The building… no, the ground shook under his feet. Richard swung the bed carrying old man Harrison around the hall corner at speeds that would have terminated his internship at the hospital a mere days earlier. But not now. Nobody was left to be angry, just him, three dozen patients, and Dr. Sang.
Except Dr. Sang wasn’t even a doctor. Not anymore, not since the corporate wars seventy years ago. Dr. Sang was 102 years old, and had wondered into the hospital soon after the last real doctor had taken off for the evacuation ships. Bitching about the cowards that they let be doctors nowadays, he had calmly set his broken arm, and gotten to seeing to all the patients. He had been quite pleased to find lowly intern Richard still around.
For two days now, the hospital stood forgotten by the world, as the military held the Alien menace back while civilians evacuated the planet. Nobody cared to remember those who had been left behind, unable to move themselves. Left behind the ever shrinking perimeter of safety around the star-ports.
Dr. Sang had immediately promoted Richard to battle field medic. While muttering something more about cowards and bravery and broken oaths. Eccentric, weird, crazy, but damn good at what he did. Now he had ordered all the patients, all of them, at all costs, moved to the rooftop. He himself took on the worst cases, those that could not officially be moved. He hated that word, ‘official’. Things either are, or they aren’t.
Richard pounded the elevator button and hoped the old generator in the basement still had fuel to last a little longer. He’d already had to go out once to gather more fuel, and had nearly not come back. An alien walker patrol had almost come across him, and it was a miracle they hadn’t checked the hospital yet. Sang said that it was because everyone no matter how bad, had some respect for hospitals. Even Midas Corp, the money grubbing corporation that had started the wars of his youth, had stayed clear of hospitals. Richard wasn’t sure he believed that. These aliens where just so… alien. He’d seen what they did to captured humans. A few of the patients brought in in the early days had been… changing. Their skin had been growing thick, leathery, blue, and luminescent in places. He’d heard whispers among the doctors that their organs where being altered, twisted, removed, or replaced. Then the military came and carried away all the infected patients, and a few of the doctors that had been working on them. That was the last anyone had seen of the military.
The elevator dinged at the rooftop, and the doors rolled open. Richard rolled old man Harrison out to join the others lined up in a row. They sky above was a dark brown, briefly illuminated by flashes of light as one side or the other unleashed salvos on their enemies. The city around burned. Smoke rose from the wreckage of a downed defense force fighter about three kilometers to the north. Richard had seen it come down a few hours ago. It had screamed by the rooftop of the hospital close enough to touch, crashed through the daily planet building, and skidded down the street to where it lay now. Two alien fighters flashed behind it, too fast to see properly, and proceeded to blast the wreckage a few times before leaving. Dr. Sang had insisted on going out to check for survivors, but had come back grim and quite.
Speaking of Sang, he was fiddling with some wires stretched up between the hospital building and its neighbor. Richard ran over to him. Always running. One didn’t have the time to walk anymore. One ate while running, and one did not sleep. The hospitals supplies of stimulants was running dangerously low. Sang insisted they where still safe to use more, even if they where taking four times the recommended dose. “Safety margins”, he said, “perfectly safe for at least two more days. Then we’ll give you one of those mechanical hearts from storage.”
Sang was leaning over a small box on the roof edge. “Oy Robert old boy, ya read me ya lousy excuse fer a ’uman being?” There was a burst of static and then against all odds, another voice came from the radio, as Richard now recognized it. A very very very OLD radio. The voice said something, but it was impossible to understand, at least to Richard. Sang however seemed to have no problem understanding. “Good ta ‘ear ya again. We’re needin’ evac yesterday! Stay clear of the west, ’eavy activity there. Think the buggers are building something over in State Park.” More static and unintelligible words. Sang clicked the radio and it went silent. Standing he turned to Richard and seemed truly surprised to see him. “What ya doing standin’ around? We need to get everyone up ’ere right bloody now!” He shouted, before Richard could get in a word of question. “We’re gettin’ the hell out of ’ere kid, ya planning to leave little old Mrs. Marple behind?” He took off for the stairs before Richard could even respond. Richard wasted a moment closing his mouth, and then took of after him.
At 6th floor, he hit the elevator call button, and ran down the hall. Dr. Sang had already disappeared into Mrs. Marples room. Was that everyone? Richard quickly ran a tally on who had been moved… yes, she was the last one. He sprinted after Sang.
Mrs. Marple’s heart gave way half way out the door. Richard was ready to ditch her and head for the roof, but Sang grabbed him by the arm and pushed him back. “A doctor doesn’t leave his patient till they are cold an’ stiff. Go grab some surgical equipment, whatever ya can carry, and a few of the machine parts from storage. Meet me on the roof!” And away he went carting Mrs. Marple towards the elevator, while fiddling with her life support equipment.
