Another jump in time, sorry about that, but this is, to me, when the real story begins. Ten years later with Andy all grown up (more or less).
I would like to re-iterate that I should be PM'd if there is anything you don't understand. If I get a lot of PM's on the same thing, then I will be editing the part to include a better explanation.
Anyway, you can see by the year it is 10 years after we left off, so please, enjoy!
Date: July 26
Time: 7:06 am
Location: Silian Cluster-Kolian System-Planet Grovon
Town of Koogah
Planetary population, 25500 (approx.)
Town population, 550 (approx.)
Alistar woke up. Again. Just another day. He sat up, got out of bed and went to his dresser, applying the toning agents to imitate ageing. Satisfied, he went to his terminal. Putting on the headset, which was what the virtua-helmet had been reduced to; the product had never fully taken off, and glanced at his screen. One missed call, from Grindidge Holf. Subject: Anette. The AI. Anything to do with Anette had Xene opinionated, and that position would be outlined in detail. Presumably she had discovered more of her programming, maybe even her creator, although the possibility got more remote by the day.
He opened the message and frowned. It made no sense! They knew he couldn't read binary, yet that's what it was… His thought trailed off. This wasn't meant for him. Pogniours was intercepting all wireless transmissions. Pogniours read binary. His headset beeped three times. A message from Pogniours had just arrived: Anayas sensors picking up subspace activity. Growing. Tomorrow.
"Naomi! Come on! You sure? It'll be just like when we were kids!" Andrew Field pleaded.
"We sneak away from the party and then? We used to hide and challenge the adults to find us."
"Well, I hadn't thought that far ahead. I'd think of something though." Naomi laughed and started walking away, flashing him a smile over her shoulder.
"When you think of something, let me know." Andrew Field stopped dead, and could only shake his head, smiling. She took a twisted sort of delight in tormenting him; he never knew whether or not she was teasing or serious, only ever finding out when he came close to begging. His earpiece buzzed.
"It's Xene. We need to talk. Tomorrow the world changes, and not for the better. Third door on the right."
"What?" But Xene had hung up.
Five minutes later, Andrew was stepping through the door to the underground complex very few people had laid eyes on. Stepping through the third door on his right, he was greeted by six people: Holf, Xene, Alistar, Anette and his father, with Calix looking very uncomfortable, trying to hide in the corner. Except the back half on Anettes skull was on the desk behind her, and wires connecting it to… gagging, he tried to back out, but Xene lunged forward, catching him and pulling him inside.
"Relax, relax, she's fine. That's one of the things we need to talk to you about. She's an AI, we've been experimenting with downloading her. It was her suggestion in fact, despite my protests."
"What?" Andy struggled to breathe.
"Here, take a seat. We don't have much time."
"What the hell... is going on?"
"We don't exactly have a clear picture yet." Matiew spoke up. "We each know bits and pieces. New brace yourself, things are about to get messed up." He pressed a button. "Pogniours, you there?" A mutilated face appeared on the screen that dominated the wall behind Anettes head. Andrew just groaned, burying his head in his hands.
"He's your son?"
"You never told me his name."
"Andrew." Pogniours snapped to attention.
"What? I see. This makes things... complicated." Pogniours sighed. "Andrew, pull yourself together. If we survive tomorrow I'll explain everything to you."
"If we survive tomorrow?"
"We'll get to that later. I thought you had briefed him."
"He just arrived." Interjected Holf. "We haven't had time."
"So we're running late. Damn."
"We can do this."
Perhaps we should explain to Andy exactly what is going on. Anettes voice came over the intercom.
"Right then." Xene said. "From the start. Pogniours isn't from this universe." Andy's head sunk deeper into his hands.
"This should be so much harder to believe."
It appears you have been temporarily numbed to revelation. Considering your circumstances, this is hardly surprising. To resume, the augments Pogniours has are from a species of machines, controlled by a sentient hive mind, one that is highly intelligent, and is currently organic, albeit an organic that has been intensely assimilated.
