Eva's heart thumped steadily in her chest as she ran towards the nearest lifeboat chamber. Once she got there, she instinctively stopped off to the side to catch her breath. Although her breathing was a bit labored, she realized that she was barely tired.
In fact, she had pretty much caught her breath already.
That's weird, she thought. I could've sworn I just ran a mile, but I'm not even sweating… What the hell's going on with me?
Before she could think much more about what was going on with her, there was a sudden uproar which took her attention.
It looked like a couple of people were fighting over a lifeboat. Their argument almost got into blows before one of the station's crewmembers got in between them and calmed them down.
Since things had quieted down, Eva took the opportunity to look around the room.
It was a semi-circular design that followed the curved, minimalist look as the rest of the station. Like the respawn room, it looked as though it was formed out of a single piece.
There were a half-dozen portholes equally spaced along the wall. They were circular in nature, and were about 8 feet in diameter - plenty of space for people to get in and out of the lifeboats.
They didn't behave like the other doors in the station, however. Instead, they were split into bladed segments, like the aperture mechanism in a camera lens, and opened and closed towards the center. They even made superbly satisfying SWISH sounds, which delighted Eva to no end.
On the other side of the port-holes were piloted lifeboats on standby, their interior lights glowing a dark blue.
She watched as crewmembers ushered about a dozen panicked people into one, followed by one of the crewmen. They all secured themselves into bucket seats that were arranged in rows facing forward.
Meanwhile, the crewman dashed up to the pilot's chair at the far end and fastened himself quickly. He frantically tapped all sorts of controls and powered up the small vessel.
Both the porthole and lifeboat then sealed themselves before the boat rocketed down its launch tube and out into open space.
Although Eva couldn't see it, an entirely new lifeboat swiftly slid into place from somewhere above. It clicked into place before the porthole reopened, allowing another set of people to frantically escape.
She found the whole process efficient and marveled at the design. The sheer precision and speed allowed the station's evacuation protocols to occur like clockwork. It only took mere minutes for a pod to get filled, ejected, and swapped out.
A station this size could have dozens of these chambers on every deck to ensure everyone got a chance to get away quickly.
She suddenly pictured all manner of ways this was all mechanically possible, from precise loading arms to huge magazines filled with lifeboats. The thought suddenly struck her as odd. When did she care that much about mechanical design? Not that she didn't like nerding out on gadgets, but she never really cared about how they worked.
She never really cared about the technical inner workings of her mobile phone, for example. All that mattered was that she could use it however she wanted to. But suddenly and out of nowhere, she found herself wanting to know how it worked...
Whatever. I'll figure it out later, she thought as she dashed to a lifeboat. Right now, I oughta get the hell outta this tin can.
However, she was suddenly stopped by a neanderthal-like bruiser before she could get any closer. He held up a large, meaty palm right in front of her.
"Sorry sweetheart," he said flatly. "This boat's full, so get spaced."
She took a quick peek inside the lifeboat and saw a couple of seats still open. She looked back at the bruiser and sized him up. He was like a gorilla; barrel-chested and with rippling muscles. One of his biceps was as big as her own head.
She recalled that he was one of the men involved in that argument a few minutes ago. This must have been why it started.
"I'm not your sweetheart," she retorted, "and I go where I want."
She tried to get past him, but he quickly got back in her way and put a hand on her shoulder.
"I don't think you understand, lil' miss pissypants," he said firmly, "this behind me is Nightmare's boat, and you ain't gettin' on it, no matter what, no matter how, unless you got the ok. Ok?"
The bruiser gave her a firm shove, which pushed her back a number of steps.
In her old life, she would've simply accepted the situation and walked away. She was meek and weak, and let herself get pushed around by everyone stronger than her. It was easier and safer than fighting back and getting seriously hurt.
But things were different now.
Her eyes darkened as she recalled the time Nightmare and his goons ambushed and killed her in the game. She was in the middle of a hugely profitable mission, one that took weeks of planning and days to execute properly.
Everyone thought it was impossible to do solo, but she believed otherwise. She had figured out a way to do it just by herself, and streamed it from start to finish to prove it.
Nightmare stream-sniped her with the intention of ruining her attempt. It was something he loved doing, and she was only one of his many victims.
He and his goons suddenly showed up right when she got to the most critical phase of the days-long mission, and griefed her relentlessly. She fought bitterly to defend herself, but they severely outnumbered her and kept her from achieving her goals.
The mission timer ruthlessly ticked down, and because she was busy fending them off, she failed the mission.
She had to eat her promise of soloing it while they laughed at her failure. That was a grudge that she had held on for a long time, and it served as kindling for a flame that threatened to consume the galaxy.
