Author: Gabriel Stone PM
A crew of ten people search the universe for adventure in a massive ship called the Leviathan after retiring from the Universal Subspace Federation. Along the way they discover new alien races, chart unknown subspace phenomena, and hunt a myth of a man responsible for the genocide of billions.Rated: Fiction T - English - Adventure/Sci-Fi - Chapters: 3 - Words: 10,070 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 1 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 09-01-12 - Published: 08-27-12 - id: 3053712
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"All ahead full, Mr. Porter!" The voice rang out sharp and clear through the room.
"Captain Solomon! We've lost engine power!" The voice was frantic and immediately the person began panicking.
"Stay calm, Mr. Porter! We'll get out of this yet!" The voice was braver than he wished he could feel.
"Sir! Incoming plasma storm on the starboard side!" The second voice was yelling again over the rush of noise.
"Mr. Porter! Steer us clear!" The captain's voice was calm, but his body was shaking.
"It's too much, Captain! Brace for impact!" The second voice had again shot across the room. The captain held on tight and readied for the inevitable impact.
Major General Lark Flarebirth opened the cabin bedroom door to find Captain Solomon Waters and Lieutenant Audrien Porter tangled in each other, each half-way into a large cardboard box decorated to look like the Leviathan, which was Lark's massive ship that the three of them and the rest of the crew were traveling in. A boom-box from the 1980s was playing white noise, which Lark presumed was to imitate a solar storm. Solomon was yelling off about a plasma storm being too much to handle while Audrien cried out that he was sorry he stole Solomon's lunch money when they were five years old.
The Major General took several seconds to mentally muse at the sight before he positioned his lips and let loose a shrill whistle from them. Solomon turned his head around, or as best as he could when it was buried in Audrien's chest as they rode out the storm. Audrien strained his back and managed to look back and up at Lark, who was staring down at them both—he had a bad tendency to do that to people.
"Hey Lark!" Solomon exclaimed, a wide grin on his face. He had a jolly look almost all the time, with his broad smile, thick jaw-line, and bright, happy blue eyes. "Join us! We're piloting the great frontier of the universe, searching for planets to explore!" He tried to wriggle out of Audrien's grasp but failed—they were hopelessly intertangled.
"Come on, sauerkraut!" Audrien's pun made Lark smile just a little bit, and that was enough for Audrien to start up again. "I'm the pilot, he's the captain, and right now we don't have a navigator."
"Yeah, and we're flying blind, too," Solomon stated stupidly, missing the point of not having a navigator.
"We also could use a bus-boy to get us our drinks, you know..." Audrien tried to nudge in the direction of Lark suggestively but ended up elbowing Solomon in the ear.
"Ow! Hey, stupid!" Solomon snapped, grinding his head into Audrien's midsection.
"Who are you calling stupid, can-head? I'm gonna—!" Lark closed the door and left the two gentlemen to sort it out over their usual petty arguments.
Down the hallway, Lark knocked on the one door he knew he should always knock on before he entered. Moses hated it when people opened his door and ruined his experiments with particles, and he especially got upset when people opened his door while he was working on the nucleus of an atom.
"Do come in!" The voice was intellectual and piercing, just as Moses always was with people. Lark pushed against the heavy steel door and a dim green light spilled into the hallway; Lark knew better than to look at the source of the light until he had goggles on, which he found on the back of Moses' door.
"What's the prognosis today, Doctor?" Lark's deep voice was one that said he was used to being in control, and that he knew what he needed to do whenever he had a task. "Anything special going on with the generators?" Moses Jefferies, as it said on his lab coat, turned around to face Lark, though his nose was pretty much buried in his clipboard as he scribbled notes.
"Well not much. The particles are traveling through the reactor at a normal pace, and the positronic ions are malfunctioning like they always do. Then there's the four and a half hours of Tensor calculus I had to do this morning regarding the quantum mechanics of the anti-neutron..." Moses stopped in his rant, as he saw that the blank expression on Lark's face meant he was losing him. The scientist cleared his throat sheepishly.
