The bridge of the HMS Northampton was a bustling hub of activity as crew members went about their duties. It was a fairly large control centre for most ships, with two tiers and more consoles and readouts than was healthy. The bare metal and dull yellow illumination didn't add an air of warmth to the place, but it was a warship, not a pleasure cruise.
The HMS Northampton was a Refit 2 Victoria-class Battleship, newly out of Southampton Shipyards, out in neutral space on her first shakedown cruise. The ship had not been lucky thus far, as this wasn't her first attempt to complete a shakedown. She had been scheduled for launch several months ago, but upon attempting to leave Bretonian territory she was ambushed and crippled by seven Corsair capital ships. Crippled, she was towed back to New London and put back in dry-dock for repairs. Several months later, she attempted to leave Bretonian space once again, and once again several Corsair capital ships converged on her position. Fortunately this time, she was escorted out of Bretonian space by two other Battleships, and the Corsairs were despatched promptly. She still took damage though, and the skeleton crew had to repair it during the two-week journey to the testing area. And all this was overlooking the fact that there had been many complications during her two-year construction, one of which made national news as it resulted in the deaths of three construction workers.
With such an unfortunate history at such a young age, the crew had become superstitious that the ship may be cursed. The extent of these superstitions was quite surprising. Victoria-class postings were usually considered illustrious and prestigious opportunities, with naval officers and enlisted crew alike scrambling over each other to get a posting on one. But out of the Northampton's entire crew, only a few of the senior officers had requested their post. The rest of the crew had been forcibly re-assigned to make up the numbers.
Still, they were intent on doing their duty. And as things had being going smoothly since repairs were completed, people began wondering if they were worried over nothing. So far the Northampton's sensor package suites, shields, fighter bays, adaptive armour and primary and secondary engines had all been tested, and all had checked out. With only a few tests to go in this remote system, things were looking up.
The intercom echoed across the bridge above the noise of the various crewmembers. "Con, weapons. Firing solution in one minute."
Captain James Harris turned around, as he had been leaning over the shoulder of one of his bridge officers to try and identify a peculiar power anomaly on deck 32. He took a telephone-like object from a control cluster suspended from the ceiling, and held it to his head. As he spoke, his voice echoed through the corridors of the vast ship. "Weapons, Con. Acknowledged; vent tube six to prepare for launch."
He returned the communicator to its clasp and clanged his boots on the metal decking as he stepped towards the main weapons control and monitoring station, on the port side of the upper tier. The officer manning the station nodded nervously. Weapons testing was always tricky -- unlike sensors and coms, if the engineers had done something wrong with the weapons systems, things could start exploding.
“Close the blast shields on the starboard windows,” Harris said quietly to the tactical officer. The young lieutenant nodded, hitting a series of buttons on his panel.
Outside the elegant ship, one of the torpedo tubes opened discretely, venting what little atmosphere it contained into space in a cloud of white gas. Shortly afterwards, all of the small windows on that side of the ship were covered as thick sheets of metal slid down. They protected the occupants of the ship from the powerful electromagnetic radiation that resulted from a torpedo blast, powerful enough even to overcome standard radiation filters in the glass. The shielding would protect from most of the radiation, but there was no sense in risking eye injuries and severe burns just in case the shields failed.
"Con, weapons, firing solution obtained," the voice echoed once again. Captain Harris nodded at the tactical officer. Both of them placed small keys into holes on either side of the main weapons console and turned them together. Red lights showed up on the monitoring screens, as the computer accepted the authorisation given. Harris quickly reached across to the communicator once more.
"Weapons, con, authorisation granted, target locked," he said. "Fire."
With that, a metal tube blasted from the opening on the side of the vessel, leaving a white vapour streamer as it zoomed from its mothership and into a dense asteroid field nearby. It disappeared beneath the shadows of the enormous rocks as it diligently travelled to its suicide coordinates. Shortly thereafter, a bizarre series of shadows was cast from the field as a brilliant white flash erupted from within. Some of the outer asteroids had shadows literally burned onto them by the powerful thermal radiation, whilst those unfortunate enough to be nearer the ball of fire were vaporised or melted. The shockwave rippled through the field, shattering thousands of asteroids and sending shards of rock hurtling out into space. This was why an abandoned star system was chosen for shakedowns. The destruction was always catastrophic.
The outer hull of the Northampton began to glow brightly as the shielding and the charged reactive armour resisted the shockwaves and the radiation, which pelted the ship heavily even at this distance. As small rocks began to impact with the outer-shielding, it looked like a pond on a rainy day, with small ripples forming all over until they connected and merged together. The rocks were either disintegrated or bounced away by the field, which clung protectively to the hull like a zealous mother protecting its offspring. Contrary to the visuals, all of this happened silently. Almost peacefully.
Eventually, the light subsided and the waves of radiation passed. Rocks still span out of control, but they were mostly away from the ship and not moving fast enough to pose a threat. The test was successful.
“Con, weapons, weapon detonated successfully,” the voice came over the intercom, this time cutting through no noise as the bridge crew were silent. Such an announcement seemed almost unnecessary, as they all stared at monitors observing the destruction.
Harris eventually reached over and picked up the communicator, speaking quietly now. “Weapons, con, acknowledged.” The click as he put the communicator down was audible on both tiers of the bridge.
“Well, the torpedo system seems to be functioning,” Harris said at last. Muted chuckles responded, and the silence persisted until people began to get back to their duties. Harris reached back to the communicator. “Weapons, con. Prepare the main flak cannon for a test fire. Inputting target now.”
“Con, weapons, understood,” the voice responded. “Obtaining firing solution.”
“Clark, target one of the larger asteroids in the field at your discretion,” Harris said to the tactical lieutenant after putting the communicator down.
“Aye sir, inputting target,” Clark said. His screens lit up again as he locked the main flak turret on to a particularly large asteroid, some distance from the blast zone of their last weapons test. “Hold sir… I’m reading…”
It was at this moment it happened. From deep within the asteroid belt, a massive beam of blue light carved through the rocks and burst out into space. Slicing across the vacuum, it impacted with the Northampton’s shielding, smashing through it within seconds and blasting into the main hull. Twisted hull panels and chunks of the ships metal skeleton were thrown around as the beam burrowed its way into the belly of the beast, before poking out of the other side of the huge ship and finally dissipating. The ship now had an enormous, charred hole cut straight through the middle. Its engines shut down, the lights flickered and switched off, and the Northampton drifted slowly away from the asteroid belt, crippled.
Perhaps the ship really was cursed.
the Kirisuban Exploration ship 'Yuki-on-na' was passing when her science officer picked up the massive energy discharge from 2 light years away.
"intercept course, warp 3" Captain Chigusa Sato orders "yellow alert"
the gracefull cruiser warps into the star system and soon picks up the crippled ship.
"hail them" the Captain orders and the standard message indentifying themselves is sent out.
ooc: the Yuki-on-na is a Kurraka class crusier 120 metres wide by 100 long. its an exploration ship but has enough weapons to defend itself. it also has a cloaking device as well.
its like the picture below only silver and no big bird
Executive Officer Graham Barnes opened his eyes to a world of pain. His head felt like he'd been hit in the head with a torpedo, as he had a blinding, throbbing headache. As he reached up to investigate a trickle of blood running down his forehead, he winced in pain -- he'd broken his arm. One of his ribs had gone as well, as he felt to his dismay when trying to stand up. He managed to pull himself to his feet with his good arm. He ached all over, but he had to figure out what was going on and fast.
He couldn't see anything. He panicked at first, wondering if the blow to his head had done more damage than he'd first thought. What if he was blind? But a spark burst from one of the dead consoles nearby, providing a brief flash of illumination before plunging the bridge into darkness once again. Main power was out, and the emergency batteries hadn't kicked in, which could only mean that there was massive damage. From somewhere in the distance he could hear groaning, screeching, metal-on-metal rasping sounds, and small explosions. Much closer to home he could hear fizzing electronics, and hissing coolant leaks. Occasionally something fell down with a clang. Some of the bridge crew were certainly alive, as he could hear moaning all around. This ship was a mess.
With his good arm, Barnes ran his hand carefully against the wall, dreading the possibility that he might slice his hand off on a twisted metal plate, or electrocute himself on some exposed circuitry. But he found what he was looking for without injury -- the intercom. He lifted the device up and held it to his head, and leaned his shoulder against the button to talk.
"Engineering, con, urgent status report needed," he said in his gruff voice, coughing in pain afterwards. He felt like he'd done some lung damage, and he tasted blood. He waited for a few moments, but the intercom was silent, nobody responded. He put the device down again. Either nobody was left to answer, or the power outage had disabled communications as well. Either way they needed to find out.
Barnes looked around as he heard some movement from behind him, and a startled deep breathe.
"Is anybody still alive?!" a woman's voice called out with a wheeze. "Hello?"
"This is Barnes," Barnes called back. "Identify yourself!"
"2nd Lieutenant Conway, sir," the woman responded, apparently relieved that she wasn't the only one left alive. "What happened sir?"
"I don't know Lieutenant," Barnes called back. "Are you injured?"
"I... think I have a broken leg," she said, after a distressed cry of pain. "I can't stand up... or see!"
"Power is out," Barnes said. "And so is the intercom. Hold your position, Lieutenant, wherever you are."
"Aye," she responded. She let out another laboured gasp as she tried to move, and then stopped fumbling around.
Barnes winced as he stepped forwards, the impact of his boot against the deck sending painful shockwaves up his body, but he pressed on. Using his good arm to feel around in the darkness, he tried to make his way to the lower tier. He found the staircase, and carefully took one step at a time, clutching the railing as though his life depended on it. Once at the bottom he almost tripped over a large piece of debris, but he found his footing. Finally he found what he was looking for.
He opened a small compartment on the wall and pulled out a pair of flashlights, flicking them on. To his relief, they worked, and two beams of light cut their way through the misty air. Now he could survey the devastation...
His own red and white uniform was torn around his broken arm, and blood stained his chest. Touching his head and looking at his fingers he found that he was indeed bleeding, and it was quite bad from the looks of things. Already he started to feel faint, and he had trouble focusing his vision now that he could see.
The bridge was in worse shape than he was. The control column on the upper deck had been knocked down completely by a fallen metal girder, which had crushed an unfortunate crewman's legs. Several of the senior officers were slumped on the floor or over consoles with various injuries, though he couldn't tell how severe they were. Debris littered the floor, blood was splattered all over the place, consoles were charred from explosions and overloads. Lights previously fixed to the roof now dangled precariously by their power cables, dangerously close to falling off completely. So far as Barnes could tell, nothing had any power.
He made his way back up the staircase to the upper tier, shining his flashlight around until he found Conway. She had propped herself up against the wall near a large doorway, nursing her bloodied leg. Her uniform was torn across her shoulders, presenting another wound there. She mock saluted him and squinted in the light. Lieutenant Commander Clark sat upright as he saw the light, covering his eyes.
"Captain?" he asked weakly.
"No, Commander Barnes," Barnes corrected him. "Are you alright Clark?"
"I think so sir," Clark said, checking himself over quickly. He looked in remarkably good health considering. "One hell of a migraine though..."
"Tell me about it," Barnes muttered. "OK Clark, I need you on triage duty until we can find a medic. You do remember your field medic training right?"
"It'll come back to me, sir," Clark said, clutching his forehead. "Shall I start with you sir?" He noticed the Commander's injuries, and the blood dripping from his forehead, with some concern.
"I can stand and that's all that matters right now," Barnes shook his head, regretting the action shortly afterwards. "We need people on their feet and conscious, nothing more for now. Perfect health is a luxury we don't have time for right now."
"Yes sir," Clark said. He struggled to get to his feet, as the ship rumbled slightly. There was a crash from the lower tier as something fell over. The rumbling stopped soon afterwards.
"We'd better do this quickly, Clark," Barnes said, looking around at the crippled ship. "Not cursed my arse... Here, Clark, catch."
Barnes tossed one of the flashlights towards the Lieutenant Commander, who caught it. He began checking over the crew one at a time. Several of them were dead, including the operations officer and the communications officer. Barnes also started to look for survivors, using his good arm to pull light debris from some of them and check for pulses. He found navigator 1st Lieutenant Johnson under a sheet of metal, though he seemed in good order considering. A minor blow to the head, and a nasty cut down his left arm, but he was otherwise healthy. Barnes managed to wake him and help him to his feet.
"Lieutenant, try to figure out where the hell we are," Barnes said. "Look at the bloody stars if you have to, just find out. If we're drifting towards the asteroid belt, we need to know."
"I'll try sir," Johnson nodded weakly.
"Commander!" Barnes heard Clark's voice as he yelled from the lower tier. "Sir, I've found the Captain..."
Barnes quickly made his way back down and searched out Clark, spotting him beneath the staircase. He crouched down over Captain James Harris, with a dismayed expression on his face. The Captain lay in a pool of blood, twisted and with a blank expression on his pale face.
"He has no pulse, sir..." Clark said. "Looks like he was thrown over the railings up there, landed on a piece of shrapnel..."
"Bloody hell, Jim..." Barnes dropped to his knees. He and Harris had been good friends ever since boot camp, serving on several ships together over the last twenty years. "Damn it... God damn it." He hung his head low, unsure of what to do next. His best friend dead, his ship dead and without a Captain... things weren't looking up. Memories of their antics back in their youth came flooding back, and all the honoured distinctions they had earned together during their years of service in the BRAF. And this was how it ended.
He rose to his feet after a few moments of reflection, taking a deep breath. A look of angry determination spread across his face and he looked at Clark.
"Keep attending to the crew Clark," he said bitterly. "We need to get this ship up and running."
"But, the Captain, sir..."