That little shove was the spark that lit that flame. And she welcomed the warmth it promised. Her heart thumped heavily in her chest as she resolved to stand her ground.
"First things first," she said, "no-one pushes me around."
"Then I'll just have'ta put you down," sneered the bruiser in response.
He was a simple man, and loved the simple things in life. Nothing gave him more pleasure than to indulge in violence. He grinned at the prospect and rushed forward, with the full intention of killing her. He reared back a meaty fist, and imagined driving it into her face.
He wanted to see her blood smeared all over his knuckles, to feel her skull crack on impact.
He poured every ounce of power into his velocity and skillfully threw his punch, but to his surprise Eva stepped forward instead, her eyes shone with pure hostility.
She crouched downwards and ended up just underneath his swing, and grabbed him with both hands. She quickly spun into him, summoned up all of her strength, and turned his own unstoppable momentum against him.
In the blink of an eye, she threw him neck-first into the ground, which resulted in a loud and satisfying CRUNCH.
All within the space of a second.
The rest of his body slumped into a heap on the floor. Even if he wasn't dead, there was no way he was going to get up by himself.
Not that anyone even tried to help him. Everyone was still processing that a fight just happened, much less that it was already over. Some showed surprise and shock at how quickly and easily someone her size was able to take out a muscle-bound freak like him.
Even she was shocked. She was little more than a beginner at Aikido - honestly that was the only move she was confident in using. But what really surprised her was her strength.
She was far weaker in her old life, and because of that she decided not to hold back. She figured she could throw him to knock the wind out of him, and then pin him down by locking an arm.
She didn't think she'd end up owning the idiot bruiser in a single move!
Eva looked down at her body and realized that she was taut and athletic, more than she ever had been her whole life. She then curled a hand into a fist, and felt a power radiating from within her. It was something she had never felt before in her life.
She felt... courageous. Confident.
"Looks like I've got a seat open," said a male voice behind her. "You can have it if you want. Though, I mean you basically took it, to be honest."
She spun around and saw a smug, but attractive blond guy in his 20s stepping halfway into the Nightmare lifeboat.
He was wearing a pressure suit just like her, except he somehow found a pair of shades and was sporting it. He had on a half-cocked grin that was filled with arrogance, and she felt absolutely compelled to wipe it off.
He threw a thumb at his chest in proclamation, "I'm the legendary Nightmare. And you are?"
"Not interested," she replied snidely.
The station rocked again from another shell impact, which shook everyone else back into action. In contrast, the two of them continued to stare each other down.
He looked at her with unbridled lust, while she looked back with unending derision.
"You sure?" he asked as he eyed her figure up and down. "Seems like a huge galaxy out there, and a babe like you could use a man like me to keep you warm."
When he said the word 'babe', she immediately felt as though numerous slugs crawled across her skin at the same time. She valiantly fought back the urge to vomit, and instead turned around and gave him a cold shoulder in response.
A predatory grin spread across Nightmare’s face.
Yeah, you stay nice and quiet, little girl, he thought. You quiet types end up screaming loudest.
Meanwhile, Eva's thoughts were equally dark, but her face was plastered with disgust.
So that's Nightmare, huh? What a massive creep. I'm definitely gonna perforate his core and space his disgusting ass.
But as she cursed Nightmare’s name and future in silence, she also quickly realized something.
Wait a minute! If he's here, then that means I'm not the only player.
She quickly looked around and found a number of others who also wore the same medical pressure suit that she and Nightmare did. Even the bruiser was wearing it.
A thought suddenly raced through her mind.
Is everyone who just woke up a player, too?!