"All is going well today," Moses finished meekly, feeling absolutely tiny when Lark nodded once and turned around, his huge form sliding through the doorway and vanishing. Moses sighed and closed the door himself, locking it into place and turning back around to his lonely generators. He still had a lot of mathematics to do about the quantum mechanics of anti-particles.
Lark paused in front of the door of one Sergeant David Juven; for some reason he was noticeably nervous, with his dark eyes pinned down to the name-plate on the door and his hand frozen to his side. There was something about David that just unnerved the Major General—perhaps it was the fact that everyone else was rather loud, or maybe it was because everyone else at least talked often. David wasn't like that—he talked only when he needed to.
"David, it's Lark. I'm coming in," Lark announced before waiting for a few seconds, and then he pushed the door open.
David was staring out the porthole window of his cabin, his eyes lost in the deep blackness of space. It had been almost two years since the entirety of the crew had retired from the Universal Subspace Federation, but out of all of the ten soldiers on board who had served, David was the one who missed it the most. Exploration was in his blood, and though Lark's current objective led them across the universe in exploration, to David it just wasn't the same as the Federation.
In his lap was The Odyssey by Homer, the only book that anyone saw David reading. Rumors had spread around the ship that David also had other books like The Iliad, or maybe even something more recent such as Atlas Shrugged, but no one ever saw him reading anything but The Odyssey. Lark admired that exploration and adventure were in David's blood.
"We'll be putting in at JV-17 soon, David. Do you want anything before we land?" Lark held a firm belief that David was shy, and as such he tried to include David in anything he could. But David shook his head no and continued to stare out the window into subspace, missing the Federation, missing the wars that he had fought, and most of all missing planet Earth. They hadn't set foot on home soil in a little over two years.
Lark closed the door and tried not to say anything as a last remark. He still had to check up on the women, all of whom were going to be found in the control room. It was their shift for right now, as they switched off every three hours in Earth time, and in half an hour all of the crew would be required to report to the control room for landing procedures. Lark took his pace slow down the hallway, taking his time getting to the stairs; he would have to climb eight flights to get to the top of the Leviathan, where the control room was situated.
Lark took the stairs two at a time and didn't break a sweat as he did. The door to the control room was aptly named, with the words "Control room" stamped across the middle of the door in all upper-case, bold red font. Lark opened the door slowly and closed it behind him to survey the control room itself.
There was a massive captain's chair in the center of the room which overlooked a huge looking glass, from which all of space could be seen. In the distance was a bluish planet, JV-17, where the Leviathan would be landing after their long trip—there were four workstation panels on the left side of the captain's chair, and three more on the right. In front of the captain's chair, down three small steps, were two more workstations for the pilot and navigator to sit and control the ship. As of currently, they were empty; the ship was flying auto-pilot.
"Morning, Major General." First Sergeant Opal Uther gently touched Lark's arm as she walked by him from behind, her East Asian eyes small and delicate. She was a gentle one who never lost her patience, and Lark was very glad that he had someone who could control—
"Heya, Lark!" A firm clap on the man's back made Lark stumble forwards a little bit as Captain Michelle Henson walked briskly past the General, again from behind him. Michelle was always the one to watch out for when things were coming to blows—if she started swinging or you got her into a fury, even Lark knew better than to try to upset her more.
Two other women were to the right of the captain's chair, looking interestedly at the computers. One of them was seated, another was standing. As Lark approached, albeit quietly, Major Audrey Porter continued to tap away hurriedly on the computer as Sergeant Major Amelia Greenhill watched quietly over her shoulder. Audrey was Audrien's twin sister, hence the similarity in name, and she was older than him by a span of ten minutes—they competed often, though they always went to bed glad to be related to one another.
Amelia didn't usually speak much, which was reflective of David's personality, but Lark knew it was because of the tragedy that had taken her entire country, including both of her parents. It was one of the reasons Lark was exploring the universe: so he could find the force that took Amelia's parents, because he had reason to believe it was the same thing that had given him schizoaffective disorder. Lark usually kept a lid on it very well, but even he was still prone to have episodes.
