Sunday, July 24, 2016

Escape From The Free Republic - Chapter Twelve

Chapter Eleven



Chapter Twelve

Free Republic Carrier Umbrage

The main corridor through the center of the ship on the mid-deck was a bit wider than the ones below it, because this deck did not have crew quarters and associated things. This was all meant for work spaces and at each end of the vessel, on this deck, the main power distribution nodes and the protective field generators and the artificial gravity systems were located.

No enemy force had ever boarded a carrier in memory. There was no real good reason for these critical systems to be protected from the inside. They already had the whole ship wrapped around them, they were well-protected from exterior threats.

Tom Grier hefted the Quad-Barreled Battle Rifle, QBR-44, it was longer than he was tall, and weight too much to carry without the powered armor suit he wore. The armored suit of the Free Republic Marines, now worn by a rebel fighting for the independence of a world called Sync.

If Sync won its independence, other worlds would follow. The Free Republic was already weakened by its ruthless but not-quite competent government. As history showed, authoritarian governments and their repression regressed a society and crippled its ability to grow and innovate.

Where are they?” Tom asked. The Marines on the carrier should be there to stop him and the other rebels. They had entered through a tear in a cargo hatch and had climbed the decks fighting unarmored ship security personnel and their lightly armed drones. It had all been a very uneven match. There were Marines on this ship who could give them a real match, but where were they?

Do you think they are inside of the nodes?” Felix asked, “Would that even make sense?”

Tom frowned, “No way. That would be a terrible place to put up a defensive. They need to do that as far from the vital systems as possible.”

Tom clicked the secure communications on his suit, “Skyler, where are you?”

We’re near the forward node. It just feels too quiet,” the other soldier responded.

Same here.”

I’ve got eyes on the entrance to the forward node, it appears unguarded. I don’t get this.

Skyler, search the area for any threat and then hold for my mark, we’ll blow these systems simultaneously if we can,” Tom told him.

Roger tha…” the transmission garbled.

Tom sighed, well it had to happen sooner or later he told himself.

Tom!” A familiar voice sounded in his ear. He looked around and saw that his men were in defensive positions, waiting to move.

Tom, it’s me Maggie,” the voice said, “I was able to hack into your suit. Listen to me, Tom, you need to get off this ship as soon as possible!”

Maggie, can you hear me?” Tom asked, “You should head for the nearest escape pod, I am taking down this ship.”

Tom, you don’t need to do this.

The Free Republic has become despotic. It’s nothing like we were taught. Everything they told us about it in school ended years ago. Sync and the other worlds deserve their independence,” Tom told her, “If you want to live through this, Maggie, get in a pod.”

Listen Tom. The Admiral put up barricades to keep the Marines isolated, but they have found a way in now. They’ll be there soon,” Maggie told him. He had no way to know if it was true. If it was true, then there were no Marines waiting for them inside the node chambers.

Tom weighed the odds. They were unknown, but he decided that she was just being the mouthpiece of the Marine General.

He muted his suit com, “I’ll lead the way, check your weapons.”

The QBR-44 he carried was loaded with different kinds of ammunition. He could fire the regular fifty caliber rounds, grenade rounds, armor-penetrating rounds and acid rounds. The barrels hummed and they spun up into ready mode.

Tom. You should escape while you have time. You don’t need to do this,” Maggie’s voice penetrated through his skull, “The Marines are on the way.

Tom began a fast walk toward the node chamber down the corridor, his men followed on high alert for any threat. No sign of any opposition, which was extremely unnerving. Felix checked the entrances to the left while another soldier looked into all of the doors to the right. The deck was completely abandoned of any personnel.

The look of concern on Felix was more and more pronounced as they proceeded. The entrance to the node chamber was near. Tom considered firing his grenades into the chamber from where he was, but he wanted to carry out the mission as it was planned.

Suddenly five armored Marine suits walked into the corridor between his team and the node chamber.

Into the workshops!” Felix said as they all ducked to the two sides as the first rounds were fired by the Marines.

We are too close to stop now,” Tom said, he clicked the QBR-44 over to grenade rounds and spun out into the corridor, he fired eight rounds in two seconds and ducked back into the side chamber while the Marines were reacting.

He heard the firing of the other QBR-44’s and peeked out. They had shot down the grenade rounds and none of them had flown past the sentries. It was likely that the Marines guarding the node chamber weren’t allowed to fire their own grenade rounds aboard the carrier.

There is an escape pod in that chamber, Tom, use it to escape!” Maggie’s voice interrupted his thoughts. He tried to turn off the connection, he wanted to contact Skyler on the aft side of the ship but nothing was happening.

