Friday, January 11, 2013

Into the Black - Part 1 - The Storm

OK, straight into 2013 with a new fictional series. If Eve fiction isn't your thing and that first sentence is already making you look for a new page I'd recommend here if you are still not 100% what all the flags in Crimewatch 2.0 mean.

Still here? Goodo! This is basically the story of the movie I'd like to make if I suddenly became a billionaire and lobbed a hundred million quid into making an Eve movie. I've been through my Hollywood check-list and have about the first half wrote so I'm six weeks ahead. Reluctant hero? Check! Gorgeous damsel in distress? Check! Evil bad guy? Check! Beautiful evil assassin? Check! Insidious threat that could wipe out the galaxy? Check! Spaceships, bad language, violence and bow-chikka-wow-wow? Check, check, check and check! Oh yes, and given the current trend in Hollywood..... zombies? Checkity Checkity! Don't worry, there are "zombies" already in Eve lore so we're not going too far left-field here! I even commissioned a poster from someone who is 1000 times better at these things than me, your favourite neighbourhood pirate, Rixx Javix.


OK, lets do this.......


Into the Black

"How is the most beautiful secretary this side of The Forge today?" Dr Branhan swept into the back office with a smile.

Kara blushed. She had a soft spot for the attractive Doctor, but had always resisted taking it further than a bit of office flirting. For one thing, there were strict company rules about corporation staff becoming romantically involved. Secondly he was already married. In the white-collar world of Caldari Mega Corps, you didn't rock the boat.

"Do I need to remind you of the corporations rules on harassment doctor?" she replied coyly.

"Oh dear!" He said as he held his eye to the iris scanner by the lift door. "How much trouble am I in? Will I be transferred to Otherworld Enterprises and dumped in a Veldspar mine for 10-years hard labour?".

The lift door opened as he keyed in his personal code.

"That will depend on what stories I choose to tell you wife at the corporation party next week!" she said with a laugh.

With that he gave her a wink and stepped inside the lift. The office where Kara worked appeared a simple building on the surface. A small bio-tech lab for one of the Caldari mega-corporations working on cures for common ailments. It was a 10-story office block located on the outskirts of the city's main spaceport. Whilst the reception was covered by other staff, Kara worked in the main ground floor back office that also housed the secure lift. The two lifts in reception were for public use and did not access the whole building. The majority of people who worked there knew that the secure lift accessed the isolated sections of floors nine and ten where the more dangerous virus and diseases were stored. What Kara and the vast majority of staff at the facility didn't know was that was just a rumour, those floors were in fact empty. The other thing they didn't know was the lift also went down to a number of sub-terrainian levels.

Kara's datapad bleeped and she looked at the message. It was a standard warning from the City Governors office to all residents. A plasma storm was starting to form near the city and that they should take the usual precautions. Kara deleted the message. Small plasma storms in the area were common and seen more of a minor nuisance then a danger. The planet of Vaankalen III was terraformed decades ago. Whilst the barren planet had been known for plasma storms the scientists had assured the investors that the terraforming process would stop them. They were wrong. They did however reduce in power and frequency. These days the plasma storms were not much more of a threat than a really bad thunder storm.

Kara went back to typing up the finance report for the office. An ominous clap of thunder was heard in the distance.

-o0o-

"Tower, this is the Cargo Transport 'Blue Nova' requesting landing clearance."

Captain Dorn was struggling on his own. Usually the small interstellar transport ship had a crew of three but this contract insisted the cargo be delivered by a single person. Normally he'd turn that sort of job down as he'd have expected a bullet to the brain as final payment. But the delivery location was a Caldari Spaceport in high-security space. On the surface a safe and secure job.

The captain was in his mid-thirties and had been out of military service for nearly five years. A home-made grenade had torn through his right leg when his unit had been sent to quell a worker uprising on a remote outpost. His pay-off had been enough to buy the small transport ship and he made a comfortable living taking contracts that were on the darker side of the grey area between back and white. His crew usually consisted of a female Amarrian who doubled as a medic and electronics expert and a Matari male who provided engineering expertise and much needed muscle.

Transport ships like the Blue Nova were a rarity these days. Capsuleer piloted freighters and jump freighters meant the transportation of huge cargo's and goods was now much faster and efficient. A freighter could carry close to a million cubic metres compared to the Blue Nova's one thousand. Gone were the days of the small cargo ships running goods tens of light years back and forth. Now huge freighters delivered goods to orbital stations and powerful ship-to-surface dropships ferried the goods en-mass planetside. There was still some work out there for the smaller cargo runners, but it was getting less every year.

