Friday, May 17, 2013

The Outpost - Part 1 (Horror Fiction)

This story is inspired by a horror novel I'm currently reading. Like many of my past pieces, this came from one of those - "How could this story, set in modern day Southern USA, be set in the Eve Universe?" moments. I had an idea! Unfortunately I was in bed at the time so had to get up to make some quick notes. The wife asked me what I was doing and I said I've had a great idea and need to write it down before I fall asleep and forget it! She simply replied "It's about Eve isn't it?".

Eve, my mistress of pleasure!

This was going to be a 'three parter', but it was suggested to make it into six parts. 10-15 minute reads are 'coffee break sized' apparently! It is certainly more of a horror story than I've done before. PEGI-12 it is not (although nothing 'bad' happens in this first part)! If you've ever read Richard Laymon, Edward Lee or Brian Smith (the new author I am reading who gave me the idea for this story) you'll have an idea of what is to come.



The Outpost - Part 1

Five of the crew stood around the chart table in silence. The dull glow from the projector mixing with the dull glow from the emergency lighting gave the room an eerie feel. The silence was deafening. On most starships it was almost impossible to achieve total silence like this. Reactors, ventilation and even idling engines created an ever-present drone. But not on this ship, not now.

"So that's the situation. The 'too long, didn't read' is that the primary coupling on the reactor blew. The reactor is dead and we cannot restart it. Also the explosion sent shrapnel flying and has pierced the outer hull. We're leaking O2. With no reactor, all we have is our capacitor which is slowly draining. This is mainly because I thought given that we need to breath I'd better keep the life support switched on for a bit. The capacitor we have is good for one 45AU warp. Which is a bit of a shit as the nearest gate is 52AU. We're deep in null-sec in a dead-end system that has no settlement and pretty much never has any visitors. So, options? And please, none that involve drinking whisky until we all pass out. I've already got the rights to that plan."

The crew just stood their in silence gazing at the system chart. Each knew the captain was right. They'd gambled everything on the big pay-off and failed. They had pushed their beaten-up frigate too far in search of the big mother-load and had paid dearly for it. 'The Hope' was a salvaging frigate. Designed to work in deep-space scanning down wrecks and taking anything valuable. They had, as a crew, decided to head into nullsec. They were tired over fighting the competition over every bit of scrap metal in Empire space. Here there was the opportunity to hit the big time. But a couple of hours ago there had been an explosion. The reactor was maintained as well as it could be by the ships engineer, but with no money for replacement parts there was only so many times the repairs could be bodged. Their luck had finally run out.

"So what do we need to fix the reactor?" asked Riku the pilot.

Hiroto the engineer looked at him and shook his head.

"Technically it is fixed. I suited up and went back there for a look. Thankfully when the coupling blew it didn't do much damage to the reactor itself. I've jerry-rigged the coupling so it should be OK now. That's not the problem. The problem is to online the reactor we need a capacitor level of 95%. That's why you never offline a reactor unless you are docked at a station or doing it in a very controlled way such as next to a carrier. Our capacitor is 72% and dropping a percent every 50 minutes as life support drains it. In 60 hours, we're out of power."

Again the room fell silent. Each of the five crew members lost in their own thoughts. The captain craned his neck over to the far corner where a lone crewman was say cross legged on the floor using a datapad.

"Hey Chan. You going to contribute here or are you writing your own obituary on that thing?"

The Caldari man looked up and smiled.

"Well captain. I thought you lot had enough negative vibes for all of us. I thought I'd just sit here and come up with a way of saving all of our asses."

Chan sprang to his feet and walked over to the chart table. With a wave of his datapad he transferred what he was working on to the main chart table.

"OK" said the captain "What are we looking at?"

"Asteroid belt 4-1. You see that glowing dot there? It's a power source. Its faint, but its there."

"How the hell do you know that?" asked Hiroto.

"We still have our scan probes out. I was able to scan down that energy reading."

"Are you fracking insane!" roared Hiroto "We're running out of juice and your busy playing with the sensor array!"

The Captain shot Hiroto a look that instantly silenced him. He turned to Chan.

"So what is it?"

"I don't know" admitted Chan "But whilst it looks weak, I'm not sure thats right. I think its a large reactor of some kind."


"Go on" said the captain.

"Well the reading is faint, but the signal itself is distorted. I think there is a reactor is deep inside something. At a guess its inside one of them 'roids and the amount of rock surrounding it is causing the signal degradation we ses here."

