Chapter 1


        Endless darkness stretched to the horizon, disturbed only by the pinpricks of stars that lay billions of miles away. The deck of the Ares, one of the flagships for the U.T.A. or Unified Terran Armada, glistened against of the red sun of the Kodos system. She was a brilliant ship to behold, whether docked or hurtling through space. From bow to stern, the Ares measured in at seventy-five hundred feet. Numerous fighter squadrons lay dormant inside her belly, ready in a moments notice to snap into action. Only the best pilots served on board the Ares and they were her greatest weapon. Massive combat scarring lay hidden under a fresh coat of paint, a scattered history of battles past. The polished finish allowed even the faintest glimmer of light to radiate into a spectral glow around the ship.

Usually Terran ships were required to stay within the boundaries of known space; however, the spatial anomalies appearing in the Kodos sector were urgent enough to break that protocol. Just days into a much-needed leave, Admiral Nikolai Glovalkov had received orders to take the Ares out to the edge of known space to investigate.

As a member of the Galactic Council, the UTA was bound to the borders set forth by the TerOkZhu, a race as old as time itself. An infinitely powerful race, the TerOkZhu formed the Council years prior to put an end to the Great War. Traveling so far out pushed one of their sacred rules to the limit, which in and of itself told Glovalkov of the danger that waited them.

The crew of the Ares had become restless. Years of combat had honed them into a fiercely efficient crew and monotony was a foreign concept to them. No colonies nearby meant no communication beacons and thus no direct contact with anyone back home. Messages from loved ones, local sports news and even updates on the dealings of the Council were sent via data pods through the jump gate at Kodos One. The jump gates were built by the Ter’Ok’Zhu, technology so grand and complex that it seemed more magical than scientific. The gates were spread across the galaxy creating a super-highway of wormholes. Those wormholes allowed interstellar traffic to move in a hundredth of the time it would normally take. This grand gift also served as a assurance measure for the TerOkZhu as no race wished to lose access to the jump gates.

Malaise had taken its hold on the crew. Caught up in routine they existed rather than lived; save for one individual. Colin Kinison was the son of Arthur Kinison, famed Senator of the Terran Alliance. Arthur was a hero to the Bellat people and yet a tragedy to his own, both revered and vilified for one momentous decision. Years prior Arthur chose banishment from the Galactic Council, taking the unjust punishment in place of his friend FaSham, King of the Bellat. He sacrificed his career, just as it had begun to blossom, to right a horrible wrong. Many humans considered him a fool, but the Bellat adopted him as one of their own. Colin was Arthurs first and only child as his mother had died giving birth to him.

Following Arthurs banishment from the Council, he was appointed as an ambassador to the Bellat. The role was unique because few outsiders were allowed on the Bellat home world, yet alone ever permitted to live there. Colin in due course was raised on Bella Prime. For Arthur the duties of an ambassador usually outweighed those of a father, which allowed for a considerable amount of mischief to be had by the younger Kinison.  Colin was in no way an average youth; the trouble he sought out always involved the most extreme of circumstances. A handsome young man by any races standards. Short, thick wavy brown hair framed his sharp face. High cheekbones, a strong chin and an angular nose were his most prominent features, though his eyes; as if his entire soul was compressed and forged into those two blue gems, were what seemed to get him in the most trouble. They shone as bright a blue as found at the base of a flame, yet their true spark came from Colin’s penchant for mischief.

Days earlier, those eyes entranced a young female mechanic one long day during lunch. Charm radiated off him like the sun would a mirror and within seconds of sitting next to the girl she spilled forth the information he needed for his next bout of tomfoolery. Flight through space meant countless insignificant collisions with space debris and so the hull of the Ares was in constant need of minor repair. That job fell to the C-60 bots. The C-60s, or Seasicks as the crew called them, were equipped with a powerful magnet that allowed them shoot around the hull of the ship with no risk of being lost to the depths of space. The Seasicks were able to internally increase and decrease the strength of their magnets, which coupled with their high-powered external boosters allowed them to skip from one end of the ship to the other in mere seconds.

