Derek A. Schneider is an indie author of multiple genres living with his wife and five kids in Indianapolis, Indiana. After trying for some time to break into the comic book industry with his artwork, Derek decided to instead focus fully on writing. Derek’s most recent works include the dark mystery novel The Goat, YA fantasy Franklin Stewart and the Mourning Mansion, and the upcoming steampunk/horror adventure Ghost Hunter Z.
“It’s an invasion,” Karen called. Karen ran to the side viewport and watched as five sleek Farren fighters launched from the palace to engage the invading ships. The Farren laser blasts were high tech, but they were outnumbered. The missiles destroyed the enemy’s ships and struck the palace walls.
Karen felt the blood rushing to her face. Anger flared in her brain. She turned to her crew. “Let’s speed this up, I would very much like to get a hold of the miserable piece of excrement responsible for this.”
As they broke the atmosphere, the crew of The Kavidian got their first look at the massive command ship, Raven, that had settled into orbit flanked by two smaller, but equally impressive ships. They were all left speechless. the sheer size of the ship was beyond anything they could have imagined. As they drew closer it was clear that they were meant to enter the landing bay, which appeared to be large in and of itself, but upon closer inspection, was far bigger than they thought.
The docking bay was a large opening in the hull of the ship where Karen could see crew members working to prepare for their landing. Karen wondered how they avoided being sucked into space and came to the conclusion the ship must have some sort of shield around it. Something more sophisticated than the shield around her ship. The Kavidian landed softly in the bay and as Karen and her crew exited the ship a group of soldiers came forward to meet them.
“I demand to speak to your commanding officer,” Karen said.
“That would be me,” a voice said from the middle of the group. When the man stepped forward, Karen’s breath caught in her chest.
“Richard?” she asked, once again finding it hard to keep her voice.
“Hello, Karen,” Richard replied. “I was beginning to think I’d never see you again.”
Karen stared at the man she’d loved. The man she had assumed dead after all the centuries. Yet here he stood, looking no more than ten years older than he did when she’d left. “How is all this happening?”
“We have much to discuss,” Richard said smiling broadly. His smile quickly faded when he realized there was anger mixed in with the confused expression on Karen’s face. “Perhaps we should talk in private.”
Richard had members of his team show Karen’s crew around and then led her to a conference room with for more privacy.
“Alright,” Karen said. “Start explaining. I’m assuming you’re the captain of this ship?
“Actually, I’m the admiral of this fleet. Admiral Richard Forman, at your service.”
Karen said nothing, only waited for him to continue.
“Karen, after you left, I hit rock bottom. I hadn’t realized just how deep my feelings for you went. For eight years I pined for you, wallowing at the bottom of a whisky bottle night in and night out. Then General Thorn came to me and told me about a mission he wanted me to head. Two scientist had come up with the concept of a warp drive. A system that would allow us to move through space in a matter of weeks. Only it would take decades to perfect it, so I went into suspended sleep, just as you had for your mission. My only reason for accepting the post was the small hope that I’d find you.”
Karen felt herself blush slightly. “So, what happened?”
“Well, the development of the warp drive took far longer than expected. I’ve only been awake for about eight months. And our mission had barely begun when we intercepted your message about the wormhole.”
“And it took you two weeks to cover a distance that took us nearly three hundred years.”
“Yes, isn’t it wonderful?”
Karen felt her anger return. “No, it’s not wonderful! You’ve jeopardized my mission and tore down fragile negotiations with the leader of this society.”
For the first time, anger flared in Richard’s eyes. “Your mission is over, Karen. As per my mission statement, if The Kavidian is found it is to be upgraded and assimilated into my fleet.”
“An invasion fleet.” It was a statement more than a question.
“There is no time for diplomacy, Karen. Earth and its people are in serious danger. We need this planet now.”
“We are not soldiers, Richard. I have a ship full of scientists and engineers. The few soldiers we do have are not prepared for this…occupation. We should be in peaceful talks to share this planet with its natives.”
