The Silver Dragon: part of the 'Tale of Two Ships' series

Master Tactician
Joined Jan 2012 Posts: 2,161

First off, link to part one: READ THIS FIRST!

And part two: READ THIS NEXT!

Once you've read both of those, then start reading this story as it follows on from both of those. 

Updates might take a while, as with my other works. Apologies for any delays.

Chapter 1

It seemed like the world had forgotten about Sofia.

She had woken to find herself in a tiny room, about two metres square, equipped with the most basic essentials: a thin foam mat with a paper-thin blanket and a slightly thicker piece of foam as a pillow, a tiny triangular sink and an equally tiny triangular toilet which rotated out from a cubbyhole in the wall then swivelled back until its edge was flush with the wall- a pun that amused her for about five seconds. She quickly explored every inch of the room but couldn’t find any trace of a door, or any way out except a tiny air vent which she could cover with the palm of her hand.

That night, the nightmares started. She saw islands that had survived months-long sieges crumbling in a few minutes against an unstoppable onslaught, as the Spanish Empire crumbled under an unprecedented attack by the Draconian Empire. In the space of a few weeks, seventeen million people across six hundred or so islands simply vanished from the face of the earth, the last band of survivors trying to flee the capital of Madrid on the cruise ship turned warship Catalonian Princess before it too was overcome.

She saw the faces of thousands of people, including many of her friends and some of her own family, who she hadn’t seen since before the attacks began and who she was now sure she would never see again. Every night they came to her, crowding around her in droves until she suddenly woke up tangled in the blanket and barely able to move. Some were the faces of young children who had been onboard the Catalonian Princess when it was overrun, and it was these faces which haunted her most.

Any time she was awake, she tried to keep herself occupied by doing something, anything, to escape those faces; she would pace back and forth across the room endlessly, humming or singing until her voice failed, or imagining herself in the future as ruler of the Spanish Empire, her seventeen million subjects impossibly gathered into one crowd below the balcony of the royal palace on the island of Madrid, stretching for miles in all directions. Eventually, though, she would have to sleep, and the nightmares came back.

She was sure something had happened on that ship, but the only explanation she could come up with for what had happened was that her brother Aurelio had convinced himself that the children he was unofficially in charge of must not be allowed to fall into enemy hands at any cost, including turning his gun on them instead of the attackers who had boarded the ship.  He would have started with her, but she was incapacitated with another seizure and wouldn’t be a threat; however she had recovered in time to take the gun from him by force, fatally injuring him in the process. How exactly this fitted in with what other people around had said, she didn’t know, but the alternative was that she had been the shooter, even though she was sure that the seizure would have left her unable to move. Though the seizures had become more rare as she got older, they were becoming more powerful and would often be accompanied by very detailed and often very realistic dreams as her brain misfired and rebelled against her. She almost managed to convince herself that that was what had happened, but time and again she came up against the same inescapable fact and the illusion was broken.

The room’s single light bulb brightened and dimmed at random intervals, a tray with bland food and metallic-tasting water would slide through a hatch in the base of the door, also at random intervals, but the only sounds came from the pipes attached to the sink and toilet and the dull buzz of electricity from the light. It was impossible to tell how long she stayed in that room, isolated and utterly alone, but after what felt like months (but was only about ten days) the light, which had slowly dimmed until the filament glowed a dull red, suddenly blazed at full power. Though the lightbulb was feeble, Sofia was used to the darkness and the sudden brightness was blinding.

A door opened somewhere, heard but not seen, then strong hands grabbed her, held her still. The sharp pain of a needle in her left arm, then as suddenly as it started, they were gone and the room was in total darkness again. The door had sealed again, undetectable against the wall, but Sofia still tried to find it, knowing there was a way out somewhere. Her arm slowly went numb as whatever had been injected took effect, and through a combination of that and sheer exhaustion she fell asleep, and was immediately gripped by a strange and vivid dream.

Around her, a vast outdoor auditorium of some kind lay empty, but the stage was a hive of activity as teams worked to set up lights, speakers and a variety of objects including a set of timpani, a grand piano and, possibly most bizzarely, a pair of four-ton cannons which were concealed behind heavy black curtains at either side of the stage.  The tall spire of a building could be seen above the left side of the stage, and the ground was paved with flat, square stones and criss-crossed by more wires which led to more speakers and lights, and also to a number of large cameras which had been set up to cover every possible angle, with one apparently suspended on wires over the seats to swoop over the audience.

A man appeared in the centre of the stage holding a clipboard, and picked up a microphone.

“OK, people, final rehearsal time! Let’s get it right this time.” He shot a scowl offstage towards the sound desk, and a few people laughed.

From the left, a young man in his late teens or slightly older took to the stage and sat down at the piano, and played a piece that Sofia thought she knew. Without warning, one of the cannons went off with a tremendous BOOM that shook the light fittings and sent the pianist diving for cover under the piano before he realised that they were not under attack. He crawled out from under the piano and headed offstage with the clear intention of having some very strong words with whoever had triggered the cannon. When he didn’t return, the man with the clipboard gestured furiously for someone else to come on stage. With a blast of music, a marching band entered from both sides of the stage and played a set of marches before  filing off again to be replaced by a group of about thirty children of about ten who performed some kind of dance routine to loud, thumping music, followed by three women who sang a beautiful version of a song that Sofia thought she had heard before, though she didn’t remember the words. Usually she was very good at recognising music, but apparently that hadn’t carried over into the dream. After them came a very noisy group of four who played electric guitars and drums and possibly did some singing too, although it was inaudible over the din of the instruments.

Three more acts came and went- a solo singer/guitarist, some kind of comedian (sample joke: ‘What did the ocean say to the island? Nothing, it just waved’; the rest were no better) and finally a troupe of acrobats- then there was a brief lull in the activity on stage. A seat directly behind Sofia suddenly banged as whoever had just been sitting on it stood up abruptly. She whirled around in her seat in surprise, and had just enough time to recognise the person’s face before she woke up-

 -to the strong smell of ammonia coming from the air vent, and couldn’t fall asleep again because the light was at full brightness and her arm was still throbbing.

Sofia tried to remember the dream, but already it was fading rapidly and she found she could only remember fragments. One thing that didn’t fade was the identity of the person she had seen in the last moments of the dream, the same person she had seen during the seizure on the Catalonian Princess, and then a couple of hours later in the flesh. Someone or something had planted this Amy girl in her mind.

It sounded absurd when stated so bluntly, but it had happened before on at least three occasions where she had seen the person in a dream before meeting them and knowing details about them that it would be impossible to know otherwise- on one occasion it had caused the person considerable embarrassment; on another, it had foiled an assassination attempt on her father and several high-ranking advisers. Although the cause of these dreams was unknown, they were always accurate.

There was something big happening; she could feel it in her bones.

And it wasn’t just a side-effect of the injection. 

My VC story: 
Vega Conflict-er since closed beta phase 1, back when torpedo harriers ruled the sector.
BP- started in the black sea days, then the game died...
WC- started pre-World Map, then everything went downhill.

My BP story series: (in progress).

  • jimmymcgoochie
    Master Tactician
    Joined Jan 2012 Posts: 2,161

    Chapter 2

    Three more days passed, or at least Sofia thought it was three days- she woke and slept three times, at any rate, the light still offering no clues to the time, before she woke suddenly when a sound came from one of the walls. The wall slid back by about three inches, and then smoothly slid aside to reveal a door and harsh white light. The lights in the corridor outside weren’t that bright, but compared to the single light bulb they were blinding and Sofia saw nothing of her surroundings while two uniformed men carried her between them, their faces hidden behind mirror-like helmet visors.

    A cold breeze ruffled her hair, and she squinted into the light until her eyes adjusted and she could see properly. She was standing outside, with only a metal railing between her and a vertical drop of about a hundred and fifty metres to the sea. She began to make out details of her guards’ uniforms, and quickly realised that they were prison guards, and that the insignia on their shoulders was for one of possibly the most infamous prisons of all, the Draconian Empire’s Echo-class prison fortresses. Maximum security didn’t begin to describe it: the cells were all below sea level so that the entire prison and all its inmates could be flooded in minutes in the event of a mass breakout or a riot, the entire staff (with the exception of the guards) were themselves convicts for lesser crimes, since no sane person would ever volunteer to work within a hundred miles of the most deranged, dangerous and criminally insane people in the world, the ones so cold-blooded and ruthless that even the Empire was afraid of them. The worst criminals of all- murderers, rapists, the ones that did things to other people that most couldn’t even begin to imagine, were kept in the Echo-class prisons, male and female together. That seemed like a terrible mistake, but almost invariably the female inmates were even worse, and the men in the prisons were just sane enough to know to stay well away; those who weren’t never lasted long.

