Chapter One – Lunch

 Prologue

A man looked out of a window, the room was one of the few in the city to burst through the smog. He gazed over the grey sea of ever moving shapes lapping gracefully against the lower floors, even this high up the smog glowed with the lights of life far below in the toxic streets. The room was tiny even by the cramped standard of the times. Emptying his pockets into a desk draw, before he slowly retrieved a dusty bottle of celebration scotch. The man was in no mood for celebration but luckily he found scotch versatile enough to drink it anyway. With a final check of his coat, he locked away his regrets deep into the draw, pocketing the key. Sitting on the desk in the dark damp apartment, he poured a himself a drink and prepared to watch his last great mistake soar beyond the heavens.

Chapter One

Spending five minutes anywhere more populated than a muddy field and you’ll know people have an innate habit of getting in the way. As the years rolled by, this nuisance developed into a devastating issue. By 2140 personal space became a luxury only enjoyed by birds, fish and momentarily by drowning victims. City boundaries started becoming hazy. Great sprawling forests of concrete, glass and cheaper building materials, spilled out from their historic holding pens across the hills and plains; swallowing villages and bolting on towns. Slowly at first, but before anyone realised it had been a while since they’d seen a tree.  They had all gone, flattened under the ever widening boot of necessity. Even some of the most experienced cartographers’ packed up their rulers and went home.  Nobody could keep up with the ever fluctuating borders.  Where Paris stopped and Brussels began, was decided more by delivery companies’ than actual governing bodies. When world hunger stopped being a issue, then fitting everyone around the dinner table did. Earth was full.  The vast ever growing infrastructure of a hundred billion homes clung to the surface like a scab. The planet was sick and people felt it.  From the diseased ridden underbelly, to the gleaming tips of glass and metal that rose above the clouds gasping for a cleaner air. People knew things were in a bit of a state.

A solution was needed.  So in the summer of 2143 an historic meeting was held. In an undisclosed location, the last of the influential leaders’ were crammed into a small conference room. Over several days, heated discussion and one small physical disagreement, two options were drawn up to instill some manner of future for earth’s most industrious species. Option one was the simplest, a War, a World War, bigger than all that came before. Big enough to make the last two look like a drunken slap fight between two pacifists at a salad bar during a kale shortage. This was by far the most popular option. Partly due to archaic rivalries between the more irritable rulers’ but chiefly because everyone agreed it would be the last chance for a proper fight.  Most countries’ wanted to get it out of their system one last time. The second option was a little trickier, build great ships to carry the surplus people off into the stars’ to find new homes on the less ruined planets. This option, chiefly rallied by the Prime Minister of the UK, supposedly because he’d lost his country’s nuclear codes on the train the previous week and felt the other states’ would of had an unfair advantage.

As History books would in future go on to say, humanity chose the second option, not only because it seemed like the more polite thing to do but also, because it was remarkably cheaper.

The first ships to break out of the smoke and grime of the past did so with much splendor.  Parades surgered beneath their shadows as the giant Leviathans’ climbed slowly into the sky, lumbering through the air in a manner that spat in the face of basic scientific principles. So incredibly massive were these ships, that each one had lost several Engineers’ in their construction.  They had been forever lost wiring the vast neural networks deep in the bowels of the city sized crafts; tragically only weeks before the corridors had maps added. Each ship was made to carry millions in a barely passable state of habitability, requiring such complexity that the lead Architect behind the design went permanently insane before they were finished; living out the rest of his days in a small cardboard box in his wife’s walk in closet, refusing to wear anything made with more than one type of fabric.

The fleet of ships left the blue and now worryingly grey marble behind, until it was just another dot into the blackness, and spread out across the void. Many advancements in science and understanding, had progressed since the days of hitting each other with large sticks but some facts remained true.  Even though now, any man could make a cup of quality coffee in under 4 seconds and could change the colour of their socks with their mind, the laws of physics still refused any leniency. And so the speed of which the ships traveled across the emptiness, was relatively pathetic. Compared to the speed of light, humanity left their home in a slight jog. Each ship with its built in programing set off to different destinations across the solar system, colonizing every piece of available surface that still caught the sun’s ray’s.

The plan worked, better than even some of the more annoyingly optimistic scientists’ had hoped. The years’ tumbled by as humanity spread across their system, setting foot on every alien surface that it could walk on. New generations came to call other worlds’ home and people did what people do best, adapt.

Centuries’ passed since those historic days. A quiet normality had washed over the stars’, people were born. Walked about eating snacks and died usually in the same order as before. Even Wars’ were little more than disagreements as civilisations stretched their legs in new found space. The noteworthy events that occurred in this time wouldn’t have passed for a slow news week in a retirement community. Differences formed naturally across the solar system as abright and varied civilization had emerged.