"Hey you, with the moves," shouted a crewmember. "Get yer flippy ass in a boat, will ya?"Eva nodded before she dashed over and headed inside one. She swiftly made her way past rows of anxious passengers and secured herself in the only remaining seat up front.Next to her was a teenaged Asian girl, probably no older than thirteen or fourteen. She was small and slender, with long, straight black hair and pale skin. The girl was also wearing the same pressure suit, which indicated that she was also possibly a player."Excuse me," she asked the girl, "do you play Bellum Aeterna?"The girl's eyes widened, then nodded quickly. When she replied, there was a light accent in her voice."I started last month," the girl said. "I enjoye
Eva shook herself out of her reverie and got back to reality. She switched the live feed to show what was happening back at the station, and what she saw was a grand spectacle. She quickly decided to analyze the situation and study the battle in greater detail. It oughta be useful to watch how things play out, she thought. I'll probably be in these sorta situations plenty of times down the road. This really could be useful later. The station was surrounded by a handful of cruisers, each accompanied by a few dozen fighters. It didn't look good from any angle. The station looked almost exactly like the game counterpart: a huge rotating disc-like hospital-hab with a doc
Eva grit her teeth as she took command of the lifeboat's control deck. With a few deft movements, she deactivated the autopilot and glanced over its flight capabilities. She quickly tested the maneuvering thrusters with some light movements, but quickly shook her head in disappointment. "Not fast enough," she exclaimed loudly. "The launch thruster already expended all its fuel, and the main thrusters on this thing are garbage! It's like flying a sausage." Instead of sitting idly, she quickly turned the boat away from the cruisers and maxed out the main thrusters. Since only capital ships had jump drives installed on them, they had no choice but to run as fast as they could, the old fashioned way. The lifeboat surged forward, but the acceleration was incredibly short-lived. The thing shuddered slightly, as though
Eva remained undeterred despite the setback she now faced. She simply took a deep breath, collected herself, and refocused on the task at hand - survival. It didn't matter if she was getting chased by nine or nine hundred, she wasn't going to let anyone get the better of her. Not in this life. She yelled out, "Gimme everything you got!" Inspired by Eva's tenacity, Miko also doubled down on her part. Her hands danced across her display as she tweaked the ship's systems and squeezed out every bit of power possible. Now that the pirates were shooting to kill, she reduced the energy shielding to a minimum and reactivated the life support systems. She gave it just enough power to maintain cabin pressure and cycle oxygen. The five aggressive pirate cruisers were steadily advancing on the warship Diomedes' portside flank, their intentions quite clear. They were no doubt preparing to attack the battleship, even though they were technically outgunned. "Time to space some Feds," snarled the lead pirate captain as he rose from his chair. His officers looked at the MFDs before them and reviewed the battlefield that lay right ahead. Various readouts revealed critical information as they scanned for weaknesses to exploit. They all looked like they were itching for a fight, and some were even visibly trembling from the anticipation. "Aye, sir," replied one of the officers. "The railcannon's primed for a full power shot." A sly grin curled up from the captain's lips.
Ravens of Eternity Boat Incoming!
The five aggressive pirate cruisers were steadily advancing on the warship Diomedes' portside flank, their intentions quite clear. They were no doubt preparing to attack the battleship, even though they were technically outgunned. "Time to space some Feds," snarled the lead pirate captain as he rose from his chair. His officers looked at the MFDs before them and reviewed the battlefield that lay right ahead. Various readouts revealed critical information as they scanned for weaknesses to exploit. They all looked like they were itching for a fight, and some were even visibly trembling from the anticipation. "Aye, sir," replied one of the officers. "The railcannon's primed for a full power shot." A sly grin curled up from the captain's lips.
A devastating explosion tore a pirate cruiser in half. Even though it was already beaten, the Diomedes didn’t stop its Diomedes' unrelenting bombardment. Both halves of the cruiser drifted from each other, as smaller fires and explosions continued within them. To add insult to injury, the Diomedes' continued cannonade tore into the burning wreckage with savage intensity. It was as though their erasure was necessary. Nearby, dozens of pirate fighters were deeply entangled with the Federation fighters, and were losing terribly. Though the pirates had the upper hand in the early stages of the sortie, the Federation fighters had quickly adjusted to their tactics and turned things around. The chaotic sleight-of-hand strategy they were designed for was of littl
After the Diomedes rescued the evacuees and captured the neutralized pirate cruiser, it jumped straight to the heart of the Sol Federation - the Earth's solar system. Although in this universe, Earth was instead more appropriately named Gaea. Interestingly enough, it was exactly like the Earth Eva was from, instead of some fictional human homeworld. It was even a version that existed far in its own future, and things had definitely changed. The biggest difference was that the planet was now home to over forty billion people, and that was an ecological nightmare. Hell, it was a nightmare back in Eva's old life. In that universe, the Earth only had the ability to support two billion people maximum. And yet it had surpassed eight billion.
Excited by the prospect of getting a Digital Intelligence implant, Eva immediately went to the closest cybernetics lab, which was thankfully only a few blocks away. Since she was walking, she took in the sights as she made her way over. Aside from the megacity being fully enclosed within the station, and had a holographic sky, it was exactly as if she was in a city from her old life. It was laid out in an orderly grid, with streets that ran perpendicular to each other. Those streets were littered with people and various personal transports while the sky above them was filled with all manner of mass transit vehicles. People were busy living their lives: talking, laughing, crying, creating, consuming. Same as every generation prior. The blocks themselves were varied in what they housed. There were multi-story offic