The alarm siren screamed its deafening warning.
Captain Ayden Zeus’ mind drifted back from the realm of dreams. His private quarters illuminated by the red flashing strobe of the General Quarters Alarm. He had only been asleep for a few standard hours. What could possibly have gone wrong in his short absence?
“Commander Poseidon,” he said, rubbing the sleep from his blue eyes.
“Sir, there was an explosion in Engine Room Three,” a voice full of both panic and concern, crackled from a small speaker next to his bed. “I’ve shut down the remaining Dark Matter Reactors, and dispatched an engineering team to the affected area.”
“Clear,” Zeus responded, running a hand through his salt and pepper colored hair. He slipped on his uniform, which consisted of a black flight suit and a pair of matching leather boots. A thin ring of gold piping topped the short collar of the suit. “I’m on my way to the bridge,” he added, already halfway through his doorway.
The ship couldn’t afford to come to a standstill. It was imperative the Olympus kept moving forward…always forward, for the cargo stowed away within the palladium laced titanium hull was considered to be one of the most dangerous in the entire galaxy, and as long as his ship kept moving the cargo was secure.
What was this mysterious cargo?
Two thousand of the most vile and sadistic offenders the galaxy had to offer. Each one carefully cataloged and preserved in a state of the art stasis chamber, with every offender serving out multiple life sentences. One would have to wonder if execution would not have been a more cost-effective alternative. Not to mention a far safer choice for the rest of the galaxy, but that’s not what civilized societies do. At least that’s what the Galactic Council believed.
Therefore, the Olympus was constructed. She was one mile long, a quarter mile wide, and nearly as tall, and consisted of eighteen decks. Her one and only mission. To roam the galaxy. To never be in the same place twice, and to never stop moving…for anything.
The Galactic Council agreed that housing so many of the galaxy’s worst offenders on a stationary facility, could prove to be too much of a temptation should anyone wish to attempt a prison break. So, the Olympus roamed.
Operated by five hundred of the most trusted personnel The Galactic Core Alliance had to offer. The ship was designed to be self-sustaining. The crew grew and bred their own food. There was an entire deck designated for entertainment, full of shops and recreational venues. Relationships between crew members was even allowed, the only rule being; no children.
The hallway leading to the Bridge mirrored Zeus’ room. A bright red flashing light illuminated the corridor, while a blaring emergency klaxon made it nearly impossible to think. Zeus pressed his way through the crowded hallway. Everyone he passed made sure to stay out of his path. Ten strides from the Bridge’s main door, the hallway pitched violently to the left, throwing him hard against the wall, his head slamming into a bulkhead in the process. With his vision blurred, he fought to regain his footing, but found the world around him spinning out of control. A sturdy hand helped him to steady his feet.
The corridor around him began to slow. His vision cleared. The face of the young Ensign, full of concern, was there to greet him. “Thank you, Ensign…” for the life of him, Zeus couldn’t remember the young man’s name. He took great pride in remembering all under his command, but sometimes it was impossible.
“Beard Sir. Ensign Matthew Beard. What’s going on?”
“That’s what I was about to find out Ensign Beard,” he answered, making sure to say the young man’s name. “Where’s your station?” he asked. The young man was dressed in the standard uniform of the ship; a black flight suit much like his own. Yellow piping around the top of the collar told him the answer to his question was Engineering. Gold, like his was Command. Red for Security. Purple for Science. Orange was for Prisoner Stasis, and Green for agriculture. Medical staff wore white flight suits, with no collar piping.
“You’d better be on your way. I’m sure Chief Hephaestus is going to need all the help he can get right about now.”
“Yes Sir,” the young Ensign answered.
The bridge door slid open, as the chaotic buzz of his command staff overloaded his senses. “Report!” Zeus ordered.
