By Luna Manar

Mission Journal ERF-033:

Galin F. Shelling

Operations assistant

Current Assignment: Redhawk Dragon Battlecraft, Flagship Ragnarok


Sunday, January 11

This is my first entry on this new mission journal I’m supposed to be keeping. It’s a strange proposal, really, and not one that I think is worth the effort: each officer dispatched on space missions is to keep a daily/bi-daily record of his experiences and actions. They say it’s just in case something were to happen out in space and the crew was lost for some reason. If everyone kept a diary, there would be a relatively clear record of events and the cause of whatever problem might pop up. It’s a brilliant, simple idea. So they say. I say it’s a waste of time.

But that’s my opinion. I’m just an officer. Assistant of operations in the port engine room, to be exact, and not much of a writer to begin with.

This is what I was assigned this time. I’m always being reassigned to different ships, but I’ve also always worked in military spacecraft, and I will say that the Ragnarok is a magnificent machine, a work of art to boot. I don’t know the actual specs on it, but I’d estimate it to be a good 100 meters in length—absolutely massive for a lunar battleship—if not more. Blood-red as the setting sun, Ragnarok is intimidating simply to behold. Designed in the shape of an ancient dragon, those on the bridge see through the eyes of the beast, and its breath shoots from beneath its chin in the form of a powerful energy charge. It is maneuverable as any small, single-seater fighter craft, just as fast, and sports armor of the toughest metal known to man (I understand the framework itself took over five years to shape). Add to that a pair of highly dexterous clawed hands that fold outward from beneath the body, and you have, in supposition, the greatest airworthy weapon ever created by civilization since the fall of the legendary Centra. One would go so far as to say, upon seeing the Ragnarok, that it seems almost alive, its eyes glaring down at you as if it were ready to snap you up.

Normally I would refer to a ship of any kind as "she" or "her," but the Ragnarok has a definite sense of masculinity to it. I may change my mind. My only opinion of the Ragnarok insofar as its attitude is concerned is limited to what I have seen and heard, not by experience. Nevertheless, I have faith in the craftsmanship of our people. We are, after all, superior in mind and soul to any other civilization on this earth, and our hearts go into our work, no matter how great or small the job.

I haven’t been in space on the new flagship yet, but we launch tomorrow at 06:00.

I’m excited to be part of a mission like this. My entire career, I’ve worked on military vessels, not all of them spaceworthy: freight transport; supply and repair ships; defense cruisers, the like. Never have I felt so privileged to be asked on a mission. Not only is the Ragnarok the most powerful ship in Esthar’s meager, but imposing defense force, it is the lead ship in a most imperative and delicate mission. We are to escort the sealed prison of Sorceress Adel to its holding place in orbit.

Of course it’s unlikely that there will be any fiasco. No other nation on this planet has ever come close to our vast knowledge and ability for space travel, hence we have no opposition to concern us. With two of Ragnarok’s sister ships, the Rapture and the Ravage, if Adel herself broke loose, even she would not be able to hold up in dead space against the power of three fully armed dragon ships.

I’ve often wondered why we haven’t destroyed Adel outright. We have the power to kill her while her power is sealed. Why go to such lengths to contain her when we can simply destroy her?

But again, I am just an officer. Granted, an opinionated one.

Liza, my wife, worries over me constantly. I’ve tried time and again to explain to her how carefully this operation will be carried out, how miniscule the chances are that there will be any kind of delay or disaster. I wish she wouldn’t dote on me so much. Much as I love her, it would be much easier on both of us if she’d be realistic at times like this.

But that is not material for a military log. I find myself with little more to say. Perhaps the launch will prove more interesting than my personal musings. I am anxious to see if that supposition is true.


Monday, January 12

The launch was spectacular! No ship I have ever served on has ever moved so quickly, so precisely, or so smoothly. The Ragnarok is truly a graceful ship. I find myself re-convinced of its femininity; only a woman could move with such elegance.

The Ragnarok and her two sister ships were each launched from one of three grooved tracks that stretched in a straight, flat line from the docking bays at Esthar Airstation, and half a mile out to curve sharply into a vertical rise. Each track was adjacent to the others, and together they formed a shamrock-shaped platform with three upward chutes at its center. The ships were launched exactly at the same moment. Even though we gained speed at an astonishing rate, I felt none of the gravity effects I am used to in other ships that require a track or runway to take off. Amazing! It would seem the Ragnarok’s gravity generator is also a…well, a de-generator of some kind. The miracles of modern Esthar. I will never cease to be amazed by our great society.

