It’s been a long time coming, but the release of my first science fiction work, Supremacy: Reformation, lies just over the horizon. While I am nailing down the final publication details, I thought I might share a bit of it to whet your appetites. Here is the beginning of Episode 1 for your enjoyment…
A virtual canvas enveloped the Priestess, bringing with it the instant disorientation of floating in sheer emptiness. Surrounded by white light, she steadied her hands out in front of her to gain her bearings. In this space, she felt closest to the gods. While they lay imprisoned far away in the depths of Earth, she relished their light that shone brightly here in her own canvas. Their divine touch seeped deep into her soul, imparting her with much needed strength.
Imagining what she needed to see, a gray sphere swelled out from a infinitesimal point until it was at least as tall as she. Slowly, it began rotating as its surface texturized and morphed into the blues and greens of the planet Centros. Eight teardrop continents spread out uniformly around its equator creating a tall belt that pushed its oceans to the northern and southern poles. Black gridlines faded onto is surface, highlighting an imaginary coordinate system.
A tiny, silver disc formed above each of the continents, representing the major starports guarding the Capitol of the Second Order. She reached out and held her hand above Station Omega, the premier starport, as it rotated in front of her. The virtual planet halted at her command. She swept her hands out from the station painting a silver curtain of satellites and smaller starports that covered the remaining orbital space around Centros.
“Guide me, Sythranos,” the Priestess whispered digging her fingers into the virtual planet and spinning it along its axis until it again rotated.
The gods’ light flowed through her, spilling out from her eyes in silver beams. The empty whitespace housing her and the virtual representation of Centros faded to black revealing specks of distant, twinkling stars. With the rest of the solar system forming around her, she looked back at Centros. At this point, her scaled model should be real-time. She reached out and tapped it to activate the com stream display.
The orbital network glowed with a multitude of colored lights representing the type and density of network traffic traveling through the various starports and satellites. Falling into a trance, she connected with all the streams flowing around the planet. Piercing light shone out of her eyes taking in the network on a deeper level.
Mundane station agendas, civilian broadcasts, and thousands of other types of traffic rushed through her head like a cacophony of sound in an empty theater. Through all the noise, she listened for a very specific communication set. After several minutes, she never heard it.
All felt normal; they had arrived without detection.
Lt. Commander Nova sat in the commander’s chair on the bridge of the Silver Link pouring over the information crawling along the holoscreens in front of her. The ship’s computers ran through various levels of diagnostics and exchanged information with Station Omega to once again verify their authenticity and mission. As if it wasn’t enough that they had to practically run a gauntlet just docking with the station, the station authorities demanded yet another level of red tape to cut through.
Initially, it all seemed excessive to Scarlett Nova, but considering the Emperor’s personal residence lay a few hundred kilometers below them on the surface of Centros, perhaps the endless security layers were not so exorbitant. Fortunately, she had drilled the importance of perfect protocol into the minds of the bridge crew to the point that everyone reacted from instinct.
Making a circular gesture with her index finger, the holoscreens disappeared, opening her view from the command chair floating directly in the center of the spherical bridge. The crew workstations lined up against the forward bulkhead, following its curvature back around. Only two-thirds were filled, highlighting their understaffed crew. She looked around, ensuring no one had any difficulty with the security protocols imposed by the station.
Peering down over the side of her chair, she saw the pilot strapped into his cockpit at the vertex of the bridge. He gave her a thumbs up while continuing to interact with the holoscreens that wrapped around him. She smiled, returning his gesture. No ship had a better crew.
“Status reports, now,” she ordered while circling her index finger back around. Her holoscreens popped back up catching a flood of reports. Proud of her well-trained crew, she worked through them quickly, . Eventually, the station responded with its traditional acceptance message, releasing the authorization to unload their cargo.
“Finally,” she said under her breath while sending a ping down to Chief Ralisk in the cargo bay.
“Chief Ralisk here, Lieutenant Commander,” he answered.
“The station has just now confirmed our authorization to unload our cargo. You may begin at your discretion.”
“Acknowledged,” Ralisk replied.
Scarlett ended the ping and glanced over to the hatch separating the bridge from Priestess Jade’s meditation chamber. Everything on the ship was running as smoothly as possible, now it was up to the Priestess to prepare the way for them to complete their mission. So much had been risked coming here to Centros, but she would follow the Priestess, her Commander, to the end no matter the outcome. Not even the Emperor himself could tear them apart.
Chief Ralisk turned from the communication console and looked down the nearly empty cargo bay of the Silver Link,, visualizing how to arrange all their cargo. The bay was a tall, hexagonal prism with two, long doors angling into each other on either side. Each door lead to one of the four cargo modules clamped against the outer hull of the ship. Station Omega didn’t allow direct module unloading for cargo transfers which forced him into pulling all their cargo down into the main bay first, before shuffling it onto the station.