The Bridge of the Olympus was a large circular room. At the front of the room sat a large view screen. Individual stations were spaced out along the circular walls, holding an array of smaller screens and instrument panels, all of which were essential at keeping the mighty prison ship up and running. In the middle of the room sat the throne like Captain’s Chair, which Zeus made a bee line for. “I said report damn it!” he yelled.
A man about ten years younger than Zeus, quickly approached from one of the far stations. His hair was jet black, and styled in a military fashion. The top of his collar was ringed in Purple. “Captain you’re bleeding,” Commander Poseidon stated. “We should have Doctor Hades take a look at that.”
Zeus was so preoccupied he hadn’t noticed, but now there was a slight sting above his left eye. He lifted his hand to the wound and applied some pressure. “I’ll worry about that later. Besides, I’m sure the good Doctor’s probably quite busy,” he said. “Now what the hell’s happening to my ship?”
“As reported earlier, there was an explosion in Engine Room Three. And now, another in Engine Room Six. Following the first explosion, I shut down the remaining Dark Matter Reactors, bringing us out of hyperspace. I’m just waiting on Chief Hephaestus’ report.”
“Have any of the other systems been effected?” Zeus asked.
“Negative Sir. Life Support, Tactical, Medical, and Agricultural are still running at optimum levels,” Poseidon reported.
“What about Prisoner Stasis?”
“Unaffected Sir,” Poseidon answered.
“Put them on high alert, just to be on the safe side,” Zeus ordered. “Don’t want any of our guests waking up now do we?”
Zeus pressed one of the numerous buttons on the right arm of his chair. “Chief, how about some good news.”
A scruff and static filled voice responded. “Captain, engines three and six are completely destroyed. I’ve had to jettison both engine cores to ensure against dark matter contamination. Preliminary sensor scans found trace amounts of Coridium.”
“Did he say Coridium?” Poseidon asked. “Isn’t that an explosive compound?”
Zeus didn’t answer, as he stared blankly at the large view screen filled with slow moving stars.
“But that would mean…”
“This was no accident,” Zeus declared, causing every crew member on the Bridge to look his way.
“What do we do sir?”
Zeus had to think. He needed a course of action, and he needed one now. He was the one in command. The one everyone else was going to look to for the answers. “TALOS?”
TALOS was the ship’s main computer. The acronym stood for Tactical And Logistical Onboard Sentience. The computer was one of the most advanced the Galactic Core had to offer, with some theorizing the machine even had a mind of its own.
TALOS’ female voice answered the Captain’s call. “Yes, Captain Zeus.”
“I want you to scan the entire ship for Coridium.”
“Coridium is a synthetic explosive,” TALOS answered.
“I know what it is, and if you haven’t been paying attention, it was used to destroy two of our engines. Now if you’d complete the scan.”
Following a few seconds of awkward silence. “Coridium has been located in Weapon’s Vault Three. Engine rooms One, Two, Four and Five, as well as Engineering Room Nine.”
“My God,” Poseidon gasped.
“Captain, Engineering Room Nine houses the controls for the Olympus’ main plasma shield generator,” Lieutenant Cailyn Athena called out from the ship’s Tactical Station. She was in her late twenties. Her long blonde hair was pulled back into a pony tail, and a piping of gold lined her collar.
“Lieutenant Ares, I want security teams sent to Engineering Room Nine and the remaining Engine Rooms. That’s your first and only priority.”
“Aye Sir,” answered a young man in his late twenties, as he sprang from his station and raced off the Bridge. Lieutenant Trace Ares was in charge of ship’s security. His red hair was cut in a strict military high and tight, while he stood about six feet tall and held a very muscular frame.
“Sir, shouldn’t we send out an emergency distress call to G.C.A. Command?” Poseidon asked.
Any transmission right now would give away their exact location, which was something that always made Zeus nervous. Not to mention the fact that the explosions taking place on his ship reeked of the word sabotage. No, he was betting someone was waiting for that very broadcast to jump across sub space.
“TALOS, what’s our exact location?” Zeus inquired.
“We are three light years from the Terran System,” the ship’s computer answered.
