“We're all going to die out here.”
Lieutenant-Commander Marin Powell let out a sigh as the forlorn voice of his wing mate spoke through the comm. Those seven words had been his mantra for the past hour and a half of waiting, and it was beginning to wear on Powell's nerves. Especially since this was the third day of having to hear it. Immediately regretting his decision, Powell replied back.
“Oh, stop worrying, Musashi. This is supposed to be a trap, remember? It's going to be fine.” Powell reassured, trying, and failing, to keep the annoyance out of his voice.
“Fine? Fine? You know what these things can do! Just one of them wiped out the garrison on Triton! I heard that it just took five to wipe out the entire fleet that had been assembled to defend Saturn! And yet, we're out here with only three squadrons!” Exclaimed his wing mate, the panic clearly starting to edge into his voice.
“Three hidden squadrons, remember? Trap? It's not even going get a shot off before we
can capture it. It'll take five minutes, and then we'll be back for dinner.” Powell muttered, rapping his fingers along the flight stick of his F-87. He had to admit, there was that fear deep in the pit of his stomach. He really didn’t believe what he was saying. While he hadn't seen one himself, the stories that he had heard in the bars from drunken survivors, about how the damn things just tore through fighters and ships like they were tinfoil, throwing them aside like they were nothing...
Powell forced his hands to stop shaking. However this was going to turn out, he figured that panic wouldn't serve him any good.
“We're all going to die out here.” Musashi repeated, but before Powell could respond, the harsh voice of their squadron leader barked out over the comm.
“Alright, Sigma 2, Sigma 6, that's enough! We don't know if these bastards monitor comm transmissions, so lets keep all the unnecessary chatter to a minimum!” Powell snorted softly, and leaned back in his seat. There was nothing left to do but wait patiently. Maybe the damn things wouldn't take the bait anyways, and they'd be sitting here until their asses got numb, just like they had yesterday, and the day before that. Powell had almost convinced himself that this was going to be the case, when his comm crackled back to life.
“Target spotted, 3000 KM and closing! Patching requisite information into on-fighter computers, all squadrons, prepare to launch!” Powell leaned forwards, banishing the dreams of his bunk. On his HUD, the video feed of the approaching target flickered into existence. No larger than 30 meters in length, the humanoid vehicle, looking so much like a knight, reminded Powell of the cartoons that he used to watch as a kid. As it drew closer, Powell could see the dark blues and blacks of the vessel, the powerful arms and legs, the glowing band that comprised the knights ‘eyes’, and the now-infamous symbol, a crescent moon, emblazoned proudly on its chest. The higher-ups and scientists had officially termed it 'AGX-001', but every pilot in the force knew what it truly was.
A Nightmare made of steel and hell. One of the units that had so far decimated everything humanity had to throw at it, and hadn't taken a single loss in return. One of the units that so far had driven humanity almost halfway back to it's planet of origin, and was showing no signs of stopping yet.
“Alpha Squadron! Delta Squadron! Sigma Squadron! The trap is a go! All Squadrons, you are cleared for launch!”
And it was their job to capture the damn thing.
Maybe Musashi was right. Maybe they really were going to die out there. But if they were going to die, he was at least going to go out as proudly as he could. He owed it to his family...
“Sigma 2! Launching!” Powell felt his ship lurch forwards, the panels disguising the launch catapults pulling away, and then he was surrounded by space. Already the Nightmare was moving in reaction to the surprise attack. Powell grasped the controls, and soon, there was no more time for thinking, just surviving...
The Nightmare Wars
Chapter 1: Contact
The year was 2239 AD, and humanity was on the verge of being on the losing side of it's very first interplanetary war.
Approximately one hundred and fifty years before, the situation on Earth had grown dire. Overpopulation, a lack of resources, and ecological damage was starting to take its toll, threatening all of mankind. Suddenly the conflicts of the past had started to look like small potatoes, compared to the new challenges that everyone was facing. On the verge of extinction, for the first time in its history, the human race managed to band together as one for a great undertaking, an effort to save the flickering candle of humanity: the colonization of the solar system.
