Shrike Flamestar

The Invisible!

Age 30
Male
Within the synapses of the internet and my own mind.
Seen December 27th, 2014
Posted February 20th, 2012
212 posts
11.8 Years
Hooray, something new from me here. Been a while, that. Unfortunately this is not the still long awaited TRINITY chapter 2, rather it's a side story for TRINITY that I entered in the Dungeons and Starships: A SciFi/Fantasy contest over on Serebii. It ultimately won third place (although opinions varied between judges. Guess you can't please 'em all), so I think I did well. Since I knew most other people would probably be more casual with their approach to sci-fi, I wanted to be more futuristic in my approach, so it came naturally to me that I would use my already existing TRINITY universe, which is none other than a futuristic Pokémon universe. At first I was thinking of using the same characters that are in the main TRINITY story, but I eventually decided to just write a side story using new characters that will very likely appear later in the main story.

At 27 pages, I'm pretty sure this is the longest entry the contest got <_< I'm also pretty sure it was the last, me being the procrastinator I am :D In fact, I wrote the final 15 pages the night before the deadline and then proofread the entire thing on the actual due date. The length and slowness in some parts is essentially due to this being my first actual, serious one-shot I've written and so I'm not really adapt at the quicker pacing that is generally required for them.

Anyways, enough babbling; enjoy the story.

Rating: PG-13
Rating due to minor use of swearing and small scenes of violence.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

TRINITY: Waves

Deep beneath the Earth’s surface, a dark tunnel stretched out endlessly. The sound of dripping water snaked out of cracks in the walls while rats and other vermin scurried about, and in the distance a deep rumbling began to be heard. Frightened, the rats scrambled for sanctuary in the small cracks, some not making it in time as a sleek object of silver and gray shot through the tunnel at unimaginable speeds.

Oblivious to the death of those rats that had not been able to escape in time, the passengers inside the high-speed subway train sat about minding their own business. Holographic screens projected from the ceiling of the car in front of some of the passengers, displaying the latest newspaper or select television programs. Other people had their own computers. Some of the computers had a physical base and fully tactile keyboard with either a glass-projection or holographic screen, while others were more compact with even the keyboard being a holographic projection within a collapsible metal frame.

Most of the passengers on the subway wore fancy suits, telling everyone that they were all business, and on those screens which didn’t have a privacy filter one could see the business reports they were reading or working on. A few older and younger people were riding the train as well, the younger ones occupying themselves with handheld video game devices or listening to music. One of the passengers, a young adult who looked around twenty-three, wasn’t doing much of anything, however, and was instead glancing from side to side, peering through the windows between cars and overlooking the other passengers in his own car.

There aren’t any here... There are never many on the subway, they tend not to need the assistance us humans do... Some can fly, swim, run far faster than even the best human marathon runner can; why would they need to take the subway, train, bus...anything? Sanctuary...one of the few places I can go to escape, but there is no guarantee. Sometimes they do come, and in those times it is almost blasphemous that one would invade what has become holy ground to me.

“We are approaching Union Station in Chicago, Illinois. If this is your destination, or if you are transferring to a local rail line, please prepare for departure now. As kinetic dampeners power down you may feel an increased deceleration force, so remain seated until we have come to a full stop.”

As the voice droned out through the subway, the man who had been looking around sighed. He stopped glancing about and closed his eyes as he felt the subway slow down, the kinetic dampeners that allowed the subway to move so fast and yet the passengers inside to not feel any excessive force powering down as well, the subway’s deceleration increasingly noticeable to the passengers. It took a few minutes for the subway to fully stop, but finally it slowed to a halt, the subway dropping down onto the single rail it floated along as the electromagnets that suspended it in the air powered down.

The man stood up and grabbed a suitcase off of an overhead rack, walking over to one of the doors along with a few other people. The doors slid open and people began to disembark from the subway, stepping down onto the platform. The platform was fairly busy, people waiting for this subway or another one on benches behind the gates that prevented people from boarding without a ticket. Walking over to one of the gates—a large arch of metal that could project a barrier to block or even fence people in if needed—the man walked through, pulling his suitcase alongside him.