The Marines aren’t coming after us, they’re just guarding the node chamber,” Felix said, he had stuck the end of his gun into the corridor. The end of the gun had a camera connected to his armored suit, which was not as powerful as a Marine suit.

That makes me even more nervous,” Someone else said.

Something is happening. What is that?” Felix asked, activating his holographic imager over his wrist for a better look.

It’s a Vike! Oh damn it’s armed!”

The robotic “cat” padded its way down the corridor toward them. Normally used to carry supplies or to sneak looks at enemy locations, this one was carrying a big gun. Tom stepped into the corridor and fired a grenade round at the Vike and it sidestepped the round which bounced before exploding. The “Viking Kitty” was thrown but used its legs to “walk” and push off the opposite wall and back to the floor.

Then it began firing at Tom was surprised to see explosive rounds inbound. He threw himself across the corridor and through a closed hatch, busting it off the hinges as the blast missed him. Tom got back up the Vike stopped outside and then turned in his direction.

Tom clicked the gun over to acid rounds.

The Vike pounced at Tom, but he ducked under the robotic beast and moved to the other side of the chamber but the Vike was already pushing off the wall and flying right toward him again. Tom sidestepped and then batted at the Vike with the gun as it passed. This gave the robot pause, so Tom fired two acid rounds at it.

Tom was aiming for the gun it carried on its back. The first acid round hit the robots “head”, which Tom hoped would blind it. The second one hit the gun but it did not appear damaged on the outside.

The Vike stopped and slowly moved its head from side to side. Tom tried not to make a sound. He didn’t know if that made a difference, it was just built in caution. Then maybe its sensors kicked in because it started towards Tom again. He fired some normal rounds at it but it was able to dodge most of those.

It had its own micro-radar. It could detect incoming shells or any other moving target and know exactly where they had come from. The Vike aimed at Tom who tried to shift his direction and found the wall was keeping him from rolling away.

The Vike didn’t fire. It turned and ran into the corridor though where Felix was able to hit it a few times with his own weapon as it padded back to the Marines.

They seem to be playing for time!” Felix said.

The longer we are here, the better chance of moving in enough Marines to mount an offensive. I think we need to attack, as quickly as possible,” Tom told the others over his com.

Tom, other Marines are on the way. I think Colonel Mortimer will be leading the charge.” Maggie told him. Believe her? He did, actually, this time. For some reason General Gallant was letting him know exactly was going on. Which meant something was being left out, no way they would tell Tom everything.

This is Team Two, we are pinned down. Looks like three Marines defending the forward node.

The rebel device to shut down the Marine implants would work if the ship didn’t have a much more powerful null field of its own. Inside of the Umbrage, with the field, the range on the rebel device must be extremely reduced.

Several of his men carried the device, just in case.

Okay, we need to get close to the Marines. Maybe we can knock them out with the device if we are close,” Tom told them, the com to Team Two was open so maybe they could hear, but he wasn’t hearing anything from them.

How would we get close enough without getting killed?” someone asked.

Anyone want to surrender?” Tom asked.


Carrier Umbrage, Bridge

Admiral, the rebel intruders are closing in on the forward and aft nodes!” Commander Grabble reported. The aging Admiral in his hover-chair looked more tired than ever, the skin on his face even seemed to sag. His whole body was slumped and his uniform was wrinkled as if he hadn’t even thought of cleaning up.

We must defend the nodes. Do whatever needs to be done, Commander!” Admiral James “Jim” Robinson ordered.

Good news, some Marines were able to reach the middle deck, sir!” one of the younger officers reported, “It seems they went outside the ship through the lander hangar and came in through an escape pod port.”

They know we need them,” Grabble replied, “They’ll do their jobs.”

I still don’t like Gallant having his men traipsing all over my ship. When this is over, I’m going to tell the… President that the Marines need their own deployment vessels,” Robinson said.

Admiral, the Free Republic hasn’t built a capital ship in a long time,” Commander Grabble reminded him, “We just don’t have that capability right now. The Carriers were built to carry Marines.”

We will redesign them. The Carrier should carry more fighters, why should Onyx flight be the only ones?” The Admiral asked, becoming agitated again.

Commander Grabble held his tongue. The Admiral was just upset. There was no doubt the Admiral knew perfectly well the limitations of space fighters. They were barely useful in the role of ship defense, giving the enemy more targets confuse them and to shoot at. They were mainly used to attack targets on the surface of planets for a very good reason.

What is happening down there?” Robinson demanded.

Looks like the Marines are guarding the nodes and the rebels are hold up nearby.”

Why don’t those Marines just move in and take them out?” The Admiral asked.

