Rise of the Enders
It was a day that would forever change the future of humanity, but for Commander Jones, it started the same as any other. An alarm robot booted itself up and began to zoom around the Commander's quarters—beeping and trilling all sorts of high-pitched, obnoxious noises in an attempt to wake the sleeping man. Jones groped on his nightstand for his glasses, jammed them onto his nose, and then sleepily thrust his hand out. A pulsing blue energy beam shot from his palm and neatly vaporized the alarm bot.
It was the third one that week.
With a satisfied grin, Commander Jones pulled the covers back over his head and managed to sleep in for another twenty minutes before a persistent knocking against his door finally roused him. It was his assistant, a stern-faced, older woman who was largely responsible for keeping things running smoothly on the ship.
"Commander, with all due respect, get your lazy posterior out of bed!" she shrieked through the metal door. Commander Jones sighed mightily and swung his long, muscular legs out of bed. He'd fought enough battles to know that this particular one was a hopeless cause. He never got to sleep in.
"I'm coming already!" Alfred shouted. Under his breath he added, "Evil dragon woman!"
"I heard that!"
Commander Jones just scowled petulantly in response and dragged his feet into his bathroom to complete his morning rituals. His childish behavior was not typical of a Commander in the United Fleet (and he was a Vanguard now, too, on top of his already impressive military title), but nothing about Commander Jones was normal. His crew had adapted to his unusual leadership style, and they knew that behind his childish front, Commander Jones was a weapon of mass destruction on the battlefield. He held the lives of his crew in his hands, and he took that responsibility very seriously.
He just really wasn't a morning person.
Teeth brushed and his bladder appeased, Commander Jones dressed in his casual uniform and emerged with a jaw cracking yawn. His assistant was waiting patiently, and she presented him with a datapad containing specs on the ship's performance and navigational progress while he'd been sleeping.
Jones glanced over it dismissively and then exited out of the report, pulling up a sports page that gave him the results of the latest pod races on Luna.
"Damn. I had fifty creds on that new pilot—he burned out in just the second lap!" Jones pouted. His assistant rolled her eyes.
"Your breakfast is waiting in the galley, Commander. Please get to it. You have a busy day," she chided. Jones handed the datapad back to her and nodded with a friendly smile at a crew member passing by, who saluted him briskly.
"You say that everyday, and it's always boring," Jones griped. This exchange was also as routine as clockwork. Despite having one of the most impressive, expensive ships in the human military at his command, and all the freedom of a Vanguard, Commander Jones spent much of his time traveling in space from one routine mission to the next. Lately, it had become a little too routine for the excitement-craving Jones. Of course, a mission that was "routine" for Jones would scare the crap out of a civilian and make experienced military leaders shake in their boots. Jones was special, though. He always had been. There was not anything in the universe he truly feared. Except maybe ghosts.
Commander Jones scanned his eyes over the galaxy map, seeing nothing interesting beyond space rubble and random little globes floating silently on their orbits. His assistant sat down at a computer terminal nearby with a steaming mug of tea.
"Still on course for Lillim?" Jones asked. His assistant, yeoman Michaels, nodded briskly.
"Making excellent time," she observed. Already bored with yet another day of space travel, Commander Jones turned his back to the three-dimensional galaxy map and sighed mightily. Maybe he'd go to the commons deck of the ship and work out a bit—like he did everyday.
"I'm gonna go pump some iron. Call me if anything comes up," Commander Jones ordered needlessly. Michaels nodded, but went back to her desk work, essentially dismissing him for the day now that he was awake at a respectable hour.
As Alfred was making his way to the ship's elevator, a rather plucky little robot rolled into the hallway along side him. He was such an old model of robot that he was nearly three feet tall. His body was fashioned from dull, silver metal and his optical sensors were overly large, red ovals of cheap grade plastic. This particular model was a Technical Operations and Networking Infobot—but Al just called him Tony for short, and they'd been buddies ever since Alfred had been forced to leave his home world at the mere age of ten. Alfred's hobby (not that he had much time for it between missions for the Council and the United Army) was tinkering with robots. Tony was the first bot he'd ever built from a pre-fab kit that he'd worked for years as a kid in a junkyard to afford.