Rather than going up the stairs or elevator to the main lobby as most of the other people who had disembarked with him did, he instead turned to a set of small stairs off to the side, lifting his suitcase up each step. At the top he emerged onto another subway platform, with the difference that this one was for the city’s local rail system. Also noticeably different was that the platform was a lot more barren than the last one; in fact, there was no one else on the platform at all. Walking over to one of the benches, the man sat down and waited again, staring towards the tunnel and the platform on the other side of the track.

Another sanctuary, and in its own way even more private than the subway. But here there is less guarantee that they will not show up, but so long as they simply don’t, it is nice. Quiet, peaceful. Lonely. Should that bother me? In my normal life I am anything but lonely, so I guess I should embrace the times when I can just sit on an empty platform like this, letting the atmosphere soak in and soothe my very essence, washing away my stress and pain and replacing it with an emptiness that I will soon forget after I leave again. But for these few minutes, these few, sacred minutes in which I can simply absorb that which is so alien to me, it is as if this is all I have ever known, and the world is truly at the peace I so desire.

A few minutes later a subway pulled through the tunnel, but not the one the man was waiting for. He watched as the doors opened and no one got off on his side, and in a few more minutes the doors closed again as if they had realized how pointless it was, and the subway slowly started down the rail again. As it disappeared into the tunnel, out of his view, the man raised his eyes as he noticed that on the other platform an elderly man had gotten off, struggling with a suitcase, one wheel of which seemed to be broken. Before he could reach the elevator, though, two figures suddenly stepped out of one of the dark corridors that led off to another platform.

The younger man’s eyes widened as he saw the figures, anger flooding him. How dare they invade his sanctuary, disrupting him from one of the few peaces he knew in life. They were not people, they weren’t even human, so how dare they intrude on him like this. At first he did nothing, only eyeing the two figures that had stepped out onto the opposite platform.

Both were the same; muscle-bound brutes who while humanoid in shape were anything but. Red stripes lined their flexing arms which they swayed back and forth as they approached the old man, as if to intimidate him. Their blue, unclothed skin rippled with the strength that lay underneath, and as the younger man identified what they were, a memory suddenly sprang to his mind.

It was several years ago, back when he had still been in grade school. One particular day he was out for recess, playing with his friends and showing off as usual when he noticed another boy who was all by himself. He recognized him from his class; he was a loner who kept to himself, studiously doing his work but refusing to socialize. What he did to keep himself occupied during recess was thus anyone’s guess, since he was rarely seen with the rest of the kids. Everyone noticed him that day, though.

The man, then a boy, was about to go over and ask the loner if he wanted to join him and his friends, but before he could do so, someone else got to him. Only again they weren’t human, but rather a humanoid figure not unlike the ones who were surrounding the old man in the current time. But in his memory, this one was smaller, younger, weaker. Although, still far stronger than any of the kids in the school.

“Hey hey, whatcha doin’?” the Machop asked the loner snidely, the translators that all humans were required to have implanted as a baby translating its normal speech into something that humans could understand.

“I...I... I’m just thinking about some math homework...” the boy nervously said, pointing to some calculations he had sketched in the dirt he was crouched over.

“Oh? Looks hard. Math’s never been my strong suit, I much prefer this.” Before anyone could do anything the Machop had suddenly shoved the boy’s head into the dirt, holding him down so that he couldn’t get up. All the while he laughed; an odd cackling that the translator was useless for.

Brutes, thieves, criminals, bullies... All of them. This isn’t their world, this is ours. We let them in, and they repay us by making life so much harder for many people. They shouldn’t be here, they should be out in the wilds with the rest of their kind, like it was in the old days. They aren’t civilized, and most certainly aren’t people, so what right do they have to exist in a society built by humans? The stories about how humans captured and used them for battle in the old days, that is how this world should be; that is where balance is, none of this coexistence crap.

