Universe Online - Enter the Game: Complete Edition, page 1part #1 of Universe Online Series
Enter the Game
Ryan ‘Viken’ Henning
This is a work of fiction. All the characters, events, and science fiction concepts portrayed in this book are fictional. Any resemblance to other people, places, or things are purely coincidental.
All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2014 - 2015 Ryan Henning.
Edit Version 1.0
I’d like to dedicate this story to my mother, who always encouraged me to look beyond my limits. You helped pushed me into learning everything I could. Thank you, mom.
Also to everyone who helped get this story off the ground, including everyone at Royal Road Legends for their great enthusiasm and help.
Proofreaders and Editors:
Matti ‘Dok’ S., Natã Valério, A. David, Osealey, David Shanley, Ryan Herzog, W. Yanish, Veronica Lane.
Your help has been invaluable!
Cover and Artwork done by Drakannon.
Thank you all.
Foreword from the Author
Hi guys, it’s me again. This here is Volume 1 Complete Edition of Universe Online, and I hope you all enjoy it!
It has been quite the ride, especially for me. When I first started writing Universe Online, I thought it would be a story that others would enjoy online. I never expected the outpouring of fans that would come from it. Nor the great help that would come from that fanbase.
I am still pleasantly surprised every time I read a comment about the story.
Publishing Universe Online has been a tribulation, truth be told. I consider myself an ‘okay’ writer, but definitely not a great one. I don’t have the learning, training, or experience to go that far. I am just fine being an amatuer author though, so that really isn’t an issue.
The problem comes in that I’m probably the most terrible proofreader and editor alive. Hahaha. It takes me far longer to proofread and edit than it does actually writing the story. I don’t have the knack to be a spelling or grammar Nazi.
Still, this is a great achievement for me, and I’d like to take the time to thank everyone for their support and help along the way. Without you all, this would never have been possible. I sincerely hope to continue garnering your support going forward as well!
Now then, to personal things.
My mother is getting married again, for the third time. On October 3, 2015 she’ll become Christal Dawn Breedlove… which is really weird, cause she’s been a Wade since I was a little kid. Her soon-to-be husband is an older guy, a retired corrections officer (prison guard) with a knack for being bossy. Heh. He’s good with art though, and at one point in time owned his own graphics business. He used to create and do graphics on all sorts of vehicles.
So the man definitely can be considered to have some skills. At least I can respect that.
As for myself, I’m surfing the unemployment scene again. I don’t really mind though, cause I make enough off of publishing these books to at least pay some of the bills and live. Maybe one day I’ll make enough to actually make a living off of writing, which is a dream of mine.
Dreams are important in that way, cause they provide the rare shining stars of enthusiasm most of us enjoy. We all strive for our dreams, in one form or another. You guys make mine a possibility, so I definitely hope you reach your own as well.
Lastly, we have upcoming news!
With Volume 1 finally coming out in complete format, I intend to start working on editing Volume 2 here soon. That’s going to be a longer undertaking, cause Volume 2 is actually longer than Volume 1 was. So please be patient while I work on it.
I also plan to start publishing a few of my other stories, as they come to completion. As with Universe Online, they’ll be published in parts and should be on the cheap end of costs. However, they will tend to be for adult audiences only, and the themes will -NOT- be for younger teens.
As for the rest, only time will tell. Hehehehe.
Once again, I hope you enjoy Universe Online!
Ryan ‘Viken’ Henning, Author.
Prologue – Beta Testing
The blare of the klaxon jerks me awake. Within moments I'm on my feet, pulling on my safety suit and jacket, followed soon after by a matching pair of boots. The automated systems in the rather too-stiff clothing aligns itself to my body almost instantly, a sudden feeling of pressure against my skin. The clothing snugs itself tight against me, forming a perfect seal in case of atmospheric loss. All told, it took less than 30 seconds for the procedure to come to an end.
The entire time I was getting ready the klaxon is wailing like a banshee. It is loud and persistent enough to wake the dead. At least until the jacket collar rises up over my neck, and the built-in comm unit crackles to statical life.
“This is the Station Commander speaking! All hands, all hands! Report to battle stations! This is not a drill! Repeat: All hands report to battle stations! This is not a drill! Drex are inbound! Perimeter defense field has been breached!”
The message repeats several times, but I've already bolted out the door. Along with what seems like every other person who's living on the station, we all rush to our designated battle stations. It’s a massive log jam, though; without any semblance of order. Only fear.