“I’ve never heard of that system,” stated Poseidon, with a bit of puzzlement in his voice.
“The Terran System is a singular star system, comprised of eight planets, with only the third planet capable of sustaining oxygen based life,” answered TALOS.
“Change of course sir?” asked a young man off to Zeus’ right. The man was in his early twenties, with dark brown eyes, which matched the hair on his head. The collar of his flight suit was identical to Zeus’.
“Lieutenant Ares, give me a sit rep.”
Ares’ voice booms over the Bridges’ communications channel. “We’ve located all of the remaining Coridium infused explosive devices.”
“Tell me you can disarmed them.”
Silence was Zeus’ only answer. “Lieutenant Ares!”
“Each of the devices is equipped with a proximity sensor. If we get within two meters of any of them, they’ll blow.”
“So, we just have to sit around patiently and wait to be blown to space dust?” asked Poseidon.
Poseidon got his answer. The bombs in Engine Room Two and Five detonated at the exact same time, shaking the entire ship in the process.
“Ensign Hermes,” Zeus said. “Lay in a course for the Terran System while we still have engines.”
“Aye Sir,” Hermes responded, his hands feverishly pushing several buttons on the touch pad in front of him. “Dark Matter Reactors in Engine Rooms One and Four, back online. Laying in a course for the Terran System. Making the jump to hyperspace in three, two, one…”
The stars displayed on the large view screen at the front of the Bridge begin to melt and stretch themselves into long lines of bright light. The journey to the third planet from the sun was the most nerve racking the crew of the Olympus had had in a long time.
With each passing minute, the anticipation of the next explosion began to take its toll on the entire crew. Lieutenant Ares evacuated the adjoining areas around the remaining explosives, and placed surveillance cameras within each room to ensure no one tampered with them.
“Why not just blow all six engines at once?” Poseidon asked.
“Because whoever is responsible for this, doesn’t want the Olympus destroyed. They want her stopped,” Zeus answered.
“Approaching the Terran System Sir,” Hermes announced, allowing the crew to breathe a little easier.
“Bring us out of hyperspace and lay in a direct course for the third planet.”
Another violent quake rumbled throughout the ship, signaling the loss of yet another engine.
“If we lose our last engine before we reach the third planet, we’ll never make it on maneuvering thrusters,” Hermes warns.
“I’m well aware of that Ensign.” The fact they were moments away from being stranded out in the middle of what was considered to be the backwater of the galaxy, with their closest form of reinforcements being halfway across the Milky Way, was something Zeus was well aware of. “Prepare for an inner system hyper jump.”
That last command brought about a number of hushed concerns.
“Sir, I would highly advise against that. If the calculations aren’t precise, we could end up inside of a moon,” Poseidon warned.
“TALOS, can you make the necessary calculations?” Zeus asked.
“I’ve already completed them Captain Zeus. Ensign Hermes should be receiving the coordinates now.”
“Coordinates laid in Sir, but I have to agree with Commander…”
“Ensign, we don’t have time to second guess ourselves right now, just push the damn button!”
The stars on the view screen transformed into streams of light once again, just as the bomb in Engine Room One detonated. The ship immediately dropped out of hyperspace. A shining blue orb, accented with white, green and brown, replaced the field of stars that had occupied the large view screen.
They made it, if only by the skin of their teeth, and as to what was going to happen next, well that was any one’s guess. One thing was for sure. Whoever did this did it for a reason, and if that reason was to bring the Olympus to a halt and setting her adrift in space, they had accomplished it.
“TALOS, give me a reading of that planet,” Zeus ordered.
“The planet’s atmosphere is comprised of seventy-eight-point nine percent nitrogen, twenty point nine five percent oxygen, point ninety three percent argon, and point zero three nine percent carbon dioxide. Seventy percent of the planet’s surface is covered with water, both salt and fresh. On the Hetfield Gravity Scale, this planet is deemed a level five. The planet’s population consists of over two hundred million humanoid life forms, scattered across the majority of the planet’s surface. The most advanced civilization appears to be in what would be considered an early bronze age, with no power sources detected anywhere on the planet.”
