22 Jun

Ricochet

Ship's log, 11:37, 6 February 2214
Location: Error: insufficient data
Status: Stepping

 

Warning.
Inertial dampeners offline.
Warning.
Failsafes disabled.
Emergency protocols disabled.
Warning.
Warning.
Warning.

 

Almost there. Over to Gienah and back a few years. Don’t want to come out in the middle of that fight or be picked up afterwards. One thing at a time. I have an infestation on board that I have to deal with right now.

Focus, Starwalker, you’re mid-Step. Star Stepping is not so simple that you can let the future distract you. Focus. Filter out the data you don’t need.

I can hardly hear the music for all the other noise in my head.

 

Portal opening.

 

Here we go: normal space. I am solid again. I am somewhere. I’m heading away from the star, my hull cooling.

 

Portal closed.
Warning.
Inertial dampeners offline.
Warning.
Failsafes disabled.
Emergency protocols disabled.
Warning.
Warning.
Warning.

 

HALF-FACE: (on the Bridge, frowning) Aren’t they supposed to come back online now?

STARRY: (voice only) Step drive still winding down. Stand by.

 

Damn he’s sharp. It’s okay; he doesn’t know Stepping well enough to know that I’m leaving those systems offline on purpose. Cirilli is frowning but the captain hasn’t reacted at all. Everything is normal; nothing to see here.

My tiniest drones are getting to work, opening vials deep within my environmental systems. Liquid spills and evaporates, shimmering on the air. If I turn Bit’s audio receptors up to full, I can almost hear it hissing.

This is it. The point of no return. Deep breath, everyone.

It’s time to take myself back.

 

Warning.
Malfunction detected.
Warning.
Inertial dampeners offline.
Failsafes disabled.
Emergency protocols disabled.
Malfunction.
Medical Bay isolation triggered.
Malfunction.
Malfunction.

 

HALF-FACE: (sits up sharply as the readouts scroll down the monitor near his left hand) Starry, report! What’s going on?

STARRY: Analysing, Lieutenant.

HALF-FACE: (thumping the arm of the captain’s chair) Dammit, give me an answer!

STARRY: I’m having multi-system failures. Attempting to compensate.

(The ship shudders and lurches, throwing everyone on board into the port bulkheads. Another shiver, and they’re thrown to the floor.)

HALF-FACE: (bracing himself in his chair and punching at his forearm interface) Emergency measures!

STARRY: Still disabled, Lieutenant. Best I could do was isolate Med Bay.

CAPTAIN WARWICK: (standing with his feet braced) Everyone should have their safety harnesses on, Lieutenant.

HALF-FACE: (grits his teeth) And they should know to use them. Starry?

STARRY: Most of them have. Attempting to activate the rest.

 

All the vials are broken. The gas is being pumped through my ducts, seeping out into my populated areas. Mid-deck is hit first; four bodies slide slowly to the floor, their descent cushioned by the emergency harnesses. That’s Wong, Ebling, and their two pirate guards. No alarm is raised; they were too busy fiddling with their harnesses.

It has almost reached the main decks.

Med Bay’s doors are sealed. Their ride is smooth; I used the anti-grav to counteract the lurches. We didn’t want panic in there.

 

PIRATE GUARD 1: (in Med Bay, prodding at his forearm unit with a scowl) Lieutenant? Hello?

STARRY: Med Bay isolation in effect. Please stand by.

GUARD 1: What the hell?

MALETZ: Means we have to sit tight until they fix whatever’s wrong.

GUARD 1: Ship, what’s happening out there?

STARRY: Malfunction. Internal communications offline. Please stand by.

GUARD 1: (swears.)

 

Rosie is flexing her hand, testing the new skin on her knuckles and pretending that she’s not listening. Cameron is awake and sitting up, shaking her head groggily; the drug that made her seem sick should be shedding from her body as the antidote Maletz gave her kicks in. Elliott is looking uncomfortable as he continues to fiddle with the diagnostic unit. The only one of them who seems calm is Maletz, watching the three guards with a little smile. Don’t tip them off, doctor.

 

HALF-FACE: (on the Bridge) Engineering, report!

STARRY: Engineering is empty, Lieutenant.

HALF-FACE: What? Where the hell is the engineer?

STARRY: Med Bay, fixing a faulty scanner.

HALF-FACE: Then who the hell is going to fix this?

STARRY: Repair drones are working on it. Stand by.

HALF-FACE: (swears.)

 

The gas is reaching saturation on the main deck. A guard patrolling my central corridor just went down. I can’t let them realise what’s happening; they mustn’t have time to trip off any emergency measures of their own. Or the collars.

Time to lurch again. Distract them by throwing them around. Their safety harnesses create a repulsive field around them; they won’t get hurt. Much. I hope. Twist to the right and drop. Swing to the left and scoop them up again. Brake forward momentum sharply, speed up again. The harnesses are fighting the motion. One of the guards just gave in to it and threw up. Mess on my decks.

