BLOG, Short Stories

Project Katavon 86 Short Story Series (Part 1)

Katavon1

60 YEARS AGO…

3 days until the Ubistan Crisis…

Kirin Larosa was his name.  The man that would revolutionize the galaxy was only a boy when everything began.  If he were asked to recall the momentous days leading up to the end of the world, he would recall sitting on a dusty brown carpet in the living room that Saturday afternoon watching the large television.  Some children’s show teaching about constellations and the new colony of space stations that the IMCA built in prep for an intergalactic expansion played on the screen.  Little did the world know that its fate had been sealed through those publicly stated plans, swept under the rug by their ignorance, and come Monday would cease to exist.  The show, so menial in theory, also advertised the Nahru, an elite branch of the Interstellar Military Command Academy, with old-school commercials that were similar to the Navy and Army commercials that sparked in the turn of the twenty first century.  Although, Instead of a man or woman coining phrases like “I am a Navy Seal” and “I vow to protect the homeland”, it was a boy no older than 8-year-old Kirin displayed on the screen.  He wore a forest green tracksuit with roughened gold angular designs on the shoulders and left chest pocket.  A partially constructed space station lay in the background.  Sparks flew about like fireflies behind the boy.  The station on the television was full of docked vessels and mechanics operating large machinery across the steel frame of the upper arches burning hot red and separating in very calculated measurements.

“We want you for the IMCA,” the boy said proudly.  “You are never too young to get involved in the space exploration program.”  There was a montage of space, the main station that was completed and operational in space, students sitting in a tiered classroom only lit by computer screens and holographic keyboards in front of each student and instructor, a large battlefield like room with combat training students firing non-lethal weapons at each other.  Kirin was imprinted with a particular shot where a kid was blasted off a ledge.  He always wondered what was on the other side of the ledge.  Did the boy survive the blast?  Didn’t look non-lethal to him.  The camera dollied down a long corridor of the campus in time lapse as students of different colored tracksuits meandered to their assigned classes with fake smiles on their faces.  An older man with giant muscles scowled at a group of boys playing a variation of earth rugby called ‘Scrimmer’ before noticing the camera and giving a small unconvincing nod and smile.  It was at this moment that Kirin became aware of how propagandous the commercial truly was, but he didn’t care.  The facility was large and had many high towers where specialized atmosphere bound transporters and aircraft darted busily around the sky.  Of course, this was a digital mockup of what the space station could hypothetically look like after more improvements.

“I wanted to be a pilot, but through the IMCA program I didn’t just learn to fly a ship–I got to captain my own ship,” a man just out of the program shared testimony to the school’s educational prowess.  A clip flashed across the screen of a spaceship’s bridge.  The man who spoke in the interview, was now commanding a crew from the Captain’s chair.  Kirin’s favorite part was next.  He had the commercial memorized and enjoyed seeing anything he could about the space station.  The engine room and schematics of the spacecrafts and their plasma reactors were most interesting to him.  Sure enough, the walk through of the engine room came on and Kirin pulled out his notepad to take notes of the details he may have missed the first 50 times he watched the commercial.  He didn’t tell his parents that he watched the astronomy show more for the commercials like this one than the show itself, he had the star patterns from Earth to Kygrelia memorized so it was all old news anyways.  Navigation had always been one of his gifts.  He didn’t want to tell his parents that he also had the commercials memorized and a stash of drawings of slightly misshapen ‘VC-1 vessels’ as he called them.  It was his own brand of “Void Caliber-Mark 1 Series” spacecraft that he wanted to someday invent.  Only one model would ever be built and gloriously designed it would be.  And it would be called the Katavon 86.

The video ended with the logo of the Military Government spinning in 3D space on the screen.  A voice spoke in the background.

“IMCA is the future.  Be sure that ‘you’ are onboard with us as we venture into the new generation,” Kirin recognized the bodiless voice as Admiral Valheim, a young and promising leader had recently been elected to be something called the Kaido, which was the name the Government had given to the totalitarian leader of the galactic movement of humanity offworld to the Liberation Planet(Converted Alteration of Mars).  Little did Kirin know that the Liberation Planet would become the only human civilization remaining in under 3 days and one of many in less than 50 years as humanity expanded throughout the galaxy.

Aside from keeping up with the progression of the space program, Kirin had a blatant obsession with vehicles in general.  The posters plastering the walls of his Earth room were testimony to that.  It started off with motorcycles, then sports cars, followed by jets and planes, then moved on to airships and more military grade aircrafts when he turned 5 and lastly, every type of spacecraft he could get his hands on.  His parents accidentally inspired this in him when they took him to a Military space and air museum grand opening titled “See the Future, Be the Future” on a big overhanging banner.  Kirin’s Father, Warren Larosa, lifted him onto his shoulders and pointed at the large representations of the newest Military project, the Bhorreigo.  The small scale Bhorreigo model was a monolithic transport that would later bring 400,000 people to start the human race over on Mars.  At age 8, Kirin was growing up to be noticeably brilliant for his age.  He knew practically everything there was to know about machines, engines, resources required to make the massive vessels and wasn’t afraid to let others know that about him.  The real genius was in the fact that he could break down new spacecraft builds in under 5 minutes after seeing it as well as list the statistics of every kind of machine that had been invented in the last 200 years.  Among his favorite in the spacecraft genre were the Leviathan, Optahmo, Monolith, Obelysk, Brutality, Choronai(These would all be critical vessels in the expansion of humanity after the Ubistan Crisis).  But in the years of innocence before disaster, all were solely inspirations and adorned the posters in his room that fine autumn day that Earth ended.  It was abandoned and deathly quiet when the nuclear missiles detonated all over the world.  

Kirin’s parents weren’t fans of his addiction with space and even had several difficult conversations with teachers and neighbors about their son.  After being called to the school to get her son for “insulting behavior” or what Kirin viewed as correcting the instructor’s opinions on the space program, Catrina addressed her 9-year-old son.

“Why can’t you be like the other boys and girls and listen to the teachers?  You have your head in the clouds and no mind for anything here around you.  Ms. Hainek was just encouraging you to find a dream here on Earth.  To pursue a career here.  In 4 years you have to declare a direction of study and I want you to think hard about what you want to do.” Catrina said, before tightly hugging her adventurous son.  She held tightly more to keep him from leaving then out of love, as one would a disobedient dog struggling to get away.

“I know what I want to do, Ma.  I want to go to the Commander’s Academy and study to be a Captain–an explorer!  Like in the commercials.” He said.

“Oh, those foolish things?  Don’t be silly Kirin.  There is no future in space, it is just a fad that will pass when they find what they are looking for.  Your place is here with us.  Find a program to study and devote your life to developing our world.  Improving it!  Like your Father.  Maybe politics, or communications or robotics.  You would be a great technician for the NCT(Nahru Kinesthetic Technology).” she scolded softly.  But she, nor Kirin knew just how wrong she would be about space.  It would be humanity’s only hope in only 204 days.

“I want to be out there discovering things, I want to experience anti-grav and the sensation of seeing a new planet and–,”

“Hush Kirin.  No more speak of this.  There is nothing out there to find honey.  I want you to dream big, but please don’t become one of those Military brats,” she whispered.  This was the moment.   That fateful day, when Kirin vowed that he would leave his family behind and venture into space on his own.

