Carathumpian of Tethys

To much data
Episode 12

After the two aliens left us Liam and Red wanted some rest before continuing. John and Doc could not stifle their curiosity and pressed on.

The access-card Red had found earlier gave them access to doors the aliens had gone through. Going through the temperature suddenly became warmer. Like there was an immense machine running on full steam, a metallic smell. They pressed on and found a large datacenter with three rows of machines running on full steam. Like they we're shuffling memory without having any place to put it. "Interesting" thought Doc. After checking the room for any way to interface with the system they found two consoles. With archaic outlets that Doc did have the adaptors for. He could probably jury-rig something but that would take time. They decided  to press on.

They passed an old secretary station as they went farther forward. Nothing but old computers. At the end of the corridor they found 3 doors. One big leading further forward and one to each side. Just about to try the one the right they heard the footsteps of Liam caching up with them. He seemed rested. "What have you found?" he asked them. After quickly filling him in, they entered the room on the right. It was a meeting room with an old inert holo-projector in the middle and some cupboards around the walls. Doc started checking the cupboards for stuff while John checked out the holo-projector. Doc found some adaptors he thought could match the ones in the data-center and put them in his bag. Meanwhile Liam started fiddling with the left side door outside in the corridor. Feeling that this room could give them(him) something he wanted. Unable to open the door with the keycard he called after Doc for some help. Making short work of the old lock Doc opened the door to find an still stocked infirmary. Liam almost ran over Doc to get into the room and check it out. "Have fun", Doc said to Liam before leaving. (Not before pocketing some stuff for himself.)

Leaving the room Doc saw that John had gotten the holo-projector at least partly up and running and was studying a projection. "Could you take a look at this Doc?", John said. Doc entered the room and saw something looking like a nebula coming out of a large beast. Saying as much to John, he scampered of, eager to try out the new adaptors.

They fit perfectly and Doc booted up the systems. He found them overwhelmed by an enormous load of sensor data coming from four external sensors. It seemed the system was in need of some free space. "I could always use some more data", Doc thought. Getting ready for the cracking of his life Doc started compressing data and storing it on his archive.

"Its gonna take weeks to sort through all this data."

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2282 - The Year We Made Contact
Episode 11

 

Docking with the Nova Terra

Gossamer thin threads of crystal through the ship, covering dataterminals and some of the dead creatures. Some of the mutated creatures we faught are gone now.

Temperature is steadily sinking. (10 ° )
We climb up the elevator shaft to the crew compartments. (7,5 ° )
Scanners pick up movement ahead , we arrive in "Section B": an unfinished ballrom/cantina (5 ° )

Liam notices some disturbance on his comms, manages to tap into an alien signal, indecipherable alien language.
We connect our devices to triangulate it's orgin.
Red stalks further into the room, picks up a keycard (A, B, C) .

Two aliens, Doc try to speak to them, the others cover him.
They give us tech with some info on it.

They leave.

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Angelic Velocity
Episode 10

"One must learn to see what is to be seen.
And to see through what others wish you to see."

"What do you mean it's gone?" Jac pushed past the martian into the cockpit.
Ahead of him John Icarus was strapped into the flight chair, his armored suit reflecting the glare from the seven screens arranged around him in  the vaguely triangular room. He gestured at the main view screen that shifted to show the outside of their ship with an info overlay of trajectories from the logs. Saturn and her rings shone at them, all alone. There was no signs of anything else in their vicinity.
"As you can see the Nova terra is not where we left it." the image in front of them was rapidly zooming in.

"John, Saturn seems to be approaching fast, what's our speed?" Jac started feeling a bit nervous, John had a tendency to become more reckless when he was annoyed, and from his calculations their trajectory was more than what a safe approach demanded.
"The nav was set to decelerate at the first sign of our destination." John grumbled, he flipped several switches and his chair reclined into drive mode as four of the screen readjusted themselves around him. "You might want to grab hold of something , I'm going to do an EAR" He grabbed the controls.
"A whatnow?" Jac looked over his shoulder, Red was buckling himself in rapidly while shouting through the doorway to Liam "LIAM, grab something, John is going to FLIP and BURN!"

Shit.

Jac recognized that term, and barely had time to grab hold of the nearest seat before they began.
The Angelica begun a slow sideways roll toward Saturn that increased in speed with each turn as John started angling the nose of the ship away from the planet. For a moment the engines went out and the sounds of warning sounds sang a dirge through the ship as several icons flashed red in sync with them. Jac eyed a loose cable as it slowly started to rise from the floor lazily, weightless.
Then John pushed the accelerator and they all got glued to their seats for a second before the internal gravity systems managed to kick in and save them from whiplash.

Glancing at the sensors Jac could read their approximately distance from the planet, the numbers were red. Next to that he could see the main view screen show them almost touching the outer boundaries of the gas giant, skimming along the the horizon before adjusting trajectory and rising away from it.
The blue starship reduced speed and set out on course around the planet, surfing over it's glittering rings.

"Right, that went almost smoothly" John frowned as his chair rose back into a more upright position. His long limbs almost touched the floor, but someone had made adjustment to the floor and the chair. Jac assumed their last mechanic was the one responsible for that custom job. The one they barely talked about, that he was certain had died on mars.
"That's an understatement" Jac mumbled, he glanced at the warning messages, three of them were still blinking.
"I'll go see how much damage you did to the engine with that stunt" he got out of the chair and stalked out of the cockpit.

 


 

"Angie can handle it" John called after the disappearing technician "Isn't that right baby? You know I'll take care of you. " He slowly removed his hands from the controls and flexed his fingers, the levity of his voice was not one his gut shared. He took a deep breath before getting back to the joystick. "What do you think Red?"
The martian unbuckled his harness and came up behind the pilot, leaning over the chair he studied the screens before them.
"I dunno John, could it have drifted?" He seemed skeptical of the idea.
"Hrm, let's check – if it has, it should be alongside the same orbit as we are cruising now." John pointed at the second screen, showing a small moving glyph representing them, on top of a slightly curved line, next to it was a translucent green line showing the imagined path their quarry could have taken, something about it seemed incorrect to Red.
"Let me give you a hand with the nav and sensors." The martian buckled into the chair next to the belter and together the two of them started searching for signs of the lost ship.
After some minutes John broke the silence "You know what the other, more likely possibility is right?" Red glanced away from his calculations "Somebody took it, you mean?" he got back to readjusting their path "Yeah, I know."
John sighed " Only question is if it's just scavengers, military, or worse of all: corporate…"
a couple of seconds ticked by as they both thought about that potential scenario.

John turned and shouted down the hallway of the ship "LIAM, gear up! – we need you in here!"
The sound of someone jogging preceded the terran as he came into the cockpit "What's happening?" he was still in his training gear, sweat was darkening his shirt and shining on his forehead.

"Nothing yet, but I want you in full battle gear and manning the guns if it does, fair?" John asked.
The marine looked at his two friends and the intent stares they leveled at the sensors before nodding "Sure, better safe than spaced, give me ten." He ran out.
John adjusted their speed and looked out at the vastness of space, lit up by the sparkling rings under them, he could feel some resistance in the steering as he made another minute adjustment to their course.

How do you lose a ship that size out here?

 


 

When Doc returned to the cockpit Liam was already strapped in and looking bored.
"It's time to call it, we've traveled along the projected orbit of a drifting ship that size, it can't have gotten any further John." Red pinched the bridge of his nose and rubbed his eyes "we lost it." The pale large man next to him looked like a statue as he sat there almost immobile, only movement was the slow rhythmic tap of a single finger on the controls.

