The disclaimer is and always will be I dont own em and never made a plug nickel off em. Wish I did. This story aint beta-ed. The mistakes are mine and mine alone. This AU is mine. It takes place twenty five hundred years in future in the furthest reaches of the known universe. Read on . 9/29/01
The Message Part 1
The message withn a message was sent, there was nothing left to do but wait.
Nothing new to the waiting, only the vague hope that someone would come. Knowing that no one would, eventually praying that they would not come the danger too great. The alien occupation was almost complete. The lone survivor of the station made a hasty exit through the air ducts to avoid discovery. Back under the cover of darkness, the watching and waiting resumed.
Questions remained unanswered. Humans had believed for too long that they were alone in the universe. Now there had been hostile contact. Why now? Why here? The aliens had taken the station over within hours and destroyed almost all the humans within a week. Only when they believe the successful capture and elimination of human life was complete did the stations distress signal go out, beckoning for assistance, the source of trouble was never stated? It was then that he decided it was necessary to hide a warning within the distress signal.
Standish knew why he had survived, simple paranoia.
Fear of the unknown, he as the newest arrival to the mining station, became familiar with the entire layout of the operating station and its surrounding terrain of the planet it occupied, though not impressive Athos could support human life. Taking no comfort in the statistics after being forced to work off his societal debt at the mining community. After learning that the stations operation had not been interrupted in decades; he had taken great care in learning every aspect of the mining complexs design, while its other occupants remained lax in everything but the daily procedures. This fact disturbed Standish, unable to join his fellow technicians in the comfort of routine.
When aliens attacked, he was off shift and instead of joining the others in leisure time activities as it would have been his preference, he had been exploring the outer perimeter of the complex. The occupation had been swift most of the personnel in the station were rounded up within the first hour, those that hadnt managed to escape were gunned down. Those that had defied the invaders all died in agony during the following twenty-four hour cycle as a chemical poison was released in the upper levels of the station. Those that had been captured early on were quickly forced aboard slaver ships.
During the first days, Standish was weighed down with tremendous guilt, agonizing over the decision to stay hidden. Once he had come to terms with realizing nothing could have been done that would have made a difference. The other question he dwelled on was why, more to the point why now? There had not been a signal or any indication other than the norm. The station was not aware of any alien presence in the region.
Living in and of it was beginning to get interesting. Standish had been quietly re-entering the complex to retrieve food and other supplies; this was achieved through the airshafts that ran through the mine and the complex to the surrounding terrain. Early on sleep was a rare treat, but as time went on the creatures, the alien invaders whom Standish recognized as the Skraeling, he realized they had an established routine. Knowing this routine made gathering desperately needed from the storehouse possible, it was on one of these forays that he made the discovery of the emergency beacon. No one had time to send one and he wondered why the Skraeling were sending out a message to his people. Understanding it was not a welcome, he had encoded a message within the distress signal telling all that received it of the invasion and to stay away. Self-sacrifice was never in the plan he had well armed himself taking weapons from a forgotten store behind the loading dock. There was no viable options, even if a ship could get close enough, they would be destroyed by the forces on the ground it was best not to put the only hope in a off world rescue squad. Standish was trying to come up with a plan without alerting the Skraeling of his presence.
Standish didnt realize this but he wasnt alone two other men had escaped the onslaught. Neither knew of the others existence. Vin Tanner had headed for the abandoned mine shafts deep below the complex with the very young Ensign JD Dunne together they managed to remain out of earshot of the creatures avoiding the fate of their fellow miners. The younger man had remembered the old abandoned food stores that were seemingly forgotten below the main complex and there the duo remained during the early days of the attack
Tanner decided they had go topside for more supplies. The kid remained close to his side the only way he could tell in the darkness of the mine shaft was the warmth emanating in close proximity to him both carried hand weapons, which was enough to protect them but not under a full out assault. They hadnt uttered a sound in days afraid their position would be given away. Amazing because before the attack the young Ensign chattered constantly almost never seeming to stop to breathe. Vin could tell the kid was scared but he hadnt panicked yet which was a good sign. The one time Space Marine navigator cursed his luck, which was going from bad to worse since the original reason he had taken a position on the station was to lay low after going on a mission that went sour in a hurry leaving him a wanted man. Tanner forced the thought from his mind he needed to stay alert. He shifted a little and listened for any suspicious noises. Dunne sat next him in the pitch black struggling past troubling thoughts of his own.
Dunne was so proud to be given the post, even if it was on the edge of the universe there was nothing for him in the colonies not since his mothers death. That seemed a lifetime ago but the pain was still fresh in his heart and mind, the cryo-chambers that assisted on deep space travel protected its occupants from the ravages of time, did little to comfort the mind. JD had been hired for his technical proficiency, never had he ever thought it would end up like this. The young man was brought out of his thoughts as a gentle nudge in his upper back urged him forward. He could see a light seeping through an air vent ten feet down the shaft. That was their entry point. They would have to wait until their eyes adjusted to the light before attempting anything.
Salvage cruiser 10028-6 sub class 9b United Galaxy Cargo Ship Rebus Prime was on a routine course when its tele-com operator and First Mate Buck Wilmington came across a distress beacon from Mining Station 63 Alpha. The vessels captain Chris Larabee noticed the encrypted message within the signal but unable to decode the warning. An old Military dog like himself knew the implications of such a message and decided to approach the station with caution. Although his ships official status was a salvage/cargo cruiser, he did take on the occasional passenger, as was the case on this particular sortie. A holy man name of Sanchez and medic Nathan Jackson who was the reason they were approaching the mineral mining outpost. Jackson was the operations long overdue med-tech replacement. Sanchez was on a pilgrimage to a remote settlement in the same region. Larabee wasnt a fan of taking on passengers but Bucks reasoning was sound. Cargo was cargo whether it was material goods or passengers they got paid and working for the United Galaxy Cargo Corporation permitted little choice in assignments. Some how the two old friends managed to maintain and run the Rebus Prime with out as much trouble as they had working as independents.
The former soldiers were nervous as they made visual sight of the mining station half a duty cycle later and when they called in their approach.
Standish was in the air duct when the reply came.
The Skraeling changed their routine and Standish stayed in the duct, not moving, as time passed muscles started to ache, the searing agony as every moment passed. Standish listened. Eventually he heard something. A human voice at first he did not understand why when the reality hit him, he was even more afraid. There was not much he could do now but wait for an opportunity.
Some how Standish drifted off into sleep, he did not remember letting go yet he had. When he awoke he felt rested, still bone weary, the muscle cramps were gone and less fearful since he had been undiscovered.
Which meant that there was still time to send out another warning. The question was how? Standish did not dare to return to the terminal where his first message had been sent. The intruders had to know that he had not been among the dead; it occurred to him that there was another tele-com terminal buried deep in the bowels of the station underneath the boiler room.
It would be there that he would send another warning. Hoping that the cruiser would intercept the message before it got to the station.
Tanner and Dunne still sat in the cramped air duct above the boiler rooms, slowly adjusting to the light. The intruders had made a pass twenty minutes earlier and the former space marine had deemed the intervals of their patrols were every thirty minutes. Which is why Vin was surprised as he watched a vent cover across the room slip open and a man slipped out cautiously scanning the surrounding area as he approached the tel-com terminal realizing immediately the man was sending out a message.
The Rebus Prime received an unencrypted message from within the station to avoid docking. Hostile forces had over taken the mining complex.
The Skraeling had altered the sequence of patrols as the cruiser approached. Four of the invaders were surprised to find a human out in the open. Standish used this to his advantage and dispatched two aliens as he scrambled to escape. Tanner had taking the opportunity to drop in from behind and took out the remaining two.
Gentleman we have company approaching the loading dock I tried to dissuade their arrival and arrange for an alternate landing site.
Did it work?
Tanner eyed the man.
Standish nodded his head.
Know a quick way there?
He stared that the two men for a moment before he led the way.
The Rebus entered the Docking Bay 11 a long abandoned loading area it was the only bay with the doors still open. Larabee had set the ship down. The cruiser hadnt been detected. Chris wasnt sure why the invaders didnt come out and greet them. The external cam showed three figures coming toward them as the Skraeling had opened fire on the ship and everything in between. One person went down only to have one hoist him up over his shoulder as the other provided cover as Buck went to man the turret. A firefight ensued as Larabee opened the hatch to allow the fleeing men to board the Rebus. The one with long hair stumbled as he was hit almost dropping his companion as he fell through the open door. The third man shoved the injured men forward while fired a few pulses off before closing the entry door behind them.
