A/N: Hey, guys. It's, uh... been a while since there's really been anything from me, huh? Sorry about that. I've been busy with work and trying to balance a failing social life, so it hasn't really left much time for writing. However, when I had this sci-fi dream, I told my good buddy interestinglyenough about it, and she demanded that I write it. Thus, this calamity was born. I don't do sci-fi; I don't feel like I can write it very well, but even so, here is my first real attempt at doing so xD Sorry if it's terrible. Any feedback is welcome! I'm currently working on chapter 4, so I'll try to update soon :)
Chapter length: 4725
(Previously titled "Ruin")
Warnings: If you read my stuff you know I tend to lean toward slash pairings; don't be surprised if that crops up here. As of right now I don't have any mature scenes planned, but it could happen. Also, there will be blood and violence, as well as torture, mentioned eventually. If that's not your glass of pineapple juice, I suggest you return to the fridge and try again.
The hum of the Saurian's primary thrusters was always soothing, a lullaby attuned to Kane's heart. He sat in the captain's chair in the control room, eyes closed, head tilted back as he simply just listened. He could hear the fingers of his pilot tapping away at keys with little blips, and felt the ship jerk and slow in rhythm with the taps. He knew they would be approaching their target location soon; his heavy eyelids reminded him that he had little sleep on the journey here.
The crew came first, though. The crew would always come first, and if that meant he had to stay up and keep watch, and help run the ship, while they slept… then so be it.
"Six hours until we reach our desired location, Captain," the pilot said in her usual smooth, melodic voice.
Kane opened his eyes, acknowledging his pilot with a small nod as he swiveled in his chair to face her. Athena sat looking back at him, her cool blue eyes as focused as always. She lifted a delicate, dark brow, and he smiled at her.
"Thank you, Athena. How is the ship doing?"
"She's doing well," Athena replied with the slightest upward twitch of her lips. It was hard to get her to truly smile, but she did seem to have a soft spot for the ship, just as he did. For the past six months, the ship had been Athena's home as much as it had been his home prior to that.
Athena might have been a new member of the crew, but she was definitely welcome here, and she fit right in with the little family.
"Are we expecting trouble?" Athena asked a moment later, swiveling around to eye the screens across the deck before her. In front of her, the window showed a planet in the distance; noticeable in the otherwise dark blur of space, but still too far away to completely make out other than the round shape appearing from the black.
"Not until we land," Kane replied smoothly.
The Saurian was equipped with the newest, lightest guns, and this ship was a lighter model, allowing it to maneuver more easily and fly a little faster than the others. It wasn't a fighting vessel by any means, but it could hold its own if it had a pilot who knew how to use her, and Athena seemed to be that very pilot. She hadn't been here very long, but already she'd made her mark.
Once on the ground, though, that left them open to attack.
Of course, Kane had faith in his crew.
"Who shall I send down with you?"
Kane thought a moment. "I'll take Shuler, Kikira and Elijah with me."
The sound Athena made was half amused, half shocked. "Elijah and Shuler don't exactly get along."
"I know, but they need to get over their differences at some point, don't you agree?"
Plus, they did make a good team. If only they could see it.
"Anyway, I'll leave you and Celeste here to watch the ship."
Athena sighed, swiveling to face him. In the distance, the planet loomed, still hours away. "I like a good fight, too, you know."
He smirked. "I know you do."
"And me and Shuler make a good team."
They most certainly did. Of course, Shuler and Athena knew each other prior to joining the crew of the Saurian. It only made sense that they knew each other better than the rest of the crew. Nevertheless, he had seen the two of them in combat; while Athena couldn't match Shuler in raw agility and strength, she was good at reading people and the battle between them flowed smoothly.
"I just need you and Celeste here, on the ship, in case we need backup," Kane told his pilot. It wasn't that he didn't think Athena could handle herself out there, because he knew she most certainly could, but she was a great pilot and if they needed a quick escape… she was the best person for the job.