Tap.

"The engine is fine, but some of the minor systems took a beating, nothing serious but you might notice something off with the steering." Doc sat down in the last seat and looked around, the screens all showed nothing of interest, only Saturn, the rings and the space.

Tap.

"It can't have disappeared simply" John's voice was cold and far away.

Tap.

"And can't have gotten far."

Tap.

"And there is nothing to hide a ship …"

"SONOVA!" John grabbed the controls suddenly and increased their acceleration, the view screen showed them plummeting downward.
"John! What the?" Red searched the screens, none of them showed anything new.
Turning to the martian, John spoke quickly, anger fueling his words " They're under us, UNDER THE FUCKING RINGS, they're using them to mask the ship!" He returned to the controls and flipped a switch "Hold on."

The chair sunk into pilot mode as several screens readjusted along it, the light in the cockpit dimmed, on the screens Red could see the glittering flat rings turn into a sea of rocks as they sped toward it.

Dear ancestors, save me from the cold dark and the rage of a thwarted Void Ranger.

He tightened the straps on his chair and brought the sensor screens closer, quickly mapping out obstacles and tracing a path that would bring them through it without turning them into grated cheese.
Smaller rocks struck their shields and sent small sparks and high pitched vibrations through their ship, the larger ones they tried their best to go around, making constant micro adjustments to avoid catastrophe.

Shadows circled them as they entered the center of the debris field, the rocks filtering the reflected light in weird patterns around them, some places were almost black and Angelica skimmed along them like a deep sea diver trying to find his way out of an underwater tunnel before his air ran out.
When the light returned they started breathing again.

 



Emerging under the rings of Saturn, Angelica increased speed again, it's thrusters burning a bright blue. Red set the sensors for long range and went about making calculations on the navigation computer. "You sure about this John? It still might be to late." 

John was looking from screen to screen "I'm certain, I can almost feel them … Just out of sight, sneaky motherfuckers!"
All four of them sat there in the silence as the blue bulk of the Angelica cruised under the rings of Saturn, minutes went by.

"Got something."
Red pointed at the central Screen as it shifted to show a set of lines and numbers over a dark background "That's someone's trace emissions, someone big." 
"Can you find them?" John stared at the projection as it overlayed the outside view.
"Working on it, start on this heading and I'll narrow us in as we get closer" A bright line appeared on the screen, The screen next to John lit up with extra information.

 


 

"Got scanner range on them" Red looked up from his controls, on the main screen they could see the rear of something large and long speeding away from them. "Their trajectory doesn't make sense though: if they keep this path long enough they will end up away from the solar system, there is nothing in that direction."

John switched the autopilot on and turned his head so he could see all of them "Ok guys, decision time: do we continue or do we call it quits and stay safe? that ship is large and we don't know what's going on here, it could be an ice hauler repurposed for scavenging, but it might just as easily be a black ops corporate ship or a military juggernaut. " he looked at his three friends, "If it is, we might end up as stardust and debris before we know it if we go any closer. but we're going to loose them if we stay at this speed … thoughts?"

"That's the only proof we got, if it disappears we're back to square one." Doc said.
Liam shrugged "This is the job, if we wanted safe we'd be farmers John, remember?"
John nodded and looked at Red. "Red, you sure?"
The martian looked away from the computer screen and locked his eyes on the pale belter "I'm with you, you know that."
John returned to the joystick and resumed control "Ok, let's go hunting."

 




In the darkness of space the two ships were barely visible from a distance, apart from their drives that lit them up with a cold blue light. Angelica was slowly gaining on the unknown ship.

"They've fired rockets." Reds tone was calm. "Can you do something about that Doc?"
"Starting electronic countermeasures." The tapping of fingers over the keyboard intensified as the technician tried to lock onto the guidance controls of the incoming warhead. "it's not responding to standard attempts, I'm not sure if I can get it in time, Liam you ready with the guns in case we need to shoot it down before it reaches us?"
"Awaiting lock" the marine mumbled as he stared at the gunnery controls "why didn't we get a proper unship instead of this thing? I have no rockets, no turrets, no flak or countermeasures to drop – all I have is one single cannon, sheesh" He shook his head sadly. "What a way to go."

The ship lurched as they decreased speed "I'll try to shake it off" John hissed as they sped toward unknown armament.
Angelica begun moving in a spiraling  pattern toward the missile, who was mirroring it's target, as the two of them got closer John shouted "Hold on!" and punched the engines to max while he reversed his spin. The ship rumbled as the sudden course change threatened to tear it in two, behind it the missile detonated soundlessly and orange fire and gas lit the Angelica up as it tore towards the ship.

Doc broke the tense silence of the cockpit as they got within visual range "I've never seen anything with that design in the solar system."
"Maybe they're not from this one?" Red  wondered half jokingly.
"Either way we have to get close and board before they fire ay us again, eventually we might get unlucky or they might get lucky. Missiles are off the table as soon as we get next to them, that's our best chance."

"Look at that" Liam said and pointed out the incoming visuals.
Hanging under the sinister sleek spacecraft they were chasing they identified the shape of the Nova Terra.

 

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Nursing a headache back to where all this started
Episode 9

"Friendship is truly tested when it's time to share the burden"

 

"I have to go" Jac said to the bronze beauty sprawl next to him, the dirty hotel room smelled of his mothers cookies and it was driving him nuts. The blonde woman ignored him as she rolled over on her belly and played with his communicator, pictures of mars scrolled over the screen.
"Seriously, they're waiting for me" Jac pleaded with her back as he made to get up, but he had of course left his legs on the chair next to bed, typical. Above them a three-headed bird flew by.
Jac looked around for his tools, maybe he could jury-rig something, "Hey babe, have you seen my sisters, I'm sure I left them around here somewhere"
The woman turned her face back toward him, her face was gone, instead chrome and glass reflected the surrounding light like a rainbow halo, the world was losing color and all the light was hurting him suddenly.

"You going to wake up soon or what, Doc?" She asked in a deep male voice.

Doc looked up at Liam, the marine looked back at him.

Oh right, the … robot …

The Terran smirked "You mumbled some weird shit, man" Liam checked Jac's vitals before getting up "John needs you to start earning your keep" he pointed at the console next to them, then reached down to help the engineer up.

"He's up! Good." John strode over to them, behind him in the dark Red was packing up a large bag and wrapping up something that looked like a large caliber rifle.
"How long was I out, and what happened?" Jac rubbed his eyes, they felt like the were screwed in the wrong way in his head and filled with sand.

John opened his visor and sighed "It can wait Doc, what's important is that while we were getting free somebody snuck in here and messed around with that console" He jerked his thumb at the computer access behind him. "Someone with some pretty high tech gear and impressive training."
Behind Jac, Red snorted "Made us look like rookies" he mumbled before dragging his haul out the door.
John watched him go before continuing "So I need you to figure about what this is all about, fast preferably, we've already been here too long". Jac felt like he could hear the grinding of teeth in the room … the realized that he was the one doing it.
"No pressure then." he said acidly, and gave the large man a deathly grin before wobbling past him to the machine waiting for him.
The grinding sound was getting a bit louder, he tongued his molars while staring at the blinking lights on the display.

No, it's not me making that sound now. It's almost mechanical, like … Oh shit!

Jac grabbed his kit and started plugging in, with some luck he might save something from the drive before it turned into metal dust.