“That’s not your decision anymore. The Kavidian is to be equipped with a warp drive, a weapons system and shields upgrade, along with any other upgrades I deem necessary. That ship is now mine and its captain and crew now answer to me. End of discussion, Captain Stills.”
Karen felt the urge to scream at him. To slap him. Instead, she controlled her anger and said all she could. “Yes, sir.”
Richard rushed past her and out of the conference room.
After Karen had calmed, she made her way to the bridge were the planet loomed, lush and cloud covered below. Richard noticed her and said; “If it makes you feel any better; the offensive was short. Very few casualties and we are in total control of the palace.”
“And what about Wrintock?” Karen asked.
“We’re allowing him to remain in the palace with the understanding that the planet is now ours.”
“There’s another race,” Karen said, deciding she couldn’t keep the knowledge from him. “On the other side of the planet. They’re called Farren and they are far more advanced and dangerous than the others.”
Richard studied her a moment. “I take it they were the pilots of the fighters we took out?”
The admiral paced the bridge a moment, thinking about his next move. Finally, he said; “I’ll have to send a scout ship, determine exactly what we’re up against.”
Karen saw an opportunity. “I’ll go.”
“Yes, I’ll take some of my crew. If I must be a part of this fleet, at least allow me the non-violent tasks.”
“Very well,” Richard agreed. “You have an hour to assemble your team.”
Karen left the bridge and used her communicator to reach Commander Benton. Within the hour she had decided to pilot the ship herself and Benton alone would accompany her. Just in case she needed some muscle. Also, though she knew it was petty, she was hoping Richard would feel a little jealousy knowing she would be alone on the scout ship with another man.
“Are you sure you don’t want to take more of your crew?” Richard asked. “The scout ship does seat four.”
“The two of us will be fine,” Karen answered without elaborating. She turned to Benton and instructed him to prepare the ship to depart. The soldier gave her a confused look that said she was crazy for thinking he knew the first thing about preparing a ship for anything, before it dawned on him that Karen wanted him to leave her alone with the Admiral for a moment.
Once Benton was gone, Richard studied Karen’s face, perhaps waiting for an apology that Karen had no intention of offering. Finally, he said; “You know, I imagined our reunion going much better than this.”
Karen shrugged. “Just a few days ago I was looking back on fond memories of the man I once loved. The man that shared so many beliefs and ideas for the future with me. And I felt saddened because I thought that man had died long ago. Turns out I was right.”
Karen turned and hurried to the scout ship before he could respond. In minutes they were leaving the bay and heading back into Shaylo’s atmosphere. For a while Karen remained silent, letting her love of flying calm her nerves a bit. Benton must have sensed her stress and stayed quiet as well.
“Bastard,” she finally said in an even tone.
“So that’s the great Richard?” Benton asked. “The guy with the all the game that sent you the roses?”
“That’s him. Except it would appear his game ran out long ago. He’s become one of the garish, self-involved, war mongers we used to butt head with in the past.”
“So what’s the story?”
Karen let out a sigh and then retold the story Richard had told her. The soldier shook his head in disbelief. “Wow!”
“You can say that again,” Karen said.
“What if he’s right though,” Benton returned. “What if we’re running out of time. You know, as a race.”
“It’s no excuse to bring war and death on peaceful people.”
Benton nodded his understanding at this, but said nothing more on the matter.
Karen marveled at the planet’s surface as they flew over. There was nothing but forests as far as the eye could see and there seemed to be plenty of room for another race to set up a colony. It was only too bad that any progress she had made with Wrintock had been shattered thanks to the arrival of Admiral Foreman and his alien invasion squad.
The trees finally ended and They found themselves flying over a vast body of water. Flocks of strange purple and gold birds took flight as they hit the water’s edge and large beasts that vaguely resembled bears ran down the shore snapping their large teeth at fish that leapt from the water.
“Fascinating,” Karen said. “So similar to Earth, yet so different.”