The man stood up as the Machoke advanced on the old man, cornering him and demanding that he hand over everything he owned. The old man pleaded for help and looked over at the younger man, whose eyes narrowed as his blood further boiled.

They have no right to be here, not in this society, not in my sanctuary. All they do is bring ruin and despair, robbing everything that belongs to humans right out from under us.

Stepping down from his platform, the younger man crossed over to the other side, stepping back up and approaching the Machoke and their cornered prey. Sliding a hand underneath his brown leather jacket and white shirt he wore underneath, he unfastened the clasp on the holster he hid concealed inside the waistband of his jeans.

“Please, stop. Help...” the old man pleaded, looking between the two Machoke and the younger man.

Slowly the hand grabbed the grip of the pistol and pulled it out of its holster, sliding it out from underneath his shirt while at the same time he switched the safety off. The older man noticing the gun, he suddenly fell quiet. Lining up the sights with one of the Machoke whose backs were still turned to him, he rested his finger on the trigger lightly.

“Get the **** out of places you don’t belong,” he said quietly, before suddenly pulling the trigger.

The bullet shot out of the pistol, propelled by rails that lined the barrel. Electromagnetic force accelerated the chunk of metal to speeds that older guns which used explosive propulsion could never achieve, providing enough sheer impact force that the bullet was able to deeply penetrate even the Machoke’s tough flesh and muscles. The shot well placed, he fell down, blood surging out of the hole on his back. Coldly the man turned to the next one and shot him too, before he could even react.

Sliding the gun back into its holster, the younger man looked at the old man. “I am Ensign Zack Atwater of the United States Space Navy. Have a good day.”


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Zack was called in to the local military base of course, detouring his trip to head to the complex on the fringes of the city. No one was angry, he just had to file a report. He had not killed the Machoke, missing their hearts by just inches. Law worked differently when it came to fights between humans and Pokémon due to the increased strength and powers of Pokémon, so that Zack had shot them wasn't a big deal; they knew there was no other way he could fight them, after all. To the higher-ups, Zack had shot the Machoke because he had to, because he had to stop them mugging the old man and couldn't prevent them using his own power. The shooting was inevitable, a normal occurrence. Later that day he walked out of the military base, no penalty for his behavior needed.

I wasn’t reprimanded beyond a basic warning, isn’t that funny. In the end, it was decided that I had no other choice, which I really didn't. I couldn’t fight a pair of Machoke with my bare hands, pulling my gun on them was my only option. Since I missed their hearts they lived, and all is well. But, was it intentional or not that my shots were non-fatal? From the military’s perspective they have no choice but to think that I had merely been aiming to incapacitate. Me? I doubt I’ll ever know.

It was almost night by the time Zack finally got to the house that had been destination before he was sidetracked. Standing on the front porch with his suitcase, he hesitated a moment before pressing the doorbell, the sound of it going off audible through the door. The sound of footsteps followed, and then the creaking of the door as it swung open.

“Hello, mother,” Zack grinned, saluting as the older woman appeared at the door. “Sorry I’m late.”

“Zack!” his mom exclaimed. “Oh, stop saluting, you’re embarrassing me. There’s no need for that when you’re home.”

Zack briskly dropped his hand to his side, lifting his suitcase up and through the door as his mother held it open. “Hey, you’re more important to me than any CO is. If I have to salute them, shouldn’t that mean I have to salute you?”

“Not in my house,” his mother shook her head as she took his jacket. “Why were you late?”

“I...had to visit the base to file a report,” Zack glanced away, hoping his mother wouldn’t press further.

Unfortunately, she did. “Let me see it,” she asked, nodding at the lump under the side of Zack’s shirt that was visible with his jacket off.

Grudgingly, Zack pulled the pistol out and handed it to his mom. Pressing a button on the rear of its grip activated a holographic display that showed how much ammo was left in the magazine; eighteen out of twenty.