"Fine, I'll stay here with Blondie," Athena said, sighing.
"She hates when you call her that."
Athena merely smirked.
Kane shook his head before pushing to his feet. "Six hours, you said?"
"Very well. I will return to my quarters and attempt to get some sleep until then. Wake me when we're fifteen minutes out, please, and have Shuler, Kikira and Elijah meet me in the shuttle bay. We'll take a small one in and you can land elsewhere, away from the heat."
"Very well, Captain."
Kane nodded his farewell even though Athena's back was to him again at this point, and he walked out of the control room, toward the little staircase leading up, toward the captain's quarters. The captain's quarters were located at the top of the ship, beneath one of the thickest points of the ship's sturdy metal frame.
The room itself wasn't very large, but did hold a finely crafted wooden desk, made from some rare tree on a distant planet whose name Kane couldn't remember. It was a gift when he was promoted to Captain. The bed in the room wasn't anything too fancy, though it was king-sized and softer than the rest of the beds the crew had to use.
Kane crossed the room in a quick stride, and sat heavily on the bed. The mattress sagged beneath his weight and he yawned tiredly, kicking off his shoes but leaving them nearby, in case he was needed. They weren't due to arrive for six hours, but a captain could never be too careful; one had to be prepared for anything, especially when they were to be entering hostile territory.
In all truth, Kane realized he probably shouldn't go on this mission; he was the captain, and the captain was supposed to stay aboard the ship. Yet, he couldn't put his crew in danger that he himself would not enter. Besides, he did actually like the thrill of the fight. It gave him a break from filling out paperwork. No one told him that, as captain, he would have mountains of paperwork to fill out every single mission.
Perhaps, if he had been informed, he might have declined.
But if he hadn't taken the position, where would his crew be now?
Paperwork was a small price to pay.
A small, tedious price.
Thankfully, paperwork wasn't done on actual paper anymore. It was all electronic. There was still a lot of signing involved, though, with the electronic pens that came with the personal pads. He still experienced cramps in his hand.
He took off his overcoat and tossed it aside before he climbed further up the bed and finally lay down. He didn't bother getting under the covers; the room was always the perfect temperature. Instead, he lay there for a single minute, before he let his heavy eyelids fall shut.
Sleep claimed him instantly.
"Come on, really?" Shuler groaned in his natural, treble voice, spinning away from the back of Athena's chair, no doubt grabbing at his ears in frustration. "Seriously, 'thena? Why do I have to go with Elijah?"
Athena hid a smirk, keeping her gaze focused outside the ship, at the planet ahead of them. They were still 2.2 hours away from it. By now, the planet's two moons were starting to become visible. One was but a speck in the distance, barely there at all; the other was more noticeable, as it was larger than its counterpart.
"Sorry, Shu, that's what the captain told me," she said, as she had done many times already.
Shuler's growl of frustration was inhuman; it always sent a small shiver down her spine. She was raised among humans, as were most of the crew. While space travel was evident, and there were different worlds with different species, humans had multiplied across the universe at such a rate they almost immediately overtook all other races. The others were still around, of course, but humans tended to keep to themselves, and travel and work with only other humans.
Shuler was not human.
Once upon a time, this bothered Athena.
Now, it was just a fact of life. Her best friend wasn't human. Oh well. Life goes on.
"This is ridiculous," Shuler protested. "He hates me."
"He doesn't hate you," Athena said, rolling her eyes as she checked the readouts scrolling down the screens in front of her. "He just… finds you annoying."
"He hates me," Shuler said again. "And I did absolutely nothing to him!"
"He's just wary; a lot of humans are, at first. He'll get used to you."
"It's been six months, Athena. You'd think he'd be used to me by now."
"Sometimes it takes longer."
"Why can't you go with us instead?"
Shuler could often sound like a child; he had this petulant quality to his voice whenever he whined about something, and he whined often.
