Jack Gallagher - Turanis

These are stories that take place prior to the main story. While important in fleshing out characters, they do not necessarily need to be read to understand the story.
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Mr. Blackbird Lore
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Jack Gallagher - Turanis

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Turanis: The Grim Biography of Jack Gallagher

Looking up at the chaos of exploding plasma raining down the hall like a sideways apocalypse, he soon found the kid he was looking for. Of course, it wasn't difficult; he had his back against the wall, staring at the mutilated corpse of the dead marine.

The expression of horror on his face was strangely familiar. For a brief moment he was reminded of another young man, albeit a much younger one, from a time so long past that only a vague wisp of a memory was left. He lost himself, staring at the floor so deep in thought that he was scowling. Instinctively, he rubbed his shoulder, feeling for something under the armor that was no longer there. Fragmented memories that had long since been buried came slowly bubbling up, like gas through tar.

His senses went dull. The whine of energy bolts slowly distorted, until it turned into a slow, steady, mechanical rumble. The hallway dimmed, the bursts of light from munitions hitting walls turning into flying trails of sparks falling like rain. The stark metal walls surrounding him remained, yet were changing. They expanded infinitely outward, breaking into arrays of walkways and steaming pipes. The bright metallic sheen dulled and rusted, making the scene altogether more sullen. The mechanical rumble intensified, joined by the hiss of steam and turbines.

Jack was running up the narrow walkway, dodging past sooty men in thermal protection suits who were manning the mechanical quarry. He covered his face as he ran through the singing sparks shooting down from men soldering above. He shielded his eyes as he ran past a clear magma tube, bright as the sun. He made his way like this with the speed of all urgency. Finally, he reached his destination: the mine entrance.

The labyrinth of metal walkways and piping, shrouded in a haze of steam, gave way to the natural, yet more gloomy, environment of Turanis. His boots crunched in the gravelly sand, kicking up pebbles as he rushed on. The barren field was open to the sky, and Turanis' black moon, Tenebrae, cast its dull shadow on the ground, which matched it in color. Though Jack by no means had his attention turned to the skies, other memories filled it in with vivid detail. The moons name was quite fitting: rather than illuminate the sky, it seemed to form a void of darkness amongst the field of stars.

The shadowy nature of the moon and planet was not an abnormality: the entire system shared the same dismal pallet. The word ‘tenebrific’ was indeed quite a fitting title for the system. Eons before it had been colonized by humans and drathonians, the small star at the center of the system 'died', so-to-speak. Stars not going out quietly, the catastrophic supernova charred the very earth itself. The primitive life that Turanis had been capable of sustaining was vaporized. Even the fifth planet in the system, a gas giant, had so much debris blasted into it that its atmosphere turned black, making the planet look like a coalescing ball of shadow. And yet, Jack thought of none of this. How could he know that the system would not be alone in its cataclysmic fate?

He slowed to a jog as he reached the entrance of the mine. It opened like the gaping maw of a massive beast, inviting him to be swallowed alive. There were many men bustling about here, as well – the mining operation was in full swing. Jacks gaze was drawn to a tall figure with his gas mask removed, revealing an inky, round face indicative of African descent. He recognized the face at once, despite the fact that the normally chocolate skin was smeared ash black. Ronald was yelling orders to men who were quickly scurrying into the mine, loaded down with equipment. As Jack approached, the pensive grimace on his face portended to what would follow.

Ronald was rubbing his sweaty brow with a blackened handkerchief when he saw Jack coming. The grimace on his face deepened. Jack shoved his way determinedly past several miners before coming face-to-face with him. Jacks face was deadly serious. “Ron, what’s going on?” The man closed his eyes and continued rubbing his forehead, giving himself a moment to compose himself. “It’s not good, kiddo. Not good at all.” He spoke it straight and matter-of-fact. “That sonuvabitch Skethis ordered your dad’s team to drill through a flooding magma chamber. It was as good as suicide.”

Jack clenched his fists as he heard these words. Skrul Skethis was the merciless, cold-blooded reptile (literally) that managed the entire mining operation. He liked taking the fast way through things, and often did so at the expense of those working for him. He’d sent so many miners to their needless deaths that one had to wonder if he did it just for the sick, sadistic pleasure. Jack’s voice came out choked and cracked. “If anything happens to them, I swear, that snake is going to pay.” The deadly edge of his words was very sincere. A pained look slowly crossed Ronald’s face. “Listen, Jack, that’s why I called you.” Ronald’s words made Jack’s stomach drop. The tense expression of anger broke into a wide-eyed look of panic and concern.

