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Terminal Dogma

Posted on Sun Nov 24th, 2019 @ 5:30pm by Client Soto Nabaal & Commanding Officer Mickey Serendipity & Pilot Allegra Jennings & Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue & Passenger Kol Wescott-Fitzgerald & Comm Tech Wulf Edevane

Mission: The Forgotten Arm
Location: Eros Station Port Authority
Timeline: Eros Incident T-minus 12 Hours 45 Minutes

The empty corridors of Eros's port control continued. Safety posters from the ancient days of Eros stood in laminated plastic frames. 'Hear a hiss? Pressure loss is not a laughing matter.' 'Don't misjudge the gravity of your situation. Osteoporosis boosters are mandatory for all long term micro gee exposure!' There were even a few old two dee high res images of Earth and the moon, and of people in cumbersome looking pressure suits standing beside flags that were colourful if lacking in corporate branding.

Eros Station was a legacy of a time when all peoples of the Earth reached out to build something bright and shining in the dark of space. If only they'd built in some hope into that pre-packed future, it might have gone differently.

The group rounded a corner and came to a stop. There was a checkpoint directly outside the sealed pressure hatch doors to the port control room manned by black riot armour wearing CPM goons. And the word goon was appropriate, given one of them was smoking something that turned the air above his head blue, and another was playing a game on his terminal. The other two were looking the other way. They were far enough down the corridor that the checkpoint guards, distracted as they were, had yet to notice them as Mickey drew them back.

"So...thoughts, I'm open to them given there's a ten-meter gap between us and the door we need to get through," Mickey said, eyeing the UNIB agent. "Do I just called you Badgey or do you have a name, Mr Fastpass?"

"Neither, Kol will do" the agent in question replied, eyeing the CPM checkpoint. "We go together, we're escorting you back to your ship because we're hitching a ride. "We outgun them and they're distracted, I don't mind our odds if they don't let us pass" Kol suggested.

Ken merely pushed his weapon's selector lever from safe to full-automatic. "Not a problem."

Watching Ken, Wulf checked the safety on the Beretta and took as discreet a deep breath as he could possibly manage considering how closely together their little group was currently standing. His gaze wandered deliberately from Soto and the crazy lady to Kai and Allegra and the comtech waited, uncharacteristically quietly, for Mickey's word to move.

Although she didn’t get the best look at the smaller group that was between them and their destination, it was enough of one to know that they had a bit of an upper hand. Just like Badgey stated, they had numbers on their side. And really, they’d already seen just how ‘clever’ these goofs were. Allegra double checked her weapon. Ken was always at the ready, it seemed for a good fight, whereas she was just ready to get this over with. “Do we need to distract them? Or just goin’ in guns a-blazin’?”

"They're Security wearing riot gear, down a straight corridor that might as well be a Ceres Station shooting gallery," Mickey said. "I am inclined to let the badges go first, but given ProtoGen's already gunning for us-"

"BETA SHEETS!" Dr Tekkaden exclaimed, a sudden fervour in her eyes. "I was trying to remember what the structures reminded me of, and there it was. Tip of the tongue! They're a common enough backbone in protein structures, but the crystalline matrix expresses structures that res-"

"Shut her up!" Mickey hissed, but it was too late. The clatter of a fumbled tablet, the confused words of alerted guards. The element of surprise had a fickle half-life. Mickey stepped out, S&W composite revolver in hand and fired. It hit the one at the back wearing a face shield, the ballistic glass staring and turning to glassy shards as the CPM thug went down. The other three already alerted by the Doctor's shout, were now doubly so as one of their numbers fell.

Riot shotgun and a pair of nasty looking submachine guns rose to greet them.

Ken rose with Mickey, the barrel of her rifle rising with him. Instead of going for center mass as he had been trained, Ken angled his rounds to thigh height. He took aim on the most left target and squeezed his trigger, 2 millimeter teflon coated plastic rounds rushed out of the rifle in a hard buzz. As he fired he pulled the weapon to the right, spraying his rounds so that each of the three security guards received over dozen rounds to the thigh armor, nice thin and penetrable. Ken's rifle clicked on empty after this spray, and he dropped the rifle as his hand shot to the pistol in his belt, pulling it out and up at their targets.