"I don't have a mustache, you know." Lark's voice made Audrey jump, and Amelia stood straight up and refused to turn around. On the screen, which was what Audrey was working on, was a picture of Lark with a poorly drawn mustache and monacle—he looked like a professor from Harvard Law School.
"Oh relax, bonehead," Audrey joked, exiting out of the window with a simple keystroke. "It was just a joke." Lark found it amusing but said nothing—his crew were bound to make fun of their leader sooner or later. "Speaking of jokes, look at your chair Lark," Audrey offered, pointing with her thumb in the direction of the captain's chair.
Colonel Maria Butler was fast asleep in Lark's chair. Drooling all over his left-handed keypad.
Lark cracked his knuckles and resolved to throw her out of the airlock if it happened again. He marched right up to the woman and gave her a hearty thump on the forehead. There was a snort and Maria jumped a little, sitting up properly in the captain's chair—she rubbed her eyes leisurely and looked up to reprimand whomever had woken her from her beauty sleep. Her eyes narrowed at first, but then they widened when they saw Lark's dark eyes peering down at her.
"Morning, Lark," she tried, attempting to play the whole situation off.
"Out of the chair," Lark stated bluntly—he hated it when people sat in his chair. It left the seat warm and it was uncomfortable for him to sit into. The colonel sighed and stood, stretching right into Lark's personal space before she walked off to join Audrey and Amelia. The general envied her compassion for others and he found her blunt nature refreshing whenever he needed a reality check, which he had to admit was more often than he preferred.
Lark sat down in the chair, feeling slightly uncomfortable in it, and clicked on the ship-wide PA system. He cleared his throat and spoke over the intercom. "Attention all on-board the Leviathan. Please make your way to the control room for a systems check and preparation for landing. Thank you."
Lark released the button and, as soon as he had, David came barreling through the control room door and jumped into his seat to Lark's left. Maria took her seat at Lark's left as well. Audrien and Solomon stumbled in together, arguing about the plasma storm their mighty craft had taken in vain. Solomon took the pilot's chair in front of Lark and Audrien went to the left. Moses was the last to walk in, taking his seat to the right of Lark with Amelia and Audrey. Opal sat to Lark's left and Michelle took the navigator's seat.
"Amelia, open a channel. Request permission to dock," Lark said, staring at the small bluish planet which was rapidly growing in Lark's looking glass. "Solomon, take manual control and put our ship at all ahead slow. Michelle, keep Solomon on the right path." The three people responded with a firm "aye, sir" and quickly went about their work.
"Lark, we have an issue here," Amelia tried, but Lark waved her off and told her to be patient for a second. He still had commands to issue to the rest of the crew.
"David, weapons down if you would. Audrien, keep the shields up at 35 percent, just in case. Audrey, do a quick check of the network and see if there's anything strange going to or coming from the planet. Moses and Opal, you two relax for right now; I don't have anything for you to do." Lark looked back at the planet, but something was beginning to nag at the back of his mind.
"General, I've got issues here," Amelia interjected again.
"Same here, General. I've got problems," Audrey called from her spot.
"Status report," Lark commanded, looking at Amelia first.
"I'm seeing no communication between us and the planet. In fact, there aren't even any live ships on this planet—the ones that are docked are showing no signs of life on board. Maybe they're all on coffee break?" The look on Lark's face showed how amused he obviously wasn't. "It's like the communication lines have been cut off," Amelia remedied.
"The whole network is down, General," Audrey said, tapping on her computer. "And I mean the whole network. Across the entire surface of the planet." Everyone went silent and looked at Audrey first, and then at Lark. It was obvious that the Major General was chewing over his thoughts.
"Alright. Solomon, bring us in to landing pattern six. David, keep your trigger finger up and ready. Audrien, shields at 80 percent. Let's land this old ship." No one wasted time arguing with Lark—he knew what he was doing, but there was concern in the back of his mind. Loss of communications did not bode well.
"Search for signs of life."