Then the world was blindsided.  Panic!  In old literature they spoke of Man vs Man struggles, but that was nothing compared to the distress that plagued the world when news rang out that the world was self destructing.  No one truly knew what actually happened, but the Military government was hiding something.  Kirin remembered…  He was standing in a line, cradling a weeping baby boy in his arms.  He was the son of friends that worked in the Nuclear Lab with Kirin’s parents.  They had shoved the child into Kirin’s arms and kissed his forehead pausing for a lingering moment to look in his eyes.  No one knew what to say.  The alarms were too loud next to the space station that any words spoken were lost to its wails of terror.  And then they were gone.

Kirin watched the world, his home, his life shatter into a million pieces.  It wasn’t a loud crash or anything magnificent as depicted in creative films.  It was silent, it was cold, it was lonely and it was heartbreaking.  A home that many knew frozen in a broken state.  Kirin would never see his parents again.  97% of the population was incinerated that day.  Human history was over.  Nothing would ever be the same or familiar again.  Survivors remained frozen by the windows for days in shock and confusion and anger.  Stillness.  Nothingness.  Sorrow.  What was hope?   

*****************************************************************************

PRESENT DAY

Year 2264; 60 A.E.

Jin Raithe stood before an enormous bay window.  Staring.  Almost in a meditative state as a soft blue light slowly filled the room.  Rays bounced off the slick metal tiles and created a shimmering abberition on the glass.  It was warm to say the least.  The destruction of Earth had shifted the orbit of the Sun closer to Mars so that its powerful rays now scorched the surface.  Temperatures were at a minimum of 115 degrees and though the window pane was built for heat protection, it was still seeping through his flesh.  The reinforced glass curved elegantly with the circular frame of the IMCA headquarters skyrise located in the center of the largest human city left in the galaxy; Aezoran.  Might as well have been the pinnacle of everything wrong with the so called “New Earth”. The window overlooked the rustic dystopian city and beyond; the Exon wastelands–heaps of scrap metal and expounded resources that were no longer of value to Aezoran stretched out for miles on the horizon.  Most had never seen the city from Sector I’s view, or from any point higher than the slums (Sector III through Sector X) for that matter unless they were proven worthwhile to civilization and plugged into the military’s enhancement program.  They called it enhancement, but it was just a system designed to create mindless drones that controlled other mindless drones.  This was the remains of the greatest beings in the universe.  At least in the expanse of humanity’s awareness.  Earth’s remaining leaders were solely interested in themselves, politics, power and control of the lower class society that was struggling to survive.  It was a broken system that stripped the human race of their very purpose and willpower.  Humanity was no longer and what was left was designed to bring glory to an unknown ghost of a tyrant called the Kaido.  At least that was Jin’s view of society.  He was sure it had its bright spots, but he couldn’t see them.  The sky was the dwelling place of the wealthy.  It was a glorious utopia from this perspective, but from the ground it was a grim and desolate place to grow up and his home–Sector VI, looked like an abysmal grunge pit full of ants lining every wall they could like the muck that collected in corners.  People were clothed in rags, whatever material they could find, to hide from the blistering sun.  Some of the lucky ones had face masks to protect from the frequent dust storms and death cloud that hung over the lower levels of the streets.  Quite the dismal sight, but it had been Jin’s home until his Mother passed away.

Above, in the faded orange sky, the Bhorreigo loomed like a dark moon over the city.  It was barely visible on most days because of the shroud of smog that polluted the atmosphere, but today it was clear.  Only the elite of the Nahru snobs were allowed to travel to the space station; that meant military leaders and the elite soldiers.  Civilians called them ”bot scum”, because they were basically as stiff and uncompassionate that they might as well have been Artificial Intelligence.  The human race was blown to all kind of hell, and not just because of the Ubistan Crisis.  People in the streets were attacking each other over any morsel of food down in the forgotten Sectors and the Nahru lived in more luxury than they deserved.  Jin spent 16 of his 22 years living with his foster Mother in the slums and meandered from alleyways to under bridges for shelter and security.  His real parents had died many years ago, but she raised him and he loved her for that.  She wouldn’t leave Sector VI and he wouldn’t leave her.  After his Mother passed away, he became something of a ghost and only left a trail of lies about his past behind him.  It was to escape his overly controlling Father.  He was cold and selfish, even towards Jin’s loving Mother.  She told him stories of Earth and peace and love and a true human race.  Jin’s happiness died with his Mother.  The government had facilitated this lifestyle for many poverty stricken “meat sacks”, at least that is what they were treated like.  It was an empty void after the loss of Earth.  No, Earth wasn’t the center of the universe, but it sure was a balancing force–as was what humankind stood for, but not anymore.  

The city seemed perfect from the outside and to those who lived above the haze, but below was a constant life of fear and a fight for survival.  In the Exon wastelands, civilians would scavenge for resources that the “Breathers” tossed away.  Anything that they didn’t want dirtying their lives.  Those of wealth were called Breathers because of the atmospheric difference between the upper levels and the suffocating ground floor that led to many respiratory diseases and fatalities.  Few ever ventured out too far into Exon and even less survived out there.  The Breathers sometimes sent families from lower sectors out into Exon for fun.  It was a treacherous place out there and Breathers gathered around screens and bet on which one would die off first.  It was something of a game for them.  The only ones fluent with that half of the planet were the gravekeepers and trash collectors.  And even they didn’t land their cargo ships in certain areas of the planet.  they just dumped bodies mixed in with the trash into the mountains of scrap metal and decaying clumps of flesh and bone then high tailed it back to Aezoran to sip their expensive purified water and whiskies at parties.  The whole human purpose had become ignoramus and avoidance of problems, but Jin wouldn’t stand for it–and that’s what got him here.

The sun was seen as blue from the Liberation Planet.  The quivering light glinted over the horizon mimicking the earth sun at sunrise, though not a soul of this Age remembered Earth pleasures or acknowledged visual sensations such as this.  All that was left of Earth were the hanging teardrops of shattered minerals and resources high in the sky splayed out for all to see and mourn; a constant reminder of what the species had lost all those years ago.  As the blue sun peered further over the wasteland, beams of vibrant light reflected off the silver skyscraper adjacent to the IMCA Headquarters building.  Jin moved to shield his eyes, but was jostled by a dull metal clunk and rendered unable to move his arms from the restraint of cold vambraces laser locked behind him.  It was then that he noticed his reflection.  Busted lip, scuffed brown jump suit with the distasteful symbol of IMCA patched onto the sleeve, which he had tied about his waist before being apprehended.  He wore a gray tank-top tarnished by drips of darkened blood.  A navy blue band was wound tightly around his muscled bicep with the crest of the rebellion proudly displayed for anyone to see his statement against the government.  The insignia was a dragon holding a spear in its claws.

He grimaced at the face he saw; unshaven dark facial hair that was scraggly and matted, thick rust colored hair that had a rather sleek red shimmer to it in the light, though it was unkempt and loosely ruffled from the prior scuffle.  His eyes were strong and piercing and although he showed no signs of weakness in his expression, he was terrified.  Being here in the capital building meant the end of his life.  Jin was innocent of his murder and treason convictions.  He revealed the deceptions of leaders and esteemed members in this society and they sought to snuff him out quickly before riots arose.  A soft hiss and pop of an air tight blast door opening jostled him from his thoughts.

“Citizen,” a mechanical voice said.  “Admiral Valheim and the Nahru Court have summoned you for judgement,”

Turning around slowly, Jin saw the sleek android standing in the doorway.  He grinned, partially amused by the bot’s awkward frame.  It was a vibrant ocean blue and a pasty ugly mustard orange as a complementary color.  The design flaws were clearly evident to the natural born engineer.  The chest was embellished with the logo of APU (Android Protection Unit).  He noted the fluid movements and hydraulics systems in the joints and immediately targeted them as vulnerable spots.  He built the rotating compressors after all, which had been poorly modified for this model.  

