Chapter 1: Expected Arrival
As Jim jumped out of the window, he contemplated how he would manage to land this little stunt of his. Seeing Cartez hurtle towards the ground, with Kayla in tow, Jim snapped his arms behind him to gain more speed. The wind bit at his eyes but he could see the vampire entrenchments being overrun.
Suddenly, though, a bright light began to flicker in front of the other two, moving down with them, always staying in front of them. The flicker became a constant – and they fell into it. Jim let out a scream as he began to fall the final hundreds of yards, closing the gap. But then, a feeling of euphoria came over him. Ahead of him he saw a light, and it seemed to beckon him. It started as just a small flicker – like a bright flame, growing in size and intensity. Jim reached out to touch it – and it engulfed him.
. . .
Admiral Larson paced the small control room. The room was filled with monitors and other instruments. Ahead of him, in front of the screens and the technicians manning them the glowing squares, was a window that looked out upon another room. Within it were eight floating, black, blocks. The nondescript, small openings in the boxes were hard to discern, as the air surrounding them seemed to churn and shimmer.
“It’s almost time,” he said. “Bradley, how much longer?”
The slim, brown haired operator looked up from his screen.
“Let me check, sir,” he said.
Bradley touched a box on the screen and a count-down timer appeared. “Looks like two minutes, sir.”
“Good. Initiate the grav-field sequence,” Larson said.
The admiral was in his fifties, and had a large barrel gut. He wore a grey uniform emblazoned with medals and was known to be a heavy drinker as well as a fan of the ladies. He had never used his rank as a weapon for capturing hearts; instead he would always dress down and wear something, anything, to hide his identity.
“Yes sir,” Bradley said. “Moving Gravity Blocks into position.”
The eight floating blocks, each about a foot wide and a foot thick, moved to form the outline of a cube in the center of the room. The cube grew until it was about six feet by six feet, hovering one foot in the air.
“Time?” Larson asked.
“I can’t, sir,” Bradley said. “Controlling the gravity field.”
Larson moved over to another techie. “Time?” he asked once more.
“Sir,” the techie said, “The count-down clock reads…one minute and thirty seconds.”
“Very good,” Larson said. “Bradley, how are we doing on the grav-field?”
Bradley moved his fingers on the screen, where a 3-D model of the block cube in the room was displayed. On screen, wire-frame waves began to disperse from each box, and in the room the floating black boxes seemed to distort the air about them.
“Powering up, sir,” Bradley confirmed. “Should take about thirty seconds for complete space-time distortion.”
Larson sighed, clasped his hands behind his back as he looked on. Each block looked now as if it were warped and misshapen; the area about them seemed to follow suit, with the distortion slowly growing to encompass all eight Gravity Boxes. Soon the area inside the cube and a little outside of it looked as if one was seeing it through a cup of water.
“Center it,” Larson commanded.
“Yes sir,” Bradley said. He tapped the center of the 3-D model on the screen and the black boxes hummed powerfully. “Initiate singularity?”
“Do it,” Larson said. “Do it now. We haven’t got much time.”
Bradley nodded, and reached over to a control console and pressed a red button. In the room, a small steel ball floated out of a hatch in the ceiling.
“Julian,” Larson said. “Move the ball into position.”
“Yes sir,” Julian, another techie said. On his screen, a 3-D model of the ball was shown. He tapped the ball with his finger and dragged it across the screen, consequently causing the ball in the room to move. The techie maneuvered it into the center of the cube.
“Bradley, concentrate it,” Larson said.
Bradley nodded again and tapped the center of the cube. The black boxes hummed even louder, and the undulating waves seemed to drift towards the center, becoming more and more viscous. Eventually, it seemed only the steel ball was warped.
“Thirty seconds!” A techie called.
“Alright, do it,” Larson said.
“Yes sir,” Bradley said. He tapped the center of the wire-frame cube on his screen one more time, and the distortion disappeared. Suddenly, the steel ball seemed to crumple in on itself, getting smaller and smaller until finally, it was no longer visible. Larson wondered if this would work or not. This experiment had, after all, never been tested before.
A second later, a bright piercing pin-point of light appeared where the ball used to be. It began to take the shape of a man, and then flashed so bright that it temporarily blinded the onlookers. When it cleared, Jim stood in the center of the cube, eyes terror-stricken. He reached for his gun.