"He's dead, Clark," Barnes snapped. "He died in the line of duty. Fitting. We'll give him an honoured burial when all this is over. But right now we need this ship online before we run out of air... and to find out who did this, and send a torpedo right up their arse. We can't do that without the crew. Captain wouldn't want the whole crew to die because we were too busy commiserating..."
"Aye, sir," Clark nodded, weakly.
They had a lot of work to do. Meanwhile, something stirred deep within the asteroid field.
(( More later. ))
"i'm not getting a response Captain sama" the comms officer says.
"helm take us in closer and when we reach her lock on the tractor beam and hit half impulse. then we should be able to get clear her of the asteroids" Captain Sato orders.
the Yuki-on-na repsonded to the controls going closer to the stricken ship.
OOC: That's OK, the beam that hit them earlier on actually knocked them away from the asteroid field, so they're in no danger of drifting back towards it for the time being. Of course they don't know that, having no sensors or navigational computers active, so that's why Barnes wanted the navigator to check. No time for an IC post right now I'm afraid, going out for the night!
The bridge was a mess. A few flashlights had been propped up against the walls so that their beams reflected off the dead computer monitors, rebounding around the room and creating rudimentary illumination across the upper tier of the bridge. Much of the bridge crew suffered injuries, some more serious than others. Lieutenant Commander Clark and Chief Petty Officer Carter desperately attended to the chest injuries of an unidentified Midshipman, who had apparently taken a nasty piece of shrapnel near his heart. With only emergency field training in medicine, and no medics at hand, they had no choice but to try and act before he died.
Commander Barnes had succumbed to his injuries by now, and he was slumped in the centre chair clutching his chest with his good arm. Conway, despite her broken leg, lay across the floor with her head under a console, attempting to do some re-wiring to see if there was any power left in any of the systems. Johnson, having discovered that the ship was in fact drifting away from the nearby asteroid field, now helped her out by passing her different tools and checking some of the circuitry that was too high for her to reach.
Two Able Seamen stood near the main entrance to the bridge, trying to get it open so that they could access other areas of the large vessel. Without power, this was quite a challenge. The doors had been designed to completely isolate the bridge from the rest of the ship in case of an emergency, which was fine until the doors lost power. The two crewmen had attached handles to the door with two suckers, and desperately pulled at the massive blast doors. A futile effort, perhaps, but without the intercom system or any power to speak of, they had nothing better to do than try.
On the lower tier, the bodies of the dead had been laid out in a row, with the Captain lying at the centre. Seven bodies in all, with no way to store them or give them burials. Thankfully it was growing quite cold on the lower tier as the main heating system also lacked power, which would keep the bodies relatively intact but wouldn't help the survivors much. The ship was eerily silent with all its systems offline. Only the occasional creak of twisted metal and the groan of an injured crewman disturbed the silence.
The two Able Seamen jumped back suddenly as bursts of bright, sparkling light appeared at either side of one of the thick metal doors. Noxious smoke began to pour from them as the two sparks of light moved up the doorway in parallel, slowly cutting through the metal. They curved around and met together after having cut a human-sized hole in the door, and then shut off. The Able Seamen backed away as the metal sheet fell to the deck with a clang, and several Royal Marines appeared from behind it. The light from the flashlights mounted on their assault rifles blinded the two men. The Marines filed in through the door, checking the surrounding structure and then looking around at the carnage that had befallen the command centre. They all wore grayish armoured uniforms which stood in contrast to the elegant red and white Navy uniforms worn by the officers, and wore bulky helmets with visors covering their eyes. The Gauss rifles they carried were compact and elegant in design, with flashlights hooked beneath the barrels and a scope fitted on the top to complement their iron-sights.
"Captain Harris, Brigadier Rogers checking in!" the highest ranking Marine called out, not seeing the captain in his immediate vicinity. He was the only Marine not wearing a helmet, instead his unkempt grey hair was in full view. He had a rough-looking face, with scars and wrinkles making him look much older than he really was, and the thick gray stubble covering his face didn't do him any favours. He spoke with a New London accent, setting him apart from the officers normally present on the bridge. Clark looked over at the Commander briefly, who didn't even appear to be in a state to talk, let alone stand, and so he took the initiative and approached Rogers.
"Brigadier Rogers, I'm Lieutenant Commander Clark," Clark nodded. "Captain Harris sustained a lethal injury in the incident... he passed away several hours ago I'm afraid."
"Damn," Rogers said, solemnly. "Where's the XO?"
"Commander Barnes is in need of medical attention," Clark said, gesturing towards the centre chair. "I have assumed command of the ship for the time being. How did you get here Brigadier?"
"With bloody difficulty, I can tell ya that much," Rogers said with a sigh. "No power anywhere in the ship. I've issued all my men with radios until we get the intercom workin'. We've been usin' maintenance tunnels to get around with the lifts out. This door was a pain in the neck to open though."
"Any word from other sections?" Clark asked with concern.
"We've not even covered a quarter of the ship yet, it's slow movin'," Rogers shook his head. "We tried to gain access to some core areas of the ship, but for some reason a huge chunk of the ship has been put under automatic lockdown. There must have been a massive decompression there, God-knows what the casualties are like, as there's a bunch of living quarters in that section too. Given what I've seen here, and in the areas we have checked, I would estimate roughly a 30-40% casualty rate, with a few nasty injuries added in for good measure. An' that's a conservative estimate, mind."
"God damn..." Clark said, shaking his head. "Have you managed to gain access to the main engine room yet?"
"I've got a team down there right now," Rogers nodded. "The blast doors to the engine room are even bigger than these buggers though, so it'll take some time. They're havin' to use a plasma torch to cut through 'em. Should hear from 'em in an hour or so."
"Alright then," Clark nodded. "Please tell me as soon as you make contact with the engineering team, as power is our primary concern right now."
"Aye," Rogers nodded. "Need any help up here?"
"Yes, we need a medic or two if you've got them," Clark said. "The Midshipman over there is in urgent need of attention, and we're having trouble stabilising him. The Commander also needs some attention, not to mention Lieutenant Conway's leg... we sustained a few injuries up here."
"Yeah, I can see that," Rogers nodded. He looked over his shoulder and yelled, "MEDICS!"
Two Marines with red crosses marked on their uniforms jogged through the door from the darkness that lay beyond, standing to attention in front of the Brigadier.
"Major Leggett, you an' Jenkins stay here and fix up the bridge crew," Rogers told them in his gruff authoritative voice. "Keep your radios on at all times. Understood?"
"Yes sir," the Major announced.
"Get to it then Major," Rogers nodded, standing aside. The Medics placed their assault rifles on one of the dead consoles and immediately began triaging the crew. The Major dropped down to help the Midshipman, whilst Captain Jenkins attended to Barnes.
"I'll leave you this radio, Lieutenant Commander," Rogers said, pulling a spare radio from the pack on his back and handing the device to Clark. "I've set the frequency for ya already. I'll give you a shout with more news till the intercom is back up."
"Thank you Brigadier," Clark nodded. "And good luck."
"Thanks, you an' all," Rogers nodded solemnly. "Alright Marines, let's move out! Deck by deck search pattern, go go go!"
The marines immediately jogged out of the bridge, followed by Brigadier Rogers, and got back to their search of the ship. The medics remained behind, both of them now trying to stabilise the condition of the Midshipman who now lay in a considerable pool of blood. All they could do now was wait.
"lock on now" Captain Sato orders and the beam takes hold of the stricken ship.
the Yuki-on-na starts a slow towing speed away from the asteroid field while Captain Sato decides what to do next.
"Lt Miromuto, take Dr Fujimoto and 3 guards with you and beam onto their bridge. thats the logical place to find survivors" she orders.
the tactical officer reports back "i'm picking up lifesigns their and atmosphere"
"make it so Megumi" she Captain orders as the young Lt leaves the bridge picking up the ships doctor and 3 security people as they head to transporter room 1.
with the screens down the 5 women materilise onto a dark corridor activating torches and their weapons on stun...
ooc: Kirisubans are oriental humans who come from a japanese like culture. they still have the samurai class and follow the old ways of bushido. they have a strange population imbalance where 2/3rd of the population are female and ships have mostly all female crews.
the uniform is like the federation next gen type only the jacket is a plain dark red wrap round type.
OOC: Sorry, I've been on holiday hence the lack of replies. No offence, but do you have to beam straight onto the bridge like that? It doesn't help me progress this very easily...
ooc :with the comms down i can't exactly send a warning ahead but i'll edit and change it so they're not on the bridge.
the Corridor they materialised in was two levels below the bridge and apart from being in darkness still had some air. Megumi was glad they brought torches.
she experimantally hit the button on a turbo lift and got nothing.
"it looks like we're taking the stairs" she tells her team...
ooc :with the comms down i can't exactly send a warning ahead but i'll edit and change it so they're not on the bridge.
OOC: I know, not your fault :). I just mean that it seems rather abrupt, and I need a little time to progress things further. Thanks. I will make an IC post tomorrow as soon as I get a spare moment, I promise. It's nearly 2am right now, though, and I need to sleep...
The medics were just finishing up with the Midshipman, who had now been identified as Richard Waters. A new addition to the Navy just out of Leeds Academy, the poor young officer had gained consciousness during the messy operation to save his life, which had resulted in much terrified screaming as crewmen had to hold him down for the medics to complete their work. He now lay somewhat more peacefully near the starboard wall, with Lieutenant Conway keeping him occupied.
"We'll have to get him to the infirmary as soon as possible," Major Leggett mumbled to Clark, as he left the Midshipman. Blood stained his uniform, from countless emergency operations on the bridge crew. "The same for Commander Barnes. He's stable for now, but he lost quite a lot of blood and may still have internal injuries that we are unable to treat here."
"Our main priority is getting main power back online," Clark nodded to the Marine medic. "But as we can't get to the engineering sections, or contact anybody nearby, that's going to be difficult. It's the only way anybody is getting to the infirmary though."
"I understand that," Leggett nodded. "We'll try to keep them stable for as long as possible, but there's only so much we can do."
"Do your best, Major, that's all anyone can do," Clark said quietly, patting the Marine on the back reassuringly.
Leggett nodded, and turned around. "2nd Lieutenant Conway!" He called down to the woman, who looked up at him. "Broken leg I believe? You're next up." Carter helped her move over to a brighter position for the medic to take a look at her, and then took over her position to keep Waters company.
"You know, crawling around underneath consoles isn't generally advised when you've got a broken leg," Leggett said to her as he used a pair of scissors to slice through the leg of her trousers and took a look at her leg.
"Yeah," she said, wincing as he felt around a bit. "I'm one of those people who can't just sit around and do nothing though."
"Well last I heard you weren't a member of the Royal Engineering Corps," Leggett winked, pulling out a splint and a bandage.
"No, but I grew up on Cambridge with three brothers," she grinned. "Lightyears better than basic engineering training. You kinda get a knack for machinery and electronics in a situation like that."
"I see," Leggett said. "This isn't too serious, but it needs a splint. Try to hold still, this may hurt a bit." She winced as he placed the splint against her leg, and tightly pulled the bandage around it, tying it firmly into place. He looked impressed at her silence.
"Three brothers," she reminded him with a wink.
"Ah yes," he nodded. "Try not to put any pressure on it, as in, don't stand up and start doing things. When things have calmed down a bit, head to the infirmary and get a cast on it. Doctor's orders."
"Aye aye, doc," she mock saluted him. He nodded and got to his feet, moving off to help another wounded crew member. She slid on her back and got back to work on the console she had been working on before, ignoring the scolding glance of Leggett as she did so. She picked up a screwdriver and began poking around at the wires, looking for some way of routing power to the console from elsewhere in the ship. She was quite surprised when she was forced to quickly withdraw her hands and cover her eyes as sparks erupted from the exposed circuitry.
The ship groaned, and the familiar whirring sound of the air circulation systems kicked in. People across the bridge cheered at the welcome sound, and almost immediately the smokey air began to clear and was replaced with fresher, cleaner air. Shortly afterwards, the dull white glow of the basic emergency lights flickered to life, though a couple of bulbs popped in the process.
"Well done Conway!" Clark said, immediately running over to her. She slid out from underneath the console with a confused expression on her face.
"It wasn't me sir," she protested. "Came on by itself. Must have been the engineers."
Clark nodded and reached over to the intercom, lifting it to his ear.
"Engineering, con, please respond," he said. He waited, not expecting much, and was relieved when a voice promptly came through the speaker.
"Con, engineering, we hear you loud and clear, over," a pleased voice responded.
"Excellent job guys, but we need an urgent status report," Clark said, over the noise of the celebrating crew members.
"Con, we have only re-established emergency power batteries," the engineer said, his jubilation tempered. "Emergency lights, life support systems and a few other auxiliary systems are all we've got right now. We are getting no response from the main power plant, so primary systems are out until further notice. Now that the airlocks work again we're sending our people out in EV suits to determine structural integrity, so we should know how bad the damage is shortly."
"Understood engineering," Clark said. "Just keep up the good work. Brigadier Rogers has one of his teams down there working on opening the engineering blast doors, shouldn't be long now. Can you get elevators working?"
"The elevator system is under automatic lockdown," the engineer responded. "With uncertain structural integrity you just can't risk it -- the car could just fly into space halfway down. They don't have any power at present anyway. I'm afraid you're going to have to get around on foot for the time being."
"Understood," Clark said. "Con out." He placed the communicator back on its clip and immediately lifted it up again. His voice echoed throughout the ship, on all decks and in all rooms. "All hands, this is the con. Please try to remain calm and stay where you are. Marines are conducting a ship-wide headcount to assess casualties and injuries. Conserve your use of any powered systems until the main power plant can be brought back into operation. Over."
He replaced the communicator and looked around at Major Leggett. "Think you can get any of these injured people to the infirmary now Major?"