    She looked down to the ocean and saw a Floating Fortress approach the island, and almost laughed at their audacity until she realised that the ship wasn’t attacking but instead was sailing into one of the bases’ entrances. It seemed counterintuitive that the Forsaken would hand over their most dangerous and murderous people to the enemy, but it made sense for both sides to send their worst criminals to the same place, since it assured that both sides were safe from them. It was also a sign of just how dangerous the inmates were that they could trigger a rare show of co-operation between the two warring parties.

    At some unspoken signal the guards decided that she had had her time outside, and unceremoniously grabbed one arm each and carried her back into the prison’s interior, her feet barely bushing the ground. They continued for what seemed like half a mile in a single corridor that sloped gently down, only a handful of doors along its length and completely empty apart from the three of them, until they reached the very centre of the fortress. They entered at the top, only a couple of floors above the one they were on but more than fifty below in what looked like a massive pit, with the lowest floor nearly half a kilometre below and well below sea level. She was handed over to another pair of guards, their uniforms much more worn out and their overall appearances much scruffier than the last pair. The conditions and the inmates got worse as they descended in an elevator that looked more like a cage, which swayed side to side as it descended with only four taut steel wires to guide it and the cables to support its weight, and the lower they got the louder the noise from the lowest levels got. Even from a distance she could see the bloodlust in their eyes, and when the elevator clunked to a halt they surged forwards only to be forced back by a powerful electric field that originated from a line on the ground that marked a circle around the elevator. Without that field, Sofia was sure the elevator and those inside would be ripped apart almost immediately.

    Despite the repeated electric shocks, they kept on coming, and were getting closer and closer to actually touching the metal cage. At that point one of the guards pressed a button to raise the elevator. It jolted slightly, rose about six inches- then stopped. All the lights went out at once, and the electric field suddenly died.

    In an instant the elevator was surrounded, the metal frame being pulled apart, both guards lashing out with stun batons until part of the cage gave out and hundreds of hands attacked, dragging first one then the other guard out of the protection of the cage. The hands tried to grab her too, but the cage was just big enough and she was just small enough that they couldn’t get hold of her, and when the power came back on abruptly the elevator shot upwards, dragging a few of the inmates with it with their arms still trapped inside the metal sides of the elevator until they were shaken off and fell back down.

    The whole episode left her deeply shaken, and she didn’t really pay attention to where the elevator stopped or where she was taken afterwards until she was abruptly thrown forwards onto the ground and the guards disappeared. She looked around her new surroundings, and realised that she was in a room very similar to the one she had been in before but slightly larger, with one wall apparently missing and a large circular room beyond. She could see other rooms- although she was beginning to suspect that ‘cells’ would be a better word- and other people inside them, but when she tried to walk towards the open wall she met increasing resistance. She realised that there was something on her wrist, a small metal bracelet with three lights- one green one that was always on, a green one that flashed faster the closer she got to the missing wall and a red one that only flashed once, and was accompanied by a short but strong electric shock. It seemed the cells were more secure than they appeared.

    “Hello, new girl.”

    Sofia jumped backwards as a face suddenly appeared around the wall. He could be anywhere between eight and eighteen, it was hard to judge ages in the poor lighting and the huge variations in diets around the world, but Sofia suspected he was at least fifteen and possibly older. His face was covered in freckles, and he had blood-red hair that was almost fluorescent in the poor light.

    “Patrick O’Leary, but everyone calls me Paddy. I’d shake your hand, but I don’t think it’d let me.” He held up his hand and a bracelet identical to the one Sofia had. “So, what’s your name?”

    Sofia had thirteen names, and the unsuspecting Paddy was treated to a full rendition, after which he said, “I think we’ll just stick to calling you Sofia, then.”

    A second person appeared from behind the other wall and tried to shoo Paddy away to no effect. He was a tall, gangly boy who was probably a year or two older than Paddy but weighed less than Sofia herself did, which was saying something. He was wearing huge, thick-lensed glasses which were held together by tape and wishful thinking, but the magnified eyes behind those glasses were alert and intelligent; he introduced himself as Harold Shaw.

    “So which one are you from?”

    Sofia looked at him blankly.

    “Everyone in this room has one thing in common: they were directly related to someone in charge of an alliance of some kind. I was from the Kirscher Alliance; Paddy here was from the Ulsterian League; Kevin,” he pointed behind him to someone who was slightly shorter but looked like he weighed twice as much, “was from the Thousand Islands Confederation; that guy over there in the corner was from the Hasselbach Alliance.”

    That name was one Sofia knew; the Spanish Empire and the Hasselbach Alliance had had dealings with each other in the past, some of them more cordial than others.

    “So, which one are you from?” Harold repeated his question. A small crowd seemed to have formed behind him, all waiting for her answer.

    “The Spanish Empire.”

    A gasp of dismay swept through the room. Harold Shaw stood gawping in disbelief as others began to argue over whether Sofia was telling the truth or not.

    “It’s true.” The ‘guy in the corner’ from the Hasselbach Alliance- his name was David- spoke up. “About fifty people turned up on our shores from the Spanish Empire saying that everything had been destroyed. They escaped while their island burned; didn’t do them much good though…” He shot an almost apologetic look as Sofia, as if somehow it was his fault that they hadn’t survived.

    Harold finally found his voice again, if only for one word. “How?”

    “We got outplayed from the beginning. We sent the entire Armada to the south when they attacked from the south, then they suddenly came from the north and…” her voice faltered, but everyone knew what she was going to say.

    “The entire Spanish Armada disappeared in three hours- when they realised what was happening they tried to turn back, but they had been outmanoeuvred and they were surrounded before they could escape. Three thousand of our ships, and about six thousand of theirs including at least twenty Nemeses were destroyed- but they had more than enough ships left to finish off every last island. Our last ship was overrun two days after the Armada was destroyed; by then every island was gone. Seventeen million people, just- gone.”

    As she said it, the full enormity of what had happened finally hit home and Sofia crumpled to the floor. 

    “We were the single biggest threat to the Draconian Empire. If they can destroy an organisation as big as that, then what’s to stop them from destroying everyone else? Even if they lose a hundred thousand ships, a hundred million soldiers, they can afford the losses and keep going.”

    Paddy jumped in to the conversation. “What’s to stop them? The Americans, for a start! They would never let-”
    Harold cut him off. “The Americans stand by and watch as millions are slaughtered, too afraid of what could happen if they start taking sides. There just aren’t enough of them- ten ships, no matter how powerful, can’t hold back ten thousand. The only thing preventing anyone from attacking them, is the threat of another nuclear strike; even if they have a hundred more of those weapons, the Draconian Empire has too many bases to target them all. They are determined to destroy everyone against them and they clearly don’t care how many people they lose in the process.”

    “You think they’re planning to attack the Americans? Are you serious?!” Paddy’s response suggested to Sofia that the two of them argued regularly.

    “You haven’t seen what they’re doing down there,” Harold replied, “what’s going on in the lower levels. They’re making biological and chemical weapons- this entire prison is one giant laboratory.”

    More to come soon!

    My VC story: 
    Vega Conflict-er since closed beta phase 1, back when torpedo harriers ruled the sector.
    BP- started in the black sea days, then the game died...
    WC- started pre-World Map, then everything went downhill.

    My BP story series: (in progress).

  • jimmymcgoochie
    Master Tactician
    Joined Jan 2012 Posts: 2,161

    Chapter 3

    Before anyone could challenge Harold’s shocking claim, a loud buzzer began sounding, and everyone immediately hurried back to their own cells. Seconds later, heavy metal plates slid down out of the ceiling and blocked the exits, locking into place with an audible thunk. The lights dimmed rapidly then settled at a level that was only just enough to see by, then after a delay a small hatch opened in the back wall and a plate of unappetising mush and a cup of water appeared; it was better than nothing, so Sofia ate it, and barely managed to stumble to the spongy mattress in the corner before collapsing onto it, sound asleep.

    That night the dreams were particularly vivid, and particularly disturbing even if the details weren’t always clear.

    It seemed as if she was standing in the middle of what had once been an island but was now just a smoking ruin under a slate-grey sky. She stood in a wide road that in its prime would have been impressive, but was now utterly desolate. Twisted metal and piles of crumbling bricks marked the positions of old buildings which had given up the unequal struggle with the elements some time ago, a few straggly patches of weeds appearing in the cracks of the remaining walls and the ground underfoot. A strange smell of decay hung in the air, seemed to fill it so that even breathing, even in the dream, left a bitter taste in her mouth.

    For some reason she started walking down the road, passing a few burnt out cars and what may have been a bus, lying on its side and also burnt out. There were no people, no animals, no movement of any kind except a few ragged curtains which flapped limply in a gust of wind, no life of any description apart from the weeds which were becoming more stunted and less green the further she walked. The smell in the air was getting worse as she continued down the road, now so strong that the air seemed to be thicker and harder to move through.

