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The Call Of The Sky

Posted on Sun Dec 8th, 2019 @ 8:38am by Commanding Officer Mickey Serendipity & Pilot Allegra Jennings & Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue & Passenger Kol Wescott-Fitzgerald & Comm Tech Wulf Edevane

Mission: The Forgotten Arm
Location: Iron Ward Docks, Eros Station
Timeline: Eros Incident T-plus 3.30 hours

Good fortune followed their terrible loss: no more vomit zombies.

Even more good fortune came to the group, as parked just outside the Dance Club district was a taxi cart. The electric vehicle was docked on its charging pad, and with a little computational arm twisting was convinced to move their entire group back to the docks. This did not stop the cart's dumb AI brain was berating them with sales information for services that would never open their doors again.

"Your destination is up ahead. We know that you have a choice for your provider of inter Ward transport within Eros Station, and thank you for choosing Johnny Cab!" the cheery, over-optimistic voice of the cab's AI informed the group. The rubber wheels clung to the corridor's surface as they rose up over the lip of the pressure hatch into the dock where only hours before they had been frisked for weapons.

Now they were in the empty, hollow space minus a member of the crew. A loading mech stood off to one side, its bright yellow paint job the only splash of colour in the rock-hewn cavern.

"Ken, Allegra as soon as we're on board I want you to run the quickest preflight checklist you've ever done. Anything that won't kill us instantly, don't bother checking it. Reactor and flight control," Mickey said as the cart slowed to a stop before the docking hatch. The airlock hatch was in the floor, leading down into the Tross's airlock deck. With the station's spin gravity the ship was effectively lying on its side, but space ships were designed with that in mind.

"Wulf, I want you to take the Fed and Doc and get them into the Ops deck and strap them into the crash couches," Mickey knelt by the docking hatch and punched in the code the dockmaster had given him. "I want us gone as quickly as possible, and that means we'll be pulling high gee's for a bit."

The touchpad flashed red as he finished entering the code. He frowned, pecked the code in again before the pad flashed red. 'Access Denied Pending Fine Payment'. He slowly looked up at Allegra.

"We've been booted," he snarled. "Eros Port Control locked us out because of that docking fine we got on the way in past the inner marker!"

“What?” The question rolling from her even though Allegra say the red flashing words clear as day. It registered quicker than Mickey’s words as she her gaze locked with his. “Didn’t we pay it?” She knew she hadn’t, but Mickey had said it didn’t have to come out of her pay, which meant that either he or the Cap- . Her eyes drifted shut as she tried to refocus, and not focus on something that was going to torment her when the smoke settled.

“Remind me to send them a very disgruntled customer satisfaction survey,” Mickey quipped.

Her voice was more of a whisper when her eyes reopened, “Wulf?” The com tech could hack most anything, certainly he could get them past this.

Drawn from his silent vigil on the back of the cart, head rolling around nightmares and looping recent, unwanted memories, Wulf nodded solemnly at Mickey’s request. Take the new people, get them stowed away. He could do that. It wasn’t the same though. It didn’t feel right. Not without…

The tech tried to push his mind from sombre thoughts with the temptation of humour, and imagery of strapping the feisty medic into a couch, but even that didn’t work. It didn’t break the cycle.

Mickey’s failure to enter the code on his second try drew Wulf’s interest though. Red warning sounds and critical messages pulled him over to the XO’s side and into the problem at hand. Allegra had been fined? That was news.

Uncharacteristically silent, the comms tech nudged in next to Mickey and tried his secret override code. Nothing. He tried the super special secret override code that had cost him a top shelf, high rolling price tag round of drinks the last time he’d been in Eros. Nothing. A sharp sigh and Wulf knuckled down for some actual work. Fingers ran over his terminal, a hard link patched in now as he worked a manual override. “Port Control arseholes…” he muttered, and he kept it simple for the non-techies among them. “I’m locked out. And they got the Tross tied up in data knot. Gonna take me a while to unravel it.” He didn’t look up as he finagled a solution, brow furrowed, dark eyes intense and fingertips racing. “Don’t worry, I got this…”

“Course you do kid,” Mickey said, patting Wulf on the shoulder and looking around the docking bay. “Allegra, Kol, Kai keep your eyes towards the entrance tunnel. I’d love to believe we’ve got nothing more to worry about. Find some cover with clear sight lines. Now is not the time to second guess pulling the trigger.”