Colin now stood on the edge at the observation deck strapped into his flight suit, a hybrid design that allowed for freer mobility than a full space suit. It still protected its wearer from the harsh vacuum of deep space, though it could not sustain life for an extended period. He looked back at his squadron, fear and admiration covered their faces. His ice blue eyes caught the disapproving glare of Lieutenant Commander Sasha Rogers. The Yin to his Yang, Sasha was just as striking as he was with her flowing red hair and piercing green eyes. Her’s was the only look of disgust from the squad. Her every thought packed into one angered look. He could feel her thoughts cut into his consciousness having heard them vocalized countless times before. Always showing off. Arrogant. Prideful. Pointless.

Colin simply gave her a nod, wink, and then placed his helmet on. The face plate was in the shape of a black ebony skull, with bright red eyes. Many men, all leaders of the Reaper Squadron, the most elite squadron in the U.T.A. had worn this helmet, but none with such a blatant disregard for the rules of conduct placed before them. Arthur enlisted Colin in the U.T.A. in an attempt to create some sense of stability in the boys life. Always a rebel, it only pushed Colin further in the intensity of his exploits. Colin always pushed his limits, both to test himself and in a vain attempt to draw attention from his father, even if it was negative. That desire allowed him literally to soar past his peers. His bravado, though at times regarded as fool hearty, had become the stuff of legend for the younger enlisted. Colins daring was both his greatest strength and weakness. In respect to his father, regardless of the result, he would accomplish both of his goals today.

Colin walked through the shield that was protecting the interior of the ship from the vacuum of space out onto the flight deck. The view was divine, as if something beyond mortal had found a way to express itself tangibly. Even a few days in the brig could not erase the vision set before him. The red sun of the Kodos system was gargantuan and its reflection cast a ghastly red glow around the entire ship, as though a red ocean had flowed up and consumed the ship. The spectacle hypnotized him with its splendor.

Days prior when Colin first presented his idea of riding one of the Seasicks, cheers from nearly the entire squadron had greeted him. Sasha warned him of the consequences of such a stunt, as logic and a sense of duty ruled her motivations. This is stupid. Overriding its control board could cause it to demagnetize and go flying off into deep space with you on its back. Knowing the Admiral hed probably just leave you out there to teach you a lesson,she had said.

What lesson, how to die a cold and painful death?  He loves me too much to let that happen, but even if it did, my boots are magnetized. Ill be fine,Colin replied.

ZOOM!  A seasick breezed by Colin, shocking him back to reality. Now the decisive moment had come. To turn back, Colin would face not only embarrassment and shame from his squad, but he would never hear the end of it from Sasha. He could not bear that fate, so out across the deck he walked to the seasick that had so recently buzzed by him. It chirped in response to his presence. Hey there little buddy,Colin quipped at the robot, not that it could understand or respond to his comment, but the simple routine helped calm his nerves.

Colin removed a magnetic strip from his suit. A crude creation put together in his spare time, this small black strip of silicon and steel was Colins ticket to glory. In theory the strip would interfere with the Seasicks primary functions just enough for him to directly interface and take control of the bot. Sasha had helped him design it, as countless failed attempts to dissuade him from his prior stunts had taught her that it was better to help keep him as safe as possible, than see what damage he would cause if left to his own devices. As with most schemes thought up in the middle of the night, this one sounded worse and worse with each passing moment. Colin reached the seasick. There was no predicting how it would react to him jumping on board, yet alone how its system would react to the interference from the magnetic strip. There was only one-way to find out; Colin leapt.

The most agile of leaps it was not, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Colin landed square on the back of the Seasick and made a grotesque thud. The air from his lungs rushed out of his mouth, leaving him mere seconds to regain his composure. The Seasick would be alerting for help at any moment. This was his shining moment and suddenly ego overtook him. Colins mind trailed off to the future, of the stories that would be told with such brevity. He looked back at his squad and waved in triumph. Not thinking Colin lost his grip and fumbled the magnetic strip, dropping it to the empty depths of space. All of his glory lost in a heartbeat, in a single act of foolish bravado. In desperation, Colin lunged for the strip. His legs barely hung onto the side of the Seasick as the strip floated further and further away, gone forever. The Seasicks alarm wailed. His failure was now complete.

