WARNING: The following story may contain mature content. This includes, but is not limited to: violence, sexual themes, and vulgar language... I will not be censoring my writing, so if you do not like it then perhaps try not reading it?
The Fifty-Sixth Child
Saturday, 12:37 in the earliest hours of the morning. A humid day, rain a heavy possibility from how the large dark clouds hang in the sky like gelatinous grey sponges. Nickie Enso, a nurse in the single nameless local hospital-and-pharmacy for quite a long way, performs her routine check on the infant ward in the north wing of the hospital.
The hospital is a very large building consisting of a large main wing with five branching wings. Like a great hand it spreads across the landscape, appearing as if it stabilizes the entire land. In a way it does, as if it were not present then the people would be without jobs, medical attention and supplies, and so much more.
Nickie walked the all-too familiar halls to the infant ward in the north wing, stopping for the occasional security checkpoint or to wave a weary response to the occasional, "Hey Nick!" from coworkers. She wanted to get this, her last check of the day, over with so she could catch some much-needed sleep.
Brene Malenra, commander of hospital security squad Alpha Lambda assigned to guard and escort Nickie, finally caught up to the woman he was supposed to be guarding. He stopped her with an armored hand on her shoulder as he regains his breath. He pants, "Nick... You need to wait for me..."
Nickie rolled her eyes, "I know, the whole 'safety' thing right?"
Brene sighs, "Look, it is not my fault the company wants us to look after brilliant minds wasting their potential in a damned hospital."
Nickie glares at him and walks through a bulkhead into the north infant ward.
She fiddles with a nearby panel, checking the status of the infants in the ward. She mutters to herself as she works, "Oh-kay... One through twenty stable... Six is hungry... Twenty-one through fourty stable... Changing time for twenty-four and thirty-two... Fourty-one through fifty-six stable... Fourty-two has abnormal brainwave patterns... Looks like we have a new genius... Alright... Everything is a-ok..."
She rummages around a few cabinets and drawers, gathering her things. The infant ward doubles as her office. Smiling to herself, Nickie mumbles, "Home to sleep! Yay!"
Brene sighs as Nickie emerges from the infant ward, "Come on, Nick. I'll drive you home so you can get some rest."
Nickie starts to nod but suddenly gasps as her tired mind finally reaches a realization. Brene whirls around to face Nickie, "What? What is the matter?!"
Nickie turns back toward the bulkhead to the infant ward, her hands covering her mouth as her eyes widen. Brene steps in front of her and grabs her shoulders, "Nickie, what is the matter?!"
Nickie blinks a few times and stares at Brene before answering, "There are only supposed to be fifty-five in this ward..."
Brene raises an eyebrow quizically. Perhaps Nickie was more tired than he originally thought. He asks, "So?"
Nickie mumbles, "There are fifty-six!"
Brene shrugs, his heavy armor creaking and clanking as he moves, "And? There was obviously just a birth while you-"
Nickie interrupts, jabbing Brene with a finger, "No, there was not! All additions or relocations have to go through me before they are authorized!"
Brene blinks, "Maybe you-"
Nickie again interrupts him, shaking her head, "Also, the maternity wards are completely empty and have been for a few weeks."
Brene opens his mouth to reply but promptly shuts it as he realizes that Nickie is right. There was no explanation for this fifty-sixth child.
Nickie narrows her eyes as she grabs Brene's arm, "We will get to the bottom of this!"
Sleep forgotten, she drags Brene by his arm into the bulkhead. Brene loudly protests, "Ahh! My arm! Let go you crazy woman! You do not need to force me to come with, I am paid to do it anyways!"
Nickie stormed into her office with a very confused Brene in tow. She lets go of his arm, much to his relief, and starts fiddling around with the control panel. Brene rubs his shoulder as he grumbles, "Look Nick, I do not know why you are so worked up about this, but that is no excuse to go dragging people about by their arms! Damn, I think you have dislocated my shoulder..."
Nickie taps the button to engage the ward's observation mode before she turns around and lightly whacks Brene over the head with her hand. She grins playfully and says, "Aww! Poor Brene! Mr. big, strong guard man has a dislocated shoulder! Well, good thing we are in a hospital! You can get that concussion I just gave you checked out too."
Brene grumbles incoherently as he takes a seat on a large couch in one corner of the room. The massive bulkhead doors suddenly hiss gently as multiple deep thunks sound out, reverberating throughout the door as the bulkhead's hydraulics system propels the huge locking bolts into place deep within the thick metal of the doors. A gentle sliding motion is all that is felt as the ward office smoothly disengages from the bulkhead portion of the ward and silently glides over the infant rooms.
