Turtle Bay: Exodus
Chris’s Office, The Shell
Turtle Bay, Terran Confederation
October 9, 2480
Chris sat at his desk in a new office. He had recently gotten out of the hospital and moved into this office. A knock came at the door.
“Enter!” A girl, slightly shorter than Chris, stepped into his office.
“Fin Commander Chrisy reporting as requested. What can I do for you, sir?” She came to attention.
“At ease, Commander. As you know, it is customary for Turtles to come only from members of the Turtles. Our bloodlines go back a long time. I noticed that you and your fin are from outside. I thought I would welcome you.”
“Sir, I mean no disrespect, but why are you such a high rank when you are only twelve, I mean two moons, old? I didn’t know anything about war when I was your age.”
He nodded his head in a silent salute, then cracked a smile. “Commander, I think we will get along fine. To answer your question.” He removed the right half of his shirt, revealing the newly formed scars. “While we were on the New Home mission, a Marcus Delphi challenged the leader of the Turtle forces to a duel for the victory for the planet of New Home. I was that commander. I was a Fin Commander like you at the time. We battled for a while. He knocked me down.” He removed the rest of his shirt. He pointed to his left shoulder. “I rolled out of the way and he gave me this, then did the same to my right shoulder. I fell back down, and he gave me this.” He rubbed his wound. “To answer your real question, I am not some kid they gave command to. I am not some cowboy who will get you all killed. I almost died to save my fin. Ask Tabitha, she still blames herself for it.”
Chrisy smiled, “Captain,”
“Please, call me Chris. We will be together a long time.”
“Chris, when will we getting our first assignment?”
“Well, that depends on a few things. First of all is if I go. If I am, then we will be here a long time. Command does not want my lung ripping open in the middle of a firefight, although I know it will not. If something happens though, I would jeopardize the mission, so they would never risk it. If you are planning to go, we will have to wait until you can prove to command you are as good as the rest of us. Otherwise, we could get one tomorrow.”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because that is how our commanders work. If we would need the whole Ring, I would be pressured into backing out on some terms to let me save face. If not, then I am pressured not to send you until they can prove you are good enough. If I refuse then I have more problems. It is just the way things work. Someday it might change, but not anytime soon.”
“But isn’t that unfair?”
“Maybe, but every time you open your mouth you prove you are not one of us.”
“Did you not notice that no one here uses contractions?”
“No buts. To most people here, that makes you inferior. Marcus died, in their eyes, because he was not a Turtle so he was inferior to me.”
“Yes, sir. Cannot you do something about them?”
“Well, you could challenge me to combat. If you could defeat me, then you will be regarded with respect because I am considered a good warrior. That would not help us, because that would make me look out of condition and unable to battle, keeping us here anyway.”
“What if I challenged one of my fellow Fin Commanders? Would that not prove my abilities?”
“Not at all. They are just kids of school. They are unproven. It would do you no good but show that you are combative. That might get you some respect, but not from command.”
“Is their another possibility?”
“Yes. You could challenge me for my rank. Then if you killed me, you would be the Ring Captain and proven. To do that, you would need commands permission, and they would never approve that, being I am still off active duty.”
“I guess we have little choice.”
He frowns. “That is about the size of it. If we do too much we look bad. A warrior’s job is to follow orders, not question them. Maybe someone with a high rank could do something, but I doubt even Plate Colonel Susan has that power.”
“What did you mean by problems?”
“Be careful, Commander, your words border on treason.”
“I did not mean it that way. I meant it as a request for more information.”
He nodded his head. “Well, for starters, the Plate Colonels must compete for the right to take the job. They then have to right to chose the participants if the situation warrants it. Unfortunately, there are no regulations of that right. They also will get more prestige and a better chance of getting the job if they will finish it without a Ring or two. Suddenly, I become ‘unfit’ for duty.”
“I understand. If you need me I will be in my quarters.”
She turned to leave but Chris stopped her. “Commander, this conversation never took place.”
“What conversation?” She turned and walked out the door. I like this Fin Commander Chrisy. She hit close to home. She will be useful.
The Shell, Turtle Bay
October 20, 2480
“Ring Captains,” Plate Colonel Susan began, “it is my duty and honor to present you with a contract. We will only be using one Ring in this operation. We will hold competitions for this right today. Due to health concerns, I ask that Ring Captain Chris Withdraw with Honor from the competition.”
Chris steeled himself. “With all due respect, I deny your request.”
Susan’s eyes narrowed. “I am your commander. You have no choice.”
He glared back. “Then I challenge you for your rank.”
“You need permission from command to do that. There is no way you can get that before this mission.”