"Some things just take time, Shuler. He'll come around eventually."
And if he doesn't, she silently added, I'll take care of him myself.
Being wary of Shuler because he wasn't human was one thing; but there was a fine line between being wary and being outright cruel. At first, everyone on the ship had been wary of Shuler; now, they were used to him. Everyone except Elijah Thomas.
"If I don't come back, he got me killed," Shuler mumbled like a dejected child. "So, you know. Avenge me, please."
She snorted. "Don't be so dramatic, kitty cat."
She spun in her chair to face him, finally, and noticed his scowl first, his canines just barely visible as his mouth opened partially. He didn't exactly have a human face; he wasn't human, and therefore he did not. Yet, he was humanoid in a way. Though, as he explained it, 'humanoid' was a term coined by humans, when in reality, evolution decided that 'humanoid' was the best route to take, with opposable thumbs, legs for running, arms for fighting or using tools… and thus he had a body like a human, almost. 'Humanoid', after all.
He stood on extended legs; like an animal's back legs if they stood on two legs. He wore boot-like shoes, good for running and stepping easily on the ground, great for sneaking. She once asked if wearing shoes – and clothes – bothered him, and he replied that he was not a Neanderthal, and shoes had their uses. He had a long, thin, smooth tail which swished out behind him in irritation. Across his furry chest rested his equally furry dark arms; his sharp nails gleamed in the light of the room, even though they were mostly retracted right now. They were noticeable against the deep red-brown color of his fur.
Atop Shuler's head, an ear twitched. "Stop staring at me; you know that gives me the creeps."
Athena smirked. "Admit it; you like it when I stare at you."
Copper green eyes rolled before narrowing at her. "Did Kane really tell you to have me and Elijah go with him?"
"Sorry, Shu. That's what he said."
Shuler sighed, tail flicking quickly as his ears twitched back to rest nearly flat against his head. "Avenge me, Athy."
Athena laughed quietly; it was a sound she did not make often, but she found Shuler made it easier. "I'll avenge you, Kitten."
His ears twitched back further as his eyes narrowed. He did not appreciate being called 'kitten'.
INCOMING – ALERT – INCOMING – ALERT
The mechanical voice spoke succinctly, just as the alarms began wailing in the control room. Athena flinched and spun around to face the screens laid out before her, rapidly moving her fingers across invisible keys. Her eyes darted across the flickering red outlines appearing on her map screens.
"We're being attacked," she breathed, brows furrowing harshly. "I don't understand – we're cloaked. And I don't even see them…" She looked out the window in front of her, reinforced with diamond glass, but saw nothing of the attackers her screens mentioned.
"Captain, better get down here!" came Shuler's hissing voice, stationed behind Athena and to the left, at the comm station.
She didn't hear the captain's response.
"They're locking weapons onto us!" she said roughly.
Adrenaline did crazy things to one's body, especially in space. She did have combat training, and thus her fight response was activating, yet she was in a ship in the middle of space, still hours away from the planet Erudad, and her combat skills would not help her here. It was frightening to realize she could simply die in this metal ship, and because of space, no one would even hear her scream.
Frightening, but also exhilarating.
She smacked the palm of her hand down on the small orange button on the right side of the control panel; the screen flashed orange and behind her, she heard Shuler already making the announcement.
"Shields raised; everyone brace for impact!"
The first shot to hit them came from their left, landing a glancing blow across the left thruster. Thankfully, the shields held and they only received a bit of cosmetic damage, according to the readings flashing across her ship screen, revealing the location of the attack as well as the shield percentage covering that area. It went from a solid 99% down to 65%.
A glancing blow, but if they took another hit there, especially a direct one…
If they lost their thrusters, they couldn't move quickly. They would be unable to escape. Soon after, death would occur.
"Evasive maneuvers!" Athena snapped.
Shuler repeated her words through the intercom system, alerting the crew.
The door at the back of the room burst open, then.
