So here it is, First Draft of Part One of the latest product of insomnia and abject boredom.
Disclaimer: I don’t own anything etc.
Two Hundred years after Destiny, the Cosmic Era is a different Place. Mobile Suits have long since been outlawed. Earth was left behind to recover after the last war, and although the colonies now argue over who has the right to repopulate it, no one is willing to risk all out war to take it. But still, it is a delicate balance...
Gundam SEED: Shadows from the Howling Dark
Part 1: To catch a shooting star
High-speed interceptor corvette Andalucian
On root from Titan to intercept Object R3-21-S
June 25th C.E. 279
14:00 Orbital Standard Time
The general babble in the briefing room quieted down once Dr. Orin Becker entered accompanied by the captain. Nearly all the off duty crew was assembled, all but those still in their bunks sleeping up for the graveyard shift. What was going to be said here would be piped though the ship’s intercom for the benefit of those crewmembers still on duty.
Captain Adam D. Androv took his place at the podium at the head of the room. Like many of the older generation of space crews, he favoured a short beard and close cropped hair, nearly all of which had long since turned gray. Below the solid black peeked cap in the ancient style of ocean going captains from earth, were two thick gray eyebrows that shrouded dark brown yet intense eyes. It took a certain type of man to captain Interceptor Corvettes, vigilant enough to be ready for whatever they might find, yet relaxed enough to remain calm and not over react. For all the vastness of space, humanity managed to fill the solar system with countless objects, most harmless, sometimes dangerous and occasionally that indeterminate blip turned out to be a pirate scow or contraband blockade runner. The Joint Colonial Interceptor Fleet maintained law and order in the vastness between celestial bodies, the deep space commonly referred to as “The howling Dark” by long time spacers. Yes, it took strength of mind, will, character and balls to willingly command a ship into the howling dark, and so far as Dr. Becker could measure, Captain Androv had these qualities in spades.
“Ladies and Gentlemen,” The Captain began, “It is time to let you know just what we believe Object R3-21-S,” He paused, “R 3 2 1 S, may be.” Androv had that unique way of speaking that all space crews either start with or learn early on. Not so much a dialect as an idiosyncrasy, enunciating each syllable clearly, using little or no contractions and occasionally repeating important information.
Dr. Becker reasoned it may have had something to do with how early communications in space were at times unreliable. Creating a need to speak very clearly and repeat things, that had simply carried on through the generations of spacers.
Captain Androv gestured towards Becker, “Doctor Oran Becker will fill you in on the details.”
At last it was Becker’s turn at the podium. He made a far less imposing figure than the Captain, average height, short curly brown hair, clean shaven smallish blue eyes behind round glasses and a smooth youthfulness to his face that made him look closer to twenty two, rather than his actual age of twenty six. He was relaxed and organized, he had given lectures to fellow academics and heads of inter-colonial corporations, but to be honest he found the crew of the Andalucian very pleasant company for the outbound journey of this mission. “Hello everyone, I’ll start with a brief overview for the benefit of those who haven’t been made aware of the details yet.
“Nearly a year ago one of the survey probes in the Kuiper Belt detected a small object moving directly inwards at a very high speed, presumably from somewhere outside the Belt. Its size wasn’t remarkable but its effect on surrounding debris and gasses caught our attention. From what we observed the object seems to repel debris from its path. It crossed the orbit of Pluto some weeks after the first observation and that is when the La Flaga radio observatory in high Saturn orbit was able to determine that the object is emitting a particle field and is decelerating.” Becker paused to let that sink in. Spacer’s weren’t dumb, they could draw the right conclusion from that information without having it spelled out for them. Deceleration meant it the object had some form of propulsion, the particle field implied it was generating power. Meaning it was highly unlikely that Object R3-21-S was natural.