It would take fifty years, and many lost lives, but ultimately the time that would later be known as the Great Exodus would be successful. Humanity had spread from the innermost planet of Mercury, where great solar arrays harnessed the energy of the sun, and beamed it to the planets beyond, to the moons of the outermost planet of Neptune.
Terraforming and colonization technologies exploded, allowing for the rebirth of once dead planets and moons into places more survivable for man. Even the once terribly lethal planet of Venus, renowned for being so hot that lead itself would melt on its surface, was slowly being cultivated into an Eden. Advances in space travel allowed one to travel from Earth to Neptune in a month and a half, as opposed to the years that it previously had taken, opening up the solar system for trade and transit. Even the Earth itself, ravaged from millennia of abuse, was slowly being returned to a more pristine condition, as befitting of the centre of the new human race.
The solar system had largely united under the banner of the Federated Planets, and conflict was rare. Whilst the FP maintained a navy, it was largely ornamental. Interplanetary conflict was a costly affair, and combat in space was a hard undertaking. It was also easy to avoid, as enemy ships could easily be detected days or weeks in advance, and thus measures could be taken to avoid the conflict. It just generally wasn't worth it. That's not to say that conflict didn't happen, humanity was always going to have one disagreement or another spring up, but it typically was rare, and localized.
Humanity, which had so recently been on the edge of extinction, had found itself in a new Golden Age.
All of this would come to an end in the year of 2238, with the destruction of the colony on Pluto. A small scientific outpost meant largely to research the Oort Cloud, on December 28th, 2238, a garbled SOS from the outpost was received by the colony on Triton. Due to the transmission delay, there was only enough time to turn sensors to Pluto, just in time for the dwarf planet to go dark.
Completely dark, as if a black shroud had been pulled over the dwarf planet.
Three minutes later, broadcast on every intercom, on every frequency, came a single message in English:
“Surrender to the Glory of the Nightmare.”
With those words, humanity was thrust into its very first true war since the Great Exodus. As scientists and experts debated how it was possible for the enemy to broadcast the message on every planet at the same time, and how the enemy knew English, the FP forces near Neptune assembled a hasty defence, preparing for an unknown enemy that had to be close by.
Three days later, the enemy attacked.
The entire garrison was destroyed fifteen minutes thereafter.
One hour after that, all of the colonized moons of Neptune had the same black shroud pulled over them, cutting off all communications and visual contact.
The transmissions sent by the destroyed garrison were quickly examined, and suddenly the nature of war in space changed completely. The enemy had been a single, solitary unit, much smaller than the human ships that opposed it. It had gone completely undetected until the last moment, when it was virtually on top of them. It was far too small and too close for the fleet’s conventional weapons, designed to take on a similarly sized force, and its astounding speed and agility made for short work of the larger, and once thought impressive, armada.
What was worse, its weapons were virtually undetectable-no emitters, no barrels, no missiles, and yet, it fired blasts that tore through ships like they were nothing, generated nothing less than an energy blade that punctured through the bridge of one ship, and, seemingly impossibly, it somehow managed to take control of one ship from afar, and caused it to spiral out of control into another. The human garrison didn't stand a chance.
One day after the colonies of Neptune were taken over, the same message was repeated over all communications:
“Surrender to the Glory of the Nightmare.”
Betraying the Federated Planets government, the colonies of Uranus broadcast its surrender soon after, directed towards the darkened colonies of Neptune, in hopes of being spared. They soon find out how mistaken they were. Hours after their surrender, the Uranus colonies went dark, spurring humanity to realize that surrender would be no option. To add to the problems, space trade convoys and transit vessels started going missing, believed to be the work of the same enemy. If that was going to continue for any length of time, every planet would be effected by lack of supplies and resources. It seemed that there would be no mercy.
There was only one left thing to do, and that was to fight.
To that end, the FP Navy dredged up the once-discarded idea of manned space fighters. It was believed that since the now-termed AGX-001 was somehow able to draw close enough to ships for the normal style of interstellar warfare to be useless, manned space fighters might be able to combat them at closer range.
