Chapter 3: In the Middle of Nowhere
In order to access each Malign inside the hangar, there were separate chambers for each. The hangar itself was quite dark, leaving the walls looking more rustier and industrial looking. The air was stagnant and odorless. The Malign were in order of oldest to new, so Terrance split from the group first, Reimund next, then Mark, leaving Gin to his lonesome in his unit's compartment. Mark spotted elevators in all of the chambers, which was strange considering that they do not lead to the hangar.
As Gin went into Mark 13's chamber, Mark just found himself distracted.
Shun was, compared to the school's Malign, a marvel. The only thing average was its height and size. Mark didn't have much time to get a good look at it the day before, but now he has time to stare at it. It retained the silvery metal on its armor, but had some blue on some parts. It had the classic three horns on it, one pointing forward and the other two pointing backward. Whoever designed it paid good attention to detail. At some point, Reimund entered, and saw Mark looking at it.
"Still looking at it?" Reimund said. Mark turned to him and nodded. "Well, I think Gin will be out soon, so you can go ahead and change."
"Where is my suit anyway?" Mark asked, looking around. "Oh, uh, do I have to wear the last guy's suit?"
"Nonsense, you have your own." Reimund noted, but he allowed himself to go off-topic. "So, what do you think about the commanders?" He asked, leaning next to some railing.
Mark responded, "Younger than I thought. I was expecting all of them to be like, I don't know, fifty? The Battle commander was a lot less strict than I figured, and the Captain, well…"
"Captain Kikyo takes her job seriously, that's for sure. Major Lambert kind of strikes me as the guy not to piss off. But he's a bit um… Stoic? So I don't know if he has triggers… But I thought, maybe he keeps that unemotional look on his face just for us, you know what I mean?"
Mark nodded, and took a moment for him to think of something else to say. "How long have you been here, on the ship I mean?"
The older pilot pondered a moment. "Four weeks or so. Officer Pilots have to get on first." There was a pause. "I also had to complete an assignment a week ago. It was for picking up Gin." Mark opened his mouth to say something as a reply, but the Lieutenant answered, "None of your business, I think as far as what the Major says, it's confidential."
After it was said, Gin entered some point, and walked towards the two, but stopped. He was gripping his arms as if the air was cold. He was in his flight suit, though. "Um, er, I suppose Terrance is already inside his Malign. I'm gonna go in mine, if that's ok, Lieutenant."
"Sure, you can, but remember we don't have clearance yet." Reimund turned to Mark. "Go change."
Mark nodded, and started to walk in the direction Gin came in from, but Reimund shouted to him, "By the way, your suit's inside your unit." Mark stood at a standstill before processing and turning back around, embarrassed. Mark averted his gaze from Reimund's penetrating one. "You do remember how to get inside, right?"
"Yeah, I do." Mark gave a slight glare to Reimund. But it seemed that the guy didn't notice or care.
After inputting a code to open the entry gate, Mark headed up an incline that led to Shun's back. The cockpit capsule door was mostly repaired. Mark was about done in being surprised by this ship and its people so he just let himself go inside. It was dark and the air stunk of cleaning products. He finally reached the actual cockpit, which was also dim. He felt for the chair, and felt a heavy fabric with some smoother, heavier components. This was his flight suit. Mark was taught how to put them on quickly, and so at least one thing he learned didn't go to waste. After he fit himself, he sat down- and felt his helmet. He hastily put it on, and plugged the air tube into the machine in front of him. The machine turned on and told him: 3.2 HOURS WORTH. Mark was sure this extra training wouldn't last more than forty minutes. After Mark was settled, he waited.
Reimund's voice interrupted the silence inside the helmet. "Can all of you hear me?"
Terrance spoke up first. "Present."
"Um, here?" Gin said.
Mark responded, "I'm set."
"Good, because this lesson will just get you used to movement in absence of gravity." They all heard an audible sigh from Reimund. "Although I think all of you can handle this. I'm not sure why the Major-"
"…Sent you out?" Major Lambert's voice intruded. "We have been listening. You'll be sent out by the emergency escape door. You'll be attached by a power cord, but we won't give you any propulsion packs."
"Figures." Mark said, disappointed that he won't be flying through space.
Terrance said rhetorically, "Ah, so we'll be floating instead, Major?"
"Actually, I-I don't mind at all." Gin admitted.
Nadine's voice chimed in. "Ok. Enclosing Malign chambers and removing air sources."
Liam added on, "Airspace clear of debris and asteroids. Power cord length 15 meters."