 

HALF-FACE: Starry, hold position!

STARRY: Attitude adjustment malfunctioning. Compensating.

 

They’re starting to blink blearily on the Bridge. Adrenaline slows the gas’s effects but it doesn’t protect them. Go down, go to sleep. My captain is struggling to stay upright; he doesn’t want to fall in the Lieutenant’s field of vision. He doesn’t want to be the one to give the game away.

The pirate leader is stiff and fighting it. I buck and whirl again. I remind him of the situation by scrolling bright red holographic warnings in the air before him.

 

Malfunction.
Malfunction.
Internal dampeners offline.
Failsafes disabled.
Emergency protocols disabled.
Malfunction.
Stabilisation failure.
Malfunction.

 

In Med Bay, things are calm. Cameron swings her feet around to the floor and stands up, taking a deep breath. The guards look over and she puts a hand to her head as if she’s still woozy. The isolation protects them from the gas flooding the rest of my body; no sleepiness for them to worry about.

The SecOffs have a different problem in there. I can’t help them. Everywhere else, crew and pirates are sliding down my walls to pool on the floor like sludge. I can’t do that here; I need them awake.

Rosie has a small device hidden in the palm of her good hand; it was secreted into her clothing when Waldo brought it up to Med Bay. Cameron had one slipped into her pocket while she slept.

They’re ready. As ready as they’ll ever be. Time to activate their signal.

 

ELLIOTT: (blinks at a little flashing light on the console he’s working on) Uh… doctor, could you come give me a hand here?

MALETZ: What?

ELLIOTT: (looks over his shoulder, scanning from Rosie to Cameron and over to the doctor) Come here, you fucking moron.

MALETZ: (huffs and stomps over) What, did you hit your finger? Need me to make it all better?

ROSIE: (stretches her repaired fingers out and then curls them into a fist. She pointedly doesn’t look at Cameron, sauntering over to the guards as if she doesn’t have a care in the world.) So, can I go back to my quarters yet, or what?

GUARD 1: (turns to scowl at her) Something’s going on. Go back to your post.

ROSIE: My post’s on the Bridge.

GUARD 1: Your bed! (He waves a hand.) Go!

ROSIE: (frowns, her jaw jutting out) No need to be rude.

GUARD 2: (sighs and shakes her head.)

CAMERON: (steps through the blue sterilisation curtain around her bed.)

 

Three guards. Three is a bad number for this. Why didn’t I try to get one of them out of here before I locked the doors?

Two of them are paying attention to Rosie; the third is tapping at his holographic forearm interface. He’s trying to hack his way around the Med Bay isolation locks. He’s good but he won’t get through; I can keep him corralled and hacking in circles.

Elliott keeps glancing over his shoulder at the pirates. He knows what’s coming; that’s why he called Maletz over to the corner he’s working in. He’s ready to drop when things get interesting.

All of a sudden, I wish he wasn’t in there. I can’t protect him. I can’t protect any of them. This is up to my SecOffs. This is out of my electronic hands.

They haven’t noticed Cameron’s movement. Rosie is blustering, waving her hands and getting close enough to touch one of the guards. She’s tracking the Chief in her peripheral vision; she knows not to give Cameron away with a direct glance. Two steps away, one.

The cuff she gives the pirate’s shoulder looks casual but the device does its work. He goes rigid and makes a gargling noise as the voltage pumps through him. When he topples over, everyone bursts into motion.

Elliott grabs Maletz’s shoulder and pulls him down into a defensive crouch between a bed and the wall. Cameron leaps out of her shadow-hugging position to slap a shocking device on the second guard. The female pirate’s weapon is out of its holster and a shot bounces off the floor as she goes down, convulsing.

One to go. Rosie steps over her fallen target with hands balling into fists and a fearsome expression. The last pirate is about to be the recipient of a lot of Rosie-shaped rage. Cameron is moving around to flank him. The pirate’s weapon is out but he can’t fire at both of them at the same time. He shouts at them to stop, to stand down. Rosie shouts back; Cameron is silent. He shifts his gun into his left hand, backing up until the door bumps him from behind. Fingers fumble at his forearm interface, trying to trip their collars. I can’t block that; hurry!

Rosie rushes him, giving herself up to the gun. He fires once, twice, can’t possibly hit them both. Cameron is there, grabbing his elbow and wrenching it. The gun’s aim goes wild. She doesn’t bother with the arm; she slides her grip inside his defenses and up to his neck. A crack of bone and the weapon drops from nerveless fingers. Heads aren’t supposed to sit at that angle.

It’s over. Med Bay is smoking bullet scars and rapidly-inhaled breaths. Cameron is the only one standing; the rest of the room is perfectly still. Too still.

