William and Bernd nervously turned to look at the bulky robot approaching them. Like other Corsair bots, it was covered in white armor though this appeared much stronger than the rest. It was also equipped with a terrifying mini gun.
William: "Move!" he shouted just as the robot opened fire. The agents quickly dove behind some partitioning while the Corsair monster unleashed its barrage.
William: "Everywhere I go, there's always one of these things."
Bernd: "I've seen something like this before. On Zarus."
William thought it was likely. There was supposed to be an android probe on Zarus.
William: "How'd you stop it?"
Bernd: It took three commando squads which... We don't have right now."
William: "Well you have me. And I have this," he said as he pulled out his Dragon Blaster specifically designed to take down the androids.
William quickly poked out from his cover and fired two shots at their enemy.
The robot bent over slightly and stopped firing. It then looked up at William. While it didn't exactly show any facial expressions, somehow it looked very angry.
William ducked back down to avoid the next round of artillery and worriedly looked at Bernd.
Bernd: "Good try."
William: "That usually works... You got any ideas?"
Bernd ignored the question and reached into his pack of charges. He threw one directly at the robot. It exploded on impact. Again the robot stopped firing its mini gun for a brief moment before resuming again.
Bernd: "Well that was my contribution."
William: "Great. So we're dead."
Bernd: "Maybe a couple more would do the trick."
William: "It'd blow us up too."
Bernd: "Then what about your sword?"
William: "It's a sword... That thing has a mini gun!"
Bernd: "Yeah but it's Qurium and it's magic or whatever. It's worth a try. I'll draw it's fire."
William reluctantly nodded.
Bernd leaped out from behind his cover and ran next to the robot, shooting at it with his small pistol. The robot slowly began to turn towards the annoyance. With it distracted, William grabbed his sword and rushed the bot.
The Imperial jumped up and rammed his blade into the robot's back. It seemed to do a significant amount of damage however it wasn't completely destroyed. Using all his strength, William pulled the sword upwards, slicing through the robot's chest and head.
The pile of circuits collapsed to the ground. Bernd went towards his new ally, surprised they were both still alive.
Bernd: "That was good," he said as he helped William up.
The recording began playing again.
Man: "It seems you've survived the killer robot. I wonder if it was due to skill, luck, or just desperation."
Bernd: "I really don't like how sarcastic this guy is. Or was, I guess."
Man: "I suppose you may proceed inside.
Bernd: "So what's the plan?"
William: "We need to find the reactor room and place the charges there. But I'm really curious about what the weapon is. We'll probably find answers in the main control room."
Bernd: "Which is where?"
William: "Does it look like I have a map for this place? I'm sure if we look around we'll find it."
Bernd: "Alright, partner."
William and Bernd cautiously walked further inside the space station.
After a few minutes of walking the man from the recording returned, in case the agents were feeling lonely in the silence.
Man: "Whoever you might be, I bet you don't even know what exactly the Orbital is. We tried to delete all record of it. Prevent people from finding it. I'm sure we missed some things. I felt like a god when we were building it. Felt like the devil when we tested it."
The two went inside a room. It was empty with no exit on the opposite wall. When they turned around to go back, they saw the only door slide close and lock itself.
Bernd: "What the-?"
Man: "Next challenge! The others say I'm having too much fun with this. Well I think I deserve some fun in the end. I mean how can I live with myself after creating this weapon? So I don't think I will... Anyways. All your oxygen's getting sucked out."
William turned to Bernd, wide eyed. Both began to find it difficult to breath. William desperately looked around for a means of escape but Bernd already had an idea. Once again, he reached into a pack and threw an explosive charge at the door.
It blew apart and out stumbled the agents, gasping for air.
William: "We can't keep using those. We need them to destroy this place."
Bernd: "This place is trying to destroy us."
Man: "Well if you're hearing this, you're still alive. Hmm. I thought that was a tough one. I bet you're pirates. Ha! This station in the hands of pirates? That'd be terrible. Or maybe you're our mysterious friends. We couldn't have built the Orbital without your ancestors. I can imagine you would come back for it."
Bernd: "Which way do you want to go?"
William: "I don't know. Right?" he said pointing to the right side of the corridor.
Bernd: "And if the next death trap is that way?"