Kai grabbed the doctor and pulled her backward as hard as she could to the ground. She scooted them backward to the best cover they could find in the corridor from what was happening through the doors. She wished there was something in the medkit to sedate her but then figured that they'd have to drag her along.

Back pressed hard up against the wall, Wulf heard that initial shot smack into its human target and felt the fear rise up inside him. Ken’s follow-up to Mickey’s first strike was a huge wall of noise that deadened the comtech’s ears, but during that rain of fire Kai was already moving. Backwards. With a quick suck-in breath, Wulf stepped out to give the medic and her crazy cargo some cover. Behind the shield that the three other crew members currently provided, it felt marginally safer, but his priority was to defend and protect the two unarmed women and watch the crew’s backs. In his hand, the Beretta suddenly felt really heavy.

"Hold!" Mickey shouted over the din of the shooting.

All four of the CPM guys were on the floor. Stepping closer he made a rough guess that two of them were dead, one from the stylish new air vent Mickey had put through his faceplate and the other from the large pool of blood flooding the deck beneath a ruined thigh. The other two-leg shot men were screaming up a hissing storm of Belter cant, intermixed with the Cantonese you don't use around old people.

He knelt beside one of the breathers and flipped up his riot face shield. Half the man's face was covered in an old tattoo, the ink fading to a dark blue from his forehead to his chin. The characters and symbology in it screamed the Golden Bough Society, a criminal enterprise that had run most of the illegal gambling on Ceres Station. Not the workers union you just got to walk away from to join the cops.

"CPM running some sort of rehabilitation program for the scum bags of the Outer Planets?" Mickey asked the goon.

"Go fuck yourself!" the tattooed man said in a pained gasp.

He took the helmet off of the goons head, and turned it over before showing it to the group.

"Someone stripped all the comm's gear out of it," Mickey noted as he tossed it down the hall. He then checked and found one of the terminals that Wulf had hacked at the docks. "You only talk to people using this? Private mesh network right? Not riding on the Station's servers."

He then looked at the thick pressure doors to Port Control. The door's were plate steel, just one step below the sort of cladding they put on the exterior of UNN warships. These sorts of doors were designed to keep full station riots out of the Control Room so that the people running the port could call for help and hold up until people with guns and riot spray got there.

"Wulf reckon you can hack that door to get us in?" he asked the comm's tech, slipping the revolver away and picked up one of the submachineguns. It had the greasy, unfinished feel of something hurriedly spat out of an industrial printer. Even had all of the fab lines there from where the printer head had run back and forth. But it wasn't the gene coded vapour tech weapons from the warehouse, so it was open game.

"Ken, Allegra you two okay on your PDW's?" He held up the cheaply made weapon.

"All good here." Ken replied, holstering his pistol. He clicked his rifle back on safe, pulled the magazine out, put it in a pocket, and slotted a new one in, and pulled the charging handle, readying it once again.

"Yeah."Plain and simple, she had yet to fire a single shot.

Trying not to look too hard at the human carnage, Wulf flicked the safety catch back on, shoved the handgun in his belt and padded over to stand halfway between Mickey and the pressure doors.

“Might take a few minutes, but yeah,” Wulf nodded confidently. “I’ll get us in.” He shot a wide-eyed look briefly to the XO. “These guys might have had some access… could ya check them over?” It was a long shot, given the tatts on the talker, but might be worth a try. He moved up to study the access panel at the doors and, with a tiny screwdriver, deftly flicked up the metal to expose its wiring cage, ready run a bypass.

"Yeah reckon we can do that," Mickey said as he leaned in closer. "Now you see, my Golden Bough Friend, my comm tech here is something of a wizard with computer systems. But this is the thing, working man like yourself should appreciate this, we're running on something of a clock. So if you have key, or a fob, or a code to bypass this door I'd be appreciative. Maybe enough to let the Doc we have look at patching up your leg before you're done venting."

He held up a finger and then pointed it at Ken to indicate the mechanic.

