Hades' Station is a story set in the Tyme universe, and will be split over two posts. Second part will go live next week.
Tyme is a setting that belongs to Terri Pray.
Artwork legally purchased from Adobe stock and tweaked by Samuel Pray using Photoshop and Filter Forge.
"You could just go ahead and close your eyes, Brian. You're damn near there as it is."
Brian Jannerson blinked and rubbed the heels of his hands over his eyes, trying to clear his vision. For several long seconds he stared, bleary eyed at the surface of the desk that had come close to becoming his pillow. His eyes were sand coated, his face marked by the paper that had been scattered about the desk, along with a single stylus that had pressed a pattern into his left cheek. He coughed and shook his head, swallowing hard before he finally spoke. "I'm not off duty yet. I'll sleep when my shift is over." He groaned, blinked again and lifted his head up from the desk, searching for the bright red numbers on the wall that would given him a rough idea of how much longer he had to push through. The numbers blurred, moving in a soft ripple as he watched, only when he narrowed his eyes and focused did they finally settle and form into numbers he could make sense of. "Two more hours." Can't do this. Have to do this. Fuck. I can't fall asleep on duty again. He'd never hear the end of it if he allowed that to happen. With a grunt he looked away from the clock and back at his shift partner. I can do this, a couple of hours and then I can sleep. In a bed. A real bed. "Just two more hours, not long really."
"If you can stay awake that long it would be a miracle, you're dead on your feet mate." Elric chuckled and patted Brian's shoulder before he settled down on the other side of the desk. The chair scraped across the floor as the older man settled in. Metal against metal, the sound vibrated through the floor and up into Brian's feet. "I'm here, if you want to sleep then go ahead, I've got this covered."
"Yeah and if the Captain walks in, and I'm asleep, you know what she's going to say." Elric - oh, he wanted to trust the man, and in a fight he knew he could. But going up against the Captain was another matter entirely. No one lied to the Captain and got away with it. At least, no one attempted to lie to her twice. One look in her steel gray eyes and that was enough for any normal member of the Peace Keepers to back off, but when you added words - in that crisp, calm voice of hers, words of disappointment and harsh decisions, there wasn't a man or woman on the station who would go up against her. At least none that Brian had run into. "You won't lie to cover me if she walks in, no more than I would you."
Elric hissed between clenched teeth before a chuckle escaped into the small room, swallowing what sounded suspiciously like a cough. "Yeah, good point. You'd be a dead man sleeping if she caught you. Fine, so I won't lie to the Captain, but I'd give you a heads up if I heard she was on her way. Still, given that as my only option, I wouldn't take a nap on duty either."
"She's a tough one." Brian rolled out his shoulders and reached back with one hand to rub the back of his neck. Tough, that was one word for her. He'd made the mistake, once, of calling her a bitch within Elric's hearing. Fortunately, the older man had taken him to one side and asked if he'd call a male officer the same thing for doing his job. The conversation had been a hard one, complete with a sharp fist to Brian's gut and it was a lesson he hadn't forgotten. "Strong and knows what she's doing."
"Yeah," Elric agreed.
The Captain was far more than merely tough, but this job took a toll on all of them. The longer you served in the Peace Keeper services, regardless of where you were stationed, the more you were exposed to. The Captain had seen a lot - you only had to meet her gaze once to realize that much about her. "She's fair though. If you have a valid reason she'll accept it. " Brian admitted and looked out at the windows. "She's not one I'd ever want to cross." Not unless he had an escape plan in mind. One that included teleportation to the far side of the known universe. "At least, not more than once."
"No doubt about that," Elric snorted, the snort turning into a harsh, wracking cough a moment later. "And she doesn't cut you any slack if you've let her down. Honest mistakes are one thing - sleeping on duty, she'd mark your card and make no mistake about it." Another cough broke through his words and Elric shook his head before he reached for a bottle of water, sipping some before he continued. "Fuck, this cough isn't giving up anytime soon."
"Make an appointment with the medic, before the Captain does it for you." Lung issues where one of the primary reasons for medical leave on Hades' Station, not surprising when you took into account the amount of junk that the mining companies kicked up into the air. "If you're lucky it will just be one of those irritation things and you won't have to be forced into taking medical leave."
