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Patchamama's Misguided Children

Posted on Wed Dec 29th, 2021 @ 1:12am by Comm Tech Wulf Edevane & Commanding Officer Mickey Serendipity & Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue & Medical Officer Florian McLennan
Edited on on Fri Dec 31st, 2021 @ 2:18pm

Mission: A Knife In The Darkness
Location: SS Albatross
Timeline: After 'A Chance Of Hail'

In the alleyway.
In the trenches.
In the soot blacked corridors of a spin station.
In the darkness of space.
It was all the same.

The waiting for the bright, brief, moment of action and ad-hoc violence that would decide things one way or another. In the alley, the war, the shoot out, and the waiting...one way or the other it would become something new. Things would change. Had to change. The momentum of the moment was a force pushing everyone along the tracks at breakneck speeds.

The enemy, the pirate junker with its waist loaded down with torpedo shot, loomed over the carcass of the barge. The Tross floated nearby, dead meat that was being saved for later when the prize was taken. And with the Tross's hull scratched and scarred, and starlight peering through some of the holes punched through the drive cone, it was an easy sell to convince you the ship was dead. On thermal, the dive cone was rapidly cooling, with only the ebbing pulse of its reactor showing there was anything worth salvaging within.

Just personal effects and frozen deli meat.




"Simple and robust," Mickey said to Wulf as he handed him back the compact ceramic handgun. With that smooth black gloss finish, it just screamed 'Made on Mars' with all the fashionable technocracy cooing you could ask for. "20 round magazine, safety is linked to the suit gloves. It's got a built-in counter weight so there's no recoil. Point and click, just like a VR fun zone."

He looked at Flo, the two boys... men, unfettered by the truer sense of violence. The two men were dressed in EVA suits like Mickey, ballistic plates fastened over their chests, arms and legs to offer some protection from small arms fire. Two soldiers done with war, a pilot marooned away from the action, a very unlucky Belter mechanic, a hacker, a Martian from the gutter of the dust works and... A man who very dearly wanted to be Mickey Serendipity.

He held out a spare magazine to Flo.

"Reload it like I showed you," Mickey said.

The boy hesitated at first, but not for long. He reached out and to the ammo offered to him, the tremor of his hand hidden from view under his gloves. His fingers clumsily manipulated the magazine into his pistol.

Flo had never shot a gun before, nor did he like the idea of starting now. He had hoped surviving through the risk of being rejected by Mickey and his crew would finally land him into a prolonged period of safety. Clearly he'd been too optimistic. The idea that he might just die in the coming minutes sent an awful knot straight into his stomach.

Flo wasn't ready for this. Not one bit.

Handling guns always brought up mixed emotions for the comm tech - a complicated internal soup based on past experience being on the wrong end of said firearms, and the desire to not be afraid of them. Mustering up an air of confident determination that Wulf had been working on since he'd received the warning message, the tech took the handgun from Mickey and nodded. Just like a VR fun zone. Except with only one life and experienced opposition.

Practice however, while not making him anywhere near perfect, had certainly given Wulf the ability to look as if he knew what he was doing. He checked the gun just as Ken and Emma had repeatedly showed him, pushed the mag into place and kept his trigger finger across its guard with the muzzle lowered. "Good to go, Mickey," Wulf said, projecting as much quiet bravado as he could muster. There was fear in those dark eyes that didn't bleed into the tech's voice. He might really have to shoot someone this time and that fact scared the crap out of him.

"Hesitation will get you killed. Remorse and guilt suck like a breach, but you'll be alive to work through them," Mickey reached out and gave a slap to the shoulder pauldron of Wulf's suit.

Ahead of them, down the corridor, the two soldiers made ready for war. Sealed up in their armour, one powered and one empowered in her panoply.

Ken was eye-clicking through a final check. The electric motor on the arm-mounted minigun whined as it rotated the three barrels. The tiny actuators in his suit made their soft sounds of function as Ken took a step. "I'll be right next to the airlock, their first surprise. Yonkers will be at my back, covering my six and intercept anything that gets past me." The tinny speakers on the chunky ancient suit crackled slightly. "Try not to get hit by any potential ricochets off the armour and we'll live to tell about it." Ken then eyeclicked to a comm-link with Emma. "Ever thought you'd be working with an Earther like this?"