She shook her head and held the pistol limply. “Who did you shoot? Why?”

Zack turned away and grabbed his right arm as he looked down. “They were mugging some old guy; I couldn’t let them get away with that. I just can’t hold my own in a fist fight; there was nothing else I could do.”

“Were they Pokémon?” his mother asked, knowing Zack all too well.

“...Yes,” he simply responded.

She sighed and shook her head again. “Would you have done the same if they were human? Would you still have shot them?”

“...No.”

His mother placed a hand on Zack’s shoulder, holding the pistol out and handing it back. “One day you’ll get over this, but, if before then this senseless prejudice results in the loss of life...”

“It won’t,” Zack assured her. “I just wanted to incapacitate them, that’s all.” He wasn’t sure if he believed it or not, nor if his mother did either; but, it was enough to get her off him for the time being at least.

“How long are you staying?” she asked as she hung Zack’s jacket in the coat closet.

Zack moved his suitcase against the stairs that led up to the second floor, to get them out of the way. “Three days, then I’m being sent to the Battlecarrier Andromeda for advanced training in zero-G combat. They’re heading to Theta Colony on patrol and I’ve been assigned to a trainee squadron of theirs.”

“You’re going off-world?” his mother looked a bit shocked, but pleased. “This is the first time, isn’t it? Why didn’t you tell us earlier?”

Zack shook his head. “I didn’t want you to worry. None of my experience in atmospheric flight will be of use out in space, and simulators can only do so much. It’s like I’m back to learning how to fly all over again, and I didn’t want you to have to go through that again.”

His mother smiled and wrapped her arms around Zack. “I won’t, I promise. I have confidence in you now, and am sure you’ll be safe no matter what happens.”

“Thanks...” Zack said, embracing his mother as well.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“We are on approach to the Lyndon B. Johnson mass driver complex. Airspace in a five mile radius of the complex has been cleared and preparations have already begun for launch. Command is pulling a tight schedule here so as soon as we land we’re heading for the shuttle. That means that if you need to take a leak you better go now or wait until we reach Orbital Station Sigma. Everyone understand?”

As the tall, neatly dressed man with a commanding voice walked through the aisle of the jet, the seated trainees together shouted confirmation of their preparedness. Their commanding officer reached the end of the aisle and turned back around again, the medals pinned to his breast reflecting the overhead lights. Slowly he nodded and walked out of the cabin, the low buzz of several overlapping whispers rising up into the air as everyone began talking quietly, forging friendships in the newly formed unit that would have to last them until the trainees all received their first assignments and individual pilots were sent off to every corner of the Earth and its colonies. Zack turned to his neighbor and struck up idle chat, not wanting to immediately set himself out as a loner. His mind was elsewhere, however, and inside he couldn’t stop feeling thrilled about his first off-world training mission. He hid the feeling from observers, though; he knew that setting himself up as the happy-go-lucky type wasn’t so great either, especially in the military.

I wish I didn’t have to worry so much about my appearances and how others perceive me. If I was in any other line of work, I likely wouldn’t have to hide my feelings so much, however in the military you can’t let yourself seem too odd; too abnormal. Conformity reigns in the military, where strength in a group rules over strength as an individual. If I were to act quiet and keep to myself, I’d be seen as lacking the ability to work strongly within a group. If I were to act too happy, I’d be seen as an idealist whose carelessness could get the entire group into trouble. And if I were to talk about why I’m so happy, I likely wouldn’t even be here for much longer.

Silence overcame the cabin as the jet began to slow down and descend, the voice over the intercom telling everyone what they already knew; to remain seated and calm. In a moment, all wireless devices and integrated cybernetic components that used wireless communications were shut off by a signal the jet sent out. The signal overrode all user commands and prevented reactivation until another signal upon landing, but that did not affect Zack; his personal cybernetic augmentations were extremely basic, no more than the military required him to have. He noticed a few people who seemed disturbed and glanced around worriedly, as if being cut off from the internet had been equal to the dismemberment of a limb. Taking mental note of those people who likely had extensive cybernetic augmentations, Zack leaned back as the jet descended to the ground.