Tony didn't serve any real function on the ship beyond keeping Alfred company nowadays. Sometimes, just so the bot would feel useful, Alfred would have him send an e-mail to his brother Matthew, who still lived and worked out in the wild and lawless edges of the galaxy—a place known more simply as the Verge.
"Anything in my inbox, Tony?" Jones asked, giving the robot a friendly little pat on his dome shaped head.
"Negative. You have no new e-mails. Alert. A system scan performed at 1300 hours revealed a distress signal sent from the planet Nihon," Tony informed in a mechanical monotone. Commander Jones glanced at Tony in mild surprise.
"Michaels didn't mention a distress signal this morning. Are you sure you don't have a bug or something, Tony?" Jones asked concernedly. Tony wheeled in front of Alfred, blocking his progress to the commons.
"Alert. A program has been blocked from attempting to download a holo to this platform. Would you like to download the message now, or be reminded again about this request in (selection) 24 hours, 48 hours, or never?"
Alfred was really intrigued then. It was one thing for Tony to pick up on a possibly old and dysfunctional distress beacon, but it was another thing that he'd received a holo message. It was extremely old fashioned technology, but someone had to have been sentient at some point to record it.
"Download authorized," Alfred replied, crossing his arms across his chest and waiting in the hallway for the download to complete. Yet another soldier passed by and offered a stiff salute. Alfred offered a smile and a friendly hello, but his men always kept their distance from him. He had only the best of the best of the United Army's men on his ship, the SS Hetalia. Mostly, they were older, battle hardened soldiers that respected rank and file and didn't have much in common with their young, friendly and excitable Commander.
"The download is complete. What would you like to do with this file? (Select) Open, Save As, or Cancel?"
"Open," Alfred said. Maybe this would liven up what was shaping up to be just another humdrum day in space. The black camera beneath Tony's "eyes," designed to look a bit like his mouth, projected a flickering, 3-dimensional image of a slender alien with human-like features. The only differences in anatomy seemed to be his elfish ears and his purely black eyes, which seemed just a little too large to be human. The holo began to speak in an unknown language. If Alfred didn't know better, he would have thought the alien was some sort of android. His voice was almost completely monotone, and he certainly didn't seem to be in distress.
Maybe that was why Michaels hadn't mentioned the distress signal—maybe it was just a generic warning that planets sometimes left around dangerous territories. Alfred sighed in disappointment.
"Doesn't seem like he needs help. Can you run a translator on it?" Alfred asked, resuming his walk to the commons. Tony bumped and rolled along beside him, his speed a little slowed as he was busy computing.
"Negative. The language is ancient Pito. I have only minimal sources to translate. Translation will be incomplete. (Select) Continue, Cancel?" Tony asked. Alfred had never been much of a history student. Pito sounded familiar, as did the planet Nihon, but he couldn't remember why the names tugged at his memory.
"Continue," Alfred authorized absently. They had reached the commons, and it was empty at such an early hour in the morning. Unlike Alfred, most of the crew had duties to perform on the ship to keep everything running. Jones just waited around until the big, bad guys needed to be destroyed.
The holo began repeating its message, still in that flat tone, but this time certain phrases jumped out.
"-request pick up-frozen-future of galaxy-balance-"
Alfred blinked in bewilderment. Sure, he hadn't gotten the full message, but that certainly wasn't a generic warning to stay away from dangerous mines or a warning about severe weather conditions. The more advanced databases on the ship's core would have been able to decode the message more fully, and yet for some reason, the distress signal had been ignored. Worse, it had not even been reported to him.
Sure, Alfred Jones acted like a big kid most of the time, but he was still Commander for a reason. It was his call to make, and he couldn't make those calls if he wasn't even properly informed.
More than a little annoyed, Jones left the commons as quickly as he'd arrived and headed back up to the bridge, Tony rolling along at his side. When he got there, Michaels was still typing away at her terminal and sipping her now cold tea.
"Back so soon?" she inquired. Alfred scowled.
"Play the holo, Tony," Alfred said. His little bot did as requested, and Michaels listened with a totally blank expression on her face. Then, something a little creepy happened. As Alfred watched, the stern woman's eyes fogged over. A second later, her irises were their normal shade of brown, and Alfred shook his head a bit, wondering if he was imagining things. She seemed like the same old Michaels when she addressed his concern, though.
