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This series will include detailed
descriptions of sexual encounters between a human male and other males from various alien races in a science fiction setting.
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About the story:
series tells the story of an ordinary man who's life is near its
natural end, but who suddenly finds himself, at the moment of the
unexpected destruction of his world, the victim of an alien
abduction with a bizarre motive, that ultimately opens the entire
universe to him and propels him into a life of adventure that he'd
imagined was even possible. He eventually finds himself thrust
front and center into events that could, both figuratively and quite
literally, change the shape of the entire known universe.
I hope that you enjoy it.
Look for more of my stories under the pseudonym JakeXtraTall at http://www.nifty.org/nifty/authors.html#JakeXtraTall
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Favors of the First Ones - Chapter 11
Jake paced back and forth and up and down the hallway as he waited to be reunited with his sweet, lovable croc.
had been just over five weeks since Srythryn was vaporized by the
stealth ship's disrupter weapon. Xelzix had contacted Jake a short time ago and had informed him that the
captain was about to be awakened.
While he paced, Jake reflected on all that had happened in the past five weeks.
had emerged from the heliosphere of the system days after Srythryn's
destruction, expecting to finish charging and then jump to the
miquanowan system. Jake had been extremely anxious to get back to
Mak's planet so they could try to locate the young bull and ensure that he was OK.
The Lawkeeper had intervened, however.
To Jake's anger and Thriststris' frustration, he had ordered
that the Slirkstrith remain in interstellar space and continue to
charge her antimatter buffer until it was completely full.
said that the First Ones had determined that there was insufficient
proof that the stealth ship would head to the miquanowan system next.
They had ordered two smaller capital ships to go to Mak's planet
and enter high orbit and keep watch in case the ship showed up there.
to her extreme speed, her extremely long ranged jump drive, the power
of her main cannon, the
capacity of her antimatter buffer giving her an almost limitless
supply of energy for shields, and the number of fighter ships she could
bring to bear, the Slirkstrith was a major force to be reckoned with.
The First Ones wanted the massive ark ship to be ready to go to
system the stealth ship might be spotted in next. They wanted her
out of any
heliosphere and ready to activate a long range jump at a moment's
had no choice but to comply in order to keep the contract with the
First Ones that funded the operations of the Slirkstrith and gave the
crew the insurance of return.
Jake had been worried about Mak
and his world but in the five weeks since, there had been no sign of the stealth ship
there. He realized that the Lawkeepers had indeed most likely
made the right decision. The Slirkstrith might have been deep in
Mak's star system for no reason, and if the stealth ship was spotted
somewhere else it might take them over a week at combat
acceleration to get back out and then they'd have to charge again for a
jump, wasting even more time.
far there was still no sign of the stealth ship anywhere, so life on
board the Slirkstrith had returned to its routine while they waited for
the captain to be resurrected.
Jake and Chet had continued their
relentless pace in the simulator and as predicted, they had become
fully certified in record time.
had done better than any trainees had ever done before, often finding
new and never before attempted solutions to the challenging scenarios that
the instructors presented them with.
after they'd passed all of the standard tests required of them, they would have
to fight the top ranked pilot on the ship in the simulator and he would declare them
ready to be certified.
They'd passed the tests more than two
weeks ago though, and Srythryn of course had not been available to
fight them. Jake wanted to wait and do it with his
beloved captain, but at the same time he knew that Srythryn would not
want him walking around without the insurance of return for one minute
more than was necessary.
Thriststris had fully agreed. He'd
said that Srythryn would likely give him forty lashes with a wet noodle
for every minute Jake went without the insurance unnecessarily so, as
acting captain, he came into
the simulator and challenged them both at once as their final test.
was an excellent pilot, almost as good as Srythryn, and ranked second on
the ladder. Since Srythryn was technically still dead, that made
Thriststris number one on the ship and the tradition would be fulfilled.
The contest was not expected to
last long and the betting odds were in Thriststris' favor. He'd
certainly never been beaten in the simulator by any fresh cadets before and he chose to take them on in the nimble Rapier.
The fight had been brutal and lasted much longer than expected.
their usual, almost supernatural link, Jake and Chet managed to survive
for a long while.
Unlike most rookies who would throw everything they had at Thriststris to try to take him down quickly, which would whittle away
too much of their energy reserves, weakening their shields and leaving
them vulnerable to attack by the much higher skilled veteran, Jake and Chet
focused on keeping each other alive.
Thriststris turned his attention to one of them to try to peel off his
shields, the other would stay back while allowing his buffer to
recharge, always seeming to sense the best moment to intervene and come
between them, taking the brunt of the
hits to fresh shields while giving the other's shields a chance to
recharge. Sometimes, while Thriststris was harrying one of them,
the other would come at him with a fresh antimatter buffer and lay into
him hard with main guns, hoping to create an opportunity to finish him
off. At the very least, Thriststris would be forced to disengage
or risk getting taken out himself, once again giving the other's
shields a chance to recharge.
and forth the battle raged until all three had expended all of their missiles
and decoys and were down to just plasma weapons.
It looked like a
stalemate would have to be declared, but Chet came onto the comm system
and told Jake that he really wanted to take Thriststris out, no matter
what the cost. He'd decided he would sacrifice himself so at
least one of them would get the certification.
Before Jake could
argue, the bear began to jink and dodge while Jake harassed
Thriststris and when the XO turned his attention to Jake, the bear
rerouted all of his power to weapons, but did not use them. He hoped
that Jake could hold out and he waited until his antimatter buffer was
fully charged and then made a run at Thriststris' ship.
almost had Jake's shields down from his constant harrying without Chet
distracting him, but now, as the bear dove in at him from above, Chet
turned off his own shields and hit his self-destruct button.
Just as the bear's ship slammed into Thriststris' shields, the
full load of antimatter in Chet's ship's buffer was released into his
ship's internals and annihilated with all of the matter it contacted in
a massive release of energy that vaporized Chet's ship.
blast stripped Thriststris' shields completely and
cracked the ship's hull and destroyed its thrusters, leaving it completely
disabled and floating through space.
Jake wasted no time and
diverted all power to his weapons and turned and opened up on the XO.
It took only a few seconds to reduce Thriststris' ship to a pile
of floating debris.
Everyone on board the Slirkstrith had been
watching the incredible show and the ark ship veritably vibrated along
its hundred mile length from the thrum of almost forty thousand
siskreths cheering and shouting and stomping their feet and whooping as one at Jake's victory.
judge had come on to the intercom and informed them that it was not
actually necessary for them to win the battle, they simply needed to
show their skill and they had done so in spades. He said that they had shown better team work
throughout their training than he'd ever seen in all of his years, and
the dedication it took to sacrifice one to ensure the victory of the
other in the final battle showed they had the stuff to be the absolute best that the
Slirkstrith had to offer.