“At first, there was wild speculation that this could be a craft from some extra solar civilization. As some of you no doubt might be thinking. However High Resolution scans from multiple observatories around Saturn revealed something more likely to have been man made.” A few taps on the podium’s touch screen top brought up the briefing room’s holographic system and the scans were displayed for the assembled crew, “for those on duty, these scans will be made available on the ship’s open data bank for viewing at your convenience. For those of you here, as you can see, it has a distinctly humanoid shape, head, torso, arms and legs. Given the size, it suggested the possibility that this object could be a Mobile Suit like the ones outlawed some hundred and seventy years ago. Digging into the records from before that time, we managed to find this…” another tap on the podium. An image came up of a silvery Mobile Suit with a large ring on its back, “The Stargazer, a civilian attempt to adapt Mobile Suit technology for deep space research.” The image of the MS moved beside that of the high rez scans, “It’s generally agreed among myself and my fellow scientists that Object R3-21-S, is the Stargazer, we believe after the failed recovery attempt two centuries ago, it left our solar system and settled into an elliptical path that is now bringing it back. The fact that it is decelerating suggests that some form of internal guidance is still active, and hopefully this means that the stargazer has been performing its function and gathering information along its journey. Information that could help us understand the universe outside the bounds of our solar system. And that is why we are making this attempt at recovery.”
The response Becker got in the faces of those watching him was not what might be expected from a paramilitary crew, not indifference or boredom, but sparks of genuine interest and imagination these people actually cared about what they might find. The intercept fleet truly were a unique breed. Becker found it refreshing, opposed to pure intellectual scrutiny of his fellow scholars or fake understanding of CEOs.
Becker stepped away from the podium and the Captain stepped up once again, “We will be making contact in fifteen days, because of our speed we will be unable to change our trajectory to return to the Saturn colonies. Jupiter is in the wrong position for us to reach but Mars will be almost directly in our path. This long of a journey is nothing new for our line of work. We will make planet fall on Mars, then return to the outer system as soon as a mission is available to bring us back out. Team commanders I want schedules for recovery drills before 07:30 tomorrow, dismissed.”
There was a short lived silence after the Captains closing, then the room was filled with the noise of moving chairs, shuffling feet and once again the babble of conversation. Becker was about to make his way out as well but the captain stopped him, “I have requested you and your team join me in the officer’s mess for dinner many times now, I am afraid I will have to insist tonight.” Androv’s brows were quirked upwards slightly and he had a pleasant smile surrounded by that gray beard. “Or are you afraid my officers and myself will only talk of our old war stories and adventures?”
Becker was a bit at a loss face to face with this captain, true he had turned down the offers before and had made many a seemingly valid excuse each time. But right now he couldn’t think of one. He also knew if he were to keep refusing, it might become awkward between his science team and the ship’s officers. Plus, despite his personal thoughts of discomfort, the rest of his team might find it enjoyable. “I will let my team know. Who knows, some of them might enjoy hearing about some adventures.”
“I will expect you at 18:00” the Captain nodded his head and moved on towards the hatch.
Drift Station LX-3 “Soul Town”
June 25th C.E. 279
16:33 Orbital Standard Time
CT made her way through the Zero G hallways of the dock storage warehouses along with her two black suited companions. She smiled beneath the polished red mask that covered from her hairline to her nose. It even had polished mirror lenses to cover her eyes, and yet she couldn’t help but feel that being a masked woman in a long red synthetic leather trench coat with a cascade of long black hair flowing from her head as she drifted, made her less conspicuous than the two tailored black suits accompanying her. The two men were so generic that they couldn’t possibly blend in with the vibrant culture of an independent colony city.
She quickly scanned numbers on the doors until she found the one they were looking for. She grabbed a handhold to bring herself to a stop, “It should be in here.”
The two suits reacted quickly grabbing handholds or putting hands against the corridor wall to bring themselves to a stop near CT. She keyed in the door code and locks clacked open. The door swung open on its own poorly maintained pneumatics, but CT had to help it along a little until it was fully open. The two suits moved to enter first but CT held up her hand. “Ladies first.”
She swung herself in, right hand at the ready to move inside her coat if violence was necessary. It wasn’t, a dimly lit and musty smelling warehouse greeted her. Crates of assorted sizes filled the space, but she was looking for one in particular. The two suits followed her though, likewise ready to draw weapons if need be. They relaxed noticeably when they too realized the three of them were the only people in the place.
“Alright gentlemen,” CT said clapping and rubbing her hands together, “We’re looking for a big metal crate, close to twenty meters long and almost as wide. It’ll be old looking too.”