For a moment Elric didn't respond as another short bout of coughing filled the air. Only when it was over did he finally speak. "Yeah, I know. I'll make one at the end of the shift. It's this damned place, gets into your lungs if you're not careful. Just something I walked through - least I hope so, last thing I want is to end up taking some damnable treatment that knocks me out for the majority of the day. Shit, I don't know how the Captain stands it - I don't think she's ever put in for a transfer - least not that I've heard of. If I had her seniority, I'd be out of here! Wouldn't you?"
"Yeah, I guess." No one in their right mind wanted to live here. No, being fair, he'd met some who had no desire to leave Hades' Station, people who had been born here and raised here. People who believed this was their patch of dirt and by the Gods they weren't going to give up, no matter what happened. "I wasn't born here though, so I don't have the connection that the natives have with this place."
"Neither was the Captain, but she's still here."
Captain Philomena Eyal, Brian closed his eyes and rubbed his temples, there was a woman who knew what she wanted and how she was going to get it. Strong, no nonsense, focused and his boss. Somehow it didn't come as a surprise that she hadn't requested a transfer out. Hades' Station wasn't a place most in the service wanted as their post. There were only three ways you ended up here. You had the skills but not the connections to earn a promotion, so you served here for two years, shipped out and earned your rank in the process; you'd pissed someone off, but you had skills so you were sent here to learn a lesson; then there was the third, you requested a transfer for the Gods alone knew what reason.
The Captain, according to rumor, had requested the post after her promotion to Captain... was that even possible, or nothing more than another rumor. Gods alone knew that rumors were one of the main sources of entertainment for his colleagues. Not as if there's much else to do unless you're big into reading or you've been lucky enough to find a decent source of holos.
"She's been the captain here for five years now, hasn't she?" Had it been longer? Maybe, but he'd only been here for a little over two years. No one knew the exact history of the Captain, she'd been careful not to share too much with those who served under her and no one - at least none that Brian had been able to find out about - had been able to dig their way into the files to find out more about the Captain. He'd tried, Elric had tried, so had others in the company.
"Yeah, about that, maybe a little more. Either way, it's longer than either of us have been stationed here. She's a good one, strong, calm, never seen her lose her temper, not in the four years I've been posted here." Elric rose, the sound of his steps marked his passage across the room to the large, reinforced window, that overlooked the main street below. "Raining again."
"This is Hades' Station, it's nearly always raining here." Brian grunted and lifted his head once more, focusing on the broad shouldered, gray and black haired man. Elric didn't look back at him, but he didn't need to. From the play of tension across his muscles he had to know that Brian was watching him. Shit, he was stiff. What he needed was more than twelve hours off at a time, two days - two days would be ideal, but until their numbers were back to full strength it wasn't going to happen. "Bad?"
"Heavy but at least it's real rain this time, not that damned fire stuff." Elric glanced over his shoulder and shrugged. "Must be normal, no one's running for cover this time and the siren hasn't gone off."
Brian leaned back in his chair, his gaze moving to the window. Lights flickered beyond the window from the taller of the buildings. Smoke rose from various points in the main city that made up Hades' Station. Blue, green, red and yellow signs flickered through the rain and smoke combination. It was, as far as the residents were concerned, the middle of the night so the lights and background noise were both muted compared to the height of the day, but the station never fully slept. "Yeah, fair point. That shit's plain nasty." Fire rain - he'd assumed they'd meant a form of acid rain the first time he'd heard the name but no, it couldn't be something that simple. Superheated rain - though how that worked without the water evaporating was something he'd never quite figured out. Something about the make up of the atmosphere combined with the general strangeness of the planet. Between the odd rain, the eruptions that shattered through the planet's surface - often without warning - and the increased gravity, the place had earned the name Hade's Station. Not a place where he'd want to live out the rest of his life, though he'd found some who had been born here and had no desire to ever leave.
Hades' Station bred strong people, men and women who knew what it took to live out on the edge of space. You had three choices if you called Hades' Station your home, you survived, left or died.
I'd have left this place within a day or two of arriving, if I'd had the choice. Two more years and he'd be out of here, sooner if he earned a promotion or enough commendations. His savings were in decent condition and his plans included a decent vacation, maybe on Gaea or one of their outposts, where he could enjoy the company of...
