29 Dec

Stand off/down

Ship's log, 12:42, 17 November 2213
Location: Intersystem between the JOP and Corvus FTL Corridor
Status: Sublight transit, half speed

 

Where did I get to? Oh yes. The Bountiful arrived, slinking out from its hiding place to scoop us up. At the time, it looked like they’d planned it that way all along, laid in wait for us exactly where we’d pop out, but they couldn’t have known that we’d run that way. In truth, the Bountiful had been waiting in a completely different sector – the cruiser had been forced to run around in a huge circle to find us on the pocket-side of the ice shard.

In fact, they had assumed we wouldn’t run at all; they had expected us to give up under the glare of their superior ships. Just fold up my engines and hold up my guns, and let them walk right through me.

Superior ships, my ass. I got away from their superiority. I outflew them. Quantity, not quality, is what caught us in the end. Their forgotten third ship came out of nowhere, just when we thought we were clear.

Bastards.

 

Ship's log, 05:23, 3 November 2213 (Reconstructed)
Location: Comet debris cloud, 
Intersystem between the JOP and Corvus FTL Corridor
Status: Stationary

 

External communications signal detected.

 

SW: Captain, that’s another cruiser. It’s hailing us.

CAPT: (looks around at the grim Bridge. No-one offers anything.) Open the channel, voice only.

SW: (on the Bridge and over the external communications channel) This is the Starwalker. State your business.

CRUISER: This is the Bountiful. Stand down, Starwalker, or we will destroy you.

SW: No you won’t.

 

CAPT: (to the Bridge only, patiently) Starwalker, please don’t provoke the pirates.

SW: They won’t blow us up. They want me intact.

CAPT: That doesn’t mean you should–

SW: It’s our only card, captain. I won’t play it if you don’t want me to, but you should.

CAPT: (looks around the Bridge again.)

CAMERON: (nods once.)

CAPT: (to Cameron, sighing) We need to make this look real.

CAMERON: Then we’d better make it real. Tyler, warm up two missiles but leave the firing tubes closed.

TYLER: (looking uncomfortable) Aye aye, ma’am.

CIRILLI: (stares at the captain) You’re not serious. This is ridiculous. If they want us intact, then–

CAPT: (sharply) They want the ship intact. They’d like you and your team, too. The rest of us are expendable, Lorena.

CIRILLI: But the last time–

CAPT: We’re trying different tactics this time. (To Starwalker,) Put me through on externals.

 

CRUISER: (over external comms) …I said power down!

CAPT: Bountiful, this the Starwalker‘s captain.

CRUISER: I don’t care if you’re the Starwalker‘s priest. Surrender or we’ll open fire.

CAPT: If you want this ship intact, you’re going to have to talk to us. We have weapons rigged, Bountiful. If you try anything, we will detonate and you get nothing.

CRUISER: And if you open those tubes, we’ll do it for you. Power down your engines and we’ll hear what you have to say.

CAPT: So we understand each other. Stand by.

 

So now I’m cutting my remaining sublight engines and letting myself drift. The massive ice crystal is behind me, cold and reflecting our confrontation. They didn’t ask me to counter-thrust and hold position, so I’m not going to; I’m still matching the shard’s velocity and spin. I can see the spurts of the cruiser’s thrusters as they try to match attitude with us. Hah. They’re still going to have to work to keep up with me. I’m not going to make it easy for them, not one sliver of it.

I can feel the missiles in my tubes, primed and ready to explode. They’re hot and hugged close to my heart. Tyler has the trigger rigged to his console, but from the look of him, he’d rather that someone else’s hand was on it. His pretty mouth is set in an unhappy line; this isn’t what he signed up for. I don’t think any of my crew signed up for this – dying to save the project. Not that they’re dead yet. We still have a chance. It’s slender, but it’s there. I’m just not sure how to take hold of it yet.

Maybe I’ll just keep the FTL drive on the boil, in case we decide to chance a jump after all. It’s no more suicidal than this stand off.

