Indefinite Hiatus

Hello everyone!

Unfortunately, due to personal situations in the lives of all of our authors, Astral Tide is being put on indefinite hiatus. Hopefully we’ll be back soon! Thanks for reading so far!

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Series 3 Coming in September!

Hey everyone! I’m sure you’ve noticed that Series 2 has ended. Series 3 is currently in the works, and we hope to get it up sometime in September! Until then, try and enjoy your life!

Epilogue

+++Recording Initiated+++

+++Filesave Name ‘Audiovisualdiary’+++

[sigh]

I finally had the chance to look through all of the updates sent to me by the other ships about the events that occurred on them during our… encounter with the bubble. That’s the term everyone else uses to describe what it was we just ran through, so I might as well use it too. Ignoscious says it’s a good term, and he would know better than anyone else. He said when the two universes meshed, they did so unevenly, so some parts of the new reality have more parts of the other reality, and some parts more of ours. We found Sanaer in a part of this new universe made completely of our old universe. What we just went through was made completely of the hostile universe. None of what was in there made any sense. Ignoscious babbled about aethyric differences and the abstract becoming concrete, and the laws of physics changing completely and utterly… but I’ll leave that to him.

But I digress. More relevant to this record is the fact that during the incident, a dear friend has left us forever. The Solfyre suffered the worst of us all… I thought we had had it bad, on the Victory, but what we got was nothing compared to the Solfyre. I should have looked at the reports earlier, but I was too worried about my ship… I should have left that to Fiona. She’s the captain here. I should be involving myself more with the other ships. And you know what? I promise I will. I can’t let this happen again.

David Hammond is dead. He won’t ever come back. It seems like those who died in the other universe remain dead. Lucy didn’t come back either; thankfully Mulligan doesn’t know that. I fear for what will happen if he does… but… I don’t know. I don’t know what to do. Hammond… has been a friend for such a long time. A solid, reliable captain – maybe the most in the fleet. [short, humorless laugh] I hope Fiona never finds this. But… Hammond was the only one I trusted to run a ship on his own completely. He’s proven himself over and over again, and he’s a good, solid man, with none of that namby-pamby Eclipse crap. He was a rock. And now… he’s gone. I suppose we’ll have to follow protocol… but his first mate is gone too. It’s a mess. Maybe I should step in with an executive order… no. The Solfyre would not welcome that interference yet. I’ll just back up whoever they choose. Democracy. It made us strong once… maybe it can save us again.

Maybe Montoya was right. Maybe military rule isn’t right for us. Maybe we need a return to capitalist values and democracy.

Or maybe we need tighter discipline, more control. Maybe I should listen to Fiona.

[sigh]

I’m so tired… even when we win a little victory like this, it’s poisoned. We’ve held a service for Hammond on board the Victory, with just our crew, but I want to hold another, fleet-wide one. Hopefully soon – we must move on. I’ll miss him.

I’m worried about our future. Mulligan is missing, and Dr. Williams’ medical staff refuses to work with her until she explains exactly what she is. Truth be told, I want to know too. She’ll tell us soon.

The weirdest thing about this whole thing, though, is that no one was killed. By the killer, that is; we lost some people to the warping energies of the other reality. But the killer didn’t strike again. Maybe he was one of the crewmembers lost when we switched over – I can only hope that that is the case. But nothing ever seems to go right. He’s probably just waiting.

[brief pause]

Well, Ignoscious is happy at least. He’s the Victory‘s official Chief Scientist now, after Flanagan’s… loss. The Eclipse sent over the aethyric scanner the doctor had asked for. It doesn’t look like much; just as opaque black orb. Looks like obsidian. Black, and dark, and just so… alien. The doctor also has the bit of Farthing’s leg he preserved in the cylinder Sanaer made. With that and the scanner, hopefully he can come up with… I don’t know what. Something.

God, my head hurts. My migraines have come back, worse than- what’s that? Who’s- you! What!

[hissing]“Hands in the air, ‘Admiral.'”

“What are… Alpha One!”

[hissing]“My name is Ra’guul. Learn it.”