William: "Let's hope it's not."
Bernd shrugged and followed William.
The majority of the station seemed like endless corridors. There were small rooms here and there that probably had some purpose. However because they were all empty, it was hard to tell what they were for. The original occupants of this station had completely erased their presence.
More walking led them to some hangars, devoid of any ships. The lack of any interior furnishings added to the eerie atmosphere.
Man: "I'm surprised you're still here. You don't know how many more traps I laid out ahead of you. Unless you're lost. You must be, there's no maps for the Orbital. But if you're after the weapon you still have a long walk. The controls for it are in the main hub."
Bernd: "Glad he told us that."
William: "Lifts," said William pointing to the lift tubes up ahead.
William called one up. As they waited, the man's voice returned.
Man: "So you've made it to the lifts. I really hope I'm lining this up correctly because if you're not at the lifts, this is going to be really embarrassing. I wonder if they still work by the time you make it there. The power source from our friends was very impressive."
Bernd: "Is there anyway to shut this guy up?"
William: "I don't know, I kinda like his commentary."
Bernd: "It makes everything ten times creepier. And I'm a little offended that he keeps trying to kill us."
William: "Cut him some slack, he's been dead for a hundred years."
The lift finally arrived. The agents heard the loud groaning of its old mechanisms and desperately hoped it wouldn't kill them.
They stepped inside. On the control panel, William saw a button labeled "Hub" and pressed it.
Man: "Going up," spoke the recording as the lift began moving. "Sorry there's no music. It just wasn't in the budget. Maybe if I hadn't put in the poison gas..."
William: "Poison gas?"
The agents looked around at the green gas that began filling the cramped lift which had now stopped.
William: "Access panel," William said pointing up. "Give me a boost."
He stepped into Bernd's clasped hands and was hoisted up to the panel. He quickly removed it and climbed out.
When he was on top of the lift, William reached down and pulled Bernd up. He then put the access panel back in place. Upon looking up, he saw the doors to the next floor were too high to reach.
William: "I... Guess we're stuck now... At least we get to live a few minutes longer."
Bernd: "Should've thought it through, Nantucket. But maybe fate is on your side," he said pulling a small device with some sort of hook on it, out of his coat pocket.
Bernd: "Mini grapple, courtesy of Aurelian research and development."
William: "Cool! I have to tell Q to make one of those. You got another one by any chance?"
Bernd: "Unfortunately not," he said realizing what they'd have to do now.
William: "Right... Well I'll try not to squeeze too hard."
William awkwardly grabbed onto Bernd as he shot the grappling hook in the air. Once it latched onto something, Bernd used the device to pull the two of them up.
William: "Does this go any faster?" William asked still in a very uncomfortable position.
Bernd: "Not with 200 pounds of asshole hanging off it," Bernd grunted.
William: "Uh, not even close! And don't body shame me."
When they finally reached the doors Bernd stopped.
Bernd: "Shut up, and open the doors."
The two agents dangled silently in the air a little longer.
William: "Small problem."
William: "Can't really reach the doors..."
Bernd: "Yeah I see that!"
William: "Should've thought it through, Jager."
Bernd: "Well do something! I can't hang on forever."
William reached for his sword and wedged it into the gap between the lift doors. He used it to pry open the doors and with luck, it worked.
William: "Okay next?"
Bernd used the grappling cable to swing back and forth like a pendulum.
Bernd: "Let go on 3. 1... 2... 3!"
Both agents jumped through the opening and groaned when they landed on the floor.
William: "Ah... Good stuff. Lovin' your work, Jager," he said as they picked themselves up.
They looked around at their new surroundings. This area of the Orbital was no different from the the rest of the station.
Man: "The next stop on your tour is level 4. Here you will find Lab 6 and 7 as well as the central reactor module for the Orbital Defense Platform."
Bernd: "He said reactor."
William: "Just what we're looking for. I think it's up ahead."
William and Bernd made their way through the long corridor to what William believed was the reactor room. They expected to hear more recordings from the station's creator but there were none.
Bernd: "Did he go quiet?"
William: "Maybe he's pouting."
Bernd: "How was he able to predict our movements?"
William: "I don't know, he probably recorded a ton of lines and connected them to motion sensors around the station."
Bernd: "You think he killed himself? In that one recording he said he couldn't live with what he had made."
William: "Which makes me wonder what the weapon in here could possibly do. We need to get to the hub."
Bernd: "After the reactor."
Soon the two entered the reactor room. This was the heart of the Orbital. A couple explosions here would cause a chain reaction that would destroy the entire station.
William: "Looks like this is it."
Their gaze immediately went to the glowing orange sphere housed in the center of the room.
William: "What is that thing?"
Bernd: "The power source I guess."
William: "I've never seen any reactor like that..."
Bernd: "Can we get out of here? I feel like something's gonna jump out and try to kill us... Really hope it's not another robot."
William: "Alright plant the charges on that thing, I'll keep a lookout."
Bernd nervously moved forward to plant his detonators on the equipment surrounding the mysterious power source. After his pack was empty, he tossed it on the ground and went back to William.
William: "Nice," he said as they both returned outside into the corridor.
William: "Can I see the detonator?"
Bernd: "Uh sure," Bernd said taking the device off of his wrist.
William quickly snatched it from the RIS agent.
William: "Thanks. Just a little insurance in case you're thinking about leaving here without me."
Bernd: "Come on, you can trust me."
William: "Right, trust an Aurelian?"
Bernd: "Oh I can see why you might have trust issues. With Victor the double agent."
William frowned when he brought up Victor.
Bernd: "He totally played you didn't he?" chuckled Bernd. "You thought he was your friend but the whole time he was working for us!"
Without letting him say any more, William punched Bernd hard in the face.
Bernd: "Ow! What the hell?!"
William: "Shut up!"
Bernd: "Guess I struck a nerve there," he said rubbing his jaw. "I can see why that'd upset you. I'd be pissed too if I found out one of my colleagues was a double."
William: "Did he really have to set up me and my team?"
Bernd: "Oh that... Yeah I helped him come up with that plan."
William punched the Aurelian again.
Bernd: "OW! Stop that! I'm this close to shooting you!"
William: "I dare you."
They both stared one another down until Bernd finally spoke.
Bernd: "Not with the detonator in your hand."
William: "That's what I thought. Now come on, we're going to the hub."
Bernd followed behind William until he saw he was going to another set of lifts.
Bernd: "More lifts? After our last experience?"
William: "It's the only way to get up there."
Bernd: "And if we get gassed again?"
William: "Then we'll have to climb through the shaft another time."
William saw Bernd's reluctant expression.
William: "You can stay here if you want, I'm gonna try the lifts again."
Bernd remember that he was supposed to steal the weapon schematics and they were most likely in the hub. He had to go.
Bernd: "Fine. You might need my grapple."
The two stepped into a lift. William's finger hovered over the button for the hub. He didn't want to deal with more poison gas but they didn't have much alternative. Finally he pressed the button. The lift started moving and the man's voice returned. The agents thought he would tell them about the next thing trying to kill them but fortunately that was not the message.
Man: "If you survived the poison gas the first time then you won't be dealing with it again. All you have to look forward to now is the robot and oxygen loss! Unless you already faced that. I suppose it depends on where you enter from... But after those three challenges, I won't try to stop you."
William and Bernd looked at each other, both glad to hear that.
Man: "I don't think you should use the power of the Orbital. Potentially it can be used for something good, by good men. But in my experience, good men are few and far between. That's why I tried stopping you. But if you survived then I think you've won the Orbital fair and square. If you still don't know what this place is, go to the hub and find the interface."
Soon, the agents reached the hub. They stepped out of the lift to find themselves in a large room full of different computers. It was very old Qoterian tech but the agents felt they were familiar enough with the current stuff that they could use it. Yet another recording started and William and Bernd listened.
Man: "My team and I... We created something we shouldn't have. What started as a planetary defense project turned into something out of this galaxy. And I mean that literally. We did what we did not because it was right. We did it to see if we could. In the name of progress. We were fools. Please forgive our sins."
Bernd: "Jesus, just say what it is already."
William: "I'll look for the interface," said William as he went towards some of the computer terminals.
It took him a while to figure out the functions of the various buttons but finally he thought he found something for the interface. Upon pressing a button, a hologram appeared next to him. Bernd came over to have a look.
