Chapter 2: Exodus
Mox Garel looked out into the icy black depths of space, yawning as he did so. Being a border pilot for the Dominion was certainly boring work. Sure, he got to fly one of the coolest fighters in the fleet (it was even equipped with it's own quark destabilizer), but he got to fly it around in the middle of nowhere. It was much like being given a being given a beautiful sword, then being told to use it to mow the lawn.
Still, the job payed well, and it kept him away from home, where his nagging mother - who thought he should have gone into politics - lived. That alone was worth the cost of boredom.
Yawning again, the young man scratched his head, straightening his short black hair as he did so, and leaned back, fully prepared to take a nap. Just as his eyes closed, an alarm screamed inside his craft. He immediately opened them wide and leapt straight up in his seat, just in time to see a rather old and bulky looking craft go flying off into the distance. He cursed and immediately flipped on manual piloting.
He knew there was no excuse for having let the ship get past him. It had more than likely been on radar screens for around ten minutes, but Mox hadn't been paying much attention to them, so intent was he on being bored.
He supposed he should probably report this, as it would cost him his life if such a ship were to land on a Sol planet, but it would cost him his job TO report it. Cursing again, he flipped on the primary and secondary engines of his craft, and took off in pursuit of the larger ship. If he could take it out before anyone realized that it was a Union ship, no one would have to know what had happened. No one.
"Ha! Pilot must've been asleep there! Did you see how his ship jerked around right after we passed him? Ha ha ha!" Cynewulf was exuberant, more than thrilled at how easily they'd gotten past the border patrol. "It was, of course, a result of my incredible piloting skills. I probably didn't even show up on radar, I was moving so fast." Terra rolled her eyes at that, and Darrell opened up a book on genetic theory. It had been like this all day, ever since Cyne had found out that Terra was a pilot. The man took every opportunity to show off the fact that he was, as he put it, `the best frickin' pilot in the Union.' Darrell was very, very glad that he'd thought to take some of his precious books with him when he evacuated.
"Maybe you didn't show up, Cyne, but the guy knows you're there now. He's pursuing us at… what the heck?! Can ships go that fast?" Terra was stunned. The rate of speed the tiny border ship was going could only be attained with a 15 engine ship, at least by Union standards.
"Terra, the Dominion's years ahead of us, technology-wise. What seems impossible to us is commonplace to them. But you're still right. I didn't expect him to be moving that fast either." Darrell stretched out, and sighed.
"So… we're completely doomed, and the entire border patrol is coming down on our heads? Sounds nice." Cynewulf cocked an eyebrow at the younger man, but he'd already gone back to reading his book.
"Actually, it doesn't look like it. He's probably afraid of what'll happen to him if his unit finds out he let someone get past him." As he spoke, another blip popped up on radar, though it wasn't a ship. A straight reddish line was quickly pushing it's way straight to the center of the radar screen. "Oh… crap. Hold on, you two." As he spoke, he twisted the ship around in a wide, twisting arc, ending it with all of them temporarily upside-down while the gravity generator adjusted. Just as they stopped, a blue ray of energy screamed past about a yard to their left. Terra was again amazed.
"You went at least 100 feet out of the range of that laser blast! How did it get that close?!" Cynewulf grunted as he threw on the last of the ship's engines, and yanked the control stick up for a moment, then straight down, causing them to do a flip in place. As they straightened from it, watching another laser narrowly miss, he responded.
"Ether technology at it's finest, deary. Those things lock on to us." At this point Darrell put down his book, and looked at the bluish trail left behind by the laser in interest.
"Really? How does the ether energy affect what a laser is enough to alter it's energy into a wave form?" Cynewulf probably would have smiled under other circumstances, but as it was, he was a bit too busy trying to pull the ship out of a roll.
"Always the scientist, eh Darrell? Anything's possible with ether."
"That's insane. There's always a limit, I don't care what it's for." Cynewulf groaned loudly as he punched the thrust on the ship, jerking the three of them back in their seats. Darrell's book went flying to the back of the cabin.
"No, what's insane is you trying to have a scientific discussion while I'm in the process of keeping us from getting killed!" Darrell, somewhat shocked at the brush-off, sat back in his chair and was silent.
Terra grinned. "Ya know, Cynewulf, I think I'm getting to like you. I've never seen anyone manage to get Darrell to shut up for more than five seconds." Darrell glared at Terra at that, but kept his silence.
