Nebula Chronicles I A thousand nightmares
Chapter 1 Nightmares returning
16th April 2365
Cyrus system, space station Andromeda
Her life had changed dramatically since she moved to the station, yet she had no idea that what gave her seven years of nightmares was about to return a thousand times worse than anything she ever could have imagined.
Barking from her youngest dog and babbling of a giggly toddler made it impossible to hear half of what the hoovering droid was trying to tell her.
Sachiko was handing the days laundry to the hoovering servant droid. She bought the little thing and two others eight months ago and it eased her shoulders just enough. It wasn't easy working as a chief scientists and dealing with a home involving two dogs and a toddler. Last month she bought another two servant droids to help her around the apartment.
Sachiko had named her daughter after her grandmother Reiko. Her grandmother was a navy pilot and one of the best of her day. She made her name dogfighting pirates.
"We are also starting to run low on milk in the fridge ma'am," the servant droid announced with its robotic voice. There was a friendly sound and contained a British accent.
"I'm going to the store at the weeks end anyway so I'll just add that to the list," Sachiko supposed in her Japanese accent.
"Yes ma'am," the droid said.
When she heard crying and a few barks she walked into the living room calmly and found little Reiko sitting on the carpet crying her eyes out. Sachiko looked around and determined that Hercules had gotten too excited and ran her down. Carefully she picked Reiko up and kissed her black haired head.
"It's okay baby. Don't be sad. It's okay." She glared at Hercules for a moment. Goddamn you for leaving me with all of this Scott, she thought harshly. You say you love us every time you're on leave but how does refusing to raise your baby girl sit into that? She didn't know how many times she had thought about that. How many hundreds of times she had weighed her frustration of him against her love of him against each other. "Did you hurt yourself baby?"
Reiko nodded and buried her face against her neck. Her little hands reached as far around her as they could.
The station was the very heart of Systems Alliance military activities beside Earth itself. It acted as a military headquarters and a jumping off point for fleet activity such as training or hunting pirates. It was the biggest trading hub in Alliance space too and had over 110,000 people living on it. Civilians, crew and a military garrison. The system itself was inhabitable with a few frozen and burning planets. Sachiko Nakajima had lived there for two years now while working herself up to chief scientist butt a year ago. Her boyfriend Scott Foster lived there too, on and off when his duty to the Marine Corps allowed him.
"Excuse me ma'am," the servant droid interrupted politely.
She turned around in place to look at it.
"Yes?" She whispered.
"There is an incoming transmission from Master Scott." He gestured with his slick silver metallic hands towards her office. "It is waiting in your office."
Sachiko closed her eyes and put a hand on the back of her toddle daughter's head. A frown developed on her face as she listened to her breathing and Reiko's sobbing. Did she want to talk to him now? She doubted it but since he couldn't call home often she should probably take it. It might improve Reiko to get to see her daddy.
"Yes, yes. I will take it." Her voice was distance. She regretted it already.
After sitting down in the wheeled office chair in front of the screen and took a deep breath. The screen read 'Incoming transmission' with big letters. Another deep breath and she was ready. She shifted Reiko in her arms and sat her down in her lap. With the press of a button Scott's face appeared on screen. He still had the blond goatee he had always had. It was a bit like his trademark, never changed since she met him ages ago.
"Hi baby!" Scott exclaimed happily, a wide grin on his face.
"Hi hon," Sachiko said with a smile.
"How are my girls?"
She glanced down at Reiko and she was shyly hiding her face against her.
"We're good. Everything is…decent." She paused. He didn't show any sign of wondering why she said decent and not something like great, fantastic or at least good. "Say hi to daddy baby girl."
She gently held Reiko so she would feel safe. Reiko did move a little, revealing half her face, but she was still shy.
"Hi baby. I miss you lots," Scott said. His voice still filled with joy.
Sachiko rolled her eyes and lost her smile in one motion. There was no surprise that their daughter didn't recognize her dad on sight when he was never home. He could suit himself since he transferred from the garrison to a mobile unit. He hadn't been home in a year, that was half her damn life, so no wonder she didn't recognize him instantly.
"Are you okay out there Scott?" She asked plainly.
"Perfectly. I'm great. Miss you though, both of you. I love how you've braided your hair. Suits you." He eyed Reiko. "Is she okay?"
"You know she's shy. She also had a little accident with Hercules. He ran her down in his excitement."