Then suddenly, well as sudden as a methodical systematic climb to power can be, in the last months of 3138 almost a thousand years’ after people had started to notice that the morning trains’ were getting a little overcrowded, a man followed a simple dream, to bring every person together under a single easily recognisable and relatable tyrannical rule. Greg Miller was his name, a man from another age entirely. An Officer of the historic craft ‘Unnamed’,called as such due to an ongoing licensing disagreement at the time of launch; One of the first ships to leave Earth a millennia ago. As an Officer, he was subject to the seemly instantaneous travel that suspended animation provided, except unlike his coworkers’ he never woke up. According to legend, Miller had been very aggressive to several of the onboard computers’ and the ship’s A.I left him in stasis out of spite, motionless, in a dreamless sleep until a few weeks shy of a thousand years’ later, when the warranty on the cryogenic freezer was almost up and the system was scheduled for replacement. When Miller finally roused from his impressively long lie in, it was discovered that due to a clerical error he was still being payed by the hour. Consequently, he awoke with enough money that with sensible budgeting he could settle down comfortably for several billion lifetimes. Like any reasonable man in this position, Miller instantly set upon a decade long campaign of death, destruction and the conquering of all humanity.

11 years passed as Miller’s War raged on tirelessly. Coming to rule over half of the solar system under the more fitting name of ‘Kargothon the Annihilator’,or Karon for short. Karon’s fleet of Death Cruisers’ patrol the void.  Their long slender structures sail through space like shards of glass in a dark sea. His great orbital Death Moons’ hang above world’s; the giant space stations of subjugation designed to intimidate planet’s inhabitants’ into submission mainly by how expensive they looked. Karon’s forces were the largest employers’ of young men and women in the known Universe, principly as his iconic Death Troopers’ who each receive very shiny cream battle armor and rather exciting pension schemes.

On Kargothan’s most forgettable Death Moon, two Troopers’ are on their way to lunch, early.

The two men moved quickly through the spiraling maze like halls in the timeless awkward half walk, half jog of people in a polite hurry.  The walkways were bone white, plastered with a myriad of startlingly bright lights strong enough that nothing ever cast a shadow. Endless corridors’ branched out from subsequent branches in the endless array of directions.  Navigation was a learned necessity, many weaker minded workers’ could be lost for days at time in the disorienting labyrinth. It was widely regarded as the single worst place to work with a hangover.

Neither of the two men had been drinking the previous night, but queasy uncertainty and the occasional bout of sweating was present regardless. The larger of the two men was Martin. A tall thin man who was constantly made aware of the fact that he was tall because when people met him, their first words were usually to the tune of “Wow you’re tall”. This encounter always annoyed Martin, as most people seemed to be genuinely taken aback by his lack of surprise at his own height. Martin had owned many mirrors in his life, and had to order special tailored battle armour at his own expense.  His height never managed to sneak up on him like it did to others. At present, he had taken to wearing an assortment of particularly unstylish hats, partly because of the suspicious leak in sector J-98, but mainly as to give people who just met him something else to talk about.

Beside him was Roger, struggling to keep up without having to commit to a full jog, his large metallic work boots clanked in an awkward pattern as he followed Martin. Roger was a man of almost no discernible physical description.  He was built like an average man of his age with an average haircut, average smile, and a surprisingly average smell. He was effectively ‘a one man crowd’, able to blend into any situation by sheer aesthetic blandness. However, since he was generally seen standing next to Martin, he was often remarked upon as being short and plump, possibly due a widespread misunderstanding of the theory of ‘General Relativity’.

Roger and Martin, like everyone of their time, had no surname. The idea of surnames died out a few hundred years prior when a particularly bored statistician pointed out how much time and ink governments could save on paperwork. They were phased out almost instantly with no major repercussions, other than at one particular local martian election 7 years later, when problems emerged at the voting booths; all the candidates’ happened to be called ‘Terry’ and people had to resort to personal descriptors – resulting in the historically popular 2 term serving President, ‘Fat Terry’.

The two men held the type of friendship that only living and working together, in an ever constant company, could foster. One based on loneliness, boredom and occasionally, the need to call someone for extra toilet paper. The pair were stationed together in sector J-98 and their duty mainly involved the upkeep and maintenance of several waste management areas. To most of their superiors’ they seemed like the right men for the job.

Martin’s eyes darted between empty corridors’.  He had made this trip countless times but somehow it was easier to know where to go when the place was full with people. He Looked back over his shoulder, double checking the sign posts they had passed, making sure he was heading towards the Cafeteria and caught the worried look of apprehension plastered across Roger’s signature nondescript features.

“Stop panicking there’s no-one around to see us” said Martin.

“Because everyone else isn’t as stupid as us” replied Roger.

“Nothing stupid about getting a fair deal for once.”

“Abandoning our posts to get sandwiches? It’s pretty dumb.”

“Were not abandoning our post, we just left for lunch a tad early.”

“An hour early”

“Early enough to get a proper meal for once. I’m sick of those Engineering bastards’ cleaning out the exciting end of the buffet before we arrive again.”

“I think they built their office closest to the Cafeteria on purpose.”

“Exactly, I won’t be made to eat another plate of that green mossy stuff. I swear I’ve seen it growing in one of the bathrooms.”

