I posed a question in an earlier post What remains of the tale? Which I just happened to reblog earlier today, strange that mmm, almost as if it was planned.
But enough from me, here is what the teenager I used to know was writing about…
Turning erratic cartwheels and spiralling pirouettes the debris spun off into the perpetual night of deep space. Nothing survived all living tissue had been expunged, torn apart by the hunger of the vacuum.
Captain Hakknoran sighed, this was not a tale he would be telling. This was not the Battle of the Five Stars or the Rape of Junder Bo. And he would be lying if he told his friends of breathtaking manoeuvres in a meteor shower or a lightning fast chase through an asteroid belt. And it would be a lie if they called him a hero.
When the FIRES OF RETRIBUTION had first encountered the alien ship she was sitting frozen amongst the stars. Hakknoran ordered a warning shot fired across her bows but the aliens had not fled instead the radio had crackled into life and words Hakknoran could not understand had tumbled out.
‘What are they saying?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know,’ the radio operator replied ‘perhaps they are begging for their lives.’
‘Launch the Rakhi.’ Hakknoran commanded, while glaring at his subordinate. ‘Spare no one.’
Hakknoran moved to the window from where he could observe the launch of the fighters. It was his only chance to relive the dream of his childhood, a dream he shared with all Amachee males, and imagine that he was the pilot of a Rakhi fighter.
The Rakhi flashed into view, fifteen ships dancing in unison through space towards the alien ship, each craft had three tendril-like wings that undulated behind them; making the craft highly manoeuvrable capable of seemingly impossible twists, dives and turns.
Hakknoran watched as the Rakhi split in to three wedges each of five ships as they rapidly crossed the distance between themselves and the enemy ship which still lay motionless in the void. Hakknoran watched as one wedge moved to attack the left flank, another moved to the right while a third circled the alien craft to assail the enemy from the rear.
It had not come as a surprise to Hakknoran when the radio had burst into life, he sensed the panic in the voice of the alien who spoke.
‘Doesn’t anyone understand their damn language?’
‘I think Gofborik does, Captain.’ the radio operator answered.
‘The kitchen hand?’ The Captain enquired, he was the sort of man that believed only the military were capable of anything of value.
The Radio Operator was proving him right by just sitting and nodding dumbly in reply.
‘Well find out will you.’ Hakknoran snapped.
By the time Hakknoran turned back towards the screen the Rakhi had reached the alien ship and had begun their attack. First the wedge of ships to the left opened fire, then those to the right, in tight formation wing-tips perilously close to each other, darted in to fire off a volley of shots, before the remainder swooped down on the enemy from the rear. The alien ship was trapped within the unbreakable web the Rakhi weaved.
The Captain watched transfixed as the Rakhi flew their intricate patterns in perfect formation around the ship skimming close to the surface, firing round after round, slowly they tore apart their prey. Hakknoran saw the craft buck violently like a creature in its death throes, its spine shattering as a vast piece of its hull was blasted out into space.
A piercing wale filled the command deck like the sound of twisting metal stretched by tremendous force, Hakknoran threw his hands up but by the time he had covered his ears the sound had stopped and a voice could be heard over the radio speaking faintly through the static in the alien tongue. Hakknoran ground his teeth in frustration at the enemy’s failure to die.
‘What are they saying? Can the cook translate?’
‘He can Sir. He says the language is English,’ The radio operator struggled with the alien word ‘it is the nearest the humans have to a common tongue.’
‘I don’t care,’ Hakknoran snapped ‘Just tell me what it means.’
‘Oh we don’t know yet, Gofborik says he is a little out of practice.’
‘Tell him he can practice in hell, he’ll have all eternity there. I want to know now.’
As Hakknoran was speaking the radio crackled back into life and the human voice spoke once again. Hakknoran stood watching the Rakhi in silence, fuming at the incompetence of those around him. The enemy’s babble must be stopped.
‘Tell the Rakhion to concentrate on the communication array.’
