Touch me now and feel my force
I will give you life
History will change its course
Man will survive
Reach out to me and seal your fate
A new phase is near
Come to me and cross the gate
No pain, no fear
I have entered another dimension
My perception expands
Transcending beyond comprehension
Time has come, a brand new sun
Shining down on you
The reign of peace has now begun
Dreams have come true
I see the future, a new star will rise
I see the world through the all-seeing eyes
Of the Starchild
Star one: Starchild
Is this the end? Can everything truly be undone, erased like the lines of text on a burning piece of paper? I hope not, I dare not think that thought. It would be too sad, too terrible. I remember it, I remember everything, every face, every word, every fleeting emotion. They drift through my mind like shimmering specks of light, so pure and so true. Maybe it was meant to be, maybe there truly is a meaning to this, to my eternal existence. For I am truly eternal, I fear that I will survive this universe and awaken to see the rise of a new world, for those who made me were clever indeed. Indestructible… It is such a grand word, and yet it carries with it doom, to see all crumble and fall before your eyes, what fate could possibly be more terrible? I have endured the millennia of this world, seen the wars, seen the grandeur of its peoples and its realms, I have walked next to Gods and danced with kings, oh yes, it all lives on through me, through my never ending memory. Did they know what they truly did when they formed this shell that is my body? I fear not, I was a weapon, and I still am. In the final battle that is to come I will fight once more and I know I will do my very best. Darkness may never conquer us, never.
And yet, for all those years, for all the time that has passed by like grains of sand slipping through a fist, trying too hard to hold onto it, I have never found the answer to the question that has haunted me ever since the first day of my existence. What does it mean to truly be alive? What is life? I am not alive, or am I? If being alive means to feel and think and doubt then I am most certainly alive, but I know not when that came to being. I think I was taught this along the way, for my beginning, my beginning was so very different from the creature I am now. I am a survivor of a world long gone, a memory of a war too terrible to describe, the scion of a people returned to the dust of the stars which gave birth to them…
I am the only one, but I am never alone as long as I still believe, as long as I do not doubt that there is a meaning behind it all, that light will prevail once more. I rise from my crouching position, my armor gleaming in the light from the sun. I am ready, I will fight, the final battle may be an end but I will make sure that it also will be a new beginning, they will all live again in a new world, a peaceful world free of the darkness that haunted the old one.
I am a child of distant stars, how ironic that I ended up here, but there is also a sort of melancholic poetry within this. That one never born will fight side by side by others also unbegotten….
As I face my enemies I once more remember that day, when I came to this world, descending like a fallen star, like a comet from the skies. And yes, they will fear me, for I can never surrender, never give in or give up. I am not programmed to quit.
Chapter one: Descent
Screaming in flames, down from the sky.
That’s how he comes in my dream.
Trail of tortured souls, a black boiling wake.
A ghost ridden string with a bone-aching hum.
Breathing the fumes of cities ablaze.
A god descends crushing us all.
Walks on the hills emptied of life.
Veiled by ashes and snow the hills are blind.
Earth and sky as one in countless pieces.
Time stands still, frozen in the flow.
In the dust the faces of the fallen.
They’re erased in the fall of snow.
Hell was here, now no more.
End of war.
Come to the feast of war...
And the crows fly black.
Now the crows fly black.
And the crows fly black.
Only crows fly black.
Tarot: Crows fly black
The awakening was sudden and rude, she almost hit her head on the console next to the small cot and she immediately knew that something was terribly wrong. Alarm sirens were flaring through the ship and she could feel that the engines were acting oddly. Like a mariner capable of telling of whether or not a storm is coming just from the waves outside or if the ship is speeding up or not she had developed keen instincts over the years. She tried to get out of the cot but the gravity generator seemed to have shut down, everything was flowing around and she swore and started to pull herself out of the tiny room. It wasn’t much larger than her, even the captain of a freight ship wasn’t allowed much personal space. The alarms were so loud it hurt her ears and she yelled out. “Tetee, shut off the alarms!”
The ships computer immediately responded, the smooth inhuman voice answered her and she managed to clear her head a bit. “Affirmative captain, alarms shutting down”
The silence was even more unnerving, she didn’t hear the generators nor the main engines and she let herself flow forth, towards the machine room. Shit, had they been hit after all? They had managed to escape an ambush just twelve standard hours ago and it had been a terribly close call. A talgmarian warship had been cloaked near their designated jump point and they had escaped just because the decrepit old freighter was armed with some unexpected surprises. Nobody suspected that a class F union freighter had plasma canons. The war between the union and the talgmarians had lasted for more than fifty standard years and there was no sign of peace anytime soon. Both captain and crew had grown up with the conflict and almost everybody on board were ex military personnel.
