Fallen Heroes Part II Chapter II

Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 101
Joined: Sun Feb 18, 2018 12:47 pm
Commendations: The Daystrom Award

Fallen Heroes Part II Chapter II

Post by Alexbright99 »

Here is the newest chapter of the Fallen Heroes story. Like Chapter I, this chapter will be uploaded in four parts, with a new part each Friday.

And in case you're wondering: there are six chapters in total ;)

Fallen Heroes Part II Chapter IIa

Earth, San Francisco – July 1, 2380 – Stardate 57498.6
From the moment the sun began its early-morning reign, there hasn’t been a cloud in sight. In a few hours, the sun will ring the curtain down on another well-received performance and disappear behind the horizon. Until then, everyone in and out of the city can revel in the comfort of a warm summer’s day.

Lieutenant Ralph Blue has been working in the garden all day, yet he’s reluctant to quit. His endearingly archaic cottage on the outskirts of San Francisco is surrounded by a large garden, which requires frequent maintenance. That’s no issue for Ralph, who can be found tending his box trees whenever his busy work schedule in Starfleet’s science division allows him the opportunity.

In his late forties, the lieutenant is an attractive man. His well-preserved looks and natural charm, complemented by his laugh lines, give him every ingredient to be a typical ladies’ man. However, after his wife left him when their only son was ten years old, his appetite for romance faded. Self-blame and regret formed a bitter cocktail preventing him from opening up to anyone new. Instead, he focused on being a good parent, until the Borg cut those efforts short. Following his assimilation into the Borg Collective and his subsequent rescue at the hands of his son, who left shortly thereafter, he embraces these instances of solitude to reflect on his life. On a day like this, there’s no doubt in his mind that he’s on the right track.

So here the off-duty lieutenant is trying his best to turn a box tree into a perfect globe while occasionally throwing a glance at the city of San Francisco, which lies gleaming in the evening sun. He has no regret whatsoever for moving to this house on this hill with its bright green grass and fertile soil. Having lived here for almost two years now, he is yet to grow tired of the scenery, so he glimpses at the city once more, only to discover that a figure has emerged at the far end of the garden.

“Dad?” the figure says.

Ralph responds by cutting his award-winning box tree neatly in half. Oblivious to his act of tree mutilation, he drops his gardening tools and slowly rises to his feet, squinting at the silhouette. Could it be… “Tony?” he says, staggering toward the figure. Once he’s close enough to recognize his son, Ralph breaks into a run, aching muscles or not.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t—” Tony says, unable to finish his sentence because Ralph hugs him so thoroughly he’s lifted off the ground.

To Ralph’s surprise, his son winces in pain, prompting Ralph to let go and step back. Though this shouldn’t be, the young commander appears weak and disheveled. Granted, his wearing civilian clothing instead of a pristine Starfleet uniform might detract from his usual confident aspect, and it has been a year since Ralph has last seen him, but he knows his son well enough to sense his misery. “You’re not a Q anymore.”

Arms hanging by his sides, Tony stares at the grass. “Is it that obvious?”

“Is this why you’ve come back?”

Tony struggles to come up with a proper answer. “I… I just wanted to say hello,” he says, trying to sound indifferent and failing. “And I was hoping we could talk.”

“I must say I did not expect this sudden visit,” Ralph says in a serious tone.

Tony opens his mouth, yet words elude him.

“But you know you’re always welcome here.” The affectionate warmth in Ralph’s voice should alleviate any lingering feelings of guilt. “Stay here as long as you like or as long as Starfleet will let you stay.”

This marks the first time since last year that he sees Tony smile.

“You know your way around the house,” Ralph says as he guides his son to their home. While they’re traversing the stone path leading to the front door, he notices Tony is limping. He decides not to mention it. It can wait. Right now, he is content knowing his son has returned. “Your bedroom is still in the same place. I figured you’d be back one day.”

From the corner of his eye, he spots another figure in the garden: a brown-haired woman roughly the same age as Tony. He gives Tony an inquiring look. “Who is she?”

Tony responds with a brief eruption of incoherent stammering. That’s not working, so after a second of contemplation, he levels his gaze at his dad and says, “Umm… can we keep her?”

* * *

Night has fallen over the Pacific Coast. Tony has grabbed a hideous, yellow lawn chair and placed it smack-dab in the middle of the garden, facing a beautiful panorama of San Francisco and all its colorful city lights. The night sky is free of clouds and would be empty and peaceful were it not for the steady streams of air trams, city hoppers, and shuttles crisscrossing the Bay Area like organized fireflies. They carry on as if nothing has changed and nothing ever will, as if the Station A-12 Debacle never took place. He could almost trick himself into believing that—almost. Sitting there, alone with his thoughts, he cannot escape that gnawing feeling one gets after returning from a long vacation: as if one never left to begin with.

His father, carrying an equally hideous lawn chair, walks up to him and seats himself next to his son. “That Emily sure is a sweet girl,” he says. “I can tell she’s feeling at home already. She has customized the guest room to suit her wishes and made an inventory of everything we have and should have.”

“Yeah, she’s like that,” Tony says with a subdued smile. “We’d better get used to it.”

“With her steadfast and strong-willed personality, she reminds me a bit of Sally.”

Tony’s subtle smile turns into a joyless grin. “Let’s hope Emily possesses the loyalty Mom lacked.”

Ralph clears his throat before asking cautiously, “While you were out there, did you reestablish contact with your mother?”

“No. I haven’t spoken with her since she left us.” Tony rubs his jaw. “To tell you the truth, with the way it all went down, how she abandoned us, I don’t ever want to see her again.”

“Neither do I,” Ralph says, though he doesn’t sound convincing.

With that touchy subject out of the way, they silently enjoy the soft weather and take in the splendid view. Minutes drift by like the maundering petals of the lone cherry blossom tree standing proudly at the edge of the garden.

“I’ve really missed this,” Tony says. “It’s different when you’re human. Cool breeze on my skin, air filling my lungs, a real heart pumping blood through my veins, being restricted to one time and place, watching stars that were once my domain. It is humbling to realize how incredibly weak and small I have become.” He catches himself speaking with sudden contempt. “Sorry…”

“It’s okay, son.” Ralph hesitates before continuing. “Emily told me a few things about what you went through at Station A-12, what you did and sacrificed. I can’t imagine what it must be like for you, what storm is raging in your head. I’d like to, but I can’t.”

“That’s all right. I can’t imagine how I feel either,” Tony says with a wry smirk. “My current strategy is to try not to think about it too much. I’ll deal with it when I must. It will take time, good old-fashioned linear time.” He wishes he had a beverage with him. That last sentence would have warranted taking a swig and looking pensively into the distance.

“You’ve changed.”