"Or, you can jerk me around with more 'fuck you' bull shit, and I let the mechanic here take you apart. He's a devil on the ship, keep's taking the coffee machine apart but he always put it back together. He likes doing things with his hands," Mickey looked over his shoulder. "Don't ya Ken?"

A shrug was all the answer Ken gave as he looked out the hallway where they game, rifle in a comfortable ready position.

"Or we can not keep killing and maiming people," Kol said drawing closer towards the door, "we have override codes for most areas on the station. Why do you think we were coming the back way? Our plan was to be i,n and out," He complained bypassing Mickey's crew to get access to the input panel beside the doors. "We should incapacitate him and move on before a relief shift stumbles across this mess" Kol suggested once the door's hydraulics kicked into action, "Don't kill him" he added, sharing a look with his partner.

'Then I'd suggest hopping over there and helping Wulf with the door," Mickey suggested. He began to search the CPM officer for some restraints, something a cop should have. What he found were the reloads for his riot gun, all of them stamped as AP flechette rounds. He held one of them up to his pet goon. "Non lethal crowd control right? What were your orders?"

"Pashang fong paxoníseki!"

Mickey cold-cocked him square in the kisser, bouncing his head off the deck plate with a nice thumping sound. He shook his head, looking over his shoulder at Soto.

"Sorry boss, if there's one thing I will not stand, it's intolerance," he rolled the goon over and found some plastic zip ties. "Hey Wulf, Kol how's that door coming?"

Kai came forward leaving the doctor in the back on the floor, "Why don't we outfit the rest of the group," Kai said, sounding annoyed as she walked up to the four CPM guys on the ground.

"Wait! No, don't..." But the comtech's protest that wasn't in response to Kai's frustration.

Wulf allowed himself to be pushed out of the way by Kol, though he didn't stop his low-key protest. He had his terminal all ready to go, just not connected up yet. Meanwhile, Kol's code had the door hydraulics make all the noises that promised an open portal fit for humans any second now, but then faded into silence before any actual entranceway presented itself.

"Told ya," muttered Wulf, though in fairness he hadn't been sure. He shoved his arm past Kol and hooked up his leads to the panel. "There's a kill-switch program," he mumbled, focus more on his work than the explanation as his gaze skimmed his screen. "Lemme... yeah... here..." Fingers ran across the screen and he screwed up his face as he fought the unexpected hack. "Almost... got it..."

Cursing followed under his breath, but that didn't slow Wulf in fighting his unseen little battle. A minute longer and he stepped back, grinned proudly and turning to the rest of the crew, held his arms out to the side in a demonstrative gesture of celebration as the doors really opened this time.

The heavy metal hatch began to open like the jaws of a cat, retracting back and up into the control room on weighted hinges that the hydraulics would force open but a powercut would see slam closed for everyone's safety. Beyond them was the Eros Station Port Control, a three-tiered level of control booths and work station. Hologram's danced in the air depicting the three major port docks of the station, with various indicators and markers for ships and travel lanes.

But there was something in the way...

"Everyone-" Mickey began to say as he looked through the now opening doors. As he did so a red laser dot began to zip up Wulf's pant leg, stroke over his belt buckle, and settle onto his torso.

"-GET-!" Mickey connected with the comtech's waist, pulling him off to the side. The glossy black tripod machine began to hum merrily to itself. Mickey had only caught a glimpse of it, a squat cylindrical body with three stubby barrel's protruding from its middle and a snake-like cord running into a high-end power socket in the wall. The humming began to reach a fever pitch.

"-DOWN!" His last words were cut off as the sentry drone burped out a blast of air burst shrapnel. Employed by the mining companies that took claim jumping as a competitive sport, the squat machines worked on a simple software mandate that ran simply to the phrase: Let God sort them out. The space where Mickey and Wulf had been blossomed with a cloud of fast-moving razor blades that impacted the far wall with the sound of a hysterical pinball machine.

The laser designator on its top flicked to a new target.

Noticing he'd become the target Kol gave up trying to retrieve his firearm and dove behind the frame of the door. As he worked to calm his breathing he felt an intense burning sensation radiating from his upper arm. He hadn't reacted quick enough resulting in his right arm receiving three nasty cuts from the passing shrapnel. He felt glad it wasn't his dominant arm as he looked over to the others.