It only gets worse as the enemy nears the station and opens fire indiscriminately. The station itself shudders under the impacts, and the groaning sounds of metal being twisted, broken, warped and slagged echo through the air.
With all the pushing and shoving, the place has turned into a madhouse of fear and desperation; with people running and the air taking on the stink of burnt wiring, rubber, superheated metal and human sweat.
It has become a jungle gym.
Even I'm forced to start shoving people out of my way. There aren't any other thoughts in my mind except doing what I can, even if it means simply getting the hell out of the way.
Only a few others seem to have the same thoughts, and soon enough we're grouped together in order to provide a forward momentum that pushes against the struggling tide of humanity.
This isn't a military installation, after all. It is a mining and industrial processing station.
Buried in the heart of a massive asteroid, the station's only real defense is the rock that surrounds the steel and carbon fiber that supports the human life within. It doesn't even have a proper shield generator. Only a reflector shield that's used to bounce rogue asteroids back into the vast mining field outside.
Bare rock cannot cope with the concentrated laser fire or the solid munitions of the mass drivers that are already pounding the station. The few laser batteries are already returning fire but are soon rendered useless; either slagged by laser fire or turned into smoking, leaking craters by the mass drivers.
Nearly four thousand steps later, and I arrive at my combat station, which is basically an engineering station. The automated systems are currently running rapid system repairs. The place is almost deserted, with everyone who's checked in being assigned to a damaged area as quickly as they can be dispatched.
It is no different for me. The compartment’s computer assigns me a mission almost as soon as I step into the room. I grab my helmet, toolkit, and emergency kit as quickly as they hit my personal locker, having been spawned within moments. The helmet matches the rest of my suit, and I slide it over my head and it seals into place with a hiss of suction before the holographic lights blink on, showing the status countdown.
As soon as the numbers flash green
Hooked into the central control network, the readings are updated in real-time, and already the warnings for atmospheric breaches are being noted. I barely have time to check out my assigned position and the worktable that comes with the job when main power suddenly goes out; plunging the station into darkness for all of two seconds.
The backup power kicks in then, and instead of the previous gentle glow that had lit the place; the harsh white light that comes up instead casts harsh shadows in every direction. Central Control is down but after only a moment of static in my HUD, my suit automatically switches to internal control and connects to the local network.
The holographic projection from before has become a static* thing, no longer updated in real-time. Instead the local control network appears as a green highlighted area within my vision. My orders had been canceled, and all I can do is grit my teeth while I wait for something, anything to tell me what the hell to do.
”This is the Commander! All hands are to evacuate immediately! Repeat: The evacuation order has been given! Drex infiltration has been reported! All hands to the escape pods!”
The words come in jumbled over the command frequency, and it takes several repeated cycles before I could understand what is being said. My comm unit takes several more in order to catch up itself, but I've already headed out of the engineering room. I am forced to shove at the door in order to slide it open, though. Without main power, there's no automated system to open the doors anymore.
Outside, it’s a mad house. People are running, and the sounds of combat can clearly be heard even through my helmet. The bombardment of the station is still underway, and the damage can be clearly seen even from where I'm standing. The place has become an obstacle course. Some unlucky fools have even gotten crushed by the falling debris.
There isn't any time to worry about them, sadly. If the Drex have already infiltrated the station, then this place only has minutes to live… if that.
I take off at a dead run, and start working my way through the debris. Jumping, rolling, ducking, kicking. Running as quickly as I can through the hallways, heading toward the outer layers of the station; where the escape pods are.
Too bad that fate has other plans for me.
I don't even make it halfway when I'm suddenly blown to my left, up against the wall. The entire bulkhead to my right has been slagged by laser fire; opening the corridor into space like a tin can. Superheated metal splatters all over the place, only to be sucked into space as the atmosphere is vented. Thankfully I'm already suited. Some others aren't so lucky, and their screams of agony die out as the very air they’re so desperate to breathe is pulled from their lungs; the negative pressure causing their chest cavities to crush inward due to their unintentional exhale.
It is not a pleasant sight. Thankfully the force of the venting atmosphere sucks the bodies out into the void. Even I'm barely able to hold onto the railing that runs the length of the wall. The artificial gravity cannot keep up with the sucking pressure of space while only running on backup power.
But once the air is gone, a process that takes only about half a minute, the suction disappears and I'm able to work myself hand-over-hand along the passageway. At least until I hit the end, where the emergency bulkhead has slammed shut.