“I am no fool. You have direct communication with them. Are you afraid? Afraid of the man deemed ‘unfit’ for active duty?” He spat the word out, pouring all the venom into that single word he could.
Susan threw her head back and laughed. “You are sharp. I will contact them with your request. I also say this. If you are so worthy, then fight me with the same weapon that made you unfit for your duty.”
He gave her an evil grin. “You do that. If you say that I requested it and you wish for it, I am sure Leo will grant you your pathetic request.”
Just off the platform that held the commanders, Chrisy turned to Tabitha. Tears were collecting in Tabitha’s eyes.
Tabitha looked at Chrisy. “When he left this by my bed,” She showed here the small turtle in her hands, “I thought he had just put it on the bed post because he was up so late. It turns out now that he knew he would do this. You see he leaves it with me every time he goes off to fight. I brought it to return it to him here. Now he might not need it.” Tears began to run down her face.
“Don’t cry, Tabitha. I spoke with him a while ago. Susan believes to be superior to Chris. He has already killed someone for that mistake.”
Tabitha shook her head as if to a mistaken child. “You do not understand the situation. Susan has three moons on Chris’s two. That makes her 30 to his 12, in your reckoning. To become a Plate Colonel she killed an opponent with her bare fists. She has killed five people who challenged her rank in the last moon. I fear Chris will be the first this moon.”
“You don’t understand him very well. He isn’t fighting for himself. He’s fighting, in his mind, for you and the rest of us. He’ll never fail unless he’s fighting for himself. I can read. The account of New Home shows that well.”
“I read it as well. It shows him as some hero. He gets stabs, stands up, and kills Marcus Delphi. Then he shouts his victory. What the books leave out is the fact he fell unconscious after that. They do not mention the months he spent in the hospital. It does not mention the breather he must wear when he is not speaking with someone.” She shook her head. “You do not know all that. He is barely able to stand up there. He hurts him to laugh. In the middle of the night I wake up to him coughing up blood.” Jered placed a hand on her shoulder as sobs racked her body.
“Tabitha, Chris won’t die.”
“I do not…” Tabitha began but her eyes were drawn to the platform where Susan had reappeared.
“You get your wish, whelp. Leo has agreed to let you commit suicide.”
“Who said anything about suicide? I am just planning to be a Plate Colonel, not die. I do not know about your plans though.”
She laughed. “You should not play adult games, child. You will surly die. Are you sure you want to leave you beloved Tabitha yet?”
Her stab was well placed, causing Chris to wince. “Suzie,” Chris said, using Leo’s name for her, “you have wronged enough people. You would not allow a member of my Ring to battle or I, even though there are no rules against it.” He nodded. “If one of shall die, it will be the one who fights for himself. Or should I say herself?”
She drew her sword. Chris removed his shirt and unsheathed his sword. Susan struck at him with a swipe to his right side. He blocked her blow and stabbed at her heart. She grabbed his blade. She twisted it, bending Chris’s arms, dropping him to his knees. She released the blade and took a step back, blood flying from where she had been a moment ago. Chrisy looked on with respect for her commander’s abilities. Tabitha just averted her eyes and wept.
Chris stood back up and went into a fighting stance. He lunged at her, the blade nicking Susan’s ear, causing blood to flow.
“So, you are not as crippled as they say. First blood goes to you, but last blood decides it.” She brought her sword down in an arc, slashing Chris across his right shoulder, ending an inch from his scar. His flesh held together for a second, seemingly fine, then exploded with blood. His ribs protected his lung, but the blow sent him to his knees. New Home flashed before Tabitha’s eyes as she watched the platform she knew would be her lover’s deathbed. Susan grinned and stabbed her blade down an inch to the left of his heart.
“There, now you have twins.” She laughed and turned to the rest of her command. Breath escaped through the hole in his lung with a bubbly hiss. “It seems Mr. Chris is not as strong as he thought.” She gave a laugh. “How could one expect anything less?”
Chris reached his bloody hands up and grasped the blade in his lung. The hard, stone floor prevented the blade from penetrating the ground. He began to work at the blade, finding it futile. Susan knew how to place her blow. It had crushed a rib in such a way that it kept the blade in place. He struggled to his knees. Groping for his dropped katana in the darkness beginning to cloud his vision, he found it. Struggling to get to his feet and heavily leaning on the blade, he gritted his teeth.
“You idiot! Marcus did the same thing!” He lifted the blade and fell on to Susan just as she turned around. The outstretched blade caught her in the neck, erupting from the other side. As Chris collapsed, the blade ripped through her neck, causing the last shreds of skin holding it on to snap. Darkness over took Chris just as Susan’s head rolled next to his.