Like dancers, the dragonships took to the air, immediately surrounding the capsule that holds Sorceress Adel. I made an understatement when I said that the ships’ hands are dexterous. Having seen them in action, reaching out though automated systems to grasp the sides of the sorceress’ prison ("The Cage" as we call it), it was like watching the motion of human hands.

Working in her engine rooms, I’ve come to familiarize myself with her systems and their ingenious design. The power of this ship is astonishing; she has the raw strength to catch a plummeting meteor half her size and not only stop its fall, but also hurl it back through the atmosphere and into space. I would like to see such a display of power from her someday!

Almost every system is completely self sufficient—I find myself with little to do but monitor these beautiful mechanics! Already I feel more like a passenger than an officer. The Ragnarok’s near-perfect functionality trounces the implications of the phrase "like clockwork." I find it increasingly hard to believe this ship is nothing more than a collection of circuits and metal handiwork. Every second I’m here, she seems more alive to me.

The Ragnarok’s crew is also a delight. The captain is a good-natured, good-humored man, short-ish and auburn-haired, though his first officer is something of an arrogant goody-goody, a slave to protocol and punctuality. Other than that guy, though, everyone else seems to be fairly personable, or at least polite. The chief engineer reminds me of the brash hero’s side-kicks on old action-adventure moving pictures, keeping his hair up in flamboyant styles (it’s anyone’s guess as to what the original color of his hair was) and blue-eyed with hyper energy. An entertaining person, if a little rambunctious. I’ll have a time getting used to taking orders from him. His attitude begets his reputation for being a daredevil, though from speaking with him, I do believe he has the ship’s best interest and the crew’s wellbeing in mind.

All in all, I think I’m going to enjoy serving on the Ragnarok.


Tuesday, January 13

If I have two things in this universe that could be considered my weak points, they would be my affinity for pretty flashing computer lights and my inability to refuse generosity or hospitality. The Ragnarok strikes at them both. She is full of conveniences: she automatically calculates adjustments that need to be made to the navigational systems and has them ready for me before I get to work in the morning; she can bring breakfast practically to your bed by means of an automated service tube that runs through the walls of the crewmen’s quarters (all you have to do is press a button, and you’ve got yourself juice and dried fruits!); she can locate any crew member at your whim; she does laundry; she will keep your personal quarters at exactly the temperature you like it.

That second-to-last one is a joke.

Her computer even recognizes me and addresses me as "Sir" and "Officer Shelling." Of course, she does not actually speak, but it was pleasantly surprising to be greeted on the infoscreen with "Good morning Officer Shelling" when I went to do a routine check of her propulsion systems (which is, by the way, also when I learned that she had the required adjustments ready and waiting for me).

I’ve made a couple friends along the way. One is an ensign named Levy, who is a jack-of-all-trades and gets ordered about from one end of the ship to the other to help with computer maintenance, communications monitoring, and all manner of other minor jobs spanning the entirety of running a battleship—aside from command, of course. He’s an extremely intelligent young man, but not conceited or stuck up about himself or his talents. He likes everyone, hates no one, and he’s got a sense of humor to boot.

The other is another engineer’s assistant named Mykal ("Mike," as he’d rather be called), who is also the crew’s medic—there is no certified doctor on board. He’s a quiet man, but easy to work with and has an interesting talent for drawing other people into his philosophies on life.

Otherwise, my day has been fairly uneventful. But it was a pleasant uneventful-ness, which is a hard thing to come by.


Wednesday, January 14

You lose some, you gain some—that’s all that happened when we reached Esthar Space Station. We docked, got rid of our unwanted sorceress passenger, and, after watching her permanent installment into a specialized holding area, are on our way back to Earth with a new passenger. His name is Julas, and he’s a simple city man—he was lucky (or stupid) enough to have boarded the wrong ship on his way to Esthar’s civilian orbital station. How he got away with it, I have no idea, but he seems innocent enough. We doubted he was a terrorist bomber, and he needs to get back to Earth so he can take the correct ship into space, so why not? The situation is humorous, if nothing else. I still wonder if he wasn’t raised somewhere out in Timber. But, I shouldn’t be so degrading. I suppose we’re all allowed to make primitive mistakes every now and again.