Hologram: "Voice interface is active," said the hologram.
Hearing the voice, the agents realized it was the same man who had made the recordings.
William: "Can't believe they had this technology back then."
Bernd: "Ask it a question."
William: "Uh, who are you?"
Hologram: "I am the Orbital Defense Platform's voice interface."
William: "What's your name?"
Hologram: "The holographic projection is of the lead designer of the Orbital Defense Platform."
Bernd: "What was his name?"
Hologram: "Statement rejected."
Bernd: "Guess he really doesn't want us to know."
William: "What is the place?"
Hologram: "The Orbital Defense Platform, also called The Orbital Station, is a security countermeasure created for the planet of Qoter located in System 54. It was commissioned on stardate 41357.2 by the Qoter planetary government."
Bernd: "So about... 1977 when they built this?"
William: "What are the Orbital's weapon capabilities?"
Hologram: "Orbital Defense Platform armaments as follows: 22 laser turrets, 8 ion cannons, 4 hangars each with maximum capacity of 20 starfighters. 1 auxiliary weapons system."
Bernd: "That's it? That's not much better than one of our dreadnoughts. Why all this bullsh*t?"
William: "No that can't be it, there's something else here. Maybe that auxiliary system. Uh, interface, what is the auxiliary weapons system?"
Hologram: "Auxiliary weapons system comprises of one singularity generator."
Bernd: "The hell's a singularity generator?"
Hologram: "Statement rejected."
William: "Interface, what is a singularity generator?"
Hologram: "Statement rejected."
William: "Why is the statement rejected?"
Hologram: "Statement rejected. Information unavailable."
Bernd: "These things are always useless."
William shut off the interface hologram and looked at Bernd.
William: "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
Bernd: "Singularity generator. It makes a black hole. But that's impossible, you can't just make a black hole. I know Qoter's really advanced and everything but even for them there's no way."
The recorded messages turned on again. While the man's voice interface hadn't given them enough information, maybe his recording would.
Man: "This will be the last part I record. If you're hearing this, you asked the interface about the auxiliary weapon. I regret not destroying this station. No one should have this kind of power. But the fact is... Someone does. The knowledge they left behind is what helped us make this thing. On the underside of the Orbital is a system that creates and sustains a black hole. I don't know if that's impossible for you but it was impossible for us. Using our mysterious friends' research, we discovered that if the element, Qurium, in its liquid state, is put into a special concoction with various other elements, and is ignited, it will produce a black hole. The scariest thing you'll find in space and we figured out how to make it."
William couldn't believe what he was hearing. They were standing inside of a space station with the capability of creating a black hole, of all things. He continued to listen to the rest of the man's message, completely engrossed.
Man: "So that's why we went to such great lengths to hide it. But we still left the option of using it open. Qurium is rare. You need it for the system to work. That's why we chose it as the material for the lock. If you found some Qurium then that means you should be able to do it. So it's up to you. Are you going to walk away or are you going to play God? Will this be your ultimate demise? Or your glorious salvation?"
There it was. That word. What it was all about. Salvation.
Man: "Either way, I'm sorry. I made a mistake. But maybe I don't deserve all the blame. Maybe you can blame Collective science."
William was just getting over hearing that one special word. Now there was another. He turned to Bernd to see if he had imagined that. Judging from his comrade's reaction, he hadn't.
William: "Did he just say... Collective? As in the Collective?"
Bernd: "I can see the Collective having this kind of technology."
William: "But they came to this System four years ago. This station was built long before then."
Bernd: "I don't know what to tell you, Will. I'm stumped as well."
William: "There's gotta be something about that in the data banks," he said as he turned to the computers and began digging for answers.
Bernd: "Yeah... I'll check over here," Bernd said walking to the computers on the opposite side of the room.
But his true intention was to obtain the schematic. The Aurelian pulled out a small drive from his jacket pocket and inserted it into a terminal. He began downloading the plans for the station.
The download didn't take too long. Bernd pulled out the drive and turned around to see William still at his terminal.
Bernd: "You find anything?"
William: "No, nothing on the Collective," he said facing Bernd. "I didn't find the schematic either."
Bernd tensed up. How did he know? Unless he was looking for it too...
Bernd: "Maybe it's not supposed to be in the main computer."
