Chapter 1: The Beginning From The End
Colonel Mira Porter rubbed the dry space between her nose and eyes with her middle and fore-finger. She was convinced it would help her think. And at this point she really needed to think. Six hours before, she’d been summoned by the General of the Solar Garrison and reassigned to the Sol Orbital Station at Jupiter.
She hadn’t been to the that system since she commanded the Gunship Titan during The Battle of Ganymede. The NýX invasion had destroyed her ship in less than eighteen minutes, leaving her and the surviving 29 members of her crew stranded just outside the orbit of Jupiter’s largest moon. After the war, she was given a promotion and reassigned to the Department of Tactical Strategy (DTS), in charge of enhanced automated battle maneuvers for the Sol System Alliance.
Mira had just celebrated her 58th birthday the week before. She’d made a promise to herself that she’d spend the rest of her days with her feet planted firmly on Earth soil. There was no need for her to reach for the stars anymore. She had explored the cosmos for over 30 years, starting out as an Airman First Class aboard the Titan, and rising up through the ranks to one day command the very same gunship. Her career plan was to keep the Titan until she was decommissioned and retire along with the ship.
And then The NýX came and took it all away from her, along with nearly half of the Earth’s military fleet. With the Titan, went away her plans for retirement at her late 50’s. A good amount of the Sol Garrison’s best and brightest lost their lives during the war. Any skilled officers of any age were mandated to join the rebuilding efforts. Mira was praised for her strategic efforts during The Battle of Ganymede; recording 22 confirmed kills in the eighteen minutes the Titan lasted. So she was given command of the DTS, with an emphasis on automated tactical patterns. She excelled in her position. She was given 7 years to refine the standard battle patterns and increase overall response times by 18%. She did it in 3.
Rumors started spreading that she was up for the promotion to Garrison Chief of Staff, when she got the call from the Executive General for reassignment. Mira tried to protest leaving Earth. And of all places, to be assigned to the moon where she lost her ship and most of her crew. But the General didn’t take no for an answer. He called her his ’trusted’ ally, and that she was the only person who could oversee this ‘crucial’ assignment. Within 36 hours, she was relocated 565 million miles to the Sol Base orbiting Jupiter’s largest moon.
And here she sat, 12 hours later.
Three mission tablets sat on her spartan desk, neatly spaced out in order. Sol Command ordered that all data be independent from any network, with Mira having the only copy in her possession. Three pieces of the puzzle didn’t fit. The perfect storm of cosmic anomalies that haven’t generated that much fear since the Garrison’s stand against the NýX.
August 14th 2248,
07:13am SPT (Sol Planetary Time):
The orbital Jupiter station recorded an energy spike a little over 200,000 kilometers outside of the orbit of the Jupiter moon, Callisto. The readings were very faint, but the energy signature was similar to the readings they received 6 years before when The NýX appeared. The Omicron Fleet, led by the Gunship Atlanta, was pulled from patrolling the outer rim to investigate and if needed, contain the unidentified anomaly.
Omicron Fleet investigates The Anomaly. Upon their initial report, and determining that there was no immediate threat, they were ordered to pull back to an appropriate distance of protection and refrain from any type of scans or further investigation. There was more than a few questions from the fleet about protocol. But those orders had come from the highest ranks of the Sol Garrison. There would be no further investigation of The Anomaly. Period.
Omicron fleet would impose a spatial quarantine until further orders.
Seven unregistered Sol spaceships appeared from FTL (Faster Than Light travel). This ‘unknown’ fleet consisted of 4 Gunships, 2 Heavy Cruisers and a Command Carrier. Upon their arrival, Omicron Fleet was given their orders to leave the area and resume their patrol along the outer rim. Any and all information gathered from them was transferred and then destroyed, leaving no record of their investigation. The phantom fleet took over the previous fleet’s positions, until Omicron was out of sensor range. After that, the Heavy Cruisers and Command Carrier preceded with their investigation of The Anomaly.
That was the extent of the redacted mission file. Mira was instructed to give this ‘Phantom’ fleet and it’s officers a wide birth of latitude. The Jupiter’s station decks 7 and 8 were quickly evacuated of all personnel and given to the mysterious fleet. These decks were key because they included 5 of the 7 docking bays on the station. When she had first arrived, she tried to enter the protected area through the main entrance on deck 8. She was promptly stopped and denied access. Mira argued that she was the highest-ranking officer on the station, but she was presented with direct orders from Sol Command that these unknown officers were given the temporary autonomy on deck 7 and 8. They would be treated as sovereign territory, and no Sol System citizen could override their diplomatic immunity.
She had two options. She could keep pushing her guests until she gains access to Deck 8. Or she could work this mysterious case on her own the the resources she had on the station.
She chose the latter.
She tapped her communicator on her desk.
“Locate Lieutenant Katherine Brooks.”
After a few short moments, a response came.
“Go ahead, Ma’am.” Lt. Brook’s voice called back to her.
“I need you in my office within the hour.”
“Understood. I need to do a site authorization on deck 1. I’ll be there afterwards. Brooks out.”
Mira had crossed paths with Kathy Brooks a few times at Sol Command on Earth. She had admired her quick rise up the ranks of the military. Although coming from a military family, she’d enlisted at the late age of 23. Excelling in intelligence programs, she rose to the rank of Lieutenant in record time. It was strange to see a First Grade Lieutenant running in the circles with Executive Command Officers. She was told she was beneficial in the War Room during Ganymede. The fact that Sol Command had assigned the both of them to Jupiter Station at the same time as this mysterious anomaly wasn’t a coincidence.
Maybe together, they could figure out what was happening on Decks 7 and 8.
