By Bill Zhao
Copyright 2017 Bill
The Icarus 7
The Range 30
The War Room 34
Lonesome Road 56
Just a Talk 68
The Room 108
year old Derek stared out the port window. The cold emptiness of
space consumed his vision. There was nothing to see. Small rocks and
debris slowly floated aimlessly outside. The only light source
outside was the sun. A good 165 million kilometres away. Derek turned
his head downwards to catch a glimpse of the Earth below him. He
could only just see the massive orange spot on its side. It was
growing. Noise was all around him. The yelling and pushing of the
crew. But Derek knew that he was safe. His dad promised. That he
would never let anything happen to him.
loud rumble came from his right. It shook his room. He turned. His
door suddenly opened and an old injured man clutching his left
shoulder came weakly in. He wore a dark formal suit with white
gloves. There was gunfire and shouting behind him. The door closed
behind him. “Derek…” he said weakly. “Your
father... I…” He collapsed. Derek was uncertain what
just happened and whatever was going on. The man on the floor looked
up at him. Derek recognised him. It was Gerry. The chef. He liked
him. But what had happened?
stared helplessly as the man on the floor stared at him and says
“Your father… he needs you…” The man
collapsed and just as he did, the door opened once again. An armoured
security guard stood at the door. He was dressed in a black and white
uniform with a black set of body armour on his chest.
shit, Gerry… Damn it! Hey Kid, come here! You must be Derek”
He smiled. “Come with me. I’ll take you to your dad.
Don’t worry I’m a friend.” He held out his hand.
“I’m Stan”. Derek quietly greeted him and took his
hand. The two left the dark bedroom and out into the hallway. The
hallway was a mess. It was loud. Not with talking but with gunfire.
It was chaos. There were bloody bodies spread out across the floor
and bullet holes and dents across the previously sleek and elegant
the chaos seemed far from them but Derek wasn’t scared. At
least he tried not to be. The hallway was large and split into two
separate but obvious lanes with gaps in between them.
An explosion fired upon their right side. No shrapnel in their bodies
so far. Stan drew out his sidearm. A small, sleek handgun. Its cold,
dark steel plated sides shone in contrast to the complete white and
grey of the hallways. The two kept walking ignoring the mass amounts
of gunfire surrounding the two. They didn’t talk and both knew
that the handgun was probably their only chance of survival.
Surprised, Derek stood still when Stan stopped, bent down and held
his handgun out towards him to take.
looked back with an assuring look and Derek took the handgun.
“Thanks” Stan bent down once again and picked up a large,
grey assault rifle. It had a heavy looking stock, long barrel and
curved magazine. It was fitted with a set of Holographic range
sights. Derek always liked to play with them. They were a set of
trapezium shaped metal objects which projected small reticules above
them when turned on. This one in particular generated a chevron.
“What are you waiting for?” Stan gently asked.
replied “nothing” and the two continued onwards towards
the captain’s deck.
captain’s deck was just up ahead. Derek saw the shining grey
steel tag on the hallway wall which read “Control” and
pointed ahead. The two continued running. The more they ran, the more
bodies lay on the floor and the more blood. A giant “Sector 01”
was painted in light grey on the walls beside them and they knew they
were there. “Help…” a small voice cried somewhere
around them. Without even thinking about acknowledging the request,
Stan swiftly turned, aimed his weapon at the source, paused for a
second and then fired a burst of gunfire. Derek looked at the body. A
uniformed United Space Order Control officer (USOC) – lay on
the ground. Lifeless. Derek has absolutely no idea what was going on.
Why had the USOC suddenly boarded and attacked the ship? Why was
there suddenly a huge orange spot on Earth’s surface?
two faced the door to the captain’s deck. Derek knew that all
his questions would be answered through that door. “Come on”
Stan said quietly and opened the door.
slowly stepped in to the spherical room and saw his dad. He was
standing over a control panel and was vigorously hitting the
controls. He looked angry, frustrated and hopeless. He slowly turned
and looked at his son. “Derek… my boy…” He
said in a weak and noticeably damaged voice. He walked towards him
with a limp, bleeding from his right leg. He wore a slightly torn tan
coloured suit and dark grey trousers.
to Jane, Derek… I’m sorry but you have to go to her.
I’ll explain everything later.”
Please.” Derek obeyed as his father faced Stan.
Thank god you’re alive. I need you to hold the Sector 8
entrance… by all costs”
Mr Ragston” he replied and hurried off to do his job. A few
ship security guards stood around the room. Some injured, some not.
Derek who sat by Jane Davis, the Vice Captain, stared at his father.
son, I’m sorry for this mess… for your mother. But you
have to know what’s going on. That space police… The
USOC are trying to get me but they’ve made a mistake. They are
coming after the wrong person. You believe me, right? You know your
daddy wouldn’t do anything bad… right?” Derek
found himself speechless. He knows something’s wrong. He knows
that he’s in danger.
you worry. I’ll protect you. No matter what. They are boarding
our ship, The Icarus to find me.” The gunfire echoed closer.
“They want to take me to prison! Don’t worry. I’m
not going anywhere” Suddenly Stan’s yells interrupted the
father son talk.
THEY’RE HERE! I’M HIT! GET OUTTA THERE! GO!”
Derek’s dad stands. “I’m sorry. I’ve got to
take care of this.” He draws his silver handgun. An antique
relic from centuries past. He strides towards the door leading to
Sector 8. Along his way ordering the idle guards to different
directions. A few left, a few stayed. The gunfire was now right
outside the Sector 8 door and just before his dad reached it, the
door blew open - thrusting him back into the centre of the room.