On the ground, the trainees filed out of the jet so fast one would think they were practicing evacuation drills. It seemed as if the landing gear had barely touched the tarmac when the commanding officer began ordering people out row by row As they disembarked from the jet, the trainees lined up on the tarmac in neat rows as they waited for their commanding officer to give the next order. Zack stood still as a tree in the sweltering Texas heat, sweat dripping from his brow. Keeping himself from reaching up to wipe it off, he narrowed his eyes and waited while the rest of the unit lined up. At last everyone was out and the commanding officer nodded as he appraised the unit in full, this being his first time to see everyone lined up. Zack watched him as he walked between each row, appraising everyone with the scrutiny his position demanded. When he came to Zack, Zack made sure to stare straight ahead and stand as still as he could, avoiding eye contact. He definitely did not want to get off on a bad foot with his new commanding officer.

The commanding officer passed by Zack and continued down the row, snaking between them in silence. At last, only after he had examined every trainee personally, he walked back to the front of the group. “I am Colonel Everett. From this day onwards, all of you will be under my command. As you are all aware you have been assigned to one of the United State’s space vessels, the Andromeda. As a battlecarrier-class starship, the Andromeda houses five squadrons of twenty starfighters each in addition to her own personal armaments. All of you have been assigned to Andromeda's Epsilon Squadron to receive advanced training in the operation of the Vesper T-83 space-superiority starfighter. All of your training in atmospheric flight will mean nothing in the void of space, so be prepared to work hard to overcome the many challenging hurdles of zero gravity flight. Only the best of the best are chosen for service as a starfighter pilot, and I dearly hope that none of you will let down our expectations.”

After his little speech, Zack and the rest of the unit followed Colonel Everett to the main facility that housed the boarding station for the underground mass driver. Looking off in the distance, Zack could barely see the tip of the mass driver’s track bursting from the ground and curving up to point at the sky, several miles away. He had never taken a mass driver before; indeed he had never been to space at all; however, he remembered hearing that the mass driver shuttles used top of the line kinetic and gravitic dampeners. Due to them, you could barely feel that you were moving until you were high into the atmosphere, much less that you were flying up into the sky.

The unit bypassed the main waiting and boarding area for the shuttle completely, instead being led to a smaller and drearier room on the other side of the track. There was little in the room other than the door that led into it and the extending walkway that connected to the shuttle itself, not as if they had any time for sightseeing. Not pausing for even a moment, they were herded into the shuttle by attendants. The interior of the shuttle closely resembled the main passenger cabin of a normal plane or jet, with rows of cramped seats lined from wall to wall with only a small aisle down the middle. The primary difference, Zack noticed, was that there were no windows in the shuttle. One by one they sat down in their seats, a U-shaped harness swinging down and securing the person in. Finally they were all seated, with most people—Zack included—fidgeting around uncomfortable and trying to push their harnesses out ever slightly; however as soon as Colonel Everett stepped through the door and into the shuttle everyone immediately stopped moving and sat as still as they had stood outside when they had lined up.

Without saying a word he nodded and walked through the door at the front of the main cabin, an attendant closing the door in the side of the shuttle behind him. Zack heard a whir as the walkway retracted, and an intensifying hum as the electromagnetic propulsion systems powered up. Within the long tunnel that the aerodynamic, bullet-shaped shuttle sat in, vacuum pumps powered up and flushed out any air that may have leaked into the tunnel as best they could, creating a near-vacuum in the tunnel so as to reduce air resistance. Clamps that secured the shuttle to the tunnel walls disengaged, leaving the shuttle secured only to the large sled that rested atop the rails.