“For fuck's sake.”
I curse rather loudly; staring for a moment. Damnit! But there's no time to worry about it! I open my inventory and look at the supplies I'd managed to grab. I have a hacking tool; that would take too damned long. But I do have a supply of short-fused demolition charges.
I pull out the block of what is basically Super C4, and sticking it right in the middle of the bulkhead, I press the detonator into the gel-like block. I start working back the way I'd come as quickly as possible after pressing the Arm button.
The countdown is only ten seconds. At the end of it the BOOM! that rings out is powerful enough to be felt, or even heard even in space.
But the bulkhead is basically gone, and I'm able to get into the next compartment.
To my surprise, there are six other suited people there; staring at me in surprise.
Four of them are wearing Marine suits; low-powered armor and wielding a variety of weapons. Another has the red-crossed suit of a medic. The last one is wearing an officer's command suit, which has a large communications array on the back. It’s also lightly armored and comes with a firearm.
My own suit is that of an engineer or a technician. No armor or weapons; but with a variety of support systems and extra processing ability for my computer.
This room is also without any atmosphere.
“Oooh. It looks like rescue has arrived from an unlikely place.” The man in the officer's suit says, and I recognize that voice from the previous broadcasts. It’s the station Commander.
“I was afraid we'd be stuck in here until the Drex managed to open the door. Or blast in from outside.”
It seems the man has a rather wicked sense of humor. Too bad my humor circuit was burnt out due to sheer panic.
Taking a quick glance around I can figure out what the problem is that seems to have stumped even the obviously highly trained marines. There are two doors, off to the right and left and both of them are closed by the reinforced emergency bulkheads.
Unlike the door I'd just blasted through, these are heavy duty. The one on the right also seems to have been jammed shut with a few well-shot bursts from an energy weapon to the console. Probably to slow down any sort of pursuit. The one on the left hasn't been touched, except the console screen is cracked.
I barely let out a sigh and pull out my hacking tool.
“I'll deal with the door. Please cover me in case there's any enemies waiting on the other side.” I say simply, and the Commander gives a 'Ho ho' laugh behind my back as I get to work. Plugging the tool in, it lights up and I have to quickly align the spinning circles as well as input various pieces of code, starting from the outer edge of the formation and working inward.
I ignore the automated features of the tool, and do it all manually; speeding through it in two minutes flat. As soon as the red indicator light flashes green, the door unlatches with a hiss. I step back while putting away my tool while motioning to the marines, who are standing at the ready.
Thankfully there isn't anything but corpses on the other side, but the new corridor is even more heavily damaged than the one I'd come through. It hasn't even been breached yet. The four goons don't even seem to mind though, and start shoving everything out of the way, clearing a path in a methodical way.
“Very good. Come with us. We have a small warp capable ship in hangar B-4.” The Commander says, walking out just behind the marines, followed soon after by the medic. The information pops up on my holographic HUD, but I simply ignore it and step out behind them, keeping my eyes peeled. Just to make sure I stop long enough to engage the lock again, slamming the bulkhead closed with another hiss from the other side.
After that, we make our way slowly through the station. The four marines are good; making sweeps of each of the corridors we come across, and rooms; some of which we plunder for anything we can scavenge. Given everyone's previous hurry, almost nothing has been touched; so we find weapons, ammo, various supplies and even two full repair kits. A lot of damage has been done, and is still occurring all over the station.
It’s slow going.
Sometimes we have to backtrack and go around places that have basically been slagged. Other times we find areas where the Drex infiltration teams have come through, and back up even more slowly.
By the time we finally reach the access to the hangars; we're all stepping very gingerly and have simply grown more and more nervous. Which is a good thing. If we'd tried to run right into the hangar, we would have been cut down.
The entire place is overrun with nearly two hundred armored Drex drones.
Even I flinch back at the sight of them after taking a peep through the bulkhead that had been cut through by a laser. The Drex are monstrosities. Ten feet tall and heavily armored, they look like giant bugs, heavily colored in black and grays and with various bulbous appendages sprouted from their bodies. Not a lot is known about the Drex, but I know one thing: they're just as brutal as they are ugly.
Each of them are also heavily armed.
And most of them are ganged around the only ship in the hangar. Even I grit my teeth after taking that look. I reach up and hit the internal communication function on my comm unit, turning off the wide-range broadcast to line-of-sight.
RYAN 'VIKEN' HENNING SERIES: