A blast of warm air buffeted Captain Arnold Reims as he stepped out of the spaceport doors, carrying the flat, dry scent of highly recycled, manufactured atmosphere with it. The dome far above was transparent, allowing the light of Alpha Centauri’s twin suns to light up the glistening metal spires of the New Plymouth business district, the transportation and commerce hub of the colony’s capitol city.
Author’s Note: Thank you to all of our readers for your patience during this longer-than-expected hiatus. Andrew and I are both thrilled to get back to writing for you again, and we hope that you’ll enjoy the rest of the story as it unfolds. Don’t forget to leave all your advice, criticism, and questions in the comments. Happy New Year, and welcome back aboard the Triumph.
Caris sat cross-legged on the floor of the bridge, taking in the calm glow of the Earth through the viewport before her. From the Triumph’s position orbiting the moon, the planet looked like a huge marble of opaque, swirled glass, a fragile work of art made to be looked at from a distance but not touched. For Caris, it may as well have been. Born and raised in the People’s Republic of Asia’s colony on Sirius III, she’d never set foot on Earth before, and considering her recent activity with the Alpha Centauri resistance she wasn’t likely to do so anytime soon. Even being this close was rare, and she savored the opportunity to take in the unique beauty of humanity’s home. Everyone she knew and loved, every friend and enemy and stranger found their origin in that expanse of dirt and sea and sky. Its very atoms were rich with history.
The jarring arrival of an Osprey class cruiser shattered the calm of an otherwise empty stretch of deep space. Her clean white hull bore the name “Liberty” in scarlet letters along the bow on both sides, and beside it the seal of the United Provinces of North America Air and Space Force, a gold and blue leaf-wreathed star, asserted its authority. The ship was the very picture of military order and decorum, every facet sleek and shining, every line crisply defined and every curve even and smooth. She looked like she belonged in the midst of a mighty fleet, not drifting alone in an unimportant patch of the infinite void.
The door had hardly closed behind Eve, Nathan, and Scamp before they felt the Triumph rising back up into the air. Daniel was waiting in the corridor to meet them, his stance tense, radiating nervous energy. “Gun run went south,” he announced, his words clipped and concise. “Two Ravens tailed Hank, Provincials.”
Nathan’s face grew grim, and his mind slipped immediately into crisis mode. “Damages?”
“Hank’s dead, took the Provincials with him.”
“Hank took out two Ravens?” Eve asked incredulously. “In his flying scrapheap?”
“He had a little help,” Daniel conceded. “The point is we lost the shipment and our gun runner.”
The Triumph slipped through space at impossible speeds as smoothly and quietly as a swan gliding on the surface of a country lake, the field of dark energy around her creating a space outside of space just big enough for the Triumph with its own, much less restrictive set of rules. From inside, Daniel could only see to the edge of the dark matter field as it whisked him through the stars. Everything beyond the viewport was darkness, and as the adrenaline from his great escape faded slowly out of his bloodstream he could almost believe that the universe was gone, that the blast from the VOYD RUNNER had wiped every star and every planet from existence, had converted every last molecule of matter into light and heat and sound, and he alone had escaped.
Waiting has its own particular silence. The Triumph’s engines muttered idly, her circuits and systems clicked and whirred in the panels and the walls and her crew breathed with the slow, shallow rhythm of anticipation, but the sounds joined together to form a pattern that was less than the sum of its parts – a blanket of white noise as quiet and still as the space in which the ship floated, motionless and alone.