A sci-fi story by Tyler Golec
Start from the beginning with part 1
73 Spatio Annus (SA)
Pull the bolt back. Load four shells. Push the bolt foreword. Look through the scope. Find a target. She didn’t pull the trigger. She had been thrown by the singularity, but her pack included a parachute. Its intended use was for base jumping if she needed to leave an elevated position rapidly. So, once she was clear of debris, she pulled her parachute cord.
Most of the soldiers here weren’t equipped for such an event. Broken bodies littered the crater. She had found a project, but she wasn’t taking the shot. The project was efficiently jogging through the crater picking up those still living and bringing them to a centralized location. She hadn’t taken the shot because the project was carrying an LU soldier with it.
She knew projects were weird, but this was beyond anything she had witnessed before. The killing machine looked to be saving lives. It even had a beacon going, calling for an evac shuttle. She activated her own beacon and stepped out from her cover. The project noticed her. She placed her rifle gently onto the ground. The non-reflective silver mask, of course, showed no emotion.
She raised her beacon and spoke, “I have called for emergency transport from the LU, please allow me to evacuate my soldiers. I will not interfere with you extracting yours.”
The masked face nodded. It pointed off to her right and spoke, “There are two LU pilots stuck in their craft. Open the doors, get them out. I have eighteen more UNE soldiers left to dig out.”
“When will your extraction arrive?”
“To be determined,” it said before starting off in a brisk jog.
She had already received her response from LU Command. A Skidder was on its way. She took off to the nearby remains of an LU low-orbit spy satellite. It was built to cross into enemy space. This hardiness was likely why its two pilots were still alive. She was quickly able to engage its emergency systems. Its doors opened. Its pilots were unconscious but very much alive, caught in a mesh of impact gell.
By the time she got them back with the rest of the injured, she had received confirmation that the Skidder had crossed into the crater and was rushing toward them. The project had already gathered the rest of the UNE’s survivors.
“My extraction is almost here, yours?”
“To be determined,” he echoed his prior response.
“Is the UNE really going to abandon a project here?”
“No, them.” He pointed to the survivors. “My pod is currently orbiting the planet. I am receiving orders to extract myself.”
Its voice was as emotionless as its mask.
“We can take them as POWs,” she said. “We will help them recover. They won’t be abused.”
The mask regarded her. “Good,” it said. “What is your name?”
“Special Forces Sergent Zhao Yuming, Markman S Class. Do projects have names?”
“Yes, I am Project Fifteen, that is my name.”
Her Skidder arrived. A team of medics and reserve soldiers hopped out but froze when they saw the project.
“It’s fine, it’s helping us. We are to take care of its men and it will let us be,” she called out to the LU forces. They began to progress forward cautiously.
The project turned to walk away.
“Thank you, Project Fifteen.”
The silver mask looked back for a moment. Its pod struck the earth before it, kicking up even more dust and dirt. By the time the small debris cloud had dissipated, the project had entered its pod. Its engines engaged and it was gone. Their Skidder exited the crater soon after.
They were supposed to be arriving to reinforce an already taken world, not to provide support for a retreat. The solar sails were almost finished being retracted. She could feel the hum of Starcross I’s conventional thrusters engaging. The craft had four massive skyscraper-sized thrusters, giving the dreadnought class craft excellent acceleration.
She was in the fighter bay already in her cockpit waiting to be deployed from Starcross I. In front of her, her systems displayed a map of the battle around the planet. The display showed that their surface forces had been decimated. They controlled zero percent of Epsilon Eridani C’s surface. Yet, They still maintained 55 percent dominance of the planet’s outer zones.
Warning lights lit up in his cockpit and the screens around her turned on, displaying the fighter bay around her. She was one of the two hundred fighters that Starcross I carried. The bay doors opened and she stared out into the stars. She was pinned into her seat as Starcross I shot her and her fellow fighters into space.
Little more than an armored cockpit, solar panels, thrusters, and turrets, the UNE E-Class Fighter were a potent weapon for combat in open space and in the outer atmosphere. As a swarm of two hundred, they rushed to the defense of the many hobbled craft attempting to escape the planet’s atmosphere.
She watched a Jugernaught Class carrier struggling in the mid-atmosphere. Its nuclear engines were failing. Escape pods were being jettisoned from it for the safety of the UNE fleet.
There was an LU carrier and three gun barges approaching. She heard her squad leader’s voice fill her cockpit, “We are to engage the gun barges. We can’t allow them to fire on our retreating forces.”
She switched on her squad communication. The two hundred fighters consisted of forty squads. “Lead, permission to speak freely?”
“What the fuck is happening here?”
“A singularity drive failed catastrophically on the surface. Took out the majority of our ground forces. It pulled several of our orbiting craft down as well.”
“Wonderful, what a mess.”
“Focus on the gun barges.”
“Are we ignoring the carrier?”