GET DOWN! HIDE!” Jane escorted Derek into a corner, behind a
toppled bookshelf. The guards in the room began to open fire on the
USOC troops entering the room. The sound of automatic gunfire
engulfed the room. And his dad was right in the middle of it. Bullets
whooshed past, hitting all of the security guards in the room. When
the battle smoke cleared, Derek peeked through a hole in the
bookshelf and saw his dad on his knees. Several USOC troops lay dead
on the floor but several more surrounded his dad. A noticeably higher
ranking troop walked past the others and stood in front of the father
who looked up at him. And spat on his non-armoured coat. Derek could
see the wounds his father had taken during the fight. His legs were
filled with bullets and bleeding out. His arms were bloody and fell
limp at his side, a crimson red dripping out of a large gash on his
lieutenant uttered “Cameron James Ragston. You are under arrest
for the crimes of murder, torture, arms dealing and mass genocide…”
He leant closer towards him. “Personally, I’d like to
just put a nice bullet into you right now…”
stands back up. “But no… they want you alive… You
have the right to-”
grabbed his arm. “I’m not going anywhere…”
He pulled out a spherical object and rotated it. “… So
why don’t you come WITH ME!” The lieutenant instantly
backed away, pulled out his sidearm, and shot Cameron James Ragston
in the head.
his lifeless body fell to the floor with a thump, the USOC troops
fled the room. An explosion spread across the centre of the room.
Derek and Jane faced heads down behind the bookshelf, away from the
moved his head to peek again but was stopped by Jane. “Derek…
I’m sorry, but we must go.” She tried to pull Derek away
from the battlefield but he wouldn’t move. Despite his efforts,
Jane managed to carry the distraught boy to the escape wing. She
entered a passcode. Rows of escape pods lined up the sides. Not a
single one had been used. Nobody else had escaped. Jane brought Derek
to the first one and placed him in there. There was only room for one
in each. Jane looked back at Derek who was yelling and screaming both
at her and for what just happened. Jane couldn’t hear him due
to the sealed glass of the pods. Just as she was going to ready her
own pod, the door blew open and USOC troops stormed in. Instantly,
Jane decided to activate Derek’s pod but was opened fire upon
by the troops who had now been given orders to kill all non-personnel
aboard the ship. Just as she fell she was able to make her final
action the activation of Derek’s pod which suddenly burst into
life and detached itself from the ship. It fell. With a set of
pre-determined coordinates and custom Earth traffic scan bypass
module, the pod automatically thrusted itself towards its
destination, away from the ship. Derek’s hands slammed at the
heavily reinforced glass uselessly. Behind him, a screen lit up and
displayed the latest newspaper.
SHIP LOCATED, USOC ORDERS RAID TODAY
Military Company USOC (United Space Order Control) has recovered
intel which has led to the uncovering of the decade long hidden space
vessel, The Icarus commanded by criminal mastermind Cameron James
Ragston. The man is known for infamous crimes such as the 2468
simultaneous bank robbery, the 2474 Portland Massacre and just a 12
hours ago at 4AM where he fired an unidentified nuclear weapon at
Earth. Whether this was unintentional, intentional or provoked is
unknown, but the rumour going around is that the warhead was a threat
to USOC to stay back. This has obviously gone wrong. USOC is not
responding to our questions nor have given us any sort of
communication whatsoever towards the current situation. A boarding
and raid of the ship is expected to take place today at approximately
couldn’t understand a few of the words said by the article but
he saw enough. He stared at it in shock and disbelief. Was his dad
really a criminal? Did he deserve to die? The fact that he had spent
his entire life on the ship and knew his mother very little was
supported by this very piece of evidence. So what now? That very
thought had just crossed his mind for a second when he realised that
he was flying through space. The on-board display showed 124 hours
until destination reached. Luckily all the escape pods were equipped
with more than enough for the pre designated journey. The small, cosy
interior of the pod would probably seem dull after spending a couple
of days in it but it was home. Derek stared at the Earth in the
distance. What will he encounter?
on-board display beeped once again, waking Derek up. On the screen
showed: ETA 4 HOURS LEFT TO DESTINATION. Derek adjusted his focus
towards the now large and intimidating Earth. The large orange spot
was still there… only now Derek could see it in detail. He
squinted. It was no longer just an orange spot. It was a massive
cyclone of fire and destruction which spanned across (from the pods
display) parts of Russia to China. He looked at the news:
8 MILLION DEAD FROM WARHEAD, RAGSTON DECEASED
was in no way planned for this. He never could have expected this to
happen. He was also excited. For Earth. What will he find there? What
can he do when he gets there? The on-board display now accurately
drew a virtual line showing their exact destination. Colorado, North
stared at the planet’s atmosphere and surface. The soft blues
and greens slowly started to engulf his vision. He wasn’t
keeping track of how much time has passed. However long that may be,
his heart started up again as suddenly, the exterior of the pod burst
into flames. Derek hid back and watched as the only window turned red
– orange. Horrid thoughts filled his mind such as burning to
death or crashing in a fiery demise. These thoughts, however
disappeared instantly when the screen cleared and all became clear.
He could see the land and the sea. He saw the urban terrain which
surrounded his destination. The pod couldn’t be more accurate
as it came closer and closer to the river it was aimed at. As Derek
didn’t know of any free flowing rivers, he braced for impact,
just like anyone else would.
sound of the crash was to him, muffled and distorted. The pod was
smart. It opened its compartments and out came flotation devices.
