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Jan. 6th, 2011 @ 08:27 pm Page of Infinity: Chapter 1
Happy Thursday, Campers! Time to unleash the first chapter of the book. Questions and comments are always welcome... ;-)

The distant past…

The twin blue hyper-giant stars, impressive as they were to the small number of distant astronomers capable of seeing them, served as a mere backdrop to something even more impressive, if not more mysterious to the even fewer scant entities who knew of its existence.

The “mysterious something” was only so due to the heavy handed exploratory prohibitions and travel quarantines meted out by those star faring civilizations with the means to enforce such actions. Patrols were conducted on an isolated and automated basis out of concern for secrecy and security. They were also conducted for the occasional opportunity to observe the technological advancements of those fellow species whose shared enlightenment of the phenomenon warranted the fielding of starships and probes to keep the novices and mischief makers far away.

On this calendar day, none of that mattered.

Alien to the that region of space, a trio of battle worn vessels were in close pursuit of a fourth of similar design, all oblivious to the history and observation enjoyed by the luminous nebula that hung forward in their path. Its size, scale, and properties confused the scanners of all ships as they attempted to assess its impact on their current activities.

For the hunters in the chase, there was some measure of arrogance in their analysis of the findings; the readings, while disconcerting, ultimately didn’t matter. Months of hard pursuit could only have one ending – the capture and execution of the occupants in their collective scopes, and nothing was going to change that outcome. The perspective was somewhat different in the view of the “quarry” being hunted; any and all advantages that could be utilized to prevent capture were to be exploited, no questions asked. Faced with certain extinction should they fail in staying ahead of their pursuers, the crew of the dull yellow ship quickly considered its limited number of available options.

The vessel lurched slightly, changing its direction toward what could only be interpreted as the heart of the nebula. Almost by reflex, the other ships matched the course change and continued their pursuit.

As the ships drew nearer to the boundaries that separated normal space from the radiant blue and purple hues that marked the extremities of the nebula, it became apparent to all that this was no ordinary region of interstellar space. Instruments that measured units of time ceased to work properly. External sensors continued to display incomprehensible readings; while ship to ship communications became strained, bordering on non-existent. It would not be long before the dynamics of the chase would be changed from the status quo as never before.

The leading pursuit ship quickly signaled to its sister vessels that their current surroundings changed nothing. The mandate had not changed, and was still in force for one and all to follow.

As the four vessels disappeared within the confines of the nebula, the surrounding starscape continued to blink with indifference.

* * * * *

Once upon a time, a giant world existed, orbiting twin suns of significant size. For reasons unknown, it broke apart, with large sections now clumsily clustered together in an unnatural field seemingly held together by the influencing gravitational forces yielded by the nearby stars. Elements hidden away within the confines of the adjacent nebula, whose own internal composition included the planetary remnants, also laid claim to the invisible hand that held fast the thousands of chunks which used to be one body.

Its former core now exposed, the rich and relatively scarce minerals were now easily accessible treasures to be coveted by any knowledgeable souls with the means to mine them. Such individuals made it a point to keep their numbers intentionally small.

* * * * *

As the cloud density of the nebula continued to increase, the crew of the fleeing ship took stock of what few observational short range sensor readings that made the most sense and acted upon them accordingly. A formation of nearby planetoid size objects seemed like the logical place to hide and give the ship’s engines a long overdue break for rest and maintenance.

The respective proximity alarms indicated to the chase vessels that their object of pursuit had reduced speed and energy output. A game of hide-and-seek was about to take place, and the various crews began to make the appropriate preparations. Objects large and small between them and their quarry were likely going to make the hunt much more challenging, but not by much if the enemy combatants had their way.

* * * * *

A mining expedition of no small measure was about to conclude its operations for the period when its attendants became aware of “visitors” traveling within its vicinity. The protocol for such matters was unwavering and absolute.

* * * * *

On the furthest edge on the far side of the nebula, the distant hyper-giant stars flickered and shined its flares intensely and unmistakably. From a distance, unenlightened primitive minds could be forgiven if they passively assumed those heavenly bodies to be nothing more than enormous eyes against the eternal night.

* * * * *

Landing within the confined space of a large canyon on one of the smaller planetoids, the yellow ship quickly powered down, assuming a stealth posture to the best of its ability. As the inhabitants emerged from its confines, eager to explore the landscape which gave their ship temporary shelter, casual gazing star ward revealed the piercing luminance of two prominent stars through the haze of the nebula.

Some distance away from the landed vessel, the trio of pursuit ships weaved and darted amongst the field of planetoid-sized debris, employing all available short range sensory means to seek out their tenacious foe. The most recent of instrumental readings, uneven as they were, seemed to indicate that they were within relative grasp of their adversary. It was merely a matter of time before the precise location could be determined.

* * * * *

Four new vessels rose from the surface of the planetoid shared by the alien mining expedition.

Unlike other vessels within the region, these spacecraft were specifically constructed to handle the rigors of flight within this specific nebula. Oddly ovoid-shaped, its colors dark and metallic in appearance, the newly space born vessels separated on differing vectors, each acting independent in its movements away from its point of origin.

* * * * *

The furthermost of the chasing vessels, itself the least damaged of the trio, came within range of one of the newer entrants of the vicinity. There was barely enough time to alert its sister ships of its discovery when it was obliterated effortlessly by the opposition.

Victorious in its mission, the dark ship retreated back toward the mining expedition.

* * * * *

The command ship had discovered, practically by accident, the location of their primary foe.