Tony nods, trying to appear stolid while suppressing a brief, unannounced pang of remorse.

“Standing up against the Q Continuum, choosing a side and facing the harsh consequences. You knew what you were giving up.”

“But was it worth it?” Tony asks, no longer pretending to be indifferent. “Most of my friends are dead; I couldn’t prevent that from happening. Got myself scarred for life in the process. I did what I thought was right, but I’m starting to believe I’ve made a horrible mistake.”

“No, you made a conscious decision to be there for your friends when they needed you most, and to be here and fight with us, potentially helping billions of people. The Continuum wouldn’t let you, but you did it anyway. How can that be the wrong call?”

An ironic sort of smile contorts Tony’s lips. “I guess becoming a Q has changed me in more ways than I realized, hasn’t it?”

Ralph no doubt intends to encourage him, yet it comes out as a feeble afterthought when he says, “Hey, you do with your life whatever you want.”

Tony sighs. “I’ll take that as a yes.”

Their conversation falls silent again as Tony takes a deep breath of pleasant night air and stares at the distant skyscrapers, tiny pins of light shining from their windows, creating a star field of their own. It takes him a while to muster the courage to say what needs to be said. “I’m sorry, Dad, for leaving you here. I shouldn’t have neglected you the way I did… You didn’t deserve that.”

Ralph knows a sincere apology when he hears one. He puts an arm around Tony and shakes him about playfully. “Well, you’re back now, aren’t you?”

“Phaser scar, Dad. Phaser scar,” Tony groans.

This father-son “quality time” moment suddenly gets interrupted by Emily shouting from inside the house, “Guys, you might want to see this!”

* * *

Ralph, Emily, and Tony sit together on a big sofa in the living room, watching the news on a holographic screen concealing the fireplace when activated. This technology is similar to the viewscreen used aboard the Achilles, albeit simplified and made suitable for domestic use. None of that matters to the three off-duty officers, for the news broadcast has captured their unbridled attention.

A holographic representation of a reporter—an attractive woman in her late twenties—addresses them while the Federation and Altonoid flags hover behind her. “—after claiming they have annexed Loïdian space. Ever since Starfleet made first contact with the Altonoids, three years ago, the Altonoids have treated us with unwavering paranoia and hostility, culminating in several armed conflicts. Regardless, we never gave up protecting the fragile peace between us and the Alto Empire. Last week’s forceful takeover of Station A-12, which cost thousands of lives—”

A stock holophoto of Station A-12 appears on screen. Emily finds it distressing to be confronted with this image, a blatant reminder akin to a sudden punch in the gut. Her wounds are all too fresh. She won’t soon forget the macabre sight of the dead USS Wolf clutching the defeated station. That was the exact moment she fully understood the true extent of the tragedy she had witnessed and that the Altonoids’ victory was irrevocable.

Luckily, the reporter comes into view again. “This relative peace was left hanging by a thread by what many considered an act of war. Our best diplomats have deployed a wide array of tactics to secure peace through negotiations, but the Altonoids were, simply put, ‘unwilling to listen,’ according to a Federation spokesperson.”

She pauses for a few seconds, looking billions of viewers across 8,000 light-years of Federation space in the eyes. “The Alto Empire has declared war on us. The major forces of the Alpha and Beta Quadrant, among them the Klingons and the Romulans, have stated they will remain neutral during this conflict, for this is ‘a dispute between the Federation and the Altonoids.’ Because none of the governments sees any reason or indication that the Altonoids might attack them as well in the near future, the Federation is on its own for now.”

Tony is getting paler by degrees while staring through the viewscreen, and his father shares his silence. Emily can’t believe this is happening. It’s as if she’s in one of those dime-a-dozen disaster holodeck programs or experiencing a bad dream. Sadly enough, there’s no waking up from this. She was in her mid-teens when she watched a disturbingly similar news report announcing the Dominion War. That one proved to be only too real.

The reporter keeps spewing cold fact after fact. “Starfleet is already sending fleets to the Altonoid and former Loïdian borders. Additional military information is not available at present. However, we can be sure that Starfleet will do everything in its power to defend the citizens of the Federation from these aggressors.”

Emily turns to Tony, perhaps hoping to find solace, but he is no longer by her side. Looking around, she catches but a glimpse of Tony walking out the front door. His father hurries after him.

* * *

With unfocused eyes, Tony stares at the stars dotting the night sky in deceptive serenity. It’s hard to take that a war is being prepared somewhere out there—a war he could not prevent.

Footfalls in the grass alert him of his father’s approach. “I knew this would happen,” Tony says to him. “Everything is spiraling out of control the way I foresaw when I was a Q. I know what’s going to happen next. I know where this will lead us. It is what shaped my decision to assist the Federation.”

His dad cannot offer a response to that.

“I don’t… I don’t know the specifics,” Tony continues. “I no longer understand the intricacies of time; details of future events have blurred into a vague mess, yet I can say with absolute certainty that we have great reason for concern.”

Emily walks up to father and son with her arms crossed in a worried self-hug. “But I heard you say you know what’s going to happen.”

“I know we’re going to lose,” Tony says grimly.

“Don’t say that.” Ralph puts a hand on his son’s shoulder. “I’m neither an expert on temporal mechanics nor can I comprehend how the Q perceive time, but I do know one simple truth: the future hasn’t been written yet. Already your actions must have influenced what you believed to be the future. Could that be why the specifics of this upcoming war have become hazy?”

Tony remains silent as he gently removes himself from his father’s grasp to step forward. He keeps listening, though.

“We’re all afraid of the future,” Ralph says. “Everyone is, especially now.”

“But we know there’s always hope,” Emily cuts in. “We may not be omnipotent, but we can make our little differences each day and hope for the best.”

Tony’s gaze is fixed on the heavens, yet he knows she’s smiling right now, for his sake. “I suppose you’re right.” He turns to face his father and Emily, and indeed, her encouraging smile does not disappoint. “Now I have you two. I couldn’t have predicted that.”

“Exactly!” Ralph says. “Who knows what other great things await us?” He lets the notion sink in for a few seconds. “Or we could all be dead by next week,” he continues in the same optimistic tone of voice.

A beat of shocked silence.

Then everyone bursts out with laughter, and they go back into the house, leaving the radiant field of stars to watch over this tiny blue planet, as it has always done.
User avatar
Posts: 101
Joined: Sun Feb 18, 2018 12:47 pm
Commendations: The Daystrom Award

Fallen Heroes Part II Chapter IIb

Post by Alexbright99 »

Earth, San Francisco – February 17, 2382 – Stardate 59130.4
The Federation banner contains only a fraction of the countless stars visible from Earth: three prominent stars, to be exact, accompanied by a few dozen smaller ones. A miniature holographic Federation banner serves as a backdrop for a miniature holographic news anchor emanating from a portable holo-emitter. Its owner, a middle-aged man in a Starfleet uniform, leans against a wall in a calm street overlooking the bustling Golden Gate Bridge while quietly watching the little news anchor hovering above his left wrist.

