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I tried not to think about Joëlle’s squad, or that woman’s husband. The doors to the generator room were all open. They were each about a foot thick, and stood a meter apart from each other in the entrance hall. I could see signs of energy weapon fire on the doors. None of us hesitated, guns at the ready, and we all charged into the dimly lit chamber.

Our footsteps echoed on the metal catwalks which spidered out into the room. The room was huge, and cylindrical. It had no windows, and was lit by small orange auxiliary lights dispersed throughout the room. In the center was the generator itself, a giant cylindrical tube that extended from the ceiling all the way to the bottom of the dark chasm below.

Halfway to the catwalks that ringed the center tube, pain arced through my leg. My eyes widened as I tumbled to the side, catching myself on the edge of the catwalk.

Whoa!” I said. I imagined the man falling down the elevator shaft as my gaze fell into the pit below me, and my head started spinning.

K glanced back to me, pistol in hand. “Be careful!”

At least they installed railings,” I said.

Everyone made it onto the central catwalk before me, and when I caught up they’d already assessed the situation.

Captain Orion spoke. “They removed two of the power cells, here and here.” He pointed to two empty cylindrical slots in the tube. “That’s why the power isn’t working.”

I tilted my head to the side. “Only two? That’s all it takes to shut this thing down?”

He turned to face me, voice muffled by his helmet. “It’s assumed you never let hostiles into this room. The fail-safes are minimal once you get inside. The energy can only flow through the machine if there’s at least one of those two power cells inserted in the row, and it’ll work better if we get both.”

I scanned the room. The station rumbled, and we all grabbed onto the rail for balance.

One of the marines began. “Captain, how are we supposed to find these power cells? They could be anywhere! And I don’t see any valicorr in here.”

I stared at the tube. It had two columns of power cell slots running down the front of it, and the empty slots were across from each other on one row at about eye level. I asked, “So, there needs to be at least one power cell in each row?” The Captain nodded, and I pointed toward the next row, which had its full set of two power cells. “Why don’t we just borrow one of the other power cells to complete the circuit?”

Good idea! It won’t be as efficient as if we had the proper number of cells, but we should be able to restore most of the station’s power.”

One of the marines began removing a power cell from the next row down, twisting it by the handle. If they wanted to sabotage the base, why didn’t they do more damage? This was just about the most benign way of shutting down the power they could have done. And from the sounds of it, getting into this room in the first place must have been an ordeal; why didn’t they make the most of it?

The marine removed the blue canister with a hiss, and stepped forward to begin placing it in the empty row.

Suddenly, he screamed in pain, and my blood started pumping adrenaline. He dropped the power cell on the catwalk, and it started to roll towards the edge. Sparks were shooting from his chest armour, and a hole was getting bigger. It looked like some kind of shimmering red energy was beaming out from the hole, a few inches from the edge of the armour, before fading away.

We all stared, and backed away, our guns pointed in his general direction. My heart was pounding and my ears were pulled back, and I stumbled on my bad leg. The soldier shook, and the red energy disappeared entirely. He stopped sparking, but the hole in his armour was smoking, and he stepped backward quickly losing all tension in his muscles.

Captain Orion was on one side of him, the rest of us on the other.

My eyes widened. The marine tumbled backward, over the railing and into the chasm. I noticed the power cell rolling closer to the edge, and so did the captain.

He held his rifle in one hand, and lunged for the power cell with his other.

I held my breath. He collided with something in mid air, and grunted, being pushed back upright by some unseeable force. But there was nothing there. Then, the power cell, which was about to fall off the edge, flickered, and faded out of sight, as it began to levitate in the air.

Everyone gasped in surprise, and the Captain was thrust against the railing. He dropped his rifle which bounced off the rail and into the abyss, and seemed to be wrestling with something. At the edges of his hands, some dark shape was barely visible, pushing against him. One of the marines called out to him.

I aimed my pistol toward him. I didn’t know how, but it must have been an invisible attacker. But when I trained my sights on the captain, I trembled.

I heard K call out, “What the hell’s happening?!”

I couldn’t bring myself to fire. What if I was wrong, and I accidentally shot him in the head?

He was being pushed against the railing, breathing heavily, his body leaning back over it. My finger rested on the trigger.

Out from around the bend of the central tube, a red laser bolt shot out and sparked off of the invisible shape wrestling with the captain. I jumped in surprise, and a few more shots hit the thing.

The captain pushed the thing off, which sparked and flickered into view. It was a valicorr after all, wearing a dark outfit with dark metal rings on its shoulders and limbs. Its body collapsed to the floor, and it dropped the power cell it was holding.

I lunged forward, and caught the cell just before it rolled off the ledge. The captain was panting, and the remaining marines ran over to him, asking if he was alright.