Chrisy turned to Tabitha. “I hope he lives through this. Would you like me to get two cots for the hospital or do you want to take the chair?” The lump in her throat and tremble in her voice kept any attempt to lighten their moods fail. Tears began to well up in Chrisy’s eyes.
Tabitha tried to smile but it lacked the warmth it normally held. “I will just sleep in the chair.
Hospital, The Shell
Turtle Bay, Terran Confederacy
October 24, 2480
Tabitha awoke to the sound of a pump. Two tubes ran into Chris’s mouth. One, she knew, led to his right lung and pumped oxygen into him and carbon dioxide out. The other tube ran into his left lung. It pumped a vile, red liquid out constantly. An IV in each arm fed him sugar water and a manufactured blood into him. These four machines had been sustaining him for the last few days. Tabitha’s eyes were ringed with puffy, red flesh from hours spent crying over Chris’s bed, clutching the small turtle in both hands.
Chrisy woke up. “I hope I did not wake you Chrisy.”
“No.” Chrisy’s eyes were just slightly better than Tabitha’s. Her voice was hoarse. She tried to give Tabitha a brave smile. Suddenly a cough came from behind them. They spun to see the pump regulating Chris’s breathing slow and stop. Blood spewed from Chris’s mouth. He coughed a few more times then stopped. The pump began to slow, careful to suck only blood from his frail lung. Trembles shot up and down his body. The girls’ eyes widened. Chris’s eyes fluttered open.
“Chris! You are alive!” Tabitha cried with joy.
“We thought you were dead.” Chris’s mouth moved, but they couldn’t understand him. The final pump shut off. A minute later, a nurse walked into the room. She carefully removed the tubes from his lungs and the tube from the IV with blood in it. She placed a mask on him with a small microphone and attached it to a tank of oxygen.
“I am glad to see you again, Commander.” He looked beyond her and sow Tabitha. “And you as well, Tabitha.”
“I’m glad you’re alive, Plate Colonel Chris.”
“So Susan is dead, is she not?”
“Yes, my love, she is. Are you able to breathe?”
“Yes. One lung is good enough to do that. I,” He took a deep breath and lines of pain etched themselves across his youthful face. That cracked the blood that was hardened there, Susan’s blood.
Tabitha reached over and placed the small turtle around his neck. She kissed it and stood next to Chrisy. He looked at his chest and saw the thick bandage there, soaked with blood he knew to be his own. The slash on his shoulder had already begun to heal, the bandage had already been removed.
He looked into Tabitha’s, then Chrisy’s eyes, and winced. “How long have I been out?”
“Four days, sir. Permission to speak freely?”
“Why’d you do that? Why did you almost get yourself killed? Did you mean what you said to Susan?”
“Yes. You asked if there was another way to change their minds. This was it.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?
“You would have told Tabitha and she would have tried to stop me.”
She shook her head in awe. “I just came under your command and you already know me. You’re amazing.”
“Chrisy, please do not tell me you are going to resign your commission.”
“Why would I do that?”
Chris looked at Tabitha and she nodded her consent. “Tabitha did after I fought Marcus.”
Chrisy’s eyes widened. “So that’s why you are the Tactical Officer.”
Tabitha nodded. “I felt guilty for Chris’s injury.”
“Chrisy, I need you to do me a personal favor. Get Commanders Dave and Jamie in here. I need to speak with you all.”
“It’s the least I can do.” And she walked out of the room.
The Shell, Turtle Bay
November 1, 2480
Chris strode down the halls of The Shell. The coldness of the sword pressing against his leg reminded him of his mission, one for the sake of the Turtles. He reached a door at the end of a long hall. It had a picture of a Turtle on it. He then read the small, silver plaque beneath it. It read, Turtle Master Leo. Chris felt a wave of disgust wash over him. He knocked on the door.
“Enter.” The voice seemed to come from somewhere deep in the room. Chris opened the door into Leo’s office. The lavishly furnished office was not to Chris’s taste. He much preferred a simpler one. That does not matter, he reminded himself, compared to his mission.
“Ah, Plate Colonel Chris. A pleasure to finally meet the famed victor of New Home.”
“I am afraid that you will not think so fondly upon our meeting.” He grasped the man by the throat. “You traitor! You corrupt the Turtles! You damage is almost undoable. The same person who killed your beloved Susan will kill you as well. You will never see it, unless they have window seats in hell, but I am taking the true Turtles away. We will prove that the Turtles only failing is their politics. The Turtle will be stocked by a new predator, the Shark.” He smiled cruelly. “And that shark will be me.” He twisted the man’s throat and let him fall to his knees. Leo clawed out at Chris but his 48 years bound him. Chris kicked him in the chest, breath escaping Leo’s lungs. Leo fell onto his back. He tried to say something but couldn’t find the breath to be heard. Chris unsheathed his sword and sliced on Leo’s head with one swipe.