They were both certified with honors and Thriststris congratulated them by making them both members of the crew.
were contacted almost immediately by Xelzix and told that their nanos
were still transmitting the changes to their synaptic pathways and
adding them to the existing maps of their brains that were stored in
the First Ones' central computers, and they were now fully covered with the insurance of
return for as long as they remained active members of the Slirkstrith's
were incredibly busy for the two weeks that followed. They
engaged in regular launch and return drills in the real ships until
they could go from sleeping to launching into space in a fully loaded
Juggernaut within minutes. They trained up on all of the ship's
emergency procedures. They studied the details of the
Slirkstrith's design, layout, and capabilities.
They continued to
spend a great deal of time in the simulator too. Not only did
they love it, but they both wanted to be sure they would be ready and
included in any mission to take down the stealth ship if it was found
been working on strategies to deal with the massive disrupter warheads.
They would change their formations to ensure the disrupters couldn't
take out all of their ships at once. They knew of the weapon now
so they could not be surprised by it. They knew that its range
was limited and could not be focused or directed. They knew that
it had to
drain an incredible amount of power so they estimated that it could not
be fired more than a few times before the stealth ship would have to
stop and keep the rest of its power in reserve for its thrusters,
shields, and main weapon and at that point the Juggernauts could move
in for the kill.
They were confident that they could deal with
the ship decisively the next time and they were anxious for it to make
Right now, Jake was simply looking forward to his
reunion with his sweet captain. He'd been waiting so long and he
missed him terribly.
Chet had told Jake that he would return to
his old quarters in the shipping bay for the night to give the two love
birds the house to themselves so they could focus on each other and get
it all out of their systems.
Chet and Jake and Srythryn would then get together the next day and talk about their futures together.
was so looking forward to having his two great loves deeply entrenched in his
life that he was a bundle of nervous energy as he waited for the door
to Xelzix's lab to open and Srythryn to emerge.
At long last the door opened and Srythryn rushed out.
Jake opened his arms and the big croc slipped right into them and held him tight for a moment.
Srythryn kissed him and rubbed his cheek lovingly against Jake's and said, "Hello,
my love. Come with me please. There is no time to lose."
then let go of Jake and rushed onward down the hall to an elevator
and Jake had no choice but to follow him as quick as he could.
They boarded the elevator and Srythryn tapped the buttons and turned to Jake.
are headed to the bridge. I have some disturbing news I need to
share with you as we go. Did you see what happened to me out
"Yes," Jake said, "Thriststris showed us what the telescopes saw. You were vaporized by a powerful disrupter weapon."
but something happened between the first pulse that stripped our
shields away and the second one that scattered our molecules to
oblivion. I was contacted on tight beam local radio comms by that ship."
"What? What did they want?"
wanted to taunt me. It wasn't even only the 'what'
that was important, it was the 'who' that was speaking to me.
I was vaporized
could relay the message back to the Slirkstrith so
Thriststris is still unaware of the threat."
"What threat, to whom?"
"To my own home world, that is where the stealth ship will strike next," Srythryn said.
heart began to beat faster. He wondered what could possibly make the siskreth world the next target.
Srythryn had said it was the 'who' that delivered the message that was important as well.
"Who was it that was speaking to you?" Jake asked.
must brace yourself, my love," Srythryn said, and then he paused for a
moment and said, "It was spoken to me by your former match, Komakwa."
felt his stomach drop away and his heart rate increased as his mind
raced with the news. What the hell did Mak have to do with all of
"How is that possible? Are you telling me Mak is on that stealth ship? What did he say?"
have quite an effective memory so I remember precisely what he said,
and how he said it. He said, and I quote, 'So, you're Srythryn.
I wish I could say it's a pleasure to meet you but it's
definitely not. I'm Komakwa. Jake told me all about you.
He was supposed to be mine, not yours.
I hope the two of you enjoy what's left of your life together,
lizard. I'll do everything I can to ensure that your lives are as
short as possible. I'm going to end you forever, but first I
think I'm going to make you suffer a bit. In
case you're wondering which world we'll be paying a visit to next, it's
yours. While you rest and relax in the Resurrector's putrid vat
of vile chemicals
we will be sneaking our way into the siskreth system and preparing to
to your world. By the time you wake up and remember this little
message, the people of your world will be starting to feel the
excruciating pain of being slowly ripped apart at the molecular level.'
and then he cut me off and I can't remember anything
else, so that would be the moment I was vaporized. He wanted to
taunt me, but made sure that I would not have time to relay a warning
back to the Slirkstrith."
"That makes no sense! It can't
have been him. I didn't tell him anything at all about you.
Why would he say that I'd told him all about you?
We never had any sort of discussion about the Slirkstrith and
none about you or my feelings for you. The boy I knew would never
do anything like this. He's not some psychotic mad man! It
couldn't have been Mak!"
was a video link and it was a very handsome young
miquanowan speaking to me. As I said, my memory is quite
effective and it really only happened moments ago from my point of view
so it is quite fresh. The moment I woke in the chair I asked
Xelzix to show
me the holo of your match that he would have shown to you when he asked
you to agree to the match. The handsome boy I saw in the holo was the same one that
spoke to me from that ship I assure you. His voice was that of a
young man. His speech was dripping with
hatred but it was the same person, there is no doubt in my mind about
who he was, and there is no doubt in my mind that he was quite serious. My world is in great danger."
mind was reeling. He'd only known Mak for a short time.
He'd spoken with him at the dinner with his father, then more
intimately in their rooms and then most intimately in the dry creek bed
later that evening. The only other time they'd spoken was their
brief argument on the ship before it crashed. Certainly the young
bull had been incredibly angry with Jake at that time for what he'd
seen as a betrayal, but the holo message he'd left for Jake at his
resurrection made it clear the bull had forgiven him. How did he
end up on a stealth ship that was going around melting entire worlds
into slag? What the
hell was happening?
"I don't understand this. It just
makes no sense. Mak was not angry in the holo message he left for
me after I died. He told me he understood everything and it was
all fine. He was the one who recommended I stay here with you," Jake said.
understand your confusion, my love, and I share it. I can only
tell you what I saw and heard. He may have changed his feelings
since his message to you. Perhaps he's been driven mad somehow.