Jin snuffed at the droid and turned to face him.  Having made the hydraulic compressors on a larger scale for the purpose of adapting nuclear grade engines for high speed space travel while still in the Academy, this cheap knock off was a sad clone of his designs.  However, he knew exactly how they worked and more importantly, how to turn its components into an explosive device.  His thoughts cleared of an escape plan when he heard a more familiar voice.  

“Jin.  Why do you continue to be a thorn in my side?  If you drop it right here and now, they are giving you a full pardon!  Just make the deal with the Admiral and the trial will all disappear.  Just give him the names of the rebel leaders and we can go home,” the Lieutenant Commander Allu stood next to the APU now with his arms crossed.  The voice made Jin cringe with a ferocious rage.

“And what if Mom was one of those names?  Would you give her up—again?” Jin didn’t even look at the older man and walked past, intentionally nudging the officer out of the way with his shoulder.  Jin proceeded down the long corridor towards the Vice Admiral’s court room, his head held high.  He knew that submission and going backwards was not an option.  He in some ways believed himself and the rebellion to represent the last sliver of traditional humanity and what it stood for before the Nahru got a hold of it.  Going before the Admiral and the court was almost certain death at this point.

 

************************************************************************

TWO YEARS EARLIER…

The superstructures surrounding “The Academy” reflected anomalies of slim variations of shuttles traveling through the upper levels of Aezoran’s Sector I.  A blocky rhombus shaped shuttle with a sleek gray and yellow color code landed in a burst of steam on a platform extending from level 147 of the Military skyrise.  A blast door opened, exposing the cabin and a crowd of students in various jumpsuit flooded out and proceeded towards the Academy entrance.  Jin Raithe was among these.  His slick dark hair was well kept and his face clean shaved as dress code permitted.  Jin separated from the student populace and met with a highly decorated military man who stood not too far from the landing zone.   Approaching the large precipice of slick steel plating on the large courtyard of the Interstellar Military Command Academy, Jin grimaced.  It was his Father’s typical effect on him.  He could sense the disappointment, though the Lt. Commander showed little to no expression at all–especially in the presence of his son.  He never had.  The circular IMCA logo adorning both men’s uniforms matched the silver tower.  It was split into four sections each letter taking up one of them and a shuttle orbiting the design.  Jin wore a gray track suit, which represented the new recruits and first term students of the Academy.  They weren’t worthy of wearing a branding color until the end of their first 6 month term.  

“You best be ready to work hard, boy.  This Academy is no joke,” Lt. Commander Allu stated in an edgy tone.  He didn’t even look at his son, but stared off into the distance.

“Yeah, sure,”

“Excuse me?”

“I mean, Yes Sir!” Jin mocked.  He turned back to address what would be his new home for the next 8 months and shook his head.  

“It is your duty as a citizen of this colony to contribute to society,” Allu nagged.  A phrase he had force fed Jin all his life.  As if it was his only purpose.  Frankly, he wanted nothing to do with it or his Father’s expectations for his life.  He squinted slightly as the sun peered between the buildings.  

“Then let me join the Exploration Team,”

“We’ve been over this, Jin,”

“Yeah I know, but when did my choice no longer matter in regards to my future?” Jin asked sternly.  Allu sighed and kept calm if only for appearance sake and motioned towards a collecting group of mingling gray tracksuited students.  

“We will discuss these matters later.  You will be late for initiation if you don’t hurry,” he muttered.  Jin shook his head looking at the ground and proceeded towards the crowd.  

A young and pretty woman, strictly dressed in white and stiff as a board in her posture, stood at the front of the group giving an introductory speech to the new students.  She had a holographic pad in one arm and a nametag reading Phoebe pinned to her ivory coat.  Her vibrant cerulean hair and silver-blue skin marked her as a native of the Bhorreigo and higher society.  The climates and light exposure for most of her life had caused her skin cells to adapt in such a way to have a blue pigment.  To some it was an extremely attractive quality.  Jin was one of them.  He grinned slowly.  Maybe there would be an upside to being a military dog.

“–This building was designed by a very innovative architect named Rayzor Brandt who also happens to be the Manager of the IMCA.  You may get the opportunity to meet him, but I hope for your sake that it is for commendation and not disreputable behavior.”  The woman said.  This got a chuckle from the crowd.

“We have existed here for almost 12 cycles (cycles representing rotations of the planet–each one estimated to be 3.5 years) and were founded shortly after the Ubistan Crisis.” She paused for a moment and scanned her holopad and the crowd to confirm that everyone was present.  A green glowing mark appeared reading “Attendance at 100%” flashed at the top of the screen.  

“If you will all follow me, we can continue our tour to the Conference Hall and Recreation Center where you will spend most of your time studying, consuming daily meals–we hold a tight diet here for our investments–and you may also have some available down time to rest there as well, but it is highly unlikely as we take our work very seriously,” This gained another, but less enthused chuckle.  Phoebe led the students up the entry staircase and down the main corridor continuing on about the history of the facility, but like Jin, nearly half of the students weren’t paying attention.  That is until they past the engine development sector.  Jin nearly stopped in his tracks ripping himself from the group after seeing the cylindrical machinery whirring, pistons cranking, and mammoth cranes and mechanical arms rotating and sparking against folded steel.  He quickly analyzed the process and took mental notes.  They were probably designing a new rig engine casing of some new phase reactor for a new vessel.  His smile widened as he saw hope in this place.  Though, he remembered that he was on the fast track to Medical statistics and detailing, which basically crunched numbers and told people whether or not they were worth saving.  Not his idea of a pleasant future career.

The pack of students stopped in a large room with a wall of windows that looked out over the city.  It was filled with students wearing uniforms of arrayed colors eating at cafeteria tables that took up half of the area.  Students were using interactive displays to work on concept designs or were bent over paperwork, or played puzzle games.  There were strategy programs to keep your mind sharp, and students moved about the space guiding amateur robotic helicranes, gliders, rolling tables, minibots, humanoid android companions and various other tech about the facility.  One cluster of students was the armor development class where students were showing off their latest creations.  A flame haired girl was showcasing her design of an armband that triggered muscled plating to cover her entire body.  

“Golemitus” was a welded title that adorned the breastplate of her design.  Jin was so in awe of the technological prowess around him that he didn’t realize the tour had already moved on.  He found himself a lone “Smokey” (term for fresh meat within the school) in the midst of upper classmen.  A loud voice rang out off towards the entrance from a blast door at the end of a corridor on Jin’s right.  He looked over and saw a crew of men and women wearing fitted glassy armor lining their red military uniforms.  Some wore titanium helmets with a thin glass visor, while some carried them or braced them between their elbow and hip.  The loud voice had come from what Jin could assume was the leader of the group.  A tall blond haired man with rippling muscles and several badges on his shoulders and chest walking towards the center of the group and subtly directing its movements.  He also wore a black suit lined with red and yellow.  The rest wore red with black and yellow as complimentary colors.  Must have been a ranking system.  

What are these people?  Some form of clan?  Jin wondered.

“That’s the combat unit’s current leaderboard record holder.  ExCaliber. ” a voice said.

The curiosity on Jin’s face must have been evident or he was going crazy hearing voices.  He looked over his shoulder to see a smaller man in his late teens standing next to him.  The man had dark brown skin and almost black hair and wore a blue tracksuit: Medical Division.  His shoulderguard had 3 Stripes on it meaning he was near the end of his first year.  Though he wasn’t much of an intimidation factor, there was a terrifying intelligence behind his eyes that Jin noticed immediately after making eye contact.