“Attempting to commandeer a military transport… assaulting Garrison officers… aiding in the escape to several known criminals…” Kathy Brooks read off of her message pad.
Sitting across from her, behind a class 3 shock barrier, was a warrior that calmly sat in the shadows. By just looking at Kyle K’Nar, you’d place him in his mid-sixties and in good shape. What you wouldn’t know is that he’s lived several lifetimes; all of them as a soldier against one dying cause or another.
It’s one of the perks of being an ‘infected’ species.
Until around three centuries before, the ’Carnates were believed to be a myth. After the collapse of the 2nd Soviet Empire on Earth, a mass exodus of humans left for the stars in the unprotected parts of the galaxy. The legend was the Earth-like planet the settlers colonized was home to a parasitic race called the Rethro. They forged a symbiotic relationship with their new human visitors, combining both species memories and knowledge. Although the human lifespan was roughly about 90 years (Sol time), the Rethro were centuries old. This meant that once the human host was ready to die, it was willingly given to a new host. This new human would emerge with the combined skill, personality and memories of every host that came before them.
Many Human/Rethro pairings were done to maximize the benefits for both beings. The parasites had a class-based social structure. If you were a farmer, or cultivator, you’d preferably chose a human with the same interest. For Kyle, that meant weapons and hand-to-hand combat. It meant centuries of tactical knowledge. But it also meant waking from gruesome nightmares and a horrible regret from actions that weren’t his own. Kyle is may be 65 years of age, but his mind held the memories and actions for almost three lifetimes.
“Kyle… What the hell am I going to do with you?” Kathy said with a sarcastic smile.
“You can let me go?” His voice from the holding cell responded.
“Not gonna happen.” Lt. Brooks stood up. “Before now, the Garrison was content with your transgressions in the crime sectors. But now, you’ve moved into my neighborhood, and that really pisses me off.”
She walked close to the barrier.
“Between you and me.. I don’t give a rat’s ass what you do to those folks on the fringes.. For all I care, you and rest of your ‘Carnatians could run wild on the underworlds. It makes no difference to me. It’s a playground for the filthy things that don’t belong in the light. But you’re stepping on my toes now. You know I can’t allow that.”
“We needed those supplies.” He pleaded.
“You could’ve just asked.”
“And you would’ve given them to us?”
“No..” she smiled. “But at least you wouldn’t be in a holding cell, would you?”
As the Lieutenant began to walk out of the room, Kyle had to play his last card.
“The Garrison’s sending investigators to process me, right? Maybe under interrogation, I might slip about you and your little operation.” He smiled when she halted half way through the doorway. “You know how Garrison Security gets when they want answers. Maybe all those things you’re keeping from everyone will accidentally come out. You hear me, Kitty cat? Maybe I might say something about The Black— ”
“Shut.. Your.. Mouth..” She stood in the doorway for roughly ten seconds, not turning around. It was one thing to use any means to get yourself out of a predicament. But to even suggest betraying the organization was something which she couldn’t tolerate.
But she kept her composure. Kyle K’Nar was an asset.. Nothing more. He was a pawn on the chessboard.
She was The Knight.
“I don’t think that’s a problem, Kyle. Between you and me? I don’t think you’d survive the trip to Earth.” She glanced slightly behind to make her point. “A lot can happen on a fringe orbital station. The technology’s a little clunky. Sometimes airlocks fail, life support gets a little wonky. Shock barriers erode and can fry an entire room if you’re not watching close enough.” She turned around fully and smiled. “Nah. I don’t think your interrogation will be a problem for me. I think things will work out for the best, regardless.”
Lt. Brooks was stationary outside the nearest transport-lift, staring out of the large corridor window. What few moments she got to herself during the day, she spent watching the transports and gunships enter and leave dry-dock. Her entire military career has been spent in the Administrative and Intelligence fields. She’d served with some of the most prominent Garrison Command Officers over her 9 year tour of duty. She was the ‘dependable’ right-hand that served the top brass with honor. When the great war started, she was in the War Room with the great minds that were now in the history books. She was the one that they used to bounce ideas off of before implementing them. They respected her mind and logical thinking and even though her rank didn’t reflect it, she wielded a lot of strong influence in the military.
This was why she was recruited by Blacklist immediately out of The Academy.
It was tradition.
She was the fourth generation Brooks to serve in the secret organization. She was their lobbyist inside of Sol Command. She was the officer the top brass respected. So when Blacklist needed to push policy changes inside of the military to strengthen their position, Kathy Brooks was their input device.
She gazed out into the chaos outside, Jupiter’s huge mass overshadowing the background. Even though she’d accomplished a lot in her career, the one thing she desired was still out of reach. Kathy yearned to command her own Gunship. She yearned to take off for the stars and explore what was out there.
She’d put in countless requests to Sol Garrison to be stationed on any position available on a Gunship. But those requests were repeatedly denied. She was told she was too valuable to the inner circle to risk out in the unknown. She half-suspected Blacklist wasn’t too happy with her being out of position.
As the doors to the transport lift slid open and she began to board, her message pad registered a new command message. The severity of her messages were color-coded. GREEN meant low-level requests, YELLOW meant same day response, and RED meant extremely urgent. The message she had just received was labeled: BLACK. Ordinary officers in the Garrison didn’t receive those messages. These were Blacklist orders, and as soon as she opened them, they would exist for ten seconds and then automatically delete from her message pad.
She pressed the emergency red button in the transport lift to halt its movement. She was headed upward to her office. The lift quickly stopped in between decks.
She opened the message promptly. There were just two words: ‘IT’S TIME’.
She sighed. “Here we go.”
Kathy restarted the transport lift, this time headed in the opposite direction.