Richard ran again. Down the stairs, the surgical ward. He grabbed a gurney and begun loading anything that wasn’t screwed down onto it. A stop by equipment storage, he blindly piled a dozen boxes of brand new, still shrink wrapped, perfectly sterile cyber-hearts on top of everything else. And then off, running for the elevator.\
As he passed the central hallway that opened into the lobby, he heard a crash of splintering glass and cement, and something moved in the corner of his eye. Could it be Dr. Sangs friend? No, no, obviously they where leaving by air, why else would all the patients be on the roof. So it must be… He sped up and barreled around another corner to the elevators. One of the elevators was already there, door open, waiting. Richard ran the gurney right in, slamming against the far wall. He turned and blindly smashed the rooftop button, and the door close button. It happened so fast, he didn’t even see it. A shape, something different, rounded the corner he had just come by, as his exhausted eyes tried to focus on the quick moving shape, it flashed a bright light, and his side exploded in pain.
Richard looked down, at his left arm, lying at his feet, scorched and decapitated at the elbow. Shock, disbelief, no pain. He moved his left arm, and a scorched stub on his shoulder wiggled. The elevator door slid shut.
When he regained consciousness, he felt light. Like he was floating. “Loss of blood… shock…” he muttered to himself. Dr. Sang popped into existence beside him. “What..?” His though was interrupted as suddenly he found himself pushed against restraints above him. He blinked. “Dr. Sang?”
“I’m here kid. You’re damn lucky. ‘ell, we’re all bloody lucky. Looks like we got out just in time. Ya got yourself a decent flesh wound.”
Richard blinked, and Dr. Sang teleported to the other side. No, he must have passed out again… “Flesh wound? Flesh wound? My arm is gone! Shit they’re in the building!”
“Calm down kid. First rule of combat medicine, EVERYTHING is a flesh wound. So long as the brains still intact, and all the equipment is available.”
“Equipment?” Richard stammered, trying to overcome the dull sensation of not-quite-being.
“Like I said, lucky. Ya grabbed a couple o’ extra parts back there when gettin’ a heart for Mrs. Marple. Ya’ll be good as new soon, barely any scars, soon ’s the skin mends.”
Richard blinked a couple times. Right. Mrs. Marple. The cyber hearts. He’d grabbed a bunch of packages without even looking at them properly. He HAD grabbed at least one heart he was sure… but the boxes… He swallowed, fought down the urge to vomit, and lifted his head to look around. He was tied down to a seat of some sorts. Patients where strapped in all around wherever there was room. A bolt floated past his eyes. “Space?”
“Yah. Robert the old coot went ‘n gave us a lift. Liberated ’er from someplace or other. We’re getting out of ’ere right an proper.”
“Bout time too!” Came a shout from somewhere towards his feat, where Richard assumed the pilot would be. “Last official Evac ship left last night, military’s falling back towards the black gate. Some sort of ‘get out of extinction free’ card.”
Richard gave up on his surroundings, and looked at his arm. It was there. The hand was a little different color then he was used to, the skin a bit paler, tighter, not QUITE right. And it felt… odd. Not quite a part of him, yet obviously attached somewhere under the bandages all the way up to his shoulder. He dropped his head and passed out again.
“Ey kid, wake up!” He heard Sang shouting from a great distance. He dragged himself back to consciousness. He was still strapped down, but the engines where silent. “Whats going on?”
An old bald man poked his head out of the cockpit. One of his eyes was obviously fake, one of the early models too. “This tub doesn’t have the juice to get us to the black gate, and there’s a fleet of alien cruisers between us and allied forces. I’ve gone and found as a real beauty to get us through though.” He chuckled “Always loved older woman, not many older then this girl.”
After unstrapping himself, Richard made his way for the airlock. “We going to need space suits?” He asked as he passed Dr. Sang who was busy checking one of the paitents.
“Naw, s’all good. More air then we’ll need. Go on ‘head ’n take a look around kid. Care the arm, ’ts just a stitch job till it ’eals on its own, you go liftin’ any weights, it’ll come right off. Maybe we can get some gel ta fix it up quick once we get ta safety.”
Richard nodded, and carefull keep his left arm tucked in, cycled the airlock. The lights blinked green right away, and the external door slid open. He floated out out and gasped. The shuttle stood upon a huge deck, the ceiling arched hundreds of meters over head, the far wall lay at least a kilometer away. A definite lack of gravity confirmed they where still in space. He’d been here before, some time ago when he first came to New Eden, the gigantic museum of star travel, based on the old sleeper ship morpheus. Was this supposed to be their ride out of here?
They stood on the bridge, the planet hung like a great saphire gem high overhead, but even from here the signs of war where obvious. Smoke cloaded the beauty, darkened the color, the nightside glowed with fires left unchecked. “Wheres the millitary? Wheres the aliens? And why havent they blown us up yet? We’re a huge target.” He queried, turning to look at Robert, who had seated himself in the control chair and was checking readouts.