Two hours later they were past the body of water and came upon land that had a vastly different look than the continent they came from. The trees here were gone. Ragged stumps were all that remained of what was once there. The further they went the more desolate the land got. Soon a smoky haze was apparent and Karen recognized it for what it was.
“There’s industry here,” she told Benton. “The Farren are manufacturing something. Using the planets recourses.”
“For what?” Benton asked.
“I have a feeling we’re going to find out.”
As the scout ship sped along, Karen and Benton began to see smoke stacks protruding up from underground. Then came the strange, circular structures spread throughout the land. Karen brought the little scout ship around to study one of the buildings closer. All in all, she counted two dozen of them spread throughout the land, arranged in a zig zagging pattern.
“What are they?” Commander Benton asked.
Karen shook her head and started to tell him she had no idea, when the surface of the structures began to move. They spun in a clockwise pattern and divided in the center, opening up while platforms raised from underground.
“Oh my god!” Karen exclaimed.
“Ships,” Benton stated. “Those are fighters, like the ones from the battle.”
They were indeed. Thousands of them, powering up and preparing for a much larger battle. It appeared the Farren were building a military the likes of which no human had ever seen.
“We have to get back and warn the others,” Benton said.
“Yeah,” Karen replied. “Signal the fleet, tell them what’s coming.”
Benton relayed the message and Karen turned the scout ship and pushed the throttle as far as it would go. As they moved back the way they’d come three much larger doors opened and rising up out of the ground were three, massive war ships that dwarfed the Raven.
“All this was going on and the Grullish had no idea,” Karen said.
“Still think this is the planet for us?”
“I’m definitely starting to have my doubts.”
The little scout ship skimmed the ocean that spread between the two continents while the Farren war fleet rose into the sky behind them. As they approached the palace, Karen started the landing process and steered toward the landing pad.
“What are you doing?” Benton asked.
“I have to warn Wrintock,” Karen said. “I won’t let him and his people get caught in the middle of this.”
Karen was off the ramp of the small ship right after it touched the ground. Vaguely, she was aware of Benton’s heavy footfalls behind her, an automatic rifle in hand. She was much more aware of the growing scream of warships approaching through the orange, sunset painted sky. Karen looked up and saw lines of exhaust breaking through the atmosphere as The Raven deployed its own fighters to meet the Farren.
Karen ran into the dimly lit palace and followed the halls she’d come to know over the past two weeks. It was strange not seeing the Farren bodyguards roaming the halls or stationed outside the many doorways. As Karen and Benton rounded the corner, they caught sight of Wrintock being escorted by two Earth soldiers.
“Wrintock,” she called out. But just as the Grullish leader turned his attention toward her, an explosion rocked the palace and part of the roof came down. Karen was thrown down with too much force. Her left knee exploded with pain. Her ears were ringing and she could taste blood in her mouth.
Benton was there with his hand under her arm, helping her to her feet. Slowly, the dust cleared and Karen could see Wrintock lying limp among the rubble of the explosion. She ran to the alien, ignoring the urgency of Benton’s voice that was barely audible in her ringing ears anyway. Dropping to her good knee, she took Wrintock’s hand in hers. The alien was still alive, though just hanging on. With his other hand he reached inside his robe and produced a small, black orb. He held the object out to her.
“What?” she asked. “What is it?”
The dying creature spoke, but the language was lost on her. At that moment she desperately wished word-bot was there. Wrintock turned Karen’s hand over and pushed the orb into it. Then he closed her finger around it and his hands dropped, lifeless and still.
Whatever the orb was he wanted her to have it. She placed a hand on his long, wrinkled face, feeling the tears well up in her eyes.
“Captain,” Benton said. The ringing had dissipated and she was suddenly aware of the battle raging outside. “Captain, we have to go. We have to get back to The Raven.”
Yes, she told herself. To The Raven. To Kavidian.
Outside, the sky was alive with explosions and gun fire, missiles and laser bolts. As the two of them began to cross the walkway to the landing pad, two Farren warriors dropped from a shuttle to block their way.