"Not without elevators sir," Leggett shook his head. "Trying to carry someone in Richards' condition up a ladder would be a death sentence."
"Right," Clark sighed. "We'll just have to wait a while longer then."
Outside the ship, one of the airlock doors opened, and a man in an environmental suit stepped out. He held on to a rail and swung his legs around, making sure they were planted on the metal hull before activating his magnetic boots. Confident that all his equipment was functioning properly, he allowed the airlock door to shut again, and began ponderously making his way across the massive hull, one step at a time. All he could hear in this silent environment was his breathe, and the environmental suit pumping air into his helmet. Considering he was in the largest expanse of nothingness known to exist, he felt awfully claustrophobic...
Fifteen minutes of walking was all it took for him to find the cause of their troubles. He was confused to see that the hull seemed to end a few metres in front of him, and kept walking to see what was going on. A few steps later, he saw it.
A great, charred hole, cut clean through the enormous vessel as though it had always been there. In the distance he could see hundreds of decks exposed to space, and a few unfortunate souls floating dead in the gap that was left behind. There was little debris, indicating that whatever had hit them had literally vapourised a massive chunk of the ship. He couldn't begin to imagine what the casualties were like, with so much of the ship simply 'gone'. Nor what kind of a weapon was capable of causing such damage.
He had found all he needed. He turned to make his way back, and noticed something out of the corner of his eye. He looked up, and saw a small green ship, floating motionless in the distance. Two small wings jutted out of its main body, with what appeared to be vulnerable engine nacelles mounted on the ends. Their mysterious attacker perhaps? Perhaps. It looked a little too small, however. Whatever beam of energy had hit the Northampton would have been so large as to have completely engulfed the smaller ship, and that ship didn't seem to have any weapons emitter big enough to forge such a beam. Nevertheless, it was an interesting discovery. He began making his way back to the airlock to report his findings...
Meanwhile, shortly before emergency power was brought online, six Royal Marines under Brigadier Rogers conducted a brisk and efficient deck-by-deck search of the ship. One of many such teams, this one was led by the Brigadier himself, and was chiefly establishing the whereabouts of the more senior officers of the vessel. The flashlights on the ends of their assault rifles made it slightly easier to see, but with all the smoke that was flooding the corridors visibility was not great anyway. They checked every room they passed as they made their way through the narrow corridors, making a note of everybody they found on electronic data pads before moving on. Their objective was securing the ship and protecting its crew, and that meant containing all unnecessary personnel until the crisis was over to make sure their casualty report was as accurate as possible and to keep them out of harms way.
The five Kirisubans materialised in the darkness a corridor away from this team. The darkness was just as pervasive here as everywhere else on the ship, and the air was just as thin and smokey. The creaking noises were louder here than on the bridge, so loud that it was almost like being inside a giant whale. In the distance they could hear footsteps approaching, as heavy boots clanged down on metal decks. Beams of light became visible, waving around as though searching for something. The source of those beams suddenly became apparent, as the six Marines came into view as they turned the corner. They saw the aliens standing further down the corridor and looked somewhat confused for a split second. They immediately activated their weapons and took combat positions, aiming their powerful Gauss-like rifles at the intruders.
"DROP YOUR WEAPONS AND PUT YOUR HANDS ON YOUR HEADS! DO IT NOW!" one of the Marines called down the corridor in a deep, authoritative, uncompromising voice. Brigadier Rogers presumably. The other Marines followed suit and called similarly loud and aggressive warnings down the corridor, in a textbook attempt to use shock, panic and fear to force a bloodless surrender in a surprise encounter such as this. They had no idea whether the aliens could even understand them, but they called their warnings regardless. Several of the Marines took up positions using the corner as cover, while the others dropped to their knees or lay in prone positions, all with their weapons locked firmly on the intruders. They waited for the aliens to make their move, but they probably wouldn't wait long. These were neither diplomats nor Navy commanders, they were soldiers through and through.
"drop our weapons. just who do they think we are. cowardly yabanjin" Megumi though as her all female team flattened themselves against the walls.
"I am Lt Megumi Miromuta from the Kirisuban exploration ship Yuki-on-na. We transported aboard to offer help and we also have your ship in our tractor beam. we are also towing you away from the asteroid field.
is is anyway to greet a rescuer?"
OOC: OK then, here's a tiny hint as to what's going to happen later on. The Yuki-on-na is going to be targeted for attack by the mysterious aggressors still hiding in the asteroid belt. The reason for why will become clear as things progress. How much damage the Yuki-on-na will take, if any at all, is entirely up to you, but I just wanted to check with you beforehand. It won't get hit by the same weapon as the Northampton did, nor will it be destroyed, so you don't have to worry about that sort of thing. But it would be good if it could take at least some damage, in order to introduce their intentions and capabilities. But as I say, it is up to you.
Well, they understand Bretonian at least, Brigadier Rogers thought to himself. He eyed the intruders carefully, making sure his flashlight aimed straight at their eyes. For invaders, they weren't particularly well armed. No armour, fairly thin clothing, simple pistols that didn't even seem to have sights... an unusual boarding party. With main power offline Rogers had no idea how the invaders had gained access to the ship, though it seemed likely they weren't alone.
"Reinforcements to sector six, deck four," Rogers said quietly into his radio. "We have an intruder alert; wide eyes and open ears. Over."
He made a simple hand gesture to one of the marines, who immediately turned and ran back down the corridor, disappearing behind the corridor and fading from earshot. The others remained in their positions, weapons at the ready and eyes on their targets. He looked around in relief as emergency power kicked in at last. The smoke cleared and the backup lights kicked in, improving visibility significantly. The Lieutenant Commander made an announcement over the intercom, which echoed around in these empty corridors, and then all was silent again except for the welcome humming of the air circulation systems.
"RESCUERS DON'T CARRY WEAPONS!" Rogers yelled down the corridor to the aliens. "FOR ALL I KNOW YOU CRIPPLED THIS SHIP! I AIN'T GONNA TELL YOU AGAIN -- DROP YOUR WEAPONS AND PUT YOUR HANDS ON YOUR HEAD, NOW!"
Lieutenant Corin was not having a fun time. The main engineering section was a mess, filled with smoke. Emergency klaxons went off everywhere, fires roared behind consoles and beneath the deck plating, providing even more illumination than the emergency lights. One of the two reactors on board the ship resided in this room, and it was presently offline as damage control crews fought with a liquid coolant leak and investigated the possibility of any cracks in the reactor casing.
The few monitors which had survived in this department were all full of emergency damage warnings, and Corin was beginning to wonder if any part of the ship had avoided taking damage. The secondary engineering department, where the other reactor resided, had not yet checked in with them and it was beginning to worry everybody. If the second reactor was damaged, and the crew in that area had not survived, then their condition could become a lot worse very quickly.
People ran around everywhere, making it seem busier than New London Centre at lunch hour. They desperately fought against computer errors, system overloads and hull breaches. Trying to micromanage a ship of this size, in this condition, without main power and with a damaged computer system was not an easy task.
Finally, Corin span around as he heard a loud clang. The main engineering blast door had been cut through, and several marines filed into the room, pleased to find that most of the engineers in this section had survived.
"Alright people, the door is open, we need damage control teams in sectors seven, eighteen, nineteen, twenty three and forty six on decks twenty through thirty-nine, on the double!" Corin yelled, pointing at the hole in the door. "Sub Lieutenant, get a team to secondary engineering and determine the status of the other reactor, NOW!"
"Aye sir," called back a sub-lieutenant, his face gashed. He gestured to two NCOs, grabbed a toolbox and sprinted past the marines and out of view.
"Sir, I wouldn't bother with that," a man called, stepping through the hole the marines had cut. He wore an EV suit without a helmet, his face dripping with sweat.
"Why not Midshipman?" Corin said, jogging over to him.
"Well sir, there's... well, a hole in the ship..." the Midshipman stammered, unsure of his wording.
"Yes I know, there are hull breaches all over the place, what's your point?" Corin said impatiently.
"No, sir, I mean... a big hole," the Midshipman shook his head. "Like, straight through the ship, sir."
"What? How big?" Corin snapped.
"Well, it's completely vapourised half of the crew quarters, the other engineering department, the primary torpedo bays... a lot of stuff, sir," the Midshipman said with a gulp.
"By the Divinity..." Corin gasped. "Thank god the emergency bulkheads worked. Casualties must be worse than I thought..."
"Lieutenant," another voice called over the substantial noise. One of the marines. Corin nodded at the man in the EV suit, who walked away to get changed. "Colonel Hicks, Royal Marines, checking in."
"Colonel, good to see you," Corin said. He moved to a console and began tapping away on the keyboard, trying to quickly write a subroutine to automatically have power bypass damaged lines. "Thanks for opening us up to the rest of the ship, but I'm quite busy here at the moment."
"I understand that Lieutenant," Hicks said. "Just to inform you that I'll be leaving two marines here, the rest of us are needed elsewhere."
"Understood, thanks," Corin nodded. He reached over to a communicator and put it to his ear. "Con, engineering -- damage is a bit worse than we first thought..."
"Kirisubans don't surrender under any circumstances either" Lt Miromuta replies. She takes the doctors comm badge of her jacket and throws it to Brigader Rogers.
"use this to talk to us when you see some sense. we are here to help you even if you are too dim to see it Anta Baka" she adds with a bit of venom and says 4 words in kirisuban.
the transporter beam picks them up and they vanish in columns of white sparking light returning to the ship...
"Captain!" Rogers called to one of the marines.
"Sir!" the Captain replied.
"Secure 'that'!" Rogers ordered him, pointing at the combadge.
"Yes sir!" the Captain said. His rifle aimed ahead he cautiously stepped forwards, gesturing to a Private to cover him. He approached the combadge and pulled out a small scanning device, holding it close to the thing. He studied the results and then looked up. "No sign of explosives sir. Looks to be a simple communicator."
"Right, confiscate it for the time being," Rogers nodded, turning around and holding his radio up to his mouth. "Colonel, cancel reinforcements order. Take your team on a sweep of the ship, see if any more aliens have gained footholds."
"Yes sir," the voice of Hicks came through the radio. "Everything alright up there sir?"
"Yes Colonel," Roger said. "Over."
He stepped forward, looking at the spot where the intruders had stood. They had used either a matter transporter or a dimensional phase shifter, though judging from the visible disintegration pattern it was the former. Either way they were gone now, though they could be anywhere else on the ship. With internal defences offline they would have to find out manually.
"Don't surrender, but they run away easy enough," Rogers snorted. "Attack our ship, board it with weapons in hand, then act surprised when challenged? Pfft."
"Nothing, Major, just talking to myself. Let's continue with our sweep," Rogers said. "Captain, take that thing up to the bridge and then rejoin us. Let those navy boys figure it out."
"Yes sir," the Captain nodded, and jogged off.
"Let's move out," Rogers ordered, with a sweeping hand gesture. The Marines continued moving through the corridors.
"I understand Lieutenant, thank you," Clark spoke with the engineering section over the intercom, clutching the communicator against his head in a very tense fashion. "When can you get the remaining reactor online? Right, OK. Con out."
He placed the communicator back down and turned around. The wounded crew members had all been tended to now, and both the marine medics now knelt over Midshipman Waters, trying to keep him as stable as they could until he could be moved. By now simply keeping him awake was becoming a challenge, as he had lost a lot of blood and apparently sustained a knock to the head, and kept drifting off.
2nd Lieutenant Conway was still underneath one of the consoles, trying to rewire some of the damaged circuitry and get it working again. This far out there was little chance of rescue, so they had to get home on their own. Occasionally she would yell out a curse word as she cut her fingers or trigger a spark of electricity, but she continued on without hesitation.
Commander Barnes was not in great shape, but he was semi-conscious, slumped in the command chair and occasionally uttering obscure orders in his dazed state. Blood stained his blackened uniform, but the medics had assured Clark that he was stable for the time being. With the Captain gone, Clark was pinning all his hopes on the Commander to recover. He'd never commanded a ship before, much less one in this condition, and he at least needed backup before he was confident of doing the right thing. Whatever had attacked them could still be out there, though they had no way of knowing either way. He would have preferred that they simply finish them off -- at least then he'd know what they planned.
"Lieutenant Commander Clark?" a voice called from the hole in the main blast door. Clark looked over his shoulder and nodded. "Captain Jones, Royal Marines. Brigadier Rogers sent me up here, to deliver this." The Captain stepped into the bridge and held out the combadge they had found in his palm.
"What is it?" Clark asked, picking it up carefully and looking it over in the dim light.
"It's not an explosive, I can tell you that much," Jones said. "Looks like it's a communicator."
"Where did you get this Captain?" Clark asked, looking up at the marine and narrowing his eyes.
"We had an intruder alert on deck 4," Jones told him. "We found a bunch of armed aliens. Tried to disarm them, but they ran off back to their ship with a transporter."
"I see," Clark said. "Don't you think it would be a good idea if you made sure there were no other intruders on board, Captain?"
"Yes, sir, Brigadier Rogers is already conducting a sweep now," Jones said. "I have to rejoin him now."
"Good," Clark nodded. "Thank you Captain, get going." Jones nodded and left the bridge.
Clark fingered the device in his hands curiously. It didn't seem to have any controls, at least none that he was aware of. "Chief, get over here a minute," he called over to Carter, who looked up and stepped over to him.
"This is an alien communicator of some kind, presumably off those who attacked us," Clark said, showing him the combadge. "I can only imagine that they left it here to discuss terms. See if you can figure out how to activate it will you?"
"You're not thinking of surrender are you sir?" Carter asked with concern as he took the device.
"Not at all," Clark said. He glanced down to the lower tier at the body of the Captain, knowing how he would have reacted to such a suggestion. "But it may buy us some time. Corin nearly has one of the main reactors ready for reactivation. If we can hold the aliens off until we get weapons back, we'll have a chance."