Eyes wide, Wulf looked at the suddenly extremely close XO, then at the wall behind them, then back at Mickey. Speech took a little longer to catch up, and the punch of adrenline hit at about the same time, so his voice came out in a little squeak.

"Thanks!" Wulf said, as he stood back up on his own two feet. The sentry drone was still active and seeking out another victim after taking a razor-edged bite out of the Kol-the-badge-guy. The comtech took a couple of deep breaths and reevaluated life, the universe and everything to two simple thoughts.

Big Gun Bad.

People he cared about in Danger.

"If you guys keep it distracted, I can shut it down..." the tech offered, optimistically from the sidelines.

Mickey scooted up against the frame of the pressure hatch, his back to the bulkhead watching as the red laser designator scattered back and forth across the wall. It was either confused by the perforations in the wall it had created, or it was hoping there was a cat out there to play with. On a hunch, Mickey raised his revolver and fired a shot into the shrapnel pitted wall. In response, the sentry gun barped out another salvo of fast-moving death.

"Shoot the wall in front of it!" Mickey said, firing another shot. "It'll wise up, but it's only going on motion not thermal."

Wulf ducked down and scooted low, moving ready to duck past Mickey when the tiniest chance for a run into the control room opened.

From his cover Ken didn't have the angle to shoot anything.

Unable to clearly comprehend much of anything at the moment, or the fact the Wulf had very nearly gotten himself majorly shot, Allegra slid up further and followed Mickey's example. She focused on the same area and gave the wall a few quick bursts of gun fire.

At Allegra's signal - that first rally of shots - Wulf went for it. He forward rolled low into the space between sentry gun and door collar, and aimed to come up behind the automatic defence system. The set-up was simple, big buttoned, grunt-proof controls, so the comtech turned it off, then moved to deny the weapon mains power just to be sure.

It let out a slow, downward sloping whine as it was powered down. Mechanical safeties ratcheted into place within its black armoured shell, and the laser designator on its top sunk back into the rotating domed turret. Now it just looked like a piece of matt black equipment with no evident carry handles, a carelessly left behind power cell.

Mickey and the others stepped into the control room for the port, making a wide berth around the deactivated sentry turret. The XO of the 'Tross gave Wulf a pat on the shoulder.

"I take back every bad thing I said about you kid," Mickey said, stepping past the tech. Even at just a glance, the control room was empty. Where there should have been a dozen people manning the booths and stations, there were dangling headsets and sealed bulbs of coffee. He walked up to one of the control booths and placed the back of one hand against the coffee bulb, the warmth still radiating from it telling a story.

"Okay, everyone step in. Ken, Allegra drag in those CPM guys and see if they have anything we need. Armour, weapons, medical supplies," Mickey then looked over to Soto. "What do you want to do now boss?"

"Wulf, please access the central communication system. Ko, was it?" Soto asked as he stepped fully into the control room. "Would you be able to grant him access to the Eros Station central system? Events need a more permanent solution, and I have contacts within the United Nations Navy I can call upon. Having your aid would make things much easier."

The Albatross’ comtech was still grinning, basking in the aftermath of the XO’s backhanded compliment, but Wulf’s head snapped in Soto’s direction as the Captain spoke his name. He nodded emphatically in response. “Yessir!” Wulf agreed, and moved to take up a seat at one of the consoles.

He ignored the abandoned headset and set up his own terminal at his side, then the tech looked to Kol. “You know your arm is bleeding?” Wulf frowned, and leaned to the side to give the badge-guy a chance to enter his access codes.

Kol started to shrug before wincing, “feels and looks worse than it probably is,” he said as he drew into the space Wulf had made. The wound in question throbbed as he input his override before stepping back whilst the system went to work authorising his code. “Could be worse, I wouldn’t have noticed if your friend hadn’t have reacted so quickly”.

“He’s good people,” Wulf agreed, looking with pride towards Mickey. “They all are.” He canted his head and regarded Kol, then spoke with a kind, but brutal honesty. “Not sure about you yet.”