Behind him he heard Liam ask "Do you smell something burning? a bit metallic like?"

Didn't check it for contingencies of course! Amateurs!

 



John slammed his glass back on the table "But Doc saved some bits of it" he glanced at the tired engineer "What did you say it was?"
Doc was resting his head on the back of the couch, his veins felt like they were filled with tar and coffee, courtesy of the tiredness from the beating that robot had given him, and the drugs he had popped to keep standing.
"Some coordinates without specifics for what planetoid or object they reference, some vague hints pointing at the Synesis Eluteria …" slowly he raised his head and stared at his companions. "And a scrambled file where I managed to dig out the words Vega and Hygiena … Ring any bells, Periastron?"

There handler was sitting, no – he was lounging in one of the padded chairs at Tyrones, fingers collected and steepled in front of him in a pyramid, like a caricature of a thoughtful man.
The fucking fedora and trench coat wasn't improving the image in Jac's eyes either.

"That … That's not a good place to visit if you like breathing" he frowned "corporate owned, and restricted from entry for .. well, everybody mostly." He looked away, lost in thought.
Liam took a sip of his neon drink "That's the place where people don't return from right?  They have the right to shoot you down if you go past the warning buoys there … Shit" he turned to John "please tell me we're not going there."

John was watching Periastron under hooded eyes "No, we're not going there" he kept his eyes on their handler as he spoke "Our fee just went up, P."
The handler snapped out of his reverie and looked over at the large pale man sitting across from him, they eyed each other for a while before he broke the silence with a faint smile.
"Of course, John."

 


 

"Caelestis Control, this is the 'Angelica', we're ready to begin our trip out, standing by for a lane"
"We read you Angelica, there is a lane opening up for you, align with vectors 650, 300, and await our go"
"This is the 'Angelica', we are aligned and ready."
"Then you are green for departure, safe travels."
"Thanks Caleastis, we'll be back before you know it"
"You better John, you still owe me that dinner."
"Next time."

"There, course set" John turned back to his friends in the cockpit
"Get some rest, in 5 cycles we return to the Nova Terra."

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Bound in Shadow
Episode 7 & 8

"Knowing your advantages does you no good
if your enemy is able to keep you from employing them."

John hissed "That stings!" he rolled his shoulder and made to move away.
"Hold still and stop being such a pussy, John" Liam mumbled as he finished up his work "The reason it stings is because your shoulder is filled with dust, gravel, and shrapnel that needs to  be removed and cleaned before I cover it up, there you go."
He slapped on the final patch and rubbed it in place to make sure the seal was tight.
John grimaced.

Red came strolling down the stairs about the same time as Jac arrived up the stairs from the streets. "Yo" he nodded at the hacker as the four of them gathered round.
"Street rats and scavengers most likely" he said "but at least they had some firepower for us to take" he displayed the two rifles he had liberated from his quarry, they weren't much too look at really.
Liam wrinkled his nose at them "what make is this? it looks like trash."
"Most likely recycled factory defects that have been repurposed and fixed up by a mechanic, I've seen the style before – they're all over the belt in the slums." Jac explained to the rest of the group as he grabbed one for a closer look
"They'll probably fire all rights, just don't expect them to come with holosights and recoil stabilizers boys."

"You keep that, I'll take this one" Red hefted the rifle and checked the sights "This is just like training: crap equipment, crap environment, and unclear orders." He grinned at the others, "Where do you want me John?"
The tall belter flipped his visor down and consulted the controls on his arm for a while "Let's avoid any more ambushes from slumlords and hopeful scavengers, get up high and follow us – that's your specialty anyway, right?"
Red started walking up the stairs again "Sure is, I think I saw the remains of a tower on the top of this building, I'll set up near there." he switched to comms as he turned the corner "If the rest of the guys you saw try to come sneaking, I'll stop them in their tracks."

Good, blow of some of that steam.
Happy hunting, brother

John watched him go, before turning back to the others.
"let's go have a look at that anchor."

 


 

The old facility was ringed by a tall concrete wall, several meters i height, rough and gray it loomed over them.
Liam and John were keeping lookout as Jac worked on the lock.
"How we're doing there Doc?" Liams voice was hushed, and a bit annoyed "You think it'll take long enough for me to go back home for the flashlight I forgot?"
"Despite whatever scientific studies I'm sure you base you hypothese on, It has not been proved that anything is improved by nagging, Dancar" The engineer spat over his shoulder.
Liam kept watching the streets around them, after a while he mumbled "That's not how you pronounce it …"

"Enough, Liam is right: this is taking too long." John holstered his sidearm
"Ready to give me a boost 'L'?" He backed off some meters to get a running start.
Meanwhile Liam holstered his gun and locked his hands in front of him as he leaned against the wall. "Ready!"
John ran at him, as he stepped onto Liam's locked fingers the medic activated the servos in his armor and hoisted him up over his head.  John jumped.
Jac watched as the giant almost cleared the wall and gripped onto the top, John  turned around and dangled down his arm. "You're next Doc."
"Why me?" Jac looked up at the wall.

"Because it will take two of us to haul 'L's fat ass up" John retorted.
"Hey, I'm not fat!" Liam protested.
"But your armor is, now get a move on boys!" John waved Doc in motion, the engineer secured his gear before starting his run.


This is not going to be pretty

 


The whirr of servos and heavy steps came at them as the security robot rounded the corner in the courtyard. "Damn, a 'bot'" Liam unholstered his gun, to his right John was already fading from sight as he hugged the wall of the nearby building.

Doc procured his personal computer and begun tapping away "I got this, just give me some seconds and I'll shut him down!" Liam didn't have time to answer before the robot opened fire at them, he threw himself against the wall as bullets splintered and cracked the concrete around him, dust starting filling the air.
He could see Doc diving for cover, trying to shield his laptop from the fall as he kept typing away. John was gone.

Liam turned around the corner and opened fire at the humanoid tin can, his bullets glanced off its armor as blue lightning arced from its arm to the prone hacker at it's feet.
Doc screamed and spasmed before curling up in a ball, steam was rising from him.
"Hey asshole, pick on somebody your own size!" Liam shouted as he fired more bullets at the metal monstrosity.
The robot turned towards him, Liam looked around: Doc was down, John was gone and Red was far away.

Shit, that's me!

The whole world turned white for a second  as he turned to run, suddenly his legs were heavier and he had trouble seeing straight. "Gah!  … it'll take more … than" He wobbled a couple more meters before turning back to see the robot come around the corner, both hands pointed at him with electricity crackling from them.
He threw himself away from the wall as it opened fire, but didn't react fast enough, again the whole world turned white. As vision returned he felt like he was under water – sounds were small and far away and there was two of everything.

Great, now I'm seeing double as well

Behind the robot he could make out the blurry form of John firing at it as he ran toward the truck parked next to the building. The bullets barely dented the metal plates on the robot as it turned around and fired a beam of white blue energy at John.
The former void ranger was lifted off his feet and thrown into the wall like a ragdoll, he landed in a crumpled heap next to the car.
The robot turned back to Liam, the medic tried to run away but his left leg kept giving out on him. He also had some trouble with discerning left form right, or up from down for that matter.
The robot aimed both it's arms at him.

"Yheah yheah bhuddy, fuchk yeoou thoo." Liam mumbled trough numb lips before everything went white, he tried to raise a finger at it but he couldn't quite remember how to do it.
 