Zack narrowed his eyes as the shuttle began to accelerate. Slowly at first, but quickly ramping up to higher speeds. Just as in the train, the shuttle's kinetic dampeners alleviated most of the acceleration forces on the shuttle's occupants, but Zack could still feel it as they sped faster and faster down the several miles long track.

If they knew why I was happy... The reason why I'm so thrilled to go to space, beyond it simply being something I've always wanted to do... If they knew that my dislike of Pokémon would lead me so far as to go to the one place where there are virtually none of them, then I would surely not be here. While the military may look for certain aspects in potential recruits that I do have, showing an aversion, racism even, towards one group would not sit well with them. They knew that it could make them look bad, blemish the whole through a single, small, spoiled spot. I can't let them know... I can't let anyone, not a single person, know the true reason for my happiness. That so few Pokémon want to travel to space, that above even the subway or platform, space is truly the ultimate sanctuary I could ever find.

A roaring sound from the tunnel began to pick up as the shuttle sped up to several thousands of miles per hour, the imperfect vacuum creating drag on the shuttle that was now starting to become noticeable. The shuttle was almost at the end of the tunnel, however, and above ground sirens and flashing warning lights turned on, warning everyone in the vicinity that a shuttle was about to launch. The first of several air-tight doors on the tip of the carefully angeled, tube-like tunnel that protruded from below ground slowly began to open, the next in sequence following after the first had spread wide.

Lights in the shuttle cabin dimmed and holographic displays popped up, displaying a timer counting down from ten seconds. As Zack watched the numbers rapidly spin down he relaxed his muscles as best he could, ending his struggle with the harness.

And now... This will be the day.

The timer spun down to zero, the numbers flashing across the displays. The final door at the end of the mass driver's tube slid open, the shuttle passing through so carefully timed, barely an inch of space was left between it and the door as it passed.

...The day I'm free. The day I make my final escape, and enter my true sanctuary.

Small explosions on the rail-sled sounded as the clamps that had secured the shuttle to it released in an instant, aided by small explosive charges. Freed from its guide but with a massive amount of built-up momentum, the shuttle soared free of the mass driver, piercing through the sky as it shot towards the heavens, looking like a streak of dull gray to anyone who happened to see the launch. It took only a moment for the shuttle to reach out several miles into the sky, continuing to steadily rise at an angle. The people inside the shuttle continued to feel as if gravity was towards their feet as normal due to the shuttle's gravity dampeners, however both they and the kinetic dampeners were starting to weaken, resulting in a growing feeling of turbulence to the people inside.

Zack sat still during the progressively shakier flight flow, staying silent as with everyone else. A grin began to creep across his face as he closed his eyes and relaxed, letting the feeling of his ultimate escape soak through his entire body.

Today, I have won.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


“This is the USS Battlecarrier Andromeda, requesting clearance for departure.”

High in the Earth's orbit, above its atmosphere and on the very fringes of its gravity field, a large, man-made object sat in a geostationary orbit with the Earth below. The object was dome-shaped, its flat bottom oriented towards the Earth. Attached to it's base in a triangular arrangement were three further domes, providing space for incoming shuttles and smaller spaceships to dock. Large thrusters were arranged around the bottom of the main dome, both pointing straight down and outwards at an angle. The station wasn't designed for actual flight though, the thrusters were only used to correct its orbit.

Attached to the top of the main dome another large object sat stationary. Long and sleekly designed, the starship Andromeda perched atop Orbital Station Sigma, connected by a tube to an airlock on its bottom. Its sharply angeled head, containing the ship's bridge, narrowed down to connect to the midsection of the ship. The rear of the ship's midsection widened out again, with seven powerful engines positioned on its rear. Connected on a downwards slant on each side of the rear of the Andromeda were two smaller engine pods, used to provide additional maneuverability to the large ship. Above the engine pods and slanted upwards were two stubby, sweptback wings, which combined with the pods gave the ship an X-shape when viewed from the front or rear. As the Andromeda began to leave, several smaller ships began to land in a long slit that ran along the Andromeda's midsection, running all the way through from one side to the other, the empty space occupying several decks. The slit, while tricky to land in for inexperienced pilots, was a convenient and spacious landing deck for the Andomeda's compliment of starfighters.

