Five: The Sword, Chapter Two


#1

Part One: Sapphire

“You want us to take on a Hub cruiser?”

The director of Sapphire Station looked from Abe to Parnell. One entire wall of the long room was a picture window looking out on Sirius A. The dwarf star was millions of miles away, but still bright enough to bathe the entire room in a deep blue-white light.

“Isn’t that what The Sword is? A cruiser?” Director Jahlani asked.

“We sorta fucked around with her a bit,” Abe said. “She’s more like a fast-attack frigate these days.”

“We need her,” Jahlani said. “We need your crew.”

“What the hell did you folks do?” Abe asked. He looked around the director’s office. “This place a bank vault or something? What?”

“We disabled our secure line to Hub,” the director said.

Abe and Parnell stared at the director for a moment, silent.

“We’ll do it,” Parnell said.

“Now hang on a second,” Abe said.

The director smiled hugely and surged out of his chair. Raced to Parnell, shook his hand.

“Thank you,” he said, “thank you.”

“We’ll coordinate with your people and organize a defense for when Hub shows up,” Parnell said.

“Jim, can I talk to you?” Abe pressed.

“So you’ve done this before?” Director Jahlani asked, hopefully.

Parnell smiled. “Sorta. We fought Hub before. Never as…ah…revolutionaries? I don’t know what you’d call this.”

“Insurrection,” Abe said grabbing Parnell’s arm. “Can I talk to you for a minute?”

“Excuse us, Director.”

They walked across the long room.

“Jim what the fuck are we doing?” Abe hissed. “Since when are we in the revolution business?”

“We fought Hub lots of times,” Parnell frowned. “Why’s this any different?”

“Because Hub’s got its fingers in all sorts of nasty shit,” Abe said, sotto voce. “All that stuff, Resolute, Endeavour? They had to cover that up. We side against Hub on this, it’ll be all over the line! We’ll be the bad guys!”

“These folks are going to declare independence from Hub. You remember Hub, Abe? The guys trying to hunt you down and string you up?”

“Yeah, listen, I got more reason to hate Hub than you know but this ain’t our brief…”

“Bullshit it ain’t our brief,” Parnell said. “Why do you think we spend all that time chasing down corp-pirates, slave-traders?”

“Because it pays well,” Abe hissed.

“Bad guys’d pay us a lot more. How you think I got folks like Mason and Dietrich?” Abe was about to answer when Parnell dropped it on him.

“How’d I get you?”

Abe stopped.

“You’re not here because we’re friends, man. You’re here because you used to be a piece of shit. Just like Mason. Just like Dietrich. Because the Abe your father hates,” he said, and Abe couldn’t look him in the eye, “the guy your dad still thinks is a murderer, wouldn’t go after the pirates and the slavers. He’d go for the payout.”

Abe looked at the floor.

“Tell me I’m wrong,” Parnell shrugged.

Abe glanced at Parnell, looked at him from the corner of his eye. “Mother fucker,” he said, mostly to himself. Then he walked across the long room to Director Jahlani.

“Is there a problem?” the director asked, clearly worried. “If money’s a problem we can…”

“It ain’t a problem, we’re in,” Abe said.

“Excellent!” Jahlani said. It was Abe’s turn for the handshake treatment. “Excellent!”

“I’m going to head back to The Sword” Parnell said. “Abe’ll brief you on what to do when Hub shows up.”

“Ahhh,” Director Jahlani said with some trepidation. “You’re not…,” he looked from Parnell to Abe and back. “I was expecting you to supervise the ah…,” Jahlani gave up trying to be diplomatic. “Why him?” he asked nodding his head at Abe.

“Because if we’re gonna fight Hub,” Parnell said, “I want to win.”

Parnell turned and walked out of the room, leaving Abe and Director Jahlani alone. Abe was smiling hugely.

“Hey,” he said, as though they just met. “So what kind of ordnance you guys got?”

“We’ve got a security detail, about a hundred men.”

“That’s good,” Abe said, “what else?”