 

The first thing John noticed was the throbbing. The second thing was that he was shackled. Looking around he could see the security robot in stand-by mode a few meters to his right. By a door. He could see his two companions lying, also shackled, next to him.

What happened?

John struggled to remember. His head was like thick white rice porridge, his memory like a peeled almond. The chrono on his HUD informed him that at least 1 hour minutes had passed since … the van. Things started to come flooding back.

The muffled grunts from Jac indicated a more severe neuro scrambling being de-scrambled in his head. John felt better about himself.

What had that idiot tech been thinking, sitting down in front of an armed robot like that…? He'd been more careful against the obsolete technology on the Nova Terra. Perhaps it was hubris.

He looked at the tech as a line of pink drool ran from his mouth to the floor, his eyelids were fluttering and his fingers were spasming slightly.

Definitely hubris.

Suddenly and violently Liam exploded into action; he rolled up onto one knee and half jumped half ran straight into the robot, body tackling it to the floor, trying to bite off wiring.
John almost got his hopes up just as the robot crackled and hummed, Liam was spasming and saliva was frothing from his mouth.
John remained still. Liam continued to spasm and rolled off the robot as it stood up. The robot started to move, but stopped…

Both Liam and Jac were unconscious, and John was bound.
John eyed the robot. It was holding Liam by the right arm, it was unmoving, frozen in mid-stride.

Well, this is just great.

 


 

Red watched the two bandits come out of the building where the remains of their compatriots were. They looked around warily, faces too far away, but Red was convinced he could see fear. Satisfactory. Suddenly they collapsed. Red was startled. He hadn't done this, yet they were now on the ground. And pretty dead judging by the dark pools growing around the head of both bandits.

Hunkering down Red scanned the area. There. A shadow. Moving swiftly past the two bodies, ignoring them it moved towards the anchor-projector. His friends. Comm'ing them could reveal his and their location. Red followed at a distance.

 


 

The door opened. John couldn't see or hear much from where he was, but someone had opened the door. It closed. Someone was inside, yet John couldn't see or hear anyone.

Suddenly the robot moved again, startling John. It moved Liam next to him and remained there, blocking John's view. He fumbled with his restraints, they were loose –  Liam's and Jac's looked to be equally loose.

That rustbucket only has factory standard detention protocols! Thank the stars!

In the shadows across the room, in the dim light from computer terminals, John saw a shape move, he could hear keys being tapped, he could also make out a muffled voice, yet not what was being said.

And whoever that is, they are avoiding it …

Quickly he twisted his hands out of the restraints and pulled out his pistol, he looked over at the unconscious forms of Liam and Jac.
John activated his sensors and relief filled him as a familiar signature appeared on his display: Red was outside the door.

But first let's see what we can do about you.

His display changed to show the security robot, a complicated mess of wiring, computer parts,  mechanics and hydraulics, not to mention those nasty weapons systems. Doc would know how to turn this thing off … John looked at the engineer, out cold.

Well, when in doubt, improvise – or fuck something up.

John got up quietly and strode behind the robot, there were a bunch of panels and a ton of wiring . His display tried to trace electricity or pinpoint the power emanations from the battery, but there was too much data to sort through. John begun opening the central one, behind him he saw Red sneak across the room with his vibromachete ready.

Let's hope whoever built you think the same way I do, battery in the middle right?
 


 
Red leapt at the figure by the consoles, his knife slipped past the guard and slashed across the torso of the metallic armor. He was almost thrown out of balance as the material refused to be cut.  Red stared as his knife uncomprehending, that had never happened before.
Before he could react, the armored figure jumped on top of him and flipped him onto the floor with a thud. All air left his lungs.

What the fuck?

Red rolled to the side and got up, his opponent was ready for him and looked like he knew how to handle himself. Usually in situations like this the most prudent action was to shoot the sucker, or have one of your friends shoot him as he was distracted by you. That wasn't really going to happen now. Red guessed if he went for his rifle he would be beaten over the head with the dismantled parts before he even got to fire a shot.

So, you want to go hand to hand with a martial arts expert wearing armor that makes him almost immune to your knife without any backup Red?  …Fuck that.

Slowly Red took a step back and lifted his hands in a sign of peace. "Calm down man, let's talk about this, maybe we can … " he was interrupted by grenade as it filled the room with smoke and he lost sight of his opponent "… Asshole" he coughed as he made he his way out.

John stepped next to him holding a box with a pile of wires sticking out of it "Did you see where he went?" He didn't seemed that bothered by the smoke. Ranger hardware Red guessed.
"No, lost him in the smoke, what about your tech?"
"He's gone, either out of range, or that suit masks him from scans." John looked back to the open door as Liam carried their engineer out.

The three of them stood there in the gloom waiting for the smoke to clear out, above them the circles of Jupiters atmosphere drifted lazily by in a night filled with stars. The slums were quiet and cold, the vague noise of air filters and normal people arguing drifted across the distance to them.

"Right," John said " see if you can get our tech guy awake 'L' , I think we should see what our friend came here for"
"I'll search the crates for anything usable" Red said and climbed the ladder to the storage area over them. "Good idea." John stepped in front of the computers that their unknown guest had meddled with.

And I'll just stand her and try to ignore that sinking feeling that there is a noose slowly tightening around our necks.

Again.


 

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Recap episode 7 and intro 7.5: Neuronic pains and spasms
Repercussions of a drunk hacker

Having single-handedly dispatched of the scavenger-gone-bandits, Red decided to stay behind to look for any other lurking dangers. John had mentioned two more bandits, but these had yet to reveal themselves. If indeed they were still hanging around after their friends had been so efficiently gutted. Red checked his newly acquired rifle, and got moving to a nice vantage point for some scavenger-poaching.

Liam, Jac and John continued to the old decommissioned anti-grav anchor projector. The compound was circled by a 6 meters tall wall. The entrance had a still working two-component ident-scanner. Jac went to work, but the security systems, while old, were still formidable and proved too complex for Jac.

Scaling the wall about as elegantly as a pooping sloth, Liam, Jac and John entered the compound clumsily, if effectively. Moving towards the anchor-projector they were, somewhat, surprised to find a security robot waiting for them. Violence ensued. Jac decided to sit down in the open to start hacking into the robot's systems and was summarily shot with a neuro-stunner until he was unconscious. Liam kept moving, leading the robot away, as John tried to ambush and destroy the robot from hiding.

Failing his attempt at robot-destruction, Jac ran to the closest vehicle in an attempt to get him and his compatriots away. And was summarily rendered unconscious by the security robot as he arrived by the van. This was the eventual fate of Liam too. It just took longer.


The first thing John noticed was the throbbing. The second thing was that he was shackled. Looking around he could see the security robot in stand-by mode a few meters to his right. By a door. He could see his two companions lying, also shackled, next to him.

What happened John struggled to remember. His head was like thick white rice porridge, his memory like a peeled almond. 

The chrono on his HUD informed him that at least 1 hour minutes had passed since … the van. Things started to come flooding back.

The muffled grunts from Jac indicated a more severe neuro scrambling being de-scrambled in his head. John felt better about himself. What had that idiot tech been thinking, sitting down in front of an armed robot like that…? He'd been more careful against the obsolete technology on the Nova Terra. Perhaps it was hubris.

Definitely hubris.