“Shaiid Safeiur,” Shaiid introduced himself, and bowed.  Jin looked at him curiously and nodded.

“I’m Jin.  So, what’s their deal?” Jin looked back over at the crew, particularly at the captain.  Sizing him up.

“They think that they are better than everyone else because they actually do most of the fighting around here.  They train all day in the arena and I have even heard they play dirty in order to win.  Their leader is Dirkaz there.  The tall one that looks like he will eat you if you cross him.  He thinks he is going to be the next Kaido, but no one really likes him,”

“And what do you think?”

“I think that the position of the Kaido is all about power and prestige and appearance.  Kinda like a popularity contest.  He would never make it,” Shaiid chuckled.  “Then again everyone here wants to be the Kaido,”

“Do you?” Jin asked.

“No, I wouldn’t want that kind of life.  I would settle for something much more utilitarian, like being the first Medical Officer to crack the code for radiation exposure and create a serum for adapting to different effects from the atmosphere.  Outside of The Rim and in the wastelands of Exon, victims are exposed to the wrath of this planet and I want to make sure that those on the lower levels have a chance for surviving more than 10 years.”  Shaiid smiled confidently.  The Rim referred to the bubble like atmosphere that circled the higher sectors.  It was constructed of octagonal shields that glistened in the light.  They were a transparent and translucent protection from radiated rays and smog that made up 72% of the intoxicated atmosphere.  Exposure to only 40% would reduce your lifespan by 25 years.  You could physically see the separation between the clean air and the polluted wastes and lower levels of the city.  Jin was standing next to a large bay window.  He looked out at the haze, then down below at the stark contrast of barely visible city streets.  For a moment he remembered the discomfort of that life.  He remembered his Mother.  Those below without a connection to society were viewed as just another ignored footprint of the corrupted government.  Jin clenched his fists tightly then he turned back to Shaiid to try and clear his head with some form of positivity.

“Sounds like you have a promising future ahead of you Shaiid, with that kind of dream and outlook how could it not come to pass?” Jin said and smiled.  Shaiid nodded politely.

“Would you like to join us?  I noticed on your OMU (Organic Monitoring Unit) that you are scheduled to be in the Medical program.” Shaiid motioned towards the table of blue uniformed students.  Jin looked down at the cylindrical holographic interface that wrapped around his left arm displaying from a thin metallic web-like band.  A flashing alert had been going off unbenounced to him.  It stated “Proceed to Medical Engineering Dept. at 0400 hours for MED 101” in bold red lettering.

“We can lead you to the department for further orientation later if you’d like?”

“I think I will be alright.  I appreciate the offer, Shaiid.  It was nice to meet you.  Maybe I will see you in Med 101 at 0400,” Jin said pleasantly and turned his attention towards the robotics club, which was clearly made up of engineering and development program students.  They were currently constructing a model space craft.  Shaiid waved slightly and watched for a moment as Jin walked over to the club, then sat down at the end of the table separated from the rest of the medical students and resumed eating his assigned brown rice and vegetable mix and scribbled schematics and notes on his holopad–as he did every day.  He twirled a finger through his thick black curls near his ear out of habit as he worked.  After chewing a bite of food, he contemplated the techniques implemented by the garden keepers that grew Earth food for the facility and spun into rabbit hole thought process of how to improve it.

Jin found it relatively easy to blend into the group of robotics and military defense engineers.  He knew a lot about the different known alloys and material compounds required for building and reinforcing elite shuttles and space crafts and found a few advanced minds to discuss theories with.  The rest of the afternoon was spent in heated discussions about the inner workings of advanced machinery and the advance of engine structure since the Crisis.  As the departments ended their lunch sessions and went to their first class, Jin’s holopad beeped at him to go to his first class, Med 101.  He thought for a moment, then clicked it to silent mode and joined some of his new found equals and decided he would check out the engineering and robotics course before joining the Medical program.  It was the first day after all.  How big of a deal would it really be if he missed one class in a program he didn’t want to study in anyways?

The Engineering class was amazing and everything Jin could have expected from an elite Academy program!  There were prototype designs of all vehicular breeds scattered around the enormous warehouse classroom.  There were cycles, gliders, archaic models of planes, airships, exploration vessels of all sizes.  For Jin, this was heaven.  There were a lot more underclassmen than there were upperclassmen in the program it seemed.  This surprised Jin, but only a little.  Only a handful of about fifteen were in the final stages of the program.  And after the introductory speech where Dr. Killean stated “Seventy-five percent of you will quit or fail this program before the end of this year” it was pretty understandable why with his standards and grade scale.  Jin glanced over the rules and regulations sheet he had been handed at the beginning of class and his eyes widened.  It was almost 14 pages long!  Maybe it was a good thing he didn’t choose engineering if it was this restricted.

The class was instructed to spectate some of the instruction and the work of the older students for the first class.  Dr. Killean decided to ease them in to the program for once.  Normally he would just throw them into an assignment to see what they were made of, but that meant more intensive grading he didn’t want to do.  

Jin ran his fingers over the cold steel skeleton of a particularly alluring framework of a new speedship design.  It was called the Echora II.  

“That was designed by the teacher’s pet!” one of the fellow Smokeys whispered to him having noticed his interest.  The initials M. T. were etched into the thick Neptunian style concept.  sharp elongated angles and smooth curves.  There was a definite elegance in the handiwork.  Several of the students had moved on to watching a elite level engineer demonstrating his power lifter contraption, leaving Jin alone.  It could lift roughly 50 tons without a single creak and was said to be a milestone for demolition and construction and was capable of working effectively in zero gravity.  Jin was so focused on the demonstration that he didn’t notice a girl walk over to the vehicle beside him.  She work a green jump suit with cutoff sleeves and her dirty blond hair was tied up in a knot.  She wore clunky rubber boots, but seemed to be light enough on her feet for Jin not to hear.  She was wiping the grease out of the grooves of an enlarged piston for her speed ship.

“Better watch your hand,” she said grinning as Jin’s fingers were leaning on the paneless cockpit opening.  she clicked a large green button on a silver electric box that triggered a loud suction noise and air to be released through the piston shaft near enough to Jin to startle him.

Jin jolted back swiftly pulling his hand away and looked over at her.  She smiled and raised her eyebrows in an almost arrogant expression.  

“Why did you do that?” Jin asked sharply, not knowing the proper response, and not expecting to see a girl standing there.  He reconsidered his tone after realizing it.

“Don’t touch my ship,” she laughed to herself and went to the shaft, inserting the piston tightly into place then closed the air tight cover with the button again.  She had it on an external trigger because the wiring was still unfinished between the chassis, engine and control unit.

Jin just watched her, quite stunned for a moment and then offered a hand through the metal frame.

“The name’s Jin–Raithe.  I am here to learn how to build exploration vessels,” he realized immediately how childish that sounded after he said it.  The unimpressed look she gave him didn’t help his confidence either.  She reached towards his hand and dropped a non electric torque tool into his hand.

“Sure hot-shot.  You and everyone else,”

Jin didn’t know if it was an insult or a compliment. He looked at the tool almost expecting it to have some form of automated workflow.

“Hey, she snapped to get his attention.  “tighten the bolts on that side, Ginger.  You know, use your hands,” she mimed a cranking motion and then continued to work.

“Ginger?”

“Whatever.  I’m not going to waste my time learning the name of some smokey on the first day,” she disappeared on the other side of the vessel and Jin began tightening bolts down.