Derek knew how to swim. All that time spent of the ships pool. Was it
training just for this? The pod’s screen displayed instructions
on how to safely exit but Derek knew all this since he was taught
when he was six. Slowly, he turned the red latch and the shuttle door
swung open. He exited his carefully built home after taking a few
essential items. He plopped into the water. Instantly, he jerked the
second his body felt the coldness of the water. He was used to the
warmth and heat of the ships pool too much. He knew that this
couldn’t deter him. He swam towards the nearest patch of land
he could find.
on to the mud and dirt with his fingers he crawled his way onto the
land and lay down on his back with his wet ‘essentials pack’
sat beside him. He decided to stand up, walk around and explore. He
flipped himself onto his front feeling extremely weak. He felt
heavier and wobblier. He tried standing. He couldn’t. Looking
around, all Derek saw were trees, bushes and water. He reached for
his pack and took out a snack. Chewing it, he took his time to
recover his energy, stretch and try to stand. To him, right now this
seemed like an impossible task and was unmanageable in any way. So he
track of time was lost. Not to be found. Derek found himself staring
at a small fern not too far from him. He set himself a goal. To reach
it. By any means possible. He couldn’t give up. Not now. Not
just because gravity was too strong or that he gained a hundred
kilograms aboard the pod. No. He had to persevere this otherwise what
did his dad die for? Surprisingly when he tried, Derek could crawl
fast. Maybe he got used to the gravity. Maybe now he could stand up.
He tried. His legs shook more than the pod when it was entering the
atmosphere. But he knew he had to do this. Right now it was his goal.
To stand. And he knew that if he couldn’t even finish such a
simple goal, how proud would his father have been? He stood up. Dizzy
at how he could see further. He picked up his pack and took his first
steps on planet Earth.
first few steps were difficult, but he got used to it. The rest were
a lot easier. Derek kept walking in one direction. Away from the pod
he crashed in. He saw a triangular shape ahead. It was soon revealed
to be a small house just out there. A humanoid figure was sat down on
a chair on the porch. Derek hopes he can communicate with him.
Peacefully. He kept walking. He felt dizzier and the house just
didn’t seem to get any closer. He walked as fast as he could.
His head was spinning and his vision was a blur. The house stood in
the distance, mocking and laughing at his useless efforts to reach
it. Before he knew it, a darkness engulfed the boy and he fell to the
20 Years Later,
year is 2102. Derek Simmons is out on his morning jog. His wrist
display cycled through the songs and music he listened to whilst
doing so. The audio transference was flawless today. Some days it’s
jumpy, some days it’s not. This doesn’t matter though. He
was on his way to get it fixed anyway. Derek never liked getting
people to go to his house. He thought it troubled them too much. He
walked through the entrance of the shop.
Apartment, 2130 Hours
Simmons set his bed up. The same as yesterday and the day before
that. The same process, the same phone by the bedside and the same
.45 ACP Colt M1911 under his pillow. He bought it at a USOC auction.
No of course not. He stole it because it was rightfully his. It
belonged to his father and no matter what kind of criminal he was, he
was still family. Derek checked it one last time before going to
Apartment, 0245 Hours
same dream every night… the same memories. Nothing significant
but what bothered him was why. 20th
August 2482. When he crashed to Earth. He was
picked up… found by a couple of mountain hikers sleeping at a
lodge for the night. They couldn’t take care of him of course
let alone raise him, so they sent him off to an orphanage. Derek lied
about his last name. The one smart thing he did there. Simmons was as
far from Ragston as he could think of. The first couple of nights
were rough. There was no control. Control was a thing of the past in
that orphanage but luckily, adoption rates were high and two days
later he was with a middle aged couple. They were mugged the next
day. Costs were too great so he went back. For some reason, he stayed
at the orphanage for the next seven years. Nobody wanted an older
child anymore. All they cared about were the young ones. The babies.
Some part of Derek was actually glad he never got adopted again even
if the two nights which he was were the best nights on Earth he had.
now. And that’s the age when the orphanage gives you a small
cupcake, says thanks for your time and kicks you out. And with doing
so, they gave Derek a small apartment and 168 hours to pay his weekly
rent. Nothing has changed since. A few robberies, a few phones, no
companions. The only people he knew were his boss and the bosses
‘assistants’. The murdery-assassin type of assistants.
They were the reason Derek never lost his job due to competition and
for all he knows, he’s probably not working for the wrong
people. Control was everything there. It meant wealth, power and not
ending up like Derek. All he did was sit at his cubicle and type
stuff for hours on end. Boring and pointless but it was his only
source of income. Good income. And he wasn’t going to question
him, the dream ended there but there was always that one last part
which he wanted to forget. One last dire ending to an already
horrible nightmare. This part he knew was fictional.
shadows of the other orphans danced on the wall behind him. The dim
glowing LED flickered inside a cage beside him. 10 year old Derek was
half asleep when he saw the shadows stop moving and all plunged into
silence. The shadows whispered in loud, adult, gruff voices.
“Great... done for the night again. Personally, I think he
should be put in prison just like the rest of them.” Another
replied “What rest?” Hoarse laughter followed as the
shadows moved out. Derek knew this didn’t happen. He just kept
denying it. Over and over again. If they knew, he would have been
taken already… right?
Simmons woke up drenched in sweat. Probably for the thousandth time.
No. More than probably. He kept thinking to himself “What’s
to worry about?” His wrist display lit up and the wake up alarm
started. This always happens. Walking up just before his set alarm
goes off. Maybe it was a phobia of loud noises. He always shrugs it
off as not important. Today was a good day. A big day. One of his two
days off from his executive position at work. He didn’t know
how he got there. He just did. With enough time. Today he was going
to try out that new pizza place around the corner and maybe check out
a video game or two. He may be 28 years old but he never left what
kept him occupied for his years at the orphanage. Derek got up. Out
of his bed and into the kitchen, ignoring the dust covered dumbbells.
