Chikar quickly cut through the blast door that separated himself and Jules from the captain and Amy with an advanced Plasma cutter. It was an indispensable tool for their line of work, and today it was earning its keep again.
"At least you got the suit-to-suit comm working through the UV transponders..." Remarked Chikar, as he pressed a control on the tool.
"Just stay within the same local area - the effectiveness is almost line-of-sight." Jules cautioned.
The reptilian humanoid knocked the patchwork center of the door out with a kick after the welder had sliced an outline about it, and it hit the deck on the other side of the doorway with a sharp report that could be felt as much as heard. They stepped carefully through the still-hot edges of the hole, and saw the Captain and Amy heading towards them.
Jules spotted a distinct look of concern through Marcus Careys transparent helmet. The captain's lips were moving, but Jules heard no sound.
Jules reached for the multicomp at his belt and typed out a message.
The captain intuitively read the message and typed a response, realizing the evident failure of the suit radios.
Let's get back to ship
Jules and Chikar read the message, and had started to comply when the gathering was interrupted by an envirosuit-clad Amara Var, heading down the corridor from Starfire towards them.
When she saw them, she tried to speak. Evidently, she was also unaware of the suit-to-suit communications failure. Jules reached over to the control panel of her suit and pressed a few touchspots on its interface in succession.
"Can you hear me?" He asked.
"Yeah." She responded.
Amy, having observed what Jules had done, rerouted her own suit communications.
The android reached over and did the same to Marcus' suit.
"As long as we remain within line-of-sight, we should be able to speak without removing our envirosuits."
"Good work with the suits. But we've got to get back to the ship!
Someone tried to kill Amy and myself just a few minutes ago in the cargo bay."
The three others, especially Amara, who had been on the ship, looked shocked.
"Is that why you called me?" The first officer asked.
"Called you? My suit comm was out."
"Someone just paged me on the bridge. Said to come to the cargo bay quick."
Marcus realized the significance - someone had faked a call to Amara. But why? Wait... with her gone, there would be no one aboard to...
"Quick, back to the ship!" Shouted Marcus. He broke through the gaggle of crew members and bolted down the corridor. The others quickly fallowed after him.
Unfortunately, the captain had not thought quite fast enough. The thick airlock blast doors had closed off the access to Starfire, and the universal indicators showed vacuum in the airlock.
"No!" He said, banging his hands up against the door, half out of desire to support himself after the exertion of running back the rather inclined section of corridor in an envirosuit, and half out of anger at having his ship stolen. That was, of course, what had happened - someone had decoyed Amara from the bridge, snuck aboard Starfire, and made off with the ship in the scant seconds it took for the problem to become manifest. Marcus guessed that in her haste to met the demands of the likely very urgent forged call, she'd overlooked locking down the control systems.
"What is it?" Asked Chikar, as he ran up.
"Someone... stole... Starfire..."
"Stole it?" the tactical officer asked
"It is clearly evident that this ship is neither uninhabited nor abandoned." noted Amy.
It all stacked up - the selective comm jamming, isolating Starfire's crew, the blast doors. But clearly it was more than a plot to make off with an ten-year-old salvage vessel, the strange and homicidal behavior of the crewman they saw proved that much.
"What's going on here?" Asked Jules, sincerely confused.
"Someone has forged a communication from the Captain to Amara calling her off the ship immediately. She heeded that call, leaving the ship unattended while someone got aboard and stole our craft. We are now stranded on this ship and..."
Her clear words were cut of by the sudden brightening of the ship's corridor. The full lights came on, the white illuminating strips embedded in the ceiling showering the area in full-spectrum ambient light and dispelling the dark shadows. This development in turn exposed something much less pleasant.
Down the newly brightened hall a few meters stood a duo of ragged crew members, all holding Plasma Repeaters aimed menacingly at the stranded crew.
"Drop your weapons!" Shouted one of the Artician crew members, over the newly-re-awakened radio system.
In the confines of the corridor, it would be all but impossible for them to evade a hail of plasma shots, and the Marcus responded by obeying the command. His crew fallowed suit.
"Put your hands up!" The speaking soldier ordered. They did so.
