The metal and composite hallways of the Sprawl buzzed and teemed with vibrant life as the two suited men armed with SWS pulse rifles walked through them on their routine patrol.
Their presence was small, but in the confines of the station's hallways it was significant. As they rounded the corners of the myriad intersections in the Sprawl's hallways and bulkheads, the residents of Titan Station reacted to the appearance of the station's police and security forces.
Their varied reactions were a valued source of information to EarthGov's civil demographics experts, and were another reason why squads of Titan Station Security officers were assigned to patrol the station's interior. Most of the residents regarded the passing security officers with a marked degree of respect, either for the job they did policing the station or their capacity for unleashing violence, and that was all they asked for.
Some residents turned their eyes down and scurried away like guilty rats upon sighting the security officers; and while suspicious behaviour was cause enough to investigate a potential security threat, officers would never reach the ends of their patrol routes under those conditions.
Then there were even the Unitologists, who shot glares of hatred and despise at the security officers as if they were pulse rounds.
"Man," Corporal Darrell Tyler remarked, his words unheard from those he was referring to thanks to his sound-proofed helmet, "that's gotta be like, what, the fifth pair of Uni lovebirds we've come across today. And we're not even an hour in."
Sergeant Scott Fairbanks, Tyler's patrol partner and superior, turned his head to watch the couple, a man and a woman both wearing Unitologist trinkets and giving the security officers a look of deep resentment. "You might be on to something there, Tyler," he chuckled as they disappeared around a corner. "There does seem to be a lot more Unis about than usual."
"Yeah," Tyler agreed. "I wonder what they're up to. It's only been a month since the last time they tried to cause trouble."
"You don't think they're going to push their luck again, do you?" Scott asked. He remembered that incident very well: a massive riot that had turned nasty when some of the more zealous Unitologists burned the last straw by lighting homemade incendiaries and throwing them at the line of security officers. Scott had been there, along with his former partner, and his partner had been amongst the unlucky officers in the front line.
Once the Unitologists went that far, the security line had no choice but to respond. Not all of the Unitologists were rendered unconscious by the taser arcs or the stun gas, and those who didn't flee the scene took it upon themselves to charge the security line. The resulting chaos had been brutal, and left many of the Unitologist rioters hospitalized due to their injuries.
Needless to say, the Unitologists claimed that the whole incident had been the security officers' fault.
"I'd hope not," Tyler replied. "The last thing any of us want is civil war on a space station. Everything would go straight to hell. Some Uni convert thinks it's a great idea to compromise life support, we all have to evacuate and spend a few months at Jupiter while they fix the life support, and we've all accomplished jack shit."
"Surely they wouldn't–" Scott started, but then he thought back to his experiences with Unitologists and how stupidly devoted they could be to their faith. "No, you're probably right, Tyler," he told him.
Tyler chuckled. "Thanks, Fairbanks," he said, and the pair of security officers fell silent as they walked. Until they turned another corner, and Scott was the first to point out, "Hey, look what we've got up ahead."
In the hallway in front of them, a small group of teenage girls was strolling along, chatting and giggling amongst themselves as if they hadn't a care in the world. Even as trained and experienced as he was as an officer charged with maintaining the safety of the Sprawl's community, the sight made Scott feel a slight twinge of envy.
"Oh, yeah," Tyler chuckled, giving Scott a thumbs up. "School must be out already. Oh, those days…" Scott suspected he was grinning under his helmet, but he gave it no attention as the group of girls noticed the pair.
"Hey, officers!" one of the girls called, waving at them. "How's patrol duty going?"
Before Scott could say anything, Tyler activated his helmet's external speaker with a tiny crackle. "Heh, not bad at all," he answered the girl. "Only eighty-six incidences of undisposed waste, forty-three incidences of hazardous negligence, twenty-seven incidences of attempted assault, and sixteen incidences of attempted sabotage. And–" he paused for effect "–at least twelve Unitologists," he added with a chuckle.