    She reached a huge open area, surrounded by ruined buildings with empty windows and crumbling facades, the roads clogged by the shells of burnt out cars and buses. At one end of the square stood a grey stone column which had cracked and fallen at some point, the statue that had been at the top now lying face down on the ground some distance away from its pedestal. Beyond the statue, stretching away into a haze that blotted out the horizon, was a long artificial lake bordered by a road on either side. Here the roads were free of debris or blockages, and there were no wrecked cars on the lanes although there were scorch marks where they had been. In the other direction, towards the other end of the square (which was really rectangular) stood something that looked decidedly newer than the buildings around it, some kind of stage or podium made out of rubble and scavenged metal.

    The air shimmered, and suddenly everything changed: it took a while for Sofia to realise that she was in the same place, the transformation was so vast. Instead of a few burnt-out shells, the roads were filled with cars and buses and lorries and cyclists dodging between them amidst a chorus of horns and shouting. Pedestrians risked life and limb crossing the streets, and the square was full of people all enjoying the warm, sunny weather. People walked around her, many talking apparently into the air or else into a variety of small black devices held to their ears, with a large number of the people in the square dressed in suits and carrying briefcases. The column and its statue stood proudly over the square, catching the sun and casting a long shadow towards the other end of the square where a large temporary stage had been built, adorned with flags and placards but for the moment unoccupied.

    A chorus of sirens began wailing over the entire city, and everyone stopped. A booming voice came from everywhere at once, and without warning there was absolute chaos. Cars collided as their drivers tried to force their way through gaps too narrow to fit, people were crushed in a mass stampede towards the side of the square with the statue on it, and within minutes the entire square was empty apart from a few abandoned cars, discarded rubbish and briefcases.

    A bright light lit up the sky from the opposite end of the square, a glowing ball of orange light that was nearly as bright as the sun and was rising slowly into the sky, leaving a slender stalk of smoke behind it as it rose. The effect in the square was almost immediate- everything caught fire at the same moment, the heat so intense that the fountain at the square’s centre was instantly emptied. The ground began trembling with increasing force, shaking the remaining cars on the remains of their wheels, before the shockwave came and obliterated everything-

    Sofia woke up with a gasp, with the strange feeling that she was still falling even though she was lying on the bed. What she had just seen was a nuclear explosion, she was sure of that; everyone knew what that glowing mushroom cloud meant for anyone caught in the blast radius.

    The lights were still off, and she fell asleep again fairly quickly. A man appeared in front of her, clearly someone of importance and wearing a black suit with gold stitching in the seams and a small gold symbol embroidered into the collar- the emblem of the Draconian Empire. The surroundings were entirely blotted out by a swirling grey fog, but a number of figures followed behind him. It took several seconds before what he was saying became audible, and when they did Sofia immediately picked up on the authority in his voice as well as his demeanour.

     “-as you can see, our forces have demonstrated their abilities on many occasions. With the arsenal fully prepared, we can begin the final phase of this operation and indeed the entire war that has dragged on for far too long. A decisive strike to destroy their greatest threat and their morale simultaneously, and this pathetic rebellion will be crushed once and for all.”

    The people standing behind him were obviously impressed by this speech, but Sofia was already joining the dots and a very disturbing picture was emerging.

    “With the current power void at the top, now is our chance to seize that power and drag this great Empire from the brink of ruin. By the end of this week, the single greatest threat to this world will be a smouldering wasteland, and with America out of the way, who can hope to stand against us?”

    The dream ended abruptly. The lights were back on, but she wouldn’t have been able to sleep anyway. What she had just seen had confirmed everything Harold had said- they were indeed building weapons in the prison, and planning to use them against America and anyone else who stood against them. Most people would have thought that the dream was reflecting reality rather than confirming it, but past experience had taught her that in this case, like three others before it, it was the other way round: soon enough, reality would begin replicating the events of the dreams.

    At that moment, she started working on a plan to escape, or at least to warn the outside world of what was happening before it was too late. There had to be a radio somewhere that she could use to contact someone, or send a message out to the world in the hope that someone would hear it and react accordingly. Even if that reaction was a nuclear strike, and even if it came while she was still inside the prison, it was better than the alternative.

    Another plate of food appeared, and again despite being mildly disgusting she ate it. The water tasted even worse than before, but it was still better than nothing. After a period of silence the steel plate withdrew into the ceiling, but she had barely moved away from the wall when the metal wristband delivered a potent electric shock. She retreated back to the wall, then experimentally moved her arm forwards and watched as the little red light began blinking furiously about two feet from the wall, and a whining noise just at the edge of her hearing started up. She pulled her hand back before a second shock could come, and then began to look around from her limited vantage point.

    All the cells now had an illuminated rectangle above them, and even at a distance it was clear that something had been written on each one: three lines of text, the bottom one shorter than the other two and broken up by a line in the middle, accompanied by a symbol in the right hand corner. With some difficulty (she had never been good at reading things from a distance) Sofia read the top row of writing above the cell directly opposite hers, and immediately realised that they were name plates. Each cell was marked with the name of whoever was inside it, the name of an alliance and a date- the date that the alliance had been destroyed. The few dates she could see were all within the last six months, and she had no doubt that there were more dates above the rest of the cells which would lead right up to the present.

    There was a loud clunk, and then the sound of advancing footsteps as a fairly large group of people entered from an invisible door. The man in at the group’s head moved into view, and Sofia immediately recognised him as exactly the same man who she had just seen in the dream barely half an hour earlier. He was dressed in the same smart black suit, even down to the embroidery on the collar.

    “This room is perhaps the most powerful symbol of this project’s success. With every successive operation we revised and improved our strategies, and as you can see, our forces have demonstrated their abilities on many occasions.” He made a sweeping gesture around the room.  “With the arsenal fully prepared, we can begin the final phase of this operation and indeed the entire war that has dragged on for far too long. A decisive strike to destroy their greatest threat and their morale simultaneously and this pathetic rebellion will be crushed once and for all. With the current power void at the top, now is our chance to seize that power and drag this great Empire from the brink of ruin. By the end of this week, the single greatest threat to this world will be a smouldering wasteland, and with America out of the way, who can hope to stand against us?”

    A round of applause would not have been out of place. All but one of the group seemed impressed, but that one stepped forward.

    “And what about them?” he said, pointing towards the other end of the room at something Sofia couldn’t see. “Clearly you don’t intend those cells to be empty by the end of the week, but what purpose can they serve when the power behind them is destroyed? As long as they survive, the enemy will continue to fight.”

    “If we kill them today, then the enemy will vow to avenge them. But keep them alive, make sure everyone knows they are alive, and they will still have hope. And if they have hope, then their destruction will be all the more terrible for it, for without hope how can you truly experience despair?”

    Sofia had heard that line before, and apparently so had someone else in the room because they started laughing. The speaker spun, drew a gun from inside his jacket and fired in a single motion, the gunshot amplified by the closed space; the laughter vanished abruptly.

    “That is the power we now hold in our hands,” he said, casually replacing the gun into its holster then smoothing his jacket, “the absolute power of life and death over our enemies, the power to end their lives at any moment we choose. When they fully realise that we have that power, some will fight and some will surrender, but all will be destroyed. We will rebuild the world so that no child need fear the spectre of war hovering over them, no mother must wait and wonder if her son will return home that evening, no husband taken from his wife by a bullet or missile or mortar. That is the future that this project will bring about.”

    The group turned and left the room, and immediately the steel plates slammed down and the lights went out. A whooshing sound came from the air vent, and then a sickly smell similar to chloroform flooded the air. Sofia staggered towards where she thought the mattress was but collided with the wall and fell over backwards, and was overcome by the gas before she hit the floor. 

    My VC story: 
    Vega Conflict-er since closed beta phase 1, back when torpedo harriers ruled the sector.
    BP- started in the black sea days, then the game died...
    WC- started pre-World Map, then everything went downhill.

    My BP story series: (in progress).

  • jimmymcgoochie
    Master Tactician
    Joined Jan 2012 Posts: 2,161

    Chapter 4

    When she opened her eyes, she was back on the island of Madrid as the massed forces around it began the attack that would ultimately destroy the island. She watched the defences valiantly hold back wave after wave of attackers, but the unrelenting assault slowly wore them down and as each turret fell the defences became weaker and the next turret fell sooner. She watched as the island receded, from the deck of the Catalonian Princess as it made its escape surrounded by as many ships as they could find that still floated and moved.

    The scene changed abruptly. Now she was standing in the middle of what had to be a Draconian base, in what could be described as a junction, an open square area with a building at each corner and gaps between them that could be roads. A loud thudding noise came from behind her, and she turned to see something large and grey falling from the sky, leaking smoke and fire. It collided with one of the buildings and began breaking apart as it dropped the rest of the way to the ground, flying directly over her and crashing into the ground violently, spraying sparks everywhere, then bounced back into the air briefly, nearly did a cartwheel then crunched back onto its belly. It came to rest with a set of whirling blades, possibly a propeller of some kind, thrashing the air and fuel pouring out of its damaged body. Burning debris landed on the ground and ignited the spilt fuel, sending fire racing towards the wreckage as two people emerged from a large hatch in the rear and ran for their lives. The fire reached the wreckage, and a huge explosion tore it apart, a wall of fire expanding out and swirling around her without harming her.

    When the fire cleared, entirely different surroundings had taken shape. A large canal was to one side, following a valley between two mountains which were both exploding, raining down burning rocks like meteors. The canal was blocked by crashed ships, and hundreds of people were running down the roads on either side of the canal, even jumping from the ships and swimming down the canal to escape. A huge blue and white contraption came thundering down the canal just as a hundred metre high wall of dark grey clouds came thundering down one of the mountains, incinerating everything it touched. Panic spread among the people in and around the canal and they tried to run, but the wall of gas was advancing at a terrifying rate and even as the blue and white machine roared past, knocking people off their feet with the force of its many engines blasting air behind it, it was clear to Sofia that it too was doomed. The wall of gas reached the edge of the canal, raced over it and engulfed her, but again she was unharmed.

    The gas cloud cleared, and again the scene had changed. Now she was looking down the central chasm of the prison, apparently from the very top. Red lights were flashing everywhere, the sound of hundreds of klaxons blending into a constant noise. A deep bass buzzer sounded, and around her massive metal blast doors began opening, then suddenly an unbelievable volume of water began blasting out of each one and thundering down into the depths of the prison. The doors continued opening and the deluge increased: it seemed that the stories of those Echo-class prisons being rigged to flood themselves if something went wrong were true after all. The noise was incredible at such close range, louder than anything she had ever heard before-

    At some point Sofia realised that both ends of the metal walkway she was standing on were now being pounded by the waterfalls, making them impassable, and the waterfalls were still growing larger and advancing towards her. With no other options, she climbed over the guard rail, closed her eyes, then let go and immediately started falling, falling, falling, falling…

    She woke up, on the floor in her cell, completely disoriented and unable to tell if she was still falling or not. Something was wrong, but she couldn’t think clearly enough to tell what it was. The lights had come on and a thin haze hung in the air, along with a burning smell that caught in the back of her throat. All the cells were open, and a small crowd was gathered near the centre as the air vents in each cell spewed out smoke in ever increasing quantities. Someone came into her cell- it looked like Harold Shaw, but the smoke was making her eyes water and she couldn’t see properly.

    “Are you all right?” he asked, and she tried to say yes but her voice didn’t work so she nodded instead. He offered her a hand to pull her to her feet and she took it, paused for a moment against the wall until a brief bout of dizziness faded then joined Harold and a number of others who were going along the rows of cells waking people up and getting them out as the smoke continued to thicken.

    She headed into a cell and found a bewildered child of about eight, and despite neither of them understanding what the other was saying managed to get him out. She headed to another cell further along and did the same with an even younger girl, then another further along again with a slightly older boy of about ten. Near the end of the row she looked up at the name plates above the two cells at the very end of the row, facing down the length of the room, but couldn’t make out the writing as the smoke continued to irritate her eyes. All she could see was the image in the corner, a red and white striped flag with a blue square in the top left corner; a flag that was now universally known.

    She reached the end of the row, where the smoke seemed to be thickest, and at first thought the cell at the very end was empty until she saw an older girl a few years younger than herself lying face-down on the ground, partly hidden by the smoke. She approached carefully, holding her breath, and tried to wake her to no avail. She grabbed hold of the girl’s hands and started dragging her out of the cell, but suddenly the cells began sealing themselves and Sofia had to abandon the girl to the smoke or risk losing both her hands. The plates lowered almost all the way to the floor, and then abruptly stopped with about an inch to go. All the lights died at the same time, and the little lights on the bracelets winked out before the bracelets themselves snapped open and fell to the floor. 

    My VC story: 
    Vega Conflict-er since closed beta phase 1, back when torpedo harriers ruled the sector.
    BP- started in the black sea days, then the game died...
    WC- started pre-World Map, then everything went downhill.

    My BP story series: (in progress).

  • jimmymcgoochie
    Master Tactician
    Joined Jan 2012 Posts: 2,161

    Assuming anyone has any interest in this story any more, I'll keep going with it. If anyone DOES read this, then like or comment on it or something so I know how much more to put in it; I'd rather not just let it die, and I've already more or less finished the last part of the series, so I'm going to try and get this part finished as soon as I can so that I can finish it off properly. 

    Here goes...

    Chapter 5

    Emergency lights kicked in and armed guards burst through the door, but before they could react they were overwhelmed as everyone surged forwards and mobbed them, eventually bringing them down and stealing their heavy carbines. In the chaos, one of the guards pulled the trigger and sprayed the entire clip across the far wall, the ceiling and half of Daniel’s chest moments before Kevin turned his own stolen weapon on the same guard. Both went down, and neither got up again. A number of the younger children ran to the other end of the room when the shooting started, and refused to move.

    With time already running out, about thirty others moved out of the room as a group, blindly turning corners and running at full tilt into another group of guards who were even more surprised than they were. Too close to aim, those with guns used them as clubs and soon the band of prisoners were up another six carbines and carrying one casualty, who had tripped over a fallen guard and hit his head on a metal pipe; he was uninjured but stunned, and couldn’t walk on his own, so two others carried him between them. Klaxons began blaring as they charged towards the centre of the prison, red strobe lights casting strange shadows across the walls. As they passed a junction of four corridors, a withering barrage of gunfire cut down six of them and wounded three more, and then a metal blast door lowered over the corridor where the gunfire had come from and saved them from any further casualties.

    Sofia found Kevin, face down and staring unblinking at the ground, so she took the carbine still clutched tightly in his hands and headed to the front of the group where Harold stood, clearly in a state of shock and spattered with blood. She tried to rally the remaining survivors.

    “We have to keep moving or we’ll get cut to pieces!”

    “Does it matter? We’ll get cut to pieces anyway!” Harold replied, gesturing at the nine bodies on the floor, none of which were moving any more. A lot of the remainder were in small huddles, visibly upset and some throwing up or curled into a ball whimpering; only a handful of the oldest were still standing.

    Sofia pulled him close and hissed in his ear.

    “Do you want them to die without hope? This is our only chance: either you take it or you lie down on the floor and wait for them to finish you off!”

    A rocket roared down the corridor, shot between the two of them and exploded among a contingent of a dozen guards who had just turned the corner about fifty metres away. Those who survived the rocket were not so fortunate against the hail of gunfire that came their way after it. A hardened group of about ten came and stood in front of Sofia and Harold, all holding carbines.

    “The rest won’t come with us. We have to leave them.” A girl Sofia had barely spoken to spoke up, almost challenging either of them to disagree with her. “We have to keep moving. Let’s go!”

    At that signal the group moved off at a fast jog, leaving Harold and almost all of the younger kids behind. They had just turned the corner when they heard heavy gunfire from behind them, a single terrified scream then a single shot, then silence. With a face filled with fury, the girl pulled a grenade from a dead guard’s belt and stood at the corner ready to throw it.

    “No, Mel…” one of the others warned her, but she paid no attention. Just when the running footsteps got close, she pulled the pin, counted to three then threw the grenade with a short snap of her arm. The corridor was immediately engulfed in thick smoke, and when the first guards stumbled into view Mel attacked, fighting at close quarters and overpowering one guard after another as they came out of the smoke. They lost sight of her as they ran into the central chasm of the prison, where the noise of klaxons became a continuous buzz of echoes punctuated by rattling gunfire. Several fires had been started on the lowest levels, where complete chaos reigned as the prisoners rioted, fighting the guards, and each other, and just about anything else they could get their hands on.

    The group moved round the rim of the circular abyss, following a precarious metal walkway which had holes in it, offering a terrifying view of the ground far below. Sparks flew from the metal underfoot as someone below spotted them and opened fire, but the metal protected them. A huge explosion threw chunks of burning debris from several floors above them crashing down onto several other walkways and the floor, though it didn’t seem to make any difference to the melee on the lower levels. One of the pieces hit the elevator cables, and the steel cage suddenly plummeted past them out of control and slammed into the ground so hard it sent a shockwave across the floor.

    “We have to find a way up, or-“ a bullet buzzed in front of Sofia’s face, and she dived for cover as a second grazed Peter’s head, leaving a shallow but long gash that gushed blood. They kept running, Peter holding his head with one hand to try and stem the bleeding and holding a carbine with the other at his waist to try and aim better.

    A different alarm sounded, a deep bass sound that shook the floor, and everyone seemed to stop and look up. Massive metal gates at the very top of the chasm began to open, and a deluge of water poured through the gaps and began thundering towards them.