Checking over her weapon for what must have been the twelfth time, Emma Yonkers looked over at Ken and smiled in her newly gifted armor. “Fight with yeah, but never watching their back.” She looked back at Wulf. “The safest place is directly behind one of us, any other angle and you’ll get the ricochet like Ken said.

"Jammer, I need to know you've got the reactor ready to go the moment we're docked. I'll need all the steam it can generate to keep us locked on when they try to roll us off." Alisline said from her cocoon in nose of the ship, a voice coming out of the ear piece of Jammer's suit.

There was a solid clunking sound that rose up through their mag boots, and the 'Tross rocked slightly. The enemy was latched on now. The main airlock became like a magicians curtain, hiding the surprise you could hear being made through the vibrations in the deck. A high pitched whine of a cutting blade, followed by the chomping of industrial cutters: the hydraulic lines to the outer door had just been cut. There was no squeal of metal as the armoured outer door were pulled apart, Ken did too good a job to let the 'Tross give their attackers that much satisfaction.

Then came the inner doors...

A bright light blasted out of the open inner door, sweeping back and forth with neurotic precision. Clunk. Clunk. Clunk. It was only as the light source turned sharply to regard a spare suit glove on the float, that the intruder was revealed fully. Same bright yellow paint job as the ship now attached to them, it looked like a praying mantis decked out in armour plate. Six legs at its base, supporting a central torso with folded mantis limbs tipped with cutting blades and snapping jaws, the head a combination of four high-resolution camera eyes and light sources.

A reactor repair drone, the sort of thing that spent a week in a big station's reactor system before having to be scrapped from radiation exposure.

Before Ken and Emma that bright yellow Mantis rocked gently for a moment, then stopped in position. It waved its upper limbs in a slow gesture as if preparing some awful fate, spun its cutting blades and snapped those little hand jaws. Then, without further ceremony, it heralded them via those tinny stereo speakers hardwired into its build.

Not words, or threats, no. Mantis sang out a song.

"I wanna be in the cavalry if they send me off to war..."



Like a lonely trail of smoke from a planet-born campfire, a new signal hung in the software world unnoticed by the expected dead, but pounced upon by the technically-living without a single sound or fanfare. Video link looped, audio connection back to its watchers skittered and died. And Zee's masked conversation was simple, silent text on an isolated screen held physically close to Wulf's heart yet printing out words on the interior of his helmet visor.

>>>Playing - from Library... >>>Playing - from Library...

Whiskey Zulu. Override complete.




"Son...of...a...bitch..." Mickey said softly over the suit comm.

"Now that is a beautiful sound." Ken chuckled over the group channel. "Wulf, can you send the little bot back and see what they're bringing to this party?"

As if in reply a panel on the back of the bot let out a shower of sparks as something bright and cored with magnesium ignited within it. Some sort of kill switch to avoid an override, turning a hulking monster into an overly wrought modern art sculpture. As the flash of the magnesium charge cooking the bot's brain died down, shadows flickered behind the bot. Followed shortly by the 'spak-thunk' of a hard plastic round entering the tross's air from the airlock connector.

Two borders bounded across the airlock bridge, sinking down into cover against the lip of the airlock. Tight little boarding SMG's held close to their centre of mass. But what stood out was the ruddy salmon colour of their suit armour.

"Contact forward." The old Earther marine announced in a mechnical voice. Clad in steel and ceramic powered armour he stepped in front of the 'Tross airlock door. His faceplate was darkened to black. He eyeclicked the ammo to plastic rounds and sent a dozen rounds just under the feet of the floating would-be-boarders. "Retreat, and retract the docking tube. First and final warning." He raised his arm slightly to aim squarely at the leading boarder and eyeclicked to 3mm tungsten armour penetrating rounds.

