The room glowed with a warm, orange light flowing through the seaward window. A warm wind wafted in from the ocean, caressing the white lace curtains on the window frame. There was a loveseat, a plush one, with a plaid pattern on its felt upholstery. A man and woman sat close to one another on the love seat. The woman's short sleek blond hair fell on the shoulder of the man as she leaned gently on it.
"We should change the couch," she whispered softly.
Gently the man answered. "I can arrange that. I'll talk to Aster." His voice warmed the air like melted butter on fresh bread. His blue eyes were unnaturally soft and the woman saw in them an incredible deepness to them.
"I miss you so much," she said.
"My tour of duty is over in March."
"I know, but it seems so far away."
"It is. But when time seems to pass the slowest, I just think of you, and the hours fly by."
There was a chime, and a harsh, metallic voice intoned, "The ship is entering the boundary sector."
The broke eye contact and looked instinctively upward toward the voice. It coolly and unceasingly continued.
"All transmissions will end in 10 seconds. 10."
They looked again at each other.
"They never give you enough transmission time," he said.
" Oh well," she said, "It's not the same as being with you, anyway."
"No, but I'll be back soon," he replied.
"I promise you, Ingrid."
" And here's a raincheck until then."
He cradled her head in his hands and brought it slowly toward his. They closed their eyes, releasing waves of inner tension caused by weeks apart. Their lips touched and held together gently as the computer continued to count down the seconds.
As the computer chanted its hollow sounding "One" the two lovers savored their final moment together. In the next second, the image of the two kissing was changed into one as Ingrid's image slowly dissipated into the ether.
Nelson stood, more lonesome than the mythic Echo.
"End simulation," he said.
The warm, glowing room began then to lose its warmth and vitality. Bits of the room were disappearing, progressively being stripped of their details, their form, and their structure. Then there was nothing. The completely white room shone at Nelson, washing out his features and bidding him to leave. He fingered a touch pad on the wall and a door opened out of the whiteness. He walked forward out of the portal and into the brushed metal hallway.
Captain Jorgensen strolled along side the frenzied workstations on the bridge. This was not normal, he know that. Normally, the crew did their busy work in a calm, catatonic state. Not this madness.
"What's going on?" he inquired.
A frazzled crew member replied, "Sir, there's a large mass moving at incredible speed, straight for the ship."
Unmoved by the emotion around him, the Captain asked, "What size? How fast?"
"15 by 22 by 2 kilometers; 50 million kilometers away, on an intercept course that will bring it to our position in less than 15 seconds."
Jorgenson swore under his breath. "Divert power to the shields and engines. Evasive Maneuvers!" His calm voice grew to a stressed yell.
"Sir," a crewman stared agape at his console, "the mass has separated into hundreds, no, thousands, of separate units."
"I know, Ensign," the captain replied flatly.
At this the ensign turned around to see what had entranced Jorgensen. Through the window he saw a horde of luminous, phosphorescent bodies. Organisms.
Nelson strolled down the sparsely decorated hallway, unaware of the recent events on the bridge. His eyes focused on a man ahead of him. Aster. His best friend, and the one who would help him fix his holo-comm program.
On the bridge, there was an eerie silence as the crew braced for impact. An eerie silence expected to be broken by thousands of titanic impacts with the hull. Some closed their eyes as the end drew nigh. But those who did not saw the creatures flow through the wall like water. Thousands of shimmery clouds crossed the bridge. But no scratch, no damage was wrought to the hull. The protoplasms passed, like ghosts, through people, objects, and the ship.
Nelson met up with Aster, and after a short salutation, proceeded to explain his needs.
"Aster, I was wondering if you could help me with that program I've been using for the last two calls."
"Sure, what with?" Aster replied.
"Well, it's the couch color." Nelson said.
"What, she doesn't like pl-" Nelson was interrupted suddenly by a low rumble that filled the hallway with its deep vibrations. The air became thick with the noise. Aster turned and yelled to Nelson. However, the vibration, so powerful as to make their vision blur, prevented Nelson from understanding anything. Both staggered under the incredible din, clutching their ears in pain. Aster fell to the floor, while Nelson struggled to control his balance in the hallway. Both found themselves in a stupor, unable to concentrate. Their vision blurred and their minds dimmed at that infernal rumble. Time stood still.
Then, it was silent. Aster and Nelson warily lifted their heads and stared at each other with the same fearful question in their minds. The found themselves thirty feet away from each other, minds alert but stunned into silence. They rose and began to walk toward each other. Their balance was still shaky, and there was still an incredible silence enveloping the passage.
Nelson stretched out his hand to Aster. Through his fingertips he could see Aster's form, but in the next second, that form was obscured. Nelson looked around and saw them; the phosphorescent beings which flooded the hallway, rippling its surfaces in strange hues. Nelson dodged the creatures as best he could. Instinctively he weaved and bent his body around their amoebic forms.
He looked for Aster, and in that short second lost the concentration and awareness he needed to evade. Nelson turned toward the wall through which the organisms were passing and was caught like a deer in headlights. He squinted as the glowing body impacted his arm.
