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Chance Of Hail

Posted on Thu Nov 11th, 2021 @ 1:57am by Commanding Officer Mickey Serendipity & Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue & Passenger Emma Yonkers & Ships Engineer Delphi Jammer & Comm Tech Wulf Edevane & Comm Tech Adrie Magana

Mission: A Knife In The Darkness
Location: SS Albatross, Interplanetary Space On Course To Pluto
Timeline: Soon after 'Knife In The Darkness'

The bell chimed over the intercom, followed a moment later by the chirp of everyone's terminals going off at once.

"This is your pilot speaking from the cockpit," Aisling said from her sealed little bubble at the nose of the ship. "We'll be performing a roll manoeuvre in two minutes to relieve thermal stress on the hull. Standard stuff, but when the bell chimes again hang on for mild turbulence."

Mickey, working in Op's on a very important sudoku puzzle and a bulb of coffee, looked at the plot one more time at the announcement. No amber or red lights, from the Tross or the Barge, and all was right in the world. In readiness for the twisting motion, they were about to go through he anchored the bulb magnetic base to his armrest. He then thought of something, and pressed the all hands button on the comm's panel.

"Can someone find Sophie and make sure she knows we're about to become an ore sorting bin for about ten seconds whilst we turn to radiate heat?" Mickey asked into the ship's network.

As Mickey's voice cut across his headphones and temporarily muted the game's sound, Wulf swore in Russian as his avatar's helo silently exploded into a wall. No, he couldn't blame the captain for that one, but it was still irritating. End-level-boss irritating. "Ken's turn, boss," he said, in response as the screen before him offered up two words. 'Replay? Quit?' He punched the former.

Floating in the elevator shaft, Ken tapped his little earpiece to cut in. "You work for me as well Wulf. I'll let it slide this once." To be fair, he had let it slide dozens of times. Ken grabbed a handhold to arrest his momentum, then pushed himself back up to the crewdeck, expecting their passenger to be in her bunk or in the galley. He came across her in the galley. "Magana, better strap in and secure your stuff."

Adrie's blood chilled. Ken had called her Magana. Not Leclerc, which was her identity. "So..." she said. "You learned my secret."

"About ten minutes after you stepped on board our ship." Ken said in a casual manner. "But I am serious, you should strap your shit down. We've got about sixty seconds before they start being projectiles."

As if on cue the warning chime sounded, a simple bell-like tone that carried well in the air. What did not carry well in the air was the thunderclap that followed it. The hot coffee in its bulb sloshed haphazardly around as the Albatross jerked to one side. What accompanied the impact was a high pitched shrieking overpowered a moment later by the basso thrum of the decompression alarm.

Another thunderclap rocked the Albatross, this time lighting up one of the Ops screens with a damage report. Then the ship really began to rock, pitching in all six cardinal directions. Most of the movement was punctate with the barking cough of attitude control thrusters, but every second or third was a deep echoing boom.

"Button up!" Mickey snapped, the comm relaying the phrase to go on canned air for the time being. There wasn't time for him to get to a normal vacuum suit, but there was an emergency locker on each deck. And inside was a plastic onesie with a sealable hood and bottle of compressed oxygen and nitrogen. As he slapped the harness release, he felt a wind tugging at his hair from the ladder well leading up into the cockpit.

"Ohshitohshitohshit!" Cursed Wulf as he was rolled from his seat in Ops and onto the deck itself. Mickey's warning hit home about the same time and the tech made to move towards that same locker. His gaze followed the Tross' Captain's own in search of the direction for that sudden pressure shift.

"Yeah, yeah, keep your pants on," Adrie groused as she got herself into position. So these people had known her real name this whole time and didn't say anything? That was... well, she didn't know what it was. Hopefully nobody violent would be waiting for her at the end of the line.

Across the crewdeck the hull breach alarm sounded loudly, followed by a high whistling tone. Ken felt groggy as was banged across two different bulkheads. Old habits, trained over two decades took over as he reached for handholds to stabilise himself. He shook his head once, twice, three times. The focus returned to his eyes and he looked around. "Well fuck." He then glanced at the young woman. "Follow me, we need to get you in a suit and then seal the holes before we lose all air."