"There's hardly anything left of him." Cut in Pogniours. "He used to be one of the best men I'd ever known. Now?" Pogniours shrugged. "He's dead to me. Ashleigh's the only one he'll show any life to, and what he's done to himself, her hearts freezing over. Anyway, Our universe was tearing itself apart through war."
Ten minutes later, Andrew knew the whole story.
"So we're doomed." was all he said.
"No. That is exactly what we want to stop," stated Pogniours. "The Sedon won't waste much time here, and we've repaired the Anaya more or less, using whatever Xene, Holf and Anette have smuggled out to me. Everything works, at least in the test runs. I haven't been able to lift off the ground yet, due to planetary security, but everything else works, and they should as well, theoretically."
"We've been working on things that should help us fight them," explained Holf. "The Anaya brought us a few weapons, but not nearly enough. There should be about a thousand Sedon for the planet, but a small town in the middle of nowhere like us? We shouldn't warrant over a couple of hundred at most." Slowly, Calix got to his feet, adjusting his oversized spectacles.
"Right, um, well. We've been focusing mainly on the fact that they're machines. Some form of EMP should do it. We've got something akin to an EMP gun, so it should knock them out, at least temporarily. Only, these aren't just single target, as you'll see. The current plan is to get everyone onto the Anaya, then jump to subspace and leave this planet. From there, we can work out our next move."
"And as for why we're doing this on invasion day? Who'd believe us? And our chances of escaping are highest. The Sedon are already massing in Subspace. They'll drop out tomorrow. If we go today, we'll be dead the instant we enter subspace, and sub-light speeds aren't nearly fast enough. Any questions?"
Andrew was dazed as he left, his mind numbed. He was completely unprepared when Naomi fell into step besides him.
"So, thought of anything yet?"
"For tonight. After we escape the party."
"Oh, right. The party. Yes. Let's just stay. Dance. Have a nice time."
"Stay and dance? Andrew you know neither of us can dance! What's happened? Matiew been at you? You were even more keen then I am an hour ago."
"Huh? Right. I suppose I was. Dad tried to teach me to dance; mum did as well. I never listened."
"Andrew." Naomi stopped walking, took hold of his arm. "What's happened."
"Nothing, we should, let's just have a nice time tonight. Not worry about tomorrow."
"Tomorrow? What's happening tomorrow?"
"Nothing, it's just. Alright, I'm sure you have a plan by now." He smiled. "Why don't you tell me what we're doing once we escape our wedding." Naomi smiled, kissing him.
"You'll see love."
Date: July 26
Time: 9:23 am
Planetary Population: 20,000,000 (approx.)
Australia Population 500,000 (approx.)
"They're coming. Our scouts say the column is only a week away." Patrick looked up.
"We can help you, Sean." Sean shook his head.
"You've shown your faces. That's help enough. Everyone's gearing up for fighting. They know Marventa doesn't take prisoners." Patrick grunted.
"Marventa, no longer a minor warlord with psychotic soldiers. He's the fucking overlord of Australia now. Any word on the rest of the world?"
"You know the answer to that. I'd say Africas united under one banner by now though. The fallout should be more or less clear by now over most of the world though. I'd recommend leaving the country. He can't chase you there yet. Not in force."
"You know that's not an option. He's backed by the blades, and we've got an old score to settle."
"Among other things."
"The girls." Patrick gave him a flat look. "Alright. The girl, your friends, and the kids."
"You know I can't just let them go."
"It's not your fight."
"Look who's talking."
"Yeah, we turned down his offer of surrender. But do you know why? I gave everyone under my command the choice. Not a single one took it. Everyone who's gearing up right now would rather die than become one of those mindless creatures that make up his army! We are fighting to die. Our only goal to kill as many of them as we can."
"You're gearing up a week early."
