Joint Post by The Stuarts, William Bartlett, Hanna Parker and Jack the Blade.
When the message came in from Tim, it was disappointing really wanted a shot at two ships! But, one was going to have to do!
Flipped the Wrist Comp open, “Bartlett, one ship at the opposite spin axis from the Lancer. We will be moving that way with Mariana and one other as soon as we strip the two usable Fleet Marine suits we have!”
Turning to the tunnel, I saw the Mariana, Question Guy and Thompson had just finished stripping the suits off the two head shots. The two Mariana had hammered mostly did not have a back. “Thompson, think you can hold the fort here, we will leave you all of the energy weapons save two? Betcha the ex-grunt can show you how to use them!”
The reply was a couple of vicious looking grins and a reply of “No sweat,they can not have much left!”
“Question Guy, and by the way what is your name?”
“Dave, Dave Webber.”
“Well Dave, you ready to run with the Big Dogs?”
“Well then, grab one of those energy resistant suits and one of the 2GEV energy rifles and fall in behind Marina. We are going to be moving fast.”
“Ready up, Spotter?”
“Oh, it’s hunting time in the jungle Shooter”
“Bartlett, we are moving will hold one intersection away from the port!”
After we had taken the Stores Section Marty reported in and then gave me a com code that linked me to Andy & Mariana Stuart. Andy said he was going to try and take one of the UNWG Cruisers and invited me to come along.
I called over to Joe Fortson, who was some kind of ex-military, and we did a quick inventory of the equipment we had captured.
The Goonie squad sent to the Storage Area had been well armed. Two carried blast rifles and the other three slug throwers not unlike what I had used for hunting. Well with hunting outlawed we called it predator control. There were still a lot of black bear and wolves roaming the northern Michigan Forests on the logging property owned by the mill I worked at. Between them the had a dozen or so grenades split between EMP’s, Explosives, and Flash-bangs. The also carried a couple of larger explosive devices which Joe said were shaped charges punching man sized holes through metal or rock.
We each donned one of the dead Goonie suits, grabbed what we could carry and headed for the central axial tube of the Mayflower. Several of the others with us at stores wanted to come along but I had to tell them that Andy said his plan need two and only two more.
Mariana asked if we wanted to take the Axial Tube. “Nope we run the halls!” Pointing to an RF repeater right over our head I said “We want to be able to cut their link to the internal network, you know they have tried to sneak into that!”
“That’s going to get noticed!”
“I don’t think so” and showed her the visual net trace running one my hand held.
“Damn, who’s making that black hole and centered right on the computer core too?”
“My guess, that’s Tim’s war on the gooniebots; but, damn it’s great cover.”
“Dave, you ready to run again?”
Before He could answer a man ran up and introduced himself as Jules Parker Jr. “Sir, I am here to help if I may.” Looked to be somewhere in late thirty’s or early forty’s but, the thousand yard stare was not there. I didn’t want to discourage anybody who was willing to put it on the line, so I said “Names Andy, what do they call you?”
“JJ mostly” was the reply
“OK JJ, can you repeat exactly what you hear, no more no less?”
“Sure Andy, one of my skills is being a trained transcriber; if I can type it I can say it.”
“OK, keep up JJ you got a job and you free up a Shooter. I’ll fill you in when we get there.”
We started chugging down the corridors towards the spin axis docks. The transverse shafts slowed us down a little but not much. Finally we reached a point two intersections away from the dock.
Just then a message came in from Jack. “Moving!”
“Good, you and one more with 2GEV energy weapons, move fast!”
I reached up and pulled down the internal RF repeater, switched off and stuck in the “game pouch” pocket of my field jacket.
“OK JJ, there is a rogue repeater just up the road from here, that the goonies dropped in with an IP8V address of (looking at my hand held I read it off) mark its location. That’s their link into the interior network. When we knock it down and put this one in its place (read off its stored address), you lock into it and you become our human repeater. If we fail the others have to know!”
I watched his eyes grow big as he replied “OK, I can do that!”
“All right Troops here’s what we gonna do, Mariana get in to their system and verify our key cards are still good. If, they are not I’ll hack the system and make ‘em good. Then we wait to see what troops we get.”
The Mayflower rotated about its central axis at .75 RPM giving an apparent 1 gravity 5000 foot from the center. It wasn’t a perfect sphere being somewhat longer than it was wide. A lot of care had been given during excavation to take out just the right amount metal and rock at the right locations to keep her in balance. Unlike on earth, instead of falling when moving inwards, what it felt like you were doing was climbing upwards. Another factor was that you had to give up radial velocity when moving inwards. Near the surface, at the Mayflower’s equator, she was spinning at a bit more than 400 feet per second, 280 MPH. All of that velocity had to be shed by the time the axial shaft was reached.
