Hellfire 'Darkness Falls' First chapter
How it began.
Hellfire Darkness Falls is my first full book and was published at the end of March this year as an ebook. Here is the opening and first full chapter to this book which is now available in print. Enjoy the read.
Nothing but stars as far as the eye could see out of the only window in the room and peaceful silence throughout. I stirred slightly from my sleep catching a glimpse of my watch, 6:25am as I turned over and thought three more hours in bed. Then smiling to myself I closed my eyes again.
Just as I was drifting back into a deep sleep,
‘Captain to the bridge.’
I rudely awoke and sat up slightly as again the tannoy announced,
‘I repeat Captain to the bridge.’
I leant over rubbing my hand across the wall trying to find the tannoy reply button.
‘Captain to the br...’
As I pressed the button it cut off the announcement and I replied,
‘What’s the problem?’
The deep voice of my first officer answered loudly,
‘Sorry to wake you Captain, but we have picked up an S.O.S signal.’
There was a pause as I sat up and put my feet on the cold steel floor, before sighing to myself and replying,
‘I’m on my way.’
I stood up saying out loud to the room,
Suddenly the room lit up as I rubbed my eyes while they tried to adjust to the bright lighting. I was still thinking to myself, this was my first morning off in ten days. I pulled open the top draw in the cupboard next to my bed and got dressed. I moved over to the food dispenser while my eyes were still trying to adjust to the harsh lighting. Pressing the voice activation switch I said,
‘One large coffee, hot, strong and with milk.’
I tied my hair back into a ponytail while I was waiting, and after just a few moments my coffee appeared.
I picked up the coffee taking a sip of the hot drink before I made my way up to the bridge.
The doors slid open to the bridge and my boots rattled the metal grilled floor as I stepped into the room. I look across the room at the large windows at the front of the bridge where I could see a sea of endless stars and space on just the other side of the reinforced glass.
There was my navigation’s officer at his station, next to the weapons control. The captain’s chair was situated in the middle of the room and as I looked around I could see many other work stations scattered around the bridge in typical military style.
I could feel the tension in the air from my crew and I could also see Andrew Cygnarowski my first officer. He was a tall man of stocky build with short blonde hair. His eyes were fixed on one of the control consoles to the far side of the bridge.
‘Report’ I announced loudly. Andrew jumped up from the console not realising I had entered the room.
He turned quickly to face me before replying,
‘Sir it’s a faint S.O.S signal that’s been repeating every three minutes and it’s coming from this sector.’
I looked straight at him as I asked,
‘What do you have on it?’
There was a moments silence as my first officer looked a little uneasy before he replied,
‘Not much, there is definitely something out there, but we are too far away to tell what it is. What I do know is the signal started at about 6:30am this morning and has continued since then.’
He was right this wasn’t much, so I asked.
Andrew turned back to the console again and then back at me as he answered.
‘It doesn’t look like anything we have on file, but it’s very big. It could be military, a new ship or weapon. If we get there first, there could be a huge pay off in it for us. On the other hand it might also be a trap.’
There was an air of excitement in his voice as he spoke. I looked around the bridge and found all eyes were now fixed on me. So I turned back to face Andrew and I could see from his face he was expecting my next question, but I asked it anyway.
‘What’s the chance of it being alien?’
My first officer quickly replied as if to reassure me that this would be a safe rescue mission.
‘Slim, we are well within our boarders and the signal looks like a standard Earth S.O.S call. Besides there’s been no war with anyone for at least two years now.’
As much as I would love to believe all distress signals were genuine. I knew this wasn’t the case so asked,
‘What about Raiders?’
Andrew smiled back at me as he answered,
‘It’s too big to be Raiders and although we’re not military, this old battle cruiser is far too big for Raiders to take on.’
Still trying to keep my options open, although I could see Andrew would have an answer for this I asked,
‘Are there any other ships closer than us?’
Andrew turned back to look at the monitor and then replied,
‘No, we are the only ship within three sectors of the distress signal.’
I approached the console to take a closer look for myself. This possible S.O.S signal would take us four days off course at maximum thrust and we had a shipment to drop off at Shackelton 2 colony in three days, otherwise no one would be getting paid this week.