Knowing that if he spoke only his own crew could hear him since their suits were still set to transmit their audio from the UV ports, Marcus quickly gave a covert command.
"They can't cover us all at close range - if there is an opportunity, surprise them. Try to slowly surround them while I stall them."
The two soldiers approached the crew.
"Who are you? Are you team B?" Asked the soldier.
Marcus tapped the side of his helmet with his fingers, the universal gesture for communications difficulties. The soldier did not interfere as Marcus slowly lowered on of his hands to the suit control panel and pressed the button reseting it to the now unjammed radio frequency.
"What is team B?" The young captain asked.
"You are not then team B?"
The soldier replied, confused.
"No." answered Marcus.
"Have you seen team B? They have defeated our ally Team C already, so we must be vigilant!"
"What on earth are you talking about?" Asked Marcus. He observed Chikar slowly inching his was back behind the persons threatening them.
"If you are not team B then what team are you?"
"I don't know what team we are - I don't know what you're talking about."
"You mean you haven't been assigned a team? Are you avatars, to test us?"
Marcus was now totally befuddled.
"Please explain who you are... I really don't understand what is going on here."
"We are team A!"
"If you are a team, what is your goal?"
"To eliminate all members of opposing teams."
The words were disturbing, if not totally unexpected.
"Is this a game?"
"Yes, for the overlords. We are their units, they use us to play the game."
Chikar hinted with a subtle wink that he was in position to strike as soon as opportunity manifested. But before such could happen, the discussion was interrupted by the sudden appearance of two soldiers dropping out of a pair of large ventilation ducts above. Team A opened fire on them, hitting one before he even hit the floor. The other fired off a shot at the leader of team A, hitting him in the thigh before his teammate could retaliate.
The Starfire's crew seized the moment to escape, running down the hall while team A finished off their attackers - evidently the dreaded team B.
"This is a nightmare!" Yelled Amara as the foursome ducked down a tributary corroder.
"You said it. We need to think fast and get out of the open - this ship is probably swarming with uh, players." Said Marcus.
"What's going on, captain?" Asked Chikar.
"I'm as in the dark as you - but we've got to find a place to hide..."
"Captain, perhaps this will suffice?" Amy gestured to a access hatch on the lower area. It was only about a meter tall, and about as wide, but it seemed more than adequate.
The android popped off then panel and passed her slender form through the passageway. The others fallowed in single file, into the rather incommodious passageway. It was bristling with sharp exposed machinery, electrical conduits and occasional warning labels written in the flowing language of the ship's builders. There was a layer of dust on everything, as does not accumulate very quickly on a spacecraft, indicating that this passage had not been used in ages.
"Where does this lead?" Asked Marcus of Amy.
"This leads along the length of the ship, but is interrupted by intersections with larger corridors seven times along that length."
"Amy, does it lead to the ship's hangar at some point?" Queried Jules.
"Yes, the hangar is in fact the termination of this passage."
"Convenient." Remarked Amara.
"Do you think we'll make it out of this alive, captain?" Asked Chikar.
"I don't know, I guess it depends on whether or not the crew of the ship decides to shoot down any ship we make off with from the hangar, really. We'll have to pick something with hyperspartal drive if we want to get back home."
Chikar nodded attentively.
"We should get moving- no sense waiting here for them to find us." Said captain Marcus, as he looked at the poorly defended entrance to the passage. They'd pulled it closed from the inside, but there was no guarantee that someone would not look for them down here.
Then, there was a beep from Chikar's suit. The alien looked down at his control panel - it showed 10% oxygen remaining.
"Captain, I am down to 10% Oh-two, and the air around here is obviously breathable, so may I remove my helmet?"
"Well, these people don't seem diseased, so I won't stop you. We might as well all take them off, we might need the air later if we have to cross vacuum."
Chikar raised his long fingers to the seals of his helmet, and pulled them forward. There was the most minute of hisses as the pressures equalized ever so slightly, and Chikar removed the transparent polymer orb from his head.