The inward going passage contained an elevator like car riding on rails attached to the tunnel wall. While traveling in it you sat on a bench seat or stood with your head pointed towards the central shaft. To the center was up.
We were loaded, including our selves and suits, to better than 280 lbs but lost almost 6 of those for every hundred foot we traveled inwards. As we shed our radial velocity we felt a tenth of a gravity pressing us towards the wall of the tunnel in the “Spinward” direction. At first the weight was noticeable but as we approached the central axis it just seemed to evaporate. The trip took under 2 minutes. I seemed to be adjusting well as the gravity lessened and was even beginning to enjoy the sensation.
On the way in I asked Joe, “What branch were you in, and what was it you did in the Military anyway?”
He hesitated a bit then replied. “I was one of them.“
“One of Them?”
“Yeah, Fleet Marine, those guys in the tunnel. Joined 14 years ago, just in time for the First and Second Belt Wars.”
“Belt Wars?” In a puzzled tone of voice.
He looked at me and said “You probably heard about them, if you heard about them at all, as the asteroid miner labor disputes. Labor disputes my ass, they were a full fledged rebellion against the UNWG and not against the mine owners as the Vids spun it. We were sent in to suppress them. The First, in 41, was over pretty quickly, little loss on either side. By the time of the Second, in 44, the miners had learned a lot. It took 2 years and a lot of lives on both sides till it was over.
Near the end I had a charge blow up in my blast rifle. I came to in the hospital. Seemed to make a full recovery with no permanent nerve damage but the doc’s found out I now had a slightly irregular heart beat. Chickenshit medical board wouldn’t ok me for line duty. I got invalided out with a three quarters pension 5 years ago. Took me too long but I finally figured out I had been on the wrong side.”
“You must have been on Goonie Cruisers before?”
“A time or two.”
“I think I’ll give Andy a call and let him know.”
We reached the axial tube about halfway from the forward end it was just over a hundred feet in diameter. Open through the center but with pressure doors set 300 feet from either end. On the other side of the pressure door was docking space, roughly circular but greater in diameter then the axis, and a then a second double pressure door at the surface. The Goonies had managed to put the central shaft transports out of business but Joe said. “No problem, I’ll show you how it’s done. Just remember very little forward pressure and stay behind me.“
I caught on quickly and we made very good time. Just barely pushing off and gliding . We had to be careful not to go so fast that we couldn’t stop at the end.
When Joe and I reached the last entrance before the shafts end we saw a group of suited figures waiting for us. Two figures spun and pointed small but obviously lethal handguns at us.
Just as I finished speaking the transverse doors behind us opened, Mariana and I spin turned with the AMT’s springing into our hands! What we saw was two Line Marines, our trigger fingers were stopped by one of them being the damned reincarnation of Matthew Quigley and the other we knew had to be retired.
“Damn Mountain Man, you gotta be Bart, cause that jerk with you is damn sure Joe Fortson.”
Joe’s whitened face croaked out “Yeah, it’s me Reaper.”
“Oh Hell, drop the codenames. The name is Andy, glad to see you and how’s the ticker? You did get your retirement didn’t you?”
Bart asked, “You two know each other?”
“Only professionally”, in three part harmony.
Joe stared and said, “How did you know I was gonna get retired?”
“Well, a couple of us chameleon wearing jerks sorta convinced the Investigating Officer on old PC 137 that He should sorta forget that the evidence showed your blast gun misfire was probably operator induced. Shit, Mariana threatened to geld us all if we didn’t. But, we also saw the report classifying you as “Politically Unreliable” so I would be willing to bet there ain’t a damn thing wrong with your ticker.”
“So why are you out Andy?”
“Same as you, we refused to shoot rock miners who did not have a damn thing to do with the rebellion. Only we were still U. S. SOCOM so we had the right to opt out of amalgamation. Hell, we are probably the reason the UN finally clamped down on Spec Ops. Took the out and got married the next day.”
“You and Magic got married, Christ can I have the draft choice on your first born?”
“Shut up, let me brief you till Jack gets here with the extra energy guns we need.”
At that point Dave popped up with, “What’s the big difference between energy and kinetic weapons?”
I looked at Bart and Joe and said “One of your guys wanta explain I’m kinda busy?”