 

CAPT: (looks around the Bridge at the crew. The faces are grim with the lack of options. He flicks his hair back and takes a deep breath, eyes narrowing. Over external comms,) Bountiful, my crew is requesting asylum.

CRUISER: …what?

CAPT: Asylum.

CRUISER: From what, exactly?

CAPT: The Judiciary. We just discovered that the research being conducted on board this ship is unsanctioned. If the Judiciary find out, we’ll all be prosecuted.

CRUISER: You’re kidding, right?

CAPT: Ask to see Is-Tech’s permits for manipulating star gravity, if you want.

CRUISER: You know we can’t verify that out here.

SW: I can send the log of our discussion of the subject.

CAPT: Do it.

SW: Transmitting log now.

 

ROSIE: (as soon as the external line is on hold) Are you fucking kidding? I didn’t sign up to work for the pirates!

CAPT: (rubs his eyes) If you have a better idea, now’s the time.

ELLIOTT: (angrily, from Engineering) I ain’t goin’ anywhere.

CAPT: You’d rather they just killed you?

SW: (flatly) It’s not going to come to that.

TYLER: (frowning) Hey, when did Starry get reinstated?

CAPT: (ignores the question. He’s busy watching the navigation display, which shows the two red dots representing the other two pirate ships descending on the Bountiful‘s red marker, and the single pulsing gold spot that is the Starwalker.) Cameron, can we trust their word?

CAMERON: Hard to say. They could tell us what we want to hear to get us to stand down, and then… (She shrugs.)

CAPT: (grimly) Right.

CAMERON: We could get lucky. They don’t have a reason to kill us.

CAPT: What we need is a reason for them not to kill us.

 

He’s right. That’s what we need – a reason why the pirates can’t hurt them. I can do that. I can find a way to make them all essential. I have to stop the mercs hurting any more of my crew than they have already. I just– oh, the Bountiful is talking again.

 

CRUISER: (over external comms) All right, Starwalker. We’ll accept your crew’s parole in exchange for asylum. Stand down.

 

CAPT: (shakes his head) Stand down, Pastuhov.

TYLER: (unhappily) Aye aye, captain.

 

The missiles are disabled now. They’re cooling and being retracted from the tubes. I don’t like this. I don’t like any of this. We’re giving up. Just giving up, and trusting their word because we have no choice.

The scout and second cruiser are drifting in wide flanking positions. They’re giving themselves plenty of space; I think their sensors must be damaged from the bomb that Elliott set off. They don’t want to risk running into each other. That means that the Bountiful is the only real threat to us. But my sublight engines are damaged.

I’ve got no cards left. Out of moves, out of space to wiggle out of this.

This is not happening.

 

CRUISER: (over external comms) Prepare to be boarded, Starwalker.

 

CAPT: (blinks suddenly and puts his hand in a pocket. He draws out something small and black and stares at it.) Monaghan, get up here.

ELLIOTT: (from Engineering) What, now? Are you fu–

CAPT: NOW, Monaghan. Fast as you can.

 

Here it comes. The Bountiful is sweeping down on my position, crowding me against the ice shard. I can’t breathe.

Wait, it’s stopped. Oh, of course; they don’t want to risk connecting with me directly. I could send something unpleasant down the boarding tubes and damage their precious beast. Don’t think I’m not tempted.

The bastards just had to come closer so they could loom over me. I can read the serial numbers on their non-standard weaponry from here. The starboard wing-mounted turret has a really shoddy weld on it. Someone should take their repair drones out and shoot them.

The cruiser’s bays are sliding open. I’m so tense that my hull is almost vibrating. It looks just like missile tubes opening, only bigger; much, much bigger. At this range, any explosion would catch them too. They’d be crazy to fire at me now. I still don’t like it.

Two shuttles. They look so tiny; hard to believe that they’re big enough to carry a boarding party. Probably what, five SecOffs apiece and an officer to make sure they don’t fuck up and shoot the wrong body? Something like that.

I don’t know; I’ve never been boarded before. Not even in Danika’s career. I could ask Cameron, but I don’t trust myself to speak right now. I feel like I’d just babble nonsense at them and then start shouting about how stupid and unfair it all is.

