Blood on the Horizon (Reimagined)

Chapter 1


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Blood on the Horizon (Reimagined) Chapter 1

I woke up with a jerk of my head and a gasp as if I were drowning, sucking in air as I opened my eyes to be greeted by steel.

Shifting, I flailed about, spinning listlessly in a circle until I managed to force a stop inside a corner of the room.

Weightless, I stopped and gently leaned my head against the wall. “What happened, How did I get here, And Where was I?” These were all questions that I needed to find the answers to.

Closing my eyes, I tried desperately to recall what I had been doing before I ended up here.

I had been working, and I remembered saying goodbye to a couple of coworkers before heading into the office to collect my laptop and vest. I remembered sliding everything into my backpack and zipping it up before sliding it on my shoulders and signing out for the day, then waving goodbye to the principal and opening the doors. Then nothing, there was no memory of what happened after that.

Why couldn’t I remember what happened? I tried to understand how I had ended up here and came up with nothing.

Alright, deep breaths. I forced myself to breathe and focus on the immediate situation.

Inhale, hold, one, two, three, and exhale. Inhale again, hold for four seconds this time, then exhale.

Alright, focus, what do I need to do first?

First, assess my kit and make sure that I’m not missing anything important.

My backpack was present, along with my laptop and my chargers, check.

Armored vest, in the backpack, check.

Handgun, locked into my belt, check.

IFAK clipped to the belt as well, check.

Extra magazines, check.

Flashlights and other gear, check.

Cell phone, check.
Everything that I had on me when I left work was still present. I nodded to myself.

Second, figure out where you are.

I was in a room, a very dark room lit only by a small light above a doorway or hatch of some kind.

Reaching into the cargo pocket of my pants, I pulled out the small flashlight that I kept there and pressed the button on the back once, the beam sputtering before flaring out to reveal the room.

“You scared me, man,” I laughed a bit, the fear easing in my chest as I saw someone’s back. “Why didn’t you say anything earlier?” I pushed lightly against the wall and began floating closer.

The man remained there, my flashlight finally revealing the truth.

“No no no!” I tried to move away, the initial panic gripping my chest as my heart roared in my ears.

Crashing into the body, I flailed like a madman, driving us apart and sending us in two directions.

The mummy hit the other wall with a sickening crack, and my stomach dropped at the sound.

I knew the man was dead and I winced as a part of the mummified corpse floated off out of the flashlight’s beam.

Calm, deep breaths again, and refocus, panic doesn’t help survival.

“Oof!” The air rushed out of my lungs as my back hit the opposite wall, my backpack absorbing most of the impact.

But it slowed me down, and I shone my flashlight around the room to get a better picture of the room.

There was only one exit, a small cot was in the corner, and there was some sort of computer terminal next to it.

The floating body had rotated, and I could barely make out what was on the uniform that it was wearing.

On one side of the uniform, there was a strip of white, with two railroad tracks stitched in, and a lopsided star on the other.

Bracing myself, I swallowed and closed my eyes as I thought for a moment. What were my options here?

The body was my best chance of understanding where I was. I stretched my arm out to push away from the wall back toward the body.

This time, I was ready. I grabbed the mummy and held back nausea as I began going over the uniform, looking for anything that would help me understand.

There was a small plastic card of some kind in one of the pockets, and some sort of giant wristwatch on the left wrist.

Ustrapping the watch, I hooked it onto my belt before shining my light on the card.

“Sorry Captain,” I read the card. “But I don’t think you’ll be needing this anymore,” I slid the card into my pocket before patting the mummy down one last time and pulling out a misshapen star with what looked like a plug on the end of it.

Allowing the body to float away, I covered my mouth and swallowed back the bile that burned the back of my throat as my skin crawled and the hair on my arms stood up.

I drifted away from the Captain and began looking around, carefully shifting my weight, I flung an arm out to shift my view toward the door, the motion spinning me slightly and revealing the way to open the hatch.

My momentum carried me at a snail's pace to the door, but there was little else to do but wait.

