Ryan stared out the viewport window: his golden eyes following the progression of a small asteroid. After it passed out of view, he turned his gaze back into the space station hallway. All around him were military personnel: all scurrying about, trying to get everything done before the launching of the new warship.
He sighed and looked down at his wrist-mounted computer to check the time. She was already late- something that he was used to. He sighed again, about to go find something to drink, when a wampiri soldier approached him.
"Are you Lord Ryan?" She asked while looking him over with her gold eyes.
"Yes I am. Did Ophelia send you?" Ryan asked although he was fairly certain he already knew the answer to the question.
"Yes she did. She requested that I escort you to the docks." The girl bowed, turned around and led the way to their destination. Ryan followed, paying more attention to the numerous viewports on the way. As they neared the docks, the viewports ceased, leaving him to follow without distraction. When they finally arrived, Ophelia rushed over to greet them.
"Thank you Willow," She acknowledged the girl before throwing herself at him, "Ryan! So sorry that I could not meet you at the entrance! There is just so much to do around here with the launching of the new ship." She released him then dragged him off towards the ship.
"It was no problem. If you are too busy then I can just wait until the christening later." Ryan explained as more than a few sets of jealous eyes followed them.
"No! Not at all! I am never too busy for my betrothed." Ophelia insisted with a sweet smile. Ryan bitterly remembered being left to wait at the gate until she sent someone to fetch him. Oblivious, she continued, "I know how about we get something to drink before we tour the ship!"
Ryan went to say something, but was ignored as she dragged him off to some other section of the sector. He soon found himself at a mess hall; surrounded by soldiers laughing and talking with one another. Most of the conversation seemed to be about the new ship, and how it was going to bring down the Insurgency. Ryan was not sure if a single ship could really hunt down and defeat the insurgents but he kept those doubts to himself.
He approached a device and waved his wrist computer in front of its scanner. It beeped, brought up his file and then with a thunk, dropped a silver pouch down. He grabbed it and followed Ophelia over to a table.
"I cannot wait to show you the ship; it is a masterpiece of military engineering." Ophelia beamed. She continued to brag about her new ship, much to Ryan's chagrin. The new ship was the first new destroyer class spaceship since the old days. Since the founding of the empire there has been no reason for a warship, but with the insurgency growing by the day, things had changed.
"What is going to happen to it after you defeat the insurgents?" Ryan asked, one of the few lines of dialogue that he was able to get in. Without waiting for a response, he bit into the silver package and began to drain the blood from the bag with his needle-like fangs.
"After the war is won, it will either be used for stopping any future rebellions or as a new way to prevent space debris from hitting the colonies. Do not worry, though, dear Ryan. Although my duties may take me far away, I shall always be ready to come home to you." Ophelia reassured, placing a hand on his and biting into her own blood pack.
They finished their meal and threw the packages into the garbage chute on their way out of the mess hall. He could hear the vacuum activate, sweeping the waste away to be turned into the arcane energy that powered the station. His mind briefly went back to his school days where he learned about the arcane reactor and how it made energy from dissembling the waste into molecules.
He pondered how it worked, but without a degree in arcane physics, it was to no avail. His attention drifted back to his betrothed. Normally he would be happy to talk with anyone that would listen, but Ophelia didn't listen well. All conversation always came back to her in some form; right now it happened to be her new ship. At the current moment she was raving about how she was collecting the best crew imaginable. Instead of replying, he chose to let his attention drift to the people walking around.
Almost everyone here was wampirian, it was easy to tell. They all had gold eyes, eyes that the grimaldians called reptilian. Occasionally he would see a grimaldian. Few grimaldi had the military rank to be rushing around here on important business. They would most likely be found out in the docks performing the hard and dangerous labor, like building the ship.
At last they arrived at the large warship. Multiple beam cannons littered it, along with machine guns. It was the only ship that Ryan had ever seen with such blatant firepower, and most likely the only one in the imperial military. They crossed the linking bridge and boarded the ship. A soldier saluted Ophelia; shooting Ryan a dirty look- something he was used to. Many were jealous of him for his betrothal to Ophelia; she was beautiful and the daughter of the head of the imperial council. Most wampiri would let a draugr gnaw their arm off for the chance to switch places with him.