As he must have expected, the girls burst into giggles. One of them even paused briefly to say, "Aww, that's so mean of you, officer."
"Really? I'm sorry," Tyler said, mimicking the girl's sarcastic tone. Scott was starting to feel somewhat awkward standing in the hallway with these girls present, and passing residents giving them odd looks; even another Unitologist, glaring at them for Tyler's comment. Ignorant to Scott's discomfort, Tyler continued, "How's school going? You girls got let out already?"
"Oh, yeah, we did," another girl answered, smiling. "There's some Uni thing on today, so they let us out early. Awesome!"
"What's the Uni thing happening today?" Scott questioned, speaking for the first time. "We haven't heard anything about it." It was true: none of the Sprawl's news networks had mentioned anything about a Unitology event, even though EarthGov's technicians were always trying to find ways to crack the Church's secure networks.
"I don't know much about it," the girl said, "my sister just told me about it, and said it was gonna happen later today."
"The Uni teachers at school seemed pretty excited about it," the first girl to speak to them added.
"Right," Scott nodded, "thanks a lot for telling us this. We'll be sure to look into it after we've finished our patrol. Speaking of which…" he checked his helmet's chronometer display, and shifted his pulse rifle slightly in his arms, "we've got to get back to it, or Tiedemann will chew us out. Sorry, girls."
"Aww!" all the girls moaned simultaneously. "Are you really that overworked, officers?" the girl who responded with sarcasm before asked them.
"Sadly, we are," Tyler answered, trying to get in his remarks ahead of Scott. "Well," he said, making a show of hefting his pulse rifle to the girls, "another time, girls!"
"Wait!" the first girl called, before Scott and Tyler could walk another two metres. "What are your names? We never introduced ourselves."
Tyler turned his head towards Scott, as if he was asking permission. Despite his growing anxiety about lingering much too long to converse with a group of teenage schoolgirls, Scott shrugged as if it didn't matter. "I'm Sergeant Scott Fairbanks, and this is–"
"Corporal Darrell Tyler," Tyler finished for him.
"Cool!" the girl smiled. "I'm Beth, and this is Lauren–" she pointed to the girl who had mentioned the Unitologist event "–and Yvonne," pointing to the sarcastic girl. "But don't let us get you in trouble with Tiedemann," she continued, and gave the two security officers a cheery wave. "See you around!" With that, the group of schoolgirls continued to walk past them, and disappeared around the corner they had just come from.
Switching off his helmet's external speaker as they resumed their patrol, Scott commented, "Was there really a need for that, Tyler?", though without any real force behind it. He wasn't really particularly bothered by the whole exchange, and Tyler was already too good a friend for him to be very angry at him for such a trivial reason.
Tyler copied Scott's shrug of acceptance. "Why not? We're responsible for the community, after all. We might as well keep on good terms with them."
"Yeah, but…" Scott made an effort to suppress his laughter, "we don't have to go around doing that. Did you see the looks the other people were giving us? Hell, you should've seen the Unis' faces!" It was too much, and Scott burst out laughing – though nobody but Tyler could hear him.
"Hah, screw them," Tyler said, and promptly broke down into fits of laughter as well. The two of them kept laughing as they walked for some time, with none of the Sprawl's residents that they encountered able to hear them.
When the sounds of laughter echoing inside their helmets finally subsided, Scott let out a sigh, and looked around him. Their patrol route had taken them through several more hallways, and they were just exiting the residential complex they had been in to find themselves in the Concourse, one of the Sprawl's large variety of commercial and recreational complexes. It had an impressive arrangement of outlets catering to the lifestyles and needs of the inhabitants of the adjoining residential complex.
The shops and outlets of the Concourse weren't what impressed Scott, however; he'd seen much more breathtaking and grander megacomplexes in other sectors of the station. What did impress him was the panorama offered to shoppers by the large array of aerogel composite panes that spanned the two floors of the complex, which was seldom replicated elsewhere on the station due to engineering safety regulations.