Nickie guides the room to glide to a stop over room A-five-zero-N-six, which is the fifty-sixth child's room. Each infant has their own separate room in the north ward as it was the hospital's duty, and Nickie's duty by chosen profession, to raise these children. No family would be coming to claim these children. The nickname for the entire division Nickie is assigned to is "The Orphanage" and even though it is one of the largest divisions in the hospital, it barely accounts for one-fifth of the north wing.
The Orphanage is separated from the main north wing, just as the other infant wards are separated from their main wings, and is only connected by a large umbilical. The main difference separating the Orphanage from the other infant and child wards, aside from the fact that the children in the ward are without families, is that no one except authorized personell are informed that the ward houses abandoned children. While tram service runs twenty-four hours a day through the umbilical, the ward is only referred to as the "North Ward, Infant and Child Division." The company keeps the identities of all orphaned children highly secure for some odd, unknown reason. However, that was how it was when you worked for the company.
The only other oddity about the Orphanage is that its umbilical is the only one that restricts driving across to authorized personell. Driving is always faster than taking a tram, but as the Orphanage has much higher security than almost any other sector or division inside the hospital things like this are to be expected.
Nickie grumbles to herself as she works on the control panel, cursing the company for its asinine policies of secrecy when it comes to the Orphanage. If they would at least tell Brene, the guard assigned to make sure she was safe, then she wouldn't have to deal with his whining about being confused. While Nickie works, Brene suddenly realizes that Nickie has a very nice, quite large, and well furnished office. He complains aloud, "Hey... Why does she get a nice office with a couch and stuff...? All I have is a locker and bed in my room, and my room is the size of a closet! I mean-"
He stops speaking as he realizes that Nickie is now standing in front of him and glaring at him. Also coming to the realization that he was thinking aloud, he quickly scans the room for something to distract Nickie with. He points at a door near the couch.
The door itself is a standard heavy automatic sliding door with deadbolt technology similar to the technology used in the bulkheads. Doors of this type are generally used for personal quarters, being classified as 'low security' by the company's security devision. This door, however, is curiously covered in yellow warning markers. Brene, deciding that this would surely distract Nickie, asks, "Uhh... So what is with that door there, Nick?"
Nickie narrows her eyes at Brene, who is starting to consider the possibility of injury in his immediate future. Remembering the incident where Nickie nearly killed her instructor in an advanced combat training sparring match did not particularly help Brene calm himself. He decided that the best course of action now would be to beg for mercy, so he pleads,"Nickie! Please, no injuring! I really like my limbs and would like to keep them where they are!"
Nickie starts to giggle as she says, "Wow, Brene! Calm down! No need to wet yourself, I was just playing around with you. We need to wait until morning to peek in on this kid because I am not going to disturb the poor child's sleep just so we can gawk at it."
Brene nods in understanding as Nickie pauses to glance at the door. She sighs and decides to explain, "That door leads to our personal quarters..."
Brene blinks, "Wait, our-"
Nickie continues, "They are currently under construction, which is why you and I have to live in the main north wing for a day or two more."
Brene stares blankly at Nickie, who rolls her eyes and says, "Get your mind out of the gutter, Brene! No funny ideas. We are in separate bedrooms and the doors have locks. The company decided it would be best if my 'personal bodyguard' was near me at all times."
Brene nods and mumbles, "I thought as much..."
Nickie, thinking he was merely being perverted, dismissed the matter and gave him a pillow and blanket before curling up in a recliner with a blanket of her own.
Brene lay down, but couldn't sleep... The company never increased guard unless something was going to happen... At times they seemed almost psychic by the way they predicted occurances.
Nickie awakes to the sound of the bulkhead hissing. She grimaces as she opens her eyes, the bright lights of the once-dark room temporarily blinding her. She groans as she feels someone prodding her awake. Damn that Brene... Did he know how early it felt?
What she opens her eyes to, however, is not Brene. A person in a pitch black suit with black tie and rimless black sunglasses greets her with a cup of tea. Blinking, Nickie takes the cup and notices, by the aroma wafting from the cup, that it is her favorite kind.
Her mind scrambles for words, but all Nickie can manage is a rather lethargic, "And who are you?"
Funny how that happened... She fully intended to thank the person for the tea, but somewhere along the line the words seemed to have changed a little bit. The person grins and replies, "I am Amy McClellan."
