I stared at the view displayed on the forward screen from my position at Captain Greenwood's side. Greenwood herself was seated on the captain's chair, also staring at the same view. We were as silent as the rest of the crew present; I could detect a sense of anticipation on the Bridge as the Revenant finally drew near to Earth. The planet itself looked tiny when viewed from afar and I couldn't help but marvel at the sheer sight of it; there was so much water for a start, far more than I, as a Drakkar, required. The sheer volume of water seemed to make the planet more fragile somehow, while the continents looked likely to unhinge themselves and become lost.
It had been the first time that the battle cruiser had been near Earth in at least five earthly years which explained the reverential hush on the Bridge. While I did not have the same connections to Earth as some of the others aboard the Revenant did, I could very well understand the concept of homecoming.
I hadn't seen my home planet for longer than the humans had seen their own; I estimated that it had been at least sixty-five earthling years and perhaps half that in Drakkar years. Drakkar years were far longer than the puny things the Earthlings were used to and that home visit had been but a brief one. I blinked and my thoughts shifted again. I remembered the first time I'd seen Earth - not as visitor or employee of Earth Command, but as subjugator. Memories rang clear in my head of when I led the first wave of Drakkar down to the planet's surface, of the first sight of such a tenuous, hope-fuelled place up close before we shattered that peace, that hope into so many worthless shards. I must have made a small sound - a huff or perhaps a laugh - for Greenwood looked up at me expectantly.
"Care to say what's on your mind, Gregg?" she asked.
I wasn't surprised by her use, once again, of the abbreviation of my true Drakkar name. No human could wrap their tongue around it, hence 'Gregg'.
"Perhaps that would be inadvisable, Captain," I said with a brief half-bow in her direction. "It's not what you'd call a comfortable subject for humans."
Oddly her question had made me feel vague discomfort, as though perhaps she'd known what I'd been thinking and was judging me for it. I was not used to feeling discomfited. After all, I had once been used to warfare and subjugation, yet that was a long time ago before even Greenwood was born.
"Oh?" Greenwood asked and she looked more interested than deterred.
"Well, it'd be the first time someone likes you pays attention to something like that, Gregg," Dunbar grinned from where he sat nearby. "Uncomfortable subjects, my left ass-cheek."
I took no notice of him; he had become something akin to a friend during our latest missions and I had come to recognise just when he was joking. Dunbar laughed at that lack of reaction on my part. Greenwood didn't take any notice of him either; instead, she continued to address me.
"This does sound intriguing," Greenwood said but I could tell by the look on her face just what she was thinking.
She had guessed that I'd been thinking of my former life as the Scourge of the Universe, of the devastation I had once helped to wreak upon many a civilisation across every known - and some unknown - galaxies out there. There was silence then, and only Greenwood and Dunbar seemed able to meet my gaze. Any mention of Earth's history, even peripherally, seemed to have a discomfiting effect on a lot of humans.
"Tell me, Gregg, why did you join Earth Command?" Greenwood surprised me by asking. "I don't think you have ever revealed that or at least not to me."
"I don't think this is the time for a tale like that," I said with a brief frown of confusion. "You are nearly home and I suspect the memories would affect that homecoming for some."
A few discomfited shuffles and coughs met my words which proved my suspicions to be the correct ones.
"Yet you are not home," Greenwood said astutely. "I understand Drakkar is a long way from here, yet here you are, serving the very people you once sought to enslave."
"And there we have it, folks; the elephant in the room is fully out in the open. Uh-oh," Dunbar said and grinned good-naturedly.
Laughter, nervous at best, emanated around him and that one stupid comment seemed to break the tension on the Bridge. Even I grinned.
"We have plenty of time to hear it," Greenwood said even as she gestured at Dunbar, who acted as helmsman, to slow the speed of the cruiser.
I snorted; it seemed as though Greenwood was serious in pursuing her chosen line of conversation.
"It is not solely my story to tell," I said. "But there is no one else here to argue against me so I suppose I may as well tell it."
I saw then that I had the attention of almost everyone aboard the Bridge; it seemed that more than one of them were curious about me, even if most were too afraid to ask anything. Then again, I was the tallest and most intimidating being aboard. At seven feet tall and with a body and visage that resembled a bipedal version of something the humans called a Komodo Dragon, I supposed it was understandable. If one added in my history, there was no wonder most people were scared of me.
"I am one of the last of my kind," I said. "Most of the Drakkar were wiped out by one of my own and those that were left were scattered to the stars, presumed lost. It wasn't me that fractured my kind, I hasten to add. Another Drakkar known as the Outcast did. That same Drakkar gave me these."
I gestured towards my cybernetic eye, my equally cybernetic arm and leg and further to the hidden internal organs that had had to be replaced after they'd failed; I did not go into detail about the torture I'd had to endure at the hands of the Outcast many long years in my past. Those cybernetic additions had not added to any perceived kindliness to my general visage.
"And to answer your question, Captain, I wanted to find those few that were left of my kind. Earth Command seemed the likeliest opportunity for me to do so," I said and gestured around at the battle cruiser than encased us. "You humans are a tenacious and adventurous lot; far more so than any other civilisation. With the exception of the Drakkar, of course. I stayed with Earth Command even when my initial attempts to find others like me failed because I liked the respect I earned here. I also saw that I could achieve my goals through other means rather than warfare."
"So that's what tamed the mighty beast," Dunbar said and while he grinned, it looked as though he was genuinely interested in what I had to say.
"I know you said your inital attempts failed, but have you never found any at all?" Greenwood asked, just as enraptured as Dunbar. "Other Drakkar, I mean?"
"I still have not," I said with a brief frown. "Not yet."