I stood up, bracing myself on the railing as I did, with the power cell in one hand and my pistol in the other. I aimed the pistol around the cylinder, anticipating the captain’s saviour to reveal themself, but I was hesitant.

Who’s there?” I asked.

Slow footsteps reverberated through the metal catwalk, and a figure emerged from hiding. His gun was slick and black, still smoking and glowing a faint red as he held it down. He was wearing a white and black outfit, his coat was long, almost like a lab coat, trailing behind him. His height was about 5’8, with an athletic build, and his shoulders bulked out with dark grey armoured pads. His forearms and boots were armoured as well, and he had a plate of armour covering his chest. His hair was short and dark, spiked up and to the side. His cheeks were rounded, and his jawline well defined. He sported a thin, dark moustache.

But of all these details, what caught me off guard were his eyes. His left eye was a striking orange colour, and his right was replaced with a metal plate, and a robotic eye with a faint red glow.

He looked at all of us, his lips pursed, but when he laid eyes on K, his jaw dropped. I noticed him tilt his pistol up toward her slightly. His organic eye widened, and the aperture on his cybernetic one followed suit.

K stomped towards him, and before he could get a shot off she grabbed him by the collar with her free hand and lifted him up off the ground. He dropped his pistol and gagged.

What the hell were you doing hiding back there?!” Her eyes were narrowed and she bared her teeth.

Gak!” The man struggled to get free. “Put me down!”

K!” I yelled, limping forward. The marines all had their guns trained on him. “Put him down!”

She shot me an annoyed glance, and obliged.

The man collapsed to the floor, coughed, and then stood slowly, retrieving his pistol and adjusting his collar. He resumed a more collected facial expression after standing upright, and stood with dignity.

He spoke, his voice now calm. “I came here to see if I could fix the station’s power issues.” He glanced at me, as I began screwing the power cell into its new place on the empty row. He chuckled. “I started looking for the cells- When I heard you coming in, I was too suspicious of you to come out of hiding.” He pointed toward the power cells with a black-gloved hand. “I wish I’d known I could have just rearranged them.”

The captain stood, and reached to shake his hand. “I’m Captain Orion. Thank you; you saved my life.”

The man smiled, and shook his hand firmly. I kept screwing the cell in place.

Pleased to meet you, captain. I’m sorry you lost one of your marines to that thing.”

The captain sighed. “Not the only one we’ve lost today, but thank you.”

K spoke up. “How did you know to shoot that valicorr?”

He gazed down at the body, the smile fading from his face. “When I heard the struggle, I peaked around the corner but I couldn’t see anything. I thought it might have been a cloaked valicorr, so I activated my thermal vision, and sure enough, there it was.” He pointed to his robotic eye as he said this.

The canister finally clicked into place with a hiss. “I’ve replaced the cell, we should be able to restore power now.”

The captain raised a hand to his helmet, and began speaking through the communicator. “Come in Joëlle. Affirmative, you should be able to reset the power…”

I stepped toward the man over the valicorr’s body, and reached out my hand. My ears lifted in greeting and he gazed up at me, looking a little stunned.

My name is Talcorosax,” I said, as he took my hand hesitantly. “If not for you, that valicorr may have killed all of us. It’s a good thing you stayed hidden.”

He smiled, and shook my hand. “Ah, well, I’m glad.”

What’s your name?”

Oh, my apologies. I’m Jonathan Wellsworth, Head of Biology.”

I nodded, “I’m a biologist too.”

Are you? Interesting. Quite a fascinating field, I think. And relevant, since we’re all living things, aren’t we?”

K spoke up. “So, we’re just glazing over the fact that this valicorr was invisible? I thought that shit was impossible.”

Jonathan turned to K, eyeing her suspiciously. I couldn’t blame him; the first thing she did was nearly hoist him into the abyss. Hesitantly he spoke. “They’re called shadow scouts. Only elite valicorr agents are equipped with them- the cloaking devices, I mean. Clearly this valicorr was sent ahead to infiltrate the base and sabotage the generator.” He began rubbing his moustache. “After the generator was taken out… the assault force could approach the station undetected, and unhindered by our defense systems.”

I nodded. “We figured that much out, which is why we came here.”

The captain finished his call, and suddenly the auxiliary lights were replaced by bright white ones. The power was restored and the entire room hummed and whirred to life.

I glanced around at everyone. “Come on, now that the power’s back, let’s head back to the control room.”

My suggestion was met with nods of agreement, and we ran out of the generator room.

 

Though my heart was still pounding, and my wounds aching, I felt hope running through the well lit halls. We heard the faint sounds of a massive energy cannon firing somewhere above us, and stopped to peer outside the glass wall. This part of the station was built on top of a ledge which stretched out beyond the window, level with the floor.