A sound, a high pitched wail, rang out, vibrating a path through the walls.
"Shit! Guess you spoke too soon about the sirens!" Brian pushed back the chair and reached for his jacket. His jaw clenched and he inhaled sharply before he shook it off and forced himself to speak once more. "Not rain," the siren for that had a different tone. "What the fuck's going on now? Problem at one of the plants?" Even as he said it, he knew that wasn't the case. Alerts would have gone off in the office first. Only if one of the plants was about to blow did the sirens go off, and the wail pattern was different, a booming that vibrated through the very ground, unmistakable and undeniable.
Elric had already moved from the window to one of the terminals in the room, his fingers moved across the keyboard faster than Brian would have given him credit for. "Pulling up the reports now. Multiple reports hitting now - filtering through the dross as fast as the system can."
Dross, the false reports, unsubstantiated ones, chatter on the coms and the more reliable sources. It all went through the same filter process, a program designed by the gods alone knew who - but it made their job easier.
The sound increased, three other sirens picking up the mournful howl of the first. Brian growled and tugged on the jacket, checking his side arm and com link a moment later. "Four sirens, this isn't an in town thing. What the fuck is going on?" He glanced at Elric. "Yeah, I know, system is working through the dross. Got it."
For a moment there was nothing but the play of fingers against keys and the wail of the sirens beyond the windows. Brian focused on his breathing, in through the nose and out through the mouth, trying to bring his nerves back into line. Panic was the enemy, right along with fear, so keeping himself calm was the only way to go.
"Reports of attacks coming in from sectors twelve, seven, ten and four." Elric punched the keyboard, growling under his breath even as he fought another round of coughing. "Another coming in from the landing pad - explosions reported. Fires on the edge of sector four, spreading - fire suppression crews already alerted. No sign of fighters, all ground forces so far. Has to be organized. Initial reports indicate teams of twenty - maybe twenty-five - at each location. No uniforms, but weapons suggest organized forces. Maybe Raiders, maybe not. We won't know until we get eyes in there."
Attacks - here? Raiders? No, they wouldn't - would they? Brian wanted to ask questions but there wasn't time for that. He glanced out of the window as he spoke, the distant sign of fires combined with an increase of smoke added to the information provided by the sirens and data. "Put out the all hands alert, I'll..." he reached for the com even as the lights changed on the panel and the sequence that announced to him that Captain Eyal had called in, flashed across the board. "Captain?"
"What's going on out there?" Calm, clear and to the point.
"Attacks, fires, organized we think with the timing- four sectors plus the landing pad."
A low hiss, muttered words that he couldn't quite make out and then. "I'm on my way. Sound all hands, we need..."
"Already done, Captain."
"Leave Elric to man the com and meet me at the transport dock. Let the others know." The line died before he could reply.
"You have your orders," Elric looked up and flashed a grin.
"And I'm guessing the Captain has already heard that you're coughing." Brian smirked, made his way to the door, grabbing his weapons belt on the way out.
"Channel two for this, I've passed the word down the line on where to meet!" Elric waved him out. "Don't keep the Captain waiting."
Brian Jannerson ran.
"Jannerson, thought I'd have to leave without you." Captain Eyal looked up from the small data pad she held.
"Yes Captain, sorry Captain." Brian stopped a dozen steps in front of the captain and straightened himself up. I ran! But obviously not fast enough given that he was the last one to arrive.
"You're with me, Jannerson - the rest of you, already paired you off. You have your targets. Jannerson, get the skimmer ready."
"Yes Captain," he didn't stop to ask where they were going as he jumped into the skimmer, settling into the pilot's seat. His fingers danced over the controls and the craft rumbled into life. It shifted beneath him as Eyal pulled herself up and dropped into the seat next to him.
"Yes, Captain." Ma'am - oh he'd wanted to call her that; he'd been raised to address women in power as ma'am, but Eyal had put the kibosh on that the one and only time he'd made that mistake. "On it."
A touch of a button and the large door opened up in front of them even as he pushed the skimmer forward, darting out into the streets before it was fully open. Rain lashed down from the heavy clouds that covered the sky. Burning, heated water that stung and lashed against his face in the moment before the shield formed, cutting down the potential debris that might strike them.