Scott chuckled amused and with a feeling of guilt.
"Say hi to daddy," Sachiko whispered.
Reiko would finally turned fully to the screen and give a sloppy wave.
"Hi daddy." She whispered, clearly she was still feeling shy.
"Hi." Scott waved.
He hadn't realized that maybe something was off yet. Another thing he missed when he was gone for so damn long. She put down Reiko on the floor.
"Go play honey, mama will come later."
Reiko disappeared out of the room and Sachiko stared at Scott.
"Is, everything alright babe?" He realized it wasn't all sunshine at Casa del Nakajima.
"When are you coming home?" She asked.
"Oh, eh, a few months."
"How long is a few months?"
He thought about it. "Four, so August. I really can't wait."
Sachiko was far from amused. She furrowed her eyebrows in frustration.
"Baby, it's okay."
"Okay? It's been over a year and you've missed our daughters first and second birthday. Half her life you've been gone." She was getting more frustrated.
Now it was his turn. "Don't blame me, I got where they send me!"
"They didn't send you off, did they!" She stood up with fury boiling over his ignorance. "You had a nice job close to us, your family, with the garrison here. But no! You couldn't settle down so you're out there! As far away from us as possible!"
She paused to breath and try to collect her emotions. It felt good saying all that. Well, or shouting it.
"Don't you dare turn this on me! I can't properly defend the Alliance citizens from a heavily defended immobile station. Beside Earth that is the most defended place in the galaxy! Darling, I know you and Reiko is safe and…" he cut himself off.
"Is that all? Angry ranting. I heard no good excuse. You can do your job from here Scott. Why don't you want to be with your family. You were the best boyfriend but on the family front you are less so."
"Mama?" She heard Reiko.
She looked around and was surprised to see Reiko standing in the doorway. She thought that was the perfect excuse to hang up on Scott.
"I have to go, our baby girl needs me. Like she needs a father in her life."
She closed the channel before Scott could have said anything back. It made her a bit glad to know that he would stew on everything she said until his next call a month from now. It served him right.
"Come here baby, what's the matter?"
She picked her up. The best thing about Reiko being two was that she was still in that age when she could cuddle with her mom. An endless supply of cuddles. She carried Reiko with her to the living room in the other end of the apartment. It was an impressive place, great on the salary going with her job. They had three bedrooms, a large kitchen, living room, four bathrooms and two offices to note. On for her and Scott. Course he never used it for obvious reasons. To be fair the mostly only used one bedroom, fact being that Reiko slept in Sachiko's bed mostly and their dogs Sasha and Hercules had their beds in their too.
She left Reiko playing with her toys on the living room carpet with a movie for small children playing on the television when she answered the door. Before she opened it with the panel she made a mental note that Sasha was accompanying her. She let a finger key the panel and the silvery door slid open without any noise.
Outside was the only people she wanted to see less than Scott right now. Four men in heavy combat armor, covered mostly from top till toe in metal with a white and red pattern. The junctions in the armor showed the black leather jumpsuit they wore beneath the titanium metal. Leather was visible in areas such as the neck, around the knee where the armor plates divided and their arms. Their arms was only protected by leather. The pauldron protecting the shoulders was almost ridiculously large and no doubt heavy, the helmet surrounded the entire head and left no skin uncovered. It had a black tinted visor over the face. The chestplate was divided into a triangular red shape on the upper chest and white beneath. On each side on the red pattern was a white lion starring down each other standing on their back legs. They lastly had a kama-or a battle skirt-from their waist and down to their knees. It had the same red and white pattern with a lion in front.
"Doctor Sachiko Nakajima?" One of them asked, the voice revealing a woman behind the heavy armor plating. She had a handgun holstered on her right side but was otherwise unarmed. Station protocol did not allow armed none-military personnel in certain area, not even gigantic military contractors. Although they were allowed a handgun for protection.
"Yes?" She answered, keeping her voice calm and steady although she was a little worried.
"We have orders to escort you to Director Hayden," she explained in an Aiur accent.
Sachiko tensed up a little.
"He wants to see you ma'am. I only know my orders, not his reason for it." Her voice continued on a professional level.
"Well…I don't have time and I don't work for Sentinel Corporation. I work for the Systems Alliance Science Division." She crossed her arms over her chest in a sense of finality.
"Ma'am, the director isn't taking no for an answer. He said it was extremely urgent." There was a strain of frustration crawling to the surface.