BUCK PULL OUT NOW!!!
Larabee screamed over his com-set leaving the three men slumped against the walls of the entry portal jogging passed a tall black man that was headed their way. Standish was the first to recover his bearings and went to assist his fellow escapees. The ship banked hard trying to exit the docking area while being barraged by burst canons causing to tumble on top of the other three. After righting himself he mumbled a quick apology as he tried to assess the youngest mans condition he was worse off than the other two.
He thrust a med kit at the green-eyed man, who quickly got Tanners bleeding under control before he tied off the leg wound. All while the Rebus was making sharp banks and turns trying to out run their pursuers.
Need to get him sick bay can you manage?
The dark healer had directed the question to Vin who nodded his reply as he struggled to his feet. Dunne was lifted up between Jackson and Standish and was swiftly carried through the lurching hatchways as Tanner hobbled behind them.
Larabee fought to maintain control over his ship they while trying to escape Athos orbit and the Rebus Prime was threatening to shake apart as they put some distance between them and the alien crafts. Wilmington had managed to get off a few good shots from the turrets own burst canon causing the craft to break off their attack. Chris ran right into the holy man as he stepped out of the flight deck.
Can I be of any assistance? The large with the baritone voice asked him.
Know anything about CBDR? Larabee snapped out sarcastically.
Yes where do you need me?
The captains mouth dropped open for a second unable to mask his shock because hadnt expected that answer but he quickly recovered.
Engine room we took a hit down there. Need to know how bad Here take this He handed him a com-set that was hanging on the bulkhead next to him and took an addition set. Call me with a damage report.
Chris continued down the hatchways until he reached the sick bay where Nathan Jackson was just finishing wrapping the wounds on the badly injured young man. The one with the injured leg was laying down on one of the other beds with other man sitting next to him.
Jackson is he all right?
Captain Larabee, the abdominal injury is severe but he should recover given the proper meds and enough rest but
We dont have enough .Shit what about cryo?
Its rough when the human body is healthy Nathan gave him the best answer he could.
We could go to the Trident colonies
The long hair man sat up slowly as he quietly spoke. Chris said nothing. Just who the hell was this guy to tell him what to do?
Names Vin Tanner and Ive got some friends there .
The slack jawed response he got in return caused the green-eyed man to smirk.
Mr. Tanner I think our benefactor is speechless. Ezra Standish proper introductions as we know were impossible early and your name Captain?
Larabee He answered Ezras question before turning his attention back to Tanner and asking one of his own. You think taking the kid there is wise the Trident Moons are
The kids name is Dunne JD Dunne As far as going there its the closest place Replied the slightly accented quiet voice.
Chris reluctantly agreed they were running out of options and the decision made spoke into his com-set.
Captain there is damage but I should be able to make temporary repairs with in the half
Then do it, call me you when you are done. Buck?
No hostiles on radar
Plot a course towards the Trident moons prepare to depart on the half.
The Trident Moons Part 2
The ride was rough, the ship groaned and shook as it made the perilous journey through the remnants of the mine field Tanner was guiding them carefully through. The young man had insisted this was the fastest route to the colonies on the Trident Moons. A large chuck of debris bounced off the hull narrowly missing one of the free-floating explosive buoys. The field was a deadly remnant from an ancient war. The quadrant was filled with the mines that had been laid sporadically through out an asteroid belt the orbit held them floating within its confines. Over the passage of time the region was completely avoided by most vessels for a safer, easier route. Those foolish enough to try to traverse the area paid a heavy price. Yet Larabees instinct made him trust Tanner when he told them he knew the way through. True to his word Vins navigated path led the Rebus safely to the other side saving them the thirty hours that it would have taken them to go around.
Nathan sat on the other bed. The ship had little excess space the quarters also served as the sickbay it was crammed with three dual bunks and one chair bolted to the deck by the pharmacall supplies. The store of medical supplies was at best meager it wasnt a surgery after all and thats what he needed. The young man had been unconscious since boarding. Although the healer was very concerned about him showing no signs of waking he was thankful because there wasnt anything strong enough on board ship to manage the pain if he did. Nathan said a silent prayer.
During the four and half tense hours spent traversing the field the men were quiet, the tension of the situation kept mouths silent and minds to the tasks at hand. Once through Tanner slid down deep in the navs seat he no longer able to block the pain. The resulting resurgence of throbbing pain in his lower right thigh left him weak and a wave of dizziness washed over him as he teetered on the verge of passing out. Vin squeezed his eyes shut trying to breath through the onslaught. Wilmington was the first to notice the rapidly paling man.
Take the helm
Knowing Buck had taken over, Chris moved towards Tanner, who was slowly listing forward his head resting lightly on the instrument panel, easing him carefully back into a sitting position. He studied the pale face for a moment before hauling the man to his feet after several minutes he managed to maneuver Tanner out of the cramped flight deck. By that time Vin was standing on unsteady legs leaning heavily into the captain.
Come on Ill get you over to see Jackson.
Ezra Standish had found a place to rest for a few moments away from the others. He found the secluded hatchway that led to the cargo area. He couldn't tear his thoughts way from what had happened at the mining station. The Skraeling. This was a bad turn and he was stuck aboard this vessel unable to leave. The last time he had crossed paths with the despicable beings things hadnt gone well for him. Standish thought he believed he had escaped their scourge and now in this remote corner of the universe they had surfaced again. Larabee, the captain of this archaic transport, didnt know who the enemy had been. Damn it. He sighed and pushed himself off the bulkhead and headed towards sickbay.
Vin woke not at all sure where he was as he almost bolted from the bed until a steadying hand settled on his chest pushing him back down. Jackson left his hand on Tanners shoulder waiting while the man gathered his bearings. A slightly confused look was the only indicator that injured man didnt remember the trip back to sickbay slung over the captains shoulder. Vin glanced at the young man who lay in the adjacent bed, Dunne looked bad. At some point he had developed a low-grade fever leaving a thin sheen of sweat across his pale skin.
Easy how you feel?
Uh huh, thats why the captain carried your ass in here. You need to rest so stay put.
How is he?
Not good, you sure about the colonies?
Its the only chance we got.
Standish stepped through the hatch and headed in Tanners direction while Nate stepped away to check on Dunne again, it wasnt until he was carefully checking the young man over again that Standish quietly spoke up.
Recognize the interlopers?
Does the good Captain know?
The Trident Colonies were spread over the three moons that orbited the large inhospitable world. The main settlement was on Trident One, it was a rather unimaginative name for a populace teeming with pirates, thieves and other unsavory criminals. A lawless outpost that the reputable space going vessels passed on, the Rebus Prime had set down just outside its main settlement near the maintenance depot where the Rebus could take on fuel. Jackson explained to the men what supplies he needed to help JD. Despite the healers protests Vin planned to go with them. There was little hope in finding a trustworthy physician. Instead they would concentrate on the tools of the trade. Ezra had been the first to slip through the gangway followed closely by Vin, Chris and Josiah. Buck was left behind to guard the ship as well as man the helm in case they needed to haul ass.
The market place was crowded. Standish had disappeared somewhere in the throngs of humans and mutants. Long ago intelligent life was discovered through out the universe it was smart enough to steer clear of this fetid environ. Vin led the captain and the holy man through the bazaar towards some roughly built structures on the other side. Heading straight for the trading post salvaged out of the hull of a burnt out transport, heavy fabric draped across the front served as the entry to the enterprise. There were several hawkers in the area but this was the only one housed in actual building the others had their wares strewn across the rocky ground.
Ezra had intentionally lost the others. The fools had nothing to barter with how did they expect to get anything at all on the backwards the little community. He made his living as a gambler that was until he was sentenced to labor five years at the station for his crimes, some how during his transfer his records had been changed from prisoner to technician. Not the most desirable position but it would have to pass until he served the obligatory standard contract of eighteen months. No one had caught on during the time that he had been there and he could have comfortably stayed out his term. Now in order for him to get out of this region the proper supplies had to be obtained to get the Rebus heading back towards a more civilized populace. Luckily he had a talent and something to barter with.