"Authorization of launch of Mark 49, Mark 57, Mark 60 and Mark 13 cleared." William stated. "Major, Government's only allowed up to a couple of hours for training purposes."
"That should be enough." Major Lambert stated. "Now, Reimund, I'm leaving this to you."
"Yessir." Reimund confirmed.
Mark heard this conversation while sitting in darkness. He was silently waiting for something to happen. Outside, he heard the movement of many gears and machinery. Shun was moving. Suddenly the cockpit came to life. Mark looked around, finding that the mess from the day before was cleaned up. The screens ran through several loading screens before showing the outside. He was still inside the hangar, but on a different platform. He had a view of a door that said: EMERGENCY EXIT. Mark took hold of the handle and joystick. The sounds in his helmet detailed everyone formatting their controls. Mark knew that "automatic" meant that he was able to use his thoughts. He wanted to try it out, but technician Nadine ended those hopes. "Since we're not allowed to use harmonization, everyone will just have manual controls minus stimulation, although only Mark 60 has automatic."
Mark heard Reimund mumble, "Thank God. No electrocution."
"All units ready to launch." William said.
Reimund took the initiative. "First Lieutenant Reimund Callahan, pilot of Mark 57, Jaeger, now launching." A slight rumble went through the hangar. Launch recoil, Mark thought.
Terrance went next. "Number 1075, codenamed Terrance, pilot of Mark 49, Jabberwocky, launching."
Gin stuttered at first, but went next. "Um. Number 1086, named Gin, uh, pilot of Mark 13, Ender, launch now."
Mark was sitting silently, until he remembered that it was his turn. "Specialist Mark Westerfield, now pilot of Mark 60, Shun. Launch!"
Even after confidently saying 'Launch', Mark still squealed in surprise when Shun was propelled downward. His stomach dropped as if he was on a roller coaster. He had is eyes shut the whole time, a sort of childish fear overcame him. The falling feeling stopped, at least mostly. The cockpit jerked, probably from the safety cord attached to the Malign. Mark kept his eyes shut. Reimund's voice spoke in the helmet's receiver. "This is your first time, right Mark? How does it look?"
Mark finally fought to open his eyes.
What he saw made his jaw open.
The cockpit screens showed Neo-Terra in daylight, as well as the space surrounding it. On the planet, white clouds swirled and collided, or created lightning storms. Mark could see the continents, the jade jungles in Zeannia, and the white snow caps in the north. He saw a sandstorm unfold in the sands of the western desert country of Deondrist. The pilot saw the metallic city centers in northern Albicia, and admired how they reflected the light of the near star. He saw the deep blue ocean, in which the scattered islands of the Pista Archipelago sat upon. He picked out the deep green forests that reside in most of northern and west Ibrany. Mark found the curving rivers of most of the lands, the most impressive being the delta in southern Deondrist. The most eye-catching were the snow-capped gray mountains that divided Albicia from Ibrany. To Mark, it was looking at a map that detailed all the colors and land formations of Neo-Terra, but this was better. He thought, I wonder what the settlers thought when they found this planet. He was probably silent for a while, because Reimund asked, "I think that's enough for now. We have to get to training."
Mark almost forgot why he was out in space. "Oh, right." He then thought of something to ask the white-haired pilot. "Hey Gin, have you been out here before?"
"…What? Oh, no. At least, I don't remember. It's kind of making me sick looking at it for so long." Gin managed to say.
It sounded like Terrance coughed. "Excuse me, don't puke in your helmet, please. I'm the one who cleans up those messes."
"A-hem." Reimund mumbled. "The lesson?"
"I swear you hated teaching. Now you're so eager?" Terrance pointed out. "You said earlier that 'this is what I get for having an officer rank', am I right?"
Reimund sighed. "Shut up, Mr. Observer." He sounded annoyed. Mark allowed himself let out a short chuckle.
Once all four Malign were sent out, Major Lambert rose from his seat. Captain Kikyo looked up at him. "Where you going, Major?"
"I have something I need to do. Keep control of everything." And with that, Lambert turned and left.
"If it's just the restroom you can just say it!" She called out to him. After he left, she just shook her head and let out a sigh. "Out of all the battle commanders..."
After a long silence, Nadine pushed her seat back, and faced Masami. "Hey Masami," Nadine said to her, "How you feeling about this mission?"
Masami figured Nadine got bored. Masami had nothing better to do with herself, so she replied, "This mission is more straight-forward than most of my missions, I'll tell you that. Fly to Enola, attack aliens, leave. Very straight-forward."
The tan technician responded, "I'm just thinking that we should've hit some of those aliens by now."