Immediately the pattern of the attack changed, the Rakhi swooping low over the target aiming explosive charges again and again at the same small section of the damaged hull.
The chance to flex his power immediately lightened the Captain’s mood, so much so that he greeted Gofborik like an old friend, when he slunk up clutching a sheet of paper.
‘Ah Gofborik, the translation.’
‘Yes Captain Hakknoran, Sir.’ Gofborik said, bowing and scraping between each word.
‘I will see you are rewarded. How does Lieutenant Gofborik sound.’
The kitchen hand smiled weakly. Lieutenant sounded fine, but you can go home to your pregnant wife and we will stop the war with the people of her home planet would have sounded much finer to his ears.
‘Read out the message, Gofborik.’ Hakknoran commanded.
‘Are you sure Captain?’ he protested ‘Wouldn’t you rather read them privately?’
‘No, no, get on with it, read them out.’
‘The first message begins,’ Gofborik cleared his throat ‘“This is Doctor Diego Gonzáles, Captain of the North American Alliance hospital ship the HUDSON BAY.”’ At the word American an alarmed murmur took flight and beat its wings amongst the crew. ‘“We are unarmed, we pose no threat and mean you no harm.
‘“I stress this no military vessel. The casualties are civilian, women and children.
‘“End of message, Gonzáles out.”’
Gofborik glanced towards the Captain.
‘The second message?’ he said.
Hakknoran waved him to continue.
‘“This Gonzáles of the HUDSON BAY, I ask you to desist. We have no weapons, we cannot fight. Stand down your fighters; I beg of you!
‘“End of message Gonzáles out.”’
The kitchen hand stood waiting to be portioned the blame for the humans being of the wrong bloc but it never came.
‘I brought you the translation before I finished the third message. I thought you should know.’
‘Take your time with the final message. You are dismissed Gofborik.’
Union or Alliance Hakknoran did not care who he attacked, the Triptych were quite specific they wanted all humans out of space. The technicality that they were not at war with the Americans obviously worried his crew, Hakknoran could see them watching him. Maybe they thought he had signed their death warrants when he had launched this attack, perhaps they did not have the stomach for the fight.
The radio chose that moment to crackle and spit out another message. Hakknoran spun from the scream and glared at the crew.
‘Does anyone hear doubt our victory?’
No one dared to answer.
‘Listen to them plead for their paltry lives.’ He continued, ‘Our brave Rakhion – the heroes of all Amachee – have almost completed the destruction of the enemy.
‘Look out there,’ he gestured theatrically, ‘see for yourselves that no one can stand in our way.
‘And listen to their last cries for soon they will be silenced forever.’
Hakknoran dared anyone to challenge him. No one did.
He turned away from the crew and towards the screen that showed the the destruction aboard the HUDSON BAY. He could see fire emerge from out of the ship. Perhaps the humans were burning to death, perhaps some would survive long enough for the vacuum to take them. He liked to imagine at times like this what would go through the mind of his enemy when the cold touch of space first caressed their lips and they knew they had but moments, nanoseconds to live, not even time to scream.
These humans were screaming long and very loud, Hakknoran thought. The message they now broadcast was short but the fact they could broadcast at all proved the Rakhi had not done their jobs. He allowed the Rakhi a last chance, one final volley, before he turned to the radio operator and calmly ordered.
‘Call off the Rakhi.’
As the Rakhi turned away from the Alliance ship the radio broadcast another message from the HUDSON BAY.
Hakknoran waited just long enough for the Rakhi to be a safe distance before pressing the button. He watched as the torpedo sped towards the enemy ship covering the distance in seconds before ripping through the hull of the HUDSON BAY as if it was made of paper. The explosion propelled out shards of twisted metal out into the void. And then with a flash of white light its echoes resonating violently as they burned onto Hakknoran’s retinas the HUDSON BAY was gone. It was, thought Hakknoran a beautiful sight.
Captain Hakknoran basked in the glory as he gazed out of the giant screen that dominated the command deck at the emptiness of space the FIRES OF RETRIBUTION sat alone now, frozen amongst the stars.