"Well, I'd better take advantage of a rare moment of silence, eh? Darrell, I assume you can operate a weapons array, right?" Cynewulf asked, his eyes locked on his radar screen as he pulled the ship this way and that around the ether lasers.
"Of course I can. Where's the control panel?" Cynewulf motioned vaguely over to his right, showing Darrell to a large console covered in flips and switches, with more than a few radar monitors in front of it. The scientist flipped several of the switches, causing the entire thing to blink into life, monitors pulling up various tactical displays.
Flipping on a few more switches, Darrell grabbed a control stick immediately to his left. "Graviton cannons? How did you get a hold of those?"
Cynewulf didn't respond for a moment, then, with a glance that showed Darrell to be waiting patiently for a response, groaned. "It's not important! Just fire them!!!" Darrell shrugged again, and turned back to the monitors.
It occurred to the large seeker at that moment that his younger friend was probably experiencing a bit of shell-shock from the events of the past day or two, and was being a bit oblivious as a result. He resolved to try to cut him a little more slack for a while, even as he narrowly dodged yet another burst of ether energy.
"Now that's piloting, I must admit." Mox said aloud, even as he cursed the laser cannon ports for being so slow to charge. "Stupid ether array. Sure, it makes the lasers more accurate, but when I can only fire one blast every 30 seconds, it's not much of an improvement. I guess I'll just have to kick the speed up a notch." That said, he flipped a series of switches just to the right of the actual steering column, causing the ship to start running at almost double its previous speed.
"Holy… What the heck kind of engines are in that ship, anyway?!" Terra said, her eyes wide as she looked into the rear cameras of the Blade. Cynewulf didn't really respond, except for a string of curses that showed he too had noticed the ship's increase in speed.
"Darrell, fire the cannons, wouldya?!?!?!" he yelled out over the loud humming of the ship's engines.
The young man shook his head. "Not yet… not yet. I don't have a good shot yet. He's weaving around too much."
Cynewulf cursed again. "We have enough energy for more than one shot, Darrell! You can miss!! Just shoot him!"
"Fine… I'll see what I can do." He replied, and squeezed the trigger on the pad before him without so much as a moment to adjust his trajectory.
Mox yelled out loud as an almost invisible pulse of energy tore by within a yard of his ship, pulling his ship off to the left in its wake.
"Crap! Gravitonic cannons… They're screwing up my navigational equipment!" he yelled, frantically adjusting different values on the crazily gyrating radar display in front of him. As he did, a small beep sounded in the cabin.
`Alright.' He thought. `Stupid thing's finally ready for another shot, and I'm close enough to them now. And not a second too soon. We're almost right over Yrrs II.'
Then, grinning at his good fortune, he put the weapon's crosshairs right on the large ship in front of him, and pulled the trigger.
An explosion ripped through the back of the Blade, shaking the cabin so hard that Cynewulf nearly fell out of his chair.
"Crap! We're hit!!" He yelled, looking over ship status boards.
"What on Zion?" Terra exclaimed, looking at the data onscreen. "One hit went completely through your shielding?"
Cynewulf shook your head. "I told you two that Ether was limitless. This ship's going to break apart if I keep the engines running for much longer."
"That's inevitable regardless, isn't it, Cynewulf?" Darrell asked. He was no longer sitting at the weapons display, but was standing quietly in a corner. "We're all dead, a day after we decided to go against Grendel. It must be… fate."
Terra shook her head furiously. "Don't talk like that, Darrell! I'm sure that Cynewulf has some sort of escape pod, or something on board we can use to get out! Right, Cynewulf?"
Cynewulf sat there in silence for a moment, then sighed. "Um… I… no. No, I don't. I used to, but I had to scrap it to have the living area, if I wanted to maintain a good amount of engine power."
Terra's eyes widened. "You WHAT?!?! Are you… insane!?!?!"
Darrell shrugged. "Hey, at least we can go comfortably, right? Heck, maybe we'd even have time for a full game of chess!"
Cynewulf stood up and walked over to Darrell, grabbing the young man's shoulders. "Would you quit talking like you don't care?!?! We're in very serious danger here, and you're acting like you enjoy it!!! I mean, it's one thing to be down over what happened on Zion, but if you give up before you have to, you'll never take down Grendel!! All those deaths on Zion will go unavenged!!"
