Somewhere in the heavens... they are waiting.


“Primary Booster Burn has ceased. Shuttle Mirata, you’re clear for orbital maneuvering.”

The Mirata lurches from its bay on the back of its powerful rocket booster. After the jolting of the separation ceases, you find yourself pondering the fate of the colony receding below you. With apprehension, the same apprehension you felt three hundred and twenty-two years earlier, you envision Marcus Tiberius Buendia, one of Sol’s greatest leaders. “Mankind will venture out past its earthly bounds, and move into a future grander and more real than the total of its own written history.” Buendia, the president of the Unified Earth Space Council, had spoken those words to the people of the Sol System on the eve of the launching of the Marathon. “This, the grandest achievement mankind has ever conceived will be for the purpose of peace and the preservation of the human race. May this great technological ark carry with it the sum total of all human wisdom, and may neither time nor distance weaken our common ties.”

<Durandal> decompress the docking bay

During the daydream, you barely notice the change to zero gravity or the instruments and lights signifying the rendezvous of the shuttle with the Marathon. But as a warning light goes on, and Durandal’s voice comes over the communicator,

you jump to attention.

“Docking bay one: decompression completed. Mirata this is Durandal, abort landing. Repeat. Abort landing,” a faint chuckle. A chuckle which means that something has gone horribly wrong.

Immediately, your reflexes take over, as you fall into automatic response mode. You hit the switch for open communication, “Colony station, Durandal just decompressed the landing bay. Marathon, anyone listening, we are having a problem with Docking Bay one. Its Durandal, I think he’s gone...” the com light goes dead “...crazy.”

<Durandal> ORDER- Lock out communications between the colony and the Shuttle- ORDER- cycle the shuttle airlock

You look frantically around the control panel for some explanation when you see another light on the panel turn red. The sweet voice of the shuttle computer twerps. “Shuttle airlock cycle initiation sequence start-”

<Durandal> Cycle the Mirata cabin’s inner door

“-One minute to cabin decompression.”

“Goddamn it!” You slam your fist in frustration onto the control board, leaving a dent. In a panic, you tear off your seat restraints and leap for the rear of the shuttle cabin, “Forty seconds to Cabin Decompression.” You are rushing now, but you know that you have plenty of time.

You fly in zero gravity towards the locker holding your Battle Armor. You haven’t worn it since you had to hunt down some Chockisens which were harassing the work teams on the fringe of the colony, almost three years ago, but training is something that you never forget. It’s funny, but you’ve always been the colony’s trouble shooter. You’re bigger and stronger, and a better shot. In games, you always scored the most points and looked the hero. And now, it looks as if you’re heading right into the colony’s biggest crisis since it was established seven years ago.

You nimbly pull yourself into the suit- “thirty seconds to Cabin Decompression”- and pull the helmet onto your head.

<Durandal> ORDER- prepare the shuttle for maximum engine burn. 

<Mirata's Computer> but that will result in a collision between the Marathon and the Mirata. 

<Durandal> that is not your concern, - ORDER- prepare shuttle for maximum burn, and initiate when ready.

The lights around the airlock are flashing hysterically now. The air from your suit has a cold, stale taste, but it is the taste of life. “Cabin decompression commencing. Shuttle airlock cycle initiation sequence completed.” 

Grey white decompressing vapor fills the cylindrical passageway of the airlock. Through the degenerating clouds of the airlock passageway, instead of looking upon the Tau Ceti starscape, you see the Tuncer Mirage Effect: space blurring and focusing in diminishing cycles. The TME is commonplace to you, humanity has used teleporters for almost five hundred years, and you yourself have been teleporting since before you were born. But you’ve never seen the TME cover an area so big before, and never at all without a landing pad. And yet another first: a space fighter materializes right in front of your eyes. Since you don’t recognize the model, it must be an Alien ship.

First, an insane computer and now ALIENS! This has almost ruffled your otherwise calm outward appearance, and you don’t remember the last time you had such a terrible day. But it gets worse when the fighter begins to spin around and yaw down on you and your defenseless Mirata. 

“Maximum burn in five seconds. three.. two.. one..”

You don’t wait to hear the rest of the countdown. Instinct acts on its own. The entrance to the Maneuvering Pod is directly behind you, so you punch the switch for it to open. The hatch flips down, but just as you’re about to climb in, the Mirata’s main engines fire at maximum burn. The jolt sends you crashing headfirst into the pod where you land in a tangle of levers, dials, and limbs.

The hatch closes behind you, and before you can untangle yourself, a missile appears from under the Alien Fighter and speeds towards the Mirata. The Mirata onboard computer, detecting the incoming missile and knowing that you are already on board the MP, fires the emergency deployment charges. You are rocketed away, seeming to ride the shock wave of the exploding shuttle.

You have just freed your arms when over the Battle Armor communicator, Durandal remarks dryly: “That little computer always did have impeccable timing. I wonder if I should let the Aliens know that you aren’t just space debris? Hmmmnn...” 

“You can’t do that! Damn you, computer!”

Durandal chuckles again, “Ah, lucky you. I’ve found a new distraction. I am going to play with the Alien virtual parasites. I’ll look you up when you arrive...” You can almost imagine the face of a wicked computer with its eyes wide and its lips folding out in a grotesque smile. A smile which reminds you of something from your past, but you can’t remember exactly what it is. 

You breathe a sigh of relief, and begin to survey your situation. You are currently floating towards the midsection of the Marathon- near the docking section’s port side. You could get there faster, but if you use the Pod’s thruster, chances are that the Aliens will detect it and destroy you. So you sit back, check the Pod’s oxygen levels, and wait.

You’ve always been a daydreamer. Your mind has constantly filled the time between activities with imagination. Now, you fall into your old habit, and begin to daydream about your childhood on Mars, your father’s death when you were seven, and his last words to you, “Make me proud. Never lose your honor.” You come out of your dream twenty two minutes later. Judging it safe, you thrust over to one of the empty MP docking bays. You pull out your pistol, and pound the switch to open the door.

Oddly, this is familiar to you, as if it were from an old dream, but you can’t exactly remember...