Liam exploded into action. Suddenly and violently he rolled up onto one knee and half jumped half ran straight into the robot, body tackling it to the floor, trying to bite off wiring. John almost got his hopes up just as the robot crackled and hummed, Liam spasming and saliva frothing. John remained still. Liam continued to spasm as he rolled off the robot as it stood up. The robot started to move, but stopped…

Liam was unconscious again, Jac seemingly still unconscious. John eyed the robot. It was holding Liam by the right arm, it was unmoving, frozen in mid-stride.


Red watched the two bandits come out of the building where the remains of their compatriots were. They looked around warily, faces too far away, but Red was convinced he could see fear. Satisfactory. Suddenly they collapsed. Red was startled. He hadn't done this, yet they were now on the ground. And pretty dead judging by the dark pools growing around the head of both bandits.

Hunkering down Red scanned the area. There. A shadow. Moving swiftly past the two bodies, ignoring them it moved towards the anchor-projector. His friends. Comm'ing them could reveal his and their location. Red followed at a distance.


The door opened. John couldn't see or hear much from where he was, but someone had opened the door. It closed. Someone was inside. Yet John couldn't see or hear anyone.

Suddenly the robot moved again, startling John. It moved Liam next to him and remained there, blocking John's view. He fumbled with his restraints, they were loose – as were Liam's and Jac's.

In the shadows across the room, in the dim light from computer terminals, John saw a shape move, he could hear keys being tapped, he could also make out a muffled voice, yet not what was being said. John pulled out his pistol, looked over at an unconscious Liam, and a now awake and confused Jac – luckily the civie remained silent. He was learning.

John moved.


Red hustled through the open gates of the compound, he could see lights from one of the buildings. He checked and readied his rifle.

View
Underside Ambush
Episode 6

"In order to choose the correct path,
you must know the pitfalls that await you."


"I'm sorry Citizen Pierre, there is nothing I can do – your ship is landlocked until the checks are done."
The officer had to raise his voice slightly to be heard over the background noise in the large anchorage, the large crowd of waiting refugees were adding to the already steady cacophony of industrial work as ships were docking, being refitted or resupplied.
He looked truly sorry for the inconvenience, but also tired of having the same conversation with different people all day.

"It's Jac, no need to be formal officer" The engineer pronounced his 'J' as a 'Dj' sound as he spoke.
"Look, I know you're just doing your job, all I want is to maybe get a feel for how long this is going to take, and to know if they singled out us specifically or if it's routine, you understand right? Can you put some of my worries to rest?" His demeanour was casual, like a man sharing a beer with a friend after a long days work.

The officer visually relaxed his pose and leaned closer "As far as I know there checking everybody, one of my coworkers said something about maybe somebody had disappeared and they were trying to stop them from leaving the station. But I don't know what to think, between the stuff going on in section eight and all the weird news from home it's been a bitch of a cycle if you know what I mean."

"Tell me about it." Doc accentuated his words by rolling his eyes and looking up towards the dome as if it would drop some sort of explanation in his lap.
When no divine intervention arrived he sighed and return his gaze to the FedPol stationed outside the Angelica. "You from Terra? how long you been out here for?"
"I'm halfway through my 5 year contract, but this last year has been the worst, I can't put my finger on it – it just seems like everyday is slightly more tense and annoyed then the last, you know?"

He paused and looked over the crowd further down the walkway that stretched out from the station leading into the heart of Caelestis. "We still call it 'Earth' you know." His smile was disarming and tired.

 


 

John looked down at his communicator, in front of the white and red wallpaper there was a message:

Periastron:
I have a lead for you: the abandoned antigrav anchor in section 3.

 

He looked up from the small rectangular glass gadget at his friends.
Red was eating – again, while he was lazily scanning over the casino they were seated in, the smell of buffalo wings in hot sauce drifted across the room to John.
Liam had once told him that apparently, they weren't purple on Terra.
Doc was going through the manuals and checking the cables to the new gear they had acquired from.  John knew he had paid to much – but he also knew that some of this tech was hard to find past the belts, so he accepted it.

"We got a message from 'P', he says there is something to check out in section three."
The two looked over at him, Red wiped sauce away from his stubble. "Should we check it?" He looked sceptical.

"I think we should, how long do you need have that up and running, Doc?" John pointed at the large duffel bag on the seat next to them.
The engineer thought for some seconds before answering "A couple hours, depends on the calibrations and if you want it done fast or right."
He leaned closer. "But I can't do it here, I need room to work and some peace – not blinking lights and waitresses with low cut tops, high cut skirts and stim marks on their arms, John."

Red glanced over at the derriere of one of the servers as she walked by, his face was marked by deep thought, like an art critic choosing a beret. He nodded, partly at Doc's word , or maybe to himself.

"Ok Doc, lets return to the flats then, I prefer being locked and loaded – especially since my room sweeper is still locked down in Angelica with Red's peashooter and your noisemaker. "
He lifted a hand to signal a waiter for the check.

 


 

The streets on the underside of Caelestis was like a different world than the top; lights were cracked, blinking and gone some places, while the streets looked like they hadn't been cleaned for cycles.
Refuse littered the streets and crunched under their boots like gravel.
"Look at this place." Red said as they walked towards the location their handler had provided.

"It looks like nobody bothered fixing up the place after the last food riots some cycles back, wouldn't suprise me if they de-couple the whole thing and replace it with something new within ten cycles, it's been done be-…"
John, stopped for a second, before continuing his step like nothing had happened.

"Red, do you see the building behind us, fourth floor?"
The voice over the com was all business now, and low.
Red glanced surreptitiously past his shoulder as he pretended to talk to Doc. "I see it."
"We have two people up there, they -…"
John fumbled with the upgraded controller on his left arm.
"Strike that, it's four people, and two of them stayed behind while the others are now following us I think."

"Should we run? the Anchor station isn't far and none of us have anything larger than a standard issue sidearm." Doc asked,  while checking the toolkit hanging from his shoulder.
They were still walking at a normal pace.

"I'll slip away and see if I can get the drop on them, give me a signal John." Red adjusted his pace to bring him closer to the nearest walls and side alleys.
"They just entered a new building, I think they're planning to get over us, they don't have eyes on us now, You can…" John chuckled, Red was gone.

That's the Martian Wardens for you.
 

The two of them walked in silence for some minutes, all the time John was following their pursuers on the HUD-display in his helmet.
Finally Red broke radio silence with three whispered words, barely audible. "I'm behind them."


"Ok, let's close the noose and -" He quickly shouted "Doc! Scramble!"
And they both dove for cover as rifle shots impacted around them.
Doc kept running around the corner, looking back he saw John stop and reverse bak the way he'd came before leaping across the street.

Holy Saturnalia that mutant is fast!

Red whispered into the radio, "One down." He sounded like he was breathing heavily.
Across the street John landed and rolled into place pressing himself up against a wall as an explosion from where he had jumped peppered him with debris.
He drew his sidearm and fired off into the nearest door before kicking it down, he barely had time to throw himself in and next to the wall as a new grenade landed where he had stood a moment ago.
The air around him was filled with dust and shrapnel.

John Icarus had once been told by a teammate that he'd bedded, that he smiled the same way when he was making love as when he was fighting, right now he was grinning as he felt the blood leak down his shoulder.
His radio crackled as Doc asked him "John? are you okay?"
He closed his eyes for a whole second as he answered.

"I'm. Just. Peachy."


Then he sprinted across the room and up the first flight of stairs, he vaulted the bannister onto the next set of flights, he left half a palm print of blood in the dust as he raced on.
"How you doing Red?" he hissed into his radio.