“—not much has been heard of the Altonoids since,” the holographic woman says, “which has given us a chance to lick our wounds. Shipyards are operating at peak capacity to counter the terrible losses suffered during the past one and a half years. Unfortunately, nobody could ever replace the millions of lives already lost in this fierce war. The last armed conflict with the Altonoids dates back as far as over four months ago, but given the ongoing efforts to rebuild our defensive and offensive—”

Two loud-talking Starfleet officers distract the man for a brief moment as they pass by. When they recognize who they’re bothering, the officers immediately go quiet, allowing the admiral to continue watching the news.

“—the Federation suffer the same fate as the Loïdians? Starfleet Intelligence has proven irrefutably that the Alto Empire has betrayed their former ally and overthrown the Loïdian government, their citizens enslaved, their technology exploited. And what about the S’Prenn? In the beginning of the Federation-Altonoid war, the S’Prenn helped us on three separate occasions. Mysteriously enough, we haven’t heard anything from them in over a year, nor have we found any indication of S’Prenn activity. Their continued support would have been more than welcome. What has happened to them? Nobody can give us the answer to this ever-pertinent question. Starfleet assures us, however, that they will not stop protec—”

The slender admiral shuts off the wrist holo-emitter. The dissipating hologram reveals a Starfleet drafting poster on the nearby wall—a poster on which able-bodied young men and women stand side by side, willing to lay it all on the line to defend their homes. Admiral Keith Harriman studies it and lets out a somber sigh before walking out of the alley and into the crowded streets.

“San Francisco has seen better days,” Admiral Harriman thinks out loud, noticing many details that were different, say, two years ago. The people are timid, silently going about their everyday activities, whether they are human, Vulcan, Bolian, or any other species the admiral comes across. Most of them have suffered great losses… Family, loved ones, some even lost their entire home planet. Heavy hearts render the streets quiet and colorless. Few children play in the abundant parks and playgrounds. Any desire to play outside has long since been quenched by their parents’ wartime anxiety. Shuttles, air trams, and other forms of transportation do their work overhead, somehow appearing equally as timid and lifeless.

But hey, at least the sun’s shining, trying to cheer up the world.

Every once in a while, Admiral Harriman encounters armed Starfleet officers. He greets them whenever they greet him, but he shakes his head afterward. This reminds him too much of the Dominion War, when Earth was under constant threat and nearly turned into a police state. The aggressors may have changed, but the looming atmosphere of dread is eerily similar.

“The last armed conflict with the Altonoids occurred in early October, but everyone is still jumpy,” Harriman mumbles to himself. “That last encounter was a disaster for the Federation. The entire population of Matala IV wiped out, another 84 vessels lost on our side…”

People are staring at him, and he realizes his thoughts are a bit too loud to be classified as such. He stops speaking but keeps ruminating. Nobody has forgotten the Matala incident. Better yet, everyone can readily name each Altonoid incident of the past two years, starting with the Station A-12 Debacle and the Battle of Nedron. He can still picture himself on the bridge of the Achilles, his fleet hopelessly outmatched, shouting orders as the relentless enemy destroys one ship after another, each with hundreds of good people on it, all lost to the vacuum of space.

Lieutenant Commander Ralph Blue is standing across the street, amidst a dressed-up crowd that has gathered in front of a beautiful old building with a cement stairway leading to a solid maple double door entrance. The lieutenant commander enthusiastically waves his arms at the admiral.

Harriman pushes his troubled expression away with a broad—if not entirely genuine—smile and waves back.

Ralph is wearing his Starfleet dress uniform, which is notably different from the standard-issue one. For instance, the dress uniform jacket is white instead of black and has a wide blue-gray stripe running down its center, there is prominent gold stitching on both jacket and pants, and it makes its wearers look like they escaped the set of “The Love Boat.” A considerable portion of the crowd is wearing these dress uniforms. Judging by how happy everyone seems, it’s obvious something special is going on.

Feeling a little self-conscious, the admiral hurries across the street.

Ralph greets him with an extended hand. “Admiral Harriman, I presume?”

Harriman replies with a courteous nod and shakes hands with the lieutenant commander. “And you must be Ralph Blue. Tony’s father.”

“I’m glad you could make it, Admiral. Not everyone we invited could be here today.”

“I just had to visit them. When I met them two years ago, while still in command of the Achilles, I somehow felt responsible for them, especially for Tony. I’m glad to hear everything turned out well for him.”

“You bet.” Talking about his son—with an admiral, no less—makes Ralph’s eyes light up. “Since he arrived on Earth he has been serving at Starfleet HQ as a tactical advisor. Everybody’s very pleased with his work. If it weren’t for him, we might’ve lost many more lives in this war.”

A short silence ensues. The word “war” has become a jinx these days.

“It’s odd, though,” Ralph continues in order to break this gloomy silence. “My own son outranks me and has a better service record than I’ll ever have, even though I’ve been with Starfleet for twenty-five years.”

Harriman detects a fair share of fatherly pride in Ralph’s voice. “You should be proud of him,” he says, knowing the lieutenant commander wanted him to say that.

Ralph’s smile widens. “Thank you, Admiral. I am.”

Harriman leans in a little closer and says in a serious tone, “The first time I spoke with Tony, he was very upset about losing his Q powers. I felt sorry for him.” He tries to formulate a tactful question regarding Tony’s current state.

No need, Ralph can already guess what the admiral is getting at. “He seems to have accepted his newborn humanity. It has been a struggle, and I don’t think he has fully come to terms with himself yet. He’s a fighter, though. Despite everything, he remains focused on the future. Nobody here can deny that.” A subtle smile shows off his laugh lines, and he glimpses up the stairs. When he sees nobody is there yet, he asks, “So what do you do now? You’re no longer in command of the Achilles, you said.”

“Correct. Last year I got bumped up to admiral and they put me in command of Earth Spacedock.”

Ralph gives the admiral a pat on the back. “Earth Spacedock? Now that’s a good career move.”

“Yeah, well, I’ve supervised so many battles—too many to count—and I know deep down that I can be more valuable commanding a ship on the war front.” He shrugs. “Starfleet decided to take me out of the captain’s seat anyway and promoted me to admiral as cold comfort.”

On a special occasion such as this, Ralph is impervious to pessimism. “On the bright side, it is safer in Earth’s orbit than way out there.”