“I’m afraid that’s it,” Jahlani said. “It’s why we hired you.”

“Wait, hang on, hold up,” Abe said, “this is a Hercules-class station right?”

“Ah…ah, yes?” Jahlani said.

“So you got a compliment of nuclear ordnance, right?”

“We can’t use those!”

Abe shrugged. “You want to plug your line back in? Go back to giving Hub 15%?” The director didn’t answer. He slumped down into his chair.

“Those warheads are for self-defense,” he said, but the fight was already going out of him.

“Well what do you think this is?” Abe asked. “You think these guys are coming to collect on a bet? They’re coming to shut this whole place down and they won’t arrest you, Director, you’ll be killed during the boarding action. Along with your executive staff.”

It took a moment for Director Jahlani to absorb this. Slowly, his head started to nod. “Yes,” he said. “Yes we have a compliment of missiles with nuclear warheads.”

“Gooood,” Abe exaggerated. “So here’s what you’re gonna do…”


The dive sensors blared. There was a ship in nearby Cherenkov space.

“Anyone got a visual?” Parnell asked. They were all looking to port.

“Why’s there no report from the dive anchor?” Dietrich asked, looking at the Cherenkov screen.

“Something’s malfunctioning,” Mason said. “We would know by now if…”

“Team!” Sunny shouted. “Eyes a-starboard!”

Everyone dashed to the opposite window, momentarily lurching as Sunny spun the ship around.

Something was emerging from Cherenkov space. Between The Sword and Sapphire Station.

“That’s impossible,” Dietrich said. “There’s no anchor there!”

“Jesus, look how close they’re coming in,” Mason said. “Are they gonna ram the station?”

The ship that splashed into realspace was small for a Hub ship. Only about twice the size of The Sword. It was a sleek, flat, black ship. Long, elegant, swooping fins projected off her, designed to absorb any Minkowski waves created by traveling through Cherenkov space. Absorb and deflect. Making her impossible to detect while simultaneously granting her access to the spacetime regions known as Dive Anchors too small for any other ships to use.

“Mother fucker,” Mason said. “Solaris.”

“No!” Parnell said, reaching above him to flip the inertial dampeners to OFF. “Solaris is a myth! They never built her!”

“That myth is powering up weapons, point blank,” Sunny shouted.

“What is it?” Dietrich asked.

Abe just stared. “Stealth ship,” he said. “Experimental. Small crew. No bigger than…” His eyes unfocused as he recalled something someone just said. “‘Point blank.’” He snapped back to reality, pressed his hands flat against the window. “No! Goddammit!”

He spun around. “Someone get on the radio!”

Solaris weapons live!” Sunny shouted. “She’s gonna fire!”

Parnell turned to Abe. “What? What are you talking about?”

Abe surged forward, grabbed the radio. “I told them to…”

Then the light came. Brilliant white light, filling the cabin, filling every inch of it, banishing every shadow. The soundless, deadly light. Blinding everyone on The Sword.


“Jesus,” someone said. It might have been Mason. “What happened?”

The crew of The Sword slowly regained their sight. Many of them stood, hunched over, pressing their palms to their eyes.

“Abe,” Parnell said. “What order? What did you tell them?”

Abe was blinking madly, trying to force his eyes to work again. It wasn’t permanent, but it was impossible to operate the ship at the moment at least.

“I told them; don’t give Hub a chance. Because they won’t give you a chance.”

“What was the order, Abe!?” Mason shouted. He was staring in the direction he assumed Abe was in.

“I told them…as soon as you see a ship…fire your nukes.”

“At that range?!” Dietrich shouted.

“I didn’t know they’d come in that close! You ever seen a ship do that before? Anyone?”

“You killed everyone on that station!” Mason howled.

“I didn’t know!” Abe shouted. “Anyone think Hub would come in that close? Anybody?!”

“Everyone shut up!” Parnell barked. “Sunny, where’s Solaris?”