“As gross as that is, I’m not sure it’s worth the risk. Things have gotten stricter round here. Besides I’m sure I’ve got something edible in my locker.”

“You were on board 20 minutes ago, we’re almost halfway there, why are your worrying know?”

“I’m not that hungry anymore,besides I’m full up on fear.”

“You’re a coward.”

“Exactly, there’s no such thing as a hungry coward.”

The realization had began to seep into Roger’s mind; leaving their sector almost an hour before their allocated schedule allowed, seemed like a good idea when he agreed to it. He wondered now if that was because he’d spent the morning setting rat traps in one of the larger air ducts and had forgotten to turn off all of the exotic and intoxicating fumes. Now that his head was clearing, it was starting to make some very valid observations. He felt the need to share one of the more important ones with Martin… “You do know the new punishment for abandoning your post, don’t you”?

“No, what do they dock your pay for the afternoon.”

“Yes, actually, well if by dock you mean docking bay airlock, and if by your pay you mean thrown out of and if by the afternoon you mean until your insides boil and your skin slides of your face.”

“Where did you hear that?”

“Samson told me.”

“Rubbish, Samson’s a jittery idiot, the man’s so scared of space he can’t even take baths in the dark anymore.”

“True, but still I heard things were getting terribly strict around here.”

“Well it’s a good thing we’re not abandoning our posts’ then, were just heading out to lunch early.”

“Afraid that’s not entirely your decision to make.”

replied neither Martin or Roger, who both stopped dead, looking at each other desperately hoping the other person had a hidden talent for ventriloquism.

Roger and martin turned on their respective heels as a large man stepped out of an alcove. His chest was ladened with various shiny badges and stripes, putting him several rungs up on the authority ladder. The Officer slowly and carefully placed his plasma pistol onto his electric keyboard and with much theatrics, stroked his hand across his weapon as if caressing an old friend, flicking the safety off whilst staring intently at the pair.

“Fifteen seconds.” continued the Officer “that’s how long people usually last in the vacuum. Good thing I bumped into you before eating, otherwise things can get a bit messy. Now would you like anymore details before I take your names and DNA code? – Or would you enjoy the surprise.”

“I like surprises.” blurted Roger

You won’t like this one I assure you.” purred the Officer as he menacingly cracked his neck in several places. Having only just enrolled in his Sector’s Theatrical Troupe, he was unaware of the concept of overacting.

“I can explain.” protested Martin with surprising confidence.

“Oh by all means go ahead.”

“The thing is we…” –  Martin only got that far before he was cut off by a very loud and very pained scream.

Sector J-98 was one of the major Junction points of the space station; a place where many pipes, ducts and wires stopped off on their journey before departing again to other sections. It was a Sector that was so rarely visited that it had been left off many of the newer maps of the space station, simply to save time.

To maintain the machinery correctly, took expertise, training and passion – which neither Martin nor Roger had; instead they survived on brute force, luck and the willingness to instantly blame any other sector for their problems. Most of the day-to-day work involved moving rubbish around to more appropriate areas and kicking any machinery that tried to take a quick break. For this job, after 6 months of constant bugging and several toe related trips to the medi bay, they had been assigned a single pair of reinforced steel edged boots, which Roger took to wearing almost permanently, due to the cumbersome and improper method he learned to remove them.

The shoes were designed to withstand terribly large incidents with high powered machinery, harbouring impressive strength and as they connected with the groin of a class 7 Enforcement Officer, the effect was similar to that of a pair of plums in a hydraulic press. The Officer dropped to his knees, screaming several octaves higher than he would have expected. Martin watched transfixed as the man on the floor writhed in excruciating agony.  Allowing himself a quick moment to calmly assess the situation before slipping into the familiar clutches of full blown panic.

He looked to his left to see Roger staring at his foot accusingly and decided to take the initiative and blame someone…

“Roger! What have you done!”

“You heard the same airlock speech right?”

“And this is your response?”

“Hey I wanted to turn back.”

“Well there’s no turning back now.”

“We were goners anyway.”

“So you killed him?”

“He might be ok, maybe the floor was already wet.  Oh, no that’s blood, that’s a lot of blood… why is there so much blood?.”

The pair looked at the crumpled heap on the floor, the Officer leaned his head up from his waist and through gritted teeth he spat the words “you’re both dead.”

“Oh thank God exclaimed” Roger who never fancied himself as a murderer.

“Don’t be relieved, he’s going to report us.”

“At Least I tried something. What are you planning to do to help our situation? “

“Run!” shouted Martin already legging it down the hallway not looking back.

Roger watched his friend manically charge off into the distance; it was not a graceful sight as Martin wasn’t blessed with natural athletic prowess, flapping his long extremities in a rather hypnotic manner. As the irregular footsteps faded, Roger returned to the broken man on the floor.

“I’d get some ice or frozen peas on that if I were you, although the Cafeterias not open for another…20 mins.”

The Officer glared at him with a look several degrees beyond hatred.

“Sorry, I guess, but in all fairness, you were being a bit out of order. “added Roger as he slowly slipped away and broke into the lightest of jogs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *