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Cold Divide

Posted on Thu Jan 28th, 2021 @ 1:39am by Commanding Officer Mickey Serendipity & Executive Officer Kenneth McTigue & Passenger Emma Yonkers & Ships Engineer Delphi Jammer & Comm Tech Wulf Edevane

Mission: Ticket To Rhea
Location: SS Albatross, Saturnian Space
Timeline: Just After Charon's Crossing

"Aw shit."

The LIDAR return from the rapidly expanding cloud of debris that had been the skiff painted the picture in lurid false colour imagines. The flight computer helpfully pointed out that there was no danger to the ship's hull from the debris cloud. What the Tross's computers did point out was the sudden radiation source as the Saturnian Confederacy Navy Ship lit up its active sensors and painted the hull hard enough to peel paint.

"Legs! Evasive now!" Mickey shouted. He then flicked his fingers over the armrest control boards. "Ken, Yonkers, sending you PDC control now. Wulf, get to screaming on every channel that we did not fire. Jammer reactors all yours, keep her sweet!"

"PDC Starboard under my control." Ken calmly reported from his seat in the engine room. He had assumed control of 2 of the laser-based weapons, as well as 1 slightly used, slightly illegally acquired Phobos Munitions rotary autocannon. Ken charged the two emitters to maximum capacity and spun the autocannon before cambering the rounds. "Starboard ready." Ken confirmed.

Her gloved fingers raced across the control screens attached to her armrests, punching in commands to the port PDC, the pair of autocannons spun up. She quickly cycled them both making sure they were loaded and angry. Once they were spinning and ready to sting she brought up the controls for the laser weapon, she set that one to target any debris from the exploded shuttle. "Capt I have Port PDC, setting auto fire on debris clearing within hundred meters." she shotgunned the verbal data as if she was back in the Corps.

"Negative. Weapons hold." Ken interjected. "We don't fire on anything until that big bastard does. Copy?"

For a hard second, Wulf had closed his eyes tight and expected to not ever open them again. Mickey's command cut through that primal fear though, the words spiking in the tech's brain and refocusing him on the fact that reality was still in progress. Under his breath, Wulf muttered a continuous cycle of curses, any rude word he could bring to mind, a mantra that kept him from thinking too hard about their imminent likely demise.First up, he ensured they had a record of their current drive signature and weapon status - saved, timed screen grabs of the Tross' systems - aligned with any footage Wulf could glean from the exterior monitors and sensors. Most of which, he pretended he didn't realise, was not going to support their truth.

Secondly, he fired up the comms menu on his console and selected 'widebeam' with a shaky fingertip. His voice wasn't any steadier, but Wulf pushed every ounce of sincerity into it with no need to fabricate either words or emotion. "Albatross to anyone who can hear us. I don't what happened, but it - the SCNS Xipe's skiff - she just exploded. We did not fire, repeat we did NOT fire on her." Wulf focused then, packaging up the evidence and his message to search/scan and seek with everything he had, looking local to sunward for the source of that Earth standard accent.

The moment the comm went live there was a sudden ringing of feedback static.

"They're jamming us!" Mickey said, before his voice was stolen away as the Tross bucked under them all and slammed into their back. One gee, two, three: they piled on. Allegra and the new pilot in the cockpit danced the little courier ship around and about, corkscrewing and zagging when they should have zigged.

And a good thing they had done so, as the LIDAR system bleated a hazard alert as a cloud of buckshot PDC fire fell away into the night where they had been.

The box launchers on the sides of the Saturnian heavy cruiser belched cold gas, ejecting two torpedoes into the void with enough clearance that their fusion torches didn't vaporize the ship when they lit. Hardly the latest models, the pair of missiles locked onto the bright spark of light that was the Albatross and ramped up to their full hundred gee burn speed.

"Two inbound!" Mickey grunted as he felt the needles of the chairs medical system bite into his shoulder blades, and the cold fire of The Juice flow into his veins. Whilst it didn't make the gee's any less painful to bear, they did make it more of a distant worry. "Splash them! Wulf keep trying to get a line out to someone! Try and find our mysterious benefactor."

Only noises coming from Wulf were curses and uncomfortable grunts as he reacted to the onscreen frustrations while simultaneously getting a shot of both high-gee maneuvers and magic juice. That blast of static was the cherry on top of an unwanted trouble cocktail. And it kept coming as he tried a variety of workarounds.

