Chapter 3

[1334 Anno Tellus]

THE VESUVIAN EXPANSE

VX-2KR System

It's a rather dull day as the Fleet-Nation of August Intrepid serenely travels across the void of space in the star system they are currently exploring within this newly accessed region. The fleet-nation is composed in total of hundreds of vessels that function as their mode of transport, home to its inhabitants and sovereign realm of the fleet-nation's government. Among the hundreds of ships of August Intrepid, the real core of the fleet-nation are the dozen behemoths that the rest of the ships assembled around.

The first among them are the eight massive cityships with each home to hundreds of thousands. Cityships are massive cylindrically-shaped vessels with a curved nose that is longer at the top, and have blocky rear where their massive engines are located. Each cityship is around seven miles long, and over one and a half miles in diameter.

Next in line are the three even larger greatships with each home to over a million inhabitants. They are massive elliptical cylinders with wide curved delta wings that gave the vessel an overall arrow shape. A greatship is nearly eighteen miles long, over six and a half miles wide along its wingspan, and less than four miles tall.

Lastly is the gargantuan arkship Regalia that served as the flagship of the Fleet-Nation and home to over two million people and as headquarters of the Sovereign Magistracy. The arkship is shaped like one massive cross with elliptical cross-section along its axis while tapering towards the end, and has a massive domes on the top and bottom sides at the intersection. It is the largest vessel within the August Intrepid being around thirty-six miles long, over thirteen miles across and over seven miles height.

The fleet-nation is currently heading towards the inner system to explore the habitable zone more closely while also sending other smaller ships to scout the rest of the system for resource prospecting. Life aboard the fleet-nation continue on as normal since travelling to unexplored regions of space and exploring new systems is not new to its inhabitants due to their nomadic lifestyle.


ABOARD THE CITYSHIP RANKOR

Amaron has just finished aligning the five torus-shaped superconductor coil assembly of the plasma torch that is set on the floor before him. He can see that the coils are lined true as shown on his HUD projected on his faceplate. He raised his right forearm which glowed dull neon blue as a vambrace-like projection formed around it and a gun-like tool in his open hands. He then gripped the tool's handle and pointed the muzzle at the braces of the coils. With a mental command, a short stream of energized nano-filaments shot towards the connection between the coils and the bracings. He efficiently and gently moved it along the connection, the nano-filaments weaving the two seamlessly together, until he completed half the bracing. He repeated it to the other coils on the same side before repeating the entire process on the other side. The entire process took him less than two minutes to finish. The projected tool then dematerialized, leaving only the glowing gauntlet, as he re-examined the alignment on his HUD.

"That should do it." He said with a nod of satisfaction, seeing they're still perfectly aligned, and stood up.

He wore his personalized Argon Exo-Frame which consisted of a dark gray single-piece suit, a helmet and silver gray plated body chassis. The helmet is fully enclosed with a black visor, tapering to the sides, circular disk on each side, a flat crested top that is sloped to the sides, and a thick box-like feature at the back. The body chassis consisted of a half segmented cuirass with solid plates for the upper torso and segmented bands for the rest , a pair of vambraces, shoulder pauldrons, hip and pelvis guard, greaves and plated boots.

He mentally accessed the functions of his vis projector and quickly found what he needed with the speed of thought. He stood up and took a step back before pointing the palm of his left hand at the entire machine. The flat disk on his armored palm glowed white before a stream of white energy shot towards the compressor assembly and engulfed it in an energy field. He easily levitated the large machine off the floor and brought it towards one of the phased array processors in the facility.

As he got closer, he can see the others bringing in the rest of the machine's components, levitating them as he did. He reached one of the large ports at one side of the machine where the others are in the processing of installing the other coils and components. He guided his own coil assembly into a proper alignment with the tube in the slot before inserting it and locking it in place before ceasing the energy field. He then activated projector's multi-tool function to weld the assembly, using the nano-filaments, with the interior of the slot.

He then worked with the others to connect the newly refitted processor to connect the torch slots with the plasma node located between it and the other processor. They used small magnetic tubes to connect the torch slots with the slots on the side of the plasma node that is directly facing them. They finished the connection in few short minutes and promptly cleared the area.

"Standby for activation." Said the operator as he began inputting the sequences on the interface screen of his console.

The massive machine hummed with life as energy coursed through its conduits and circuitry. Various green lights appeared on the console, indicating the systems of the machines are functioning normally, and proceeded with the second and final phase. Hot plasma is then allowed to flow from the node to the plasma torches which in turn energized the plasma to a higher temperature. The energized plasma surge into the ionization chamber where it bombarded the crushed pieces of scraps and raw ores, suspended in midair, and disintegrated them into heavy ions. A directional field collector on the other side of the chamber began drawing in the ionized mixture for segregation in the next chamber.