“That’s true. I shouldn’t complain. Skilled in combat as I am made out to be, I’ve never yearned for battle.” A glimmer of mischief flashes across his lean features. “But if we’re under attack by an Altonoid fleet, I don’t intend to sit on my butt and wait for them to come knocking on my door.”

Ralph chuckles at the admiral’s candid remark. “So who’s in command of the Achilles now?”

“The powers that be replaced me with an established captain.” Harriman smoothens his jacket. “Captain Stephan Rinckes.”

The crowd cheers and throws white rice at the young man and woman who have emerged from the building and are coming down the stairs. Some of the attendees are taking pictures with their holo-cameras, ready to cherish the occasion for years to come.

Like his father and many others guests, Commander Tony “Q” Blue is adorned in his dress uniform. He’s looking better and healthier than ever, yet he still favors his right leg. Although walking has become considerably easier for him than it had been directly after the Station A-12 Debacle, he proceeds down the stairs carefully with the help of his bride.

Ensign Emily Murphy is wearing a gorgeous red wedding dress and tries to maintain a smile through all the rice that is being thrown at her. It’s clear the newlyweds are quite fond of each other, because they’re focusing on the happy moment itself instead of the hazardous fountains of rice.

Of all those present, Ralph is applauding the loudest. Harriman applauds too, though with a tad more modesty. Admittedly, seeing Tony and Emily this joyful warms his heart. Happiness this pure is the rarest of commodities.

When the bridal pair has finished their brief journey down the stairs, they recognize Harriman standing next to Tony’s father. The happy couple work their way through the crowd while high-fiving outstretched hands and receiving hugs varying in intensity, and eventually they reach them.

“That’s been a while,” Tony says as he shakes Harriman’s hand. “An admiral, no less?”

Admiral Harriman tries to say something self-effacing, but a wholehearted embrace from Emily prevents this.

As if it isn’t busy enough for Tony and Emily, their wedding planner summons them to get on the shuttle bus that touched down seconds ago. The white shuttle bus—in the 24th century more shuttle than bus—opens its side and rear doors, and a red carpet rolls out of its right door. While the overzealous wedding planner pushes Tony toward the shuttle bus, Emily manages to stay put and say to the admiral, “At nine o’clock this evening we’ll hold a wedding reception at Deer Park Villa. You’re welcome to drop by if you want.”

“Thank you kindly for the offer,” Harriman says, using his gentlest voice again, “but I have other obligations.”

“That’s okay. It was nice to see you again.” That’s all she can say for now, because the ardent wedding planner has grabbed hold of her and is gently but firmly pulling her in the direction of the shuttle bus, where her husband awaits. Once she has boarded, scores of people follow suit, including a small-framed, middle-aged lady wearing a beret. Tony’s father hops onto the bus as well and wraps his arms around his son and daughter-in-law as soon as he has braved a sea of occupants.

Alone in the thinning crowd, Harriman watches the red carpet rolling back in and the doors closing while the shuttle bus gets ready for departure. He waves as the shuttle bus lifts off, heads for the sky, and becomes one of the many anonymous specks of dust flying overhead. His waving went unnoticed, no doubt.

Admiral Harriman will have to report back to Earth Spacedock soon, yet something compels him to stay a while longer and go for a stroll. When he saunters off, hands clasped loosely behind his back, his mind wanders as it did before. This time, however, his thoughts aren’t so downcast. The streets seem colorful and alive to him now, and the sun is shining brighter than before. At a leisurely pace, he makes it all the way back to Fort Mason and spends ten minutes gazing at the juxtaposition of sea and hills before pressing his combadge and disappearing in a flurry of blue light.
User avatar
Posts: 101
Joined: Sun Feb 18, 2018 12:47 pm
Commendations: The Daystrom Award

Fallen Heroes Part II Chapter IIc

Post by Alexbright99 »

Earth, San Francisco – April 16, 2382 – Stardate 59288.9
Tony Q takes off his regular uniform jacket and shirt to replace them with his dress uniform jacket, which nicely complements his black pants with its gold embroidering reserved for Starfleet’s most formal attire. “How do I look?”

“Ready for a party.” Ensign Emily Blue—already wearing her security division dress uniform—is seated in a rectangular lounge chair, with her back turned against the set of windows covering the south side of their modern bungalow. Though this house is a few dozen kilometers away from where they used to live with Tony’s father, the view of San Francisco in the distance is simply spectacular, especially now, late at night, with the city lit up like a Christmas tree. Holding an important position at Starfleet Headquarters has it perks when it comes to choosing a place of residence.

“I am more than ready for a bit of fun,” Tony says with a weary smirk, followed by a deep sigh. “What a week!”

“Starfleet knows how to keep us busy,” Emily says while standing up to switch on a few extra lights. It’s getting darker than usual outside—the kind of darkness one would normally associate with endless winter nights. “And they don’t believe in shore leave during wartime, that’s for sure.”

Tony doesn’t reply, distracted by a hopeless struggle with his collar. “Oh come on,” he says to his uniform, to no avail.

Emily decides to help Tony get his collar straight before someone gets hurt. She places her hands on his jacket and assesses the situation.

“I mean it’s Friday night and they still won’t give us a rest,” Tony says as he catches a rosy whiff of her perfume.

“Relax,” she says while solving his collar problems in two seconds flat. “It’s not another meeting with Starfleet’s finest about fleet strategies, worst case scenarios, or whatever it is you lot talk about all week. It’s a party!”

“Easy for you to say,” Tony says, checking his collar for any irregularities. Of course, he finds none. “All you have to do is guard some museum in Chicago.”

Emily deflects his sarcasm with a teasing tone. “Hey, that’s not nice. I love my job at the Art Institute and you know it.” She threatens to mess up his collar again.

Tony shrinks back, laughing. “No, no. I’m sorry.”

Emily breaks off her attack and walks away with a spring in her step. “It was nice of you to invite me and your dad to that fancy gala.”

“Yeah, trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen Admiral Paris and Admiral Manero duke it out on the dance floor.”

Emily makes a display of rolling her eyes at his attempt at humor but can’t suppress a giddy chuckle. “No, seriously. Your father’s really looking forward to it.”

Tony heads over to the window and gazes at the city. “He’s probably already out there, waiting by the entrance.”

In the sky over San Francisco, multiple shadows take form. Tony has to squint to make them out, but they are there—no question about it. Of course, a metropolitan sky is never empty—tons of shuttlecraft of all kinds and sorts fly around twenty-four hours a day—but these shadows cannot be ordinary shuttlecraft, because those are required to fly with activated navigation lights. These shadows are blacker than night itself; if they weren’t moving, they’d be invisible.