"I'm-trying-I'm-trying," Wulf muttered as he fought the Tross' hard jinking to keep interacting with the console. That g-force working against him helped the task in hand though, the line of sight interrupted for the competition each time they changed direction. He poured power and a repeated word - c'mon - into the comm array and tried to sync with Allegra and Aisling's chaotic duck-weave motion while seeking that elusive ghost of a friend with every means at his disposal. "Zee, seeker-mode," he told his terminal, running pre-programmed options in sequence. LOS would give him the encrypted tightbeam option, if he could grab their drive signature or the tiniest reflection.

Gagging a bit when the Juice pumped into her system, Emma gripped the control stick for the rotory cannons, she linked the pair together. Quickly she fought with the grav shifts around her she brought the rotating weapons to bear and fired of a burst. With her free hand she flipped the laser weapon to live and to follow the fire pattern she had programmed. "Oh hell here coming the rain..." she grunted out as she fired a few more burst out at the incoming torpedo.

Both of the inbound torpedoes, being older model lacking many of the bells and whistles that came as standard in modern munitions, were to stupid to live. The nearest one ran into the hail of tungsten pellets the rotary canons had fired out, shredding the missile and turning it into a brief bright sun. The second missile didn't evade the explosion and raced through it still on course. This gave the solid-state laser beam the four seconds of contact it needed to superheat the casing and cook off the coolant powering the magnetic bottle.

With that gone, the runaway reactor of the missile's warhead ran away down the path of entropy in a rather rapid expansion of gases.

In the same instant this happened Zee, Wulf's little artificial mischief-maker, not only sought but found what it was looking for. But like a puppy that had found a red thing to chase after, the sudden tidal wave of data was like a Mack Truck honking its horn. Horrendously accurate targeting data ran into the Albatross, turning 'alright' sensor details into near Delphian like insights into the Xipe Topec state of mind.

"Albatross this is UNS Alan Turing, we've monitored the situation and are moving to assist you," said the voice over the comm's, a voice now supposedly belong to a United Nation Navy captain. The comm then clicked, going over to a general hailing frequency. "SCNS Xipe Topec this is the United Nations Navy Ship Alan Turing. Heave too and cease combat actions immediately. You are in clear violation of interplanetary law by firing unwarrantedly on a ship bearing UN and MCRN citizens. Any further action taken by you will be seen as an act of piracy and taken-"

The comm cut off, as the Albatross was suddenly slammed by a hammer. The comm's went dead, and screen flashed with sudden fevered warnings. Hull breaches, electrical lines severed, parts of the ship were able to talk to each other.

"Rail gun impact," Mickey wheezed as the ship began to spin off-axis, the kinetic energy of the impact turning them like a top.

"Fuck." Ken growled as he rocked in his belts from the impact. His fingers twisted on the arm-rest controls. "Yonkers, take control of entire PDC network." and Ken's HUD switched.

With a Grunt of an "Yes sir," Emma blinked the blood that was dripping into her left eye, and started tasking the different weapons to keep the other ship's torpedoes from having an easy time getting to them. She also tasked two of the rotary cannons to pelt the Xipe Topec with hard rounds. Since they didn't have a rail gun to respond in kind with the levels this ship was lobbing at them she was going to make do with what she had.

The three PDC arrays disappeared form his overview, instead damage reports came up. "Jammer, we've lost port-rear thruster. Looks like the feed-line is cut. Can you get to it and patch it?"

The belter engineer was hanging onto her seats armrests tight as the ship maneuvered and took hits, the vibrations from the engines, thrusters, PDCs and weapon impacts all translating through the hull, through her chair and jostling Delphi about. She breathed deeply, forcing herself to stay calm as the battle raged around her. There was little to do until the call for her to repair the damaged thruster came.

"Ya bosmang" she replied and brought up that thruster unit on her display, the information scrolling across the screen gave a hint to the damage, but not the exact detail she would like. "Try to keep da ship steady, mi'm gonna have to crawl between da hulls, looks like da line was severed outside da pinché inner hull" she said and hit the reaction mass cutoff to that thruster to make sure there wasn't any still being pumped to it when she got there to patch the line

Undoing the harness holding her in her chair Delphi pushed herself to her feet. Her mag boots helped keep her rooted to the deck as it tried to fall out from underneath her as she ship maneuvered. She grabbed her tools with one hand, gripping the kit tight as she held onto a support railing with the other and clomped away from the engineering station towards the access ailock between the inner and outer hulls closest to the damaged thruster unit.