“Maybe I should have just gone to Med 101,” he thought aloud with a scowl before looking at the hull of the craft.  He knew what to do and began working.

 

******************************************************************************

Regiment Hall, #402: (Year 1 and 2 Residency Facility)

The number located on Jin’s orientation program on his OMU Interface matched the “Room #1224, Hall #402” plated in sleek steel on the door that marked what would be Jin’s new home for the next 3 years.  Jin glanced down the hall at other “inmates” inhabiting the Smokey dormitory.  Hundreds of blast doors leading to similar rooms lined the sides of a semi circular corridor that bent off into the distance.  Several students sauntered about the hall looking for their assigned rooms.  It almost gave Jin an overwhelming scope of the building’s actual size standing where he was.  Must have been a half mile to the end of the hall.  Blue LED lights lit up the floor and a single strip of blue ran along the center of the ceiling reflecting off the gray metallic walls.  

Jin sighed softly at the quaint sight of his own room.  Inside wasn’t much to look at.  A sturdy cot, empty bookcase, a chair, and a desk were the only real furniture in the 8 by 8 foot cell.  Seemed as though the academy had budgeted less than adequate amounts for funding this aspect of their campus life.  A tiny window let a small stream of blue light into the cell.  Was this prison?  He could tell by the hard thud that resounded as he leapt onto the mattress of his cot that it was going to be a “fun night”.  Evenings on Earth were only 12 hours of darkness give or take depending on seasons.  It sounded fantastic and restful.  Much more so than the 15 hours of hazy blue that blazed outside in the evenings in Aezoran.  Jin’s view looked out towards a particularly tall skyscraper with reflective windows.  There was something of a view though.  In the windows, a fuzzy blurred image of Exon was visible and if you stared long enough through the glints of light you could see the large mountains of sharp steel and junk metal.  A ship hovered in the sky beyond the octagonal aberrations of the protective shield surrounding the city outside.  The trash ship was unloading a particularly hefty load of scrap metal.  At least he could see something moving outside his window.  He guessed that qualified as life.  Jin would hate to be on the west wing.  It apparently faced the wall of a new sky rise that obstructed everything through some room windows.  

“Rooms 15 through 111. Long ways from here.”  Jin confirmed the numbers in his mind from an earlier conversation with the Meghora girl from class considering she roomed over there her first year.  He had later learned that the curious girl went by the name Meggie.  Jin laid back on his bed and coursed his fingers through his hair gruffly, the exhaustion from the day settling in on him.

“How you settling in, boy?”

Jin looked up, slightly startled to see his Father leaning against the thick door frame.

“It’s lookin to be alright, sir,” he slowly stood to his feet and saluted partially in a sarcastic but well practiced demeanor.  There was “some” respect behind it, but not much.  Lt. Allu didn’t take it very respectfully and grimaced for a split second then cleared his throat to break the growing silence.  

“How was your first class?  The Med program is pretty intense I bet, but you are smart enough to pull through it.” Jin didn’t respond to his Father’s unnecessary compliment.

“If you need me to, I can talk to Dr. Trascke about pulling some strings and–”

“Sir! —You don’t have to do that.  I can handle it.” Jin looked over at his Father trying hard to hide the fact that he hadn’t even gone to the first Med 101 class.  He was partially ashamed, but he looked more angry to keep him off his scent.

“Alright, alright.  If you say you’ve got it, then I trust you.—” He turned to leave, then hesitated.

“—-Look Jin, I know that the last couple of years haven’t been our most shining of moments as a family, but we are all we’ve got.  Let’s just focus on the here and now and leave the past where it belongs.  This can be a fresh start for us–for you,” Lt. Allu said in attempts to patch up their earlier disagreements.  The Lt. Colonel peered over his shoulder towards a captain standing at the edge of the corridor entrance beckoning him to come with a slight nod.  Allu looked back at his son, seeing that he was lost in thought and walked away down the hallway, saluted the captain and they both turned the corner and were gone.  Jin stared at the ceiling wondering if he should reveal the truth of what his intentions at the Academy were and how long he could keep the Lieutenant at bay in regards to his personal life.

**************************************************************

In the course of six months, Jin’s room was covered in virtual notes, wall spreads of diagrams and scribbled theories on the large digital board he had placed on the entire wall adjacent to his furniture.  Meggie lay partially outstretched on his bed flipping through the latest downloadable issue of “The Great Exploration” on her OMU.  It was a catalog of the most innovative designs and schematics of vessels used for advanced space exploration to date.  She paused on a particularly detailed 3D model of the Leviathan and upon turning the page, discovered an article about a ship called the Katavon, which resourced the remains of Earth to gain minerals and harvest purified water from the remaining ocean as part of Earth still had an atmosphere.  Meggie glanced over at Jin, who was hard at work developing some new equation for hydraulics based engine firing.  His concept was that you could use liquid instead of combustion engines to create energy and produce less heat and therefore simultaneously cool the system which would make for longer expeditions and less repair stops along the way.  Meggie had discovered Jin to be quite the resourceful type of brilliance in their increasing time spent together after Dr. Killean paired them together.  He usually did this between younger students, but Jin had a gift and Meggie’s rapport with the teacher was strong enough that he gave her what she wanted when she requested him as her assistant.  She would never let on that Jin was more talented and ambitious than she was, but she held a strong poker face.  The clock in the top right hand corner of Meggie’s OMU read 0410 hours and alerted that they had 10 minutes until their next class–mandatory combat exercise in the arena.  It was more like shooting each other with stun guns in order to prove who had the biggest ego.  Usually it was the reigning champions, ExCaliber led by that nuisance Dirkaz and his gang.  Jin’s gun hung in the corner next to his protective gear.  Meggie was already wearing hers save from her helmet, which was hanging on the bedpost.  

“5.. 4.. 3.. 2..–” Meggie counted down.

“Hey gang!” Shaiid called as he rounded the corner into the open door of the room.  His combat suit was slightly too large for him, but his energetic spirit more than made up for it.

“Right on time!” She chuckled.  Jin simply focused on finishing his equation before addressing his closest friend in the facility.  He was still debating on whether it was because he actually liked Shaiid or if it was because he hadn’t left him alone since he set foot in this place.  

“We ready for the big match?  I’ve made some calculations and if we all score 82 more points collectively, we will make it past basic phase and proceed to competitive status!” Shaiid was trying to be enthusiastic, because he knew that neither of the two were that interested in combat training and he didn’t care much for it either, but someone had to carry the torch for the team and he gladly picked it up.  Jin, at times, viewed him as more of a mascot than a teammate, but he at least enjoyed Shaiid’s tactics.  He was the mastermind behind most of their strategies in combat training.  As Jin turned from the board, he noticed Dirkaz walk past the room in the hallway, a subtle challenge glare tossed his way, but decided to pay no more mind to it than necessary.  

“I think we can beat ExCaliber this time,” Jin grinned looking over at Meggie who did not give him reassurance, but returned to her article.

***************************************************************

The disgruntled bar was dark and the air had a muddy taste.  Only a few streams of light shone through small circular windows high on the walls.  The tables were covered in a film of dust or ash.  No one really knew what the true consistency of the particles that seemed to plague the lower tiers of Aezoran was, but it was welcomed—or rather, tolerated.  The bartender had given up trying to clean the tables years ago as it never did any use.  “Such was just the environment that we live in” he thought as he doodled a picture in the dust on on the counter in front of him.  It was a pretty slow afternoon and only the regulars were in today, drinking their Kygrelian Ales, Borsh Beers and the most expensive import–purified Earth water.  It currently went for 80 Kwinn, mandatory costs decided by the upper class.  Many things were decided by the upper class and made laws enforced by the Nahru, which acted as Police.  The bartender checked the clock on the wall to see 18 past noon, then looked towards the front door.  