I looked back at my first officer and from his face I could tell he knew exactly what I was going to say, jumping in before I could say another word,
‘Sir we can use the jump engines. It would only take us two and half hours across the warp to check the signal out and we would still have time to make our drop off at Shackelton.’
We both knew the dangers of travelling through warp space. Ships have been disappearing in it for centuries never to be heard from again. Still I was never the one to turn a helping hand away. Even if it meant opening the gates to what looked like hell and probably was.
I could see my first officer had an air of excitement about him and even my own curiosity was starting to get the better of me as I thought to myself, this was probably why I was always finding myself in trouble. There was a short moment’s silence before I replied,
‘Just two and half hours ha?’
There was a spark light up in my first officer’s eyes as he quickly answered,
‘Yes Sir, that is all.’
I turned to face the communication’s console where I could see my communication’s officer Steven Richards. He was a short slim man of about five foot two with dark brown straight hair that looked like it was painted to his head, and eyes that always made him look shifty. Still looks could be deceiving as I had known him to be trustworthy for many years. I also knew he was the best at his job outside of the fleet. So I spoke up saying,
‘Richards, Inform the ship we’re going to yellow alert.’
He turned around to confirm my order,
‘Yes Captain.’ And while he was turning back I added,
‘And tell my Tactical Officer I want her on the bridge before we jump.’
Turning back to face my first officer I continued to say,
‘I need as much information on that signal as possible.’
Andrew moved quickly back to one of the work consoles as I asked,
‘Richards do we have a response yet from our reply signal?’
Again he turned to face me as he replied,
‘No Captain, just the same S.O.S repeating, maybe they cannot respond.’
I sat at the command post and muttered ‘maybe’ to myself.
While as much as my curiosity wanted to be satisfied. I just couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a bad idea and that something just wasn’t quite right. It just didn’t make sense, a ship coming from nowhere so badly damaged that it couldn’t respond to our reply and with no other vessels within three sectors of the ship.
I could only think it must have had a major accident or technical failure. I took a sip from my coffee just as my thoughts were interrupted by the bridge doors sliding open, followed by a young woman who came storming into the room.
Miss Parkinson my tactical officer better known to the crew as Julie. You would have never have thought such a beautiful petite woman with long black curly hair and eyes you could fall into was once ever in the military.
She joined the crew at the end of the last Great War, although there wasn’t much great about it. Said she couldn’t stand the thought of being stuck in an office on some colony in a dead end desk job. But then I could relate to that. She marched onto the bridge while announcing at the top of her voice,
‘This had better be good, it’s my day off.’
She stopped right in front of my first officer and stared directly into his eyes with a look that could kill.
I butted in quickly to Andrew’s relief,
‘It’s good alright.’
Julie jumped not realizing I was there before turning around and saying,
‘Captain, I didn’t mean...’
I interrupted her sentence before she could finish,
‘It doesn’t matter, we’re going to make a jump into warp space for a short two and a half hour holiday and I’m not taking any chances.’
Julie had that look in her eyes like I knew what was coming so I continued,
‘That means I want all weapon systems ready at my command and the shields working at 100% efficiency.’
Julie replied with the protest I had come to expect from her,
‘Captain with all due respect even the military have all but given up on jump gate technology and are looking for ways to improve speed. Why could we possible need to risk making a jump of that length?’
I calmly lent back in my chair as I replied,
‘An S.O.S signal from this sector, that’s most likely to be our own people.’
Again my tactical officer spoke up,
‘Isn’t there safer way?’
I could tell she knew my mind was already made up as I said,
‘It’s the fastest way to get there and besides we’re the only ship in this whole system.’
For a moment we just stared into each others eyes before I continued,
‘How long do you need?’
Julie moved over to the tactical station and pushed a few buttons before answering,
‘At least an hour.’
I knew this ship inside out and I could tell she was trying to buy time, after all it only takes ten minutes to up load all the ship’s weapon systems and have them armed and ready to go.
‘You have twenty minutes, tops.’ I said as she hit the top of the work console before turning around and marching back off the bridge.
I could tell she didn’t buy my reasoning for making a jump into warp space. But I knew that days were going to be far too long to leave any distress call waiting.
I moved my arm over to the control panel on the arm of my chair and pushed the tannoy call button as I said,
I got an immediate response that almost made me jump.
‘Hudson here what do you need?’