"Roger Blue Nova, we have you on scan. You are cleared to approach beacon 13 and for immediate landing in docking bay 17."

The privateer suddenly had a bad feeling. He'd visited this space port before several times. The starports landing bays were in three hubs with 5 bays attached to each hub like spokes on a wheel. He didn't even know there were any docking bays numbered over 15."

"Tower, this is Blue Nova'. Request confirmation on approach beacon 13 and docking bay 17."

"Blue Nova, Tower, confirmed, that is affirmative."

The small transport ship was old but well maintained and its electronics had been upgraded the year before. Dorn simply selected the appropriate beacon and the ship's autopilot steered it towards the back of starport. He glanced out of the viewport to see the roof opening on what looked to be a relatively new docking bay. The large circular structure stood on its own away from other buildings and was close to the edge of the starport. He could see purple coloured clouds forming in the distance. The electrical discharge snaking over their surface revealed it was a plasma storm. Between the dangerous plasma storm brewing on the horizon and the job, it was the job that was making him feel most nervous. The bad feeling would not go away as the ship slowly descended into the structure.


The auto-pilot computer handled the final stages of the landing as Captain Dorn fastened his gun belt around his waist. Normally on a high-security planet like this he not only didn't need the weapon, it was highly illegal to carry it. Given the strange landing procedure in a remote docking-bay far away from the terminal, he had a gut-feeling the people who would be receiving the cargo weren't going to report him for carrying a firearm. This contract smelt more suspicious by the minute. However, he was still landing at an official State starport well inside Caldari space and surely they wouldn't try anything funny here.

The cargo itself was a sealed crate in the middle of the empty cargo bay. A jet black container two and a half metres long and one metre square at the end. Dorn lowered the cargo ramp and the smell of stale, damp air hit him immediately. This docking bay may have looked new, but hadn't been used in a while. A crack of thunder was heard overhead. The ramp lowered sufficiently for Dorn to see three men stood waiting for it to fully open. One appeared to be a doctor or scientist in a lab coat. The other two stood either-side of a hover-platform dressed in coveralls. Dorn couldn't see any obvious weapons but that didn't mean they weren't carrying. As the ramp clanged down onto the docking bay floor the sky lit up with a purple flash. The plasma storm was moving their way.

"Captain Dorn?" the man in the lab-coat called over the rolling clap of thunder.

Dorn walked down the ramp and took the mans outstretched hand. They shook hands and the doctor, or scientist, never even mentioned the oversized blaster pistol strapped to Dorn's hip. He must be used to dealing like this Dorn thought.

"I see you have our cargo." the man smiled and then nodded at the two others who started pushing a hover-trolley up the ship's ramp "And here is your payment.". The man handed Dorn a small bag. He opened it to see the credit chips inside. He knew from experience the weight of the bag was right for the agreed price. Cash had been agreed on in the initial negotiation. He knew the local credits were all but useless outside the Caldari State but he hadn't planned on going anywhere for a long time. Within a minute the ground crew were pushing the cargo off the Blue Nova.

"Nice doing business with you." Dorn said to the doctor and turned back to his ship as the lightning flashed overhead again. As the cargo ramp raised he saw the scientist or doctor excitably examining the controls on the cargo container. The cargo doors slammed locked and Dorn let out an exaggerated sigh. All the signs were this was a dodgy contract and could have ended with a fire-fight He was relieved to be leaving with his ship, his payment and a full clip of ammo. He was used to the first two, but the later was a rarity on contracts like this. He headed straight for the cockpit, wanting to ensure things stayed as they were.

"Tower, this is 'Blue Nova' in docking bay 17. Requesting immediate launch clearance and a vector to the Itamo stargate."

"Blue Nova, Tower. Stand by. We have an incoming vector over your launch profile. Please hold."

Captain Dorn was looking at his scanner. A Panther class dropship was taking off already and was probably the reason for the pause. Suddenly there was a blinding flash and the next time he looked at the scanner the dropship had vanished.

"Tower, Blue Nova. What's going on out there?"

"Blue Nova. Power down your engines. Do not take off, I repeat, do not take off. We've just had a ship destroyed by the plasma lightning. Standby."

Dorn was immediately suspicious, although the planet was known for its light plasma storms he'd never heard of a ship being destroyed by a hit, there just wasn't enough power in these weak local storms. He looked up from the cockpit viewport. The angle allowed him to see the top of the control tower in the distance through the docking bay roof. The tall structure loomed over the starport and gave the occupants a clear view of the entire facility. He was pondering whether to make a break for it when there was another blinding flash. When his vision cleared he could no longer see the control tower hub, just a smoking ruin of the stumpy support tower where the hub once was. An ominous static crackle repeated over the open comms channel.