“Always thought zero gravity would be more fun than this,” I sighed and crossed my arms while waiting. “No one ever thought to mention the slow parts.”

I closed my eyes and waited. I would reach the door eventually, and then I would be able to explore the rest of the ship.

I opened my eyes and yawned as I stretched, the darkness confusing me. Wasn’t there normally the light from my desk in the corner?

I shook my head for a minute, clearing the fog. Right, I needed to open the door.

Clicking the button on my flashlight again, I reached for the door console and shined my light on it once I had a decent grip.

Stabilized, I took a good look at the control panel. Thankfully it was in English and well-labeled.

“Thank God for the small blessings,” I said as I pushed the button that said, “Open”.
The hatch hissed open, revealing a hallway that was as dimly lit as the room that I was in.

“No, come on!” I tapped the back of my flashlight, the beam steadying out after a few flickers.

Pulling on the control panel, I grabbed the frame of the hatch and pulled myself into the corridor.

Shining my light into the darkness, I saw something that sent chills down my spine.

SLS Manassas was painted onto the wall, the reflective letters bouncing light off and revealing more floating bodies.

Then my flashlight stuttered before dying one final time, leaving me with nothing but the red of the emergency lights.

“Work,” I slapped the flashlight again, jiggling the connections enough to cause it to flicker on.

Flashing the light around while it was working, I began looking for signs that would point me in the right direction, I had an inkling of where I was, but I needed to confirm it.

“Engine room,” I read out loud, seeing the arrow pointing to my right.

Using the handhold that was neatly placed on the wall, I pushed off toward the arrow, my flashlight finally dying as I reached out and grabbed ahold of another handle.

Hooking my leg into the handhold, I unholstered my pistol and unscrewed the weapon light, detaching it from the rail and holding it in my teeth while I holstered the weapon again.

“Let there be light,” I muttered as I flipped the light on and winced, my eyes hurting from how bright it was at first. “Now, let’s hope that it’s not too difficult to turn the main power on.”

I pushed off in the direction of the engine room, the hallway straightening out as I floated through and into a much larger space.

“Holy shit,” I swore as my weapon light caught a reflection of something in the distance, a giant biped strapped down next to a bunch of crates.

“No,” I shook my head as my thoughts began to spiral. “Focus Mark, survival first.”

Bracing myself, I spun around and absorbed my impact with my feet, my left knee throbbing as I bent and grabbed another handhold.

Putting my light back in my teeth, I crawled like Spider-Man from handhold to handhold until I reached another door.

Crossing my fingers, I opened the door and pulled myself through, my knee still protesting its treatment as I used my legs to push off in the right direction.

“If there were anyone else here, then this would be the single coolest thing I’d have ever seen,” I said as I looked at the massive fusion reactor that was in front of me. “I certainly hope they left behind an instruction manual. Because I have no idea how to science the shit out of this.”

Taking my backpack off, I looped the strap through one of the handholds and then tied it to my arm before unzipping it, grabbing the rain jacket out of it, and putting it on for the extra insulation.

Zipping the bag up, I relaxed my body and closed my eyes while shutting my weapon light off and sliding it into my pocket.

Inhale, hold, then exhale.

Inhale, hold, exhale.

I was just thinking about rereading this story, happy to see a rewrite. This chapter has a lot more build up than the original. I remember the original had us immediately turn on the computer. This way is nice to build more atmosphere and tension. Looking forward to the rest of it.
Chapter 2
Chapter 2

“I’m up,” I woke up to the blaring of the alarm on my phone, the harsh tone kick-starting my brain into gear.

Reaching into my pocket, I turned off the alarm and let my thumb rest on the surface of my smartphone, a sad smile on my face as I looked at the picture of my wife that secured my phone. A tear floated up from my eye as I stared at it. She had wanted me to delete this picture. She said that it was an awful one. But this picture was my favorite. It captured her, this was my wife when she let her walls down, this was her when she didn’t need to put on a face for others.

The tears continued as I unlocked the phone and opened my photos, muted sobs coming from me as I saw just how few pictures I had of my family.