"Come on now, we're just good samaritans here," said one of the suited figures. Not a Belter accent, it had the flowing easy cant of an Earther from the Oceanic Zones. Samoan, or New Zealand. "Folks in distress, in a gunship no less...can't have Darwin win around out here now can we? See?"

The talkative one held up the SMG in one hand, gripping it by its puck-like magazine.

"We're friendly, and friend like," they said.

Wulf didn't say a word. This wasn't his stage or his performance and the sound of his own heartbeat was too loud in his ears to fight against. Now was Ken and Emma's time, out there with the real weapons, standing in real danger, because not even a hacker from Titan was falling for the 'friendliest friendly friends ever' speech. He closed his eyes - tight - for a second and sent up a silent mantra for his own benefit. Team Tross got this. Team Tross got this. Then he checked his weapon for the hundredth time, just in case.

Flo fought hard to keep his own eyes peeled open over the past several minutes, but only managed to catch glimpses of the boarding, as if he was watching everything unfold in stuttering frames per second. He had a weapon at hand, and appropriate use of it meant being the sharpest he's ever been. But the situation brought about such intense fear that he couldn't help but shut his eyes tight, intermittently, and simply hope he'd make it out alive the next time he opened them.

And for a second, when they were, he looked over at Wulf to find the other young man seemingly just as petrified.

Letting out a long breath she had been holding since the bot marched into view, Emma relaxed her aim on the bot and watched it burn out, but the second the movement flashed behind the now dead bot, her weapon took bead. Sure you’re friendly, so is the vacuum beyond you. Emma’s finger moved into the weapon’s guard and lightly pressed on the trigger. Not hard enough to fire, no not that hard, but to pull the metal lever past it’s first break. With her left hand she activated the private channel with Ken. "Go hot or are these Earthers friends of yours?"

"How about you toss tho..." Ken demanded through the speakers when his suit alarm started blaring. A red warning appeared in the left upper quadrant of his screen.

LASER DESIGNATOR BEAM DETECTED>>>>
98.99% CHANCE OF BELONGING TO RPG OR SIMILAR CREW SEVERED ORDINANCE>>>>
ESTIMATED THREAT VECTOR FOURTEEN METERS FROM CURRENT LOCATION>>>>
ADVISE EXTREME CAUTION AND COUNTERMEASURES>>>

The minigun on Ken's left arm, kept just out of direct aim rose as swiftly as the actuators could bring it up. It wasn't even a conscious command yet, instinct and decades of experience. Ninety-five Teflon coated AP tungsten rounds sprayed out of the rotary cannon. It stitched a double width line across the two approaching boarders, through both layers of armour, several vital organs including hearts and lungs, and into the airlock behind them. Two seconds after that Ken shouted "Pushing in. Yonkers on me. Lock the airlocks behind us." and pushed into the docking collar on the cold-gas boosters his suit had.

Flo just about screamed with the weapons fire, his head snapping away from the horrible sight of someone dying in front of him. He heard Ken's commands, wondering if any of them were directed at him. Probably not, as he knew he was perhaps the least useful person under such circumstances. The boy opened his eyes again, staring at the gun gripped in his hands, briefly wondering if he needed to shoot something. Then the hammering of heavy footsteps as his fellow crew members rushed ahead.

The two soldiers crossed into the enemy ship. The docking bridge was little more than some cables and plastic, less of bridge and more of a guide. One of the attackers floated with a foot tangled in the cabling, the chin and neck ring the only parts of the suit's helmet that remained attached. As for the head that went with it...

Inside the ship's airlock, the other attacker was trying to get a sealing patch onto a jagged gash that went up one arm, air gushing out at a lethal rate. That's when the russet, dark pink armour of the suits finally clicked into place: Pink Water Security.

Heavy fire form something with more pep than bullpup SMG's sparked out of the open inner door, pinking off of the 'Tross's hull and scratching up the paintwork.

And then they felt it, through the heels of their boots: the wood saw rumble of a point defence cannon cycling.

Then there was movement.

And a short, sharp scream over the comm.

 

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