The final flight of the.., p.1
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       The Final Flight of the Phaseship Lelantos, p.1

          
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The Final Flight of the Phaseship Lelantos


  The Final Flight Of The Phaseship Lelantos

  Part One

  Copyright 2013 Cory McCoy

  “I'm angry Vel. Really fucking angry,” Aariel said.

  “That's putting it mildly,” Vel knew how deep her pain ran. He could sense it, it was his curse. He felt the rage eating away at her like a cancer as she stood over her twin brother's dying body.

  “Why did it have to be a prim?” She asked, knowing that no explanation would suffice. “Any one of the god damned civs and he probably would have pulled through.”

  “You know as well as I do that we don't choose the targets,” Vel replied. She was right though, any med ship in the civs probably could have saved him. The target knew that though, he chose a Prim because it meant that only a handful of Hunters would be able to follow.

  “This droid gives me the creeps. Why does he insist on having one follow him around like that?” Aariel asked, glaring at the ship's droid.

  “Apologies, ma'am. I can leave if you'd like,” The droid offered.

  “No. He wanted you here, so you get to watch him go just like the rest of us, Captain Copper-ass.”

  “I appreciate that ma'am,” The droid told her, giving her one of its creepy metallic smiles.

  “System report, Lelantos,” Vel said absent-mindedly.

  “All systems secure. Subluminal pursuit ships fully fueled and armed. Lelantos Main is undergoing AI overhaul, 73% complete.”

  “What? Who ordered the overhaul?” Vel asked.

  “Aaric did sir,” The droid replied, handing him a paperthin data pad. “Before losing consciousness, he began performing major AI upgrades. He said they were to be his parting gift.”

  “What kind of upgrades, Lelantos?” Aariel asked.

  “System efficiency will be increased tenfold. Logic subroutines have been updated to current Civ-wide maximums, some exceeding threshhold. Aaric also left a few surprises that I do not have primary access to, sir.”

  “Did you know about this, Aariel?”

  “No, Vel. He's too far gone for my intuition to pick anything up. The last emotions I felt were when you phased back into this Civ. He was in pain.”

  “That bastard damn near tore him in half...”

  “He feels more distant with every passing moment, Vel.” Aariel said, gently clasping her brother's hand. “Aaric's leaving us.”

  “Lelantos, prep for takeoff. I want to clear the system and phase back to the Prim. I'm going to make this bastard suffer.”

  “Sir, I'm sure you're aware that we're currently without a pilot.”

  “I can fly the damn birds myself. Start the prep.”

  “You can, but you wont need to Vel,” Aariel told him, the tears barely masking the fury in her eyes.

  “Absolutely not. I won't be responsible for both of you dying.”

  “You know that I can't just let this go. Our culture demands that I see it through.”

  “Don't tell me you've had a fuckin religious awakening all of a sudden.”

  “No, but you can be god damn sure that your target is going to have one before the end.”

  “She is capable sir,” Lelantos interjected. “Not only that, but she is a perfect genetic match which means no downtime would be needed in order to sync the ships to her signature.”

  “Don't tell me this is part of those new subroutines.”

  “No sir, merely a logical progression.”

  “Vel, I need this,” Aariel said, looking at her brother as he finally slipped away. She rose slowly, kissed him on the forehead, and walked out of the room.

  “We've got to do right by Aaric first, Lelantos. You've got 36 hours to prep. Get back to the ship and remove all nonessential personnel.”

  “Droids Three through Seven are now beginning disembarkment procedures,” The creepy metal man said before leaving the room to return to the ship.

  The Phaseship Lelantos was a prototype that had been gifted to Vel after a particularly nasty piece of work ended in his last ship being compromised. Vel's previous flagship was still out there in some Prim, floating dead through the dark of space. At subluminal speeds, it had taken Vel nearly a month to reach the one Phase-planet in that quadrant. Somehow, he'd managed not to strangle his mark during that voyage. Just barely.

  That annoying bastard was worth a lot of coin though. The Premiere of Civ 3 was so appreciative that he ordered Lelantos to be delivered to Vel as soon as the bird had been phase tested. Lelantos was one helluva ship. Cutting edge AI, Phase capable for several millenia, a fifteen strong squad of droids all controlled by the central computer, and even a god damn short range telepad.

  The telepad came in handy. As long as you weren't bleeding out, it could be used to restructure a body and rid it of any imperfections brought on by radiation or even injury. Unfortunately for Aaric, he was bleeding too badly for it to do him any good.

  “I hope you're right about her Aaric,” Vel said. “I couldn't live with myself if I got her killed too.”

  “Sir, we're ready to process him,” said a cute Balgroshian nurse who had apparently snuck in behind him. Vel liked that race. Incapable of breeding with humans or Vel's species. No longterm hassles to worry about due to the species' polyamorous nature. Blue too. Something about that light blue complexion was enamoring.