 

ELLIOTT: (arriving on the Bridge) What the fuck is it? (He tries not to look at the central holo-console, which shows the progress of the shuttles, and fails. He swallows.)

CAPT: (holding out the small device) Take this and run back to Engineering. I need you to destroy it. Fast.

ELLIOTT: (pulls his attention back to the captain and blinks at the device that has been put into his hand) What the– now? You waited until now to do this? Fuck. (He curls his fingers around it and takes off at a sprint.) Waldo! Wide Load! Any fucking drone! Engineering, now!

CAPT: (bows his head and takes a deep breath, then lifts his gaze to the holographic representation of the approaching storm) Report.

CAMERON: Two shuttles inbound. Contact in thirty seconds.

CAPT: Everyone hold their positions and don’t do anything stupid. Set all systems to standby. Do as they say.

ROSIE: (to herself, angrily punching buttons) Don’t believe this.

CAPT: (glances sideways) Lorena, that goes for you and your staff, too.

CIRILLI: (over internal comms, to mid-deck) Ebling, Wong – you heard the captain. We’re being handed to the pirates.

CAPT: (considers saying something, then decides against it. He turns his attention back to the holo-console in the middle of the Bridge.)

 

The shuttles are jockeying around so they can sucker onto me. They have mag-clamps and cutters ready so they can punch holes into me and inject their poisonous contents into my passageways.

Oh, for fuck’s sake. I have perfectly good airlocks! This is ridiculous. I’ve been captured by idiots.

 

SW: (over external comms) Bountiful, can you please tell your shuttles to connect with airlocks as if they’re not forcibly boarding me? We’ve already agreed not to try anything.

CRUISER: Standard procedure says–

SW: I don’t give a shit about your standard procedure. If they try to dock where they’re headed, they’re going to cut through half of my Star Step filaments. Also, I have a weakened hull segment on the port side, thanks to your crappy shooting, which will collapse under that shuttle if it lands where it’s headed. If you want me capable of Stepping any time in the next few months, use an airlock.

 

ROSIE: (frowns) Hey, when did we get Starry back?

CAMERON: (glances at the captain, then returns her gaze to the sensor readings before her) They’re altering course. Looks like they’re going for the main airlock and the aft emergency hatch.

CAPT: (ignoring Rosie’s question) Starwalker, grant them access when they’re connected.

SW: If I must.

 

How did he know that I was going to make them ask for access? No reason I should make this easy for them. He’s right, though – of course he is. They’d only cut through if I tried to resist them, and then I’d have ruined airlocks. I should probably try not to piss them off before they come on board with their guns and their pirate attitudes.

What I’d like to do is blow my airlocks open in their faces.

 

Magnetic clamp engaged on main airlock.
Main airlock cycling to match pressure.
Magnetic clamp engaged on aft hatch.
External access granted to main airlock.
External access granted to aft hatch.
Aft hatch released.
Main airlock opening.
Artificial gravity compensating.

 

Here they are. I am captured.

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4 Responses to “Stand off/down”

  1. daymon34 Says:

    I hope the visitors are civil, or they might find out the drones can be a problem as well. Wide Load can probably do some real pain before being taken offline.

    And nice of them to use the door than busting out a new one.

  2. Tweets that mention Starwalker » Stand off/down -- Topsy.com Says:

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Zoe Whitten. Zoe Whitten said: RT @Kessbird: New #Starwalker post! Starry is cornered by the pirates. http://www.starwalkerblog.com/stand-offdown/ http://fb.me/DHEVmFZq […]

  3. Belial666 Says:

    Out of curiosity, what happens if artificial gravity is increased in a tiny section of the ship, say, where some agressive individuals are standing? Totally by accident ofcourse. By, say, 1200% or so?

  4. Melanie Says:

    By 1200%? I think they would be smooshed. 😉 It’s possible that Starry could do that, but I’m not sure how fine her control is. Probably not exact enough to pick out one person in a crowded room, for example. And she is trying to behave right now.

    Good idea, though. Definitely one to keep in mind. 😉