Defenders have an advantage over attackers. There are other Marines on the way that will give them the ability to attack without leaving the nodes undefended,” Grabble explained.


Carrier Umbrage, exterior

The Free Republic Marines made their way up the side of the massive vessel wearing their armored powered suits. The suits would keep them alive even in space itself, but they still had to be careful because it was never safe outside.

Hampton, watch your footholds. You’ll slip away if you don’t secure it,” Colonel Mortimer chided one of the Marines for being a little careless.

Aye, sir!”

They arrived at the lock that had been used for an escape pod. The empty pod was three hundred meters away and still silently drifting. The first to arrive was Sergeant Hollings, who still remembered his combat training. The others were older and mostly assigned to administrative duties. Most of the real Marines were down on Sync fighting a rebel uprising.

Suddenly Hollings helmet exploded and most of his head too. Hampton let go of his handholds and tried to pull the battle rifle off of his back but several holes appeared on the hull around him before his chest exploded and the young staff officer floated away, just barely above the surface of the Umbrage.

Where is that coming from?” Mortimer demanded, looking everywhere he could. An explosion to his left had torn another of the Marines into pieces. Worse, it had dislodged Colonel Mortimer and he was flailing as he floated away.

Something crossed in front of him.

Finally Colonel Mortimer used the small rockets to get some control. Then he turned and used the suit booster to get him back to the carrier. That is when he noticed another armored suit that was much larger than his own.

The other soldier, in the strange suit, came close before reaching out and wrapping an armored hand around the neck of the Colonels’ suit. It pulled the colonel close to its own head as if to get a visual inspection. Then the faceplate moved aside and allowed Mortimer to see inside.

Oh God! You’re supposed to be dead!” Colonel Mortimer said as the much larger and more powerful suit threw him against the hull of the carrier. Then he felt the suit he wore buffet and he slowly drifted away from the carrier. His booster malfunctioned and his attitude thrusters just plain did not work.

This is Colonel Mortimer, I have a message for the General!” The Colonel tried to call out on his suit radio. He was drifting away from the carrier. Mortimer could see the large armored suit climb through the pod hatch. The person in that suit was insane, he had to be, he was killing anyone who was in thw way.

Blade!” Mortimer yelled, heard by no-one but himself.

-----

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Monday, July 11, 2016

Salt: A Short Story


This story does not really make scientific sense, salt is likely extremely common in the galaxy.



Salt

by Floyd Looney


Of all the worlds under the veil, why this one?” Irena grumbled.

We just needed to get off that decrepit freighter, I don't think it's space worthy!” Brad answered as he piloted the two-seat shuttle-pod toward the only city on the world below. It was at the center of a greenbelt, which was surrounded by dense jungle and rivers, then not far beyond that was desert that covered most of the planet.

This is not good! I heard that women are bought and sold down there, we should just go back to the freighter,” Irena said, pretending to panic.

Brad just laughed, “You are perfectly safe. I can guarantee that.”

What else do you know about Dunga?” Irena asked. Brad frowned but tried to look distracted by the piloting of the ship. Irena knew it took very little effort to fly the thing, they'd flown together one hundred and seventy-two times. Thirty-seven of those times she was the one who piloted.

I'll tell you,” She told him, “First noted in survey logs in 2234. First explorer on the ground was in 2244. First science outpost established in 2264. A Terran colony was planned to be put here in 2275 by the United Authority before the rebellions started across the veil. During the first phase of the Terran Collapse, someone named John Belfrey Roberts claimed the planet and settled it with a handful of families loyal to him. He made himself their king. Are you listening?”

He nodded, “It's just a history lesson, so far. Anything important I should know?”

She nodded, “They are not very technologically advanced, their economy can't support anything too complicated. Because of this, the people have become sort of technophobic. For one they have outlawed androids...”

Brad smiled and looked at her as their shuttle-pod flew low toward the space-port ahead, “Nobody is going to know that you are an android, believe me you look completely human.”

Yet, I am safe from being captured and sold as a female because I'm an android?” Irena asked.

No, I forged the documents that show I own you, of course,” He said as the shuttle-pod landed on the broken tarmac with a thud.

You... you own me?”

The glasserine sides of the cockpit slid upward and the warm air from outside tossed her blond hair around for a few seconds, she was still staring at Brad.

What do you mean that you own...” She started to say when the ground crew arrived.

Welcome to Dunga!” a short, fat balding man said in greeting. He wore a white toga-like wrap as everyone seemed to wear on this world. Advanced clothing was hard to come by, and only the upper classes would be seen wearing dyed cloth.

My name is Brad Alexander, and this is my female,” He told the man and handed over some paper documents that would prove this was true.