Then he smelled it. It was a bold, strong smell, impossible to ignore. It was unlike anything he had smelled before, powerful, neither 'bad' nor 'good' to his nose. Marcus was beginning to unlock his helmet's seals, but Chikar quickly reached out to stop him.
"No Captain!" He warned, just before the effect of the odor reached him.
Chikar was suddenly in a mental battle. There was some outside influence, trying to bend him to its will. The odor had turned sickly sweet on his tounge, it was all around him, just as that influence. He strived to control it, with all his mental willpower, but with every breath he was less able to resist. The voices of his crewmates...
Chikar! What's wrong?
He caught a few more words... his vision grew blurry, but he could see the faces of his comrades. Their forms twisted and contorted as the periphery of his optical perception turned black and his eyes lost focus. The influence on him was very strong now, he could sense its overpowering will.
Remove weapon from holster
He fought the order, but found himself lowering his hand to the laser pistol stationed near his belt.
Raise weapon and fire on nearest person
It was overwhelming now. He could no longer bear resisting the invader. His vision and hearing, indeed all his senses, winked out in an instant. There was nothing but blackness, he was detached from his conscious realm. He could not even sense that his body, under the remote control of the overlords, was now firing at his comrades...
The yellow beam of light from Chikar's hand laser lanced out and just barely - by perhaps a centimeter - missed Marcus' head. In the passing tenths of a second, Marcus was infinitely grateful that the weapon had a length recycle time of 0.45 seconds. The captain moved quickly to tackle the alien and knock his weapon away. But Chikar was easily a couple inches taller and fifty pounds heavier than him. It was not an arrangement destined to last long.
The reptilian had twice the strength of an earthman, but at least the damage he could do was temporarily limited by the fact that he was struggling to remove Marcus from his person. But the captain knew that Chikar would quickly overpower him, he only hoped that one of his crew would have enough time to respond before then.
With a colossal shove, the puppet Chikar shoved Marcus off him and into the exposed walls of the corridor. But, he had indeed bought the crew enough time. A Yellow beam shot out from Amara's freshly-drawn laser, striking the weapon in Chikar's hand. The front of the device splintered, its delicate laser crystal shattered along with the array of advanced optical pumping devices. It was useless.
Whoever Chikar's puppet-master was, they fortunately showed no interest in sacrificing one of their 'units' needlessly by attacking unarmed, and the alien bolted in the opposite direction. Jules raised his weapon to shoot, but was stopped by the voice of the captain.
"Let him go..." The voice was racked with pain.
Amy quickly moved over to the place where the captain was slammed against the wall. A sharp piece of machinery had lacerated his shoulder and made a gaping tear in his suit.
"The captain's suit is torn!" She exclaimed, getting the attention of the crew...
Allright, I'm letting the reader(s) (Yes, all four of you ) vote on what will happen here.
Cast your vote by commenting below.
The captain's suit is torn, and he has a probobly-not life threatening but nonetheless currently bleeding wound on his shoulder. His helmet is undamaged and possesses an uncompromised air supply (For a while anyway).
Should the crew:
(A) Treat the shoulder cut with first aid and then attempt to effect a repair to the damaged areas of the suit.
( Immediately treat the breaches in the suit without treating the wound.
Put the captain in Amy's envirosuit.
(D) Some other course of action you specify.
Some points -
If the readers chose A, the captain's suit may or may not be vacuum-tight, depending on how well they repair it. Treating the wound to the captain's shoulder with their advanced first aid will stop bleeding and disinfect it, but it is possible that whatever is in the air can be absorbed through an open wound and will effect the captain while they are working on treating his injury.
If the readers chose B, the crew need not worry about the atmosphere effecting the captain much, but it stands to reason that he will not be able to move around too much for a time while the cut clots on its own. He'll also have some blood loss and be slightly weaker. The point about the questionable vacuum-tightness of the repaired suit still holds, too.
C presents the unique advantage of giving the captain an unquestionably vacuum tight suit, but it will take some time for him to change, in which both the wound will be exposed and in which he'll have to hold his breath. (Even if he changes the top of the suit last, he'll have to do it some time. Secondly, Amy is fairly petite, and her suit is proportioned to her simulated gender, which is opposite of Marcus'. While he is not particularly huge, Marcus is of normal build and the suit will be a very tight fit on him. There is also the danger of Amy becoming contaminated by whatever is in the air, while herself unaffected by it. This possibility seems remote, however...