I thought that she should have known that information already but changed my mind swiftly. I supposed that she couldn't be aware of everything that I had been up to whenever I was not aboard the Revenant; none of us were really in each others' pockets all of the time.
"Captain?" another voice asked.
Both Greenwood and I looked up and over at the person who had spoken; it was the communications officer whose name I'd forgotten. Then again, said officer was relatively new and we had never been formally introduced; he only knew my rank. While Greenwood was the captain of the entire Battle Cruiser, I had risen up the ranks of pilots until I'd attained Captain of the Air status, a position that was only just lower than Greenwood herself. As such, I was used to being referred to by the same dignitary as Greenwood. The officer who had spoken was looking directly at me however so I nodded to let him know that he could continue.
"Were you among those who - you know," he said and he gestured out at the Earth, only fractionally nearer than it had been before.
I marvelled again at the utter fragility of the planet. It would be so easy to subjugate it again, now that I knew how simple a task it was. I knew that the officer, with his question, was referring to Earth's history of destruction, meted out by Drakkar paws.
"I was," I confirmed. "I was one of the worst ones."
Sharp intakes of breath surrounded me then yet Greenwood once again looked intrigued.
"This was all before my time, of course," she said before she glanced around at everyone else. "In fact, it was before anyone's time here. No one would remember it first-hand; we're all too young. What did you do? Exactly?"
"We know what happened from the history-holos," the communications officer said.
He didn't look happy at reliving something that would prove distressing to others, despite their age or lack thereof.
"We have the chance to hear it from the horse's mouth, man. So let Gregg continue," Dunbar said before he looked at me excitedly. "So? What did you do?"
"What the history-holos said," I said dryly. "Except it was far worse than they could ever intimate. We laid waste to empires, we burnt your monuments down to the ground, we fought, we killed, we enslaved. Blood washed Earth clean of humanity until there almost was nothing left. Those that escaped would be classed as the lucky ones these days. It is why you lot are still here."
"And what happened to those that didn't escape? Not the dead ones, obviously. The ones you enslaved," Dunbar asked and he seemed genuinely intrigued rather than disgusted.
It almost was as though he was talking about some other planet rather than he one he'd been born on.
"They did the stuff for us we didn't want to do. They mined, they fabricated, they worked and sweated until there was no more life left in their bodies," I said. "Those that were the fittest specimens, we ate."
"You did what?" Greenwood asked and even the ordinarily unflappable captain looked shocked.
"You heard," I said as a ripple of discontent flowed around the Bridge. "It's what we Drakkar do. We did it to everyone, not just humans."
"Equal opportunity epicures, right?" someone muttered but I didn't catch who had spoken.
That garnered a laugh amongst the rest of the crew. I just shrugged and said no more.
"So where were you? What part of Earth did you lay siege to personally, I mean?" Greenwood asked quietly.
She once again turned her gaze to the Earth outside.
"I believe it's what you humans once called Australia," I replied. "Lovely place. Lots of open space. Sand. Heat. Just what we Drakkar love."
"And humans ripe for harvesting," someone said gloomily.
Once again, I didn't answer and that seemed response enough for most there.
"How easy was it for you to take over?" Greenwood asked next. "The original holo reports said it took days."
"They were wrong. Your kind was never prepared for us. No one is. The subjugation of each country took hours, not days," I said. "We are stronger than you, are better versed in warfare and are conversant with far superior weaponry. If you must know, you fought bravely with your limited resources."
"But we're better now, right?" Dunbar asked. "With the weaponry and the like?"
"No. And yes, somewhat," I replied with a brief shrug. "It still will take some years before you catch up to what we once were. Yet now you have me. That fact alone puts you in a better position than you were in past times."
"If that came from anyone else, that would be seen as sheer arrogance," Dunbar said and laughed. "But from you? A statement of fact."
I just nodded and looked out at Earth again.
"And now? How would you attack Earth again?" Greenwood asked as she followed my line of sight. "Hypothetically, of course."
"Of course, and the same as we did before. We attack your major civilisations, knock out the military bases and fabrication facilities," I said as I made the image of Earth larger on the screen.
I pointed to various places on the rebuilt Earth - London, Berlin, Paris, Washington and Perth among others.
"We crumble known landmarks, destroy morale, spill blood on the very streets," I said and zoomed in closer to highlight government buildings, places of worship, factories, parks, schools. "Then when all is destroyed, even hope, we take the rest."
"You lot are quite evil, aren't you?" the communications officer asked quietly.
"We were. Once. Perhaps not now," I said. "Or as bad. I think the term is the sting has been taken out of us or out of those that remain. For now."
Nervous laughter met that statement before Greenwood nodded.
"Well. I, for one, am glad that you're temporarily on our side. And that should bring that grim conversation to an end, don't you think?" she asked, a little too brightly. "We are almost home."
"Or some of us are," someone muttered out of sight.
I did not reply as I knew it was true. Earth could never be home to me. I examined that blue and ineffectual marble on the forward screen again, magnified now through greater proximity as we drew ever closer to it. I once again examined the land-masses clinging tenuously to the oceans. I could see various entry points through which I could enter and destroy should I have wished it. Humans had no idea, even after all they'd been through, just how lucky they were, how fleeting and fragile their life was, how close to danger they still were.
I didn't stop to think on it further as fragile life was of no consequence to me; in essence, I could live forever unless something untoward snuffed my life out which was more than could be said for humans with their shorter life-spans. I already was over a thousand years old. I would see empires rise and fall and rise again several times throughout my existence; I would probably take out a few myself given the right opportunity or the wish for it. But for now, I would remain dormant, waiting, watching for my moment to rise again. After all, I had the time.