William: "Or someone downloaded it. Just now. Those were your orders weren't they? Steal the plans and kill me? I know because those were my orders too."
Bernd: "Maybe we're not so different after all."
William: "Maybe not."
Bernd pulled out his gun and pointed it at William.
Bernd: "Nothing personal."
William: "You know I have a lot of respect for Aurelians after fighting with you guys in the Collective War."
Bernd: "There's a different war now. That respect won't save you."
William: "It won't save you either."
In one swift motion, William swung his sword at Bernd's gun, knocking it out of his hand, and then pushed the blade into his gut. The Aurelian gasped as he looked down at his injury.
William pulled out the bloodied sword and Bernd collapsed to the ground. As he returned the blade to its scabbard, he realized it was the first time he had used it against another person. He was used to combat with firearms but somehow, this didn't feel too odd. He didn't feel any remorse either. Bernd wasn't his friend. He was the enemy.
After taking the drive out of Bernd's hand, William quickly went back the way they had come, back to where the ship was docked.
Once inside, he fired up the engines and flew away from the Orbital station. After he was a safe distance away, he pulled out the detonator. He was hesitating but he wasn't sure why. All that power would be destroyed, yes, but he would give the Imperium its research and plans. They would build it again.
William pressed the button on the detonator. The station was destroyed and Bernd Jager went down with it. That was the end for the man and his silly recordings but just the beginning for his technology in Imperial hands. William entered the coordinates for an IIA facility and embarked on his return trip back home.
After a couple days William had returned to his home planet. Seeing the blue orb out of the view screen, he was glad to be back. He wasn't a big fan of space. His long and lonely journey was finally coming to an end.
Mojave Desert, Nevada
William landed the ship in Nevada. After the IIA headquarters had been destroyed, all personnel had been temporarily moved to their secret facility in the desert. He rushed to find Arthur to deliver all the good news. He found him in his new office.
Arthur stood up, glad to see William had returned safely.
Arthur: "I'm glad to see you back."
William: "It's good to be back. I'll take a planet over a space station anyday."
Arthur: "What of Agent Jager?"
William: "Unfortunately he was left behind when the station exploded."
Arthur: "Good. And the plans?"
William handed the drive over to Arthur.
William: "Some crazy stuff on there, Arthur. You wouldn't believe it."
Arthur: "I'll make sure it gets into proper hands. Hopefully we can begin construction on our own version of the station soon. But William, my most sincere congratulations. You've fulfilled the prophecy. In whatever sense, you've brought salvation to the Galactic Imperium."
William realized he had done it. The prophecy from those villagers had been fulfilled and it had been completely correct. The Shift had happened, the android came and William had stopped it. He faced the challenges and he brought Project Salvation to his side, the Imperium. With it all finished, part of him felt he no longer had a purpose. He also was shocked that he had never once considered that even if he was meant to go through with things... Was that good?
The creators of the Orbital regretted making it. They went through all the trouble so that no one would use its awesome power. But now William had more or less just given that power to the Imperium. What if it would actually be their demise? It would be someone's demise regardless.
William looked down and smiled softly.
William: "I heard something, somewhere, a while back. That "Salvation is not a reward for the righteous but a gift for the guilty."."
Arthur: "Do you think we're guilty?"
William didn't respond for several seconds but eventually shrugged.
William: "It's something to think about."
Arthur: "Perhaps it is."
So that's that. It makes black holes... I was worried about pushing the bounds but I gave all of it a lot of thought and in my opinion it's not too outlandish for a sci-fi series. And the whole Collective thing will make sense soon and hopefully won't be a problem...
Man, I'm late on this. I've just been super busy recently. Sorry that it took so long. But I really like this one! Black hole technology... Ooh. Me likey! ;) Looking forward to reading your new one, and all the others to come!
Great stuff! Apologies for the delay in commenting on this, I had to find a suitable amount of free time to read it in one go! But I really liked it! It making black holes is no issue. We've seen The Collective making them before and for spoilery reasons that I won't go into, I can confirm that black hole technology does exist. So yeah, that's fine. As for the prophecy, I get the feeling that we've not heard the end of it. I feel like all of this was a distraction perhaps from what the prophecy was REALLY about.
But anyways, nice job! Full points!