Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Tiny Frontiers: Laneira #2

Icon for Hire, Supposed to Be

An alert chimes within the cockpit; an incoming communication from Captain Novari aboard The Light and Dark.

“Yes, Captain?”

“Commander, looks like I’m delegating a task to you. I’m sending a Skip Boost your direction. Send the rest of the squadron back to the ship.”

Curious. “What’s the task?”

“Seem like someone wants to speak with the Starborn Collective. I’d rather not do it, so…”

Thanks. “Understood, Captain. Who am I meeting?”

“A human. Brencia the Grey. She’d like to acquire land rights in, as she calls it, The Raven Woods.”

My heart skips a beat; I let the information sink in until it picks up again. “Got it.”

Brencia. Acquiring land rights. I guess this would be Brencia the First, preparing her little empire with the founding of The Rook. I turn my attention back to the task at hand.

The thing I like about space? Getting deliveries is easy. Just put material into a rail cannon and fire it off in the direction you want it to go. The Light and Dark is doing just that, sending out a sub engine that will allow me to use the Skip Relay Network.

Laneira pilots her fighter toward the delivery point. From beyond Waka’i 3, a cannon’s payload rapidly approaches from her flank. Laneira match speeds; the Skip Boost harness settles into the clamps along the back of the craft. Twin engines light green on the console as the device comes online.

Skipping is a technology the Starborn had reverse engineered a couple centuries ago. It kind of works like quantum tunneling and entanglement with superposition. The quick explanation: The Skip Engine activates and uncouples me from the Universe. It finds the nearest, most likely result of trajectory and reintroduces my craft there.

Skip Boosts are still bounded by relativity. The further out I travel, and the faster I move, the greater the time dilation. Very important for a pilot to maintain a level head, especially in combat. Equipped with one of these, combat elevates to a different level. A panicked pilot may inadvertently Skip an immense distance and find themselves lost. Stranded. Or worse.

Laneira’s fighter transfers power to the engines on her back. What an outside observer would see is the craft growing fuzzy, indistinct. A beam of piercing energy flies toward the system’s Skip Relay then she disappears.

In an explosion of star light, Laneira rematerializes near her destination. The Relay appears as an immense rectangular ship. The bow is split like a tuning fork, large enough for the most immense battle cruiser to slip between. The Skip Engines communicate, sharing details of composition and locations. A green light flickers, and Laneira takes her place between the alien metallic arms.

And this is what I see as the Skip Relay powers up. The nose of the fighter becomes blurred. Copies of my ship appear above, below then surrounding me as my delicate grip on reality becomes equally indistinct. Then… darkness.

Travelling faster than light is rather hollow. Light blue shifts and lengthens. For the briefest instant, the stars ahead turn from pinpoints to streaks. Then they shift into a spectrum I can’t physically see. Except for the destination. That appears ahead of me as a tiny hole in the darkest tunnel.

As I exit at the other end of the network, the Skip Relay’s shields power up. Another fact about faster than light travel: the bubble surrounding the craft builds heat. When you exit and the bubble collapses, that heat goes somewhere. In this case, a cloud of plasma shoots forward at the Relay; the shield intercepts and begins leeching the energy, turning it into fuel for its own use. A self contained system.

“Tell me who I’m supposed to be now; make me better…”

A miniature comet streaks by. The ship’s systems casually scan it: a tiny parcel of organic matter heading toward the third planet.

A sinking feeling as pieces begin to fit together. I engage the Skip Boost and head toward The Broken Land, our name for the third planet. As humans expanded their reach; we retreated further until becoming an almost entirely space faring species.

“Can you fix this? Am I too far gone? I’ve never done this before…”

Nearing the planet’s single moon, the craft and comet are flying at matching speeds. The figure in the angelic nimbus glances over as four objects peel away and take shape around her.

“Fet, I want to talk to her, and I’m in a weaponized machine.”

“I can’t just rewrite the software you’re making, D,” he replies. “There’s a certain finesse that… Hold on.”

Fetu rolls a Standard Test for hacking: 2, 5
Laneira’s Trait “born to fly” overwritten with “voltaic angel of retribution.”

“I don’t wanna be stuck; I don’t wanna be crazy…”

“Best I can do. You might experi-”

Burning. It feels like a fever. At first. Then hot. Like searing heat. Then agonizing as every cell in my body explodes with fire. The craft around me burns to ash as I’m enveloped by a skin of pure energy. Flaming wings burst and spread from my back, electrical feathers touch the void.

The four conjured artifacts turn to ash; their light extinguished. The two angelic forms spiral down to the surface of The Broken Land. Their impact leaves small craters that crack the ground beneath them.

Brencia the Last rises, clad in a bronze cuirass and leather skirt, the hoplon gripped firmly. Her eyes burn with anger from beneath her Corinthian helm.

“What have you done?!” she screams.

“I fear, now, there’s not much left of me; when you take the sick away, who am I supposed to be?”

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