Sunday, 8 August 2010

This is Albion

One hundred and one days had passed with no signs, of the Albion or the Drakon. All of Earth held its collective breath. So much could go wrong: the hastily reverse-engineered flip drive; the substitute materials; the unreliable maps of konnekt-spase, mostly guesswork; the god lance...

Near the orbiting station London, space shimmered. A rainbow pattern spread across the blackness, like oil on midnight’s water. Inside the station, instruments jumped straight from baseline to red, a burst transmission instantly fired to Earth even before identification, before the interference grew too strong to transmit anything. If it were the Drakon they would be consumed before the particle wash cleared.

“Spase breach at twenty six – forty one!”

“Burst is away.”

Elizabeth nodded at them, appreciating their efficiency. “Lock us down and rotate to face the breach, full shielding. And someone wake the commander.”

A burnt white hull began to emerge from the centre of the disturbance; where it was between both existences lightning and flame clung to its surface before dying in the vacuum of real space.

“It’s the Albion!”

Cheers went around the cramped room. The small crew visibly relaxed, they couldn’t help smiling despite their professionalism, despite the tests left to run.

“Initiate handshake. I want confirmation and a burst ready for transmission as soon as we’re clear of the breach wash. Let’s have some good news for Earth.”

The laser comms between the ship and the station found each other and synched. The ID on the Albion cleared as true and a grainy image fuzzed into being on the London’s main monitor, degraded by the particle wash, but not too badly.

“Hello? Please, Earth?”

Elizabeth’s head jerked back at the face on screen. “Jorj? Lieutenant English? Where’s the captain?”

“Oh, thank God. It’s... it’s just me, Liz. They’re all... dead.”

“...and the Drakon?”

“Dead.”

The Station shook as the last of the Albion slipped through the breach, space snapping back into place behind it, erasing all sign there had ever been anything happening there that was unaccounted for by accepted physics. The ship was holed and broken. It was a miracle there was atmosphere in the cabin at all, a miracle there was one survivor.

“Transmit burst. And bring him in, quick. He’s a hero, let’s make sure he lives.”

Commander Cave and Doc Smith now with her, Elizabeth waited for the airlock to cycle. She realised she was biting her lip, a nervous habit she had worked hard to get out of. She took a deep breath and the lights flashed green, the circular door rolling aside.

Jorj looked older than the last time she had seen him, leaner and stronger, and the youthful spark had gone from his eyes. They were still bright, but it was a hard intensity that sat there now, not the edge of a joke that always had before, even through their parents’ deaths, through the horror of the Drakon’s attacks. A raw scar spilt the left side of his face, across his jaw.

“The Drakon. It wasn’t... what we thought.”

“Now Jorj,” Commander Cave held up his hand. “You said the Drakon was dead. Can we tell Earth it’s safe?”

“No!”

They gasped at his intensity, his ferocity.

“It wasn’t coming back. Though we found it anyway, and we killed it. But it’s too late. Earth was its nest!”

“What do you mean?” Elizabeth asked, brow creasing.

“We killed it. But the captain, he was, infected, inseminated somehow, he turned on us, he almost destroyed the Albion and he had a... a Drakon inside him.”

“Nonsense...”

“No! It was young, immature, and we killed it too, I killed it. We have to warn Earth, anyone could be a host, anyone could be a Drakon.”

“But, how many?”

“I don’t know!”

“No.” Commander Cave’s voice was strange, low and firm, too calm, very unlike him. “My brothers will hatch in their own time. Earth will have no warning.”

Even as the other three turned to him he flung out his right hand, grabbing Doc Smith by the neck. An amber effulgence lit his eyes, and spread across his shoulders, down his arms. When it reached his hand he gripped and tore, ripping the Doc’s throat out in a flush of air and blood. The twitching corpse fell to the ground.

Orange light extruded from his back, becoming short thrashing tentacles, just like the Drakon’s spine. He turned to Elizabeth, “you will all die in the rebirth of our species.”

“No.”

The commander turned back to Jorj. “No? You don’t have the god lance now boy.”

“I didn’t need the god lance to slay the captain.”

Cave lunged at him then, quicker than any human should move; orange light becoming claws at his fingertips, a fluorescent orange tongue lashing from his mouth.

Jorj was quicker. In a tiny spray of colour a shield of silvery light flashed into existence on his upheld arm, blocking the claws. A bright sword suddenly shone in his other hand and it arced upwards, severing the tongue.

The commander staggered and Jorj stood up straight, ramming the shield into Cave’s face. A spray of orange ichor spattered up the wall. He struck again, knocking the flailing Drakon spawn to the floor.

“The Drakon had greater enemies than us.” Jorj said, standing over the captain. “For a thousand years the Scalibur hunted them to near extinction. The Albion met the last of that dying race, and they gave us a gift.”

He thrust his gleaming sword through Cave’s head, piercing the metal floor beneath. With a shrieking, squealing scream the creature convulsed and died.

Jorj sheathed his weapons, safely concealing them in konnekt-spase. He looked at Elizabeth.

“Come, we have a world to save.”



(Author's Commentary)

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