"I've..." Adrie didn't want to admit she'd never patched a hole before. This didn't seem like a good time to admit a point of uselessness. "I've got my suit right here. Lead the way."

"I still need to suit up, then we'll check seals, and then we're getting to work." Ken floated out of the door and to the emergency locker. "Always hated these fucking things." He muttered to himself as he quickly pulled on the emergency suit with a grunt." Moments later an audible snap secured Ken's helmet. He activated the bottle on his suit and then checked the pressure gauge for any potential leaks."Are you suited up yet?" Ken asked Adrie.

"Aisling okay?" Wulf called across to Mickey, worry coating his question as he moved in search of a suit.

"Suit now, worry later," Mickey said in his 'Boss Mode' voice. The emergency cabinet on the wall opened, and he pulled out one and then a second emergency suit. He handed the folded plastic bubble to Wulf, pushing it into his hands before he began to unwrap his own. Like a painter's overall the suit was an all in one poor man's space suit: no heat regulation, no onboard AutoDoc to dispense pain meds, just a sealed envelope of pressurised air. Sealed the suit up, and pulling then hood up and over his head, it inflated slightly as the suit small AI registered the seal.

"Aisling?" he asked, piggy backing Wulf's concern.

"Multiple impacts, four hull breaches. One right through the ladder well between the cockpit and Ops, so I'm stuck up here for the time being," they heard their pilot sing out. "LIDAR emitter is off line with an equipment malf, and I think the radome in the proximity radar has a dent in it unless there's a Jupiter sized something half a meter from us. We've lost two manoeuvring quads so we're sluggish in a turn, and I'm seeing a few amber warning lights from the drive cone. But reactor and life support are still on line. Except, you know, the holes."

"Micrometeorite shower?" Mickey asked.

"All I know is the barge took it worse. It's a hundred klicks to our aft and dropping away. Its drive is out, and looks like a propellant tank got holed because it's in one hell of a lazy spin."

Mickey hadn't had to tell Wulf twice. The tech had moved with a swift purpose, taking care as he unwrapped the precious package and taking even more as he got himself installed inside its precarious safety. Great, Wulf considered internally, we're about to die and I'm gonna be forever entomed in a fucking carrier bag. He didn't say anything of the sort out loud though, jinxing was a forbidden art out here and tempting the fates was a fool's errand that never ended well.

"I'll get to plugging some holes," said Wulf, having heard the same words from Aisling as Mickey just had. Having heard and digested the options at his own disposal in a very long list of 'Things That Need Doing Now' and having located the top one that he could Do Something About. "And try real hard not to think about the barge going boom," he added, words spoken in a low, semi-miserable mutter.

"I'm killing the drive until the techies can tell me we're not going to wreck the rocket bell," Aisling said. A moment later gravity slowly tapered off, and microgravity took over. "Whilst we're coasting I'm going to run through a checklist up here, see if there are any other systems we need to figure out."

Mickey grabbed his bulb of coffee, and tossed it to Wulf in the zero-gee.

"Squirt a little of that into the air, with us holed it should be drawn to the breaches. Then we find'em and plug them," he said as he opened another emergency locker and got out the sealant gun. The fact that it looked like a calking gun used in DIY was because it did the same thing and had millions of hours of being tested to destruction. But instead of silicone sealant, it was filled with a binary compound that would mix once it exited the nozzle and fuse together into what the manufacture called rockcrete.

Good for sealing hull breaches, but god help you if you got some on your hand. Unless you wanted your hand to go away.

Catching the familiar coffee receptable, Wulf nodded as Mickey spoke calmly at him. He knew the drill, it wasn't his first time, but it had been a good long set of months since they'd had anything near this serious and his stomach was rolling enough to affect his focus. Not the Tross, but their barge companion added to the sheer distance they currently were from anyone else. He squeezed the little bulb and watched as, just like Mickey had promised, those merry drop of caffeinated courage sought an exit from their current confinement.

"Here, Mickey," Wulf indicated the first and closest two points of danger and looked to the Captain. "You wanna shoot them or shall I?" The comm tech asked, and he mustered up a wry smile. Work, work, work.