"An outpost? Out here?" Natsumi the salvaging boom operator asked surprised. Like the rest of the crew she was Caldari. She was a tomboy and her slender body was hidden by baggy overalls. Her short hair was styled unisex. She could have looked stunning, but always looked boy-ish.

"Possibly." replied Chan. "Could be a hidden mining facility or lab. It could be a pirate base. Hell it could be an idling rogue drone battleship, you get them out here. I cannot tell you what it is exactly. Only that its the only thing in range that might save our asses."

"Or end them." replied the captain.

"Yes sir. But to be honest, we're all dead in about 62 hours. Do we sit here and get drunk or investigate the power source which might save us, or kill us?"

The room fell silent again. It was a few minutes before the captain spoke again.

"Well, this isn't a democracy, you all know that. But I ain't a man to decide your fates in these circumstances. In that asteroid belt there may be something that will allow us to restart the reactor and save us all. On the other hand we could be ripped apart by rouge drones, blown apart by pirates or mega corp security or find nothing, and have wasted 55 hours worth of energy on a wild goose chase. So two options. We warp head-first into the unknown and gamble everything, like we always do, or we sit here, get drunk and wait for death to come to us. Who is up for warping into the unknown for what might be the last time?"

All the crew members slowly raised their hands.

-o0o-

The Hope was in warp to the asteroid belt. The pilot and the captain were sat in the cockpit as the ship hurtled down the warp tunnel.

"Found anything in there?" the pilot asked.

The captain put his datapad down.

"Nothing. I've been through every database and chart I've got. Nothing references anything in this system that could be an outpost or base. They all say the same thing. Its an empty system containing lifeless planets and absolutely nothing of interest. The roids are poor quality, the moons have no worthwhile minerals. There is no reason for anyone to be here. Its a dead system. That's why we came, may be we could find something here that everyone else had missed."

The pilot made some minor course corrections. The two men sat in silence.

Throughout the ship the other crew members waited. Each imagined what they were flying into. Some held the hope that it was a small outpost with a welcoming crew who who would save them. Others imagined the worst case and a fleet of rogue drones descending on the ship and slowly tearing it apart.

The captains voice broke the silence through the comm system .

"We'll be dropping out of warp in less than 2 minutes. If any of you want to see first hand what kind of choice we made, you're welcome up here."

One by one the other four crew made their way through the ship. The Hope was an old frigate, much older than most of the ships operating these days. She had been a small cargo runner but had been stripped and refitted when Captain Takuma bought her. Tractor beams and salvaging modules had been fitted that could cut open derelict ships and remove valuable alloys, components and, when they got really lucky, cargo. A probe launcher had also been fitted so that the ship could scan down wrecks in deep space away from the normal space-lanes. That's where the real money was. Ships travelling off-grid tended to do so because they didn't want to be seen by the authorities due to their suspect cargo's They were also the ships most likely to be attacked by pirates and other criminals.

Slowly the crew assembled in the cockpit, standing behind the seated captain and pilot. The warp tunnel started to break apart as the ship slowed. The massive asteroid field suddenly came into view. Directly ahead they saw it. An outpost built into the biggest asteroid.

"Give me a wide tactical scan now." the captain ordered.

The pilot activated the scanner. Readings came up on the view screen.

"Nothing out there captain. No sentries, no defence fleet, no drones, no defence towers, nothing."


The pilot continued to work the scanner.

"No signs of life at the outpost either, although our scanners cannot penetrate far into the structure. Too much rock. No internal power showing either, the place looks dead."

"OK, take us in, nice and slowly. Keep broadcasting a hail on the comms, let them know we're friendly in case someone is watching."

The Hope slowly started approaching the station, manoeuvring around smaller asteroids and rock fragments. The station soon took up the entire cockpit window as they approached the hanger bay doors. The whispers between the crew stopped as the massive doors came into view. Three huge holes were visible, big enough to fly a cruiser through. It looked like they had punched in from the outside. The force of the impacts had buckled the outer doors.

"Riku can you get us in through one of them?" the captain asked.

"Sure thing captain. I don't know what made those holes, but I could get a Moa through them."

The captain spun his chair around.

"Chan. This place is looking less than promising. Its dead, and looks like its been that way for a long time. You sure about this?"

Chan stepped forward with his datapad and handed it to the captain.

"As you can see captain. Now we're closer we're getting better readings. There is a power-source active in there. Its buried deep, but its there and its active."