Fortson proceeded to do his best DI imitation:
“It’s like this. In vacuum use energy. In pressure it depends. Blast rifles shoot a charged particle beam. No problem in a vacuum it’s very very fast with little recoil. In an atmosphere the charge needs to be confined so it don’t bleed off. That means ionizing a path between the rifle and target. And that charge path takes time to form and sucks energy from the shot. The general issue is a 2GEV Particle/Plasma. The energy comes from magazine fed superconducting capacitors. They mass and size about 20% of the KE. round used in the Mod 2035 Ruger. They used to try and make blast rifles with multi-shot power packs. Too many failures occurred at the connectors and in the conductors between the pack and the plasma chamber.
The Ruger’s a 30 cal. capable of single fire or three shot bursts. It fires a saboted penetrator at 4500 fps or a 200 grain expander at 3200. Most of us set up the mag with 2 penetrators followed by 8 expanders.
Both got optics that can be used as stand alones or slaved to a helmet display. The Ruger will even guide you to fire from your center of mass so that recoil don’t result in spin. It’s got a laser designator that the penetrators can track to.
For capacity and punch against non screened targets use a blast rifle. For charge protected body armor use KE. In practice have em both.”
Just as Joe finished the transverse doors opened again and two people stepped out carrying Fleet Marine Energy Suits. Recognizing the face I had seen in the airlock and the Bar on Lancer I said; “You must be Jack, who’s you partner?” “He goes by Wirehead, says his real name is hot!” “Who is here who’s name ain’t hot?”
Wirehead replied; “We ain’t outta here yet!” “OK, you got a point. This is Bart, Dave , Joe, Marina also known as Magic and I am Andy also known as Reaper.” I watched Wiredheads face go a little white and knew I could trust him. “OK you two, suit up with the Black Suits. You are part of our diversion!”
Just as the introductions finished, Mariana looked up and said; “Not only are our codes still good our CARD KEYS are still good. How damn dumb, lazy and stupid can they be?”
“Magic, never underestimate the stupidity of the UNWG”
“Bite me Reaper!”
Hearing the suppressed chuckles, I decided to start.
“OK all listen up frago! First, Jules; hike yourself back to the first place you can find that you can see both the ship repeater and the internal network and prepare to relay. If we win get a message to Dr. Van Vogt to get up here and pull the medical supplies. If we fail, run like hell screaming to high Heaven!”
“Mariana, get in your poor me, been captured mode. We are going to use the old Kanabar Muri trick. Everybody wearing a Black Suit make sure it shows some damage to cover the radio failure.”
As JJ, got out of hearing range I remarked “Anybody seen a look like that in years. That man has seen some pain but, no way he has ever looked someone square in the eye and pulled the trigger.”
Joe’s comment was succinct, “Damn Reaper, ain’t he and those like him why we are doing this?”
“Damn straight! Now what we are going to do is approach the elevator with four Black Suits escorting the second most wanted person on this vessel. The command crew will see Magic but, due to obvious suit damage not be able to contact you. This will cause them to release the safety locks SOP says must be in place.”
“Jack as soon as you are in the elevator hand this hand held to Mariana and HOLD THE DOOR! Joe as quick as Mariana confirms she is in the shipboard network, shoot out the repeater mounted here (showing him the 3-D). Then you and I sprint for the elevator, I will place this repeater in place of the shot out one. It will be keyed to talk internal but, not to the ship. That will kill their surveillance outside the hull.
Once inside we proceed to the 1st T-Intersection. There I will go left and the rest will go right. You will proceed past the mess area and crew sleeping facilities to the next T-intersection. Jack you will stop here, back to you in a moment!”
“Mariana you go left to DC/AUX, take it; Dave you will back her.”
“Bart you go right to Engineering Control, Take it! Joe, you will back him.”
“Jack, directly in your face, centered on the top of the T, is a double wide panel. This is the security override computer. If we take down DC and the Command Deck with it still up, it will blow up the ship! Two simultaneous energy shots to the upper right and lower left corners will drop the ASRS. It’s a safety built into the system. A control panel will then open, plug this hand held (handing him a hand held with interface cable attached) into the data port and press 1**. This will take down the interlocks and it will slide out in the maintenance position. Then, blow the damn thing up! Next press 99## on the handheld, which will flash a message to Mariana and I that we can go. Wirehead if you can find and blow just the power supply, that will leave a whole buch of salvageable parts. If not, smoke it all!”
” This is not my plan, in the old SOCOM we had a standing OPLAN to take a UN Cruiser. Five minutes, if we do it right; we have medicine, food and freedom. Any questions?”
Bartlett spoke up. “This is all zero grav. How about the 2 minute course in suit controls?”
In DI Mode
“Clench either hand into a fist, or on what you are holding, for 3 seconds and the suit aligns the up. We’re all pointed in the right direction. Do it now!. A green dot in the upper left of your visor will now be lit. If that dot is yellow you have less than 200 fps Delta V in your thrusters, red 50, black, you ain‘t goin nowhere. The suit will keep you upright and take out spin.”