Darrell shrunk back as if he'd been physically struck. "I… I'm… sorry." He said quietly.
"It's alright." Cynewulf returned. "Now, we've got to figure out if there's anything we can do to keep this ship running, if only for a little while. That Dominion ship's still just behind us, too, but he probably figures we're all but gone, anyway."
Terra looked over several monitors, then pointed at something. "What's this? The monitors claim we're just over a planet."
Cynewulf ran over, and studied the charts intently. "That's… Yrrs II, it looks like. I can hardly believe it… we made it all the way here."
Terra cocked an eyebrow. "What? I thought you'd been here!"
Cynewulf looked down sheepishly. "Well… no, not really. I know someone from here, and I've seen pictures of the place, but… I haven't been into the Sol Dominion in a very, very long time."
Terra shook her head, and sat down behind the controls to the ship.
"Hey! What're you doing, Terra?" Cynewulf said as she took the steering column and jerked it off right, toward Yrrs II.
"What does it look like I'm doing? I'm going to crash the ship into the planet before we're all sucked into space when this thing depressurizes."
"Can we… survive that?" Darrell asked, obviously shocked at this turn of events.
"Well… it depends on our re-entry point, and on forces of gravity, and a million other things, so… maybe. I don't know."
Cynewulf sighed, and sat down in the co-pilot's seat. "In any case, that's a substantially higher margin than we'd have by trying to keep this thing moving."
Darrell nodded. "Well… I guess I'll try to finish reading Chapter 30 of my book, then."
Mox was interrupted from his reverie of self-congratulations and relief by a rather astonishing sight. The ship he'd worked so hard to chase down and shoot was maneuvering itself to crash right onto Yrrs… and it had already positioned itself so close to the atmosphere that there was no way he could fire upon it without drawing out the authorities, who would strip him of his job… and his head, more than likely.
"No!! No!!! Don't do that!! You IDIOTS!!!!!" he screamed futilely at the ship as he watched it pull through the atmosphere, bound to crash in a forested area on the southern continent.
As it shrunk down to an unfathomable size, Mox smacked his head against the dashboard.
"I… am… so…. dead." He said to himself, looking down. "What's more, those idiots probably survived the crash, too…"
As he sat there, contemplating how long it would be before he was missed back at his post, a thought occurred to him.
A particularly evil thought.
"Obviously, seeing how these guys got past me, they've got to be something important in the Union… So, if I could track them down on-planet and kill them… I'd be a hero for doing it, and they might would overlook the fact that I let them get by. Yeah! That's it!"
Of course, deep down Mox knew that his logic was flimsy, but flimsy logic is as firm as iron for a desperate man.
Nodding to himself, he pulled his ship downward and to one of the spaceports on Yrrs II.
Tell me the truth, Darrell Shanning. Why do you seek power?
Darrell opened his eyes. Nothing but darkness, without… and within. He was all alone, in an infinite black void.
Tell me the truth, Darrell. Why do you seek power?
Darrell looked around himself, confused. Power? I… I… I don't really want power.
Tell me the truth, Darrell Shanning. Why do you seek power?
Darrell looked down at the ground. Because of what the lavoid did to my home.
Oh, really? That doesn't sound like the total truth to me, Darrell. Certainly, Grendel took a lot from you… but you aren't the only one. Why do you seek vengeance by power?
Darrell closed his eyes tight. Because… it's all I have left. The Finori is just the vehicle by which I'll gain it. I don't care about power!!
I think you do, Darrell Shanning. I think you do. I think it's all you care about.
Darrell looked around himself, angry. Who is this?!? How do you know anything about me?
Because, Darrell… I'm a part of you. That bit you left behind.
Darrell's eyes narrowed in confusion. What? …what do you mean?
As he thought, a being appeared before him in a flash of light. It's hair was the color of flame, and it's eyes glittered with silvery light, but other than that…
A mirror image of Darrell stood before him. What… what on Zion is going on?
The red-haired Darrell shook his head. Zion doesn't exist anymore, Darrell. And that's part of why I do. You've… bottled up your rage, you fool.
What? No… no I haven't! I'm on a quest now to satisfy that anger.
Pah. Lie to yourself if you will. You go on this quest because I want you to. I am your anger, pure and simple.