"We're marching to meet them. Taking a leaf out of your book Pat. We'll ambush the column, sow chaos. Buy you and your people a few days to get out. And when the chaos comes back and swallows us, we'll know why we died. You're going to kill him. We're going to get you behind his front lines. It's been an honour knowing you. Goodbye Pat."
"Thank you. And die well."
"Die well Patrick." With that, Sean turned and left the building. Patrick donned his helmet. Its intercom was on.
"Sir." Sam asked. "What kids? And I'm guessing the friends were back when you joined them?"
"Don't ask." Patrick turned off his intercom, his mind going to the tattooed burns on his arm. Above the triangles, a blade and crosspiece had been burned into his skin, before being tattooed over. It was then he'd been told to sever all ties. It was when he'd refused the ties had been severed anyway. It hurt to think about. He turned his mind away.
Standing up, he walked to his squads. It was time to leave. Rose looked up.
"Where do we go?"
"Uluru. I've heard there's something there even Marventa fears."
The ambushers had wreaked havoc on his army, despite being numerically insignificant. He had crushed them in the end however, killing them off to the last child. It was just his job. He crushed all of earth, and he gets to rule it. That's what Prometheus promised anyway, not that he trusted his contacts. The blades had betrayed Kronos, so why should he expect any better? He wasn't as stupid as they seemed to think. He had crushed Kronos easily in the end of course, perhaps it was a matter of strength. Perhaps not, when he considered the ambushers ten years ago. Funnily, their technology wasn't present in the rest of the resistance. He knew they were soldiers of Kronos, but maybe… Had the blades cut them loose beforehand? He wouldn't put it past them. He turned to his contact, a dead-eyed man who walked mechanically.
"Not yet," the man replied in a voice as dead as his eyes. Marventa suspected his implants were far more extensive than Marventas own, going far beyond simple enhancements.
"Where then? Why are you so scared of Uluru?"
"Africa. Earth must be crushed. Then we will destroy the hive."
"Ugh. When will you explain exactly what's in this hive?"
Date: July 27
Time: 8:30 am
Andrew sat up, glanced at Naomi sleeping beside him, smiled briefly before frowning. There was something he was forgetting… something important happening tomorr… His thought trailed of as fear curled in his gut, an icy lance shooting up his spine. Not tomorrow any more. Today. His hand moved to Naomi's shoulder.
"Hey. Hey, wake up. Naomi please. Wake up."
"Hmm?" She snuggled into him.
"Naomi get up. You have to get dressed. Quickly. I have calls to make. It has to be today. I'm sorry. Get up, get dressed, wait for me downstairs. Now. Quickly."
"Huh? Any what's going on?" Then her eyes widened with realization. "Andy. What happened yesterday, before the wedding. What had you so distracted?"
"You're about to find out." Throwing on some pants, Andrew left the room.
He was running when he reached his phone set. He started a group call.
"Alistar? Holf? Xene? Anette? Is anyone awake? Dad? Calix?"
"Andrew, your fathers asleep, what's,"Claire had answered, not turning on her screen, then he heard voices on the other end. "Claire, get dressed and ready to move fast. Don't argue, just do it. We're saving as many as we can. We're going to need that repellent as well."
"What? Saving? What's happening?"
"It'll all be explained. Now go, then rouse the town. Andy, you to. Get Naomi down to the gate. Get everyone down to the gate." He hung up.
"Shit." Andrew muttered. He went back upstairs.
Xene could barely drag himself out of bed. He couldn't believe he'd actually enjoyed himself last night; that wedding had been something. Of course, Anette had danced him into the ground, forcing him to forget everything, and to just focus on the dancing. He glanced around: The AI was nowhere to be seen.
Xene, I'm linked to the intercom. Get the carts to the gate.
Ashleigh stepped away from the intercom; her fleet was dropping out of subspace. The planet below didn't appear to have any defences, and she expected this to take no more than a few hours. What she didn't expect was the ship powering up on the planet.