“But…”

[zap]

+++End Recording+++

+++File Saved+++

Epilogue Tomorrow

Hello readers! Just a friendly note to those of you wondering where the Victory episode is! Z. M. Wilmot has fallen ill, and so has been delayed in his writing. The Epilogue of Series II will be posted tomorrow though, so have no fear! And the epilogue might have a surprise in store… Happy readings!

2.55 Return

“Is that the last of them?” Oblivia asked as she watched Pinks fix the detonator in place.

Although they had split up to cover ground more quickly, B-Drive was an auxiliary compartment less than half the size of C, which resulted in Oblivia finishing well ahead of schedule.

“Pinks?” Oblivia tried again as the silence dragged on, worried that the Officer hadn’t heard her.

“Cycling, are you crazy?” Pinks blurted as a shudder wracked her body.

Hands shaking, Pinks managed to cut the fuse at a reasonable length before collapsing to the floor in a fit of laughter.

“Are you alright?” Oblivia asked after it subsided; giving Pinks a hand to help her up.

“Oooh!” Pinks squealed, spinning on her heel and pointing to a wall. “Burning shoulder means Phantom is done. Time for us to go!”

Reaching into a pocket, Pinks pulled out what looked like a black marble the width of her thumb.

“This should do the trick,” Pinks proclaimed proudly.

“It’s a marble,” Oblivia stated, a blank expression on her face.

“Yeah, but its a super-duper-awesome-marble!” Pinks gushed. “Now suck in a deep breath.”

“Very well.” Oblivia acquiesced, her voice laden with doubt. Opening her mouth, the Captain began to inhale…

Without warning, Pinks flicked the marble towards her. Unable to close her mouth in time, Obliva found herself inhaling the marble which began to expand in her throat.

“Pinks!” She gasped, “What-”

That was as far as she got before she vanished.

Pinks remained standing, craning her head from side to side as she listened to an unseen presence. Finally, she pressed the detonator.

A series of dull thumps echoed throughout the bulkhead, and then everything went dark.

***

“Are we actually out?” Rainbow Dash felt compelled to ask.

Though there were neither klaxons nor impact warnings, the Chief Navigator still had her eye glued on her screen, looking for any sign of trouble.

“It would appear so.” Lumina hummed as she adjusted a dial on her headset. “The Admiral was quick to reassert his authority. We’re now to lead the fleet away from the dimensional bubble.”

“Slight problem there, milady.” Rarity interrupted. “The engines have sustained serious damage; we’re currently running off the auxiliaries, but speed will suffer as a consequence.”

“Move forward at whatever pace you find comfortable.” Lumina shrugged, “Its not like the other ships can complain.”

“Plotting course for open space.”

The dull whine of the initial activation suffused the room; as did the a slight sensation of being pressed into the floor.

“Looks like the artificial gravity took a hunt.” Aurora grunted, unbuckling her crash webbing where it had begun to chafe.

“Priorities, my dear.” Rarity reminded her, “The replacement droids are hardly sufficient to replace several hundred trained crewmen. Some backlog is to be expected.”

“Life signs…” Flutter Hart murmured, breaking her self-imposed silence. “Sensors are displaying lower life signs on the other ships. Mild mostly, though there appears to be a significant drop onboard the Solfyre.

“Has the Admiral given out any details?” Twilight asked, ever curious.

“None.” Lumina sighed, “I doubt he is even aware of it, to be fair. If our sensors just regained full function now, I can only imagine the disruption caused to the others.”

“I have some idea of the extent,” a slightly shaky voice answered from the corridor outside.

It took a moment for the voice to be recognized, but Lumina was the first to succeed. She was already at the door by the time the others stood up; the first to wrap her sister up in a warm hug.

“Oblivia! You’re awake!”

“C-careful sister.” Oblivia laughed as she struggled against the embrace.

“We were getting worried,” Flutter Hart remarked. “You were asleep and unresponsive for days.”

“That’s because we were busy,” Pinks chirped, emerging from behind a terminal that could not have hidden her entire body from view. “But no time to relax now! Divert power to the tachyon cannon; we have an enemy inbound.”

“I can’t see anything on the sensors,” Aurora countered.

“The sensors are damaged,” Pinks asserted, “Trust me on this one.”

“It can do no harm.” Twilight agreed, “Diverting power.”

The low hum of the engines transformed, climbing into a harsh growl that set nerves on edge.