"What's happening," Captain Kane demanded.
"We're not sure, sir," Shuler replied. "You might want to sit down."
Cats were very agile, and always landed on their feet; their balance was impeccable. A human's balance, however… especially in a ship performing evasive maneuvers…
The captain didn't argue with Shuler, and she listened he sat in his command chair and fastened his safety harness. A second later, fingers pricked at Athena's clothing as Shuler fastened her own harness, which she neglected to reach for, her fingers swiping fervently across the screens.
The next attack was incoming; the long red dot across her screen read the trajectory, as well as the point of impact.
The left thruster again; a more direct shot, too.
She flicked the right side of the screen, pressing her fingers down hard and sliding them across, and the ship veered sharply to the side. The shot missed them, but it was close; there was no noise in space, but she still felt the vibrations of the plasma shot narrowly avoiding the metal frame, scraping the very edge of their shield.
Shields on the left thruster were down to 54%.
"I don't understand… where are they?" she breathed, mostly to herself.
The Saurian had up-to-date technology, as well as advanced detection and cloaking capabilities; she should have been able to see the enemies' location by now, even if they were cloaked. And due to their own cloaking abilities, the enemies shouldn't have been able to see them in the first place.
Frustration was not a new feeling in Athena's repertoire, but it was one of her least favorites. She prided herself on excellence; she didn't make mistakes. Everything was checked and rechecked. It was perfect. There was no room for error.
While it was true being on a ship like this, as a pilot, was new for her, she was no stranger to taking random jobs, nor was she a stranger to piloting a ship. She'd flown solo for many years; she knew how to pilot a ship, how to monitor the screens and get the hunk of metal to truly fly, but that did not mean her job description was 'pilot'.
Until very recently, anyway.
Now she was just a pilot. That was her role; it was what she wanted.
And as a pilot, she did not make mistakes, especially not rookie ones like being unable to detect enemy ships incoming.
Yet, the fact that was exactly what happened… it truly frustrated her.
"Kikira, Elijah, and Dante to weapons 1, 2, and 3 immediately," Captain Kane ordered calmly. His smooth, easy tone left the tension bleeding out of Athena's shoulders; she inhaled deeply, closed her eyes for just a moment, and took a fresh look at her screens.
"They're firing at us again, sir," she relayed quietly. "Left side, shot initializing from about 200 meters."
"Thank you, Athena," Kane said.
She said nothing about the exact location; she said nothing about how many 'degrees' away they were. And yet, that was exactly what Kane told his gunners – he told them exactly where to aim their shots, and then gave them the order to fire.
And fire they did.
On her screens, the shots appeared to simply be heading into empty space; a waste of plasma, truly. And yet, suddenly the shots evaporated, hitting enemy shields. There was a flicker in the air, the faintest trace on her screen, and Kane gave the order for them to fire again, and again.
The Saurian didn't have the most lethal weapons; it was a fast ship, made for quick missions and maneuvers rather than outright combat. The shields were minimal at best, good against glancing blows as they fled the scene, but under a direct assault, they would fail.
Kane wasn't taking any chances; he was ordering his crew to annihilate the enemy.
It was either them or the enemy.
It had been a while since Athena had actively taken the life of another; she almost forgot what it felt like. The thrill returned to her, an old friend with a warm hug, and she grinned as she pressed her fingers across the screens, easily maneuvering their ship for a better, more accurate shot. Now that they knew where the enemy was, it would be easier to land a direct hit, even if they moved. She was ready for any sign of change now; she would not fail again.
Their shots hit again, and again. Their shields dispersed, and they began to move. Perhaps that was a downside to their protective systems; they could cloak themselves better than any other, but at the cost of movement. The enemy ships were suddenly visible. There were three of them, all of them about the size of the Saurian.