"Good. I'm transferring the targetting and comms laser to their secondary powergrid connection. Looks like that railgun hit us good." Ken finally added.

Just a battered and shaken cog in the bigger machine, Wulf noted the shift in notifications on his own readouts and forced himself to focus solely on those. He couldn't fire, he couldn't repair, but he could make damn sure that the comms still worked. Lazer focusing his brain helped take his mind off the pain signals and violent shifts in direction that his body was currently enduring. He kept quiet, insular, riding the wave of everyone else's words to be ready when his own voice was needed.

Delphi cursed quite a bit as she was rattled and jostled around, finally making it to the airlock, she slipped inside and cycled it the lock so she could exit into the crawlspace between the ship's inner and outer hulls. The space was mostly dark, the lights from her vac suit playing across pipes, conduits and various pieces of machinery that lived in the space between the void and the atmosphere vessel that supported the crew.

She gritted her teeth and braced herself as best as she could, using the grab of her mag boots and the mag plat in the gauntlet that wasn't gripping a tool case like a vice, to keep her from being sent tumbling through the confined space full of things that could rip her cheap vac suit to pieces if she was unlucky and got tossed.

Ahead she saw the thruster unit, it's feed line shredded and bent inwards, venting gas into the small space.

"Oye, dis thing still venting steam into the crawlspace" she said over the comm to engineering. "Cutoff did no work, can you trigger it?" she asked, breathing heavily over the comm channel as she sidled up to the damaged thruster and mag locked her toolkit to the inner surface of the outer hull. She looked for the manual cutoff valve and bit her lip hard as she saw the small hole that had been punched by the shot that had cut the fuel line, the spinning stars beyond and brief glimpses of PDC traces and other weapon fire.

"Stand by." Ken replied after pressing his comm toggle with his chin. With a few clicks through the menu Ken accessed the feedline network. "Automatic cutoff didn't trigger. Triggering the override now." Ken keyed in his security code and confirmed the deactivation of the thrusters and their feedlines. "Let me know when they're patched, I need to reactivate them manually."

"Taki" Delphi pulled herself close to the now no longer venting thruster, careful not to put a limb through the ragged hole in the hull. She opened her hit and crabbed a cutter, flicking the tool on and started cutting away the shredded ends of the feed line so she would have clean pipe to affix a patch hose too.

Sparks flickered in the dark space as she cut away the damage then bent the line as close to back into place as she could, her progress hindered repeatedly by jolts and reorientation of the world around her as the ship fought.

"Sabaka!" she hissed as the hull suddenly rushed up under her, threatening to send jagged hull slicing through her vac suit. She braced and managed to keep her distance, then quickly swapped out the cutter for a length of flexible hose which she slipped over the two ends of the bisected feed line, then used another tool to induce a charge that cinched the line down tight on both ends, reconnecting the line.

Delphi then checked over the rest of the thruster, looking for any other damage that could cause any more problems. She spotted a cut wire, stripped away some of the shielding and twisted the wire back together and slipped a cap down over the mend before pushing herself away from the thruster and back towards the airlock, pulling her toolkit with her as she made her way away from the unit, mag boots and gloves gripping the hull or any support she could find.

"Done!" she called over the comm. "Try now, Mi see if da fix hold before mi come back inside"

"Copy." Ken flipped from the powergrid schematic over to the thruster feedline grid. "Stand by, going to test pressure." The line filled itself to around a tenth of normal capacity. "I'm not reading pressure loss, do you?"

Delphi had braced herself, ready for the thruster unit to explode as it came back online....but no, boom, no explosion, just the unit humming back to life and going back to work

"Na, look like we in business, coyo!" she replied with a sigh of relief.

"Good, now get back here before we have to burn hard again." Ken ordered while he raised the pressure to full service level and eyed the gauges for pressure dips.

"Kay, on mi way" the engineer replied and made her way out of the crawlspace, into the airlock, where she sealed the hatch into the between hull space before prepossessing the lock.