It seems as though he harbors ill will towards me for having you
to myself and is planning on taking it out on my entire race to make me
suffer. They are using Zeth technology so the enemy is behind all
of this in some way. I have to believe the threat
against my home world is real and that is my priority right now.
My planet was a short jump away from where we were when I was
They could reach the system in one jump once they were fully
They are likely already driving inward through the heliosphere
and may reach my world soon. I don't know if we have even a
remote chance of getting there in time but we must try."
The elevator slowed and then rose up to the floor and they rushed down the hall and entered the bridge.
Thriststris grinned and sharply saluted the captain as he came in.
returned the salute and said, "Thank you XO. The ship is mine.
Computer...sound general warning for combat acceleration."
grin turned to a look of shock but he said nothing as the ten minute
warning for combat acceleration came over the intercom.
Srythryn said, "Computer...ship wide broadcast, record and repeat three times with alert status."
was a 'bong' and once again Srythryn spoke clearly and loudly and said,
"All hands to battle stations. I want all flight crews on high
alert. I want three squadrons of Juggernauts and three squadrons
of Rapiers held ready to launch at all times. Computer...end communication."
The klaxons blared and Srythryn's recorded message played out.
Srythryn then turned to Thriststris and said, "What's our status? Are we deep in the miquanowan system?"
"No, sir, the Lawkeeper insisted we stay in interstellar space and be
ready to jump at a moment's notice since we didn't know for sure where
the stealth ship might be headed."
Srythryn's eyes widened and a grin spread across his face as he said, "By the Granth's nineteen
gnarled toes! That is unexpected good news! Prepare for a
jump into our own system as soon as we're ready. Time
is of the essence. The stealth ship may already be there."
"How do you know that's where it will go?" asked Thriststris.
they told me they would, just before they vaporized me. They've
had five weeks to get there so they have a long head start."
eyes went wide, then he thought about it and smiled and said, "We might
be able to beat them to the planet
in any case. I've been keeping us at normal acceleration through
interstellar space for the past five weeks and we've built a tremendous
speed. If you're willing to risk a hot jump we can be at the
planet in less than a day, but we'll have to use maximum emergency
thrust and gravity assisted braking to slow us down when we get there.
lose most of the animals in the jungle and the ocean though, so we
should only do it if you're sure we need to.
We're fully charged and ready to jump now. If we want to
bend space that fast we'll be burning up almost our entire antimatter
buffer. We'll barely have enough to maintain shields while we do
the maximum burn to slow us down when we pop in at the edge of the
system at full speed, but we can do it."
grabbed Thriststris by the shoulders, and shouted, "More good news!
knew I made the right choice with you as my XO! Keeping us
accelerating was a brilliant decision. Plan for a hot jump and
execute immediately. Make your calculation for the start of the
maximum braking burn to give time to evacuate the civilians to
acceleration seats. They'll need at least three hours."
"May I ask what a hot jump is?" Jake asked.
said, "We normally come to a stop before we jump. We can jump
while moving and we come out the other end moving just as fast, but it
can be tricky. We have to generate the wormhole ahead of us
instead of around us as it takes a few moments to fully open, and it
exists for only the briefest of moments before it collapses, so if our
timing is even the slightest bit off the jump fails and we have to
start all over again by recharging. I have complete faith in my
XO's ability to perform the jump perfectly. He's done it in
simulation many times without a hitch."
some buttons at a control panel and looked at a display, then turned to
the captain and said, "We're going at an incredible speed. If we
jump in ten minutes, we'll arrive at the planet in six hours, thirty
two minutes. We can come in backwards at combat acceleration to
begin slowing down but we'll have to start emergency braking in three hours
sling around the planet, then around the two moons, then once more around the planet to use their gravity to bleed off
the speed we'll still have left. It's gonna be rough."
and said, "Our entire world is at stake. Computer...ship wide
broadcast, record and repeat every ten minutes until three hours from
Srythryn waited for the acknowledging 'bong', he looked at
the time being displayed on the bridge computer, and then he said, "All
hands, we will be undergoing maximum braking procedure beginning at
twenty-two thirteen hours. I want everyone to batten down
anything critical or dangerous that moves. We will be undergoing six g's for an
extended braking period. I want all civilian sections of the ship
evacuated and absolutely everyone strapped into a high acceleration
seat in the emergency section of the ship by no later than twenty-two
hundred. The future of our own home world is at stake and I
expect everyone to act immediately. Computer...end communication."
turned to the communications officer and ordered him to send a message
to their home world to warn them of an impending attack by a stealthed
ship and to use scopes to scan for anomalies in the star field. He would contact them shortly with details of the threat.
He then turned to Jake and said, "I will have someone show you to the emergency
section. Don't try to go home. If you get caught in that
section you will be killed and I will lose you forever as you have no contract. We will
likely lose all of the animal life in the living section but it is
unavoidable. We will have quite a mess to clean up when all of
this is over."
said, "I know where to go. As a member
of the crew I've been drilled in all of the emergency procedures.
I will be in the acceleration chairs with everyone else, then
once we finish the high-g braking burn I'll be heading to the launch gantry to get in my
Juggernaut and wait for orders."
Srythryn's eyes widened and his face split
into a grin and he asked, "Do you mean to tell me that you've already
managed to get certified? You are one of my crew? You have the insurance of return?"
Jake grinned and nodded and
Thriststris said, "Yes, sir. Jake and Chet were both certified
two weeks ago and I made them both members of the heavy fighter crew.
They beat the record by six hours. Their last act as
trainees was to kill me outright and I was fighting better than I've
ever done before. You'll be amazed when you review their logs.
They are the two best pilots we have and I recommend you put them
at the front of the lead strike squadron."
Srythryn laughed and
yelled, "That is amazing news! I woke from the chair thinking
this would be the worst day of my long life, but I've heard nothing but
positive news so far. It is a good sign. By the Granth's ninety-seven inch nose hairs, we will prevail!"
Jake chuckled and said, "I'd like to meet this Granth of yours sometime. He has quite a few unusual features."
expression turned to one of horror and his eyes darted briefly from
side to side as though to ensure the Granth himself wasn't in the room
and he shook his head and said, "Trust me, my love, you do not want to
meet him. I had that displeasure once and it still gives me
nightmares three hundred thousand years later," and then he smiled and winked.
crew of the
bridge all chuckled and Srythryn said, "All right, everyone get to work
and get that jump underway. We have a stealth ship to destroy and
our own world to save.