Fortunately, due to centuries of science fiction singing the praises of such an improbable form of combat, the FP Navy had long since maintained multiple squadrons of F-87 Starfighters, if only to strengthen public relations. They were essentially the stunt fliers of the 23rd century, reminiscent of such wondrous fighter jets such as those flown by the 21st century aerial teams such as the Blue Angels: sleek, yet gun-metal gray. These ships and their pilots suddenly and unexpectedly found themselves pressed into battle at the front lines, as humanity amassed its largest battle group in the history of their own race, each planet sending troops to defend the thirty-four colonized moons of Saturn.
The resulting battle would be known as the Slaughter at Saturn.
Within forty minutes, the seven cruisers, dozens of support craft, and eighty-four F-87s that had comprised the majority of the armada were eradicated by the alien force... comprised of five AGX-001s. Not a single loss was recorded on the enemy side, and within two days, all of the colonies of Saturn were engulfed by the encroaching darkness from beyond the stars. Once Saturn was lost to the rest of the Federated Planets, that same dark, intoning message was repeated to the remnants of the colonies, reeling from their terrible loss. An inevitable dirge for humanity.
“Surrender to the Glory of the Nightmare.”
Hope was waning by each passing moment. It seemed that there was nothing that could oppose this force, for the terrifying “Nightmares”, as the pilots who had survived the battle at Saturn began calling them, seemed completely invincible. There were even claims by some pilots that the AGX-001s had performed even more spectacular things: teleporting away from attacks that should have landed, crushing a F-87 into scrap without even touching it, and even mind-controlling pilots, forcing them into firing on their own allies. Each story that was whispered in the darkness of the everlasting night was more frightening and terrible than the one that preceded it.
Something had to be done, and quickly. The Jovian colonies contained the largest single population of humans on its many moons, outside of the Earth itself. Were Jupiter to be lost, the enemy would have an open avenue into the terrestrial planets, and the spirit of humanity would suffer a crushing blow. With their fates sealed, the FP Navy decided on a desperate course of action. Faced with an enemy whose technology seemed to far outperform its own, the only thing that was left to do was to attempt to capture one of the so-called 'Nightmares', in the seemingly vain hopes of gaining access to its technology, and potentially reverse-engineering it. Perhaps to even develop counter-measures, and give the Navy a fighting chance against an enemy that it had so far been completely helpless against.
To that end, the decision was made to take advantage of the fact that the enemy appeared to be intentionally targeting transport convoys in a covert mission. Three cargo freighters were quickly reconverted to hold and hide a squadron of six F-87s each. Each F-87 would be piloted by the best pilots that remained in the Federated Planets Navy. The number of pilots was growing woefully few, especially for what was widely regarded as a suicide mission. The F-87s were then outfitted with as many disabling weapons as the Navy could muster, in hopes of stopping the ship or killing the pilot without harming the vessel permanently. Thus kitted out, they would be sent out, disguised as a convoy from Mars to the Jovian moons, and hope for enemy contact. Once the 'bait' was taken, the trap would be sprung, and hopefully, they would be successful in capturing the AGX-001.
The codename for the mission was Operation Forlorn Hope.
* * * *
“We've lost Sigma 6!”
“Alphas 2, 4, 5 reporting critical damage!”
“No signal coming from Beta 1!”
To say the operation could be going better would be an understatement. As soon as the three squadrons had launched, Powell and the other pilots had learned the true terror of the Nightmare. They had unleashed a potent first barrage at the alien weapon, an assault that would have been enough to disable any human ship in the fleet a dozen times over. But with this Nightmare, nothing they fired upon it had an effect.
The EMP, electrical pulses, and scramblers were useless, not even slowing it down, let alone stopping it. Not even the tethers worked, they just didn't seem to want to stay on. Every time that a ship managed to latch onto the Nightmare, sparkles of energy surrounded the tether, and simply pulled it off without any effect. It was becoming clear that whatever technology that they had just wasn't effected by anything that terrestrial science had ever come up against.
In the meantime, the Nightmare was tearing right through them. Their winged fighters were little more than buzzing flies against the might of that colossus striding amongst them. It had wiped out three F-87s in the first minute of battle alone, sending the rest of the squadrons into a desperate defensive withdrawal, battling for their very survival.