In the floor above him he heard  someone were shouting before something heavy dropped to the floor with a thud. "And that's two, we done?"
Red's breathing was deep and controlled as he'd begun lowering his heart rate again.
 

John stopped and consulted his scanners. Nothing.
"Yup, the other two didn't follow."  He paused before smiling, that signal was familiar. "But Liam did."

The comms delivered the voice of their medic "Hi guys, what's going on? Anybody hurt?" as the whirr and thumps of a larger armour echoed softly from one floor down.
John answered him "Up and to your left L, I have a shoulder you can looks at, shrapnel." He looked at the blood on his arm.
"Where have you been?" He added.

John raised his visor and leaned back his head, riding the adrenaline crash slowly down.
He fumbled with a bandage from his kit but the aftershock shakes made his fingers into sausages, he stopped trying and waited for his pulse to even out again, and the professional to arrive.

Dodging grenades is a new one, people usually didn't throw them around in spaceships without having a long hard think about how much they liked vacuum and frostbite, well there was that one time – but that guy was an idiot.

And he died, ugly.


Stepping onto the same floor as John, Liam was wearing a military issue combat armour, it still had the logo of the Starsoldier Corp on on it. As he came closer John snapped out of old memories and noticed the smell of alcohol and the dark circles around his eyes, he looked happy enough though.
"it's actually a funny story" he began as he took the bandage from Johns hand and begun looking at the wound. "Remember those old army buds of mine?"

View
Neon and Sols
Episode 5

"There are no secrets,
there is no understanding,
Void is all and everything,
it is the dance of the elements."

Stars were reflected in the massive domes of Caelestis, the bands of Jupiter outlining the floating city, it's lights and neon glittering in the night like a jewel sinking into the sea.
The Angelica made it's approach towards the outer domes, the bulky ship tracked by large sensors.

"Hello Caelesti, this is the Angelica, we request immediate docking, we have injured here." The voice over the comms betrayed signs of fatigue but was clear and controlled.
The reply was quick and curt  "Angelica, dock at S3 on transit hub 1, we will have personnel ready for you." The comms made the female voice sound artificial and fuzzy as she added "Welcome home John."

 


 

The hospital was buzzing with activity, the metal walls were ringing with voices and feet. Jac almost felt like he could see the walls sweat.
So many people, all spinning out here, eating, crying, bleeding – on a ship at least you only share air with a handful of guys. I already miss the silence.
He entered the room the nurse had told him "Mr.Icarus" was in, it looked empty.
He begun sweeping the area with his eyes; bed, chair, horrible light fixtures, unspecified stains on the floor, no John.
But he had been here, his flightsuit was lying in a pile and that eerie domed helmet he wore was propped up on the nightstand jutting from the wall.

The hiss as the door to the regenerate tank opened almost had him reaching for his gun as the buck naked belter walked into the room, John paused and looked at him, his posture already receding back to nonchalance. But before that it had been a fighters pose.
The mood got awkward, John started on getting dressed.

"Red ok?" he mumbled with his back turned.
"Yeah, they say he needs a few hour more, but there is no permanent damage, just more then what you had to fix" Jac tried to avoid looking to closely at the mutated spine and the elongated limbs of his friend, no matter how much he tried, looking at the man always made his instinct scream Other, like John was something else than human … or maybe something  … next.

"And what did 'P' say?" John zipped up his suit and grabbed his helmet from the table, they left the room and proceeded down the corridor to the desk.
"He didn't have the Sols on him at Blue Zeus, so we're meeting him at 'Tyrones' later tonight, he'll have our pay then" Jac walked around a patient, the dirty skin and bulging eyes told him it was a miner, probably suffering from some sort of pressure sickness.

"He'd better. " John spat,  his stride forced Jac to hustle to keep up.
Funny how nobody is getting in 'The Pale Giants' way, but me they walk straight into.
They met up with Liam at the reception, he'd been chatting up the staff while Jac went to find John.
"How you feel, big guy?" He stopped leaning on the counter and walked toward them.
"I'm fine, best bath I've had in months." The tall belter stretched and flexed his back.

"Right, we have some hours to kill before we go to 'Tyrones', where to?" Jac sniffed his nose at the smell of antisep and iron in the air.
John turned to his two friends and smiled "I've had enough of shitty ration bars and redestilled water, I say we go to Feng's" He wrapped his long arms around each of his friends shoulders and led them into the busy streets of Caelestis.

 


"You know it's not actually chicken right?" John was pointing at Liams bowl with his chopsticks, his mouth chewing noodles as he spoke.
Around them a sea of people were splitting around the little noodle barge, it's grav-engines flickering through different colors in a lazy pattern.
Feng's had chairs sticking out of it's side bolted to the hull where patrons could sit around the bar that also doubled as a kitchen and drivers seat, a grimy curtain shielded the entrance to a wooden box that had been mounted on top of the repurposed vehicle and served as a pantry, and bedroom John suspected. 
The roof had two masts holding up an ancient banner with some barely legible kanji, time had made the symbols completely unreadable. It didn't matter, people just called the place 'Feng's', after the owner, whose accent was so thick not even other asian descended belters could understand more than one word per sentence. 

"It tastes like chicken, looks like chicken" Liam answered, scowling at his bowl "what about that? it's impossible to know what's in that 'Special' you're eating."
John smiled over another mouthfull "I like it like that, at least it's not pretending to be something it's not" he drank some hot broth from the bowl "And the special is always the best thing Feng serves, it's a point of pride to him." he reached for the unlabeled beer and took a swig.
 


This time Periastron was disguised as a raver.
The club was a neon nightmare of futuristic looking curves and dull lights, a gauche attempt at a mood and style that mostly existed in VR-recordings and holoshows. The result was slightly less mindblowing that it's designers had hoped, but the staff was nice enough and with enough drinks you could almost convince yourself that you weren't sharing the station with seven million other souls, but were in fact living in the effortless future the old space operas had envisioned.

Their handler led them to a private room, swaying his hips in a deeply unflattering way as he walked, his clothes looked like the type you sprayed on, and his face had been attacked by some deranged makeup artist that must have had a thing for pandas and glitter.

As they gathered in the cramped booth, Periastron leaned on the table and addressed them "As you may have guessed, the Angelica has some extra modifications, courtesy of myself and my employers, specifically sensors and recording devices." his businesslike demeanor clashed with his party-like appearance, a duality he probably enjoyed John mused.  "So while you have been running cargo for us the last months, you've also been gathering intel for us, other ships have been doing the same and what we're picking up on the grapevine from Terra is telling us that something is going on, but first; your logs show that you found something."

"But first, you were going to pay us for the last period , Periastron." John interrupted, his pale face betraying impatience but also humor.
"Of course, John." Their handler removed four credstacks from his clothes, accompanied by the sound of latex against skin, he lay the out on the table. "we've subtracted the usual for your lodgings and etcetera, and also a little for the medical treatments you received today … chest trauma, John? what caused that?" his smile was conspiratorial.

"It's a long story." John thumbed the credstacks' small screen, it lit up with a figure, the light shoved his faint smirk as he read the number.
"I have time" Periastron ventured.
John ignored that "Maybe later, what are the rumors you're talking about?"

"Terra has finished it's new warships, and suddenly decided to send them out towards the belts, specifically our direction. I'm guessing whatever you found they either know about it, or know of it. Either way they are coming."