Jake, as a member of the crew I'll need you to report to the
living section to aid in the evacuation of the civilians to the
emergency section. I'll leave you responsible to ensure that not
one soul is left behind. Have Chet help you and once the civilian
evacuation is well underway, have him ensure that all crew members,
even those hanging in the launch gantries, evacuate to the emergency
section and take to acceleration seats as well. Once we brake
around the planet and return to normal gravity, report to your
Juggernaut and strap
yourself in. You will be in the lead strike
squadron. I will be staying aboard the Slirkstrith to command
her. Tell everyone to keep their spirits up. It can only
end well for us. With the steady flow of good news, I don't see
how it can't."
Jake snapped a salute and exited the bridge.
He ran into the elevator and directed it to the living section.
He said, "Computer...patch me through to Chetichwal."
was a 'bong' and Jake said, "Chet, meet me at the main entrance to the
living section. I need your help with the evacuation. I'll
explain everything when I get there."
Chet's voice came over the intercom and he said, "Roger, on my way."
met Chet and told him everything that was going on.
after the Slirkstrith completed her hot jump into the siskreth system,
Jake and Chet took
charge of the evacuation of the civilians and ensured that they were
of all sections and secured into acceleration chairs in the emergency
section with more than thirty minutes to go. Chet had gone to
take charge of evacuating all of the crew, even those who'd been
hanging in the launch gantries on standby, into the crew section of the
emergency acceleration seats. There was no way they could survive
three hours of six-g braking acceleration pushing their organs sideways
while they hung in the fighters. The bridge crew and engineering
and weapons sections were not a problem because all of their chairs
were built for acceleration and could turn so that the forces would
push them into their seats.
and Chet were the last to strap themselves into the seats and they took
the ones closest to the exit so they could be the first to rush back to
the launch gantries once they reached their destination.
taken them nearly the full three hours to get everyone strapped into
the emergency section and the whole time they'd been blasting inward
through the heliosphere at an incredible speed while
decelerating at the higher combat rate that gave the sensation of a
tilted floor. At the speed they were
going they would reach the planet in another half hour but they would
be going far too fast to stop, they needed to begin their high-g
deceleration burn soon so that it would take them closer to three hours
to reach the planet, and they would still have to use the gravity of
the planet and its two moons to slow
them further and toss them back into orbit around the planet.
were ten minutes
left to go before they were due to begin the emergency braking burn.
They would be experience such high g-forces that all of the
animals in the jungle would be thrown against the back wall of the
living section and killed. The swell wall
would be closed completely and the ocean contained in its own section
but there was no doubt the animals in it would die as well. They
would be unable to move water through their gills and they would
could not survive such high g-forces for an extended period. Even
the siskreths couldn't without the aid of the high acceleration seats
sucking them in and ensuring proper blood flow. It would be an
extremely unpleasant three hours.
Suddenly the computer's voice came on the intercom and said, "Returning to standard
Jake felt the
familiar swooping sensation as the acceleration changed and he wondered what was going on.
voice patched directly into Jake's translator inside his head and said,
"Jake, we've just got another piece of unexpected good news. It
should have been difficult to find the stealth ship if it was in the
system but we've already spotted its thrusters. Things couldn't
be going any better for us. The ship came in hot and entered the
heliosphere almost directly
behind us and it's almost on us as we speak. If they continue at
this rate they'll come into range of our main cannon and we can finish
it off easily.
odd thing about all of this is that it's as though they
knew precisely where we would come
in and when we would jump, and they even knew what speed we would be
going. Their own speed is slightly higher and by our calculations
was deliberately done so they would catch up to us just before we reach
the planet, but only if we do not initiate the high-g braking burn.
I don't know how this is possible. They can't
have known what we were going to do unless they are being fed
information from within the Slirkstrith. If there is a traitor in
our midst we could have problems. I may switch to critical
information being sent directly into your translator so no one else
around you can hear just in case, but only if it's absolutely necessary.
"Another puzzling thing is that the ship came in hot and facing inward so we couldn't see
it, then it suddenly turned moments ago and fired its thrusters to
begin to decelerate, revealing itself to us. I don't know what their
intent is. If they knew we would be jumping in here why would
they not jump in at the opposite side? They need only fly by the
planet and launch their satellites at it. They don't even need to
decelerate, so why did they show us their
plasma cones when they could have remained invisible? It's as though they intend to engage the
Slirkstrith first on their way to attacking the planet, but they must know they can't stand a chance against
will throw everything we have at it and end this
decisively. I'm going to launch most of our ships and keep only a
few squadrons back for defense. With everyone in acceleration
seats it will take some time to man the fighters again so I need you
and Chet to get three squadrons of Juggernauts ready right away.
The rest of the pilots can follow. I want you out there
first. We'll get some Rapiers to run interference but I need you
three strike groups in for the kill in case they stay out of range of
our main cannon."
The acceleration seats released them and there was a great deal of murmuring among the crew.
stood and turned to them and shouted, 'They've spotted the stealth
ship. Blue, Green and Gold squadrons, come with me. We'll
be the first out. Get into your ships and get ready, now!"
and the rest of the three squadrons stood with Jake and they all made
their way to the launch gantries first while the rest of the crew
slowly began to come in behind them. It would take them a great
deal longer to get all of the ships out into space now because they all
had to funnel into the launch gantries from the emergency section.
Since Jake's squadrons got out ahead, it took them only minutes to get into their fighters and they waited for the go to launch.
voice came over general comms next and said, "All hands, we have
the stealth ship. It entered the heliosphere behind us and is
decelerating and showing us its plasma cones. We will not be
entering emergency braking at this time or they will blow right past
they are stupid enough to come into range of our main cannon we will
take them out. In case they aren't that stupid, I want all
fighters to get strapped in and ready to launch. Juggernaut squadrons will be armed with full torpedo loadouts. Gold
squadron is with Jake and Chet, with Jake at the lead. Blue and
Green will take their orders from Gold. Gold, Blue
and Green are to launch immediately and spread out and stay back until
the ship approaches and we get some Rapiers out there to start chipping
away at them. I want Alpha and
Beta Rapier squadrons out there next to lure them into firing their
disrupter before we bring the big ships in with torpedoes. Launch now!"
Chet's voice came over the comm channel and said, "I believe your saying is, 'let's get this show on the road'!"
Jake switched his primary comms to his strike group and said, "Blue, Green and Gold launch now!"