Cast your vote!
First of all, I'd like to say that this is a pretty nice continuation, and sets the stage well for later. It does suffer from "middle story syndrome," like most series, but that isn't really a problem. Of course that does prevent many parts of reviewing, but such is life.
I did notice one thing: If the ship contains breathable air, and I assume the suits' helmets do too, they should be able to still hear each other's normal voice, unless the helmets muffle sound a great deal.
The main problems I see with this story in the actual style are fairly common.
When she saw them, she tried to speak. Evidently , she was also unaware of the suit-to-suit communications failure.
Rule of thumb: never use the word evidently. It is the number one sign that you are commiting a lesser version of the following (I had this problem for a good while, too):
That was, of course, what had happened - someone had decoyed Amara from the bridge, snuck aboard Starfire, and made off with the ship in the scant seconds it took for the problem to become manifest.
This is a 'duh' moment. Your explanation is truly not necessary; you can simply describe the ship flying away, or the doors remaining locked, or whatever.
In the passing tenths of a second, Marcus was infinitely grateful that the weapon had a length recycle time of 0.45 seconds.
Can you analyze a weapon's statistics, bull rush someone, and remain grateful, all in half a second. Neither can your characters. That should be saved to a retrospective, if written at all. Only keep the bull-rush.
That's pretty much all I care to write right now; as I have a sizeable to-do list. My parting words: Keep up the good work.
A tomb now suffices for him for whom the world was not enough.
Thank you for another excellent comment, Celchu!
Yes, the helmets do block a great deal of sound, as evidenced by their behavior in the story
You might note too that this story has the same mechanical combat-description style as the previous one, It was written before I had a chance to take your advice under consideration.
Thanks for the caution about the duh moments. The one with Amara speaking certainly would be quite obvious to the reader, but I think I'd retain the explanation about Starfire being hijacked - some less astute readers might be confused there, without at least a little explanation. Perhaps if it were fully integrated into character dialog, it would have been more seamless.
On the issue of Marcus technical analysis of the weapon, well, you're right. Marcus could not have been expected to do so. On the other hand, if it was Amy, she would not only be able but would be expected to perform such an analysis
Which brings up the issue of how Amy's mind works - her behavior is not programmed rote, as in modern robots, or even some type of premade framework with a self-programming feature.
Rather, her brain is a synthetic neural network, essentaly identical to a human brain in terms of capability. The exceptions are that she (1) Can manually adjust the impression on her neural network that a given stimulus makes, and thus can memorize things with just one reading/complete viewing if she desires, (2) her brain works faster than the organic equivalent, but only about five times faster (As opposed to a computer, which works millions of times faster than the human brain, but only on programmed tasks), and (3), Amy's brain has substantial conventional computer capacity as well, so her sentient functions can interface with a powerful conventional computer integrated into herself. This means she can call on the l33t math skillz of the computer without having to actually learn advanced calculus or trigonometry, or could use the computer to run repetitive physical or mental tasks while her conscious self was doing some other thing. This is probably the feature of the android (Aside from clinical immortality and eternal youth) that is most enviable from a human standpoint.
On the flip side, the disadvantage of an advanced neural network brain such as Amy's - and ours - include distraction from the task at hand, being effected by emotions (Granted, the android emotions are less powerful than human ones as they have no hormonal intensification), The need to 'raise' and 'teach' a neural network, rather than simple programing it, the inability to easily diagnose mental 'bugs', and the general complexity of the system.
So, while an android can't fall into a depression because of a chemical imbalance in the brain, he or she could have - and will have, assuming the 'droid is 'raised' outside of a laboratory - all the eccentricities and complexities of a human being.
"...All persons are free to think of any concept and hold to any idea or position." - The Second of the Five Fundimental Truths of 2081.
Where do you want to (url="http://"http://www.macclassics.com/cythera/tricks/rJade.htm")teleport(/url) today?