“Our guys are gone, making a beline for the black gate. Aliens are all over the place. As for why they havnt blown us up…” He shrugged. “I expect they can see this ship is abandoned, no weapons, engines offline, and its ancient, not a threat. Besides, its not moving. Dead in the water. Much better targets in hounding our retreating forces, or picking up any smaller ships that havnt quite made it out yet. They’ll be here once theres nothing else.”
“So what then? When we start moving? Can we outrun them?” Richard frowned. “I dont remember much about the Morpheus… how fast can it go? Wont they swarm us the moment we power up the engines?”
Robert grinned, “Aye, I’m sure they will. And then they are in for one hell of a party. This girl be old, not exaclty elegant, but very effective tech back then.” He cackled, “It’ll be a blast!”
Just then Dr. Sang floated in. “All good bellow deck. Everyones tucked in, cept for us. ’ow we looking here Rob?”
“We’re in luck. I was worried someone had gotten around to unloading the remaining ‘propelant’. Would ya believe it? Over a hundred yearas, and nobody had gotten around to aranging the removal of the leftover nuclear propulsian units.”
Suddenly a memory flashed into Richards head. “Wait a minute! The Morpheus used nuclear pulse propultion didnt it? You mean they left functioning nukes just floating up here?”
Robert and Sang both looked at him and started laughing. “Thats about right kid. Gotta love beurocracy.”
Robert tapped away at the keyboard. “Alright. Everythings ready to go, course is set in for the black gate. I dont know how much time before they plan to close it, so Im putting everything we have into getting us moving. We wont be able to slow down on our own, so lets hope someone picks up our transponder.”
“What’bout the millitaries perimeter ’round tha gate? We gonna still be blasting when we get there? SPeaking of, how long will it take to get there?” asked Dr. Sang, looking over Roberts shoulder, but obviously not seeing anything he understood.
“Naw, It’ll take us a good couple weeks to get to the gate. That should still be in time, theres refugee ships collecting from all over known space, but…” He shrugged. “No guarantees. No danger to our own forces, unless we ram one of them. We’ll be out of propulsion units well before we get there. Now be silent, I need to rig this up to wake us up when we get near the gate.”
“Wait wait wait,” Richard couldnt help himself. “We’re going to sleep too? No pilot?”
Robert starred at him and frowned. “Yes. These ships where not meant for anyone to still be awake during velocity changes. They can be quite… violent. Theres no crew quarters, no food, no water, very little air… We’re going to point ourself in the right direction, hit the gas, and hope for the best.”
Richard swallowed. “Right. Sounds awesome…”
“Glad you understand. Go and get yourself strapped in for cryo. Use the pods over there to the back, they are for the command crew originally, and I guess thats us.”
Richard floated to the back wall of the bridge, where a double line of pods hung embedded in slots on the wall. He picked one arbitrarily, checked that it reported functional status, and entered his default vitals when the prompts came up. It was amazing how simple the system was. Then he climbed inside. Dr. Sang was already getting into his pod too, and as Richard watched, Robert jumped out of his seat and threw himself at the pods. “Go go go, activate the cryo-pods. Generators are at max power, which means the aliens will have to notice us now, and first deployment is in five minutes.” He colided with the nearest cryo-pod, and flipped himself inside.
Richard slapped the activate switch and lay down. The lid immediately hissed shut, and a chill gas flooded the chamber. Richard inhaled once, twice… and darkness claimed him. Outside, the alien ships swarming the planet took notice of the suddenly powered up colloseus ohanging over them, and as one they turned to engage it. Even as they enetred into weapon range, and the first of them opened fire, a bright new sun illuminated the night side of New Eden, end as soon as it had time to fade, another flashed into existance a little further out. The lead waves of alien fighters where scattered, those behind pulled back, as the Morpheus soared away on wings of nuclear fire.
Two weaks later, the black gate Was being pushed hard. Thousands of ships, alien and human, fought for controll of the gate. Continuously, ships jumped into the system. Refugees with escorts, millitary units, alien vessles of all shapes and sizes. THe refugees made for the gate, some of them made it, their escorts where peeled back to aid int he deffence. Giant alien carriers would jump in, disgorge hundreds of fighters, and then jump out again. In all the chaos, nobody even noticed the collosal titan coasting into the fringes of of sensor readings. Not till the moment when an alien carrier dropped out of hyperspace, and was immediatly impacted by the still larger Morpheus. It bent and broke into pieces, leaving large rents in the hull of the Sleeper Ship. The juggernaught never slowed or diverted and even as sections of its hull begun to disintigrate from the incomming fire, it drifted through the gate and disapeared, never to be seen again.