    “RUN!!” Mel shouted from behind them as she sprinted towards them, three guards in pursuit. They didn’t need telling twice. Nine of them reached the safety of another corridor, then turned back and shouted encouragement to Mel who was a short distance away, but the water was coming faster and demolishing all the walkways as it came. Mel was three metres away when the walkway overhead buckled and crashed down towards her. She hurled herself forwards in a desperate leap, and landed in the corridor just as the twisted metal slammed down and demolished the walkway and the wall of water came surging past. Mel and Sofia looked at each other, both amazed that they were still alive, then Mel’s eyes clouded over with pain and she slumped to the floor. Sofia looked down and suddenly realised that Mel’s left foot was- gone. Pam and Paddy came running, the only two of the group who had any medical training, and quickly pulled a belt round her injured leg and tightened it until the bleeding turned from arterial pulsing to a slow trickle, then picked her up despite the pain she was in and carried her between them.

    They carried on, firing pot shots at anything that moved ahead and occasionally at something behind them, buffeted by gusts of wind as the waterfall behind them grew in power and drove the air ahead of it. A truck roared across their path and up a ramp, and at the same time the corridor ahead was suddenly filled with a wall of fire that rushed towards them at terrifying speed. They charged up the ramp and narrowly avoided being incinerated as the fire blasted past behind them, stalling against the wind going the opposite direction then dissipating as it ran out of fuel. The ramp ran upwards for some distance, but they hadn’t reached the top when they were forced to leave the ramp as water began thundering up from below, destroying the spiralling ramp with the immense pressure created by all the water pouring down at the prison’s centre. Someone shouted- it was impossible to tell who or what they had said with the roar of water from below.

    They emerged in a large dockyard, the roof fifty metres above them and the water about ten metres below. A number of large ships were in the berths on either side, being frantically loaded with crates, but in front of them there were two ships, a Destroyer and a smaller Frigate, which were being completely ignored. On a whim, Sofia chose the Destroyer and the rest followed, and seconds later a metal gantry broke free from the ceiling and slammed to the ground right where they would have been if they had chosen the Frigate instead. With large cracks racing across the ceiling and flashes of fire appearing between the cracks, they wasted no time climbing down to the Destroyer’s deck then swarming inside.

    The Destroyer was utterly deserted, and they found only one person on board, on the bridge trying unsuccessfully and with a lot of cursing to start the ship’s engines single-handedly. She was trying to press two different buttons on the control console which were just too far away from each other for her to reach both at the same time. She apparently didn’t see them entering the bridge, but finally resorted to using her foot to press one of the buttons, and the engines rumbled into life.

    “Don’t just stand there, cast us off before the whole place caves in on us!” she shouted at them, still without turning round. Three of the group ran back outside and hurriedly untied the ship from the dock; they had barely finished when Peter barged to the front and pushed the throttles to full power. The ship surged out of its dock- and straight into the side of a Battlecruiser.

    The two ships collided with a tremendous crash of stressed metal and sent pieces of debris from the decks tumbling into the water as the ships bounced apart again and the faster Destroyer moved ahead. A moment later, the Battlecruiser vanished in a cloud of dust and fire as the ceiling above collapsed on top of it, as the fire continued to spread and raced through large pipes carrying fuel and methane gas. Chunks of concrete began raining down on the Destroyer’s deck, some larger than the ship’s twin assault cannons, and one of the bridge windows was shattered by an impact as the rate of collapse outstripped the ship.

    The only way out was suddenly blocked as six Dreadnoughts and four Battleships moved out of their berths and began lumbering towards the exit, the slowest one cutting barely a hundred metres in front of the faster Destroyer. If they slowed down, or tried to go around the slower ship, then the Destroyer would be destroyed, buried under the collapsing ceiling. A particularly large explosion dumped thousands of tons of concrete into the water, bombarding the ship directly ahead which abruptly veered to the left and crashed into one of the piers. The weight and momentum of the ship combined with its thrashing propellers drove it forwards, but the pier was unyielding and the ship began to rotate, pivoting around its trapped bow and rapidly blocking the way for the Destroyer behind to escape. They aimed at the ever narrowing gap between the crashed Dreadnought’s stern and the wall of the pier opposite, but the gap became too narrow and a collision seemed inevitable until something gave and the trapped ship lurched forwards, creating a gap just wide enough for the Destroyer to squeeze through, scraping against the pier as it did.

    A truck came barrelling down the next pier along, flashing its lights and blasting its horn as it came, apparently in an attempt to drive straight off the end of the pier and land on the Destroyer. It crashed through the guard rail while turning, landed on the Destroyer’s deck at an angle and its suspension buckled under the impact; the driver hurled himself from the cab moments before it crashed into the back of the ship’s right side cannon, obliterating the cab and lifting the wheels into the air before dropping back down.

    And then they were outside, the sun began shining into the windows and the sounds of alarms and explosions fading behind them. From the back of the crashed truck, a single figure emerged, closely followed by a small avalanche of people all escaping the wreckage. Sofia and almost everyone else began running out of the bridge towards them, leaving Peter on the controls, and when they reached the truck they were amazed to find everyone who had been left behind in their frantic bid to escape. Harold was last to leave the truck, herding a few stragglers and carrying a young boy who had broken his ankle in the crash; he looked just as surprised to see them as they were to see him.

    “We thought you were dead!” Paddy blurted out.

    “So did I,” Harold replied, “but then this truck turned up and this guy got out and he was like, ‘Everyone get in the truck!’ and then these guards showed up and they started shooting and he started shooting back and then the blast door came down and nearly crushed a little girl’s head but he pulled her out from under it and then the door closed and he was shouting at us, ‘Get in the truck!’, so we did and-”

    “Whoa, slow down! What guy?” Paddy interrupted him.

    Harold finally looked round at the truck, realised how damaged it was and ran out of words. Sofia remembered seeing the driver leaping from the truck just before it crashed, and ran round to the other side of the ship’s cannon looking for him. Instead, she found an escape hatch at the base of the cannon lying open, and began climbing down the steep set of stairs inside, but the ship hit a particularly big wave and she lost her balance and fell forwards. A metal beam rushed up to meet her, and then the world went black. 

    My VC story: 
    Vega Conflict-er since closed beta phase 1, back when torpedo harriers ruled the sector.
    BP- started in the black sea days, then the game died...
    WC- started pre-World Map, then everything went downhill.

    My BP story series: (in progress).

  • Apophis
    Minor Nuisance
    Joined Jun 2012 Posts: 177

    I still read it, keep up the good work

  • FyreStorm
    Skilled Warrior
    Joined Nov 2012 Posts: 327

    Just found it looks good so far.

    Battle pirates Hulls won: Corvette, Frigate, Destroyer, Destroyer X, Light Cruiser, Light Cruiser X, Battle Cruiser, Battle Cruiser X, Strike Cruiser X, Battleship, Battle Barge A, Levithan A, Floating Fortress A, Sea Scorpion A, Mercury, Hurricane, Hammer Head A, Hammer Head B, Mauler, Mako, Rampart...aww heck who cares I just have more hulls than I know what to do with.

    War Commander: Elite Riflemen, Elite Heavy Gunner, Honey  Badger, Attack Dogs
  • jimmymcgoochie
    Master Tactician
    Joined Jan 2012 Posts: 2,161
    I've written and rewritten the next chapters but have yet to find a version I like. I'll be away for a few weeks and hopefully by the time I come back, the next part of the story will be written. The end of this story and most of the final instalment in the series are either written or planned out, but it's proving a bit difficult to link it all together. Thanks for your patience, this story series has dragged on far longer than I was expecting (partly not my fault, at one point the entirety of Part 2 disappeared from the forums when the forums were being updated) but I want to finish this story off as soon as I can. 

    My VC story: 
    Vega Conflict-er since closed beta phase 1, back when torpedo harriers ruled the sector.
    BP- started in the black sea days, then the game died...
    WC- started pre-World Map, then everything went downhill.

    My BP story series: (in progress).

  • jimmymcgoochie
    Master Tactician
    Joined Jan 2012 Posts: 2,161
    edited 14 Aug 2014, 8:26PM

    After a lot of effort, I've finally written the next few chapters of this story. It took a lot longer than I anticipated, but if anyone still reads this story then your waiting is over. (This part of the story might not seem to be related to the previous chapters, but by the end of this story the connection will be obvious.)

    When I started writing the first part of this series, I thought there would only be one. The first story was set around three months after the end of the Base Invaders events, and the fall of Commander Vassago (who features briefly in that story). The second was set right at the end of the Typhoon/Operations Network type raid and the end of the first Spader era (who features a lot more prominently), and this short story occurs at the same time as the end of that one.  The final part, which I've already written the basic plot to, happens about three months after that. That means that relative to the game, this story is happening about a year and a half ago, and so I've had to alter the story to add in some things that happened in the game. As well as that, the forum thread that contained the second part of this series was inexplicably lost during a big forum update about two years ago, and so I had to start again from the start and rewrote quite a lot of the story for the new version. I really hoped that I'd have finished this entire series by now, and I will work as hard as I can to get the rest of it written as soon as possible. Apologies again for the massive delays. 