Ronald cut him off before he could scream his question. “They got through before the levels rose, barely. They were less than fifty meters past it when it got too high and they had to put up a containment shield.” Ronald paused, Jacks fists unclenching a little at the seemingly good news. “But,” said Ronald, struggling with the words, “Those shields can only hold up so long under those conditions.” Jack burst in, desperately grasping for hope. “Can’t you just drill around the chamber and get them?! You’d make it in time!” Ronald looked at his feet. “Skethis wouldn’t have it.” Jack grabbed the larger man by the sleeves, giving him a shake. He wanted to punch him in the face. “Fuck Skethis! You can’t just leave them to die! What the hell’s wrong with you?! We need to hurry!” Jack looked frantically toward the mine, taking a step toward it.

Ronald grabbed him by the arm, pulling him back with a strong tug. Jack turned on him like a feral dog. “The fuck man?! What the fuck?!!” He was sputtering in panic… dismay… rage. He shouted obscenities at Ronald at the top of his lungs. Ronald looked on with growing dismay until he finally burst. With a primal roar, the man let out a mighty bellow. “ENOUGH!!” Jack was taken aback, and momentarily at a loss for words. Ronald wasted no time in continuing, carrying a strong tone of both command and regret. “The containment shields on our side have already burst. The entire level is flooded with lava. It’s too late to send help.”

Tears welled up in Jacks eyes as they drifted off into space. He backed away, slowly shaking his head in disbelief. “I’m sorry, Jack. Your father was a-“ “Shut up!!” Jack screamed, his world starting to spin. He took another uncertain step back. Ronald reached out a hand, stepping toward him, trying again. “Jack, I-“ “I said shut the fuck up!!” Jack screamed with such fervor that his throat went sore. Ronald took another step forward, but Jack was already gone. He was back over the field of blackened gravel and into the swirling veil of steam with redoubled speed. The charred wasteland looked on, a silent witness to his grief. The black moon cast its shadow into the hollow night.

The once familiar lattice of walkways and pipes turned into a sneering labyrinth of shadows and haze. Jack wandered through it like a horrible nightmare. He was getting so dizzy, it was a wonder he managed to stay on his feet at all, much less run along the narrow walkways. He ran for what seemed like ages, taking random twists and turns. At last he stopped, too sick to go on. Sweat, snot, and spittle mixed in dripping streams all down his face. His mouth was watering like he was going to have the heaves, and it wasn’t long before he did.

Slowly catching his breathe and regaining his feet, he wiped the mess off his face. The world was level now, but unnaturally lucid. It was as if Jack was watching himself in third person – his consciousness detached from his body. He was standing near a workbench, and something caught his eye. Cocking his head, he walked slowly forward. The table was strangely barren, very much unlike the average mess of tools and parts. A lone object occupied the table, seeming to be placed deliberately, meticulously in the center of the bench. Jack picked it up, turning it over in his hand. It was a familiar object, one he’d seen many times before. He held up the plasma bolter, looking at it intently. In the back of his mind, an idea slowly began to come together. Jacks expression went blank as he put the dangerous tool into his pocket and began walking purposefully towards his destination.

The lone figure emerged from the haze like out of a dream. Before him stood the mining company office, a filthy little building that had the same grimy veneer as the quarry. Jack stood, deliberating for a moment, before walking along the side towards the back entrance. The small door stood near a bleak row of dumpsters. The crack left in the opening let an inviting stream of light from inside spilling out onto Jacks face. He smiled, accepting its warm invitation as he slowly pulled it open and slipped inside.

It was dark in the office, and though Jack had never been in there before, he knew exactly where he was going. He crept like a shadow through the corridors, quickly coming to a small atrium. Skrul Skethis’ secretary sat behind a desk at the far end near Skethis’ office door, focusing intently on her computer screen with the concentration of someone in a very tense battle on the latest Final Fantasy game. Jack crept up without a sound, walking directly behind the computer screen so he was outside her field of view. With the daring of a ninja, he snaked around the side of her desk, passing within inches of her. He turned the knob and opened the door just enough to get through.