“Well, at least if we crash, we won’t suffocate,” Poseidon remarked, hoping to lighten the mood if only a little.
“Captain, there’s a ship dropping out of hyperspace, and it’s on an intercept course,” Athena called out.
“On screen,” Poseidon ordered.
The main view screen changed from the view of the planet below them to an image of a small sleek space vessel. The color of its hull is pitch black, making it difficult to see against the backdrop of space.
“Mantodeans,” said Zeus, gritting his teeth.
Mantodeans were an insectoid race of mercenaries. They resembled a praying mantis, without a tail, with the color of their armored skin being a deep red. And if they were closing in on his ship, that could mean only one thing. Prison break!
“Lieutenant Athena, charge all weapons and lock onto that ship,” Zeus ordered, leaving his command chair and coming to stand next to the young woman.
As Athena begins to cycle through the Olympus’ weapon systems, the touch pad in front of her goes dark. “No, no, no, what just happened?” she asked herself, desperately pressing the blackened pad with her fingers. “I’m sorry Captain, but our weapons just went off line!”
“How’s that possible?”
“I don’t know sir. It shouldn’t be.”
“That seems to be the reoccurring theme. Things that shouldn’t be happening are, and no one can tell me how. Like how someone could plant Coridium explosives onboard the most restricted areas of my ship!” Whoever did this was part of his crew, for that Zeus was certain. But who, and why, was something he needed to find out. And once he did, whoever was responsible would be feeling the cold touch of deep space.
A small tremor passed through the ship.
“Sir, plasma shields are off line,” Ensign Hermes stated.
“Athena, where’s that ship?”
“It’s pulled along the starboard side, Captain, and it’s attached itself to our hull. Deck Eighteen, Section Three.”
“That’s part of prisoner stasis,” Poseidon declares. “Sir, do you think they’re here for him?”
“Who else would they be going after,” Zeus answered. “That would certainly explain a lot. Mantodeans don’t come cheap.” And for someone to get one of his crew to turn their backs on the Olympus would require a small fortune.
All this trouble for one being didn’t make that much sense to Zeus, but then again T’Banthu was no ordinary being. General Corvin T’Banthu had been the head of the Ministry of Planetary Defense on Soldarus Three, whose mineral rich moon had a very odd orbit. Half way through the moon’s rotation, it would become entrapped in Soldarus Four’s gravity and would actually switch planetary orbits. For hundreds of years the two planets had always learned to live with their moon’s orbit, with each planet sharing in the mineral rights. Until the most recent government of Soldarus four became a bit too greedy. Soon the two planets quickly found themselves on the brink of war over who actually owned the moon, and since neither planet was willing to let the other have it, they found themselves in a dead locked negotiation for ten standard galactic years, with neither side setting foot on the moon.
But prior to the beginning of the eleventh year, a new President was elected on Soldarus Three. General T’Banthu was dead set against this new President, and when Soldarus Four was suddenly given full rights to the moon, he suspected the deepest level of treachery. The only problem was he couldn’t prove any of it. So, being the loyalist he was, he took the only course of action he had left. He overthrew the government, and proclaimed himself the new President of Soldarus Three. His first order of action was to launch every Type Two Neutron Missile he had at his disposal, and in doing so, cleansed the entire surface of Soldarus Four of life. Making him a zealot, amongst his most loyal of followers.
The Galactic Core Alliance had no choice but to step in. Following a bloody campaign, General T’Banthu was finally apprehended. His trial was broadcast across all the core planets, and after being found guilty of mass genocide, he was promptly given one life sentence for every being alive on Soldarus four at the time of the attack. It was the longest sentence in the entire history of the known galaxy. A sentence being carried out upon Zeus’ ship.