“Andromeda, this is Sigma flight control. Departure request cleared, retracting umbilical elevator.”

The tube that connected the Andromeda to the station began to retract, the connector that had secured it to the air lock spreading wide as it released its seal before it drew back. The tube began to slide down into the station, clearing away from the Andromeda. The connection between station and ship severed, the Andromeda's bottom airlock closed as it prepared to leave Earth's orbit.

Throughout the cramped, narrow halls of the Andromeda a female voice spoke out over the intercom, “This is your Captain Willow speaking. All hands, prepare to leave orbit and proceed to Colony Theta. To those who just came aboard, welcome to the Andromeda. I'd advise taking a seat and perhaps even strapping in; getting up to speed in a ship of this size is by no means gentle.”

Just moments after Willow finished speaking, the Andromeda began to drift away from the orbital station. Small thrusters positioned all over its surface began to fire, nudging it carefully away from the station and orienting the ship so it was pointed towards where the colony was, far away. The seven rear engines plus twin engine pods began to fire up, purple jets of plasma shooting out from the engines as it began to quickly move away from the Earth. Despite being in the very outer fringes of its orbit, the ship vibrated enough that those inside who had not listened to the captain found themselves careening about wildly in the weak gravity, desperately trying to regain control.

Before long the Andromeda managed to break away from the Earth completely, the vibrations settling down as the ship began to power through space, its nine engines moving it at a surprising pace. It only take a few minutes for the station they had left to shrink far enough into the distance that it was no longer discernible, the Earth itself a blob of indistinguishable blue, green, brown, and white. Inside the ship, Zack and the rest of his unit sat together in a room lined with barracks and storage lockers that, while large enough to hold the entire twenty person unit, was rather small compared to the ship as a whole. Some of them, such as Zack, had been smart enough to lay in their bed and secure the harness which prevented them from flying off in their sleep, while others had learned the hard way why the beds had harnesses in the first place.

As the ship's shaking calmed down, Zack undid his bed's harness and pulled himself up, using handlebars set into the walls and ceiling to orient himself to a standing position, considering the floor as being down. Others were fooling around and standing on the ceiling and walls, adapting to the lack of gravity. It was at that point that one of the doors into the room slid open and Colonel Everett walked in, giving an amused yet aggravated look to those who had been fooling around. “Line up!” he shouted, although everyone was scrambling to get into position even before he gave the order.

Zack and the rest of the unit rushed to form two lines on either side of the room, one facing the other. Actually staying still proved tricky, but eventually most people had stabilized themselves enough that they were relatively stationary. Colonel Everett strode down the aisle between the two lines in short, controlled hops once, before turning around at the end to address the first person in line, who just happened to be Zack. “What's your name, ensign?” Everett asked as he stared at Zack.

“Zachary Atwater, sir!” Zack yelled as if he was back in basic training.

“Atwater, huh? The one who had was called in to file a damages report just a few days before your assignment here?” Everett asked coldly.

Zack gulped, nervous. Damn it, of course he'd know... “Yes, sir,” Zack responded after a moment.

“Explain to me what it was you did, Atwater.” Everett's commanding voice made it clear that not answering wasn't an option.

“I pulled out my sidearm and shot two Machoke who were mugging an old man, sir.” It wasn't more than a few hours since the shuttle had docked with Orbital Station Sigma and the unit had boarded the Andromeda, and already Zack's mood was starting to reverse. In his joy, it hadn't crossed his mind that Everett would no doubt know of the incident just a few days earlier.

“As the report says, yes. However, why did you shoot them?” It was an odd question, but coming from Everett Zack knew he had to respond.

“Because in terms of physical strength I would have proved no match, sir. Using my sidearm I was able to put a quick, easy end to the situation before it could escalate further.” Zack skipped over how it had more-so been an impromptu decision, founded not on the basis of strength but rather on his own personal hatred.