Adel’s placement into her eternal cell was a major undertaking. A dozen small carpenter ships were used to ever so carefully ease the witch and her container into place. I have my reservations of having such baggage attached directly to the space station, but I don’t see how, aside from direct sabotage, Adel could ever escape her captivity. Even if she did, the chill vacuum of space would kill her within moments. Even she needed to breathe! So she stands, hunched in her gelatinous coffin, a grim testimony to the will of Esthar’s people. Impressive, but not a decoration I’d like to have on my apartment’s heater mantle!

At any rate, I wish this mission had lasted longer. It’s heartening to know that even after we return home, I will be a regular on the Ragnarok until further notice. No doubt Liza will shower me with affection upon my return. Which is no complaint on my part!


Thursday, January 15

We’re adrift. The first officer is dead and a sudden, strange radio interference is masking our distress calls. Our sister ships have gone on without us.

It began last night. An alert sounded that woke everyone from their dreams, and it was followed by a terrible rocking that threw everyone from their beds. I’m not completely certain how it happened, but apparently the proximity warnings failed to sound when a meteor—ironically, one half the size of the ship—came hurtling in our direction. Not only did the Ragnarok fail to respond properly to the collision sensors, it appears that the Ravage and the Rapture were both completely unaware of our plight.

Still, it should have been a fixable problem. No one was injured in the collision, and the Ragnarok held together pretty well with only a minor hull breach in an uninhabited portion of the ship’s body. She is fully functional, in fact, despite the damages.

What’s keeping us here is not the inconvenience of a meteor shower. I mentioned that the first officer is dead. What I failed to mention was that he was murdered—by a creature so hideous it churns my stomach simply to think about it.

They must have come through the breach. That’s the only thing any of the crew can surmise. Whether the aliens were already present on the outside of the Ragnarok when the meteor hit is debatable. We cannot account for the bizarre static interference with our distress signals, but the sensors reported that the problem started hours before we were hit. Multiple diagnostics have shown that all sensors are fully intact and working properly—although a simple check did indicate an error in the ship’s tracking system, which may account for the collision warning’s failure to sound. It is possible the aliens may have had something to do with that malfunction. I doubt it was any error on the part of Ragnarok’s constructors.

The monsters came aboard silently, and we had no warning of their presence until an intercom conversation was cut short by screams and shouts when the creatures broke into the bridge. I was not there personally, but I heard the chaos over the intercom, and I saw—for a brief moment—one of the monsters pull itself up in all of its ugly glory before we had to slam the heavy red doors of port engineering in its face. The captain and most of the bridge crew made it to the safety of a cargo room, and we have been conversing with them through intercom the since. We don’t dare open those doors.

It’s all happened so quickly, I can barely recount all of it. I’m at a loss to explain it coherently. I only know how damned frightened I am, and that for once in my life I don’t know what to do.

These…things…look like a hellish cross between any number of terrestrial insects. I’m not sure what they want here, but they are obviously hostile. At least 11 feet tall, they prop black, exoskeletal bodies up on two pairs of gaunt, disproportionately long legs, while another pair of arms drags alongside them—they drag, that is, until the things decide to use their claws as deadly weapons. The closest thing they have to a head is a thorn-shaped appendage with multiple sets of eyes running along either side. Another strange body part—perhaps what they breathe with—wavers up and down amidst the chest, looking something like an overturned spoon with thick strands of baleen gracing either edge.

I don’t know exactly how these things killed the first officer, and I don’t care to know. From the looks on the crewmen’s faces, it must have been a gruesome spectacle.

We’ve determined that there are four of them wandering around the ship, and they’re hungry. They’ve already gotten into the ship’s stores, probably devoured each and every ounce of edible material (and then some). We’re not sure how to go about trying to eradicate them. The civilian Julas is in near-hysteria. I just hope we can calm the man down before he does something foolish in the name of panic.

We’re lost out here, and there’s no indication that anyone is going to come looking for us. If there’s a god, may he or she help us all; the morale around here is going down in blood, and I’m afraid I’m drowning with it.