-o0o-

Kara was looking out of the office door past the reception and through the large glass panels of the buildings fa├žade She could see people in the street running desperately trying to escape the storm. Vehicles shot past at well over the speed limit. Plasma storms were not uncommon for the city, but the news feeds were buzzing about several strikes at the airport. People outside were panicking and trying to run for cover. She looked over her shoulder as she heard the lift door open.

"Kara come here now!" there was urgency in Dr Branhan's voice.

"What is it?"

"The storm, its bigger than anything we've ever seen. The building is in danger, now come!"

Kara was confused.

"Surely we need to get out then! The worst place to be is on a higher level!" she protested.

Dr Branhan marched over and grabbed her by her wrist dragging her forcibly to the lift.

"For sake of the State just trust me!" and with that he pushed her into the lift just as a plasma bolt hit a passing tanker. The force of the explosion blew furniture and flames through the front of the building shattering glass and melting plastics. The flames and flying office furniture slammed against the closing lift door as it sealed.


Kara was in a state of shock at the narrow escape. However she suddenly realised she could feel the lift going down and not up. The lift controls were missing the three buttons of G, 9 and 10 she had spotted before. Instead they showed G with -1 all the way down to -15. She looked questioningly at Dr Branhan who held up a hand.

"Don't say anything. Please. We're going to an underground transit station to wait this out. Don't ask what goes on down here. Don't pay notice to anything. Just sit where I tell you, do not touch anything and when it's safe to return to the surface, forget you know there is anything under your feet than dirt."

The lift opened in what looked like a vast underground warehouse. Large crates and boxes lined the walls. A small transit carriage was positioned on tracks at the mouth of a tunnel that disappeared into blackness. It appeared to have a passenger car and two cargo flatbeds attached. There were two sets of tracks. Kara assumed the second train must be at the other end of the tunnel,where ever it led.

The lights flickered from the plasma storm raging above ground. Kara sat down on a crate in silence trying to comprehend what had happened.

-o0o-

Captain Dorn was out of his ship and looking for cover. His datapad was showing the local news and the news was not good. A plasma storm, they likes of which had never been recorded on a teraformed planet had suddenly formed over the city. The plasma bolts were laying waste to large swathes of the city and Dorn knew it might not be long before the large metallic hull of the Blue Nova attracted one. Taking off was not an option, he'd be hit for sure once he was the highest point above the buildings. He needed to get underground and assuming the men who accepted his delivery weren't going to saunter across the starport's surface with their suspicious cargo in tow, there must be a tunnel connecting the remote docking bay and the main terminal.

He didn't need to look for long. He found what was left of them at a lift access. A large section from the Panther class dropship's engine, which had been the storms first victim, lay against the wall. The wreckage had crashed through the roof and killed all three of them. The cargo container was scratched and dinted, but still intact and was positioned half in the lift preventing the doors from closing. The lift doors kept trying to close, bumping against the container and opening fully again before trying to close again.

Dorn jumped in the lift and pushed the cargo container back with his foot. The doors slid shut and Dorn pressed the only button which was marked with a downward arrow.

-o0o-

Kara had composed herself and taken her datapad out. The news on the surface was devastating and their situation underground wasn't much better. The power had gone down some twenty minutes ago and the dim glow of the emergency lighting gave the facility an eery glow. The power had finally returned but had not eased Kara's nerves.

Dr Branhan had been swearing at his datapad. From what little Kara could glean from him, he was trying to reconnect to the facilities main computer to find out the status of the facility. From the last few words he'd muttered she assumed the systems were still down.

Was this it Kara wondered? Would they be able to even get back to the surface? Buried alive, dying a slow death of dehydration at 28. No husband, no boyfriend, no real career. Who would miss her when she was gone? Her parents? Where her parents still alive on the devastated surface?

The sound of the emergency stairwell door swinging opening broke her self-pity. A man staggered out wearing the same white lab coat that Dr Branhan wore. Kara got up to help the clearly injured man but Dr Branhan grabbed her and pulled her back.

"Dr Elsoon? Are you alright " Dr Branhan called, slowly backing away from the staggering man approaching them. He'd guided Kara slightly behind him as he stepped back slowly. Kara could see in the dim light that the man approaching them was badly injured but he did not reply.

"Dr Elsoon. Say something!" Dr Branhan continued to back away from the approaching doctor. A low gutteral hiss was emitted by whatever was slowly limping towards them.