The Captain laid back in her seat. "There was an… Incident in the airspace of Enola, so I think we might see some stragglers in a… I'm not sure. A few days or so?"
William wondered, still staring at his screen, "What is up with the Major?"
"He probably has something to do, Mr. Hardy. Unlike us." Masami rolled her eyes. "I wouldn't worry about him. Although his lack of background info disturbs me."
The tan technician propped her elbow on her leg, and rested her face on her palm. "So you looked him up? Sounds like you have interest…"
Liam turned to the girl. "The Captain always has that curiosity, Ms. Avery."
"Thank you Mr. Dunbar, but I believe Nadine here was teasing. And before any of you ask, I already looked up the Lieutenant Colonel."
Nadine gave a playful glare at Liam, who turned back to his screen. "I know I'm not supposed to ask but…Anything on him?"
"He's of General Ragnar's party, and he ran for Senator two years ago. That's all that was interesting in his file, though." The Captain sighed. "All that's on Lambert is that he was born in Neo York City and worked with the military for 7 years. It didn't go into detail, and nothing else."
"Well, he could have worked in the Human Modification Project. I knew a friend who was a researcher, and her whole file was cleared after it was closed."
"I doubt it; the Major doesn't seem to be the scientist type." Masami waved the possibility off.
William turned in his seat to face Masami. "If the Modified pilot, then they would need a battle commander. And Major Lambert's job is-"
An alert cut off William's theory. He turned to look at it on his screen. "Oh. It's the Major. He sent a message."
"What does it say?" The Captain asked.
The technician sounded urgent, yet not panicking. "He says you need to see something, it's serious."
The Captain rose from her seat. "Where is he?"
"Top floor, left wing, near the back generators." William informed.
"Nadine, keep watch. I'm going."
Major Lambert left the bridge. He let out a large sigh. The Major was unsure if this idea he has is really a good idea. He still moved on through the plain hallways with the thought on his mind. He thought of the possible consequences, about what could happen if he doesn't do it correctly. Lambert then figured how he would feel if he didn't go through with it.
Major Lambert had a rage reserved, and a part of it will free itself if he did do it. The pent-up boiling anger that laid dormant until this very mission. He could bury the rage with this plan, and destroy the person who forced him to feel it.
The Major's feet carried him mindlessly to the back of the ship. He knows what step one is in his plan to be. The next step may take a while, but he at least needs to start.
Soon enough, Major Lambert found himself in front of the Lieutenant Colonel's office. He stood there, frozen, with his mind giving him his last doubts. No. I have to, He thought. He knocked, at the point of no return. "Bruce. We need to talk."
After some fuss, the Major led the other man into the generator room for privacy. A steel walkway stood above the twin large plasma generators. Only the engineers onboard could access the area around the engines, but now it was empty. Only the hum of the turbines filled the air.
Lambert stopped, so Bruce stopped as well. "What is that you wanted to talk to me about?" The Lieutenant Colonel asked gruffly.
The Major turned around. "Tell me, do you respect the General?"
"Of course I do. He has lots of work to do, and he's handling it quite well."
"I see. Well," Lambert walked toward the railing of the walkway, looking at the generators. "It's bias to me that you're of the General's political party." He viewed Bruce's face. "So of course they chose you to be political correspondent."
"It is not favoritism, Lambert. I merely qualified. I ran for Senator for the Eastern district, and I would've won if it wasn't for that Owen. It's only coincidence I happen to be a supporter of Ragnar."
"I see." Lambert rolled his eyes. "So this mission isn't political at all." He said sarcastically.
Bruce raised his eyebrows. "Oh, you still think Ragnar destroyed that ship because of Humphrey. Well, first of all, Humphrey wasn't a good commander anyways. He was going to be killed anyways."
Lambert faced Bruce completely. "Ragnar killed innocents with that order. The engineers, the technicians, Hell, there was over 200 of them."
"Did you forget technically this is war? Anyone can die, Major." A slight smile appeared on Bruce's face.
Anger became shown on Lambert's face. "When 200 people die all together, the media will remind the people, and it will stay on the headlines for a month. Roanoke going down will only result in the Government writing mass-produced letters to family members. There will be family members who wonder what the hell happened to their fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters. They'll hide the destruction, store the battle results away. They want the goody General Ragnar to sound virtuous. They want-"
"Oh, Major. Spare me. You're getting pissed on something like this happening? This happens all the time." Bruce rolled his eyes.
"I know that." Major Lambert took a step to be in front of the Lieutenant Colonel.
"You're acting like this is new." Bruce stood his ground, looking serious again.