“It’s not enough,” I wept, the tears floating away from me as I buried my head in my hands. “I should have done more,” I muttered as I dried my tears with the sleeve of my shirt.

The tears now faded, I sniffled and grabbed a napkin out of my backpack to blow my nose.

“Why me?” I asked, blowing my nose into the napkin. “Why couldn’t you have picked someone else? I have a family, a wife, and two kids that we just adopted. What do I have to offer that no one else did? Huh? I know you can hear me!”

I floated there, the silence pressing down and making me feel ever so small.

“I’m not going to die here,” I said after a minute. “This isn’t the end of my story, you hear me?!”

I swallowed after a minute, choking back even more sobs as reality set in.

I was alone.

There was nobody left alive on this ship.

My family was gone. And I have no way of ever returning to them.

I felt the anger churn in my gut as I began weeping again, the rage simmering in place as I floated, my fists clenched tightly while drifting through the engine room.

I held down the volume and lock buttons, and shut down my phone, looking at the picture of my wife one last time before I slid the power off switch and the screen went black.

Sniffling one last time, I did the same to my watch and slid it off of my wrist before placing both in my backpack.

Then, taking a deep breath, I stilled myself, centering on what was right in front of me.

Reaching into my cargo pocket, I pulled out the device I had taken from Cromwell’s wrist and looked it over before placing it where my old watch had once been.

“Okay,” I breathed. “Let’s hope that Star League tech works as well as advertised because I have no idea how to move on from here.”

The design was remarkably intuitive, with a small dial and a screen that showed the various menus that you could navigate through. In some ways, it reminded me of a rotary phone, and in others, it actually felt like I was using a first-generation smartwatch.

Flipping through the device, I finally found something that piqued my interest.

“Here goes nothing,” I said as I pushed down on the control, a small speaker emitting a bit of static as I did so.

“This is the automated, step-by-step instructions given for the use of all Star League Naval personnel. While not required, it is highly recommended that you follow these guides. Because even the most experienced personnel can forget something. ”

“Thank you, Bitchin’ Betty,” I smiled as I began navigating through the various sections, eventually finding one that said ‘refueling’.

“First, you will need the proper fuel,” Betty stated. “Fuel will always be stored in the properly marked containers and will normally be found in the secondary cargo bay near the engine room.”

“Alright, back the way we came,” I said as I pushed myself off of a nearby handhold and floated toward the room’s exit, one of the granola bars from my backpack held in my teeth.

“Specially marked containers, my ass,” I muttered as I floated through the cargo bay, my light shining back and forth as I tried to identify the stored fuel.

Shining my light back in the direction I had started in, I stopped as something yellow flashed on the edge of my vision, the shining label informing me that it was exactly what I was looking for.

“Now we’re cooking with gas,” I muttered as I pushed myself toward the container. “One problem,” I looked at the massive container. “I don’t think I’ve the mass to move this thing.”

“What are my available resources?” I asked out loud as I looked at the container while stroking my beard.

“Didn’t Betty say something about Engineer suits having thrusters on one of those guides?” I asked as I flipped back through the comms device on my wrist.

“I can use this,” I smiled as relief set in. “I just need to find an engineer. And pray that we’re close enough in size for this to work.”

“Okay,” I finished rolling up my clothes and sticking them into the locker where I had found the uniform I was wearing. “Thrusters should have fuel, so let’s see how well they work.”

I pushed the small control in the gloves and then screamed as I accelerated toward the ceiling, turning off the thruster just in time for me to flip end over end and hit the top of the room.

“Ow,” I groaned as I let myself relax a bit. “That one hurt.”

I grabbed at my back and winced at how tight my hamstrings were.

“Alright, we’ll try it again, just take it slowly this time, Mark,” I said to myself as I reached for the controls again. “Calm, collected easy movement.”

I touched the control and yelped as I sped off again.

“Alright,” I looked at the fuel container again. “Let’s get you moving in the right direction.”

Grabbing on, I held it tightly as I triggered the thrusters, pushing us both toward the door that led to the engine room.

