This is a new story I am writing, with updates planned at least on a weekly basis. I will also be updating this on a new blog:
The Nobles | Just another WordPress site
As well as here. Anyway, without further ado, I present to you the prelude to The Nobles. Enjoy!
PALUM FREIGHTER KYOCERA:
DEE DEET! DEE DEET! DEE DEET!
Treo grunted and stirred in his sleep. As the beeping grew louder, he lifted through the layers of his subconscious and snapped awake, looking at the controls in sudden alertness. His alertness soon turned to confusion, however, as he looked between the offending indicator light and the direct visual feed (DVF) cameras.
He shook his head and keyed the freighter’s intercom. “Cuesep! Get up here!”
The aging engineer sighed, put down his tools and got out of the engine room’s service pit. The journey had already been long, and maintaining the aging freighter was more than a full time job. It was bad enough that the Tunneler drive kept breaking down, forcing the ship into long periods of sublight travel to the nearest warp gate and parts store. Treo knew this, and would only be calling Cuesep if a new and more urgent problem arose.
Cuesep lumbered up to the cockpit pod, insulated in the center of the ship. He had to duck to poke inside the bulkhead so Treo could address him. The cockpit was cramped, occupied by a mess of controls, status lights and viewscreens. Two out of its three chairs were empty, and only meant to be occupied should the rest of the freighter be crippled, and by necessity, abandoned. While it was a lifesaver, the design was a constant reminder of how dangerous space was. Cuesep tried not to think about this as he spoke. He had to speak loudly to be heard over the ever louder alarm.
“Whatcha need, chief?”
Treo turned to see Cuesep. He was clearly annoyed, his teeth gritted and his eyes dark. “Will you take a look at the proximity alarm? It’s been going off like crazy for the past couple of minutes, but there’s absolutely zero on the viewscreens.”
Cuesep ducked back out of the cockpit and took a step over to the access panel for the freighter’s sensors and controls. Pulling the panel off, he took a cursory look at the proximity sensor circuits. “Looks fine, chief!” he shouted, fiddling with the wires just to make sure.
“All right, must be a software problem. I’ll run diagnostics.” Treo set the software in motion as he sat back and tried to block out the sound. Mercifully, the alarm shut off as the diagnostics ran on its programming, checking for critical errors.
“Do you want me to suit up and check around the sensors, see if anything’s stuck on our hull?”
Treo waved him off. “I already panned the direct feeds around. There’s nothing near them. I don’t know what it could be.”
Cuesep thought about it for a minute. “We might be about to run into a cloaked ship.”
Treo snorted. “Cloaked ship? Come on, remember your lessons! Cloaking’s been banned for 80 years, ever since the Alliance sent Jobs packing from Galaxy Old.”
Cuesep spun Treo’s chair around and ducked close, nose to nose with him. “No software errors, no hardware problems, nothing stuck to our hull. Improbable ain’t impossible, Treo. Stop. The. Sh-”
Cuesep was cut short as an impossibly loud screeching tore through the ship and the whole vessel lurched forward. Cuesep pushed himself up from where he had been knocked forward, slamming his fist on the airlock control, sealing him and Treo inside the cockpit.
“KRIST ALMIGHTY! Half the screens are dead. We’ve run into something huge!” Treo looked over the status lights, breathing quicker as he saw more and more of them blinking red. “We’ll break up any minute from now!”
Cuesep had one thought on his mind. “Are we venting?”
Treo looked at him like he had spoken gibberish. “What?”
Cuesep grabbed Treo by his collar and slapped him, shocking him out of his panic. “Are. We. Venting. ATMOSPHERE?!”
Treo quickly glanced at the requisite status lights. “No, not mostly. But the bulkheads will buckle any second. We-”
But Cuesep was already gone. Running through the ship’s halls, sometimes flying as gravity faltered off and then on, he ran to the passenger cabin. “Pre,” he thought, offering a desperate prayer to the gods. “Please let Pre be alive.”
Gravity faltered again, shutting off longer this time. Cuesep floated to the cabin hatch and opened it. His sister’s only child, Pre, floated up against the outer bulkhead, the young boy bleeding from a gash in his head, some of it congealed over a closed eyelid. Cuesep launched himself over to the boy, almost crying with relief when he saw that he was still breathing. He grabbed Pre and strapped the boy’s belt to his own with a carabiner, quickly moving out of the cabin and back through the halls.
As he moved, running now that gravity was back on, he heard the ship groaning and crumpling around him He ran faster, thankful that the freighter’s designers had made the inner bulkheads stronger for this kind of emergency. He drew closer to the last turn before the cockpit hatch…almost there…
A new tearing sound erupted behind Cuesep and Pre as the air around them suddenly started rushing past, knocking the pair backward. Cuesep instinctively scrabbled at the walls, finally finding purchase on a zero grav handhold. It took all his strength, but he slowly began climbing along the wall, pulling himself along using his muscles and sheer will. He rounded the turn to the cockpit hatch, gritted his teeth, and pushed the control to open it.