Colin closed his eyes and hung his head in shame. His squad went quiet. Colin had faced adversity while showing off before, but never had he given up so easily. His confidence was infectious and yet so was his disappointment. Sasha smiled. Then Colin jumped up off the Seasick. The force of his jump sent him flying into space, accelerating toward the strip. Idiot,Sasha snapped as she ran off back into the ship.

Colin’s momentum accelerated him much faster than the strip, inches more and he would have it. In the distance, the Ares sped away. GOT IT! Colin grabbed onto the strip and looked down. The ship was moving dangerously farther away. Then he felt a growing rumble reverberate through the whole of his body. Colin turned and saw its source. The Aresengines were getting frighteningly close and Colin could tell that he would be caught in their wake if he did not think of something fast. His squad clambered to see his status. Some gasped in horror at the thought of losing their leader. Colin smiled and pressed a button on his suit. His boots magnetized. For a second he hovered above the hull of the ship, frozen. Colin wondered if his boots were strong enough to pull him back down to the Ares or if he would indeed be burnt to a crisp and lost to the depths of space. Suddenly, his body jerked and he accelerated back toward the ship. Colin angled himself and landed forcefully onto the wailing Seasick.

He slapped the strip down across its head. Silence. Colin dared not to breathe and then the strip lit up with a very basic digital control pad. He keyed in some directions and pressed enter on the pad. Sasha walked up, fully dressed in her own flight suit, mouth agape. The Seasick’s magnetic pad decreased its hold on the deck below. Colin pressed forward on the pad and the robot followed the command, boosters sent it screaming forward toward the bow. His squadron screamed in approval. All of them that is, except Sasha Rogers. A hint of smile threatened to sneak its way past her lips, but the disapproval in her eyes frightened it back down.

Colin sped along the deck, engaged the Seasick’s magnets at the last possible moment and teetered on the edge of the ship. There was no point in playing it safe anymore. The Admiral and command crew were sure to be watching his every move by now. Colin looked up across the deck. The bridge was visible, though the blast doors were closed to protect the command crew from the harsh rays of the Kodos Sun; still Colin could feel the steely glare of the Admiral piercing down at him.

Admiral Nikolai R. Glovalkov sat in the middle of the bridge; embers of tobacco glowed a bright red inside the bowl of his dark brown brier wood pipe gently lighting his face. Smoke rose up like a ghost and kissed the Admirals weathered face. His beard, once a rich tuft of black was now all but grey. Leathered skin and masses of wrinkles covered his face, a tribute to a life spent amongst the stars. His eyes, a deep chocolate brown, were the windows to his genius. Never had the UTA seen a tactician that could remotely approach his skill. Smoke billowed around his royal blue overcoat, a filthy habit all but given up on in this day and age, but for Glovalkov history was given life anew with each puff. It took him back to a time when men would brave the dangers of the oceans of Earth, in a vain attempt at conquering the unknown. His own ocean lay outside the ship, the endless black abyss of space. He knew that at his core he was no different from all those great men who were now but mere shadows of history. Therefore, Glovalkov indulged himself in the joys of the pipe, much to the chagrin of the rest of his command staff.

The bridge of the Ares was a large oval with two entryways at its rear. Standing between them at the weapons station was Crevall Litchen, the chief security officer on board the Ares. Carved from stone, everything about him was clean cut and by the book. He held himself with a strength that radiated in his posture. Crevall took his job with the utmost seriousness and was always ready for the worst. The Admiral’s chair was located in the center of the bridge, raised enough that he could address his crew with authority, but not as high as to separate him from them. Glovalkov relied on each station to control the ship. After years of service together, the crew was able to anticipate his orders as he thought them. Glovalkov was proud of his crew, though he rarely allowed that emotion to ever be seen.