Just like every other day. His apartment was small but that was all
the space he needed. A kitchen/ lounge and his small bedroom
connected to his toilet. He was already dressed for some reason. Last
night was probably over his set bedtime. He got out a small microwave
pie, heated it up, ate it and it was off to his local electronics
wasn’t until he was halfway back from the store with a copy of
“Clip Raid IX: Corporate Warfare” until he noticed the
message on his phone. Unknown number. He doesn’t get a lot of
those. It was a short message:
ICARUS INTERVENTION HAS NOT YET BEEN RESOLVED
AWAIT, RAGSTON. COME ALONE
like these were very rare to him. He was always quite paranoid even
though he was always yelling at himself to not be. Messages like
these he would ignore… but this one knew about the Icarus. It
seemed… unique. The messaged detailed about events he had
buried in his past. And ‘alone’? That was a joke. Derek
Simmons was always alone. But still. An invitation like this was
quite out of the ordinary and for some random bizarre reason, he
decided to obey it. He didn’t like change, but this could be a
life was very routine.
very invitation set off alarms in his head but he just had an
indescribable feeling and an urge to follow through. The sky was
dark. The pink fading away rapidly, losing its former intensity.
Gordus Bridge. Derek knew this bridge very well. It was a small one.
Right in the middle of the local park which he jogged through on many
occasions. Named after Terry Gordus; A man with a dream to build the
perfect society (like everyone else), only that dream died with him
all with a swift but brutal beating by an anonymous gang. This bridge
symbolised what little he was able to change but also his only legacy
– being well known for sacrificing his health for the city’s
good (not that it did much but it was a start). Derek could barely
see the city’s lights from here. With them being crowded by
trees and all.
he realised it, it was six o’clock. So where was this mystery
person? Derek started to look around when he saw a tall man dressed
in a brown trench coat and black, formal trousers walk up to him.
Derek spotted a 20th
century long barrelled revolver holstered near his pocket. The man
lowered his sunglasses and looked Derek in the eye. He uttered a
single phrase “We know who you are, you are more than this.”
The sunglasses shifted back towards their rightful position and the
man gestured for Derek to follow him. The next thing he said really
alarmed Derek. “Remember the Icarus? I… we have been
watching you… we never left your side”. Derek had never
heard anybody mention the horrid incident which made him who he was
today ever since. “Let’s take a walk…”
man led Derek into a darker part of the park. The trees grew thicker.
The obvious question was “Who are you?” he replied
“Nobody important” which was (to Derek) an obvious lie.
“Derek Ragston… This was not meant to be your destiny.”
stunned by the fact that the man knew his real name questioned
“Destiny?” “Look, Derek there was a reason why you
had to live and it was not just because you were a little boy. It may
have taken us many years to get the preparations on track and many
more to plan exactly when we should meet you. This is that time. Your
job, your apartment and your life is all behind you now” The
man’s voice was rough and he sounded old. He lowered his voice.
“I know this may seem like a lot right now… but you have
to trust me. It’s for the better.”
responded “I have no choice. Who would know so much about me?
Something like this has never happened. I want answers.” The
man glanced to him, the two still walking “And you will get
walked deeper yet into the park and soon it seemed like it was pitch
black. It was only 6:15. The second the two of them started talking
not too long ago, Derek had stopped keeping track of where they were
going. Now, he didn’t recognise this part of the park even
though he had been through it hundreds of times over. “Wait…
where are we? I don’t believe I’ve been to this part of
the park before.” The man replied “That’s right.
Nobody has. Just you, me and my crew.” “Crew?” “Oh
yeah. You’ll love ‘em.”
surrounding was now completely foreign. Unrecognisable. It’s as
if Derek had stepped into a completely different reality. The pitch
black made him uneasy and the sound of the man’s voice was the
only thing keeping him on track. They walked in a straight direction
and suddenly a pair of lights flickered on at either sides of Derek’s
feet. Bulbs. More pairs flickered on in a line. Each one by one.
Derek could see that he was on a path of some sort. Dark grey pebbles
lined up neatly on the path. He looked behind him. There were no
lights there. Just darkness. The two continued onwards to what the
lights revealed to be a door… in a cliff.
was impossible. How in the world did Derek get here? Was he drugged?
Knocked out and lead to this labyrinth? The man stopped. “Go
in. I’m right behind you.” Derek slowly and cautiously
walked and opened the door. It was pitch black in there. Nothing to
be seen or heard. “Well, go on.” It was only when Derek
realised that on the next step he took, there was nothing under his
feet. He fell.
fall was long but painless. With a loud tuft, he landed on what the
thought to be a pile of pillows. He wasn’t far off. As he
expected, he was in complete darkness and the only light coming from
a flashlight attached to the barrel of an assault rifle pointed
straight at his head. Another one popped up and soon a couple of
others. The sudden light temporarily blinded him and it was only when
he heard the words “It’s alright, folks. Stand down”
that he regained his sight. In front of him stood several men and
women. Dressed in worn early 21st
century militia uniforms. Not exactly matching but not exactly too
different either. In their hands were various firearms ranging from a
near vintage SaR P222 to a state of the art ARN-77 PPR Prototype
(Pulse Plasma rifle)… And all of them were pointed right at
was probably the second most eventful day of his life but Derek knew
that he had to keep calm. Derek was not one of those calm people.
