Unlucky Friday the 13th Poor Judgement One Up Bonus Century Mission (with Noodles)
It was a bright, brisk morning in the New Bedford system as three keen adventurers awoke to face the rigors of another century. Starchaser Admiral Civitron had once again opened Fort Jonathan to visiting Metro Alpha pilots eager to tackle what has been described as ‘a poorly planned romp through the darker regions of space.’ Foolhardy? Perhaps. But we were optimistic. Dead Bride and Civitron consumed fuel rations, and Dr. Claw sipped on organic, local, free range kombucha. Though there had been initial hopes for an early start, a failing retro on Artemis necessitated a change of primary thruster and delayed the mission launch. At 11:15 hours we were finally underway.
It became clear within the first few light years that we were dealing with solar winds of extraordinary strength, which assaulted us in sporadic bursts as forested territory gave way to open farmland. We made our first resupply stop at a rural outpost in the Dartmouth system, where pastry molecules were procured and Civitron was able to score a frozen substance resembling ice cream. A few light years and negi g-wells later, we emerged on a ridge from which the great Atlantic Nebula was visible. What followed was a short scenic traverse of a coastal byway, where the full force of the gusts hit us dead on, slowing the pace to a crawl as we powered through the invisible net that pushed us back. Shortly after moving inland, we stopped so that Dr Claw could perform ritualistic banana consumption (a ceremony of which Civitron also gladly partook).
At some point we crossed the border and entered galaxy Rhode Island, encountering several negi g-wells, some of which proved too arduous for Artemis’ single cog and forced Civitron to spacewalk. As promised, the brave Admiral delivered us to Luna Gray’s Ice Cream, where Dr Claw and Dead Bride were able to fulfill their caloric allotments of the sought-after substance. Civitron, whose internal regulatory systems reject all lactose-based molecules, was forced to settle for an exotic french sandwich.
Soon we flew within sight of a shining and magnificent hyperspace byway. On approach, we discovered that a wormhole had been built into this impressive structure, and thus we were conveyed over the Sakonnet Asteroid Belt in speed and comfort instead of the relative terror experienced when crossing into Cape Cod on the previous century expedition. The Daystar was fading fast, and pilots equipped their laser arrays and prepared to tackle yet another major g-well as we pushed ever closer to our destination. As the dark settled over us, we traversed pleasant forested districts until emerging once again on the coast, with the lights of Newport system visible in the distance. At this point we made another brief stop so that Civitron could rest and Dead Bride, hindered by inadequate internal storage capacity, could refuel. Many passing transports offered to assist as we lingered by the interstellar highway, no doubt triggered by the suspicious tableau of two pilots standing motionless over the prone body of a third.
Presently, we came to a fork in the road indicating Paradise in one direction and Purgatory opposite; alas, our route required us to take the grimmer of the two, and after a brutal negi g-well we arrived at our destination: Pour Judgement, a purveyor of beer molecules. Our brave navigator, having fought valiantly with sleep deprivation and fatigue, finally caved to the strenuous demands of the mission and arranged for Ladytron and Mad Owl to intercept with transport support. The whole gang feasted on a dinner of noodle-based food molecules, but despite this welcome respite, a question lingered in the air. The future of the mission was uncertain - would the three pilots and ships all fit safely in the CivicTron? Should the two Metro Alpha pilots satisfy their lust for light years by making a half-century’s worth of loops around Buttonwood Constellation upon returning? Dr. Claw had other ideas. Upon realizing that he could transfer the route onto his protocol droid, he offered a nefarious proposal to Dead Bride: the two of them would finish out the century alone. She readily accepted, and they prepared to re-launch.
What follows is the only recorded evidence of the latter half of this renegade expedition, salvaged from Dead Bride’s intermittent transmissions beamed back to the Boston system before communications went dark.
21:45 hours: Morale high. Passing food inquires if we are indeed SCUL, to which we reply in the affirmative.
Time to launch.
21:55: We are tearing out of the Newport system faster than I have ever flown before, barreling down the same g-wells that fatigued us on the way in. I glimpse a ghost ship near Purgatory - a bad omen. The speed increases and I push Mad Rabbit into a higher gear, only to find myself at maximum power. Thrusters spinning madly, I fight to stay in the wake of Skywarp’s groove. I begin to question my decision. Can I keep pace with this furious madman? Unknown.
22:30: Forest. Darkness. The stars are the only constants, glimmering as we chase them ever onward. My legs are pumping. I watch Dr. Claw ahead of me, his figure never wavering, never slowing. My mind goes to dark places.
To survive I must do as he does. I must become… machine. Rammstein bursts forth from the radiobox. I surge ahead.
23:25: In the distance I can see lights - the hyperspace byway! A landmark, at last. On the other side I beg to stop for refueling, and portion out my last remaining rations.
Dr. Claw is unfazed. We carry on.
00:30: The g-wells seem never-ending; Skywarp is swift and I strain to match its pace. Sometimes the laser array grows smaller ahead of me; the groove fainter. I am filled with dread. Will I be lost in space, doomed to drift without navigation in a hostile dimension?
Cold nothingness envelops me.
01:12: The Doctor emits a series of sonic patterns mimicking human speech: he expresses a wish to find a refueling station. Activating his night vision, he scans the horizon for many light years until a luminous structure appears. Skywarp slows to a halt and Dr. Claw vanishes into the Luna as I sentry outside. What can he be doing? Perhaps consulting with dark forces. I am afraid. Curious food observes my distress and asks if I am OK. I am not sure.
01:36: We have moved deeper into the void of space. The wind howls. Dr. Claw calls out that we have hit LY90, and I weakly sound my sonic disruptor. I don't know what to believe anymore.
02:08: A glimmer of hope - Buttonwood Constellation looms ahead. I am revived! My leaden legs work harder as I surge forward. Fort Jonathan is just around the corner.
But Dr. Claw has one more cruel trick to play.
He is speaking to me: I strain to hear over the shrieking wind, and pull up alongside, only to have my heart fill with dread as I learn the horrible truth - we are a few light years short. We must complete two loops of Buttonwood Constellation.
There is no other way.
We keep going. One left turn leads to another, and yet another. A circuit comprised of….left turns? A cold horror descends upon me as I realize that I am just a pawn in an evil game that goes beyond my darkest imaginings.
Before I can fully grasp the enormity of what is happening, we are orbiting, spinning in a tight radius at the dark heart of this blighted place. My legs are weakening, my voice feeble. I begin to falter and just then - we are out!
Can it be?
I watch Dr. Claw through narrowed eyes. He steers Skywarp out of Buttonwood and at once, like a curse being lifted, we emerge from darkness into the beckoning lights of civilized territory. We arrive at Fort Jonathan. I am breathless and relieved. I don’t know how to process what I’ve experienced. I can only head inside and contemplate, in silence, the magnitude of what has happened. I turn to Dr. Claw. He sits on the couch eating beef jerky. Protein is good after a long ride, he says. OK, then. We go to bed.