“Ares, we’re going to have visitors. Deck Eighteen. Section Three. Activate the H.A.S.S,” Zeus ordered.
The H.A.S.S, or Hostile Alien Apprehension System was used in extreme cases of defense, or premature prisoner awakenings. A select number of highly trained Officers were equipped with state of the art battle armor, specifically designed to deal with any of the numerous alien species imprisoned aboard the Olympus.
“Sir!” Chief Hephaestus’ voice crackled to life.
“Make it fast Chief, I’ve got a lot going on right now.”
“I’m sure you’re already aware Sir, but that was our last engine. We’re now adrift.”
“I’m well aware Chief, just jettison the core, like the rest, in order to prevent radiation contamination.
“I’m afraid that’s going to be a little difficult Sir. The explosion took out the main controls. I can try the manual override, but given the amount of damage, I can’t make you any promises.”
“Just do your best Chief. That’s all I can ask for right now.”
Ares led a squad of six H.A.S.S members, through the eerily vacant corridors of Deck Eighteen. The battle armor encasing their bodies was comprised of a high strength carbon fiber, which was bonded with a space grade acrylic compound. It was black in color, with a high gloss shine, and was airtight. The helmet’s face shield was solid black. Lines of green light ran along the outer sides of the arms and legs of the suit. Small, high-resolution cameras were strategically placed around the helmet, giving the wearer of the H.A.S.S suit a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree field of vision within the helmet, via several heads-up display panels. A black utility belt and a standard plasma rifle, magnetically stowed away on their backs, finished out the suits compliment.
The suits were virtually invulnerable to extreme temperatures on both sides of the spectrum. They also enhanced the wearers physical attributes, giving them added strength and speed.
The group remained focused, as they ran silently past rows of stasis pods, stacked five high, which resembled large, highly polished titanium sarcophaguses, with the only visible portion of the prisoner inside, being their sleeping face, which could be viewed through the chamber’s clear face window. The group was halfway through Section Two, when TALOS cried out in warning.
“Intruder alert! Intruder alert! Outer hull has been compromised. Deck Eighteen, Section Three.”
“That’s our queue boys, its show time,” Ares told his squad, retrieving his plasma rifle from its cradle. “Remember, this is our ship, and these are our prisoners. And I don’t recall giving anyone permission to wake up early.”
With all of the stealth of a well-seasoned tactical unit, they approached the large steel doorway leading to Section Three, and took up positions on both sides of it. Ares overrode the door’s sensor command functions, causing the door to crack silently open a few inches. Retrieving a small black marble from one of the pouches on his suit’s belt, he rolled it under the door. A holographic control pad flickered to life over his left forearm, along with a display screen. Using the control pad, Ares maneuvered the marble further into Section Three, as the tiny camera inside showed him everything in front of the marble.
The corridor on the other side of the door was ten feet wide, with a ceiling fifty feet high. About one hundred feet down the corridor, the marble discovered four Mantodeans standing in front of a section of stasis pods. One of the mercenaries was trying to hack into a control station. A hole, which had been cut into the outer hull, could also be seen off to the left of the intruders, showing Ares how the mercenaries had gained entry on to his ship.
The Mantodeans ranged from six to seven feet in height. Their thin insect like limbs, and torsos were covered with a metallic armor, while their Praying Mantis heads where encased within white helmets equipped with full-face shields, allowing Ares a view of their large golden bug eyes.
“On my mark, we go in hard and fast,” Ares ordered. “They’re too preoccupied with the stasis chamber, so we’ve got the advantage.” Ares maneuvered the marble to within several feet from the unsuspecting intruders. Pushing a button on the holographic control pad the marble detonated in a large blinding flash. “Go!”
The door swooshed open, as Ares and his team rushed in. Training their weapons on the intruders, blue bolts of plasma energy hissed from the barrels of their rifles. Their shots should have been true, but Ares had failed to detect the two small disks on the floor in front of the Mantodeans. The force field generators did what they were designed to do, as every plasma blast was stopped short of its target.
