Chapter 1: SETTLING DOWN
3001, five years after the AFU’s (Allied Fleet of the Universe) attempted invasion of Earth and its battle with the UEC (United Earth Command). Since then the AFU was renamed the NAFU (New Allied Fleet of the Universe) with the Earth’s joining and the UEC was renamed the UED (United Earth Defense). In the blackness of space, a shuttle transporting several passengers to a planet made its rapid approach.
Two of the passengers were UED policemen. People could tell they were UED policemen by their uniforms, which almost seemed form-fitting, but both were just muscular.
“Nervous, Brad?” one asked, with a smile.
Brad, a young man with light skin and nodes on various parts of his body, shook his head and smiled back, “Nah, why should I be, Quinn?”
The nodes are small, tiny, and glowed green. They are surgically attached for the job. Unlike Myrmidons, the UED’s soldiers, he wasn’t genetically modified but, he did have nanites to ensure good health. Like a Myrmidon he did have a suit of advanced armor in the nodes’ zero-space. Zero-space is a personal virtual space a person with nodes can store things. It’s actually limited, only called zero-space because the item takes up no space when in the real world while in zero-space or phased in/off. The nodes, connected to the brain via a neural interlink that is surgically implanted, can phase the item into existence rapidly. The person only has to think it. So, if Brad wants all or part of his suit on, he just thinks it and it will phase on around him. The suits too have nodes on the hands and forearms, so when phased on, a person with zero-space can still use it. The nodes on the forearm are just a backup in case the ones on the hands are damaged or malfunction for some reason. The suits are best described as a Guyver unit or a very advanced Iron Man.
Quinn has dark skin with no nodes. That’s because he’s an Odian, a shapeshifter that doesn’t take too kindly to foreign things in his body. Which meant that unlike Brad, he didn’t have a suit but, he didn’t really need one. He’s immune to most things anyway, except energy blasts and could even survive in a vacuum. He wasn’t as fast or strong as a person with a suit, normally, but that usually isn’t a problem because of his shapeshifting abilities. He wasn’t even wearing a uniform, it just looked like it because he morphed his body to look that way.
“It’s not just Omicron,” Quinn said, “It’s who is on there.”
“Stacy and I have been broken up for about a year now,” Brad said, “Maybe she knows I’m being stationed there. I think she’s moved on. I’ll just do my own thing and stay out of her business.”
Omicron is the planet the shuttle is headed to. The planet itself is no big secret but, it does have buildings that are top-secret. It’s the UED’s way of hiding something in plain sight. As far as everyone knows - Omicron is just a heavily colonized world. Stacy is Brad’s quite pretty ex-girlfriend and works as a weapon’s engineer in one of the top-secret buildings. As far as Brad knew, the break up was amicable over him being far away at the police academy and her work at the Stotch Institute (SI) which she told him little about.
“We aren’t going to be stationed far from her home, see?” Quinn said, holding up a piece of paper.
Brad put Quinn’s arm down, “I already have our assignment,” he said, “You don’t need to remind me and I’m not visiting her.”
Quinn was saddened to hear that as he asked, “Ever?”
Brad sat back, “Ever.” he answered.
“Everyone, we are about to land,” the pilot said over the intercom, “Please, have a seat and fasten your seatbelts.”
The shuttle landed in a busy bay.
Brad looked over to see the doors automatically open.
“Alright!” Quinn excitedly said, “We’re here.”
The men stood up with everyone else and began exiting the shuttle in a calm fashion.
Quinn carried a large duffle bag.
Both men looked around as they moved on. The bay had an open sky view of the city. The sun was setting. Omicron was a heavily developed colony. One of the UED’s most developed.
“Welcome to Ceris,” a woman’s robotic voice said, “One of the oldest cities here on Omicron.”
Outside, they had a great view of the city. People walking around with their busy lives, flying cars called cruzers (like cruisers) roamed the air, some closer to the ground, neon signs flashed, and robots keeping everything clean.
A large shuttle transport, like a bus, was already waiting for them. Both men entered with the others and sat.
“What about work,” Quinn asked, “Nervous about that?”
“A little but, I’m sure if we just stick to our training we’ll be fine.” Brad answered.
“Of all places,” Quinn said, “Omicron, do you think it was coincidence, or do you think it involves Stacy?”
“Nah,” Brad answered, “I’m a little surprised they put me here but, I’m sure they just wanted to put me in a place I’m familiar with. You were lucky enough to be my roommate at the academy.”
“Good thing we became friends,” Quinn said, “I could use a friend who knows the lay of the land.”
“Never thought I’d be friends with an Odian,” Brad said, “What made you want to be a cop anyway?”
