By Marcus_Korah 10 Comments
The endless expanse of space loomed in the cockpit windows. Billions upon billions of stars as far as the eye could see in every direction. Far below, the cradle of humanity, Earth, hung like a glittering jewel in the inky black of space. The view had always been equal parts peaceful and humbling for Marcus. Looking out into the never ending universe had a strange way of putting everything into perspective.
His troubles were barely a ripple on the ocean compared to everything going on out there. He'd never even make a footnote in the histories of the empires scattered across the entire universe. The things out there had their own problems, their own battles going on. All the time. Entire civilizations would rise and fall and the people of Earth would never even hear about it. It was a universe of infinite possibilities, and Marcus would never even see a fraction of it, no matter how long he lived.
And yet... It also gave him a certain sense of purpose. The universe as a whole was cold, uncaring, and unforgiving. So what? If he wanted it, he had to go out and take it for himself. He would earn his place in the universe, no matter what tried to stand in his way. He didn't need the entire universe, or even just the galaxy, to drop everything for him. Assistance wasn't just going to fall into his lap, not without action on his part.
And that snapped the outlaw out of his line of thought and right back to the present. It was not the billions of stars and planets spread out before him that mattered now. For now, only one mattered. The perfect sphere of blue that sat waiting far below: Earth. This was where he would find his help. Marcus knew his goal. Take back his home, clear his name, avenge his family and friends. The life that he lost.
Marcus kicked his feet off of the control panel where he had them propped and leaned forward in the pilot's seat. "Alright, enough daydreaming. Time to get off your @$$ and get to work, Marcus." He growled to himself. He cracked his knuckles before resting his hands on the controls. This time he spoke to the ship itself. "Artemis, fire up the engines, and plot a landing course. Some where that wont draw too much attention, if at all possible."
The reply came back swift, "Of course, Marcus, scanning for potential landing zones now." Distant rumbling reached the cockpit, and the entire ship shuddered lightly, signaling the engines roaring back into life. Monitors and gauges burst into life all throughout the control room. Data and status messages scrolled past flickering almost too fast for the eye to catch. In the center of it all sat Marcus, calmly watching as his ship came to life around him once more, every now and then flicking a switch, adjusting a panel, or clicking through buttons.
The AI's voice chimed in again. "All systems running within optimal ranges, engines fully prepped and--" Warning klaxons suddenly blazed, and most of the control panels surged with red warning indicators. "--Warp Space rupture detected, new contact." Marcus made a wide sweeping gesture with his hand and the holographic warning projections were all swept off to the side.
His tone was more of annoyance than worry, "How far? Can you identify the vessel? And shut off those damn sirens! Not helping anything." The wailing alarms were suddenly silenced as Artemis seamlessly acted on Marcus's orders. After a brief moment of silence, Artemis replied. "Vessel is less than two kilometers away, and is on an intercept course. Weapons are powered up and it's locking on now. Vessel identified as the Rogue's Grin. Incoming transmission."
Marcus balled his hand into a fist and slammed it down on the control panel. He knew who was going to be on the other end of that call. Vladimir Orzhov. The man that had taken everything from him. And as if on queue the communications screen lit up, and Vladimir's grinning visage quickly filled the panel. Even through the speakers Marcus could hear the smug superiority in the man's voice. "Did you think you could hide, Marcus? It's a shame you've come all this way to die. Give my regards to your father, will you?"
The first salvo from the Rogue's Grin struck home, and Marcus's entire vessel lurched violently. More warning sirens screamed back into life and the holo-panels were once again covered in warning indicators. Marcus snarled in rage and began barking orders to Artemis. "Shields up! Power up all weapons systems, get me a lock on the Rogue's Grin!" He turned his attention back to the comm channel, where Vladimir's cackling laughter could be heard. "To hell with you Vlad! Even with a cheap shot your ship can't hold out against the Thundercaller. You're the one that's come to your death." The Thundercaller roared into life, and Marcus's hands flew deftly over the controls, bringing the lethal frigate to bear on her challenger.
"What makes you think I came alone, boy?" The cackling laughter intensified, and then the transmission was cut. Mere moments later, Artemis's voice chimed in again. "Multiple Warp Space ruptures detected. New Contacts." Through the cockpit windows Marcus could see the rifts in space tearing open, heralding the ships dropping out of warp. "How many, Artemis!?" The outlaw called out.
The response made Marcus's blood run cold. "Seven vessels dropping out of warp. All moving to intercept. They are locking on now." Seven ships... that was all of Vladimir's strike force. He brought the entire crew with him. The Thundercaller was a powerful ship in it's own right, but not even it could take an eight on one fight. There was no other choice for it then...