Three figures entered slowly, their silhouettes surrounded by volumetric light fanning around them.  They all wore ventilated masks, two wore dark brown thickly reinforce protection suits with hoods and heavy boots. while the third and center figure wore a rustic leather coat and a classy button up with linen pants.  Kirin Larosa, pulled his mask from his face as the blast door closed behind them, his dark brown hair covered his intense face.  The two figures with him, pulled back their hoods and removed their vent-masks.  Long jet black hair flooded out of the hood of the figure on the right.  Her green eyes and sumptuous dark skin were next to be revealed upon removing her mask.  Her features were soft and her face almond shaped which seemed contradictory to her intense expression as she scanned the room.  The third figure had wild blond hair and a crazed, mischievous look about him.  On his back was a rather large transparent cask of clear fluid.  Those in the bar took notice immediately and their mouths dropped.  It was rare to see so much water collected into one place, especially in the lower levels.  Kirin flashed his sheathed long barrel blaster cannon on his hip to settle the crowd and nodded towards the bartender.  The room was deathly still for a long moment.  

“Aizy, watch the door.” Kirin said matter of factly to the woman standing to his left.  She nodded and leaned against the side of the doorway still scanning the room.  They all knew that the sentries would be showing up sooner or later as per usual when they landed in Aezoran and they just wanted to take care of business and be off this planet.  Kirin entered the bar with the hard dull thud of his boots across the floorboards, ash drifted into the air unsettled by his confident steps.

“You’re late.” The bartender said.

“Hello Lucius,” Kirin grinned and reached out a hand to the bartender.  Hesitantly, Lucius shook his hand and nodded towards the back room.  The sheer size of Kirin’s hand and the intense burn of his gaze was intimidating to look at.  Kirin and the blond man carrying the payload followed Lucius and they disappeared down the dim hallway behind the counter.  The bystanders followed them with their wide eyes from the shadows, then exchanged curious glances at the woman at the door before resuming their chatter.  Suddenly, their comfort zone had been broken by these strangers and they wanted the discomfort to go away.  

Aizy, known more formally as Aziel Maltrice, was a confident woman.  The pressure of her sheathed hammerhead axe on her back against the wall comforted her, even though she had no idea what would actually transpire here she hoped violence wouldn’t be necessary.  Aezoran prison was not somewhere anyone wanted to go twice.  This was her first resource drop also.  She didn’t want the Captain thinking she was weak or afraid, otherwise he would never bring her with him again.  After all, safety of the crew was her primary position aboard the Katavon.  One of such position couldn’t just be a fluke and had to be hardened, which she was on the outside.  But then again, that is what the Captain did for people–made them better.  A young girl stood at the bar, having been given the signal from Lucius to watch the register and was eying Aziel curiously.  Aizy just smiled and nodded the attention away.

The back room was rather tidy and well lit for being in Sector XIII, which was supposedly the dirtiest and most polluted.  Lucius had a table set up next to a large oval shaped window.  A blast door off to the side was evidently where he slept.

“Are you married, Lucius?” Kirin asked politely as he surveyed the back room.

“Divorced actually.  Wife left about 2 years ago and took me for all I had.  Only thing she left me was this barnacle of an establishment,” Lucius sat down at the table and motioned for his guests to do the same.  Kirin didn’t sit, but his companion did.

“My associate here, Sio Rotoa has the goods we agreed upon.  15 gallons of purified water,” Kirin said.  Sio placed the hefty transporter keg on the table with a thunk and a sloosh of the contents inside.  Kirin saw in the reflection of the glass case and noted the ceiling ventilation system above it.

“That thing is damn heavy.” Sio let out a grunt and stretched his back.  “Need to compensate for manual labor and insurance fee,”

“You have the Kwinn I presume?” Kirin ignored his companion’s remarks staying on task.

“You’d be willing to discount for a friend?” Lucius beckoned.

“Straight up price agreed upon.  I got a ship to run.  You know how this goes,” Kirin stated stiffly.  It was clear that he wouldn’t budge on the agreed price of 10,000 Kwinn.

“Alright, alright.  You got it.  Where does one acquire a loot like this anyhow, if you don’t mind my asking?” Lucius stood and typed a code into a peculiar steel tile on the wall revealing a secret compartment where he pulled out a stack of cards and sorted through to find two that equaled 10K.  The Captain grinned as the man searched and looked over at Sio and nodded.  They both put on their masks and Soi pressed a trigger on the keg and a blue steam began to spew into the room.

“What the!  Kirin, you scallywag!  What are you doi-” Lucius began coughing and disappeared into the cloud with a soft thump.  Sio leapt to his feet and darted over to the open compartment and grabbed the cards.  Must have been over 75K in his savings.

“Leave it!” Kirin scolded.  “Remember why we are here.” He stood and stepped up onto the table and began to pry into the ventilation system which was now filled with the clear blue miasma.  Sio leapt up into the vent once it was open and crawled towards the upper level.

Aziel stood in the bar staring at the clock.  12:35!  She heard the subtle hiss of vapor flowing through the pipes overhead and grinned.  The customers had started to ignore the fact that she was there at this point and she began counting silently.  

“30…29…28…27…”

They had roughly 30 seconds before the trip lines were triggered by the breaking of the barrier between Sector XIII and Sector I, which was right above it.  The government was very particular about people crossing from one zone to another.  Something about “ingrates below a certain status within the class system staying where they belonged” Aziel had heard on one of the radio stations.  Radio was the primary mode of mass communication of information after Earth had been destroyed.  Television was a long gone memory and in many ways people were all the better for it.  In any case, they were more busy with the simple act of trying to survive.

“5…4…3…2..” She counted.  

Aziel had turned to face the wall and plucked a sheet of metal from the wall and used a dull knife to cut a hardline wire that traveled up the interior of the wall by the count of 1.  Though this act stopped the blaring alarm and signalling an army of APUs to rain down on them, the bystanders in the bar grew more suspicious.

“Hey, whatcha goin on about over there?  You can’t touch that!” the female bartender shouted looking up from her work.

Aziel ran.  She smashed the blast door button and darted from the building, pulling on her mask over her face as the dust storm raging outside bellowed into the bar.  She dove from the suspended walkway leading past the bar without looking and landed on her feet atop a transport vessel waiting for her below.  Oooof!

Aziel threw on the strap in belts and looked over at the pilot.

“They’ve got 1 minute! Cap’n and Sio are already inbound,” She shouted over the whoosh of the storm outside.

The female pilot nodded and closed the cockpit shield then hit the thrusters at full blast, shooting the craft upwards through the damaged holographic divider between the lower tier and Sector I.  They hovered outside a large bay window in the vastly different environment above the storm in the untarnished air of Sector I.  Aziel stared at the clock again, then looked back at the window.  

“17…16…15…14..” she counted then…

“Something’s wrong!  Their coming in early!  NOW!” she shrieked.

With that, the transporter tilted sideways furiously, the cockpit facing the bay window.  It shattered violently from a slough of blaster gun shots pelting the hull of the ship and two bodies crashed like rag dolls through the window to be scooped up by the craft, which continued to flip until upside down catching them in the back in a hard impact.  The pilot boosted through The Rim back into the storm.  Blasts of energy followed them as the sped away getting lost in the storm.

