Friday, November 21, 2014

The Wreck

Fiction Friday. No escape pod as this was uploaded days ago as I'm on holiday on a desert island 400 metres in diameter. If Eve fiction is not your thing try here.

This is an entry for the Pod and Planet Fiction Contest in the Eight Thousand Suns in New Eden category. This one actually gave me the idea for next week's comedy entry. 3129 words.


The Wreck

Laulbrent opened his eyes. It was pitch black. He couldn't see anything. He struggled to his feet and reached into his pocket and pulled out his datapad. Turning on the screen hurt his eyes due to the sudden apperance of light, but at least the glow from the screen allowed his to see more once his eyes adjusted. He worked his way over to a nearby console. It was dead, no power at all. He tried to use the datapad as a torch but the room was too big and the light wasn't powerful enough. Using his memory he slowly made his way over to the railgun loading mechanism. Once he felt the cold tritanium of the structure he felt his way around until he reached the maintenance access panel. Using the glow from his datapad's screen he opened it and flicked the circuit breakers. The emergency lighting flickered on.

"I am in deep shit!" Laulbrent whispered to himself surveying the scene in front of him.

It had all been going so well. Laulbrent was a gunnary officer on a Dominix class battleship. This particular battleship was piloted by a capsuleer. An immortal pilot who, when wet-wired to the ships systems, could control it with just his mind. The vessel still needed a crew but it was a substantially smaller one than those captained by a normal person. They had recieved a mission to take out a rogue drone hive just inside low-sec. A particualrly risky mission. However, most capsuleer missions were risky, thats why they paid their crew so much. They had arrived at the mission co-ordinates and found the hive under construction. The resident rogue drones wasted no time in attacking the intruders. Autonomous robots that had become self-aware and turned on their human creators. They now lived in hives scattered through deep space and were a constant nuisence to traffic. Unexpectedly, a Tengu class strategic cruiser had appeared. Another capsuleer, but this one was a pirate. The sentry drones and large 425mm railguns on the Dominix couldn't hit the fast and nimble cruiser as it attacked. After a drawn-out fight their own capsuleer sounded the abandon ship alarm as their battlehip started taking structural damage. Laulbrent and his crewmates had headed for the escape pods there was an explosion and the power had gone down in their section, even the emergency power. The doors wouldn't open and the emergency crank had jammed due to a buckled bulk head. Before anyone could get to the circuit breakers to divert emergency power to the doors another missile from the Tengu detonated close by. That was the last thing he remembered.

His fire-control centre that he was stood in was a mess. The ceiling had collapsed in one corner and there was debris scattered all over. Amongst the debris were bodies. Slowly Laulbrent worked his way around checking to see if anyone else was alive. The first three he reached were all dead. A moan from the far corner caught his attention. He quickly walked over to find Technician Frist Class Janninck slumped against the wall. He pressed his fingers against her neck and she moved under his touch.

"Nerwolfur wasn't handing out the Matari 100% proof fire-water again last night was he?" she asked groggily slowly opening her eyes.

Laulbrent chuckled. It was good she hadn't lost her sence of humour. He held out a hand and she took it pulling herself to her feet.

"No technician, for once the headaches we have are not Nerwolfur's fault. Moreover, we're going to need more than a couple of pills and a glass of water to sort this out!"

Laulbrent pointed to the door at the far end of the fire-control centre and started to walk over with Janninck following.

"So what's the situ?" she asked as they walked.

"No idea. Main power is down but it appears the battle is over. Its all quiet and no more explosions. We need to get to some functional escape pods as life-support will no doubt be down. I don't know who....." Laulbrent cut off mid-sentance as they reached the door. He turned around and slumped against the bulkhead shaking his head.

Janninck looked at him and shrugged her shoulders questioningly. Laulbrent thumbed towards the small viewport set into the blastdoor. Janninck peared out and all she could see were stars. The corridor beyond was ripped open and she could see the other half of the battleship slowly spinning several kilometres away.

"Shit!" was all she could say.

-o0o-

They had been climbing for an hour. After finding the battleship had been cut in half, their only route had been to climb through the collapsed area at the far end of fire-control. Heavy machinery had become detached higher up in the ship and had plummeted through a dozen decks as it fell creating a mangled shaft of metal.

"Just our fracking luck." Janninck panted "Every other system is down except the artificial-gravity!"

"Yeah but that system also controls air and heat. I'll take a bit of climbing in exchange for being able to breath!"

After they had climbed three decks in the dark they had encountered light and a slight breeze meaning the life support higher up was still running. Eventually they reached the top of the shaft. A missile had penetrated the ships hull here but the emergency forcefields were still operating. It was strange, being stood on a mangled deckplate looking out into deep space with only a thin energy barrier seperating them from the vacuum.

"Its kind of beautiful." Janninck said staring out. Laulbrent looked back to where she stood as he checked down one corridor that led off the room.

"Yeah, just remember that the damage control unit is running on emergency battery power. At some point in the not so distant future that force-field will simply vanish. Janninck gulped at the thought of being blown out into the cold vacuum of space. She followed Laulbrent down a side corridor, rows of blinking red lights lined the left hand side. The entire row of escape pods had already gone.