Powell pulled hard on his controls, desperately evading a pulse of energy that had been fired his way. He felt his ship rattle unhealthily, and grimaced. Nothing they did seemed to be having any effect on this robotic mockery of humanity, and what was worse, every canteen rumor, every night terror, and every horror story whispered about this Nightmare seemed to be all too horribly true. It just didn't seem to want to obey any laws of physics, pulling off manoeuvres that would have torn his ship apart and pulped him from the G-forces. And worst of all, its attacks seemed to have no perceivable focus. Lancing beams of energy, physics-defying blades of light, all seemed to sweep in and out of existence in the ship’s general area, making it almost impossible to predict the trajectories of attacks and making the targeting computer next to useless.
If Powell didn't believe in such absurdities, he would swear that it was magic. It certainly wasn't playing by any of the rules that humanity had become accustomed to in its long history in space, that was for sure.
“Damn it, at this rate, we're all gonna...” Powell murmured, feeling that creeping fear tingle down his back. The operation was a bust, and at this point there was nothing to do but try to destroy the Nightmare. He tapped into his weapon console, switching to live missiles. He manoeuvered quickly as the Nightmare fired on a separate group of fighters, briefly managing to get behind the AGX-001, and pulled the trigger.
The missile erupted from his ship, streaking towards the Nightmare. Powell just wanted to down the damn thing before it killed them all. As the missile drew closer to its target, the Nightmare started to react, but there was no way it could possibly avoid the projectile in time...
The Nightmare vanished in a flash of light that dissolved into a sparkling mist. The missile tore through the space the Nightmare had been, fortunately missing the Nightmare’s former targets, and shot out into the blackness of space, its target long lost. Powell let out a soft gasp.
“Holy shit...they really can teleport...” came a stunned murmur over his comm, and he slammed his fist against it in frustration. It just didn't seem fair. On top of everything these monsters could do to them, it somehow could bend the laws of time and space for its own benefit.
Before anyone could react, the Nightmare reappeared in a flash, looming over the lead convoy ship. As the mechanized demon swept its arm, sparkles enveloped the nearest fighter of Alpha Squadron as it just barely started its attack run. As if hit by a bat along it's side, against all capability of the fighter itself, it spiraled out of control, the convoy starting to manoeuver to avoid the attack, but far too late. The tinny screams of the doomed pilot and the crew on the bridge the convoy cut into a static that was worse than silence, as the two vessels violently fused, and were sent drifting aimlessly off into the void of space.
“Sigma 2! No live ordinance! This is a capture mission only!” Powell heard his squad commander bark over his comm.
“Sir, this mission is a failure! Nothing we've done is stopping this thing!” Sigma 4 exclaimed, before Powell could respond, saying what everyone was thinking.
“You'll listen to me, we have to stop..wait, no! NO! AAA-” Powell winced, as Sigma 1 shuddered under an unseen assault before being crushed into shrapnel, as if a titanic invisible hand had clenched around it. So much for his squadron leader. Powell exhaled softly as if to relieve the swelling sense of fear in his chest. Most of Alpha and Sigma Squad was drifting through space, crippled in the best of cases, or as shards in the worst, and Beta Squad was not faring much better.
He wasn't entirely convinced that the missile would have done something even if it had hit; there were reports during the fight at Saturn that they had taken missiles without even flinching. This really did seem to be the end. If they couldn't capture this thing, what chance did the rest of humanity have, particularly considering how crippled the Navy was after Saturn?
Not that Powell figured he was going to be alive to see the downfall of humanity to this unknown enemy. It was unlikely that the Nightmare out there was going to let them survive this. There would be no retreat, no escape.
“We've lost all of Alpha Squadron!”
“This is convoy ship Bellerophon! We're taking heavy fire!”
“This is Beta 4, I have to eject!”
If anyone was going to survive this, someone was going to have to do something
dramatically stupid to try and turn the tide. More than one battle had been turned by someone doing something so drastically unexpected that it surprised the enemy through its sheer stupidity and bravado. And since they had nothing to lose...
“I guess that falls to me, then...” Powell muttered, hardly believing the plan that was starting to flicker through his head. The chances of surviving were almost nil, but on the other hand, his chances of surviving were almost nil in any route that he could perceive. He checked his helmet, grabbed his side-arm, and made sure that his pilot’s suit was pressurized and the emergency thrusters were ready. Thus prepared, he pointed his ship towards the Nightmare, distracted by firing on the Bellerophon, and opened up the throttle.