“What…the…HELL IS GOING ON!?” he blurted
out. His last words before the stock of an AR40 Conservative
munitions rifle (CMR) came crashing into his temple.
white light wobbled like floating phosphorus. It danced around his
vision before dimming into a less intense but still bright light
bulb. It dangled carelessly above his head. Derek, regaining
consciousness for the first time in what seemed like ages saw nothing
but that and the cold stone beyond it. At least he could feel his
arms and legs. They haven’t dismembered him. This was good…
so far. He shifted his near frozen head stiffly to the side. A female
in a white lab coat was sifting through a file binder with her back
turned towards him. Who uses a file binder anymore? Derek knew that
whoever captured him is not to be messed with. He was sensible and
wouldn’t dare attack them or try to escape. He changed his mind
when the female turned around with a bone saw. Still, he was in no
condition to run, at least he felt that way. Derek knew that he
didn’t want anything to do with that bone saw so he did the
only thing he could have in such a situation. “W-wait! I’m
alive! Don’t eviscerate me!” The surgeon looking female
looked at him with cold eyes. She was in her late twenties, probably
been down here for most of her life. Her sadistic, cruel expression
changed when her face suddenly lit up into a smile. Derek was now
very scared and very confused. The surgeon replied with a British
accent “You’re awake. Good. I didn’t mean to scare
you, it’s just that we didn’t want to take any chances.
Were the good guys. Wait here, let me call Carter.”
ten minutes of excruciating waiting later, a man walked in through
the doorway. “Derek” he muttered. “How we have
waited for this day…” That voice… It was the same
person that took him through the park. Now without the dark coat and
glasses. Derek could see him clearly now. A rough, wrinkled face.
Hair in need of cutting and a bounty hunters beard. The still very
shocked Derek replied “Okay. I don’t know how you guys
know about my past and my parents but I would very much like to
return to normal society. “This is bigger that you, Derek. And
you are the final piece of a very large puzzle.” “What
are you going to do to me?” The next words that came out of
Carter’s mouth completely wiped all of Derek’s previous
theories. “We... we are going to train you.”
see; your father was a good soldier. A good friend too. What happened
to the Icarus… Despite the name, what happened to it shouldn’t
have been. You see… we are your father’s legacy. Some of
the last few people that still believe in his cause. And so are you.”
am I?? What? A soldier?”
prefer not to call it that”
but what we’re doing is important and all is at risk. Earth is
at risk. The United Space Order Control is heavily corrupt and they
will do anything for the right price. Bounties, raids, your father…”
are you saying? And where the hell do I come into this?”
still don’t get it do you? The USOC didn’t finally track
you father down. They were tipped off. And from what we know, it was
someone on that ship. That person… is still alive. You weren’t
the only person to escape.”
WHY drag me out here? Answer me!”
This may sound a bit much… but the security doors on the
Icarus were tuned so that they would only recognise approved entries.
All approved personnel are all dead. Except for you. You especially.
Since you are your father’s son, you have more access to the
ship than even their top engineers, more than the traitor.”
then. What’s behind the security doors?”
Proof of what? That my father was a deranged serial killer that
murdered countless citizens and terrorised the cities of Earth for
know it when you see it but for now, you must get ready. There is
hope now that you are here. Amanda will escort you to Mr Samp for
briefing. The female surgeon walked backed into the room and said
“Come on. Let’s go.” “Wait! So all of a
sudden I’m on some kind of mission to save the world?”
“More or less” Amanda replied and she led him out of the
corridors were confusing. Even if Derek had time to wander around, he
would have no idea of how to get out. “So why are you guys
hiding down here?” Amanda replied “We had many outposts
long ago but ever since the USOC took the Icarus, we were hunted. One
by one, our bases, field operators and eventually our headquarters
were raided by the USOC and taken down.”
USOC? I didn’t think they had jurisdiction on Earth. The police
would have done all that. Oh and ‘bases’, ‘headquarters’?
How ‘big’ were you?
I’m afraid we had arrived. Mr Samp will answer all your
questions” The two stood in front of a wooden door with a rough
slab of translucent glass stuck in the middle with T. Samp stamped on
it. Amanda opened the door and gestured for Derek to go in. He did as
instructed. The place looked like an old waiting room for a health
clinic. It smelled like one too. In the middle of it stood a bald man
in a neat suit and trousers. His glasses made him look like some kind
of psychiatrist. “Derek… we have waited long for this
day. Why… you must be parched. Water?”
please but I need to ask-”
I know. Take a seat” Derek sat down on the closest wooden chair
while Dr Samp sat in one opposite. “I am Tom Samp. It’s a
pleasure to meet you. Now, I heard you were asking about us. This
corporation. You see, we used to be a Private Military Company named
Orbi-Sec. We operated on Earth and Space within our solar system. Now
your father… he was a higher ranking official within our
corporation before he left. And after the Icarus incident, we…
Orbi-Sec were… how do you put it… blacklisted by the
government. With a bit of convincing from the USOC. I know that they
knew the truth but they were in it for the money. What does money
buy? Power. Now the USOC is the sole government company patrolling
space and they have expanded their operation across the solar system.
They planned to take down any competing company and it worked. They
now have control over the four solar sectors. The Sun to Venus,
Earth, Mars to Saturn and Uranus to Neptune. They can do their dirty
work while they themselves turn a blind eye. They’re their own
bosses. Do you know what they plan to do next? They plan to take down
the remaining government on Earth and shape the world to their
liking. They just need a bit more control. A bit more power and
they’ll do it. Do you see their propaganda? Those posters of
them saving a cat with a space helmet out of a tree on Mars? This
BULLSHIT is what’s winning the public over. Now… you…
you need to go back to the Icarus, unlock that security door with
your DNA, retrieve the evidence and save the solar system from a
This is making sense.”
me… me and Carter… we started this group here. Us, a
couple of scientists, operators and low level employees are here. We
are what’s left. Those neat white office uniforms…
Ditched. Long ago. Do you see what it’s come down to? We have
to make runs into the city for food and water. At least we have
contacts there. But do you see what we have sacrificed to prevent
Earth from being taken over? Lives, families… gone! Now you…
you are here and soon this will all be over. We have a ship waiting
for you in an outpost not far from here. But you’re not ready.
Not yet. The USOC will most definitely be guarding the Icarus, well
what’s left of it. The never destroyed it. It would have been
too costly. All the debris and bodies… …but I digress.
You need to know how to defend yourself. Just like all of us here.
You will be our highest priority but in the worst case scenario, you
need to be prepared. This is the entire solar system we’re
talking about. Go to Marcus. The armoury manager. He’ll teach
you to shoot. To fight. To survive. Now go. I’ll talk to you
later. Amanda!” Amanda opened the office door. “Take him
Remnants, Under Celestin Park
again, a dark corridor, an endless maze of Orbi-Sec employees trying
to survive. A light shone brightly up ahead. Derek was able to make
out some weapons in the background. Guns… ANS Pulse Rifles,
KH4 Particle Projectors, CaL-N Automatic handguns, Vorshek Beam
Accelerators and a T-80 Gauss Sabot Projectile Rifle. Derek played a
lot of video games. There was no antique rifle here, but why would
there be. It’s a PMC not a museum. A rough, muscular man
stepped out from behind a barred counter. He had an uncared for
beard, a ballistic vest on as well as an Orbi-Sec PMC cap. Amanda
said “That would be Marcus” and left. Marcus leaned
forward, intimidatingly. “So, you’re the VIP we’ve
been waiting through hell for. Well there is no way in hell…
I’m gonna let you die so let’s get you ready for battle!
Have you had any prior firearm experience?”
I play a lot of Clip-Raid so-”
your dinky little first person VR shooters ain’t gonna do you
shit here so you better suit up and start learning how to really
shoot… like a man.” Marcus sunk back into the darkness
of the armoury depths. Almost instantaneously, he returned with what
appeared to be an early 21st
century handgun. “Now this… this is a Falk 23.
Semi-automatic. Basic. Unlike the automatic FMJ pulse shit we got all
over the place. This way you won’t hurt anybody.” Marcus
slid a small vent open just under the bars and pushed the handgun
towards Derek. “Take it, and walk to the range.” Derek
took the handgun. It looked old. Dull grey now when it probably used
to be a deep black. “Dude, stop staring at the damn thing and
get to the range – we got lives to save and you’re not
helping” “So far” Derek thought to himself to make
him feel better about himself. Derek walked to the right which lead
to a corridor with a basic shooting range at the facing the side.
“Alright now, I’m gonna put up a target for you”
heard a click as a small paper target popped down from the ceiling at
the far end of the range. Derek felt somewhat confident due to his
lengthy experience with Clip-Raid. All nine of them. And the several
spin-offs. Derek aimed his ‘Falk’ down the range.
Forgetting the correct stance, equipment and basic precautions of
using a firearm. He pulled the trigger. The handgun uttered an empty
click. “Hey, err… I think my guns broken”
safeties on, ya dipshit! And put on the damn ear protectors!”
clicked the safety off and looked around for the headgear. They were
sitting in a large wooden crate. It seemed that they had a surplus of
those. Derek took a random pair and put them on, still wondering why
he needed them due to the fact that it was a handgun – not a
multi barrelled Gatling rocket launcher.
slinked back into his former position only to change it to the
correct stance at the last minute. The paper target remained at the
end of the range mocking him. Derek wasn’t going to take any of
that. He pulled the trigger. ‘Click’. “Dude! I
thought you knew guns! The slide!”
what about it?”
was so close to a faceplam that the only thing stopping him from
doing so was that it would probably shatter what little remains of
Derek’s tiny, tiny self-confidence. “Pull it back to load
the first round into the chamber, dude”
pulled back the slide which finally readied the gun to be fired. The
still mocking paper target stared at him, and he stared right back.
Remembering all the skills, techniques and precautions learnt in the
past few minutes, he pulled the trigger in a futile attempt to
silence the haunting paper target.
was one shot… you missed. By a lot. And I mean A LOT.”
Said Marcus still behind the counter. I thought you played video
games. Didn’t Clip-Raid teach you anything? Well, you’re
not gonna have health regeneration in the midst of a gunfight…unless
you have the vita-5 cell regen body module – but that’s
too expensive. Keep shooting until you- [BAM] Derek lowered his gun
while Marcus peeked in. The two smiled. “Right in the middle.
Keep this up and you’ll make a damn fine soldier. Derek grinned
with confidence. And kept firing.
The War Room
Remnants, Under Celestin Park
shooting went on for a while longer. Derek showed off the ‘skills’
he had learnt from playing video games the whole time he wasn’t
busy or working. He got too caught up in putting holes in targets
that everything else seemed to fade out. That reminded him. Work.
boss must be so pissed right now’ he thought. Derek was just
about to move on from using the handgun when Carter walked in.
hope I’m not interrupting but this is urgent. Weapons and
combat training will be put on hold for now. Derek, come with me.