Jake punched the launch button to indicate his readiness and waited for launch control to release his group.
didn't have to wait long and the hatch opened ahead of him and he felt
the familiar clunk and was in free fall and then thrusting out and away
from the ship.
ordered the squadrons into loose formations and they began to move out
and away from the Slirkstrith while heading slowly toward the stealth
ship's location. The plasma cones from its thrusters were readily
visible, though similar to the video he'd seen of Srythryn's
destruction, the cones looked like they were attached to nothing and
the star field was visible all around them. The stars were quite
still in sky as the cones approached, but once they passed the cones,
the stars occasionally wiggled in strange ways as though they were
being projected onto an uneven surface that was passing in front of
two lead Rapier squadrons launched and then blew past the Juggernauts as they raced
toward the enemy
ship. They would begin to harry it and attempt to lure it into
firing its disrupter weapon. The Rapiers should be nimble enough
to scatter and evade it. They simply wanted the stealth ship to
begin to drain its buffer to weaken it against the attack by the strike force.
Jake ordered blue and green to move a bit forward and prepare to assume flanking positions once the Rapiers got into range.
Gold squadron stayed back to make a run at the ship's drive systems as it approached.
warning, while the stealth ship was still a good distance away, the large plasma cones
shrunk and vanished, rendering it effectively invisible.
continued to head to its last projected position.
came on comms and said, "The stealth ship has turned around. It
may be bringing its main weapon around for a shot at us. We are
not in range with the Slirkstrith's cannon yet but they should be
closing on us fast. We're having trouble locating it so we need
someone to get behind it to watch for its thrusters and pin point its
position. They can't maneuver a capital ship without the main
thrusters. Alpha squadron, punch it and get behind the projected
position. Give us a fix as soon as you can."
Alpha leader came on and said, "Roger."
had an uneasy feeling about this. Srythryn had been right. Since
they'd come in hot all that ship needed to do was head in to the
planet, launch its satellites, and blow right past the world and out
the other side of the heliosphere. Turning around and blasting
their thrusters was like taunting the Slirkstrith intentionally.
Now they'd turned around again to hide, but why? Nothing was
making sense and it made him uneasy.
had to try to cover
all the bases. There were going to be hundreds of Rapiers in the
space between the Slirkstrith and the stealth ship once Srythryn
started launching the rest of the squadrons. They couldn't
possibly hope to launch their nano controlling device at the ark ship.
It would get shot down in a heartbeat and it couldn't get
through the Slirkstrith's shields anyhow. If they tried to launch
the satellite warhead at the planet, there were all sorts of fighters
along its path to intercept and destroy it before it got far. The
Slirkstrith was bristling with defensive turrets and missile launch
tubes as well. Those weapons couldn't do anything against the
capital ship itself with its big shields, but they would tear anything
launched at the ark ship to ribbons.
weapon didn't have the range to take out more than a few dozen ships at
once and only if they were extremely lucky. The fighters knew now
not to stay bunched up. It would take at least two shots with the
disrupter to take down the shields and then vaporize the ships.
It would take them dozens of shots to take out all the fighters
and they just didn't have the energy to do that.
They probably had a main cannon, but it couldn't possibly get through the Slirkstrith's
powerful shields. The Slirkstrith's cannon could probably take
the stealth ship out with one shot if they got in range and the weapons officer could get a lock.
So what were they up to?
had a hunch that the planet might be in danger still and that ship was
just making sure it took care of both the planet and the Slirkstrith
before it blew onward out the other side of the system to jump away.
if they'd turned back around to begin accelerating hard inward, in
order to get past the Slirkstrith and the first squadrons of fighters?
The extra speed would allow
them to launch their satellite warhead forward at such a rate that
nobody could catch up to it and stop it before it reached the planet!
Then they would have the freedom to turn and take on the
He suddenly realized if they didn't
act immediately, it would be too late for the planet. The juggernauts were the
only ones with the speed needed to do the job, and only if they took action now.
Green, Gold, turn around! Make your heading inward towards the
planet, now! All power to thrusters! Maximum burn!"
He got acknowledgments and he turned his own ship around and began to blast toward the planet at maximum acceleration.
"Jake, what are you doing?" asked Thriststris.
think they turned that ship around to punch it inward. The
Slirkstrith needs to stop decelerating completely or they'll blow right
past you in no time. How quick can you turn her around to bring
the main cannon to face inward?"
"We can't do that, Jake. The ship's out behind us and...hold on."
Jake saw three bright lights appear beside the Slirkstrith and slightly
behind her. It was the disrupter weapons! They'd fired
three shots at once in such a wide volley that they would spread across
and cover a much wider area! Blue and Green
squadrons were trapped between the Slirkstrith and the points of light
that were spreading out and Alpha and Beta Rapier squadrons had been
heading at speed way back to the last known position of the stealth
ship and were now out of the picture.
Jake had guessed, the
ship had been accelerating hard inward to bring them up nearer
the Slirkstrith, and going by the points of light from the disrupters,
they were already almost along side her! The Slirkstrith's main
cannon was fixed at the front and it would take some time to bring it
around to try to take out the faster and more maneuverable stealth
ship. They needed to get more Juggernauts out and fast.
Three more points of light launched from the
stealth ship towards the Slirkstrith from further along. The ship
was still moving forward.
and Green began to take evasive
maneuvers but it was already too late. The first volley of
and the wide spread caught all of the Juggernauts before they could get
away. Some were hit
at such a close range that they were completely disabled. Some
were partially disabled and limping around. The rest lost their
shields completely but were still in a position to maneuver. Gold
squadron had been further back and was out of range of the disrupters
and still accelerating hard toward the planet.
of the Juggernauts from Blue squadron almost immediately turned and
thrust hard towards the Slirkstrith to try to get out of range of the
next volley of disrupters. It would be in position to dock with
the ark ship in moments. Jake realized the only hope for both
squadrons was to get back to the Slirkstrith as quickly as possible and
hide inside of her shields and wait for the disrupters to detonate.
They may as well dock for repairs if they needed to while they
were at it.
and Green, get the hell out of there! Another spread is coming!
Any that are disabled but still maneuverable, make for the Slirkstrith
and dock for repairs!" Jake shouted.
As he watched, the first Juggernaut that had split off from Blue squadron was already docking with the ark ship.
more points of light launched from the stealth ship towards the
Slirkstrith just as the second volley was about to reach it. It
seemed they had underestimated how many times they could fire that
weapon. That was nine shots so far in three groups. Any
fighters that attempted to launch now would pop out past the shields
and be caught in the next two volleys to be vaporized. It was
clear that the stealth ship's goal was suppression to prevent the ark
ship from launching any more fighters. It was too risky to try to
put any more out now. They would have to wait until the stealth
ship drained its buffer and the suppression fire stopped.
patched himself into the bridge and said, "Thriststris, you have to
hold off on launching any more fighters until that ship stops firing
disrupters. There's two more volleys coming in now! It
seems we underestimated how often they can shoot it. Any ships
that try to launch now will be destroyed!"
transferred all power to shields. The Slirkstrith is safe.