Naomi was scared. It was the day after her wedding to the man she'd loved since she was capable of falling in love, and she was suffering revelations. He was involved with Holf and Xene far more than he had let on. Alistar as well. And Matiew had likely dragged him into it. And now everyone was in danger. And she was waiting at the gate to the wilderness with Claire, Anette and Calix, with Claire, looking every bit as scared as Naomi felt, distributing Gazoid repellent. Now Xene was running towards them with a chain of carts holding some sort of rifle?
Holf, dressed up in his exoskeleton, made his way to the emergency broadcast system. He got past the measly security measures made to keep kids from messing with it, and drew a deep breath.
Matiew struggled trying to fit his leg into the exoskeleton segment Holf had made for him when he heard Holfs announcement.
Attention everyone. Attention everyone. If you would please gather at the gate as soon as possible. This is a matter of urgency and survival. You know this is real, simply because I am doing it. I would not use this system lightly. I repeat: Attention everyone.
As Holfs broadcast activated every phone set and partial set in the town, people began to rise, struggling to comprehend what was happening. Matiew clasped the exoskeleton around his leg and stood up, grabbing his speaker, and he tapped into the emergency system, setting it to loop two messages: Holfs and his own.
As Alistar heard Matiews message on the EBS, he was speaking to his crew over their personal communicators.
"It is our job to guide everyone to the Anaya. We need to do this fast people. At least two of you per group of people, one in front and one behind. Quickly!" As he finished saying this, the first Sedon drone dropped through the clouds. The thing resembled a beetle. Sleek, black, with six spindly legs. On it's back was a raised hump the front of which carried two glowing blue slits, set between four giant wings, each with two thrusters providing lift. What had Alistar scared was the six barreled plasma-cannon hanging from it's underside, connected by three arms and one power-tube.
Pogniours had the ship powering up, one system at a time when the Sedon ships appeared on the Anaya's scanners. His heart leapt to his throat when he received a transmission. A tear formed when he saw who it was from.
Ashleigh couldn't comprehend it. Pogniours was alive, and the Anaya appeared to be functioning.
"Where have you been?" she choked out the words.
"Don't give me that the Anaya looks fine from where I am. So I ask again. Where have you been!?" Her voice cracked on that last word, all her pent up worry, all her agonizing, all for nothing? He had just been landed for the past ten years?
"Now I know how it has to look-" Pogniours tried desperately, trying to think. He had always found it hard to talk his way around Ashleigh.
"How it looks? How does it look then? Are you trying to say it's taken ten years to fix that ship?"
"Yes! Please believe me! I have never lied to you!"
"Except when you said you'd always be here! You left me! Ten years I have worried! Ten years I needed you to talk to! Ten years he's been slipping away and I've been powerless to stop it! To save him! Ten! Fucking! Years!"
"Ashleigh please! Just listen! The Chi'Klc shot us out of subspace! And now, I've been repairing the Anaya for ten years. And I'm taking the population of a single town to safety. Please just give me this!"
"Why? Why are you trying to save them? Why not come back with me? You and Alistar and your crew? Why won't you come back? Why do I have to give you this?"
"Ashleigh." Pogniours closed his eyes, slumping forward. "I need to do this. I've been watching them. The crew's been living with them. We like them. We can't leave them."
"You can't leave them." Her voice was dead. "You can't leave them, but you could leave me? You want me to give you their lives?"
"Yes." He whispered.
"And what, why, tell me. Am I in a giving mood?" Ashleigh cut the transmission before he could reply.
"Shit." He was in trouble.
Alistar didn't bother with much. He simply grabbed his rifle and started shooting at the sky. The Sedon were a swarm, it was impossible to miss, and he was rewarded by several Sedon falling from the sky, holes blown out of them from the energy blasts emitted from his Sedon-made gun.