I was taken aback for a moment before I stated,
‘The jump engines online and the shields ready at 100% as soon as possible.’
Again with no pause came the reply back over the tannoy system.
‘Shields are good to go whenever you need them and I will have the jump engines ready in five, Captain.’
I smiled saying,
‘Good work Hudson, bridge out.’
Turning back to face the communication station, where I could see the back of my communication’s officer, I stated,
‘Richards call me in 15 minutes I will be in my quarters, Andrew you have the bridge.’
I got up to exit the bridge while breakfast was the first thing on my mind and I could tell that this was going to be a very long day. As I moved across the bridge to exit I couldn’t help but think, I wasn’t looking forwards to travelling through warp space again, it always feels like someone is watching you and really doesn’t want you in there.
I could still remember the time when short journeys were considered to be safe as long as they didn’t exceed six hours. But now even a three hour journey was classed as highly dangerous and I knew we would be cutting it very fine to any kind of safe time limitations for travel. I wanted to be on the bridge when we made the jump into warp space. But there were a few things I needed to take care of first.
As I walked through the corridors of my ship I passed several members of my crew scurrying around preparing for the jump and the journey into the unknown. I had a good crew who worked well together, some new and some who had served with me for the past seven years. We had been through a lot together, especially with the last war we had fought in, and they had come to trust my judgement.
I pressed the release panel to the door of my quarters as I stood outside. The door slid open as the lights raised and I walked into the room. I could start to feel a low level hum building up throughout the ship as the jump engines warmed up.
After ordering my breakfast I walked over to one of the cupboard units next to my bed. Pulling the second draw from the top open, I picked out a charger unravelling the cable before placing it on top of the unit in front of me. I then reached up above my bed and took down a twin bladed sword off of the hooks it was hanging on, also placing it on the unit in front of me. Leaving the sword in its scabbard I turned it over so the underside of the handle was showing. There was a small power connector located at the base of the hilt between the two blades which I plugged the charger cable into. I then picked up the plug to the charger and plugged it into one of the wall sockets before switching it on.
I took another bite from my sandwich before I moved around the other side of the bed. I knelt down to the metal floor while I pulled open another draw from under my bed. There were a whole selection of items in there but I first picked up a metallic gauntlet and another charger placing them on the bed. I then proceeded to pick out several clips of ammo and my trusty G8 hand cannon.
Although I knew this should be a routine reply to an S.O.S signal. Something just didn’t feel quite right and if there was going to be any chance of this thing being a trap. I was going to be sure as hell ready for it. Even if it meant walking into a fire fight on the boarding party. I wasn’t going to be let down by a lack of preparation.
So while I finished my breakfast I continued to check over my boarding equipment laying the gear on my bed. Finally I picked up the shield gauntlet and its’ adapted charger unit with one hand just as the tannoy sounded with Richards voice,
‘Captain this is your 15 minute request call.’
I moved back over to the other side of my bed and pressed the tannoy reply button with my free hand before I answered,
‘I’m on my way, thank you Richards. ’
I moved over to where I had earlier plugged my sword into charge while fitting the charger to the gauntlet before plugging it in next to my sword. I left the equipment on charge as I exited the room, locking my door behind me.
The doors to the bridge slid open and I made my way over to the command post before I took up my position in my chair. Looking around the bridge I could see that everyone but my tactical officer was already at their posts, and judging by the fact that most of my crews eyes were fixed on me. I could tell everything was ready and the crew were now waiting on my orders.
My first officer turned from the tactical console to face me before asking,
I looked straight at him and lent back slightly in my chair. Calmly I started to issue orders to the crew,
‘Raise shields, arm all primary weapon systems.’
Andrew replied ‘Shields up and weapon systems online Sir.’
I continued as I turned to face the communication’s station,
‘Richards, cut the S.O.S reply and go to communications silence.’
I continued to give orders as the bridge doors slid open and Miss Parkinson walked back onto the bridge moving straight over to the tactical station. I looked out of the huge bridge’s forward windows at the never ending blackness of space and stars. Knowing it was all about to change when I gave the next order. I waited until Miss Parkinson had taken up her post while my first officer moved back over to the science work console.
Then I took a deep breath while the crew waited on my next words.
‘Activate the jump engines.’
The Hellfire series
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