Sachiko wasn't backing down. Why would she follow some rent-a-soldiers from a shady Corporation. It sounded like a bad idea and there was no way she would leave her daughter alone. And taking her with was an even worse idea. Adding in that she had met Hayden before and didn't like him made her all the more determined.
"I'm not going anywhere so go and tell your boss that."
She stepped back when the woman stepped forward determinedly and placed herself in the doorway. Sachiko stared up at her hesitantly. She felt nervous suddenly.
"Ma'am. We aren't asking," she declared. "We are telling you."
Sasha started growling to protected her master from the people she perceived as a threat. The Sentinel soldiers all shifted their visors in her direction. The German Shepherd stood beside Sachiko and showed her teeth to prove she was serious about protecting her master. The soldiers was silent. She assumed they talked in the privacy of their helmet comms.
"Is everything alright ma'am?" One of the servant droids hovered out into the entrance hallway.
"I…don't know." She didn't break her gaze from the woman in her doorway.
"Should I contact station security?"
"Well…should it?" Sachiko did her best to challenge the Sentinel soldiers.
She swore she could almost hear the woman grit her teeth in frustration as she spoke. "We will be back." She stepped back and they all marched down the corridor.
Sachiko closed the door and breathed out in relief. She kneeled and hugged Sasha who rubbed against her softly in an attempt to comfort her.
"I love you girl," she mumbled affectionately. She glanced up at the servant droid. "Everything is okay now."
"Yes ma'am. I will prepare dinner than."
She nodded her approval and the droid hovered away towards the kitchen. She had decided she had to bring this up to her boss at work tomorrow. Or maybe she should talk to Colonel Telford, head of the marine garrison. Rent-a-soldiers threatening her in her own doorway, with her daughter nearby, might be something for him instead. Yes, yes that would be right. She would contact him tomorrow now. It was for the best. After letting go of Sasha she walked to her office and searched for the right communications channel. After a moment a young asteroid colony born man's face appeared. His thin features and tall skinny appearance made it obvious he had been born in the asteroid belt colony in the Thrace system.
"Andromeda Security can I help y-" he paused for fraction of a second. "-Doctor Nakajima, what can I help you with?"
"I need to talk to Colonel Telford, please connect me through official channels," she requested.
"Yes ma'am." He worked on his keyboard and looked at a scree off to the side. "Ah, ma'am, He is in a meeting right now with Admiral Wrathman."
She leaned closer to the screen.
"Well, inform the colonel that it is important, concerning Sentinel Corporation."
He looked hesitant. "Yes ma'am." He keyed into his keyboard again. "Done. It may take a few moments."
"I'll wait for the call." She smiled thankfully and cut the channel.
She didn't have to wait long until Colonel Telford contacted her. being Chief scientist of your own Wing had its advantages.
"Doctor Nakajima, I understand it was important," the old black haired man started. "Is everything okay?"
"Right now I am, but…Sentinel had four soldiers at my door just now," she said and paused. She was nervous and a little scared and she was sure it showed. Given Telford's face it definitely did.
"Why where they there?" He leaned forward over his desk.
"T-they told me Director Hayden wanted to see me. I said no but they practically forced their way into my apartment and said I didn't have a choice in the matter, they were taking me no matter what I said."
Telford looked at someone off to the side, probably Admiral Wrathman since the security officer had said he met with her.
"What stopped them?"
"The mentioning of security. They weren't happy when they left though. Said they would inform Hayden and be back."
Telford frowned thoughtfully. He rubbed his strong chin.
"Hmm. I see. I am going to be in touch with the good director. If you wish, I can station a few marines outside your apartment."
"Yes please. I'm worried about my daughter."
"Of course. If there's anything else contact me directly."
"Thank you Colonel Telford, thank you."
She woke up when one of the servant droids hovered into her bedroom. Shockingly Reiko was still fast asleep beside her.
"What is it?" She hissed.
"Forgive me ma'am but there are marines at your door that requests to speak with you. They say it is very important," it explained.
She sighed, yawned and looked at the time. Just past three o'clock. Goddammit. Was it about the Sentinel soldiers, this late? First she told Sasha to jump into the bed and keep Reiko company. Since she was in her underwear and without a bra she got dressed in a flannel shirt and a pair of sweatpants before going to the door. She opened it to see the marines stationed by Telford, one of them a Sergeant looking at her.