Mister Moe, the pudgy beady-eyed little man who owned the trading post, watched as the three clean neatly dressed men entered his place. The long hair had a noticeable limp. These men looked liked they just came planet side and might actually has something worth trading for so he sidled over towards them.
Greetings good sirs what might be of interest for you?
A surgical kit...
Ah I may what you need here this what salvaged from an old freighter .
Josiah carefully examined the kit, which seemed to be intact, complete with laser scalpel and sub-dermal medicinal infuser. Then he handed off to Larabee who attempted to negotiate.
Although he did have what they needed Corporation credit held little worth, the proprietor laughed them out of his shop after telling to come back with something more tangible like ship parts, gold or rare minerals, narcotics even alcohol would be accepted in trade for other items, he scoffed their feeble attempt to bargain with him. He had no fear of the men his security was in the form of armed muscle bound guard standing ominously in the corner. One couldnt be successful in such a place unless they were careful.
Standish was having better luck. He had found a floating card game and had parlayed a com set and several antique gold coins into a respectable pile of winnings that included a the slip on a skip, a variety of minerals, a single bottle of spirits and several small armaments. The gambler decided it would be best if he took his leave before things got out of hand and departed the game with his winnings neatly ensconced with a crude heavy linen satchel, much to the chagrin of the other players. Ezra carefully exited the tent and went straight towards Mister Moes Trading Emporium, eyes scanning the horde of being that packed the crude square. He noticed as the men departed from the trading post empty handed. It was time to go to work, he muttered to himself as he stepped through the heavy drapes. The lump of a proprietor walked his way.
Greetings sir may I help you?
Standish wandered through the scattered tables that were laden with ill-gotten booty. Casually turning over the odd item.
I was thinking that I maybe able to help you
Ezra pulled the liquor from his satchel. Such a prize had its worth thought the filthy little man was nervously licking his lips as he eyed the dusty bottle and he reached for it while he spoke.
I think not, what do you have for trade for this?
Ezra stared straight at him as he spoke. Moe made move towards him.
I have many thing that are worthy of such a trade
The round little man hefted up a data board.
Not exactly what I am looking for my dear sir, I am a traveler on a brief stop over that holds little value to me
Ah a traveler I have connections that could get you a long luxurious night with a with a fine lady .
If that were true I would need this
Sir I am taking a long voyage I need to properly outfit myself with supplies
This far off the charts you would need some arms
Indeed I would have the need
Ezra had seen the object he was after the moment he stepped inside the business. He patiently waited as Moe went into to full hawking mode showing him a variety of grenades, small arms and portable shields. They haggled for the better part of an hour before the gambler had walked away with the med kit, a new set of clothing, and a variety of armaments. Moe had the whiskey, the skip and an assortment of minerals. Ezra had to hid the small smile on his face when he left the building he had caught Larabees sulking form in the corner of his eye.
Bellion, the former owner of the skip, had taken offense to losing his prized possession to the smooth talking man and had every intention on getting his prize back. He had been a fool to think the man was just another traveler passing through. He vocal protests had stirred up another player that was in the game with Standish. They were scouring the market place looking for the gambler when they saw the smaller man step out of Mister Moes. It didnt bode well for the imminent return of their properties. What ever he walked out of the trading post with would be theirs soon. Standish had taken a few steps towards Larabee and called out his name.
The trio heard a familiar voice and turned in time to see Ezra get cracked in the head by a pulse rifle. The blow was miscalculated, what was supposed to connect solidly with the base of his skull grazed him behind his left ear as he suddenly jerked to the side and rolled away from his attacker only to be on the receiving end of Antons heavily booted feet. Two forceful kicks to his ribs sent the gambler skittering away. The rifle-wielding companion flew into action diving after the downed man only to collide with the solid form of Sanchez. The holy man picked the disgruntled Bellion tossing him out of the way while Larabee and Tanner dealt with Anton. Vin was kicked hard in his injured leg, the pain that flared causing him to let go of the pissed off mark while a gasping Standish scrambled to his feet with the assistance of Josiah, the two assailants fled. Larabee turned his attention to Tanner helping the smaller man up. He glared at Ezra as he hissed out.
Piss someone off?
The panting gambler said nothing instead he dug out the kit, smiling as he showed it to the captain, who in turn grinned.
Lets get out of here
The men headed back toward the ship, watching along the well-worn path for trouble. Ezra had recovered enough from the rough treatment to walk on his own, Tanner hadnt faired as well the leg wound had reopened, the well placed kick had caused more damage. Chris led the way. On the verge of passing out and unable to bear any weight of the limb as Vin leaned heavily on Sanchez for support. Ezra followed a considerable distance behind them with weapon drawn, moving as quickly along as his own injuries would allow. As he took another quick glance forward to see how Tanner was managing the painful journey shots blasted past him. Why is it the angry ones always have angry friends crossed through his mind as he dove into the dirt for the second time since he landed on this repulsive little satellite. Firing several rounds off, he dashed into the open just as more than a dozen men converged on the pathway. Standish pulled a silver orb from his sack twisted it, the device emitted a high pitched drone that grew in intensity as he threw it towards the approaching mob and ran in the opposite direction. He wasnt fast enough.
From a safe distance Larabee and Sanchez watched on as the strange object the slowly arched through the air emitted a bright flash as the rumbling whine increased in volume followed by a loud almost ear shattering electric discharge then silence. The attacking men crumbled seemingly boneless to the ground along with Standish who had been almost fifty yards away from the impact of the sonic boom. His limp body lay face down in the path. Chris left Josiah behind to tend to Vin. The energy expended during the unexpected attack pushed the former mariner over his pain threshold and into a peaceful oblivion. Larabee jogged across the rocky soil, just as the man was beginning come around. He quickly scanned the surrounding area before he kneeled next to Ezra. A pair of confused green eyes rapidly blinked. Blankly staring up at him as he helped the stunned man sit up.
You all right?
Chris received a slow nod.
Better get back to the ship before these banditos wake up
Standish slowly swiveled around to see the fallen men allowing Chris to pull him up. He stood there for a moment wavering back and forth until the captain put a steadying hand and guided him along the path. Sanchez, had an unconscious Tanner slung across his shoulder, trudged ahead of them.
Buck had been ready when the others had boarded and had the Rebus underway as soon as they closed the hatch. The captain had ordered a fast exit from the maintenance depot to facilitate an even speedier departure from the colonies. As soon as they were able to stay upright, Larabee headed towards the sick bay where Jackson gratefully accepted the surgical supplies. JDs injuries required the dark healers immediate attention so after he recruited Sanchez to help with Dunne he relinquished the care of the others to the captain.
The lean blond wasnt happy as he carefully lay Vin down in the crew quarters. A quick shot of sedative under the jaw would keep the injured man comfortable until Nate could properly tend the wound. Chris had temporarily patched up and bandaged the thigh at least now he wouldnt bleed to death. The source of his irritation had wandered off. One minute the gambler had been following him, the next he slipped away. He didnt have time for this, the ship was still in dangerous territory but he had to locate the confused man was before he did any more harm to himself. The stunt the idiot had pulled could have got him killed. Why didnt he ask for help? A slowly seething Larabee set off to find the missing man.
Shit why couldnt that man stay put the captain was fuming. The lurching of the Rebus didnt make matters any easier as Chris closed in on the confused man. The fool was wearing down but not fast enough to please him so he hauled off and punched the gambler. Stunned from the unexpected blow Standish lay feebly wiping the blood from his nose on the back of his hand as he stared up at the furious Larabee from his vantage point on the deck. The after effects of the trying journey caught with him as the nauseating vertigo combined with exhaustion washed over him in waves leaving him too weak to escape his attacker. He barely heard the captains snarled words as roaring in his ears increased.
Dont ever try anything that stupid again
Chris went to help the dizzy gambler to his feet but the man jerked away. The older man persisted eventually managing to haul Ezra to his feet then he carefully steered him towards the crews quarters. Larabee was forced to subdue the befuddled man himself, Standish refused to stay in one place he had been roving around the ship since they fled the Trident Moons. Chris had left Buck at the helm. Nathan was in the middle of surgery on the boy, the holy man Sanchez was assisting him. Tanner still comfortably dozed in the narcotic haze. The captain after spending near a half chasing Ezra, he finally got the wily man poured into a bunk and he flipping a blanket over him. Cocky bastard. Not many men would be up and about after being knocked flat by a sonic concussion grenade. Chris still hadnt gotten a satisfactory answer from the man about what happened back on Athos let alone what just happened on the Trident colony. As a matter of fact he hadnt got one at all. The implications gnawed at his gut in a way he hadnt felt since his military service during the insurrection.