Friday, January 16

This has been one of those days. It’s the kind of day where you sit there and wonder just what the hell you were thinking when you decided to accept this joyride-turned-horror. You wonder if your wife is worrying about you, or angry with you for not coming home. You wish you could explain it to her, but you know that if you could, there wouldn’t be much you could do to console her. You wish you could have said "no" instead of "yes," but you have already made that choice in the past, and you don’t have time to think about it now. The situation is too desperate.

I could have avoided all of this at the moment that I was offered this godforsaken job. It would’ve been so easy. I wish I had those "gut feelings" that are the saviors of so many people’s lives. I feel like the biggest ass because I told Liza not to worry. You don’t know what you’re missing until it’s not there. God, I wish I was home. I want to switch places with someone else.

That imbecile Julas lost his cool in the middle of Thursday night, and opened the doors to engineering to try to escape. Craziest thing I’ve seen in my life. Those monsters were right outside the door, waiting for us to come out. What I can’t stand is that the fool man got away alive. What weapons we had, we used to fend off the aliens until we could drag everyone back inside and close the doors again. Almost everyone. Julas got out of the fray without a scratch. Two of our guys went down under the claws of those monsters. The door closed and the rest of us were safe, and the walls are all soundproof. We didn’t hear what happened outside after all that. I doubt it was pretty.

We’ve spent most of yesterday and today just trying to find ways to get out a signal to someone. What few emergency food stores we have will not last for long. I don’t know why no one has come looking for us. You’d think they’d have noticed by now that we were gone. Something must be stopping anyone else from coming to get us. I wonder if these creatures attacked the other ships, too?

It’s 20:00, and we’re no closer to finding a solution than we were before. I’m just typing this all up because I’m trying to find ways to occupy my mind while I try to find a way to regain control of the ship. She’s not responding to commands from engineering—the computer insists that there has been a security violation and is refusing our attempts to "tamper" with it. It’s beginning to look like the only way to get the Ragnarok to move is to get to her bridge. I am beginning to realize, as much as I can hardly believe it, this whole debacle has happened because of a series of malfunctions! What started out to be my dream ship has turned out to be my nightmare.

I can’t keep my eyes off the doors. The monsters have been messing around outside for hours now, trying to get the doors to open. I said before that the doors were soundproof. I think that’s only if nothing touches them. We’ve been able to hear those things crashing against the other side for the past four hours, and it’s beginning to drive us all insane. We’ve finally managed to calm Julas and get some sense into him. He, along with everyone else, is now trying his hardest to help devise a method of driving the creatures away for long enough for us to get to the bridge and regain control of the ship. Unfortunately, as we have no idea what it takes to kill one of them, we have no surefire solution to our captivity.

The captain has suggested deactivating the gravity generator, in hopes of disorienting the aliens enough to give us an advantage in our attempts to destroy them. It is times like these I wish President Laguna had never passed the Labor Ethics law. A few outlander servants would be useful as diversions in a situation such as this.


Monday, January 19

The creatures took control of the engine rooms. We are scattered. Without power, without each other, how can we defend ourselves against these things?! I am alone. I’ve shut myself up in one of the ship’s airlocks.

Two of the monsters destroyed the locking mechanism to the engine room, and somehow managed to force the four-ton doors open. Complete chaos. I fought alongside Levy, took up the nearest gun and fired blindly. No use, no use! I lost my nerve after watching five men die. I couldn’t think about anything but the fear, so I fled. I was lucky; the aliens ignored me as I ran past them, too busy attacking my fellow crewmen to notice me.

Guilt tears at me. I have no way of knowing what happened once I left, and I wonder constantly if my cowardice cost some people their lives. Yet, if I had stayed and fought, would it have mattered? What I saw horrifies me. Who knows where these creatures will go next? We cannot kill them!

I take that back. We can KILL them, the problem being that they just won’t stay dead! Every time one goes down under our firearms, it resurrects itself and continues to fight. Have we come across some sort of alien undead?

Before the creatures broke in, we had been mulling over their motives for boarding the ship in the first place. We guessed that they might see the Ragnarok as a potential nesting ground. Hardly a fitting end for a state-of-the-art warship. But why should I worry about appearances? Not a few times, I have considered releasing the airlock and escaping into the cold death of space. I would rather die frozen than face the claws of the aliens.