He felt the powerful engines of his fighter roar to life, and he began to streak quickly towards the Nightmare. One hand held tightly on the flight stick, as the other reached for a different panel.
“Notice me...notice me...come on, you bastard, SEE ME!” Powell screamed, as he drew closer and closer. His plan wouldn’t exactly be a success if he just crashed himself right into it! Finally, the Nightmare turned, just as the F-87 was meters away from it. It's hand flicked, and suddenly Powell felt a shudder, as his ship was suddenly surrounded in that energy, suddenly stopped in place without crumpling his ship like a bug. Whatever this thing was, it really could disobey physics, not that Powell had time to speculate on that. As soon as he was stopped, he popped the hatch to his cockpit.
Space quickly surrounded him, and he was moving, firing his thrusters, only normally meant to try to get away from a damaged ship to rescue, flying towards the Nightmare! Before the ship could react, he felt himself slamming hard against the metallic surface of the mecha. His breath was forced out of his lungs, and he desperately gasped for air, his hands pawing for a frantic handhold against the smooth surface. He only had scant seconds before the pilot of the Nightmare realized what was happening, and tried to do something to dislodge him.
He fired his thrusters again, and finally made it to where he was aiming for: the chest of the unit, where it was figured the cockpit was. Sure enough, it seemed like a bit of luck was finally on his side. He finally managed to grasp onto a handhold, clearly meant for the pilot’s use, to clamber into the cockpit. Not far from his position was a small control panel, and he leaned in to look at it, hoping for some hint of how to open up the cockpit, before the pilot decided to try to squish him like a bug.
This was how Lieutenant Commander Marin Powell learned the second most important thing that he would learn on that day about this dreaded foe.
He looked over the control panel expecting the worst, and found characters that he recognized. The damned control panel was in English! His thoughts on the ramifications of that came to a sudden stop, however, as the Nightmare's hand began to move with frightening speed. He had to move quickly, or else he was going to meet the undignified fate that many a fly had met, and mar that lovely black and blue painted sheen with a smear of dark crimson.
Thankfully, because it was in English, it was easy for Powell to hit the emergency cockpit hatch release.
In the days after the battle, Powell would wonder why there was no lock on the cockpit hatch. Eventually, he would deduce that the enemy had never thought that a pilot would do something so suicidally stupid as what he did. How could they? He still didn't know what had possessed him to do such a ludicrous thing. But the thing that frightened him even more than that, was the implications of no lock being required. That the enemy was so unified that theft itself seemed to be an alien concept.
The cockpit hatch hissed open, Powell bracing himself from the escaping air as the cockpit depressurized. He pushed himself in, and came face to face with the pilot, the first contact humanity would have with its enemy...
The enemy was human. Powell supposed he shouldn't have been surprised, considering the English on the control panel, but when he came face to face with the human pilot, he froze up for a second. The enemy had always been a faceless malevolence, a darkness that encroached on everything that mankind had worked for, but...but...
This was no alien! It could have been a brother or family member. He wore no uniform... however the image of humanity was shattered as his eyes drifted up to the crescent moon emblazoned on his forehead, and the soulless, pitch black eyes that were under it.
Powell finally snapped out of it when the enemy lunged for a control panel, but it was far too late, Powell already had his side-arm out. Whilst normal firearms don't exactly work properly in the vacuum of space, the standard side-arm was actually closer to a miniaturized harpoon gun, firing small metal darts at high velocity using pressurized air.
What this resulted in was the pilot suddenly found himself sprouting four darts right in the chest. He let out a sucking gasp, looking down at those darts, before still tenaciously reaching out, trying to hit the panel.
“F-For the Glory of the Nightmare...” He whispered in between sucking gasps, his hand just inches away from his goal.
So Powell shot him in the face.