Very good, sir, everything looks to be in order,” the man said giving the documents back with a bow, “Shall we take care of your pod, sir? Very small charge.”

Just wash and park it,” Brad said and tossed a cylinder of salt to the man.

Oh my,” The man exclaimed when he discovered what he had been given.

I see that you have done your homework, but that was far too valuable locally to be handing out as a gratuity,” Irena said as she followed him toward the small terminal building. Salt was impossible to find on Dunga, it was not naturally found there. With the slow collapse of star travel, the people of Dunga were in a real bind, “Still this was a stupid place to choose, what if we are never able to leave again?”

Brad glanced back. It was a warning to stop talking and as she entered the building Irena noted that there were a lot more people there than one think for such an empty space port. There were dozens of men and some of them holding leashes of females sitting on the floor. It looked like they had been camped out there for some time, it was a mess and the people were disheveled.

Please, sir, can you get us off this world?” one of them begged, which opened the floodgates and soon Brad was being jostled and surrounded by the beggars. Irena itched to throw those people to the side but she played the part of a woman owned and stood there meekly. Of course she watched Brads backpack closely.

Stop it!” someone shouted and then there was a loud popping noise. The beggars froze and then began moving away, seemingly frightened. Two guards carrying some sort of beam weapons came up to Brad.

Are you okay, sir?” One of them asked, “Sorry about them vagabonds. They all want to get off of Dunga something fierce.”

Brad nodded, “I understand. I've come on business, I want to help this world. Perhaps there is some local authority I can speak with about what I have brought?”

The guards looked at each other and back at Brad, “There is only one authority on Dunga. We're not a big colony, we don't need more than one.”

Our leader is called the Primero Uno de Dunga, his name is Frederick Cavendish Roberts. The tall building at the center of town is his Palace,” the other guard said, “You'll want to find transport, I don't reckon you'd be safe seeing how you are obviously a stranger here.”

Brad made it through the main desk and then rented an ancient two-seat transport bubble. The agent admitted it had glitches but that since these things weren't manufactured on Dunga it was the best they were likely to find.

Once they were on the road, she saw that Brad had a little trouble with the bubble transport, it kept pulling hard to the left.

What exactly is in the backpack?” Irena asked, “You stole it from the freighter, obviously.”

Brad laughed, “Of course. It's not like they'll turn around to come look for it.”

Do you know what it is?” She asked.

He nodded, “I'm pretty sure I know what it is.”

Irena looked outside to her right, “You have no clue. Are you really going to bluff your way into a meeting with the colony's leader with a device you don't understand?”

He stopped the bubble vehicle and sighed, “Listen, Irena, the device I swiped from the freighter is a bio-matrix. It seems designed to do two things, immediately make it possible to locate whatever salt this world has. Two, over a long time it can change the ecology of this planet.”

She looked down at her lap, “Not exactly complimentary things.”

He started the vehicle moving again, although she had noted the complete lack of other traffic on the roads they passed and it was only early evening.

Brad spoke after a few moments, “Dunga is far from the only colony that imports, or should I say imported, all of its salt. The matrix was designed for another planet, but I am sure it will work well enough for this one.”

If the device could only locate salt then it was probably useless on a world without any known salt, even in trace quantities. If it could create salt by combining the constituent elements it was the most valuable thing on this world. Irena was sure Brad didn't know which it did.

You don't know anything about those devices, they are very rare. It's not even something they included in my database,” Irena told him, “If you show that thing to the leader of this planet, he could take it and have you killed.”

They reached the capitol, the parking area was guarded by several armed soldiers, the whole compound was patrolled by heavily armed soldiers. Irena kept her mouth closed and simply looked straight ahead, playing her part again.

What's your business here?” The soldier asked, looking into the bubble vehicle at both of them. Then with a glare he checked the proffered documents and called someone on his wrist radio, the reply sounded completely garbled but he seemed to understand it.

I have come to this planet on salt business,” Brad told the soldier in charge who made another call on his wrist before waving them through the gates.

This feels like a trap,” Irena said watching the heavy gate slam shut in the rear-view monitor.

Brad parked the vehicle and the sides slid open, “Just stand there and watch me do my magic. I will have the Primero Uno de Dunga eating out of my palms.'

There were more guards at the door, but there were soldiers just inside. He showed the documents again and then whipped out another vial of salt. Irena noted that he must have pocketed all of the salt vials and tablets that had been served since they had become a team. He had always ordered two meals, to make people think she was human.

The main soldier came out of the door and everyone else stood aside. His face was red and he eyed the vial of salt that Brad was holding.

I am Marshall Hansen, It could be very dangerous to go around brandishing things like that on Dunga,” the officer said, “I assume you wish to meet Mr Roberts, but the man doesn't need to make deals to get hold of salt.”