He rubbed his hands together with anticipation as Kol’s code digested that pretty access, and Wulf hooked up his own connection. The central system feed trickled onto the screen and into his headphones, but… it wasn’t anything like he expected.

Steaming with internal rage, Ken placed his weapon on his back, stepped over to the two bodies. He bent down and with one hand each, he grabbed the collars and stepped back between the doors. As soon as he was over the threshold he tossed the bodies deeper into the room, then bent down and examined the turret.

Phobos Munitions, ThresherMaw Area Denial Sentry 4th Edition.

One of the bodies Ken had tossed in the 3rd of a gee the station provided let out a groan and a cough, muttering something that sounded like a prayer.

On Titan, as a little kid, Wulf had been allowed to practise coding on a locked out child-proof database, a chance to play while being safely unable to fuck up anything vital. Eros Control should be Wulf’s for the taking right now, Access All Areas, full backstage pass.

With a grim expression, Wulf looked straight back to Soto and screwed up his face in unhappy disgust as he reported the bad news.

“Well, I can dim the bathroom lights, water the plants and check the refuse bots’ workload,” the tech explained, apologetically. “But that Black Ops shit is hiding everything else.” A heavy demonstrative sigh. “Sorry, Cap. It’s a full-on next gen lock-out right now.”

"I should hope so, we laid down enough extra fibre optic cabling to wrap up this flea trap of a station with a bow on it."

All of the screens died a death as the voice echoing from the loudspeakers died away in sonic reverb. They then slowly came back on, winking to a camera feed of a man's face. He wore a grey ball cap, grey shirt over which the same smooth grey high tech body armour that Ken and Allegra were wearing. The voice was the same as the one that had taunted them at the warehouse, and Soto knew him as Jansen.

The Protogen spokesman from the docks. He gave a little nod of the head, as though sharing a little joke.

"I gotta hand it to you Captain Nabaal, I didn't think your crew would get this far. I have four men teams going through the main travel spaces of this station between here and the Cobalt Ward, and you only ran into the B-Team. I mean, on one hand, that's impressive. Ex-UN Navy, ex UNMC, a few Mickey navy types cast off the big red: face it you need rebranding as a military surplus store. On the other it's embarrassing for me. You know you hire killers, the true dyed in the wool murderers of men, and you expect results. I'll bring it up in the next review cycle we do. You know make it a team-building days. Paintball and muffins, the little ones with the ton of frosting on them."

He leaned close to the camera on his end, his face filling the screen.

"But I just wanted to let you know, that my guys aren't hunting you anymore. Dr Takkaden has been declared lost beyond economic recovery by my superiors, so she's yours. I'd suggest a heavy amount of valium for her or something with a good strong THC cocktail in it. Whatever floats the boat. But we're not coming for her. In fact, my team, apart from a small oversight contingent, are leaving the station as we speak. Nice gentle 1 gee burn, good for the hips and lower back. Honestly, don't know how you Outer Planet types get to grips with it. Nothing weighs right, the sun looks like just another star, and you can't even piss in a straight line the way God intended."

Wulf’s eyes went big. It was difficult to hear that they’d been deliberately marked for death. “I’ve got a really bad feeling about this…” But he did have a sudden craving for muffins. Real ones with all the worst kind of sugar. Looking to the gathering of people around him, the tech frowned. "Why would they just leave?"

"You know what kid, I'm glad you asked"

Jansen's face vanished from the screens. Replacing it was a camera feed of the docks, the cylindrical berthing space in which ships were fitted into their slips like teeth in a cog. A Mao-Kwik freighter took up the centre of the feed. It had the classic lines of the breed: stubby fusion drive section, connected to a bunch of modular cargo containers bearing the shipping companies livery. Sensory arrays and radio masts arose like the poisonous spines on a deep ocean creature from between the pods.

Pandora was her name, picked out in black paint on titanium white hull cladding. And then the entire feed was white, the photoreceptors of the camera overloading as a deep seismic shudder ran through the station. On ancillary monitors scattered around the edge of the control room alarms began to go off, as well as the gut chilling triple tone of a radiation alarm. A cloud of dust fell from the ceiling of the control room, hanging in the air far longer due to the gravity, the cloud slowly twisting to one side in the spin of the station.