“What the hell was that Cap? There wasn’t supposed to be resistance!” Aziel shouted and looked back into the back hearing a groan.  Blood.  They were both covered in it.  Kirin’s hands were holding tightly to the center of Sio’s chest.

“Just get us out of here!”  The Captain was frantically trying to stop the bleeding tossing a sack in between the seats.  Sio gurgled and gagged as blood began to fill his throat.

“What happened?!”

“Tohnia, get us back to the Katavon!  This mission is over.” He said to the Pilot applying more pressure on Sio’s wound.  She looked back only for a second, but it was enough to get the picture.

“Ss–Soorr–, C–Cap..” Sio gurgled reaching for him, trying to gain some composure and stability from gripping his shoulder.

“He’ll make it!—He’s gonna make it.” Kirin reassured the team.  He didn’t let on to the fact that in truth, he was unsure if any of them would make it–after what transpired in the vault.

*****************************************************************

Light streaks blazed through the air in targeted beams.  The Arena was Dirkaz’s playing field and he loved it.  He enjoyed the powerful feeling of blasting weak students into oblivion, or at least into the air.  Dirk tried to cause as much damage or injury to those dumb enough to face him as often as possible.  His current mark was on the back of the little “dweeblet” named Shaiid.  The kid had multiple times attacked him intellectually in classes and made a fool of him.  This was his world now though and Dirk has Shaiid right where he wanted.  Well, almost.  He just needed to get rid of the new Smokey, Jin Raibies or Ratboy or something like that.  He didn’t care, just wanted to get rid of him so he could exact revenge for the events of class earlier.

Dirk blazed through the course of corridors and rotating obstacles of the zero gravity arena.  An enemy player, some chick, was trying to be clever by hiding behind a rotating wall and keeping herself flat against it until what she probably thought was the opportune moment, but Dirk figured her out and blasted her before she had a chance to realize and sped past.

“Meggie!?  Are you alright?”

“I’m out.  Those things hurt!” The conversation was happening on the other side of another rotating wall that she drifted behind.  Dirk glared at it and aimed where the spaces would open up as the two walls separated.  He grunted in anger when he was met with a mirrored wall behind that and shot at his reflection.

“Where are you, kid?” he muttered.  His temper was high on alert and growing with every moment that he didn’t find his target.  Dirk glanced briefly up at the scoreboards that displayed on the glass panel of his protective helmet.  He was in third place, though his team was still winning.  That Jin guy was in second place.  Dirk scowled and leapt from the wall behind him aimed straight for the rotating wall where he heard the voices.  He glided quite gracefully between the walls and spinning obstacles incapacitating a few weak players on his way.  He stopped on a curved wall towards the outer ring of the arena and scouted for enemy targets like a machine.  Dirk felt as though he might crack if he didn’t find Shaiid.  

******************************************************************

TWO WEEKS EARLIER…

Dirk and his gang stood on the outskirts of Aezoran surrounding an older gentleman huddled on the ground holding his stomach and groaning.  Dirk loosened his fist and rubbed the ache of his knuckles and spat on the man.  A young girl cried softly off to the side.

“Get him up.” he growled to his minions.  They did accordingly and Dirk pointed a finger in the man’s face.

“Please, stop this.  What have I done? Jenna!  Please! Not my Jenna!” The elder pleaded, his face bruised and swollen as he reached towards the young girl on the ground.

“I don’t know old man, and I don’t care!  You ticked off some people in high places and I am the one who has to take care of it.  So are you going to walk or not?” He threatened to smack the girl who was now sitting up.

“I don’t want– No.  Please, God No!  Okay, I will walk!  Just leave my grand daughter alone! Please!” He said in tears.  The henchmen tossed him towards the border between Aezoran and Exon.  It was most certain death out there.  The old man whimpered painfully and slowly got to his feet then turned back to them.

“Release her first!  I want to see her safe.” He stood strong regardless of what had just been done to him.  Dirk sneered and spat again, before playing with the girl’s damp messy hair and then reached for his gun.

“Wait!  Stop this!” a voice shouted from an alleyway not too far away.  It was an out of breath Shaiid who had followed them from the school on a suspicious hunch.  

“Don’t you touch them anymore!” Shaiid shouted holding a taser.  “Authorities are going to be here any minute and I will tell them the whole story!  You won’t get away with it.” He bluffed.

“Who do you think told me to do this?  Moron!  The Government wants me to be a Captain someday!” Dirk was telling the truth.

****************************************************************

“You’re so dead kid!” Dirk muttered to himself as he saw Shaiid working with physics to control the spins speeds of a defensive wall.  He was alone near the entrance of his team in the arena.  No viewing areas were in sight of him.  This was his chance.  Dirk glared and pulled out a sharpened steel rod that he had hidden in his boot and leaned back preparing to launch himself at Shaiid.  With a furious grunt he flew swiftly and skillfully towards the unsuspecting victim, spike in hand.  

Three feet from his vengeance, that brat Jin flew at him from the side.  He didn’t notice him because Shaiid’s defense technique had worked and kept him hidden until the last possible moment.  Jin didn’t notice the steel spike in Dirk’s hand and the three all crashed into each other hard.  The crunched and then bounced slowly off each other in zero gravity like a slow motion explosion, blood drifting from Shaiid’s side.  He yelled in pain, the rod still protruding from just above his hip.  

“Shaiid!” Jin yelled and shoved Dirk away, swimming uselessly towards his friend.

“What did you do?!” He finally made it to Shaiid who was still and cold by the time he got to him.  Dirk fled like a coward and Jin was split between staying with the only friend he had, or going after Dirk.

“Shaiid?  Are you alright?  Hey.  Hey!” He shook Shaiid’s body, a snake of blood streaming up the inside of his helmet against the glass.  Jin couldn’t speak as he tried to pull out the steel rod.  He was in pure shock when the EMTs came and dragged him away.  No…

*******************************************************************

“For the capital offense of premeditated first degree of murder of Shaiid Saffieur during a combat training OP, evidence found on scene and on the account of deposition via witness, Major Alexander Dirkaz Regis, and for the inclusion of your person in treasonous acts with the rebellion against your nation, I hereby classify you, Jin Raithe, as guilty of all charges.” Admiral Valheim’s voice was booming in the court room.  Jin didn’t know what to think anymore.  This was it.  The end of his life, but he had no intentions of defending himself.  The loss of his friend was too burdening.

“However, By way of pardon through testimony from Lt. Colonel Allu and plead for your life by fellow student Meghora Tenahn–I am giving you a choice, Mr. Raithe.” Valheim’s deep voice struck Jin like a spear with every word.

“—You may accept your justice of execution for the life you robbed from Shaiid Saffieur, or you may plead guilty and serve life sentence without bail on board the Katavon 86 and mine the remaining resources of Earth until the end of your life.”  

Jin was silent.  Thinking of what just happened.

“Mr. Raithe, do you realize also that by personal request of the Captain Larosa himself, you have this opportunity?  He has made me aware that he lost a crew member of his miscreant crew in a violent mining accident and therefore requires a new recruit.  This is your only chance!”

“Y-yes, sir.  I understand.” Jin whispered.  “But, I will accept my fate and will die an innocent man.”

“Son, just plead guilty!” Lt. Allu urged aggressively.

“I am innocent and will not stoop to the level of my accusers by giving them victory.” Jin retorted harshly.

“I did not kill, my only friend Shaiid Saffieur.” Jin stated boldly.