“Take it slow and steady, we don’t need to get in a rush here,” I muttered to myself as I used a small burst from the thrusters to alter our direction slightly. “We’ll get there, and then we can see about getting some more lights on in here.”

The container shifted and then a sound akin to nails on a chalkboard rang through the cargo bay as it scraped the top of the hallway leading to the engine room.

“Just a little bit longer,” I said. “And then we can take a break.”
I like the vocal manual. It sounds more useable than a written one, given the number of times I've tried to read those things.
The funny thing is, it’s actually canonical according to Sarna. Here’s the relevant quote.

“On the left wrist was worn a Communications Device, which allowed the user to communicate with other members of the ship's crew; the devices worn by officers could communicate with each other over secure command channels. The device also collected medical information from sensors woven into the jumpsuit and could transmit this information to a medic's computer during emergencies. Additional functions included the storage and playback of audio programs, such as step-by-step instructions for performing a complex task.[1]
Chapter 3
Chapter 3

“So this hose goes here,” I muttered as I followed Betty's instructions. “And that one goes there.”

“Then I use the built-in pump on the container to transfer fuel to the engine,” I bit the end of my light while triple-checking the connections. “Now the switch,” I flicked the switch and the pump made a small purring noise as it switched on.

“Then we wait,” I sighed as I watched the fuel levels in the tank slowly drain into the fusion engine.

I let myself float away from the tank, looking through the various audio manuals that were available before finding one that would be relevant to the next task.

“Caution, ensure that you are taking the proper safety precautions before beginning the power-up sequence,” Betty instructed. “Please review said procedures before continuing.”

“There we go,” I grinned as the giant fusion engine rumbled to life, the lights beginning to shift from a red glow to a bright white. “Thanks, Betty.”

If the lights hadn’t been lighting up the room, my smile would have done it as I took in the engine room in all of its beauty.

“This might just be the coolest thing I’ve ever done,” I whispered to myself as I looked at the fusion reactor. “The power of the sun contained and channeled. The fury of the void itself provides energy and power to something that we only dreamt of.”

Then my eyes caught the motion of a dead engineer floating, the light illuminating the mummy and turning the mood somber once again.

“They need to be laid to rest first,” I nodded to myself as I flared the maneuvering thrusters a hair, the momentum carrying me to the corpse. “Petty Officer Second Class Laughlin,” I read the name badge. “I’ll do my best to grant you peace.”

Logging onto Captain James Cromwell’s computer terminal that was keyed to the communicator mounted on my wrist, I began combing through the files, trying to find a list of the crew members so that I could put the dead to rest as they would have wished for it to be done.

“Give me something here,” I muttered as I worked my way through the unfamiliar OS, eventually stumbling across something that piqued my interest.

Captains Log: January 1, 2783

I almost did not sign off on the upgrades that were assigned to my ship. I saw far too many of my fellow sailors and marines die fighting against the very same defense systems that were supposed to be assisting us for me to be comfortable with this. Nevertheless, my engineers and technicians have persuaded me otherwise, claiming that the increased automation will enable the crew to have greater chances of survival and that it will allow us to carry more cargo with us as we scout ahead of whatever fleet or battlegroup we are assigned to.

Regardless of the upgrades I have been persuaded of, I will be maintaining a vigilant eye on the upgrades that improve automation. Some of this is entirely too close to the SDS systems that went rogue for my liking, and I will pull the plug at the slightest sign of danger to my crew.

March 5, 2783

The Manassas is being refitted with a new experimental Jump drive, I never claimed to be one of the brilliant minds of the Hegemony or Star League, but something feels off about this. Unfortunately, the tactical and strategic advantage of being able to increase the jump by ten lightyears is too much for me to pass up, so I am allowing the upgrade to continue. I did manage to persuade them to upgrade and improve the bunks and the Grav decks. They will be some of the finest in the navy when my ship is out of dry dock.

October 20, 2783

My Ship has finally left the dry dock, and she looks nothing like the Aegis class cruiser that she once was. She’s not the same ship she was when she was put into dry dock, she altogether something entirely different and it’ll take some time to get used to the new ship that she is.