Delphi made her way back to her engineering station as quick as possible. She knew as long as she was wandering about the ship had to keep its maneuvering and burning down to a minimum so she would not be basted along the hull in a red smear. She stowed her toolkit safely, then crawled back into her chair and fastened her restraints, clicking all the buckles back into place.

"Toda gut" she said to Ken as she finished strapping in

The alarms sounded again, and on the screen's more angry red arrows of missile contacts began to appear appeared. But they were wrong. The missiles were appearing out of nowhere, the drives screaming to the heavens and every thermal sensor in the outer system. Two, four, then six missiles raced out of the patch of angry stars...nearly two thousand kilometers away from the Xipe and the Albatross.

And they were not heading for the latter.

The Saturnian Confederacy Navy heavy cruiser began to roll, spinning on her long axis as her drive came online. If she'd been on the burn, fully at combat stations and with a seasoned crew at the helm then she might have stood a chance of seeing through the first salvo. But she was as good as a stationary target, the spin of her hull to slow and stately to whip her PDC arrays into new positions to stab at evading missiles.

The UNN Alan Turing didn't offer a second warning or even a warning shot. Mickey would playback the recording later and not be able to tell which torpedo was the kill shot. All he'd see were the six bright stars of their drives arcing out, and then hammering inwards like a clenching claw that vanish into a ball of expanding plasma.

"Turing Actual to ship master of the SS Albatross. The United Nations Navy stands ready to render assistance and medical aid if required," came the voice over the comm.

When she saw the enemy ship turn into a blinding ball of plasma, Emma brought the PDC weapons to aim off away from the Turing, but didn't safe them. She wasn't sure it this was a trick or if they would be having the UN opening up on them.

"Albatross Actual to Turing, copy your message. No medical issues to speak of but we've taken damage, not to mention our...cargo," Mickey said into the hot mic. "If you can match bearing and heading, we'd appreciate it. Gives us a minute to get our wounds collated. Albatross Actual, clear."

He made a slicing motion at Wulf to cut the comms.

"Okay folks, tell me how badly we got mauled. Do we need these Smurfs to tow us into dock or can we limp in on tea kettle?" Mickey looked over the displays. "Good shooting by the way, Emma and Ken. Ya done good, you know, for a Martian."

He waited a moment.

"And the Belter did passably. Ya know, considered our options were small to nada," he shook his head, feeling the tingle of The Juice wearing off. He'd get the shakes soon, the come down from the artificial adrenaline high as the crap washed out of his system. The let down came to people differently. He'd served on a ship in the past where the pilot's voice took on a Irish lilt thicker than fog rolling into Cork Bay.

The pilot, being a native of Vesta, was about as close to Ireland as belt grown mushroom whisky was to real scotch.

"Thanks..." Emma grunted as she blinked again and again to get the blood out of her eye. "Not the best weapons I have used but damn it felt good to fire in anger. Especially after everything that has happened to me." Her left hand started rubbing the side of her helmet. "How long before we are patched?"

"Depends on the size of the hole, placement, location. After a point, a patch kit's just not gonna cut it when you need a dock slip," Mickey hit the release on his harness.

"Mickey." Ken cut over any and all chatter. "Damage report. Two hull punctures, from the railgun slug. Port rear thruster has a patch job on the line. Both comms and targetting laser are on secondary power circuit. No critical damage, but no hull pressure for at least three more hours. Other damage might be forthcoming as we get back underway."

"Yeah thrust on the ship tends to make things fall off," Mickey said tiredly. He eye blinked his way through the menus on his helmets HUD, and opened a comm link to their UNN guardian angel. "Alan Turing, Albatross Actual: we're good to get under way, but we'd appreciate the escort in case something important falls off. I also imagine you have a destination in mind?"

"We do. The UNN Fleet Depot orbits Rhea, we're due there ourselves and we have shore facilities down on the industrial sprawls. From there I'm sure we can arrange repairs, and sort out the legal sandbank you've landed in. Turing clear."

"Allegra you heard the nice man in the invisible missle pocket dimension, set our course for Rhea. Work us up slowly to a half gee, give Mickey and Delphi time to get their egg's in cushions." Mickey shook his head. "Maybe this'll be a good thing? You know, good luck comes to us."


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