The sun would set in a few hours but the springhare wouldn't be on the planet to see the sun set. In the pilot's seat of an Immunity-class single fighter, Nishant fiddled with the controls and navigation systems as he prepared to take off.
"Pilot Nishant," the Commander's voice said through the speakers.
"Nishant here," he responded. "What can I do for you Commander?"
"You have six hours so don't waste any time once you're up there," she continued. "Be cautious of infected ships. Our other pilots claim that there are still some active up there so do your best to avoid them."
"Roger that," the springhare answered. He had hoped he'd get a chance to kill off a few stragglers but his mission was far more important than that.
"You're clear for take off," said the Commander, personally. "This is the last radio transmission until you return. Good luck, Pilot."
Nishant shut off his radio equipment and activated the engines of the craft. A slight vibration rattled the ship but it quickly smoothed out. The ship turned up to the sky and rocketed upward. Nishant was pressed firmly back in his seat, the gravity counter measures reducing the stress on his body but it still made it difficult to breathe.
There were plenty of other ships in atmosphere but once Nishant left the planet, there was no other active ship anywhere at all. It wasn't Nishant's first time back in space since the battle but he was still surprised by the damage. Jagged pieces of metal from the ships, shipyards and satellites still floated in orbit. They were beginning to form a ring around the planet in a disturbing display of the battle they lost.
Even more disturbing that Nishant knew there were still bodies among that wreckage. Most of the dead have been collected but there were still plenty of ships that the crews haven't yet dared to cut open because of the threat of infestation.
At full speed the ship quickly left the planet behind and passed Felliorian, the second naturally habitable planet in the solar system. It too had a few broken ships and satellites in orbit but the main bulk of the defenses were destroyed over Canidera. No matter where they made their stand, Nishant was confident that they still would have been crushed.
The star grew smaller and smaller until the ship reached the edge of the first asteroid field. Drach'n Fury was built in a shipyard hid among these asteroids but the facility has disappeared, and that's where Nishant was to begin his search. Not for the shipyard, but for Drach'n Fury.
With asteroids over his head, the springhare changed his trajectory to follow the path of the belt. Nishant turned on the computer screen inside the cockpit and activated the ship's detection systems. The screen started to show the outlines of the asteroids and filter out the light from the stars while the program searched for any ships or structures among the belt.
Nishant would be out here for another five hours without much chance of finding anything so he made himself comfortable. He stared up at the asteroids that flew a hundred kilometers over his head.
The only threat was the alien being nearby and the ship wouldn't detect that. Nishant could only stare at the asteroids, staying alert of any threat while the war that threatened to finish off their society on the planet. That's where he was fighting when Fury malfunctioned and took over the ship but it was now his responsibility to find it.
Three hours passed with Nishant watching the asteroids overhead whenever he wasn't fiddling with his PawPad. He couldn't' communicate with anyone while on this mission so he browsed the photographs of his family, hoping he'd be able to see them again soon. It's been almost six months since he found his family in one of the other colonies across the planet.
The Creeper's invaded several of the continents by bits of the infected ships falling to the planet after they were destroyed in orbit but the hardest hit area was where Aggressor landed. The battle happened so fast that Nishant barely remembered it other than he tried to defend his ship but that nearly cost him his life.
Nishant was waiting in the pilot's seat of the dropship watching the green trees and bushes resist against the strong winds that the other ships were creating. Several were leaving with dozens of civilians crowding them. The civilians were in Nishant's ship too, demanding that he took off but he had his orders to wait for the Admiral.
When one of the civilians fell to the ground, jumped by another is when panic really started to spread. The city's guards started to fire at anyone who moved erratically and nearly all the civilians were doing just that. They started to disperse after that but only a minute later some of them started to return, infected. The first line of guards was quickly killed and the attack happened so fast that Nishant couldn't even get a chance to use the weapons on his ship.
"The Admiral is down!" a report declared over the battle communications. Several requests for details were sent, especially from Commander Yelena but the answers were even far more confusing.
"He's dead," one report claimed.
"All the Admirals are dead, the military facility is compromised," another declared, ignorant to Yukiomaru's presence on the planet.
"The fox has been captured." Nishant wasn't even sure if that report was regarding Yukiomaru but it was a disturbing thought.
"No, the prodigy is infected, he's killing us all!"
With all the reports coming all at once, Nishant had no idea what was going on but he knew he had to defend his ship. Jumping out of the cockpit, Nishant was reaching for his sidearm when he noticed one of the guards near his ship turn and shoot him in the chest. The force of the blow knocked Nishant back and he fell to the ground.
His pilot armor saved his life but he still bled profoundly from the wound. Listening to the surviving soldiers, they struggled against the real Creeper wave. Eventually they fell back and disappeared from the park's field only for Nishant to hear the scream of planetary jets flying overhead. Instinct told the springhare to crawl under his ship and he did just that. Missiles hit the field, nearly destroying the ship. Nishant was knocked unconscious.
The sound of someone coming woke Nishant up and he was able to see that it was the Captain Redding with the martens from the Fa family. Crawling out from under the ship he introduced himself but it nearly got him shot again. Thankfully Redding was more disciplined than the city forces.