The air was quiet around us. Light splashed across the black sky and falling snow as we gazed up at the valicorr ship hovering above us outside. K and I stood next to each other, and exchanged glances. The light reflected in her orange eyes. Jonathan stood back from us. His mouth was open slightly, and his eyes scanned the ship.

We could see blasts of energy firing from the western tower. The anti-aircraft battery!

We all held our breaths, watching bolt after bolt explode against the ship. Ten seconds passed, and the ship hovered, unflinching.

I turned to face everyone else, hoping my eyes were playing tricks on me as the gun continued to shoot. Someone must have seen the ship take damage from the cannon; it couldn’t have been invulnerable.

Everyone’s gaze was on the ship, and I could tell from their expressions they were thinking the same thing. This couldn’t be happening.

It must be doing something,” I said.

K clenched her fists, and grimaced.

Captain, what should we do?” one of the marines asked.

I… I don’t know.” The captain shook his head slowly.

Jonathan gulped, but remained silent.

K bared her teeth, and screamed. “Why can’t you just leave us alone?!”

I shielded my eyes as shards of glass burst out from the window, and snow gusted inside. K stood, her fist where the glass wall used to be.

The marines stepped back in shock. Jonathan stood his ground, coat trailing in the breeze, his brow furrowed at K.

Rein it in, K!” Jonathan stared at her.

K’s eyes were full of anger. “Why don’t you rein it in, jackass!” She stepped outside onto the snow covered ledge, and ran toward the ship.

K, wait! What are you doing?” I sprinted after her, and skidded to a halt a few feet behind her, my ears blown to the side in the wind. Ice spun around us as her fur coat flapped. She was staring up at the massive ship. I turned my head away from where the eastern tower would have been. I couldn’t look that way.

I glanced up at the AA gun on the western tower. It was firing white beams of energy at the ship, but it still seemed ineffective.

K aimed up at the ship and started screaming in rage, firing her pistol in vain. Spit frothed from her mouth. She winced, and with her other hand clutched the side of her head.

I looked back and saw that Jonathan and the marines were still standing inside, looking out at us, and the ship.

K’s arm started to go limp, and I noticed her losing her balance. She stopped screaming, and my body tensed.

K!”

Moaning, she started to collapse. I lunged for her. I grabbed her arms and pulled her back so she wouldn’t fall off the ledge. We landed on our backs and crunched into the snow. I sat up and leaned over her, and I could see she was still partially conscious.

Osax…” she said, eyes half open. The sound of the AA gun echoed across the cliffside.

She reached a hand up to me, and clutched my arm. “...I can’t take this.” Tears were forming in her eyes, and she scrunched up her face, trying to suppress them. I was breathing hard.

You’ll be okay. You’ll be okay.” I had no idea what was going on. It didn’t matter. She needed me. “We’re in this together. We’re okay, remember? ‘O’ ‘K’?”

She shook her head, eyes closed.

Jonathan ran up to us, and knelt down beside her. “What’s going on?” he asked.

I shook my head. “I’m not sure. She fainted earlier too; there was no obvious cause.”

K mumbled, “You said you wouldn’t tell.”

My heart sank. “I’m sorry K; I’m just trying to help you!”

Jonathan pulled out a small scanning device from his coat, and began scanning K’s head. His expression was stern. “Still suffering from random blackouts…” he muttered.

K croaked, “I’m dying.”

I shook my head, as the sky flashed with another blast from the cannon. “No, no you’re not, K. You’re not dying.”

I looked into Jonathan’s orange eye. His expression was grim.

Suddenly, a red light began to glow from the bottom of the ship. A few seconds later, red energy, like a lightning bolt, flashed toward the AA gun. The top of the tower exploded into debris and flames, and abruptly, the sound of the cannon ceased.

No…” K groaned, and tried to sit up.

Take it easy K,” I said, helping her sit up. I gazed up at the ship, looming overhead. Jonathan stared at it solemnly.

I noticed out of the corner of my eye a valicorr dropship flying away from the ruined station, and up toward the mothership.

It looks like they’re leaving,” said Jonathan.

What?” I blinked. The ship disappeared in the shadow of the cruiser, and I noticed a few more dropships returning to it. Then, slowly, the mothership began to ascend.

Snow fell into my eyes, my ears chilled in the frigid wind. K staggered beside me and followed my gaze. We stood, motionless. The black shape accelerated toward the sky, getting smaller until it disappeared in the darkness.

I let out a sigh of relief, and lay back in the snow, letting myself rest. The situation was grim, but at least for this moment I could relax. We were safe, and it was time to assess the damage.

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About the author

Seb Woodland

Bio: I'm a writer, game developer, artist, and musician. Just a creative guy working on art and trying to make his way in the world.

-There is always hope-

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