Nickie blinks in surprise. "A woman?"
Amy rolls her eyes behind her sunglasses. "Your perceptiveness astounds me. You thought I was male? That would be a first, a man with breasts..."
Nickie sips her tea, obviously quite embarassed. Amy grins and raises and eyebrow, "Ahh, so you thought I was male. Forgive my bluntness, I am not offended easily. I was merely using heavy sarcasm. I understand the confusion, however, as these suits do tend to make one's gender rather ambiguous."
Nickie takes another sip of her tea, feeling more awake due to the scalding she gave her tounge on the first try. Deciding to wait until the tea cools off to drink it, and to save herself from further tounge injury, Nickie sets the cup on her desk. "Forgive the questioning, but where is Brene and why are you here?"
Amy sighs and leans against the wall next to the now-closed bulkhead. "Mister Malenra has been called away to recieve a 'very important assignment,' as the company puts it. I have been assigned to you as your new personal bodyguard. Mister Malenra does not, as you already must know, have maximum security clearance as you do. The company, in its infinite wisdom, has decided that a low-security employee guarding a high-security employee may result in security leaks."
Amy pauses for a bit to remove her sunglasses, which she fiddles with as she continues, "They... They also seem to have been worried about a male guarding a female... Perhaps they thought that mister Malenra might guard your body a bit too closely..."
Rolling her eyes, Nickie giggles a little and idly mumbles, "Yeah... Right... Brene and me? Hah. What a laugh... Not as if I am interested in men anyways."
Amy pauses in the middle of putting her sunglasses back on and ends up peering at Nickie over the top of them, an eyebrow creeping up her forehead as she contemplates Nickie's mumblings. "Not... Not interested? In men? Now, I do not mean to pry into your private life, but what exactly might you mean by that?"
Nickie, now working at the control pane, inputs a few commands as she idly replies, "I do not see what business it is of yours, but I happen to prefer the company of women as opposed to that of men... Anyways, idle banter aside... Are you one of the company's pawns sent here to monitor me?"
Shaking her head Amy chuckles, "No, no, no... You and I both are similar in that aspect. The company is as much of an enigma to me as it is to you."
Nickie waves her hand behind her in the direction of the bathroom, not even looking up from the console. "Ahh... Alright then... You can go and change if you like... I rarely wear formal clothing and I see no reason to require it of anyone else."
Amy smiles, "Ahh! You are too kind, miss Enso, but I believe I will just keep this on for now. Would you happen to know when our quarters will be completed?"
Nickie nods, eyes still on the console, "Our quarters will be done sometime later this afternoon... Oh, and you may call me Nickie or whatever you like... No need for formalities."
Amy nods as Nickie finishes up with the console. Nickie heads for the bathroom and emerges a few minutes later wearing a fresh set of clothes. Grabbing her trenchcoat, Nickie nods to Amy. "Alright. Let us go before the construction crew arrives to finish up. They are quite noisy, you know... First stop, the main desk in the lobby. Something is wrong with the console in here and I do not have the time to fix it..."
Voicing her consent, Amy follows Nickie into the bulkhead after the door hiss open. Meanwhile, Brene grumbles as he trudges to the main armory in the hospital's main complex. The company was definitely up to something.
Nickie and Amy both stride through the hallways, the rest of the orphanage still sleeping. Glancing at a clock, Nickie groans. 5:24, only about four hours of sleep... Still, it is better than nothing. The hallways of the orphanage twist and wind as Nickie and Amy approach the lobby, where the main desk is located.
Stepping behind the unattended desk, Nickie pulls out her ID card and inserts it into the card slot located in the desk surface. A computer at the desk beeps and ejects the card after scanning it, Nickie quickly grabbing it and slipping it into the pocket of her jeans. She glances at a nearby screen, which had just recently activated with a buzz-click, as text flickers across it. She nods to herself as she reads the scrolling text.
As the screen falls silent and clicks off, Nickie turns to Amy and beckons her to follow. Heading down a hallway, the pair enter a bulkhead marked 'Database Core.' The heavy doors hiss as they slide closed behind them. A pleasant computerized voice fills the bulkhead chamber, requesting verification in an overly friendly tone. Nickie pulls out her ID card again momentarily, briefly holding it up to a security camera near the bulkhead control panel.