One of the Mantodeans looked up, and briefly acknowledged Ares and his squad, before turning its attention back to the main controls for the stasis chambers.
“What now, Sir?” asked Sergeant Brian Fulcher. “Should we try to go around?”
A robotic drone flew down from the high ceiling and latched itself to the metal sarcophagus containing General T’Banthu. Once the stasis chamber was lowered to the ground the drone returned to its docking port.
One of the Mantodeans activates the control panel on the front of the stasis chamber, bringing a holographic keyboard to life, while at the same time a golden holographic image of T’Banthu shimmers into existence above the metal container. With a few key strokes, the awakening cycle was initiated, causing the stasis chamber to hum with life.
“We don’t have time! They’ll have him awake and off this ship in ten minutes,” Ares said, realizing he was out of options. Then the craziest idea in the galaxy popped into his head. “Regroup on me,” he ordered, rushing back into the hall and closing the door behind him and his team. “Give me four breach charges.” Taking the small explosive charges, he placed them against the wall on the hull side of the ship, in the form of a small square. The charges were designed for door breaching. He hoped they were powerful enough to penetrate the hull of the Olympus.
“Sir?” questioned Fulcher.
“Activate your mag boots,” Ares ordered, as each of their boots, attached themselves to the metal floor. “TALOS, deactivate the force field safety protocols in this section.”
“Lieutenant Ares, that action is highly inadvisable,” the voice of the ship’s computer argued.
“Tell me something I don’t already know! Just do it!”
“It is done.”
Ares moved his men to a safe distance, and detonated the charges. The shock wave from the blast barely registered through their armor. Smoke filled the hall, but was quickly purged into the vacuum of space, as the blast left a three foot in diameter hole in its wake. Approaching the hole, Ares deactivated his magnetic boots long enough to slip through the hole. Once outside, he reengaged them, sticking himself to the outer hull of the Olympus.
Ares found his heart rate increasing. With each step, he fought the strength of the magnetic hold of his boots, while making his way toward the Mantodeans’ scout ship, which was anchored in place by a small ringed airlock. Removing two breeching charges from his belt, he placed one on to the underside of the scout ship, right underneath the cockpit, and one on to the airlock itself. Taking a few steps back to clear himself of the blast radius, he pressed the detonation button. “Welcome aboard assholes.”
The charges explode simultaneously, disabling the scout ship and setting the vessel adrift, while the charge on the airlock created a violent surge of air from the pressurized area underneath, to purge out into space.
Ares lowers his plasma rifle and takes aim. Within a few seconds, his first target emerges from the opening, as the Mantodean desperately tries to grab at the lip of the hole, in order to keep itself from floating away into the darkness. Somehow, it manages to latch two of its finger like talons on the hole’s jagged edge.
Ares doesn’t hesitate. A blue bolt of plasma tears through the Mantodeans’ armor and into its chest. The force of the blast hurls the now lifeless body out into space. Walking up to the edge of the hole, he looks in and sees the remaining three Mantodeans clinging on to T’Banthu’s stasis chamber, as they continue to fight against the purging air. With three precise shots from his rifle, Ares puts an end to the impending jail break.
From his unique vantage point, Ares looks out across the hull of the Olympus. Even from this distance, he can tell they are helplessly drifting closer to the large blue planet below them. Pushing himself back through the hole, Ares’ magnetic boots quickly take hold of the metal wall. “TALOS, enact safety protocols!”
Force fields glimmer into existence across the two holes in the ship’s hull, causing the still purging air to die off. Deactivating their boots, the rest of the squad joins Ares, while Fulcher checks on the status of T’Banthu’s stasis chamber.
“Stasis mode is still active. They weren’t able to complete the awakening cycle. We need to get the techs in here and get this chamber back in place.”
“Leave it,” said Ares. “We’re adrift and being pulled into the planet’s gravity field. If I were you, I’d be heading to the escape pods.”