"We also received this transmission, Commander, but our systems tell us it is far too old for the recorder of the message to still be alive. It is nothing to concern yourself over," she reassured. "Outdated distress signals such as that one are all over the galaxy. It might be thousands of years before another ship travels this route, you know."
"Err...I guess...but, hey, Michaels...are your eyes feeling okay? Maybe your biotics are acting up," Alfred suggested. The yeoman blinked a few times, seemingly in surprise.
"My eyes? They feel fine, Commander. I can have a biotic balance scan performed later in the med bay, if you deem it necessary, however," she said. Alfred decided it must have just been his over-active imagination.
"You don't have to—it must have been a trick of the light or something. Anyway, even if this holo is old, I'm still curious. We can't be more than a few minutes away if we activate the hyper drive. Double back and tell the shuttle crew to prepare for landing on Nihon."
Michaels stared at him for perhaps a bit too long without saying anything. Finally, she nodded her head once, and returned silently to her terminal. Alfred pouted a bit at her back. What was up with the old woman today? Usually she was pretty tolerant of small stops to let Alfred stretch his legs and do some light scouting.
'It doesn't matter if she thinks it's a waste of time. I'm so freaking bored on this ship that I'll take any excuse to land I can get!' Alfred thought stubbornly. He returned to his room, where he kept his armor and weaponry stored. There likely wouldn't be anything on Nihon but some big game that might make for nice target practice, but Alfred thought of the strange alien on the holo. What if he was still alive? Alfred had certainly never met an alien like him, and he knew the galaxy was a big place. What if his species was just particularly long lived? It had sounded like his message was really important—something about a threat to the whole galaxy.
Alfred smiled as he strapped on his chest plate. He was overdue for a good challenge.
"Captain, they're right on our tail!"
"Then get them off our tail, Silva!" the Captain roared as he pushed away from his outdated vid screen where he saw nothing but bad news—a big, powerful merc striker was after him for his latest stunt. The ship suddenly shook dangerously and the bridge began to cloud with smoke. A terminal, likely something important, was spitting little sparks of blue light, while the machinery chugging along behind the sleek metal panels began to groan and belch smoke.
Matthew's voice popped up on one of the com links, calm and quiet even in such a dangerous situation.
"We're hit badly," he assessed.
"What the fuck was that?" Arthur shouted at Matthew, swatting ineffectively at the smoke pluming up around him. He needed to get to the upper turret, as clearly something had happened to Ivan. Usually, their resident, scary-as-fuck gunman would have been all over their pursuing attacker at a time like this.
"Captain, hyper is out. They've hit a slat, and one of our engines is overloaded," Matthew rattled off. Arthur kicked angrily at a nearby terminal and cursed in about twelve different alien languages before he got it together.
"Alright, Matthew, shut off the engines and let her float. We aren't going to get anywhere with no hyper and a busted up slat. Silva, divert all alternative power to the shields," Arthur ordered. Silva shot him a skeptical look.
"We'll be sitting ducks, Captain," Silva said. Arthur frowned grimly.
"Exactly. We'll let them board. I'd make sure your gun isn't jammed this time, Silva. It gets rather tiresome saving your life all the time," Arthur said flippantly. His navigator and pilot shot him a wild grin and a rude hand gesture.
"Shields are up, Captain," Silva confirmed, just as Arthur exited the bridge and took the ladder passage up to the top turret. It was a long climb in total darkness, due to all the power being diverted to the shields. Sadly, that meant the lift wasn't working either.
Once Arthur reached the top of the ladder, he pulled out a small energy blade and clicked it on, feeling the thrum of power in his hand and finally able to see by the fuzzy green light it emitted.
Sure enough, Ivan had been knocked out cold. He must have hit his head during the initial blast. Arthur checked his vitals with calm, practiced ease, even though his beloved ship was still being knocked about by small munition fire.
'Bloody hell, do I have to do everything around here?' Arthur thought to himself as he hastily hit the com link on his thin, flexible armor.
"I thought it went without saying that we were faking a surrender—it would be wise then to issue a white flag so they stop fucking firing!" Arthur snapped. A second later, Rafael's totally unapologetic voice echoed cheekily back at him in the darkness.
