Ethan remembered that feeling of nothingness. The inability to think, to perform thoughts, to move his body, nothing.
Just a vast nothingness, a nothingness where time blended together such that a second and a month were the same and indistinguishable. He felt not the passing of time.
He also remembered that moment when that nothingness suddenly ended, and when that grip on him left, he entered reality once more, stumbling to a stop on a cold, shiny surface.
Sucking in a deep breath, Ethan coughed once, the sudden jolt clearing his mind to take in everything around him.
And what he saw made him cough once again.
He was standing in a large hallway, a multitude of people walking to and fro, none of them paying attention to Ethan’s seemingly insignificant existence.
“Ethan, over here!”
Ethan looked around and spotted his friends, relief washing over him.
“Where are we?” Ethan asked, struggling to breathe.
“You don’t want to know,” Catherine said, her face paler than ever.
“You okay?” Charlie asked, his comical demeanor gone.
“Yeah.” Ethan took in another deep breath. “I think I’m in shock.”
Catherina nodded, her usual confident demeanor gone. The twin brothers had not spoken.
They were sitting in what looked like a café. People paid them no attention, maybe a glance or two, and then looked away deciding that the group wasn’t worth their time.
“So, let me get this straight,” Ethan said. “You guys were here a few hours before me and were going around talking to people about where we are. And what you found out was that we are currently in a space station. Definitely not the ISS. A place where humans are called Terrans, and the word ‘human’ doesn’t even exist. Nobody knows about Earth. And we’ve seemingly populated the entire galaxy, which is now called the First Galaxy. Creative, by the way. And we have made alien contact, but you shouldn’t call them that because everybody is the same in the First Galaxy. And we’re in the First Galaxy. Does that sum up everything?”
Kevon and Kevin gave a grunt.
“You forgot about the part where we said that the working-age is fifteen,” Catherina piped up.
“Oh, how could I forget?” Ethan said, theatrically slapping his forehead. “I may have been preoccupied with the fact that WE’RE IN SPACE!”
A few heads finally turned their way, a significant proportion of them giving him a glare.
“Ethan, I think you’re panicking,” commented Catherine.
“Of course, I’m panicking,” Ethan hissed. “There’s a certain cushion you put on these things. You do not simply hand over the information like you’re passing the mustard.”
Charlie chuckled. Ethan glared at him, and he shut up.
“How are you all so calm about this?” Ethan asked, trying to control his breathing. “Why aren’t you all panicking?”
“You’re doing it for us,” Kevon said placidly.
“So, what do we do now?” Ethan asked. “Sitting here panicking isn’t going to do us any good.”
“Your call, Ethan,” said Catherine, a firm resolve radiating to everyone else. “Wherever you go, we follow.”
“When did I become team captain?” Ethan asked, annoyed.
“Since we met,” Kevin replied offhandedly. “You just didn’t know it.”
Ethan felt both elated and honored. “What would I do without you guys?”
“Dunno,” said Kevin, shrugging. “Can’t remember the last time we spent a day not together.”
Ethan grinned, the first time after reappearing.
“Now, Ethan,” said Kevon. “What do we do?”
“You said the working-age is fifteen, right?”
“And we’re in space, right?”
They all nodded.
“How do you like flying a spaceship?”
They say time flies when you’re having fun.
Time also flies when you’re preparing for a job in space in a dangerous world. To have a job using a spaceship, one had to learn an extensive number of concepts, theories, and drills.
Ethan convinced them to take the more… extensive training regime.
The regime took eight months for everyone to complete, and an entire year for Ethan because he took additional training he thought would come in handy. It should have only taken four months to complete everything, but the extensive regime as well as extra courses put more material into what they had to do.
In the four months that they were waiting for Ethan, Catherine, Catherina, Kevon and Kevin did odd jobs on the space station, Terran High Command, planet Terra.
The entire galaxy was placed into a hierarchy: major systems, sectors, and then the specific place. For example, Terran High Command would have been designated as Terra System, Sector I14, Terran High Command.
The good thing about advancements was that they could jump between sectors and use wormholes to jump between entire systems, so long as they were three kilometers away from any body or object that exceeded a mass of 113 tons, or any such conglomeration of objects of the same accumulated weight in a space of 500 cubic meters; something about warps and gravitational something, something, something. Travel would have been much faster, except wormholes were extremely rare
,and often in no-man’s territory. So, it was always incredibly dangerous, as there would be sectors surrounding them, covering millions of miles of dangerous space.
Another space was gray space, which there was a lot of between the two rivaling major factions, the Galactic Alliance and Central Coalition. However, there were also non-aligned factions, like the TG Corporation. There were a lot of scuffles on the borders, and gray space was always a dangerous place, as both sides waited in hiding around wormholes for an ambush. Gray space had only one rule; the strongest survives.
Medicine had also advanced considerably, so that anything short of brain injury could be fixed in an hour to a few months in extreme cases. Mortality rates were low, but many lost their lives in gray space and border skirmishes, and sometimes against rogue AI drones.
Of course, to transverse space, one needs a spaceship. Some spaceships, like the Viper,
waswere extremely small, fitting just one person lying down and lacked the ability for sector and wormhole travel. From there it was standard ships, designated into light-fighter, heavy-fighter, transport, and cargo, and then light assault frigates, capital ships, heavy assault frigates, major battleships, and then the biggest and baddest of them all, the warships ,: all in different grades, ranging from D (shoddy and poor; basically, a homemade rocket, but looking like a spaceship) to S (the best there is).
Four months after Ethan passed his far more extensive training, they were wandering through gray space, Mino System, Sector B-1, in an A-grade Vulture Mark III, with Ethan as the ship’s captain, Charlie as the pilot, Catherine and Catherina as the navigators, and Kevon and Kevin at the two weapons stations that the Vulture had available.
If you were wondering where they got the money from, standard ships only cost around a thousand to twenty thousand credits, and the Vulture Mark III only cost a bit more than seven thousand credits, which they’d saved up while Ethan was still… studying, if you can call it that.
Wonder why I’m telling you all this? Cause you’ll need to know it if you’re going to understand what’s happening.
And they were all bored out of their minds, their ship flying straight.
“Anything on the radar?” Ethan asked, getting up from his seat at the center.
“Nothing,” came Catherine’s bored reply. “As was the situation the last seven times you asked.”
“Not even a rogue?” Kevon asked, shooting a blast into space, watching the powerful neutron blast fly out into space.
“Nope,” said Catherina. “Nothing.”
“Why did we sign up for patrol again?” Charlie asked, his legs up on the steering, if you could call it a steering. Let’s stick with steering; just know that there were a lot of them for moving various ways.
“Because Ethan thought that we might run into some pirates or rogues,” said Catherina.
“You also agreed.” Ethan kicked a paper around, the artificial gravity mechanism bringing the paper back down as though they were on Earth. “Don’t pin the blame just on me.”
“Remember what we said the first day we got here,” Kevon said. That brought a smile to everyone’s faces.
“Wherever you go, we follow,” they said together. Ethan shook his head, smiling.
“So yes, the blame is on you,” said Kevon. Ethan’s smile fell.
“Guys, we have an incoming signal,” reported Catherine. “Want me to patch into it?”
Ethan nodded and moved to his seat and sat down.
“Everyone helmets up and HUDs on,” Ethan said, putting on his own black helmet.
At first it was a bit blurred, leading Ethan to think they were using a shoddy D-grade EC-1, or their communications system was damaged. But Catherine and Catherina had taken the Elite-class training for navigation and communications, so they optimized the signal rapidly, changing the frequency as needed.
“Someone help, anybody there, help!” the intercom blared with a girl’s voice. “Umm... mayday, mayday? Blast it, I’m in trouble, for Tarak’s sake!”
Ethan’s crew gave him an incredulous look as the girl released another string of expletives that made his ears ring, and even Catherina covered her mouth in shock.
Charlie just snickered.
He waited for her to finish her tirade, thinking, She would have made Sergeant Jones blush. He chuckled at the thought, and then winced as she took it up a notch.
“Well, thank you for those beautiful images,” he said interrupting. “Mayday acknowledged, what is your location and status?”
“Alba System, Sector H13, Covor Asteroid Mine.”
What the heck is she doing in gray space, especially in Alba? Didn’t she have secured systems to mine in?
He shook his head.
His navigators acknowledged and processed the location, and with an affirmative nod from Ethan, Charlie turned the ship to the blinking display on his HUD in such a manner that would have given the instructors a heart attack and made them proud at the same time.
“Location acknowledged. What is your status?”
“I’m under a lot of fire from a whole bunch of metal demons!” the girl screamed back.
He struggled to control himself, but eventually civilly replied, “Please do not panic. We are currently routed towards your location. We are just one wormhole away. What is your situation, and please be specific.”
“I’m being attacked by pirates and rogue Omega Class TG-Assault Drones.”
A pause. His weapons team fired up their HUDs.
“Now get me out of here, you prokaryotic, oxygen-deprived half-wits!”