She heard a clanging sound and floated down the shaft towards the main engine room, she was sweating. They didn’t have a large cargo this time but it was valuable enough. The Shiiima wasn’t a very fast ship, and it was old and very worn so they only got the type of missions that didn’t pay off in the long run. She hoped it was just engine problems, her engineers could fix anything with elbow grease and some feet of titanium wire. She saw that Artan and Mhaar were busy working, both had anchored themselves to the floor with harnesses and Artan were hissing orders to Mhaar who immediately obeyed. The uurzit saw her and growled, he was clearly stressed out. “Captain”
Artan wiped sweat from his forehead and she wondered for the n’th time why an engineer like him couldn’t get a job on one of the first class freighters, or even a battle cruiser. He was a genius when it came to machines of every sort and she trusted him with her life, and that of the rest of the crew too. “How bad is it?»
She could tell that her voice was as stern as ever, she had been a fighter pilot and she had learned never to show fear but she could feel her heart beating hard in her chest. He stared at her, the brown eyes were a bit glassy. “ I know you prefer honesty captain, and quite honestly? We are fucked!”
She gasped and saw that Mhaar tried to connect some broken wires, the whole room smelled of something burning, something organic. “The details please.»
Artan straightened himself up. “ I had to turn off our G, it took too much power. The main engine is fried, unsalvageable. They did hit us after all, one round only but it has jammed the fluctuator and the whole thing has fried itself out. There is nothing left. I just dumped three unstable cores, we have only two left. And they are half full”
She blinked, that was bad, no, disastrous. Two half full cores? Oh damnation, they were indeed screwed. “We are still in hyper drive?”
Mhaar nodded, the long reptilian face was telling her that he was very worried indeed. “ Yes, we have the drive engines still but they have just twenty minutes left of juice.”
Artan bit his lower lip. “ We have no idea of where we’ll drop out, the explosion has sent us off course”
She tensed up. “How much?»
He shrugged. “Oh, I have no idea, at least a thousand, maybe more.»
She was the captain, she wasn’t supposed to show any sort of emotion at all but this made her moan. A thousand units? They could be half ways across the galaxy, heck, if they hit something they would be atoms scattered all across several solar systems. She was used to thinking fast, taking swift decisions. It had saved her life several times. “Right, the others, do they know?»
Artan nodded “ They are at the bridge, awaiting orders. “
She straightened herself up, tried to remain focused. This old bird had been through rough rides before, she would survive this one too. “Right, Coba, do you read me?»
The hoarse voice of the uurzit responsible for the freight section of the ship was audibly shaken. “I do captain»
“Good, dump the cargo”
Coba’s voice did shake even worse. “Are you serious? It is worth…”
She interrupted, her voice ice cold. “ I don’t give a wyfyr’s ass about the value, dump it now! It is marked, someone will find it”
Coba sounded as if she was about to cry. “But dumping the cargo hull while in hs, that is never wise”
“I am the captain damn it, dump the goddamn cargo hull now! It will give us a little more time”
There was a creaking sound and then a thud and the ship seemed to shiver for a second as the huge clasps connection the long line of cargo containers was disconnected from the mothership. She took a deep breath. “ What can be salvaged down here?»
Artan stared at Mhaar and both were a bit pale. “Not much captain, like I said, we have some steering ability left, but not much juice.”
She nodded. “Both of you, out of here, we are sealing the machine room. If we are to drop out outside of a jump point I want everybody on the bridge.»
She didn’t wait for an answer, just flew up towards the bridge and tried to remain calm. If the navigator couldn’t determine where they were they could be in really deep shit. She would prefer dying peacefully, not from flying straight into a star or a planet or a black hole.
The crew were silent, everybody was there, even the cook and she took a deep breath. “Folks, strap yourselves in, I am afraid it could be a rough ride.»
The navigator nodded, the strange blue eyes were as dispassionate as ever. “Captain, we are outside of the grid”
She frowned. “No way, how can that be? It cannot have thrown us that far off course?»
The android tilted her head, blinked once. “But we are, no beacons, no signals at all. We are blind»
She sat down in the captains seat, the familiar feeling sort of soothed her nerves. “Well then, we are in for an adventure I guess. Any suggestions as to why?”
The ships computer answered, smoothly. “Captain, my last calculations suggest that we were thrown into a vortex of some sort.»
Everybody just stared at each other, vortexes were something which was extremely rare and it was thought that it was some sort of wake left by a ship flying through hyperspace, capable of creating temporary worm holes. Nobody was sure but it was the best theory so far. The navigator tipped her head once more. “ What are we to do captain?”