The moment of elation was quickly tempered by the apparent loss of one of their sister ships by an unknown combatant. To its commander officer, the new alien force in the conflict would collaterally be dealt with lethally, nothing more. While it was unfortunate that their side had taken its first major loss since the initial pursuit began some years ago, it was also a coincidence of sorts that the chase had lead all parties to a region of space not under the immediate scrutiny of those agencies left behind.

Perhaps the rules of engagement could be modified, thought the top commander. Maybe it was finally the time for the idea of a live capture of the enemy ship to be sacked once and for all.

* * * * *

Armed with sensors slightly more enhanced than the ships which pursued her, the landed vessel managed to enable its proximity markers to capture any and all energy signatures, indigenous and otherwise, within its ranges. The discovery of an alien energy wave that could only be interpreted as hostile, along with the fading ciphered transmission of one their old adversaries, quickly changed the tone of the hasty landing site.

Ship and crew worked feverishly to prepare for a rapid departure out of the valley, off of the planetoid, and eventually out and beyond the nebula itself.

* * * * *

The second of the dark ships closed in on its target, another of the alien ships that had breached the mining expedition’s corridor of privacy. While impressed with the defense put on by the surface scarred vessel, the contest appeared to very uneven and much to the favor of the darker ship in the fight.

Targeting systems took virtually no time to acquire and lock in on the adversary’s primary hull.

* * * * *

Several parsecs away from the nebula, a perfect sphere of temporal energy appeared and receded from normal space, leaving behind yet another space vessel not of local origin. It immediately fell under the influence of the gravitational forces exerted by the nearby hyper-giants, slowly drifting without resistance in their general direction.

* * * * *

Now racing toward a previously ignored planetoid of modest size, the command ship suddenly detected the presence of another spacecraft within its short range sensors. Having rapidly determined that the newer presence possessed similar characteristics of the vessel that had previously destroyed the sister ship, its commander ordered a temporary change of mission, choosing instead to engage the dark ship approaching them in an attack vector.

* * * * *

The “eyes” seemingly flickered, then appeared to blink, initiating a massive wave of energy never seen before in the known universe…

* * * * *

As the second of the trio of ships began to buckle and then subsequently explode under the assault brought upon by the dark opponent, the immediate region of the planetoid debris field where the conflict was taking place appeared to dim for a second as if an object of unimagined proportions had traveled past it.

Victorious in its mission, the second of the quartet of dispatched dark ships retreated back toward the mining expedition, uninfluenced by events beyond its immediate vicinity.

* * * * *

The energy wave had reached the temporally deposited spaceship.
However, instead of seemingly instant destruction, the drifting object was forcibly pushed by the oncoming force, briefly tumbling end to end, before phasing completely out of normal space-time.

* * * * *

Roaring away from its hiding place, the yellow ship quickly discovered that the battleground had evolved, not necessarily to its benefit. As it cleared the planetoid proper, the ship found that it was not only not alone, but that the number of mortal enemies it had to contend with may have at least doubled in population.

This salient point was confirmed by the presence of a menacing looking dark spaceship rapidly approaching in a vector that could be described as anything other than non-hostile.

* * * * *

The command ship, now the sole survivor of the original trio that had entered the nebula, found its being as both hunter and hunted. What made the situation even more of a challenge was the fact that their original quarry seemed to have acquired the same enemy in the battle of survival.

Its commander sighed inward, knowing all too well what his primary mandate dictated, now tempered by the additional presence of opposing (perhaps, more importantly, somewhat superior) forces. Upon his order, a direct point-to-point signal was transmitted to the other ship.

* * * * *

The crew receiving the incoming communiqué was understandably incredulous. After months of active hostility and pursuit, their mortal foes had broadcast the only message that could be taken somewhat seriously, especially given the current circumstances jointly shared by both vessels.

With nearly no pause or hesitation, the order was given to send the terse response.

* * * * *

The energy wave finally reached the nebula, its force somewhat diminished from the distance traveled, but still influential in scope and power. As it made contact with the nebula matter, the space appeared to sparkle and wink as solid objects began to disappear from the fabric of space-time.

* * * * *

An alliance of an extremely temporary nature had been forged. The two former foes overrode their respective friend-or-foe identifiers in respect for the new reality. Using all speed made available from their engines, the two ships changed course away from certain confrontation, opting instead for the shortest route that would lead both parties out of the nebula and back to normal space.

* * * * *

The two pursuing dark vessels had no problem matching the trajectory changes made by the respective enemy ships. It would only be mere moments before firing solutions would be had for both targets. Mission accomplishment was all but assured.

* * * * *

The sensors on all four ships registered the presence of the incoming energy wave almost simultaneously. Two of the crews had never encountered anything like it before. None of the ships could do anything to avoid it.

* * * * *

The long range sensors of the mining expedition observed and recorded the seeming departure of four spacecraft from the nebula, courtesy of the pulse of energy originating from the distant twin blue hyper-giants. It had been some time since such activities had taken place, but fortunately two of the four vessels sent to deal with the original alien intrusion had since returned safely.

Having completely dissipated well short of the planetoid hosting the mining expedition, the wave had posed no residual danger to the clandestine operations taking place, at least this time.

As some semblance of normality returned to the region, distant astronomers, centuries in the future, would refer to the celestial event as “the day the eyes of Purgatory blinked.”

NEXT TIME: "No Fun Day at the Beach"

Copyright 2010 by Bryan E. Wicks. All Rights Reserved, as well as any lefts. Theft is not nice, but spreading the word about this work is okay. ;-)

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Date:January 7th, 2011 06:36 pm (UTC)
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Eeeeeenteresting. :D