Beautiful and alarming in equal measure, green lights emerge from the shadows to rain down on the city. When these lights hit the skyline below, instigating bright explosions, Tony realizes at last he is watching a terrible disaster unfold before his very eyes! He wants to call out to Emily, but his mind has gone numb and his mouth dry.

While opaque fighters descend from the heavens and fire at the city of San Francisco, Tony doesn’t even wonder how they broke through the planetary defense grid and the fleets of starships guarding Earth, or if they’re also attacking other cities all across the globe. All he focuses on is a plethora of spacecraft attacking his city, unleashing their wrath on defenseless buildings, extinguishing lives left and right.

Fiery detonations knock out the electrical grid of a skyscraper, shrouding it in darkness until another weapon strike zaps through dozens of its floors. A handful of seconds later, the weakened structure collapses in an avalanche of dust and debris. Countless buildings suffer the same fate, one by one. The burning city lights the sky with an irregular, lurid glow, enabling Tony to identify the fighters as Foora-class Altonoid ships—similar in appearance and configuration to Klingon Birds of Prey and just as deadly. Heavily armed, highly maneuverable, and boasting a wingspan of up to 60 feet, these fighters are built for one thing and one thing only: to spell doom for their enemies.

Shuttles and other armament-carrying craft that were already airborne mount attacks on the Altonoid battalions with varying results, mostly in the aggressors’ favor. No matter how hard they try to defend the city, the fighters easily outnumber them. A million questions pop up in Tony’s head; fury, sadness, and despair vie for his attention, but they’re all set aside by one simple fact: the Altonoids are invading.

There is Starfleet Headquarters, near the Golden Gate Bridge, lit by numerous phaser beams and white-hot explosions. Tony is forced to watch helplessly as a squadron of Altonoid fighters barrels down in an attack run and lets fly at the most important building of San Francisco—or Earth, for that matter—and Tony’s workplace. Within seconds, the proud nerve center of Starfleet Command is diminished to mere ashes and rubble, and what’s left is destroyed by the Altonoid squadron directly behind the first one.

Tony finally regains control over his vision, so he can actually choose where to direct his gaze, allowing him to notice that the suburbs and nearby towns are under siege as well. Directly ahead, a Starfleet fighter catches his eye. It’s flying at low altitude with an angry Altonoid fighter hot on its trail. The small Peregrine-class fighter is hardly a match for the Foora-class Altonoid fighter, and it’s suffered heavy damage. Worse yet, the Starfleet fighter’s left wing catches fire after its impulse engine blows up, causing the fighter to spin out of control, heading straight for Tony and Emily’s bungalow!

Hypnotized by the fighter twirling down at him in a frenzy of flames, Tony refuses to believe this is happening. It isn’t going to hit the bungalow; it’s going to zoom over and crash into something else. It can’t possibly—

His hypnosis bursts like a bubble when Emily grabs him by the arms and shoves him away from the windows overseeing the imminent disaster. Tony concludes it’s a good idea to dive away from a spacecraft on a direct collision course, and he and his wife land uncomfortably behind their brand-new couch.

In the final moments before the crash, the fighter makes a last ninety-degree roll to the right. Now it’s coming in vertically with its right wing pointing at the ground. In essence, the bungalow is about to be carved in two by an enormous, burning circular saw.

The fighter’s nose shatters the windows within a nanosecond, sending a mist of pulverized glass flying in all directions. Although these fighters seem relatively small when airborne, they’re not so small when they come bashing through your living room! The impact causes the vertical fighter to tumble end over end, slicing, dicing, and scorching all it encounters, including the roof, the floor, and everything in between that’s unfortunate enough to get hit by the rotating vessel and the debris it sheds.

Luckily, Tony and Emily don’t find themselves in its direct crash path. They do, however, find themselves covered in remnants of their walls, furniture, and windows. Unrelenting racket terrorizes their eardrums as the fighter careens by and unexpectedly jumps up and over the rest of the building, sparing the bungalow from being entirely cut in half. The earsplitting din originating from the tumbling wreckage ends in a bright flash not more than a hundred yards away. Burning debris of all shapes and sizes strike what is left of their home, pierce through the few upright walls, and flutter in through the damaged roof. The lights have gone out; now, the only light source is the burning rubble left by the destroyed fighter.

They can’t hide under the couch forever. Emily strains to lift its splintered frame. Holding up the collection of wood and rags they once knew as their couch, she wrinkles her brow at her husband, who makes no effort to get up. Tony is scratched and bruised, muttering things like, “I put on my best uniform for this?” and grumbling mild profanities. Other than that, he believes he’s all right. Nothing’s broken, as far as he can tell.

Emily throws away what remains of the couch, freeing herself and her husband. Tony carefully sits up to assess the damage while Emily rises to her feet to no doubt do the same. Not an easy task, considering the living room is now as dark as the sky, which has become an unwanted addition to their ceiling. The fact that some pieces of furniture and household items, including broken lamps, are on fire is helpful in an ironic sort of way. Their bungalow has been reduced to one big mess with debris lying everywhere. Everything is charred, shattered, unrecognizable, or simply gone. The roof has come down where the big windows used to be, the ceiling is cut in two, and the kitchen’s on fire.

“So, what’s your opinion?” Tony asks with a wagonload of sarcasm. “How bad is it?”

“Oh, it’s not so bad,” Emily replies while trying to walk through the rubble. “Lick of paint here and there.”

Tony laughs a sad laugh as he stands up and pats the dust off his uniform. He has to wade across a river of broken possessions to get to Emily. Once he has caught up with her, they both share a long and sad look at their living room. Nothing they can possibly say will be much of help. Well, maybe nothing except, “I’m glad you’re okay,” which Tony says as he puts an arm around his wife. Emily responds with one of those smiles that would’ve set the room on fire if it weren’t already.

They climb through and over the rubble, searching for an exit, not even bothering to check for valuables. Soon enough, they find their way out of the scorched bungalow that was supposed to be their home for many years to come. Instead of the pitter-patter of little feet they hoped to hear one day, they get to listen to hollow clicks of spreading fire.

The street adjacent to their burning home is relatively quiet. This reasonably secluded neighborhood is by no means a pivotal strategic target. However, there is no indication the Altonoids will cease their attack once they’re done with downtown San Francisco. If they’ve made it this far, there will be no stopping them.

Noises of panic and bedlam, though several miles away, frighten Tony to the core. The bright nimbus of phaser beams and explosions turns night into day, giving the sky a beautiful but haunting ignited aspect. With every act of destruction, the war front is brought closer to their current whereabouts. There simply isn’t a single area to be found here that can guarantee safety for more than a few minutes, which is unlike anything Tony has ever experienced— despite being a former Q. Nonetheless, he realizes fear is merely a luxury when it comes to dealing with potential planet-wide annihilation.