The three of them spread out searching, thankfully there was only one container that fit the bill, so within a few minuets the three of them were drifting together in front of a door set into the side of the crate. CT took a set of bolt cutters from within her coat and cut off the padlock on the door. Then, bracing herself against the doorframe with one hand, she took hold of the door latch and gave a good pull. The long unused door mechanism screeched in protest then there was a pop and hiss from the broken seal around the door.
“Good,” CT said with a smile, “The vacuum seal hasn’t been broken yet. It should be almost perfectly preserved.” She turned too the two suits, “We will have to wait for the pressure to equalize though.”
One of the suits-- Suit A for all CT was concerned at the moment-- turned to her and said, “When you say perfectly preserved, do you mean like, someone could get in and pilot it right now?”
CT was about to point out how stupid that idea was but thought better of it. “That’s not how it works, even in a vacuum there could be microbes that decompose things like lubricants and coolant fluids. So all the fluids, and anything that might brake down and corrode would have been stripped out completely, probably the battery components too. Once we confirm what’s inside it can be taken to a workshop and all those components and stuff can be put back in. It’ll be like brand new after that.”
“How did you know to look here for it?” Asked Suit B.
CT smiled, “Simple. Shipping records. History may be written by the winners but bureaucracy is written by anal retentive white collars with far too much time on their hands and delusions that their mastery of paperwork gives them some kind of power.”
Suit B looked confused for a moment, then said “You know… We’re working for a bureaucrat.”
Without hint of sarcasm, CT said, “I’m aware of that.”
The hissing of air entering the container had quieted down some. CT moved herself into a position where she could grab the latch with both hands and set her feet against the door frame, “That should be close enough…” She heaved outwards on the door, after a second there was a pop and an inrush of air. She pulled against the force of the negative air pressure and heaved the door open. Getting her feet back on the deck, she pulled a flashlight from her coat pocket, flicked in on and peered inside. The light reflected back white armour on a blue frame.
CT smiled, “That’s it. Call the ship and have this crate transferred into the hanger.” She swung the door shut again. “After that, tell them to meet us back at the main dock terminal in three hours.”
“Why three hours?” asked Suit A
“Because I need to take the two of you shopping,” CT grabbed Suit A’s black tie, pulled it out from where it was tucked into his suit jacket and flipped it aside disdainfully. “You’re so non-descript that you stick out in places like this. Soul Town isn’t the only drift city we have to pick up packages on and if I’m going to have you two tagging along, you’ll need to blend in a hell of a lot better.”
On root from Titan to intercept Stargazer
June 25th C.E. 279
Dinner at the Officer’s mess was thankfully a much less formal affair than Becker had feared. The command officers were dressed in the standard loose fitting, short sleeved coverall style black ship’s suits. The dinning room itself had a relaxed atmosphere, plush couches surrounding a low coffee table on one half of the room and a large table surrounded by high backed and comfortable looking chairs. The furnishings were all made of darkly stained synthetic wood with brass fittings and other metal components and everything was upholstered with what looked to be a blush almost velvet like material. The same dark wood was used as panelling on the walls and all the light fixtures were also elaborate decorative brass.
“It’s more like a lounge of some kind,” Becker muttered to his three companions, “Not a formal dining room.”
Kathy Torn gave a quiet snort, “More like a pub if you ask me.” Kathy was the science team’s Exo-biologist, hoping to find out what microbes the Stargazer might have picked up on it’s two century flight. She was also the resident ill tempered old woman. She was over six feet tall, common for people raised on Mars. The Red Planet also had some other interesting effects on the long term inhabitants, Mars colonists all had a reddish tan to their skin, bright blue eyes and hair in shades of reddish blond. Professor Torn, despite her eighty years of life, still had no gray hair and could easily pass for a woman in her forties. The two other members of the team, Anthony Sho and Beatrix Korin, followed close behind Kathy.
