sci-fi saturday: chapter 013

sci-fi saturday: chapter 013

sci-fi saturday / shadow nation / chapter 013

Dot’s destroyer floated in an orbit around a world much like Venus, covered by a thick veil of toxic, noxious gasses. Its parent star was a turbulent, orange sun with a gas giant in close orbit. Just like any star with a gas giant nearby, it erupted with surging waves of plasma that shot out millions of miles into space.

As the destroyer entered the planet’s day side, flying past a gray, rocky moon, the bright light of the star displayed on the holographic wall in Dot’s bedroom shone on her sleeping face. She flinched from the bright light and sat up. The projection dimmed as the screen adjusted to the starlight.

“Morning commander,” said a computer.

“Morning,” muttered Dot, rubbing her eyes. “Anything out there, or is it just dead as usual?”

“No contact. We’re still scanning for an approach.”

“Did we take a look at the planet below?”

“Yes ma’am.”

A small holographic cube with a panorama of the planet’s vast, burned valleys and mountain chains appeared in front of Dot. Almost every mountain was a volcano, spewing out vast clouds of gray dust and ash. Some of these clouds collapsed and fell, scorching the rocks below with pyroclastic flows which moved at supersonic speeds. Some valley floors cracked, spewing lava that boiled under the surface in a series of great, gushing fountains.

“Looks like it’s at least a thousand degrees on the surface,” said Dot.

“Current reading shows 1,315 degrees,” corrected the computer.

“All right, three more hours and then we plant a probe and leave for the next planet.”

Dot jumped out of the bed and stretched. She always slept naked. Why have clothes on when you’re sleeping, she reasoned. Her mechanical body had no sweat glands or secreted any oils, but statically charged dust, and sand and soil from alien worlds readily stuck to it, so morning showers were still a must. The streams of hot water washed away all the dust and radioactive matter, massaging the thick carbon polymers that functioned as her muscles. Refreshed and clean, Dot scanned herself for radiation which was well within the normal range for a cyborg.

She put on her uniform and went to the bridge where a breakfast and a stack of reports waited for her. Dot spent the next few hours in silence. The only sound on the ship was the crinkle of plastic as she sorted the reports after reading them. Being on a search mission required almost infinite patience since until you find what you were sent to find, you had to quietly wait and watch. Until last week, she was raiding dozens of Rexx worlds at a chaotic pace. Warping from one system to another into swarms of Rexx ships, guns blazing was fun, but ultimately exhausting in her opinion, so this mission was a nice change of pace, which is why she volunteered to lead it.

Just as Dot was about to give the order to leave this world and go on to the next, the computer pinged. She looked at the holographic screen on which a small cluster of red crosshairs tracked a squadron of Rexx ships.

“Here we go,” she smirked. “ETA to system?”

“One minute.”

“In range?”

“Tracking at 1 minute 39 seconds. No indication they detected our ships. Reinforcements will arrive in two minutes.”

“Good. When they warp in, send out everyone. Set the trap.”

The unsuspecting Rexx squadron settled into an orbit around the volcanic world and as soon as it slowed down enough to be taken in by the planet’s gravity, a churning vortex of fighters came at them. It was an attack for which the Rexx were completely unprepared. They turned to outflank the fighters when the vortex split, revealing Dot’s destroyer with 50 robotic companions, their main cannons ready to fire, surging with energy.

They shot in unison, tearing through the flagships which served as the backbone of the Rexx formation. The flagships exploded, their shields failing almost immediately. Shrapnel from the blast wounded numerous surrounding ships, quickly immobilizing them. An unscathed Rexx craft rushed towards the planet’s moon, breaking formation, and Dot’s destroyer turned and accelerated in pursuit.

A well-placed burst of laser fire separated the Rexx ship in half, its engines tearing off into space in a chaotic heap of green and blue parts. There was nothing to control the craft anymore as it careened towards the surface of the moon.