Tony turns to his wife. “This is pretty bad,” he says in a tone more reassuring than its implication. He rests his hands on Emily’s shoulders to grab her attention as lovingly as possible when their dreams of a happy future lie burning a stone’s throw away. “I want you to take the first warp-capable spacecraft you can get your hands on, and then get the hell off this planet and out of this solar system without looking back. I’m going—”

“—to the city to find your father, I know. Let me come along.”

“I don’t…” Tony finds himself unable to complete the sentence. He bites his lip and tries again. “I don’t want to lose you as well.”

“That’s very sweet of you,” Emily says, sounding impatient yet gentle, “but I’m a trained security officer. I can help you.”

“My first priority is to make sure my loved ones are safe, starting with you.” If only he knew how. Just as he’s about to admit to himself that there is no plan, he spots the silhouette of a parked shuttlecraft in the distance. With its back door open, it casts light on the pavement, acting as a homing beacon for the handful of shadowy figures fleeing into the shuttle, helped by another stationary shadow. “Let’s go.” Tony says as he grabs Emily by the hand and runs toward them. Emily doesn’t protest.

* * *

When the Altonoids started their devastating attack on Earth, Lieutenant Junior Grade Danielle Forrester had a decision to make: power up weapons and fight back or find a landing spot and gather as many survivors as possible. Without hesitation, she landed her shuttle, opened its hatch, and started guiding people in. After all, she’s a medic, not a fighter pilot.

Two more survivors run up to her: a man and a woman, both wearing singed dress uniforms. They must be in their early twenties, like Danielle, but judging by the rank insignia, the young man holds the rank of commander. Could it be? Yes, it’s none other than Commander Tony Q—quite a small guy for such a big reputation.

“Hello, Lieutenant,” he greets her. “Is there room for one more passenger?” His flustered attitude and tendency to cast glances at the burning city behind him indicate he is not coming along for the ride.

“Yes, there is,” Danielle says, and she addresses the woman by his side in a pleasing tone, showcasing her medical training. “Hop on board.”

“Are you sure you—” the woman says to Tony. She doesn’t finish the question, because she must already know the answer. “Good luck,” she says instead.

“I will see you soon, Emily.”

Emily works up a faltering smile. “Go and get your dad.”

After kissing goodbye, Tony watches Emily enter the shuttle and keeps staring ahead for a few long seconds, prompting Danielle to say, “There’s still room for you in the shuttle.”

“I need to get to the city,” Tony replies immediately. “Perhaps I could use the transporter system on the shuttle to g—”

“I’m afraid not, sir. Since the attack started, usage of communication and transporter systems has become impossible. My guess is the Altonoids have placed a dampening field in our atmosphere. Before all communication was cut off, I heard that every major city on this planet is under attack.”

Tony presses a palm against his forehead as the news sinks in. Lost in thought, he takes no heed of the distressed people passing him by as they enter the shuttle, hoping to find refuge. His eyebrows contort into a frown as he asks her, “How could the Altonoids invade us like this?”

With no way to answer the rhetorical question, Danielle lets him rant.

“It’s like all our security precautions, the shield grid around Earth, and the fleet guarding this solar system are… nonexistent somehow! How come we’re suddenly rendered completely defenseless?” The occasional fighter crash going on in the background provides his sudden monologue with extra poignancy. “We had so many defensive and offensive combat strategies, so many preventive measures, so many well-thought-out worst case scenarios. And now, all that remains is collecting as many survivors as possible and getting off this rock, this death trap!” He takes a deep breath. “All right, so the transporters are down,” he says to himself before talking to Danielle again. “Start prepping the shuttle for launch. I will be coming along. You can drop me off at the edge of the city.”

“No way, Commander,” Danielle replies with her chin held high. “This is not a combat vessel. Once the shuttle is full, I will get the survivors out of harm’s way at maximum warp.”

Tony’s perplexed at her reaction. “That was not a suggestion, Lieutenant!”

Danielle stays perfectly poised and lays down the facts. “Going to the city is suicide. It is swarming with fighters. You will not only endanger your own life, but also that of mine, your girl, and the other survivors.”

“That’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

“I’m sorry, but I am not willing to take that risk.”

Tony resorts to sarcasm to get the message across. “Look at my collar,” he says. “Three rank pips. Look at your collar. Two rank pips. Hey! Doesn’t that mean something?”

Danielle remains equally as polite as unyielding. “It means disobeying your rash order might get me court-martialed. Problem is, you probably won’t survive your little trip to the city, so you won’t be able to testify against me, so there won’t be a court martial.”

“Damn it! Look around you!” Tony shouts as he waves his arms all over the place to point out the surrounding mayhem. “What do you think this is? A bloody cadet review? You can’t disobey a direct order. We’re at war. We’re in the midst of an all-out invasion, for crying out loud!”

“I know full well we’re in a terrible war,” Danielle shoots back, surprising Tony once again and successfully shutting him up in the process. “I’m sorry if I don’t live up to your standards of what the perfect Starfleet officer should represent, but I really couldn’t care less right now. I’m trying to rescue as many as I can, because that is what I do. If you want to go on your quest to save the day, then by all means, go! But do not risk the few souls who have become my responsibility as soon as they stepped aboard my shuttle. I will stop at nothing to make them survive this cursed day. And in case you want me to face that court martial, I am Lieutenant Danielle Forrester. Maybe you should write that down!”

Tony has to straighten his back to regain his posture after being subjected to this unexpected barrage of words. “I will remember you,” he says in a subdued voice, “as the officer who saved my wife.”

Now it’s Danielle’s turn to be surprised. Before she can retort, Tony runs away, back to his house.
User avatar
Posts: 101
Joined: Sun Feb 18, 2018 12:47 pm
Commendations: The Daystrom Award

Fallen Heroes Part II Chapter IId

Post by Alexbright99 »

Tony almost wishes he hadn’t bothered opening the garage door. Even though the out-of-control fighter missed it, the destructive forces of the nearby crash didn’t spare the garage in the slightest. His carefully arranged shelves are a shambles, and its contents—mostly tools and vintage car memorabilia—lie scattered about on a floor that used to be pristine. The lights are out, the walls are smudged black, and floor and ceiling panels have been shaken loose. He has to push a toppled storage rack away in order to see it in all its glory, but there it is: his classic Mercedes-Benz hover car.

Tony is very proud of this rare vehicle brought forth by a distant era, but his wife thinks it’s “an antiquated piece of cavemen engineering filling up the garage.” She just refuses to understand what it is like to hover around in this prime example of cultural heritage. Even bringing her along on several day trips failed to change her mind. Her loss.

This silver 2134 Mercedes hover car was the pinnacle of automotive engineering in its heyday, with its speedboat-like design, its beautifully sculpted two-seater cockpit dome, and the rounded contours at the bottom that mask the once revolutionary repulsorlifts. It’s a work of art, really. Granted, its technical condition isn’t perfect yet, but Tony always takes good care of its interior and exterior, making the nearly 250-year-old Mercedes seem factory-fresh.

Tony polishes off a little stain made by a stray ceiling tile and makes an unlocking gesture at the transparent cockpit dome. The dome separates and both segments slide down into the sides of the hover car. Or at least, that’s what’s supposed to happen. The right half bounces back up with a feeble sound, to Tony’s dismay. “Cursed Altonoids…” he mutters as he hops into the car. The left half closes automatically, sealing him in 22nd-century luxury.

Red leather and chrome decorate the cockpit of the Mercedes. With a barely contained sigh of sheer pride, Tony grabs the steering wheel, rests his hand on the throttle stick, and revels in the mesmerizing simplicity of their chrome design. At least the interior wasn’t harmed in the attack. A series of displays covers the dashboard from left to right, casting soft, blue light and showing polite welcome messages to the driver and the notably absent passenger.

Tony switches on the headlamp, which in turn showers the garage with light. Not a particularly pleasant sight, as there isn’t much left of the garage to begin with. A big, illuminated Mercedes star rises up from the hood, fizzles out, and lowers again. After some annoyed growls, Tony decides to try to ignore the damage to his hover car and focus on getting it started instead.

Starting the engines of this type of Mercedes used to be easy—back in 2134. All you had to do was say “check area” to let the car conduct a few tests to make sure it’s safe to activate its engines, say “initiate repulsorlifts” so the car would lift up about a foot or so, and conclude with “start engines” to start hovering wherever you want to go. It’s the kind of ritual that makes any hover car enthusiast feel warm and fuzzy inside, and Tony is no exception.

“Check area,” he says. Nothing happens. “Check area!” Still nothing. “Check the bloody… Oh, that’s right.” Impatiently tapping a finger on the steering wheel, he starts over.

“Cheek gibble.” The dashboard displays indicate the area is secure.

“Tamper riddlesteak.” The repulsorlifts become active, shining bright blue light at the ground and lifting the car up.

“Hollow ostrich.” Nothing. “Um…” He rubs his chin in an attempt to jog his memory, before saying with cheerful sarcasm, “Hello, ostrich.” The engines ignite with a furious roar, scattering sparks throughout the dusky garage. Vowing to himself to get the voice interface module replaced at his earliest convenience, he pushes the throttle stick to the max. The car lunges forward and fights its way through the remains of the garage, shoving all rubble aside on its way to freedom. He steers the hover car into the night, forever leaving his war-torn house behind.

* * *

It’s as if Tony is driving through a very detailed nightmare. Practically every building is either destroyed or on fire. Man or woman, old or young, indigenous or alien—they roam the streets, drifting from place to place like phantoms in the night. He hears desperate screams coming from all directions, audible in spite of the dome’s considerable insulation. Fire pours down from the skies, and blazing debris keeps striking the ground at random.

Gathering clouds hide battles being fought several kilometers high. Masses of evaporated water cannot obscure the sounds of spacecraft whooshing by, weapons firing, and the accompanying devastation, nor can they shield Earth and everything on it from impacting phaser beams carving deep marks into its surface.

Though his hover car is painfully slow by today’s standards—a top speed of a mere 600 kph is laughable at best—Tony is progressing steadily toward San Francisco. Judging by the state of these burning suburbs, the city isn’t going to be a safe place to visit, to put it mildly. Tony is fully aware of the risks involved, but it’s going to take more than that to deter him from protecting his dad.

The surroundings are getting misty. Green phaser beams hitting the soil like unnaturally straight thunderbolts bathe the region in an unsettling hue. The hover car’s wide headlight shines at an encroaching wall of fog. Even though it’s the last thing he wants to do, Tony is forced to ease back on the throttle. He does not intend to veer from his course, however, navigating from memory, taking every shortcut he recalls. Skillfully, he pilots his Mercedes through abandoned pedestrian zones and parks, avoiding residential areas for fear of becoming trapped.

His mind wanders to how fast everything went from the mundane to the extraordinary, from the enjoyable to the horror he’s in now. Is his wife safe or has her shuttle been shot down like the many smoldering wreckages he encounters on the road? What will San Francisco be like when—and if—he arrives? Will there be anyone left to save?

An ear-piercing explosion to his left rocks the hover car, jolting him from his reverie. He passes whatever act of wanton destruction he has witnessed and continues his perilous journey. Pondering the situation won’t do much good anyway; his fraying concentration is better spent on getting to the city in one piece.

* * *

“Alert. Alert,” a baritone computer voice says while the dashboard displays a series of warnings. Before Tony can react, his Mercedes initiates an emergency stop. With nauseating deceleration, the hover car comes to a complete halt—and just in time too. If the emergency braking system hadn’t deployed, Tony would’ve fallen at least 40 feet before hitting two semitransparent railway tubes emanating from the tunnel below. Visibility is poor, but he knows where those two railway tubes lead: the Golden Gate Bridge.

Tony loosens his grip on the steering wheel and leans back in his leather seat. With a couple of quick commands, he deactivates the safety protocols, ending the numerous alerts. He will have to go around somehow, unless he wants to crash-land on top of those railway tubes. Skipping California’s most famous bridge altogether is an option worth considering. His hover car should be able to travel across water. However, given its current suboptimal technical condition, he’d rather not chance it.

The air is clearing up, making the nearest tower of the Golden Gate Bridge protrude through the fog in all its steel majesty, its distinctive red color turned to dried blood in the mist. The bridge is actually closer than Tony thought at first—it’s less than a mile away.

Even though much more technologically advanced bridges have been constructed since this landmark was built—about 450 years ago—the Golden Gate Bridge remains impressive to this day. The many evenly spaced lampposts dimmed by the haze give the bridge an eerie appearance. Tony can’t even see the ocean with all that low fog floating around the feet of the bridge, though it can still be heard faintly over the gentle hum of the Mercedes’ idling engines. The Golden Gate Bridge being completely deserted worries Tony a great deal. The bridge itself looks fine, its suspension cables steady. Then why is no one crossing the bridge, leaving the city? Does that mean there are few or no survivors left?

He peers through the cockpit dome. A blanket of dark clouds looms over the area, which the slowly dissipating mist reveals in more detail with each passing moment. Reflections of warfare draw bright patterns of light in the sky. One of those patterns stands out against the rest. These lights are flickering on and off, and they’re slowly moving toward the Golden Gate Bridge.