February 20, 2784

I put it up to a vote. The crew decided that we are going to stay with Kerensky, we’re to be taking on cargo and dropships for the journey by the end of the month. I expect that this might be the last chance we will have to see Terra, so I’ve granted some shore leave before we begin preparations.

April 19, 2784

We’ve been ordered to guard the rear and both keep an eye out for and prevent any pursuers as we leave the Inner Sphere. We’re to meet up at the Schwartz system with the rest of the fleet before continuing coreward to an unspecified location.

July 6, 2784

I did not expect it to be a misjump that did us in. The K-F drive has malfunctioned, and we’re going to be affecting repairs and then trying to catch up to the rest of the fleet. I’m not sure that everything will go according to plan. Thankfully, there is a planet that is in the habitable range in this system. We’ll ferry what civilians we have onboard down to the planet below while we try to figure this out. And even if we fail, we can settle down on the planet and attempt to make things work.

December 13, 2784

Today is the scheduled day to test the repaired K-F drive. I have been working alongside the crew to ensure that we have done our very best, and all of our nonessential personnel have been transported to the planet to join the civilians and now we are finishing the last of the preparations.

In the event of my death and that of my crew, I only ask one thing. Continue and restore the Manassas. She’s a good ship, and deserves a better send-off than to lie adrift as a derelict in the void. Repair her drive, and get her back to her rightful place as a queen of the stars.

Captain James Cromwell, Star League Navy.
As always. Great chapter. I like that it's getting fleshed out.

Down the line I remember in the original he had his own power armor production (I don't remember if there was more original equipment off the top of my head). Will there be more outside setting solutions implemented into the Battletech universe? Can you add pictures of equipment as it's added?
As always. Great chapter. I like that it's getting fleshed out.

Down the line I remember in the original he had his own power armor production (I don't remember if there was more original equipment off the top of my head). Will there be more outside setting solutions implemented into the Battletech universe? Can you add pictures of equipment as it's added?
I’ll see what I can do as far as pictures go. The rewrite will mainly follow the same path as the original, just with things that I never explicitly wrote down but that did happen in my head.
Chapter 4
Chapter 4

"Is there a proper way to do a space burial for Muslims?" I asked myself as I floated through one of the main cargo areas. "I know there's one for burials at sea."

Busy, that was what I wanted to be. Busy, because if I was busy I didn't have time to dwell on anything. If I were doing something then I wasn't thinking about what was missing.

So I started working on the one thing I knew I needed to do first. If I wanted to be able to get anything done, I was going to need to move the dead away from where I was going to be living and working until I knew what I was doing.

Sighing heavily, a weight settling onto my shoulders, I eased open the empty storage container and slowly maneuvered the body bags in, the weightlessness giving everything an eerie sensation to them as I stacked them on top of each other.

"Another group down," I said as I looked at the sheet of paper detailing the crew members. "A lot more to go," I sighed.

"Well, Captain," I said as I looked over the last body. "I'm sorry that we weren't able to meet while you were alive. It seems like you were a good man, and I'd have loved to know someone like you. I'll do my best to honor your last wish. And I hope that you've found peace."

I zipped up the body bag and attached the tether to my belt, using the handholds to move out of the cabin and down the passageway.

As I moved through the ship, music filled my mind, drowning out the noise of my mind and filling me with a sense of deep sadness.

Somber strings and horns resonated as my mind recreated the music, the notes driving me forward to finish this.

"Captain Cromwell," I opened the door. "You will never be forgotten, you and your crew will be remembered."

For a minute, it felt like I could almost see the crew. My spirit filled in their faces as they saluted me and said their farewells. The spirits of the dead were at peace now that they wouldn't be forgotten.

"Godspeed, Captain," I returned the salute. "I'll see you again in paradise."

I closed the door and paused for a minute, a small prayer leaving my lips as I closed my eyes.

"Amen," I pushed off from the container and shifted to move to the grav deck. I needed to return to gravity for a bit before I continued work on the rest of the ship.