The card image circulates in the security sysems a few times as it is scanned, rescanned, verified, and subjected to several other security procedures. The computerized voice politely tells Nickie and Amy to wait as the bulkhead is cycled and decontaminated. Off-white mist briefly fills the bulkhead before being sucked into vents after a few seconds of idle floating and the airlock quickly cycles. After the airlock latches are secured, the bulkhead door hisses and slides open.
Amy sighs as she follows Nickie, "Alright, I give. What are we doing here, Nickie?"
Tapping in a code on a keypad locked door, Nickie idly mumbles, "I have to do some maintenance on pylon three."
Raising an eyebrow at the incredibly vauge answer, Amy follows Nickie into pylon three's housing room. "Well... Why? What is wrong with it?"
Nickie pulls open a concealed maintenance hatch on the floor of the room. She quickly climbs into the maintenance shaft, which gives her voice an odd echoing effect. "Absolutely no idea. Assignment just said 'maintenance' so it could be just about anything... I figured it would be more obvious than this."
While Nickie and Amy work on the database core, which is the main computer array for the hospital and yet another reason for the orphanage's heavy security, Brene stares at a large exoskeletal powersuit. The company wanted him in it and armed as soon as possible.
Brene grumbles to himself as he climbs in and starts the suit up, the hatches closing with dull clanks. Turning on the automated diagnostics check, Brene hears the dull whirr of the suit's armored plates sliding into place. Noting how eerily comfortable the suit is, Brene squints as the suit's main systems come to life and flood the cockpit with ambient lighting in addition to the light from the visual displays. The suit moves smoothly as Brene walks to the equipment and arming station. Brene shrugs off the plethora of questions streaming through his mind as he gets geared up. The company may be acting weird as hell, but they have some damn fun toys!
Meanwhile, Nickie and Amy sit in pylon three, wondering what possibly could need any maintenance as they had checked the room over five times, each time showing that pylon three is in pristine condition. The entire room even has that lingering smell of brand new electronics. Nickie, grumbling various things about people wasting her time, suggests to Amy that they head back to her office to see how the construction is going. Amy nods, "Yeah, I am getting a little hungry from not helping you fix this unbroken pylon..."
As Nickie and Amy head toward the bulkhead, Brene recieves his assignment and nearly has a heart attack. He grimaces and growls, "Damnit! I knew the company was up to something...!"
Brene's new exosuit clanks as he walks the familiar hallways to Nickie's office.
Nickie blinks at the exosuit guarding the bulkhead to her office. She did not expect anything at all to be guarding her office, let alone an exosuit. Amy, however, grins and waves at the suit, greeting the pilot with an enthusiastic, "Hello Brene! Long time no see!"
Nickie gapes at Amy. How the hell did she know who was piloting that suit? Comforting herself by assuming it was due to prior knowledge or a simple guess, Nickie shrugs the matter off rather quickly. That is, of course, before the pilot replies, "Well, hello there Amy! I was wondering where you two went and when exactly you might be back..."
Nickie nearly falls over, realizing that the voice coming from the suit does indeed belong to Brene. While wanting to know how the heck Amy knew Brene was in the exosuit, Nickie decides to first address the problem of Brene being in an obviously brand-new exosuit. Striding up to the exosuit like a madman to her doom, Nickie yells, "Brene! Why the hell are you here?! Why the hell are you in that exosuit?! I had damn well better get one too... Do I?!"
Laughing at Nickie's slight bout of attention deficiency, Brene motions for Nickie and Amy to enter the bulkhead. "Nick, we can talk in your office. I am as confused as you are about all of this, but hopefully we can piece together a reasonable hypothesis from what we all know..."
Amy helps a rather disgruntled looking Nickie into the bulkhead as Brene manouvers his exosuit inside and activates the airlock cycle. Nickie blinks in amazement, rage and confusion forgotten as she realizes that the bulkhead to her office never had a full airlock cycle system installed, yet it appears to now have one. As Nickie opens her mouth to comment on this, Amy shakes her head places a finger over her lips to silence her.
As the bulkhead door hisses open Nickie is greeted with the familiar glow of her office's ambient lighting system. Guided by Amy to the couch, Nickie slowly lowers herself to the cusions. Brene's exosuit hisses open as the bulkhead hisses closed, the heavy thunks of the bulkhead locking complimenting the whirr-clink of the exosuit's armor plates sliding open to let Brene out. Nickie, while noting the perfect harmony this occurs in, can not help but notice that her bulkhead also never locked like that.