“Neutralize him!” Larson commanded. Immediately, guards stepped out of hidden areas in the room and tackled Jim, who screamed in anger. They deftly took the gun from him and brought him to the floor. The Admiral walked over to the intercom and pressed the button. “Jim, we have been expecting you. You have just arrived on the–”
“Where are Kayla and Cartez!?” Jim howled, struggling to stand. “Where are they!?”
“I don’t know who you are talking about,” Larson continued smoothly, “But until further interrogation I can only tell you we will show you to a pre-designated room. Your fire-arm is not of any make we recognize and it has been confiscated. Please, remain calm.” He depressed the button.
Jim raised his middle finger at Larson, and said, “Fuck you! Let me outta here! I’m trying to fi-”
One of the guards took out a taser gun and pressed the two steel prongs into Jim’s neck, causing him to scream in pain once more, and then to go limp. Larson pressed the intercom button once more. “Take him to his room.”
“Yes sir,” one of the guards said, saluting.
They lugged the body out, one grabbing Jim’s wrists, the other his ankles.
“I don’t know why I even consented to this,” Larson muttered to himself, walking out into the hall and making his way back to his office. “Wasn’t even one of ours.”
. . .
Jim slowly regained consciousness while being dragged from the entry room. After a few minutes of drowsy, intermittent glimpses at the cement-like floor, he began to step more and more with the guards until he was walking in between them. Rubbing his neck absently, Jim said, “What the hell, guys?”
“Sorry, sir, but you were threatening the Admiral,” one guard said calmly.
“Is that so?” Jim said with condescension. “Who, that guy on the intercom?”
“Yes,” the other said. “We were given instructions to escort you to your quarters, and that is where you are going.”
Jim frowned and wriggled out of their grasps, saying, “Don’t worry, I don’t bite.”
“Good,” one said and nudged him along.
“So where are we?” Jim asked. “I notice this isn’t…what I came from.”
“You are on-board the ship Ethiopia, under the command of Admiral Larson. She is a destroyer-class ship,” the other said.
“What the fuck are you talking about?” Jim asked. “That means absolutely nothing to me.”
The three walked to a long hall, and while one side was lined with doors, the other side was a flat-panel window that looked out into space. A flotilla of swirling blues and reds lay out in the distance; the black blanket was pockmarked with spots of iridescent light.
“Oh,” Jim said, dumbfounded. “Back here again.”
“Yes, sir, you are in space,” the other said.
“And so…how did you all know I was coming? Usually, you don’t,” Jim said. He smiled, because he now realized he knew more than they did. That was always good.
“We cannot divulge that information,” one said.
“Alrighty then,” Jim said, reaching into one of his pockets absently. “Woah, hold on.” They all stopped as Jim pulled out a crumpled up piece of paper.
The guard took the paper from him and unfolded it. “Sorry, safety precautions,” he said. On the paper there was a bunch of random numbers. To Jim, it looked like nonsense. “Where did you get this?” the man asked.
“Wasn’t there before,” Jim said. “Can I have it back?”
The guard looked up from the paper. “No,” he said, “I think I’ll run this up to a tech-guy or something. Have them look at it and figure out what it means. It could be dangerous.”
“Numbers?” Jim asked, chuckling. “I severely doubt it.”
“You’d be surprised,” the guard said. “Private Gregory, take him to his quarters.”
“Yes sir,” Gregory said. “C’mon, Jim, let’s go.” Gregory nudged Jim with his rifle.
“Yeah, yeah,” Jim said, moving on and leaving the other guard behind. “You guys are really into confiscation, huh?”
“Keep moving,” Gregory said. “Sarcasm isn’t going to bust you of here. I have my instructions, you have your wits. I have my gun, you have your mouth. Who’s gonna win?”
“Ah, I guess you’re right,” Jim said, and they walked on. Eventually they came upon a cylinder-like area bore into the wall. Gregory told Jim to step into it, and then he followed.
“Menu,” Gregory said. In the opening that led to the hall, a holographic menu appeared in mid-air, about a foot tall and half a foot wide. It glowed bright pink and had the numbers one through six glowing side by side with the numbers seven through twelve. Gregory reached out with his left hand and pressed the six. Instantaneously the menu disappeared and a hatch covered the entrance.
“Wow, that’s pretty nifty,” Jim said. “Can I have one?”
Gregory simply huffed and waited. A minute later the hatch slid back and the hallway looked different. “Welcome to deck six,” the guard said.