Brad shook his head, “No, that's not why I am here. I have brought a device that could end the salt crisis on Dunga.”

The soldier nodded, “I have heard that before. Go in and to the right you'll find a sitting room, stay there until you hear something.”

Brad and Irena were soon sitting across from each other, with a glass table between them on which the backpack sat. After a few minutes a man servant stood in the doorway and said, “The Primero Uno de Dunga will see you now.”

They were led into a large ornate glass-topped room full of plants and trees surrounding a pool of deep blue water. A fat man was swimming in the pool, but two naked females sat at either end. When he reached one of the females he rolled over, facing up and was fed some kind of fruit. Then he rolled his fat naked body over and swam to the other end where this was repeated.

Sir, this is the man who has come about salt,” the man servant said.

The Primero Uno de Dunga finally noticed them, he smiled and waved. Then he climbed out of the pool and his two females dried him off and then wrapped a cloth about his round body. Finally he approached them.

Welcome, welcome to Dunga my friend!” The man said, taking Brads hand into his own in a very friendly greeting, “I understand this is business about salt?”

Brad nodded, “I have a device that might solve all of your salt problems.”

The Primero Uno led them to a round couch and took a seat behind a desk that faced it. The jolly man quickly took the facade of a serious leader. Then he nodded, “Before we begin, I would like to warn you that Dunga has become averse to false salt merchants, the last two were hanged. Salt deficiency on Dunga has a high mortality rate from hyponatremia. It's a nasty health issue, to say the least and the people here are desperately tired of it.”

Brad cleared his throat, “This device is the real deal.”

He pulled it out of the backpack and sat it on the table in front of the couch. They both watched the device for a long moment before the Primero Uno spoke up, “So, what does it do?”

You have heard of a bio-matrix, right?” Brad asked, “They can be designed to do some amazing things but it's always very narrow. It might purify water, or make dead soil fertile again, but it never does more than one or two things.”

The fat man wave a hand in the air, “I know what a bio-matrix is.”

Brad nodded and indicated the device he had set down, “This is one. This is a bio-matrix. It can use the planets natural atmosphere and produce salt.”

The man nodded, “How much salt can it produce in an hour? A day? Under what conditions does it work?”

That all depends on the planet, of course. We could test it and find out.”

The fat man leaned back in his seat, “I see. Let us assume that this device works as advertised, what are you asking for it?”

Brad thought about it, “Passage on the next ship out of here.”

The Primero Uno de Dunga laughed, “I suppose, but I rather doubt we see another trading vessel, or any vessel again in our lifetimes. So choose something else.”

Do you have a ship?” Brad asked,

The man laughed, “If I had a ship, I would have left Dunga by now.”

Irena was about to make a suggestion when Brad spoke up again.

Okay, just make me one of the richest people on Dunga, then,” Brad told the man, “Lots of house, a nice yard, women... the works!”

Frederick Cavendish Roberts laughed and stood up, “This has been entertaining. I think we need to see the device work before we waste any more time.”

Brad stood up and lifted the device.

Nearly half the people on this world are suffering from low-salt levels, fifteen percent of the population are in hospitals. Hyponatremia is a scourge for the people of Dunga, and we take these things very seriously,” The fat man said as they followed him through a corridor and then outside. Soon enough they reached a pond, mostly surrounded by high weeds and trees.

Here we are, the ideal location for a demonstration,” The leader of Dunga said, “So activate the device or this will be your execution.”

Brad set the device on the ground, a bald place amidst the grass. Then he tapped some of the flat screen icons and there was a high-pitched whine that sounded like it ascending higher and higher. Then it became a deep, low tone that sounded like it was descending until it stopped and there were some electronic beeps.

It is activated,” Brad said, sounding a bit relieved.

The Primero Uno de Dunga watched the device for a moment, “So how long should we wait?”

Brad shrugged, “It wasn't designed for this planet, but it is similar enough that it should work. That freighter wasn't going to make it to the destination.”

I suppose we shall make a picnic of it then,” The fat man said and called his man servant, “Fetch a nice picnic, the good wine and send my girls with blankets and pillows.”

Before long a spread of food was before them and Brad ate as he watched the device. Irena looked toward the pond to avoid watching the fat man cavorting with his two female slaves right out in the open. The giggles and his laughs disturbed her programming, which considered any kind of slavery to be an injustice.

The sun had gone down but the area was well-lighted.

It's working!” Brad said, “It has finished calibrating to the atmospheric conditions. It says here that it needs to have one end of its hose, in the back compartment, in the water and someone needs to keep adding sand into the top compartment. It can produce more than ten vials of salt in an hour.”