Darrell crossed his arms. And just what are you, then, to control me so much, without me even having a clue?
The red-haired Darrell rested his chin in one hand. I suppose you could call me… your Id. All of your pain, all of your anger, everything you've been trying to hold onto, everything you won't let yourself forget, has been given to me.
How… how is such a thing possible? Certainly, I don't want to forget what happened on Zion, but… why would that create you?
Id sighed, and looked up through the endless darkness. Honestly, Darrell… you think I was created by the destruction of Zion? You should know better than that.
If not by that trauma, then… what?
Id turned from Darrell then, and started to walk away. You already know, deep down… Darrell. Think about it. And when you think you're ready to face truth… call upon me.
As he walked away, the darkness began to… darken, as strange as that seemed. It also seemed to take on a tangible weight, and it forced Darrell to the ground, forced the breath from his lungs, forced his eyes to close shut on this strange half-world.
"Oh, you're finally awake? Thank the fates!" Darrell opened his eyes to the voice, and… grinning visage of Cynewulf. He started to sit up, but a throbbing head soon stopped him in his tracks.
"Ooh…. Where are we, Cynewulf?" Darrell asked, trying to look around himself. They were in some sort of large bedchamber.
"In the house of the trader I told you about the other day, on Yrrs II. We got lucky, ya know."
Darrell shook his head. "No, I didn't know… where's Terra?"
Cynewulf smirked at the young man, and sat down in a plastic chair near the bed. "She woke up three or four hours ago. She's downstairs chatting with our generous hostess."
This registering, Darrell tried to sit up, causing a loud groan to rip through him.
"Oh honestly, you worrier, she's fine. We don't need you to get up just yet, especially after that hit you took when we crashed."
Darrell settled for turning his body toward Cynewulf. "What happened, anyway?"
Cynewulf leaned back in his chair, looking up at his ceiling. "After that dominion pilot blew open my ship, we crashed on Yrrs II. Thankfully, we managed to land in a forested area about 80 miles south of here. We still hit pretty hard, though, and you and Terra both managed to crack your heads. Thankfully… again, I managed to come out of the crash mostly unscathed, just a few scratches here and there, and I managed to track down someone who could get me in touch with my trader friend here. She offered to come pick me and you two up, and… here we are, just 12 hours later."
"I've been out for nearly a day? Geez…" Darrell said.
"Well, you probably suffered a concussion. It was a good thing that there were nano-machine medical kits here, or we might've had to risk taking you into a public hospital."
Darrell sighed, and stretched out. He was no longer wearing his old clothes, he noticed, and his blaster pistol wasn't by his side. He was instead garbed in some sort of nylon robe. "Where're my things, Cynewulf?"
"Oh, honestly… they're fine. In the drawer right over there, actually." He gestured vaguely. "Now then, you need to rest up some more, man. We've got a long day tomorrow. Can't be infiltrating Sol Dominion-controlled buildings fatigued, can we?"
Cynewulf waited for a moment, seeing if Darrell would respond to his rhetorical question, but he was answered only by snores.
Grinning, he walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.
As he walked down the stairs, he was greeted by an anxious Terra. "Is he alright, Cynewulf? Is he?"
Cynewulf waved off her question. "Yeah, he's fine. Sleepin' now. Now then," he continued, apparently deciding that discussion over, "Where's Meryl?"
As he spoke, a tall woman walked into the room. She had long hair that looked like it was made of spun silver framing her hunter green eyes. She wore long greyish-green robes with golden wire adorning them at most every place where the fabric ended. "I'm right here, Cynewulf. Is your friend going to be well, then?"
Cynewulf nodded. "Thanks to the efforts of the illustrious trader Meryl Sara, yes."
Meryl smiled gently, and motioned around herself. "Why, by all means, take a seat, then. We have not really had a chance to talk yet, and I'm curious to see what you've been up to since we met on Didylos two years ago… and just why you're here now."
Cynewulf nodded, and sat down in a leathery chair. Meryl took a seat across from him, and Terra sat down on a couch nearby.
"Well, Meryl, it's a long story… I suppose I should start with what I did after we met on Didylos."
"The concept of the Id… highly controversial? Certainly. Highly doubtful? Certainly. However, as the Seeker Cynewulf once said, `implausible does not mean impossible.'" - Darrell Shanning, Exploring The Mind and Soul.
To Chapter 3
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