“Tachyon cannon approaching full power,” Twilight reported a few minutes later. “Still no sign of the enemy. Pinks?”

The Officer of Morale had her eyes closed, and was muttering something under her breath.

“Turn cannon to seventy degrees and fire!” She exclaimed.

“Do it.” Twilight affirmed, silencing the protests of the gunners.

On her monitor, Twilight saw a yellow super-luminal streak as it was launched from the ship’s cannon, heading off into the distance. That was when a patch of black space exploded, disintegrating upon impact with the particle beam.

“What was that?” Aurora blinked, her jaw dropping.

“Astral Daemon.” Pinks shrugged, “We knocked it back and staggered it; it’s weakened enough that its effect can be dispelled.”

“Its effect?” Lumina wondered, “What should we be on the lookout for?”

“You’re already free of it.” Pinks corrected, “The weird mass-dream? That was his effect. That beam was angled to knock him back in time. Relativistic speeds according to Einstein’s constant. Ooh, oatmeal!”

“…What?”

***

“Gone.” The Phantom sighed, tipping his hat. “We should have stayed.”

It would have been impossible, he knew; the energies of the other realm had been too strong to control.

“So many different realms,” the Phantom mused, “So many forms and lives and wonders to behold. But despite all the differences, the void is always the same. One sky, one destiny.”

His fists clenched, veins throbbing against his alabaster skin.

“One day, we will return.”

***

The sun disappeared beneath the horizon, its last rays painting the sky red with blood. One solitary beam arced north, shining upon a Crimson Tower. A jagged dagger carved from the bosom of the earth, the Tower pierced the sky, dwarfing the hills around it.

Illuminaira.

Silhouetted against the setting sun, a single figure stood upon the ceiling of the tower, his head turned skyward, revelling in the feel of the aethyric winds. One gust in particular grew in strength, washing over the man. His eyes opened, a lazy grin spreading across his face.

Mephist.

“It’s time.”

2.54 The Near Escape

There wasn’t much to see in the halls of the Solfyre. It was as barren and as abandoned as an old house sitting outside of a ghost town. What made it worse was the pile of ashes that lay about. None of the crew members (Jacen, Luke, or even Sarah) could identify what they were or what they belonged to. Alison would’ve understood, and (if she survived) she could tell them what they once were. But walking through the halls, calling for survivors, the piles of ash were nothing but a mere fleeting thing. Simply another item that added to a long list of fucked up shit that had been going on for…how long? Whatever, it had been way too long to even attempt to gauge how long things had been in a scramble.

Another thing that caused great concern (for the moment anyway) was the red fungus growing on the walls. The once rather pristine and polished walls were musty, rusty, and slick with slime. Sarah felt a slight discharge when she made contact with a vein crawling across the wall. It looked like worms squirming through a puddle of water. Even the metal grating didn’t feel the same underneath her boots. Instead of the standard rattling sound, it gave off a saturated squish. She frowned at the sound, feeling both sadness and disgust. So much had been fixed, yet there was so much that wasn’t right. Sarah could feel it. As strange as the feeling was to her, she had a certainty the ship was ill. There had to be a way to undo this effect.

Leaving this realm maybe?

For the first time in her life, she understood how Sanaer felt with his limited understanding of things. There was a small feeling of helplessness. When things had been established and Hammond was around to hold the edifice in order, things had made sense and she could use her ability, her sight, to compliment what was going on.  But now, her sight felt somehow severed, and she felt like nothing more but a simple, small, and weak woman who had metal plugs in her head and spoke to the CPU of the ship.

You have a purpose, don’t worry about that. What you do in the ship won’t be questioned. Whatever happens outside of that, let it fall where it may.

Sarah felt a sense of security in that.

“Such a shame everything has happened the way it did,” Luke said.

Jacen, aiming the Stun Gun about, said, “Why?”

“Well, doesn’t it feel like we could’ve prevented what happened?”

To that, Jacen stopped, slowly lowering his weapon. Still, he didn’t turn around. “And how could we have done that?”

“We received warnings right? Why didn’t we try to move away from the storm?”

Sarah saw where this was going, and there was nothing new in what Luke was proposing. It was the first, however, she saw Luke asking questions that exposed his ignorance for what went with the rest of the ship. Nevertheless, she watched as Jacen turn to him.