Marcus, you too. The rest are already there.
asked “Wait boss, what’s this for? You’ve never
dragged me out of the armoury before. What on Earth could be so
important?” Carter replied cleverly “It’s what’s
not on Earth, mate. You’ll see.”
walk, another hallway. They seem to stretch on forever now. At the
end of it was a moderately lit but large room with several monitors
surrounding a centre table. “Alright. Sit down. We have a
situation.” Said Carter.
had a ‘situation’ for two fuckin’ decades! And
nothing has happened since” replied Marcus. Tom Samp was at the
back, probably checking paperwork while Carter led the others around
the table. “We’ve had these meetings twice a week for the
past four years – and we’ve done nothing to stop the
situations you bring up!” said an annoyed Marcus while Carter
responded by saying “Just quieten down and listen up. We have
made our next great step in our journey. Derek Ragston is finally
with us. After all those years searching and planning, now we have
sorry to interrupt” said Derek, “But why did you ‘kidnap’
me the time that you did? Why then? Why not earlier?
question, Derek. We had to wait because we… all of us are
tagged as associates or members of Orbi-Sec. Except those who arrived
after and weren’t tagged. Okay, so the situation is what we
need to retrieve are documents. I know because Tom here has seen it
first-hand and it’s got all the evidence we need to prove that
the USOC was bribed to hit the ship and that they intend to overthrow
the current government on Earth after taking down all other major
private security/ military corporations. Now those files are behind a
locked door on the Icarus which only Derek can unlock with his DNA.
The Icarus was never destroyed as the mess would take too long to
clean up so they have guards stationed all across it in shifts. Both
inside and outside the ship. The Icarus is currently floating at a
USOC operated ship graveyard just outside the orbit of Uranus. To get
to the Icarus in the first place, we need to use our rocket which is
nearly finished. The rocket won’t fit many of us inside and it
is most definitely a one-way trip to our abandoned moon outpost. That
outpost contains several light vessels which we can use to reach the
Icarus. Now I know this sounds like a long shot… and kind of a
suicide mission, but it’s our only chance to well ‘save
the solar system from an evil corporation bent on taking over the
galaxy’ any questions?”
everybody raised their hand. “Okay… we won’t have
enough time to go through all of your queries but we’ll figure
something out. The rocket team will consist of 4 Operators, 2 Support
Soldiers, An engineer, Me, Tom and Derek. The rest of you… all
23 of you left need to maintain this base and keep the USOC off our
backs. Both of ours, actually. Stay safe. We’re leaving for the
looked at Carter, astonished. “So that’s your whole
speech? I only just met you guys like yesterday and now I’m
some vital part of a convoluted galaxy saving plan? I should be at
work right now, typing documents using my fingers. Now everybody’s
lives depend on me and you practically signed your own death wish
without saying a proper goodbye”
sorry if this is hard to take in, Derek but we need you. And I never
was good at speeches anyway. We’ll sort any problems you have
tomorrow. You should go back to training with Marcus. You’ll
what – no strategy, no plans, no rules of engagement? You are
completely unorganised and the fate of Earth and the solar system
depends on what we do. We got a plan?”
Remnants, Under Celestin Park
on, Derek. Back to the armoury. We… are going to have some fun
with assault rifles.” Said Marcus as he led Derek back to the
Armoury. “More weapons training? You saw how good I was. I
don’t need no training”
I’m sure you do, for this anyway” The two had arrived
back at the armoury and Marcus had just pulled out what looks like a
steel unassembled tent package. “It’s called power
shielding. State of the art. Hijacked it from the USOC a couple weeks
back. It spreads the kinetic energy of the projectile you were hit
with around, causing a bit more stopping power but little to no
damage. Don’t worry. You’ll learn to control it.
Eventually. Put it on.”
instructions on the shield suit were basic. Derek was able to put it
on with little effort. “Here” said Marcus as he tossed
him a T0-RC Shotgun. “To the range!” The two stood in
front of the same stall. “Hit this, mate” said Marcus and
a large humanoid figure rose up at the middle of the range. “Well,
don’t be scared. It’s a scarecrow for god’s sake!
Derek pulled the trigger on the shotgun and was almost immediately
propelled to the floor. “That had A LOT of recoil, Marcus. I
don’t think I’ll be using that particular gun.”
then, toss it over here” Derek did as told but the instant he
did so, he has hit by a tremendous force that propelled him to the
other side of the room. “Dude, what… the…FUCK!?
Was that? You don’t just shotgun someone at point blank range”
calm down. I was just trying to see how you take it. Especially at
that range. I mean you’ll be dealing with professionals.
Trained soldiers. So learn to deal with it. And stop being such a
picked himself back up and uttered a single word under his breath.
so from what I’ve observed, no more of the Torsec for you.”
shotgun. It’s what we call it. Now we move on to assault rifles
then machine guns then directed energy weapons then…”
Derek never would had thought that the first chance he got to shoot
guns would also be when he got sick of them. Now he just wanted
training to be over. And get on with his damn life. “So…
um more shooting?”
Then we’ll teach you close quarter’s combat and unarmed
offence/ defence. We don’t have too much time. Our ride to the
moon will be ready soon and we’ll take the first chance we get.
The galaxy is at stake. And you are the key to saving it. So what’s
the point if you’re not ready? What happens when all else fails
and it’s all up to you? What happens when we die and you are
the only one left? What happens then, huh? You just gonna give up and
wait for death? No. You will fight because I will train you and you
will never give up until your last breath for humanity gives. You
will live and USOC will fall. If not, humanity will be pulled back
into a time of slavery and corruption. Earth will become a prison
world. USOC is the Nazi party of this decade. They just don’t
know it yet. Now let’s shoot some fucking guns!”
stood still and silent. Only just accepting how important he actually
is. He didn’t even realise the carbine rifle in his hands as he
slowly pointed it downrange and fired at the targets. Perfect
accuracy. Heartrate rising. “You’re right. Train me.”
that’s what I like to hear” replied Marcus. “Now
take this machine gun and pretend those fuckin’ targets are
soulless USOC motherfuckers.” Derek put down the carbine and
took the machine gun, cocked it and aimed.