After straightening his rather ruffled clothing, Brene sits in an armchair and leans forward with his elbows on his knees and his hands folded. "Now, I was told to gear up and return to my normal duties as your bodyguard. What about you two?"
Amy shrugs, "Nothing much, really. We were just sent to repair a nonexistant... something... in pylon three of the main core."
Nickie nods, obviously in deep thought. Brene runs a hand through his shoulder-length black hair, "So, it is obvious we were all wanted out of here during the work. My question is why... I mean-"
"Sorry to interrupt Brene," Nickie politely interjects, "But my question is not why, but how. How did you, Amy, know it was Brene in that exosuit?"
Amy idly points at her glasses, "My glasses are equipped with advanced sensors. They are my own personal gear, built with my own two hands."
Brene idly waves the matter aside, "We have bigger problems to worry about here. Why do we not try to figure out-"
"Again, sorry to interrupt," Nickie interjects yet again, "But it is fairly evident from the shape and loadout of my 'new and improved' office, not to mention the new bulkhead modifications, that it is meant as a command module."
Raising an eyebrow, Amy asks, "Command module? For what?"
Nickie only shrugs in response.
The Company and The Rebellion
Amy suddenly bursts out laughing, provoking bewildered looks from Nickie and Brene. Regaining her composure, Amy asks, "Alright, so would you mind telling me exactly how you know all of this, Nickie?"
Nickie shrugs, "If you wish to know, then I shall tell you. I used to... Uhmm... Build rather crazy things while I was freelancing, before the company found me. I created a device to detect and monitor various energy patterns in biological organisms. It worked better than I ever expected and detected not only the energies in a being, but exactly where they stemmed from and what controlled them. Long story short, I discovered what some now call 'psychic' energies, among many other energies stemming from the brain. A few inventions later, I made a device to help a creature start to control its energies, giving birth to the 'magics' people rave about now. I simply took a cursory glance through this general area with a simple technique I picked up."
Brene stares at Amy in astonishment, "What, were you not briefed?!"
Amy shakes her head and Brene gasps. Noticing Amy and Nickie staring at him, Brene explains, "Everything here... Amy's assignment... My gearing up... The bulkhead... The office renovations... The company expects something big soon. Very soon."
Deciding to humor Brene, Nickie asks, "Big like what, Brene? Like an-"
A rolling boom suddenly shakes the hospital as the whining of the shield generators suddenly can be hears. Nickie finishes in a whisper, "Attack...?"
Klaxons can be heard blaring behind the bulkhead as Nickie runs to the console. On a wild hunch she frantically checks on the children to find that they had all been relocated. Relocated by orders from the company president himself. Oddly enough only one child was left, the odd fifty-sixth child to be precise. The hospital lurches as another explosion rumbles somewhere outside.
As Nickie hurries to check the exterior cameras to find out what is going on, the console panel suddenly goes dark. "Shit," Nickie yells over the klaxons, "I have been locked ou-"
She is cut short as the room lurches. This was no explosion, the room was moving. In a few seconds, the panel lights up with instructions to move through the forward bulkhead. Yelling for Brene and Amy to follow her, Nickie runs through the now unblocked door into what she assumed would be her quarters. Instead, a door-lined halway ended with a bulkhead greets her.
Dashing down the hallway, Nickie heads for the bulkhead with Brene and Amy close behind her. Boots clanking on the metal floors, the three enter the bulkhead, which quickly cycles them through. None of them were prepared for what they saw next.
Before them lies a sea of ships on a backdrop of stars. On one side are glistening white behemoths, emblazoned with the company logo. Opposing the white ships of the company is a myriad of ships, all emblazoned with a red fist in various locations. Weapons fire lances between ships, the ships with the red fists occasionally tossing some weapons fire at the hospital's shields as bomber-fighters swarm everywhere. The bombers, of course, are complimented with either company heavy fighters or the smaller light fighters of the opposition.
Suddenly the amazing view fades as Nickie turns off all except the forward viewscreens. Somehow the three finds themselves in something remarkably resembling the bridge of a ship.
Questions amassing in their minds, the three stare at a hologram that had just appeared in the center of the bridge. Nickie hears herself say, "Incoming transmission from the company flagship... It is the president!"
Whirring, the holographic generators on the bridge precisely aim their laser projector arrays before activating them, broadcasting various combinations of colored laser light to form a three dimensional image that rests in the large spherical holo-display area in the center of the bridge. The image is that of a man in an ornate business suit. It is clear from the man's stance that he is not only very powerful but also quite wealthy.
