PHASE II : THE TYR ARC ( 15 of 28 )
Ashes to Ashes
TCS Cicada (Murphy-class DD)
February 3, 2681
The intake valves hissed as Rebbeca Stern's Excalibur hastily touched down on the Cicada's flight deck. Viktor Konstantin waited at the bottom of the ladder, his face grim and stony. The cockpit heaved open. She launched herself out, and clambered down the ladder, skidding to a halt two inches short of Viktor.
"Where's Aaron?" she shouted, her voice almost inaudible against the din of explosions and stray blasts outside the destroyer.
"If I knew that, you'd still be up there," Viktor said, breaking into a brisk walk beside Rebecca, "He was last seen outside my private quarters. I sent him there to get some strategy data. He didn't come back. I need you to take command of the Cicada until myself and my team find him."
Rebecca narrowed her eyes. "Bullshit. I'm going to find him. I think you should remain in command."
"Very well. But be a little less insubordinate next time. The search team is waiting at the entrance corridor to the storage areas. Keep your radio link on, and report in every half hour or so. And take this."
Viktor opened his coat and extracted a pistol. "You may need it," he said grimly as he placed it in her hands. She looked at it for a moment and then charged off toward the storage area.
TCS Atlas (Plunkett-class Cruiser)
Joel and the two dozen other crew members burst onto the bridge of the Atlas, raising their rifles at the loyal bridge crew. In turn the crew answered by directing their own side arms towards Joel and his lackeys. Krugan stepped down from his position at the bridge, his pistol sat steady in his grasp, and pointed straight at Joel's forehead.
Krugan looked around, then back at Joel. This man was not the XO he knew. His face was pale and tortured, covered with large protruding and pulsating veins, his eyes were near on pure black, surround by rings of tender red skin. His mouth leered out a black toothless grin. Krugan felt something inside him stir in disgust.
"What do you think your doing, Joel?" Krugan spat.
"Jimmy, Jimmy," Joel's voice itself was mutated, deep and hoarse. It mocked at Krugan's sanity. "This is a coup, my friend. Say goodbye to this life, Jimmy. It only takes a second to say goodbye."
Krugan stared into the empty, grinning maw. Then his face hardened. He started to squeeze the trigger, but was flung back as a bullet drilled itself into his stomach. His navy blue uniform quickly began stain red as the pain shot through his body. Blood began to gush from his mouth and nose. Two black boots stepped slowly into the welling pool of blood. Krugan looked up into the eyes of the horror, then raised his weapon to his chin and pulled the trigger.
"Somebody clean up this mess, please!" Joel shouted as he kicked one of the fragments of Krugan's skull. He looked up, "Where is the new XO?"
Joel's eyes narrowed as no one answered. "This is a mutiny, people!" he yelled in frustration, "You have five seconds to answer my question or you all die! Now answer me!"
"He left about half an hour ago," the helmsman said, "we haven't seen him since."
"Five men, go find this renegade XO. The rest of you, kill them immediately."
Shots began to flash this way and that across the bridge as Joel danced wildly on the body of his fallen Captain, flailing his arms about as the crew of the Atlas massacred each other. Bodies where flayed apart, as bullets tore through skin, sending white shards of bone spitting around, blackened blood poured from the bodies. Yet amidst the din Joel carried on, emotionless and uncaring that a bullet may hit him. Still he danced on.
"It takes a second to say goodbye, say good bye, oh, oh, oh. It takes a second to say goodbye, say good bye, oh, oh, oh. Say goodbyyye! Where you going to do nowww?"
He didn't sound human anymore. Joel was now something else, something that hated his entire race, but something that was incapable of honest human hatred.
TCS Awesome (Murphy-class DD)
Aboard the Awesome, all was going well. The destroyer pulled hard to starboard as it completed its strafing run. From the forward viewport, Captain Samantha Bethor watched the prow gun batteries blazing away at the scattering bugs.
Then the XO spoke up. "Captain, incoming holo message from the Atlas."
"Put it on the display," she said casually, turning from the spinning array of stars before her, to what must be a more pressing situation. "This had better be good, Atlas."
Static buzzed the screen and then Adam Clayton, XO of the Atlas appeared. His face was battered and bleeding and several gashes were visible through his short crew-cut.
"Captain, this is an emergency. You must warn the rest of the squadron immediately. Captain Krugan has been killed and the bridge crew have been slaughtered. Full control of the Atlas now rests in the hands of Joel Huang." His voice was taut and he panted slowly as he relayed the current situation. "I suggest something be done to rectify this situation. I have no available contingency."
"Are you suggesting a mutiny, Clayton? According to us the Atlas is still playing a major role in the ongoing battle."
"Shit lady, do I sound like I want a pizza?" Clayton hissed at her and his brow furrowed. "Do you think he's going to risk being discovered in this state? This is no regular mutiny, this is an infestation."