“You’re traitorous deeds have been your undoing.” Chris said to the corpse that lay at his feet. Having destroyed the Sharks chance of ever returning to the Turtles, he walked to the beach, where the Mermaid lay on The Beach waiting for him.
Outside the Mermaid, Tabitha was waiting for him. “I guess this is the last time we will ever see this planet.”
She looked surprised. “Have you been hanging around Chrisy so long you have started to use contractions?”
“No. That is something of the Turtles. We aren’t Turtles any more.”
“I see.” She looked out over the black sands and sighed. “Where will we go? We have no home.”
“I found a small planet. It is not the best, and it isn’t colonized. We can have it from the Terrans if we report to them on its status. Then when we are ready to leave then they get to keep it.”
“Where else would we go?”
He placed his arm around her slim shoulders. “Where no man has gone before. I have some theories.” And they talked all the way to their room.
January 1, 2481
“This is the moment we have been preparing for sense we all left Turtle Bay.” He looked around the small bridge. “Today, we will be testing our luck and fate. If we survive this, we will be the most powerful force in the galaxy. If not, me might all end up dead. If any of you wishes to leave now, feel free. I’m sure the Terran government would welcome your services. Let me remind you that these principles have been tested. No human has ever attempted it but we know all we can.” He paused. When no one stood, he continued. “XO, you have the con.”
Tabitha stepped forward. “Begin pre-launch checks. By stations, begin.”
“Astro-navigation, go launch.” Jered called.
“Thrusters, go launch.” Came Diana’s voice from next to Jered.
“Drives, go launch.” Robin’s tense voice rang out.
“Inter-dimensional power, go launch.” Chrisy reported.
“Inter-dimensional thrusters, go launch.” David, a Fin Commander in Chris’s Ring said.
“Life Support, go launch.” Jamie, a Fin Commander like David reported.
“Shuttles, go launch.” Nick reported from behind Chris.”
Tabitha turned to Chris. “All stations report go for launch.”
He nodded. “Engage thrusters. Plot transspace jump. Brace for jump.” Yellow warning lights flashed on overhead.
“Countdown to jump, T-5 minutes and counting.” Chris looked at Tabitha and took her hand in his. The speakers started to count down to launch. Chris spoke just loud enough for Tabitha to hear. “Let’s hope this works.” She held his hand tighter and nodded.
“T-1 minute to launch.”
“Prepare for jump. Go to Red Alert.” All the yellow warning lights turned to red and a siren blared for a few moments.
“T-15 seconds to launch. 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0.” A rumble shook the ship as the reactor that formed the body of the ship came to life. The thrusters began to pull the ship out of orbit. A few minutes of silence fell over the bridge as the thrusters brought them a safe distance from the planet.
“Disengage thrusters, engage Main Drives!” The hull of the long ship shuttered to a stop while the thrusters shut down and the drives started. Suddenly, the windows went white. The blinding light made the officers shield their eyes to prevent going blind. Just as suddenly as it started, the light faded into shapes of blue, green, and red.
“Navigation computers have found the best course. Plotted into mainframe.”
“Engage Dimensional thrusters.” She ship burred into a streak of gray and white as it sped through the alternate universe. This universe was closely linked to the one Terra stood in but for some minor differences. One was normal thrusters did not work. Another was that the distances were different. It took months to make a partially accurate map. Another was that physics were different. They could speed along at over the speed of light. All of these would allow them to go almost anywhere.
“Power reports that return jump must occur in two minutes for sufficient power for return. “
“Navigation, you make the call.”
Jered shifted in his seat. “Aye, sir. Make the tear on my mark. Three, two, one, MARK!” The colors in the window turned bright white then faded to black. The window was devoid of stars.
“How far have we jumped?”
Jered turned around. “The computer says we are on the tip of the galaxy. The planet is below us. What do we name it?”
“Welcome to Stars End.” Chris smiled.
“Sir, on the way here, we had a chance to get more accurate maps. We should be able to jump to almost anywhere in the known galaxy. Also, it is still the first of January.”
“Good. Everyone, let’s go into orbit and had down to take a look.”
“Yes, sir!” Replied a half dozen voices.
