Extended Play

Earth Prime, degraded place that it was, was thought of as a launch platform. That was in the past tense though – the launch had taken place, and the launch window was a mildewed mirror of broken panes. It was a shame, it was responsible for a late thirtieth century blooming for the New British Empire under Emperor Julian, who used his robot army to use France as a gateway into Eurasia, and from there, the world.

Julian’s head on a pike was an inverse punctuation mark that signalled the end of that whole thing. No one had expected the nuke that originated in Scotland to irradiate the world for a fifteen year stretch – the rise of actual radiation treatment and cancer cures in the previous five years seemed almost fated.

The world population that emerged on the other side of a global nuclear winter was something to behold. Until the resurrected mechs had got a shuttle ready to launch and had tried to achieve transorbital flight between earth and the Mars Colony, no one even knew that the place had been quarantined. Quarantined for what? Violent tendencies.

Hudd sat there in the rocket ship graveyard, smoking a huge stogie, bottle of whiskey at his side, and he wondered if the galaxy on the other side of the screen knew that they had hacked the protocol. What would they find after they had launched. It had been so long since anyone had put anything further up than the stratosphere – they’d wanted who ever put the quarantine in place to suspect that the mechs and their shuttle had been a one off.

They had a fleet, and they knew of a place they wanted to get to. Not everyone lost their mind or their data, and while nothing physical passed through the barrier, sometimes a signal might. People beyond Earth were still invested in it.

He had the lead ship because he was the most expendable. As Hudd nosed through and his ship didn’t explode, he knew they had made it. As they fanned out and made their way into the rest of the sector they realised that attack was not the thing that they should have been worried about – abandonment was. How long after their own tragedies had someone moved in and wiped out these outposts? Who would have thought that while they survived and came through what they came through, that something tragic would have fallen those who had escaped?

Beyond that antiquated quarantine screen there was wreckage, burned out stations, planets that looked to have been hit from high orbit. They were starting to understand that they weren’t just lifting themselves out of the dirt and reaching for the stars for themselves, but for all of humanity. That quarantine and the means of effecting it looked smaller in the rearview mirror, now they had to worry about what might be along this route they were travelling, and the violent tendencies which had seen them grounded might turn out to be very useful indeed.

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