The Dark Maddening Space

Today we send our intergalactic ship, The Dawn Treader, on its long voyage into the stars – to discover new hospitable worlds and possibly intelligent life.  Its crew will look upon this vessel as their home and the world to which they live.  They will care for it as it will care for them and together, they will achieve mankind’s most ambitious dream since we crawled from out of the oceans.

God speed to you all!

[World President Bill Hawkins, 2132]

Alex felt the ship shudder and move as the sequence for it to start slowing down began.  He knew it was supposed to happen, everyone did, most of them were even partying about it but he couldn’t shake that in all of his 25 years the ground under his feet had never moved.

It was a Tuesday, or so the ships information screen said.  A value of time that was no more applicable to him than a day being 24 hours on Mars.  For one thousand years The United Space Exploration Craft (USIC) Dawn Treader had soared through empty space where time never moved and the only source of change came from the ship’s automated programming, designed to replicate the days and seasons of Earth; a long lost planet that would have delved into legend if they didn’t have proof in the libraries that it existed.

25 years ago Alex had been born and for 25 year he had wandered the same halls of the Dawn Treader, a name given to the craft after an exploration ship in a book written on Earth.  He wanted more, he wanted to stretch his legs and be free of his confinement.  Admittedly there were huge, vast sections of the craft that he had never ventured unto, but he wanted more, eagerly a smile filled his face as, at long last, after hundreds of generations of humans, they were about to reach their destination – and then the emergency lighting flickered on.

With the corridor changing from a cool blue summer hue to the deep red emergency lights, Alex started to run to his station.  As one of the marines aboard the ship he knew that there was no drill planned today – this was for real.  Sprinting to the main hanger he was questioned by alarmed citizens wanting to know more, asking if it was a drill.  As his tertiary job was policing the Dawn Treader he did his best to calm them and send them to their quarters before disappearing from sight.

Arriving at the hanger, he found most of his friends and colleagues already lined up in position amidst one of The Dawn Treader’s vast hangers.  Unlike the homely painted walls that the majority of the ship comprised of, the hanger was decorated with naked titanium and carbon fibre, its reflective surfaces making the room seem even larger than it was.

“What’s going on,” Alex asked turning to Lawrence, unsure whether anyone really knew.

“Alright marines!” Sergeant Major Terrence bellowed, interrupting Lawrence before he could answer, “We’ve been training for situations like this for nearly a thousand years and so help me God I am not coming this far to be stopped now.”

Addressing the marine’s various looks of confusion; the Sergeant Major turned and made a hand gesture to activate the ship’s hologram system, summoning an image from outside the ship.  There were windows to look out, observational platforms that people would take leave to travel to for a glimpse of the empty space they were travelling through, Alex had been a couple of times – but not once had there been a host of other ships there to greet him.

The feeling throughout the room was mutual, some gasped, some held their mouths open in awe whilst others were composed enough to show no reaction, Alex couldn’t help but study the image try to make out the mechanics of the ships he was being shown.  He had signed up to join the marines, to fly The Dawn Treader’s defensive fighters as soon as he was old enough and had been helping maintain them and The Dawn Treader since he had the strength use a spanner, so he knew his way around a ship.

There were three large ships and a mess of smaller ones.  The larger ones seemed to be designed around a single large engine and roughly cylindrical in shape.  Appearing to be of a rustic brown colour, Alex could only assume that either the designers had no flare for design or, as the degrading and messy exterior suggested, the metal used was so old it was starting to rust.  The smaller ships were similar, built around one engine and cylindrical in shape, except for the wings that wrapped around the rear of the ship for extra manoeuvrability.

“As you can see,” Sergeant Major Terrence continued “It turns out we’re not alone in this universe after all.  Command is currently trying to communicate with the craft but until a confirmation of peace comes through I, we, need you to be ready for any eventuality.  Now get to your craft, double time marines!!”

With the crowd quickly dispersing, Alex felt Lawrence’s hand on his shoulder as he gave him a quick uplifting nod before disappearing with the crowd.  Turning to his left he ran through the hanger to the control panel next to his ship.  Typing in his unique pass code, the panels on the floor next to him opened up to reveal his ship as it was raised up from under the hanger floor to ground level.

When The Dawn Treader had left Earth, the scientists, engineers and greatest minds of the human race had been assembled as a committee to made sure that everything that the crew would been shipped out with would be able to deal with anything and everything that the galaxy could throw at them.  This meant that everything from the ships design to the way they could continuously create food was technologically decades ahead of the consumer goods.