Destination Huine Part 3
The Rebus had automatic flight control and navigation systems but Larabee felt it necessary that a live being remained at the proverbial wheel for the duration. The mans fears were well founded. They had only just lost their pursuers in the minefields but that didnt mean they were out of danger. The ships heading was now directed towards the quadrants main outpost the floating space station Huine. The ship was maintaining complete communications silence there was no need to advertise their location.
Deep in the bowels of the Rebus Prime Nathan Jackson was finally resting after a long day the dark man sighed he was used to this much space travel. No days just perpetual nights and his body wasnt used to this. He knew the effects of natural light depravation. Although Jackson wasnt on record as a certified doctor he was damn close. The man had spent the last four years tending to the people on the home colony of Parthenon gaining little respect from its populace, when his contract was up he had opted to leave the dank post far behind. No matter how far human beings had progressed or how much time had passed people were still judged and condemned on the basis on color, gender and creed. He thought he had left that far behind back in the space stations some thing never changed. Nate wearily closed eyes trying not to think. He had enough memories to keep at bay with thinking about what happened since the Rebus docked in the mining station. Failing miserably at his attempt to block them. Choosing to use an old folk relaxation technique instead as he settled back farther into the bunk knowing his patient was in good hands for a few hours as he tried to sleep.
Sanchez listened to the quiet breaths that came from the still forms on the bunk. The co-pilot had joined him almost an hour earlier but he was asleep snoring loudly in the next bunk. Since fleeing Athos the man hadnt had much down time and he had been worried about the young man so he came directly to sickbay once Larabee had relieved him at the helm. Wilmington had sat at the boys side until his head bobbing slowly down desperately fighting off the exhaustion that was overtaking him until his head rested on folded arms next to Dunnes blanketed leg. Sanchez had taken a liking to Wilmington when he first met the man despite his unending ardor for the fairer sex. The preacher saw more. Josiahs deep chuckle rumbled through the small area as he remembered Larabee had called Buck a mother hen. For the first time he had found humor in their situation. Sanchez had been on a pilgrimage when fate had stepped in and diverted him from his chosen mission to a more important one. The preacher accepted this.
Tanner was waking. A quick glance around told him he was in the crew quarters and that the blanketed form across from him was Ezra Standish. He knew the damn man knew Vin hadnt had time to think why but Ezra knew about the Skraelings, which meant the man had survived another encounter with the creatures or There was only one way to find out. The former marine rolled painfully out of the bunk carefully lowering his injured limb to the deck and hobbled over to where Ezra slept.
Standish woke wild-eyed and confused nearly bolting as Vin shook his shoulder.
Tanner withdrew his hand waiting patiently as Ezra struggled to control his panted breathing and regain his bearings after a few longs moments appeared outwardly calm before drawling out his companions name with eyes closed while leaning heavily into the bulkhead wall. The waves of vertigo left him feeling unsteady and unsure. Even his vision failed to be singular or focused as blurry images merged and split apart into doubles, so his eyes remained squeezed shut.
Mista Tannah another action like that will get you dispatched to another plane of existence
Tanner looked at him for a moment before he breathed out what had been on his mind. To the untrained eye Standish appeared no more than exhausted. Vin knew the man couldnt possibly be as stable as he projected just wasnt physically possible. Thats how he knew.
Standish visibly tensed for a brief second before giving him a small nod of assention and Vin reached out to reassure him by gently squeezing his arm but Ezra involuntarily flinched away from the touch pushing his body farther into the wall. Despite outward appearances the man was still suffering the vicious effects of the grenade. It was better to leave him be for now Tanner thought as he pushed himself up again and hobbled out of the crews quarters slowly heading towards the flight deck to speak with Larabee.
Chris saw something in his peripheral vision. He hadnt heard anyone enter but without a word the younger longhaired man eased himself down into the co-pilot seat with a non-committal shrug he looked at the three dimensional imaging displaying the star field the were passing through.
Not exactly a smooth run eh Cowboy?
Was once you too?
Yeah huh mind letting me in on what the hell is going on?
Dont rightly know myself
You know something
Tanner looked at him for a brief second and sighed.
Thats folk lore
No real as you and I
They were wiped out over a five hundred years ago
As the lore says aint so though. Most were killed the rest went into hiding in the outer quadrants suppose they got their numbers up now ready for another go
You know this how?
Was skipping all over the outer rim for a while before I ended up at the station.
Larabee took his word. This was bad Skraeling were a mutation of clones designed specifically for war as hunter killers if it was a resurgence of their population that led the attack against the station Damn.
What about Standish?
What about him?
Whats his story?
Youll have to talk to him well ya might want to wait til the man can hold a thought.
The man in question was teetering through the ships passageways. Cursing as he banged into a header as he made his way towards the mess in search of coffee. No matter how far advanced civilization had gotten, the brew remained a constant aboard ships traveling through deep space. Thankful the galley was empty, Ezra shuffled in and after a few moments he had a steaming cup of coffee. He wearily sat down and slowly rotated the heated mug on the tabletop waiting for the contents to cool. He had mammoth sized headache and no small wonder as to why. Sonic grenades were intended to cause neural agony if you were too close when they went off. Well there was that and didnt help when Larabee saw fit to pummel his aching head. The pain refused to dull as he sat there in a daze long past the cooling of the bitter drink. Gawd Mother why did you put me into this hell Standish sat in the crews mess with eyes closed as his brains electrical impulses went haywire and wreaked havoc on his senses.
Thats where Larabee found him after being relieved from the ships controls by Wilmington. After having accompanied Tanner to sickbay, the mans leg needed tending, Chris had gone to the galley to obtain a meal before bedding down. Ezra sat behind one of the two tables that comprised the mess. The man that hadnt seen him come in was leaning heavily into one the galleys seatbacks feebly propped up by a fisted hand. The captain decided to forgo his meal and approached the ailing man. It was time to see Jackson.
A startled Standish sent the mug flying as he scrambled away from Larabee, but the man was quick and had a firm grip on him before he tumbled off the bench. Ezra began to fight the hold until Chris harshly whispered in his ear. Knock it off Blinking rapidly he vaguely realized where he was and allowed himself to be hauled to unsteady legs before unleashing a kick aimed at the captains groin. Luckily Chris reflexes were better than Ezras and he easily deflected the blow before slamming a fist into the side of the bewildered mans head effectively stunning him. Larabee left loose a string of obscenities as he hefted Standishs arm over his shoulder.
Nathan Ive got another one for ya
Chris entered the sickbay with Ezra. The trip from the galley had taken what strength the smaller man had left and he would have been on the deck if not for the captains support. Larabee noticed Tanner sitting next to JD Dunne, who was now awake and watching as the unsteady pair entered. Chris helped Nate roll the rapidly sagging Standish into an empty bunk
I tol ya his brains were scrambled
The dark medic held Ezras lolling head in place with a firm hand as he spoke softly to the man as he pried open one lax eyelid then the other revealing dilated pupils.
Chris sat on the other side of the bed holding Standish still as Jackson continued his examination.
No, might as well be the effect is the same maybe even worse. I dont see how he can be up and moving around. Tanner is right his brains are scrambled, he needs to rest, it is the only remedy. Thats why its a powerful weapon if it doesnt kill. Just decreases man power in a battle, it takes out more than the victim out of the fight and but those administering to the fallen as well.
The captain nodded as he gazed down at the man as he weakly struggled against his hold while Jackson sedated Ezra, a quick inject under the chin and Standish went limp on the bed.
Tanner might as well claim a bunk for yourself
Vin was about to protest when he saw that Nathan still held sub-dermal injector and dutifully slid off Dunnes bed and into one of his own. A small laugh emerged from JD as the captain sat in the spot previously occupied by the former marine navigator. The young man was still quite pale but the large expressive brown eyes exuded an exuberant vitality a spark his weak body failed to show. Larabee managed a tight smile as spoke.