"Artemis plot in a course for Earth, now! We're leaving! Re-route all nonessential power to the engines and the rear shielding!" Marcus twisted hard on the controls, and the Thundercaller wheeled about in space, turning away from the squadron of vessels trailing after it. All at once, they opened fire. Missiles, bullets, bolts of plasma, and flashes of laser fire raced through the inky black of space in hot pursuit of their target.
Death rained across the hull of Marcus's frigate, fire raked across the shielded armor plating of the warship. The entire vessel shook under the barrage. Artemis's voice chimed in again, "Shields and armor holding steady, but at this rate we will be left without power just before entry into Earth's atmosphere." Marcus snarled, doing his best to avoid the brunt of the assault directed towards his ship. "We'll just have to cross that bridge when we get to it Artemis, we don't stand a chance if we stick around here!"
Marcus red-lined the safety thresholds as he gunned the engines, boosting his ship as fast as it could go. Fine, he thought, we'll save some power. Let's just hope it's enough. Marcus cut the power to his engines. Empty space had nothing to slow him down, so he wouldn't lose any speed, even with the engines off. "How long before we hit atmosphere, Artemis?"
"One Minute and forty-three seconds."
"We'll be able to brake before we hit the ground... though how much is hard to calculate."
"Well then, fingers crossed..." Marcus's vessel rocketed towards the ever growing image of planet Earth in the cockpit windows. The sounds of rolling explosions, screeching and tearing metal, and sizzling plasma echoed throughout the ship, competing for attention with the klaxon sirens squealing through the compartment.
One minute and forty three seconds of desperate flight later, the Thundercaller hit atmosphere. Hard. Even something as thin as the outer edge of the atmosphere was as solid as a cement wall compared to the empty nothing of space. "Artemis, shut down the shields, transfer all power to get the engines back online and get us stopped." He was suddenly slammed forward in his harness as the entire ship decelerated.
"The Rogue's Grin and it's escort are disengaging--"
Whatever else Artemis was going to say was drowned out in a colossal explosion. The engines sputtered and died, throwing the ship into a horrifying free fall for a few brief moments before firing back into life. Marcus screamed to be hear over the noise. "Artemis, Report!"
"The final salvo hit just after shield power was transferred away, Sections 14,16, 20, and 23 have been breached, Engine 2 is offline, port maneuvering thrusters are not responding..." Artemis continued to rattle off a long list of damages as the Thundercaller spiraled out of control towards the planet's surface. Marcus fought valiantly with the controls, but there was only so much he could do with his wounded craft. After a brief struggle he finally managed to level the ship out, "Artemis, deploy landing gear!"
"Marcus, at this velocity the landing gear won't--"
Marcus snapped back, interrupting the AI, "I don't care Artemis, it's the thought that counts!"
Through the cockpit windows the struggling pilot watched the ground come up, and it came up far faster than it should have. The entire ship still bucked and bounced as the engines screamed in their attempted to bring the ship to a halt, but it was no use. Marcus took a deep breath, and braced for impact. The ground filled his field of view, and then everything went black.
Pain. That was the first sensation that greeted Marcus's returning consciousness. A dull throbbing ache everywhere. He groaned, and it turned into a partially choked cough.
"Welcome back, Marcus." Artemis's usually soft female voice seemed hazy, filled with static. Marcus groaned again, this time managing to wheeze a reply, "Do... I even want to know how bad it is...?"
The voice replied again, with a noticeable burst of static, "Your luck continues to hold. You will live to tell the tale, with no serious injuries. I have managed to bring damage control systems online, and the ship is in no immediate dangers. It will not, however, be able to fly again without extensive repairs."
Marcus opened his eyes at long last. The cabin was trashed. It was a mess of shattered panels, exposed wires, and twisted metal. Without waiting for Artemis to elaborate Marcus yanked himself free of the pilot's seat, and kicked his way out of the tangled remains of the cockpit. "Artemis, where did we land?"
"Navigational systems were damaged in the crash. The last accurate readings place us in the South-Western United States." Marcus grimaced as he forced his way through the decimated remains of the halls, every motion brought new aches and pains to his battered body. He staggered his way towards the nearest access hatch, and found it already cracked open by a large boulder. Sunlight spilled in through the gash in the ship's hull, lighting up the corridor.
Several moments of painful struggling and squeezing later, the wounded gunman found himself blinking back the glaring mid-day sun. As far as he could tell, the Thundercaller had come down in the middle of a broad desert, but the crater it carved in the earth on it's landing stretched off out of sight, so it was hard to tell where it had started.
As the outlaw squinted in the light, he could make out what seemed to be a road off in the distance, and luckily enough, it seemed to have a sign of some sort. Lucky me, Thought Marcus, Now let's see if we can figure out where we are... A few minutes of painful limping later, Marcus stood squarely before the sign. He read it out loud, speaking to no one in particular.
"Welcome to Roswell."