The leader of Dunga was quiet, “That's not much. We'll try keeping it operating all day and night, I suppose and see. Still, I'd be surprised if it can produce as much as we can from urine or sweat. Every bit helps, though.”

The man stood up and wrapped the sheet around his body again, the girls wiping off the bits of grass for him.

I don't suppose you'll be executed as a fraud, after all,” Primero Uno de Dunga said, “but your android might be a problem.”

Brad looked shocked.

She didn't even look at the food, she hasn't had a bite since you arrived,” he told Brad, “If the device continues to work, I might look away for a while. If anyone else finds out she is artificial, then there will be some trouble.”

Soon he and Irena were sitting near the device as it continued to perform, a soldier came and stood nearby. Obviously he was there to guard the bio-matrix.

We should not have come here,” Irena told him.

We probably should not have left Rigelus VII,” Brad told her.

Don't be foolish, we would be dead by now if we had stayed. That whole place is one big atrocity now.”

He smiled, “If we had stayed on the freighter, we'd probably be floating amidst space debris by now.”

Irena was quiet as Brad checked the machine again.

The bio-matrix is interesting. It takes some elements from the soil and some from the water to make salt. If this device had reached Flaxus, the leftover would have been a silicate that could be used to make electronics,” Brad told her, she was studying the stars. He leaned closer and said in a lower voice, “Don't you want to know what's left over on Dunga?”

Irena shook her head, “If it isn't inter-spatial crystal, then what's the point?”

Brad laughed, “That's just wishful thinking, very human. No, the leftover of this process on Dunga, is an explosive-fuel sort of thing. I suppose it has its possible uses.”

Such as?” Irena asked.

Such as mining asteroids,” He told her, “Sure the life support system on the shuttle-pod is breaking down, but an android wouldn't mind. Right?”

She looked at him like he had lost his mind.

We have to earn our keep here. There are things in those asteroids that can't be found on this dirt ball and would be valuable,” he told her, “Besides, I want to build things and explore this desert planet while we're here.”

Irena shook her head, “This world is dying. It seems pointless.”

Brad sighed, “I'm human. I want to survive, I want to scratch and claw for an extra day if I must, I guess giving up is an android thing. Humans on Dunga can survive, I don't know how many or in what kind of condition, but humanity needs to fight.”

Irena nodded, “Then do that. We both know that interstellar space travel for humans is a thing of the past, now. Very few worlds have the population, economics and technology to keep exploring their own solar system, small worlds like this one are completely isolated. When Earth and Terra Delta were lost, it was all over, it just took some time for it to be noticed.”

Brad said nothing.

The human species is about to become very primitive. It could be centuries before the human race, if it survives, will travel the stars again. So, by all means, send your android to break rocks.”

Brad laid flat on his back, “We have salt. We can survive in some form. Surviving right now, is the most important thing. Humans will be back, eventually!”


Monday, July 4, 2016

Escape From the Free Republic - Chapter Eleven

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Chapter Ten




Chapter Eleven
 

The other ships are moving closer to defend the carrier!” someone reported over the coms.

It doesn't matter, it's too late,” Tom told them, “Remember to get far away once we are deployed.”

Tom turn to the rebel soldiers who were with him. All of them were getting into place to leave the ship as fast as they could. As soon as the rear hatch opened they would use the thrusters on their suits to propel themselves toward the carrier.

Team Two here, we're ready” The soldier named Skyler reported from the second ship.

Prepare for dynamic exit!” The pilot told them.

Suddenly, the ship rolled fast enough for them to feel it and the back hatch opened. Seeing that the carrier was right in front of them, Tom activated his thrusters and led the others across the short space to the carriers' outer hull.

This is Team Two, we've made it to entry point, all hands safe.

All ships, time to get lost!” Tom said over the coms. A rupture in metal covering of one of the cargo bays was just big enough for them to get through one by one. There were a few crates in the dark chamber but there was no sign of anyone.

I guess they don't know we're here yet.” One of his men said.

Tom brought up a diagram of the carrier on his HUD. “Okay, we need to move upwards about four decks. We'll be close to the power distribution node then. There is a lift out that hatch and about 50 meters down the corridor to the right.”

The hatch refused to open because the cargo bay had been pressurized. Then Tom Grier cursed himself for not thinking of this problem, and led the team to the far side of the cargo bay to where a cargo control room could be used like an air-lock. That was one stupid mistake, but they had lost very little time and nobody died.

As the air in the cargo control room pressurized Tom pulled the QBR-44 off of the back of his armored suit, the other men drew their own weapons as well.

This is Skyler, I examined the wreckage that lodged into the observation deck, there were no survivors.”