We'll hold off on more launches until they burn themselves out.
Alpha and Beta squadrons, punch it back here. You're all
we've got for fighters out there right now!"
Jake watched as the rest of Blue and Green flew back toward the Slirkstrith and began to dock.
came back on and said, "Jake, we need that
ship dealt with. We hoped to be able to use our main cannon but
they were smart enough to come up alongside us and cancel that option
out. We're not maneuverable enough to try to bring the main
cannon to bear. Gold squadron is the only strike team left out
there. We need you to make a run at it!"
came on and shouted, "No! I think I know what you had in mind,
Jake, and you made the right call. Stay on your course. If
they launch the satellite warhead at
the planet you are the only hope to stop it. Keep accelerating
hard! There is nothing you can do for us just now and our shields
will withstand anything they can throw at us! That ship is no
threat to the Slirkstrith and we have the luxury of waiting them out,
but it is still a threat to the planet!"
Jake said, and he ordered Gold squadron to continue to accelerate
forward. The steamy jungle planet was looming very large now as
they rapidly approached it.
They were off to a rough start but
they were still in a good position. The ark ship's shields were
almost limitless now that they did not have to waste power on hard
braking thrust. They could hold out for a hell of a lot longer
than the stealth ship.
Suddenly, Thriststris came back on and shouted, "We've
been sabotaged! Someone has shut down launch control and the weapons systems and locked
"Where's Srythryn?" asked Jake.
am here," the captain said, "I'm attempting to gain back control but
I've been locked out completely. This is impossible! Only I
They've shut down launch control, all of the defensive turrets
and missile launchers, and the main cannon! I managed to lock
them out of controlling the shields before they could get to them so
they're still up.
Keep pushing toward the planet and keep your eyes peeled for that
heart was racing. How the hell did they get control of the
Slirkstrith's fighter launch control system and the weapons control?
It was a good thing Srythryn had been quick to protect the shield systems or the
ark ship would be a sitting duck.
rough start was getting rougher. The Slirkstrith was still safe
for the time being, but there wasn't much she could do about taking
down that stealth ship without fighters or weapons.
Things were suddenly not looking so good and Jake hoped they wouldn't get any worse.
came back on comms
and said, "Jake, we have a serious problem here. The First Ones
are up in arms. Zeth technology has been brought into their
section and unleashed into their computers. They are attacking
the First Ones' network from within. Only officers have access to
that section. We may well have a high ranking traitor on board
and they are likely the one responsible for locking us out of launch control.
I am going
with a team to the First Ones' section to investigate.
Thriststris will continue to coordinate
operations from the bridge."
Suddenly Jake picked up a new
energy reading on his
sensors and almost immediately he saw massive thrust cones slightly
inward from the Slirkstrith and well above her. The stealth ship
had been using attitude jets to reposition and was now well above
Jake's team back towards the Slirkstrith.
"Shit! They've come up alongside us! They're decelerating hard to match our speed!" Thriststris shouted.
saw another reading pop up on his sensors and he focused on it.
It was the satellite warhead! They'd launched it with the additional
speed they'd already built up when they had turned, and it was well out of Gold squadron's weapons range above them.
massive warhead was already
racing past Jake's position and heading onward towards the planet, but
thruster was the short burn type. It would burn extremely hot for
a brief while and then burn out and coast the rest of the way on the
momentum it had built up. If
the Juggernauts adjusted their heading and continued to accelerate hard
eventually match, and then exceed its speed and slowly gain ground on
the weapon. They should reach it well before it could reach the
planet and release its satellites.
He locked on to the warhead and transferred the lock to his team.
squadron, on my target!" Jake shouted, "We have to catch that thing!
It can't match our acceleration so keep at maximum burn with all
power to thrusters! We'll be in range to take it down in no more
than ten minutes. I want the ships at the back of the formation
to keep your heads on a swivel. If anyone tries to stop us you
need to run interference for me. I have to keep all power to my
thrusters and I'm defenseless without my shields."
got confirmations and he adjusted his heading to intercept the
satellite warhead while he continued to watch what was going on
Thriststris suddenly came back on comms and said,
"Jake, we have another problem.
I've just been informed by the First Ones that the Zeth
technology that was brought into their section has injected a program into their network that is trying to
destroy their central computer systems from within. Who ever got
access to their section did it to tap directly into one of their
universal network links. Brace yourself for this, according to Xelzix, the program has already
managed to wipe
out the entire database of mind maps! Absolutely all of the maps
of everyone's minds are gone. Do you copy?"
could not believe what he was hearing. Bad news was becoming
worse news at every turn. It seemed more and more like Srythryn's
premonition that it could only end well for them was a bit off base.
"You mean none of us can be brought back if we die?" Jake asked.
Not just us, everyone, everywhere!
The maps are all gone at the central computer! No one
anywhere in the universe can be brought back! The First Ones say
the attack is
shifting towards the QECH hub that handles the favors. We don't
know what they're planning but if it's the Zeths, they may be trying to
gain control of all of the favors from the hub and liquidate the entire
collective throughout the universe at once! They may simply
be trying to cut QECH communications but that would be the end of us
too, at least for a while.
There can't be a collective without instantaneous communications!
lose our QECH comms shortly if they succeed. Prepare to
switch to local radio comms. Be careful out there! Do not
"Roger," Jake acknowledged.
this get any worse? Nobody in the universe was immortal any
longer. How the hell could the First Ones allow this to happen?
With the maps gone nobody would ever be immortal again, unless
their brain could be destructively scanned and a new map created.
they were going after the QECH systems. If they could control the
favors from the central hub, they could order them to dismantle the
entire known universe at the molecular level. If they
couldn't do that, they might well cut off all communications.
What would it
mean if the First Ones lost their link to the favors? He supposed the entire
support structure for the insurance of return would be gone. His
favors could no longer transmit the changes to his synapses, but that made no difference now that the maps were all gone.
what Jake had studied about the QECH when he was learning everything he
could about the Slirkstrith, the photons were unique pairs. If
all of the QECH hubs were destroyed, any existing gear would never
again be able to communicate. They would have to be completely
replaced with new gear, with a new photon paired with another unique
partner at a new hub. It would take centuries or more to get it
all straightened out again and they would be vulnerable to Zeth
invasion since they couldn't coordinate collective forces and they
would not have effectively immortal fighting forces any longer.