"I know. I know that, but this happened once before." The Major averted his gaze on Bruce to hide away what he almost thought of saying. He put his eyes on Bruce again. "The point is, Ragnar makes me sick, and militaristic, political bastards like you make me sick."
"Well, your hatred of Ragnar for whatever reason makes me sick, Major." After the Lieutenant Colonel remarked, Lambert glanced down at the man's side. "I think you should just drop whatever vendetta you have, and move on. You can't drag this ship down with you."
Lambert gave Bruce a look. "You know, you're right." His face quickly turned bitter. "But it still won't fix anything. First it means getting rid of you."
Bruce's face turned to puzzlement. "What the hell do you-" His sentence was cut off by the Major throwing a punch into his gut. He backed off, gripping his stomach and coughed. The Major followed by kicking him in the same spot. Bruce fell to the floor in a thump. Major Lambert knelt down and grabbed something that was attached to the man's side. He struggled to get up, but Lambert's knee jammed into his chest, keeping him down. The Lieutenant Colonel's eyes widened at the sight of the object in Lambert's right hand- his gun.
"You see, killing you is the first step. It will mean all political authority will go down on me. That will give me more privileges that will allow me to advance."
Bruce struggled more, but Lambert stopped him by digging his knee deeper. "What are you doing? You can't kill me. If you do… They'll find out about me and you'll rot in jail." His teeth were grit in his distress. "You'll be killed by them. Your plan won't work. You'll fail." Bruce then realized that Lambert was seriously intent. "No.. You can't murder me."
"I'm going to be very careful with this plan. And sadly for you, I will kill you." Lambert mumbled bitterly. He put the gun in his left hand, and pressed it against the Lieutenant Colonel's right temple. The Major's finger curved around the trigger and said, "Farewell, bastard."
Bruce meant to scream, but it was anguished by the gun shot. The sound of it echoed through the large room, but it returned back to its quiet state. Bruce's body jerked, and all the strength that was left in him was gone. Lambert stood up and composed himself. He wiped his face with his hand, feeling that some of the dead man's blood spurted on him. The blood was absorbed in Lambert's white gloves, which he looked at for some time. He sighed and looking down on the victim. His brains were lying out on the floor, and the blood had flooded out. Lambert mocked, "Hmph. 'Anyone can die'." Lambert then began his cover up.
The Major placed the gun in Bruce's right hand, fixated his fingers around the trigger, and pointed it towards his temple, to where the bullet went. He then marched into Bruce's office, which was quite neat. He quickly went to the desk to find the computer where Bruce was writing the battle report. Lambert was grateful that it wasn't saved once, and deleted it. The Major unplugged many wires from the back of the computer after he shut it down. With his own knife, he jabbed the blade into certain points of the machine so that the data wouldn't be recovered. He then found a stack of papers on the desk. He threw the papers around in every direction, and ripped some of them to unrecognizable shreds. Lambert looked around after he was done, and was satisfied.
Major Lambert returned to the murder site. He removed his bloodied gloves, and he took in a few deep breaths, and sent a message through his phone to the bridge. It said:
Captain Masami Kikyo: I need you to look at this. I'll tell you what I know when you get here. It's serious. I'm on the third floor, left wing. I'm in the generator room.
–Major Louis Lambert
Mark made Shun push off of the rim of the Olympus, and did a back-flip of sorts. Reimund almost applauded. "You seem to have gotten used to it, Mark. Rather quickly."
"Uh, thanks I guess?" Mark said, straightening his unit's position. "I've been able to do that on land before."
"Reimund, it appears that we have 20 minutes left in our lesson." Terrance informed.
"We do? Alright. I guess everyone can meditate." Reimund said.
The pilots then went into a silent agreement of being silent. Mark used his time to truly take in his surroundings. Terrance's Malign, Jabberwocky, was colored fully yellow, which was a little off-putting. Its visor showed that it had 3 eyes on each side of its face. It had a single horn, on the forehead pointing upward. Its armor was slimmer than Jaeger's.
Gin's unit, Ender, was a different story. It was colored deep black, some parts red. It had three horns, two near the top of the head which were curved upward, and one on the fore head, pointing forward. It had blades coming out of its upper arm, but the right one was damaged. Its hands also had claws on them. It had two red visors on each side of its face. It looked intimidating compared to the other Malign.
Mark decided that the silence was a little overbearing. "Reimund?"
"What?" Reimund said, sounding tired.
"I was just wondering, um… Why did you want to be a pilot?"
"I've always kind of wanted to defend mankind from aliens since I was a kid." He pondered a moment and continued, "But I knew I would after the 5th Alien Onslaught."