"All systems green." The operator said gladly before addressing them. "Good work and another job well done, everyone. We're done here." He then set the system on automatic.

Amaron cheered with the others at the announcement. They then go their separate ways towards the various wide archways of the facility. He first have to pick up a package before going home.

She's going to love this one. Amaron mentally said to himself as he thought of the gift safely stored in his micro-transmatter. He couldn't wait to give Nicole the gift once he got back aboard the Entrea.

He is currently walking along the pathways in Rankor's internal harbor towards the hangar bay where his own ship is located. He walks among the relatively small crowd of people, occasionally going stepping aside for passing yard workers and drones, until he reaches hangar bay Rho-6.

Inside the cavernous hangar bay is an array of personal ships of various designs. He walks past the other ships until he reaches his own ship, the Proxima, which is grounded to the platform with four landing pads under it.

The Proxima is Jovian-class jumpship which is one of the many models of personal spaceships in the Sovereignty. It took him years to save up credits and to collect resources to finally have it build in a shipyard constructor. It is shaped like one large elongated arrowhead with thick stubby wings near the end. It has a length of one hundred thrity-five feet, nearly sixteen feet tall and a wingspan of fifty-nine feet. Most of the hull is colored gunmetal gray with distinct patches of platinum and magneta around the sides, and large symmetric pair of black patches at the top side.

He smiled at sight of the Proxima which had been his home on the road, in a way, for several years since he left the Aurum Gallantia and traveled to different hubs of known space before he settled down with the August Intrepid. He approached near the portside bow of his ship and had sent a signal towards the ship. A portion of the side then split open horizontally, and the split halves swung outward, revealing a sealed door inside, with the lower half extending to form a step ladder. He stepped up towards the door which then slid open before him, and entered into the spacious and mostly empty multi-purpose compartment. The door slid close behind him as soon as he entered before he heard the outer panels closing and sealed itself with a muffled thump. He turned left and headed towards the helm.

The helm is quite spacious despite its small size with its three small consoles around pilot's chair, and has a surround screen that arched halfway around him and above him. He sat on the pilot's chair and then pressed the button on the panel under the control handles that is attached to the central console. This activated the ship's systems as the consoles lit up and projected a few holo-screens, showing the status of the ship's different systems. The surround screen also lit up and showed him a full view around the bow of his ship.

He ran through the start-up sequence as he tapped in the commands into the consoles to boot the jumpship's major systems.

[Energy Reserve…. 91%]

[Neural Link established…]

[Activating Fusion Cores…]

He heard the humming sound of the fusion cores as they received energy for the start-up and pre-ignition charge. It took a few moments before the ignition began with a twin whoosh and then a droning whirr as highly energized plasma flowed out of the exhaust and into the plasma generators.

[Fusion Core 1…..…. Online]

[Fusion Core 2…..…. Online]

[Power Output…... Optimal at 60%]

[Energy Reserve….. 100%]

[Force Generator…. Online]

[Shield Generator…... Online]

[Plasma Thrusters…... On Standby]

[Warp Drive…. On Standby]

He checked the various readings shown on the holo-screens before the computer reported all of the systems are working properly. He then held onto the control handles and switched on propulsion's hover mode which activated the force generator's repulse function. He quickly felt the gentle sensation of his ship rising and have the landing pads retracted.

He turned the ship starboard towards the large opening of hangar bay where a translucent atmospheric barrier protected the hangar from the vacuum of the internal harbor. The plasma thrusters gently pushed the vessel as he guided the Proxima towards the opening at a slow pace and soon passed through the barrier. The harbor is quite active even at this time of day with various ships going around, and the docking yards are packed with larger ships, including dozens of warships of the fleet-nation's defense force. He contacted the harbor control center as the Proxima cleared away from the hangar bay.

"Rankor Harbor Control, this is Proxima requesting permission to leave the harbor."

It took a few moments before he received a reply.

"This is Rankor Harbor Control. You are clear to exit through Harbor Door C."

"Thank you, Control. Much appreciated."

"You're welcome, Proxima. And please be advised, we're detecting a small mobile anomaly within the vicinity."

An anomaly. And it's mobile. Amaron thought it quite strange since he haven't heard of such. He then gave a reply. "Copy that, Control. I'll keep an eye on my sensors. Proxima out."

"Have a good flight."

Amaron guided the Proxima towards Harbor Door C that is located starboard side near the belly of Rankor where a few ships can be seen either exiting or entering. The Proxima cruised beside one of the larger industrial ships and soon exited through the harbor door. He continued moving straight for a few moments, putting some clearance between the Proxima and the harbor door, before he broke away from the traffic and into the vast open space.

