Authors: M.R. Forbes
Published by Quirky Algorithms
This novel is a work of fiction and a product of the author's imagination.
Any resemblance to actual persons or events is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2015 by M.R. Forbes
All rights reserved.
Cover illustration by Tom Edwards
About Starship Eternal
A lost starship...
A dire warning from futures past...
A desperate search for salvation...
Captain Mitchell "Ares" Williams is a Space Marine and the hero of the Battle for Liberty, whose Shot Heard 'Round the Universe saved the planet from a nearly unstoppable war machine. He's handsome, charismatic, and the perfect poster boy to help the military drive enlistment. Pulled from the war and thrown into the spotlight, he's as efficient at charming the media and bedding beautiful celebrities as he was at shooting down enemy starfighters.
After an assassination attempt leaves Mitchell critically wounded, he begins to suffer from strange hallucinations that carry a chilling and oddly familiar warning:
They are coming. Find the Goliath or humankind will be destroyed.
Convinced that the visions are a side-effect of his injuries, he tries to ignore them, only to learn that he may not be as crazy as he thinks. The enemy is real and closer than he imagined, and they'll do whatever it takes to prevent him from rediscovering the centuries lost starship.
Narrowly escaping capture, out of time and out of air, Mitchell lands at the mercy of the Riggers - a ragtag crew of former commandos who patrol the lawless outer reaches of the galaxy. Guided by a captain with a reputation for cold-blooded murder, they're dangerous, immoral, and possibly insane.
They may also be humanity's last hope for survival in a war that has raged beyond eternity.
To My Angel,
Who always pushes me to reach for the stars.
There are a lot of things looking at the sky. Radar. Telescopes. Cameras. The human eye.
When that thing appeared halfway between the Earth and the Moon, seemingly falling into existence out of the vast emptiness of space as though God himself had created it in that very spot, there were millions who witnessed its fall.
Their stories would diverge, of course. The mind has a way of filling in the blanks with its own measure of ingenuity. Some said it was like a bolt of lightning. Others said it was more akin to a stone sinking in a pool. The dash cam, the helmet cam, the phone cam, the body cam... so many damn cameras, and even then the stories ranged far and wide, becoming legendary, a new mythology in the hearts and souls of the people.
What did I see? A dark black mass with white-hot flames at its head hurtling down at the world. The fist of God striking the planet in a fit of judgement day. Not a satellite. Not an asteroid. Not a damn trick of chemical reactions in the atmosphere, even if the government tried to spin it that way before the truth overwhelmed them.
We knew what we saw, and we would swear the same to any who would listen.
It wasn't a UFO. There was nothing unidentified about it, and it certainly wasn't flying.
An alien spaceship.
The war to claim it started soon enough.
- Paul Frelmund, "XENO-1"
"Tell me, Captain Williams. How
you discover the weakness on the Federation dreadnought?"
Captain Mitchell "Ares" Williams shifted in the pillowy expanse of his seat, getting the bright stage beams out of his eyes. He faced his interviewer. Her name was Tamara King. She was known on Liberty as the Queen of Talk, her morning stream the highest rated within the Delta Quadrant. She was a willowy blonde, dressed in tall boots and a fashionable high-cut sweater that hugged her curves like a second layer of skin. She was bombarding him with a smile that could make its way past even the most reluctant guest's defenses better than a well-placed nuke.
"It was simple, Tamara," he said. He shifted towards the camera opposite him and returned her smile with a version of his own that was nearly as disarming. "We were watching the fighter formations, tracking the density equations. It was clear they were clustering near a service portal close to the aft, trying to keep our fire away from that portion of the ship. When I saw one of their Kips move into the line of fire and sacrifice itself to prevent one of our tactical's from reaching the boat, I knew there had to be something to it."
He'd practiced the lines so many times. On the transport, in front of the mirror, and in the hundreds of other interviews he'd given in the two months since the United Planetary Alliance had stopped the Frontier Federation's attempt to overpower Liberty and claim the planet.
"And there was something to it, wasn't there?" Tamara asked. She shifted in her chair, getting close enough to him that he could smell her. She was light and sweet.
Mitchell made eye contact, maintaining the smile. "There was, Tamara. A flaw in the design. Weak shield coverage and a direct path for a projectile to hit the reactor. Of course, I didn't know at the time that it would be so effective. I was just taking a shot."
"The Shot Heard 'Round the Universe," Tamara said, drawing cheers and clapping from her audience. She put the tips of her fingers on his leg, resting them there while the crowd quieted. "Your 'twisted snake' maneuver is already legendary. In fact, my nephew likes to pretend he's Ares Williams, and he runs across the lawn yelling 'twisted snake' until he makes himself dizzy and falls over." She paused, waiting while the audience laughed. Mitchell faked a chuckle through his doll-smile. "What's it like, saving an entire planet, everyone here in this studio included, from certain death? How does it feel to be the greatest hero of our time?"
The first few times, questions like these had caused him to blush, to stammer, to threaten to break under the pressure. Time, experience, and training had cured him of that. He still wasn't sure how he did it, how he still managed to do it after all of these weeks, all of these tours along the media circus. Circuit. He only did what he had to do. What he was ordered to do.
"It's what I was trained for. That's all. I don't really think I'm a hero." He looked away from her and felt the heat rush to his cheeks. It had taken a lot of practice, a lot of repetition, to master blushing on command. They'd even hired a coach to help him get it just right. "Only a pilot trying to do his part."
"That's very modest."
Mitchell tilted his head to look out at the live audience. Two hundred bodies filled the seats behind the bright lights, hanging on his every word. They weren't all from Liberty. Some had obviously traveled from other planets in the Delta Quadrant, from Kappa and Gavone among others. They were a mixture of cultures and backgrounds, descendants of the settlers who had left Earth four hundred years earlier and began the process of spreading to the stars. There was a lot of interest in seeing him in person and hearing him recount the decisive battle. And why not? He had saved their lives, and saved the Alliance from being drawn even deeper into a war they still hadn't proven they could win. A war they would have already lost if the dreadnought had been as impervious to their assault as it was supposed to be. If Liberty fell...
"It's true," he said. "I lost eight-hundred brothers and sisters that day. People I served with, ate with, laughed with." He stopped, remembering Ella. Slept with. Loved. "They're the real heroes. They gave their lives to protect this planet. They made the ultimate sacrifice."
Tamara was silent for a moment, playing the crowd perfectly. She moved her hand to his, tracing the back of it with her fingertips while she spoke.
"I'm sorry for your losses, Captain. Every one of them died a hero, and all of them deserve our honor and respect."
The crowd cheered again.
"Thank you, Tamara," Mitchell said, once they had quieted down.
Tamara turned her head, her eyes finding one of the floating cameras, a small sphere hanging a dozen feet away. "When we come back, Captain Williams will tell you how you can be part of the continuing fight for Liberty, and we'll be treated to a special sneak peak at the Alliance's latest campaign."
A small red square popped up in the center of Mitchell's field of vision, a notice that the feed was being paused projected on his retina. Like every other soldier in the galaxy, Mitchell had been outfitted with a neural implant and a p-rat - a cybernetic enhancement more commonly known outside the barracks as an Advanced Reality Receiver, or ARR. The twin pieces of tech were used for most forms of communication, from watching streams to encrypted video and voice transmission, and physical monitoring and control. For Marines like Mitchell, it was also a link to the CAP-NN system, the AI that helped them pilot fighters and mechs.