"How dare you talk to me in such a way," Bethor snorted, as an intense look crossed her face. "Get out of my..."
"Look at this!" Clayton cut her off, and as hhe turned, the vision was now switched to five grossly mutated bodies strewn across the floor, a mixture of black and red liquid gushing from the wounds across their throats and chests.
Samantha held her stomach in disgust, as the view switched back to Adam holding the blackened knife that killed the men. "Now you listen to me, Captain. I have a higher rank than you, and if you do not relay this fucking message, I will have you court-martialed, dishonorably discharged and executed within a month of the end of this fucking war! Is that clear?! Atlas out."
Samantha allowed her stomach to settle and her head to clear, before turning to her XO. "Relay that transmission to all the other ships, XO."
The XO looked awestruck at what he'd just witnessed, and then he responded curtly. "Aye, Captain."
She leant against the viewport. How could he have a higher rank than her? Judging by his performance it was clear that he had, but how? And why was he in a position lower than other Captain and XO? Not only that, he fought like a fucking Drakhai. Indeed, he had handled five armed soldiers with only a knife, and he had only a few bruises to show for it. Curiouser and curiouser...
TCS Cicada (Murphy-class DD)
He was alone when she found him. Bound to a chair, bleeding, cut and bruised. Looking up at Rebecca, he managed a laugh. "You scared them away," he said with a hint of humor. He winced as she lifted him out of the chair and the rest of the squad cleared the room.
"You won't find them," Aaron said to them. "They're professionals, and a little too professional at that."
Rebecca looked at him, puzzled. "Who were they? Why were they torturing you?"
Aaron rubbed his wrists where the skin had been grazed off. "They weren't torturing me," he said casually, "They were testing me. Looks like I failed their tests. Thank God."
He smiled at her. "That's really all I can tell you. Let's get to the bridge. If I'm not mistaken, the Atlas has been overrun." She looked at him as he began to walk out, then he turned. "Well, come on!"
"The Awesome received a distress call from the Atlas's XO, Adam Clayton," Konstantin said, "It appears there was an attempt at mutiny by the previous XO. It worked, and now his crew seem to be infected by the same ailment as he is. It apparently affects both their mental and physical systems. It enhances their abilities, but connects their minds to some kind of nodal mind. I believe that mind is Joel's."
"And this Clayton person took on five of them?" Rebecca asked in disbelief.
"I ran a background check," Konstantin said, running his hand over his head. He was very disturbed by the occurrences. "He's an Admiral. Very high up in intelligence. He's got an impressive history."
"He doesn't exist, Viktor," Aaron said as he stared out the viewport. He closed his eyes. "He died. Long ago."
"Right, when you raided that installation. He was your second in command. According to this, he's also your brother. I've seen the files, Aaron. I was granted them when taking you on board, as was Krugan. Neither of you existed before that incident, let alone after." Konstantin watched the strain on Aaron's features as he fought his emotions.
The other man finally caught on. "It was you! You were behind our team! All those covert ops, the changing of our names, you did it all so there could be no emotional values involved in your little 'Dream Team.'"
Balling his fists, Aaron took a few steady steps toward Viktor. "But you were so wrong. You strengthened our emotional resolve, and now what's left of us are out here fighting the Nephilim. You thought you could train us to become perfect fighting machines. You wanted us to become the fucking Black Lance!"
"I don't know what your talking about. You are the same as every other soldier on this vessel." Viktor stepped back, his voice starting to grow tense. Rebecca looked on, as stunned as the rest of the crew as the two military powerhouses confronted each other. "But you are one the Confederations finest, and you should be proud of that. Adam is."
Aaron's expression turned to carved ice. He threw his arms out and lunged for Viktor's throat. Viktor took a single step backwards and swung out his right arm. It smashed into the side of Aaron's cheek, dislocated his jaw and sent him sprawling onto the floor. Several officers ran to his side but he disregarded their assistance. Spitting blood, he realigned his jaw with a silent crunch.
Viktor shook his head dryly. "I taught you better than that. We must destroy the Atlas."
"No!" You doomed my platoon. You'll not doom an entire cruiser. Those men are still ours," Aaron said with a nod towards the view port. Outside, the Atlas making an about face, all of its laser batteries still firing diligently at the enemy fighters. "We may be the only hope those men have of getting out alive."
Konstantin looked at the pleading man, then looked at the bridge crew, most of whom now stood with Aaron. Viktor took the microphone and held it to his mouth.
"Crew, this is the Captain speaking. All ships will be pulling back to a rendezvous point with the rest of the fleet. We are to take measures to ensure that the Atlas comes to no harm in doing so. If the rest of the fleet finds out about this, they may destroy the Atlas. That mean we can't take any action till we get to Nephele. You will be briefed fully upon arrival at Nephele. For now, all ships will meet at the rendezvous point. This is the Captain."