Dr. Anthony Sho was a physicist, much more accustomed to surrounding himself with numbers and data. He had been working tirelessly on resolving the unknowns in the Stargazer’s trajectory. Becker didn’t care much for the mathematics but even he could tell that the numbers weren’t quite adding up. Sho’s dark eyes were starting to betray his exhaustion. He was of Asian decent, short, clean shaven with a face that seemed almost square-ish. Becker didn’t know what colony he was from since Sho wasn’t much one for opening up about his past.
Beatrix Korin was the odd person out in the group of scientists, an archaeologist with a husband and two children on Ganymede. Both her nature and her appearance seemed more suited for a stay at home mother than an academic. She was a round-ish woman in her thirties with a chubbiness to her face that emphasized the dimples of her smile. Why such a woman would take on expeditions that would keep her away from home for months to years at a time Becker just didn’t know.
The officers were mingling in the lounge area, all except Captain Androv who was sitting at the head of the table looking over several sheets of print outs. With the science team’s entrance, he glanced upwards, set the print outs aside and stood, “Friends and guests, Now that we are all here, it is time we all gather around the table and properly introduce ourselves.”
The four officers milling around in the lounge area cut their conversations short and moved towards the table and Becker lead his group in doing the same. Each place setting had a card with each person’s name on it. Becker noticed that the two groups had been mixed together. Becker took his place at the Captain’s right as everyone else found their place.
“We will go clockwise.” Captain Androv announced, “You all know me, but you may not have had the opportunity to meet my Executive Officer.” He gestured to the dark skinned and haired man to his left.
The XO nodded his head, his hair was uncommonly long for a spacer and tied back in a pony tail. He moved his dark narrow eyes across everyone at the table and said, “André Rashid Bowman, glad to make your acquaintances.” But with his hard expressionless face, Becker was unable to tell if the XO was glad or not.
As if in juxtaposition, Beatrix was placed next to the XO, she grinned at everyone and said, “Beatrix Korin, archaeologist and mother.”
The man to her left gave her a smile and a handshake before it was his turn, “Joseph McEvry, Chief Engineer.” A stout and clearly heavily muscled man with a close cropped circlet of red hair around his balding head and a thick handlebar moustache.
Kathy was next, sitting directly opposite of the Captain. She cast a regal gaze around the table, “Professor Kathy Torn, Biologist.”
This seemed to interest the man to her left, an older gentleman with black hair shot with gray at the temples and a thin face. “Dr. Bernard Wallis, M.D. Ship’s senior medical officer. I mostly handle the administration but my expertise is trauma surgery. So I am glad none of our guests have had to meet me yet.”
Sho was placed next to the Doctor, he offered a stiff bow and said, Dr. Sho, physicist.”
After Sho, and immediately to Becker’s right was a woman he gagged to be in her mid twenties. Her brown hair was in a short almost boyish cut. She had a roundish, youthful face, small round nose and large green eyes. “Marline Steckekly, Navigations Officer.” She subtly nudged Becker with her elbow and whispered, “You are the last one; hurry it up so we can get eating.”
Becker was momentarily jarred from his train of though, but he quickly regained it, “Dr, Orin Becker, science team leader for this expedition.”
As soon as Becker was finished his introduction, Captain Androv gestured everyone into their seats and almost immediately after, a pair of stewards began setting down plates of food.
It was gourmet quality food but not the type of food one would expect to be made by a gourmet chef. The main dish was beer battled Fish and Chips. The side was a Caesar Salad with real bacon and freshly baked garlic croutons. What, in any other setting, would be a simple and commonplace meal had been elevated to perfection.
Everyone attacked their plates with zeal except for XO Bowman, who paused, closed his eyes and mumbled something quietly to himself before joining the others in the feeding frenzy.
With the first of his two large pieces of fish down and a sizable portion of the chips now in his belly, Becker started to pace himself more, as most of the others around the table were starting to do. He was feeling relaxed, this wasn’t so bad.
The captain started took it upon himself to start a conversation. “So tell me Orin, your team has told us what each of their areas of expertise are. But you haven’t told us what you do.” The Captain took a drink from his glass of iced tea and waited for a response.
“Well,” Becker began, “There’s just no short answer to that. I’ve studied history, sociology, engineering, practical mechanics but if I had to choose my ‘expertise’ I’d have to say astronomy.”