What has happened? Should I have been so certain of the success of this mission? Is this terrible fortune a work of chance or some sort of negligence on our part?

Levy and Mykal found me, so now I sit shivering in the corner of a cargo room, the same one that the captain and the rest of the bridge crew took shelter in when this terror began. Evidently, progress has been happening in my absence, but the flight I have just partaken in has left me nerveless.

When Levy and Mike freed me from the airlock, we were found almost immediately by one of the monsters. I never thought such an ungainly creature could move so quickly. Only by Levy’s scatter-gun were we able to slow it down enough to escape into the next room—which brought no respite! Another of the things awaited us. We barely escaped that attack with our lives, and Mike has a nasty gash on his right forearm to show for it.

We finally made it to the relative safety of the cargo bay—for some reason the aliens tend to avoid that area of the ship—exhausted and shaken to our cores. The aliens don’t seem to be particularly intelligent, as they cannot open doors once they are closed. They attempt such feats through brute strength, but do not succeed. Apparently the incident at the engine room was isolated, and it required two or three of the things to force that entrance to give way. They tend to wander alone, despite having come here in a group. We’re not certain how many of the beasts there are, but there are definitely more than four.

While I sit in my corner, the captain and Levy have been trying to contact the starboard engine room. We’ve gotten no response for two hours, and are fairly certain that anyone who had been there previously is now either dead or has fled to other parts of the ship. There is little more than a simple communications console for us to work with in this bay, and so we are limited to attempting to contact anyone else left alive on the ship.

So far, there have been no answers.


Wednesday, January 21

Levy went down today. Yesterday it was Mike, the day before that it was that fool Julas. They’re picking us off one by one, and we can’t do a blasted thing about it. They’ve figured out how to open doors. All we can do now is hide from them.

They’re immortal, I swear it. Nothing keeps them down for more than a few minutes.

There’s only five of us left. Shara, who had been second officer, is now in command; the captain is dead. Myself, I am certain I have survived out of sheer luck—or is life trying to teach me some cruel lesson? Kale, an ensign, and two of the bridge crew, Renair and Jaims, make up the rest of us.

We’ve managed to find out from the ship’s database that the monsters on board are called Propagators. Appropriate name, seeing as they’ve apparently chosen the Ragnarok as their screwing grounds, forgiving my vulgarity. But little is known about the creatures, save that they are "extremely violent." What a helpful tip.

This room—a crewman’s quarters—is not soundproof. You can hear them outside, sometimes, and the noise is simply sickening… They’re sadistic bastards. When they kill you, they have a damn good time doing it. First they’ll strike at your legs, crush them or slash them so you can’t run. Then they’ll eat you, limb by limb, and quite literally. I can’t describe what it’s like to watch one of those things devour one of your coworkers… You sit there in sick fascination, transfixed. The screaming itself is nauseating, so it’s no use just trying not to watch. I’ve resigned myself to the idea that I could very well be the next to die. I’ve thought about it for hours, imagining what such a demise would be like, wondering how I might keep from screaming. Time and again, I’ve had to push away the blasphemous notion of suicide. But how can one not think of taking his own life in a situation like this? Surely it would be favorable to a death inflicted by one of these beasts.

What a ruinous mission this has been…my mind keeps wandering to the meaning of this ship’s name, "Ragnarok"—a title denoting an apocalyptic catastrophe. Who christened this ship?

Was the name meant to speak of the ship’s great power and frightening majesty…or was it an implication of inescapable disaster?


Friday, January 23

Leave it to a woman to figure out how to kill the immortal. Wonders never cease.

We have nothing stronger than simple energy weapons to fight with, so simply pulverizing the aliens under heavy firepower has been impossible. There is no way to completely destroy them so that they cannot restore themselves. But "Captain" Shara made an interesting observation which, up until this point, I hadn’t noticed. Each of the Propagators are tinted certain colors. It’s barely visible in the shadow, since most of their bodies are black, but in bright light it can be seen—most obviously on the head—that each Propagator has a twin (mate?) on this ship. We’ve determined that there are three pairs, red, violet, and green. I came up with a "color theory" out of sorts with the textbooks, and thought that perhaps the things were not immortal, but simply had designated saviors; when one dies, its twin uses some sort of magic to revive it. But it takes time for one to resurrect the other. If you kill both at once, or one right after the other, maybe they will not be able to save themselves.