“It hasn’t deployed fighters yet. We’ll adjust once it does. We need to keep those gun barges occupied with us. Blue 1, permission to speak freely retracted. Time to focus.”
She turned her attention to the rapidly approaching gun barges and the trailing carrier. The glow on the edge of her screens went red. They were being targeted. Her screens went bright white for a moment before they readjusted to the glow from the plasma shot at them from gun barges’ cannons.
Her implants linked her with her fighter. Its systems flooded her with data gathered on the trajectory of the incoming plasma streams. Working in one with the system, she and the fighter’s AI chose their idyllic route. The plasma cut into the cloud of fighters and hit none. At this range, this level of reaction time was nothing for the E-Class Fighter’s union of AI and Enhanced Human.
A perfect team. The AI of each pilot’s individual craft wove their thoughts together with their squads. In units of five. Squads swarmed the fighters overwhelming their enemies’ defenses. The LU carrier was starting to deploy its own fighters.
Raptor Drones, the LU relied on drones to counter the UNE’s fighters. They didn’t have the capability of fielding manned fighters. At least, not fighters that could compete with the UNE’s E-System.
“Switch to drones,” she heard her squad leader’s thoughts.
One… five… nine… seventeen… her squads kill tally melded with her own. She wasn’t sure whose fighter took out which drone.
Shock… It was like losing a fifth of her consciousness when a drone caught her squad mate with uranium rounds. The radioactive rounds cut through the fighter’s armor like a plasma blade through simple metals.
“New Ammunitions detected from drones, prioritize avoiding fire from the Raptor Drones.”
She felt sick, her squad members’ thoughts still hung in the tangle of their consciousness. Not like the others, but lingering, unceasing, so many memories. She was still piloting her craft seamlessly. The gun barges were losing firepower, and being slowly crippled. The drones still weren’t a match for them, most of them. The carrier was falling back.
Two hundred fighters were reduced to one hundred and fifty-seven limping back to Starcross I.
Project Fifteen was able to watch some of the battles in space around the planet. He wondered how much different those pilots were from the projects as they were enhanced humans too.
Though the UNE reinforcements had arrived. It still wasn’t enough to turn the battle in their favor, not yet. They now only controlled forty percent of the planet’s outer zones. Starcross I and Starcross II were reinforcing vessels. They were angling to the closest of the planet’s two moons. The plan seemed to be to retreat to their base on Lunar A where they already had fortifications.
“Project Fifteen.” A familiar voice filled his pod. “You are late.”
“Submit to unloading.”
“Why are we fighting for this world?”
“Strategic positioning in the Epsilon Eridani System.”
“Closest UNE support?”
“Starcross I and Starcross II have recently arrived and Starcross III and Starcross IV are on route. The priority of Mission Epsilon Eridani is to destabilize the LU’s complete control of the System.
Project fifteen switched his visuals so he could look out into the vast nothingness dotted with stars. How many of Earth’s children had the UNE slung across the vastness to Epsilon Eridani?
He submitted to unloading.
Her eyes opened. The fog of sleep was falling off her slowly. Where was she? She blinked the moisture from her eyes. She could see the dark side of Epsilon Eridani C’s Lunar B. That’s how it was labeled on her display.
Where is Epsilon Eridani C? She recalled astronomy lessons as a child. The LU had reached several distant systems by the time she enlisted in the LUE-System compatibility trials. She had been ten when her parents changed her schooling so she could study in the government’s private program.
The Epsilon Eridani System had two Earth-like worlds. The other systems they had reached had nothing to offer but additional moon bases that would turn into cities, like Ganymede, the capital of the LU. The LU was faster than the UNE to reach deep into space. Colonizing a habitable planet would completely flip the dynamic between the UNE and the LU.
She remembered being briefed on her mission. Terraforming was well underway on Epsilon Eridani B and C. They would soon be able to support human life. That was… she couldn’t remember how long ago that was.
“LUE-System activating,” her console spoke to her.
The halo-like ring she wore around her head began to light up. The fog in her mind from her long rest was suddenly cleared. She took a sharp quick breath. Her fingers tingled as they brushed across the sensitive devices in her cockpit. She felt the solar panels of her craft shift to catch the sunlight as she drifted past the moon.
Her craft was part of the LU’s counter to the UNE’s enhanced humans and E-System. The LU didn’t have the resources of the UNE and only a fraction of their population. However, they were born in space, living entirely in space on the moons of Jupiter and Saturn, or on colony stations crossing the void of space to distant systems.
She had never been to Earth. She had never been bound by true gravity. Her cylinder-shaped craft was nonreflective except for its numerous solar panels. The craft was rather nondescript. Its design was ugly compared to the unnecessarily sleek and aerodynamic craft of the UNE.
She felt the Lue-System alerting her of its desire to release its armored casing in order to initiate the mission. She gave it permission to do so. Their mission was to intercept the Starcross fleet before it could support UNE’s initial assault.