    Chapter 6

    Sixteen hours earlier…

    At first, Alexandra thought she was dead.

    There was no noise, the world was black, and it felt like she was falling yet staying still at the same time. The fear of moments ago was gone, and in its place was a strange calm that seemed inexplicable considering what had just been happening: fire and explosions tearing the ground apart, watching thousands of people trying in vain to flee the destruction of their island, clouds of thick, suffocating smoke swirling around them, buildings collapsing and ships being overwhelmed by the weight of people trying to cram themselves onboard, columns of fire spewing from the ground as it disintegrated underfoot.

    Then her stomach hit the floor as the dark blue ekranoplane Sydney Harbor Bridge pulled out of its death dive and thundered out of the glowing cloud of volcanic gas that had engulfed it seconds earlier. The turbulent, superheated cloud had almost clogged the engines and stolen most of the lift from its huge, inelegant square wings, but they had somehow avoided hitting the ground, plummeting down the remains of a long lock complex that lead to the sea; the locks had been deliberately destroyed hours earlier to stop people on the outside getting in, but now meant that nobody on the inside could get out. The cloud stalled behind them as the nosedive gave vital speed and cleared the engines of the ash they had sucked in seconds earlier.

     In the pilot’s seat ahead of her, James Lawrence gripped the controls with white knuckles as he struggled to keep control of the immensely heavy craft as it bucked and lurched across the water- the control surfaces were all directly attached to the controls by steel cables meaning to actually move them required huge physical effort.

    Sydney Harbor Bridge thundered on, nine hundred tons of metal thrust forwards by eight jet engines and held a few feet above the waves by a bubble of pressurised air; the wings pushed air downwards under them, and at such a low altitude the air bounced back off the surface and pushed the wings up.

    The sudden darkness that had accompanied the pyroclastic cloud as it swallowed them was pitch black, only a faint glow as superheated gases danced across the windows leaving flashes of St Elmo’s fire behind, and glowing afterimages after that, so when they burst out into the full force of sunrise they were both blinded by the glare.

     Despite being unable to see where he was going, and despite being unable to turn the rudder to the right because his left ankle was broken and he couldn’t push the pedal to move the rudder, James managed to drive the unwieldy ekranoplane through the gaps between the Draconian armada surrounding the island without ever colliding with them and without getting hit by any of the multitude of missiles, mortar shells and rockets that were fired at them by those ships. They emerged on the other side with a cloud of missiles splashing into the water behind them as their boosters faltered and ended their pursuit. A long, wide turn brought their course around to roughly south west, but a huge storm bank loomed on the horizon in their path so James steered further to the south to avoid it. When the craft had settled on its course, he slumped back in the seat, utterly exhausted as the adrenaline rush wore off.

    Behind them, what had been called Fortress Reykjavik continued to burn as a dozen volcanoes erupted simultaneously, sending a massive plume of ash and smoke twenty miles into the sky until it hit winds high in the atmosphere and began drifting away to the north-west.

    Strangely, it felt like they were on a boat: the waves out in the open ocean were high but very long, meaning most ships wouldn’t feel much, but at the speed they were going they were crossing the waves much more rapidly, making the craft rock side to side and back and forth. Only the drone of the engines and the whistling of air being forced into a number of tiny holes in the craft’s skin gave any clues to their speed.

    There was a very long silence, and the almost hypnotic rocking and the constant sounds combined with a lack of sleep meant that Alexa struggled to keep her eyes open…

    She woke up as her head slipped off her hand and nearly bounced off the console in front of her. It was impossible to tell how much time had passed, but she remembered seeing a clock on one of the displays in front of the pilot’s chair-

    The pilot’s chair was empty.

    She looked around the cabin, but there was nobody there but her. She walked over to the pilot’s seat, but there were no obvious signs that it had been recently occupied; the chair was worn out from years of use and abuse, masking any telltale marks that may have been there.

    An alarm began blaring from the central console, and the words [COLLISION WARNING] began flashing in big red letters. A flotilla of fishing boats scattered as Sydney Harbor Bridge came charging towards them, only just avoiding a mutually destructive collision- one of them lost the tip of its mast and nearly capsized when the speeding craft clipped it with a wingtip.  

    “Some lookout you were,” a voice from directly behind her said, and she jumped away, failing to stifle an embarrassingly high-pitched yelp of surprise.

    And James Lawrence found himself staring down the barrel of a six-shot revolver.

    He looked at her, then down at the gun, then back at her, and for some reason Alexa thought he looked slightly disappointed. And yet, there was something else; she couldn’t identify it, but there was something about his demeanour that made her inexplicably nervous, and she gripped the gun slightly tighter as a result.

    James broke the silence. “So, your plan is- and I’m hypothesising here- now that you’re one-to-one with the only person in the entire world who not only knows and is willing to tell you what the last few days were all about, and can actually drive this thing to a destination and stop it without crashing- your plan is to shoot me?”

    “Give me one good reason why I shouldn’t,” she replied, trying to hide the nervous tremor in her voice. As soon as she said it, she realised that he already had given her a very good reason, and although she would never admit it, she had no idea how to drive Sydney Harbor Bridge and no idea where they were, or where to go either.

    She saw movement, and only just avoided shooting James as he turned the chair to face the controls. There was an alarm going off somewhere in the vast array of lights, switches, levers, buttons, toggles and thousands of other things whose purpose was completely alien to her (and, she suspected, to him as well) scattered across no less than six banks of instruments, but within seconds James had zeroed in on the cause, which was apparently warning about something outside as he immediately started craning his neck to see over the instrument panel.

    “Get back on the guns,” he said, “we’re going to need them.”

    As she headed back towards the gun console, she looked out the window and saw what he had seen: a large flotilla of bizarre-looking ships which from a distance looked like they had been badly bolted together from pieces of several other ships, all with a glowing orange heart.

    “What are those things?” she asked as she sat in the seat and fastened the harness.

    “Those things are the Reavers, and they like to turn everything they see into burning, radioactive ruins. It’s a bit worrying that we’ve found some here, they don’t usually come this far out- incoming!”

    Alexa took control of the guns and saw a giant fireball arcing into the air from the largest of the Reaver ships, aimed apparently to land where they would be in a few seconds. She pointed Sydney Harbor Bridge’s defensive machine guns at it and blasted the fireball until it disintegrated, but a sizeable portion of it continued to drop towards them. James steered away and the fireball landed off to the left and created a huge patch of fire on top of the water.

    A second, smaller Reaver ship came into view straight ahead, and she turned the full force of Sydney Harbor Bridge’s weapons on the ship’s glowing core until it exploded spectacularly and painted the sea around it with fire. Another ship appeared to the left, trying to get into range with what looked like large-calibre machine guns, but the ship was too slow and never got close enough to fire.

    And then a second massive Reaver ship was straight ahead, spinning its rocket launchers to aim at them. A pounding from Alexa’s guns and three of the four rocket launchers were taken out of action, but before she could fire at the fourth one James lifted Sydney Harbor Bridge’s nose into the air to avoid ramming head-on into the Reaver behemoth in their path, blocking her aim. Sydney Harbor Bridge was travelling at over four hundred knots and still turning, so the rocket launcher couldn’t rotate fast enough to keep them in its sights and sprayed its salvo into the air in the hope that some would hit. Incredibly, not one of the rockets hit home, and then they were over the Reaver ship and nearly out of danger.

    Then a tiny Reaver scout ship appeared just off to their right, hidden before by the bulk of the larger ship in front, and launched its own rocket salvo straight into their path. 

    My VC story: 
    Vega Conflict-er since closed beta phase 1, back when torpedo harriers ruled the sector.
    BP- started in the black sea days, then the game died...
    WC- started pre-World Map, then everything went downhill.

    My BP story series: (in progress).

  • jimmymcgoochie
    Master Tactician
    Joined Jan 2012 Posts: 2,161

    Chapter 7

    Sydney Harbor Bridge bucked violently as one rocket hit home, blasting a hole through the front of the craft and spraying shrapnel into the cabin. Alexa’s chair spun as a piece of metal smacked into the headrest, and she fell out the chair and cracked her head against the opposite wall. The world went strangely dim and fuzzy, and time seemed to slow down and speed up at the same time in a disorienting blur. The floor was moving unpredictably, or at least it seemed that way to her, and she soon found that the only thing that would stop the strange sensations was curling up in a ball and closing her eyes until they faded.

    When she had finally recovered, she started checking herself over until she realised she was somehow unharmed except for a slight headache. She had skidded along the floor until she was beside the pilot’s seat, and she tried to use the armrest to pull herself to her feet only for the chair to rotate away from her and she fell forwards into James’ shins. She looked up- and her voice caught in her throat.