She led him around the ship as she explained how much firepower the ship had and how much energy it would use. She also showed him the hanger where the archfighters were stored. There were only a few of the twenty-foot tall machines. An archfighter was one of the highest honors a person could receive. The giant humanoid machines were loaded with simple beam rifles and giant shields attached to their left arms. The machines were black with royal blue accents except for a crown-like shape on their head- it was a valiant gold.
Ryan was not sure what their model was, but seeing them still filled him with pride as a member of the empire. They were the backbone of the military; more so then the ships that transported them, or the fighters that supported them. Five of them could easily handle an entire squadron of the fighters used in the old wars.
"They are called Apotropes, majestic aren't they?" Ophelia marveled as she looked at them, "They are nothing compared to my Incubi, but they get the job done."
Ryan looked over at the woman, who took the opportunity to push him up against the safety railing. Bringing her face close to his, she whispered, "It might be awhile before we get to see each other after today."
Ryan went to reply when an alarm sounded. The computer on Ophelia's wrist also let out a warning as a message appeared for her. She quickly stepped back and pressed her index finger to the bright red hologram of the word emergency. A radar screen appeared, and although it was backwards from his view Ryan could see that something was moving towards the station, "Is it some kind of space debris?"
"No, it is moving far too fast. I have business to attend to, you should head to a safer place." Ophelia explained before running off and leaving him alone.
Ryan wondered for a moment what could be moving towards them, if not space debris. Then it hit him- the insurgency must be attacking. He hurriedly walked around the ship until he found a computer module. He quickly accessed it. Luckily security was not activated yet, something that he assumed made maintenance easier while building the ship.
A screen came on and he could see something flying towards the station. It looked like a single fighter, black with green and blue accents. The only things that stood out to him about it were the strange wings on it; they looked like they were made of five large energy feathers.
"What does a single fighter think it can do against a military base?" Ryan wondered aloud. He continued to watch as five archfighters launched from the base to intercept. Energy beams flew through space, each ready to destroy this unknown threat. Suddenly, a blue flare ignited from behind the wings and the machine separated into two: one a large fighter with thrusters pushing it, and the other was the wings and twin Gatling guns attached to a thin elongated oval shape. The wings flew at an incredible speed and sliced one of the archfighters in half.
It u-turned as a flash of blue energy reflected the energy beams harmlessly away. The main machine simultaneously started to change shape midflight. It seemed to unfold as legs and arms appeared from the main bulk of the machine. Ryan zoomed in as the head unfolded, allowing him to see where the eyes of the machine were. They flashed with light as if activating: one an emerald green and the other a sapphire blue. He watched it pull out and spin a pole. The pole extended as two beam blades erupted from the ends- forming a double bladed scythe. The wings attached to the back of the machine as it dashed forward: a black mechanical reaper.
Ryan felt a bit of dread build up in his throat despite being sure that one machine could not defeat four archfighters, no matter how advanced it seemed to be. His confidence built as he watched them quickly surround it and begin to fire. However, his confidence did not last as he watched it dodge and weave through the beams.
The machine broke out of the circle, as two Gatling guns raised under the machine's arms from the backpack. Firing, small beams filled the air. Three of the archfighters were able to dodge the beams, but one was punched full of holes before exploding in a burst of arcane energy. The guns folded back beside the backpack and the machine closed the distance to one of the machines in almost an instant. Two beam emitters ignited on the right shin of the machine and it kicked. The beam sliced the archfighter into two. Leaving its prey to explode, the machine floated away.
"What is that thing?" Ryan quaked, fear creeping into his chest. He felt the urge to run and hide but his eyes were glued to the screen.
The remaining two archfighters fired bolts of energy but, with a flash of blue, both beams returned to the guns that fired them. The guns exploded, destroying the hands of the archfighters that held them. The machine flew up to them and in an almost elegant dance, sliced the two machines down with its scythe.
