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One Among The Vastness.

Posted on Tue May 26th, 2020 @ 9:58pm by Commanding Officer Mickey Serendipity & Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue & Medical Officer Alex Garcia & Passenger Kol Wescott-Fitzgerald & Comm Tech Wulf Edevane

Mission: Ticket To Rhea
Location: Martian Trailing Trojan Point, Asteroid 2011 UN63
Timeline: 24 hours after leaving Mars following the destruction of Deimos

At just a hair under six hundred meters, the rocky orb of 2011 UN63 was to much rock and not enough metal. In essence, the stable orbital graveyard of the Martian L5 point that trailed a 3rd of a way behind in Mars's orbit was the U bend of celestial plumbing. It was the place where Mars's gravity and the Sun's cancelled each other out, forming a space where things tended to collect.

And among the metallic rubble of stellar formation and the failed building blocks of planets, the Albatross rested under the shielding shade of 2011 UN63.

Her engines were cold, pointed as they were away from Mars, her sensor studded nose pointed at the distant red star. Her sleek, dagger-like profile designed to be stealthy and radar neutral a century before was still working now. Even with a long white scar running from just below the main cargo airlock down across her engine heat sinks where the gas canister pod had struck.

It was on a to-do list. A lot of things were.

Mickey reached out, taking the holographic projection control in his hand, and twisted it as the image reversed in time. Re-set, the volumetric hologram in the centre of the Ops Deck projected the image of the High Elysium tether station. Under its skirt-like heat sinks and docking baffles, like startled birds, ships milled and jerked around as they tried to avoid one another. Then a blink-or-you'll-miss-it shiver ran down the cable that bisected the station. The aftermath of that supersonic megaton grade vibration had not utterly destroyed High Elysium.

But Mickey didn't peg the chances of anyone surviving within it as likely.

One moment there had been a bustling port city in space. Two pier arms had been shorn off, spinning into the void. Pressure seals had cracked, rupturing habitation units like overripe fruit. The complicated tether grapple assembly, as well as the traction units that rode up and down it, were mangled into a metallic putty of crushed composites and ultra-dense alloys. The High Elysium station beacon had still been broadcasting for an hour after the shock wave had raced through the cable, ten minutes after the Albatross had cleared the dock.

MarsCom feeds had lit up with reports on the incident, now known as the Deimos Debacle. A United Nation's stealth strike against the Deimos Deep Space Array, a tit for tat retaliation against the MCR for denying them access to Pheobe Station. The Hephestus Fleet Yards were untouched by the nuclear bombardment, but the seismic event had shattered the tether station and lead to serious loss of life on the surface of Mars at the base of the tower.

Was this the beginning of an Inner Planet war?

No one knew.

He tossed the control orb back into the hologram, and relaxed. Connected to the deck by his mag boots, he could just float freely in an upright position. Mars was not his problem. His two Martians were though.

Wide-eyed and quiet, Wulf watched the projection as Mickey manipulated it. Coloured lines replayed a terrifying scene that was made both all the more sobering and fantastical by the fact they'd lived through it. As the tech paid close attention to the details hanging so prettily in the space mid-Ops deck, he was acutely aware that a lot of people clearly hadn't.

As a (sort of) Belter, it was an awkward third party view that Wulf saw things from. He felt neither responsible for, or allied to, either Earth or Mars, but caught in that ever personal third position. The big boys were fighting, for real this time, and the relatively tiny sanctuary of the Tross had elements of both superpowers aboard. He'd watched the vids, scoured the news, and overloaded himself with information over the last couple of hours.

"You want me to go start hitting that scar outta the hull, Captain?" Wulf asked, just looking for something to do that wasn't political or in the way.

Ken floated up the access shaft and into Ops. "Reactor has fully cooled off, Mick. We should be a statistical anomaly on anyone's scopes." He reported as he joined the group. "And we can run on batteries at least for a week."

Coming onto the ops deck not far behind Ken, Alex added to the incoming reports. "Medical bay is now sorted as best as I can. I've inventoried the tech and the supplies, got it set up so I can comfortably tend to anything that comes our way," he said, heading for one of the crash couches that lined the walls, and settling in gently before strapping himself down.

"Good to know," Mickey said and made a gesture to the hologram. It shivered, a wireframe image of the Albatross appeared. Some amber dots began to pepper the skin, with a long red line stitching its flank like a frozen lightning bolt. "We got a housekeeping list to go through before we lay in our course to Rhea. Wulf thank you for volunteering, along with the Doctor here and Ken to go outside and repair the hull damage. That crease is doing no favours for our nice radar-absorbing lines. Not to mention it creased one of the heat baffles, and I'd rather not have a radiator pop out if it can be helped."

He then nodded to the other highlighted items.

"Myself, Kol and Allegra will go through the pre-cruise checklist: air and water filters, stores, the storm shelter and fuel tanks. Its a long haul out to Saturn and the Confederacy, lot of open space with the Inner Planet's navies prowling around looking for a fight. If we hold at a steady 2/3rd Gee we can be done with this job in three weeks top. Sooner if we don't mind a full Gee for the duration," Mickey said looking around the group. "Any objections to the work load?"

"Not from me." Ken said.

Wulf grinned quietly. It had been a cerebral few days all things considered and for once he really didn't mind the prospect of smacking at the dented hull, especially out here, safely out of reach of all the nasties. Certainly sounded a lot more fun than changing filters. He looked from Mickey to Ken to the new medic and back again and shook his head happily. "No objections, Captain!" He chimed. Then, with curiosity. "Hey, Alex, you done this before?"

"No objections, Mickey," Alex replied to the ship's CO. Then, when Wulf asked him a question he turned his attention to him. "Honestly, no, I spent pretty much all my time in the sick bays of the vessels I was on. But I have my full EVA certification, so at least I've got that going for me..." he admitted with a grim smile.

"I can't remember the last time I did my vac cert" Kol commented. A majority of the UNIB forces spent their time boots to the ground or in transit. Anything that required vacuum manoeuvres was typically left to the tactical units or a unit of much more capable UN Marines. Personally he didn't mind, he definitely preferred the security of being encased within a hull over taking his chances out in the endless black. One wrong move and he'd be set adrift aimlessly. The thought alone sent shivers down his spine.

"No complaints from me, boss," He said in reply to the task Mickey had outlined. It sounded like busy work and he was more than pleased to be offered a break from his investigation.

"Good," Mickey said. He then tapped a control bead that floated in the air, and a still of the crumbling moon of Deimos filled the air. The rocky moon, backdropped by the peach coloured orb of Mars, looked like it was undoing itself. Rock shards glowed molten hot still from the half dozen crust buster nukes the UNN had fired down the well at it. Nothing remained of the Deimos Deep Space Array, the radio telescope and traffic control station scoured from existence. Part of the Hephaestus Yard could be seen, the vast shipbuilding structures glowing from the black blast where some of them had been caught. MCRN ships milled in the background, gathering for war.

"Anyone have feelings about this?" Mickey asked. "I say only because no one on this crew has a stake in that. Anyone wants to vent, a little Mars on Earth grudge settling, they come through me first okay?"

Wulf's face lost all sign of humour and happiness as he stared at the now scarily familiar imagery. He gulped and raised his hand as if he were a child in a school classroom. "I have some feelings, Mickey," he admitted, his eyes wide and his face paler than it had been a minute ago. "I'm really scared we're gonna get caught in the middle of what's coming next."

"Days no more dangerous than yesterday. Folks with guns being idiots, that's nothing new, we just keep our heads down and the get the job done. Nothing different there," Mickey replied.

The comm tech nodded uncomfortably and retreated back into silence. There were a lot more idiots with really big guns, but he didn't say that out loud.

"I think it's safe to say all of us are going to have at least some feelings about it, Mickey. Problem is those feelings don't count for shit. We aren't involved. We are here, on this ship, and none of that shit has a thing to do with us if we can stay clear of it. If you're worried about allegiance, I left my allegiance to Mars behind me when they booted my ass," Alex replied. "If that allegiance ever starts to come back you'll be the first to know, and it'll be with my request to be dropped off at a port where I can get a ticket back to Mars."

"Earth and Mars don't get to dictate what happens to or on my ship." Ken replied, "Besides, I did my twenty in the Corps. I'm not going back for seconds after that."

"Admirable restraint," Mickey said with a nod. "Okay, just wanted to give everyone a chance to speak their piece. Anyone makes an issue of the rock they got born on, I'll make it my business. Now, go grab some breakfast and then break for your work crew. Kol and Allegra meet in the engineering deck and we'll break down the work that needs doing. Alex, Wulf and Ken, figure you three can guess where the airlock is."

Wulf fired off a messy salute and ducked swiftly out of the way, down the ladder in the direction of the galley. All this talk had made him hungry and he knew the others would want some coffee. Seemed like a good idea to get that started for all those Earthers and Martians they now had on board. And Mickey? Wulf wasn't entirely sure where he called home, and even when he had asked, he'd never been given a straight answer. Didn't really matter, he figured. They were all calling the Albatross home for now.


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