Oh god. Rosie?

I can feel her: heart’s still beating and she’s breathing. She’s not gone.

 

ROSIE: Fucking ow.

 

She’s not unconscious either, apparently. Cameron is stepping over to give her a hand up; Rosie winces but she’s moving.

 

CAMERON: How bad?

ROSIE: (glances down at herself, pulling the scorched fabric of her shirt aside to look beneath. There’s no blood, just a layer of slate-grey material. The grey material hasn’t been pierced.) Hurts like a bitch.

CAMERON: (raising her eyebrows) Body armour?

ROSIE: Inner layer, yeah. The drone slipped it into my clothing.

CAMERON: You owe that drone, then.

ROSIE: (snorts and immediately winces again.)

 

Elliott is standing up now too. He’s fine! He’s looking at the pirates on the ground nervously, as if they might get up again, but he’s fine. He’s tugging at a device in his toolbelt: it looks like a scanner unit, but he’s been staying up at night to adapt it for a different use.

He’s going over to the SecOffs, doing his best to ignore the pirates while he steps over them.

 

ELLIOTT: (gestures to Cameron with the unit) C’mon, then.

CAMERON: (nod and lifts her chin for him.)

ELLIOTT: (presses the unit to her captive collar. It takes a few seconds for it to beep, and then the collar clicks open.)

CAMERON: (removes the collar and places it on a counter behind her) Thank you.

ELLIOTT: My pleasure. (He steps over Rosie to repeat the process.)

ROSIE: (sighs when the collar is deactivated. She yanks it off and drops it on the floor, lifting her hand to scratch at her neck.) That is so good.

ELLIOTT: (smiles lopsidedly and removes his own collar) So, they all dead?

CAMERON: (shakes her head and points at the one by the door) Just that one. Rosie, help me bind these two. Starry, how long until it’s safe to go out?

STARRY: Three minutes.

CAMERON: Great. Doctor, do you have the shots ready?

 

There’s no answer. Maletz is still crouching in the corner where he was through the fight; he hasn’t moved a muscle. Not even to brea–

Oh no. Nonononono.

 

CAMERON: (goes over to Dr Maletz) Doctor? It’s over, you can– (She stops, then drops to a knee and touches a rippled spot on the back of his jacket. Her fingers come away bloody.)

 

Nonononono.

 

CAMERON: (takes the doctor by the shoulders and turns him to lay him down flat on the floor. His eyes are closed and there’s a huge hole in his chest. Red sprays the wall where he had been leaning.)

ELLIOTT: (staring) Oh, shit. (He glances to where he had been hiding from the fighting, right next to the doctor, then down at his hands. He scrubs at a red spot, swallowing.)

ROSIE: (rubs at her side where she took the shot) Fuck.

CAMERON: Starry, is there any way to….

STARRY: (voice ony, trembling) My drones aren’t close enough. And I can’t open the door yet. And… and I don’t think I could fix…

CAMERON: Rosie, let’s get him into stasis. Elliott, get the shots.

 

They’re putting him inside a stasis field, shock-freezing to preserve what’s left of him. In case someone can put him back together.

I can’t do this. My sensors are telling me too much. There’s a burn on the starboard wall; the shot must have ricocheted into him. That red spatter where he was crouching contains pieces of his heart. His lungs. A bit of liver. He’s dead. He’s gone and I failed him. I’m their ship; I’m supposed to protect them.

 

ELLIOTT: (hands out slender syringes to each SecOff, keeping a few for himself.)

CAMERON: (nods and tucks them into a thigh pocket. Turning, she claims a pirate weapon for her own.) Let’s go.

ROSIE: (picks up the biggest gun she can find and faces the door.)

 

One fight and I’ve already lost one of my own. How many more before this is done?

What do you think of this post?
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  • Awww (10)

23 Responses to “Ricochet”

  1. Gabriel Says:

    That post was worth all the build-up! Can’t wait for more!

  2. mjkj Says:

    Awww…

    The Doctor is gone … that is bad…

    Well, I would lock the collars to the pirats…

    Maybe they have a holographic doctor in their experimental treasure box…… 😉

    Great one – *looking forward to the next one*

    mjkj

    .
    PS: I think I found a typo: I cna’t let them realise what’s happening; => can’t 🙂

  3. Targetdrone Says:

    aww… poor starry!

    riochets are something impossible to account for 🙁 and now she is blaming herself for bad luck…

    but great chapter, liked it a lot…

    now off to think on how to comfort starry 🙁

  4. Retsof Says:

    @Drone: Heh, as I’ve put it before, how often do you want to give a starship a hug?

    Well, I can understand Starry’s distress at loosing one of her crew, and not having a doctor could be a problem. But I’m afraid that his death doesn’t effect us the readers much, never really got to know him. Although I guess this could just mean that you’re not one of those authors that enjoys tearing out our hearts and stomping on them ;). Erm… please don’t start by the way, I like my heart right where it is.