Youre looking better than the last time I saw you
A frown dimmed that spark as Dunne whispered seriously.
I know you rest were headed to Huine
The dark sorrowful eyes momentarily stared at Larabee before giving into the sleep that beckoned him.
We should be in Huines orbit within three if anything changes Ill be at he helm.
Jackson nodded without looking up while Chris left sickbay.
The holy man who had stood quietly by the entry strode in and took up a position by Standish while Tanner reluctantly bedded down and watched as Nate checked on JD again before closing his eyes feigning sleep.
Buck swiveled around when Chris slipped behind the controls.
He sighed, Wilmington was a tough man but he had a soft spot for women and children. Dunne fell into the latter group by default. The young man probably was no more than twenty but that hadnt stopped Buck from worrying about him since he arrived on ship.
Tanner and Standish?
Idiots were up and about earlier. Managed to get Jackson to look them both over and they are in sick bay resting. Hows the flight path are we going to be able to rendezvous with the Huines trajectory?
As soon as we get within a safe range well establish communications.
Almost if on cue the Huine came into view three hours later. The orbiting station was huge almost two miles wide with ten active decks, a small city amongst the stars. Housing a highly regulated populace run under the auspices of the Teledyne Corporation. The initial contact was made and clearance was given as Larabee guided the old ship in for approach, as Wilmington called for final clearance to land and for med-techs ready and waiting for the arrival of the Rebus Prime she was bringing in three injured men.
Huine - Part 4
Three cycles had passed since the seven men arrived on the orbiting station of Huine. A slightly pale man sat al fresco amidst the din of traders row, grimacing as his sipped at a rapidly cooling cup of synthetic coffee watching the throngs dicker with the merchants. Bargaining and trading for the bits that made deep space travel bearable. Coffee, assorted scents and exotic foods none of it fresh instead it was either highly preserved or freeze dried. Most anything could be found with in the row even a warm companion for the right price, the only line drawn the sale of weapons was strictly forbidden. For the first time since his arrival, Ezra Standish, deemed himself fit, although the Huines med techs disagreed with his conclusion that didnt stop him from securing a release from the infirmary. The Teledyne Corporation had offered the Athos survivors further employment and or passage to a region of their choice. Standish knew the offer wasnt made out of generosity but rather the need to hush up the incident on Athos. With scant resources he managed to procure suitable clothing and footwear, although he had spent many years, as a gambler now wasnt the time to advertise his profession, there was time enough for that later. He would be leaving on the next transport headed to the outer rim until then he would have to keep a low profile. Ezra yearned to stretch and instead he twisted slightly in his seat trying to find a more comfortable position as he sat there sipping at the bitter brew trying not to think about the six men that had recently entrenched themselves in his life.
Larabee was pissed as he stormed out of the councils chambers almost plowing into Tanner. Neither man spoke as they fell in step walking down the tight corridors towards their temporary quarters. The captain of the Rebus was seething. He despised falling under the councils rule. As the stations governing body all the decisions made aboard followed stringent Teledyne policy. The whole situation was infuriating an alarm should have been sent out alerting all neighboring colonies and outposts to potential attacks from the Skraeling. Huines council acting under the leadership of Chief Executive Officer McNeil refused to sway and despite Captain Larabees best efforts he had been unable to send a message of his own. The Rebus just didnt have the transmission power and Chris had been denied access to the space stations communications room. Brute force and bribery had failed. Their most recent attempt to send off a communiqué ended with his co-pilot Buck Wilmington landing in the brig and there he would remain until their ship could be escorted from the region by the next transport.
Several decks down in a brightly lit cell Buck lay back against the wall. After being thrown inside Wilmington was left to he own devices and he was passing the time by repetitively singing an old earth tune very loudly and slightly off key.
What will we do with the drunken sailor?
What will we do with the drunken sailor?
What will we do with the drunken sailor?
Earlye in the morning?
Way, hay up she rises,
Way, hay, up she rises,
Way, hay, up she rises,
Earlye in the morning!
Put him in the scuppers with the hose pipe on him
Put him in the scuppers with the hose pipe on him
Put him in the scuppers with the hose pipe on him
Earlye in the morning!
Way, hay up she rises,
Way, hay, up she rises,
Way, hay, up she rises,
Earlye in the morning!
Hoist him aboard with a running bowline
Hoist him aboard with a running bowline
Hoist him aboard with a running bowline
Earlye in the morning!
Way, hay up she rises,
Way, hay, up she rises,
Way, hay, up she rises,
Earlye in the morning!
Put him in the brig until he's sober.
Put him in the brig until he's sober.
Put him in the brig until he's sober.
Earlye in the morning!
Wilmington shut up and you can join the rest of your crew
Finally a response, Buck thought, as one of his jailers screamed through the door at him. He had been singing the old sea shanty for nearly an hour. The words silenced the big mustached man after a moment the cell door slid open revealing one of the guards who motioned to him to step forward and out.
A lingering ache in his gut was all that remained of his injury Dunne had been successfully mended by the medical team, not even a scar to show. The dull pain that plagued the young man would disappear with time along with the fatigue that easily over took him. Amazing what good medicine and technology could do considering its evil spawned the Skraeling. The name let alone the creatures had been foreign to him until he woke up in the infirmary had heard Captain Larabee ranting about them. Eventually Jackson had explained their existence only hours earlier shortly after his release into the healers care. Genetic abomination was the term Nathan had used. Barely surviving the slaughter on Athos, JD thought monsters was a better description. A truth that left Dunne perplexed by the offer from the Teledyne Corporation, he opted instead to take Larabees offer along with Tanner to remain aboard the Rebus. Although not officially in the employ of the Corp. since he hadnt started his term Nate had been given a choice as well which he immediately declined. From what JD understood Standish had taken the offer. The dark haired youth wasnt sure what to make of that choice having only vague hazy recollections of the man to go by.
The quarters were cramped barely enough room for an average size man to walk between the berths there were two on each side. The lack of space was almost claustrophobic as Jackson sat on the bunk across from Dunne watching on as the younger man rested. The councils response was distressing saying there would be no action taken until a full investigation could be launched no warnings would go out. Here they were aboard this massive space station their impending departure was a short time away the holy man Sanchez had gone off to pay off Wilmingtons fine and the captain was making one final appeal to the council. Nate didnt feel relieved or particularly safe since arriving.
JD, are you awake?
He hated to wake the youth but they had get ready to go.
Time to go?
The med tech watched on as Dunne struggled to swing his legs off and sit up, waiting to see if the recovering man needed his assistance. Fortunately he did not. Jackson was thankful as he followed a shaky JD out of the rented room down the tight corridors and towards the docking bays.
By the time Dunne had shuffled into the Main Terminal a fine sheen of perspiration had broke out across his face. Ezra Standish had just stepped out of the corridor behind them when warning sirens sounded off. The accompanying message propelled the dazed passengers into action. INTRUDER ALERT INTRUDER ALERT INTRUDER ALERT INTRUDER ALERT The alarm blared through the station in loud short tonal bursts that sent the panicked crowd scrambling for cover. JD felt the tight grip on his arm as he watched Nate Jackson get lost in the crush of bodies moving towards the exits. Dunne turned to see who held onto him, it was Standish. The man was pulling him away, protecting him from the sudden stampede of human bodies by hauling him into a small vid-com alcove sliding the door shut. A stray pulse rifle blast shattered the glass partition a second later as the Docking Bays security teams under a hail of shots was forced back into the Main Terminal. While a wide-eyed Dunne watching on one guard was sent flying after a pulse slammed into his chest. He didnt resist when Standish pushed him out of the small niche towards a nearby exit.
An explosion shook the massive station nearly knocking Captain Larabee on his ass. Vin had somehow slid out of the way of his lurching companion. The sirens abruptly stopped, a brief silence was followed another explosion. The station began to slowly list to one side. Larabee glanced briefly at Tanner and without a word the pair began running towards the docking station that was one level down.
Having troubles of his own Nate Jackson did his best to remain upright as the frantic mob pushed him against one of the main terminals wall the sounds of pulse rifle fire increased the frenzied mass to escape. People were screaming around him, some even wailing as they tried to squeeze through the exit to escape into the corridors and further inside the station. Another surge of the tight packed bodies crushed Nate stealing his breath away and just as suddenly he was falling backward as the hard surface behind him slid away. Gasping for air as some of the bodies tumbled inside with him as the maintenance room dimmed from his view. After lying on the floor for a moment Jackson regained his bearings and stared out open portal into the empty passageway. Listening intently as he tried to gage what his options were. A quick glance upward gave him an idea and he stood up on shaky legs with a plan.