"Didn't Corin say we'd lost most of the torpedo bays though?" Carter asked.
"Yes, but not all of them," Clark said quietly. "And we still have the main flak cannon, and secondary particle blasters. They may have a weapon that can take us out in one shot, but we're not going down without a fight."
"I see sir," Carter said, gulping. "Well, I'll get to work on this right away."
He clasped the device in his hands, and it made a bleeping sound. Curious, he and Clark looked down at it. Carter tapped it with his finger and it bleeped again.
"Looks like I figured it out sir," Carter said smugly.
"Indeed..." Clark nodded. He took the device off Carter again and stepped to the centre of the bridge, standing confidently. He gave the device a tap and held it up to his face, unsure of its range.
"I am Lieutenant Commander Clark, second officer of Her Majesty's Ship Northampton," Clark announced into the device. "To the commanding officer of the hostile vessel. We are ready to discuss the terms of our surrender." He paused briefly, looking around at the surprised faces of the nearby crew, and then held the device up again. "Respond, over."
"I am Lieutenant Commander Clark, second officer of Her Majesty's Ship Northampton," Clark announced into the device. "To the commanding officer of the hostile vessel. We are ready to discuss the terms of our surrender." He paused briefly, looking around at the surprised faces of the nearby crew, and then held the device up again. "Respond, over."
Captain Sato heard this transmission on the Yuki-on-na bridge, considered it briefly and she replied in english.
"Lt Commander Clark, this is Captain Chigusa Sato commanding the Kirisuban Exploration Vessel 'Yuki-on-na'.
its not necessary to discuss surrender terms since we never attacked you or have hostile intentions towards your ship or your crew.
we found you drifting after registering a massive energy burst near the asteroid field and currently have you under tow.
Despite what Brigadier Rogers may have told you we offered to help and we came armed since we wouldn't know what we would find. its standard procedure when another ships comms are down.
if you want assistance we will transport again with a doctor and our chief engineer. However if we are attacked we will respond in kind since we have to defend our honour which has been slighted once already"
ooc: Kirisubans follow the code of Bushido and everything they've done so far has been consistant with it. they never hand over a weapon but they sometimes go unarmed to a ship or a planet.
"Yeah, right," Carter snorted. "And Santa is real too!"
"You don't believe them Chief?" Clark asked.
"No sir," Carter shook his head. "We get attacked, then these guys conveniently show up straight afterwards? Offering help sounds like a good way of getting onto the ship without resistance if you ask me. We already caught them on board with weapons once..."
"Perhaps," Clark said thoughtfully. "Conway, what do you think?"
"With all due respect sir, I think you should be cautious," Conway said from her position on the floor. "We don't have sensor arrays online nor any means of defending ourselves at present. We have no way of knowing what kind of ship is out there, nor whether she was the one that attacked us or not."
Clark thought silently for a while, occasionally glancing at Barnes and hoping he would wake up. Though it wasn't exactly saying much, he had heaps more command and combat experience than he did. He'd know what to do. He and Harris had served together since before Clark was even out of high school, and they knew how things worked out here. Shame they were no help at the moment. "Alright, we'll play along with them for a while."
"Sir?" Carter spluttered.
"Obviously we'll demand that they leave their weapons behind," Clark reassured Carter. "That's standard procedure anyway. Corin will continue working to re-establish partial main power and our offensive capabilities. If and when we have sensors back, we can figure out what's going on with more certainty. In the meantime, we need to keep them placated and draw this out for as long as we can. We're in no condition for a fight at the moment."
He shook his head, hoping he was making the right decision, and moved across the bridge to the communications station. He lifted up the transceiver and held it to his face.
"Barracks, conn," his voice echoed throughout the ship, or at least what was left of it. "We need a marine squadron on the bridge, repeat, a marine squadron to the bridge ASAP. Over." He hooked the communicator back again and turned around. "Just in case."
"Reassuring..." Carter said. "Mind if I make myself scarce, 'just in case'?"
"Stow it Chief," Clark sighed. He looked over his shoulder as six Royal Marines filed into the bridge, taking relaxed guard positions around the back of the room. They were quick, that much was certain. He fingered his holstered sidearm nervously, hoping it wouldn't be needed.
"Alright Captain Sato," Clark spoke into the alien communicator once more. "We would be glad to accept your 'assistance'. As this is a warship, it is standard procedure for non-military personnel to remain unarmed for the duration of their stay, as I'm sure you can understand, and this procedure is no less valid now. With this in mind, you may transport to our ship at your leisure."
"understood" Captain Sato replied but "but if anything happens to our officers you'll regret being born. I'll send our Ships Doctor and an Engineer to your bridge and this time don't point guns at them.
Dr Emiko Fujimoto and Keiko Omura are summoned to the Captains ready room and are told to be carefull. the doctor being the eldest at 28 years is given command of the mission and they transport directly to the bridge unarmed as promised.
the doctor has a large medical kit slung over her shoulder and the engineer has a slightly slimmer engineering kit. both are wearing the alternate uniform of the red jacket, black skirt and tall boots and both have a comm badge.
they also both have long black hair, olive skin and the classic asian looks.
"They just threatened a Bretonian officer and you're still going to let them on board?" Carter protested.
"Yeah," Clark nodded. "Keep your friends close, and all that."
"Uh huh," Carter scowled at him, before remembering they were on duty. "Well, let's just hope that the rumours about Marines always being drunk are false, hmm? Sir."
"If you have a problem with my decisions Chief, file a formal complaint in the ship's log," Clark said firmly. "But until the Commander recovers I'm in command, so stow the attitude."
"Yes, sir," Carter pouted.
"We need to be capable of achieving a firing solution as soon as main power is restored, Chief," Clark said, changing the subject and giving him something to do to keep him out of the way. "I need you to make sure all of the corresponding control circuits, consoles and targeting sensors are hooked up and ready to fly ASAP."
"But that'll... ugh, aye sir," Carter grumbled. He gave the Lieutenant Commander a rather unpleasant glare, before grabbing a toolbox and skulking through the hole in the blast door. Clark watched him leave, and gestured to the marines to be ready. A high-pitched whining sound attracted his attention to the rear open space of the bridge, where he saw two figures materialising. Presumably their invited aggressors, the Kirisubans. Neither seemed to be armed, but both carried boxes of unknown contents.
"I am Lieutenant Commander Clark," Clark said, holding his hand up to calm the alarmed marines, who desperately wanted to point weapons at the visitors. "Welcome to what is left of the Northampton."
In spite of her involvement with the Hyacombe Incident and the ex-Commodore Yates, not to mention the destruction of her previous ship the HMS Shropshire, Captain Jennifer Jelico had been exonerated from any guilt and given command of a newer Coventry-class cruiser, the HMS Cardiff. Although most of her bridge crew survived the battle above the Hyacombe homeworld, almost three quarters of the rest of the crew perished when the entire rear half of the Shropshire was obliterated, forcing the rest of them into lifeboats. The event still haunted her, and she often found it affecting her command decisions. Even though the resulting investigation found that she was not at fault, she wondered if it was an error in her judgement that saw two hundred and fifty people killed, and often found herself questioning her own orders. The thought of relieving herself from duty frequently came to mind.
Her bridge crew seemed to have gotten over it for the most part, though young Lieutenant Thrace - now a Lieutenant Commander - seemed to lack some of the energy he once had. He took his work much more seriously, and seemed to share her reluctance to engage in exploration once again. She wasn't sure whether that was a good thing or not. He once told her that he'd even considered resigning his commission after the Hyacombe Incident, though she was pleased that he had decided against it.
Fortunately, the Cardiff had not yet been assigned to anything particularly dangerous, nor had she encountered any threats. Being posted to guard duty on the outer rim of the Birmingham system for two years was rarely considered to be an exciting task, and although most captains would shun the post she welcomed it. It was a welcome relief to the dangers of unexplored extra-Bretonian space. No alien ships threatened their survival, pirates weren't interested in a place lacking any trade routes, and there weren't even any terrorists operating in the area. She became quite comfortable with the posting, so it was with some measure of dismay that she had now taken the ship outside of Bretonian space, as per her orders to join the search for the HMS Northampton. They were now very far away from the safety of the Great Barrier, deep in unclaimed space where anything could happen.
The bridge of the Cardiff was much less militaristic than that of a Victoria-class Battleship. A lick of paint made all the difference; the walls were a soothing shade of beige, the soft white lights provided eye-friendly illumination, and the consoles dotted all over the place were housed in rounded plasticrete casing. Overall it felt like a much less imposing, and a much more relaxing, place. It was smaller than the bridge of a Battleship as well, and only a single tier, which made it feel cosier somehow. By no means was it a cruise liner, though - the seats were still uncomfortable, and it was still clearly a ship of war.
Two civilians had been assigned to the ship for this particular mission, a decision which Jelico had officially protested in her formal log. One was an accomplished scientist and sensor analyst, another was a scientist on the side but a diplomat first and foremost. Jelico did not feel it necessary nor appropriate to station two civilians on a warship, especially as she knew her crew were capable of functioning without help, but the BRAF was far from a democracy. So, reluctantly, she tolerated their presence. But each time they came onto the bridge - an act she had repeatedly told them not to do - she couldn't help but clench her fists and grit her teeth as a sense of profound frustration crept over her.
"Captain Jelico!" a voice called to her from the main bridge entrance. That high-pitched male voice could only be that of Jack Page, the boffin. He was the typical geek, with big glasses, big hair, skin problems and an attitude problem. How he had managed to get himself stationed aboard a warship she had no idea, but she had few options when it came to discipline over a civilian.
"Mr. Page, I have repeatedly told you not to come to the bridge without authorisation," Jelico sighed, turning her chair around to face him. "This is a restricted area. Please don't force me to confine you to your bunk."
"Huh? Whatever, whatever, and it's Dr. Page," Page dismissed her request with the wave of a hand and corrected her address in a single sentence. Jelico was certain that her veins were going to explode from her forehead in a gory shower of blood. But she gripped the arms of her chair tightly and kept her cool.
"Using a modulated transceiver ionic sensor array we have determined that the ionised..." Page began to ramble on.
"Mr... Dr. Page, please skip the science lesson and get to the point," Jelico interrupted him.
"Oh yes, sorry," Page sighed. "I forgot you were in the military. I'll try and dumb it down as much as our language allows. We - or rather, I - have managed to detect the trail of a Bretonian ship using its advanced cruise drive. We can follow the trail to find the ship!"
"Dr. Page, as far as I am aware that is not possible," Jelico said with a frown. She would have thought someone so self-admittedly clever would know at least that.
"Correction, Captain - wasn't possible," Page said smugly. "I have re-modulated your sensor packages to actively scan into pha..."
"Dr. Page, please!" Jelico snapped. "I don't need to know the details. Just... just tell Lieutenant Commander Thrace the heading to follow."
"Fine," Page said with a sigh. He looked as though he wanted to explain the exact details of his achievement, probably to gloat. He stepped down to the main deck and walked over to the main helm, where Thrace sat patiently looking at the civilian.
"Mr. Thrace..." the doctor began.
"That's Lieutenant Commander Thrace," Thrace corrected Page mockingly. Page scowled at the officer, and Jelico hid a smile.
"My sincere apologies, Lieutenant Commander," Page muttered. "You will need to set a course at heading 184 mark 5, travel for point three parsecs and then adopt a course of 089 mark 4. That will intersect with and then follow the trail. I will give you further directions when we can detect more of the trail."
"Proceed Commander," Jelico nodded. "70% cruise speed. Let's bring them home." She stood up and pulled a communicator from its hold on the wall. "Engine room, Con; we need power to the cruise engines."
The average sized ship began to glow green-blue slightly, shimmering with light and energy. Her numerous weapons turrets began to retract into her body to avoid damage. Without warning, she suddenly streaked off into the distance, disappearing from view as she phased out of normal space. She was on her way.
Dr Emiko Fujimoto and Keiko Omura bowed to show they were unarmed and the kirisuban officers were all business.
"Lt Commander Clark, I am Dr Emiko Fujimoto and my colleague is Chief Engineer Keiko Omura.
We are here to help as my Captain has already said. Now where are your injured?"
Keiko then said "if you can show me the problem i can make a start on your ships systems"
on board the Yuki-on-na Captain Sato was fuming.
'how dare they accuse us of attacking their ship' she thinks as she contemplates the asteroid field that they're towing the Northhampton away from..
IC: They had such unusual names, these Kirisubans. Clark wasn't sure he would be able to pronounce them, but he gave it a good go never-the-less. "Our wounded, Doctor Fujimoto, are everywhere, as you can see," he said. "As are our technical problems, Chief Omura. Our 'mysterious' attackers did a very thorough job."
He reached over to the communicator and pulled it to his ear, speaking into it quickly. "Engineering, conn. Are you nearly ready down there?"
"Conn, engineering. Not quite sir," Lieutenant Corin's voice came back. "We're still making final checks. We could use some more arms down here though."
"You'll get some Lieutenant. Conn out," Clark replaced the communicator and turned around. "If you want to be of assistance, Chief Omura, our engineering teams are working to restore partial main power and they could use some assistance." Clark nodded to one of the marines. "This soldier will escort you to the reactor room."
The marine gestured for the hole in the door and lead Omura off the bridge, into the bowels of the ship.
"And Doctor, we can never have too many medical staff," Clark said, looking to the doctor. "It would be very much appreciated if you could use your ship's transporters to move yourself and our First Officer to the infirmary."
Another marine was beckoned over.
"Corporal Carpenter here will go with you to... explain your presence," Clark said.