"Sorry, Captain. It's out now," he said. "Thank god for us you're worth ten times more alive than dead," Rafael added. It was true enough. The mercs would have blasted a less valuable pirate right out of orbit.
Luckily, or perhaps not, Captain Arthur had a considerable bounty placed on his head by a rather well connected illegal arms dealer. The pesky bounty on his head shut Arthur out of weapons dealing, but luckily he was still able to outfit the ship with whatever they needed through salvage and through Ivan's connections.
Not that Ivan was doing him much good at the moment.
"Ivan's fine—just knocked out. Might as well leave him up here. He won't be any good in the fight," Arthur said with reluctance. He was pretty fearless in a fight, but knowing Ivan was fighting at his back always gave him an extra boost of confidence.
'Well, if I play my cards right, it won't come down to a gunfight at all,' Arthur thought with sudden inspiration. Arthur pressed his com link again, this time speaking to their resident cook/assassin, a man by the name of Yao Wang.
"Yao, who's your favorite Captain?" Arthur asked with fake sweetness. Yao's angry, rapid answer fired back immediately.
"I'm not doing that again!" Yao shouted.
"Sorry, Yao, but it's an order," Arthur replied with a smile that was just a little perverted. This was one of his favorite tricks, but it was hard getting Yao to cooperate. They'd tried it once with Matthew, but that had just been a disaster. Yao had the graceful nature to pull it off...and he looked damn good in drag.
Arthur chuckled when a stream of old Chinese curse words streamed over his com link. That meant Yao would play along, though Arthur knew he'd likely be eating his own cooking as a punishment for weeks to come. It was a small price to pay to prevent further damage to his beloved ship.
Leaving Ivan to sleep it off in his loft space, Arthur slid down the rails of the ladder and landed back on the bridge. The smoke had been sucked out and Matthew had emerged from the engine core, his delicate features obscured by grease and oil as usual.
"How's she holding up?" Arthur asked. Matthew shrugged.
"She's survived far worse. I can patch her up at a fuel depot...if we get there alive, that is," Matthew said a bit glumly. Arthur flashed his mechanic a debonair smile.
"Why, Matthew, don't I always get us out alive? What kind of gentleman would I be to let you all die horrible, pointless deaths?" Arthur asked. The final member of their small crew came skidding into the room, still looking a bit panicked, a gun in his hands that was far too powerful for him held at the ready. Sure enough, he tripped on the cracked flooring and accidentally fired the gun. With lightening reflexes, the Captain shoved Matthew down, feeling the hot energy of the phaser gun sting over his back.
"PETER!" Arthur roared, as soon as he deemed it safe to stand again. The useless cabin boy squeaked in alarm and took off again, this time running away from Arthur rather than towards him. Mercs were scary, but Captain Arthur could be terrifying!
The ship rumbled and shuddered as the merc ship docked beside them and extended their hatch.
"Shit, that was fast. Where's Yao?" Rafael asked a bit worriedly. Arthur glanced toward the crew chambers and was relieved to see Yao emerge, fully disguised. Rafael and Arthur shared a quick smile—it was always fun seeing Yao in such a costume.
He wore a padded bra, which helped him fill out the seductive dress that managed to hide the bare minimum of skin and reveal just about everything else. Fake gold armbands accentuated Yao's slender upper arms, and delicate, silken shoes encased his small feet. The Asian man's hair was down, which was a rarity, and the long, black locks flowed like satin. A similar gold band encircled his brow, accented with a jewel that dangled in the middle of his forehead.
"Aww, no makeup?" Rafael teased.
"I didn't have time, you great idiot! Hurry, get the stupid floorboard up if we are really going to do this," Yao ordered. As he talked, he skillfully tied himself up with a long, silken rope. To the untrained eye, it looked as though his captors had restrained him. In truth, the complicated knots and webbing would serve as Yao's primary weapon.
Rafael put his well-defined muscles to work and hefted up the loose floor panel. It was one of many places they used in the ship when they were smuggling illegal cargo, but they rarely actually used it—it was too obvious a place.
Mercs were usually too dumb to pick up on subtleties like that, though. Arthur had been using a variation of this ploy for years. Just as Yao disappeared under the floor, the hatch opened and three, muscle bound mercs had their guns leveled at the crew of the Old Britannia.