Remnants, Under Celestin Park
stood at the front. All dressed up in combat armour and old military
gear. So were the ten men about to enter the rocket and go to the
moon. Derek who was the most valuable of the ten looked up at Carter.
Unsure. Derek didn’t know if all that training was worth it or
if it was just all for nothing. Carter cleared his throat. “Tonight
is it. Tonight we go to our moon base. Prep for the assault on the
Icarus and save the universe from complete enslavement. The night is
not clear. That is good. USOC controls air traffic but we’ll
sail into their blind spot and leave Earth without a scratch. This is
what all our lives here have been leading up to. I’m sorry I
haven’t prepared a proper speech even for such an important
time as this. We will- we MUST triumph or Earth falls. We all fall.
This is it. I thank you for being with me this whole time and knowing
the truth. But most of all for helping me be able to get here. So far
we have come. The journey is almost at its end. Thank you.”
at the base was here in this very room. Listening to Carters final
words before him and the others departed for the moon. Tom sat at the
back dressed in a formal officer’s outfit while the operators,
support soldiers and engineer stood straight. Carter nodded towards
Tom and the crew signalling that its time. They walked orderly in
single file. The room was in silence. They knew how important this
moment was. The ten crew members exited the war room and followed
Carter down another hallway. Nobody spoke a word. This hallway was
different it was slanted downwards and at the end of it was a large
metal door stickered with caution and warning signs. A keypad was
positioned on the right side of the door. Carter went towards it and
typed in a short input of numbers. The door opened and went on to
reveal something Derek had never seen right in front of him.
room was circular in shape. A donut shaped circle grate provided
ground. Derek stood in awe at what was in the middle. It was a
rocket. But it was no ordinary rocket. The faded steel and rough
bolting made it seem old and antique. It certainly looked like it was
built from scrap then had someone paint over it to cover the cracks
but it looked just a genuine as the real ones. Only rougher and more
aggressive. Untrained. Untested. Unready. But Derek knew it will
prevail as it looked more realistic than any rocket he had ever seen
in his life. It took the shape of something out of the late twentieth
century. Uncannily clichéd but also somewhat robust.
stopped before he entered the chamber, looked back and said one of
his final sentences on Earth. “Well gentlemen, shall we?”
of the operatives replied with an Australian accent “Aye sir.
Let’s finish this.”
smiled, turned back and opened the hatch on the rocket. “Today
we will make history. Not by going to the moon, but by something much
greater.” Carter climbed in and the rest followed. Derek was
shaky and obviously not too happy about being sent to the moon. Even
though he knew exactly where to go, how to properly get seated and
even defend himself, he still questioned this mission, their safety
and even his own sanity. The Australian broke the silence “Buckle
up, mates. This is gonna get rough.” Like they didn’t
got seated along with the others and clutched his harness. “Engine
check – all systems go” echoed around the rocket. “Launch
is ready – I repeat launch is ready. Initiating countdown”
thought to himself “This is it. This is when I die. I’m
gonna die in a handmade rocket being launched at the moon.”
never should have gotten into this mess. I never should have let that
guy lead me down into that damn base.”
never go back to my crappy job, I’ll never sit at my crappy
desk, I’ll never work for my crappy boss…”
never take those long runs at the park, I’ll never see the
people, the pets or even the tourists walk around the city”
never relax in my own home, play that crappy video game or even sleep
in my own bed. Hell, I might not even see the city again”
I’ll never have a normal life”
massive boom of the engines shook the rocket hard. It shook
everywhere but Derek knew there was no turning back. No matter how
dangerous it might seem or how hard it was to cope and in that moment
Derek felt safe. He knew it was the right thing to do.
he couldn’t tell whether the rocket was taking off or not. He
couldn’t trust his senses. Bright orange light and fire
engulfed his vision while the immense roar of flames drowned his
ears. Heat blanketed his body. Closing his eyes didn’t help. At
this point he thought the launch failed but just as he was about to
give up hope, the darkness of the night sky soon covered the small
window panes. The noise was gone. The heat subsided.
shit… we did it” said one of the operators and the rest
cheered. The engineer added “My god. I almost can’t
believe we actually flew out in this trash can” Another
operator asked “Boss, what about you?” to which Carter
replied “well, I had my doubts but it all worked out so I can’t
sat silently in his seat. Feeling like he just had a near death
Australian asked “So what now, boss? To the moon?”
outside Earth, Solar System
looked outside the small window. He looked at Earth. Déjà
vu covered him. And not the good, happy memory type. This was more
like the “My dad was an intergalactic supervillain who just
shot an orbital ordnance strike at Earth” type. The once hectic
and lively city, set ablaze. Now it’s nothing more than a dark,
radioactive wasteland. Even after all those years. Derek’s dad
was a good man. Why he would do something like that still pondered
Derek’s mind every day. He kept driving his towards the fact
that his dad was innocent like “It could have been an
accident”, “He was forced to” or even “If he
didn’t probably won’t be alive” but deep down Derek
knew there was no proof or evidence of such theories. Maybe that’s
part of the reason he was willing to go on this journey in the first
place. Maybe. Derek dozed off.