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Ghost of Mind Episode Seven

Chapter 1

They say everything that exists in this universe must come to an end. Whether it be the greatest star or the smallest speck of dust. Given time, all will fall.

Even the greatest civilization that ever existed.

For in time lies the heart of all destruction, and yet, the seed of evolution.

John Doe

What do you mean Rear Admiral Fletcher is coming into the Rim?” John locked a sweaty hand on the back of his command seat as he leaned all the way forward, his eyes bulging as he locked them on Fraser.

Fraser had twisted around in his seat, and his pale face was locked with true surprise as he considered his commander. “The communiqué just came in half a second ago, sir.”

“That’s impossible,” John said through clenched teeth. “There must be some kind of mistake. Check it again.”

Fraser dutifully turned around. His fingers flew across the communications panel. He turned and shook his head. “Sir, there hasn’t been a mistake. Rear Admiral Fletcher is commanding the Super Dreadnought Class Hades. He’s coming to the Rim. We’ve been instructed to rendezvous with his ship and offer any assistance we can.”

John stood there, hands now clutching his seat so hard it was a surprise he didn’t tear it from the floor. His heart began to hammer around in his chest with such ferocity it felt like it was trying to smash his rib cage to smithereens.

He clenched his teeth together hard and hissed through them. “How the hell did Rear Admiral Fletcher get a super dreadnought class ship?” he said mostly to himself. “I’ll be in my ready room if anyone needs me.” With that. He pried his fingers back from his seat, curled his hands into fists, and stalked across the bridge.

When he reached his ready room and the door closed behind him, he struck a fist into the wall with such force he could have broken his knuckles.

Though pain pushed up hard through his wrist and snaked into his elbow, that didn’t stop him from striking out once more.

A dull echo ricocheted through the room as he took a step back, squeezed his eyes closed, and bellowed in rage.

This… this is impossible. Admiral Fletcher was under investigation. John had done everything he could to alert the rest of the Union Forces to Fletcher’s treachery. But what had they done now? Rewarded the man with a goddamn command. And worse than that - one of the best equipped ships in the fleet.

And now Admiral Fletcher himself was coming into the Rim.

John practically staggered over to his seat behind his desk, pulled it out, and slung himself into it with all the grace of a man falling to his knees.

He crumpled forward, locked his elbows on his desk, and collapsed his face into his hands. His fingers were sweaty and transferred tracks of slicked sweat across his brow.

He curled his nails and dug them back and forth against his palm until he left red streaks across his skin.

Finally he pushed back and let his hands drop. He shook his head and curled forward over his computer panel. A second later, he instructed the computer to contact Admiral Cole.

….

Except Admiral Cole could not be contacted.

And that’s when the true horror of the situation hit john like an ion pulse cannon straight to the chest.

Admiral Cole had been stepped down from his command.

John stared in pure horror as he read the official Union Forces records about the incident. Or at least the ones he could access from his rank.

With his sweaty hand clasped over his teeth, John shook his head and let out another bellow of rage.

Somehow, some goddamn how, Rear Admiral Fletcher had managed to move against Cole and several of the other admirals in the top brass. And now the bastard had a super dreadnought class ship and he was headed to the Rim.

John didn’t want to believe it. He kept reading, kept trying to figure out what the hell had happened. But none of the admirals he’d once been able to trust were left - Rear Admiral Fletcher’s coup had been complete.

“This… this can’t be happening,” John said through bared teeth, stiff lips pressed against his gums with such force it was a surprise he didn’t pull his teeth from his jaw.

But it was happening.

The end, apparently, was on its way.

Chapter 2

John Doe

John walked toward her room, feet beating a somber tune over the metal grating.

He paused in front of the controls that would open the shielded section of the engine. He drove his hand into the wall and squeezed his eyes shut.

He stole several breaths, clenched his teeth, and finally rammed a sweaty finger into the control panel, typing in the security code that would allow him and only him entrance.

A second later, the door swished open, and he strode through.

She was floating there with her eyes closed, her hair playing around her face.

She had such a peaceful expression. It was so peaceful, in fact, that he found himself standing there and staring at it for a few seconds as he forgot what he’d come here to tell her.

But he could not forget for too long. She opened her eyes, focused on him, and that smile grew even larger.

“John,” she said as she floated forward and pushed her hands against the force field. “Why have you—” she began, but then she stopped, her eyes narrowing.

She obviously took heed of his expression, for there was nothing he could do to control it.

He knew his cheeks were as pale as ground up alabaster, his eyes as hooded and dark as a storm.

He took a deep swallow, his Adam’s apple pushing against the tight collar of his uniform.

“John,” she asked warily, her brow compressing with worry, “what is it?”

“Alice… Alice, I’m so sorry—” he choked.