"Now, now: I know what you're thinking. Did that ruggedly handsome asshole just uncork a fusion reactor in my station? And before you all go clutching your medical alert bracelets don't worry you're pretty white cell counts: the 'Dora went up via a mining charge dialled down to a half kiloton yield. Of course, filling the freighter's cargo holds with Cessisum and other radioactive industrial detritus does seem to trick all of the station's safety sensors into thinking there's a major rad leak. See that was a problem for us, a lot of these old school safety systems can't be hacked. But you can make them wet themselves pretty effectivly"

The screen flickered again, and now each monitor showed a different camera feed, though somehow all showed the same image. Be a busy casino floor, or a residential block, or a busy market medina, Eros locals and visiting tourists began to flow towards the flashing red and yellow signs demarking the hardened safety shelters. These were basically space ships in their own right, with thickly armoured hulls and enough air and water to keep a lot of people alive until rescue arrived. And among the crowd, guiding the flow and sometimes forcing it along, were the thugs of the CPM Security force in their black riot armour.

"Now, for the sake of clarity, our plan was to be long and gone when the party started. But the good Doctor taking a walk, and the intervention of yourselves meant we had to move up our timetable. From...twelve hours from now," Jansen smiled wide and toothy, a charming devils grin. "Too right now. Now my boss, Mr Dresden, would probably thank you for the part in humanities future you're all about to take a part in. But I'm not my boss, I'm not here for the work ethic which....is kinda ironic if you knew the sociopaths I work with. So let's have some fun, shall we?"

From behind them, the heavy pressure hatch into the control room began to cycle closed, sealing them.

"Don't worry, not gonna vent ya. That's not very sporting. But I am going to put that door on a timer. Say, one hour? Doctor Tekkaden I'm sure could give me a better answer, but given how she seems to be lecturing to that plastic plant over there I don't think she can. We'll say two before the door opens of its own accord. And then, well...you'll see. It'll be a surprise I'm sure. My guys won't try to stop you from getting to your ship. If any of them are left in two hours. Anyway, gotta go. Places to go, people to kill. Busy me."

Jansen's image reappeared on the screen, leaning back into the padded headrest of a ships crash couch. He reached up a hand and gave a little mocking wave.

"Bye-bye."

And then he was gone, his face replaced by images of people being funnelled into the hardened shelters, each man woman and child stopped and given a shot of something into their neck or arm as they entered. A count down timer in the corner of each screen wound rapidly down from 12:00 hours to a blinking 00:00.

Wulf wasn't. Glad he asked. He'd sat there, next to Kol, listening to that evil bastard talk. His hands hadn't been idle, but his face had maintained a look of deepening confusion and horror. All the usual questions had flitted across the young man's face - Who was this? MK - oh shit... What was he talking about?! Whiteout.... Fuuuuuck! It was like watching a movie but realising along the way that this was really happening. It was, though not exactly personal, really occurring here and now to him and those around him. First time on the minor apocalypse for the tech, and he felt that ice rush through his veins as he watched it unfold.

Of course, he recorded it too, that little hand terminal soaking up vid footage, but that was pretty standard behaviour. As Wulf wiped the dust off his screen and tried to slow his pulse down so that his fingers didn't shake, the tech started to understand the sheer magnitude of this. Humanity's future?

The entire station. Eros. All of it. Was fucked.

He had the when, no idea of the how or why, but Wulf did manage to solemnly give Jansen the bird in response to that chillingly cheerful 'bye bye'. Seemed appropriate.

Then his hand went to his neck briefly, as if he expected to feel the soft impact of some magical shot. He shook his shoulders out and took a controlled breath with which to rage against the man's machine. And his mind focused on the one thing he could do. Work the door side of things.

"It'll be okay," Wulf muttered, more to himself than to the room. "I got this...." Then he smiled a grim smile and looked up briefly - from Kol standing close to each of the crew in turn, skipping past the crazy plant-talking doc to end on the green-haired medic's little pixie face.

"Make yourselves comfy," suggested the tech. Wulf shrugged, fingers already working the problem. "I can cut through his data locks, but we're probably still gonna be stuck here for about an hour."

 

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