It would be a complete mess.
suddenly realized the
most important impact cutting off the QECH communications would have.
Without it, the First Ones would lose their strangle hold on the
other races and the Lawkeepers could no longer use the favors to
Was that what this was all about? Removing the First Ones'
control of the favors so that only the Zeths could control them with
their new technology? Maybe the Zeths were trying to usurp the
First Ones and become the rulers of the entire universal collective
rather than simply destroying it. With the favors under Zeth
control the entire collective would be at their mercy. They could
snuff out any race that dared to oppose them.
Jake's worst fears were almost allayed when Thriststris came back
on and said, "The First Ones have contained the attack and purged the
Zeth program from their systems. The QECH is still operational
and appears to be safe. We're still trying t..."
He was cut
off. Jake ran a quick diagnostic and realized his QECH system was
not communicating. If they'd managed to contain the attack why
did the QECH go down?
He switched to local radio comms and said, "Thriststris, do you read? We've lost QECH comms."
There was some static and then a noisy transmission came back from Thriststris over the radio, "Jake...I'm sorry..."
didn't like the tone of Thriststris' voice. Something bad had
happened, as if there weren't enough bad things happening already.
was a pause and Thriststris came back on and said, "Srythryn is dead, Jake.
We don't know all the details but he was killed by one of the First
"No! That can't be! Why the hell would they kill him?" Jake shouted.
claim he was the one who brought the Zeth technology into their section
and released it. After they'd purged it, they caught him in their
section with a piece of Zeth technology that he activated, and they
shot him with an energy pistol and destroyed the device before it could
do any more damage to their systems. What they're saying can't be
true, obviously. Srythryn wouldn't do anything like that.
I've tried to raise him on comms but he's not responding. I
believe they really did kill him, but I don't know the real reason why.
I've sealed their section off completely and I've given the order
to gas them if they try to get out of it. I'm considering them an
enemy of this ship for the time being until we can investigate.
They're no use to us without the ability to do resurrections
anyhow. They will answer for what they've done when this is over. Srythryn's
gone. I'm so sorry. There are no mind maps. He's
gone, Jake. He can't be brought back."
wanted to stop in his chest. He couldn't believe it. Could
Srythryn really be gone forever? What the hell was going on back
you have to focus. You're the only hope left for our world, for
his world. You have to take out those satellites before they can
get into orbit! Plea...you ha..."
The transmission broke up into static.
"Thriststris! Do you read?"
There was only static. Something was jamming the radio channels.
"Gold team, do you read?"
heard only static. He looked over to Chet's Juggernaut and the
bear was looking back at him and pointing at his ear. He'd lost
comms as well. They were flying without any sort of communication
stiffened his shoulders and steeled himself to the task at hand.
He would have to mourn Srythryn later. There was a world to
save and their superior plasma thrusters were allowing them to slowly
gain on the warhead. They would be in weapons range very soon.
Jake saw several explosions at the back of Gold
squadron's formation in his rear view image. He zoomed it in a
bit and saw debris
where the back ships used to be and several exceedingly fast moving
fighters approaching from behind. They were some design he'd
never seen before. They were gaining on Gold squadron fast even
though their thrusters were at maximum power.
Jake immediately went on comms to order the trailing members of
the squadron to break formation and keep the enemy back but he remembered
they had no way to communicate any longer.
Chet suddenly flipped his ship around and began
firing in the direction of the enemy fighters and the other ships in the
squadron took the signal and followed suit.
Jake held to his
position. He couldn't afford to turn and help with the fighters
or he'd lose the ground he'd gained on the warhead. He had to get in range and take it out at all costs.
Plasma bolts suddenly shot by his ship very close to the left and he veered.
refocused his rear view directly behind him and saw an enemy fighter
bearing down on him. He had no choice but to transfer some power
to his shields and his acceleration immediately dropped off quite a
bit. He spun the ship around to face the enemy and attempted to
lock his targeting systems on it but nothing happened.
got no reading from any of the enemy ships at all. They must have
the same sensor masking technology as the stealth ship.
enemy fighter was still well back and it started firing its main guns
again. The shots were going wide but they were having the effect
they needed to. As long as they were shooting at Jake he had to
keep his shields up and with power going to the shields he was going to
begin to lose his ability to catch up to the satellite warhead in time.
That was all the enemy fighters really needed to achieve.
They needed to make sure the weapon reached the planet.
armed with a full torpedo loadout and those weapons would not be very
effective against fighters. They were big and slow and were
intended for capital ships
and corvettes. He suddenly realized they were dead weight anyhow.
He didn't need them to take out the satellite warhead. His
plasma bolts would reach it a lot quicker than the torpedoes and time
was of the essence. The torpedoes were just extra mass working
against him and without them he could accelerate the rest of the way to
the warhead quicker, so he set them to
optical mode and switched them to 'fire and forget' and pressed the
button to launch the entire group.
There was a loud 'clunk' that
came from both wings as the four massive and wide torpedoes dropped from
their carriers and their large plasma thrusters engaged.
four torpedoes immediately locked on the fighter that was on his tail.
There was little chance that they would be effective but the
fighter had no choice but to deal with them. It added power to
its shields, causing it to lose some of its superior acceleration, and
it immediately began
to shoot its main guns at one of the torpedoes.
Jake didn't wait to see
what happened. He dropped his shields once more and transferred
all power to thrusters while turning the ship around and then punched the
throttle to go back to maximum acceleration to try to catch the
satellite warhead while the torpedoes kept the fighter distracted.
watched the rear image and saw that the fighter had already taken out
two of the torps and was going for the third. Jake saw fighters
engaging all of the remaining Juggernauts and all of those were
dropping much further behind as Jake rocketed toward the planet at maximum burn.
Gold squadron was
doing its best to keep them off of Jake and they were doing a good job.
A few ships had been lost already and a couple of the fighters
had been taken out, but the battle was still raging. No matter the
outcome it looked as though the majority of them were out of the
running to catch up to Jake. He only needed to worry about
the one that had targeted him from the beginning. It was still
coming at speed behind him and once it finished with the torpedoes it
would catch back up to him easily.
checked the range on the
satellite warhead and saw that it would still be several minutes before
his main guns would be in effective range. He would have to hit
it hard and often to take it out. It would have light shields and
he would need to strip
them off before he could destroy it. The problem was that all of
his power was going to his thrusters and his antimatter buffer was
steadily draining into them. He would not have enough power for
the main guns unless he killed his thrust, and he couldn't kill his
thrust until he got into range, or at least close enough that his momentum
would bring him into range while he killed the thrusters and waited for
his buffer to charge to full.