    James Lawrence was covered in blood, the seat’s harness the only thing stopping him from falling out of the chair. He had been hit in the forehead by a piece of shrapnel which fortunately had already punched through several feet of metal and plastic, but still had enough energy left to inflict a crippling injury. Alexa thought he was dead, but then she saw his eyes flicker slightly, then close again; still alive, but clearly incapacitated and almost certainly unconscious.

    She hunted through the cupboards searching for a first-aid kit, and eventually found one under a box full of tins of peaches, or something claiming to be peaches. Inside it were a couple of bandages, a half-empty tube of antiseptic cream and a pair of scissors, and nothing else. It took another ten minutes to find everything else she would need, and she silently thanked whoever had told her to take the medical training modules the previous year. She approached her patient, trying to remember the list of tasks and what order to do them in, and hoping she didn’t get it wrong.

    “Step one: clean the wound.” She tried to talk herself through each task, trying to keep her hands steady despite feeling like she was going to be sick at any moment. The training had used medical alcohol, but a bottle of vodka would fill the need for now. Using a short strip of bandage soaked in the alcohol, she wiped away some of the blood from James’ forehead, but every time she cleared it more blood immediately took its place. She tried to clean the outside edge of the wound- and suddenly every muscle in James’ body went rigid, the tendons in his neck standing out and his hands locked around the ends of the armrests, but he didn’t make a sound and his eyes stayed closed. He stayed like that for several anxious seconds, and then he went limp again.

    As more and more of the damage was revealed, it soon became clear that the impact had cracked his skull rather than punching through it, but the sight of the pale white bone was too much for Alexa and she turned round and threw up on the floor, twice, which somehow made her feel a lot better.

    “Step two: apply a bandage- or was that step three?”

    Indecision struck, and she hesitated for several moments before continuing with what she had been doing, hoping it was right. A strip of fabric cut from a shirt she found in a cupboard would do as a dressing until they reached somewhere with proper medical facilities, and she wrapped the second bandage around his head and tied it off, then added the rest of the other bandage, just in case. She finished the checklist, then tried to clean the floor without much success, drank a sip of the vodka then spat it out again because it tasted horrible, then finally realised that they had been driverless for at least half an hour.

    An alarm was going off somewhere in the vast array of controls, and after searching for a while she found a warning light indicating a fire in one of the engines. She looked out a side window and saw that the entire row of engines on the left side were belching fire and smoke, damaged by a rocket hit. She had no idea what to do about it, but after hunting frantically on the instrument and control panels she found a row of switches under the engine throttle controls marked ‘FIRE SUPPRESSION’ and pressed all four, just to be sure. The fire began to abate, so she turned her attention to the next most important problem.

     It was almost impossible to see where they were going as the wind blasted through the shattered windows, so she went back to the gun console and turned the guns to face straight ahead- and saw a long, low stretch of rock directly in their path, barely a mile away. She ran to the controls and pulled back as she had seen James do earlier to make the craft go higher, but nothing happened; the control wires were damaged and the controls were dead. She barely had time to think about going back to the gun console and strapping herself into the seat when the floor surged upwards as Sydney Harbor Bridge reached the rocks, then the sound of screeching metal as the hull struck the rocks and the speeding craft went completely out of control.

    A row of houses in the path of Sydney Harbor Bridge were demolished in seconds, in a collision that also tore the left wing, all the engines on the left side and the whole tail fin from the doomed ekranoplane. It began to roll over to the left, turning the left wall of the cockpit into the floor, before another collision suddenly slowed the nose relative to the tail; physics took over and the remains of the craft began tumbling end over end in a series of cartwheels for over half a mile that only ended when it slammed into something substantial enough to stop several hundred tons of metal travelling significantly over eighty miles per hour. That final impact sent Alexa hurtling through the shattered front window in a shower of shards of glass, torn metal and tinned peaches; she bounced along the ground twice before dropping into water and came to an abrupt halt. The remains of Sydney Harbor Bridge folded in on itself slightly under its own weight, then shorting electric wires ignited hydraulic fluid and various oil systems and the broken craft began to burn.

    Stunned islanders emerged to find a trail of devastation a kilometre long at the northern edge of their island. Six houses were gone, a defensive weapons platform tilting at an alarming angle and surrounded by debris- the turret had taken most of the force as it stopped Sydney Harbor Bridge’s headlong plunge, but had also prevented anything else from being damaged- and a number of small fires had broken out along the crash path that ran almost straight from the point where Sydney Harbor Bridge had hit the rocks to the point where it had stopped.

    Three audacious teenagers pulled a survivor from the mangled wreck, beating back the flames with fire extinguishers before the island’s only fire engine turned up and blasted a jet of water through the shattered windows, which put the fire out but also destroyed all the electronics and any chance of gaining any new technologies from the dead craft. A second survivor was found floating in a nearby fish pond and was quickly fished out (the joke was used many times) and taken to the island’s small medical facility inside its main outpost building.

    Most of the onlookers considered that pointless. An impact that could bend a heavy defence turret that much would almost certainly be fatal to anyone who had been inside the mangled wreckage that was all that remained of Sydney Harbor Bridge.

    My VC story: 
    Vega Conflict-er since closed beta phase 1, back when torpedo harriers ruled the sector.
    BP- started in the black sea days, then the game died...
    WC- started pre-World Map, then everything went downhill.

    My BP story series: (in progress).

  • jimmymcgoochie
    Master Tactician
    Joined Jan 2012 Posts: 2,161

    Sorry it took so long! A few more chapters have been written, but I'll need to work them over a little more to make sure the story flows properly. Stay tuned!

    Chapter 8

    When Alexa woke up, all she could feel was pain. It came from everywhere at once, invading her consciousness until even thinking was all but impossible.

    Then, a strange cool sensation began spreading from her left arm, washing the pain away and leaving behind a mildly pleasant numbness. It spread through her body then down her legs- and stopped abruptly about half way to her knees. Unable to think clearly because of the power of the painkillers, at first she thought that someone had got the doses wrong and there wasn’t enough of the drug in her to spread the whole way, but then enough of her brain began working for her to realise the real reason for the odd sensation.

    She opened her eyes, wincing at the bright light coming from the ceiling, and then began to look at her surroundings. She was in a small white room, unmistakeably in a hospital- even without the bleeping monitors measuring her pulse and breathing, the white walls and overwhelming sense of cleanliness only existed in hospitals. A door opened to her left, and a young nurse entered; she looked barely older than Alexa was, and could easily have been several years younger.

    “Welcome back to the land of the living,” the nurse said. She realised that Alexa was trying to sit up, pushing herself upright with her arms, and hurried towards her saying, “Don’t do that! You could rupture an artery or something!” The words had no effect on her, but she could barely muster the strength to lift her head off the pillows. She kept trying, summoning every last shred of effort she had, and slowly she managed to lever herself up to lean on her elbows. And then she saw it.

    “There’s something you need to know,” the nurse said, using that reassuring tone that medics use when they’re about to break bad news. “The doctors tried everything they could. It’s incredible that you survived and with so few major injuries, but you landed feet first. There was nothing they could do…”

    Alexa wasn’t listening any more. She allowed the nurse to push her gently back down onto the bed, oblivious to everything except the image of the thin sheets that covered her, and abruptly dropped off about two feet sooner than they should.

    There was something familiar about the emptiness that she felt inside her and with it a strange feeling of déjà vu. It had been over a year since the accident, since a missile the size of a tank had brought an entire building crashing down on her and left her trapped in total darkness for three days. Trapped by uncountable tons of concrete above her, by a metal rod that had been buried in concrete before but now protruded ten centimetres from her stomach, and by the fifty ton girder that had crushed her shins until she lost the feeling in her feet. By the time rescuers had found her, it was nearly too late- the debris was shifting almost constantly, threatening to cave in on them, and hypothermia and shock were taking their toll. She couldn’t remember how they got her out, but when she woke up three months had passed. It was then that they told her that the rescuers had resorted to a double amputation to save her life, but fortunately the rescuers had recovered the rest of her legs and after a great deal of work, she had been reunited with them.

    Nearly a year of recovery and gruelling physiotherapy later, she could still only just run and only for twenty metres at a time; just walking around was tiring, not to mention potentially dangerous as she had recovered almost no sensation from just above her knees, the result of nerve damage caused by the girder.

    But now all the effort that had gone into saving her and her legs was gone. Her hopes of recovering enough to join the military, or become an instructor in the education system, or even work in research and development, or do just about anything at all, were now in tatters. She felt herself being carried along on a wave of despair, and for a while she wanted to give in and let it overwhelm her.

    Someone was talking to her, persisting even when she ignored them and becoming more irritating with each passing minute. She thought she might be imagining it, but then she realised that it was real and with a great deal of effort she fought her way back to full consciousness. The nurse was still there, with an expression of genuine concern that surprised her; she could count on one hand the number of people who actually cared about her.

     “Are you alright? No, wait, that’s a stupid question, you just had a massive accident. Oh- what’s your name? Mine’s Celia.”