He increased the thrust output of the plasma thrusters and felt the acceleration as the Proxima sped up. He did a few twist and turns to see if the systems are working as they should and get some adrenaline into him. He then leveled his flight path and headed towards direction of the Entrea that is marked on the screen. He thought about the good relaxing time and getting to spend some time with Nicole.

His train of thoughts is interrupted as he received an alarm from one of the panels, and his neural link allowed him to sense the cause for alarm is coming in from portside-aft. A new holo-screen popped over the left console and showed a bright indigo sphere with a fiery aura along with various readings his sensors can detect. He soon received a signal from one of the nearby frigates of the defense force.

"This is the Nimbus. Come in, Proxima. We're detecting the anomaly approaching fast to your position." Amaron quickly activated his comms and replied.

"This is the Proxima. My sensors just detected it a moment ago. I'll be moving out of its way."

The Proxima turned hard right and increased speed to get clear from the anomaly's trajectory, expecting it to keep going in its earlier direction. But the anomaly easily adjusted its trajectory towards its intended target, much to the surprise of those observing it.

What the? Amaron is alarmed when he sensed that the anomaly suddenly turned and is still heading towards him. This can't be right. I have to get away fast. He contacted the Nimbus whose communications link is still active. "Nimbus, the anomaly is still on my six. I will have to speed around and try to shake it off."

"Affirmative, we've already notified all nearby ships and command about the new situation. We'll keep close and observe." The comm-link is then disengaged, leaving Amaron alone with thoughts and worries.

Here goes nothing. He thought before he increased the output of the fusion drives and diverted more of the increased power to the plasma thrusters. The ship surged forward and accelerated away from the closing anomaly. Like before, the anomaly adjusted and matched the new acceleration as it continued to home in to the Proxima. The Nimbus gave chase and released several drones to watch both the anomaly and the jumpship.

Just what in hell is this?! Amaron is very alarmed when the anomaly easily matched his speed as he performed some twisting maneuvers in an effort to lose whatever is making it chase his ship. But all his attempts failed as the anomaly still continued to chase him and only succeeded in giving him more time. He then received a signal from the Nimbus that alerted him to a danger close strike which can only mean one thing, and quickly have an acknowledgement sent.

As soon as he replied, his sensors alerted him to several missiles homing in to the anomaly. Flashes of light appeared behind the Proxima as the missiles detonated within close proximity of the anomaly at point blank range. The flashes soon dissipated and revealed that the anomaly is not much affected. Few more flashes soon followed as a next salvo of missiles detonated with greater force, enough to affect his shields with minute damage.

"That's far too close for comfort, Nimbus!" Amaron alerted the frigate, feeling jittery under his suit.

"We're doing what we can. Keep your distance as much as you can." The Nimbus replied before pausing. "Be advised, a disruption field generator has just been deployed ahead of you. Lure the anomaly there."

A disruptor! He is now more concerned. A spatial field disruptor is used to prevent any sort of FTL activity around it, and call pull vessels out of warp or prevent ships from jumping inside. Useful for defending places like a ship or station as it places a hostile vessel before armed defenses. But due to the nature of the disruption field, it can also damage ships within it and interfere with their speed, even more damaging for fast-moving vessels like his.

"How am I supposed to do that? I don't think my ship can last that long in the disruptor field!"

"The disruptor is currently at low enough setting which should allow your jumpship to pass without getting too damaged." A short pause followed after the reply from the Nimbus. "Try to get more to your shield and engines. They will try to catch the anomaly in a high strength disruptor field as soon as you cleared it. Hopefully it can destroy it."

Amaron sighed in defeat as he knew he can't do much about the situation. He took a short moment to compose himself before replying. "Will do, Nimbus. I'll try to get more power for my ship. You better tell whoever is manning that disruptor to time it real good and do it fast. This is too much excitement for me to handle."

"Copy that. Godspeed, Proxima." The Nimbus then disconnected and left Amaron to prepare his ship will keeping the anomaly at bay.

He increased the fuel input of the two fusion drives and diverted power from some non-essential systems. He used the additional power to strengthen his shield and integrity field. He then took some deep breathing as he focused his mind on the task ahead of him. He also engaged the seat strap and a U-shaped frame flipped from the back of the pilot seat and settled on his torso, keeping him in place.

He will have to keep firm control of his speed and flight path since even at low strength, the disruption field can really mess with his ship due to the turbulence it generates. From the looks of things, he also need to pass near the disruption generator itself to get more chance of slowing it down and catching it when the field switched to high strength. With the anomaly still closing in, he will have to go in real fast and hope that his piloting skills is enough to save his hide.

The Proxima jumped at the sudden burst of speed as a twin trail of bright ions from its two main thrusters at the rear pushed the ship with greater force. He mildly felt the acceleration due to the inertial dampener field kicking in. The jumpship maintained a straight path towards the disruption field generator. The drones from the Nimbus maintained formation as they followed the ship and anomaly as they raced ahead.