“We did try. The fleet did everything it could to get away from this realm, this bubble, but it followed us.”

“Are you sure?”

Silence overtook the hall they stood in. Jacen narrowed his eyes. “What exactly are you implying?”

“Nothing,” Luke said calmly. “I’m just trying to say if what happened was…well…you know…”

Sarah lent a hand. “Supposed to happen?”

Luke nodded.

“Listen Luke,” Jacen said, leaning the gun against the wall and putting his hands on his shoulders. “What you are talking about is beyond our control. What you’re talking about is destiny. Or, if you prefer, you’re talking about what the gods had planned for us.”

Luke didn’t break his gaze from Jacen, but he wanted to.

“The thing about this universe is that things happen however there going to happen. Whether there is any rhyme or reason would be speculation, and a waste of time. All we can do is move on with our plans. Because as we all know, the universe is going to keep going. It’s not going to stop and mourn for lives lost. The concept that people think that things actually do is a product of our arrogance, and is probably what got us in trouble in the first place.”

Luke looked down at his shoes and nodded. Jacen backed away, looking at Sarah.

“Do you miss him?” she asked.

“Do you have to ask?” Jacen replied.

She thought for a second and realized she didn’t, and it was a silly question to have asked in the first place.

They continued on, it wasn’t long before they were in the dungeon and standing before the entrance to the CPU room. Sarah led the way inside and was more than pleased to see this part of the ship looked normal.

Home, she thought, and smiled.

The ship rumbled, and she braced herself against the wall. It continued for only a few brief moments, and then ended. A minute later, Jacen’s communicator beeped. He placed it in his ear.

“Talk to me.”

“It’s Annaka, sir. We’re clear. I’ve followed the Eclipse and Victory and we’re out of the realm.”

“That seemed easy enough.”

“Suppose so. Life readings in the ship have gone down significantly. What’s going on down there?”

Jacen looked to Luke, removed the communicator. “Check outside, see what’s up.”

He replaced the communicator and watched Luke leave. When Luke returned, there was a light smile on his face.

“Everything’s gone. The fungus, vanished, so have the piles of ash.”

What about the water? Jacen thought, but he would keep that to himself. If Sarah and Luke were to forget it, he would do nothing to remind them. When he was on his own, he would check it out. Sarah stepped away from them and removed her clothes. Jacen and Luke turned away. Jacen peered at his crewmember, who still had a trace of a smile on his face.

“Can you believe it?” Luke whispered. “It’s too good to be true.”

That’s what bothers me. When is it ever that easy?

Shit, nothing was easy. If it was, then something was serious wrong. Most of the time that meant he was going down a path he’d been through several times. This was uncharted waters baby, it was best to keep the old defenses up.

“Gentlemen,” Sarah said, they turned to her. She was inserting the plugs into her head. Jacen had forgotten just how pail, frail, and little Sarah was. God, her hips were tiny.

“I’m going to go back to work. If anything comes up from the ship…”

“You’ll do as you’ve always done,” Jacen finished.

Sarah smiled, it was a full smile. Jacen thought she looked quite young, healthy, and beautiful when she did. The thought made him think of Jasmine, and the brief moment of happiness faded like a small flame being blown out in the wind.

I loved you Jasmine, he thought, I wish I would’ve had the ability to tell you.

But maybe she already had known, in her own way. Love was a tricky son of a bitch. It was elusive, made people blind, created images of people that weren’t real, and then exposed the truth years down the road. When that happened, the couple realized they never really loved each other. However, Jacen didn’t think that had been the case with him and Jasmine.

Whatever, no point in brooding over it. There’s work to be done.

He turned to the door and walked out. But one thing did stick with him, Jacen had loved Jasmine with everything in him. It was only his regret that the universe took her away from him. That much would remain a contact point of verisimilitude for him.

When Jacen and Luke reached the far side of the dungeon (which was past the water regulator systems) they heard voices. At first, Jacen feared what he heard were the voices of those departed, the angry souls that were now markers of a past he’d just assume forget. However, listening closer, he realized the voices carried vitality with them. Jacen led the way down a narrow hall on the left. He came upon a tall, narrow door and heard people shushing each other. Jacen threw the door open and people screamed. Luke shined a illumination device inside.

Four women, three men.

