-Genna! We have one on our tail!
-Taking evasive actions! See if you can hit them with our aft cannons!
I spin around in my chair to access the control panel for our backwards firing lasers. Clutching the trigger I wait for the right moment to fire. The battle around us grows distant as I focus on the ship following us, forcing us into a dance across the battlefield.
For a long time The Terran Empire has terrorised outposts and trade routes of the lesser alliances in Alpha quadrant, hoping to whittle them down and absorb them into the great blob of ruthless expansion that they are. It was not long until the Resistance Front was formed. A loose network of independent freedom fighters from all across the quadrant bound together against a common enemy. To begin with most of us saw them as nothing more than violent vigilantes, seeking thrills and profit in the destabilized border regions. The last thing we need is a bunch of pirates adding to our misery.
-What’s taking you so long Lauren!? I can’t keep this up forever you know!
Breathe in. Lead the shot. Release. Our pursuer weers of to the left, crashing into one of the enemy capital ships, ripping a hole in its port side.
-Ha! Those Terran pilots are focused on their target they’re completely blind to their surroundings! Unlike you!
Genna was the first pilot from the Ripped Banner Project to join the Resistance Front. She volunteered to infiltrate the organisation and report back on their actions. At first it seemed like our fears were confirmed. A significant part of RFs members were nothing but opportunists looking to make some quick and easy money in the wake of the Terran expansion. However as the Terrans grew more aggressive, greater numbers of displaced, angry refugees turned freedom fighters joined the Resistance Front and soon the opportunists’ numbers were reduced to nothing. We in the Ripped Banner Project realised that if there was any chance of stopping the expansion of the Terran Empire the smaller alliances of the quadrant had to come together and stand united against the Terrans.
-That might be true but it won’t help us if you’re going to take that long shooting at the enemy! That bugger chased us right into the mouth of the enemy! Now get back to the front shooters and be useful!
She was right. I intentionally let the pilot chase us so I could make the ship crash into one of its own. No weapon in our ships arsenal could inflict that much damage to a capital ship. As I look around for a suitable target to go after I notice a Ripped Banner ship sporting Terran colours hovering above us. That would be Torulf who sold Green Garden colony to the Terrans and joined their ranks, earning his true place as the lapdog of the Empire.
-Oi Genna, that traitor Torulf is hanging out above us, let’s take him down before we head back for repairs.
The Ripped Banner project sent every combat crew it could spare as volunteers to the Resistance Front as well as diplomats to the other alliances urging to do the same. Since I’ve worked extensively with Genna before it was natural for us to pair up. To begin with our operation was small scale. Classic rebellious activities. Quick hit and run missions, evacuation of threatened colonies and outposts, the usual. Soon the other alliances followed our example and as the strength of the Resistance Front grew, so did the scale of the conflict, finally culminating in this final showdown between the Terran Empire and the Resistance Front, backed by every remaining independent alliance in this quadrant. All of our resources were put behind this engagement. Whoever walks out of this fight victorious will decide the fate and future of the alpha quadrant. One homogenous empire or a diverse set of alliances.
-Got him! Haha I would have loved to see his face when he realised there was no way he would be able to evade my shots!
-You keep bragging, just know that without me as pilot you would be a sitting duck!
The conversation went on in this manner all the way back to the mothership. Me gushing about thrill of battle and Genna reflecting upon the outcome. She’s always been like that. Cool and logical. As we disembark the ship I notice a tall figure, not part of the repair crew, waiting for us. It’s Commander Garrack, coordinator of the Ripped Banner forces and he doesn’t look happy.
-I should court martial you two for your reckless behaviour! Baiting an opponent like that with no regard for your own safety. However I cannot deny it’s effectiveness. Disabling that capital ship is surely to swing the tide of battle in our favour. And taking out Captain Torulf like that is sure to be appreciated by everyone in the Banner! Now off with you and go get something to eat while those who are less willing to disobey orders finish this of. I don’t want to be seen favourising rulebreakers!