There was Darkness. Nelson opened his eyes wide and the darkness faded into light. The hallway he was standing in had changed. The walls radiated a prismatic glow. The colors, almost psychedelic in nature, began to blur, then. They faded out of the foreground and reappeared farther back. Nelson was seeing each layer of the ship from his position, fading in and out. Cabins, hallways, hangers, his vision zoomed through the ship's innards until he broke through the outer shell of the ship's hull. In deep space, the stars radiated every spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. Nelson could see them all, pricking the dark canvas of space with an incredible color. Nelson looked back and saw the Arcadia. He could see every deck, person, mecha, and sensor at once. It was overwhelming. Then the ship began to blur out of sight. Nelson turned around and felt himself flying forward at incredible speed. This speed continued only briefly, though, as the stars shifted back from long blurry streaks to the pinpoints of light they normally were. A planet appeared before Nelson out of the blackness of space. It's green continents and blue seas were familiar. Nelson recognized it now, as the planet where Ingrid was. She would be there now, probably leaving the holocenter, he thought fondly. His interlude was interrupted by phosphorescence filling the black void. The creatures had come and surrounded Nelson. The massive horde continued at a horrible pace for the peaceful planet. Nelson watched intently as the skies of the planet filled with the radiant host. At that moment, Nelson had a dread feeling in his heart. He felt as though the hostile plans of the beings were revealed to him. He convulsed, anticipating the horrors they would inflict on his beloved and all the others of that blue orb.
Nelson's vision blurred again. He struggled to focus, and when the blur faded he found himself back in the hallway with Aster. The last of the creatures was phasing through the wall before him. Aster stirred.
"What was that?" Aster asked groggily.
"An attack, I'd guess," Nelson replied. He did not want to reveal his "vision" and so did not offer more.
"Well, whatever it was," Aster said, "they're going to want us on stand by. We'd better get to the ready room."
As they traversed the hallways and lifts to the mecha bay, Nelson formed his plan. Aster's suggestion that they be on standby was a lucky one. It gave Nelson an excuse to be suited up, and also gave him a reason for being in the mecha bay. This would give him some time before they discovered his true motive. Once in the mecha bay, he would take a mecha robot suit to rescue Ingrid from the beings.
They arrived at bay 01 in the belly of the ship. Aster slid in his authorization key, and they both gave the verbal commands necessary for access to the bays. At this, the hexagonal ready room doors slid open, revealing the room within. Blinking electric screens and panels encircled the room, and bathed it in a pale blue light. Across the room from the door was a bank of windows overlooking the five-story-tall bay. The ay was lined with mechas: giant, bipedal robots of all shapes and sizes. Aster walked to a console at the center of the room.
"You get suited up; I'll talk to the out what's going on." Aster said.
For Nelson, this was a brilliant opportunity. While Aster busied himself, Nelson suited up and crept on the fourth story catwalk used to load the mecha robot soups. He walked back, passing Archas-class light mechas, the medium weapon platforms of the Krejin-class, and even his personal steed, the Rayden. The X-class suit in the bay gleamed before him as a black obsidian obelisk. The X stood for experimental, meaning only test pilots like Nelson even had clearance to get inside. It was equipped with a new energy based weapons and defense system powered by an internal fusion reactor. Nelson knew that its specialized weapons were his only hope against those terrible spectres. He approached it.
The Black door opened with a burst of stale air and Nelson clambered in. The control panel lit up before him in anticipation of the initialization sequence. Nelson quickly began flipping switches, sending power to all of the mecha's components. Its limbs warmed.
Aster was busy with his communication with the Bridge when the noise of the mecha startled him. He turned around and gasped.
"What is that, Lieutenant?" The captain exclaimed. Aster, his eyes aghast in amazement, described the scene unfolding before him. "Sir, It's the experimental suit, the X-class. It's powering up." "Nelson?" the captain asked. With a sigh, Aster replied, "Yes, unfortunately. I'm not sure what I can do. There's no remote control unit on the X-class." The captain pondered the situation, and then took action, "Talk to him, Aster. We'll try what we can up here. Maybe you can stall him just enough for us." "Fat chance of that," thought aster. Nelson was not the type to take such drastic action without a very strong reason. And with such a strong motivation, it would be nigh impossible to slow him. Cautiously, Aster activated the PA system. "Nelson, I know you can hear me," Aster said. "Please answer," he thought. Silence. "Nelson, please, I don't know why you're doing this. You have a great future; everyone knows it. I know you have a good reason for this, but you have to think of others besides yourself. Think of Ingrid! How will she feel when you've gone and got yourself court martial-ed!" The silence left was interrupted with a click. Nelson's cold voice resonated through the bay.
"Oh, Aster, I am.I am. Her safety is in my hands alone now." The quickened limbs of the mecha began to move, progressing towards the closed bay door. Its mammoth arms grasped the doors and strenuously began wrenching them open with a groan.
"Nelson," Aster replied, "Listen to me. Ingrid is on a Federation base. She'll have ample protection against whatever danger you think she's in."
"No, I am her only hope. They aren't strong enough for these enemies. Thousands of them wouldn't be enough."
"So then why will you?" said Aster, exasperated. "You are only one person."
The dark figure of the mecha was outlined against the starry void, its arms outstretched, straddling the line between safety and uncertainty. The intercom on the mech crackled one last time.
"One shall chase a thousand..." And Nelson leapt into the void, thrusters firing, to taste his fate. Captain Jorgensen looked at the mecha, which was sailing away in a blue glow. He swore under his breath.
"Don't let him get away! Use an EMP! Disable him!" The captain roared.
As he said it, however, the mecha charged with arcs of blue energy and burst off into light speed.
Aster watched his friend disappear into the infinite corners of space. He wondered if it would be the last time he would.