He gingerly placed the microphone back to it's place. "Very well, Colonel. You have your chance."
Aaron nodded solemnly in recognition, about faced and headed back to his quarters. Rebecca looked at Viktor, "If I were you, I'd be more worried about your own chances when he re-unites himself with Adam." She turned and followed Aaron. "And anyone else you've got stashed away in this squadron."
The bridge fell silent, and Konstantin wallowed in his own musings for a while, before turning to the silent crew about him. He outstretched an arm and gestured about the bridge. "No one told you to stop working. Set course for the rendezvous."
Ephrael's neck jarred as his fighter was jolted by another laser hit. He gave his neck a twist as he swooped down on his pursuers and smothered them in tachyon fire. They panicked, collided and exploded, freeing up Marcus's tail for a few moments. He eased his fighter underneath the Cyclops and crept along its underbelly, the underside of the Excalibur facing the superstructure.
"All wings report in, give me a status check." As he waited, he matched speed with the destroyer and watched its gun batteries fire bright bolts of coloured lightning at the buzzing aliens.
"Maximum of 2 casualties, Echo Leader. Situation is nominal. Cicada says we're falling back. You should land soon, sir."
"Will do, Bravo Leader. I'm gonna check out this weird alien fighter first. Gimme a few moments. Out." Ephrael was puzzled. He had received no call to pull back. But right now he had to keep that ship away from the Atlas.
"Echo Squadron, return to the Cicada. I'm gonna get rid of this weird alien ship and then land on the Atlas. Out." He watched as his wingmen finished off their targets and returned to base. The Atlas' own squadron was taking on the alien ship but as far as he could tell they had no luck, and by the looks of things, it was trying to land.
Ephrael kicked in his thrusters and pumped a couple of shots onto the alien's wing before it could maneuver out of the way. It dropped a countermeasure and headed back to its fleet. For now, thought Ephrael, the Atlas was safe. So he headed for the Cicada instead.
About him he could see that the Nephilim too were pulling back. Not wanting to stick around though, he kicked in his thrusters and set down on the Cicada. The intakes hissed as he dropped onto the flight deck, and was met by the barrel of Rebecca's rifle. Her face was intense and her knuckles were white with stress. He looked up at her, questioningly, but she said nothing.
The Atlas turned its flank toward the Nephilim fleet and continued to get in a few last blasts from its defiant gun batteries. The Bugs turned tail and sped back to their carriers as they began to reform. The Atlas reached a full one-eighty and fell in with the rest of the squadron as they began form up and retreat towards the rendezvous point.
TCS Atlas (Plunkett-class Cruiser)
Adam finished retrieving what ammo the former Confederation soldiers had on them. Looking around the office for anything of use, he found very little. He took both his pistols, fully loaded them and placed them in holsters either side of his waist. He tore the sleeves from his blood soaked Confederation uniform, and stored the rags in the back pocket of his trousers.
Puffing on a freshly lit cigarette, he slung a set of ammunition belts around his shoulder and waist. Then, cradling his AR-73 Gauss rifle in his arms, he took his first step into the corridor beyond. It was dark. The cold steel bulkheads where periodically illuminated with a flashing green or red light that reflected from surface to shiny surface. Reaching into his pocket, Adam retrieved his glasses and put them on.
He looked both ways down the corridor and then opted to head to the port side. Treading slowly so as not to make too much sound, he headed down the ominously silent corridor. He reached the end and leaned slowly around the corner. Standing right before him, with their backs to him, were two of the mutinous soldiers.
Adam eased his way back around the corner. Taking a bullet from one of his spare clips, he tossed it down the opposite end of the hall. The two guards spun around and rushed past him to investigate. Adam stepped out behind them and whistled between his teeth. They spun around and he cocked his head to one side in response.
"Did ye miss me, lads?"
The miscreants leaped and jerked like rag dolls as Adam let loose a hail gunfire. Blood shot from every wound in their bodies, and gushed like free flowing water from their mouths. A bullet struck one in the eye and he clawed and tore at his face, revealing the malformed skull beneath the thorny skin, before dropping to his knees and dying with a blood curdling scream. The other crawled his way along the wall to Adam.
"You wouldna hit a guy with glasses, would ye?" Adam said playfully.
A bloody arm shot out and grasped Adam by the throat, pinning him to the wall. Adam's leg launched upwards in a perfectly executed axe kick, and then crashed down, breaking the others grip, along with his arm. The man knelt on the ground grasping at his wounded arm as he gasped his last dying breaths. Adam ended his suffering with a knife in the forehead. He reloaded his rifle and headed for the warhead storage rooms. This was a battle he was determined to win, even if it cost the Confederation a cruiser.