Ryan backed away as more Archfighters and some fighters launched to engage the enemy. He dashed towards the connection bridge to escape. Catching a glance of something outside a viewport window, he froze in terror. Explosions ripped across the docks and carriers were sinking without even being able to launch.
"How… how did it get here?" Ryan stammered out, as now floating in the docks was another enemy machine. This one was black with icy blue and crimson accents along with large multi-thruster wings. At its hips there were large metal blades over folded cannons. Large black and blue shields with black folded blades prevented him from seeing the hidden beam rifles that it was using to blast everything.
Five more archfighters managed to escape a sinking carrier and flew towards the mechanical angel of death. The machine turned allowing Ryan to see its face. This one had no eyes but rather a crimson v-shape that looked like a visor. The guns at the hips began to unfold and hidden cannons came out of the wings then came over the machines shoulders. As it pointed its guns out, the tips of all eight wings detached and floated in a ring around the machine. Ryan called out uselessly as it unleashed a blinding hell. None of the machines escaped alive, and the entire fleet behind them was gone.
Ryan fell to his knees in shock and dismay. He couldn't believe he was seeing such overwhelming firepower and death from a single machine; let alone the monster that was, no doubt, slaying countless people outside. It was all too much. He stayed like that until he heard gunfire on the connection bridge. Reacting out of instinct, he ran deeper into the ship and did the only thing he could think of to do- hide.
He threw himself into a supply closet and closed the door. He crouched there with his ears covered hoping that the military would find a way to stop those monsters and protect the ship.
For what felt like hours the sounds of battle echoed through the halls of the ship. He felt a lurch as the sounds of battle faded. He stood, wondering what was happening but was quickly knocked back on his haunches as the ship lurched again. He put his back into a corner and curled back up into a ball. His mind filled with delusions that something was slowly blasting away at the ship; destroying it and, eventually, him.
It was a long time before everything fully quieted down. While he sat there debating what to do he heard voices that he could not make out, outside the door. Suddenly the door unlocked and slid open to reveal a woman with dark red hair and eyes that were similar to his own in all but color. For instead of the gold of a wampiri, they were blue like a grimaldi.
"Grimpiri." He muttered without thinking. The woman, who was covered in blood splatter, did not look enthused. She pointed her gun at him causing him to reflexively throw his arms over his face in a futile attempt to defend himself.
"Wait, Olivia." A voice rang out from beside her, "He is not military."
"How can you tell?" the woman asked, never taking her eyes of Ryan for a second.
"How many military personnel do you know of that hide like a bitch when a gun is aimed at them in such close range?" the man next to her reasoned.
"Good point Jake, we had better take him to the bridge." Olivia said, roughly grabbing Ryan and dragging him out of the closet. He looked over at the man that had technically saved him; the black haired man stared at him with his grey grimaldi eyes. It was in that moment in the light of the hall that he caught sight of their uniforms: black and red, the colors of the insurgency.
"Lucky you." Jake muttered before Ryan was basically dragged between the two people down the hall. Before long they were outside the bridge, and Ryan could hear an argument.
"We should not dump the grimaldi bodies until after we are able to rendezvous with the supply ship. If we hurry, we can revitalize the blood and tissue to use them as food until then," a man's voice echoed, it sounded almost bitter and annoyed.
"Absolutely not! We cannot just use them as a resource! They are people!" A woman's voice yelled out in disgust and anger. Ryan had to admit that the topic of discussion did not sound appealing to him either, but he had other things to worry about.
"They were people. It is no different than using the bodies as an energy source like in the colonies. I personally do not want to be a wampiri's lunch," the man countered.
"We can just give some blood for the wampiri crew and…" the woman started before trailing off.
"Ah yes, your mind just caught up, didn't it? What are we going to do with her? A starving draugr is a dangerous thing." The man reasoned. Ryan could hear an arrogant tone in his voice.
"Enough the both of you! We will keep the bodies but we will only use them if we have to," another male voice chimed in, ending the argument. Ryan figured they had to be whoever was in charge. His voice was deep and rough, but full of authority.
"Of course captain." Both of them responded.