He did his best to calculate when
he would need to transfer all of his power to his guns and he
determined that he would need to do it in three minutes.
looked back at the rear view image he saw the fighter killing the last of the
torpedoes and his thrust cones became huge as he punched the throttle to
try to catch back up to Jake.
Just then Jake saw plasma bolts
come in and hit the fighter from above and to its right. The ship
still had some power in its shields and they absorbed the hit but it
tumbled slightly and then suddenly dropped back and changed course.
Jake looked to where the bolts came from and saw a Juggernaut
bearing down on the enemy fighter.
He recognized the white lightning bolt painted on the side immediately. It was Chet!
"Yeah! Take him out!" he shouted, knowing that the bear couldn't actually hear him.
watched as Chet engaged the fighter. It was a tough fight.
The small enemy ship was incredibly maneuverable though and it
was gaining the upper hand.
It managed to get on the bear's tail
and Chet was unable to shake it off as it launched a fat missile that
broke up into a swarm. Chet began to drop decoys and managed to
take out all of the swarm but one, which made it to his ship and
His shield absorbed most of the shock but his ship
spun out of control briefly from it and the enemy fighter used that
moment to open up on Chet's ship with main guns and after just two
volleys of plasma the bear's shields were down. One more shot and
one of Chet's wings separated and his thrusters died. He was
The enemy ship did not waste the time to finish him off but instead immediately turned its attention back to Jake.
pilot was good. He obviously knew what his priority was.
Jake would be in range of the warhead in just a minute. The
fighter still had a chance to catch him but it would be close.
had no choice. He had to switch all power to his main weapons now
and give his buffer time to fill completely. He was coasting now
but he had the speed to catch up to the warhead.
The problem was that
the enemy fighter, even though it had fallen well back while Chet
delayed it, had the luxury of transferring all power to thrusters so it
was accelerating hard and would be in missile range in seconds while Jake was stuck coasting and waiting for his buffer to fill.
anxiously watched the range indicator and the antimatter buffer level.
It looked like he'd timed it almost perfectly. The range
indicator was counting down and the buffer indicator was counting up
and it looked like the buffer would be at one hundred percent just as
his guns came into effective range. He should be able to get a
shot or two off before the fighter caught him and finished him off.
Suddenly Jake's radio comms began to crackle and come back to life.
readouts told him the communication was coming in on high amplitude
tight beam radio from the enemy fighter behind him. It was trying
to punch through whatever was jamming all of the radio communications.
Through the static Jake heard something he couldn't believe. It was Mak's voice!
"...no choice. If you don't st..."
focused his rear view on the ship and zoomed it to maximum. He
couldn't believe his eyes. The face in the cockpit was Komakwa!
He was the one chasing Jake's ship!
look of sadness crossed the young bull's face as his voice tried to
break through the static again and said, "..Srythryn's...can't let you..."
A warning light came on on Jake's front panel and klaxons started to blare.
zoomed the rear image out slightly and saw the familiar yellow thrust
tails of two missiles under the wings of Mak's fighter that were now
racing hard toward Jake.
Jake couldn't put any power to shields
or he would not be able to take the shot at the satellite warhead with his main guns. He
had to destroy the warhead or Srythryn's entire world would be
dissolved. If this was the last thing he did with his life, he had to succeed, for Srythryn.
had no defense against the fighter's missiles and they would utterly destroy him
but he had no choice but to stay the course and finish off that warhead.
He held his finger over the trigger and watched as the last few seconds to range counted down.
"...ll love you forever...so sorry..." Mak said.
heart broke as he heard the young bull's voice. How could he
bring himself to kill Jake? What the hell had happened to the
young bull to turn him in to the enemy?
There were just a couple of seconds left until his guns would come into range and
Jake squeezed the trigger just as the first of the two missiles
hit him and blew his ship apart.
The second missile rocketed past through the debris as Jake found himself floating through space in his suit.
He couldn't believe he'd gotten so close and Mak had stopped him.
Jake had failed his departed captain utterly.
looked at the warhead against the backdrop of the massive blue and
green planet, and saw the few bolts of plasma he'd got off explode
against its shields, dissipating them slightly but not damaging the
warhead at all. Then the warhead suddenly broke apart and Jake
twenty four blue plasma cones light up as the satellites began their
burn to orbit around the planet.
There was no one left to stop
them now. Within minutes Srythryn's world would begin to dissolve
and there was nothing anyone could do.
was ultimately because
of Komakwa. Jake had loved the young bull and now, with every
fiber of his being, he wanted to kill him. How could he have
become a monster that destroyed worlds? The siskreths were some
of the most amazingly good people Jake had ever known and he almost
thought of them as his own race now. The young bull was
single-handedly responsible for the death of them all.
Srythryn was dead,
forever. Chet was disabled and Jake was sure Mak would
go back and finish him off as there was nothing stopping him now.
There were no mind maps so none of them were ever coming back.
Jake watched as the second missile turned around in a wide arc and re-targeted him and he realized he would be dead in seconds.
that he'd been through since being picked up on Earth ran through his
mind and his heart continued to break at the loss of it all.
had been given the gift of eternal life. In the short time he'd
had out in the universe he'd lived a life of adventure that was amazingly full
of love and the promise of an incredible future.
He could not
believe it was all ending this way.
the second missile closed on him Jake focused his mind on the things
that had made him happiest and none of them came from his sixty eight
years back on Earth.
saw Srythryn, his sweet lovable croc with his incredible outer space tropical playground and powerful warship rolled into one.
He saw Chet. The big
beautiful polar bear had been his best friend ever and his best lover.
He even saw Mak as he remembered him from the dry creek bed on that wonderful night with the kwarrens.
He had loved them all so much and had been so looking forward to
a nearly infinite future with all of them.
Now it was all ashes. His immortality was gone as was everyone else's and he was about to die.
lived far more in the last half year than he'd ever done in the sixty
eight that had passed before. It had been the best time of his
life and as much as he hated the horrible way it was ending, he realized that he
would not have traded it for anything.
He'd met the most wonderful people in the universe and fallen deeply in love with them and that was what life was really for.
I love you all so much, he thought, just as the missile impacted right at his helmet and blew him into tiny fragments.
was no way to recover his brain to scan it as it had been vaporized and
there was no map of his mind in the First Ones' computers.
Jake Smith was dead, and there was no coming back.
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even if they say nothing more than "Liked it, thanks." or "Hated it,
don't go there again."
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