Now that they were visible, the ships moved quickly, knowing their surprise attack was finished. They fired off rapid shots; what the shots lacked in raw strength they made up for with their swift, hammering nature. The left flank was hit now, and the ship was sent reeling as Athena struggled to regain control.
Another shot came from the right; it slammed into them, and left them tilting on their axis. A direct hit left the right thruster's shields at 15%.
"They're distracting us," Shuler growled with an inhuman hiss to his words. "Look behind us!"
All of Athena's attention had been focused ahead of them, on the three ships outmaneuvering them at the moment. However, at Shuler's words, she slammed her palm down on the display and it brought up footage from behind the ship, and sure enough, another ship was getting into position, this one larger than the other three. It had been hidden like the others, but upon moving, it lost its invisibility.
The three smaller ships were only a distraction.
"Guns 2 and 3, focus on the smaller ships," Kane said through the intercom. "1, you focus your attention on that bastard behind us."
"Yes, sir!" Gunner 1, Elijah, said hastily.
"They're lining up multiple shots, Captain," Athena called, fingers tapping quickly against the screens, attempting to line up the trajectories as fast as she could. "They're going to bring down both of our thrusters. I can't dodge them all!"
"Evasive maneuvers!" Kane snapped.
"You got this, Athena." Shuler's voice was smooth and quiet right behind her; she felt the weight of his hands holding tight to the back of her chair, his only source of grounding. She could only imagine how much he'd already been thrown around, with all the maneuvers and attacks. Now, he was speaking only to her, his voice so quiet she doubted the captain could even hear him."Okay? I have faith in you. Get us out of this."
Athena drew in a slow, shaky breath. This was not in her initial job description. But now, if she didn't do something, they were all going to die.
Their screams wouldn't make a sound.
Neither would the explosions caused by their damaged thrusters.
"You can do this, Athy. So do it."
She drew in another quick breath, then released it.
Then she pressed her fingers delicately onto the panel in front of her, and with a swipe the ship veered left, then up sharply. She and the captain were strapped in; she felt it the moment Shuler was dislodged from his tentative hold on her chair as the ship rolled on its axis before diving back downward, narrowly avoiding two of the three shots. The third caught the back half of the ship at an awkward angle; not a direct hit, but the ship still took some minor damage.
Sorry, Shu, I'll make it up to you later. First, let's make it out of this alive.
More shots were being locked onto the Saurian. She hoped the gunners were working on taking down the enemy ships, because they couldn't keep this up for very long. This many sharp maneuvers at once, for an extended period of time, was dangerous for the ship; it could cause the core to overheat. Thankfully, Celeste knew what she was doing when it came to the engine room.
Before one of the three vessels could lock onto the Saurian for another burst of fire, it suddenly exploded in front of her, one of the gunners' shots landing a direct hit on an already damaged area. Athena stared at the bits of debris floating in space for merely a second, before she turned the Saurian sharply to avoid impact. There was a thud behind her of a balling flailing around, but she couldn't think about that right now.
Two smaller vessels still flew around them, attempting to target them. As long as she kept moving, kept maneuvering, it would be harder for them to lock a trace onto the ship and target them.
Athena checked the rear ship again; flashes of red showed points of impact on the larger ship from Elijah's shots. At least he was doing his job and harming the ship, keeping it at bay. She didn't want to know what kind of harm a larger ship would do to them, when they were already damaged.
There was a shout through the comm system as Dante managed a direct hit on another one of the smaller ships; there was a small explosion in the hull as it flew in front of the Saurian, spinning on its axis, unable to right itself or control its direction. As it flew out of sight, Athena checked the readings to make sure it wouldn't be back.
It was out of the fight.
One smaller ship, and that larger one behind them.
Maybe they'd make it out of this alive after all.
Alive, but wounded.
They would be limping away to make repairs on the planet still roughly 1.5 hours away. And there, they'd also have to worry about apprehending their target.
Later, Athena told herself. She could worry about that later. Right now she had to fly.
The smaller ship fired at them again.