The ship didn’t run on fuel but converted light into an energy source in a manner far more efficient and applicable than the crude solar panels that they had left behind.  The vegetation on board was genetically modified to produce extra oxygen and be more nutritious and filling when eaten.  The ship itself was designed so that, if needs be, someone could travel the length of the ship, which was the size of a small country, in under 15 minutes and its hull was made of a series of independent plates that could adapt and move if the hull were ever breached.  The defensive fighters on board were no exception to these technological breakthroughs.

Survivability, as a human, has always proved an issue.  Since the dawn of man we have perished from disease, famine and injuries that other creatures would simply shrug off.  With air dispensing vaccines on board and basic alterations to their anatomy during conception to slow the requirement for food, their only issue would arise when they encountered conflict.  In preparation for this the design committee, in a bid to expect the unexpected, invited a number of science-fiction authors to meet with their military counterparts and designers.  Having gathered a group of minds who would invent any and all bizarre and weird situations that the crew might encounter, the designs drew up would be able to repel everything from sentient robots to little green aliens.  Their hard work, painstaking research and innovative construction about to go about its first, live field test.

In front of Alex was a pair of suits.  One, a smooth and rounded exoskeletal suit that would not only protect Alex from the vacuum of space, but also increase his strength and ability to survive unaided for days without removal.  The other suit stood at twenty feet tall.

Placing his hand on the integrated fingerprint scanner, the smaller suit opened up, its intricate lacing of small diamond shaped metal plates opened up like a liquid and as Alex stepped into the sleek suit of red and silver, the suit closed and encased him inside of it.  As the internal software booted up and analysed his body, Alex grabbed a sidearm and rifle, slapping them onto the suit as it altered its design to hold them.

Repeating the process for the larger suit, Alex climbed up the back of the suit and used the arm of his suit as a key to unlock the suit as it opened up in a similar fashion to the previous suit but metallic diamonds were larger and revealed a large hollow space in the craft.  Clambering into the suit, his body was locked in place by various arms as the software synced together.  Whilst the software would decrease the reaction time for Alex’s movement to be fulfilled by analysing the electrical pulses in his brain, the suit could be used manually if the power ever ran out.

Doing his pre-flight checks, Alex rotated his limbs before picking up another rifle, scaled for the suit before clipping a shield onto his left arm.  Turning around with his weapons in hand, Alex took a knee as some of the other, faster marines had already done.

The visuals from his exosuit were now being projected into the larger one.  From the displays he could see that his armour was a 100%, his rifles and sidearm were fully charged, the suits power was full and his body was fully fit.  As the software finished its initialisation the names of his squad mates appeared next to their suits and various trajectories and exit routes from the hanger were being drawn for him.  Orally, Alex changed the suit’s controls to manual by adjusting various settings, giving him full control over the suit.  As a pilot with one of the most recorded flight hours on record, Alex was most suited to the ship doing what he wanted, when he wanted, rather than it taking care of itself.

With all of his systems ready and prepared, an image of the Sergeant Major appeared to one side of his screen.  “Alright marines!  We’ve received no response from the unknown craft so we’ve been ordered to show a  force of arms, so get out there, line up in your designated sector and show these guys what we’re really-“

“-Weapons have been fired,” Commodore Willems said, interrupting the Sergeant Major as an image of his face appeared on another free side of the screen.  “All ships launch now, repel this fleet!”

The image cut out as the Sergeant Major spoke, “You heard him marines, MOVE, MOVE, MOVE!”

In sequence the group of giants pushed off and ran towards the exit of the hanger that had opened during the communication.  Alex watched as the group ahead of him stood up and ran, launching themselves out into space as the suits elegantly transformed into ships.

Pushing off, Alex ran full speed towards the exit and jumped into the dark void.  Once airborne he altered his position into one, similar to riding a motorcycle.  With the shield and rifle now at the point of the ship the suit altered, connecting and locking joints whilst revealing wings that had been hidden on his back.  Shifting his body weight he pointed the ship upwards through ninety degrees to follow his squad over the top of The Dawn Treader.

Rotating his body he pointed the underbelly of the ship towards The Dawn Treader’s hull to orientate himself as he emerged over the top.  At full speed he fired his light engines towards the incoming ships alongside his squad and the hundreds of others that were scattered across The Dawn Treader as the first explosion lit up the dark void of space to his left.