“What…wait…I didn’t feel any movement!”
“I know,” Gregory said. “Now move out into the hall.”
The two did, and turned right, walking for about a quarter of a mile. “Big mother-fucking ship,” Jim said furtively. “Are we there yet?”
“Actually, yes,” Gregory said; stopping by a door marked “18.”
“Is that my cell?” Jim asked.
“Funny,” Gregory said flatly. He pressed a red button near the door and it slid open to reveal a lavish suite. “Get in.”
“No,” Jim said, “I don’t wanna.”
“Stop your whining and get in,” Gregory said, withdrawing the taser from his pocket once more. And then, for effect, he said in a completely conversational tone: “Or else.”
Jim, putting his hands up, said, “Fine, fine, you win.”
He stepped into the suite and the door slid shut behind him.
. . .
Jim looked around the suite. At one side was a single bed; at the other was a mini-kitchenette. The carpet was green, the walls pink. It annoyed Jim to the very core. Nothing goes worse together than green and pink, he thought. Holy shit, he countered, I sound like a woman.
“Fucking ship,” he murmured. After sitting in a chair for about ten minutes, Jim got bored and went over to knock on the door. After doing so, he said loudly, “Hey, open up.”
The door opened and Gregory stood there, an exasperated look plastered upon his face.
“Where’s my gun?” Jim asked.
“On deck twelve, getting analyzed,” Gregory replied.
“Oh. Can I have it now?”
“There’s no bathroom in here,” Jim said. “Can I go now?”
“No,” Gregory said again, clearly getting annoyed.
“Can I walk around the ship?”
“So, what you are saying is that I am a prisoner?” Jim asked.
Gregory glared at Jim. “No,” he repeated.
“Well then why can’t I leave?”
“Because I said so,” Gregory answered.
“Oh,” Jim said. “Well that sucks. Bye now.” He pressed the red button beside the door, and it shut on Gregory’s face. Jim could have sworn he heard Gregory curse. Very unprofessional, Jim thought with a huff.
“Bastard.” Turning and walking back to the bed, Jim sat down in thought. “There’s gotta be some way…”
Jim looked up, mid-thought, at the full length mirror on the wall opposite of him. He smirked, stood up, and walked near the door, then coughed loudly.
“Quiet down in there!” Jim heard Gregory shout.
“I…I’m feeling sick. Space sickness!” Jim feigned, doubling over on the ground.
“For Gondolus’ sake,” Gregory said exasperatedly as the door slid open. “What now?”
Jim coughed again and said with hard inflections, “I…I can’t feel my legs.”
“Oh, is that so?” Gregory asked sarcastically. “Let me guess, you’re dying?”
“Something…like…that,” Jim managed. “Are you just going to stand there?”
Gregory rolled his eyes and laying the rifle on the ground, helped Jim up. He then said, “Okay, now?”
“Hey,” Jim said, staring at the man’s cheek. “You’ve got a fly on your cheek!”
“That’s im - ”
Before Gregory could finish, Jim let out a backhand slap across the man’s face, causing him to stumble sideways. Then Jim proceeded to kick him in the rear, sending him to the ground. “Hah,” Jim reprimanded, “Take that! Prisoner my ass!”
“You…bastard,” Gregory whined, slowly getting up to a standing position, but by then, Jim was gone.
. . .
As Jim walked away briskly, he passed the same techie, Bradley. He stopped and tapped the man on the shoulder; Bradley looked at him oddly.
“Do I know you?” Bradley asked.
“Nope,” Jim said.
“I swear I’ve seen you before,” he said.
“No, you haven’t,” Jim said with a condescending tone of finality. “Look – I’m lost. How do I get to deck twelve?”
“Ah,” Bradley came back offhandedly, sweeping his a hand off towards where he came, “Just go up a little farther and you’ll find an elevator to take you up.”
“Thanks,” Jim said, and continued walking.
“Weird guy,” Bradley said as he continued on.
. . .
Jim ran along the corridor until he came upon a cylindrical bore hole like the one the guard had taken him to earlier. He stepped inside and said, “Menu.”
The holographic menu appeared, and he chose deck twelve. The hatch began to slide shut, but a soldier came by and stuck his arm in, causing it to delay. Upon stepping inside, the guard nodded respectfully at Jim.
“Top of the day to ya,” the guard said, standing beside Jim. “Deck thirteen, please.”