“You wanna move, look in that direction and clench twice. You wanna stop, clench once. These suits ain’t nothin fancy one speed like a brisk walk. Easier than riding a bicycle and you can’t fall off.”
Dave asked. “Joe why didn’t you guys use the thrusters when you came up the axial shaft?”
“Savin DeltaV, savin DeltaV.”
To The Elevator
With any questions out of the way Mariana and I finished gearing up. She had already inverted her field jacket to the damaged side and opened up the Velcro tabs on the pants that looked oh so like tears.
Jack “Are you always this paranoid or have you used this gambit before.”
Mariana and I just grinned at each other and in unison, “yes”.
Dropping the mags from our cross draws, shucked out the up the spout round and pocketed it. We then inserted mags with a red stripe on them, visually cross checking each others. Then we cambered a round, dropped the mag and inserted a single round on the top; we screwed on the silencers.
“Well, everybody ready?” The reply was a round of silent nods.
“OK, face shields on and energized; Bart, start the parade.”
Bartlett stepped out into the axial tube and looked towards one of the smaller access doors leading into the docking bay. His thrusters kicked in and the rest followed. As we neared the lock it sensed our approach and opened automatically.
The cavernous room was mostly empty with a few small shuttles parked on the outer rim. We continued upwards to the docking tube where the Goonie cruiser was moored, elevator shaft attached.
Flipping up their shields and tapping for the glaze, they started a pretty credible imitation of a shaken squad returning with enough to save their tails. Approaching the elevator, Jack had the native smarts to face the repeater and point at his ear with a negating motion. Bart at the same time grabbed Marina by the shoulders and turned her to face the repeater.
Immediately the elevator doors sprang open and the group filed in. Jack and his companion seemingly accidentally left one foot in front of each door.
Just as the doors were attempting to close for the second time we heard “IN”.
Give the ex-Jarhead his due, Joe’s energy blast smoked that repeater before the carrier wave from Mariana’s message dropped. Immediately we were sprinting for the doors. I stopped and removed the smoking hulk of the rogue repeater and slapped up our salvaged ship repeater.
Keying my mike, “JJ, you up?”
“OK, we are in the elevator. Worst thing that can happen is this baby blows up!’ Then the elevator doors closed.
“Move back people” as Mariana knelt directly in front of the doors and I moved to stand directly over her.
As the elevator slowed we deep breathed 3 times and locked our eyes open. As the doors opened we saw a Black Suit Major starting to say something. He was interrupted by two PHHT-PHHT sounds, followed by the tinkling of four pieces of brass to the floor.
Moving out quickly we reached the first T. “First split folks, good luck and good hunting. And Dave, watch her backtrack!” “Jesus, sure!”
Turning left, I intentionally did not look back!
With Mariana in the lead they moved rapidly down the hallway. At one time this much space would have seemed a luxury but, having seen the Mayflower!
Reaching the last T Mariana turned “Luck Jarhead.” From Joe “Luck Spook.”
To Jack “There it is, the key to the door to freedom. Blow it open!”
To Dave, “On me, let’s go”
Without another word they split into their task groups.
As Told by Jack the Blade
Looking at the panel Jack told Wirehead; “I got the upper right, you take the lower left.” “Right Boss.” “OK, 3,2,1,SHOOT.” The pefectly sychronized shots dropped the shields in a flare of brilliance. Moving swiftly Jack popped the interface cable in and pressed the command sequence. The computer panel moved out into the maintenance posistion. “Damn Boss, the power supply is isolated as hell.” “Bust it then!” Wirehead quickly slapped a C-12 quarter block on the power supply, popped in a detenator and jumped back. “Fire in the hole!” “Clear, shoot it!” Thumbing the detonator, the decks rang and shook with the force of the explosion.
“Gut shot, Boss. That thing is dead and salvageable! I don’t think you need to send a signal! Every security interlock on this tub just died.” As he spoke they could hear the sounds of gunfire from two directions. Jack said “Really, you think you know where the Arms Room is on this tub?” The only reply was a grin and a pointing motion.
As Told By Mariana
Making it to my door went a lot easier than I had planned. This was fine with me.
As I stood in front of the door, I double-checked to make certain the safety was in the OFF position on my weapon.
I pulled out my card and handed it to Dave. “If Jack doesn’t get it done swipe the card into the card reader and stand back.”
As we waited suddenly the deck shook to a large explosion. The alert lights on the door went out and we heard the electromagnetic locks relax
Kicking open the door, I said, “Knock. Knock.”