The small frigate slowly manoeuvred towards one of the massive holes in the hanger doors, passing through with room to spare. Suddenly there were gasps from the assembled crew. Inside the hanger the powerful salvaging lights from the frigate lit up the wrecks of a dozen destroyed starships. There was no evidence of weapons fire, it looked like they had been torn apart.

"Riku you seeing what I'm seeing?" asked the captain.

"I'm seein' but I ain't believing it. They look like old Albatross class transports. They ain't been in service in a hundred and fifty years!"

The crew craned their necks as the searchlights illuminated the massive hanger. The wrecked spaceships hung in the zero gravity, their backs broken and huge chunks of metal torn out of them. High above the hanger, the control room's windows had been blow out and the shards of glass hung menacingly in space, the light dancing off them as they slowly spun.

Riku slowly manoeuvred The Hope alongside a docking gantry. The powerful salvage claws grabbed the protruding deck and clamped on bringing the ship to a halt alongside the dock. He shut the engines down and the ship reverted to its emergency power state.

"12% on the capacitor captain. That's 10 hours before life support fails."

The captain nodded.

"OK everyone suit up. We're going for a walk!.

-o0o-

The six suited figures walked along the docking berth. Magnetic soles in their boots and small thrusters in their backpacks allowed them to walk normally in the zero gravity. The construction of the outpost was like none of them had every seen. It looked vaguely Caldari, but not like any of the outposts or stations any of them had been on. It was also lacking any of the State emblems that usually were always in view on Caldari installations.

"So...." the captains voices crackled through the comms system "Anyone like to make any guess where we are?"

"Well Captain. Given the Albatross Transports and the architecture of this place. I'd guess this is a Caldari outpost, constructed whilst they were still part of the Federation. It more than likely pre-dates the first Caldari-Gallente Great War." replied Sakuri.

She was the science officer on the Hope. Caldari by birth she had worked for a State Mega Corp before sleeping with the wrong Executive. She looked around the creepy hanger full of death and destruction. "Aren't you going to join us?" she whispered quietly to herself.

The six continued in silence until they reached the door at the end of the hanger. With the power down Chan had to use a portable power-pack to open it. The crew stood back in case there was any pressure behind the door. There wasn't, and the door slid back revealing an airless corridor that had a thick layer of dust coating all the surfaces.


"Emergency lighting has kicked on due to our movement, but its running on battery. No main power here." observed Chan.

The comms unit in the captains helmet bleeped as they continued up the corridor. His heads-up-display indicated Sakuri wanted to open a secure channel.

"Yes Sakuri, we're isolated from general comms, what is it?"

"Captain, I didn't want to alarm the others, but this corridor is hot. Some kind of radiation."

"How bad?" asked the Captain worriedly.

"It's OK. We'd need to be here a week to get any serious ill effects. A few hours of this won't even need meds, but I'd like to use them anyway when we get going, just in case."

"Understood." acknowledged the captain. The Hope always had a full stock of anti-radiation meds. Salvaging derelict spaceships often brought the crew into contact with radioactive environments so their medical bay was well stocked to cope.

Finally they reached a bank of lifts. The Captain looked at the list of floors.

"Well its Caldari all right, look at the text. We're on Deck 30, Command Centre is Deck 3. Engineering is Deck 50. Chan, Hiroto and Natsumi you head to 50 and see what the reactor is like. Sakuri and Riku you're with me, we'll check out the command centre. Stairwell is here people, hope you're all feeling fit!"

-o0o-

The three walked into the Command Centre after forcing the door open. Sakuri gasped at the sight. Mummified bodies were slumped at stations and on the floor.

"There is a bit of gravity here" the captain stated "We must be high enough that the natural spin of the 'roid is giving us a some."

The three walked around the large room inspecting the various stations wiping thick layers of dust from the computers. The Captain going straight for what must be the command chair.

"Chan, what have you guys got? Its long dead up here, and that applies equally to the computers and the crew we found." he radioed down to the other team as he removed an access panel from the side of the chair and started poking around in the circuits.

"Captain. You need to see this to believe it. Whatever punched through the hanger doors made it's way down here!"

"What do you mean made its way down there? It was the size of a cruiser! It hardly took the fracking lift!"

"No sir, it, well it burrowed down here. I'm shining a torch up a massive tunnel ripped through the decks. I'm pretty sure it goes all the way up to hanger. Reactor has been torn apart. Its totalled But that's been the case for a long time sir. This is not the energy signature we've been reading!"

There was a long pause.