"I'm sorry for waking you up doc," he apologized. "But there is an emergency situation that requires your immediate attention in the command center."
Her eyes widened. The command center? With the generals and admirals? What could have happened that needed her to go to them at this hour.
"Uh…okay… what about my daughter?"
"My men won't go anywhere doc. Nobody's going inside the apartment," the sergeant assured her.
"We will attend to young Ms. Reiko ma'am," one of the droids said.
She got a pair of shoes on and followed them. First through half a dozen corridors before they reached an elevator that took them from the one hundred and twenty-eighth floor to the fifth. The command level. Off limits to none-military or none-essential personnel. She walked passed dozens of marines and officers before reaching the command center. The room was massive with up to forty computers-almost all if current use-a dozen massive screens on the walls and a large circular holographic table. It was four meters wide and six meters in length. She had heard about it but she had never seen one of the new holographic map tables before.
Around the table she saw three admirals, two men one woman, two generals, one of them wore a marine uniform making him a ranking officer in the Marine Corps and the other man in the Army. Her boss Doctor Osgood was also there. Last and the least pleasant to see…Sentinel Director Hayden and Deputy Director McCarthy. What in the fragging hell were they doing here? Was this about the incident before or something way bigger then she could yet imagine.
One of the admirals, the woman, looked up to her from the holographic table.
"Aha, Doctor Nakajima, good you came so quickly." It was Admiral Wrathman.
"N-not many options really," Sachiko answered and joined them around the table.
There was a moment of heavy and tense silence. Sachiko was feeling really awkward with all the big shots around.
Admiral Wrathman cleared her throat and keyed in a command on the hologram table.
"We called you here because of an incident seven years ago Doctor Nakajima," she explained promptly.
Sachiko flinched when the image of her nightmares appeared in the center of the table as a yellow hologram. The giant scary alien that killed her friends on Grimsby's Folly was right there. Hologram or not it freaked her out.
"It's okay Doctor," Wrathman told her. "We believe this is the alien you met on Grimsby's Folly, the one that killed most crewmen of Outpost Omega 12 Charlie Alpha."
She nodded slightly. "Y-yes. T-that's the thing that k-killed my friends."
Wrathman nodded understandingly.
Sachiko was staring right at the hologram. It was a perfect imitation of the real deal. The right height, black eyes sunken into the grey exoskeleton covering it, the armored covering the waist and bellow leaving everything above the waist only covered by the natural exoskeleton it had. Lastly…the mandibles. She could hear the mandibles clicking in her head. The loud clicking as it came closer. Step by step. It was growing louder and louder and she was about to panic. A few more seconds and the tears would break lose and flood down her face.
"Sachiko." She heard her boss's gentle voice. He had put a hand on her shoulder and looked worriedly at her. "You're okay."
She took a deep breath and thankfully the clicking from the mandibles was gone.
"Since the body was pretty much disintegrated in the explosion we never had a subject to dissect," Wrathman continued. She looked at the Marine General.
"Doctor, I am General Franklin Harding," he introduced himself. "Two hours ago word came in that our colony in the Romano system, New Rome, is under assault by hostile forces. The defenses are being overwhelmed as we speak-"
"There is no reason to tell her the details General," Director Hayden protested.
General Harding, the other general and the two of the admirals threw him different varieties of glares.
"THAT, is not up to you, Director," he declared adamantly.
Hayden looked at them before answering.
"Fine. Apologize general."
Harding turned his attention back to a horrified Sachiko. She had just been told one of humanities colonies was under attack. By whom, and why? It couldn't be corsairs or some criminal organization or a mercenary company. That led a planetary uprising but she hadn't heard of any disturbances or seen evidence of disenfranchised people there and it couldn't happen suddenly and out of nowhere. So, where did that leave them?
"As I said before the rude interruption. New Rome in under attack." He gestured to the monstrous hologram. "By them. New Rome's governor received an official Declaration of War after the invasion began. They call themselves the Trephydon. You are here because you are basically the closest thing to an expert of these alien creatures. If we bring you a body, can you dissect it and figure out what makes them tick?"
To have said Sachiko was mortified was an understatement. Twice in her thirty years alive she had been close to death. On Grimsby's Folly with the nightmare and later on the colony of Auden when a unique intelligent bacteria infected the original group of colonists and tried to kill them all. But this…it was worse them both. These people just told her that her nightmare had returned, and a million times worse.