On the detention level the station lurched under the feet of Buck Wilmington, a strong hand kept him from being trod on by a security team dressed in full riot gear running by them.
Aw this aint a good sign
Nope where to?
Sanchez nodded a tight smile played at his lips Wilmington was right. The explosions that shook the station did not bode well for any of them. That thought was in his mind as jogged towards one of the many lifts Buck was close behind as he got inside and the door slid shut the co-pilot. After a sensation of quick upward movement the door opened revealing a scene of absolute pandemonium. The security team that had passed them earlier was engaged in an all out firefight with Skraeling. A stray pulse rifle blast ricocheted into the lift compartment forcing the unarmed Sanchez and Wilmington out into the passageway dodging shots outgunned and outnumber by the attackers they were forced to flee.
The sound of rapid footsteps had Vin crouched behind a corner with Chris waiting across the corridor. As the bodies sprinted past Larabee lunged out and caught one, the other skittered by Tanner connecting long enough with the former marine to send him colliding headlong into a wall where he slumped to the floor dazed. For his own efforts the captain got jabbed in the gut by a flying elbow in the fraction of a second it took to realize just whom he was holding on to. Dunnes slight form struggled against his hold.
JD, stop it .
None other Chris patted the kid on the back looking up in time to see Standish giving Vin a hand up.
My apologies Mr. Tanner
Where were you two headed?
Since we have been temporarily divested of our weapons . The armory.
Wheres Jackson? I thought he was with you JD?
Last seen amidst the melee caused by the boarding of Skraeling .
Shall we? Ezra made a sweeping gesture towards the far end of the passage. Chris pushed an exhausted JD to his feet, once up Vin steadied the younger man before the three followed Standish down the winding maze of corridors towards the Huines store of weapons.
Amazing what a body could accomplish when properly motivated, Nathan some how managed to maneuver his large tall frame with great speed inside an air duct narrowly eluding being caught off guard by the intruders. The question was what to do next? He tried to relax. Mentally willing the tension from his limbs now wasnt the time to get stuck. After a few minutes he found that he could pull himself along on his belly with his arms. The continuous sound of pulse rifle fire echoed through the tight conduit as he inched along searching for another exit, thankful for one small thing. He had last seen Dunne escaping the terminal with Standish. That small comfort kept him going through the tight space. A half had past quickly and Nate was soaked with sweat having only traversed mere meters inside the shaft ruing the fact he was not designed for crawling through such a confined place when it suddenly got quiet. While wondering what was happening below him a ray of light flickered in front of him.
He slowly moved forward to check, a cool draft of air teased him and he could hear whispering voices. A loud crack resonated through the duct the section he was in dropped down slightly before it gave away completely crashing into the deck.
Hey Nate nice of ya to drop in .
The harsh whisper filled his ears.
A pleasant yet artificial tone requested.
Please place palm on scanner Ezra Standish obliged. Thank you. The computer replied as it released the lock giving access to the areas beyond the security checkpoint. The four men slipped quietly through the newly opened door. This process was repeated two more times before they reached the armory. Ezra was staring at the security access to its door. Larabee noticed his problem.
What? Vin had been hauling the kid into the room and failed to see what had gone wrong.
An optical scanner Mr. Tanner...
Shit His response was the same as the captains. The weary Dunne perked up teetering over to the terminal.
I could help
How is that?
Ive gotten inside a stations main frame before
The dark haired youth had to use the wall to support him as he made his way to the scanner.
In that case Mr. Dunne I have an idea
A wide grin revealed Standishs gold tooth.
You two better be quick
Larabee shot them a look before he and Tanner took up a post by the main entrance.
The section of the duct happened to break away from its anchors as Sanchez and Wilmington ran underneath. Buck turned around when he heard a loud crack in time to see the free falling Jackson drop with a painful thud onto the deck. Josiah lurch a few steps back grabbing handful of Nathans jacket hauling the dazed man unceremoniously along with them. Stepping over dead bodies as they tried to evade the Skraeling squad only moments behind them the men slipped inside a store room and locked the access door behind them.
Larabee shouted across the room.
Are we in Mr. Dunne?
Ezra had a hand resting on Dunnes back there to occasionally steady the younger man as he worked feverishly to hack into the terminal.
Were in but it wont help if none of us are in the database. JD replied without turning around as the security access station droned out its request. Please ready for optical scan.
Standish rested his chin on the reader. Thank you. A red line of light slowly tracked over his face. Scan completed . access has been granted Mr. Sims .
The locking mechanism clunked and the creaked open. Dunne entered first grabbing a pulse rifle off the rack.
Gentleman? Ezra called over to Chris and Vin, who after listening at the door for an extended moment jogged over to join him as he pulled an assortment of weapons from the storage units.
A series of explosions rocked the station, lights flickered as the main generators fluctuated. The Huines mainframe emergency program finally kicked in automatically and systematically shutting off access to the intruders by closing off the core levels. As a long over due distress beacon was sent out heavy barriers rolled out and blocked corridors. All lifts were shut down all exits were effectively locked down trapping all aboard where they were. Tanner was jogging down at a steady pace one of the tight passageways with a pulse rifle in hand and a grenade launcher strapped to his back when one of the barricades slid into place narrowly missing the man. Vins free hand flailed for a hold as he tumbled back into in an equally armed Chris trying to avoid getting crushed. Ezra because he was trailing a fair distance behind them busy pushing along JD, was the last to notice the hold up almost toppling the young man over the captain.
What the hell is this?
Larabee angrily spat out the words kicking out at the unexpected obstacle several times, growling as Standish pushed past him to pop open a well-hidden control panel. The trio watched on with growing interest as Standish quickly punched a numbered sequence into a keypad. Several electronic beeps indicated the code had been accepted. That was quickly followed by a low mechanical groan as the barrier began to make its slow retreat upwards.
The stations mainframe emergency system has been activated.
Vin gave Ezra a questioning look as he ducked through opening but it was Chris who asked. I take it you worked security here .
Several life times ago The softly drawled answer was accompanied with a shrug as he waved them forward. As soon as Dunne passed under the barrier Ezra resealed the passage and joined the others on the trek to the upper decks. Carefully pressing on unaware that Wilmington, Sanchez and Jackson were having troubles of their own just outside the docking bay.
The storage area door exploded into bits that sawed through everything in their path. A lone Skraeling stepped through the smoldering ruin. Effectively cut off from the rest of the invading force it scanned the stores searching for its prey. The mission was simple, destroy all those that resisted and capture the rest. With this single mindedness it set about its task. Buck was tightly pressed against the wall behind neatly stacked supplies watching. Tensely watching the creature, a being straight out of past, bipedal with bland facial features that lacked any type of unique humanoid like definition. The monsters of legends created by mankind for the sole purpose of fighting wars stood within inches of Wilmington. Afraid to breathe let alone move a muscle as it stepped past him Buck stayed motionless as it stopped and turned their eyes locked. The Skraeling didnt get the fraction of a second needed to register this information before chaos erupted in the small storeroom. A crushing blow that connected with the base of its skull. The blow from the metal rail swung by Sanchez only served to enrage the creature and it turned lunging after the holy man. An angry roar filled the confined space as the Skraelings baser instincts took over its discarded weapons skittered across the grated floor. Sanchezs feet had left the floor held aloft by a strangle hold. While franticly pawing at his neck to free himself of that savage grip his vision began to rapidly dim. A loud blast filled his ears just before being swept into a black void.
Together Buck and Nathan pealed the heavy body of the dead Skraeling off of a bloody Josiah, after a cursory examine Nate believed the only harm that had been done to the unconscious man was the injury inflicted to the mans neck. A thick band of extensive bruising was beginning to show as a painful groan escaped from Josiah. A meaty hand reached toward the damage only to be swatted away by Jackson. A ragged breath wheezed inward as Sanchez tried to speak but all he managed was a long bout of strangled coughs that left him on the verge of passing out again.
Relax and dont try to talk again.
Nate Jackson was crouched down at Sanchezs side. Watching as Josiahs bloody head swiveled to one side and his glassy eyes searched the room.