Kol nodded glad to be given something specific to do. Their shared experience was grating on the young agent's fortitude. What they'd stumbled upon was much more than he'd anticipated when he'd frogmarched Sully into the tunnels, something to focus one would help keep him grounded.

“Ken, with me,” Mickey said, and pointed towards the loading mech. It sat hunched like a spider on its four articulated legs, the heavy counterweight/fusion plant hanging off its back end. A scuffed JCB logo had been sprayed over with a broken circle OPA gang sign. “That looks like a nice plug for the tunnel don’t ya think? What’s the betting that the mag key’s under the harness straps?”

"Ten to one that it's there." Ken agreed as he climbed on the mech. Rummaging through the mech's controlarea pulled up the magkey. "You beauty." Ken muttered quietly as he plugged the key in. The fusion plant whirred quietly on as Ken pulled the plastic canopy closed. On its short, stubby legs it turned its back to the entry.

Shots rang off the yellow paint job of the loading mech. But its thick metal chassis, designed to weather impacts from multi-ton cargo containers tumbling in micro gee, was impervious to anything the CPM thugs could throw at it. Short of an RPG or a power armour mounted rifle, the mech was as good as a tank as it was backed up to part block the fire lane between tunnel and dock.

The shot rang out from the tunnel, the muzzle flash of the sub gun lighting up the group of black armoured thugs running along the gentle upward curve. The rockcrete around the docking collar lit up with flashes of vaporising plastic bullets, a few pinging off the apron of the docking collar. A stream of Belter creole, the sort you’d not use around grandmother, was hollered as a war cry. They knew this was the last boat off of Eros Station.

Several rounds bounced off the mech. A number of lucky rounds found their way into the power control box. The old mech didn't have the best maintenance schedule, and the dents in the box' casing shorted out the mech. "Fuck." Ken growled as he ran through the reboot sequence with no success. The engineer climbed out and felt his hair ruffle from a shot passing over his head.

From behind the container where he'd perched himself, Kol returned fire at the familiarly dressed thugs. They'd facilitated all that had happened and now they'd seen the fruits of their labours they fled like the cowards they were. His frustration didn't stop him wincing when he caught one of them in the neck, their blood spray covering the helmet and exposed portions of the face of his nearest ally.

Wulf hunkered down by the access panel and tried to take up as little physical space as possible. To his side, the brightness and sharp sounds of the rounds hitting the docking collar reminded him that time was of the essence, but the Port Control were sneaky, mercenary bastards in their own right. They didn't like to be shortchanged on fines, and there were only two ways out of this - hotwire the system or pay the damn money. With his back to the firefight, Wulf tried both, simultaneously, and trusted with his all his heart and soul that the rest of his crew would protect him.

Ken slowly moved his way back to Kol. His rifle barked repeatedly as his rounds found center mass on more targets than they missed. He dropped the magazine mid-stride, and slammed the next one in before his foot landed. Right as he wanted to kneel by Kol two hard blows against his chest knocked him to the ground. The blow his head made against the floor knocked the light out for a half second. He came back up, shaken but entirely jar-headed.

There was both a musical, almost slot machine-like ringing sound, and the tone of mechanical locking pins releasing. Around the edge of the docking collar, the retaining bolts began to slide upward on their pistons, releasing the docking clamps holding the ships in limbo. At this Reggie's own Comm Tech, the diminutive Cohorn made a break for the docking collar. He leapt over the ceramic lip, aiming for the tube down into the connecting tube to the ship...when the bullets got him. The sound his body made down the tube, banging off the ladder rungs and the reinforced side was not a pleasant sound.