The destroyer followed the wounded Rexx ship, easily matching its speed. Under the main cannon, a strange, dark barrel opened and fired a mass of black, vibrating gel. The gel passed the Rexx ship and smashed into the surface of the moon, creating a tsunami of dust that rippled across the valley where the gel hit. The Rexx ship crashed into the gel, coming to a stop in the thick material.

On the bridge of the destroyer, Dot smirked as she looked at the captured ship. She entered a few commands into the keyboard carved into the armrest of her chair.

“We only need one,” she said. “The rest are going on a little ride. I have no use for them.”

The intelligent computer understood and prepared to land a troop carrier next to the captured ship, alerting a few ground units in its belly to wake up and get ready for what should be a short fight.

As Ace docked his destroyer with the space city, he received an alert from Dot. He rushed to the lab to find a massive cylinder surrounded by holographic screens and monitors filled with data floating around it. Even though he would have to wait for about half an hour, he was very satisfied. As always, Dot did an excellent job.

He stood in the dark, cavernous lab in which the only sources of light came from lasers and holographic screens. Besides the jet black cylinder connected to the floor and ceiling by thick coils of wires and chrome tentacles loaded with sensors, the lab was surprisingly empty, since much of the work on the cylinder was done in an adjacent room sealed off from potentially dangerous experiments. The lab had very thick walls made from a dense alien material which could contain an explosion as powerful as that of a tactical nuke. Even if someone was able to fool a probe into bringing a powerful bomb onboard the space city that a fleet used as its command center, it would end up in one of the labs where it wouldn’t be able to harm the rest of the mobile outpost.

As Ace studied the holographic screens, Dot walked up behind him and put her hand on his shoulder. He turned and smiled warmly.

“Very nice work Dot,” he said. “Very nice.”

“I do what I can,” she replied with a shy smile. “So what are we going to do with it after we’re done?”

“Rie can dissect it and pickle it in formaldehyde for all I care.”

Rie walked up behind them.

“It’s ready Ace,” she announced. “Do your magic.”

The black cylinder opened, revealing a Rexx soldier inside of it, floating in a thick liquid that kept it in a chemically induced coma. Wires bore deep under its carapace, sensing the slightest twitch in its muscles. A vast array of wires was attached directly to its brain. This thick band of wires was connected to the top of the cylinder into a domed input above the Rexx’s head.

Ace walked up to the cylinder and held out his hand. He exhaled and breathed in deeply to steady his nerves and clear his min. As he focused on the cylinder, the palm of his extended hand split open to reveal a complex network of glowing wires and patches.

The cylinder reacted to Ace, coming alive. Bubbles of gas began to rise from the bottom of the cylinder, the wires began to transmit a vast amount of information, glowing red as they activated. Lowering his head, Ace closed his eyes.

Almost immediately he saw an alien solar system with two huge gas giants, each several times as big as Jupiter. The calm, yellow star about as big as the Earth’s sun, shone brightly on a blue-green giant with swirling storms all across its surface. Like Jupiter, it had a dark, stormy spot on its surface. The winds from this surging storm rippled across the spiral clouds of aquamarine gas. Its major moon was just like Io, a fiery, volcanic world which sent plumes of ash into space for hundreds of miles before the ash glowing with radiation fell back to the surface like a bright, neon light.

The second gas giant seemed much calmer. A thick band of rich, dark purple swirled around the equator of the planet as white clouds churned at its poles. It had beautiful, icy rings at a 45 degree angle to the planet’s midsection. But it wasn’t the serene gas giant that caught Ace’s attention. It was its unusual moon.

All around the moon’s surface were glowing lights. This moon’s oceans and continents gave it an almost Earth-like appearance, and in fact, it was almost as big as the Earth. Since the Rexx instinctively knew that it was its home, its emotion echoed in Ace’s mind. The cyborg was looking at Rexx Prime, the home world of all Rexx, and where the alien spawn controlling them must have been hiding for the last four months. The beautiful sky of this moon was dominated by the gas giant which took up a large chunk of the heavens. The other half of the sky lit up with some of the brightest stars that Ace had ever seen.