Powell panted for breath, watching as his opponent began to hang limply in the weightlessness of space. He hadn't wanted to do that, capturing the pilot alive was a secondary objective. There was the hope that they would be able to interrogate him, that they could learn just what they wanted, where they came from, and why they were attacking this solar system. But Powell couldn't have taken the chance of the pilot signalling a distress message; or worse, setting off some sort of self-destruct to scuttle the unit. The Nightmare, and the technology therein, was far more important at this moment to humanity’s survival. He pulled the body out of the cockpit, allowing it to drift into space. No doubt retrieval crews would pick it up in hopes of learning something through an autopsy, but for now, there just wasn't any room for the two of them. He pulled the cockpit hatch closed, and looked around.
The cockpit was disturbingly familiar. It reminded him of several of the cockpits of the ships that he had piloted, both fighters and not, in his time during the navy. The controls were labelled in English. He could almost swear that with a few minutes, he himself might be able to learn how to fly the damn thing.
This was both frightening and encouraging: frightening because it meant that the enemy was far more closely related than he would have liked...and encouraging because that meant they would hopefully be able to learn quickly how this unit worked, and in turn, how to reverse-engineer it. What most caught his eye was the rear of the cockpit, which was labelled 'Engine Access'. It looked like the entire rear could pull away, and expose what was hidden behind it. Powell touched his helmet, activating the in-helmet comm system.
“This is Sigma 2, to any surviving units. Hold your fire! I've captured the AGX-001! I repeat, I've captured the AGX-001! Please respond!” Powell held his breath, as he slipped into the pilot’s seat, and began to examine the controls. He really could fly this thing if he put his mind to it...
“T-this is M-Mara, I mean, this is Icarus. Jesus Christ, Sigma 2, we saw all that from here, what the hell were you thinking? That was the craziest goddamn thing I've ever seen,” a female’s voice replied to his own, terrified and worried. Powell's hands traced over the controls. Sure enough, the panel he had stopped the pilot from reaching appeared to be some sort of self-destruct system, clearly meant to keep the technology away from enemy hands. If Powell hadn't moved as fast as he did, he would have been blown to scrap along with the Nightmare.
“Well, it worked, didn't it? What’s wrong over there?”
“W-We took some heavy damage...most of Command is dead. It’s just me, Lieutenant Mitchell, and Doctor Fawcett left up here on the bridge...”
“Damn...what about the rest of the fleet? Who’s left?”
“The Argama is gone, and the Bellerophon is dead in the water; her crew are in escape pods. Alpha Squadron’s been wiped out, and you're what’s left of Sigma Squadron. We got three left in Beta Squadron.” Powell felt a pang of grief pulse through him. He had flown with most of the pilots during the days that the F-87 and their pilots were simply stunt fliers. He had trusted them with his life, had spent hours upon hours flying with them, gone out drinking with them...he was even best man to one of them at his wedding...To have so many of them die in the space of minutes...
“How does it look over there, Sigma 2?” A new voice, male, interrupted Powell's thoughts. He recognized it as Doctor Fawcett, the man that would be in charge of the research of the Nightmare once it was brought on board. It had been decided because the enemy could strike at any moment, that research would begin almost as soon as it was captured. To that end, each of three ships had teams of mechanics and researchers at the ready, just in case one or more of them were destroyed, a rare case of foresight.
“Rather familiar, actually.”
“Icarus, everything is in English over here. The pilot that I had to shoot? He was human. Sure, he had that moon symbol tattooed onto his forehead, and was wearing some pretty weird contacts, but he was definitely human.”
“But...that's not possible...there's no record of any sort of human organization with this level of technology.” The confusion was clear in his voice.
“I'm just saying what I'm seeing, Icarus. I'm pretty sure that I can fly this thing in myself given enough time to figure it out.” Powell frowned, glancing over at the rear of the cockpit, the Engine Access sign. During the briefing, they had all been given orders to check over the ship to ensure that it wasn't booby-trapped before they took it in for research. As long as he was doing something, he wouldn't have to think about all of his lost comrades. “Look, I'm supposed to give this thing the once over before we bring it in, right? I gotta sign here showing me that I can access the engines. Want me to check it out?”
“Affirmative, Sigma 2. It's going to take us a couple of hours to get a retrieval crew out your way, so you might as well learn what you can. Just be careful, and keep us apprised.”