"Right. Plan B then!" Laulbrent grumbled and turned back. They crossed the hole in the hull again, the large drone hive looming in the distance. They could just make out the other half of the ship, slowly spinning in the distance. Huge rogue drones crawled over the other half of the ship, ripping sections off as they went. Smaller drones zipped around collecting the floating wreckage and flying it back towards the hive.

"Looks like that half is going to become scrap for use in the hive." Janninck whispered.

Laulbrent nodded and pulled her along before she asked what he thought would happen to them. He didn't want to say out loud 'exactly the same once they've finished with that half'.

At the otherside of the breach they entered another corridor. A body lay halfway along. Laulbrent approached it and squatted down, checking for signs of life. The man looked to be in his mid-20's. His dead body was battered and bruised. He assumed he'd fallen running for the escape pods and been trampled to death by other crew. It was something all crew knew about. It took a special person to remain cool, calm and collected when the abandon ship alarm was sounding. Death by explosive vacuum was not pleasant in any way, shape or form. Whilst all crew believed they would act calm and responsible when the time came, the abandon ship alarm changed things in an instant. That was one danger, the other was just about as scary. They had been taught that people trapped in dire situations like this could act differently, dangerously. If all hope is lost and there can be no consequences to your actions, certain personality types can become very uncivalised very quickly. He hoped any surviving crew they found would not be in that catagory,

"They're gone." Laulbrent stated solemly as he stood and turned from the body. "Lets keep moving."

-o0o-

It had been two hours of searching and they had found nothing but dead-ends full of empty escape pod launch tubes. Laulbrent was now worried. Emergency power had started to fluctuate and they'd heard loud crashes and bangs against the hull. He hoped it was just the ship colliding with more wreckage as it spun in space. However, the rogue drones would soon be finished with salvaging anything of use of the rear half of the ship and would move onto their half. He assumed they started with the rear half as it contained the reactors and the drives. Probably valuable components in constructing their hive.

Janninck had gone quiet. He was sure she'd come to the same conclusions but had kept them to herself.

As they followed the current corridor Laulbrent noted where they were. He stopped at a door and tried to open it. The power was down and the door wouldn't open. He opened the maintenance panel on the wall and removed the emergency hand crank. He inserted it into the hole and slowly he turned the handle, opening the door a fraction at a time. Once it was open enough he squeezed in with Janninck following. The room was small. It contained a small console and racks of electronics equipement. Blinking lights showed there was still some power to the electronics.

"What is this?" Janninck asked.

"Its one of the emergency diagnostic terminals. In the event of an emergency the DCU and shipboard AI feed whatever data they can get back to one of these. There is one for every five decks. They are used when part of the ship is inaccessible."

Laulbrent went to work on the console.

"They have their own battery back-up and are the last of the systems to go down. This one is still getting basic information for several sections of this ship."

"What good is that?" she asked. "You don't need a computer to tell us we're neck deep in Slaver Hound Do-Do! What is it going to tell you? Error code 548 - ship hacked into two pieces. Please speak to Scotty the Docking Manager who will arrange a super-sized roll of Matari duct tape?"

"Deck 14, Sector 3B." Laulbrent replied. "Corridor 131 is losing power, life support minimum but still pressurised." he smiled.

"So?"

"That means we can still reach the two Class-3 escape pods remaining and ready to launch from that corridor!"


-o0o-

It took 30 minutes for Laulbrent reached the door he was looking for. The emrgency power was fading and it had been slow going. Grabbing the emergency crank he turned the lever, slowly opening the door. When the gap was wide enough he stepped through and pulled Janninck with him. The corridor was dark. The emergency lighting was starting to fail. The blinking red lights above each door made his heart sink until he saw the last two, solid green. Laulbrent grabbed Janninck by the hand and started down the corridor quickly. Half way down he stopped, there was movement. He heard a clink of bottles. Two shapes moved in the half-light.

"Who's there?" he called out.

Two figures emerged from the gloom. There was one Caldari and on Matari and by the way they were walking, both very drunk.

"Welcome to the end Officer!" the Caldari gave a mocking salute. "Coming to join us to die? I think we have some booze left, somewhere. Sorry but we've been celebrating our upcoming deaths a little hard!"

Laulbrent picked up on the tone. Resigned. The Matari crewman just stood there.

"There appears to be two four-person pods left. Any reason you haven't abandoned ship crewman?" he said in an authorative tone. He hoped the crewman had some proffesionalism left.

"Well sir." the 'sir' was said sarcastically "if you have a look here...." and indicated to the adjacent escape pod. As Laulbrent approached he accidently kicked a bottle that skidded down the corridor landing at the crewmans feet. When he reached the door the crewman suddenly hit the launch button. A whoosh sound eminated from the door.

"What the frack...." Laulbrent exclaimed. Incredulous that this man just lanuched an empty pod.

"Look!" said the crewman and pointed to the small window in the door. Laulbrent looked out and saw the firy engines of the escape pod gaining distance. Suddenly an immense metalic tentacle lashed out from somewhere. It struck the pod and sent it spinning. The impact ruptured the pods hull spewing its oxygen into space. The white cloud reached the engine flare and it ignited. The whole pod exploded in a fireball.