The confused gaze shifted over to Wilmington as the co-pilot stepped out of the way allowing the disorientated man to see the body for himself. Reality sank in and Josiah closed his eyes. No one said a word as Buck took all the weapons off the Skraeling handing off a couple sonic grenades and pistol to Nathan. Stood staring the pilfered com-set for a moment before speaking.
I know we cant stay here just give him a few minutes
Jackson gestured towards Sanchez.
Alright . Five minutes.
Buck turn he attention back to the device as he turned it over in his hand one more time before clipping it to his belt.
The others progress through the maze of corridors had come to a halt at one of the barriers. Despite Standishs best efforts to manipulate the controls to the security blockade it refused to yield. The grueling pace was taking a heavy toll on the recovering youth. A pale and haggard looking JD had slumped down against a wall seconds after they had stepped inside quickly slipping in an exhausted stupor. He sat propped against the bulkhead dully staring at the three men across from him, unable to completely follow the tense conversation. Ezra was calmly explaining to his companions that the code itself had been accepted the mechanism was just stuck and would have to be manually reset. The problem was the release was on the other side. Larabee didnt appear at all pleased but held his tongue allowing the man some space to figure out what to do next. Vin stepped back as well but his head tipped back as he gazed at what lie overhead before he shouldered the rifle and took aim.
Standish had been mentally assessing the predicament when the nearby blast of a pulse weapon startled him. Tanner who had also been surveying the situation had blow a hole in the overhead conduit. An astonished Standish took the weapons Vin handed off and stood there speechless as the man got a leg up from Larabee and climbed through the smoldering opening. Shortly after the lean man had disappeared from sight the barrier slid upward revealing a smiling Tanner. Ezra shook his head and said. It seems that I am not the only one familiar with this stations security protocol. The statement only served to further widen the grin.
Been around a bit myself.
The remark received a raised eyebrow from Ezra as he handed Vin back the rifle and grenades but whatever opinion he had remained unspoken. The pair patiently waited as Larabee hauled a shaky Dunne to his feet, a steadying hand remained under the young mans elbow he would not be allowed to fall behind.
Salvage Cruiser 10028-6 sub class 9b was on a routine course when it's tele-com operator Ensign Granash came across a faint distress signal. At first he had thought was an echo caused by the solar wind but when he realized it was a coded distress signal the young ensign called in his supervisor who in turn relayed the message to the military armada.
Commander Orrin Travis received a decoded version of the transmission with in ten minutes of its original reception. Quadrant 89045-6 Main Station was under siege and had sent an emergency distress signal. Despite the fleet officers protests he broke his battle cruiser away from its course and had his men plot out a new one headed towards the Huine. The massive war ship was prepared for the confluence of time and space. Travis just hoped theyd be in time.
The decks continued shake as the Skraeling blew open passages as forced their way inward. Unlike the assault on Athos the process here was slow and they were compelled to divide their invading army into small units trying to ensure that any resistance was efficiently and effectively quashed. Unfortunately for them years of security drills had paid off for the Huines crew and most of its inhabitants. After the initial attack the humans had fled towards the core of the station and now were save a few unlucky souls safely behind a multitude of blockades.
One of those the explosions sent an over burdened Wilmington crashing to the floor drug down to his knees by Sanchezs weight that seemingly increased with each step they took. Buck released his hold allowing Josiah to remain seated on the deck. Jackson took the opportunity to examine the older man while the co-pilot scouted on ahead. The three men were in one of the sections where the security barriers had failed. Not all of them just enough to make it feel giant maze. Because for every barrier they passed through there were two that were closed it had caused them to turn round a half dozen times and left them wondering where exactly they were.
The angry word slipped from Wilmingtons as he was faced with another tightly sealed barrier but he was scrambling backward with the pulse rifle shouldered as that barricade began to move. As it rolled away, Buck was suddenly staring down the sights of three heavily armed men, relief flooded through him as he recognized them. Larabee and Tanner lowered their weapons simultaneously. Standish stood up revealing a haggard looking Dunne. The mustached man broke into a wide grin as he lowered the bulky pulse rifle.
Hell Chris bout took ten years off my life The tight feeling in ladies mans chest loosened a little, his old friend was still alive and so were his new ones. He had been afraid for them.
Seen the others?
Sanchez and Jackson are down the corridor Wilmington nodded in the direction he had just come from.
Yeah for the most part Josiah is a bit rough round the edges though we tangled one of those monsters so whats the plan?
To get into the core levels of the station
How the hell did ya get through the barriers?
Chris gave his long time friend a look and Buck decided not to press for an answer instead he helped Ezra get JD to his feet.
Hey Kid Ez
The weary youth just smiled he didnt have any energy to spare so he concentrated on moving forward. Ezra just gave Buck a look of disdain, the man was far too familiar for his liking, but kept this opinion to himself. Instead he held fast to Dunne as they walked down the passageway following Vin and Chris as they led the way. Around the next turn were Nate and Josiah, the fact he was smiling seemed a little odd considering his face was caked in blood. The older man even waved at them. They caught the tail end of what Jackson was saying. not a word. Those words were followed by an unsettling sensation of flying as an ear shattering roar flashed through the area.
Jackson was thrown by the violent concussion as the blockade behind him disintegrated without fully knowing why he was suddenly airborne. Confused as to why Sanchez suddenly tumbled past him, the bewildered Nathan thoughts were cut short as he connected with a wall, crashing to the deck. The last thing he was the Skraeling advancing before he slid into oblivion.
Pulses shot wildly over Tanners head while he rolled with the force of the blast. Vin was the first to return fire and didnt have to look to know that Larabee was right behind him with a supporting barrage of rounds covering Wilmington as he dragged the others into the safety of the other corridor. Their backward retreat was painstakingly slow, thankfully Sanchez was more on less moving under his own steam because Buck was having trouble negotiating across the deck with Nathan slung over his shoulder. Dunne had an unexpected surge of adrenaline was quickly shuffling after Standish.
Ezra skidded to a halt by the heavy metal barrier popping the access frantically entering the code as the others closed in with the Skraeling hot on the tails. The Blockade rolled open and he sprinted off to the next leaving Dunne to man that entry. Vin and Chris raced through just as JD activated the locking mechanism. Pulse blasts shook the barrier wall Chris turned to see that Ezra had opened the next one. Lurching down the corridor after him was Buck who was still carrying Nathan as he passed through the portal right behind Standish followed by a weaving Sanchez. Larabee sped down the hall with JD in tow. Vin with an eye on the barrier that was dangerously close to collapsing as the last to cross the threshold where he had fully expected Ezra to close it off. Instead the man smiled revealing the sonic grenade he held in his hand and pulled the pin just as the other barrier gave. Taking his cue Tanner followed suit and the pair lobbed the charges into the horde of approaching Skraeling. Perfectly timed the grenades skittered under the barrier just as it closed.
The Battle Cruiser Cartesian rapidly approached the deep space station Huine. Communications from the stations command center relayed that one of the regular transports had been taken over by a group of hostiles their exact numbers unknown. A dozen security teams and countless civilians were feared killed during the initial assault. The main security sequence had been activated it had only slowed down the invaders. Somehow they managed to breech the defense systems and pockets of fighting raged on in the bowels of massive station as the security forces encountered the raiders. Commander Travis sent his troops aboard.
The shock wave violently rattled the wall. All was quiet save the occasionally electrical crackle and hiss of wires shorting.
Nathan began to stir and he lay there staring up at the conduit running overhead not at all sure where he was or how he got there. He was still where Buck unceremoniously dumped him on the deck. Dunne sat off his left. The young mans hand rested on Nates chest and he smiled when he realized Jackson was awake. Chris and Vin were standing next to the barrier listening. Josiah hugging the wall teetered forward intent on doing the same. Buck hovered over the kid fully expecting the creatures to come rushing in. An almost inaudible beeping noise started and increased in volume, after a few seconds Wilmington realized it was coming from the com-set he had clipped onto his belt and he put to his ear and listened before he broke out laughing.
What? Chris words cut through Bucks laughter.
The Marines have landed
Youve got to be kidding
Jackson gave Wilmington and incredulous look. All Tanner could do was smirk when after the co-pilot listened to the set for a moment before answering.