"Welcome aboard, gentleman. Might I interest you in a cuppa?" Arthur offered with a jaunty little bow. The mercs grunted in disapproval and made a show of waving about their weapons.
"All of you, down on the floor!" the leader of the platoon shouted, unnecessarily loudly in Arthur's opinion. They were in a small space and they certainly weren't deaf. Making a show of reluctance, the crew dropped to their knees, hands behind their heads. The other two mercs came forward and began patting them down, tossing their weapons onto the nearby table with its colorful, mismatched chairs.
"Gentleman, please. Surely we can work this out. I know there is the small matter of my crew raiding your ship, but you'll find all the goods we stole in the cargo bay, quite intact," Arthur said. The reaction from the merc was instant. He pistol whipped Arthur hard across the jaw, drawing blood. Being a seasoned fighter, Arthur didn't even grunt in pain, though blood began to well up at the corner of his mouth. He spat it onto the floor and stared distastefully at the violent merc.
"You think you can just raid our ship and then give it back? No harm done? For such a famous pirate captain, you sure are stupid!" the merc taunted. Arthur tasted his own blood and smiled.
"As I was saying, your cargo is still on board...as is the cargo we took from a United Army supply vessel that, shall we say...drifted a bit off course," Arthur said suggestively. The first merc who had entered the ship, the one who carried himself like the leader, cocked his helmeted head to the side.
"I'm listening. What are you packing on your little shit of a ship, Kirkland?" the merc asked. Just then, Yao let out a staged whimper, right on cue.
"Hey! They've got hidden cargo under the floor—sounds alive! I bet this pirate is moving a slave, aren't you?" the third merc guessed. The merc leader began to smile under his helmet. It was their lucky day. At first, it had seemed like shit work to chase after the slippery pirate who had stolen medical supplies, of all things, but the bounty on Kirkland had made a halfhearted chase required. The merc leader honestly hadn't expected to catch a pirate like Kirkland. Then again, his ship was a rusty bucket of bolts. It was strange that such a notorious pirate had such a clunky, outdated vessel.
All such thoughts left the leader's mind when the floorboard was pried up to reveal a slender, Asiatic slave, tidily bound with tears smeared over her cheeks. The mercs licked their lips in anticipation.
"You were holding out on us, pirate. Why the fuck would we care about pills and spare ammo when you've got a treasure like this on board."
"Fuck yeah! Jackpot!" the crude merc said in delight. He shoved Arthur aside in his haste to lift the sex slave out of the hidden compartment. "She's strong! This one will last much longer than the last one did!" the merc estimated. Yao made a big show of looking properly terrified.
"I didn't want it to come to this, but I suppose it must now. Look, lads, she's actually quite legal. I have her authorization codes, which will make it much easier on you to get clearance to bring her back on your main ship."
"So what's your deal? We take the slave and you send over the codes?" the merc leader asked. Arthur grinned pleasantly.
The mercs exchanged looks. Even with their helmets on, Arthur read the stupid thoughts flashing through their skulls. 'We'll take the slave back to the ship, and then blast their ship to rubble anyway. The slave is worth far more than Kirkland!'
"Well, gentleman, do we have a deal?" Arthur asked. The merc leader smiled beneath his helmet.
"Deal, pirate. We leave with the slave. This little run-in never happened."
"I understand perfectly," Arthur replied.
The mercs left, Yao in their custody, back to their own ship. The subordinate started questioning the leader as soon as the hatch closed.
"We aren't letting them live, right?" he asked.
"Of course not. We'll give him a chance to send the codes over, just in case they're actually legit. It's a shame we couldn't get Kirkland and the slave...but I just don't want to deal with transporting someone like Kirkland, even if the money is good," the leader replied. The third began the process of detaching their ship.
It all happened very fast. One second, Yao was a crying slave left slumped and restrained by the hatch. The next, he was everywhere, seemingly all at once. The rope twisted around the first merc, who'd made the mistake of removing his helmet. Yao pulled the rope mercilessly, crushing the man's esophagus, before he leaped onto the second merc and bound his hands in mere seconds. Done with the rope, Yao left it restraining the second merc and propelled off him towards the third. He ripped the fake jewel off his headband and threw it to the ground, instantly filling the ship with smoke when the fake gemstone proved to be a smoke bomb. Moving soundlessly in his slipper feet, Yao slipped up behind the third merc and slid his hidden blade into the soft padding between helmet and chest plate with deadly precision. He returned to the restrained merc and broke his neck with a bare-handed twist. The three were dead in less than two minutes.