"They know about the ship already? If we want to salvage anything from it we have to get back out there then, before they swoop in and paint it with red tape!" Red grumbled.
"You found a ship?" Periastrons face was unreadable.

"We might have" Jac answered "Is that worth something to you, or your employers?"
"It might very well be, but we have to tread carefully, I don't want to know more than I need to, less chance for a leak that way." He darted his eyes about conspiratorially before continuing. "How about you tell me what you need from me, and then get back out there while there are still answers to be found."
"We'll need a legit reason to be traveling the area, and we need access to records, preferably old records" Jac said as he pocketed the credstack.
"Done and done" The handler smirked. "Contact Thomas Gijec at 'Records' he owes us and can get you access, Angelica already have updated salvage licenses, so you can operate under that disguise as you get me the proof I need."
Jac looked thoughtful "Does these changes have anything to do with why Caelestis is crawling with FedPol? we noticed a larger presence than before."

"The official reason is a gang war in section 8, but I think it's just a cover, the Federation, or someone with their hand up the ass of the Federation are making a move. " He huffed melodramatically "But what the endgame is, is anybody's guess." lowering his voice he added "My guess is that the Synesis Eleuteria are involved, but don't go naming that group to anybody, it can get you on their radar."

"Who?" Liam asked.

 


Leaving the meeting with their handler Jac addressed the other three: "Ok, I'll go see this Thomas first thing in the morning, meet up at Angelica after?"
"I'm going to hit up some old army buddies, see if I can get some military hardware instead of civillian." Liam ventured.
"Going to see some friends from home, hear some gossip and see if they'll trade me some gear" Red said.
John nodded "same here"
"Are there any rangers left to find on Caelestis" Jac asked, obviously suprised.
"Can't tell you, then I would have to kill you" John grinned."meet at Angelica tomorrow evening then" Liam said and started walking, Red followed his cue and strode off as well.

Jac was about to do the same when John patted his arm "Got a second Doc?".
"Sure, what's up?" Jac turned back to his large friend.
John scratched his short pale hair and shifted his weight "Not a big thing or anything, just … about Red, you haven't been with us too long so you probably don't understand him that well yet."
Jac crossed his arms and frowned "What do you mean?"

John continued "Look, you and me, we're belters, born and raised for my part, same with you yeah? for us, sitting in a tin can in the big void is not a special thing, it's our normal." He stopped to think of his words a bit.
"And Liam, well in one way he's a dustwalker, he grew up on Terra so there's that, but Liam is also military – he was trained for space."
"The thing is Red, he grew up on mars, and unlike any of us his training was all about that big dustbowl that they're terraforming."
Jac raised his eyebrows and stared at John "What's your point?"
"The point is … " John hesitated "The point is that to Red all of this, every single thing of this, is not normal for him, it's makes him a bit high strung at times." John leaned back.
"I'm just asking you to keep that in mind when he gets the way he gets, to be a bit understanding."
"Look at you" Jac teased "looking out for your friend, making sure morale is good in the group, I didn't know you had it in you, you usually act like you don't give a fuck about any of us." He smiled and shook his head.

"Well … he gave up his planet to save me and Liam, so I owe him." John started walking into the crowd.

"Oh. "
 



 

View
Acid Blood
Episode 4

"A clear mind can topple even the strongest will."

 


 

The light in the generator room was a dull yellow and slowly rotating, creating an overlapping shadowplay of dull grey shadows and golden cones around them. The dust they had whirled up in their entrance was drifting about the room and settling on the four men as they discussed.

"We have to go out again." Jac said, running his hands through his sweaty hair and stretching his back. He was standing in the middle of the group, the others were seated and morose.
"You go out there now and you're as good as dead, but be my guest, I'm taking a breather." Liams tone was terse and tired, he didn't look up from cleaning his gun  as he spoke.


"I have food, don't see what you're whining about." Red added innocently and produced a rationbar from his pack, he activated the heating on the little box and the smell of not-quite-meat and not-really-root-vegetables rose in the room.
He dug into it happily with an all-pupose knife as John looked over from his seat against the wall "Give me some of that? Thanks Red." He chewed on the lump of brown while thinking before continuing the conversation."Doc is right though, at some point we have to leave, and when we do we need a plan for how to handle that thing, any thoughts?"

"Shoot it?" Liam mumbled sarcastically from his maintenance routine.
"It's stupid mobile, and hard to spot – we have to corral it somehow for that to work." John, answered patiently, "could we get it into a bottleneck somewhere?"
"The short corridor leading to this room qualifies. " Red mumbled between bites, he passed the improvised kitchen utensil to John.
"That leaves us with nowhere to fall back to if it goes tits up, any other ideas?"

Jac stroked his chin stubble "If I can get to the control room over us we could drop one of those crates on it."
"Nice" John nodded "But we still need to go out there then and all the way to said control room for that to work."

Liam looked up from his rifle, he was done. "No matter what we come up with, we need to go back out there, but we are tired and that thing is right outside there now, so lets rest out a stretch and hope it fucks off." He leaned back against the wall and crossed his arms. "Think of something 'till I wake up yeah?"

The other exchanged some glances before following his lead.
 


The large blast door opened slowly accompanied by it's own low mechanical drumbeat.
John and Liam stepped through and into the short corridor leading to the cargo room, both were suited up and sweeping their weapons across every square inch, nobody spoke.

They advanced at a glacier rate to the point where the corridor opened up into the larger room. John backed into the room, his autoshotgun aimed up and above, scanning the walls and roof directly over them. Liam waved at the two others and followed him out, tracing his rifle across the containers surrounding them.
The four of them started on the path that would lead them to the Angelica, John in front, Liam watching the rear, the two others checking their flanks.

 


 

Jac and John were watching through the window as the crane moved the large container over the nest in the cargo bay.

"I think this thing is too smart for that trick" John mentioned, his gaze drawn to the shadows littering the room like plastic cups on a concert floor.
"It might work, as an ambush or distraction, you never know." Jac answered.
"Sure, what's next?" John said, his eyes didn't leave the dark hangar.
"Hooking the generator up with fuel" Jac looked up "We have to go back in."
"Of course" John grumbled "You know, Liam is saying we should just leave, pack up and go home."
"And you?"
"I say we fuck this teleporting invisible piece of shit up harder than anything we've ever fucked and piss on the corpse." He turned to the shocked engineer "But I'm a bit funny like that."

 



The generator hummed contently behind them as they returned to the cargo hold, as before it  was eerily silent, but now the lights were coming on, one by one, flickering the room from dull darkness to piercing neon glare.
A sound from behind the crates drew their attention, and four sets of leadspitters trained on the area.
"That must be it" Liam hissed.
"I'm going to see if I can track it" John  pressed the controls on his vambrace and a couple of small lights on his helm lit up a subdued blue. "There is too much steel between us, I don't have a clear lock on it yet."
Doc turned to him "Wait, didn't you say it could notice when you used the scanner?!"
"It already knows we're here, Doc." John replied.
"But what if -" Doc didn't finish his sentence as a black body dropped down in their midst and dark tentacles whipped out and threw him against the nearest wall. Liam was knocked over by a vicious appendage and John was pushed back by another.

Liam groaned and looked up to see Red being lifted by the throat, he was feebly swatting at the strong muscles as his feet treaded the air.

Yup, that's some cracked ribs again, but Red is getting it worse.

In the corner of his eye he saw John raising his room sweeper and then the whole hangar filled with automatic fire and light as the belter unloaded half a clip into the beast among them. Green liquid sprayed from countless wounds before it slumped to the ground in a fleshy heap.

