“End of the Line” and its sequel, “Launch Sequence,” will both be on sale for $0.99 from September 19th through the 26th at all worldwide retailers!
“Granite Base, this is Alpha-1. Launch Sequence stand-by.”
“Roger Alpha-1. Begin activation sequence.”
I listened to the comm chatter from Launch Control and the pilots while my goggles displayed vast amounts of information. The engine bay information window was bordered in red that turned to yellow as the Icarus’ power plant ramped up for blast-off. There were only two weapons pods, both defensive in nature, though I wondered how effective they would be should we pop out of the mountain only to find a thousand Kai warships waiting for us. I cycled through the acceleration creches, finding my parents’ two rows down from me, both a healthy green.
“Admiral Shaw, we’re cleared for launch,” the pilot’s voice said over the comm. Captain Jun was a female according to the display data next to her name, but she sounded like the gruffest, toughest Marine my brain could imagine.
“Roger that,” my father replied in a tight voice. “Let’s light ‘em up and get the hell off this rock ASAP.”
I turned my attention back to the engineering window. The fusion reactors had been steady at five percent until a few minutes ago when they began to slowly climb into the thirty percent range. I watched, holding my breath involuntarily, as the numbers inched into the low forties, then suddenly ramped up to ninety before leveling off and continuing their journey to one hundred. I expected the ship to vibrate or hum just like in all the movies, but I felt and heard nothing. I wasn’t sure if the gel in my creche was dampening any sensations. I could still hear the muffled noises of the last few sailors climbing into their own creches after securing the rest of the passengers. Continue reading
Mom and Dad talked for a while, though not before sending me off to a corner of the room to read. I had finally calmed down enough to begin once again daydreaming of the strange, shiny ship being prepped a dozen meters down the corridor from me. I felt ashamed that I had cried like a baby, but my mother forced me to admit I’d sneaked enough looks at the holos on the Wire to have a terrifying grasp of what the Kai did to their enemies.
Both Mom and Dad admitted to being just as frightened. When I asked how come they didn’t seem scared, my dad looked away when my mom said they had both done their share of crying over the last few years and didn’t have much—if any—tears left in them. The thought of crying so much that I couldn’t cry ever again scared me almost as much as what I’d seen the Kai do to our colonies. The only thing more terrifying, according to Dad, was how once the Wire went dead, truly awful things happened.
There were rumors the aliens harvested humans for food, used them in disturbing genetic experiments, even dissolving every living person in giant vats of acid. The tales that made me shiver were the ones describing how the Kai set everyone on fire.
I’d burned myself with a nanosolder tool when I was eight. It took almost a month for the wound to completely heal, and hurt even with the pain blockers the doctor prescribed. I shivered again at the thought of that kind of pain all over my body. Continue reading
The elevator opened up into a cavern so large I couldn’t see the far wall. Part of what was blocking my view of the other wall was a starship. I didn’t know how I could know that based on the limited section of it that I could see, but inside, I knew. There was an army of men and women in white lab coats scurrying around the ship like ants around their queen. I looked up toward the ceiling, but there didn’t seem to be one. The walls rose straight up until the darkness swallowed everything. The ship didn’t look like any ship I had ever seen before. It wasn’t that it was so alien that I couldn’t have imagined it, but it was just so… different.
I loved science fiction, both books and movies, though I hadn’t been allowed to see any of the scarier adult versions. I thought I had an idea of what every ship ever conceived of would or could look like. This one didn’t resemble a rocket, the old NASA space shuttles, nor even the Terran Navy’s almost uncountable variations in ships. It didn’t look like any of the Kai ships I had seen on the news and in documentaries.
As I walked along the new yellow line in the floor that began to glow once we stepped out of the elevator, I tried to figure out where the cockpit was, where the engines were, where the airlock for letting crew members in and out could possibly be on the massive vessel before me. The ship looked like a giant, slightly flattened egg with a polished silver outer hull that returned weird images of us as we walked by it. The reflective surface made me think of a funhouse mirror in the way that it distorted every shape it captured. Twice as we continued toward wherever Mom and the yellow line led us, I noticed that some of the reflections would simply wink out, almost as if we had become vampires for a few seconds. Continue reading
My mother held my hand so tight it began to hurt. She gave me a soothing look, but I could see the fear in her eyes. I didn’t really understand what was happening, but I knew all of the adults were scared. The thunderous booms that filtered down through the underground complex resonated regularly. Every thump caused Mom to jump a little, and each time she would squeeze my hand even tighter.
“Mom, you’re hurting me,” I said after another powerful explosion made the world around us vibrate.
“I’m sorry, honey,” she replied, relaxing her grip, then giving me a quick hug while holding a small smile on her face for a few seconds. “I’m just nervous.”
Another boom, this time louder than any previous, rumbled down the walls. I could hear other children crying, whimpering in the line all around us, along with the voices of parents doing their best to soothe them. Just like my mother was doing for me. I wondered again if I was dreaming.
A week ago, I was playing in the park, beating my friends at video games, and practicing with my school’s basketball team. At twelve years old, I didn’t pay much attention to the adult things like the news unless my father left the tablet screen open to the cartoons, though some of the cartoons made no sense. Chancellor Ryley was a woman who looked almost like my mother, and I didn’t understand why some cartoons showed her as a donkey, or why the aliens we were at war with were stuffing apple pies into her exaggeratedly large mouth.
Sometimes I liked to read the sports section. Earth was two hundred light years away, but they had all of the best sports leagues, as some sports couldn’t be played on colony worlds if the gravity or atmosphere wasn’t right. Once in a while my own name was in the local sports section, along with those of my teammates. Sometimes we got our pictures in the news as well. My father printed a hardcopy of the time I made the news by scoring the winning basket in the championship game when I was eight.
It was a distraction from the hushed whispering—sometimes even shouting and shoving—the adults did over what was happening in the Coalition. All of us kids were told not to worry about any of that, only to focus on the next game, the next day, the next homework assignment. It was easy for me, though it made me uncomfortable around certain adults, as they sometimes forgot to stop worrying and focus on the next game, day, or work assignment. Continue reading