To the starboard side of the Admiral was the Communications station. Jalliet Perdu, a wispy French girl with long blonde hair and a child like face, sat and twirled her hair between two thin fingers. She seemed lost in a daydream, but her ears were trained on countless streams of audio. On the portside was the Tactical station, which housed Layla Frandis and Sumaya Hilloy. If ever there were two opposites in life it was Layla and Sumaya. Sumaya wore glasses and had her hair tightly pulled back. She did not believe in having fun while she worked, even going so far as to chastise the rest of the crew. Layla was an explosion of cute as curls spilled out in a multitude of colors off her head. More so, the limit of how far she could push her uniform to accentuate the curves of her body was always stretched thin. Though, when called to action they worked as a single entity, monitoring the fighter squadrons as well as all external data of the ship.

Toward the bow of the ship, tucked below the floor was the Navigation station. Racken Donelly and Tanessa Vaughn sat in this area. Both were perfect examples of a soldier, Racken and Tanessa could easily have been images on a recruiting poster. Glovalkov relied on both of them as much as he did his own hands in his daily life. Theirs was a trust uniquely earned, as if they were his own flesh and blood. In the event that the Ares needed to separate, the Navigation station could detach itself from the bridge and travel down below to the lower section to function as a makeshift command center.

Two steel blast doors sealed the gigantic view port at the bow of the bridge. When opened the view was breathtaking, a living canvas painted against the backdrop of space. On most days Glovalkov found solace in that view, but the Kodos system’s sun was too bright to allow a direct view, so instead he glared at the dull steel of the blast doors. The floor in front of the Admirals chair appeared to be a large empty space. However, it was equipped with a massive Holovid system, which could display anything that the Admiral wanted, from a full tactical version of an ongoing battle, to a simple holographic projection of an incoming communication. At present it lay dormant, a morose pool of dark grey in front of Glovalkov. Sir, one of the C-60s proximity alarms just went dead,Ensign Perdu said as she turned back to face the Admiral.

Glovalkov sat stoically in his chair, his eyes darted over to the tactical station and he barked in a gruff Russian tone, Ms. Hilloy, bring up it for me please.

The Holovid sprang to life. Glovalkov leaned forward in his chair for a better view. Two streams of crystal blue light streamed out from the base of his chair, in an instant, tendrils broke off and spread out creating a glowing web on the floor. A faint ghostly image of the Ares appeared in front of him. Bits of the galaxy around the ship were also visible, fading out to nothingness as they reached the edge of the circle. A red light flashed along the deck of the Ares. Glovalkov snapped out another order, Magnification, five hundred percent.

He took a puff from his pipe as the flashing light zoomed in as if a camera was flying down to investigate the Seasick. When the viewer reached the desired magnification, the crew let out a collective gasp. What the frag is that?questioned Racken.

Glovalkov slammed a fist down onto the armrest of his chair. His eyes wrinkled even tighter as he glared at the image in front of him. The words hissed out of his mouth like venom, KINISON!

He spun his chair around so violently that he nearly spilled out of it. He stood up and bellowed to Crevall, Send out security to take him to the brig.

Already on their way sir."

He’ll destroy the whole damn ship with this stunt.”  The Admiral turned back and glared at Colin riding the Seasick. A part of him enjoyed Kinisons adventures, but his responsibility to the ship carried a far greater weight at the moment.

Back on the deck, Colin flew around with reckless abandon; he tipped the Seasick on its edge and then slammed it back to the deck. His squad ate up every moment. The cheers echoed in his helmet and fueled him with even more brazen foolishness. One more lap boys. Just to set the record in case any of you get daring enough to try this,he spoke into the Comm in his helmet.

Dammit Colin, havent you had enough fun already?  Security is on their way and you know what that means,Sasha barked.

That theres no reason to turn back now. Hell, if Im already being tossed in the brig, I might as well get my moneys worth. Your complaint has been duly noted though Lieutenant.”  Colin gave her an obligatory salute and sped off. Johnson, start the clock when I reach the bow.

A squad of security officers marched up to the observation deck, pushing their way through the Reapers. Out of the way,the head officer ordered. All of you back to your quarters now, or you can join the Captain for a night in the Brig.