Concentrating a little more, Ace went deeper into the memory of the Rexx soldier and conjured up fuzzy images of seemingly endless cities resembling termite mounds with glowing windows. Virtually every city lead to a vast central clearing with an enormous structure at its center. The vast structure resembled an imperial palace. Here, all of the Rexx queens were being kept and they were still giving orders to the troops, a low, buzzing drone that echoed in the Rexx’s mind.

Ace could feel the commands of the queens, but as the Rexx told him by its anxiousness and disdain, this wasn’t the normal tone for a queen. Their commands felt hollow and empty, as if the queens were just puppets for another force. The Rexx didn’t know what this force was, but Ace recognized that the harsh alien tone behind the commands was an agent of the Dark Gods, and last time the queens he controlled relayed his orders was only a day ago. Using quantum communication chips, the spawn in charge was amplifying the Rexx’s innate abilities to work on an interstellar scale. But it didn’t help. He was trapped by the Nation’s armada, backed into a corner.

Ace’s hand returned to normal and his eyes opened as he let go of the Rexx’s mind. The alien soldier was still unconscious, perhaps for the best since the shock of waking up in such a hostile place was probably lethal to its delicate nervous system wired up to an enemy’s computer. Ace turned to Dot and Rie who already knew that he now had the coordinates they needed to finish this war.

In the Reaper’s lair, the dark alien watched the Rexx system. Behind him someone entered with a quiet rustle of clothes. She wore a black dress with one shoulder strap, appealingly revealing her very notable cleavage. An intricate red tribal design ran around her waist and slits revealed most of her legs. The hem of her dress was decorated with a swath of red tribal swirls. She was a Shadow Demon, bearing the red trademark runes across her cheeks, her eyes glowing with a piercing red light. When she spoke, she revealed her fangs, but most of her face was obscured in the darkness of the chamber.

“The spawn is doing something interesting,” said the Reaper without turning to face her, knowing she was there. “He let them capture a Rexx that knows where he is. He wants to lure Ace to his base of operations and try to take him on his home turf. He might be planning to fight Ace personally.”

“Wouldn’t Ace figure that out?” asked the woman.

“I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe he doesn’t care.”

“Hmm… Interesting.”

“Yes, but you won’t have time to see it.”

“You have other plans for me?”

“Yes. I need you to go to Earth”

She turned around to leave but paused and looked back.

“Just curious… Do you want Ace to win?” she asked.

“That all depends on what he is going to do when he wins,” shrugged the Reaper.

“I understand.”

With another soft rustle of clothing, the woman vanished into the darkness. The Reaper remained glued to the image of Rexx Prime. It was going to be a merciless, brutal battle and he didn’t want to miss a second of it.

Orbiting Rexx Prime was the last major fleet of the alien insects. The Rexx knew that the Nation was on its way to their home world with a terrifying black cloud of destroyers and a squadron of supercharged planet killers. They’ve seen them all throughout the war and dreaded the thought of fighting these black machines with an eerie aura of red light around them. They knew that their leader was sacrificing them, but they couldn’t disobey their queens. The need to follow the orders of the hive was woven into their brain stems. Disobedience lead to paranoia, anxiety, and fear, which would drive them so insane, they would be unable to take care of themselves and die of starvation and exhaustion.

As they stood guard, a bizarre object suddenly appeared right in the middle of their formation. It was a massive sphere, almost fifteen miles across. Jet black and devoid of any markings, it seemed as if a dark region of space suddenly created it out of nothing. It was a very, very heavy object that emitted powerful magnetic fields, but that was all that the Rexx ships could detect.