“Sapphire Station reporting heavy casualties,” she said. “Deaths, radiation burns. But no sign of Solaris. Director Jahlani relaying message; ‘Worth the cost. Give my regards to The Sword’s weapon master.’”

Everyone looked at Abe.

“But where’d the fucking ship go?” he asked, dumbfounded.

“She must have…,” Sunny was thinking. “She must have spun up her Patterson drive. Dove.”

“How?!” Parnell asked. “There was no time.”

“Who knows what that ship can do, man?” Abe asked. “It’s a secret goddamned ship.”

“No,” Parnell said. “It still needs a realspace translation and that takes time.”

“He’s right,” Sunny said. “Without a plot, they dive blind. They could come out…,” she stopped. Noticed the line terminal for the first time since the nukes went off. The volume was off, but the readout was flashing like a strobe light.

Everyone stopped talking, and looking at the silently screaming subspace comms unit.

Parnell walked over, stood next to the panel. Flipped on the RECEIVE button.


“Mayday, mayday. This is the…as82r3%p…frigate Solaris outbound from Earth…hf*6%sf…in close to Sirius A. Unable to maintain…a0(^j#gfs…deteriorating. Repeat, we are falling into Sirius A, engines failing…(6%sjkf$1…

Mayday.

…k*!2sdh^…

Calling anyone.

…5#0-jdp##1

Please help.”
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Solaris. This is The Sword. We read you.

…Help is on the way.

Part Two: The Final Fate of The Sword


“Those people are the enemy!” Mason railed at the captain of The Sword. “What the hell are you doing?”

“They were the enemy,” Parnell said as he punched in the course and got out of his seat. “They lost. Now they need our help.”

“That’s the stupidest fucking thing I ever heard,” Mason said, trying to block Parnell’s way. The bigger man just pushed past him. “They wouldn’t do this for you!”

“That’s why we’re the good guys,” Parnell said.

“This isn’t a tug! Goddamit Parnell you’re going to get us all killed!” Mason shouted.

The Sword will hold,” Parnell threw back. “We don’t need Solaris. We get her crew off, then Solaris can fall into the sun.”

“There’s thirty people on Solaris and they’re falling into a white dwarf! No one’s ever done this before! We won’t survive ten minutes in that furnace! The hull will melt!”

“Just so you know,” Sunny said, plotting the course and bringing The Sword around, “the surface of Sirius A is basically a fermionic sea. Temperature won’t be a problem, we’ll all be boiled into quarks first.”

Parnell confronted Mason. “Ten minutes might be enough.”

“‘Might?!’ And you’re willing to risk our lives on that?”

Parnell snatched open the locker and pulled out the radiation suits. Tossed them to Abe, Abe distributed them to the rest of the team.

“So what?" Parnell asked, not looking at Mason. "Leave them to die?”

“Yes! They knew the odds when they signed up. We were hired to stop them not save them!" Parnell ignored him. "Jesus this is exactly why you were drummed out of Sol Guard! For trying shit like this!”

Parnell straightened and looked at Mason. Everyone else kept up the furious preparation for emergency evac in the corona of a star, but they were all quiet. Listening. Wondering what their boss would do.

His eyes locked on the younger man, Parnell asked his team “Anyone else?”

No response. Abe made sure everyone else was suited up before getting his suit on.

Parnell looked around the main deck, surveyed his team, made a mental calculation. Turned back to Mason.

“You’re fired,” he said.

“What?!”

“You heard me. Dismissed.” He snatched Mason’s rad suit away from him. Threw it back in the locker. “I’ll buy you out of your contract.”

Mason looked around the deck, searching his fellow specialists for any sign of sympathy or support. He found none.

“You’re mad,” he said. It was unclear whether he was talking to Parnell, or all of them.

“We’ll see,” Parnell said. Sunny pulled herself up, out of the pilot’s seat and swung over to the copilot’s station. Parnell took the command chair. If his ship was going to be eaten by a star, he wanted a front row seat.