Roger, watch the time. Get to that forward power distro node ASAP,” Tom said into the coms, “It's all been mapped out.”

Copy!

The corridor outside of the cargo control room looked abandoned. Tom detected some heat signatures in a small chamber at the end. If they weren't armed or armored, then they aren't to be killed. Still, you need to keep an eye on them.

We need to move as fast as possible. 50 meters to the lift, but we're taking the stairs on the other side of the corridor instead. Four decks up and we will near the target. You all know the drill, it should only take one of us to reach it,” Tom Grier told the others.

The hatch opened and Tom was the first one out, his men covered both sides with their weapons as they made their way toward the stairs. The Free Republic Marines could reach them in minutes, so they had to hurry.

Oddly they were able to reach the stairs without seeing any opposition whatsoever, which made Tom more worried. Where were they? As soon as Tom looked around the corner into the stairwell two unarmored security officers opened fire with small arms. The armor wasn't even penetrated.

One of his men, Felix something, went around Tom and blasted the two security officers. One shot each was all it took and they went down like a sack of potatoes. Felix started up the stairs first, looking to get first the glimpse of any more opposition.

Something is coming. Hang back,” Felix said, backing against the wall. Suddenly a drone dropped down from above. A flashing, pulsating light was all Tom could see, his suit tried to block this visual interference as he tried to aim his big gun in the tight corridor. It was useless so he swung at it, knocking the drone to the side where it bounced off the wall. The drone started firing small rounds at them but was dispatched by return fire.

That was annoying,” Felix said as he started moving upwards again. At the landing of the next deck they were fired upon by unarmored security officers again. These guys were more numerous but hiding behind the corners.

The first thing that hit them was stun grenades that had no effect through their powered armor. The opposition was far too light and pathetic so far. The small arms fire was no real threat, but you can't just waltz past them and let them keep harassing your six.

Tom designated grenade rounds and wanted to bounce them around the corner when two more wailing, flashing drones dropped from the upper stairwell. He heard Felix mutter something as the men started to return fire.

Grenade!” Tom warned as he fired two of them, one to each side of the corridor. The blast was loud, even through the helmet and parts of the walls and ceiling in the corridor simply collapsed. The old carrier was never designed to see battles on the inside.

Light opposition, we are three decks above designated target.” Skyler reported in.

Obviously, most of the Marines were on the surface of Sync, but Tom knew that at least two platoons were kept as reserve or guards aboard the carrier. This normally included “A Squad” which was kind of legendary to new recruits. It was said the best Marines would be assigned to the squad, but Tom was no longer connected to the “hive mind”, as he now thought of it. To him, the best and most remorseless killers were rewarded by being moved into A Squad. Of course, he had no experience with all of that inside stuff since he had spent no real time in it before being captured by the rebels.

They moved up the stairwell faster this time. Tom did not know how long it would take for the Marines to show up, but he was sure they would eventually.

You don't suppose they know where we're going do you?” Felix asked, “They might be setting up a trap for us.”

That is one possibility,” Tom admitted, “But it doesn't seem like something they'd do. Why let us ransack the ship all the way there, knowing we'd be tearing through their security?”

Then he remembered that the Marine brass and the fleet brass seemed to be at odds. The Marine General really had been arresting those fleet agents back in Valla. Maybe crazy Admiral Jim Robinson wouldn't approve letting the Marines battle Tom's boarding party? That wouldn't make sense, though. General Gallant wouldn't follow any orders like that from the Admiral.

Team Two here, no sign of enemy armor. All kinds of fleet personnel hiding in their quarters.” Skyler reported.

Same here,” Tom replied. It was unnerving.


Free Republic carrier Umbrage, Marines Command & Control Room

General, we have rebel activity flaring up all over Sync!” Maggie Anders reported.

General Gallant checked the large holographic image of the planet revolving above the center of the room, sure enough symbols of fighting and attacks were all over it. The engagement reports had been coming in fast and furious since the attack on the Umbrage began.

Drone attacks at Fort Marsh being reported. The drones are simply diving at the base and exploding just before they reach the ground!” a male controller on the far side of the room announced.

Forward Support Base Mandarin is requesting aerial support!” another said and then added, “I'm unable to contact Onyx Flight!”

General Gallant walked to Colonel Mortimer, “Looks like we have a rebel uprising.”

The shorter man nodded, “Yes, it does. These are almost all stand-off or hit and run attacks, though. Almost like they are trying to distract us.”

Gallant thought about this, “Do you think the rebels were able to board the Umbrage?”

Normally, I would laugh in your face for asking such a question, if you'll beg my pardon sir. Under the circumstances, though, I think it's likely,” Mortimer answered.