The man Dr Branhan had called Dr Elsoon stepped into the light and Kara gasped. He was covered with bloody injuries but the most disturbing of all was that his eyes were completely red. Kara turned to run as Dr Branhan muttered the word 'No' under his breath. They both broke into a sprint towards the small transit carriage as Dr Elsoon continued his slow shuffle towards them.


Kara was desperately trying to open the transit carriage door but it didn't respond. The whole thing appeared to be powered down. Dr Branhan picked up a small crate and started smashing it against the transit carriage's window. The plexi-trit wouldn't break.

Dr Elsoon was then on them. Dr Branhan swung the crate as a weapon and hit Dr Elsoon on the shoulder. The blow didn't slow him down. Suddenly the two doctors were rolling on the foor in a desperate struggle. Kara was frozen to the spot. Dr Branhan screamed in pain as Dr Elsoon worked his head free and bit down hard into the top of Dr Branhan's shoulder. Kara couldn't believe what was happening.

The weapons report was deafening. In the confines of the warehouse the discharge echo'd several times. Dr Elsoon's head exploded and Dr Branhan pushed the lifeless corpse off him, his hand going up to his shoulder to stop the bleeding. He sat back against the transit car. Kara turned around and saw Captain Dorn still pointing his blaster at the corpse of Dr Elsoon.

"Who are....." Kara was cut short by the captain raising his hand to silence her and gave a slight shake of his head and a disapproving look.

"Topside we're got the worse plasma storm I've ever seen almost laying waste to an entire city. Down here we appear to have cannibal scientists having lunch. Unless someone explains to me what is going on, I'm going to have to keep shooting."

"Don't...... hurt..... her......" Dr Branhan gasped. "She's innocent of all....... this."

Captain Dorn walked over to the doctor. His eyes were bloodshot and his skin pale and covered in sweat Kara started to approach him.

"STOP! Keep away from me!" Dr Branhan screamed.

Kara continued to approach.

"BACK OFF! I'M INFECTED!"

That made Kara stop in her tracks. She took two uneasy steps away from the doctor. Captain Dorn also took a few steps back and levelled his blaster at Dr Branhan.

"I'll give you ten seconds to explain. I want to know if I'm going to get infected, I want to know if there is a cure and I want to know why I shouldn't kill you both and run." Captain Dorn cocked the weapon to emphasise his point. Dr Branhan coughed up blood, in the last twenty seconds he'd deteriorated.

"You two..... are OK. Transmission is by bite. No cure. Kara is innocent. She didn't even know about this facility until I brought here down here to escape the storm. The storm, it must have caused power surge. Breached containment."

"Containment. What were you doing here?" Dorn's tone demanded an answer.

Dr Branhan screamed. Kara gasped as she saw the veins on his forehead pulse, not with blood but as if something solid was travelling through them. His eye's were almost fully red.

"Get her out of here. Hide. Find low-tech remote planet off the grid. Change..... name..... change ident. Its modified Sansha tech..... we failed..... we couldn't........ primary task aborted, but failure made unexpected successful bio weapon. If they think you know.... never safe. They will find you..... they will kill you. Run. Kill me and run and hide."

Kara was trying to comprehend what Dr Branhan was struggling to tell them as Captain Dorn fired and placed a bolt between Dr Branhan's eyes.

"NO!" screamed Kara and instinctively went for the doctor. The captain caught her by the arm and pulled her away before she got near. Kara flailed her arms against the man who had just executed her friend.

"LOOK!" Dorn said sternly. "You heard him. He was infected by some bio-weapon with no cure. It's wholly up to you. Go over there and cuddle up to the good doctor and his infected corpse or come with me and avoid THEM!"

Kara looked where the captain was now pointing his weapon. Half a dozen more people dressed in bloodied lab coats were shuffling towards them with outstretched arms. Dorn jumped down onto the transit tracks and started walking quickly towards the tunnel which he had come from.

"Coming?"

He didn't have to ask twice.

-o0o-

10 comments:

  1. Wow, an excellent piece of solid sci fi. Very nice read and it would make a nice movie, too :-)

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  2. The poster's tag line "you don't buy silence, you kill it" would be better if it was "You don't buy silence, you kill for it." Otherwise, great sci-fi entry as usual Drack!

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    1. Now why didn't you say that earlier :o)

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  3. Awesome work - Maybe Kickastarter could help you get Budget for this?

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    1. I think we'd have more luck getting a 2nd series of Serenity before this :)

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  4. Good work, enjoyed it. I think you forgot that Kara is married so she must have a husband/wife.

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    1. The Doctor was married, not Kara, unless I've missed something.

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  5. Awesome story, was wondering where it was all going and you've done a great job of expanding the original idea! Keep it up

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    1. Tune in next Friday, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel!

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