Then the screaming started, Liam staggered to his feet just as he saw Doc fall over on his side screaming, his hands against his gut as steam was rising from his reinforced jumpsuit.

It's eating the suit.

He looked down at his own chest.
"Oh. Shit."

There was a clang as Johns weapon hit the metal floor, followed by a groan as he sank into a kneeling position, the tall belter looked at his blood covered glove.
Red hadn't moved since the monster dropped him.

I'm the only one standing.

 


 

Throwing the scapel to the floor and sitting down next to the immobile form of 'Red', Liams eyes met his "You still want to stay John?"
"Fuck no, L" John sighed and leaned against the bulkheads "Acid blood? …. that shit makes me want to go back home and become a farmer."


Liam chuckled, his gloves were red and he looked tired. "Indentured to a landowner? John Icarus? I think not, you would probably lead a revolution before the first month." He aimed red ringed eyes at his friend  "Your not made for normal work buddy, your parents saw to that, and Ranger training made it worse."
"None of us are" John grinned madly at the Earther, his teeth glistening with blood. "But maybe it's time to get off this ghost ship and save Red … You were right L."

The medic looked around the room at their unconcious companions "It's been known to happen."

View
Eyes of Pure Darkness
Episode 3

"For more corrupt the soul, the more painful it becomes to look upon the pure.
So it is with crystal and jade and the creatures of the dark lands.
Remember this Hantei, for it will one day save your life."


This ship is too big, and far too infested for our tiny crew.

Liam thought as Doc, the new guy, wanted to power up a mainframe computer for more information so as to explore the ship. Both Doc and John had agreed, tyranny of the majority at work, and Red would probably agree with them. They were clearly forgetting the monster in the ships water storage, the ghoulish creatures that lurked behind every door. Hell, behind the door next to the mainframe, probably.

Watching the hallway through which they had entered, suddenly the lights started flickering on. Doc then announced he had gotten access to the mainframe, only to be silenced by the clawing of the creatures on the other side of the door. Liam and John drew their weapons, preparing for the locks to fail. Ste…- Doc still too caught up in the influx of information too care, maybe even notice.

Suddenly silence. The clawing stopped,  had the ghouls given up? Could they?
Pale bodies, screaming, running through the hallway. The first warning was Johns' scanner. He barked a warning, but they almost caught Liam, as he advanced retrograde to get some space. Two ghouls, John opened up with that oversized boomstick and drew the attention of the rearmost one.

One for John, one for Liam, split up the ghouls were swiftly dispatched. Their danger seemingly ended with the surprise ambush.

Doc had still not budged from the screens, about as useful this fight as tastebuds in an asshole.

Finding more of Lieutenant Harry Yagai and his logs. It mentioned radiation, and odd symptoms, suddenly the very air felt prickly. They quickly checked their radiation scanners.
 


The next room did wonders explaining the fate of a significant part of the ships' crew. Torn bodies, rotten meat and gnawed bones. How long had those ghouls laired here? Enough "food" for this to be considered a larder.

Seaching the bodies yielded little in the way of answers, some medical supplies.

The room had another exit. Spilling out into the main hallway, a service hatch with a hidden inlaid panel. That must have bene where the ghouls exited to get around them.

Securing the entire  mainframe compartment from further break-ins, Doc and John started scanning through the walls for possible entryways to other parts of the ship. Behind one wall they picked up no gravity, and maybe even no air. Another wall showed another compartment, but this time the scans read gravity, uncertain as to pressure or air. They decided to open a small hole first, to get a feel for the air flow, a standard tactic for breaching in damaged ships. An unknown concept to Doc it seemed, but both John and Liam had seen what vacuum could do to the unaware in the past.

Using a lasertorch to open a segment of the wall worked, until the metal plate dropped. It made more noise than they wanted. Much more. Peeking through the hole revealed a spiral staircase, the uneven reflection of light from water shining up from its bottom. There was a door, barely open, on the other end. An unspoken agreement to not go near the stairs, they all too clearly remembered the monster that almost killed John and Red, the stairs might just open into that water reservoir.


Leaving only the door across the room as a viable option for further discovery. Sneaking slowly across the room Liam peeked through the crack. A ships galley, more bodies, nothing moving.

Giving John the "all-clear" handsign, they entered the galley.  The bodies, for the first time the bodies were not clad  in unremarkable spacers jumpsuits, but uniforms, of different services with rank insignia. Three bodies, all three officers, one lieutenant and two ensigns. Searching the bodies left little in the way of results, only the dogtags. Lieutenant Yagai, whose scrambled writings had so motived Doc to stay was found. A worse sign was the door out of the galley, barricaded. Another door that should probably stay shut.  
 


Leaving the galley as silently as they could, Liam and John met up with Doc near the mainframe exit. Being yet unwilling to leave, John and Doc decided to press on, simply in a different direction. On the first day, they had found what probably was the cargo hold. Searching that way might yield answers as to what all of this was for, or better yet, loot. 

Walking the main corridor, John decided to scan the way ahead. Scans showed an unknown lifeform, humanoid and arachnid in appearance. John saw it react to his scan, his presence. then disappear off the screen unlike anything he had seen before, not active camouflage, not a signal distortion. It simply was not there, suddenly, not there.

They quickly huddled, nervous from this alien specter, and made a new plan: Liam would watch their rear, John and 'Doc' would advance cautiously, John in the lead.


The incessant thumping from the large door by the elevator banks, came to an abrupt end. It ended not with silence, but with a screech, as if metal tore from metal.


Liam, John and Ste.. Doc moved forwards into the room preceding the cargo hold. Liam wanting to keep an eye out for whatever might yet come from the elevator banks, John and Doc seeking to explore the hold. Mindful of the disappearing creature, remembering the sound of metal yielding to force. Unknown, probable hostiles, on both fronts.


The waiting got to Liam, fast.

John and Doc had already entered the hold. Being alone in the void of space is bad enough, worse yet is being alone on a unknown ship. He followed them into the hold, never getting a chance at seeing whatever it was busting up that door down the central compartment.


Doc and John in the cargo hold found only the bodies of ghouls hanging from the ceiling, dripping stalactites, beneath them the remnants of others of their kind. No sign of the weird creature from John's scans, yet.

Faint scratching from the far end of the hold caught their attention. They withdrew from the feeding area. Doc, looking for safety found an armoured door, and wanting to get behind it started hacking the system using a carelessly placed dataport.

John wanted to locate this thing, once more, even trap it, drew out his scanner wanting to force it to his location. It worked too well. Tentacles, the colour of shadows wound around his legs. Seeking to drag him to an dark unwanted end. Unable to see the source of the webs, and busy trying to hold on to something anything, he did not see Liam sprint forth to open fire on the dark. Something was hit. Hit badly enough to relinquish the grip on John. Shocked higher on adrenaline than a fighterpilot on himself, John and Liam moved back-to-back to the Docs' gate.


Doc had barely gotten the gate open when they arrived. a hallway, with what might be the  Nova Terras' main power generator at the end. Against the walls of the room stood emergency lockers.

Locking the door behind them, Liam opened a few lockers and found envirosuits, rated for vacuum and other hazarduos environments. They were trapped. Far too many unknowns. A real clusterfuck.



"Told you we should have bloody well left alone."
"Shut up, Liam."
"Yeah Liam, shut up."

Blue Falcons, the lot of them.

 

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