Man and the machine
The betrayed struggle to ensure their existence.
But who will pay the most severe price?
Story about the toughest decisions, selfless sacrifice and a peculiar relation hidden from one's sight.
A: How do you value one's
A: I'm asking - what is the way of judging a person?
B: It is way too complicated for a straight answer.
A: I never ask easy questions - tell me what you think.
B: I'd say a person is ... a sum of his deeds and choices...an exceptional result of good and evil questioning one another.
A: Hm... yes... this fits perfectly.
B: Now you answer me - then how do you value one's h e a r t ?
A: That's really simple...
… you do it with a smile.
- 'Commander! Commander!'
- 'I know, I know.' I replied calmly. 'How many?'
- 'About half of all the vessels, sir! This cannot be real!'
First officer Joanna had a terrified expression on her face. I couldn't blame her. No training could have prepared her... us... for any of this. Come to think about it, never did I believe in a success of this mission, but out of different reasons of course. Then again being a soldier and an officer demands actions, even if they are against your own principles.
- 'Message from The Grand Command, sir!' A sharp voice from the right side of the deck made me regain my focus.
Ah. Ever vigilant Daniel. I remember him as a young student of the military academy. He's surely grown into a fine warrior. Even in the face of such extraordinary events he's able to do his job as if it was just a drill.
I felt out of place and absent-minded. I'm glad it was him, who brought me back to reality. I don't really know how I could allow myself to reach this state.
Was it the burden of responsibility?
Feeling of despair ?
No, I assume I was preparing myself and gathering courage.
But the time has finally come.
- 'Daniel' I said firmly. 'What is it? Tell me, right this instant!'
- 'It's the official statement regarding the situation...'
Daniel broke his sentence halfway through because our force shields received a direct hit, causing everything to shake. It was them – too damn early, if you ask me.
- 'Ignore it, soldier,' I stated, trying to regain control of the situation. 'Joanna, order and engage third level of combat readiness. Reassign any idle personnel to battle stations and keep those shields powered at all times'
- 'R-right away, Commander'
- 'Don't stutter on me, officer' I said with a frown. 'It's barely a beginning, I need your complete focus'
- 'Yes, sir. Understood!'
She really does need a
kick of motivation from time to time, in order to fulfill her duties. Then
again finding another first officer like her borders on the impossible.
She mustn't hesitate. Not now.
Dakrhans opened the warp gate far sooner that we had anticipated – we would have been prepared for it, had it not been for those treacherous fiends. Yet we must play with the given cards, no matter what tricks are to be used.
- 'Continue, Daniel'
- 'The orders are...' he took a deep breath. Whatever they were, they weren't easy to read.
- 'Ignore any obstacles. Realize the main scheme – at any cost.'
As laconic as it could possibly be. Not that I expected anything more from that kind of oblivious people but they didn't give me much to improve the morale of my people with. We were left to our very own judgment.
- 'Commander Taylor! Enemies are approaching from our rear, they do not intend to go easy on us.'
- 'You all heard
Felipe! Dispatch the Seekers and order them to keep close to us. We mustn't lose
the track of our surroundings. And I want to hear a constant sound of Dakrhans'
ships melting under our fire. To work, people!'
- 'Aight, Commander!' A collective voice of men and women answered in return.
Lasers. Missiles. Space mines and shock projectors. Every weapon we used seemed to be tearing a rift in the universe's construction. Surrounding silence and peace was no more, everything was made to shake in its own foundation.
Was it the
Or was it the sign of our upcoming demise?
Our position began to weaken. Noticing the advantage in numbers that our enemies had upon us and the overwhelming chaos, present among our crews
I couldn't do anything
but wonder – Is there a way for a victorious outcome ?
Another direct hit to our front caused everyone to lose their ground. I could smell the smoke and fire... and... blood.
- 'Status report, now!' I shouted after getting up. The smoke clouded my vision.
- 'Many injured, sir. Three dead...' Daniel replied while trying to remove the remains of destroyed control panels out of the way for the wounded. 'Still no report from engineering crew and machinists'
….a victorious outcome...eh?
- 'We have an incoming message from the Commander's Isaac warship Mary Ann.' I heard from my second officer, Emir. 'I'm putting it through!'
Message was being severely distorted, barely
- 'God...da...n..... it
It was Stephen Isaac. We finished academy together and served our time together at one of the warships before being nominated for Commanders. Judging by his voice they were in bigger troubles than us.
- 'John...can you hea.. r me? Come in, Taylor!'
- 'What's your situation, Stephen? Copy!'
- 'We are going down... sustained too much damage and lost half of my crew.'
I could hear the sound of the destruction present on his deck. That didn't bolster my spirit.
- 'I'll send some Seekers to escort you out of this mess, just send message to the other warships to provide counter fire and....'
- 'Forget it, John... You need to get others to safety. I tried but it was beyond my reach. Get everyone … out of this bloodbath....'
The thundering noise of fired weaponry surrounded him. There was no telling of what their central deck looked like.
- 'Hold on there, don't you give up yet!'
- 'Listen ...Shit ...we are being boarded... Listen to me, John.. '
There was a loud noise of lasers and bolters in the background. People were shouting to each other. Metal was trembling and electricity was bursting from the hissing wires.
- 'You need
Suddenly the message got interrupted.
Before we could react, another blast hit our main shield, damaging most of its capacity. Standing there, the sudden clarity got to me - I realized what I had to do. It was the thing I had been preparing myself for this whole time.
- 'Get me chief engineer Jens here - on the double.'
- 'Commander.. but... ?'