"OK. All crew back to the Hope. I've salvaged the memory core from the command bridge. Lets find out what happened here and where that damn energy reading is coming from!"

-o0o-

Chan, Riku and Natsumi were the last ones back. They got into the galley on board The Hope to find wires snaking about the room with a vivid pink box in the middle. '3Dimensional Pleasure' was marked on the side.

"Oi! That's my personal stuff!" protested Riku "You can't go in my quarters and take my private stuff!"

"You can have it back once we're done. The captains memory core we salvaged is a holo-recorder. We need something to play it, and your mucky holo projector is the only thing we have that will work with this old legacy tech. So sit down and shaddap!" growled the Captain.

The crew assembled quietly in around the projector. Sakuri was hooking up the memory core via a small computer module to the holo box.

"OK Captain, I think we got it."

"Good. Play the last log entry."

The room went dark and the holo-projector lit up. Two 3D women appeared in a semi-naked embrace. The men in the room whooped and hollered. Riku held his head in is hands.

"Change the input" he groaned, embarrassed. Natsumi smiled at him and raised an eyebrow. He avoided her gaze.


The image of the two women vanished and was replaced by a Caldari man. His uniform was familiar to any Caldari who had studied history in school. He spoke in clear refined Caldari.

"Commanders log. Entry 1656. The station is lost. All crew are dead, or will be in a matter of hours. Our communications are down so my last hope is someone finds this recording and heeds my warning. Beware of the wormholes! At 09:05 hours this morning the science team visited the stable wormhole again and fired the test package through. A 10 gigaton fission warhead. Detonation was recorded and readings from our side of the wormhole collected to analyse later. They returned without incident. At 14:55 station time our long-range sensors identified three unknown objects. They simply appeared from nowhere. As they originated from the area where the wormhole is located, we assume that is where they came from. They immediately set on an intercept course to the outpost. There was no response to our hails. They dropped out of warp and advanced to the station. No life signs. We think they were some form of robot. A construct or craft controlled by an artificial intelligence They breached the hanger doors as if they were made of wood. Two began tearing through the ships in the hangers, they ripped the reactor out of a ship and moved to the next within a minute. The third ripped through our super-structure towards the main outpost reactor. It just tore through the decks like they weren't there. We lost hundreds in the de-pressurisation of the hanger and then the subsequent breaches as that..... thing..... burst through each deck in turn. By the time we realised where it was going it was too late. I ordered the reactor to be shut down but the sequence hadn't finalised as the intruder ruptured the containment field. Thankfully the reactor shut-down sequence had run sufficiently so it didn't go critical. But a massive pulse of hard-radiation was released. Everyone in decks 50 to 35 were killed instantly. Their flesh simply dissolved 35 to 10 received a massively fatal dose and were dead within minutes. Those of us in the top 10 decks, we've got hours, may be a day. We'll live the longest, but it won't be pleasant The doctor has made pills available to anyone who doesn't want to go through that. It is of little recompense but it appears the radiation pulse was as fatal to the intruders as it was.... will be... to us. The one in the reactor room was vaporised. The two in the hanger simply stopped functioning and dropped to the floor. Listen to me carefully. They came from the wormholes. We must not encroach into their realm again. If you find us, please let the record show my crew acted with bravery and honour Please ensure our remains are returned to our families. As well as the main station, there were several hundred working in the 'old' station when the radiation hit. The original mining colony that was based deep inside the asteroid. Our diagnostics that are still operational show the old reactor is still active and their life-support is functioning. However, the doctor informs me that even with the rock protecting them, the radiation dose will have been fatal, although it might take them longer to die from the effects. On the other hand they may be already dead, we just don't know. There is no way to reach them with the majority of the outpost now a vacuum. To be truthful, I don't know which of us has it better. What is a few extra days when there will be only pain and suffering?"

The room went silent. Sakuri went back to the console and entered new commands. There were murmurs as the now frozen image of the commander was replaced by a three dimensional schematic of the station layout. There was indeed a warren of tunnels and caverns deep inside the asteroid.

"Well ladies and gentlemen. We move out in 30 minutes. We're going to pay that old reactor a visit."


....to be continued.....


4 comments:

  1. Outstanding!!! Can not wait to read more. Can easily envision a "Clear Skies" style video being made of this.

    Doobe Maulerant

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  2. Great start, another good series I am sure.

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  3. Good stuff. Looking forward to more to come.

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  4. As already said : great start, i'm waiting for next ├ępisode !

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