The Captain quirked an eyebrow, “Very diverse for someone of your age. Is that what they used to call a ‘Jack of all trades’?”
“More like a youthful lack of focus,” Quipped Kathy from across the table.
Becker flashed Kathy a frown, “I just like to figure out how things work, from people, to machines, to the cosmos.”
“Hmmm,” The Captain smiled, “Perhaps you should add philosophy to your list some time. In my time I have spent many hours contemplating the Howling Dark.”
“Wait,” Sho spoke up, “Why do you call space that? ‘The Howling Dark’?”
Captain Androv was about to respond when Joseph McEvry stopped him.
“I’ll answer that sir.” He faced Sho, who was more of less across the table from him, “There are two reasons. The first one is that in the old days before more modern shielding, deep space ships would get hit with solar winds that would heat the outer hull unevenly, causing the ship to creek and grown. The sounds would echo around and sometimes sound like a wolf or something.
“The other is… more frightening. In a Hull breach, the air rushes out in a powerful howling wind, and all you can see outside the hole is this infinite darkness. I heard it once, we were all in pressure suits at the time so nobody got hurt. But even though the suit I could hear it.”
The Chief engineer fell silent, as did everyone else at the table. Thankfully, they had Beatrix.
She turned her cherub like face upon the XO and said, “So tell us about yourself, Mr. Bowman.”
The XO’s face remained impassive, “I traveled when I was younger.” Was all he said.
Beatrix gave him an exaggerated frown. “Oh, so reserved,” She said with playful mockery.
Captain Androv leaned in closer to Becker, but his voice was loud enough to be heard by everyone, “Until you get a few pints of dark beer into him, then he sings with a delightful Irish accent.”
Bowman’s face showed obvious signs of strain and his dark skin turned a slight reddish hue. Kathy laughed loudly at his embarrassment and soon after everyone else but Bowman was laughing along with her.
With a lighter mood restored, a new conversation was started, this time by Dr. Wallis, “Have any of you had the chance to see the ship’s library? It will be a long trip to Mars after recovering the Stargazer. A few good books might help pass the time.”
Kathy was the first to respond, “I did notice it, I’m surprised a library was included on a ship this size when digital copies could be stored in the databank.”
“It is not just the library,” said Captain Androv, “Many crewmembers also have sizable collections of books in their personal property.”
“Now that is something I have always wondered about,” Becker said, “Digital books have been around for centuries, yet paper books have never been replaced by them.”
Surprisingly, it was Bowman who spoke up next, “Data is ethereal, transient. Books are more than just data, they are the ideas and thoughts of the writer in a tangible form. By holding the book, you hold the author’s ideas.”
Everyone was wide eyed. “Deep,” remarked Kathy.
From there the conversation moved onto other topics, it became one of those discussions without structure that moved and flowed from one thing into the next.
Drift Station LX-3 “Soul Town”
June 25th C.E. 279
18:33 Orbital Standard Time
Agent Andrew Cartwright was at a loss. He and his partner Andy Baxter had worked on covert operations, assassinated despots and protected the lives of some of the most powerful men in the solar system. And yet this masked woman was beyond anything he had ever been prepared to deal with. She was at the same time imperious and completely honest. A force of personality that Andrew found difficult to refuse. And from the looks of things, Baxter was having the same trouble.
Across the small shop, the woman known only as “CT” was holding articles of clothing up to Baxter, each more outlandish than the next. CT would frown at something only she could see then reject the clothes she was holding and immediately snap something else from the nearby rack. Cartwright had already been through the same and now stood with a handful of clothes that he would never would have worn normally.
And if that wasn’t enough, CT was apparently using this excursion as an excuse to do her own shopping.
Baxter approached with his own handful of clothes and CT calling after him.
“Now try those on you two,” She said with a sweet smile, “I want to see how they fit you.”
Baxter and Cartwright went into the changing rooms and took booths next to each other. Cartwright started by taking off the holster for his handgun and hung it on a hook where it was easily within reach should something unexpected happen. Then started taking off his black suit, “Why are we doing this Baxter?”
There were some shuffling sounds from the next booth, and then Baxter said, “I have no idea. The minister just sent us to keep an eye on her, but we’re dancing on her string.”