We lost Kale in the process, but have managed to tackle the two green Propagators, and found my guess to be true. There is hope yet! Now, if we can just get the other two sets of the ugly things.

The red ones are more vicious than the others. The violets are gone. But how do you fight a monster that keeps advancing despite being torn to pieces by energy fire? Renair and Jaims…I pity them. It is only Shara and I, now. Two against two.

Something odd: Renair said at one point that he thought he’d seen an amber-colored Propagator in the initial attack on the bridge. I think he remembered incorrectly. There have been no indications of any other creatures on board save the reds, and Ragnarok herself cannot find more than those two monsters.

I can only guess that Renair’s report is incorrect, or at least defunct. If there was another pair on the Ragnarok, they are gone now. Now, it is two against two. I’m placing all bets on the underdogs, in this game. I can only pray that our luck holds out.


Saturday, January 24

We’ve finally done it, Shara and I. All six propagators are gone. Shara devised a method of drawing the creatures into an enclosed room, depressurizing that room, and then bombarding them with gunfire by means of makeshift turrets we installed in the corners—attached scatterguns where digital video recorders had been. It was simple enough (for Shara—the woman continues to amaze me with her knowledge of mechanics) to jury-rig remote controllers with which to fire the weapons. Gaining enough control over the computer to "aim" the turrets was more difficult. The ship is still in security-lock. I’m still not completely certain how Shara managed to regain ship-wide control of the monitoring, communication and atmospheric systems. I’ll have to after the subject—after we’ve gotten home.

It took a grievous error and no small amount of luck to accomplish our objective. Shara’s method did not work; we didn’t kill the second Propagator fast enough, and it revived its twin, which found the room we were hiding out in and attacked us. We resorted to backing ourselves into the cargo bay—the original shelter our initial captain chose—and from there relieving the entire ship—save our room—of gravity and air. The monsters don’t need to breathe, but they are not quite as agile without gravity to hold them to a surface, and seem to become sluggish without oxygen. Using two of the ship’s air suits, we confronted the beast in weightlessness and managed to kill it…at which point, its counterpart, fully rejuvenated, forced its way into the room in a fury. We were caught unaware. All I remember was shooting blindly as the thing barreled into me, and I remember its claws tearing through my space suit and into my shoulder. I must have blacked out when the air blew out of my suit. The next thing I remember is waking up in a daze back in the cargo bay with a hideous headache, my arm bound with a torn piece of bed sheet. Shara tells me that she killed the last monster while it was distracted with me. I owe much to her, including my life.

In an hour, the ship will be fully pressurized and heated, and we’ll be able to get out of this room and resume efforts to get a signal through to Earth. When I get back home, I’m resigning… A boring desk job is looking very appealing just now.

The Ragnarok was once beautiful to me, but now she is little more than a sickening image of folly. I fear I will never be able to take to space again, after all this. Perhaps Liza is right. Maybe I am too arrogant about my logic. A lesson well to be learned: one can never be too careful, or too sure of their surroundings. I believed this ship impregnable, believed Estharian craftsmanship to be flawless. But mistakes have happened, and because of those mistakes…

Perhaps President Laguna’s law was useful after all. No doubt outlander servants were used in helping to build Ragnarok until that law was put into effect. During that time, who knows what untraceable errors were inflicted on the ship’s design? It appears Ragnarok was aptly named.

Yet we survived in the end. The last Propagators are dead. We found no sign of the amber-colored one Renair spoke of; it appears he was mistaken. Only by our resolve and ingenuity did two of us survive the results of technical blunders made by the likes of mumbas and Galbadians. Primitive minds should not be allowed to corrupt the make of a ship that should have been a faultless work of art. But I will come home to Liza, and I will never leave her side again. I will never again take such chances in the name of adventure. I have learned better. Our victory only reinforces the perseverance of Esthar over the ignorance of outlanders and the problems they create. I guess it just goes to show how Esthar has prevailed over mother nature by means of its -own- virtue. We should have trusted in our own abilities instead of allowing others to taint our creations. Not even three pairs of self-reviving alien beasts could bring down the whole of a good ship’s crew. I’m proud to have been a part of that crew. May respect go to those who did not survive this disaster…this Ragnarok.

I look forward to seeing Liza when I get home.


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