“Something’s happened….”

“I’ve just got… I have no idea how this could have happened.”

“What happened, John?” A note of desperation rang through her tone.

“Admiral goddamn Fletcher is coming to the Rim,” he said through gritted teeth. Finally he jerked his gaze off the floor and locked it on her. “I am so sorry, Alice.

“What? I don’t understand. I thought he was under investigation?”

“So did I. But something’s happened. I don’t know what strings he’s pulled. I have no idea what he’s done to threaten the top brass, but there’s been a coup. He’s removed almost every single Admiral I thought I could trust. Now there’s no one but his lackeys left. And they’ve given him a super dreadnought class ship on a mission to rendezvous with us in the Rim.”

Though her hands had been pushed into the shield, she suddenly pushed away, shoulders and body stiffening as her eyes drew wide. “Do you think… you think he’s after me? Do you think he knows I’m here?”

John couldn’t answer. He pressed his lips together and drove his eyes half closed as he considered her question. He’d been considering nothing but that question since he’d found out about this horrific news. But now it came to the forefront of his mind. He wrapped one arm around his middle and latched a still sweaty hand over his chin as his eyes went out of focus. “To be honest,” he finally managed, “I have no idea. But it’s a strong possibility – one we can’t ignore. I doubt he thinks you’re on the ship. The Chief and I have done everything we can to keep that hidden. Even my crew don’t know. But I’m sure he knows you’re in the Rim. And I’m sure he’s here to come and find you,” he added, tone dropping low.

She pushed even further back into the engine, the clouds of blue energy almost totally obscuring her form. He couldn’t see her expression anymore as tufts of power arced around it. So he took a jerked step forward and pushed a hand out to her, even though there was no way he would be able to reach her, let alone touch her. But he desperately wanted to let her know she wasn’t alone. “Alice, I will do whatever I can to fight this. I will not let him take you. I can promise you that I will do everything I can.”

“I know, John,” she said after a significant pause. “But I doubt it will be enough. You said he’s got a super dreadnought class ship. What exactly will the Pegasus be able to do against him? And are you really willing to mutiny?”

Though he’d been considering just that, her question still struck him like a bat. He clenched his teeth together and fought against the warring feelings tumbling through his gut. John had reinvented his life as a Union Forces commander. He’d repented for his numerous sins by earning the loyalty of command, and he’d sworn his life to the protection of every Union citizen. He didn’t just believe in their cause; he lived and breathed it. His entire identity was built on it because if he didn’t have his command and his loyalty to the Union Forces, he would be nothing more than that boy from the slums who’d fought tooth and nail to survive

And yet John knew he couldn’t abandon her. Nor could he pretend Rear Admiral Fletcher still stood for the values John held so dear. Fletcher had gone against everything the Union stood for. He resembled the Union’s darkest, basest qualities. The drive to survive no matter the costs.

“Can you really go against him?” Alice asked once more, finally pushing forward again, those blues swirls of energy breaking around her form like clouds around a ship descending through the atmosphere.

Slowly, John tipped his head back. He stared at her, and he nodded. He meant it. “Yes, I will mutiny against him. I will do whatever I can to stop Rear Admiral Fletcher from getting his hands on you and destroying everything I’ve ever worked for. He’s a goddamn monster, and if he’s allowed to control the future of the Union, he will destroy everything.”

She floated there for several seconds, saying nothing, just staring at him. Finally, however, she closed her eyes, and that smile returned, though smaller than before, more fragile too. It still had an effect on him, still reached into his heart and kindled that last spark of hope.

It saw him take another quick step forward until his hands locked on the metal railing that ran around the edge of the engine shield. “I’ll do whatever I can to stop him from getting his hands on you,” he promised once more.

She nodded. “And I’ll do whatever I can to stop him from taking down this ship,” she said. There was a real note of power behind her voice.

Was it just him or did the whole room shake? He found himself letting out a small laugh. “I guess you will. You’re a real force of nature. I just hope it will be enough. Whatever we do, we’re gonna have to be careful. We have no idea how many resources Fletcher is bringing with him. I can guarantee, however, his super dreadnought class ship will be jam packed with members from the Aurora Project. There will be others with abilities like Rama. I can also guarantee that Fletcher will bring as much Old Tech as he can carry. We’ve never faced an enemy like him. And we never will again.”

She nodded dutifully, reminding him of the curious Ensign he’d met so many months before. It pressed a smile over his lips. A genuine one. One that chased away the dire seriousness of this situation for half a second.

“What are you smiling at?” she suddenly asked.

It took a few seconds to answer. He let his gaze slip around the room until it locked on her once more. “I know this situation is worse than any we’ve ever faced, and yet I can’t help but feel we still have the edge. Because, Alice, we still have you.”