Athena made a sharp turn, diving downward before twisting back up, narrowly avoiding the attack. A red light started flashing on the ship map of her screen, and she cursed under her breath.
"Ship power at 53% and dropping, Captain," she said tersely.
"Keep us going, Athena," Kane replied easily.
Athena grit her teeth, nearly catching her tongue between them. The sharp pain the muscle felt was short-lived, as she pushed it from her mind to focus on her task at hand. According to her readings, the ship trailing behind them was targeting them now.
The smaller ship was also targeting them, from off to their right.
She swallowed. "Brace for impact; performing evasive maneuvers!"
The ship veered to the right, toward the smaller enemy ship. Typically, protocol mandated that one steer away from the danger when performing evasive maneuvers, but Athena wasn't a simple pilot with only a pilot's training. Her experience, her knowledge, ran deeper than that. And she knew that was exactly what the enemy ships were expecting; for her to veer left and attempt to escape. By steering toward the enemy ship, she could catch them off-guard and hopefully give her gunners a more direct shot so they could eliminate the threat.
The ship seemed caught off-guard; though they were locked onto target, they didn't fire immediately, even with the better vantage point. However, the Saurian's gunners did not hesitate. The smaller enemy ship disappeared in a barrage of plasma shots.
Explosions in space were nothing truly fancy, as they didn't even make a sound; however, there was something fascinating about them. Athena never worked with explosions; it was not in her job description now, nor previously. Nevertheless, she was familiar with explosions on a planet with gravity and an atmosphere; she knew how they sounded, how the ground shook and trembled, how the blast wave went through the air.
Something similar seemed to be happening here; there was an expansion of smoke but no fire, as there was not oxygen in space. The fire was extinguished as soon as it hit the empty void. All that remained was brief smoke as the fire fizzled, and then finally, just the debris left floating.
Athena brought the ship up over the debris as all of the Saurian's gunners focused their attention on the larger ship behind them, which obviously could not maneuver as smoothly as the Saurian, nor even the other, smaller ships.
The remaining enemy ship veered off-course suddenly.
Flying away from them.
Let your enemies live, and you will regret it later, she thought grimly, but it was not her call to make.
"Captain, do we shoot? They're retreating," Dante said through the comm system.
"Negative, Dante; the ship is already limping. We must make repairs before picking another fight," Kane said. "Stay where you are, though. I fear this might not be over just yet."
Athena watched the enemy ship disappear on her screens, and ground her teeth together. She didn't realize how tense she was until a hand landed on her shoulder, startling her. She flinched and spun, already swinging at her attacker. Her fist was easily caught, and her gaze lifted to focus on copper green eyes.
"Easy, Athena," Shuler said, smiling around a busted lip. "It's just me."
"Shuler," she breathed. "You know not to sneak up on me."
"I don't sneak," Shuler said.
"Liar. Are you okay? I'm sorry…"
He had a busted lip, with dark blood leaking from it. He wiped it from his chin and smiled at her. "I'm fine, Athy. You did a great job."
She smiled briefly at the praise before she heard movement behind Shuler.
"Yes, Athena, Shuler is correct; you did an amazing job today," Captain Kane said, appearing behind Shuler's left shoulder. He appeared to tower over the cat humanoid, but then that was rather easy to do considering Shuler was only 5'5". She herself often teased him for his height.
"Thank you, sir," Athena said quietly.
"Take is to Erudad," Kane said, lips pursing into a thin white line. "Find a suitable hiding place in the trees, if you could, away from civilization. We will need to make repairs and give the core time to cool."
The captain's gaze shifted. "Shuler, with me."
Shuler nodded, tossing Athena another quick smile, before he followed the captain toward the second staircase in the back of the room, which led downward instead of up toward the captain's quarters. Athena watched them leave the room, then returned her focus to the screens, keeping watch for any hint the enemy might be returning for another surprise attack.
She wouldn't fail again.