“Confirmed, Icarus.” Powell slipped out of the seat, carefully stepping towards the rear of the cockpit. It was a simple matter of finding the control panel that would open up the doors, it was pretty clear that it was designed for easy access. A few button pushes, and the doors slid open.
This was how Lieutenant Commander Marin Powell learned the most important thing that he would learn that day about the enemy.
“Jesus...” Powell whispered, his eyes wide.
“What is it? What's wrong? Sigma 2, what do you see?”
It did not appear to be like any engine room that Powell had ever seen. Hell, he was pretty sure that it couldn't even be classified as a an engine at all. There were... things. No electronics by the standard definition, no mechanisms, no reactors of any kind. Oh, there were electronics, or at least things like it decorating the walls, but the engines themselves were three large orbs, hovering in midair, surrounded by the same sparkling aura that the Nightmare utilized in combat. But it wasn't the orbs in and of themselves that disturbed him. What disturbed him was the roughly human sized things curled up inside. With a quadrupedal build, they looked both vaguely familiar, and yet unlike anything he had ever seen in his life.
"Icarus to Sigma 2, respond! What do you see?"
He couldn't bring himself to say it out loud - it was utterly impossible, yet, there they were floating before him, in a configuration that was roughly triangular. To the left, a brilliantly yellow figure with flame orange hair... and tail... and wings. Absurdly small wings that couldn't possibly carry... was it a her? The right orb housed a larger red figure, bright apple red, that was visibly larger than the other two. However, in the topmost sphere was a blue pelted creature, with brilliant, almost silver hair that flowed finely around her. A small horn spiralled out from her forehead. All three twitched and twisted in their orbs, in agony as energy played over their unconscious forms, drawing the ship's power away from them. He stepped forward, and almost reached a hand out to them... it couldn't be possible.
"Icarus to Sigma 2, RESPOND."
"... you're not going to believe this in a million years, but... they're... ponies, Icarus."
"Ponies? Have you cracked, Sigma 2?"
"I don't know what else to call them. They're... ponies. Little ones. Probably no taller than my chest..." He said, as his hand moved closer - and then was drawn back quickly in pain as the energy crackled along it. He had wanted to see if there was anything he could do to ease their suffering, but the fields containing them wouldn't even allow him to draw close, and he didn't want to risk messing with the controls on the walls... even if they did anything, they could wind up killing them if he used them recklessly. He paused, putting his hand to his forehead, pulling himself together.
"Three alien life forms, equine in nature. This thing seems to be sapping their life force or something... I don't know how dangerous this is to them. You better send that retrieval crew quickly, Icarus. You're going to want to have a look at this."
“...Affirmative, Sigma 2.” The voice over the comm replied, the skepticism clear in his voice. Powell couldn't blame him. If he were on the other end of the radio, he would have been just as skeptical, thought the report just as crazy. Powell settled himself down in the cockpit seat, looking at the three ponies as they hung helplessly, unaware of everything but the pain that was clearly etched on them. He felt pity for the three, and anger that they were being treated like some sort of...of...power source.
One thing was for certain.
The war had suddenly just taken a stranger turn than anyone was expecting.
* * * *
She couldn't understand.
Why didn't they accept her? Her and her beautiful night?
Here was a race of creatures that seemed to be fleeing further and further away from their sun. And yet, this race still refused her. Still resisted her, fought against her blessings, denied her.
Just like...just like them...
It wouldn't do. They would come to see the beauty of the night. She wouldn't be alone, she wouldn't be alone anymore. She would be...she would be loved. She deserved to be loved. They would see.
They would be surrounded by her eternal night.
To Be Continued....
So, yeah, for my next story, I’ve completely gone off the deep end and have started writing something completely out of the usual fare that I’ve been writing. What can I say, I want to see if I can have range. Plus I’m an absolute sucker for this sort of stuff. I absolutely love this sort of science fiction.
For those that are worried, I am in the midst of writing Midnight-at-college, but this just...sort of jumped out and bit me, and I had to write it.
I know there isn’t a lot of pony in this chapter, but that was intentional. The rest of the chapters will be pony dominated, this just needed to be set up like this, the pony aspect was meant as a twist at the end of the first chapter.
Anyways, as a side note, there are at least seven references to different science fiction movies/series/books/games. Bonus points if you can identify them all!