Regardless, the answer seemed to please Everett. The Colonel nodded and smiled, turning around to face the whole unit again. “Ending a situation quick and easy, with surgical precision that strikes at the very heart of the enemy before the bulk of their force can respond: those are the ideals that you will embrace as a Vesper pilot. The Vesper is a highly agile craft outfitted with the most advanced multi-vector thrusters we have, and combined with its high-speed mode, twin railguns, and integral missile racks represent the height of the United State's advances in starfighter development”

Zack could barely hide his relief. He had been worried that Everett was going to call him out on his hatred, but instead it looked as if it had actually been a good thing, making him stand out in Everett's mind. But is that a good thing, standing out like that? Perhaps all would be easier for me if I just blended into the background...

Zack stood as still as he could in the zero gravity, split between his internal thoughts and listening to Colonel Everett preach on about the capabilities of the Vesper. They had been shepherded into their new barracks so fast that they had barely been able to catch a glimpse of the ship they were on; not that that was much different from anything that had happened during the last few hours, from the hurried departure of the mass driver shuttle, to the hastened and wholly unremarkable stop at Orbital Station Sigma. Zack wondered if this was indicative of his future life as a whole; tons of rushing here and there, with little time to stop and take in his surroundings.

“...And with that, consider yourselves dismissed,” Everett announced as he finished his spiel on the Vesper. “Go on, make yourselves at home and feel free to explore the ship; you're going to be staying here a while. Stay alert for the personal assignments that I'll be sending out in twenty, though.”

As Everett walked out through one of the sliding doors that led from the barrack out into the narrow hall, Zack conceded that perhaps this wasn't so much like basic training; indeed, Colonel Everett seemed to be getting less strict over time. Shrugging to himself, Zack picked up the bag he had tossed to the ground and which was now floating about his bed. He opened his assigned locker which was built into the wall, nodding to his bunkmate as he stuffed the bag inside the locker.

“Yo, I'm Andy. And I guess you're Zachary?” the bunkmate spoke as he put his own belongings away.

“Just Zack. But yeah, guess everyone knows that now. Not exactly sure if I like it, but eh...” Zack shrugged again.

“True, it's got to be awkward being called out like that. At least he was cool about it though, right? Hey, want to go check out this place? I don't want to be wandering around by myself.” Andy seemed friendly enough, and since Zack was going to be stuck with him for a while he figured it wouldn't hurt to make a friend.

“Sure; how about we try to find the cafeteria or something while we're at it.”

Andy laughed as the two of them pushed off the ground, drifting out the nearest exit “Hah, yeah! I'm starving, man! Haven't eaten anything since yesterday, and the mass driver... Oh boy, that thing certainly purged any food left in me. Guess that's why they said we couldn't eat anything before it today... Do you have any idea where it would be, though? I caught a glimpse of the ship while on the station and man, is it huge. Do you even know where we are?”

He talks way too much... Zack thought, but he knew that he had to get used to it. Turning to a computer console on the wall of the narrow corridor, he brought up a holographic map of the current section of the ship they were on. “This help?” He asked sarcastically.

“Oh man, good job. I think I like you, I just know we'll get along well!” Andy exclaimed as he examined the map.

Yeah, really well... I better get used to this... Life here won't be anything like it was on Earth...

Turning in the direction that the map indicated, Zack and Andy took off. Drifting through the metallic arteries of the Andromeda, Zack's journey into the true reason he had joined the military finally began. The weeks ahead would be hard for him, but through the struggles he adapted and grew. He hadn't just been assigned to the Andromeda to learn how to pilot the Vesper starfighter; that could have been done from an orbital station; rather, he was also expected to learn about the workings of military ships such as the Andromeda. He studied the mechanical and electrical workings of many of the ship's vital functions, learning how much of the ship worked as was expected in a future officer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Continued in next post...