  “Go ahead, darling. I was just saying goodbye.”

  “You- You're-” She said, Vel hated this part. “Vel. You hunt in the Prims, don't you?”

  “Yes, ma'am,” Vel told her as he politely stepped around her so he could exit the room. “So did he.”

  “Lelantos, report!” Vel barked as he stepped aboard his ship. The ship was massive, large enough to accommodate 400 passengers. Vel rarely took on drifters, but he did keep a decent size crew when running odd jobs between hunts. Usually some politician or celebrity who needed the safest passage through the darkness that money could buy. Always a small research team. Not this time though.

  Lelantos had the look of a carrier, but was fast enough to outrun most battleships. If she couldn't outrun them, she could always phase into another 'verse. Few ships could do so.

  “All systems ready,” Lelantos responded through the comm. “Unnecessary passengers have been compensated and transferred to other birds, sir.”

  “Good. Where's Aariel?”

  “I figured you'd try to sneak off without me,” Aariel said, as she stepped off the elevator from the bridge.”

  “Nah. If I didn't want you taggin' along, I woulda just shot you sweetheart.”

  “Ooo, big words from a man named Rosie.”

  “What?” Vel asked, his face flushed, all signs of humor gone.

  “Oh shit. Lelantos did it,” Aariel shot back before hitting the controls to get her off that deck.

  “What the fuck did you do, tin can?”

  “Aaric rewrote my subroutines in order to have me refer to you as Rosie, going forward.” Lelantos replied, sounding almost humanly sheepish.

  “The fuck you will,” Vel replied. He kicked the elevator door hard. It still hadn't come back down. Aariel was probably holding it shut until he cooled down.

  “I apologize, but the code can not be rewritten without disabling all of my routines for three to five days, Captain Rosie.”

  “I should have never told the dead bastard that my real name was Roosevelt.”

  “No, Rosie. No you should not have.”

  “You know what? Comm silence until we're out of this system and ready to phase,” Vel growled. “And open this god damn elevator!”

  “Three hours. That's the fastest you've ever cleared a system,” Vel said. He ran his hand along the main console. Thousand of buttons, yet he could still remember what each did and everytime he'd ever had to use them in an emergency. Vel flew more on instinct than anything. Aaric had been different, his flight method was almost analytical. He trusted the interface more than Vel. Vel had always preferred the physical controls, owing to the many times the interface had been knocked out in his old ship.

  “Thank you, Rosie. I predict the next time will be even faster.”

  Vel had heard Aariel trying to sneak into the cockpit, but he gave no indication. He didn't acknowledge her until she started giggling at his new nickname.

  “It's too damn bad you aren't a robot. I'd comm silence you as well,” Vel told her, spinning around in his chair.

  “I'd like to see you try, Captain Tulip.” Aariel shot back

  “You got an estimate for me yet, kid?”

  “Vel, this isn't some Terror class brute. Lelantos is the first and only Javelin class interceptor in all the Civs. I mean, fuck. Your bridge is on a gods-damn crunch deck so she can pierce an entire Armada Station if need be.”

  “She is a he, ma'am,” Lelantos replied.

  “Oh for fucks sake, Vel. Is your ship as big of a skeeve as you?”

  “Oh, no. Lelantos is much worse. Just wait until you see him start to interface a mark's bird.”

  “During conversations such as this, i've been instructed to tell you to, 'Shut your wordhole, Rose petal.'”

  “I'm goin to my quarters before I break something or someone.”

  “Sweet dreams, flowe-” Aariel dropped the jab as she saw Vel's hand slide to his holster.

  “Instructions, sir?” Lelantos requested.

  “Phase to Prim 3. Sector charlie tango 719,” Vel ordered as he left Aariel in the cockpit to figure out the controls for herself.

  Vel had hardly settled down for a quick nap in his bunk when the ship lurched violently, ripping through the walls of the universe. He grabbed for a handrail, but couldn't quite reach. Vel slid across the room, slamming into his desk. He hadn't heard the warning alarms. Even he needed sleep once every few days.

  “Close enough,” He said to himself as he latched a harness onto the desk. Every piece of furniture on the massive ship was bolted down for the long ride through the interdimensional hell between 'verses.

  “Radiation levels normal. Gravity fluctuations .003% off mark. Locked onto rift and making for Prim 3, Sector CT719,” Lelantos reported, the ship's violent descent through the void having no effect on his operations.

  Ninety minutes passed. Each of which Aariel was certain would be her last.

  “What'd I tell you 'bout beatin on women?” Vel asked upon his return to the bridge.

  “My apologies, sir. Our new pilot somehow could not manage her harness.”

  “C'mere,” Vel said

  “I'm fine, really.”

  “I'll be the one makin that call. Now get over here and let me scan you.”

  “Fine, but I could be using this time to familiarize myself with this Prim's nav charts.”

  “We're a good 36 hours out,” Vel told her. “So how about you let me familiarize myself with you?