I turned around and looked at her calmly. She hesitated for a split second but then rushed off to obey the order. She did seem to be sad, as if realizing what I'm up to.
No... She knew. I'm sure of that.
- 'Commander Taylor, chief engineer Jens Kistner, at your command, sir.'
- 'We don't have much time, we need to talk.'
I needed to act quickly. This was, by no means, a good time for long conversations. Dakrhans' relentless assault was at its peak. We were running out of alternatives.
I explained everything to Jens.
- 'I understand... with all due respect.. is there.... Is there really no other way, sir?'
- 'It is the last thing we can pull off and I need your help, Jens'
- '... Aight.'
Jens quickly gathered a group of people needed for our plan and proceeded to realizing it. Now I needed to do the hardest part. Something like this they don't teach at any academy, hell, I don't think anyone could ever be prepared for this.
- 'Gather up, your Commander will be speaking.'
There was no turning back now.
- 'Due to the unexpected and extraordinary circumstances there's only one tactically sound maneuver left in our arsenal. As we are speaking, chief engineer Jens is preparing to recalibrate our engines into a Phase Bomb, in order to seal the warp gate shut,'
As I had anticipated, there was a sudden commotion among the crew. They need to know. They need to know everything.
- 'I will issue immediate evacuation of the warship and prepare you for the aftermath of the explosion. However...'
I took a deep breath.
- 'I'm staying on the ship to ensure this mission's success. And I need someone to ... assist me in this ... endeavor. This is not an order. I couldn't possibly ask that much of anyone. You are free to proceed to the evacuation capsules, this is my last official statement towards you. It's been a real honor, ladies and gentlemen. '
It was utter silence, the only thing that kept us from deluding ourselves into believing it was just a bad dream was the force of adjacent space-storms pushing against our remaining shields.
How long could this moment last ?
This silence and void was piercing my mind...
It was broken by a strong, determined voice. The voice of a man.
- 'Corporal Daniel Lewis reporting for duty. Now more than ever, I'm with you, sir.'
I could have expected him to sign for this. A fearless and stalwart soldier would never give such an opportunity for glory away, would he?
- 'Regardless how skilled you are, Commander, you won't make it far without a navigator. Main Navigator Felipe Andrada awaiting further instructions. I'll take us to the gates of hell if it's needed, sir.'
Lions among men.
Bravest companions I could ask for.
Suddenly, I could hear gentle footsteps and a deep breath. I felt a strange shiver down my spine.
- 'First officer...'
A maelstrom of thoughts hit me.
This is not right.
- 'Joanna.' I whispered, so that noone could hear.
- '... Joanna Romański, at your disposal, sir'
- 'Thank you all.' those were the only words, capable of coming through my throat.
People began to leave the deck.
I wasn't glad.
Here we were, the only ones remaining, the defenders of Mother Earth. If only this could have been avoided, I'd gleefully be the only one to carry the burden. Within few minutes the whole ship became empty. Preparations have been completed, yet I the unease of overthinking haunted me.
- 'Commander, we are almost ready. Everything has been calibrated. I'm ready to man the guns and Felipe set us for a collision course with the warp gate.'
- 'That really seems like a work of my life, a true masterpiece.' Felipe laughed at Daniel as he finished the final tuning.
I nodded at them. There was one last thing I needed to do.
- 'Officer, may I?' I took Joanna aside. 'I have something I want you to do.'
- 'I managed to conserve some energy by directing it from the rear shields towards...'
- 'That's nothing like that,' I interrupted her. 'I want you to deliver a message, of upmost importance'
- 'Deliver? But...we can always use communication logs for this...'
- 'No, that won't be enough. You need to take this.' I handed her my small, brown lockbox.
- 'Take the shuttle and deliver it to authorities. You'll know who to take it to. I know that.' I smiled at her.
- 'I cannot leave like that...! You, Daniel and Felipe are going to... ' she lost her temper.
- '...I mean, with all due respect, sir. I cannot... that's ... no!'
- 'That's an order,' I put my hand on her shoulder. 'Now go, I have my trust in you.
... and don't open it too early.'
Realizing how poorly I masked my sadness, I disengaged from this overwhelming conversation. As I was turning around I could feel her stare on my back.
- 'Commander Taylor.' a slightly shaking voice called me.
I looked at her. She was standing still, with her most honest salute. Never had she been good at hiding her struggles with the necessity of military formalities.
- 'I will never forget this.' I could see a shiny reflection in her eyes that followed down her cheek.
I saluted her back as she rushed off to the shuttle.
- 'I hope you two don't mind...'
- 'Oh, please. Had you not done it, I would have pushed her into the shuttle myself, Commander.' Daniel chuckled.
- 'There's different destiny awaiting her. This one, however, is ours only.' Felipe followed.
- 'I'm glad.' I closed my
I rallied one last message.
It was to the Grand Command.
I lied to Joanna - there's no message inside the box I gave her.
At least not for them.
'This is the last message from the warship Cassiopeia.
Commander John Taylor speaking.
We are closing the warp-gate with a Phase Bomb.
Majority of the crew has been evacuated.
The remaining of the crew, staying to fulfill their duties to the Federation are:
Main Navigator, Felipe Andrada
Corporal, Daniel Lewis
Commander, John Taylor.
Our last message for you is....
Flee and prevail.
At any cost.
End of log.'
- 'That's good enough.
Engage the engines in...
It is said that there's no sound in space.
Yet, this time one could swear there was something
resonating in the cosmic outskirts.
We were given another chance,
...but this time,
there was no smile.
Because how could there be?