Jack looked around the well-lit office and could immediately tell who had been profiting from the mining efforts on this planet. Drathonian crap adorned the walls like trophies. Windows lined the opposite wall. The most important detail, however, was the desk. Skethis’ desk sat at the extreme right end of the room, a massive slab of expensive alien wood. The desk was completely barren but for the large pad that protected the wood in front of the seat, and the ashtray that sat beside it. Skethis’ clawed feet rested on it as he leaned back in his sleek leather chair. His reptilian eyes were hidden by scaly lids, and his arms rested behind his head. A bulky cigar hung out the side of his snout, a cloud of smoke twisting its way to the ceiling. Jack stood for a moment before closing the door with a firm thud.

The large reptilian body jumped with a start, bringing its feet to the floor. Skrul Skethis stood, his hulking frame commanding the room. “Who the hell are you, barging in like this?! Filthy little rat.” He spoke with the arrogance and disdain of a very important person who did not want to be bothered. Skethis took his cigar between his finger and his thumb and crushed it into the ashtray, glaring down at Jack with a predatory sneer. Jack kept his cool, approaching the desk with purpose. “It’s very urgent.” He said, a calm, serious look on his face. Skethis regarded him for a moment, raking a claw along his snout. “Very well,” he said in an abrupt tone as he slumped back down into his seat, “Make it quick, I’m very busy.”

Jack stepped to the edge of the desk and started fishing around in his pocket. “I have something I need to give to you.” He said as he squirmed his arm about in the pocket. Skethis’ sickly, yellow, slitted eyes dilated in sudden curiosity. “Do you, now?” he cooed with interest, leaning forward over the desk to look down at Jacks pocket. “It’s very important that you receive it.” Jack said with an edge of pleasure as he took hold of what he’d been looking for in the pocket. “Is it now?” Skethis murmured, leaning even closer, his eyes still on Jacks pocket. “Yes,” Jack replied, pulling his arm up a bit. Skethis’ eyes followed it intently. “It also came with a message.” At this, Skethis turned his attention back to Jack, looking him square in the eye. His snout was close enough for Jack to smell the Drathonian stench waft out of it as he spoke. “Well? Out with it, rat.”

Jack cleared his throat for effect, and Skethis rose a scaly brow in anticipation. Jack took a deep breath, and then – “Burn in hell.” Skethis cocked his head back in confusion as Jack pulled his hand out of his pocket. As Jack brought his hand up, Skethis looked down at it and cocked his head in even greater confusion. He didn’t realize what Jack held until it was pointed squarely at his face. His eyes widened and his mouth opened as if to scream, but it came out too late. With a thunderous blast, a four-inch bolt launched out the end of the plasma bolter and punched a hole just under his right eye, where his face began to slope into his snout. His eyes bulged, and his scream came out as nothing more than a gurgle as blood bubbled out his gullet. He remained still for a moment, then collapsed onto his desk. Jack watched with moot satisfaction as his pristine desk was tarnished by his own filth as it bled out of him.

A galaxy away, the secretary stood in the doorway, screaming. Jack dropped the plasma bolter and walked right by her out the door. He heard the sirens by the time he was outside. He started to run.

Sirens blared in the distance, howling louder with every passing moment. If it weren’t for their blaring staccato, the only sound on the otherwise silent road would be the onomatopoeia of boots quickly and rhythmically crunching through gravel. The owner of the boots did not pant or gasp for breath. He simply ran.

The boots soon stomped against hard pavement, increasing the pace of their beat as the sirens grew into an ever louder crescendo. Flashing lights lit the horizon, almost to emphasize the coming climax. The boots stopped suddenly, but the show continued on, even faster. Jack was on the fifth floor of the apartment complex, the large, gloomy structure that didn’t exactly deserve the title of ‘home.’ He turned his key in the door of apartment 531 and pushed. The door swung in to the enveloping shadows of the dark apartment. The cheap economy light on the complex wall cast Jack’s shadow into the room, steeped in a strip of light. A sound whispered to him from within, just audible over the thundering sirens. Jack hesitated for a moment, then stepped in. As the door closed with a huff, the sirens suddenly washed out into ambient, distant noise. “Jack?” The sound came again, now distinguishable.

The lights hummed on, and as Jack blinked the spots out of his eyes, the room became visible. It was sparse; the cheap, thin, gray carpeting stared up at him; the sloppily painted white cement walls had collected so much dirt that its color nearly matched the carpet; the ratty couch was so sunken from use that it looked like it would implode into itself. The doorway to his left was dark, but in the one across the room from him was a small boy with a hand on the light switch. Jimmy Gallagher was the one thing that didn’t look like crap in the room, Jack included. His clean blonde hair fluffed up off his head like a downy tuft. His small, innocent face was scrunched up in blissfully ignorant worry.