Turtle Park, Stars End
February 2, 2481
Chris stretched. The past month had been full of meetings, tests, and nights spent in the labs. Production of the new Mako class light armor was going well. The armor used the transspace theories he had devised. The generator ran water through a rift that was contained in the generator. When it entered the rift, it picked up electric charges from neutrinos and the strange physics. It provided an infinite source of power for the armor. The only problem was all the testing needed to make sure it was safe enough for use. It seamed that every time some scientist even looked at the suit wrong, it warranted his attention.
The field was covered in flowers. About one third of the flowers were a pure white, like the hilt of his new sword from the Sharks. Another third were amber and brown, the colors of the Turtles. The rest were a deep crimson, almost the color of fresh blood. Chris came here often to get away from the commotion of the base or to think. The field was about an acre large and filled with these flowers. It was then surrounded on all sides by a small lake. Off the lake were evergreen forests, beaches, green fields, waterfalls, and a hot spring. All this in an area only about four square acres.
He lay in the midst of the flowers. He rarely wore his shirt unless it was a health hazard not to. Susan had shattered ribs, and just the pressure of his shirt on his bandages was painful. The sweet essence of the flowers drifted to him on a slight breeze as a shadow fell next to him.
“I thought I left orders not to be disturbed!” He said, not even bothering to look.
“I’m sorry. If you want, I’ll come back later.” Chris knew the voice in an instant.
“I’m sorry, Tabitha. I thought you were one of those pesky scientists again.” He sat up and looked at her.
“Is there room for anyone else here?”
She lay down next to Chris. “I can see why you come here so much. It’s beautiful.”
“Yes.” He closed his eyes. “We haven’t been together for a long time.”
She smiled. “Unless you call the few hours you sleep being together.”
He turned his head to look at her. “We go to the end of the galaxy and we are together less. Seams strange doesn’t it?”
“Yes. But here you are in charge. It isn’t too surprising.”
He propped himself on his elbow. “When this project is done, I promise I’ll spend more time with you. We’re getting close to nailing this one. Then we won’t start anything else for a while.”
She smiled. “I don’t know about that. Are you sure it would be fine for the unit? I’ve seen the Mako in tests. It doesn’t look like something that can stand up to some of the better armors back home.”
“You haven’t seen anything yet. That project is so classified, you need clearance to think about it. There are so many things people wouldn’t even dream of on it. It’s more than a match for most of the current armors.”
“So you’ll be safe off fighting?”
He nodded. “About as safe as anyone can be in this business.”
A man with thick glasses rushed up to them. “General, sir. I’m sorry. The Mako is ready for testing.” He looked at Tabitha.
“She has higher clearance than you do. What’s up?”
“Well, the transspace thrusters don’t seam responsive enough for piloting.”
Tabitha’s eyes widened as Chris spoke. “Then increase them. Hex code 147A.”
“Aye, sir.” He ran back to the rowboat that had brought him to the island.
“What was that about?”
“The armor will be able to jump to transspace. Just one of those things people wouldn’t even dream of. Now if you will excuse me, I have to get back to the lab. They don’t like testing without me.”
“Okay. I’ll be here when you return.” He kissed her and ran off to get to the lab.
Shark Labs, Ocean Command
Stars End, Shark Space
February 2, 2481
“Sir, the armor is ready for testing.”
“Good. First off will be the vacuum test.” The suit was pressurized and placed in a chamber. If it did well, the armor would hold the air in. If not, then it could never be used because on any planet with little or no atmosphere, the armor would be useless and deadly.
“Engage vacuum.” The air was slowly drawn out of the small chamber. The suit bulged for a moment then stopped. A red light went on above the door.
“At least 99% of the air has been removed from the chamber.”
“Good. Now begin stress test under the vacuum.”
The tech looked surprised. “Aye, sir.” The platform holding the Mako began to vibrate. Chris knew that at the bottom, there was about five times normal gravity and at the top close to twice that. The armor held up admirably. No air leaked from it and the monitors linked to its built in computers read it running at 95%.
“Begin temperature tests under currant conditions.”
“Beginning test.” During the temperature test, the armor would be exposed to temperatures from 200°F to -200°F in less than a minute. This is to simulate going from day to night on some planets. Tension filled the room as everyone watched the product of a month of work be put through the most extreme test they could come up with. Amazingly, it held together. The monitors reported hull integrity to be at 90%.
“Begin dimensional flux.” Dimensional flux was when the suit ripped holes in this dimension into another and back again. Under near perfect conditions, it could damage a ship, but under these, it was sure to destroy it. To everyone’s amazement, after a minute and the tests stopped, the hull integrity was at 67%.
“Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the greatest hunter in the sea of space, the Mako!” His announcement was meet with applause from people who had spent close to 20 hours a day for the past month making it.