You can speak freely with me, Colonel,” Gallant told him. Then after a moment he shook his head, “You don't suppose the rebels knew that Admiral Robinson had blocked us from leaving our area of the ship, do you?”

Mortimer shook his in the negative, “The Admiral is going to be mighty pissed, just when they need us most he himself has barricaded us away.”

Gallant sighed, “Take some men in armor and try to get passed one of the barricades. We need to at least try and defend this ship.”

Aye, sir!”

Then the General started toward the controllers, “Order Main Base in Sally sector to send defense drones to Forward Operating Base Mako and Forward Support Base Mandarin. They have a dozen of the things, it time we started using them.”

Aye Sir” said one of the controllers.

Okay, new general order. Order our drone bases to take over all aerial operations, we can't depend on Onyx flight any more,” General Gallant told them.

Aye Sir!” several of them responded.

He walked to Maggie Anders, who was trying to get some reinforcements to her sector.

Anders, if this ship has been boarded, it is likely led by someone who has Marine armor, if you get my point. I'm thinking that Tom Grier could be on-board making mischief,” he told her, getting her full attention, “I want you to try and contact his suit. Not the implants, they were removed. If you can get his attention, I want to talk to him directly.”

Yes, sir. I'll try!” she answered.

The General didn't really have a plan, but there was one coming together.

Colonel Mortimer was coming back. He reported,“That barricade is pretty solid, we might break through if we have enough time. I'm thinking we send some of our guys out the airlock to get in on the fleet side.”

If we can't contact the Admiral's people, then we don't know if Robinson's people would open the airlocks in their area for us.”

That is true,” The Colonel answered, “Just try it if you need to.”




Free Republic carrier Umbrage, Bridge

Admiral James “Jim” Robinson was red-faced. He had been screaming to get ship security weapons and whatever needed to stop the boarding party. Unfortunately ship security did not have heavy armor or the weapons to stop it. They didn't normally have access to weapons that would tear through the hull of a ship, for obvious reasons.

Throw up new barricades!” He ordered.

We don't have any more, we would need to get them from one of the other ships, maybe the Hugh or Sirius. That would take a lot of time though,” one of the other officers reported.

Unblock the barricades and let the Marines do their damned jobs then!” He roared.

Those barricades are extremely hard to remove once they have been set,” came the answer, which infuriated him even more. To some of the men and women cringing on the bridge it looked like he might literally explode, some of them thought this would be a good thing.

Grabble!” The Admiral called the Commander who had been pretending to be busy doing something else that was “urgent”.

Sir?

I want you to lead a team to the forward power distribution node and set explosives at all of the entrances. We must stop them from taking out those nodes!” The Admiral said, “If it wasn't for those traitors, the enemy would have never known about those weaknesses.”

Commander Grabble wanted to point out that the power distribution nodes were buried deep within the ship and weren't really “weaknesses” if the enemy had been stopped from getting to them. As space ship designs go, the carrier was a virtual fortress.

Also give the order to the fleet to prepare for another surface bombardment, tell them not to launch without my explicit orders though.”

The Commander was shocked that the Admiral would even think of using those again, unless he knew where the enemy ships were located.

I'll have them on stand-by, but I don't know how many penetrators are left. We used quite a lot of them taking out that under-mountain base.”

Good,” Then to another officer the Admiral said, “Have the Hugh and Sirius move in closer, let us make sure that the boarding party never gets a ride home.”

Yes, sir!”

Meanwhile Commander Grabble was on his way to change into light armor while calling some of the security team to gather with him. They would be setting explosives aboard the ship to try and stop the enemy boarding team.

Marine Tech Ship, Dispensation

Lt. Edwards and his men had mostly cleaned up the blood and bodies. The damage to the ship itself was extensive but they managed to get basic functions routed to some terminals in one of the aft compartments.

External sensors had been linked to the Marines aboard the Umbrage, but finding out what had happened inside Dispensation had taken too long. Finally, though, they had scraped enough sensor data to discover where the stolen Mark IV armor had been taken.

Patch me into General Gallant, immediately!” Edwards ordered.

I'll try.”

After two minutes he was speaking to his superior,

It seems that whoever stole the Mark IV is aboard the Umbrage!” Edwards reported, “That person has already slaughtered Free Republic personnel, they are a danger to anyone they come across.”

General Gallant rubbed his face, “I've heard nothing corresponding to what happened on Dispensation, might be that this person is after something.”

Edwards looked around, “That person is a killing machine, without a soul of any kind. Anyone who could kill all the helpless people on this ship can do the same there.”

Thank you, I'll try to do something about it.”

The connection was cut.

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