Olivia heaved Ryan onto the bridge, "Captain we have another problem, we have a stowaway."
Ryan looked over at the figures- all three were grimaldi. One of the men was dressed like a scientist, with baggy cargos and a t-shirt under his lab coat. The woman was dressed in red and black military regalia, but with a skirt rather than the normal pants. And finally was the tall and muscular man who had to be the captain. He wore a captain's coat with a stern expression.
"I see… this is a problem. Olivia, discover out what he knows. Dos find out who he is." The captain said looking at each person in turn.
"Let's see who you are." The man in the lab coat murmured while approaching him. He accessed his wrist computer, typed something and then, laughed, "Ryan huh? Boy did you pick the wrong day to run from your cushy noble life." The man, Dos, turned his attention back to his leader; "He has no military connections aside from his betrothed."
"She is going to be coming for you. Not just for me, but you took her ship." Ryan replied, defiantly. He was not sure what that meant for him, but maybe they would spare him and try to work out a deal with Ophelia.
"Hmmm quite true. Except, unless our pilots failed in their mission, there is not a ship in that colony that could chase down and take on this ship," The man smirked arrogantly. The smirk quickly faded into a dark glare.
The door to the bridge opened as two archfighter pilots entered. They wore helmets and cloaks stopping Ryan from seeing anything about them except that they were both considerably shorter than him.
"Ah speak of the devils, how was the mission?" The scientist inquired.
"Good br… Dos," the shorter of the two pilots replied. Ryan could tell that it was a female voice, and it sounded young.
"Who is this?" the taller one asked, the voice also female.
"The betrothed of Ophelia Chevaier. Is it going to be Ryan Chevaier or you planning to keep your last name?" Dos asked Ryan.
"What makes you think I am taking her name? She might be taking mine." Ryan asked defensively. Although his life was in danger, a part of him at least wanted to die with some masculine pride left. Dos and the taller pilot laughed, along with someone else on the bridge.
"Ophelia take your name? That would be a sight to see," The laughing pilot joked, "Sorry to say this, Ryan but Ophelia was most likely the one in charge of your relationship."
"Agreed, but a better question is what you are doing on our ship," Dos stated, his dark brown eyes flickered up to Olivia who took the cue to drag Ryan away. After being questioned for what felt like hours plus being strip searched for weapons and tracking devices- of course he had neither- he found himself in a holding cell.
He sat on an uncomfortable bed waiting for the verdict. The options seemed to be shooting him and throwing him out into the cold of space, or being their prisoner. A part of him was thankful that being fed to the draugr was not mentioned, although it could be on their minds. Eventually, the door to his cell opened and a grimaldi man entered. He had a long dark brown ponytail with streaks of grey, a goatee, a messy five o'clock shadow and wore the jumpsuit of a mechanic. All in all he was a strange person to send as Ryan's executioner.
"Are you here to feed me to the draugr?" Ryan asked, the image of a patchwork monster, in the guise of a grimaldi, eating his flesh tormenting his mind.
"Well I could if you want, but something tells me she would not like it very much."
"I do not wish to be," Ryan responded, a little confused.
"Well that is good. Here is the deal: it was decided that we are not going to kill you. I would, however, highly recommend calling Olivia by her name and not by her race. It is kind of a touchy subject."
"Duly noted, but what are you going to do with me?" Ryan asked making the older man chuckle.
"Well since I was the one to foolishly defend you at the meeting, along with Lieutenant Alyssa, it has been decided that I will be your guardian. This will be your sleeping quarters for now and wherever you go, so will one of the crew. As long as you do not cause any trouble for us, we will leave you alone."
"Seems fair enough," Ryan acknowledged, still unsure of the man before him.
"My name is Mikhail, nice to meet you. Now normally, I would invite you to get some food but there are no supplies on board the ship yet. I am sure as heck not letting you feed on me, so instead, I will just welcome you to Rusalka."
"Rusalka?" Ryan repeated unsure if that was some underground name for the insurgency.
"It is the name of the ship. Captain figured it would be best to just name it after its model classification rather than try and give it some fancy name."