"I think these are still good," I muttered as I grabbed the MRE and hot sauce that I had managed to snag from the mess hall. "Not like I have any other options."

I followed the instructions and waited as the meal started to heat up, the consistency making my stomach roil at first as I pulled the meal out of the packaging.

"Nope," I cringed and grabbed the hot sauce, opening the bottle and drowning the food in it. "If it's hot enough, you don't have to worry about the taste."

Digging in, I chewed thoughtfully before swallowing. "You know, it's not that bad when it's covered in spices."

Continuing to eat, I enjoyed the feeling of a full belly for a minute before turning to the next part of my meal.

"Blessings abound," I grinned as I opened up the bag of coffee beans that I had taken from Captain Cromwell's cabin and began scooping them into the grinder next to me.

The heavenly scent of freshly ground coffee wafted up to my nose and a grin sprang to my face unprompted.

"It's the little things," I said as I worked the odd coffee machine, some of the tension leaving my shoulders.

Taking the silvery mug I had found, I filled it up with freshly brewed liquid gold as I sat down with a stack of books from the engineers.

"I guess I finally get to finish college," I shrugged to myself. "Better late than never."

Opening the first book, I began reading before closing the book. I knew nothing of the subject he was writing about.

Opening the rest of the books, I skimmed through them, hoping that there would be something I could understand.

"Fuck me," I laid my head down on the table for a minute. "I don't even know where to start."

The cold surface of the metal table helped me process, there was a lot to learn, but I had all the time in the universe to learn what I needed to operate the Manassas. Supplies that were meant to last a crew of hundreds stretched a long way when you were alone.

"Okay, let's start with the basics," I picked my head up off of the table. "I need to find the foundations for what I have here." I stacked the books up on a corner of the table. "But I can't afford to slack off on my physical needs either." I looked over at the gym area of the grav-deck. "So I need a schedule. I started writing notes on a notepad I had in my backpack. "Lastly, any spare moment when I'm not doing something else I need to be in the simulators."

Making a small block of times, I looked at the communicator that I had taken from Cromwell's wrist, taking note of the time listed and writing it down.

I wish that I could claim to be some sort of superhuman machine that was capable of understanding all of the complex math and science that I needed to learn. But I struggled. I was never bad at math, but it wasn't something that I had wanted to focus on.

So, the days of hard studying, working out, and hitting the simulators had now turned into weeks. And yet, I still only understood a fraction of what I needed to.

So I took a break, and leaving my notes behind, I moved to the cargo bay, it was time to see what kind of loot had been left behind on the Manassas.

"And so, like Robinson Crusoe, he went to take inventory of what was available to fend off the wilds that lay before him,"
Chapter 5
Chapter 5
January 21, 3000

"Reactor online, sensors online, weapons online," Betty announced, the voice of another human giving me some comfort. "All systems nominal."

"Alright," I muttered. "Let's see if today is any better than yesterday."

Gently pushing down on the foot pedals, I eased the Warhammer forward and out of the simulated hanger, the giant mech swaying a bit as I struggled to maintain my balance.

"Now, take it easy, Mark. One step at a time," I allowed my natural walking pace to become one with the machine that I was piloting, the gait straightening out with every step I took. "This is kinda fun," I laughed, beginning to experiment with twisting my torso as I moved through the simulated open field.

Shifting my weight, I tried moving to a fast jog, only to nearly lose my balance before throttling back to a walk.

"Okay, no running yet," I let the gyro calibrate again as a warning began to sound.

"Warning, incoming missiles," Betty warned me as a stream of missiles began arcing down onto my mech, the impacts driving me to one knee.

"Enemy detected, enemy detected, mech power-up detected," Betty informed me, an image of each mech appearing on the right side of my displays.

"This was supposed to be a basic walking scenario!" I yelled as I tried to stand up while more missiles struck my mech, sending me falling on my back. "Oh shit," I went quiet as a Highlander dropped from the sky onto my mech, the simulator going dark as its feet landed on the cockpit.

"What the hell was that?" I asked as I dug into the computer. "Did I select something I shouldn't have?"