As the door opened, I recognized the man standing opposite me. Before he could respond, I put two holes between his eyes. As he was falling I grinned and said, “Tag. You’re it.”
Once he was lying on his back, I walked over, smiled and stated, “I bet you, I would live long enough to watch you die, bastard.”
I took one step closer and fired one round into his crotch. There was still a huge smile on my face.
Next, I turned and began turning off every switch I could find.
In a manner of a few moments later, my mission was accomplished.
Entry into the cruiser went as planed. The suit really did do all the work We split from the others saw no one else till Joe and I paused outside of the pressure door at Engineering Control. He looked at me expectantly.
“Well Joe, how would you go about this?”
“They’ll be two maybe three guys inside. One at the reactor station on the right, one at auxiliary flight control on the left. Could be another but don’t think so. Be in suits but not battle armor. No reason for the door to be locked out. Up above, always, down below we wanna get out if things go wrong
Why don’t we just grab the Rugs, no point in blowing somthin we could use later, and wait for Jack to get the overrides. We hear the word or alarms go off I pop the hatch and take the guy at the reactor you take the guy at flight.” He looked at me expectantly.
“That’s just how I’d do it Joe.” I paused for effect, ”And remember no prisoners, and no chance to warn anyone else.”
Joe tapped my Ruger’s sight and a crosshair image about the size of a quarter appeared in front of my eyes showing the ceiling where it was pointed. I flicked off the safety and the crosshairs turned red. Wasn’t long till we heard the alarms go off. Joe pressed the lock control and the door slid open. He launched inwards pointing right. I followed swinging left. It’s a lot easier for a right handed guy to swing left.
I saw a suited figure strapped in a seat partially obscured by a control station and view screen. He must have been checking the alarm status and was beginning to look my way when the crosshairs moved to his chest. I heard Joe’s three round burst just before I squeezed the trigger.
My first penetrator crashed through the view screen hitting slightly lower than I had intended but close enough. Two more out of reflex and it seemed really quiet. There were no others in the room.
Joe turned looked me in the eyes and said, “We done Good.”
As Told by Andrew
I was moving fast, I had two control points to pass before Jack blew security.
We had to get this done, there were enough medications in this sick bay to pattern growth replicators for 20 years. As well as goodly supplies of the anti-agathic drugs the Blue Helmets still claimed did not exist. Here was my one chance to never have to be the Reaper again. If we could get this done, it would be as good a shooting the one bastard I really wanted to.
Grabbing the still valid (how stupid were they) Pilots keycard, I blew past both checkpoints barely slowing down.
Arriving at the Command Deck door, I reached up and opened the access door to the communications status indicators caught my breath and waited.
I felt the deck rock, and then the triple security links went down. In what seemed to me like a heartbeat the DC Slave Override links went down. Mere seconds later Engineering went cold and the EMag locks released with a sigh.
Hi booting the door I blew in to Command Deck to the Co-Pilot swinging up with a Zap gun. Head shot him and swung to the Capt., to see the sight of my life.
With his seat swing 90% right, boots crossed on the center console, Zap gun at his feet and hands clasped behind his head sat Ashcroft William Andrews IV, my damn cousin.
“What in hades are you doing here Ash?”
“Looking for a way outa here I think.”
“No, in space you dumbass. The only reason you stayed UNWG should keep you on the Ground.”
“Oh, Mom died last month Andy. I could not even go to the funeral; I was back in re-qual the next day the Bastards.”
“So why are you setting here like this?”
“I saw the surveillance right before you people blew it up. Mariana without you around, I think not. If you were here, there were too many of them still breathing! Remember I was your taxi driver for eight years. So I caught a whiff of old OPLAN 3160 and sat tight”
Shaking my head I keyed my inter-ship mike. “JJ, you up?”
“Relay to the good Doctor, come raid the closet. Ship apparently new to station, should be fully stocked. BREAK; Relay to the Capt., could you communicate with me soonest. We may or may not have a problem. I for sure have a headache. Ash, if you smile, I swear I will shoot you; Kin or no Kin!”
“Ok, Andy I got a peace prize for you. Mariana’s Ex is my Damage Control Officer and he’s sure got no place to run this time!”
It was my turn to go white in the face; I had sent Magic in after the one man in the system I really wanted to shoot.
“Ash, I sent Magic to take DC/AUX!”
“What’s she carrying?”
“Grandma’s old Randalls.”
“Damn Andy, I hope there’s a big enough piece left to identify. At least you guy’s aren’t leaving any unfinished business behind.”
“Ash, I just hope we are out of this damn business. I sorta want to retire Magic and The Reaper!”