"Did you lose someone?" Mark asked, in a more serious tone.
There was silence over the receiver. "My mother." The officer pilot put it bluntly.
Terrance added, "Reimund also lost his sister."
"Shut up, she went missing after Mom died. She's not dead."
"Mark, this is one of the reasons why he took this mission. We meet up with a large fleet, and he thinks his sister is in one of them." Terrance told.
"Oh. Sorry, Reimund."
"Yeah, thanks for saying that." The officer pilot growled.
"No problem." Terrance said.
"Anyways, Mark, did you lose someone?"
"Oh. Um… my dad was an engineer. He fixed up battleships, but according to a paper we got, he was killed by crossfire."
"I see. Is that the reason you joined?"
"A bit, I guess. I initially thought piloting a giant robot-thing would be cool. But I guess I found a different direction in school. My Staff Sergeant told me 'Every soldier needs a reason to fight'. So I guess mine is for those who can't fight."
Gin asked nervously, "Um… Alien Onslaught?"
Reimund answered quickly, "Planet-scale attacks by space Aliens. They're the reason we started using Malign. Wait, how much of your memory was lost?"
"The doctor said nearly everything, but she says they'll come back in bursts… I just hope I didn't do anything bad."
"I don't think you'll remember much. As in nothing too remarkable."
Mark consoled him, "Gin, I don't think you would have done anything bad. Unless your memory loss gave you your shyness."
Gin actually chuckled a bit. "I think I was like this. Um… Sorry if I am a little shy, if that is bad for pilots. I'm still getting used to this, I guess. Just don't worry about me."
Reimund ordered, "Ok, everyone, give Gin space. He said it himself."
"Well, um. Not really. I just said I want to-"
An alert was sent through their helmets by Nadine: "Sorry boys, but the lesson is over. I don't know what for. But Captain Masami ordered it. Now retracting cables…"
Masami marched towards the back, bumping into a couple others who run the ship. This better be important. She kept telling herself. It better not be something with the generators. I swear, if the Zeannia ships hit that area… She reached the door to the Generator room, and Major Lambert opened it. "What happened?" She asked quickly.
The Major sighed through his nose. "I- I think it will be easier if you saw it yourself."
The Captain's face turned from puzzlement to a surprised horror. "What- what the…" Masami had her hands near her face as she stepped onto the walkway. She stared at the bloody dreadfulness that was left of Lieutenant Colonel Bruce. "H-how… Why?" Her face turned back into confusion, and she hugged her arms.
"I'm not sure either. Right now, it's a suicide." Lambert stepped up next to her. "But what matters now is dealing with this."
Masami mentally slapped herself to get herself back into order. "Right. I'll get the health staff to get his body into the morgue… And clean this up. But…"
"I'll call Ragnar. From what I know, the commander with the next highest rank gets duties of the dead commander. Political correspondents are not needed. You can contact him about battles and such."
"The pilots." Masami added. "What about them?"
"They'll be fine. I can explain this to Reimund and Terrance. Gin doesn't have to know. Mark is a different story." Lambert thought a moment. "Reimund can tell him. Or Ms. Yukari."
"Yeah, Yukari can be blunt with him." Masami let out a nervous chuckle. "She's good with dealing news like that. Oh."
"His office. There has to be something in Bruce's office. Maybe a suicide note? I know we shouldn't do investigations until we meet up with the fleet."
"I'll head up there myself. I need you to go order some people around, if you can do that."
"I was going to do that myself. No need to order me. Major, I tell this to every man a rank higher than me: I can handle myself."
The Major smirked. "I can tell." Major Lambert then began to walk off. Masami then watched him go.
The Captain shook her head, a slight smile on her face. "Ass. Out of all the men…" She said, typing in an order for Nadine.
(NEXT TIME: The Aliens attack! Mark and Shun fight as one! All of the power from Bruce is reluctantly given to the Major. All this and possibly more next time in Malign: Insurrection- Chapter 4: First Encounter)
Things we can share so far:
The First World countries in Neo-Terra are: Albicia (an American-like country), Zeannia (Cultures and people who live in Central and South America reside here), Ibrany (the West has mostly Northern and Eastern European peoples, while the East has the Southern and Western Europeans), Deondrist (Middle Eastern cultures live here), and Atarashi (Asian peoples live here).
When a Malign has been outfitted with a cockpit and its computer parts, a designer is chosen the design the armor for the Malign, as well as name it and color it. A well-known designer for the Albicia generations is Adam Locke, who actually designed Reimund's Mark 57, Jaeger!