"Okay, that should have fixed it," I climbed in and suited up again.

I listened to Betty run through the basic phrases again before the hanger appeared.

Moving at a fast walk out, I immediately powered up my sensors to their full range, now paranoid that I wouldn't be able to ease myself into this skill.

"Okay," I smiled as everything seemed to be calm. "I think I fixed it," as the words left my mouth, a silver streak came through and savaged my right PPC.

"Critical hit. Weapon destroyed," Betty said into my ear, the disappointment clear.

Twitching, I shifted to the right as streams of blue lightning narrowly missed my torso, another silver streak carving out a scar across the opposite shoulder.

"Mech power-up detected," Betty informed me.

"I'm aware!" I said as I scanned for threats I couldn't see on sensors or with the mark-one eyeball.

"Warning, incoming missiles!" Betty said as I managed to get up on both feet and start running back to the hanger, bits of armor getting chewed off by the few missiles that hit me.

Spinning around, I finally saw one of the mechs, the 90-tonner's Gauss rifle slug hitting my cockpit and causing the simulator to go dark once again.

"I think I'm done for the day," I groaned as I climbed out of the sim. "I'll try again tomorrow."

Drenched in sweat, I headed for the showers and then climbed into a bunk before pulling a sleeping bag up around me. Tomorrow was a new day, I would see what I could change then.

February 15, 3000

Music blared from my iPhone as I studied the textbooks that I had brought over to the mess hall, a jury-rigged charger keeping the old device powered.

"Alright, so that's how you do that," I muttered as I scribbled away at the equations listed, double and then triple checking my work before verifying my answers were correct.

Then, I stood up and stretched, a satisfying ripple of pops rolling down my spine as I flexed.

Turning my music off, I left my phone on the table while I walked over to the gym area.

Hopping on a treadmill, I began a warm-up walk, my knee protesting at the movement before settling down the longer I walked.

Taking it up a notch, I moved into a jog, pushing myself to up my speed a little bit with every session.

After the run, I held my hands over my head as I gasped for breath, sweat dripping down my armpits as I walked over to the weight racks and picked up the set of dumbells I was using this week.

I had to do more. As long as I had an objective I could keep moving forward.

Mentally, I knew that I was going to break down. I knew that I was staving off the inevitable mental break by not allowing myself to think about what had happened to me.

But I also wanted to live. I can always improve my situation while I'm alive. I cannot do that if I were dead.

And so, I pushed myself to the brink of exhaustion every day that I was in this derelict, collapsing into my bunk every night before waking up and going back into the grind. This was about more than just surviving, if I wanted to live then I had to survive now.

"Okay," I said as I climbed into the simulator. "Let's try to last more than two minutes this time."

As soon as Betty ran through her sequence, I jammed my feet down on the pedals, shifting into a run as the Warhammer underneath me surged, the cooling vest alternating between hot and cold as the reactor spiked in temperature.

Twisting out of a trio of emerald lasers, I fired back with a PPC, a handful of missiles cratering across my torso as a Gauss slug carved a furrow through my SRMs.

Knowing that I was out-ranged, I ran for the trees, the thick boughs offering cover from the missiles that continued to rain down on me from above.

Looking at my seismic sensors, I spun my torso to the right, expecting to see my nemesis in the Highlander only ri be met by a King Crab.

The assault mech seemed to grin as it's twin AC/20s tore my mech to shreds, my mech's shoulder and arm being ripped off by the burst fire weapon as I teetered on the edge of my feet, the gyros groaning as I barely kept on my feet before driving me knee down into the dirt to stabilize myself as I fired everything I had at the deadly Assault mech.

"Dammit," I swore as all but one of my medium lasers went wide, the King Crab taking another step forward and shredding the little armor that I had left before hitting the reactor and causing a shut down.

I sat in the darkness for a moment, thinking about what I had done wrong before a message went across the screen.

"Life is pain, highness. If anyone tries to tell you anything different they're selling something."

"As you wish," I ran my hand across the screen as the text faded away, tears beginning to stream down my face as the weight of the emotions I had been holding back fell square onto my shoulders.