Civilians.

The women looked injured, and so did the men. Well, wait a second, look at this one. It was a young man, barely younger than Jacen. He had a jagged gash running across his face. That really wasn’t much of a problem, what concerned Jacen was the swelling and the redness surrounding it. After seeing the nasty infection that had been on Alison’s hand, he wasn’t about to take any chances.

“Are all of you okay?” he said.

The civilians slowly stood, nodding. The injured man didn’t reply. His eyes looked glazed. Not good.

“Are there more survivors?”

“We were with another group,” a woman with red hair said. “I saw more alive before we encountered the beast.”

Jacen could’ve asked what she meant by that, but there was no reason to was there?

“Luke, help them get to the Medical Wing. I’m sure Byron will have returned to his fort knowing things are back in order.”

“Yes, sir.”

Sir. There it was again. Be the one to take action when everything falls apart and people will follow you. Was this how Hammond became captain?

Luke led the people down the hall, Jacen called to him.

“Yo!”

Luke turned.

“Throw me your shotgun!”

Luke did so without hesitation. Jacen tossed him the Stun Gun. When Luke and the civilians left the hall, Jacen pumped the chamber and headed for the Water Regulators.

***

Sanaer sat on the levitating seat in Hammond’s office. Annaka said she didn’t mind, and she was sure that Jacen wouldn’t either. To that, he found himself grateful. He needed somewhere to be where he could be allowed some time to think. The jump out of the realm had given him quite a turn. It was time to relax, knock on the ethereal walls of the current realm and find out if it responded the way it had before entering the alien realm. He did so now, reaching out with his mind like he had attempted to with Jasmine, and knocked. It was a gentle knock, much like a person would when standing before someone’s front door.

He waited.

No answer.

Sanaer knocked again, and he waited more. But like the first knock, he didn’t get a reply. This worried him. He wondered if the rest of the fleet knew about this. But then again, what god damn difference would it make anyway? The fleet had known about the astral storm and there was nothing that could’ve been done. Not to mention–

He received a reply. Sanaer opened his eyes.

This wasn’t the realm they had started in.

From afar, Sanaer heard a very ancient voice snicker.

2.53 Out of the Frying Pan

“We’re free!” Lori shouted, ripping off her headpiece and jumping up and down. The instant the Victory passed out of the hostile bubble, Farthing had shuddered in what was either pleasure or pain, and when the fleet pushed through the harmonious union of the two realities, the navigator had blinked and looked down at his leg. It was no longer melded to the ship. In fact, the entire alien entity had vanished, and his leg was completely his own again. A few flexes and stretches confirmed this. Once sure of his condition, Farthing joined in the grins and smiles spreading throughout the bridge, led by Lori.

The Communications Officer put her headpiece back. “Great job, guys!” she broadcast to the Eclipse and the rest of the fleet. “We’re free!”

Admiral Foyer only allowed himself a few moments of enjoyment before asking Lori to patch him through to the rest of the ships. “Congratulations Eclipse,” he said, smiling. “You have done far better than we ever could have asked for. Unfortunately, we have to keep our heads on straight. I am once again taking executive power. We need to get as far away from this bubble as we can.” Indeed, the bubble of hostility was still visible on Farthing’s monitors. “For now, we plot a course directly away from it. Eclipse, take the lead, but don’t stray too far ahead; the Astral Dawn will sail by you and perform repairs in transit. Your ship and the Solfyre appear to be the most badly damaged. The Victory can wait.”

As the admiral cut the line, he mused that he did not actually truly know the extent of the damage done to the Victory. “Captain Fiona,” he said.

Fiona stepped next to him and saluted. “Aye, sir?”

“Find Mulligan and send him out to find anything in need of repair on this ship. If things need fixing, tell him to get started.”

“Aye aye!” Fiona saluted again and marched off the bridge.

“The Eclipse is moving slowly, admiral, but she’s moving away,” Farthing called.

“Good. Follow close behind her.”

“Aye aye!”

“Captain? Admiral?” came a voice over the intercom.

“Lacey!” Lori said, turning around in her chair to face the bridge proper. “We’ve reestablished contact with the Weapons Module!”

“Is the transport pod in the shaft running again?” Foyer turned to the security team.

“Aye, sir!” came the response.