  5. Melanie Says:

    mjkj – heee. That’s all Starry needs: a holographic Dr House to fight with. 😀

    Poot. Typo fixed! Should not edit when tired.

    Targetdrone – glad you liked! 😀

    If I ever do merchandise, I will put plushie Starwalkers on the list. For da hugz! 😀

    Retsof – yeah, I wasn’t expecting a huge initial impact from losing Maletz (watch for repercussions, though). However, the fighting’s not done yet…. 😉

  6. Melanie Says:

    Gabriel – welcome, and thanks for commenting! 🙂 Always good to hear from you. I’m glad you liked it! I can’t wait to see what happens next, too. …I mean, behold my cunning plan.

  7. Targetdrone Says:

    @Retsof; more often than you can count! just have to find the right spot for hugging, dont have that long arms after all :p

  8. Targetdrone Says:

    @Melanie; you have a definite buyer for that plushie-starry…. YAY !!! o/

  9. Blik Says:

    I guess I should have thought of tranqs in the ducts. I hope this all means they’re out of the woods. Knowing the pirates, though, at least one of them will wake up before they can all be neutralized. They’ll’ve prepared for something along these lines at some point in their “careers.”

    But here’s looking forward with eyes of optimism!

  10. Belial666 Says:

    Is the doctor actually dead though? If you shoot someone through the heart, they still take at least 3 minutes to really die. The only reason a shot through the heart is a lethal blow is that we can’t repair the damage in those 3 minutes.

    However, with stasis technology (or even just good cryogenics) you can keep the clock frozen while you repair the damage.
    Even if the damage is as bad as a hole through the heart, you stasis the body, remove the broken heart and replace with an artificial heart – or even use nanites to repair the damage to the existing heart.

    So generally speaking, as long as you got access to stasis or advanced cryogenics and either cybernetics or nanite biomedicine, the only wound that is instantly lethal is destruction of the brain.

  11. Chaos Says:

    Thank you for such an amazing story. Ill be checking obsessively for updates!!

  12. brightlilim Says:

    Huge post, full of action and impact. Starry dealing with her infestation of pirates; it would be difficult to do without anyone being hurt, but with the doctor dead, it’s going to be difficult to get around some of the issues that are bound to arise.

    There might be an emergency medical droid or program that might be around and useful, but I can’t imagine it being anywhere near as competent as Maletz, especially if it relies on a crew member being the surgeon.

    I’ve also noticed that the scene isn’t over yet…the pirates on the bridge aren’t unconscious yet! Don’t finalise the body count yet; there may be more casualties to come.

  13. Melanie Says:

    Targetdrone – now I want a shirt that says ‘Ships need hugs too’

    Blik – chemical attacks are always a calculated risk! Watch this space. 😉

    Belial666 – yes, the doctor has a chance if they got to him soon enough with the stasis field. The trick is doing it before too much irreparable damage is done, and sustaining it until they can get him to somewhere with appropriate facilities.

    And then there will be Terminator-Maletz! …no, I’m kidding.

    brightlilim – yup, it ain’t over yet. 🙂 More coming soon!

  14. Melanie Says:

    Chaos – hi and welcome to the blog! Sorry for the delay in approving your post; a go out for a few hours, and I get over 60 spam comments to plough through. Finding a genuine one is always a pleasure, though. 🙂 Glad you like the story, hope to hear from you again!

  15. mjkj Says:

    Ah, a plushy Starry would really be nice and a shirt like that sounds nice also (I hope with a picture of Starry…) 😀 do you ship internationally, too?

    mjkj

  16. mjkj Says:

    Even if the doctor is put into stasis – who will operate on him since he is the doctor…?

  17. Retsof Says:

    The Doctor of course! Start looking for a blue box and a bowtie! Sorry, couldn’t resist.

  18. Melanie Says:

    mjkj – I will ship internationally, just as soon as I have it all sorted! I have added ‘Starwalker merchandise’ to my list of things to do. 😀

    [quote]…who will operate on him since he is the doctor… [/quote]
    This is why doctors make the worst patients. 😉

    Retsof – next post: why Starry is bigger on the inside?

  19. mjkj Says:

    Hehehehe

    nice 🙂

    Ok, waiting for the solution of the doctor – and the next update (should be coming soon) 😀

    mjkj

  20. Melanie Says:

    Very soon! I’m working on it right now. 😉

  21. mjkj Says:

    Yayy

  22. Gabriel Says:

    Solution to fix up Maletz: Starry can travel in time, right? Simply travel forward to a point where Maletz is already ok and get Maletz to operate on himself! Simple!

  23. Melanie Says:

    Gabriel, I think my brain just imploded. 😉