"Shit," Reggie said, sliding to a stop beside Wulf and the collar. Somewhere between the club and here the Vector Red spacer had picked up a handgun and was returning fire towards the tunnel. "Get your folk down there! You're the ride out of Dodge and I don't think those thugs are gonna let us just board in an orderly fashion."

He took aim, fired, and a CPM goon dropped to the deck.

"MICKEY!" Reggie shouted in his loud Martian drawl. "KID's POPPED THE LOCK!"

"Back to the ship!" Mickey barked. "Cover Allegra like your life depends on it, cause it does!"

It took a flicker of a half-moment for Wulf to fully appreciate his victory, and as he turned to view the runners with weapons headed rapidly in their direction, he didn't dwell on it for long. The tech's mind was already debating what he might do to distract and delay that onslaught of armed goons when his gaze fell on the perfect solution. One that he had already manipulated.

An easy win.

A selfless martyr to a cause he held dear.

Couple of minor tweaks, all without moving from his current position alongside Reggie and Wulf kept his head down while his terminal re-orientated viewpoints. He almost mustered up a smile as his new soulless ally rallied to his side, a voice ramped up to way past normal maximum, speed as close to red line as it was ever going to get. And a jaunty little addition of a zigzag route thrown in for good measure, protection and target practice. Cover for any runners then, at least temporarily.

"HAVE YOU CONSIDERED A SEASON TICKET?" Its overly happy voice playfully demanded. "OR PERHAPS A COMBI PASS? FREE SPICY NACHOS AND A LIGHT MUSHROOM BEER WITH EVERY RETURN JOURNEY!! THANK YOU...." The cab AI gratefully and joyously declared as it skewed back and forth in a wayward path towards the inbound bad guys. "THANK YOU FOR CHOOSING JOHNNY CAB!"

Allegra had no doubt in Wulf’s skill and ability to get the lock released, to get the ‘Tross unbooted. They just had to keep everyone safe and give him the time he needed to get the job done. She backed away a few paces, hunching down and waited. With a nod towards Mickey, who was now most definitely in charge, green eyes darted from the docking collar and Wulf and outward. She wouldn’t feel safe until they got back on the ship and away from Eros.

The sound of his success, of the locks releasing, was music to her ears. The sound that followed, not so much. Allegra quickly decided against firing any more rounds and instead lunged upwards to her feet. And tried not to get shot. Or run over by the cab, it seemed.

Down the ladder into the tube she went partly hating, feeling guilty that she had to be the first. But as Mickey had said, there was a quick pre-flight checklist to get started on.

"Everyone back to the ship! WE ARE LEAVING!!" Mickey shouted at the top of his lungs, again bringing out the XO voice of his. Well, now it was probably his CO voice. "Wulf get our passengers strapped in! Reggie help him with that! It'll be a rough decoupling!!

“Yessir!” A curt nod towards Mickey and Wulf held back, waited to follow Kol and Kai down the ladder into the Tross. He felt a definite sense of relief to see Allegra drop into relative safety, and a rush of hopeful optimism at the thought of leaving the clusterfuck that Eros Station had become. The tech put the prospect of a bumpy exit and high G pain on the back burner for the moment and focused on making sure their new guests were on board. Once inside the Albatross, he'd stick close, guide them straight to their couches.

“Let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!” Wulf rushed them, his voice carrying an enthusiasm for escape rather than Serendipity’s gravitas.

"Last mag." Ken reported as he appeared next to Mickey at the entry hatch. His rifle was silent for a long moment before it started producing hard plastic rounds that found their way in between CPM body armour parts, and the skulls of unarmoured people approaching them.

Mick tapped Ken on the arm, using Cohorn's dropped pistol to cover the mechanic as he entered the ship.

"Next shore leave we take more ammo," Mickey said as he fired his last round and dived into the hatch. He didn't drop far. Instead, he hung from the upper rung as he broke the glass over the emergency panel. With a bleating alarm, he pulled the red lever, and the pressure hatch irised closed with a Guillotte like snap sealing off the station portal to the ship.

"Next shore leave, we do a fucking headcount that matches, what we started with" he snarled and slid down into the Albatross

 

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