“Good.” Foyer turned his attention back to the voice of Lacey. “We’re here, Lacey. The transport pod is working again. You and your techs get back over here and get some rest.”

“With pleasure, admiral,” Lacey said. “And just so you know, there has been no permanent damage here. Nothing needing Mulligan; me and my weapons techs can handle the damage in here. Just a few weapons systems offline. Before  I come over I’ll run another round of diagnostics, but it looks like we’ll be fine.”

“Don’t stretch yourself,” the admiral warned.

“Won’t do, sir!” Lacey replied cheerfully. “Lacey out.”

Foyer smiled and forced himself to relax. He ordered the viewport opened, and gazed out at the familiar mess that had once been his home universe. To one side he could see the broiling clouds of lightning and ash that echoed with the drums of the invading reality. He shuddered. “Let’s get away from here.”

***

David Mulligan checked off the second engine room, which held the gravitic stabilizers, on his mental checklist as he went through the ship, as per Fiona’s orders. The Montoyans – his men – were on standby, ready to strike when the time was ripe. Before he could take over the ship, though, he had to make sure that it was in working order. It wouldn’t look good if the Victory broke down just after the Montoyans took over.

I wonder how the other ships would handle a successful mutiny, the Chief Technician mused as he made his way through Quadrant C, the maintenance and alien sector of the flagship. Would they send troops to overthrow us immediately? Like we did with the Radiance? He paused his thoughts for a moment. Probably.

Mulligan did not like walking this deep into Quadrant C. Normally he sent techs in here when work needed to be done, but he wanted to make sure everything was working himself. Besides, now he needed to watch who he delegated tasks to; only Montoyans could get the important tasks.

As Montoya turned a corner and approached the third – out of four – engine room, he felt eyes watching him. Probably damn sorrows in the ventilation shafts, he joked to himself. His eyes flicked up to a ventilation grille, and his heart paused for a moment as he saw eyes up there. “What the fuck?” he said, and blinked. The eyes were gone.

“This can’t be good for my fucking nerves,” he muttered. He reached the engine room door and keyed it open. Inside he found a host of two dozen vagons and sorrows. “What the…”

A vagon reached out its tentacle and lightly touched Mulligan’s forehead. A brief jolt of electricity shot through him and he collapsed to the ground.

Ra’guul stepped out of the shadows, and LaPorte followed him. “Take his communicator,” the trogloid croaked. “Give it to the priest. He can fake his voice.”

***

Dr. Williams walked back into the medical facilities. They were a mess; everything had been thrown around when the Victory had been in the wild throes of the hostile reality. “Time to clean up,” she said to herself sadly. The Victory was no longer sentient, it seemed, and the facilities were empty, so she had no one to talk to. “And then I get to explain to everyone what I really am,” she muttered. “And then no one will ever trust me again.”

She bit her lip and began the long process of cleaning up – alone.

***

Dr. Gadran Ignoscious pressed a button and turned on the monitor in Lucy’s old lab. On it, a piece of stringy, pink, oozing, flesh pulsated. The monitor was hooked up to the cylinder Sanaer had provided the scientist. “The cylinder works as advertised so far,” Ignoscious muttered. “Now let’s see what this little guy has to say…”

***

“You alright, Mulligan?” David’s second-in-command – conveniently also a Montoyan – spoke into his communicator, disturbed by the brief burst of static on his boss’ line. “That didn’t sound good.”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” came the reply. David’s voice sounded off slightly, but the technician couldn’t quite place why. “Just fucking shocked myself a bit. Don’t worry. Looks like everything is in order here, though.”

The technician nodded. “And the generators are humming?” As the lines were not secured and able to be listened on by security, the Montoyans had to be careful about what they said. So far, their code had proven flawless.

At the other end of the communicator, Napais’ eyes twinkled. Ra’guul chuckled. “I didn’t know human priests could swear, holy man,” the trogloid said. “Maybe there’s hope for you yet.”

“There is always hope,” the priest replied. “But I don’t know what to make of this message.” He thought for a moment, then turned the communicator back on. “Yes they are. Like a bee.”

Mulligan’s technician smiled. “Rightyho, boss. See you soon.” He shut off his communicator and headed to the Montoyan lair, whistling a merry tune.

The time to strike was fast approaching.