She cleared her throat, took a deep breath. “We are leaving hs right now, to preserve whatever fuel we have left. It won’t make much of a difference anyhow.»
She saw that Artan and Mhaar were strapped in, then she gave the computer the order. “Shut down hyperdrive engines now»
The dispassionate machine voice answered in its usual mechanical manner. “I am afraid that is impossible captain, they are jammed”
She groaned and everybody looked a bit scared now, she just hoped that this wouldn’t be their last day together. She didn’t have a fear of dying but she did fear taking her crew with her, they were her responsibility after all. “ Okay, how much time before they run out of fuel?»
The computer answered. “Twelve minutes counting from now»
The ship medic tried to smile. “Silfy, captain, please, are we going to be alright?”
She sighed. He was an android, once very valuable and state of the art but now he was hopelessly out of date and also terribly affected by some rather dubious programming. It had been fashionable to make the synthetic’s seem very human for a while, with feelings and all and he had been programmed to be very sensitive and highly empathic. That hadn’t caused anything but problems on the other ships he had been assigned to but on this ship they couldn’t afford to be picky. He had been cheap, that was most important. “ Yes Detoo, unless we hit something solid that is. But cheer up, in that case we won’t have time to feel any pain.»
Everybody went silent and she kept her eyes on the monitors, they were old friends, as familiar as the back of her own hands and she found some solace in the thought that she was to share the fate of her ship. She was too old to get a new one anyhow and she had flown countless missions on this old heap of rust and wires. There was a silent countdown going on, she tensed up as they approached the moment of truth. Would they drop out in empty space or somewhere far from healthy? She took the controls, ready to take over the ship if that was necessary, a human mind is always faster than a computer. “Alright old girl, get ready to dance»
There was a whining sound and the blackness outside of the window became a flash of intense light and then there were stars surrounding them, bright shiny stars and she didn’t recognize any of them. “CeKay, identify”
The navigator went to work, her head turning and her fingers moving over her monitors at break neck speed. “Identification impossible, we are in some uncharted quadrant captain»
Silfy sighed, stared at the screens and then she frowned. Oh no, there was something heavy near by, something was pulling on them and she shouted to the computer. “Show surroundings”
The screens shifted and now they saw something which had been hidden behind the ship, a planet. It was pretty close too and it was very obvious that they already were trapped within its gravitational well. They were falling. The cook mewled and Dhu’my the other cargo assistant was panting hard. “That is not good now is it?»
She tried to smile, turned the ship around. Without the several miles of cargo hanging from the ass it was rather easy to do it, even now with a gravitational well so nearby. “No, it is not good at all. Navigator, computer, analyze»
The planet looked very nice, it had snowcapped poles and a lot of green but also a lot of sea and Silfy knew they were gonna crash. The computer did beep” The planet is of medium size, breathable atmosphere, few toxic gasses, traces of life apparent. “
She tried to think fast again. “Any civilizations?”
“No sign of technology beyond early metal age, intelligence is detected.»
Silfy felt the controls jerk in her hands, it was dragging them down like some sort of space monster. The planet lay in darkness but it was lighted by the stars. “It has no sun, how can it have life?»
The computer beeped once more. “ Reason unknown, maybe a rogue planet tossed from its original system? It could be kept warm from its own core”
The navigator interrupted. “The northern area is uninhabited, less chance of damage”
Silfy nodded, “ I agree, if we are to crash we’d better not take an entire city with us”
She took a deep breath. “Alright people, we are going in, and I am afraid to say this but the chances of us surviving is slim. She wasn’t made as a lander at all»
Artan was grasping onto his chair with white knuckles. “ Oh you are so gentle captain, let’s face it. We will burn to cinders in the atmosphere.»
The navigator nodded. “We have less than 0.569 percent chance of making it to the surface in one piece»
Silfy sneered, her face transformed by the danger, she seemed young again, eager almost. “Oh but we do have a chance, for I am going to do something outrageous”
The crew looked at her. “What? “
She grinned widely “ We have one escape pod, four of you can leave now, and maybe make it. It is made to withstand even an entry out of control”
They shook their heads. “We will stay with you captain, and you know it. We won’t desert this ship”
The captain nodded. “Right, well, I am going to turn her around and take us inn ass first, on her back”
The computer ticked into action again. “Captain, that might work, the engines will protect the front part of the ship where you are»
She grinned, even wilder. “Damn right, and the shields there are strong, made to protect the stern from collisions with rogue cargo containers”
The navigator stared at the screens. “Four minutes to contact, we are falling fast.»