From the window Scott had a wide view of the rest of the Sprawl and its complexes, which included several massive video displays that were used for public service announcements by the station's leader, Director Hans Tiedemann. Behind the sprawling complexes he could see the sturdy and unmoving solar transformer arrays that comprised Titan Station's Solar Array: once the station's primary source of energy, the Solar Array had now been decommissioned as a result of the recent breakthroughs by EarthGov's science divisions in the fields of fusion engineering. The Solar Array had thus been supplanted by a newly-installed helium-3-deuterium nuclear fusion reactor complex in the centre of the station, and while it contained an infinitely more complicated series and variety of components that had to be serviced by engineers regularly, it was still a far more efficient source of energy than the decommissioned Solar Array.
And behind all of that, one could just about see the gas giant that dwarfed the entire station – Saturn, in all of its gaseous, ringed glory – and sometimes, if the station's rotation, current position and orientation were right, a glimpse could be caught of the vast, black vacuum of space.
"Always makes you stop for a second, doesn't it?" Scott commented when he saw Tyler pausing, facing out towards the view.
"Yeah," he replied after a few seconds. "Makes you realize how insignificant we are."
"Compared to the rest of the galaxy, yeah." Scott let go of his pulse rifle for a second, and stretched his arms behind his back. "You know, even with CEC tearing up systems for every scrap of ore they can get their greedy hands on, we still haven't explored a smidgen of the Milky Way. Who knows what could be out there?"
"Not us, that's for sure," Tyler began, "and certainly not the CEC, thanks to those huge layoffs they've been having for like, what, the past year now? Who else is going to map all of those systems for their own profit, let alone ours?" It was true: the Concordance Extraction Corporation had no competitors, and they were the only one with any real motivation to chart the star systems of the galaxy. That didn't mean that others didn't exist, though.
"EDF," Scott responded simply. "They'll do it, if CEC won't, if only to make sure their patrol ships won't run into an asteroid that blows their communications gear light-years out there."
"Hah, I guess you're right," Tyler acquiesced. "They do have the job of protecting us from any threats we might find out there, after all."
That last sentence twinged something in Scott's mind. Whether it was just simple curiosity, or possibly a deep-seated fear of the unknown, he didn't know. "Do you think there's anything out there?" he questioned casually.
Tyler only scoffed. "I doubt it. But even if there is, we're not going to be the ones to have to deal with it."
"Famous last words, Tyler," Scott replied, unaware just how much that quote would apply to him, or how and why it would.
In the instant the words left his mouth, the order of Titan Station and its residents was shattered by the deafening sound of emergency alarms triggering. Everybody in the Concourse froze, as if they were incapable of registering the meaning of the blaring klaxons that echoed even in the wide space of the commercial and recreational complex.
But Scott and Tyler both registered it, and knew what it meant. Titan Station was under attack by internal hostiles.
"Famous last words, Fairbanks," Tyler echoed.
A/N: One of the things that fascinates me the most about stories, such as that of Dead Space, that centre on a supernatural inhuman force ravaging the natural human world (a flaky analogy, but accurate enough) is how the men and women of that human world defend themselves against that force. In most cases, these men and women are affiliated with the government, and as a force of authority their defense against the supernatural should be one of the strongest, if not the strongest. Yet time and time again, they are ineffectual in defending that which they have sworn to defend, being outclassed by a mere CEC engineer. (Admittedly, a badass CEC engineer.)
So, I decided to write a story that takes after the other side of the spectrum seen in the Dead Space universe, and write about the struggle of the Sprawl's security officers to hold the line against the threat posed by both the Necromorphs and Isaac Clarke.
This is pretty much the first story I've written in this sort of genre and setting, so please feel free to offer any comments and advice that you can give. Updates will be sporadic, but hopefully frequent; I'm as eager to see where this story goes as much as you are.