Since that day, Nishant wasn't able to fly until his wound was healed, under Commander Yelena's orders. The news about the loss of Drach'n Fury was hard to hear since that ship could have saved the planet but Nishant's thoughts lingered on his family. It took him months to learn that his girlfriend and their two children were alive and safe at one of the other strongholds, called Colonies.
Natasha disappeared after the battle and only Captain Redding and Yukiomaru knew about her role as an agent for the Intelligence. She since had not contacted Captain Redding or Nishant, and it was a little unfamiliar receiving his orders from Commander Yelena instead.
Bee beep! Bee beep!
The alarm distracted Nishant from his thoughts and he looked at the screen. Something was found among the asteroids.
"Oh no," he muttered. Two figures came up on the computer screen but looking out the windshield, Nishant couldn't see it. It's the shipyard. Drawing closer, Nishant took the controls again and flew around the massive structure that was now separated in two. Nishant was shocked when he saw that some parts of shipyard was still releasing atmosphere. Whatever destroyed the shipyard, it was recent.
Nishant expanded his signal and searched the asteroid belt and everything nearby for any signs of what might have destroyed the shipyard. A rogue asteroid could have done it but the shipyard should have still had operational defense weapons. The Creepers would have more likely infected the station rather than destroy it.
The scanner came empty, much to the springhare's discomfort. He couldn't report back to the Commander without finding Drach'n Fury or learning the fate of the shipyard. With unease, Nishant plotted a course to dock with the station. The shipyard grew larger at a rapid pace while the springhare pulled his helmet and weapon from under his seat. Several minutes later, the ship docked inside one of the many airlocks.
The blast doors struggled to close with the lack of their primary power. Nishant doubt that the airlock would be pressurized anyway. Exiting his ship, the springhare jumped out only to find that a majority of the gravity was gone. The lightly armored Pilot drifted to the entrance to the other side of the airlock.
With more than a little effort, Nishant forced his way through the blast doors and entered the main hallway in which most of the lights were out or flickering. He's only been on this shipyard once before but he knew where the control room was. Whatever happened to this place would hopefully be in the database, if it weren't destroyed as well.
His personal light guiding him, Nishant was unable to see outside the rays. In the silence a low groan and snap echoed through his helmet. The unexpected noise caused the springhare to snap up his short-ranged weapon in the direction of the sound but there was nothing there.
Black darkness covered him like sheets that blocked out all the light. The stars outside the main windshields did nothing to illuminate inside the shipyard. The darkness continued to spread when Nishant neared the command center and the glass walls were replaced with armored metallic walls. Light reflected from the dark walls until a red glitter caught the springhare's eye.
Across the wall was smeared a crimson streak, unmistakably a streak of blood. The smear ended at the seam of the blast doors that led directly into the command room.
The station was supposedly evacuated, thought Nishant. I haven't heard of anyone else being sent out here. Is Agent Natasha still commanding missions?
Nishant listened to the sounds of the groaning shipyard for anything unusual. The sounds were still muffled with the lack of dense atmosphere. Nothing sounded out of the ordinary, there was no sign of a struggle and no body.
Hesitating, the springhare moved forward and forced open the door. It was a disaster. Inside the control room, nearly all the computer terminals were cracked. The walls had blast marks and signs of a firefight. Nishant didn't have time to step into the room when he saw the flash of gunfire.
He pulled back around the corner of the doorway, with the projectiles following him through and impacting further down the corridor. Nishant lowered his stance and aimed around the corner. Behind one of the broken consoles, Nishant caught glimpse of the armored figure before more gunfire forced him to retreat behind the doorway again.
"Hold your fire!" Nishant shouted, glancing around the corner again. "I'm not infected. I'm here under orders from Commander Yelena."
A spinning blade of some sort was the answer the springhare received. It nearly struck him in the head but he managed to dodge it. The weapon sunk into the metal easily enough but something else about the weapon bothered Nishant.
"You fool, what are you doing here?" yelled Nishant. This time he didn't hesitate to shoot back. The console suffered heavily from the wild shots, and the other armored soldier ducked behind it.
With a few more burst, the pilot charged into the room and slid behind one of the other consoles before continuing to fire upon his opponent. Both of the armored soldiers attempted to gain an upper paw over the other and neither succeeding. While they battled in various locations across the room, Nishant saw several armored bodies on the ground. No doubt the blood came from one of them but whatever killed them was still unknown.
It wasn't until Nishant's opponent ran out of ammunition and charged at him that the springhare was able to put the soldier down. Blood leaked from the wound but Nishant only put his boot down on it. The soldier screamed in pain while it reached for another ancient weapon.
Nishant kicked the armored arm and pointed his weapon directly at the armored soldier. Survivors were never part of his mission but killing this one would be a wasted opportunity.
I have to make sure, Nishant thought. With the room still somewhat pressurized, he risked his opponent's life and removed the helmet.
Responding to the light from Nishant's armor, the slits in the yellow eyes glared back at him. The brown scales were soiled with dried blood across the reptile's face.