She was late, Starcross I and Starcross II were already here. Her craft shuddered as its protective casings were jettisoned into the orbit around the moon. Four thickly armored shell-like wings encased a heavily enforced core.
Her LUE-System seamlessly passed the fine details of the battlefield in her mind. Starcross I was trying to put itself in orbit around Lunar A. Starcross II was putting itself into orbit directly opposite Starcross I.
She let herself drift closer to the Lunar A. They hadn’t detected her yet. Solar panels in her outwings began soaking up the energy of Epsilon Eridani. She needed no time at all to prepare her Centralized Cannon. A blinding beam of concentrated solar energy crossed the nothingness between her Starcross I. The beam containing incredible heat and radiation cut into one of the four massive thrusters. It failed catastrophically.
The air within the ship fueled a brief inferno then there was a mass exodus of gas that pushed the craft closer to the moon. It began to sink, crippled, and caught now by the gravity of the moon.
They knew where she was now. Fighters were launched from the remains of Starcross I. Starcross II was also launching fighters. Her system counted three-hundred and fifty-seven incoming fighters. Her LUE-System began linking with the E-Systems of the E-Class Fighters. She felt the intent of the UNE pilots.
Her shell-like wings flared out and then readjusted as four uranium turrets were revealed. Her Mark II Singularity Drive came to life and without any visible means of propulsion, she shot toward her enemies. Their thoughts filled her consciousness. She knew their desire. She knew their fear.
She wasn’t in her cockpit anymore. She was her craft. She was the Inanis Eques 001. She saw with its eyes. Its four wings were like her own limbs. Only, she had never been as in sync with her own body as she was with the Inanis Eques 001.
For better or for worse, the events around the planet Epsilon Eridani C had become far more interesting. Project Fifteen had been unloaded and redirected directly to the moon base as Starcross I looked as if it was about to make the plunge to the surface of the moon. It had gotten the thruster on the far side of the one that was struck operating. Yet, it was still to be determined if that would be rough for Starcross I to make it.
The systems of his extraction pod served well enough to display the battle that was unfolding between this new LU craft and the hordes of UNE E-Class Fighters. The new LU craft didn’t have any external thrusters, yet it was able to accelerate and decelerate at an incredible rate. At first, Project Fifteen had assumed the craft was a drone. That kind of acceleration and deceleration would kill a human, unless…
It seemed the LU had enhanced human programs too. He could feel her, within her craft. She was beyond that of the UNE’s Enhanced Pilots, she was like him. But, she was beyond him. He was limited to his body, an enhanced chemistry project as it was. She was only limited by what humans could build, and they had built her a monster.
The LU’s new craft deployed cones, drones connected to the craft’s AI, to its pilot’s consciousness. They moved with the same lack of thrusters as the craft, with the same incredible pace. He watched the battle as if it was art.
She was beautiful. She was ascending past humanity when he was still beholden to it. He closed his eyes and let his consciousness drift. Sometimes, he could hear thoughts broadcasted from the E-Systems, across the vastness of outer space.
She felt him as he felt her. Even as she battled in the cloud of fighters, she was able to feel him. Project Fifteen smiled as his pod adjusted orientation. It was beginning its descent to the moon’s surface. His display cut off, but he could still feel her.
Special Forces Sergent Zhao Yuming had made it back to the LU’s Primary Base on Epsilon Eridani C. She was to stay on the planet’s surface. They didn’t have much need of her in orbit. With the arrival of the Inanis Eques 001, it seemed that their orbital defenses needed little help as one hundred percent of the planet’s outer zones were quickly claimed by the LU.
This was the first time anyone in the base had heard of the Inanis Eques 001. Perhaps General Ainen had known but he was killed by a project who went rampaging through the base. Either way, it had the UNE’s fighters retreating, unable to even scratch this new craft, their orbital defenses were being rapidly reinforced.
Yet, it didn’t feel good to seep the UNE limping away. The gravity of the moon hadn’t been enough to suck the damaged dreadnaught to its surface. Its single-functioning thruster was enough to establish its lunar orbit. The resupply from these two crafts was massive for the UNE. The UNE had sent this force into the depths of space with one intent, taking Epsilon Eridani C from the LU. Adjustments to plans came slowly as messages crossed the vastness. The UNE would try again before this was done.
“What is this battle even for?” a young soldier asked no one looking at the three-dimensional display at the center of the room.
“So, we can have our own planets,” she said to the soldier.
“There are so many systems out there, why does the UNE want ours so bad? They didn’t terraform the planets, and we braved the darkness of space first…”
“They want more. Those living on the Earth have always just wanted more. They sent the first colonists to the moons of Jupiter and Saturn to fend for their own, to bring them back more. That’s why we declared independence.”
“Wasn’t it enough to control Earth and Mars?”
“Look what they did to Earth.”
“There’s so much space out there…”
“Yes, and we will survive. Space is our home. We are not bound by humanity on Earth.”
“What do they think this battle is for?”
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