Posted by: lordkyler | July 11, 2015

Terminus – Chain Story Segment

My brother Tom wanted to write a chain story with me. That didn’t end up working out, but I did write the first section. I’m pretty pleased with how it turned out. Sadly, it will likely not be continued, but you can enjoy it anyway.


The door shuddered in its housing, jolted by another earth-shaking blow. The aftereffects of the shock faded into a metallic ring.

“Listen! You hear the ring,” Calvus said, his nervous smile revealing chrome teeth. “This door is made of a polyphonic alloy. It absorbs shock easily. He could have a Kytherius missile and he wouldn’t be able to get through there.”

“There wasn’t supposed to be an attack at all, hex you. This meeting was secret.” Orphin mopped his ponderous brow with a handkerchief, an archaic accessory at odds with the fashionable and high-tech clothing he wore. His fingers tapped out a rapid beat on the handle of the Nova 9g carbine on his hip.

“Poor luck,” Calvus said. “A passing mercenary prowling the edges of the system searching for targets. He’ll soon grow frustrated and move on.”

“Don’t try to play greasewise with me, Calvus. Perchance you ought to tell your security that it’s just a roving drifter who’ll be soon gone. They might have trouble hearing you, seeing how they got starburned.” Calvus fell quiet. The screams of his men being pulled into space didn’t sit easy on his mind. Another explosion rocked the floor beneath them.

“No, this fellow is too persistent by half,” Orphin said. “This is no accident. And he’s not after plunder. He’s destroyed half the station so far.”

“He can’t get into here,” Calvus repeated. “We’ve got our own life support and self-sustaining bio. He can pound all he likes, the door is impervious. Besides, we’ll have reinforcements soon.” The door rang again, but instead of a short, sharp ring like a bell, it was a sustained ringing, like steel drawn on steel. “See, he has given up on missiles. He is trying to using lasers to cut through. Even more futile than the missiles.” Calvus laughed.

Orphin scowled. “This is wrong,” he muttered. “If he knows about this meeting, he knows about us. He knows about the acmium. He will not stop.”

Calvus reached reflexively for his pocket, where the vial of magnetically suspended acmium was hidden. They had gone through hell trying to get ahold of this stuff, and he would go to hell before he gave it up. The ringing of the door was making it hard to hear, hard to think. The man would drive them mad long before he got through the door. Calvus longed for a sonic dampener.

“But why would a man like this bother trying to get through the door?” Orphin mused. Calvus could barely hear him. “If it is so futile.”

“It is a useful distraction,” came a voice behind them. Calvus recoiled in shock, stumbling to the ground. Orphin spun quickly, Nova carbine up and at the ready. The intruder stood in a formal pose, hands clasped behind his back. He was dressed in immaculate white clothing, utterly minimalist in design. A tunic that reached to mid-thigh, with long, straight sleeves. Loose pants with a crisp crease. Spotless boots. His face was serene, outlined by a closely trimmed beard. His black hair was long, pulled back into a thin ponytail. So far as they could see, he had no weapons, no gadgets.

He did not look directly at Calvus and Orphin, but instead seemed to be focused on the door. The assault ceased, leaving the room silent. “Explosions tend to draw and hold attention,” the man continued calmly. His mouth did not move when he spoke. “And the ringing noise was useful for covering up the sounds of infiltration elsewhere.”

Orphin fired. The Nova screamed, spitting orange plasma like lightning. The man pivoted on one heel, spinning out of the way like a dancer. The shots went harmlessly past, clinging to the far wall and casting a harsh orange glow as they continued to burn. As the intruder completed a full revolution, he raised a hand toward Orphin, and snapped his fingers. Orphin tried to fire again, but found he could not pull the trigger. He looked down to find his finger locked, encased in metal. He looked back up to see the man standing next to him.

He cursed and threw himself backward, drawing a marble-sized grenade from his pocket. He activated it and threw it at the man, but a metal orb coalesced from thin air around the grenade like a shell. The man caught it in one hand, inspecting it as the grenade detonated within. The orb dissolved into the air a few seconds later. “I am sorry about this,” the man said. “But I’m afraid that you have gotten involved in matters entirely over your head. If you return the acmium, I will spare you.”

“If we give it back, the Cygni will not be so merciful,” Orphin spat. “You might as well make it quick.”

The man in white said nothing, but leapt forward in a graceful bound. A silvery blade appeared in his hand, and he thrust it through Orphin’s neck with an air of finality. The blade melted away into the air, as did Orphin’s life. The man turned to Calvus, who was huddled in a corner, shaking hands clutching a small stunner. Calvus fired, but the shot merely fizzled out on the man’s suit.

“The same offer is extended to you,” the intruder said, his voice coming from everywhere and nowhere at once. Calvus said nothing, just shooting until his charge ran out. He kept squeezing the trigger blindly. The man in white stepped up and plucked the gun from his white-knuckle grip as easily as if picking it off a shelf.

“I have no desire to kill you,” the intruder said dispassionately. “But I have no compunctions about it either. Your business partners may be able to kill you, or you might escape. Right here and now, there is no escape.” Calvus looked into the man’s eyes. then fumbled at his pocket and threw the vial at the man. The stranger snatched it out of the air and tucked it away out of sight.

“A wise choice,” the man said. By the time Calvus dared to look up again, the intruder was gone.

~~~

Deckard Malloy placed the acmium in his shipboard safe. Strange that such a small item could cause such chaos, he thought. He was used to bigger projects, undermining political regimes, assassinating key figures, hijacking warships. It wasn’t often he was hired to retrieve missing goods. Of course, acmium did not often go missing. Even this small amount was immensely valuable. The stealth cores it would make were generally worth more than the ships they were placed in.

He locked the safe and headed for the bridge. His ship, the Zenith, was on an automatic course, but it was his favorite place to meditate, surrounded by panoramic viewports revealing the depths of space. As with the rest of his ship’s interior, the design was spartan, clean and blank, with no apparent machinery. He took a seat on the mat in the center, and began powering down his systems. He preferred to meditate in his natural state, to remind him of his weaknesses.

A small depression filled up with silvery metal as he released the adamas to charge itself. Then he powered down his suit, feeling the fabric seem to settle into place, and become looser, changing from stiff linen to silk. Next, his neural implants. The world grew dead around him. He could no longer see the wireless communication hanging in the air, nor feel the connection with his ship or his enhanced awareness of his surroundings. Lastly, he let go of his inhibitions and self, becoming a slight spark of consciousness drifting through the stars.

He reflected on recent events. The raid had gone well. He had been in control of the situation from the moment he arrived, quickly dispatching the guards, and driving the targets to their lair. His distraction had worked well, allowing him to infiltrate the room through the heat sinks. He had made no mistakes in the execution of his plan. It had gone well.

His mind drifted back, as it often did, to a time before he had dedicated himself. It was important to remember the darkness, so that he would appreciate the light. But before he could properly reflect on that horrible time, he was interrupted by a soft chime, calling him back to himself.

“Answer,” he said aloud, using his mouth. It felt strange to form the words with his mouth, but he did not feel like reactivating his speech synthesizer. He kept his eyes closed, preferring to focus on his caller’s voice.

“Apex,” the caller said. It was a woman, using his work name. The client for this job. “I trust you were successful.”

“Yes,” Deckard replied. “The acmium is secure. Target Orphin is dead. Target Calvus acquiesced and was spared.”

The woman grunted curtly. She would rather have both of them dead, Deckard knew, but his terms had been part of the contract. “What is your E.T.A.?”

“I am on the outskirts of Helios. It will be a day or two to reach the Aether Accelerator and another week in transit to reach you at Libra.”

“Not soon enough,” the woman said. “Use full drive to the jump-station and then get a Magnus push on the transit. We’ll pay the difference.”

Deckard opened his eyes, looking at the woman’s projection the viewport ahead of him. She looked grim.

“Why such haste?” he asked. “I was told that the retrieval was high priority, but not the return.”

“It’s not this job,” she said. Her eyes were cold. “Something’s come up. Something major.”

“We will need to renegotiate my contract,” Deckard began, but the woman cut him off.

“Price is no matter,” she said. “This is urgent. Code Omega.”

“You are willing to-“

“Yes, Apex. Investiture. Full treatment, no limitations or tracking.”

Deckard closed the transmission and sat for a moment in thought, then stood, activating his equipment again. Zenith, accelerate to maximum, he thought, and felt the ship stirring around him. This was what he had been waiting for all these years. The chance to finally reach the goal embodied in the name of his ship and his pseudonym. Perfection.

He could only wonder what it would cost to achieve it.

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