Slowly, the strange sphere began to open up, it’s top and bottom halves parting like the petals of some kind of demonic flower. Inside this unholy thing were countless black spheres aglow with an aura of red and blue. They took off in every direction for the Rexx ships and the Rexx, fearing that they were IGFs, braced for impact. But the odd, black spheres devoid of markings and alight with a strange glow unlike any device known to have been developed by the Nation, just sailed right on through the Rexx ships as if the neon green pods, gunships and flagships were made out of water, leaving corkscrew trails of red and blue charged gas behind it.

Seconds later, the carnage began. The reason why these glowing, featureless spheres passed right through the Rexx ships was because they were actually hyper-dense clumps of matter usually found in the core of neutron stars. A single tablespoon worth could weigh billions of tons. Just a little denser and this material would collapse into a black hole. Compressing tiny bits of it into unstable singularities at nearly the speed of light is what gave the infamous IGF its potency, but the dark matter itself had plenty of applications as a weapon.

As it sailed through the Rexx ships, its immense gravity literally turned the enemy craft inside out, shattering or severely damaging all ships with which this matter came into contact on its short journey through the Rexx armada. Nothing could stop or deflect this devastating weapon as the spheres raced through ship after ship, tearing them to twisted, splintering bits. Some of these bits made their way into the inner structure of Rexx Prime, causing small quakes on their flight back out into the cosmic voids.

For a solid minute, the Rexx armada was alight as bits of hyper-dense matter pierced their shields which strained to deflect these odd freaks of nature to no avail. Finally, as the minute passed, it was over, and the dark matter sailed on its merry way into deep space.

Before the Rexx could even try to catch a breather, a squadron of destroyers along with a planet killer warped into focus and instantly opened fire. Nearly 100,000 missiles, 30,000 lasers and 5,000 death beams fired by the destroyers’ main canons hit the Rexx fleet which was just thrown into chaos by a weapon they couldn’t even begin to understand. Joining this terrifying volley was a death ray fired by the planet killer, the swirling vortex of energy compressed into a cohesive beam by the planet killer’s massive claws.

The results were spectacular. The shields of the entire Rexx fleet lit up, hundreds of gunships and fighters exploded and the death ray from the planet killer easily took out several enormous flagships. As the Rexx began to retaliate, another squadron of destroyers appeared above them, planet killer in tow, delivering a volley just as powerful and just as devastating. A third squadron warped in just after that to be joined by four more squadrons complete with planet killers, every squadron entering with a terrifying impact.

Barely able to retaliate, the crippled Rexx fleet was now trapped in a ball of destroyers and planet killers which boxed the fleet into a small area to thin them out with greater ease, a tactic they used again and again in this war. But in their desperation, the Rexx fired almost every weapon they had in every direction, taking out fighters, nimble bombers with their incoming ordinance and even some destroyers. In fact, they began to do enough damage to the Nation’s fleet that a dozen new squadron with three planet killers appeared in the midst of their tight formation to help the rest of the Nation’s armada get a handle on the Rexx.

Finally, the Nation’s space city warped into focus, bristling with an impressive array of guns. The city fired a swarm of missiles, laser beams and IGFs, actively helping the fleet it commanded. It took the Nation almost an hour to finally tear through the Rexx defenders, even with help from the planet killers, the dark matter weapon and a fully armed space city which packed the combined power of several thousand destroyers. Out of the 75,000 strong destroyer fleet almost 17,000 were lost along with tens of thousands of bombers and fighters. Several planet killers were severely injured. Ionized gas was billowing out of the deep gashes in their armor like blood gushed out of a soldier’s wounds. But every one of the wounded planet killers was salvageable and robotic pods full of nanobots were already launched to repair them.

Now, the Nation’s forces prepared for the final siege of the Rexx home world. Their war machines would fight on the moon’s surface and plow through every Rexx in sight, clearing the way to the central palace in which the alien spawn and the captured Rexx queens were trying to make a desperate last stand. Inside the space city and 10,000 destroyers, troop carriers started to come online…

# sci-fi saturday // books / entertainment / science fiction

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