Claire stared at Alistar. He had lost ten years overnight. Then she saw the shadows, looked up, and stopped. Her mind just stopped. Was someone saying something? There might be some screaming? Then her head snapped to the side, her brain rebooting, the process accelerating as Alistar slapped her a second time.
"Follow Calix! He'll take you somewhere safe!" He yelled at her over the screaming crowds.
Holf, who had never left the EBS, suddenly changed the message, set it to loop, then left. Finally, Matiews message started playing.
Everyone! Follow Alistar and his crew! They will take you to their ship, which has been repaired. It can take us to safety. All will be explained there.
Andrew was at the gate, searching desperately foe Naomi when she grabbed him and spun him around.
"What the hell is going on?"
"Alistar! Take her! Get her to safety! Naomi, I promise, I'll catch up. I have to find my father. He won't make it on his own. Xene! I need one of those!" Catching the weapon Xene tosses his way, he ran into the town, that was being rapidly overrun. Sedon started firing into the crowd.
Alistar fired three shots, hitting two Sedon that were bombarding the crowd. They had to get into the forest. The group moved, leaving corpses in its wake, and half destroyed Sedon drones.
Matiew was struggling along with Holf when they heard the cry. Andy was searching for him. Holf fired his EMP launcher, sending out a beacon that sent a 2 meter radius EMP burst, taking out three Sedon that had landed in front of them. Fires had started where downed Sedon had crashed, sparking, into workshops and residential gas pipes. Smoke was heavy in the air. Andrew stumbled into view in front of them.
"There you are! Come on, we have to move Holf, I made a detour, brought you this." He pulled Holfs electric cart out of the smoke. "You'll need it to get there in time. Take your tunnels, stay out of the open. I'll take Dad, we'll be faster separately." He coughed. "Go!" Matiew limped to his son.
"Fool! You should have stayed with Naomi! And Claire!"
"And left you? No chance! We're getting out alive!"
Xene ran back into the lab. Anette was still connected to the system. She was still- She grabbed him and ran.
"Why are you back?"
"I'm not leaving you!"
"Idiot! I'm not in this body! It's being controlled wirelessly! I'm in the system! There isn't enough time to leave!"
"I can buy you time!"
"With what? Your life? And then I'd die anyway as they destroyed this body! I'll be fine you know this lab has defences!" She hurled him into the tunnel leading to the Anaya. "Holf is down there! Find him! Get off the planet!" A large door slammed shut behind him.
"No! I'm not leaving without you Anette!"
"Yes you are." And her lips met his, before falling away as her body slumped to the ground.
The Sedon that had killed them was, ironically, already dead. It had plummeted out of the sky, landing on the building next to them. As the gas pipe ruptured, and the gas ignited, Andrew had thrown himself over Matiew, and was now passed out from pain. Mattiew, who's weakened leg had shattered in the fall, weeped.
"I'm sorry Andy." He whispered through his tears.
Ashleigh looked through the eyes of the Sedon on the planet's surface, making a decision. Take him.
"Ma'am! We have a Sedon ship entering subspace! The Anaya. Missing ten years. Orders?"
"Damn you Pogniours." She whispered. "Let them go."
On the Anaya, Alistar weeped. Matiew hadn't made it out. Nore it seemed, had Andy or Anette. Holf was trying to talk to Xene, who just sat there. Staring into space. Claire sobbed at the loss of her brother and the nephew she had raised as her own son. Naomi was quieter. Tears streamed down her face as she whispered over and over: "You promised you'd come back. You promised you'd come back."
Meanwhile, Pogniours sat in the command centre, crewed once more by Calix and what was left of the crew. He tried to open a channel to Ashleigh.
"No." Her crew saw who was trying to call them. And they all heard that one word reply.
Pogniours slumped in his chair, a line of tears rolling down his cheek.
"I'm so sorry."
I will have the next chapter up next week hopefully.
As always, read, review, and recommend to friends.