Crackling slightly, the bridge's audio projection systems come to life with a soft pinging chime. The image of the man turns to face Nickie, his cool gaze sweeping over Amy and Brene without hesitation. As he turns, a small but powerful camera follows his gaze, broadcasting exactly what he would be seeing if he were actually present. His voice, like his gaze, is cool and calm. "Hello Nickie. I believe you know who I am, or at least my position in the company. I am correct in my assumptions, yes?"
Overcoming her surprise, Nickie manages to nod and stammer, "Y-y-yes... Yes... Yes sir. B-but, why are-"
Interrupting Nickie, the president shakes his head, "No, no! There is no time for your questions currently. I realize you are confused and want some answers about what is going on, but there shall be time for that later. The ships with the insignia of the red fist seek you, Nickie. We have been planning your escape ever since we heard of their plans a few months ago."
Gesturing to the rest of the bridge, he continues, "We have named this vessel 'Phoenix' as it utilizes your modular ship design."
Nickie raises an eyebrow, "I thought that project was scrapped...?"
Nodding, the president says, "Yes, it was. This is why this ship is called 'Phoenix.' Now tell me, do you remember every detail of your designs, Nickie? Right down to the controls themselves?"
Nickie nods, "That I do..."
The president smiles, "Then you should know the control layout better than anyone. Make use of the information in the ship database and run. Run as fast and as far as you can. Keep-"
The comm signal cuts in and out as the hospital reels from a rather viscious attack by the ships with the insignia of the red fist.
"Run, now!" - "Stay sa-" - "-rotect th-" - "GO!"
As the comm signal fades, the holoprojectors reform the hologram into an extensive diagram of the ship. According to the diagram, only the bridge and command module are connected. However, not even a second after the diagram appears, a flashing yellow outline marked 'engine module' approaches the rear of the command module while another flashing yellow outline marked 'main hold' approaches the bottom of the command module.
Shuddering slightly as the engine module couples with the command module, the ship seems to be quite sturdy despite its modular structure. After a few seconds a loud hiss signifies that the engine and command modules have finished coupling and the yellow outline changes to a green silhouette. The main hold, fitting snugly under both the command and engine modules, soon has a hiss of its own along with an accompanying green silhouette.
Having already initiated the generator startup sequences, Nickie's fingers fly over various panels as she readies the ship for departure. Glancing at Amy and Brene as she straps herself into the pilot's seat and takes the manual controls, Nickie points to the navigator and gunner seats. "Amy, take nav. Brene, keep the fighters off of our ass. We only have point defense weapons and no shield... Also, you may want to hold on tight as we are slingshotting out of here."
Brene and Amy exchange bewildered glances before deciding to do as Nickie says. The bridge gets eerily silent as the engines start up with a dull humming whir. Soon the creaking of docking clamps trying to restrain the ship accompanies the hum of the engine. Brene's eyes widen as he realizes what Nickie is planning to do.
With the simple press of a button, the docking clamps simultaniously disengage from the Phoenix. If space were not a vaccuum then the resulting sonic blast from the Phoenix's rapid acceleration would most likely have blown about one-fourth of the orphanage apart.
Almost immediately, rebel fighters veer away from the hospital and rocket toward the Phoenix. Noticing that they are not firing, Nickie hails the fighters after quickly sliding on her headset. The lead fighter answers the hail and opens a voice-only comm channel, "This is Red-15 A-X97-32 to unknown vessel, presumed Phoenix. Do you read?"
Nickie quickly adjusts her microphone before responding, "Occasionally I do, yes. Quite a lot in fact... What is this about, Red-15?"
"Do not place your full trust in the company. Our goal here is to give a warning about all of the treachery this 'company' commits. We do not know what you have been told but you are to be protected and freed from the company's grasp. That ship is the Phoenix, yes?"
"Uhh... Yes. Phoenix multipurpose vessel... Wha-"
"The time for questions is later. Incognito company ships disguised as our own are closing in as we speak. Fly Phoenix! Fly and we will contact you later. We will cover your escape."
The comm channel clicks closed and the fighters veer off, heading towards the supposedly incognito company ships. As the Phoenix works her way toward the edges of the battlefield, a message silently reaches the rebel flagship. After recieving it, the rebel leader grins and give the order to commence 'hostile negotiations' with the company.
Space ripples around the rebel fleet as several gigantic blueish battleships enter from subspace, bearing glistening insignias of green eagles superimposed over red pentagrams. All true rebel ships shed their original insignias to reveal these new symbols, leaving the company completely exposed.