"Got it," Mickey said as he watched the coffee get slurped out into the void through the tiny hull puncture. Once cleared he pressed the sealent gun up against the hole and pulled the trigger. The truly acrid smelling substance burped out of the gun and adhere to the hole, the grey-white mess looking unpleasant. It looked even more so as it began to react together, bubbling furiously before giving out a little puff of combustion gases and solidifying into a chemically created rock.

"One down, another three to go," Mickey said.

It worked. Mickey's distraction and the ability to fix things some. Wulf was suitably distracted from the wider problem at least. As he sent more droplets of black liquid on the routine reconnaissance mission, his tech-based mind couldn't help but start searching for its own information. "Two over here," Wulf called to Mickey as he tracked after the shortest distance to hole numero two and three of four. These were relatively closely spaced, enough that he could have plugged one with a finger and the other with a toe at least, had it come to that.

"We got this, right?" The comm tech looked to Mickey for confirmation. "The barge situation I mean..."

"Barge is in one piece, just spinning and adrift," Mickey said as he went to the next two holes and patched them up. "Once we have ourselves patched up then we can think about the barge. Good news is it's not under thrust anymore, so at least it's not running away at top speed."

There was an inaudible gulp and Wulf mustered up a firm nod that suggested far more faith in this plan than his worried brain realistically harboured. He watched the Tross' captain seal all but one of their current problems. "We got this," the tech noted, more for his benefit than Mickey's. "One left, bossman," he said, countering his internal concerns with actual action of the minor kind. "Coffee inbound... hole detected. All yours."

With Adrie following him, Ken travelled down the shaft of the elevator. No punctures were found on the crew deck so he had vacated the oxygen there into the storage tank and descended down to engineering. A light from below came to meet him, that light being carried by a skinny belter in a bulky vac suit.

Delphi looked up, directing her vac suit lights to the motion at the entrance to the engine room. She spotted Ken and Adrie floating down from the elevator shaft into her compartment. The engineering space was dark save for her vacsuit torches and some flickering light panels and display screens.

"Oye" she greeted them. She had an assortment of tools from wrenches, to a patch kit tucked under belts and straps on her suit and a sealent gun grasped in her gauntleted hand. "How bad up there?" the Belter engineer asked. "Kowmang séfesowng?"(1)

She had been cut off since the sounding of the hull breach klaxon and had luckly been suited up in most of her vac suit already, old belter habit, and had just needed to pull on her gauntlets, and slam her helmet into place, which had been quick enough. She had spent the rest of the time since safe'ing the reactor and engines, then checking the compartment for breaches or punctures.

"The Bridge was popped, but Mickey and Wulf were in suits in time. Aisling is currently locked in the pilot cabin with pressure, but she doesn't have a suit there so she's stuck until we can get it all sorted. Crewdeck had no loss of pressure, but I put it in vacuum so we could move around. How bad is it down stairs?" Ken answered.

"Given 'down stairs' is where the reactor is, given we're not vaporised it's a good sign," Adire commented.

Delphi eyed Adrie dubiously, but was glad she kept her vac suit's internal face lights off most the time (she really didnt need little LED's in her helmet shining in her eyes as she worked on stuff in a dark ship, or the black of the void!).

"Ya mang, got few puncture ere da engine room, na damage to reactor o da epstine far as Mi see. Reactor scrammed automatic" she said in her thick belter accent, her words even thicker than usual due to stress. "Patches to da inner hull be quick and think whatever hit us missed da main cable runs" she explained quickly. "Mi gonya have to du full check everything before start her back up."

"We're bloody lucky then. Let's get those holes patched so I can get out of this bin-bag vacsuit." Ken gestured down the lift shaft.

Delphi made the belter hand gesture for a nod of agreement. "Ya, coulda been walowda walowda worse" she said and turned back towards the engineering space below. "Mi could use help patching holes in da inner hull down there so Mi can get to checking da reactor and engine before restarting"

"We'll need to pressurise the airlock so I can switch into my proper suit. If I go between the hulls in this I'll pop a leak before you can yell Pinche Tumang." Ken's pronunciation was approaching a passable Eros docks accent on the two words. "So, airlock first, then engineering to crawl between." He then turned to Adrie, "Maybe you should head up to the Ops deck and see if you can make yourself useful?"

