Note: This was never beta-ed. I may fix any mistakes I notice as I post. If you see something that makes you crazy, comment with that c&p-ed. I'll likely fix it.
I may even remember to cut tag.
I'll probably get around to doing internal links, but it's tagged 'yield', anyway.
And Not to Yield
AD 2227, October 17
High Earth Orbit
Mars Expedition Mission Control
The Ares Explorer IV tumbled out of control toward Earth's atmosphere, one thruster still firing erratically, a blackened hole torn in its frame where its second fusion plant had blown out.
Mission control, operating from the top of the new orbital elevator, tried desperately to contact any of the crew on board. Telemetry insisted there were still people alive on the ship, only they weren't replying. The ship had been thrown drastically off course by the explosion and was steadily approaching Avalon Station's defensive perimeter.
Vast and enigmatic, Avalon remained silent as always, composed of curves and equipment unimaginable to the engineers and scientists of the human world, circling in high geosynchronous orbit. Where their vehicles and achievements had the impressive look of something designed and put together to the most exacting standards, Avalon appeared organic, as though its metals and strange ceramics had grown and flowed together.
No one human had stepped foot on Avalon in almost three hundred years. Anything approaching it had been summarily destroyed, just as anything trying to pierce the Great Barrier between Genosha and the rest of the world was. No one really wanted to think about what could be beyond the opalescent veil of power that denied any sort of probe of the island in the midst of the Indian Ocean.
The Interdict had been in place for two centuries. Among many academics and the military some speculation existed that the Barrier and Avalon's defenses were automatic and the inhabitants of the space station and island nation were gone, victims of lingering effects of the bio-weapons used in the Gene Wars. It was wishful thinking.
Genosha had closed itself off long ago at the end of the Gene Wars. Humans and mutants had seemed intent on destroying each other then, unable to exist together, until in a single stroke the mutants' leader had devastated the human forces. He'd used that success to force the world to accept the occupation and separation of Genosha, then erected the Great Barrier. Nothing and no one had passed it since.
The same rules had applied to the space around Magneto's rebuilt city-sized space station.
Ares Explorer IV was a tiny speck even to the cameras at C3. It flickered as it rolled.
Max Parsons watched the image on one monitor. Radar and a dozen other sensors' readings were displayed too, but he always preferred what he could interpret with his own vision. Despair stabbed through him. Avalon used mostly microwave and magnetic weapons. There wouldn't be anything to see until they struck the ship.
There might have been time to launch a shuttle and intercept the ship before it hit atmosphere if it hadn't been for Avalon Station. Any second he expected its defenses to wake and destroy Ares Explorer as had done many others.
He waited, watching the plot course on another monitor. Closer and closer the ship spun toward the vast space station, closer than anything had approached it in generations.
The ship stopped in place.
Max caught his breath, while several of his technicians tried to make sense of what they were seeing. It violated the laws of physics. It wasn't possible. Outrage and fear colored their voices.
Max thought of the campy videoons he'd watched as kid, wild, silly kid's shows where the good guys defeated the mutant menace. Mutants had strange abilities that could contravene the laws of physics. Later, in school, they'd studied the Gene Wars and he'd been curious enough to learn they didn't negate physics, but manipulated the laws of the universe innately rather than through technology and machines.
He watched as the Ares Explorer turned over and slowly moved toward Avalon. There was no glowing aura or forcebeam locked on it. It just moved through the vacuum.
"Switch to the Spyglass System," Max directed his assistant. Spyglass was a sphere of surveillance satellites placed at Trojan points just beyond Avalon's no-go zone. They watched it twenty-four/seven, three-hundred-sixty-five days a year, monitoring the space station for changes.
Alaric input the codes that gave C3 control of Spyglass and brought an image up on the main screen. It switched rapidly as he scanned through various cameras to find the best view. Max blinked and grunted as the image stopped with a clear picture of the Ares Explorer. It looked like it would slam into the blank blue metal of the space station.
Then the metal just flowed open, accepting the human ship and engulfing it.
"Oh my god," someone blurted out.
Ares Explorer disappeared and the liquid metal slid back together, flowing into itself and solidifying into the same blank wall.
Nothing for twelve hours, while Max as head of mission control, the military and the bureaucracy back-and-forthed with the UEN, the UNA, PanAfrica, and Pacifica representatives that had funded the Mars mission. No one knew what to do or what it might mean. Avalon had been silent and motionless for so long, reacting only defensively, that no one could believe it had absorbed a ship. Spyglass and its predecessors had observed it for over a century and never seen anything come or go.
Now it acted.
The representative from the United Nations of America bleated that something would have to be done. Pacifica counseled caution and a watching brief. PanAfrica and the UEN wanted more information.
Max wanted his ship and its crew back. He didn't think loud noises and demands would get anything from Avalon.
He was simply sitting at one of the monitor banks watching the Spyglass feed of Avalon when it frosted over with static.
"What the — ?"
The static dissolved into a man's face. It was a pale yet human face, handsome in sharp fashion. His ears came to elfin points neatly framed by dark hair. He appeared to be wearing a charcoal gray uniform including a quilted or armored jacket. It had a shoulder flash in the form of a black on red X.
Max stared and swallowed hard. He was looking at a mutant. He was looking at an overriding video feed from Avalon Station.
A second later the speakers buzzed to loud life as the unknown man spoke.
"I am Northstar, Avalon Station Prime. I have been authorized by the Triune to inform you that the UN ship Ares Explorer IV has been recovered while trespassing within the Avalon security perimeter. Our scans indicated this was not a deliberate violation, as the ship had sustained a catastrophic failure and the crew were consequently incapacitated."
Northstar paused and nodded as though hearing something that wasn't being transmitted.
"Emergency repairs are being made to Ares Explorer while medical treatment is given to the crew. Estimated time to conclusion is twenty-three hours. At that point, both will be allowed to leave Avalon. Any interference or attempt to retrieve them before will be regarded as a hostile act and responded to appropriately."
Max let out an explosive sigh.
Another burst of static and the feed from Spyglass resumed.
The UN was going to go batshit. The mutants were suddenly present as they hadn't been for centuries. It had been easy to ignore them and pretend they didn't exist when they didn't communicate. But now they had.
He wondered what had changed or if they always would have responded the same way they had to the crippled ship.
He wondered, almost enviously, what Ares Explorer's crew were seeing on Avalon.