"Reports still coming in," Eyal muttered, her head slightly bowed over the data pad. "This is coordinated, no doubt about it now. Scanners are picking up vessels that landed two hundred klicks beyond the last of the station's boundaries."
"Smart," that far out the initial sensors wouldn't kick in. There'd be no alerts, not unless they triggered something when they approached the station." Which they obviously hadn't.
"Which means?" She pressed, but didn't look away from the pad.
"They knew what to look for." A traitor in their midst, or something else?
Fires added illumination and shadows that flashed and flickered across the road. Men and women darted from one place to another, sirens mingled with the cries of the living and the personal alarms that came from surrounding buildings. Two men dragged another figure out from the remains of a building as they darted past in the skimmer. Beyond that there were others moving through the wreck of their lives, their neighbors lives, trying to find survivors, the answers, the cause, anything that would make sense.
"Should we stop? To help them I mean?"
"No, not this time. We've got people on the way to help the injured here. This part - this is the distraction. Same with two of the other attacks."
How does she know this? He chewed on his bottom lip before turning his full attention to guiding the vehicle through the station and beyond. Fire outlined the landing pad - which had long since ceased to be a simple pad. Storage buildings, vehicles, repair bays and docking zones had all sprung up around the original pad. Something that had, originally, only been large enough to accommodate a large shuttle style craft, carrying up to twenty people, plus equipment. A settlers shuttle.
"Damage reports - at least thirty dead with more information coming in. We won't know the full extent of the damage until the debris is cleared away." Eyal leaned forward in her chair, her gaze narrowing. "Over to the left, there, in the clearing this side of the control tower."
Tower - it was one of the few things that remained virtually untouched by the attack. "Yes, Captain. Raiders?"
"Only two options that make sense here. Raiders or a funded take-over attempt - either by the Raiders or an unknown group."
Figures moved through the darkness, some from the town, either men and women who worked with the Peace Keepers, or those behind the attack, from this distance it was impossible to know. "Orders."
Captain Eyal tapped the com, "Main target is the landing zone, they're trying to establish a holding point here. Have scans running for incoming craft, get the ground troops organized. We've got to get this place secured."
Secured? Just the two of them? Was she insane? "Yes, Captain." I'll just do the impossible and become twenty men instead of one. Right. Got it.
Eyal hit the controls and exited the skimmer, checking her side arm even as she grabbed the rifle from behind her seat. The beam rifle was one of the rare weapons used by the Peace Keepers that required extra training. Only those who were classed as marksmen - yes the term still stuck despite the high percentage of women in the service - were issued a rifle. With both rapid fire and single shot capabilities it was a dangerous tool - but only in the right hands. In the wrong it was devastating - which was why all beam rifles issued to the Peace Keepers were then imprinted to those within that unit who were allowed to use them. In their unit that meant three members of the team were set up to use the rifles. Anyone else who tried would find themselves locked out.
Eyal was one of the three.
Did she know which skimmer I'd pick? No, stupid thought. The rifles would have been placed in the skimmers at the first sign of trouble. Standard operating procedure. Better to have them and not need them, than need them and not have them.
"Cover me," she didn't look back at him, not even as she ran into the smoke and chaos.
Insane, she's bloody insane. It didn't matter, the order had been given and she expected him to follow. He snatched his side arm from its holster and followed. Both kept low, bent at the waist, running from one form of cover to the next as they moved through the disaster that the landing zone had become. Smoke stung his eyes made worse by the near scalding hot rain that lashed against his cheeks. He didn't complain, didn't dare, not with the Captain darting ahead of him. The rain didn't cause her any problems which meant he couldn't complain without appearing to be weak. Not a mistake he was about to make.
Something hissed past him and he darted to the left, hitting the ground and rolling up into a crouch before he had a chance to check his surroundings.
A wave of pressure knocked him to the ground. Light, flame, the roar of the explosion combined with ash lashing his face, stealing his vision, left him breathless, coughing, gagging on debris - with a single thought screaming through the maelstrom that claimed his mind.
Captain - where's the Captain?
To Be Continued next week...