And in the darkness of the void, I wept.
Chapter 6
Chapter 6

“Five more,” I said to myself as I struggled to pull myself up the bar, my arms shaking as sweat dripped down my armpits and down my side.

“One,” I grunted as my chin went above the bar.

“Two,” I exhaled, my arms and chest burning as I lowered myself.

Taking a deep breath, I pumped out the last three before letting go of the bar, holding my hands over my head as I gasped for breath.

“Okay, that's done for the day,” I grabbed my notebook and checked today’s workout off of the list.

Taking a moment to stretch, I considered the last few months.

I had figured out how to deploy the solar sail over the last month and a half, and the Manassas was currently building up a charge for the K-F drive and Lithium-Fusion batteries.

“And once I figure out this math I’ll be able to start moving back to civilization,” I muttered. “Just got to have a plan first.”

Grabbing a towel, I wiped the sweat off of my face before laying it over my shoulder.

“Now I get to study again,” I raised a fist in the air. “Yay.”

“Okay, that’s enough studying for the day,” I pushed the textbook away and glanced at the piles of finished books.

“Another month and I should be good to at least understand the engineer’s notes,” I put my notebook away before heading for the door. “But that’s for later.”

Entering the shipboard armory, I stared for a minute before wiping the drool from the corner of my mouth. This was a gun lover’s dream come true, I had ballistic weapons on one wall, lasers on another, grenades and body armor on shelves, and a closed sealed door for specialist weapons in the back.

Grinning, I stepped forward and grabbed one of the laser rifles, hefting the weapon to get a feel for the weight.

“This thing was definitely not designed for sustained use. I grunted as I shouldered the weapon and peered down the scope. “This thing is hefty.”

Setting the rifle down, I moved over and did the same with a handgun and one of the ballistic rifles, “I’m definitely keeping these,” I pocketed a laser pistol before looking at the doors in the back of the armory. “Now, let’s see what you’re hiding behind here.”

I used Captain Cromwell’s credentials on the door and it slid open with a sharp “hiss!” revealing something that I had not expected to see on this ship.

“It’s no Mjolnir,” I said as I touched the suit. “But you don’t get much better than this.”

A few weeks later…

“I need a plan,” I muttered as I looked at the star charts. “What are my options?” I mused as I thought out loud.

“Draconis Combine,” I glanced at the red section of the map. “It’s the closest to me, but I’m not Viking or Japanese enough to fit in.”

“Lyran Commonwealth,” I mused. “I like you, but I’m not sure exactly how I’d fit in. I’m as like to shoot someone for trying to play games and being corrupt as I am to prosper.”

“Free Worlds League,” I hummed. “Civil War-O-Clock doesn’t sound very fun.”

“I’m not a communist,” I look at the green markings on the map. “And I’m definitely not British or French enough to fit in with the Federated Suns.”

“The Periphery might have some decent options, but the Taurians are just about the only ones who I could stand living with long term,” I sighed. “Whelp, this sucks.” I navigated the map over to the Taurian Concordat’s border with the Fedsuns before pausing as a handful of stars appeared with an Alpha-Numeric code. “Hello there,” I wrote down the star coordinates. “Let’s see what you’re hiding now, shall we?”

I spent days combing through Captain Cromwell’s journal as well as the journals of the others who had died on the Manassas, trying to figure out exactly what those coordinates were referencing before giving it up as a lost cause until I had finished learning how to use the K-F Drive.

“One thing at a time, Mark,” I said as I dove back into the books, trying to make sure that I did it right instead of fast. If I ever wanted to get back to a place with people again then I was going to need to need to do this the right way instead of the fast way. The fast way might lead to more issues like the ones the original crew had, and I had no intention of ending up like them.
Yay. He found the power armor.

Are there gonna be drone mechs in this fic? I know they aren't made until later, but no reason not to augment our future forces with drone support.
I’m pretty much following the original in story barring filling in some plot holes that I left wide open. There’s going to be a lot of exploration of the human psyche and what being alone for long periods of time does.

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