    The words seemed to come pouring out of Celia’s mouth faster than her brain could think of them.

    “My name is Alexa,” she replied. Now go away, she wanted to add, but the words never made it from her brain to her mouth.

    “And what’s your friend’s name?” Seeing Alexa’s blank expression, Celia kept talking. “You know, your friend, the other guy who was in that thing with you. His face was a mess- oh! Sorry, I didn’t mean-“ she stopped for a moment to think, which Alexa thought she should do a lot more often.

    “So, you two come from Reykjavik? That’s where those crazy flying things come from, right?”

    Escaped from Reykjavik, more like. Those guys were trying to kill me, but turns out, their entire island was built on volcanoes. We just made it out in time.” Alexa had given away far more than she intended, but for some reason she didn’t care.

    “Were they trying to kill your friend too?” Celia’s persistence was starting to get irritating.

    “He’s not my friend, I barely even know him!”

    Celia looked surprised. “Huh. That’s strange, everyone was sure you two were, you know…” She made a kissy face; Alexa nearly choked. “No? Well, we found this in his pocket, and everyone thought he was going to give it to you.” She reached into her own pocket and produced a bracelet with coloured beads on it. It looked familiar for some reason, but she couldn’t quite remember-


    Utterly impossible. Nobody knew about that except her; she had never told anyone about it, but yet it was absolutely identical. How could he-?

    “I need to see him.”

    It was Celia’s turn to be caught off-guard. For once, she had trouble speaking before finally managing to come up with, “What?”

    “I need to see him, right now.” Alexa mentally cringed at how feeble her voice sounded, a far cry from the authoritative, commanding tone she had been trying to use.

    “I can’t let you do that,” Celia replied, but Alexa could hear her uncertainty in her voice.

    “Why not?”

    “Because he’s in a coma.” Celia was nervous now, and it showed.

    “Then wake him up. This can’t wait,” Alexa countered.

    “It’s not that simple.”

    Alexa summoned her most intimidating scowl, and it seemed to work, which cheered her up a lot; at least there was one part of her that still worked properly.

    “But, uh… you’re in quarantine.”

    Celia’s resolve wavered, and then finally broke.

    “Fine, but if anyone asks, this was entirely your idea.”

    Celia opened a large cupboard and pulled out a folding wheelchair. Between them, they managed to move Alexa from the bed to the chair, then Celia detached the top of the IV stand and slotted it into the wheelchair’s frame. They headed out the door, and then paused at a full-length window directly outside the room to let Alexa get her first proper look at the island.

    The island was flat- not as flat as the man-made islands that dotted the oceans, but not nearly as rugged or mountainous as Reykjavik had been. The hills were about five metres tall, and surrounded by small square ponds, most covered with nets to protect the fish inside from hungry seabirds. Directly in front of the main Outpost building that they were on one of the middle levels of, three small trees took pride of place in a small courtyard surrounded by small shrubs and a few hardy flowers. The door to the room opposite hers was closed, a big ‘DO NOT ENTER’ sign hanging on by a single corner.

    “I have to warn you, he’s in a pretty bad condition. Are you sure you want..?” Celia crumbled a second time under Alexa’s steely-eyed stare, and she put her hand on the door handle.

    Alexa’s peripheral vision detected movement high in the sky, and she looked up and saw a siege mortar shell plummeting out of the sky towards them. There was no time to shout a warning, or even to try and protect her head with her arms, before the mortar shell crashed into the Outpost’s front wall several floors above them, burrowed into the building’s structure, then exploded. The blast wave shattered the windows, then picked them up and threw them out of the building, nine floors above the ground.

    Time seemed to slow down for Alexa: lumps of concrete the size of her head floated past her, a huge plume of fire from the mortar explosion billowed out from the empty window in pursuit of her, and a second mortar shell dropped lazily out of the sky, trailing a thin white line behind it, before impacting in almost exactly the same place as the first shell, penetrating even deeper into the Outpost building and hollowing out its core. Then the branches of one of the trees were rushing up to meet her and she hit her head off a particularly strong branch and blacked out. 

    My VC story: 
    Vega Conflict-er since closed beta phase 1, back when torpedo harriers ruled the sector.
    BP- started in the black sea days, then the game died...
    WC- started pre-World Map, then everything went downhill.

    My BP story series: (in progress).

  • jimmymcgoochie
    Master Tactician
    Joined Jan 2012 Posts: 2,161
    Still working on the next few, but more will be coming as soon as I can! Again, apologies that it's taking so long.

    Chapter 9

    The blackout lasted only a few moments and when Alexa came round there were still lumps of debris landing in the courtyard in front of the destroyed Outpost, and occasionally striking one of the trees’ branches. She was hanging upside down, wedged firmly at a junction of two branches near the tree’s trunk and, completely by coincidence, totally hidden behind layers of leaves and twigs. She was invisible to anyone below, but had a perfect view of the ground just below the tree, almost directly in front of the Outpost’s main entrance.

    Her hearing took a little longer to return, and when it did she heard a deep rumble accompanied by a regular, metallic clanking and an occasional BOOM of cannon fire. She couldn’t see its source, but it wasn’t hard to guess: a platoon of black-painted tanks were advancing through the island, destroying everything in their path. A piece of metal painted blue on one side with white letters saying ‘Ha’ clattered to the ground under the tree; a fragment of the now obliterated Sydney Harbor Bridge, the destroyed craft seeming to mock her as she tried to no avail to work her way free from the tree. The tanks continued to advance with almost no opposition through the island, a few sporadic bursts of counterfire silenced by a chorus of tank cannons, until they arrived in the courtyard outside the Outpost and proceeded to demolish the carefully cultivated flowerbeds and neatly trimmed lawns, and bulldoze two of the three trees- somehow, none of the tanks even grazed the tree that Alexa was stuck in, but one parked directly beneath her, so close that she could see down the tank’s access hatch when it opened and its crew climbed out.

    The tank crews seemed completely unconcerned by the sounds of combat around them, and soon enough the sound of gunfire stopped as the last pockets of resistance were crushed by overwhelming force; lightly armed foot soldiers against heavily armed and armoured tanks would only ever end one way.

    The soldiers and the tanks seemed to be waiting for something outside the Outpost. A few of the more daring soldiers searched the ruins of the Outpost building for anything worth looting, but soon returned empty handed as the building began to collapse under its own weight, its foundations fatally damaged. There was a triumphant shout, then a yelp of pain that Alexa immediately identified as coming from Celia. She couldn’t see her because of the tree, but she could still hear the brief conversation perfectly.

    One of the soldiers crouched down beside Celia- Alexa could see his feet but little else- and said, “You know who we’re looking for, don’t you?”

    Alexa heard a faint “yes”.

    “And you know where they are?”

    Celia’s voice was slightly stronger when she replied. “You killed them.”

    A second soldier suddenly barged in and knocked the first over, then there were three loud gunshots.

    “That was unnecessary,” the first soldier said to the second as he stood up, his feet reappearing in Alexa’s field of view.

    “You forget your place, Lieutenant,” the second replied, “not for the first time, but this time will be the last.”

    Another gunshot split the air, but Alexa was surprised when the feet she could see remained where they were.

    “And you forget yours,” a new voice said, a voice with a slight metallic tone to it that immediately sent shivers up Alexa’s spine.

    “Find them. Search every crevice of this island if you have to, but FIND THEM.”

    There was a flurry of activity as the assembled troops rushed to obey the order; some apparently convinced that they were being haunted by Spader’s predecessor, others wishing it was only a ghost.

    Alexa heard a strange noise, a creaking, cracking sound from somewhere nearby. A life in artificial, metal islands meant she had never come across a tree before, and the sound of its branches snapping under her weight was completely alien to her. The only warning she got was when the branch lurched downwards, and she looked towards the trunk of the tree to see that the branch that supported her was breaking away from the trunk, jagged splinters jutting from the break point revealing pale wood underneath. She closed her eyes and waited for it to snap, but after shuddering for a few seconds longer the branch finally stopped moving. She peered through the leaves, looking to see if anyone was looking up towards the tree and might spot her, but nobody was paying any attention to a creaky old tree-

    Another gunshot rang out and the branch was ripped from the tree, sending it and her crashing to the ground. She must have hit her head when she landed (again), because she could only remember fragments of what happened next: looking up into the barrel of an assault rifle; being carried awkwardly between two soldiers past a burning defence turret; a short ride in a landing craft; the inside of a Dreadnought; then finally the holding cell inside the ship where she was finally left alone.

    Her foot was cramping, and she reached down to try and massage the tension away only to meet empty air and fall forwards. It was at that moment, lying face down on the floor, that everything caught up with her. She buried her face in her hands and began to sob.

    My VC story: 
    Vega Conflict-er since closed beta phase 1, back when torpedo harriers ruled the sector.
    BP- started in the black sea days, then the game died...
    WC- started pre-World Map, then everything went downhill.

    My BP story series: (in progress).

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