Silfy grasped the controls, rolled the ship gently and felt the pull, that irresistible force that was an entire planet and its mass. She took a deep breath. “Computer, show me a course towards the poles, and a good angle»
The monitors beeped and showed a trajectory few pilots would have dared to attempt but Silfy clenched her teeth together and moved the controls again, very gently. “Come on old girl, one last effort, make me proud»
There was a rumbling sound, the ship had started to shake as molecules of air started to collide with its rear end. She could see that everybody were clinging to their harnesses, most looking very scared indeed. The navigator was the exception, she was a synth too, but of a different model than Detoo and way more advanced. Silfy had come across the synth through a friend of a friend, apparently it had been part of some sort of secret experiment that went rather bad and was to be destroyed but there was nothing wrong with her and so Silfy had accepted CeKay as part of a payment for a freight mission. She looked inhumane in many ways, too perfect and too flawless to be a human being and of course, without Detoo’s odd behavior. She had come in handy rather often.
Silfy took a deep breath. “ It has been an honor serving with you all folks, let me tell you that”
Some tried to smile. “Likewise captain»
The sound had become a roar and the computer was spitting out data continuously. “We are to enter the top atmosphere, brace yourselves”
The shaking became intense, the glow outside of the windows white and Silfy kept her eyes locked on the monitors. The ship fought her, the rear wasn’t aerodynamic at all, no part of this ship was meant for flying within an atmosphere and it was full of edges and corners. Pieces of melted metal were flying past the windows, the cabin started to get warm and she yelled an order. “Seal all doors from the personnel cabins towards the machine room, flood the cabins with whatever cooling liquid we have left. “
There was a loud pschhh and the temperature dropped a bit but it wouldn’t last, maybe just a minute. Silfy were praying the whole time, swearing, fighting the ship. By now most of the thrusters had been burned off, they could only hope that the trajectory would hold. The angle of penetration had to be perfect, or they would burn for sure.
It seemed to last forever, but it was just a few minutes. Then the shaking stopped and the eerie glow of plasma disappeared, but a new problem presented itself. They were no longer flying, but falling. And this ship did fall fast without any fuel nor sufficient wings. Silfy got hectic. “Everybody, get out and into the jumper, now!”
The jumper was a small vehicle meant to search the surface of asteroids and other objects without an atmosphere, it did have a parachute however and everybody understood and reacted. The entrance was through a narrow tunnel just beneath the bridge and they jumped down one by one, Silfy the last one. She saw that the room was terribly cramped, it was made for three people, now it held eight and she took the main seat and strapped herself down. “Computer, try to keep her on a steady course. Disengage us in thirty seconds»
The computer answered. “Yes captain, I understand. Thank you for everything”
Silfy sighed, of course the computer knew it would be smashed into smithereens soon, it was logical. “ Likewise Tetee, you have served well”
There was a thud and the jumper was falling free from the ship, they were still high above the ice sheet beneath them but soon the parachute would slow their descent. The jumper had a window and Silfy could see Shiima one last time, like a fiery comet racing across the skies. The ship would leave quite an impact crater when it struck, but there were no living beings in that area. It was good there were no fuel left too, at least the explosion wouldn’t leave any radioactivity.
The jumper fell, then it jerked and the captain saw that the parachute did open. Now they were falling slowly compared with before and yet it would be a very hard impact, one that would do serious damage to the jumper, and possibly to them too. There was one thing they could do and she pulled a handle, immediately the cabin was filled with a sort of light foam that would harden upon impact and protect everybody inside of the cabin. It was breathable but not for long so she was relieved that everybody had put their masks on. The synth’s didn’t need one so they had just enough for the beings that needed air. The two uurzits were a bit grey in the face since this air was a bit different from what they would prefer but they could survive in it and Silfy just hoped that the impact wouldn’t be too bad.
The small vehicle hurtled towards the ground, a desert made from ice and snow. From a distance it seemed smooth and even, quite beautiful but in reality it was a torn and ragged landscape filled with canyons and rock hard cliffs made from ancient ice. Silfy took a deep breath. “We are five hundred meters from the surface, get ready.”
The jumper smashed into the side of a huge spire of ice, then it tumbled down its side, the parachute torn off, it was slammed into the side of another huge block of ice before it fell into a canyon of ice and rolled mercilessly down its bottom. It ended in a sheer drop and the jumper fell for another four hundred feet before it came to rest against a very high almost blue block of ice. The vehicle was battered beyond recognition, parts of it torn off, the cabin ripped open and pieces of it spread as a trail of debris from the cliff. It was silent, for a long time. Nothing moved and the cold wind moaned between the blocks of ice, careless and indifferent.