When the Leviathan had placed itself down on the landing dock, the entirety of the crew had disembarked—there were only ten of them, as only ten people were needed to fly the Leviathan. The crew had found nothing but ruin and death; bodies littered the street of Port City, the major city on the planet JV-17 where all of the ships traveling through space had to dock. There were other ships in the dock, but they all looked like they had been abandoned for years. The bodies, however, were fresh—some were still steaming, though there wasn't a single scratch on any one of them.
After surveying the damage, Lark was sending his people out to search the city for survivors. Each soldier had been commissioned a single plasma cannon to use in emergency use only, as a bolt from a plasma cannon might level a standard Earth house if it's charged right. They fanned out in groups of two, except for David and Lark, who each went alone on their expeditions. David was a foot-soldier and the expert in combat, and Lark was plenty experienced enough to handle himself.
As Lark searched the rubble of Port City's docking bay, he began to get a little worried. Something was flicking his sixth sense into high gear, as if someone was watching him, or there was someone nearby who was in great danger. Lark's eyes swept the landscape for any sign of life, but nothing greeted him but ruined signs, broken chairs, and the endless sea of dead bodies.
A low groan of pain reached Lark's ears. Immediately Lark turned towards the direction of the groan; he found a huge sign just barely suspended off the ground, and just on the outside edge of the sign was someone's arm. It was pinned under the sign, and Lark knew that he had one shot at freeing the trapped person—a plasma shot.
Lark didn't bother setting up his sights and focusing; it had become second-nature to him, and with one feather-touch of the trigger the sign lit up in flames and went spinning into the air. Underneath the sign was a young man, his arm barely hanging on by a thread. Lark radioed for help as soon as anyone could be there and rushed over to the man's aid.
"Easy buddy, easy," Lark consoled, holding the man up and checking his vital signs. "We'll get you out of here, I promise. I'm here to help you."
"His voice..." the man moaned. "Oh, his horrible voice... Those cursed eyes, that soft voice, that crippled posture..." Lark froze—this was a chance to gather information, a chance he couldn't afford to pass up so quickly.
"Someone did this to you?" Lark asked, trying to keep the man awake—he could see death was dawning in the poor soul's eyes. Lark had to keep him awake until Opal arrived, as she was the medic of the team and she would know how to save him. "Who? What did he look like? Did he have a name?" The man choked on his breath; Lark knew he wasn't going to make it.
"There is a name..." the man spoke weakly. He then coughed hard, gasping as the last of his breath started to escape from his lungs.
"A name," hissed Lark urgently. "What was his name. Tell me!" Lark resisted the urge to shake the man; he was so close to learning the name. Lark remembered that this was how the country had looked when a force killed Amelia's parents, and this was all Lark could remember thinking about when the same force gave him his disorder. There had to be a connection.
The man pulled Lark down by the collar and whispered the name. It was one word, only one, and though it was such a simple name, it had an icy edge to it. Lark felt his blood run cold from the name, even though it didn't seem so threatening, because he knew that's what made the name all the more frightening in the first place. The last wisp of breath wheezed out of the man and he went limp in Lark's arms.
The team hadn't arrived yet, and Lark couldn't afford to let the team know that someone who was living and breathing had done this to an entire planet. Lark pulled up his radio and turned it on, preparing a lie. "Report back to the ship," he radioed. "Let's get off this bloody planet—it looks like an epidemic hit before we got here." Lark hated lying to his crew, but he couldn't afford to let anyone know the real truth about what had happened here. Especially Amelia; she wouldn't stop until she found the man with the name Lark now knew.
Lark whispered the name to the open air, hearing it coat his heart in ice. There would be no going back this time—this man had to be found, because he was now responsible for not only the extermination of an entire country and the crippling of a former general of the Universal Subspace Federation, but now this same man had taken an entire planet as well.
Lark hated him for it, and as he turned towards the docking bay, he heard a small echo pass by his ears, as if it were mocking Lark for coming just too late. It was the name again, and it had disappeared before Lark could turn to find the source of the echo. Lark headed back to the ship with only one word on his mind.