"Its some kind of drone on the hull and it doesn't want us to leave." he said "It destroyed the Tengu. It sliced us in half. It is waiting. Its going to kill us all. Whats worse, look out again and to the right."

Laulbrent looked out of the viewport again straining to try and see what the crewman wanted him to. He was about to ask what he was supposed to be seeing when the heavy blunt object crashed into the back of his head and everything went dark again.

-o0o-

Something was shaking him. Laulbrent opened his eyes. His head throbbed. He was half right, the entire ship was shaking violently.

"No! Stay back!" he heard Janninck's desperate voice. It sounded distant due to the throbbing in his ears. He shoved himself up with his hands, glass from the broken bottle crunching under his palms.

"Come on man! We haven't got long. That thing out there is tearing us up! I gotta go out with a bang!" the Caldari man was egging the Matari on. Laulbrent could see Janninck was backed into a corner, the two men blocking her way slowly advancing. She had a metal rod in her arms and was weilding it like a club at them. Laulbrent saw that her lip was split and her crew shirt was torn with many of the buttons missing. There had obviously been a stuggle before she'd got the make-shift club and beaten them back.

"Stay back!" she snarled waving her make-shift weapon as the two men advanced.

The Matari man stepped forward. She swung the pole but he caught it in his hand easily, wrenching it from her grip.

"Darling, we're dead in a matter of minutes. Best to party now before..."

He was silenced by the sound of smashing glass. As the Matari man fell to the deck Janninck saw Laulbrent stood behind him with a now broken bottle. The Caldari man backed off raising his hands.

"Hey dude, I don't want any trouble!"

Laulbrent held out his hand for Janninck whilst pointing the broken bottle at the remaining crewman.

"You OK?" he asked not taking his eyes off the Caldari man.

"I've had worse dates to be honest! However, if that bastard tries anything make sure you castrate him with the bottle!" she sneered.

The two backed down the corridor towards the last remaining escape pod. Once there was enough distance between them the remaining crewman ran off in the opposite direction.

"They said the drones are destroying any escape pods that launch. Thats why they were still here. What are we going to do?" Janninck asked as he pulled her into the remaining pod.

He pulled up a floor access panel and started pulling apart the sea of wires, reaching deeper into the bowels of the pods workings.

"They are dismantling the ship. We stay out there, we die." he replied whilst pulling apart large connectors between the cables. "I'm hoping these things work on electromagnetics. If the pod has no power when it leaves the tube, I'm guessing they'll ignore it."

"Guessing?"

"Two choices. Stay in this pod with me and have a 50/50 chance of making it. Or go back on the ship with rogue drones dismantling it and lover-boy still running around!"

Janninck sat down and watched Laulbrent as he rewired the escape pods power systems. The vibrations in the ship were growing stronger. After two minutes he stood and re-entered the corridor. Janninck watched him as he pulled the door control panel off the wall and start to work on the curcuit boards behind that. Finally he came inside and closed the pods hatch.

"Ready?" he asked her.

"Ready for wh....?" she started to ask as he hit a button on the console. There was a huge roar as the escape pods engineers engaged for a brief second and then fell silent. She looked at the window in the escape pod's hatch and saw light coming from the bottom of the lanch tube.

"The ships door!" she pointed as she realised the atmosphere of the ship was venting into space.

"Don't worry, thats going to give us a push."

She grabbed his hand as there was a clunk against the ships hull.

"Don't worry, that was probably that Minmatar bastard, not the drones." he said calmly. She looked at him in confusion. There was a second clunk.

"And that will have been the Caldari asshat. Here comes the moment of truth."

The escape pod silently exited the launch tube in a flurry of debris. As the ships atmosphere vented it blew everything unsecured through the door Laulbrent had rigged to stay open. They peered out of the window together as the massive drones worked on tearing the ship into scrap. The huge machines ignoring the unpowered debris spitting from the ship as they peeled immense armour plates from the stricken hull for the small drones to carry back to the hive.

Janninck realised she had been holding her breath as the wrecked ship started to slip from view. They were clear.

"What now?" Janninck asked.

"We will give it 30 minutes before reconnecting the main power. Might get a bit chilly in here but we need to put some distance between us and them. The air here should be OK for that long with only two of us. By the time we power up, I'm guessing we'll have drifted 400 clicks from the hive. Well out of harms way. Then its power up the distress beacon and wait for the Sisters to come and rescue us." Laulbrent leaned back in the seat relaxing. "In the mean time you can tell me about your days in that Gallente girls-only boarding school."

Janninck looked at him quizically.

"I didn't go to a Gallente girls-only boarding school!".

"So make it up." Laulbrent laughed "We've got a few hours before the Sisters turn up and I think I deserve a reward!"

The sound of a playful slap resonated around the small escape pod as it drifted away from the drone hive into the blackness of space.

3 comments:

  1. Nitpick: one more proof-reading pass would have been good.

    But otherwise: good story!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Good story though!

    ReplyDelete