“Jack, what’s going on?” was the first thing he could think to say. Jack groped around in his ravaged mind for something to say that wouldn’t sound completely cataclysmic. He looked down with eyes full of regret as he met Jimmy in the middle of the room. Perhaps it was just a passing thought, but Jack saw his brother as if he were the most fragile, hopeless little thing in the galaxy. Jimmy looked up at him as if he were some looming, foreboding wall. “Jack, what’s all that crud on your shirt...? Is that blood? Are you okay, Jack? Where’s Dad?” Jimmy grabbed the edge of Jack’s shirt, tugging at it. Before Jack’s throat started closing up in a knot, a thought crept into his head. He ignored his brother’s questions. “Jimmy, grab your coat and put on your boots. Get all the food in the kitchen and put it on the table,” he said, turning his brother around and marching him towards their room. “And hurry. We need to go now,” he added. Jimmy looked back at him questioningly, but knew enough to do what he was told. As Jimmy ran into their room to grab his coat, Jack turned and entered the third and final doorway in the small hall. He paused a moment in sorrowful realization, but quickly ran to the closet and slid open the door. He threw aside a pile of neatly folded clothes to reveal the lockbox hidden behind. Jack grabbed it and rummaged around in the closet for another moment before finding the other object of his search. He snatched his father’s rucksack and ran to the kitchen, dropping the lockbox into it.

Jimmy had already cleared their small pantry and piled its contents on the kitchen table, and was now hoarding the contents of the refrigerator into his arms. “Leave that,” Jack said, getting beside the table and shoveling all the food into it, “Grab the canteens and help me fill them with water.” Jimmy silently obeyed, and Jack threw those, too, into the sack when they were done. Jack took his younger brother by the hand and led him to the door. “Shoes,” he ordered stiffly. Jimmy looked down at his boots, then back toward their room. “Hang on,” he muttered with uncertainty, taking a step forward. Jack grabbed his wrist with painful firmness. “No, leave it. Put on your boots,” Jack ordered with an edge of impatience. Jimmy looked up at him with pleading blue eyes, “But, the books—.” Jack gave a sharp tug on his wrist. “NOW!” he bellowed. Jimmy begrudgingly shoved his feet in his boots and strapped them shut, looking on the verge of tears. Jack grabbed his wrist again, wrenching open the door and leaping back into the dark twilight of the outside.

The tense quiet of the apartment was instantly shattered by a horrid wail. The sirens were deafeningly loud now, and the complex was now drowned in the blinding flashes of red and blue light. Jimmy pulled his wrist free of Jack’s grasp and covered his ears. Jack took hold of his arm and carried on, breaking into a run that Jimmy struggled to keep up with. They reached the end of a long hallway and turned down another one. A flight of stairs lay at the far end of it, and Jack dashed toward it. Several long seconds passed, then Jack skidded to a halt. Jimmy dangled off his hand like a rag doll. Two MPs jogged up the stairs, and came to a halt as they, in turn, saw him. As they started after him, shouting, he spun on his heel and took off in the opposite direction. He was halfway to the stairs on the other end of the hall when two more MPs came running up them. Jack halted, grimacing, and looked behind him. He was trapped in the hall on both ends, and they were coming at him fast. He thought for a split second, then turned in the direction he had originally ran in, right at the MPs who were now quite close. The startled soldiers jolted to a stop and fumbled for their sidearms. Just before reaching them, Jack swung the rucksack off his shoulder, lobbing it underhand at the one on the right. As the heavy sack bowled the man over, Jack grabbed Jimmy by the back of his shirt and threw him under his arm. The MP still standing abandoned his pistol, leaping sideways to intercept Jack as he bolted by. Jack didn’t have time to swerve, and the larger man got him by the leg, sending him face first towards the ground. All Jack could do was tuck Jimmy into his chest to keep him safe. Jack watched the ground fall into his face. He looked down at Jimmy, and in the last fleeting moment, saw the pale, petrified mask of terror that had covered his brother’s face. Everything went dark. Jack felt a sharp, sudden pain in his head. His world spun violently as he awoke in the battle worn hall of a starship.
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