Someone joined him at the window, their shadow falling silently across him. He turned to face his second-in-command Tokn, the Icsi greeted him with a rapacious reptilian smile.
‘Captain I have the translation.’ the alien mercenary said.
The Captain hated the way Tokn’s voice seemed to slither around what he meant.
‘Can’t it wait?’ Hakknoran replied, ‘I’m rather busy.’
‘No.’ Tokn hissed.
Not used to being ordered about on his own ship, was too stunned to argue. Taking the two sheets of paper he was offered he began to read.
Deity damn it people are dying! Why are you doing this we are not your enemy.
You’re at war with the mother copulating Union.
STATIC… Gonzáles. As of this date… STATIC… Alliance is not… STATIC…
war…STATIC…surrender we will…STATIC…has to die…STATIC…beg you…STATIC.
‘Is this what was so important Icsi, static and protestations of innocence?’
‘Second page. Two more messages.’ Tokn rasped.
Hakknoran decided at that moment to have Tokn executed as an enemy of the people as soon as they returned to base. Hakknoran was patient though, first he would have a little fun at the Icsi’s expense.
‘Message five:’ he crowed loudly, ‘“Don’t make me destroy you.”’
The words were out of his mouth before he could stop himself. The crew on the command deck began to panic; a slow corrosive panic which has a particular potency amongst the military of every planet.
Hakknoran heard the same word repeated amongst the whispers of fear. Ghosts!
‘Quiet!’ he shouted, ‘What does that mean “Don’t make me destroy you.”?’
‘Hazarding a guess,’ Tokn began, speaking in the same monotone he related everything in ‘I would say the HUDSON BAY had some weapon onboard which they were intending launching.’
‘And how do you come to this conclusion?’
‘They mention of the American military base Yucatan in the final transmission.’
Hakknoran quickly scanned the final message.
STATIC… Dr Angela Grahame, Chief of Surgery… STATIC… unprovoked
Attack by an Amachee Trident.
The Captain is dead… STATIC… most senior officer surviving. If…
STATIC… trying to save us… STATIC… late.
Just tell Yucatan I had no choice.
Message ends, Grahame out.
‘Obviously,’ Hakknoran said, raising his eyes to look at his second-in-command ‘they did not fire this weapon?’
‘Obviously,’ Tokn replied.
‘We have no intelligence of this military base Yucatan, how do you know of it?’
‘I used to work for the Americans.’
‘But not anymore?’
Amongst the remains of the HUDSON BAY floated a yellow canister, an innocuous looking yellow drum with the words “DANGEROUS – Hospital waste” printed in big red letters upon its side, beneath a pictogram of a skull and crossbones.
The canister was in good condition not a scratch marred its surface, this was in complete contrast to the rest of the HUDSON BAY which was now so much debris and space dust. But then the canister had not been on the ship. Dr Angela Grahame had manhandled it into a waste chute just minutes before the final explosion.
An unremarkable hospital ship waste disposal canister, except for the digital clock ticking away beneath a hidden panel on the canister’s side. It originally read 10:00 before Angela had pressed the button, coloured the same blue as her eyes, that had started the countdown. By the time she had ejected it from the ship the clock read 07:14. When she died, along with the one or two others who had survived the Rakhi assault, it read 05:52.
And now only ten seconds remain.
Then 00:09, 00:08. But the RG7 was untried – that was why it was being taken to Yucatan – it was possible it would not work. 00:05, time ticked on, 00:02, 00:01, 00:00.
And nothing happened. On the outside. But inside the real countdown began.
The canister spun silently on through the vacuum. The lid of canister detached and from inside tumbled, not waste, but a small black box with tiny flashing lights on its side. The box began to spin round and round, faster and faster blurring into one like a poor man’s Catherine Wheel.
Hakknoran saw it coming out of the corner of his eye. Saw the white light spreading to fill the horizon, one continuous wave. He turned to meet it; for there was nothing else he could do.