Dejected the Reapers obeyed. Out on the flight deck Colin reached the edge of the bow and pushed the Seasick to full throttle. Johnson pressed a button on a small digital watch and tossed it to Sasha. Let us know what his time was.

Im sure HE will,she responded.

As Colin sped toward the observation deck, his hands gripped onto the Seasick with every ounce of strength he had left. Adrenaline surged through his veins, helping ease the ache his body felt. He had not anticipated it would be so taxing to hold onto the Seasick, but then again how could he have known anything about the experience, as he was the first to have it.

Suddenly something in the back of his mind itched. It was as if someone was grabbing him by the shoulder. He looked up into depths of space and in that sea of black, a small burst of blinding red light erupted like a geyser, as if someone had drilled into the very fabric of space itself. The light spilled out and pooled into a circle. Then, in the blink of an eye, it was gone. Colin looked back at Sasha, saw her focus was drawn to the horizon as well and asked, Did you see that Sash?

I think so,she responded.

What was it?

I dont know, maybe some local phenomena.

That same itch grabbed Colin again but this time it would not be brushed aside and so he slowed the Seasick.

COLIN, LOOK OUT!”  Sasha screamed, but it was too late.

A large meteorite slammed into the deck of the Ares mere feet away from Colin and erupted in a hail of debris and electricity. Colin steered the Seasick as best as he could, his focus on maintaining his grip first, avoiding crashing second. If he let go, the flight suits life support systems could keep him alive for an hour at most in the deep cold of space. Would that be enough time for them to find me, he thought grimly. As the Seasick steadied itself and found a grip on the hull, Colin breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Just then, a surge of power spat out from the top of the Seasick. Damage from the meteor had shorted out the override strip and caused a serious malfunction in the Seasick. The controls froze and its boosters fired at maximum capacity. Colin nearly lost his grip, but as he saw the Seasick’s trajectory, a greater haste took hold of his actions. Get out of there Sash!" Colin screamed. I cant stop it.

She hesitated; her desire to protect him nearly overrode her sense of logic. Reluctantly Sasha turned and hustled the security officers out of the observation deck. Her eyes fought back tears as she closed the blast doors behind them. On the flight deck, Colins hands danced around feverishly on the override strip; nothing. The strip was damaged beyond repair and would not yield control back to him. Colin knew that if he did not come up with a solution quickly, countless lives would be lost and he would be amongst their numbers. He had only seconds to think when suddenly the solution hit him. It was a gamble, but he was not in a position to take a safe route.

Colin swung his legs to one side of the C-60 and pressed the button on his suit to magnetize his boots. He slapped the strip onto the control pad on his belt. It snapped on and a bit of electricity surged along its edge. With what remaining strength he had left, Colin forced his boots down against the base of the Seasick. He hoped the strip would have the same effect on them as it did on the Seasicks boosters. It swayed but did not move. Colin thought to himself, come on just give me enough room to maneuver.

Again, he pressed down against the base of the Seasick, this time he disrupted the field just enough to nudge the Seasick an inch off the deck. That was all he needed. Colin leaned with all of his body weight in the opposite direction and pulled. The Seasick tipped a bit more off the deck, changed its trajectory and skimmed along the side of the observation deck, rather than into it. Colin let go and tumbled across the deck. The Seasick grated into the ship, tearing through the hull as it rode the wall and then flew off into the navigation tower. Both erupted into a giant ball of flame as they collided.

Colin watched in horror as the light from the flames in the distance illuminated his face. Then the realization of what had just happened finally hit him. He thought to himself that it might have been better to be consumed in that explosion rather than have to face the wrath of the Admiral. The navigation tower was gone, a mere melted mass of metal now, which meant the Ares would be flying blind, in a nearly uncharted sector of space and the only one to blame for that was him.

BOOM!  A second meteor struck the deck of the Ares. It sent Colin flying into the side of the observation deck. His helmet smashed into the metal wall hard enough to crack his face plate. In a breath, his world faded to black.