With Garracks words still ringing in our ears me and Genna disconnect from the battle servers and join the cafeteria lobby. Genna grabs a plate and start shoveling roast potatoes and stew onto it. I only grab a glass of water and sit down at the nearest table in the empty completely empty hall.
-Geez, Didn’t Garrack play a pirate before? One would think that out of all of these alliance commanders he would understand the value of independent initiative.
-Yeah, that’s why he only temporarily relieved us of duty instead of banishing us from the alliance completely, Genna mumbled as she stuffed her face with stew.
-Aren’t you going to eat?
-No, eating this virtual stuff always makes me queasy when I exit, I don’t know how anyone can do it.
-Suit yourself. Food is all we will have to entertain ourselves with until the battle is over. Unless you’re exiting prematurely?
-God no, Genna I thought we knew each other! We’ve never exited before the results of the battle was in. Also I would hate to miss…
The rest of my sentence is drowned out as the voice communication system is flooded with cheers. I lean over to Genna:
-Seems like we did it huh!?
-It does seem like that is the case!
-We should reconnect to the battle servers then! As I said, I would hate to miss the awards ceremony!
The ceremony takes place in the hangar of the mother ship, the only place that is large enough to accommodate every person who took part in the battle. We receive our allotted experience and credits for our contribution and those of us that survived an additional survivors bonus. Finally Commander Garrack walks up to me and Genna and hands us a cassette tape.
-For your outstanding contribution in the battle.
That is all he says before walking of to speak with an other commander.
-Well Lauren, it seems like we’re done here. With the Terran threat dealt with I doubt the Resistance Front will exist much longer.
-Yeah, it’s going to be fun to see what happens next. Anyway It is time for me to exit. I should have been in bed several hours ago. See ya later Genna.
-Timezones still a bitch I gather. Take care.
I wake up and ponder the strange dream. My attempts to remember the details are futile as they slip away as soon as I grasp for them. All I can remember is me and Genna fighting for our survival in a space battle of epic proportions.
Us two in space, flying battleships no less! Genna is going to think I’ve finally gone completely mad when I tell her… hang on what’s this? I don’t recall ordering anything.
In the pile of ads that always gets delivered there is an unexpected, small brown parcel, addressed simply LAUREN. No address, no stamps, nothing. Opening the parcel the content is revealed. Bubble wrapped inside lays a cassette tape.
What you’ve just read is a short story based on a dream I had recently. Like most dreams the details fade away very quickly so I had to take some creative freedom since the source material was quite lacking, however the broad strokes are still the same.
In my dream I fought in a space battle with one of my friends. For some reason the only detail I can remember is us flying up along side a giant spaceship, presumably to dock. At some point I realise it is actually a hyper realistic VR space MMO from the future, using similar technology as can be seen in the anime SwordArt Online. The battle is concluded and everyone is rewarded for their contribution including a cassette tape token/trophy/item thingy. Then I wake up. I go about my day, pondering over the strange dream however when I go to check the mail and see a parcel addressed to me. I open it and inside is the same cassette tape. My mind is blown and as I try to figure out what is actually going on my mind starts drifting and I wake up a second time, presumably for real (I don’t want to get into the whole inception thing here).
Now this is interesting for two reasons. First, meta dreams are always curious. You wake up, convinced that you are actually you, for real and not in a dream because why would you think otherwise? Isn’t most dream like that? You don’t realise it was just a dream until you wake up. But then you wake up a second time and you can no longer trust your surroundings for a while until you realise how extraordinary mundane everything is and can quite comfortably relax in the notion it is probably not a dream.
Second, I’ve had meta dreams several times, however this is the first time the first dream has referenced itself in the second. It was an extraordinary sensation standing there and having the cassette fall out of the bubblewrap. That must mean that experience was for real, right? Maybe exiting the game have a similar sensation as to waking up and you have to find the way to access the game each time? Those were the thoughts flying through my sleeping brain as I tried to find a solution to the mystery
I realise this is quite different from what I usually put on this blog, but hey, you need to break up the depression with something else every once and a while.