The air inside vented quickly, and Treo was strapped in, preventing him from being sucked out into the hall. He quickly put on an oxygen mask and looked out the hatch to see Cuesep and Pre dangling off the wall. Treo shook off his surprise and moved to grab Cuesep, but Cuesep shook his head violently for Treo to stay his hand.
Cuesep unhooked Pre’s carabiner and, while holding on with one hand, used his other hand to push Pre’s inert form against the air still howling past all of them. “GRAB HIM!” he bellowed. Treo hurriedly obeyed him and pulled Pre inside. Once he saw Pre disappear through the hatch, Cuesep tried pulling himself further, but his grip slipped. Just before he shot out of reach, Treo threw his arm out and grabbed him. However, the wind from the venting air was too strong, and soon Treo felt his own grip slipping, unable to summon the physical power necessary to haul Cuesep into the cockpit. As he looked down, knowing that they were all probably about to die, Cuesep caught his eye with a stone cold stare.
“Make me a promise, Treo!” he shouted, his voice hoarse.
“What is it?” Treo knew this was it. The terrible choice that Cuesep was going to force him to make.
“First: take care of my nephew. Save him. Keep him alive!”
Cuesep’s eyes grew dark. “Let me go.”
Treo knew he had to, but still refused. “No! I can pull you up!”
Cuesep didn’t reply; instead he squeezed Treo’s hand until Treo’s bones were on the verge of breaking. Treo couldn’t stand the pain and opened his hand, jerking it back. But Treo held on, yanked up to the hatch by Treo’s response to the pain. He grabbed onto the nearest handholds and swung his bulk through the hatch, pressing the button and shutting it before helping Treo into the pilot’s chair.
“You hurtin’?” Treo nodded. “Too bad. You still need to fly us outta here, cowboy. Switch to the pod controls. The Kyocera is lost, poor girl. We don’t need to know how badly she’s ****ed up anymore.”
Treo chuckled darkly, flipping the switch over to cockpit controls only. He then hit the explosive bolts that blew the innermost superstructure away from the pod and lit the engines, powering out and away from the wreckage. He could see now what the ship had impacted. And for the second time today, Treo and Cuesep were filled with shock.
Pre moaned and opened his eyes, trying to push back the throbbing in his head His eyes opened wider, however, once he saw what was on the viewscreens. “Holy shit!” he blurted, looking on in awe.
Filling the viewscreens was part of a hull, belonging to a ship more massive than any the three had seen, either in real life or on video. Despite some buckled hull plates at the point of impact, it looked intact and under power, too. As the pod flew away and more of the ship came into view, it became obvious from the many gun turrets and sleek lines that it was some sort of battlecruiser.
“That’s not a Palum design, Treo.”
Treo nodded. “We’re being invaded, Cuesep. But by who?”
Behind them, Pre cleared his throat. “Guys, look at the third viewscreen to the right. Now zoom in.” Treo turned around.
“Good. You’re awake. Whatcha see, kid?”
“Just look!” Pre grabbed the camera control and zoomed in on the symbol he had spotted on the battlecruiser’s hull. It took the form of a hand grasping an apple, which in turn contained a stylized galaxy swirl. Around the crest were the words, “From his knowledge, We gain control.” Cuesep sucked in his breath.
“Shit. Shit, shit, shit. Treo, we better override the DDS. We need to alert Palum. The Apel empire is back.”
Treo nodded and brought up the settings for the Default Distress Signal, keeping their coordinates but typing a new custom message. “Ships of Apel Empire in Palum Space. At least one battlecruiser using cloaking technology. Ready defenses.”
“Ships of Apel Empire in Palum Space. At least one battlecruiser using cloaking technology. Ready defenses.”
Captain Designate 0015 snorted. “How quaint. As if their warning will make a difference. Still…” 0015 sent the new status to headquarters, and nodded when he received his response. “Communications 000639, alert the fleet. Since the Palum defenses now know we’re coming anyway, no need to use up our generators on cloaking anymore. Decloak and full speed ahead!”
000639 acknowledged, then sent the message. “All ships, this is Fleet Designate 001. Decloak and full speed ahead.”
The sensors lit up like wildfire. “Well, Cuesep,” Treo whispered. “Looks like we may need to stay cool a while longer. This ship isn’t alone.” He zoomed out all of the cameras so Cuesep and Pre could see too. Pre got out of his chair and stood next to his uncle, who encircled his waist and held him close, his eyes spelling out the fear he felt. Decloaking all around their little pod was a fleet of hundreds of similar warships.
“Uncle Cuesep,” Pre began to speak. “Palum’s not going to win against them, are we?”
Cuesep shook his head as more warships decloaked, bristling with more firepower than the combined fleets of all worlds, past or present. “Kid, no one may even survive.”
BEGIN PLAYBACK: RECORDINGS/THE_NOBLES