“Time?!” Parnell shouted as he struggled to maintain control of The Sword in the gravity well of a star. Being attached to the wounded Solaris via the docking clamp meant Parnell had few options when it came to controlling the ship.

“Seven minutes!” Sunny shouted over the roar of the star’s fermionic condensate boiling away against their shields. Even with the ultrareflectors up, the cockpit was still bathed in deep blue light.

“Abe!?”

“We got wounded here man!” Abe’s voice came over the radio. “We need more time, goddammit!”

“Sunny what happens in seven minutes?!” Parnell asked

“Shields fail and the ship boils away!” Sunny shot back.

“Abe how many wounded?”

“How the hell do I know?” Abe’s voice crackled over solar static. “Half these people are unconscious and there’s fucking smoke everywhere!”

Parnell made a calculation. “There’s not enough time.”

Mason was pulling wounded Solaris crewmembers out of the airlock. He shot Parnell a look, but said nothing.

“There’s not enough time,” Sunny repeated, working the problem. “The shields will burn away and we’ll be exposed to the star.” She stared out the window, past the ultrareflectors, into the blue-white light of Sirius A.

Suddenly she was pulling herself up and out of the copilot’s chair.

“I’ll do it,” she said.

“What!?” Parnell asked, unable to safely look away from the controls long enough to confront his pilot and chief engineer.

Sunny pulled a radsuit out of a locker, began suiting up.

Solaris’ engines burned out, but I can get them back online. I’ll put her between us and Sirius A. Solaris’ hull will act as a shield for us. Buy us the time we need.”

“No,” Parnell said. An order. “There’s no time to get the engines back online and pilot the ship around and get back here!”

“There is if I go with her,” Mason said.

Parnell twisted around in his seat to look at Mason. Sunny was suiting up, leaving Parnell to sort it out.

Mason didn’t wait for Parnell to ask the question. “I can pilot Solaris if Sunny can get the engines up. I’m rated for it.”

Sunny continued to suit up, gave no indication she’d heard Mason.

“Sunny you ok with this?” Parnell asked. Mason’s face fell a little.

Sunny zipped her suit up. “He’s the best pilot on the team,” she said, and then looked at Parnell smiling. “After me and you, I mean.”

“But I can’t get the engines up,” Mason said. “She can.”

Parnell thought for a second. “Go,” he said. “Buy us the time we need.”

Sunny dashed into the airlock, Mason started after her.

“Mason!” Parnell shouted.

Already half in the airlock, Mason pulled himself out to look at Parnell.

“Good luck man,” Parnell said.

Mason stared at him, saying nothing. Then followed Sunny into the airlock.


“Parnell!” Abe’s voice spat over the intercom. “What the hell’s going on? The ship feels like she’s moving!”

“Just get those people over here!” Parnell said.

“There’s no time!” Abe said. “I’m calling it!”

“You’ve got the time!” Parnell barked into the radio. “Finish the op!”

He heard Abe’s voice, away from the mic, say “Goddammit,” but no further complaints came through.

Minutes later, and Abe crawled out of the airlock, behind the last coughing, disoriented Solaris crewmember.

“That’s all of them!” Abe said. “What the hell’s going on?” Dietrich guided the rescued crewmember below decks.

“Crew all aboard!” Parnell shouted into the mic. “Sunny, get out of there!”

“Oh you are fucking kidding me,” Abe said, rushing to the cockpit to look out the window at Solaris and Sirius A. “Sunny’s over there? I thought the engines were dead.”

“We’ve got this!” Sunny’s voice came back over the radio. “Mason has positive thrust, over the gravity differential, we can get out of here! Go!”

“She doesn’t see it,” Abe said.

From the cockpit of The Sword Abe and Parnell watched as Solaris limped away from the surface of the dwarf star. The reason for her struggle clear.

The entire starboard half of the ship had been eaten by the star. Entire decks were exposed.

“Sunny, you’re not seeing what I’m seeing,” Parnell said. “You’re missing half your hull, it’s just gone, the star ate it!”

