one. Oethe wanted it that way—and to answer your next question, there are over a million people on this ship; all of them housed in detachable individual structures that came together to form Terra Ulterior while all of you were in cryo chambers.” I felt like I’d been slammed with a planet. A timely alarm warned me that I was about to be. We were less than two hundred thousand miles away from the looming planet’s surface and our speed was still dangerously fast. “Looks like this is it, Grand Architect. It’s been quite a ride.” I shook my head and stood up from the Prime Seat. “Prepare for immediate detachment of all sections. When I give the word, you force one last blast of all the engines to drop our speed one final time. When I tell you to split the ship up, you do so on my word. Understand?” Eidolon gave a wry smile. “Yes, of course.” With that, I ran off to my Cocoon and activated it. “One hundred and twenty-thousand miles away from contact.” The AI said over the almighty blaring of alarms that engulfed the ship. I waited for a few minutes and Eidolon updated me again. “Seventy thousand miles, Grand Architect.” After a few seconds, I gave the word. “Now!” The ship groaned and jerked. Somewhere in the ship, a lot of things ripped open. “We’ve dropped speed to 298,800 metres per second and dropping.” I waited for hours, it seemed, while Eidolon kept telling me our distance to the planet. At a distance of two thousand miles, I gave him the command to detach. Our current speed was still 75,908 metres per second, but as individual pieces, we had a greater chance of reduction in speed. Once we entered the planet’s atmosphere, the friction would drop our speed even further and each Section’s retro thrusters and parachutes would provide a safe fall. “I have detected signs of human life on Alioth, Grand Architect.” Eidolon said as I felt my section jerk. “That’s a nice name, Alioth…” I thought back of Nora and Kyle. “I will remember you, and I will survive. I promise.” Darkness covered everything and silence enveloped my being. An eternity passed and finally we touched down on Alioth’s surface. Shaking, ecstatic and tired, I stepped out onto the lush surface. My space suit said the pressure was stable and friendly and from the looks of the landscape, there were miles upon miles of inhabitable land. A small spherical pod flew up to me and sighed. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it?” Eidolon asked. I nodded. “Not the planet. Up there in the sky.” I looked up at the fiery debris burning up in Alioth’s atmosphere. Terra Ulterior had performed its first and last mission well. Oethe had nothing to fear: it would rise again. “The Aether is a dangerous place, don’t you think, Grand Architect? A single mistake and space would’ve been our grave.” I shrugged and turned back to catch the sight of the remaining Sections gracefully falling down in the clear skies and bright sun. “Whatever, it might have been, to the people that were on earth, it’s their hope and our home.”
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