He kept watch of the range sensor which showed the numbers, indicating the distance between him and the field perimeter, rapidly decreasing. He steadied his nerves as he held tightly to the control handles.

Here we go. He can see the disruption field turbulence on his screen, graphically enhanced for easier navigation, ever coming closer. The spherical field is quite small when compared to what he had seen before in the archives. He can also sense the anomaly slowly catching up to him, giving him a very short window of opportunity.

The Proxima dived into the field, keeping straight for a few moments, as it continued to plow through with the anomaly quite close at his tail. Amaron felt the turbulence shaking his ship but kept it steady as much as he can. As soon as he passed the generator itself with the anomaly, slowing down due to the field, close behind him, the generator switched to a high strength field. Within a span of few moments, three things happened in quick succession.

The sudden increased in strength of the disruption field threw the Proxima out of order like a ragdoll when turbulence knocked it out of its flight path. Various systems of the Proxima malfunctioned and lost much of its power to the thrusters. The inertial dampener and reaction control quickly kicked in to stabilize the jumpship but at the cost of losing speed as it left the disruption field.

The anomaly is slowed down by the high strength disruption field but didn't waver much from its trajectory. It also still have enough power to pass through the field and hit the struggling Proxima. The Proxima is then engulfed with bright indigo field which slowly stabilized its orientation.

Various alarms blared around him with computer alerting him to malfunction in different systems to his neural link and holo-screens. He is also alerted to the energy field that had now engulfed his ship, and activated the distress beacon. Damn it. He cursed as he struggled to get his ship into order. Another alarm blared as the sensors alerted him to a large hyperspace rift forming near him. Oh crap!

He focused on getting his propulsion back to order as auto-repair worked to fix whatever is causing the malfunction. The plasma thrusters kicked in just in time as a large oval portal opened near him. The Proxima turned as the reaction thrusters pushed the bow, pointing it away from the portal, and the main thrusters struggled to push against the field that is now pulling the ship towards the portal.

"Mayday! Mayday! I'm being pulled in!" He called out, scared for his life, through his communication system. He received a number of replies including from the Nimbus that had been assisting him since the anomaly chased him.

"Hang on! We're coming in!"

"Get the tugs *static* -he Proxima! Get hi- *static* out of there!"

"Sher- *static* Ho- *static* -et it traced!"

Several tugs and drones closed in on his position, racing against time. But with an unexpected strength, the Proxima is pulled into the portal like a stretched rubber band that is released into the air. The portal closed as soon as the Proxima passed through, leaving only an empty space aside from the drones and small vessels that arrived too late.


[Region: Unknown]

[System: Unknown]

Amaron can only see blackest of black as the surround screen showed him the vast empty void he is currently in. His sensors is not detecting any star wherever he is, but it still told him that the energy field is active and is currently pulling his ship. He only have few power to deliver to the thrusters due to the effects of the disruption field earlier, and he still have enough energy charge for his shield and integrity field but they can only be used for a short time.

His last thought before he is pulled into portal is of Nicole that he should have been spending time with. He vowed to the Light that he will return home and make sure to give whoever caused this a piece of his mind.

His trip through the empty void lasted only a few moments before the ship's sensors told him that they're currently heading to another portal, similar to the one he entered. He prepared himself for the inevitable and prayed that he would survive this event.

The Proxima entered the portal and exited into the blue sky, much to his surprise. He can see a vast greenish land with forests and hills around, and several mountains from afar. He only have a few moments to enjoy the view before he felt the sensation of falling and the vibration as the ship plowed through the atmosphere at high speed. He nearly forgot that the force generator is offline which should have kept his ship aloft.

He engaged the airbrakes to slow him down and kept his nose point away from the ground. The plasma thrusters are engaged to keep his speed manageable. He knew he will be coming in hard so he will have to make his ship to hit the ground at an angle and plow through the soft dirt, limiting the damage to his ship once the shield is knocked out.

Within a few seconds, the Proxima slammed into the ground, jarring Amaron in his seat, and plowed through ground, sending dirt into the air and digging a trench. He saw a stone wall ahead of him and braced himself for the impact. The force of the impact nearly threw him forward, if it weren't for the strap frame that he activated earlier, when the Proxima crashed into the stone wall which exploded into a shower of shattered masonry. The crashed stopped the jumpship to a halt and settled over the messy pile of rocks.

Uugghh… Amaron isn't feeling quite well with the jarring shake he had just received from the crash. The surround screen is currently offline as the system struggled to get itself operational. This left him unaware of robe-wearing inhabitants and armor-wearing guards heading towards the crashed Proxima.