TAG Adrie and Delphi

"Uh, Mickey?" Wulf called across the chill but securely sealed space that comprised the Ops Deck. "Incoming message." A tap of gloved fingertip on darkly lit screen. "Omnidirectional broadcast..." He felt that twist in his guts as he listened to the words."Fuuuck..." Wulf said on an exhale. Then opened the comm up on speaker so that Mickey could hear it too.

""This be the salvage ship Athame broadcasting in the clearing. We have detected free-floating and without transponder code rightful salvage. We have registered the salvage claim with Lloyds & Lloyds of Ceres.""

"Do not respond to that," Mickey said as he came up alongside Wulf. He pressed the intercom. "Aisling, Ken and Jammer: do not light reactor or the drive cone. Miss Yonkers, if you could come to the Op's Deck that would be appreciated. Your martial prowess is wanted."

"Ya, bossmang. Mi keep her cold until you need" Delphi's voice crackled over Mickey's earpiece as the engineer replied. She would busy herself with getting everything ready to start up when the Captain needed main power and the Epstein drive.

He looked at Wulf.

"Use the comm's gear to back trace that call to a patch of sky, use the passive visual array to find'em," he instructed.

The comm tech nodded and quietly settled into the potentially arduous task. They'd contacted the Tross though, so despite that broad signal area, there was a solid ship out there somewhere and it was coming closer to them if it wanted the salvage.

Still fighting with her armored vac suit, Emma floated up onto the Op's deck. "Sorry was stuck in the head..." She shrugged and slapped her helmet down into place as she floated to her seat at the main weapons station. "What have I missed boss?" Her eyes widened as she worked her screens to bring all the combat systems to ready. "Well I think I can aim down their signal if they are indeed not broadcasting from a drone or something.

"Or not," Aisling said from her sealed cockpit. "With the reactor cold and our manoeuvring thrusters down on one side, Newton's Third is in effect. PDC array will send us into a spin the moment we use it if they throw anything our way. And the 'Tross's launcher is offset enough that that we'd go ass over tea kettle."

"Not to mention if they have a rail gun on their tub we're a sitting duck," Mickey said, looking at Emma in her suit of Martian armour. "No this is straight-up piracy with a thin cover in case the UNN or MCRN are looking. And given we're far out on the edge, I'd like to know who tried to punch our tickets. Wulf, how you doing on getting a visual of these ass holes?"

"We're not entirely defenceless though," muttered Wulf without taking his visual or aural attention away from his screen. A thumb jabbed towards Emma and a smug grin tweaked at one side of the tech's mouth. "We gotta secret weapon, right?" He clung to that hope with all the energy he wasn't currently directing to his own task and waited a couple of minutes longer before he answered Mickey's pressing question.

"Almost got her," Wulf noted, concentration still not breaking as he manually marked the second ping and waited on the third. "Somewhere round here, boss," he told Mickey as the Tross and Zee cooperated and a whole bunch of physics happened in the background. "Right in... there..." He sat back in his chair and let Mickey see the display.

What appeared on the screen a bright smear of light. Wulf's clever coding played with the image, parsing it down levels of resolution until something more reasonable could be seen. A squat, puggish vessel whose paint scheme had probably been a bright easily seen yellow before decades of exposure to vacuum had begun to leach it of vibrancy. Its lines spoke of brute force, with insectile folded limbs looking like mandibles at its fore.

And it had a gunslinger belt.

"That's a pirate alright," Mickey said as he patted Wulf on the shoulder. "See those canisters around its midsection? The ones painted up to look like shipping containers? Box launchers. Probably three torpedoes per so...fifteen total. Of course with its drive pointed at us as it decelerates we can't see if its got a long gun."

While that hand on his shoulder gave a small sense of reassurance, it was only that Wulf wasn't alone staring at potentially imminent death. The internal shiver was real, but all Wulf managed was a nod and small noise of agreement. Yes, he could see them. Those Death Cannisters.

Mickey tapped at Wulf's screen, bringing up the navigation overlay.

Wulf's gaze transfixed and each tap of Mickey's fingertip was echoed by the tech with a tiny but perceptible body shudder.

"They're on a intercept with the barge, probably think we're dead..." Mickey muttered to himself. "Emma, whats the flight range on your armour suit? Ken, same question for you and the UN antique you have stowed in the hold."

"Annabeth carries twenty five minutes of continuous thrust at 1G. Standard load out has forty eight hours of oxygen, with another six on an emergency bottle." Ken reported as he twisted himself to take a look at one of the damaged thrusters.

"Flight range?" She shrugged and thought it through given the basic survival thrusters on her suit and the possibility of snagging a fire extinctors or two.. "Range infinite, Delta Vee? in suit maybe a few meters per second. maybe five if I enhance it with unsafe ideas." Yonkers nodded towards the "incase of fire" box hanging on the bulkhead...

"Patchamama preserves bloated defence budgets," Mickey said as he mentally added double that for Yonker's Martian armour. "I'm thinking we play the Poison Chalice. Play dead, with Ken and Emma hiding on the barge among the cargo boxes. They'll need to latch on and inspect their prize. When they do that, we have a welcoming committee on point and the 'Tross aiming every sensor we have on them. Its a sketch of a plan, but I'm open to suggestions."

"Probably better to send one of us to the barge, and the other to stay here. There's a solid chance they first check to make sure the 'Tross is dead before they take the easier prize. I don't want a group of pirates barging onto my ship and have to trust in Wulf's marksmanship to keep it safe." Ken replied while taking pliers out of his toolbox to dismount the thruster feedline.

"I can shoot straight," Wulf complained, shoving a shaky hand between his leg and the crash couch seat to hide his uncertainty. "Mickey, maybe we could set up a coupla basic traps - trips and slips kinda deal?" He shrugged. "Anything that makes them easier to hit," he added, with a scowl that Ken couldn't actually see right now.

"Does this mean I can have a real gun?" Emma snickered as she looked over at Wulf. "I can set up a couple up basic shooting solutions, that could be easily updated as needed." She winked at him before unclipping herself from her couch. "But I Think Ken and I can handle them on our own. I'm sure even a Earther marine might have something up his sleeve."

At that impish wink from the Marine, Wulf blew Emma a kiss that solely bounced off his suit's helmet visor and the tips of his gloved hands. He didn't plan on arguing, but he also had no intention of these two handling this situation alone.

"Okay so no to the barge," Mickey said. "We'll hold out here on the Tross. Repair what we can from the inside, let's keep it looking from the outside that we're dead in the water. When they come to pick over our bones, we either lure them into a trap when they dock, or we force the connection ourselves."

"A forced docking with one side of the ships manoeuvring system paralysed?" Aisling piped up from the cockpit.

"You want a challenge," the 'Tross CO said. "Emma you get a gun, Ken gets his gun, Wulf even you get a gun. This is us fighting for our home, so no one gets left out. That includes you Flo. Now, let's get some air pressure back in here so we can get out of these life preserves and into proper pressure suits. I'd rather not die in a glad bag."

About to voice his complaint about arming Flo, Wulf bit down those words and nodded. Better to not draw more attention to Mickey's 'arm everyone' plan else he might also be a victim of his own 'success'. "With you on the proper suits, bossman," he agreed wholeheartedly. "Once we're properly dressed up, and they close in - how about we look to board them while they try to board us?" Amibition was scary, but Wulf couldn't help the show of confident bravado as he regarded Emma's fine form. He didn't want to be weak link in the chain right now, and he absolutely did want to impress the Martian Marine.

"Yonkers, Mick and I got you a little something when we were in port. Mick can unlock the gun cabinet. There's a Mark V Assault Combat Armour suit inside with your name on it. It's not a Goliath suit but it'll help you." A grunt from Ken filtered through the radio next as he yanked the nozzle actuator out of its housing. "I'll hand this work over to Delphi and suit up in Annabeth. Between two marines in combat gear, and a half-dozen spacers with scatterguns and submachine guns they'll be sucking vacuum double quick."

Grinning ear to ear Emma grabbed the armor and started suiting up. It was the same model she had learned in back in boot, sure it was out dated and well used, but it was armor and will keep her moving if a few lead rounds hit her.

"I don't care what the rest say about you Ken, but you're not a half bad guy." she snickered as she suited up and looked over at the weapons. "Yeah I'm sure we will do a lot of damage."

"To them," Mickey said. "To them."

(1) Everyone safe?


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