  “Not a chance,” She laughed, “I'm not even sure what your real skin tone is chameleon boy.”

  “Well everything looks good, just tell 'em you got that shiner fighting a grizzly bear.”

  “Do those still exist?”

  “Yeah, somewhere,” Vel replied absent-mindedly. “I wanna say it's Civ Nine that's got 'em on a conservation planet. Fuckin vile elder humans wiped 'em out before they even managed interstellar.”

  “Have you ever run up against one?”

  “A bear? What the hell would a bear be doin runnin around in space?”

  “Not a bear, dipshit,” Aariel slugged Vel in the shoulder as she took her seat next to him. She was pretty sure her hand would break before he felt anything.

  “Oh, Elder Humans?” Vel replied, he ran his hands around his interface screen, pulling up an old log. “There ya go. Lelantos, give her access to all previous missions including those that predate you.”

  “What were they like?” She asked. Aariel had grown up hearing stories about the cousins of her ancestors. Crude, vile, angry things that refused to leave their homeworld even after they had all but destroyed it. So the Enlightened took to the stars and eventually broke through the barriers of the dimensions themselves. All the while, the Elder Men waged constant war against each other. They had taken to living in subterranean cities, but even those couldn't sustain them for long.

  “They didn't earn the right to traverse the rifts,” Vel told her, closing the files in front of him. “There are more than a few in the 1,700 or so missions i've logged. Do yourself a favor and wait until we've finished the job to watch those. They're not pleasant.”

  “You're... You're afraid of them, Vel? How can that be?”

  “It's not fear, kid. I feel everything. I'm attuned to those around me whether I like it or not and those sons of bitches, they tested my limits.”

  “You're the best hunter in all the 'verses Vel. I can't imagine what that'd do to a lesser man.”

  “There was a moment, log 703 I think, where they had me surrounded, cut off from the support on my old bird. Orders were to take em alive. Make 'em stand trial.”

  “I know that case, Aaric was so damn proud. He didn't tell me they were Elder Humans though.”

  “Yeah, we both were, but it's technically still classified,” Vel told her. “In that moment though, I felt all of their rage and hatred and it took everything I had not to clear that room the easy way.”

  “What stopped you?”

  “Fear, Aariel. Behind that mask of bile and venom I could sense their fear. They knew that the consequences for their atrocities would be severe, but more than that they feared their archaic gods had sent me down to judge them.”

  “When we were just kids, a group of them attacked our moon. Those Elder Men just kept broadcasting that they had a divine right to rule over us. That we, the Enlightened who took to the stars a hundred thousand years ago, were inferior.”

  “I've been to every known Civ and Prim. I've seen stars born and die. I've walked on a planet made of pure crystals and looked into black holes and not once did I ever see their fucking Gods.”

  “Wait, an entire planet made of crystals? What was that like?”

  “Sharp and glaring. Pretty from a distance, but a real bitch once you set down.”

  “Apologies for the intrustion, but you said we were 36 hours out, Captain. I have received no new coordinates and last contact was one week, two days, seven hours and 48 minutes from our entry point.”

  “I saw something when I was on his ship. Scribblings mostly, but I recognized them from the research I did at one university or another. They were algorithms for a leashed phase. A crude one at that.”

  “Am I to presume that you were not wearing your sensors when you saw these, Captain?”

  “You know damn well that I wasnt. For fuck's sake, my own ship has to get lippy with me.”

  “Need I remind you that the interface capabilities are incredibly useful, sir?”

  “Wait, why don't you wear the interface sensors?” Aariel asked.

  “I do, just not the head gear. It interferes with the hunt.”

  “How exactly does a mobile super computer interfere with your tasks?” She asked incredulously.

  “You call yourselves the Enlightened bunch, but you sure do ask a fuck of a lot of questions,” Vel replied as he pulled up an expansive map of the galaxy they were currently in. He zoomed in to a quadrant near the edge where a much smaller spiral is being consumed. “There. While we were making our way back, I pulled up some old astro nav charts and found an entire string of suitable planets. 170 in all.”

  “We're from entirely different 'verses, but that stiill doesn't explain why you wouldn't use such a powerful resource.”

  “Lelantos, please educate our lovely new pilot on the differences between our species while I go aft to the weapons printer and make some new toys.”

  “Are the present munitions insufficient in some way, sir? I assure you that the armory was stocked and secured before we left dock.”

  “I've got something in mind that he won't see coming. Your droids might actually last more than a few seconds this time. Oh, and set course for the first one of those rocks with a suitable atmo.”

  “Understood, sir.” Lelantos replied. The main interface went blank before loading up a holo rendering of Vel's species.

  “Well you guys are certainly well endowed...” Aariel remarked as Vel left the bridge.

  “Engage vital scan of the planetoid. Scan for any moderately advanced tech, FTL or better. Monitor irregularities on the ground.”

 
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