“Oh, not again,” Tony says when he realizes what those descending lights represent. He slams the throttle stick forward and the hover car responds like a bullet fired. It leaps over the ledge, makes a seemingly endless fall, and lands on the railway tubes below in an uncomfortable fashion, shaking Tony about without injuring him. As expected, the rough landing damages the hover car—especially its underside—but the rattled Mercedes is still accelerating toward the Golden Gate Bridge.

The descending lights close in on the top of the bridge; they’re already giving the surrounding fog an orange glow. Tony tries once more to push the throttle stick past its breaking point. He can use all the speed he can squeeze out of this old machine. His sweaty left palm is locked in a fight with the steering wheel to prevent the hover car from sliding off the bulbous railway tubes. The hover car’s underside keeps scraping the tubes as the repulsorlifts desperately search for something to push off against. Though Tony keeps struggling to keep the car under control, he is far more concerned with the sky—and for good reason.

Just as Tony reaches the Golden Gate Bridge, a battle-worn Excelsior-class starship breaks through the fog as if sent by the heavens to wreak havoc upon the lands. He instantly recognizes it as the USS Fredrickson, part of Earth’s defense force. The ship tries to maintain altitude, but all it manages to do is stay level as it falls like a brick dropped in a pool, zeroing in on the closest bridge tower. Big chunks of hull are missing, exposing rooms and blackened corridors, and multiple sections of the once graceful ship are on fire. She is dying, plummeting to her final resting place.

Feeling like an ant about to be crushed by a shoe, Tony doesn’t lose sight of the Fredrickson for a split second. This particular starship is approximately 500 meters in length and over 180 meters in width, considerably wider than the Golden Gate Bridge. Even though the bridge has been rigorously strengthened after its near destruction during the Breen attack in ’75, it’s tinfoil compared to a starship with a total mass of over two million metric tons. Tony awaits the inevitable impact while clutching the throttle so hard it hurts.

Suddenly, the hover car jumps twenty feet into the air and gets tossed back onto the railway tubes with such immense force that the bottom of the car leaves an impressive set of sparks behind. This can mean only one thing: the Fredrickson has collided with the bridge tower, right above his head! He is speeding away from the crashing starship, which is easier said than done when dealing with a Starfleet vessel half a kilometer long. When Tony looks up, he is treated with the breathtaking spectacle of a crumbling starship toppling the tower, deforming it as if it were made of clay. And that sound! It’s as if two incredibly powerful, metallic monsters are caught in an epic fight to the death. It’s the most frightening and humbling sound he has ever heard, bar none. But the ear-deafening screams of tritanium against steel are the least of his worries.

The railway tubes start to bend upward as the unyielding Fredrickson and the collapsing bridge tower entangle the suspension cables and pull them along. The entire bridge quakes, convulsing like a massive beast in its death throes, while the hover car smashes through burning debris that’s raining down from the inferno above him. One by one, suspension cables snap and lash out at Tony, who is busy enough keeping the car on the tubes and evading falling lampposts.

With the railway tubes curling skyward, the Mercedes gradually loses speed. The railway’s increasingly steep grade also sends all debris rolling in Tony’s direction, making it an almost impossible feat to stay on the tubes. Swerving left and right, he does his best to evade scores of unidentifiable ship and bridge components—some small and nothing more than an inconvenience, others big enough to flatten him in an instant.

Tony’s hover car makes another leap into the air as the starship behind him strikes the bridge deck. This is a good thing, as it turns out, because Tony was just wondering how to circumvent a big lump of burning hull plating blocking his path. Now he just sails over it. To his dismay, however, he finds out in midair that the entire bridge deck continues moving away from him, toward the water. The Fredrickson’s abundant weight must be pushing the entire bridge down, upgrading the hover car’s jump to a long drop as it nosedives toward the railway tubes. The bridge deck hits the giant wall of water and sends huge waves spraying in all directions, which slows the falling bridge down considerably, ensuring Tony’s free fall will end soon. The part of the bridge where Tony is headed for is still bent up and hasn’t sunk… yet.

All he can do is brace himself, teeth clenched, until the Mercedes crashes into the bent railway tubes. When it does, everything goes dark as the headlight is smashed and the interior displays sign off with their last error messages. Though the magnetic seatbelts absorb most of the impact, all air is shoved out of Tony’s lungs and he nearly loses consciousness. The car flips on its roof, giving him a clear view—albeit upside down—of the unidentifiable wreckage of the Fredrickson resting on the crushed bridge tower and a portion of the Marin Headlands.

Collapsed beneath the defeated starship, the bridge deck is still sinking. To make matters worse, the Mercedes starts sliding down the railway tubes, and there’s nothing Tony can do about it. Flames the size of houses shoot from the Fredrickson, lighting the entire area, while the merciless ocean swallows the ship’s engineering section and crooked warp engines along with mutilated remnants of the northern half of the Golden Gate Bridge—a mighty scene to behold.

There are few things worse than sliding down a sinking bridge upside down in an old hover car. For instance, doing so in an old hover car with a transparent roof! Bending metal, exploding debris, and thunderous waves create a deafening orchestra of destruction, yet the damaged roof scratching those railway tubes is the worst sound by far. A growing web of fractures spreads in the dome’s surface, weakening its structure with every offshoot. Although its safety glass won’t hurt Tony if shattered, it is his only protection from the outside world.

Tony is nothing but a hapless passenger as the car slides down, hitting the occasional lamppost or chunk of molten metal while the roof sustains more and more damage, losing its ability to shield him. He has lost all sense of direction. His entire body aches. Panic is taking over. The ocean roars ahead, ready to devour him.

As soon as the upside-down hover car hits the black waves, water rushes in via the broken dome. Reflexively, Tony extends his arms in a fruitless attempt to stop gallons of water from flowing in. It is amazing and frightening at once how rapidly the cockpit fills up, how quickly a comfortable vehicle can become a deadly trap. The shock of being submerged in ice-cold water prevents him from collecting one last breath, and he starts thrashing about, frantically searching for a way out.

He briefly manages to lift his head out of the water before slipping and going back under. Desperate for oxygen, he moves into the same direction and lifts his head clear again. Could he have broken free somehow? He inhales as deeply as his tightened chest allows, opens his eyes, and claws at the red leather above him. The driver’s seat… He is trapped, water rising above his chin, air seeping away through the hover car’s battered underbody. Tony takes one final breath before the sea claims the last pocket of air.

Darkness envelops the cockpit. The Golden Gate Bridge has disappeared. The Fredrickson has disappeared. The whole world has disappeared. There is nothing left to see, no air left to breathe, no warmth left in this freezing water.

Tony has never felt this alone in his entire life while his cold cage drags him to the bottom of the sea.
Post Reply