"Sending over the codes now, gentleman, though I warn you—Yao is a delicate lady deserving of the utmost respect—" Arthur's voice rang out jokingly over the ship's com link. Yao waved irritatingly at the smoke and pressed the button to reply.
"Shut up, you stupid pirate! It's done! You eat your own cooking for a month for making me wear this stupid, ugly dress again!" Yao barked.
"Now, Yao, I didn't realize you weren't fond of the dress. I'm sure Ivan would be more than happy to acquire a new one for you. He's finally come around and rejoined us, in case you were worried," Arthur replied. Yao tossed his silky black hair angrily.
"Connecting the hatch now," Arthur replied, and Yao once again felt the rumbling of the two ships linking up once more. The first thing Yao saw upon re-entering Old Britannia was Ivan smiling at him in perverted glee.
'Just what I need,' Yao thought in annoyance. The ship's gunner had a weird, creepy obsession with him already, and seeing Yao in drag only made the problem worse. That was just one reason (among many!) he hated the smuggled slave routine.
Besides, why did he always have to do all the work? Honestly, the stupid pirates would get nowhere without him!
"You did really good, Yao," Matthew said in his quiet, sweet way. He was the only crew member that didn't grate on Yao's nerves, but that wasn't saying much. Honestly, Yao had no idea why he stuck with the odd crew. There certainly wasn't much in it for himself.
"Thank you, Matthew. And you're all welcome for saving your lives...again," Yao said. Then, directing his glare at Arthur's bloody lip, Yao frowned. "He didn't hit you hard enough, but sit down you stupid pirate. I have ancient Chinese remedy that will help."
"Ah, little Yao, I hit my head too," Ivan interjected in his slow, off-putting way of speaking. Yao rolled his eyes, but waved them both towards the dining table. Matthew fetched Peter from hiding, as well as his tools, and went to go salvage parts off the merc ship with Rafael and Peter's help.
"Aside from the busted lip, I'd say that went fairly well," Arthur mused. Yao inspected his bloodied lip with a grip that was more firm than entirely necessary.
"You are too soft. If any other crew had tried to steal that medicine, it would be suicide," Yao remarked. He gave Arthur a cold, wet rag to press to his busted lip.
"Yes, well, I told you when you signed up my evil reputation was really rather undeserved," Arthur joked lightly. The assassin's eyes softened and his movements grew gentle again.
"Those children on Midor will live now, thanks to us. I suppose it was not a bad raid after all, but we still must get them the supplies," Yao said.
"Matthew will have us ready to go before you can say...drag," Arthur replied, with a cheeky grin. Instantly, Yao's eyes hardened again and he grabbed a nearby frying pan. Arthur only just managed to dodge the wild attack.
Meanwhile, Ivan just watched his little assassin and smiled, despite the bloody gash on his forehead. Seeing Yao dressed so prettily was always a treat—it had been a good raid, after all, even if he didn't get to shoot anyone.
A mere three hours later, Matthew had efficiently gutted the merc ship and repaired their own—at least enough to allow them to limp back to Midor. When the work was done and they were underway once more, Matthew relaxed down in the engine room and smiled at an old picture of himself and his twin brother.
"I survived again somehow. I hope you're just as healthy and safe as me, wherever you are, Alfie," Matthew wished as he often did, making a mental note to shoot an e-mail to his brother later, once he was sure the ship would safely make it to port.
A/N: So this is the start of a new idea I've been excited about for a pretty long time! It's basically like a mash-up of Hetalia, Star Wars, Firefly, and Mass Effect. If you aren't familiar with any of those other series, just think HETALIA: IN SPACE! I'm not entirely convinced about devoting my time to this one, so let me know if I'm onto something or if writing sci-fi isn't my thing. This is my first time to try, so I'm a little nervous!
Character/Country Name Translations for Reference:
Rafael Silva – Portugal
Ivan – Russia
Yao – China
Matthew – Canada
Alfred – America
Arthur – England
Peter – Sealand