“Gotcha,” Jim said, pressing deck thirteen on the menu. The hatch slid shut, and Jim glared at the man while he was looking away.
“So, what brings you here?” The man asked, turning. He wielded a high-powered rifle in his hands.
“Heading up to deck twelve,” Jim said.
“Oh, for what?”
“Having my weapon checked,” Jim replied casually.
“Oh, is that so? Might I ask what military division you are in?”
“Uh…the first one,” Jim lied.
The guard looked impressed. “The first one?” he asked. “Wow, I’ve never met one of you guys before…you guys are elite.”
“Yeah, it’s hard work,” Jim said nonchalantly.
“All that training…I’ve seen you guys in action, what you do is fabulous. How do you do it?”
“We work hard,” Jim answered. “Give it a hundred and ten percent and all that.”
“Oh,” the guard said, feeling awkward.
“Yeah. I do my best,” Jim said.
“Which weapon are you getting checked?”
“Uh…the – ” At that moment, the hatch slid open and Jim stepped outside. “Sir?” The man asked, inquisitive. “You never answered my – ”
“Another time,” Jim said, pressing the red button, causing the hatch to slide shut. Jim wondered why it was all these people were so damned suspicious. Perhaps it was his clothing. He’d have to do something about that.
. . .
Jim walked up to the receptionist on deck twelve. There was a hall leading off in both directions, and a door behind the receptionist’s desk seemed to lead to the tech labs.
“Hello?” Jim asked.
“Yes?” The woman asked, looking up from her keyboard. “Is there something I can do for you?”
“Yes, I’m here to retrieve my weapon.”
“Oh? What was it in for?”
“It was in for…testing,” Jim said. “I want to pick it up.”
“Ah, yes, sir, could I have the id number of the experimentation?” The woman asked.
“Uh…I dunno,” Jim said. “I don’t have it with me.” He placed his palms on the counter.
“Okay, then,” she said, typing on the keyboard. “What about model number?”
“Oh, never mind,” Jim said, turning away. As soon as he did – he came face to face with Admiral Larson.
“I thought I recognized you,” Larson said.
“Look…I – ” Jim began.
“Don’t worry about it, I won’t call the guards,” Larson said.
“No, just come walk with me,” the Admiral said. “Come on!”
“Alright,” Jim said uneasily. They walked off down the hall.
“So,” Larson said, “How’d you get out?”
“Duped the guard,” Jim recounted. “He wasn’t very smart.”
“What’d you do, disarm him and run?”
“Something like that,” Jim said. He told Larson what had happened and they both shared a laugh.
“So why did you try to get out?” Larson asked. “We supplied you with everything you’d need.”
“Well, I wanted my gun,” Jim said. “So I came up here to get it.”
“Do you want it that badly?”
“Of course,” Jim said. “It has sentimental values.”
“My ass,” Larson said. They shared another laugh. Eventually the two reached a point where there was a door on the right. The Admiral turned here, and placed his palm on the center of the door. It slid open. “Hand-Activated, no button. Top secret,” he explained.
“Oh,” Jim said, dumbfounded. Inside were many flasks, tubes and testing equipment. In the center of the room was a podium with a light mounted inside the glass top, illuminating the Fusia 15 on top of it. “My gun.”
“Yes,” Larson said, picking it up and hefting it in has hands. “Much more advanced than what we’ve got, still can’t figure out how it works.”
“Oh, that’s easy,” Jim said. Then he caught himself.
“Nah, I don’t know,” Jim said. “Can I have it back, now?”
“Are you sure?” Larson asked.
Larson reluctantly handed it over, and Jim holstered it. “Now don’t you go around ordering people about – you are a guest,” he said.
“Yada Yada,” Jim said, and walked out. “I’m hungry.”
Larson followed him and said, “Cafeteria, deck ten. Mind if I join you?”
“Sure,” Jim said. They went down to deck ten and Jim found he liked the Admiral. He was keen and well-informed, always basing his decisions on what his gut told him rather than a bunch of specialists. Larson was a down-to-earth man, despite the fact he was far from the place. After lunch, though, Jim was re-confined to his quarters. Jim found this unfair, but he gave in as a favor to Larson. Gregory did not fall for the sick-trick the second time around, either, the private saying that “You could be dieing” and that he wouldn’t lift a finger until Hidyos froze over.
. . .