“Get down,” Benton called, stepping in front of Karen. One of the Farren fired his strange, staff like weapon, but the blast went wide. Two short bursts of automatic fire barked from Benton’s gun and dropped both of them, and the soldier urged his captain on toward the landing pad.
The scout ship lifted off and Karen maneuvered through the battle as it played out. The little ship wasn’t equipped for fighting, having only a mini gun mounted to either wing, but it was highly agile and Karen, though a little rusty, had flown her fair share of aircraft.
“Two on our tail,” Benton called out.
The Farren ships fired on them, one laser blast skimming the hull of the little scout. Warning lights erupted on the control panel and Karen knew they couldn’t take another hit. Quickly, she dropped the throttle and killed the thrusters. The ship dropped suddenly toward the ground, and the Farren fighters rushed past them in a hurry.
Karen reignited the thrusters and threw the throttle forward, while at the same time pulling the triggers for each gun. The bullets ripped through the alien ships and they tore apart on their way back to the surface.
“Nice flying, Captain,” Benton said, clearly impressed. “I thought you were against fighting.”
“Just because I don’t like it, doesn’t mean I can’t do it.”
The scout ship broke through the atmosphere and entered the landing bay. Admiral Foreman was there to meet them.
“Good work, Captain,” he called as they exited the ship. “Now that The Kavidian is fully upgraded with a warp drive and weapons system, I need you and you crew to join the battle.”
Karen looked at him in disbelief. “You can’t be serious? You are vastly outnumbered. It’s time to retreat, Admiral.”
“Retreat?” The Admiral asked, incredulous. “I will not give up this planet so easily.”
“Admiral, the planet is no good! It’s used up! The Farren-”
“Captain, you will get to your ship and you will fight!” Foreman, interrupted with a shout. “That is an order.”
Karen stared him down for a moment, then said; “Yes, sir.”
Storming back to The Kavidian, Karen strode up the ramp with Benton close behind. “Kavidian,” she commanded, “prepare for lift off.”
The ship powered up and rose off the surface of the landing bay. Karen made her way to the cargo hold where Benton’s men were still standing guard. Inside she spied the two-hundred capsules, still holding their precious cargo. Then she looked down at the orb in her hand. When she depressed the button on the side a hologram sprang to life that showed a map of the galaxy similar to the one stored on The Kavidian. The difference being that the map was marked with planetary systems and planets that appeared to have an atmosphere that could sustain life. At least that’s what Karen could decipher, she’d need word-bot to translate to know for sure.
By the time she got to the bridge, The Kavidian was exiting the bay and entering space. Karen handed her navigator the orb. “Set a course for the nearest planet marked on there.”
The navigator gave her a questioning look and she nodded to reassure him. Then she spoke to the ship. “Kavidian, prepare for warp speed.”
“Yes, Captain,” came the robotic voice.
Suddenly a screen came to life that must have been part of the upgrade and Admiral Foreman’s face appeared, giant and red in front of her. “Karen what do you think you’re doing?”
“My crew and I have a mission to complete, and I mean to see it through to the end.”
“Your mission is over, Karen. If you do not fight the human race will be lost.”
“I have two-hundred passengers that say otherwise.”
Foreman’s face suddenly went slack and Karen could tell he was so wrapped up in his invasion he had forgotten about the two-hundred. “Karen, I want those passengers. If you leave now, you will be considered a deserter and guilty of treason. Furthermore, the next time we meet, we will be enemies.”
“Wake up, Richard, we were enemies the moment you attacked this world.”
Karen cut the transmission short before his retort and gave the order to jump to warp speed.
It was strange traveling through space with the warp drive. The stars streamed past the view port, creating a brilliant light show as they moved through space. It was odd to think that they’d be in another solar system in a matter of weeks. Staring down at another planet with an accommodating atmosphere.
Karen threw her remaining rose away as soon as they’d left the fleet and their hopeless battle. She couldn’t help but wonder if there were any survivors. If Richard survived. In the long run she knew it didn’t matter. She had a mission to complete and she knew her crew was behind her. No matter how long it took, she would find a world where they truly belonged.