His 15-man crew held onto the railings lining the door to module 1, patiently waiting for him to run through the typical drill. Everyone in the bay was equipped with standard loading suits that insulated them from the void of space and enhanced their strength, counter-balanced by a pulse-jet at their back. He pushed off the floor and floated up to meet them.
“Mission is simple: pull down the cargo and push it onto the station. Due to its sacred nature, we must handle it by hand without any loading drone assistance,” he said, noticing a few of them subtly shaking their heads. He added, ”despite your personal feelings, this is a very serious issue with the Commander. We are here to serve.”
They nodded their heads in forced agreement, probably rolling their eyes behind the veils of their helmets. Imparting correct mission philosophy into his crew didn’t concern him. They would do the job for which they had been hired.
He swept his hand across the bioprint pad and the door folded away in sections along the length of the bay, revealing several neat rows of mag-locked cargo cubes. The crew activated their pulse-jets, gliding up into the module to begin dissection of the conglomerate before them.
Paring up against each three-meter cube, the crew grabbed their disc-shaped pushbots from their belts and tossed them toward the cargo. The pushbots spun to life and attached to the corners of the cubes, deactivating the mag-locks. With the pushbots adding the necessary maneuverability, the crew began pulling the containers down into the main bay.
Chief Ralisk sent a confirmation ping to the bridge. ”We have started unloading, Lieutenant Commander.”
With the orbital network running nominally, Priestess Jade looked more closely at Station Omega and the surrounding vicinity. She cupped an invisible sphere in front of her and drew her hands apart watching as the virtual Centros grew in size until it was about four times as tall as she. The glowing lines of network traffic reorganized themselves for optimum viewing at a higher detail level.
Twenty-two red triangles marked damaged satellites in an otherwise perfect communication network spreading out from Station Omega. She had been ordered by the Communication Council to repair and upgrade them as they were an important asset to the Emperor and Centros. Ahead of schedule, the Council would be pleased with her progress.
“It is your light I renew here, Sythranos,” she prayed quietly to her patron diety. ”Hide it from our Emperor, his own ego has subverted your mandate for the Second Order. Shield us from his watchful gaze in the approaching hours so that we may bring about your swift return.”
She looked past the damaged satellites to the city that lay below Station Omega on the surface, Centros Prime. The silver pouring out of her eyes mingled with the city and reflected back at her. The gods were with her, comforting her during this trial. She felt an answer to her prayers burn through her heart.
Centros Prime shined brighter against the gray mountains that protected it, creating the illusion the planet had a giant, teal eye, the Eye to the Stars, as some called it. Jade looked directly into the center, wondering if the Emperor ever looked out beyond Centros. The city shone so bright, it would be hard for anyone to look past it.
Jade spread her hands apart and then brought them back together, trying to shrink her model back down. It didn’t move. She tried again, but nothing happened. A dull lance of teal light shot up from the city, engulfing her face. She jerked away, but the light held her in place. A shadow crawled through her mind, undoing her sense of security. Everything faded away from the planet until she was left with the Eye staring up at her, issuing a silent challenge.
The Order cannot survive outside my hands, Priestess, a voice spoke inside her head. Strong and firm, it could only be the Emperor. Why do you stand alongside my brother while he commits sedition?
“I stand with the gods!” She answered.
The eye, still vaguely resembling a city enclosed by mountains looked at her, lifeless. A familiar power emanated from it, cutting to her core. I am the servant they sent to lead you, the Emperor reminded her.
“No, they entrusted you to follow their leadership, not to take up your own mantle.”
One in the same.
She cried out, trying to grasp onto anything, but only finding empty space. The Eye burned into her, searching through her memories for buried secrets.
“He is here!” Her own voice echoed through the chamber without her having spoken the words.
Instantly, gray walls rose up around her. She thrashed around in vertigo until slamming her shoulder into a solid wall. She reeled back and found herself backed into the corner of her meditation chamber, or what passed for it, on the Silver Link. The small room was completely empty, but had enough space for a modest office setup, as was customary for most ship commanders. The Priestess, however, only needed space to think.
“A vision,” she said, calming herself down.
She made a small gesture with her hand and a holoscreen popped in front of her, displaying her reflection. A black cord of hair snaked over her right shoulder contrasting with the silver of her eyes. A hint of fear flushed her sharp face. The navy blue of her uniform sparked up a renewed determination within her as she looked at the commander’s insignia on her collar.
She closed out the holoscreen and pushed off the wall to float toward the hatch. It opened before her and she floated out onto the bridge to see her crew working diligently under Scarlett’s command.
“Commander on deck!” Scarlett called out, bringing everyone to attention.
“As you were,” Jade replied, floating up to the command cluster to take her chair. Scarlett gracefully moved to the one next to it.
“Everything is in order out here, Commander,” Scarlett reported. Her short, auburn hair curved down past her ears, giving determination to her young, round face.
Jade looked into her green eyes finding strength. In a low voice, she said, ”No, during my preparation, I was warned by a vision. We have been compromised.”