These new battleships bring multiple odd-looking cannons to bear, all targeting various ships in the company fleet. An ultimatum is issued from the rebel forces to the company, "Agree to negotiate a treaty with the colonies that wish to be independent or we will be forced to fight to wrest them from your control."
As the company flagship disappears into subspace the rebel forces recieve the reply, "We do not negotiate with rebels or terrorists. We are a business, not a democracy."
Growling, the rebel leader gives an order. Beams lance from the cannons of the blueish battleships, shredding through the company ship shields. Fire from company ships simply bounce off of the battleship shields, missiles going haywire and impacting their launcher. Panic spreads throughout the company ranks as the rebels display their determination and frighteningly advanced technology. It is utterly incomprehensible to the company as to how these vast advances were made so quickly and by a rebel faction.
There was no real battle, just a massacre of company forces. The Phoenix, now a very good distance away from the battlefield, powers toward its target destination with conventional drives as the subspace drive is calibrated by Brene and Amy. Nickie checks up on the child that was left in their care and confirms that it is indeed that mysterious fifty-sixth child.
Nickie pales as she reads the messages left for her by the company executives.
Future in Relics
"We have to raise this freaking kid now," Nickie loudly explains to Amy and Brene in the main engine room, "In addition to staying alive during this damn war that has broken out with us in the middle!"
Subconsciously, Nickie causes several emotions to mainfest themselves in Amy and Brene with her minute psychic abilities. Amy quietly listens to Nickie as she rants in the outer rooms of the engine module, allowing Brene to make some progress on the fairly old subspace drive. Eventually Brene starts to get rather annoyed with Nickie and her psychic broadcast of many rather intense emotions. "Damnit woman," Brene yells at Nickie through the corridor, "Keep your damned emotions to yourself, stop whining, and, for shit's sake, please figure out where the bloody fuck we are going! This piece of crap subspace drive will burn out after one jump, so we had better pick a good place."
Nickie stops and stares at Brene, who is now standing in the doorway of the engine room, for a few seconds before turning around and pointing a little to the left of the bulkhead out of the engine module. Amy sighs and rolls her eyes as she realizes that Nickie just used her 'psychic' abilities to pinpoint their destination without really noticing. "We are going there," Nickie idly informs Brene, "And if the subspace drive can not be used then it will take us a few years instead of a few minutes."
Brene grumbles and begrudgingly returns to the subspace drive. The 'damn thing,' as Brene so wonderfully refers to it, needs to be hooked to the main drives, calibrated, tested, and finally fully coupled to the engine. The hospitality of the company thus far has been astounding, but first an old subspace drive and then not installing it was a major mistake. Nickie can feel an unknown force nearing them, consisting of a mass of ships. She can not yet see anything about them as her 'psychic' sight only extends for a few meters and these ships are hundreds of thousands of meters away, appearing to be keeping their distance.
"Either way," Nickie thinks aloud, "Either way we should be fine... I think."
Raising an eyebrow, Amy asks, "What? What is going on, Nickie?"
Idly waving her hand about, as if to ward the question away, Nickie mumbles rather incoherently. After a little prodding from Amy, Nickie finally tells her what is going on. "We have an unknown fleet tailing us, the subspace drive is not ready yet and we may need it very soon," Nickie pauses for a bit before continuing, "That and we are seeking refuge in the ruins of old Earth."
Amy pales and her eyes widen at the thought of old Earth. "Wh-why d-do you," she stammers rather incoherently, "W-wh... what..."
Nickie sadly shakes her head, "Yeah. I know, but it is the only place we can safely hide. I have a lot of enemies due to my discoveries, and apparently the kid has people after her too..."
"But... But the ruins of old Earth are a deathtrap! Ghosted turrets and ships will be on us as soon as we enter any quadrant in that sector and they will not stop hounding us until we are dead and-"
"Amy," Nickie yells, "Get a grip, girl! Calm down! I know of an old Japanese station in the core orbit ring. Normally we would be torn to shreds before we could even think of reaching the fringes of the outer ring, but I happen to still have my old- Err... I happen to have... some access codes. The codes will let us get to the station so I can quietly reconfigure the systems. I should be able to reconfigure the defense systems to let authorized people come and go as we allow and a little tweaking, with some love, should be all that is needed to get core systems back online."
Amy blinks, still a little shocked. "S-so... So we are actually... Actually going to o-old Earth?!"