Cartwright put on the shirt with ruffles on the front that CT had picked out, “I know, but it’s not like she’s commanding. She makes everything sound like a request and makes you feel like you don’t want to find out what will happen if you refuse.”
“Think it has something to do with that mask?” asked Baxter.
“I don’t think so.” Cartwright finished tucking his shirt into his new dark blue dress pants. “The mask definitely adds something to her air of mystery. But have you noticed, even with it covering her eyes, you can still tell what her expression is underneath. It’s eerie.”
CT waited for her two companions to finish changing and kept herself busy by looking over the shop’s selection of jewellery. Like most small Drift City shops, the selection wasn’t the same quality as what could be found on a larger colony, but what they did have was much more unique.
Suit A and B came out of the changing booths and CT scrutinized her handiwork. Suit A was now dressed in a ruffled dress shirt, dark blue pants and frock coat, sensible black shoes and small round sunglasses.
Suit B was now in a dark Green double breasted military style tunic, dark brown wide legged cargo pants that hung over heavy military style boots. Around his waist was tied a gold sash and a black opera cape hung off his shoulders, concealing the firearm he was carrying.
CT held two fingers up to her lips and contemplated. “I like it,” she said at last.
“We look like rejects from a circus.” Protested Suit A.
CT smiled, “Exactly, now when someone comes through here asking people if they saw two agents, they’ll say, ‘No, but I did see two rejects from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band’. Now come on, we’ve still got some time before we rendezvous with the ship.” She spun on her heal, swept towards the door and paused just long enough to off-handily drop a large amount of cash on the counter in front of the confused clerk. Then walked out without bothering with getting her change.
Cartwright looked at Baxter, “Who the hell is Sergeant Pepper?”
Second Generation PLANT Colony: Secondus City
Earth Lagrange Point Three
Museum of Space
June 25th C.E. 279
13:57 PLANT time, (18:57 OST)
Marcus Coll, Cosmo Coll to his friends, was something of an atypical teenager. Where most of his classmates were focused on becoming Mobile Armour pilots after graduating, he was obsessed with astronomy and deep range exploration ships. He would follow the news releases about the Kuiper Belt expeditions with great interest. Like all Coordinators his age, he was physically fit, the same height as his male peers. Most Coordinators had similar faces, with different hair and eye colours, but Marcus’ ears always seemed bigger than average. He felt self conscious about that growing up so he kept his waving platinum blond hair long to try and cover them up. His blue eyes, despite being like every one else’s, also didn’t feel quite right, so recently he had taken to wearing a pair of goggles on his forehead that he could move down over them when he wanted to cover them up. He was a product of advanced coordinator genetics, just like everyone else. Born in an artificial womb like everyone else had been in the generations following Kira Yamato, the first “Perfect Coordinator.”
Marcus was just like everyone else, and yet something inside him always felt different, that being like everyone else just wasn’t right for him.
That was why, while his classmates were all busy watching a documentary about battles fought two centuries ago, Marcus was alone in the George Glenn exhibit. Marvelling at the bravery of anyone who would fly to Jupiter on such a primitive ship as the Tsiolkovsky. Fervently reading each description in the exhibit despite already knowing everything about it all. And at last, Evidence 01, the Whale Stone. The real thing. Just being in its presence made his heart quicken and he could feel the tingle of excitement on his skin.
Marcus approached the fossilized remains of an actual alien life form. Proof that life had arisen somewhere other than earth and the implications of there possibility being more out there. This stone, this holy grail of space exploration.
The stone was roped off, but there was nobody around, and Marcus wanted to touch it. So after another look to make sure he was alone, crouched underneath the rope, took the two steps necessary to get close enough and stretched out his hand. It felt as if it was pulling him towards the stone. Then his skin made contact.
Immediately Marcus was overwhelmed by sensations, feelings, sights, sounds and information. Like a part of the universe itself was passing though him. Then, there was a jolt like an electric shock. Marcus was thrown backwards where he collided with the rope line before collapsing in a limp heap on the floor.
To Be Continued with Part Two: The Impossible Girl
Everything I know about rock music, I learned from K-ON!!