The trial ended abruptly with a storm of outraged audience members on both sides of the story and Jin was dragged from the room and placed in a holding cell.  The room was dimly lit and open to the hallway.  He was the only one in the entire jail and he felt peaceful about that.  Until, a crank of a heavy steel door opening broke him from his thoughts and rest.  Footsteps slowly drew closer, louder.  A tall man wearing a ventilation mask and a leather coat entered.  He pulled the mask from his face and gave Jin a look over.  

“My crew is only made up of convicts, traitors, misfits, scallywags, miscreants, and a ragtag combination of outcasts.” He paused for a long enough moment for Jin to be thoroughly confused.  “Pack your things.  You are coming aboard my ship.  We leave in the morning.” He muttered then began to walk away.

“But I am innocent!  I did not confess!”

“Precisely!  You are falsely accused of your crimes.  Only innocents are allowed aboard my vessel, falsely accused, but rightly redeemed.” The Captain’s voice lingered with Jin for a long moment in the darkness as he was alone again.  

*******************************************************************

The voyage to the actual Katavon was long and tiresome.  Jin stood in a long line to get through security with the guards posted on him pushing him and bashing him the whole way.  Then once aboard the transporter, they escorted him to the space station.  It would be the first time he had ever gone to the Bhorreigo.  And he was convicted.  Fascinating that an opportunity that so many strive for is given to someone who broke every law and rule that had been put in place.  It was circular from afar, but as the transporter grew closer, the shape began to elongate and develop into a ring with spiked appendages spreading from the main cargo hold of the station.  There must have been 500 docked spacecraft there.  It was quite an awe inspiring sight.  Jin hardly wanted to blink and again he thought “Maybe it was better that he didn’t get a death sentence.”  He would have his revenge.  On Dirk.  On everyone.  Someday.

Jin was led through a series of long hallways and corridors to “Warehouse A414”, the name given to the dock on the far end of the space station.  There were many vessels docked there, but one in particular gave him goosebumps.  He had seen it many times in articles, but never thought it would be the ship he would end up on.  This would be his home for the rest of his life.  It was almost a dream come true in the light of a terrible tragedy.  He had only one wish.  That his friends could have joined him on the journey.  The ship truly was a beaut, with her long rustic shell.  It looked like a cluster of scrap metal that had been pulled together to make a very durable vessel.  There were components of the ship that made little to no sense logistically.  How the ship didn’t fall apart, he didn’t know, but clearly it was sturdy enough to endure intensive planet mining with no problem.  The massive drill on the underbelly of the ship seemed curious and Jin wondered what it would look like in action.  Jin grew hardened and stoic remembering for the 50th time again that this wasn’t a pleasant experience and he was alone.  He found himself now face to face with The Captain.  

“I will take it from here gentlemen.” and Kirin nodded the guards away before escorting him onto the katavon through the loading dock.  

The inside was far more elaborate than the outside it seemed.  Rustic metal exterior was complemented with slick well built interior.  The dubious exterior was deduced to be a tactical choice to promote underestimation it seemed.  The Captain was quiet at first as he led him to a staircase that connected to the main corridor of the vessel.  Jin met a rather intense woman by the name of Tohnia Dasch, who badgered him for details of his life.  She was formerly a prison guard and still had the necessary intimidation factor built into her.  They passed through the main deck and into the underbelly of the beast past steam spewing pipelines.  He met Aziel Maltrice, the mechanic bickering about a malfunctioning boiler system in the engine room.  In another corridor Jin was surprised to see rows upon rows of weapons cases lining one of the walls.  The twins, Ghattager and Demmi Khai sat loading the weapons.  Jin stared curiously at two intriguing characters they seemed to be in sync more than just physically.  Jerri Gustav, the crew Chef was also the research specialist and you never knew whether he was cooking or doing some chemistry experiment.  Kirin warned him about the food then led Jin to the infirmary where he met Leon Voraski, the chief medical officer of the ship.  

“Blasted fools always gettin themselves injured!  Don’t come crying to me if the Cap’n gets you killed.” he said.  Jin was in mid laugh when she walked in.  Fair skinned, round eyed, pale haired blue skinned girl with a clipboard walking around the corner.

“Dr. Voraski, I finished the diagnostics of the latest specimen from Koukoi.” She said before looking up.

“Oh!  Is this a new recruit?” she asked curiously.

“Jin Raithe.  He will be our new addition.  Quite the astute technician I have seen.” Kirin stated and popped Jin on the shoulder.

“Good.” She smiled politely and then walked to the back room.

“Don’t mind her manners.  She warms up to people pretty slowly.” Dr. Voraski said.

“Who was that?” Jin asked slightly entranced.

“Gwen Rouri.  My assistant.” Voraski added.

Kirin led Jin to the bridge last, before the took course and left the dock.  A man sat at the controls, doing a routine check.  The man turned slowly looking over his shoulder.

“Hey Cap, we are all ready to cast off on your command.”

“Thank you Sio-Rotoa.  We’ve got a new recruit here along for the ride.” Kirin finished his full name to semi introduce the Pilot to Jin.  They shook hands and then Kirin showed Jin to his living quarters.  Jin laughed heartily at the size of the room.

“Something wrong?” Kirin asked.

“No, no.  This will be just fine–Captain.  It reminds me of my living quarters at the Academy is all.” he grinned.  The Captain nodded and left to let him get acclimated and to command the ship out of the dock.  There was something strange about him; overly curious and also mildly unsettling.  The whole room shook violently as Jin guessed that the ship was firing up and detaching from the docks.  “Space!  Adventure!  Criminals!  Crazy Captain!  What’s the worst that can happen?” Jin thought to himself.  

At dinner in the large cafeteria full of steel tables, the whole crew gathered and shared stories and laughs.  Jin sat alone and slightly off from the crew deep in thought.  He played the events of Shaiid’s death over in his head.  He would get his revenge someday.

“I swear to you, Shaiid.  I will exact our revenge,” He whispered under his breath.

“You not going to eat that?” A soft voice asked.  It was Gwen, who had been walking past and decided to sit down with him.

“Oh, uh.  No, go ahead.  Space travel has got my stomach in a little bit of a bind. I’m not hungry.” He pushed his tray away from him.  The contents didn’t look very appealing anyways.

“Drink Gustav’s elixir.  It helps!” Gwen took a bite and grinned.

“I will have to ask him for a swig at some point.” Jin grinned.  “So, what got a girl like you here on the ship?” He asked curiously.

“I killed someone.” she said simply.  Jin’s eyes widened and Gwen laughed and walked away.  She considered saying she was kidding to appease him, but she knew it wasn’t the truth.

The rest of dinner went smoothly and afterwards Kirin stood to address the crew.

“Alright.  Off to the pods with you for some sleep.  We got a long trip ahead of us, gentlemen.” Kirin ordered.  Everyone proceeded to the pods and entered ready to sleep the long months away that it would take to arrive at Earth.  A slight excitement filled Jin as he realized they would see the birthplace of humanity.  He settled into the pod, viewing the deep expanse of space drifting by outside the window adjacent to him.  Maybe everything would be alright after all he thought and drifted into a deep slumber.

Kirin was the last one to god to the pods.  He stayed on the bridge until most of the crew was asleep, then he plucked a sack from a compartment under the floor.  it was pretty hefty at this point.  Gwen walked in behind him.

“You comin, Captain?” she asked.

“In a minute.” he said slowly unveiling the contents of the sack.  A soft yellow glow pulse from the strange egg shaped stone in the sack.  He just looked at it for a long moment.

“Are you going to tell him?  Why we need him?” Gwen asked.

“He doesn’t need to know anything yet.  Get some rest.”

“See you in a couple months, Captain.” She whispered and Kirin lost himself again in the glowing stone in his hands.

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s