Nope that was an all frequencies call out to drop their arms.
I hardly think that the Skraeling will take up such an offer. The sarcastic outburst had come from Standish. Well gentleman now what?
We find out whats happening behind door number one. Vin drawled as he tapped the barrier.
A half dozen Skraeling were sprawled across the floor, unable to move their neurological systems were scrambled. With Chris and Vin taking the lead, the men stepped over the unresponsive creatures.
What are we going to do about them? Nathan asked as he leaned heavily into the wall trying to stay up right while Ezra and Buck quickly disarmed them tossing the weapons in the section they would be entering while Josiah and JD continued walking.
Nothing well leave them here Buck responded before grabbing Nates elbow and pulled him along as Standish stayed behind and secured the barriers sealing the Skraeling within the corridor. They continued a more or less direct route towards the command center.
Almost an hour had passed since the encounter with the Skraeling when an announcement came over the public address system. The seven men shuffled through the maze of corridors. Sanchez and Jackson were now moved under their own steam, even the kid managed to keep pace with the healthy members of their party. The three injured men were still under the watchful eyes of their companions. Standish had released another barrier when a siren blast disrupted the silence.
ATTENTION .ATTENTION ALL PERSONNEL ATTENTION .ATTENTION ALL PERSONNEL BE ADVISED THE INVADERS HAVE BEEN CONTAINED PLEASE REMAIN CALM ANOUNCEMENTS WITH INSTRUCTIONS WILL FOLLOW THAT IS ALL
The contents of the message almost seemed surreal, for the first time that the men actually had a moment to reflect as they stopped stock still and listened to the almost painfully loud broadcast.
Think its a trick?
Larabee was speaking to Standish, who after few quiet seconds answered.
Could be subterfuge I suggest that we maintain our heading.
The five others nodded and began slowly walking again.
The troops had taken back a majority of the station in less than two hours, the concern now was had all the intruders been captured or destroyed? There was no way to be certain except to send in assault teams to open the myriad of corridors one by one. The lack of options didnt particularly amuse Travis as he went over the station architecture with his officers. The implications of this blatant attack shook the career military man to the core. Initial reports indicated that the marauders were Skraeling, whom by popular belief were thought to have been dead for centuries. Orrin knew this wasnt true. The last recorded attack was over sixty years earlier. Incredibly that attack had been on this very station, Travis, who had been born on the Huine, was only a boy at the time and he could remember that time like it was yesterday. Thankfully Chief Security Officer Sims had installed an elaborate defense system and the attackers were easily repelled.
That same system had for the most part protected the Huine from this attack. The early reports he received indicated that explosives had done extensive damage to the station and prevented the defense system from completely going online. The brief communiqués he had with the command center relayed that this hadnt been the first attack in the region. A mining station on Athos had been over-run. Several men had escaped the onslaught and had fled across the sector to the Huine. The fact that it hadnt been reported earlier angered the commander but there was little he could do until he talked to the stations council and hopefully even the survivors.
Lieutenant Piper was still unnerved by his ordeal. The last thing he had expected as he stepped through one of the security barriers was to be staring down the wrong end of a pulse rifle. The station had been given the all clear and he and his men had been given the arduous task of recovering the dead. He had not expected to find anyone alive in the extensively damaged aft decks yet he had. Seven men in all, they were heavily armed with pulse rifles and sonic grenades. A few even brandished Skraeling weaponry. The young Lieutenant was thankful he was on their side and tried not to think what may have happened if he was not. He didnt have time for such frivolities because now he was escorting the battered men to see Commander Travis. Not once did he ask these men to hand over the weapons. No that he decided was a task for the commander.
Laughter filled the corridor as the men approached the sickbay. Buck Wilmington was regaling his companions with a song about a man from Bel Air. Tired as he was JD Dunne couldnt help but giggle. The impromptu rendition brought forth chuckles from all including Piper. One by one the men stepped through the door giving the Battle Cruiser Cartesians commander a good look at the crew of the UGCS Rebus Prime and the survivors from Athos. The sight of the last man entering the sickbay shocked him. The mans green eyes locked with his own then quickly looked away. Travis held onto his composuer watching as the seven men settled into the room. With the Huines own med staff stretched to the limits the Cartesians med crew was brought aboard. The almost defunct sickbay was one of few that hadnt been besieged by the injured. A select few had been sent along with their commander and were now scurrying around the antiquated infirmary treating the various wounds and ailments.
Travis waited, observing the seven survivors from a quiet corner. Carefully taking stock of each man, but one in particular had caught his attention. The pale man with the green eyes looked exactly like Huines old Security Chief Sims. That wasnt possible because it seemed the man hadnt aged a day since then. But then one of the read outs had confirmed that Sims had indeed activated an optical scan on the lower levels. His thoughts were interrupted when the lean blond captain shrugged off the prying hands and approached him.
Commander Travis .
Captain Larabee the fleet has already been alerted to these attacks and are headed for this sector as we speak. Because of what has happened I wanted to debrief you and your crew personally.
Chief Executive McNeil was killed, I havent spoken with the council but the complete disregard for the safety of their personnel and failure to report this doesnt bode well with me.
Larabee gave the commander a brief run down of what happened from the time the Rebus intercepted the distress signal from Athos up to entering the sickbay.
Perched upon a bunk Ezra Standish ignored the med techs questions riveted instead by the two men speaking in the corner. Unable to hear the quiet conversation from where he sat he was left to wonder why the commanders name seemed familiar when an old almost forgotten memory surfaced.
An agitated voice questioned him as he walked along with Chief Executive Will Durant through the Huines permanent party housing section. The man was questioning his design for the stations security.
Sims are you sure these extensive precautions are necessary?
Mr. Durant, the size and location of the Huine make it a tempting target for marauders and extremists. Such plans are in the best interests of the corporation .
The Chief Security Officer was in the midst of pitching his plans as he rounded a corner only to be knocked flat by a six year-old brown haired child that flew down the corridor. The boy pealed off the dazed man and immediately began stammering apologies.
Oh No Sorry Mister Im so sorry The boy gushed out as he along with Durant helped the fallen man to his feet.
Its quite alright young man Ezra tried to sooth the shaken lad when a loud masculine voice bellowed out.
Orrin Travis, get your tail back here!
Thats my Pop Im real sorry Mister
The boy skittered back in the direction he came from.
With an emotionless mask firmly in place Ezras mind reeled at the implications, he was in danger of being discovered. Years of taking great care and precautions could all be ruined by a chance encounter with a face from the past. There was little else he could do at the moment without tipping his hand but wait and see how the cards played out. Standish realized he was being watched and after a moment he stole a glance to see just who it was.
Tanner raised an eyebrow as if to ask someone you know?
The med tech examining Ezra tried to flash a light into his eyes, he pushed the prying hands away and slid off the bed deciding to approach the situation head on.
Travis was the first to notice as Standish made his way across the room. Ignoring the groans coming from behind as young JD told a bad joke, which eventually led to rolling laughter as the giddiness spread from man to man.
Captain Larabee may I have a private word with Mr.?
May I have a private word with Mr. Standish?
Chris complied with the odd request and strode away.
So its Standish now?
An Ezekiel Sims gained access to the armory via an optical scan, not unusual except that Sims was the Huines Chief Security Officer over six decades ago back when I was a boy Travis stared into green eyes as fear flickered through them. This station would have been overrun by Skraeling back then if it hadnt been for the security system my family wouldve been destroyed The records of those scans have been expunged from the system Im not going to ask how or why you are here now. I only ask for your help.
Stunned by the unexpected reprieve Ezra nodded his response.
Good Orrin Travis smiled and directed his attention to the other men in the sickbay. Gentlemen if I could please have your attention . Thank you. The loud bantering that had been going on since their arrival had ceased. These are desperate times and desperate times call for desperate measures We are have been attacked by an old enemy long thought dead. Ive received initial reports from the fleet that these werent isolated incidents. Thirty simultaneous ambushes occurred across this sector alone. This wont be the last assault and Im asking for your help.
The hush that had fallen didnt lift as each man considered his future. The decision was made as Chris spoke up.
What ever is necessary
As the Cartesians commander scanned the group each man nodded his agreement. After a quick glance in Vins direction Ezra gave his own assention, as he stood there unable to speak not knowing what the future would hold for him in the midst of these men.