“I needed to break away from my people,” Quinn replied, “You know how we live, together, in pools scattered across the land on different planets. If it weren’t for meeting the Xurigans, then the Eridani, we might still be stuck on one planet in a big blob. I just wanted to get out on my own. How about you?”
Brad then got lost in his own memories as he answered, “When I was a kid in high school I remember walking to my next class and stumbling upon two girls fighting. They were both known to have mental problems but even if you didn’t know that, you could see it. Their parents obviously didn’t believe in having that fixed before birth. Anyway, I remember hearing the crowd egging one of them on. It was obviously working on one of them and I could tell the other one didn’t want to fight. I remember so badly wanting to jump in and stop the fight.”
Brad stopped to Quinn’s dismay.
“Well,” Quinn asked, “Don’t just leave it at that. What did you do?”
“Nothing,” Brad answered, “I just walked away. Maybe it was peer pressure or something. I felt horrible but, as I walked away I promised myself to never do that again. I wanted to be in a position where I wouldn’t feel that pressure. I could do the right thing and no one could say anything about it. I always wondered what happened to those girls, but I always told myself that wouldn’t happen again under my watch.”
“Man, that sucks,” Quinn said, “I guess kids will be kids.”
“Yeah,” Brad added, “They can be so mean but, have a profound impact on you.”
“This was on Earth, right?” Quinn asked.
“Yup,” Brad nodded, “I moved to Omicron right after high school. I lived here only a few years before I went to the academy instead of college. Like I said - I only lived here a short while. That’s why I’m a little surprised they stuck me here.”
“Other than Stacy do you know anyone here?” Quinn asked.
Brad shook his head, “I know some people but, I wasn’t here long enough to really get to know anybody. I wouldn’t call them friends.”
Quinn looked around, “Everyone seems nice enough.”
“Wait till we’re posted,” Brad said, “At these games I know something will go down.”
“Have you ever thought of being a Stallion?” Quinn asked.
“What I wouldn’t do with all that money,” Brad answered, “Outside of that, some girls already consider me a stallion.”
Quinn was perplexed by Brad’s answer, “Huh?”
“I’d definitely get a new cruzer, and a big house, send a little home.” Brad continued, “How about you. What would you buy if you were rich?”
“Hmm,” Quinn thought, “I’d get a cruzer too. A Python one. A house big enough for my family and have everyone stay with me.”
“Considering you’re all shapeshifters,” Brad pointed out, “You wouldn’t need a big house.”
“You’re right” Quinn realized, “I can just get a fancy dollhouse and have you watch over it.”
Both men chuckled at the thought.
The shuttled slowed to crawl before descending to land. Both men could see it was their destination. They, along with several people exited.
“Well, here we are,” Quinn said, “Home sweet home.”
Brad looked up at the tall building to its sign, Ludmille, “We can either stay here or get a house once we’re all settled in.” he said.
“I don’t know,” Quinn replied, “This is supposed to be one of the nicer hotels in the area. We might like it. Besides, it’s being paid for. Once you get a house you’re on your own.”
Brad began walking, “Come on. Let’s check in.”
At the receptionist desk was no one. Just a pop-up display, a hologram Brad manipulated.
“Looks like…we’re roommates?!” Brad said.
“I’m good,” Quinn said, “I don’t need much room at all.”
Brad was not happy, “Still, we need privacy. Cheap bastards. I guess this means one of us will be moving soon.”
They went up and entered the room. It was big, with a living space, a bathroom, several closets, separate bedrooms, and a balcony.
“There’s a little privacy.” Quinn said, walking into one of the bedrooms.
“A little,” Brad said, “Still, would have been nice if we got our own rooms. I would have been happy with something smaller than this even.”
Quinn reached into his duffle bag and pulled out a simple, large metallic jar. After setting that on the floor he sat and began pulling other, smaller items out and connecting those via oddly shaped tubes he also grabbed from the bag.
Brad was in the bathroom looking at the mirror, “I guess it’s better than nothing.” he grunted to himself, as he phased out various condiments anyone would take; toothbrush, mouth paste, soap, towels.
In Quinn’s bedroom, he was still setting his stuff up.
Brad walked in and saw Quinn at work. He sat on the floor with his friend, “Need help?” he asked.
“No,” Quinn answered, “It’s just my practice hub. I’ll be done in a few minutes.”
“Ready for tomorrow?” Brad asked.
“Yes,” Quinn said with some excitement, “We should get to bed soon so we’re not late.”
Brad stood up, yawning, “You’re right. It’s getting late. We can go on tour after work tomorrow. Good night.”
“Good night.” Quinn said, as Brad walked out.
Brad lay, or hit, his bed like a sack of potatoes. He wasn’t really tired. As he tried to sleep he phased out a picture, “Maybe in another life.” he whispered to himself, looking at the picture of Stacy for a moment before phasing it back in.