Then something moved, it was the synth CeKay and it crawled out of the damaged hull very slowly, almost sluggishly like a person in shock. The blue eyes did behold the landscape and then she turned around, stared at the jumper It was a complete loss, there was nothing to salvage.
She entered again, tore off pieces of hull like it was made from cardboard and the cabin was a mess. Silfy was still hanging from her harness, her hands on the controls but the eyes were empty and the odd angle of her back and neck told CeKay everything she needed to know. She leaned forth, closed the blurred brown eyes and wondered if this was grief, the odd sensation in her chest. Detoo was smashed, the central computing unit crushed to small pieces, but the torso was rather unharmed. It could perhaps be used for something. The only survivors were Artan, Tonjar and Dhu’my, and he was badly hurt. CeKay were equipped with a medical program, much more advanced than that of Detoo, but she had kept it secret. She had kept many secrets, it had been needed. He wouldn’t survive without proper care, and there was none to be found. Artan and Tonjar were unconscious so she did the merciful thing and snapped the injured Tha’bor’s neck. He would have suffered, it was not to be avoided. CeKay had gone into survival mode, and her mind was acting strictly in a logical sense now, as it was designed to do.
The captain had done a remarkable feat getting them down, she felt a sting of admiration before she checked upon the two other survivors. Both were human and she knew humans were remarkably resilient, they could survive things few other races could endure. She managed to get some of the survival kits out of the ship, put up a tent with an automatic heater, found some provisions. She didn’t need food, but the amount they had could feed two humans for perhaps a week, little more. And then it was the problem with the cold, it was intense and she feared that they would freeze to death. There had to be a way to make it south, to where it was warmer, could they make it? She would try, she wasn’t made to quit and she dragged the two men into the tent and got the heat going, prepared food and some blankets. They didn’t have much, but she would search through the wreckage for anything salvageable and useful, she would even go through the debris field they had left behind.
The skies outside were clear and the stars incredibly bright, she went outside, stood there watching as the stars slowly rotated above her head, dancing their ancient dance oblivious to the concept of time. She could remember it all, her creation, her creator, and her escape. They had never known what they had among them, and she was grateful for that. Even she realized that she was an abomination, something which wasn’t supposed to exist. But the war had demanded it, and so it had been done, the last desperate effort to stop a fall that would end the existence of an entire world. She was the last one, and it was an odd though, but one she was familiar with. After all, being alone was all that she had ever been.
Artan woke up after a while, moaning and she gave him some water, he coughed and sat up, disorientated and confused. “What happened?»
CeKay smiled, it was something she knew soothed people down. “We crashed, I am sorry, you and Tonjar are the only survivors»
Artan took a deep breath, he bit his lower lip. “Oh Silfy, she tried so hard to save us all»
CeKay nodded. “That she did, now you must try to stay alive, for her memory’s sake”
Artan sobbed. “ Oh by the stars, I am so sorry, so sorry»
CeKay knew that Artan and Silfy sometimes slept together, she did of course know everything about attraction, sex and its implications so she did realize that this was a hard blow to his emotional stability. Now she was head officer and had to act as a new captain, it was a task she didn’t know if she was ready for. “Relax, we have food, and heat”
Artan nodded slowly, tried to pull himself together. “Alright, how is Tonjar”
She stared at the other man, he was shorter and more stocky than Artan and he had always been a very quiet type. “He is unconscious but he is unharmed”
Artan sighed and closed his eyes. “ How far are we from the edge of the ice?”
CeKay tried to see that terrain as if from above once more, she made a grimace. “Far Artan, at least fifteen hundred miles.”
Artan seemed to shrink. “That is too far, we won’t make it. We don’t have food enough, nor clothes»
CeKay tilted her head. “There is patches of open ocean between the ice, and there is life in this ocean. I can surely catch something, maybe even something suitable for making garments”
He looked at her sternly. “ Are you always that much of an optimist?»
CeKay nodded, smiled. “Always, it is how I am programmed remember? Now, relax, I will watch over Tonjar”
Artan took a deep breath and laid down, stranded in an alien world with a synth as a protector and guide, somehow this day had gone from bad via worse to a freaking nightmare, if he made it out of this mess alive he was going to ask to be transferred to a passenger shuttle, along the outer rim, where he could be sure that nothing odd would happen and where the crew were flesh and blood. These C units were infamous for being unstable and he didn’t want to rely on one, there had to be a way to secure himself and Tonjar without having to trust that synth. What did an artificial person really know about survival anyhow?