Brene walks into the room from the engine room, rubbing his hands together. "I would think that we have no choice. With people hunting us, questions without good answers, and a large unknown fleet nipping at our heels... Well, I could use some breathing room to rest and think things over right now and I think you two need some too. Nickie could set up her labs again to start tinkering like she used to, I can fix up this station we'll be staying on as it is probably falling apart, you can do what you do Amy, and the kid will have a safe place to grow up... The subspace drive is in, so we can leave as soon as you input the coordinates, Nick."
MLKWY - S:SOL/P3D - OEARTH
Tremors tear through subspace, rippling open a momentary gateway that engulfs the Phoenix and catapults it through the depths of another realm. The ride is far from smooth as the subspace drive struggles to make the journey. Nickie, Brene, and Amy hold on for dear life as the ship wildly jumps, wiggles, and vibrates its way through the corridors of subspace.
The subspace drive gladly directs the Phoenix back into normal space before dying completely, its complex circuitry completely fried. A quick check of the holographic starmap on the bridge informs Nickie that they have arrived just outside old Earth space. Seating herself at the manual controls, Nickie guides the ship into old Earth space with the conventional drives.
Almost immediately upon entering old Earth space the Phoenix finds itself hounded by 'ghosted' ships, or ships controlled by artificial intelligences still attempting to defend a long abandoned planet. Nickie responds to their hailing with passcode and authorization information, hoping that it is still valid. The ships, much to everyone's relief, open a comm channel and inform Nickie that her ship is now cleared to proceed into old Earth space. After a polite request for the crew of the Phoenix to enjoy their stay the ships fall back and assume a defensive formation around the Phoenix itself.
Ignoring Brene and Amy's inquisitive glances, Nickie guides the Phoenix through massive gates in the slowly rotating rings surrounding Earth. The rings, comprised of multiple stations connected by flexible docking umbilicals, maintain a naturally non-decaying orbit over the wastelands that once housed the first nations of humanity. Now humanity fears its former birthplace as the ancient artificial intelligences now rule, seeming to develop and expand even with a lack of guidance. Sentient intelligences are rumored, and feared, to exist here.
As the Phoenix enters the core ring, Brene and Amy gasp at the sheer size of the stations. The core ring, thousands of kilometers thick, houses the greatest and grandest of all of the stations orbiting Earth. Slowing the Phoenix to a stop near a station bigger than any non-core station, but smaller than any core station, Nickie opens a comm channel with the docking computer and says something in japanese. The docking bay door immediately springs open to allow the Phoenix inside.
Utilizing the comm channel with the docking computer, Amy hacks her way into the station systems before the docking bay doors can even close. Slicing through the minimal amount of security measures, Amy makes her way into the station control mainframe in a matter of hours but finds herself blocked off from the security controls. After a few hours of fruitless efforts, Amy asks Nickie what she should do. Seeing Amy into the crew quarters for some rest and busying Brene with watching the child, Nickie finds herself alone on the bridge. In a matter of minutes she has crippled and slipped past the locks set in place on the security controls. Adjusting herself in the chair she is sitting at, Nickie begins the tedious task of reprogramming not only the security system but the entire station controle mainframe.
The twelve-month supply store in the Phoenix slowly starts to dwindle, soon becoming an eleven-month supply and then a ten-month supply. With nine months of supplies left, Nickie completes her task with a single keystroke. Suddenly, the station lurches from its slumber and the hum of oxygen scrubbers activating can be heard throughout the station.
Within the next three months, Nickie renders her lab fully operational with help from Brene and Amy in addition to basic equipment found in the main hold of the Phoenix. Examining the thoroughly damaged subspace drive for component parts that may have survived, Nickie realizes that a new drive must be built from scratch. With six months of supplies remaining and no supplies on board the station, the race to build a working subspace drive begins.
Working frantically, Nickie manages to piece together a complete set of blueprints for a new subspace drive in about a month. Nickie, Amy, and Brene piece together the drive from spare parts, working as precisely and as fast as they can. With four months remaining, the drive is about one-fourth complete.
Time not seeming to be on their side, the three start to neglect sleep entirely as only two months of supplies are left and the subspace nears completion.
With the countdown ticking away at their final month of supplies and the subspace drive only being a few days away from completion, the three start to realize how close they are to death. Not looking up from, Brene quietly asks, "You... You both do realize that this drive... That this drive may not... work...? Right...?"
Amy and Nickie just silently continue with their work, both knowing that Brene has a point.