A short while later in the reactor room, engineering staff were still bolting around the place in their torn, blackened uniforms, carrying heavy equipment, making repairs to various systems. The injured here were being treated at last by staff from the infirmary who had finally been able to make their way down. Burns, lacerations, head injuries and shrapnel were the order of the day here.
The Kirisuban officer was lead through the commotion that filled the enormous room, while the marine tried to locate Lieutenant Corin in the confusion. Finally he found him, standing with three other officers trying to shift some heavy metal scaffolding from the top of a damaged computer display. The marine shouldered his weapon and left the Kirisuban momentarily to rush to their assistance. With an almighty push, the group of men managed to shove the metal girder onto the deck with a clang.
"Thanks Corporal," Corin said, panting and wiping his dirty hands on his uniform. "What's the problem?"
"Lieutenant Corin, this is Chief Engineer Omura," the marine said, grasping his rifle once again. "An alien. Second officer allowed 'em on board to help with stuff."
"I see," Corin said, looking the woman over for a moment with a suspicious gaze. "Very well."
The marine nodded and moved to the entrance of the room to stay out of the way, and Corin hurriedly began to move them both over to another section of the room.
"This is a type two self-sustaining nuclear fusion reactor. The Northampton is one of the few military vessels to incorporate a fusion reactor. Which is great, because it won't explode like an old MOX reactor, and it'll output a hell of a lot more power, but it sucks as it's as sensitive as my teenage daughter," Corin explained to her as briefly as he could, speaking quickly and often distracting himself with various computer displays. He pointed at the enormous, circular object that dominated the huge room, and the object that most of the engineers seemed to be focused on. "The magnetic plasma confinement fields suffered an integrity collapse when our main power grid was overloaded, and the reactor instantly shut down. My teams have already run structural integrity and stress tests on the reactor containment vessel, and we are already charging the doughnut now. What we need to do is to run final tests on the magnetic confinement fields, before flooding the beast with plasma and bringing the reactor up to 150 million kelvin. Then we can start pouring deuterium and tritium in there and... well, we'll see what happens, won't we? You got that?"
He tapped some buttons on a computer keyboard and then yelled some orders in bizarre shorthand to another group of engineers below, before reaching down and lifting up a toolbox, handing it to the Kirisuban.
"Ordinarily I wouldn't let you anywhere near this thing, or this room, but at the moment I need every pair of arms I can find," Corin spluttered. "I'd appreciate it if you could monitor and stabilise the magnetic confinement fields, keep an eye on the power transfer rate, and make sure the main power grid doesn't suffer from any overloads when the juice starts seepin' through 'em." He pointed at a medium-sized, largely abandoned terminal nearby. "Power grid maintenance station. The rest is... well, we're going to have to wing it 'till the main computer is restored. Yell if you need anything."
He jumped down without another word and grabbed a plasma torch off a younger engineer, yelling at him and pushing him to one side to do the work himself, leaving the Kirisuban to do three things at once. Though she seemed to have got off lightly, as the others seemed to have more jobs than that.
Dr Fujimoto cast her gaze round the bridge and says "I think I'll better start here and intraship beaming is quite difficult. if you get it wrong you'll materilise half way in the floor or a bulk head and I doubt you'd like us scanning your ship so we can map it for that purpose"
She moves over to the first officer and opens her case taking out a medical tricorder, opens it and takes some readings.
as the device beeps and some lights flash she frowns.
"your first officer should recover once I'm finished with him" she says cooly and takes out another device placing it on his head. the device looked like a ladies headband only more technical looking.
"he's got major head trauma and the cortical stimulator should repair the damage in about half an hour. I'm not detecting any internal bleeding so the signs are good.
She also injected him with a hypospray and said "this will keep him awake while the treatment continues".
She then went onto the other wounded officers on the bridge setting a broken leg here with a bone regenerator and using a tissue regenerator to deal with some deep cuts and second degree burns.
Keiko Omura rolled her eyes when she seen the fusion reactor and she said "the last time I seen one of these was on the IKS Osaka, a museum ship over 100 years old but we are trained to fix them all the same"
She then looked through the tool box and frowned opening her own tool kit and taking out an engineering tricorder and mapping the reactor finding it not much different from the old style fusion reactors she had tended while she was in Exploration Fleet acadamy. It would be an easy job to fix this and she got to work as if she had tended this reactor all her life..
Something in the asteroid belt stirred slightly. Rocks flew out of the belt as though hit by some great force, spinning off into the cosmos. Energy signs began to intensify to enormous levels, and a low-level gravity well began to become visible on sensors. And then something smashed its way out of the asteroid belt, ignoring the huge rocks impacting with its hull as though the ship's owners didn't care. Over sixty kilometres long, an enormous ship emerged from hiding in the belt, proceeding at high sublight speeds directly towards the two ships gradually moving away. The ship looked like it had been built to take a heavy beating, and almost half of its entire length consisted of an enormous barrel for some kind of high-powered particle beam weapon, presumably capable of firing over extreme ranges. It was essentially just a flying weapon.
The ship was accompanied out of the belt by tens of thousands of tiny organic objects, somehow using biochemical reactions to propel themselves alongside the craft. A more detailed scan of the massive ship would show that it was filled with the strange creatures, and nothing else. Its hull was dissolved in places by some kind of chemical reaction, with gaping hopes showing in numerous non-vital areas. Much of the ship had been exposed to vacuum. The ship itself was old, very old, and presumably these creatures were not its original crew.
The primary weapon of the ship did not power up this time. Neither did any of the smaller turreted weapons on its aft section. Instead, the organic creatures flew straight at the small Kirisuban vessel in a suicidal run at its shields. They seemed drawn to the ship like it was a magnet, and they caught up with it very quickly. The brown organic 'blobs' impacted with the shields, but instead of being killed they attached themselves to the energy bubble, and began to drain its power, very quickly. And as the power was drained, the organic blobs grew ever larger and absorbed even more power.
"Hey, well if this was an antimatter reactor we'd have 'sploded when the confinement fields failed!" Corin said, overhearing the mutterings of the alien. "Besides, this thing'll power five ships this size, and won't blow us up if anythin' goes wrong. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways!"
"Sir, the doughnut is charged and magnetic confinement fields are at full integrity!" an engineer yelled up at him.
"That's it!" Corin said. "Initiating the neutral particle beam. Let's heat 'er up!" He began typing on the computer, starting up various automated programs and beginning the reactor activation sequence.
The enormous room began to vibrate slightly, lose deck plates rattling in an irritating fashion, as the reactor let out a deep humming sound. Engineers rushed to various monitoring stations to watch the various streams of data being fed to them, making sure nothing went wrong.
"10 million kelvin!" an engineer called.
"We should have main power online in a jifffy," Corin said to the alien officer. "Keep an eye on the power transfer rates. Thanks for your help."
"all part of the service" Keiko replied as she ran her engineering scanner and monitored the power build up.
Captain Sato's tactical officer picked up the emerging ship and its escorts and told her Captain.
"on screen" she ordered and seen a ship larger than anything she's seen before.
"red alert. raise shields and cut the tractor beam" she said as the small creatures impacted on their shields.
"shields down to 80% and falling fast" she was told and Chigusa made a bold decison.
"remodulate the shields and see if that shakes them off" she ordered..
"all part of the service" Keiko replied as she ran her engineering scanner and monitored the power build up.
Captain Sato's tactical officer picked up the emerging ship and its escorts and told her Captain.
"on screen" she ordered and seen a ship larger than anything she's seen before.
"red alert. raise shields and cut the tractor beam" she said as the small creatures impacted on their shields.
"shields down to 80% and falling fast" she was told and Chigusa made a bold decison.
"remodulate the shields and see if that shakes them off" she ordered..
Several notepads and PDAs clanged down to the deck plating as the irritating vibrations began to rattle the furniture, knocking equipment down and making it difficult to avoid biting one's tongue. Engineers grasped on to computer terminals to steady themselves as they monitored the various conditions that were occurring within the reactor. Some lower ranking engineers scurried about below as best they could making minor repairs to related systems, in an effort to get everything finished before things started exploding.
"Are the confinement fields holding?" Corin yelled across the room.
"For the moment sir!" an engineer shouted back. "No leakage detected!"
"Good!" Corin shouted. "Reactor temperature approaching 50 million kelvin..."
"Power reserves are down to 20% sir, if this attempt doesn't work we won't get another!" an engineer shouted.
"That's all we need crewman, that's all we need..." Corin said, patting the reactor's outer casing gently. "She'll come back to life. Inform the conn that they'll have their offensive capabilities and sublight engines back online in a matter of minutes."
Meanwhile the creatures swarmed around the Kirisuban ship, almost completely obscuring the small craft. They ignored the larger Bretonian vessel altogether, as though it weren't even there. The flaring shields of the Kirisuban craft changed their frequency suddenly, but the creatures did not seem to notice. They continued growing in size and draining power at an increasingly high rate.
Captain Sato swore in Kirisuban as she looked over the display on the tactical station. The shields were still being drained and even faster than before.
She only had one option left before she was honour bound to self distruct. No captain of the exploration fleet had their ship captured before and she wasn't going to break that tradition.
"Set course for the the sun and enter its corona" she ordered as the helm officer obeyed without question.
If this didn't work the Yuki-on-na would be so much space debris one way or another...
The rattling finally eased, until stopping completely. Several engineers rubbed their sore jaws, having literally rattled their teeth together, and checked several instruments. They did not need to be told what had happened - the emergency lights shut down, and were instantly replaced by the softer, brighter primary lights. Dormant consoles came back to life, the air felt a little warmer and cleaner, sparks flew from damaged circuits... the ship came back to life. The large room had stopped shaking and buzzing and roaring, and was instead filled with the relaxing hum of a functional reactor.
"We've achieved 150 million kelvin sir," an engineer said, trying not to shout out of habit. "The reaction is self-sustaining. Power transfer rates... nominal."
"Excellent," Corin said. He reached over to a nearby communicator and held it up. "Conn, engineering. Main power is at your discretion."
"Good job Mr. Corin," Clark said. "Energy sheath?"
"No sir," Corin's voice said. "That big hole in our belly has caused significant damage to the array. We'll need months in drydock to get those back. You do have weapons - whichever weapons are still undamaged anyway - and sublight engines."
"Good work," Clark said. He put the communicator down and strode with renewed confidence to the centre of the bridge. It showed. The lighting was bright again, the ruined blast doors buzzed and groaned as they tried to open automatically, and computers that had been inactive were active once again. The windows that made up the front of the two-tier bridge began to lose their condensation layer as the room heated up to more tolerable levels, and the air became more pleasant. Thanks to the Kirisuban doctor many of the bridge officers were either stable or on their feet, aside from Commander Barnes who remained in a dazed state, having lost a lot of blood inside and out. Clark glanced down to the lower level, at the body bag that contained Captain Harris, and knew what he had to do.
"All hands, man your posts. Lieutenant Conway, take the weapons station please," Clark said. "Sound general quarters!"
Conway was now on her feet, if uneasy, thanks to the administrations of the Kirisuban doctor. As the bellowing battle alert klaxons roared, she nodded and hurriedly sat down at Clark's normal post. Studying the semi-operational computer controls for a moment, she brushed some dust, metal fragments and broken circuitry from them and switched the whole thing on. A large computer monitor on the wall became illuminated, displaying a three-dimensional version of a radar with the Northampton in the middle - she called it a 'spheredar', though it hadn't really caught on with anybody else. This was the first time she'd used tactical controls since her training, and she couldn't help but worry that she might have forgotten something. Nevertheless, she began working at the controls.
"Target acquisition - lock on to whatever ship is out there, and return fire," Clark ordered Conway firmly, picking up the communicator again. "Weapons, conn. I need a firing solution in under one minute. Get that flak turret ready."
"Sir," Conway said. "We are picking up two ships. One of them is nearby, but heading off. The other one is very large, emerging from the asteroid belt. Tactical analysis suggests that the smaller craft would not be capable of inflicting this level of damage on this class of battleship. But the larger one... wait... we are also seeing thousands of smaller objects..."
"Asteroids?" Clark asked.
"I don't think so... they're moving under their own power. Straight towards us!"
The Kirisuban ship didn't get more than a few kilometres. Almost as soon as the main engines of the Bretonian battleship came back online and power levels soared, did the creatures voluntarily abandon the Kirisuban ship and flocked towards the larger vessel as though a morsel of food had been dropped on it. With no shields, it was a simple matter for the creatures to splat against the Northampton's hull and begin their nefarious work. Some of them began to dissolve the thick armour plating as though it were paper, using some kind of secreted chemical substance to burn their way into the ship. Others found more convenient access points where the hull had already been breached. A few hung around near the engines, fixing themselves to them and draining the exhaust energy. The rest found exposed circuitry and power transfer conductors, and began sapping energy from them. Within seconds the large ship was covered in the creatures, and its obscured engines stopped working again.
Captain Sato was both relieved and worried at the same time.
Her ship was safe but her CMO and Chief Engineer were on the Northhampton.
She hit her comm badge and said knowing that they still had the other comm badge over there "Northhampton, those lifeforms attacking you have already tried to attack us.
They latched onto our shields and nearly drained them. At the moment they are eating into your ships hull. Kill your main power before they get too powerful to deal with.
They seem to consume energy from what my science officer can figure out and the more power they get the more powerful they get.
I'm working on a solution and we may well have to fire on you to deal with them"
"Oh now what?!" Corin spluttered, slamming his fist against the computer. All the lights shut down again, all the computer screens shut down, and the controls became useless. "Carpenter! Did you trip a security measure again? Did we overload? What?"
"Don't look at me sir!" a voice came from the darkness. Corin frowned. Obviously he couldn't look at him - it was pitch black.
"Very funny Carpenter," he muttered. The reactor was still humming away, there was clearly nothing wrong with it - any malfunctions or breeches in the confinement field would immediately cause the reactions to stop and the reactor to shut down. But it was still ticking over quite nicely. Yet they had lost all power to everything, including emergency backups, and he couldn't figure out why.
"Lieutenant!" a voice shouted. Someone activated a flashlight on the other side of the room and panned it around until it illuminated Corin, and then the individual jogged over to him. Looked like one of the marines, which made sense. "What's going on?"
"I have no idea," Corin shrugged. "The reactor is still working fine as far as I can tell, but we just aren't getting any power. Jason! Get a flashlight and check the conductors!"
There was a crash as somebody walked into something, and then a second flashlight came on. Jason Carpenter jogged to the reactor and climbed down beneath the deck, where he stayed for quite some time. The marines meanwhile had activated all their flashlights, providing a bare amount of illumination.
"I'm sure we'll have this fixed in a flash," Corin reassured their alien guest. "Whatever this is..."
Carpenter and his flashlight reappeared from beneath the decks a few moments later and jogged over to where Corin was standing, in the spotlight of a marine flashlight.
"I can't find any breaks in the conductors sir," Carpenter said, panting. "The power's going through them, it's just... not reaching any of our systems. And the emergency batteries were drained completely a few moments ago, which obviously shouldn't have happened."
"So, the reactor's online and everything's working," Corin thought out loud. "But we aren't getting any of the power, and we have no further control as a result. Something draining the power? Something external?"
"I'd suggest you contact the bridge and see if they know what's going on, but that's easier said than done," Carpenter sighed.
"Maybe, but that's a good idea," Corin nodded. "Colonel Hicks, would you be so kind as to assign a couple of escorts to Warrant Officer Carpenter here?"
"Sure, nothin' better to do," Hicks said, looking over his shoulder. He pointed at two of his men one after the other and gestured at the naval officer. "You, you, with him." They nodded and stepped closer to Carpenter.
"Jason, take a couple of junior engineers with you, and see if you can't find anything that might be causing this on the way, will ya," Corin said.
Carpenter nodded. "Yes sir." He gestured at a couple of idle Junior Seamen - who had nothing better to be doing without access to computers - and hurriedly made his way out of the room. It was fortunate that the marines had cut a hole through the huge blast doors that guarded the entrance to the reactor room, otherwise they'd have been stuck there once again.
The corridors were dark and chilly once more. The air was already beginning to grow stale, and this time there was no available emergency power to replace the oxygen. Three flashlights panned around the bare metal walls as the five Bretonians carefully wandered through the corridors, looking for the bridge and whatever caused this problem. Their footsteps echoed down the long metal tunnels, but they were not the only sounds to be heard. Disturbing groans haunted them. The ship's hull groaned and creaked as though under some kind of stress, but those were not the only groans to be heard. Some of the noises were distinctly alien to them. Nevertheless, they had jobs to do and they intended to do them.
"Wait!" one of the Junior Seamen called out to the team. "What did this..." He grabbed Carpenter's flashlight and dropped to his knees, investigating the lower wall on their right. A power transfer conductor was exposed, and something had eaten away at the bulkhead that normally covered it. He reached forwards tentatively and touched it.
The screams he came out with blocked out all the other sounds they could hear. The young man jumped to his feet and slammed his back against the opposite wall, waving his hand in agony. He tried to grab it with his other hand, but then his other hand began searing with pain as well. His colleagues desperately tried to calm him down and hold him still as they looked at his hands. The other Junior Seaman looked away in disgust and began gagging, but the marines firmly held the injured crewman still.
"By the Divinity..." Carpenter muttered as he looked at the injury, his face pulled into a disturbed expression. Something was burning through the poor Junior Seaman's flesh, searing away right down to the bone, which began to burn as well. His other hand was also burning, from when he had instinctively grabbed his wound. The smell was repulsive, and the Junior Seaman was shaking and trying not to cry from the pain.
"What is it?" one of the marines asked, gazing at the injury.
"I don't know..." Carpenter said solemnly. "Some kind of acid? Whatever it is burned through metal walls, so it must be pretty potent stuff... hold still. Do either of you soldiers had a medkit?"
"Yeah, here," one of the marines pulled a small green satchel from his belt and handed it to to Carpenter. He took it and fumbled around with it for a few moments, pulling out a small aerosol can.
"Hold still Ben, this should help with the pain," Carpenter said, grasping the most severely injured hand and spraying the can over the wound. It seemed to stop the burning, whatever it was. He took the other hand and sprayed it over that wound as well, and the Junior Seaman seemed to calm down somewhat, breathing more steadily. Carpenter quickly wrapped some bandage around both the injured hands. He was clearly not a professional medic, but it would suffice for the time being.
"We should be careful," one of the marines cautioned. "If that stuff can burn through metal, flesh and bone, your uniforms and our armour probably won't stop it either. Neither will our boots..."
"Agreed," Carpenter nodded. "Everybody watch where you step! Are you ready to move Ben?"
"I'll survive," the Junior Seaman said, still trying to catch his breath.
"Good," Carpenter nodded. He took another glance at the burned wall. The substance must have lost most of its potency by now, as the metal had stopped dissolving a while ago. Though he shuddered to think what would happen to a man if he came into contact with some of the stuff when it was at full strength. Shaking it off, he took a mental note of what section the damage was in, and then continued on.
On the bridge, all of the computers went blank and the lights shut off. Clark immediately jumped down to the computer where Conway sat, hoping that she could somehow get it working again. He rested one hand against the back of her chair and another against the computer controls, looking to see if there was a hint of power available.
"What happened Sarah?" Clark asked nervously.
"Those things swarmed us and... then we lost power," Conway said with a sigh.
"Can we send an emergency communique to one of those ships that are out there?" Clark asked
"One of those ships attacked us sir," Conway protested. "But... no I don't think so. If the transceiver isn't getting any power either, we can't send or receive any messages. And even if it is getting power, I have no control of it from here as the computer isn't getting any. Plus, I have a suspicion that those things are on our hull."
"How do you know?" Clark asked. She sighed and pointed towards the forward area of the bridge. Thousands of the creatures could be seen outside, swarming around them. Fortunately none of them had attached to the hull around the bridge just yet...
"Bloody hell," Clark gasped.
The enormous gunship was no longer moving under its own power. It drifted forwards, carried by momentum alone. The creatures swarmed out of it like a cloud of locusts through the various hull breaches and joined their brethren on the Northampton. It seemed they had completely drained the massive ship of all its power until whatever power systems it used had shut down, which was no small achievement given the size of that gun. The abandoned ship drifted slowly towards them.
There wasn't room on the Northampton for all of the creatures. Obviously there had been significantly more space aboard that alien gunship. Those that couldn't get at the ship began circling it like vultures. Some of them stopped moving completely, and split into two parts - multiplying, apparently - before continuing their orbit. A few of the larger creatures, however, began to take a renewed interest in the only other available power source in the immediate vicinity. The Kirisuban ship.
Knowing that altering the shield harmonics failed Captain Ishido ordered the weapons officer to rotate the frequencies of the ships phaser banks and to open fire on the creatures approaching them as they used evasive manouvers.
She also increased speed so they could get closer to the sun..
On the Northhampton the Kirisuban officers got to work.
"Somethings draining the power as its being generated" the engineer stated and asked "do you still have thrusters?"
The doctor had new patients to deal with and got to work despite the chaos going on round her.
As the energy beams lanced out and impacted with the couple of pursuing creatures, something unusual happened. They glowed orange and began pulsating violently, growing exponentially to sizes vastly in excess of the other creatures. They began multiplying at the same time, dividing into new creatures which also began growing as they caught part of the energy discharge. The kinetic effect of the particle weapons slowed their approach a little, but their size was now in excess of a hundred metres - and they could seemingly move even faster now. Worse still, the energy discharge of the phasers attracted the attentions of even more of the creatures from their vulture-like orbit of the Northampton.
The final creatures swarmed out of the dead gunship, which looked to have once been a treasure trove of ancient technologies, and split into two groups - one bound for the Northampton, the other for the source of the energy discharges.
"I doubt it," Corin replied to the Kirisuban engineer. "Auxiliary manoeuvring thrusters use basic chemical propellants, but there's not enough power to set them in motion. And with the computer systems down for the same reason, we couldn't control them anyway..."
"You could operate them manually," one of his engineers suggested thoughtfully. "There are analogue controls in each of the thruster maintenance rooms. Bloody hard to use, but they were put there precisely for situations like this."
"That's possible, but even so, there's no power to actually set them off, let alone sustain thrust," Corin said, then paused for thought briefly. "Independent power sources are still functioning, aren't they?"
"Yes sir," the engineer nodded. He gestured to one of the marines' rifles. "Things like those rifles, flashlights. Anything that isn't connected to the main power distribution network."
"So obviously whatever is draining our power is taking it directly from the PDN," Corin thought out loud. "Those thrusters don't require much power at all to function. The power cells in those rifles would easily be enough to start one of them up."
"Well yes sir, but..."
"We need to disconnect the thrusters from the main PDN," Corin said. "Then instead plug each separate one of them directly into one of those rifle power cells. They'll be operating on a completely independent power source then. Using the analogue controls for each thruster, and coordinating with radios, we should be able to move this ship around. Albeit slowly."
"Just one thing," Hicks said, coughing with irritation. "Removing the power cells from our rifles wouldn't necessarily be the brightest thing to do when we don't know the score."
"We'd only need seven or eight of them," Corin countered. "You shouldn't be using those things while you're on-board the ship anyway - they'll punch a hole through the hull like it was paper."
"That's beside the point!" Hicks protested. "Besides, this room has reinforced bulkheads. Nothing short of a flak turret would punch through these walls! And this is where we are staying."
"I don't think so Colonel," Corin said.
"I do," Hicks snapped sternly. "This room is defensible and is largely independent from the rest of the ship. And if we are going to get the ship back online, we will need to hold this room."
"Colonel, there's nothing we can do from this room," Corin told him. "The reactor is working fine, there are no problems here. If we're going to get the ship online, we need to find the cause of the problem, and that cause isn't here."
"Well I don't think that..."
"Sirs!" a junior officer snapped in a whisper. "Do you hear something?"
Hicks scowled. He turned around as they heard a harsh groaning sound from outside the wrecked blast doors. It was followed by a clanging sound, as something was knocked over in the corridor outside. Hicks fell silent and began using simple hand gestures to order his marines into defensive positions dotted around the room. Their flashlights were all aimed straight at the hole they'd cut through the blast doors hours ago, and they waited.
Captain Ishido swore when her tactical officer told her what had happened to their attackers.
"our only chance is to get to the sun" she said to the helm officer.
"full impulse now" she ordered and the ship shook slightly as they increased speed suddenly and changed direction trying to get to the star which lit this star system.
"I think that will work" Keiko replied and hit her comm badge "chief engineer Omura to Dr Fujimoto" she said "we could get out of here with a bit of luck. We're modifying the ships thrusters now".
Her voice was heard loud and clear all over the bridge.
Something was moving around outside the door. Hicks and the few marines under his command all took positions around the hole, making sure that it was flanked on both sides and had some cover from ahead. The engineers all took refuge behind consoles and crates, aside from Corin and a couple of the higher-ranking engineers who carried sidearms. As the indescribable grunting, groaning and oozing noise grew closer, the tension in the room grew as well by several orders of magnitude. Hicks was sure that some of his men were ready to lose control and start shooting at shadows, but they held their ground. Corin made sure the alien engineer was protected, not wanting to be responsible for an interstellar incident, but he held his pistol with a shaking arm.
It was at that moment that the tension was broken and the panicking began. A brown, oozing mass of organic... stuff came through the door and into the light of multiple flashlights. It moved simply by flowing along the ground, a slow but efficient method of travel. The creature, cast in the unusual light, appeared to be semi-translucent, which begged the question of where it kept its various organs - if it had any.
"Open fire!" Hicks called. The assault rifles held by the marines whirred to life and began making a rapid 'thump' noise as the tungsten projectiles were propelled many times beyond the speed of sound from the barrels via electrical means, splashing into their alien invaders and passing straight through their bodies, tearing through the thinner metal walls on the other side of the door like they were paper. The creatures themselves appeared to be unharmed however, and the holes left by the projectiles were quickly engulfed as they continued moving. The chemically-propelled handguns used by the engineers had even less luck, and their AP rounds passed right through just as smoothly, only leaving smaller holes.
"Fall back!" Hicks called. "Take cover behind the consoles! Keep firing!"
The marines rose from their crouched positions beside the door and jogged backwards as fast as they could to take up safer positions, firing all the way. One of the marines made it only a couple of meters before he stumbled over a toolbox that had been left open on the deck when the power started to be absorbed, slamming to the ground and accidentally firing upwards at the hardened bulkheads, which took only minor damage from the powerful weapon.
"Jeremy, get over there and drag the Corporal over here!" Hicks shouted to one of the marines, who immediately obliged. He ran over to the fallen marine, who had injured his head on the metal decking, and tried to grab him and drag him the rest of the way. Unfortunately he wasn't the only one trying. The Corporal began screaming and sliding in the wrong direction. 'Jeremy' aimed his assault rifle upwards, illuminating his tug 'o war opponent with the built-in flashlight.
"Divinity, one of 'em has Carl!" Jeremy shouted, grabbing at his fallen comrade and pulling as hard as he could. The creature engulfed Carl's feet and most of his lower leg and was continuing to pull him in, despite Jeremy's best efforts.
"Sergeant Henry, get over there and help him!" Hicks shouted. "Everyone else focus your fire on that blob right there!"
The marines turned their full attentions to the creature attempting to consume the marine called Jeremy, but as before their weapons had little effect on the viscous blob of jelly. Henry jogged over to help Jeremy, grabbing one of Carl's arms and pulling as hard as he could. Unfortunately the creature pulled with such force that neither of them even slowed it down, and by now half of Carl's chest had been engulfed by the creature, and his screams had dissolved into petrified gurgles and manic yelps.
At that moment it yanked even harder, and Jeremy toppled over head-first with the force of the pull, completely disappearing into the organism. His muffled screams lasted only a split second before his body was completely dissolved within the creature. Carl followed soon afterwards, and fortunately Sergeant Henry fell backwards. He quickly scrambled to his feet and joined the remaining two marines as far back as they could get.
"Are there any other exits?" Hicks asked Corin.
"Just the main door," Corin said.
"What about weak spots in the bulkheads? Weak enough to cut or blast through?" Hicks snapped.
"No! Just the door!" Corin shook his head. "This room was built to contain a thermonuclear detonation from the old MOX reactor core, it's pretty tough!"
"Right," Hicks said. "So I won't damage anything if I use some explosives..."
He pulled a cylindrical metal object from his belt, and pulled a pin out. After a few moments he looked around and shouted, "Fire in the hole!"
He threw the grenade over their makeshift barricade and straight into the creature. He had timed it just right... the grenade didn't stay in there long enough to be dissolved by the creature, and it exploded almost immediately. The marines and the engineers ducked as the creature was blasted apart by a massive explosion, splashing the corrosive organic mass of its body all around the engineering room. Consoles began to dissolve and the crates they hid behind fared no better, but the tough walls and floor of the engineering room remained intact. The other creatures that had been following were blasted back out of the room by the shock-wave. Unfortunately, the pieces of the demolished creature were already starting to flow back towards each other, like a certain scene out of a certain movie. There was no trace of either of the lost marines, save for some melted residue on the floor from all of their inorganic equipment.
"Go!" Hicks shouted. He glanced over at Corin, the alien engineer and the subordinate Bretonian engineers with an angry look on his face. "Get outta here! We'll keep them distracted! Get the ship working!"
Corin didn't need to be told once. The way had been cleared, but it wouldn't take long for that creature to reform and come at them again, and the other creatures outside in the corridor were already regaining their composure.
"You heard the man people, let's move!" Corin shouted to his engineers, gesturing for them all to follow him as he leapt over the crates and sprinted to the hole in the doorway. He kept an eye out to make sure the Kirisuban engineer followed them out, but in all the confusion he wasn't sure. He hopped over the smouldering organic residue that was left from the marines, and the black scorch mark the grenade had left behind as a mark, and finally reached the doorway, grabbing one of the cut edges of the hole to swing himself around. He took a few futile, vengeful potshots at the creatures that were moving back towards the hole again, and then sprinted off down the darkened corridor. The engineers all followed him, trying to ignore the renewed sounds of weapons fire from the engineering room.
OOC: Hey, sorry it's been so long, hope you're still around. And I'm sorry if there are any significant errors in my post, but unfortunately I've injured one of my main typing fingers on my right hand, so I'm a bit hap-hazard at the moment!
Captain Ishido swore when her tactical officer told her what had happened to their attackers.
"our only chance is to get to the sun" she said to the helm officer.
"full impulse now" she ordered and the ship shook slightly as they increased speed suddenly and changed direction trying to get to the star which lit this star system.
OOC: Almost forgot about your ship! It has been a month though...
IC: The creatures which had resisted the searing heat and destructive power of their particle weapons thought nothing of following them as they approached the star. Being exposed to so much raw energy saw the creatures grow at an astonishing rate of speed, and multiply even faster. Within a matter of moments, the few relatively small creatures had become a great number, and some of them were now large enough in size to rival the Kirisuban ship.
Though fortunately as they grew in size, they started to travel slower, lacking the ability to propel their vastly increased mass. They were receiving all the energy they needed to grow and multiply, but they were not getting any fuel for whatever biochemical reaction they used to move around in space. As their size increased even further, they began to realise that they could no longer keep up with the faster Kirisuban ship. They lost interest in her, and began the journey back to the HMS Northampton to join their companions. Such a decision could only be a demonstration of some kind of intelligence - aside from the intelligence they had already demonstrated by operating the abandoned alien ship. While this was presumably the same intelligence that prevented them from flying straight into the star itself like moths to a flame, which was indisputably the largest source of energy in the area, there was obviously something else they wanted besides energy.
ooc: I'm still here :)
Captain Ishido breathed a sigh of relief as she seen the creatures loose interest in them.
She still had an interest in the Northhampton although and they now had a plan which might just work.
Using the comm badge that had been left behind in the first visit Captain Ishido send a voice message.
"Northhampton, I believe we've found a weakness in the creatures. Activate your reactors and set a course for the sun. That will shake them off and then we can tow you at a low warp speed away from them."
'I hope' she thought to herself knowing it was risky with no guarantee of sucess but the alternative was self destruction...
Clark heard the transmission of the Kirisuban commander through the visiting Doctor's communicator, and replied using it as their own array was not functional.
"Captain, we presently have no power or control over any of our systems," Clark said. "And we now have unconfirmed reports that they are inside the hull.
"Cap... Lieutenant Commander?" a voice called.
"Hold please Captain," Clark said into the communicator. A flashlight was aimed at the ruined door, where Warrant Officer Carpenter stood with two junior engineers - one wounded - and a single, rather raggedy marine. The injured engineer was led to a chair by medics who began to treat him, and the marine immediately moved to talk to the other marines. Carpenter head over to Clark.
"Sir, what happened to the Captain?" Carpenter asked.
"He didn't survive the initial attack," Clark said. He had still not dealt with the emotional repercussions, and with Commander Barnes out of action he didn't have time to for the moment. "What are you doing up here Warrant Officer?"
"Sir, I have been sent by Lieutenant Corin to report on our engineering status," Carpenter said, standing to attention.
"Well that's something anyway," Clark said. "Please proceed. Why has our power plant been deactivated again?"
"Sir, the generator is functioning at 100%," Carpenter informed him. "And power is passing into the primary superconductors properly."
"I see, so why are the lights all off then?" Clark asked.
"We believe something is draining all of our power before it reaches any of our systems," Carpenter said. "Which is why none of the support systems are operational, none of the primary systems are operational, and none of the computer terminals function. And on our trip here I believe I have discovered what is doing it. Those brown creatures flying around outside have gained entry into our ship..."
"I know that Warrant Officer," Clark sighed.
"Yes sir," Carpenter nodded. "But they appear to be feeding off our power distribution network. We discovered an exposed power circuit, with some kind of corrosive liquid left behind. And we lost a marine when we actually witnessed one of the creatures feeding off a circuit... if those creatures outside are all doing the same thing, then we probably aren't even producing enough power for all of them. And we produce a heck of a lot of power..."
"Does Lieutenant Corin have any theories as to how we can get around this problem, Warrant Officer?"
"Not that I am aware of, sir, unless they came up with an idea after we left," Carpenter shook his head. "The marines' weapons had no real impact on them, and given the way they consume energy I don't think a directed energy weapon would be advisable."
Clark took the communicator again. "Captain, our reactor is functioning properly, but these creatures are draining all of our power. Our weapons do not appear to affect them. I would advise that you keep your distance - unless another opportunity presents itself, I am going to have to authorise a manual destruct sequence."
The bridge crew glanced at him with worried expressions as he said that. Manual destruct was a little trickier than auto-destruct, being that it was obviously manual. Numerous daranium-enhanced torpedo warheads would be placed in numerous key sections of the ship and set for a short duration countdown detonation - to prevent enemy tampering. Or in this case, dissolving. The process had never been used in practice before, but in simulations it was very rare for all hands to make it to the various escape craft in time. And with these creatures wandering around the ship, and considering the damage it had already sustained, it wouldn't exactly be a textbook procedure anyway. With the computers down though, auto-destruct was not a valid option. But the explosion would be quite enormous regardless, certainly more than enough to obliterate any sensitive systems and tear the hull to pieces.
"The resulting explosion will cover a significant radius, and I wouldn't want your ship to get caught in the blast," Clark continued after a momentary pause. It wasn't exactly how he envisaged his first proper command experience ending, but he knew it had to be done. "And we don't even know if a multi-gigaton nuclear blast will kill these damn things, and they might come looking for another source of food... I will try my best to ensure that your officers are aboard the escape craft."
Corin couldn't remember ever running for this long. It was the EVA trip across the hole in the middle of their ship which had been the most exhausting, as he hated zero-g almost as much as he hated these creatures. They had finally reached one of the thruster maintenance rooms at the hind-end of the ship. Few people were alive back here, as most of the emergency bulkheads had been eaten away by the creatures, exposing the entire section to space. He glanced at the Kirisuban engineer, who he'd made sure came with them. The suit they'd found for her didn't fit properly, but it was better than nothing.
The door controls to the thruster room were out of commission. They had no power, and the mechanism had been dissolved by the creatures a while ago. The only weapon he had with him was a fairly simplistic pistol, which unlike the weapons used by marines, didn't function in a zero-atmosphere environment. They were only designed as a last-resort self-defence measure for non-combat staff, after all. Even if they functioned, they wouldn't get through the door that blocked their path. He'd sent his few surviving junior engineers to the other thruster rooms, and hoped they were having better luck than they were.
Even though the vacuum kept things deadly silent, Corin was certain he could hear creatures moving around. If nothing else, they couldn't be far away given the damage they had already done in this section.
"I don't suppose you have anything that would open this door or punch through it, do you?" Corin asked Keiko. He was out of ideas.
Colonel Hicks? Is that you?
Yes, it's me! Where are we?
I don't know. I thought I was dead...
This isn't the underworld is it?
Why can't I see anything!
Help me! I can't feel my body!
Hicks was in a new world. The searing pain had stopped, his body no longer felt anything. Anything at all, in fact. He couldn't even feel his own head. Nor could he see anything, hear anything or smell anything. It was like his brain had been removed from his body, and somehow kept alive. He heard voices, the voices of his fellow marines, but yet he couldn't hear anything. It was like they were in his thoughts...
Who are you people? This voice... thought... whatever... was unfamiliar to Hicks. It wasn't a member of the crew that he'd ever met, nor was it one of the marines he worked with every day.
We are trapped! Where are we?
I am... Hicks, Colonel of the Royal Marines... serving aboard Her Majesty's Ship Northampton...
I am unfamiliar with such a vessel.
It is Bretonian... a military vessel...
I am unfamiliar with 'Bretonian'. It does not matter anymore.
Who are you?!
I was Felcor Rim. I serve... served, aboard the Reknifin gunship Malrosica. I was in charge of the primary particle cannon. Not that it helped me very much.
Yes. I am no longer that person. Neither are you this 'Hicks' person.
Sir! What is he talking about?!
Sir! Help me! Where is my body?!
What do you mean, Mr. Rim? Who are we?
I have been trapped here for millennia. Or at least, I think it has been millennia. The Malrosica was in the midst of a great war, about to destroy an enemy world, when we were attacked by these things. Now, I am part of them.
What do you mean, part of them?
We all are. I have been trapped here long enough to realise, that this creature has absorbed our neural energies. It has absorbed all of our knowledge, our thoughts, our personalities... and uses them for its own good. A byproduct of this process is... we remain trapped here. Right now, it is using your knowledge to gain control of whatever manner of ship you have, and use it to find more victims.
You are alone here?
At that moment, thousands of voices... or thoughts, screamed out. A deafening sound of terror and anger as people from all sorts of times and places called out at once.
They are all here, part of the creature with us. They just lost the will to communicate a long time ago.
The main reactor room was an unusual sight now. It was the only room on the ship that was illuminated, and several computers were now functioning again. The creatures must have spared just enough energy from the reactor for this one room to work, and directed it appropriately. The marines who had remained behind were gone, leaving only steaming patches of inorganic sludge where they had been.
Instead of the crew, several of the creatures were in there, fairly motionless. One of them had pressed part of its mass against the main computer console in the room, and seemed to be interfacing with its systems somehow. Blueprints and diagrams flashed across the screen, and eventually it started to display commands and instructions. Somehow, the creatures had learned how to use the ship's computer, and were now learning all that they could from it.
Captain Ishido replied "we can save some of your crew at least so they can tell their story back home.
We can take 40 people on our ship and we can beam our officers back with them.
Choose who you want to send over and give us the co-ordinates. We can move in, drop our shields and complete the transport before we're attacked again"
"That is generous of ou," Clark replied. "If you could transport as many of our injured off as possible, as those people will have difficulty making their way to escape vehicles."
Clark turned to look at a marine, who quickly hid his cigarette and stood to attention.
"Marine, I am going to authorise manual destruction of the ship now," Clark told him. "I need you and the other marines to get the word out across the ship."
"Yessir!" the marine saluted. He and two others moved closer to the door of the bridge, spoke into their radios briefly, and then moved out. They would use their radios to spread the word where possible, and in other cases they would head on foot to groups of people and inform them in person. It was fortunate that they had conducted a headcount early on in the disaster, but they still were unsure of where the entire crew would be.
"Captain Ishido, I have set the procedure for manual destruction in motion now," he said into the communicator again. "I estimate that we will be ready to blow in twenty minutes. Northampton out."
OOC: Unfortunately for many of the crew of the Northampton who are injured and unable to move, the creatures that have covered up the Northampton are resistant to transport signals, and will pretty much deflect transporter signals and targeting scanners. The crew will get your doctor on an escape ship of course. Your engineer will be leaving the ship safely as well, but in a different way...
The creatures in engineering had now gained complete control of the ship's computer system, and were familiarising themselves with the systems. They began to release more power from the reactor, and directed it towards main sensors and the primary surviving weapons. The sensors kicked in, immediately locking weapons onto the only other ship in range...
Both transporter room were busy as the operators scanned the Northhampton at long range.
they had their orders and were able to isolate a lot of the crews life signs.
Captain Ishido gave the order and they moved in to extreme transporter range and their shields down.
they wouldn't have a lot of time and they worked quickly. they were unable to tell if someone was injured and soon they had the first 20 crew aboard, all drawn from different parts of the ship knowing that there was now a weapons lock on them..
The HMS Cardiff arrived in the area, at last, as its advanced cruise engines cut off and it dropped to conventional speeds. The Coventry-class cruiser was not as large, powerful or grandiose as the Victoria-class battleship, but it not to be dismissed offhand. Immediately it performed a sensor sweep of the area, identifying all nearby objects and then scanning them in detail to establish identities.
"Lieutenant Commander Thrace, situation report please," Jelico asked coldly. She felt a sense of unease about the whole situation as soon as they had arrived, and it wasn't going to go away until they left.
"I am detecting three large objects, and thousands of smaller objects," Thrace reported. "One is the Northampton. It appears to be under heavy attack by the smaller objects. There is a smaller vessel, unknown identity. And there is an enormous vessel nearby, it is also of an unknown identity and appears to be abandoned."
"What the hell has been going on here..." Jelico muttered before clearing her throat. "Identify the smaller objects."
"Sensor systems are unable to resolve," Thrace shrugged. "They appear to be... organic, propelled by biochemical reactions. Even basic radar is being absorbed by them, we can't get a better reading than that. They are all over the Northampton, though. I am detecting multiple hull breaches and... and a weapons lock!"
"Sound general quarters," Jelico commanded. "Full thrust to aft, withdraw beyond weapons range." Perhaps such an immediate retreat was overkill, perhaps it was even cowardice. But ever since the Hyacombe Incident and the destruction of the HMS Shropshire, Jelico was no longer willing to take chances with either the ship or her crew.
"Where does the lock originate?" she asked.
"The Northampton, ma'am," Thrace said, with some degree of shock in his voice. It was fortunate they had begun to withdraw; the Northampton could rip through them like butter even crippled as it was. From the moment they achieved a firing solution every second the Cardiff remained in one piece was a blessing from the Divinity.
"Establish contact with their conn," Jelico said.
"I have been engaging standard hailing protocols since our arrival," Thrace told her. "I am detecting no transmissions of any kind emanating from the Northampton. She's a ghost, ma'am."
"Either that or compromised," Jelico said, thinking out loud more than anything else. If the ship was compromised, it would need to be destroyed. She stood up and picked up the communicator. "Weapons, conn. I need a firing solution against the HMS Northampton immediately."
"Ma'am?" an understandably shocked weapons officer responded after a brief pause, obviously bemused at the surprising order.
"You heard my order, weapons, conn out," Jelico replaced the communicator without giving her subordinate a chance to respond. It was just a precaution.
Just a precaution.
They would afford their peers on the Northampton a little more time to respond.
Steven James Hicks, Colonel in the Bretonian Royal Marines, stationed aboard Her Majesty's Ship Northampton, commanding officer of the Marine corps stationed there. Decorated three times by Admiral Rochester himself for courageous conduct, and was rumoured to be up for promotion to Brigadier next month. By all accounts an outstanding and progressive officer within the Royal Marines, with plenty of prospects for the future.
His body was now gone, and his mind was trapped in this bizarre ethereal world. But he knew that he was really trapped inside the bulbous body of this slimy creature, his intelligence, his memories, his very soul being used for whatever nefarious purpose it had. Worst of all, he was powerless to stop it. He could not even take his own life to end the torment. He simply had to remain there, existing, listening to the screams of the countless other souls that had been engulfed by whatever manner of beast this was.
Or was he?
With every passing moment, as he desperately tried to think his way out of this bizarre situation, he experienced memories that were not his own. Memories of being a weapons officer on an alien craft. Memories of eating foods he had never encountered before, on a planet with the wrong coloured sky. Memories of attacking helpless carbon based lifeforms... the memories of his fellow victims, or of this creature? Or both?
He began to know more of this creature, and yet he did not understand where this knowledge came from. He saw their eternal journeys through space, destroying entire civilisations in their relentless quest for energy and knowledge. In its natural 'child' form, this creature was fairly unintelligent and instinctive. Their entire lives were spent looking for sources of energy to consume without any real goal.
But, as they began to engulf other species, they gradually became more and more intelligent, absorbing the memories and thought processes of other races and gaining their knowledge and understanding at the same time. Having no real brain capacity of their own, they used the combined brain power of their victims to become 'super brains'; essentially each creature was a decentralised network of organic computers. There was no central intelligence to these things, they simply extorted that of other beings. And when one creature came into contact with another, all of these 'files' were replicated and passed on, exponentially increasing the brain power and knowledge base of their entire race.
The combined intelligence of these creatures was utterly beyond belief. To make matters worse, this decentralised nature made them virtually unkillable by any known means. At the best of times they absorb and consume blasts from energy weapons, and are completely unaffected by kinetic weapons. Even if they could be shattered by a powerful explosion, each individual fragment simply became a lifeform all its own, and would rejoin quite quickly. Hicks wasn't even sure if a multi-gigaton daranium-enhanced nuclear fusion warhead would finish them off. Surely the heat alone would vaporise them...
Hicks began to wonder, if perhaps this arrangement was not just one-way. The creature used his intelligence for its own will, so perhaps he could exert some kind of influence over it. After all, he had suddenly come across the memories not just of the victims trapped here with him, but those of the creature itself, suggesting that the network was two-way. All he needed to do was learn how to access it consciously.
As he delved deeper, he learned that this creature was routing energy to the surviving weapons systems, as part of a larger plan. They intended to consume the inhabitants of the smaller ship nearby, drain its energy, and then use the larger and more powerful Northampton to fuel their journey to the nearest civilised area of space – Bretonia. The entire Bretonian Empire would be consumed to fuel their continual growth. A gigantic buffet of brains and energy. No-one would see what was happening until it was too late, and no-one would be able to stop them.
He had to do something. He had to stop them somehow. Perhaps without a body, trapped here, he was more useful than he could have been in life.
Clark had paced the bridge in silence for long enough. There was no other option. The ship could not be allowed to fall into enemy hands – well, not hands, as these creatures didn't seem to have any – and neither could these creatures be allowed to live. Perhaps Captain Harris, or Commander Barnes, could have thought of an alternative strategy, but Clark could not even guess what that would be, and right now it was his call. He only hoped that it was the right one.
“Carter, Carpenter, come here,” Clark said quietly, beckoning to the Chief and the Warrant Officer. The two exchanged a nervous glance, seemingly already aware of what he was about to ask them to do, and then moved over to stand next to the Lieutenant Commander.
“We need to destroy the Northampton,” Clark mumbled to them. He wasn't certain if he could manage to say it, but he just did. “But it must be done manually.”
“Understood sir,” both men nodded in unison.
“We also cannot sound the evacuation order, so the word must be spread manually,” Clark said.
“I'll see to it sir,” Carpenter said.
“Good,” Clark nodded. “Take as many men and marines as you need. Head to the torp bays, secure some warheads, and then deploy them to the designated zones. Set the fuse for five minutes. Make sure they're hidden, as I don't know if those things can disarm a nuke or not.”
“Aye sir,” Carter said, apprehensively. “We'll need the authorisation codes to detonate them though.
Clark wagged his finger at Carter knowingly. “You're absolutely right Chief. Hang on a tick and I'll try to locate the hard copies.”
“You weren't allocated codes of your own, sir?” Carpenter asked.
“Not on a shakedown, no,” Clark shook his head. “Neither did the XO to my knowledge. Cap'n has them in the secure box on the lower tier though.”He stepped away from the two officers and made his way down into the darkened lower tier, amongst the dead.
I need your help. Hicks asked.
More wailing and screaming responded. Hicks was growing tired of it. Were they planning on keeping this up indefinitely?
QUIET! he said strongly. Shouting would be the wrong word in this place, but no words existed to describe anything that went on in a place like this.
Sure enough though, the screaming and moaning stopped promptly. He had their attention.
We can manipulate this creature. But only together.
How do you know this? Felcor Rim's voice inquired.
I have been accessing its memories, Hicks told him. This is just an organic computer network! If we all act as one, we can influence this creature. Possibly even control it. But I can't do it on my own. You all have to help me.
Such a thing cannot be possible! Rim said pessimistically. We have been trapped here for millennia, and have never been able to do such a thing!
Have you ever tried? Hicks asked.
Your people are gone. Mine are not. These creatures plan on doing to my people what they did to yours, and we have to try to stop them. I need your help.
For the first time, some optimism. Cries of support and jubilation were his response. He asked for their help, and he had it. For them, this would be the only release from this neverending hell, and it would prevent Hicks from suffering such a fate.
Explain your intent and we shall try to assist Felcor Rim said, on behalf of everybody trapped there. This may be our only chance to escape from this torment.
Thank you, everybody, Hicks said gratefully. This creature is in the engineering room of my ship. We need to manipulate it to restore main power to the ship, and then to set the self destruct system. I only hope that is enough to destroy them.
Then let us try! Felcor Rim said.
In engineering, one of the creatures suddenly stopped what it was doing. It remained motionless for several minutes before finally moving away from the console it had been controlling, and slowly moving across the room to another. It began to use another console. The translucent brown tendril it created reached up and plastered itself across the keyboard, and began to manipulate the computer. None of its peers took any notice until they saw that the creature was not completing the task it was supposed to. When systems all across the surviving areas of the ship began to come back online, and the lights burst to life, they moved to apprehend the rogue creature. But they were too late.
“Alert!” female voice announced from speakers located all over the room. “This ship will auto-destruct in five minutes. Evacuation! Evacuation! Evacuation!”
The lights shut down again, and red ones replace them. The bellowing emergency klaxons sounded, though unlike the general quarters alert they sounded in three short bursts at a time.
The creature who had committed this act of treason then used its powerful fluids to destroy the keyboard, making it impossible to deactivate the sequence from this room. Its peers merged with it, taking control of it once again and suppressing the minds within.
Hicks didn't mind. His release was coming, his job was done. Bretonia was safe.
At the conn, surprise was the order of the day. The lights came on, hen they heard the self destruct alert. They had five minutes to abandon ship. There was a degree of relief, as it saved them manually arming torpedo warheads – a dangerous prospect for those given the task – but panic quickly replaced that. Five minutes was not a great degree of time to evacuate a ship of this size.
“Carter! Round everybody up and head to the hangars!” Clark bellowed over the sound of the klaxons. He was helping another officer haul Conway onto a stretcher, whilst other officers helped their various wounded comrades leave. Marines were covering them, standing by the doors with their flashlights on ready to suppress any creatures that attempted to hinder their evacuation. Not that they could, but it made the navy officers feel safer nevertheless.
“Aye sir!” Carter said, and immediately sprinted off the bridge. There was a limited amount of time, and none of that could be wasted on dawdling.
“Carpenter – supervise the evacuation,” Clark shouted. “Make sure all the lifeboats are functional and filled and then get the hell out of here!”
Carpenter nodded and briskly made his way out. Clark watched as 2nd Lieutenant Conway was carried off the bridge, and the various other injured crew members were similarly escorted by whoever still had functional limbs. He turned and looked down at the bodies of their fallen brothers. Of Captain Harris. They didn't have time to carry them out of the ship and give them a proper burial, but he suspected that many of them, Harris included, would prefer to go down with this ship.
This unfortunate ship. As it destroyed itself, it would go down in history as the most unlucky ship ever sailed. It couldn't be repaired this time – it was done for. Clark would push the MoD for the next Victoria-class Battleship to be named Northampton in her honour and in honour of those who died with her, and could only hope that she fared better than her predecessor.
He took one last look around the bridge of the doomed vessel. The marines were the only personnel left, waiting for him. They quickly followed as he jogged off the bridge, towards the nearest lifeboats.
“What's going on?” Jelico asked. She squinted at the small computer monitor which showed the Northampton close-up. Although the cameras struggled to achieve a high resolution at this distance, they clearly showed small objects leaving the ship in droves.
“Rats leaving a sinking ship perhaps, ma'am?” Thrace suggested. “Those look like Clydesdales. And those... must be lifeboats. I doubt those creatures need ships.”
“They are abandoning ship then...” Jelico said, thinking out loud. That could mean one of two things. The creatures had driven them out, or they had set the self-destruct systems. Or both. Either way she was relieved to see that some of the crew had survived the devastation the ship had suffered.
“We need to recover them, quickly!” Jelico said. “All engines, ahead full speed – take us as close as you can. Drop the shield and open the hangar bay doors.”
“Yes ma'am,” Thrace nodded.
The HMS Cardiff bolted forwards, covering the distance between the two ships in a matter of seconds. She came to a relativistic halt and her hull flickered as the shields dropped. Simultaneously the hangar bay doors began to open. Several Cavalier light fighters emerged to cover the escaping crew members. Several of the lifeboats had already been consumed by the creatures, who had begun to notice their escape. The Cavaliers engaged them – their weapons had no effect, but they distracted them and the fighters could easily outrun them.
Lifeboats, fighters and transports from the Northampton desperately sped into the hangar. The smaller Cardiff was not designed to accommodate so many ships, but she had no choice, and they crammed their way in. It was a couple of minutes before they were all aboard. The fighters made a hasty retreat from their futile dogfights, performing emergency landings and crashing into the hangars at speed. The doors closed and the Cardiff's shields raised, and she promptly sped off before a ream of the creatures moved towards them.
A few moments later, the Northampton's hull expanded briefly, before being torn apart by a brilliant blue explosion that engulfed hundreds of kilometres of space around it, and sending shockwaves even further away than that. The massive alien gunship, frail as it was, did not survive.
The creatures, on the other hand, survived.
((OOC: Apologies for the quick and somewhat terrible ending, but I need this RP to be closed in order to start something else.))