The comm crackled. Then Mason’s voice. “All bulkheads sealed!” he said, from Solaris’ command center. “Life support disabled everywhere except engines and control! Get The Sword out! We can claim salvage on Solaris!”

“Jesus Christ,” Abe said.

Solaris continued her slow climb out of Sirius A’s gravity well.

“They’re gonna make it,” Parnell said. “I don’t believe it, they’re gonna make it.” He throttled up The Sword’s sublight engines.

“Hey,” Dietrich asked. “Hey did we just capture a Hub stealth ship?”

The crew started laughing, the nervous laughter of people who’d just been through hell.

“Holy shit!” Malik said.

“Stealth ship,” Parnell said, riding The Sword’s controls out of the intense gravity around the star. “What’s that worth? Anyone got any records they need cleared?”

The team started cheering as The Sword climbed away from Sirius A.

“Look,” Abe said. No one was paying attention. “Hey look at Solaris’ engines,” Abe said. “Why are they glowing like that, is that normal? Any know if…it looks like they’re going to…”


Eight days later…

“Sir, he doesn’t know you’re here,” the nurse said.

Abe looked up from his comic book. He brought it for Parnell, but there was nothing else to read just sitting there for hours. “Huh?” he asked.

“He’s in a coma,” the nurse said, her smile sympathetic. “We’re monitoring brain activity. We’ll tell you as soon as there’s anything. You can go home. Right now he has no idea you’re here.”

Abe stared at the nurse like he hadn’t heard what she said. “Yeah,” he said eventually. “But I know.” He went back to reading.

“Besides,” he said, turning the page, “I got nowhere else to go.”


Continue reading: The Sword, Chapter Three


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Four: The Sword, Chapter One
Evolve Hunter Stories [Canon] (Latest Story - Kala's Story)
Evolve Hunter Stories [Canon] (Latest Story - Kala's Story)
#2

Wow.

Makes whenever Abe says the Sword wasn’t Parnell’s fault a lot harsher.

Good job @Matthew.


#3

Yes! More stories from the loremaster :stuck_out_tongue:

seriously, you spoil us so much. I’m going to grab a cup of hot cocoa and start reading :smile:


#4

#5

I know this is science-fiction, but wouldn’t nuclear weapons be a lot less effective or even useless in space due to lack of oxygen?

Great story by the way! :smile:


#6

Another excellent story waiting eagerly for the conclusion.


#7

Nukes don’t rely on burning like a normal bomb, its the splitting of an atom, and produces radiation and heat that would easily move through space and melt the hull of the ship.


#8

Yeah don’t question the giant flying lightning Cthulhu monster. Let’s discuss the effectiveness of nukes in space instead! :stuck_out_tongue:


#9

Forever the voice of a god, Matthew. :smiley:


#10

Stay tuned everyone! I broke up Part Two for dramatic purposes, you won’t have to wait a week for Part Two, Chapter Two: The Final Fate of The Sword!

Then, of course, Part Three next week.


#11

I’ve always wanted a sequel sequel. Can’t wait for the presequel prequel afterword inbetweenquel


#12

So when can we expect it you tease?
Edit.

Man I just love Abe’s character he has the brains and brawn.


#13

So great. And I agree, adds some brutality to the “it wasn’t his fault” part. Although im guessing something worse happens when they go in for the rescue.


#14

Radiation from being hit that close had to go somewhere I think :stuck_out_tongue: OR the ship had civvies wanting to escape Hub as well and stole that ship.


#15

We’ve still got PLENTY to go. Part 2.5 and Part 3. Plenty. It’s gonna be great.


#16

I expect Solaris to be a trap.

Other than that, great one! Love it!


#17

It’s not a trap, they just got hit by a salvo of nuclear missles. God the chills that line of dots gave me shudders. Can’t wait for parts 2.5 and 3


#18

The suspense is killing me. Where’s my medicine… my evolve… :slight_smile:


#19


#20

I don’t think we’re at the tragedy of The Sword yet my friend.